“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”― Ezra Taft Benson
I have spent a great part of my life searching for the one trait all successful people share. I found in my quest for this knowledge”The Common Denominator of Success” revealed successful people’s common characteristic was not hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, although these traits were important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest was the habit of putting first things first. I observed, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either, necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”
The Book of Haggai, the second shortest in the Old Testament, communicates this same message: Put first things first. It was written to people like us, who would say that God must be first. But they had drifted away from this truth. They lived with misplaced priorities. Haggai was sent to help God’s people get their priorities in line with what they knew they should be.
Haggai spoke his message to Jews who had returned to Jerusalem after living in captivity in Babylon. As you recall, Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple some 70 years earlier. When the Jews returned from exile they faced the daunting task of rebuilding. The first returnees made preliminary attempts to clear the debris and lay the foundation for a second temple. Their Samaritan neighbors offered to join in the work, but the Jews refused them. The Samaritans, in turn, threatened the workers and sent men to Persia to lobby against the Jews, bringing the work to a halt.
As years passed, slowly but surely, Jerusalem came to life again. Homes were built, stores opened, commerce established, fields planted, crops harvested, and life began to resemble normalcy. Israel, however, got used to life without the Temple. The foundations were overgrown with weeds. They stood as a mute reminder of the Jews’ failure to take care of God’s house. Fourteen to 16 years passed, and then Haggai appeared on the scene with one prevailing message: It’s time to finish rebuilding the Temple.
It was a message of priority: Put first things first. The Temple was the center for worshiping God. It represented the heart and soul of the Old Testament religion. Although God is everywhere, the Temple was the place on earth where God dwelled in a special sense. For the Temple to lie in ruins was to neglect the worship of God. It was a testimony of misplaced priorities. It was an embarrassment to God and a blemish on his reputation.
Haggai’s message was blunt. He pulled no punches and wasted no words. Haggai spoke like a foreman on a construction project. With a hardhat and tool belt, walking around the construction site, he bellowed out orders. Found here are a few practical steps about putting first things first.
I. Stop making excuses
First, Haggai confronted excuses for the Temple lying in ruins. “The LORD of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt” (Haggai 1:2, HCSB). They intended to build God’s house, but just hadn’t got around to it yet. If you were to ask them about it, they would probably say, “I’m all for building the Temple. It is a great cause. But God wants us to take care of our own families first. Times are hard. Jobs are scarce. We need to pray about it some more. We will eventually build it, but not now.” They made excuses.
Billy Sunday defined an excuse as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.”
It is always easy to make excuses when you don’t want to obey God. We can always find rational justification for not doing what God wants us to do: The time is not right. I’ve got family responsibilities. My kids need me now. When things settle down at work, then I can do something. The first step to putting first things first is to admit our responsibility.
II. Cease being selfish
Closely aligned with excuse making is a selfish mindset that permeates everything. Haggai challenged the people’s selfish behavior. “The word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:34, HCSB). Paneled houses can mean “covered” or “roofed,” but the point was that it represented the finishing touches. Their homes were not “in process.” No weeds were growing around their unfinished foundations. Their homes were complete while the Temple remained nonexistent.
Please understand: Nothing is wrong with having a nice home. This statement is not an attack on riches or big houses. What’s wrong is to own a nice home while God’s house lies in ruins. What’s wrong is spend all your money on selfish needs while ignoring the things of God. What’s wrong is to spend one’s time, one’s best hours, and one’s talents on selfish pursuits while the things of God are left undone. It is an indictment of misplaced priorities.
It is easy to drift away from God’s agenda to our own. It is easy to pursue selfish desires while ignoring God’s. In fact, it is the default mode of our lives. If we give no thought to how we are living, we will naturally live for ourselves. The bent of our hearts and is always toward selfishness. This is what happened to the Jews Haggai addressed.
Like William Cowper, the hymn writer and pastor, penned: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” That is what happens when we don’t persistently and consistently seek God first.
III. Don’t miss God’s blessings
As a consequence of their excuse-making and selfish living, the people in Haggai’s day experienced hardship. He continues: “Now, the LORD of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways: You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to become drunk. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it” (Haggai 1:5-6, HCSB). They sowed plenty of seed, but there was a drought and the crops didn’t yield as much as they had hoped. They had active lifestyles but were not experiencing satisfaction. They were laboring but showing no profit. No matter how hard they tried, they seemed to be spinning their wheels. No matter how much money they made, they could not keep it. Do you know how that feels?
Because of their selfishness the people missed God’s blessings. Haggai points out a sobering reminder: What happens in your heart affects every other part of your life. Because the people had pushed God out of the center, they suffered in every area.
What they did not see was that God caused their predicament. They hadn’t stopped to consider that God was trying to tell them something. Haggai screamed: “Hey! It’s God who controls the rain and the harvest. He is withholding his blessing because your priorities are not right. Put his house first and he will bless you.” Jesus said the same thing: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33, HCSB).
Blessings come through obedience. If we want to experience God’s blessings we will put him first.
IV. Take time to evaluate
With this strong indictment and devastating predicament, the people realized they had caused their own calamities. The people were ready to evaluate their situation. Twice Haggai instructed the people, “Consider your ways” (1:5, 7.). The word consider means to give careful thought to. It was time for the people to do some serious self-examination before the Lord. Haggai wanted the people to stop long enough in their busy schedules to evaluate their life in light of God’s Word. He wanted them to measure the consequences of their actions.
Evaluation is a good thing. That is why teachers give tests and employers hold job reviews. Socrates wrote: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Each day we need to evaluate how we spend our time and our money, and how we use our talents. We should examine who we choose as friends, what we set as goals, and where we are going. If God is not first, guess who removed him from his rightful place?
The failure to make constant corrections each day is like a pilot who does not make slight course adjustments in flight. The plane will end up hundreds of miles off course later. The failure to take the proper precautions today will result in severe consequences tomorrow.
When we stop making excuses, cease being selfish, seek God’s blessings, and take time to evaluate, we can see God work in powerful ways. This is what happens when first things are first, when God is first in our hearts. How will we know that we have put first things first? How will we know that God is first place? Here are three indications.
A. We are active in the right things
“Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified, says the LORD” (Haggai 1:8, HCSB). In all of life there is a time to talk and a time to act, a time to consider and a time to do. Those who put first things first are up and doing the right things: spending time with God daily, serving people, honoring him with their time, talents, and financial resources. For the Jews living in Jerusalem, it meant cutting down trees to build God’s house.
B. God is glorified
Why should the Temple be built? That God may be glorified. When God is not first we are indifferent to his glory—his fame and his reputation being spread. But when God is first revealing his glory is first on our minds. In fact, everything we think, say, and do is to honor God and bring credit to him. Whatever your occupation, the chief business of every Christian is to bring glory to God.
C. God blesses us
When the people obeyed, God sent word: “I am with you” (1:13). When God is first, he blesses us. And the sure sign of his blessing was his manifested presence. If God seems distant in your life, perhaps your priorities have gotten mixed up. When you put God first, you experience a new awareness of his presence. That is true blessing.
An instructor at a time-management seminar told the participants to prepare for a quiz. He reached under the table and took out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table. Next to the jar were a number of fist-sized rocks. He asked the group, “How many of these rocks do you think we can get inside this jar?” The participants made their guesses. The instructor said, “Let’s find out.” One by one he began to put as many fist-sized rocks as he could into the jar until the rocks inside were level with the top of the jar.
The instructor then asked, “Is the jar full?” All the participants looked at the jar filled with rocks and said it was.
But then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar. The gravel filled the spaces between the big rocks. He grinned and asked again, “Is the jar full?”
The participants were not about to be fooled a second time. They said that the jar was probably not full.
The instructor nodded and said, “Good. You are catching on.” He next took out a bucket of sand and poured it into the jar. Slowly the sand filled the gaps between the rocks and gravel. After the sand settled, the instructor once again asked, “Now, is the jar full?”
The audience roared, “No!”
He said, “Good.” He was pleased that they understood an important principle. The instructor poured a pitcher of water into the jar. At this point he stopped and asked the group, “What’s the point of this?”
Somebody said, “Well, there are always gaps, and if you work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”
But the instructor said, “No, the point is this: If I hadn’t put in those big rocks first, I would never have gotten them in at all.”
What should be your big rocks? God and his house. Put them into your life first.
Many people seem to think that their prayers don’t matter. Even people who believe in the power of prayer don’t always consider their prayers to be effective.
What is the key to effective prayer? The Bible tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). A righteous person has a personal relationship with Jesus and is in right standing with God. A righteous person seeks to obey God, yield to the direction of the Holy Spirit, and see God’s will established on this earth.
We see the effectiveness of prayer by a righteous person in the Old Testament prophet Daniel. His prayers provide a model for us to follow. Read his powerful plea to God in Daniel 9:4-19 and observe the key components of his prayer.
START WITH PRAISE
Daniel began his prayer by praising God, focusing on “the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands” (Daniel 9:4). Start your prayers with praise and thanksgiving to God. Praise Him for His glory, power, and love. Thank Him for His daily provision in your life, your salvation, and His many blessings. Spend time just adoring God.
CONFESS YOUR SINS
Daniel confessed that Israel had sinned. He didn’t try to dismiss, justify, or sidestep the fact that Israel had made a grave error. He didn’t make excuses to God, but took responsibility, saying, “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws” (Daniel 9:5). When you go to God in prayer, acknowledge your sins before him.
APPEAL FOR MERCY
Daniel appealed to God’s mercy, saying, “O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn way your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem. . . . For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on our desolate sanctuary. . . . We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy” (Daniel 9:16-18). Acknowledge to God that you do not deserve His blessings, but you receive them because He is a merciful and loving God. Humble yourself before God, realizing that personal transformation and corporate revival can only come by His grace.
PETITION FOR GOD TO ACT
Daniel very specifically asked the Lord to take action: “O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name” (Daniel 9:19). Like Daniel, we are to pray that God will act in a way that brings God the greatest glory and in a way that is the most profound witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Like Daniel, we are to pray boldly and full of faith—without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). These are the prayers that God uses to move mountains.
PRAY THE WILL OF GOD
How can you be assured that you are praying for God’s will, and not your own to be done? Immerse yourself in the Word of God. As you pray for specific requests, always check them against Scripture; you can be sure God’s desires for you will never go against His Word. As you read God’s Word and study it, ask the Lord to give you a greater awareness of specific promises that He wants you to pray about and believe for.
We must pray with praise on our lips, a confession of our sin, and with a petition that God will act in the way that accomplishes His purposes and brings Him glory. Then, we must listen very closely to what God may lead us to say or do. God uses individual people to accomplish His purposes. Be willing to be used.
As you pray, never lose sight of this Truth: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Continue to pray and act as God leads, knowing that at God’s appointed time, the harvest will come.
It is erroneous to think that all Orthodox are in reality not sectarians and that all sectarians are in reality not Orthodox. Not every Orthodox in name is so in spirit, and not every sectarian in name is so in spirit, and, especially at the present time, it is possible to meet “Orthodox” who are in fact sectarians at heart: fanatic, unloving, narrow minded, persistent in human precision, not hungering or thirsting after God’s truth, but gorged with their own presumptuous truth, strictly judging others from the summit of this their imaginary truth dogmatically correct from the outside, but lacking origin in the Spirit. And, conversely, it is possible to meet a sectarian who apparently does not understand the meaning of the Orthodox worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, who doesn’t “recognize” this or that expression of ecclesiastical truth, but who in fact conceals within himself much that is truly divine, who is truly filled with love in Christ, truly a brother to his fellow man.
And the existence of such variety in Christian society does not allow a shallow approach to the problem of interfaith relations. Sectarians sin in their failure to understand Orthodoxy, but we Orthodox also do not follow our own Orthodox teachings in not understanding sectarians who are at times surprisingly fervent and pure in their persistent pursuit of the Lord towards a life in Him alone.
The narrow, arrogant, ailing reason of mankind, not transfigured in the Spirit of God, aspires identically to division and seeks a cause for it, whoever this reason might belong to – Orthodox or sectarian.
The love of Christ for us in his dying was as conscious as his suffering was intentional. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us. It was love. “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”
Therefore, to feel the love of Christ in the laying down of his life, it helps to see how utterly intentional it was. Consider these five ways of seeing Christ’s intentionality in dying for us.
First, look at what Jesus said just after that violent moment when Peter tried to cleave the skull of the servant, but only cut off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52-54)
It is one thing to say that the details of Jesus’ death were predicted in the Old Testament. But it is much more to say that Jesus himself was making his choices precisely to see to it that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.
That is what Jesus said he was doing in Matthew 26:54. “I could escape this misery, but how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” I am not choosing to take the way out that I could take because I know the Scriptures. I know what must take place. It is my choice to fulfill all that is predicted of me in the Word of God.
A second way this intentionality is seen is in the repeated expressions to go to Jerusalem–into the very jaws of the lion.
Taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34)
Jesus had one all-controlling goal: to die according the Scriptures. He knew when the time was near and set his face like flint: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
A third way that we see the intentionality of Jesus to suffer for us is in the words he spoke in the mouth of Isaiah the prophet:
I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)
I have to work hard in my imagination to keep before me what iron will this required. Humans recoil from suffering. We recoil a hundred times more from suffering that is caused by unjust, ugly, sniveling, low-down, arrogant people. At every moment of pain and indignity, Jesus chose not to do what would have been immediately just. He gave his back to the smiter. He gave his cheek to slapping. He gave his beard to plucking. He offered his face to spitting. And he was doing it for the very ones causing the pain.
A fourth way we see the intentionality of Jesus’ suffering is in the way Peter explains how this was possible. He said, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
The way Jesus handled the injustice of it all was not by saying, “Injustice doesn’t matter,” but by entrusting his cause to “him who judges justly.” God would see that justice is done. That was not Jesus’ calling at Calvary. (Nor is it our highest calling now. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord, Romans 12:19.)
The fifth and perhaps the clearest statement that Jesus makes about his own intentionality to die is in John 10:17-18:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
Jesus’ point in these words is that he is acting completely voluntarily. He is under no constraint from any mere human. Circumstances have not overtaken him. He is not being swept along in the injustice of the moment. He is in control.
Therefore, when John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16), we should feel the intensity of his love for us to the degree that we see his intentionality to suffer and die. I pray that you will feel it profoundly. And may that profound experience of being loved by Christ have this effect on you:
The love of Christ controls us . . . . He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15
How do you do a task in the strength of another? How do you exert your will to do something in such a way that you are relying on the will of another to make it happen?
Here are some passages from the Bible that press this question on us:
“By the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). So we are to do the sin-killing, but we are to do it by the Spirit. How?
“Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). We are to work. But the willing and the working is God’s willing and God’s work. How do we experience that?
“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul did work hard. But his effort was in some way not his. How did he do that?
“I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). We toil. We struggle. We expend effort and energy. But there is a way to do it so that it is God’s energy and God’s doing. How do we do that?
“Whoever serves, let him serve as one who serves by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11). We serve. We exert strength. But there is a way that our serving is the effect of God’s gracious power. What is that way?
I have not been able to improve on these five steps summed up in the acronym, A.P.T.A.T. (rhymes with Cap That).
In 1984 J.I. Packer published Keep in Step with the Spirit, and gave the very same steps on pages 125–126. He calls it “Augustinian holiness teaching.” It calls for “intense activity” but this activity “is not in the least self-reliant in spirit.” Instead, he says, “It follows this four-stage sequence”:
First, as one who wants to do all the good you can, you observe what tasks, opportunities, and responsibilities face you. Second, you pray for help in these, acknowledging that without Christ you can do nothing—nothing fruitful, that is (John 15:5). Third, you go to work with a good will and a high heart, expecting to be helped as you asked to be. Fourth, you thank God for help given, ask pardon for your own failures en route, and request more help for the next task. Augustinian holiness is hard working holiness, based on endless repetitions of this sequence.
My five steps omit his first one (“note what tasks are in front of you”). I divide his second step into two: A. Admit (his word, “acknowledge”) that you can do nothing. P. Pray for God’s help for the task at hand. Then I break his third step into two. He says “expect to get the help you asked for.” Then with that expectation, “go to work with a good will.” I say, T. Trust a particular promise of God’s help. Then, in that faith, Act (A). Finally, we both say, T. Thank God for the help received.
Trust God’s Promises
I think the middle T is all important. Trust a promise. This is the step I think is missing in most Christians’ attempt to live the Christian life. It is certainly my most common mistake.
Most of us face a difficult task and remember to say, “Help me, God. I need you.” But then we move straight from P to A — Pray to Act. We pray and then we act. But this robs us of a very powerful step.
After we pray for God’s help, we should remind ourselves of a specific promise that God has made. And fix our minds on it. And put our faith in it. And say to God: “I believe you, help my unbelief. Increase my faith in this promise. I’m trusting you, Lord, here I go.” Then act.
Paul says we “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “live by faith” (Galatians 2:20). But for most of us this remains vague. Hour by hour how do we do this? We do it by reminding ourselves of specific, concrete promises that God has made and Jesus has bought with his blood (2 Corinthians 1:20). Then we don’t just pray for help hour by hour, we trust those specific promises hour by hour.
When Peter says, “Let him who serves serve in the strength that God supplies,” we do this not only by praying for that supply, but by trusting in the promise of the supply in specific situations. Paul says that God “supplies the Spirit to you by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5). That is, we hear a promise and we believe it for a particular need, and the Holy Spirit comes to help us through that believed promise.
10 Promises to Memorize
So here is my suggestion for how to do this. Memorize a few promises that are so universally applicable they will serve you in almost every situation where you face a task to be done “in the strength that God supplies.” Then as those tasks come, Admit you can’t do that on your own. Pray for the help you need. Then call to mind one of your memorized promises, and trust it — put your faith in it. Thenact — believing that God is acting in your acting! Finally, when you are done,thank him.
Here are ten such promises to help you get started. Of these, the one I have used most often is Isaiah 41:10.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
“‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6)
“The Lᴏʀᴅ God is a sun and shield; the Lᴏʀᴅ bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalms 84:11)
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
“Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalms 23:6)
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalms 50:15)
Never cease to ponder Paul’s words: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Not I. Yet I. By faith.
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
As we know, there is no shortage of boldness in our world. When you think of our political leaders, they are quite bold, often in an arrogant way, to impose their societal vision, values, and beliefs on others. If you’re a teacher, or state worker, you know how boldly Bureaucrats can regulate every manner of living, speaking, teaching, and thinking. Secularists self-righteously applaud their own tolerance even as they openly, flagrantly, boldly, suppress the slightest expression of Christian faith in the public sphere. Entertainers boldly flaunting their hyper-immorality—shoving their perversity into our faces, indoctrinating our children with their crass lyrics, all the while denouncing everything that’s good, decent, and holy.
But there are other kinds of boldness. What about the boldness of the adulterer or the fornicator? What about the gossip who stirs up dissension? The thief or robber who enters another’s home? The sluggard who feels entitled to the fruits of their parents labor, or worse, their neighbor? What about greedy lendors who brazenly prey, and financially exploit, the weak. Or the greedy debtors who boldly charge up their credit card with no intention of repayment. The son who rebels against his father can be quite bold! Or the man who abandons responsibility to his family while pursuing relations to another woman. What about the woman who boldly aborts her unborn child? Or, the homosexual or lesbian who ensnares another man or woman in their sin?
There is an abundance of boldness in our culture. But it’s boldness about all the wrong things! We’re bold about evil, about sin, and about our rights, freedoms, and entitlements. But where is the boldness for what’s “excellent and praiseworthy?” For “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.”
People are unapologetically bold about all that is evil; meanwhile Christians are apologetically timid about all that is holy and good.
What’s needed isn’t “fleshly” boldness. When boldness is driven by the flesh, it is enormously destructive. Look at the trail of destruction that exists in your family alone, or our community, or state, or nation. We don’t need more fleshly boldness.
What’s needed (now, more than ever) is “spiritual boldness”—a boldness that’s born out of vital relationship with the Spirit of the Living God. Spiritual boldness does not derive its confidence from the flesh, or from the world, but from the mind of God. In your outline, let me share some things that are distinct about Christian boldness. . .
Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Inspired Word.
What convictions do you hold about the word of God? 1 Peter 1:23 describes how the word is “imperishable”, “living and abiding” and is like a seed. Whereas the flowers and grass fade away, and the flesh/ glory of man withers… The word of God cannot be destroyed, nor will it ever pass away. We don’t have to understand how the word works, we just need to be faithful to plant it.
2 Timothy 3:15-16 says the Bible is able to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
In 2 Peter 1:20-21 were told, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
In Isaiah 55:11 God says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
A couple of thoughts. First, to the degree that our boldness is tuned to the Word of God, it’s redemptive. To the degree that our boldness is of the flesh, it kills and destroys. Understand that boldness with the Word of God—preaching, teaching—has revived nations. Where has boldness in the flesh done anything good except corrupt, kill, and destroy. Our boldness needs to be trained by the Word of God.
Second, greater boldness is needed by all of us to inject God’s word into conversations. In John 6:63 Jesus told his disciples, “My words are spirit and life.” When timid Christian withhold the word, it’s like a farmer withholding seed. You cannot reap a harvest of righteousness if you never plant anything.
Parents often ask, “why are my kids so disrespectful, crass, self-centered…” Well, you reap what you sow. If you plant the word deeply you won’t ask those questions of your kids, family, or culture. God’s word doesn’t return void, God’s word is spiritual and alive, it accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it.
Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Spirit’s Activity
Another basis for boldness is the Spirit’s ongoing activity. In John 16:8 Jesus promised the Spirit would convict the world in regard to “sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment.” This is great news! We don’t have to be fanatics, or extremists about this stuff. If there is sin, the Spirit will show it to a person. We don’t have to scream, and yell, and shout, and hold demonstrations.
If there is something holy, righteous, good, the Spirit will show it for what it is. And the Spirit daily reminds people they are accountable before God for their life. Why else do you think people justify themselves, and plead their case, and boast, “But I’m a good person?” It’s because deep down people know they’re accountable to God.
This is why Paul tells the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “. . . When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (NIV)
We don’t have to convict people, that’s the Spirit’s work. Our job is to faithfully and boldly plant seeds. We are to hold out the Words of Life. The gospel does not advance in the power of self, by intimidation or bullying, by shaming and giving guilt trips. Let the Spirit do what He does… and you and I can do the planting just as God’s asked us to do. The Spirit wins hearts and minds.
Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in the Spirit’s Power
Like the Apostle Paul, I sometimes find myself in places of “weakness, fear, and trembling.” Every week our pastoral staff encounters situations for which there is no human wisdom or human answers or human remedy… or financial resources. If you’re a spiritual person, you have great advantage. Like the early in Acts 1:8, its mostly a matter of waiting for God to clothe us with power. But if you’re an unspiritual person, what power is available to you, beyond your own strength?
When we help unspiritual people, they keep returning with the same problems. A person comes needing gas money, or food, or some help. We encourage them to trust God, we teach them how to pray, but most do not. They get relief and continue on their godless path until they again hit rock bottom. And then they’re back at our door. Apart from faith in Jesus, there is no power for the godless. There is just the rough, godless, hard, lifeless, joyless, impoverished road you’ve always walked.
But with faith in Jesus Christ, there is real hope, there is real power! Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, of it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . .” Ephesians 3:16 speaks of how God has granted that those in Christ to “be strengthened with power through His Spirit.”
Particularly noteworthy are Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:10-20 (see NIV). This weekend we honor the soldier. Our country has the most powerful military of any nation that’s every inhabited the earth. We also have the finest trained men and women. But there is a limit to what fleshly warfare can achieve—as we’re well aware!
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
The Spirit’s power is unleashed through prayer and proclamation of the Word. Our first priority when someone comes to the church in crisis is to first listen, but then pray with people and share the word with them. That is the greatest help/resource we can provide.
R.A. Torrey observes how the Spirit is like the wind. The wind is invisible, and mysterious. We don’t see from where it comes or where it goes. It turns the windmill (not at Southwind Park, but other windmills). It fills our sails, drives the vessel out to sea, churns up the dust, shakes foundations, and affects everything material and physical. The wind is indispensable—it strengthens, fortifies, anchors, roots, tests. In the same way, the Spirit is invisible, we don’t see him but we feel his power.
Trust God’s word! Pray!
Our Boldness Reflects Confidence in our Eternal Hope
I want to end with this final idea. If we’re led by the Spirit, we could very well pay a great price with our life. Every sign points to an ever increasing hostility toward churches, and toward Christians. Around the world, this hostility is in full season. I think of the many soldiers, who have lost their lives, confronting evil around the world. There is a price that is to be paid for boldness—one that involves flesh and blood.
In Ephesians 1:3 Paul reminds us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
In Ephesians 4:30 Paul urges us then, not to grieve the Holy Spirit “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “For all the promises of God find their YES in Jesus. That is why it is through him that we utter our AMEN to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
After they had destroyed Jesus’ body, God raised Jesus from the grave by the power of the Spirit. There are those who can destroy the flesh, but cannot destroy soul. God can destroy both. But if you’re in Christ God promises to preserve both body and soul. God promises to give us a new resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15), and he promises that our Spirit will dwell with him for all eternity (2 Corinthians 5).
We don’t have to be afraid. We can have boldness and courage about the things that matter for eternity. This was the hallmark of the early church.
Be bold. We have the Inspired Word of God… the Spirit is actively at work, all around us in the world… The Spirit by virtue of our faith, is powerful to save us… Finally the Spirit seals us, so that death can never lay claim on us, so that we can never be separated from God… but ushered into presence where we’ll dwell with him forever.
Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There’s a philistine and an aesthete (a person who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty) in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.
Almost without exception, people and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Though we should know better, we continue to manufacture worries and nurse fears. Yet anxiety is nothing more than wasting today’s time and resources to clutter up tomorrow’s possibilities with yesterday’s struggles. In spite of that, it remains for some a continual preoccupation. This post will takes a straight look at this energy-draining reality. By seeing it at work in another’s life, we may gain sufficient perspective to get through the tough stuff of anxiety. Stands the reason of my joy about my wife success thus far. She has suffered anxiety of life in wanting to complete school, she has suffered turmoil due to wanting to feel the sensationalism of operating as a substance abuse counselor and Psychology clinician within her own company “Second Chance Alliance”. She experiences anxiety from going to class under adverse challenges all the while wanting to cross the finish line of graduation. I am so proud of her holding her position in Christ as a mom and wife and grandmother that is a full time student trying to breakthrough the stigma’s of a unforgiving society and create change for her family and others.
I am Innocent until proven guilty… Maymie Chandler-Pratt Bio 7/9/2015 2:46:23 PM
Hello Instructor Dougherty,
My name is Maymie Chandler-Pratt and I am 53 years young. I currently reside in Southern California where it never rains, it is always sunny, and the crime rate is high and our court systems are overrun with all types of cases, mostly drug cases. I have been married for many years to the same man, my husband Aaron who is an ex Navy Seal with many issues stemming from his 13 years of service and nine campaigns and 7 months as a POW in Libya and has been diagnosed with PTSD and Schizo-affective Disorder. I too was in the Army and even though I saw no war, because of my husband’s issues I too have been diagnosed with PTSD and Schizo-affective disorder by association, Together we share a total of 10 children, 2 are deceased, two are in prison; our daughter Parris for life with no possibility of ever getting out and our son Lee who was sentenced to 15 years with an L. The other 6 are working, and attending college. Our youngest son is 19 and 6′ 6″ tall.
I started attending Argosy in 2011 and in January 2016 I will graduate with my BA in psychology with and emphasis on Substance Abuse Counseling. I chose this career because of my 20 plus years of being addicted to crack cocaine and my own stint in prison for 7 years due to my addictive behaviors. After being released from prison I was placed in a 1453 state mandated drug program where I met up with my counselor who had also been in prison with me. While there she told me that I too should become a substance abuse counselor. My belief after witnessing the healing power of “My higher power” in which I choose to call God, I was convinced that if I could do it then I could help others like me to do it too.
I feel that with my extensive criminal background, I have a lot of experience with the criminal court systems, but I am no expert and I want to be even more enlightened now as a professional as I was as a criminal. I look forward to working with you over the next five weeks.
See you on the boards…May Pratt
Five months until this temptation to sin by having anxiety will be a hurdle we both are excited to jump..Thanks to all who have been apart of this journey.
Several years ago the National Anxiety Center in Maplewood, New Jersey, released the “Top Ten Anxieties for the 1990s.” The list included AIDS, drug abuse, nuclear waste, famine, and the federal deficit. Since then, in the light of September 11, 2001, the center has revised its list to put “global terrorism” as the leading source of anxiety. Today, we could add the worries of a full-scale war, the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea or China, the risk of losing a good job, and maybe the disquieting thoughts of growing old alone and unwanted.
We all have different lists, but our deep, relentless worries carry a similar effect. They make us uneasy. They steal smiles from our faces. They cast dark shadows on our futures by spotlighting our shameful pasts. They pickpocket our peace and kidnap our joy.
What is anxiety?
Throughout my more than 40 years of christian ministry, whenever I’ve taught or spoken on the topic of anxiety, I’ve always highlighted the relevant counsel of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. Type the words worry or anxiety into the search engine of my heart, and Philippians 4 quickly flashes on my mind:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:4-7).
Reading this passage, we immediately discover a four-word command that could be rendered, literally, “Stop worrying about anything!” The word translated “anxious” comes from the Greek verb merimnao, meaning “to be divided or distracted.” In Latin the same word is translated anxius, which carries the added nuance of choking or strangling. The word also appears in German as wurgen, from which we derive our English word worry. The tough stuff of anxiety threatens to strangle the life out of us, leaving us asphyxiated by fear and gasping for hope.
Jesus used similar terms when He referred to worry in His parable of the sower inMark 4. The Master Illustrator painted a picture in the minds of His listeners of a farmer sowing seed in four types of soil. In that parable He mentions a seed being sown among thorns. While doing so He underscores both the real nature and the destructive power of anxiety. Jesus said, “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop” (v. 7; emphasis added). Later, when the disciples asked Jesus about the meaning of the parable, He interpreted His own words. Regarding the seed sown among thorns, He explained, “These are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (vv. 18-19).
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WORK IT OUT “JESUS”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
According to the gospel accounts, here are the miracles Jesus performed. Though this is an incomplete list according to John 21:25
: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
16 But I say, vwalk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify wthe desires of the flesh. 17 For xthe desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, yto keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are zled by the Spirit, ayou are not under the law.
This love is not optional. It is commanded. And it is very radical: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we are called in our freedom to desire and seek the happiness of others with the same zeal that we seek our own. But if you take this command seriously, it is so contrary to our natural inclinations that it seems utterly impossible. That I should get up in the morning and feel as much concern for your needs as for my own seems utterly beyond my power. If this is the Christian life — caring for others as I care for myself — then it is hard, indeed, and I feel hopeless to ever live it out.
Paul’s answer to this discouragement is found in Galatians 5:16–18. The secret is in learning to “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16). If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. People who try to love without relying on God’s Spirit always wind up trying to fill their own emptiness rather than sharing their fullness. And so love ceases to be love. Love is not easy for us. But the good news is that it is not primarily our work but God’s. We must simply learn to “walk by the Spirit.”
So I want to build today’s message around three questions: What? Why? And, how? What is this “walking by the Spirit”? Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? And, how, very practically, can we walk by the Spirit?
What Is Walking by the Spirit?
First, what is this “walking by the Spirit”? There are two other images in the context which shed light on the meaning of “walk by the Spirit.” The first is in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” If Paul had said, “If you follow the Spirit you are not under law,” it would have been true, but in using the passive voice (“If you are led”) he emphasizes the Spirit’s work, not ours. The Spirit is not a leader like the pace car in the “Daytona 500.” He is a leader like a locomotive on a train. We do not follow in our strength. We are led by his power. So “walk by the Spirit” means stay hooked up to the divine source of power and go wherever he leads.
The second image of our walk in the Spirit is in verse 22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.” If our Christian walk is to be a walk of love and joy and peace, then “walk by the Spirit” must mean “bear the fruit of the Spirit.” But again, the Spirit’s work is emphasized, not ours. He bears the fruit. Perhaps Paul got this image from Jesus. You recall John 15:4–5: “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So “walk by the Spirit” means “abide in the vine.” Keep yourself securely united to the living Christ. Don’t cut yourself off from the flow of the Spirit.
So in answer to our first question, What is this walking by the Spirit? we answer: It is “being led by the Spirit” and it is “bearing the fruit of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit is emphasized, yet the command is for us to do something. Our wills are deeply involved. We must want to be coupled to the locomotive. We must want to abide in the vine. And there are some things we can do to keep ourselves attached to the flow of God’s power. But before we ask how to walk by the Spirit let’s ask . . .
Why Is It Crucial to Walk by the Spirit?
Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? The text gives two reasons, one in verse 16 and one in verse 18. In verse 16 the incentive for walking by the Spirit is that when you do this, you will not gratify the desire of the flesh. The RSV here is wrong when it makes the second part of verse 16 a command instead of a promise and says, “Do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” All the other major versions are right to make it a promise because this particular Greek construction has that meaning everywhere else in Paul. The verse should be translated, for example with the NASB, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” So the first reason we should walk by the Spirit is that when we do, the desires of our flesh are overcome.
In recent messages I’ve tried to define the flesh as Paul uses it. Most of the time (though not always, see below) it does not simply refer to the physical part of you. (Paul does not regard the body as evil in itself.) The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness and uses the resources in its own power to try to fill it. Flesh is the “I” who tries to satisfy me with anything but God’s mercy. Notice Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Now compare with this Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” In 2:20, “flesh” is used in its less usual meaning referring to ordinary bodily existence, which is not in itself evil (“I now live in the flesh”).
But the important thing to notice is that in 5:24 the “flesh“ is crucified and in 2:20 “I” am crucified. This is why I define the flesh in its negative usage as an expression of the “I” or the “ego.” And notice in 2:20 that since the old fleshly ego is crucified, a new “I” lives, and the peculiar thing about this new “I” is that it lives by faith. “The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness but loathes the idea of satisfying it by faith, i.e., by depending on the mercy of God in Christ. Instead, the flesh prefers to use the legalistic or licentious resources in its own power to fill its emptiness. As Romans 8:7 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law.” The basic mark of the flesh is that it is unsubmissive. It does not want to submit to God’s absolute authority or rely on God’s absolute mercy. Flesh says, like the old TV commercial, “I’d rather do it myself.”
It is not surprising, then, that in verse 17 there is a war between our flesh and God’s Spirit. It is a problem at first glance that there is a lively war between flesh and Spirit in the Christian, according to verse 17, but the flesh is crucified in the Christian, according to verse 24. We’ll talk more about the sense in which our flesh is crucified when we get to verse 24. For now, let’s give Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume that both are somehow true, and focus on this war within: our flesh versus God’s Spirit.
God’s Spirit Conquers Our Flesh
Verse 17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you would.” The main thing to learn from this verse is that Christians experience a struggle within. If you said to yourself when I was describing the flesh, “Well, I have a lot of that still left in me,” it does not necessarily mean you aren’t a Christian. A Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit.
Conflict in your soul is not all bad. Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit; namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! Serenity in sin is death. The Spirit has landed to do battle with the flesh. So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!
But when you take verses 16 and 17 together, the main point is not war, but victory for the Spirit. Verse 16 says that when you walk by the Spirit, you will not let those bad desires come to maturity. When you walk by the Spirit, you nip the desires of the flesh in the bud. New God-centered desires crowd out old man-centered desires. Verse 16 promises victory over the desires of the flesh — not that there won’t be a war, but that the winner of that war will be the Spirit.
In fact, I think what Paul means in verse 24, when he says the flesh has been crucified, is that the decisive battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. The Spirit has captured the capital and broken the back of the resistance movement. The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms, and must be fought back daily. The only way to do it is by the Spirit, and that’s what it means to walk by the Spirit — so live that he gives victory over the dwindling resistance movement of the flesh. So the first reason why we must walk by the Spirit is that, when we do, the flesh is conquered.
God’s Spirit Creates Law-Fulfilling Fruit
The second reason to walk by the Spirit or be led by the Spirit is found in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” This does not mean you don’t have to fulfill God’s law. You do. That’s what verses 13 and 14 said, “Through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And Romans 8:3–4 say, “God condemned sin in the flesh in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Therefore, not being under law does not mean we don’t have to fulfill the law. It means that, when we are led by the locomotive of the Spirit, we cruise on the railroad track of the law as a joyful way of life and are not left to climb it like a ladder in our own strength from underneath. When we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the punishment or the oppression of the law because what the law requires the Spirit produces; namely, love. Notice verse 22: the first and all-encompassing fruit of the Spirit is love, which verse 14 says fulfills the whole law.
And to confirm that this is just how Paul is thinking, he ends the list of the fruit of the Spirit in verse 23 with the words, “against such there is no law.” In other words, how can you be under the oppression or punishment of the law when the very things the law requires are popping out like fruit on the branches of your life? So the second reason to walk by the Spirit is really the same as the first. Verse 16 says, do it because you get victory over the flesh when you walk by the Spirit. You nip temptation in the bud. Verse 18 says, do it because then you are free from the oppression and punishment of the law, because the fruit the Spirit produces fulfills the law. The Spirit is the fullness that overflows in love. Therefore it conquers the emptiness that drives the flesh, and it spills out in acts of love which fulfill the law.
How Do You Walk by the Spirit?
But the $60,000 question is, How do you walk by the Spirit? All of us have heard preachers say, “Let the Spirit lead you,” or, “Allow the Spirit to control you,” and have gone away puzzled as to what that means practically. How do you allow the Spirit to control you? I want to try to show you that the answer is, You allow the Spirit to control you by keeping your heart happy in God. Or to put it another way,You walk by the Spirit when your heart is resting in the promises of God. The Spirit reigns over the flesh in your life when you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you and now is working everything together for your good.
Here’s the fivefold evidence from Galatians. First, Galatians 5:6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Genuine faith always produces love, because faith pushes out guilt, fear, and greed and gives us an appetite to enjoy God’s power. But Galatians 5:22 says love is a fruit of the Spirit. So if love is what faith necessarily produces and love is a fruit of the Spirit, then the way to walk by the Spirit is to have faith — a happy resting in the promises of God is the pipeline of the Spirit.
Second, notice Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.” How do you wait for Jesus “through the Spirit”? “By faith!” When you keep your heart happy in God and resting in his promises, you are waiting through the Spirit and walking by the Spirit.
Third, look at Galatians 3:23, “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law.” The coming of faith liberates a person from being under law. But what does 5:18 say? “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” How, then, shall we seek to be led by the Spirit? By faith. By meditating on the trustworthiness and preciousness of God’s promises until our hearts are free of all fretting and guilt and greed. This is how the Holy Spirit fills and leads.
Fourth, see Galatians 3:5, the clearest of all: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing of faith?” The Spirit does his mighty work in us and through us only by the hearing of faith. We are sanctified by faith alone. The way to walk by the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh is to hear the delectable promises of God and trust them, delight in them, rest in them.
Finally, consider Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Who is the Christ who lives in Paul? He is the Spirit. As 4:6 says: The Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into our hearts. And how, according to 2:20, does the life of the Son produce itself in Paul? How does Paul walk by the Spirit of the Son? “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
Day by day Paul trusts the Son. Day by day he casts his cares on God, frees his life from guilt and fear and greed, and is borne along by the Spirit. How, then, do we walk by the Spirit? The answer is plain. We stop trying to fill the emptiness of our lives with a hundred pieces of the world, and put our souls at rest in God. The Spirit will work the miracle of renewal in your life when you start meditating on his unspeakable promises day and night and resting in them. (See also Romans 15:13, 2 Peter 1:4, and Isaiah 64:4.)
The Secret of Walking by the Spirit
Yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I was in Pasadena, California, standing in the kitchen of my beloved teacher Daniel Fuller talking to his wife Ruth. One of the things I will never forget about that kitchen is that over the sink are taped four tremendous promises of God typed on little pieces of paper. Ruth puts them there to meditate on while she works. That’s how you walk by the Spirit.
I keep a little scrap paper by my prayer bench, and whenever I read a promise that can lure me away from my guilt and fear and greed, I write it down. Then in dry spells I have a pile of promises to soak my soul in. The fight of faith is fought with the promises of God. And the fight of faith is the same as the fight to walk by the Spirit. He works when we are resting in his promises. George Müller wrote (Autobiography, pp. 152–4):
I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . . Now what is the food for the inner-man? Not prayer but, the Word of God.
George Müller learned the secret of walking by the Spirit: Meditate on the precious truths of the Word of God until your heart is happy in God, resting in his promises.
Hudson Taylor had learned it too. He received word one day of rioting near one of the inland mission stations. In a few moments George Nichol, one of his evangelists, overheard Taylor whistling his favorite hymn, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting in the Joy of What Thou Art.” Hudson Taylor “had learned that for him, only one life was possible — just that blessed life of resting and rejoicing in the Lord under all circumstances, while he dealt with the difficulties inward and outward, great and small” (Spiritual Secret, p. 209).
I say to you, brothers and sisters, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. You will have victory over temptation and know the guidance of the Lord if you keep your heart happy in God by resting in his promises.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
― A.W. Tozer
Life shows up in many facets and arrays. Life deals us some very challenging dilemmas to fight through, but God knows all about them. He has assured me that everything I trust into His hands will be for my good if I would just repent, surrender and remember what He has brought me through as an addict , a fornicator,a greedy person and yes a prideful individual. God has seen me through death and my sinful anxiety and dark thoughts with this very scripture always burning within my spirit. I quoted this scripture behind a many prison walls and laying face up in a hospital bed not knowing if tomorrow was coming to claim my life or give me another chance to serve Him with honor.
In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.
If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives four specific guidelines.
1. Give in! Verse 7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil. 2. Get close! Verse 8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. 3. Clean up!Verse 8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. 4. Get down! James says we need to be humble before God (v.10). That includes viewing our sin as something to weep over.
Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” But they sure will look good on us.
Lord, help me live a godly life Of faith and love and purity So those who watch my life will see Reflections of Your work in me. —Sper
Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.
You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.
But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.
The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.
You Are Not Alone
For he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5c)
On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.
If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you’ve been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.
But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow, God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after the storm, never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).
Taking back your life …
Psalm 139:7-10 says, “I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me” (TLB). What assurance can you find in these verses of Scripture when you are feeling as if God has forgotten you?
In Psalm 23, David pictures the Lord as the Great Shepherd who provides for and protects His sheep (His children). In verse 4, he says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd uses his rod to protect his sheep (by using it to beat off wild beasts), and he uses his staff to guide them. What comfort can you find in knowing that God will protect and guide you during this difficult time?
In addition to needing God’s presence in our lives, we also need each other. Talk with your family or friends about the way you are feeling, so that you can share one another’s burdens, and not feel so alone in your suffering.
Fostering an individual’s successful transition from prison life to mainstream society can be a real challenge, and requires the development of mutually beneficial relationships with local government, community organizations, employers, and more. When building the capacity to operate a reentry program, the five organizational components that require particular attention are model, structure, services, staffing, and leadership.
Being out and about today rather than in church was truly a shot of faith and obedience for May & I. We look forward to getting our vision complete and housing and educating the many people out here who are suffering from sin and self will run riot behavior.
Have you experienced pain and suffering? Then you have shared Job’s anguish and perhaps his wonderment. Like Job, you also may find God much closer than you thought.
My desire to have oneness in the spirit is constantly clamoring in my inner man. I have visions of doing great things with my new life in Christ like putting together a great outreach to show people my wife and I gifts. What gifts? Being transformed into a vessel that wants to work for Christ with only one thing in mind, and that’s kingdom building. We want to educate our community with what God has infused us with while serving two terms of house arrest, He began to mold us while we were homeless and destitute of all the comforts we were once use to having, He fashioned our character by putting us in situations like that as to allow His spirit to speak into our life the work He desires of us to perform. God showed us that platforms of man isn’t necessary over having a life of worship and trust in His ability to use our gifts and talents and treasures that only He would give through others and developing skills within us to help this vision to become a live. God’s resources have and will continue to bless our life to be a blessing to our communities that suffer from “Teen Prostitution” and Economic Disparities due to mass incarceration of parents and siblings.
He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray, and as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering… they saw his glory (Luke 9:29, 32).
If I have found grace in thy sight, show me thy glory (Exod. 33:13).
When Jesus took these three disciples up into that high mountain apart, He brought them into close communion with Himself. They saw no man but Jesus only; and it was good to be there. Heaven is not far from those who tarry on the mount with their Lord.
Who has not in moments of meditation and prayer caught a glimpse of opening gates? Who has not in the secret place of holy communion felt the rush of some white surging wave of emotion–a foretaste of the joy of the blessed?
The Master had times and places for quiet converse with His disciples, once on the peak of Hermon, but oftener on the sacred slopes of Olivet. Every Christian should have his Olivet. Most of us, especially in the cities and towns, live at high pressure. From early morning until bedtime we are exposed to the whirl. Amid all this maelstrom how little chance for quiet thought, for God’s Word, for prayer and heart fellowship!
Daniel needed to have an Olivet in his chamber amid Babylon’s roar and idolatries. Peter found his on a housetop in Joppa; and Martin Luther found his in the “upper room” at Wittenberg, which is still held sacred.
Dr. Joseph Parker once said: “If we do not get back to visions, peeps into heaven, consciousness of the higher glory and the larger life, we shall lose our religion; our altar will become a bare stone, unblessed by visitant from Heaven.” Here is the world’s need today–men who have seen their Lord.
Come close to Him! He may take you today up into the mountain top, for where He took Peter with his blundering, and James and John, those sons of thunder who again and again so utterly misunderstood their Master and His mission, there is no reason why He should not take you. So don’t shut yourself out of it and say, “Ah, these wonderful visions and revelations of the Lord are for choice spirits!” They may be for you!
Isn’t it fun to sit around and fantasize about what you could do if you had someone else’s circumstances or resources? If only I had their money…if only I had his staff…if only I won the lottery…if only she worked for me…if only I grew up in that family. Playing the “if only” game leads to inertia, paralysis, and failure. I believe that God created every person with a certain set of skills and experiences so that we worship him and bring glory to his name. If I work with what I have been given for God’s purpose I have everything I need to succeed.
You shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs. —Exodus 4:17
Conventional wisdom questions how much can be accomplished with little. We tend to believe that a lot more can be done if we have large financial resources, talented manpower, and innovative ideas. But these things don’t matter to God. Consider just a couple of examples:
In Judges 3:31, a relatively unknown man named Shamgar delivered Israel from the Philistines single-handedly. How? He won a great victory by killing 600 Philistines with nothing more than an oxgoad (a stick sharpened on one end to drive slow-moving animals).
In Exodus, when God asked Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses was afraid the people wouldn’t listen to him or follow him. So God said, “What is that in your hand?” (4:2). Moses replied, “A rod.” God went on to use that rod in Moses’ hand to convince the people to follow him, to turn the Nile River into blood, to bring great plagues on Egypt, to part the Red Sea, and to perform miracles in the wilderness.
Moses’ rod and Shamgar’s oxgoad, when dedicated to God, became mighty tools. This helps us see that God can use what little we have, when surrendered to Him, to do great things. God is not looking for people with great abilities, but for those who are dedicated to following and obeying Him. If you use what little you may have To serve the Lord with all your heart You will find that He can do great things When you begin to do your part.
This slideshow shows God’s power. May and I have been given everything over again from the drapes to pictures to couches and tables and cars. We have been blessed with community and several church families that love us and we love them. Our family who once had written us off has been restored as well. But the vision of acquiring a business that will help us perform the ministry of reconciliation for a targeted species that we ourselves know all too well is what “Second Chance Alliance” is all about. The building is in sight and the hope is flourishing, however the funds are still so far out of reach. Please pray with us and believe for us that this vision will one day soon become a reality in-order for us to perform our mission statement- “Empowering Felons to rebuild themselves and their lives” …as we have . Click the link below to view our passion and dream.
While nobody enjoys trials, in God’s loving hands, they are tools for our improvement.
When it comes to adversity, none of us are immune. We have all experienced the heartache, pressure, and anguish caused by hardships. Whatever form our trials may take—whether sickness, financial problems, animosity, rejection, bitterness, or anger—we tend to consider them “setbacks” in our life. God, however, has a different perspective. He views adversity as a way, not to hinder the saints, but to advance their spiritual growth.
When facing tribulation, we often wonder where it came from. Is this my own doing? Is this from Satan? Or is this from you, Lord? Regardless of the specific source, ultimately all adversity that touches a believer’s life must first be sifted through the permissive will of God. That is not to say everything coming your way is the Lord’s will. But God allows everything that occurs because He sees how even adversity will fit into His wonderful purpose for your life. ( Romans 8:28)
According to Isaiah 55:8-9, God’s thoughts are higher than ours, so we cannot expect to understand all that He is doing. He oftentimes takes the most painful experiences of adversity and uses them to prepare us for what lies ahead. God wants us to regard our struggles the way He does so that we won’t be disillusioned. Therefore, far more important than determining the source of our adversity is learning how to respond properly.
Consider Joseph, one of the very few people in the Bible about whom there is nothing negative, but whose life is characterized only by adversity. It is interesting to note Scripture says that God was prospering Joseph in the midst of his affliction—even in a foreign jail! Every trial was part of God’s equipping Joseph to become the savior of Egypt and also the savior of his own family, who would later journey there to avoid starvation.
The Bible reveals a number of reasons that the Lord allows difficulties in our life. As we begin to comprehend His purposes, we can learn to react in ways that will strengthen rather than discourage us.
ONE OF GOD’S PRIMARY PURPOSES FOR ADVERSITY IS TO GET OUR ATTENTION.
He knows when we are frozen in anger and bitterness or set on doing something our own way. He may allow adversity to sweep us off our feet. When we stand before God, stripped of our pride and self-reliance, He has our complete attention.
Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul, had to learn a lesson this way. Proud and egotistical, he was doing everything he could to rid this earth of Christians. Then God struck him blind. Lying on the Damascus Road, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5) God had totally captured his attention. At the time, it must have seemed like a screeching halt to his life’s work; in actuality, it was the beginning of an extraordinary preaching career.
ANOTHER WAY GOD USES ADVERSITY IS TO REMIND US OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR US.
Let me ask you: If you moved out of God’s will into sin, and He just let you go that way, would that be an expression of love? Of course not. He loves us too much to let us get by with disobedience.
The Bible realistically agrees that “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful!” (Hebrews 12:11 nlt) We can all say “Amen!” to that. But just as we lovingly discipline our children to protect them from developing harmful patterns in thinking and behavior, so our heavenly Father trains us by discipline in order to bring about “a quiet harvest of right living.”
Hebrews 12:5-6 says: “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His children” (nlt). If you are without discipline—which is correction in love—you are an illegitimate child, and not one of God’s own. So if you are experiencing adversity, allow it to be a reminder of God’s great love for you.
A THIRD REASON GOD SENDS ADVERSITY IS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION.
When God allowed Satan to buffet Paul with a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), the apostle prayed three times for its removal. In the process, Paul certainly must have searched his own heart, asking the Lord, “Is there sin in my life? Is my attitude right?” When we encounter adversity, we would also do well to ask, Am I in God’s will, doing what He wants me to do?
Perhaps you’ve done that and confessed any known sin, but the adversity persists. God deals not only with acts of transgression, but also with pre-programmed attitudes from youth. For many believers, it isn’t a matter of overt sin or not loving the Lord, but something from the past that may be stunting spiritual growth.
To deal with “roots” —like self-esteem, attitudes toward others, and even misguided opinions about God’s capabilities—the Lord sends adversity intensely enough to cause deeper examination than usual. He wants us to ask: What fears, frustrations, and suffering from childhood are still affecting or driving me? Is an old perfectionism or grudge destroying me? Did a comment cause feelings of rejection or worthlessness? An attitude lying dormant for years may be hindering progress. Recognize in your adversity God’s loving desire to help you reach your spiritual potential.
A FOURTH PURPOSE GOD HAS FOR ADVERSITY IS TO TEACH US TO HATE EVIL AS HE DOES.
Satan sells his sin program by promising pleasure, freedom, and fulfillment, but he doesn’t tell you about the “interest charges.” The truth is, “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7)—and he reaps later than he sows and more than he sows.
People once trapped by drugs, alcohol, or sexual indulgence, but now freed by God, will speak of their hatred for the sin. Because of the suffering, helplessness, and hopelessness they experienced, they have learned to despise the very thing they at one time desired. David agrees: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray” (Ps. 119:67). If we could learn to anticipate sin’s ongoing and future consequences, our lives would be far more holy and healthy.
As parents, we need to level with our children about our failures. There is no such thing as a perfect father or mother, and pretending to have no faults is detrimental. Our children need to understand that God allows adversity for their protection. We should be candid about our weaknesses and clearly explain sin’s effect, Satan’s desires, and God’s solution. Warn them by explaining how you responded to sin in your own life, and how they can avoid it in theirs. Your children will be blessed by your honesty.
A FIFTH REASON GOD SENDS ADVERSITY IS TO CAUSE US TO RE-EVALUATE OUR PRIORITIES.
We can become workaholics, exhausting ourselves and ignoring our children until it’s too late. Or, we can get so enamored of material things that we neglect the spiritual. So what happens? The Lord will do away with the things that dislocate our priorities.
God doesn’t initiate family breakdowns, but when He sees us neglecting His precious gifts or focusing in the wrong place, He may send a “breeze” of adversity as a reminder to check priorities. If the warning goes unheeded, however, a hurricane may be in the forecast. Then, if we persist in ignoring the intensifying storm, it’s as if He withdraws His hand and lets the adversity run its full course.
For example, many women work hard to balance career and motherhood. There are inevitable points of conflict between the two, which can serve as cautionary breezes. But if priorities are misaligned, and moving up the corporate ladder becomes the exclusive goal, a whirlwind of adversity may be approaching. Don’t choose the world over your family, or they may decide to let you have your way.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT PURPOSE FOR ADVERSITY IS TO TEST OUR WORKS.
God already knew the outcome when He told Abraham to sacrifice his son. His purpose was not to discover what the response would be, but to show the patriarch where he was in his obedient walk of faith. When Abraham came off that mountain, not only did he know more about God than ever before; he also understood more about himself spiritually.
Besides that, Isaac, more than likely, never forgot the experience! Children often remember things we do not expect—things far deeper than the externals. More than the sight of that pointed dagger, Isaac remembered that he had a father whose obedience to God knew no boundaries.
So when God sends adversity to test us, does our family watch us buckle, or do they see us standing strong in faith, trusting the Lord to teach us, strengthen us, and bring good from the circumstance? Remember that our response carries a weighty influence for good or for evil in the lives of those who love us most.
As you face hardship, keep in mind that its intensity will not exceed your capacity to bear it. God NEVER sends adversity into your life to break your spirit or destroy you. If you respond improperly, you can destroy yourself, but God’s purpose is always to bless, to strengthen, to encourage, and to bring you to the maximum of your potential.
Sometimes, as we struggle along through and endure these perilous last days, it can seem like the Devil is winning on every front. Oftentimes it truly does seem that every single hallmark of morality and righteousness in the world is not only under demonic attack but is in fact being relegated to the dustbins of society. Sometimes it may seem as though God has totally withdrawn, and that we are left to fend for ourselves. Truly, the chalepos snares of the forces of darkness abound today like no other time in history. The result of these perilous days will ultimately soon culminate in full-scale apostasy during the Tribulation of course. (as the Laodicean Church evolves into the Apostate church) But we members of the terminal generation era (alive at time for rapture) of the bride of Christ need always to ponder and reflect upon the fact that all these ominous signs of the times need not cause us to fear. Rather the prevalent perilous times present today should give us renewed hope and spiritual vigor as we labor onward in this ever darkening world.
Many people fail to understand or to grasp the unique spiritual blessing that is inferred by the phrase, “blessed hope.” The Greek term “makarios elpis,” is the rendered phrase that we as Christians know uniquely as the wondrous “blessed hope.” It is a term that is intended to convey to every Christian alive during the last days, a quiet but assuring message about an imminent gathering with the Lord before the climactic Day of Trouble.
(Day of the Lord) The term means that the last days Christian is “supremely fortunate and able to confidently anticipate” the Lord’s coming even as we witness the signs of the Last Days taking place all around us. And what a blessing it is too! Christians should never allow the Devil to rob them of this wonderfulmakarios elpis! The blessed hope and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ (epiphaneia) are majestically and supernaturally interlocked in the providential plan of God. Otherwise, the Christian of today could not look out across today’s world landscape, and see a view that is overflowing with the ever-advancing forces of darkness, and still yet be filled with absolute confidence and an anticipatory sense of excitement. These perilous times indicate that the time for Jesus return is on the radar screen for Christians and that we, his ambassadors in this world will soon be recalled home. The great tribulation era is simply not on the radar screen for Christians!
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
Some reasons to be encouraged even during the perilous times of the Last Days are the following:
Jesus has promised his children that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in the most perilous of times, the Lord is our constant refuge and strength.
Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 62:7-8; Psalms 118:4; II Corinthians 12:9)
The providential plan of God does not call for his children to be subjected to the “Day of the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16) when Jesus returns to this world as a Lion! (Revelation 5:5) Yes, God’s plan calls for our withdrawal and rescue!
1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
This world is not our home. Heaven holds our citizenship, and as citizens of Heaven, we are presently serving as the Lord’s ambassadors to this present world. We are literally spiritual aliens in this world, and this evil infested world hates us just as it hated Jesus. Our rewards, our crowns, our substance, and our inheritance are all in Heaven. There is an old song that says it plainly: (This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me to heavens open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore!) (Romans 8:17-21; Titus 2:12; Galations 1:4; Ephesians 2:12)
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Accountability to God is the great motivator for righteous living, and persisting in the faith even under the most trying of circumstances. In the end analysis, we will all (Christian or non-Christian) discover that real accountability rests solely with God. Accountability should always be a powerful reminder for us to live righteously and soberly in this present world. Every action, word, deed, and thought for every individual will be scrutinized and evaluated by God. No one shall escape God’s strong right arm of justice. Vengeance, mercy and justice belong to him alone, and all earthly kings, presidents, dictators, and all men, rich or poor, whether evil or good will one day be required to give an accounting to God. Anticipating the Lord’s words, “well done good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” are wonderful words that should encourage every Christian to endure to the end.
Romans 14:11-12 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Matthew12:36; Matthew 18:23; I Peter 4:4-5; Revelation 20:12-13)
Jesus is absolutely 100% victorious and he is coming soon to claim his kingdom! Regardless of the perils that we are subjected to while we are in this world, we must never forget the fact that Jesus Christ has already won our salvation and we must also never forget the fact that he will soon return to this earth avenge his/our adversaries.
Jeremiah 46:10 For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries:
Luke 18:7-8 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
The Church is and always will be triumphant! Although the Church will experience the onslaught of Hell, the forces of Hell will never prevail over Christ’s bride. It is true that the Church of these perilous last days will be enamored with the gods of this world and become amalgamated into the Apostate church of the Tribulation. But for us as Christians during these perilous last days, we can labor on for Christ with full confidence that the power that resides in us is more powerful than the anti-Christian powers that are presently peaking in this evil world.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Romans 8:33-39 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Even the great falling away (II Thessalonians 2:3) that is taking place within the church today is cause for spiritual exuberance and encouragement! Even as the modern church is undergoing a phenomenon of a deplorable luke-warmness that is coupled with an abandonment of sound doctrine, we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord foretold that this anemic spiritual condition would reach its climax within the church in the days just prior to his glorious return. The Bible has a name for this kind of enemy inside of the church. It is called apostasy, and involves the workings of the mystery of iniquity. (there is an ecclesiastical enemy inside the church today operating with amazing power) The Greek word from which we derive the word apostasy simply means “a falling away, or a rebellion or revolt.” To apostatize in biblical times meant to desert one’s station or post. (abandon the doctrinal faith) The Greek biographer Plutarch used the word to describe a political revolution. In apostasy, those who profess to be Christians actually pollute and compromise the clear teachings of the Scriptures, turning God’s word into a popular age of fables. The Scriptures also show that apostasy has existed from the church’s infancy and will continue with its highs and lows right up until the Lord returns. The grand apostate will be the Antichrist. The Church has experienced an ebb and flow throughout history, but the falling away will reach such an intensity that it will be allowed by God to result in the coming of the Antichrist and the establishment of a one-world apostate religion. Then and only then will Christ return and establish His kingdom. For this reason, even as I continue to observe the modern decay of the church and alhough it is a sad scene, I am also greatly encouraged. I am encouraged because I understand that God is preparing to separate the true believers from the pretending believers. The activated blessed hope of every Christian conveys to his spiritual instincts the fact that our stubborn resistance to the spiritual wiles of the antichrist movement is still obstructing his rise to power in this world. The mere fact of the present apostasy should awaken genuine believers to vigilance and readiness for the Second Coming of Christ. For those of us who are on the spiritual front lines of Christian fundamentalism and activism, there is every reason to be confident. Because whatever the finale, whether revival or rapture, the rise of apostasy indicates there is a very happy ending in the near future of all us who truly have faith in the Lord!
To the many, though dwindling stalwart Christian faithful out there still manning the Lighthouses around our world, let me encourage all of you with these resounding words; Press Onward Christian Soldiers, because Christ the royal master leads against the foe! Be encouraged, even in these perilous days!
1 Peter 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
1 Peter 1:18-20 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
II Corinthians 1:3-5 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
Today is a beautiful day because I am fighting the good fight of faith. I am alive and my purpose is to serve God and love mankind no matter how many times life shows up in its various colors I am to stand with the resolve to press onward. I completed a thirteen month house arrest sentence that almost paralyzed my being in September of 2013, only to find out that my fight wasn’t over. Coupled with living arrangement struggles, financially devastated, and labeled with the scarlet letter “F” (Felon) the penal system came after me once again with a hefty offer of 24 years if I took this debacle to trial, but God and prayer changed those twenty four years to His sovereign will being perfected in my life to 100 more days of house arrest and the financial cloud of doom to pay for this is even more heavy to my soul than serving the sentence.
Hit with the death of two major men of God in my life of restoration and the untimely news of an aligning dad whom I haven’t been able to see in 10 years, the daunting task of everyday limited routines due to the now meager resources and mere existence of purpose I fight the looming depression of uncertainty by self talking and determination of will to believe what I can’t see as truth rather than what I do see as defeat.
Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you really wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a major role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.
New International Version (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
On a consumer flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston in the summer of 1987, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the aircraft. Henry Dempsey turned the controls over to his copilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff and it fell open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the jet.
The copilot, seeing the red light on the control panel that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane and requested that a helicopter be dispatched to search the area of the ocean.
After the plane had landed, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow, he had caught the ladder and managed to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. What is more, as the plane made its approach and landed, Dempsey had kept his head from hitting the runway, a mere 12 inches away. According to news reports, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry the pilot’s fingers from the ladder.
That is a picture of endurance – the ability to hang on when it would have been easier to let go. Many people are blessed with certain attributes, but endurance jumps to the forefront for success in any endeavor. Endurance is the key that keeps us from giving up and letting go.
Endurance “the power of going on in spite of difficulties.” Popular colloquial phrases describe it as: “Keep on keeping on.” “Hang in there.” “Put up with it.” “Stick-to-itiveness.” “Don’t quit.” Its synonyms are determination, perseverance, tenacity, plodding, stamina, and backbone. When endurance is used in the Bible it means “to abide under,” “to bear up courageously,” and “to tarry or wait.”
Henry Dempsey would just say it is holding on for dear life.
The Bible considers endurance a priority. Paul expressed its importance in character development, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). The writer of Hebrews also knew that perseverance was mandatory in the pursuit of character. “For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (Heb. 10:36).
The following practical secrets will enable you to develop perseverance.
I. Accept the unchangeable
Accept those things in life that cannot be changed. William Barclay described endurance as “the courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us and the transmitting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.” Let’s face it, some events and circumstances are inevitable. Sometimes life is not fair. Injustices creep into every one’s arena. Sometimes, in one way or another, we fall out of unlocked airplane doors.
It helps to remember that God is in charge of our lives. His desire is for us to grow in the likeness of his Son. So whatever enters our life – unfavorable circumstances, tragic events, or irritating people – is for the development of character. Be it good, bad, or indifferent our response to life’s irritants forms our character.
The oyster and its pearl provide a beautiful picture of a positive response to life’s irritants. The pearl is a product of pain. An alien substance – a grain of sand – slips inside the oyster’s shell. On the entry of that foreign irritant, all the resources within the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot and begin to release healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. Eventually the irritant is covered and the wound healed by a pearl. No other gem has so fascinating a history. It is the symbol of stress. The precious, tiny jewel is conceived through irritation, born of adversity. Had there been no wounding, no irritating interruption, there could have been no pearl.
J. B. Phillips understood this as he paraphrased James 1:2-4: “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they have come to test your endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men (and women) of mature character.”
II. Adjust to the obstacles
A young naval captain was commanding his first battleship. As it pierced through the ocean one night, a light was spotted in the darkened distance coming directly toward the ship.
The commander radioed, “Alter your course ten degrees.”
The reply came shortly, “No, you alter your course ten degrees.”
The undaunted captain angrily sent a message, “Alter your course, I am a destroyer.”
The reply came quickly, “Alter your course, I am a lighthouse.”
Sometimes we have to adjust our way to fit the realities of life. Solomon wrote, “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished” (Prov. 22:3). Some circumstances are unavoidable. Disappointments are certain. Obstacles are sure. Losses will occur. The person with perseverance acknowledges the road blocks and makes adjustments. Thomas Carlyle noted, “The block of granite that was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong.” When the obstacles of life are stacked before us we can adjust by going around, climbing over, or tunneling under.
Are you allowing intrusions to distort and disfigure your life? Are their circumstances or people in your life that you have been trying to change? Why not transform these obstacles into growth blocks by learning to adjust?
When we adjust to the detours of life God reveals some of his marvelous handiwork off the beaten trail. Don’t think of adjustment as failure, think of it as an education. Hang on, see what God has in store for you around the next bend in the road.
III. Abide with patience
Someone once said, “You can do anything if you have patience. You can carry water in a sieve – if you wait until it freezes.” Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that patient. When we need it, we usually pray, “Lord, give me patience . . . and I want it now.” Or, as Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, said more eloquently, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.”
But one can’t learn patience by listing to a sermon unless the sermon is so long they have to practice it while they listen. Nor can they learn patience by reading a book unless the book is so boring that they have to muster up patience to finish it. The only way to learn patience is by facing this hurly-burly world, taking life as it comes. It is holding on, gritting your teeth, clinching your jaw, riding out the storm.
And that is not easy. Joyce Landorf writes, “God’s waiting room is the most difficult aspect of the Christian experience.”
In the Greek language, the term for patience is often translated “long-suffering.” It’s a compound word. The first part means “long or far.” The second part means “hot, anger, or wrath.” Putting it together we literally have “long-anger.” We have an English expression “short-tempered.” We would not miss the meaning very far if we called patience “long-tempered.” Patience is that ability that keeps us from blowing up when events don’t go our way or losing our cool when others upset us.
Believers are exhorted to display patience. James wrote, “Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-8). James shows how the farmer demonstrates patience. A farmer cannot make it rain or give growth. He must rely on God to act in the most wise and merciful way.
The secret of patience is abiding. We must learn to rest and endure under the load of pain and suffering. We abide under the load of pain and suffering by abiding with a God who is faithful. We must not only learn to abide in Christ but also abide with Christ under the struggles and the pressures in life.
IV. Affirm the presence
As we progress toward a life that resembles Jesus Christ we must always remember that God is with us. Sometimes God is like a teacher instructing us with the construction. Sometimes God is a fellow-worker challenging us to excellence. Sometimes God is a spectator encouraging us to keep on keeping on. Whatever situation we find ourselves, God is always with us.
I recall the long and grueling basketball practices in high school. The gym was not air-conditioned. We would run forever, it seemed. My legs would throb, my side hurt with a splitting pain, and my chest pounded like it was about to pop out. I wanted to quit. But then something wonderful happened. My body would provide a miraculous gracious replenishing of energy, known as a second wind.
As we run toward a distinctive life of character we will experience a similar feeling. Getting started possesses no problem. We get bogged down as the race continues. A time comes when our personal resources are exhausted. Yet as we endure, God seems to give us a spiritual second wind.
Isaiah described this miracle: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV)
The secret is found in affirming God’s presence. The world says give up, drop out, run away. God says to just trust me, lean on me, and fall into my arms. God is with you to support and sustain you. To give you hope, courage, and strength to continue. He has promised, “‘My presence will go [with you], and I will give you rest'” (Ex. 33:14).
Ignance Paderewski, Poland’s famous concert pianist and prime minister, was giving a series of concerts. A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a performance. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage. The mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy eventually made his way through a door marked, “No Admittance.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the great piano master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
In our quest for contagious character, unpolished and incomplete though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our character can truly be beautiful. Our responsibility is to not quit, to keeping playing; his part is to fashion a masterpiece.
Remember God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. And, he’ll always be there to love and to guide you to great things.
Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it.
Are you tired of trying to live for Christ? Hang in there.
Do you feel like giving up on the Christian life? Roll up your sleeves and get back in there.
Can’t resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and keep on living rightly.
Do you feel that sorrow and disappointment greet your every morning? Hold on. Help is just around the corner.
Endurance prevails. “Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12 NIV). Remember you are not a failure until you give up. You are not a flop until you let go.
So don’t quit. Never give up. Keep going. Hold on. God’s rewards await us in the distant future not near the beginning; and we don’t know how many steps it will take to reach the prize. No breaks or time outs exist; we must work every day of our life. It has been said, “Life is like reading a book. It begins to make sense when we near the end.” Endurance maintains the stamina needed to see the end and embrace the prize. So fight another round, rise another time, and, above all, like Henry Dempsey, don’t let go.
As I watched this movie last night I was struck with innovative thoughts on how to become a philanthropist myself in-order to get Second Chance Alliance off the ground. Visualization is a technique used by winners in all walks of life. If you really want something to come to fruition, then you have to put your imaginative mind to work. See the result in front of you, play the game you are going to play in your mind or watch yourself accepting your success. The only limit is your own mind. I watched another video that showed the brand I desire for my dream and man what a experience of rejuvenation I experienced from “Home Boy” Industries.
Nothing is going to improve when you feel lousy about yourself and your chances in life. A positive mindset will reset an erring period of bad luck. It will turn that half-empty glass into the half-full glass; the rainy day into the silver-lined cloud. Seize opportunities to change and move on. You’re about to create them!
Visualization is sort of like hypnosis: if you don’t think it’ll work, it won’t. Thinking positively is the first step to making sure this visualization is actually effective. It’s the first step to making these desires a part of real life. Visualization and faith are powerful ingredients. I was feeling bad that I can not seem to find anyone to buy into my dream to bring this sought of program to Riverside County, but I am connected to all the power one needs and that is The God of the universe.
My passion is the reason God woke me up this morning, and just the thought of it can keep you up late with excitement. But not everyone knows exactly what his passion is right away. Don’t worry — whether you’re looking for your passion to find a new career, or if you’re looking to get completely immersed in a new hobby or activity, there are a number of things you can do to find your passion. My past has fueled this passion and God has poured this same vision of hope for helping others into my spirit.
The prison looms today as a central feature of American society. Since 1976, we have been building on average one prison every week. More than two million Americans are now crammed into the nation’s still overcrowded jails and prisons. In fact, there are now about as many prisoners in America as there are farmers. Over half of those incarcerated are people of color. More than four million Americans, again mainly people of color, have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions, many under laws enacted explicitly to prevent African-Americans from voting. (1) Studies have shown that this disenfranchisement has had a significant impact on the outcome of presidential and senate elections prior to 2000. (2) We need no detailed studies to show the direct impact of this disenfranchisement on the most recent national election. Prior to November 2000, one third of the African-American men in Florida were convicted as felons and then stripped of their right to vote, while thousands more were purged from the voting rolls as alleged felons by fiat of a corporation hired by Governor Jeb Bush. If only a small percentage of Florida’s 204,000 disenfranchised male African-American citizens (not to mention the other 200,000 disenfranchised ex-felons in Florida) had been allowed to vote in 2000, even the U.S. Supreme Court could not have installed George W. Bush as President of the United States.
As the prison has become ever more central to American society, oral and written literature created by American prisoners and ex-prisoners has become ever more vital to understanding its wider significance. One central theme unifies the entire body of American prison literature, a theme that emerged from African-American experience: Who are the real criminals? As Frederick Douglass wrote in 1845 about the law-abiding citizens of America: “I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery.” A hundred and twenty five years later, George Drumgold, writing from Comstock Prison, expressed a similar idea in this couplet:
They say we’re the criminals, a threat to society
But in truth they stole us, so how can that be?
But there’s a difference. Unlike Drumgold, Douglass did not have to be convicted of a crime to be enslaved.
Prior to the Civil War, African-American slavery was not legitimized or rationalized by any claim that the slaves were being punished for crimes. That was to come next. The necessary legal transformation was effected in 1865 by the very Amendment to the Constitution–Article 13–that abolished the old form of slavery:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States . . . .
Article 13 actually wrote slavery into the Constitution of the United States, but only for those people legally defined as criminals. So America now had to transform the freed slaves into criminals–by law and through culture.
Why? Because massive slave labor was needed for the plantations, coal mines, lumber camps, railroad and road construction, and prison factories, where during the Civil War white slaves produced equipment for the Union army.
The former slave states immediately devised legislation–the Black Codes–branding almost every former slave as a criminal. These laws specified that many vaguely defined acts–such as “mischief” and “insulting gestures”–were crimes, but only if committed by a “free negro.” Mississippi’s Vagrancy Act defined “all free negroes and mulattoes over the age of eighteen” as criminals unless they could furnish written proof of a job at the beginning of every year. (3) “Having no visible means of support” was a crime being committed by almost all the freed slaves. So was “loitering” (staying in the same place) and “vagrancy” (wandering).
Many of the new convicts were leased. The convict lease system had a big advantage for the enslavers: since they did not own the convicts, they lost nothing by working them to death. For example, the death rate among leased Alabama black convicts during just one year (1869) was 41 percent. (4) Much of the railroad system throughout the South was built by leased convicts, often packed in rolling iron cages moved from job to job, working in such hellish conditions that their life expectancy rarely exceeded two years. (5)
Besides leasing convicts, states expanded their own prison slavery. The infrastructure of many southern states was built and maintained by convicts. For example, aged African-American women convicts dug the campus of Georgia State College, and prisoners as young as twelve worked in chain gangs to maintain the streets of Atlanta. (6) Some states went into big business, selling products of convict labor. Hence the vast state prison plantations established in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, where cotton picked by prisoners was manufactured into cloth by other prisoners in prison cotton mills. These plantations dwarfed the largest cotton plantations of the slave South in size, brutality–and profitability.
The stigma associated with being an ex-felon in America is unlike anything a person can comprehend unless they walk in the shoes of ex-felons. People get ill everyday but they somehow recover and are able to seek opportunity and they are made whole. Ex-felons on the other hand suffer for a lifetime for decisions that they made in the spur of the moment. Some people understand the dynamics associated with persons who struggle daily to regain their respect and dignity in their communities because they were previously convicted of a felony. Then there are those who believe that once a person has been convicted of a felony they should be treated as felons and denied opportunities for the rest of their lives. We have programs in every state that offers assistance to ex-felons being released from prison, yet, every time ex-felons complete applications for employment, they are constantly reminded that some things never change.
In America ex-felons carry the stigma of being convicted for life. A conviction is like the metaphorical scarlet letter. When people see you they see your conviction because many folks in America will never let you forget that you committed a crime.
Today we are beginning to witness a paradigm shift in how ex-felons are treated. Unfortunately it is not because of the reasons that we would think. Ex-felons are treated different now because of the economy. Many states, counties and cities are receiving fewer funds for housing prisoners and have released prisoners who in times past they deemed posed threats to society. Decisions such as these makes rational people think about whether these people actually ever posed a threat to society in the first place.
According to the research, there are approximately 2.8 million ex-felons currently locked up in jails and prisons in the U.S. African American make up approximately 47% of the inmate population in the U.S. yet they account for only 12.7 % of the population in the U. S. African Americans are disproportionately represented in every state in the U.S. This means that their percentage in the prison population is greater than their percentage in the state’s general population. Sixty (60%) of the one million people who are released from prison return to prison within 3 years many of them much quicker!
Today Ex-felons are visible in every facet of life. America and Americans are becoming more tolerant of ex-felons in sports, media, education, military and areas in which felons benefit organizations but corporate America and political entities continue to maintain a strict stance against ex-felons. However, there are states such as Louisiana who allow ex-felons to run for public office after being released from probation or parole for fifteen years.
Ex-felons have a much lower rate of recidivating when they are released to stable living environment and caring families. Without these two safety nets most ex-felons are DOA-Doomed on Arrival. Ex-felons who are released from prison and acquire gainful employment, have the support of their love ones, and are connected to a higher power are much more likely to stay out of prison longer and in many cases never return.
No ex-felon should be punished for life. Once ex-felons are released from prison they should be treated like any other citizen. Corporations who do not hire ex-felons based on their criminal records only, in my opinion should not be supported by the ex-felons or their families. In some recent research in which I surveyed 100 of the largest corporations in Texas, many of the HR Departments responded to the questions of Do your corporation hire ex-felons by saying that each decision is made on a case by case basis. That was a common response from employers. In my book “Why Are So Many Black Folks In Jail”, I constantly remind readers that if corporations refuse to hire qualified ex-felons solely based on the fact that they committed a crime in their past not taking into account that they have paid their debt to society, then “if they don’t hire we don’t buy”. The best way to get people’s attention is to affect their wallets and pocketbooks! Ex-felons have much more power than they think, if they harness and organize their power!
The Message (MSG)
6 God said to Moses, “Now you’ll see what I’ll do to Pharaoh: With a strong hand he’ll send them out free; with a strong hand he’ll drive them out of his land.”
2-6 God continued speaking to Moses, reassuring him, “I am God. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as The Strong God, but by my name God (I-Am-Present) I was not known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the country in which they lived as sojourners. But now I’ve heard the groanings of the Israelites whom the Egyptians continue to enslave and I’ve remembered my covenant. Therefore tell the Israelites:
6-8 “I am God. I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. I will rescue you from slavery. I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. I’ll take you as my own people and I’ll be God to you. You’ll know that I am God, your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. I’ll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. I AM God.”
9 But when Moses delivered this message to the Israelites, they didn’t even hear him—they were that beaten down in spirit by the harsh slave conditions.
10-11 Then God said to Moses, “Go and speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt so that he will release the Israelites from his land.”
12 Moses answered God, “Look—the Israelites won’t even listen to me. How do you expect Pharaoh to? And besides, I stutter.”
13 But God again laid out the facts to Moses and Aaron regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he again commanded them to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.
Sixteen Tons”, written by Merle Travis and recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, became one of America’s most popular songs in the mid-1950s. People seemed to identify with this coal miner’s lament about feeling trapped and unable to change his situation no matter how hard he worked. Coal miners often lived in company-owned houses and were paid in “scrip”-coupons valid only at the company-owned store. Even if summoned to heaven, the miner said, he couldn’t go because he owed his soul to the company store.
That sense of hopeless resignation may help us understand the feelings of the Hebrew people during their four hundred years of bondage in Egypt. When Moses told them of God’s promise to release them from slavery, they didn’t listen to him “because of anguish of spirit”. They were so far down they couldn’t look up.
But God did something for them that they could not do for themselves. And the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of His people foreshadowed His powerful intervention on our behalf through His Son, Jesus Christ. It was when “we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men” (Romans 5:6 Phillips). When life is at its lowest ebb, we are not without hope because of the wonderful grace of God.
When trouble seeks to rob your very breath,
When tragedy hits hard and steals your days,
Recall that Christ endured the sting of death;
He gives us hope, and merits all our praise.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and I will confirm it,
That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.
107 I am exceedingly afflicted;
[a]Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
And teach me Your ordinances.
109 My [b]life is continually [c]in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
I”ve always thought that I could get through just about anything if the Lord would tell me what the outcome will be. I believe that “all things work together for good” in the end (Romans 8:28), but I’d do a lot better in dark times if I knew exactly what the “good” will look like.
BUt God usually doesn’t show us where He is taking us. He just asks us to trust Him. It’s like driving a car at night. Our headlights never shine all the way to our destination; they illuminate only about 160 feet ahead. But that doesn’t deter us from moving forward. We trust our headlights. All we really need is enough light to keep moving forward.
God’s word is like headlights in dark times. It is full of promises we need to keep us from driving our lives into the ditch of bitterness and despair. His Word promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us(Hebrews 13:5). His Word assures us that He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not for evil, to give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). And He tells us that our trials are there to make us better, not bitter (James 1:2-4).
So the next time you feel as if you’re driving in the dark, remember to trust your headlights–God’s Word will light your way.
The Word of God provides the light
We need to see the way;
It shows us what we need to know
So we won’t go astray.
You won’t stumble in the dark if you walk in the light of God’s Word….
20 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable – trying to buy God’s gift!
Do I trust in God or in my own skills to supply my needs? In 1923, several of the most powerful money magnets in the world gathered for a meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The combined resources and assets of these men tallied more than the U.S. Treasury that year. In the group were Charles Schwab, president of a steel company; Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange; and Arthur Cutton, a wheat speculator.
Albert Fall was a presidential cabinet member, a personally wealthy man. Jesse Livermore was the greatest Wall Street “bear” in his generation. Leon Fraser was the president of the International Bank of Settlements, and Ivan Kruger headed the largest monopoly in the nation. It was an impressive gathering of financial eagles!
What happened to these men in later years? Schwab died penniless. Whitney served a life sentence in Sing-Sing Prison. Cutton became insolvent. Fall was pardoned from a Federal prison so he could die at home. Fraser, Livermore, and Krueger committed suicide. These extremely rich men ended their lives with nothing.
Money is certainly not the answer to life’s ills! Only God can give us peace, happiness, and joy. When we focus on God and His goodness in our lives, whether we have money or not, we can live in contentment, knowing that God will meet all our needs.
In my vocabulary, there is no such word as “can’t,” because I recognize that my abilities are given to me by God to do what needs to be done.
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The blessings of redeeming love our Savior compared to a precious pearl. He illustrated His lesson by the parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Christ Himself is the pearl of great price. In Him is gathered all the glory of the Father, the fullness of the Godhead. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. The glory of the attributes of God is expressed in His character. Every page of the Holy Scriptures shines with His light. The righteousness of Christ, as a pure, white pearl, has no defect, no stain. No work of man can improve the great and precious gift of God. It is without a flaw. In Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3. He is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30. All that can satisfy the needs and longings of the human soul, for this world and for the world to come, is found in Christ. Our Redeemer is the pearl so precious that in comparison all things else may be accounted loss.
Christ “came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:11. The light of God shone into the darkness of the world, and “the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5. But not all were found indifferent to the gift of heaven. The merchantman in the parable represents a class who were sincerely desiring truth. In different nations there were earnest and thoughtful men who had sought in literature and science and the religions of the heathen world for that which they could receive as the soul’s treasure. Among the Jews there were those who were seeking for that which they had not. Dissatisfied with a formal religion, they longed for that which was spiritual and uplifting. Christ’s chosen disciples belonged to the latter class, Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch to the former. They had been longing and praying for light from heaven; and when Christ was revealed to them, they received Him with gladness.
In the parable the pearl is not represented as a gift. The merchantman bought it at the price of all that he had. Many question the meaning of this, since Christ is represented in the Scriptures as a gift. He is a gift, but only to those who give themselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him without reserve. We are to give ourselves to Christ, to live a life of willing obedience to all His requirements. All that we are, all the talents and capabilities we possess, are the Lord’s, to be consecrated to His service. When we thus give ourselves wholly to Him, Christ, with all the treasures of heaven, gives Himself to us. We obtain the pearl of great price.
Salvation is a free gift, and yet it is to be bought and sold. In the market of which divine mercy has the management, the precious pearl is represented as being bought without money and without price. In this market all may
obtain the goods of heaven. The treasury of the jewels of truth is open to all. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” the Lord declares, “and no man can shut it.” No sword guards the way through this door. Voices from within and at the door say, Come. The Saviour’s voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” Rev. 3:8, 18.
The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’
King James Version (KJV)
17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.
Many children learn to count on their fingers, but a nurse once taught a child to pray on his fingers.
This was her method:
Your thumb is the digit nearest to your heart, so pray first for those who are closest to you. Your own needs, of course, should be included, as well as those of your beloved family and friends. The second finger is the one used for pointing. Pray for those who point you toward the truth, whether at church or schoo;. Pray for teachers, mentors, pastors, and those who inspire your faith.
The third finger is the tallest. Let it stand for leaders in every spere of life. Pray for those in authority–both within the body of Christ and those who hold office in various areas of government. The fourth finger is the weakest, as every pianist knows. Let it stand for those who are in trouble and pain–the sick, injured, abused, wounded, or hurt. Those in Belize who are being over taken by the “Crack Cocaine” epidimic. Pray for those who are in war torn countries, trapped and inpovisioned prisoners of other countries. My God thier are so many to pray for on the weakest finger.
The little finger is the smallest. Let it stand for those who often go unnoticed, including those who suffer abuse and deprivation. What a great tool to use in teaching children how to pray for themselves and others! What a simple and wonderful reminder to use as we pray ourselves!
Daily prayers will diminish your cares. Don’t long for the absence of problems in your life. That is an unrealistic goal, since in this world you will have trouble. You have an eternity of problem-free living reserved for you in heaven. rejoice in that inheritance, which no one can take away from you, but do not seek your heaven on earth.
All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.
I praise God for being real to me. I thank God for every mountain He brought me over, for every trial He has seen me through. I woke up this un-promised day by the ruler of the universe with purpose and good health. I thank God for not allowing death to grace my life today nor any of the gifts of individuals aligned with my life, I praise Elohim for watching over my enemies associated with my life and this country. I thank God for prayer and His attentative ear that I trust hears my evey prayer. I thank God for being fair, firm , and just when it comes to loving His creation.
New International Version (NIV)
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
Thank God Elijah was “just like us”! He sat under a tree, complained to God, and expressed his belief–just as we have often done. Yet this was not the case at all when he was truly in touch with God. “Elijah was a man just like us,” yet “he prayed earnestly.” The literal meaning of this in the greek is magnificent: instead of saying, “earnestly,” It says, “He prayed in prayer.” My God I am feeling this and His presence this morning: In other words, “He kept on praying.” The lesson here is that you must keep praying.
Climb to the top of Mount Carmel and see that great story of faith and sight. After Elijah had called down fire from heaven to defeat the prophets of Baal, rain was needed for God’s prophecy to be fulfilled. And the man who could command fire from heaven could bring rain using the same methods. We are told, “Elijah…bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees”(1Kings 18:42), shutting out all sights and sounds. He put himself in a position, beneath his robe, to meither see nor hear what was happening.
Elijah then said to his servant,”Go and look towards the sea”. Upon returning, the servant replied, “There is nothing there.” How brief his response must have seemed! “Nothing!” Can you imagine what we would do under the same circumstances? We would say,”just as I expected!” and then would stop praying. But did Elijah give up? No. In fact, six times he told his servant,”Go back,” Each time the servant returned saying, “Nothing!”
Yet “the seventh time the servant reported,’A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea'”. What a fitting description, for a man’s hand had been raised in prayer to God before the rains came. And the rains came so fast and furiously that Elijah warned Ahab to “go down before the rain stops you.”
My faith says what Elijah faith said. I can see the breaking of day in my life. The system of this world would winn if I didn’t have God in me who is greater than “Me” that used to be world centered. I have faith that sooner or later it will turn around for me as it did for the Man of God. Felonies, convictions, lack of materialisim, lack of hope, fear of the uncertain is turning around for me, I can see the hand in the clouds of doubt and dispair forming in mu behalf. “Yes” my God is in love with “Me” and His promises are for “Me” and I will have what I have need of in this life because He is in control.
This story of faith and sight–faith cutting itself off from everything except God, with sight that looks and yet sees nothing. Yes, in-spite of utterly hopeless reports received from sight, this story of faith that continues “praying in prayer.” Willie Ashley my brother in the faith, I encourage you in Jesus name to be this way. Shut off your incarceration and focus on ‘ABBA” let Him soothe your natural appearances and see yourself from a faith perspective. We agree with the will of God for your life.
Do you know how to pray in that way–how to prevail in prayer? Let your sight bring you reports of discouraging as possible, but pay no attention to them. Our heavenly Father lives, and even the delays of answers to our prayers are part of His goodness. Each of three young boys once gave a definition of faith that illustrates the important aspect of tenacity. The first boy defined faith as “taking hold of Christ,” the second as “keeping our hold on Him,” and the third as “not letting go of Him.”