Sunday, September 11, 2022

I Love My Country!

Let me begin by saying that I understand as well as anyone that our nation has problems. You'd have to be a banana not to be aware of that. I also understand that America is at a very crucial crossroads currently. No, the U.S. is not perfect. And it would be extremely easy to point out our flaws, and key on them, any day of the week. But I love the United States of America.

I've traveled to many nations in my lifetime, and one undeniable truth has manifested as a result of every single trip: America is blessed. I love going. I love traveling. I'm enamored with foreign culture. But above all, I love coming back to the blessedness of the United States.

Traveling extensively in ministry, as well as living on the continent of Europe for three years, has allowed me to see the blessings of God on this nation. If you have never experienced how 3/4 of the rest of the world lives, you probably won't see this. Visiting third world nations many times for the sake of the gospel has affirmed what I had already chosen to believe: that God has had His hand on our nation since its inception.

I have friends all over the globe that dream of coming to the United States. As a matter of fact, as the land of opportunity, the U.S. has attracted people from all over the world...because of the possibilities available.

I like to look for the good in people. But quite truthfully, if I know you well enough I will notice some of your flaws. I mean, I might have to try very hard to notice yours, but I could. Then I could focus on only your flaws. I could get on social media and talk to others about your flaws. I could amplify your flaws to the point that I influence friends to believe you are a totally dysfunctional person. And you could do the very same thing to me! How would that happen? By my focusing exclusively on your flaws, weaknesses, and struggles.

That's what has been happening in America. Does the U.S. have any good characteristics? Of course she does. She is still the greatest nation on the earth. This is not because of what we have done. It's not because of who we are. We're no better in God's eyes than any other nation on the planet. But it is because of "how" we are. Yes...how we are. We are what we are because of how our nation was founded. We were founded by folks who sought God's direction on establishing our land. And you know what? God provided the direction! That's for another post, and another time. But as a result of how America was founded, God has been able to bless, and it is obvious.

I think we ought to STOP bashing our homeland. It's the only one we have. And think about this...America is you. America is me. When you bash your nation, you are bashing yourself! Let me encourage you to look for the good in our nation, and be grateful for what we have.

Pray for America, as some folks want her to fail. If she fails, you will fail. Your families will fail. Ministries will fail. Businesses will fail. If America falls to the forces of evil working from within her borders, the world will fall. When America goes down the stage will be completed for the coming antichrist. You have a part in it! Which part will you play? Will you play the part of the complacent, having the passive attitude that says, "Well, it's all going to happen anyway. What good could I do?" Or will you begin to stand up for our nation (if you're not already doing so), and live for the One who established her from the beginning. No, I'm not a nationalist. I am a follower of Christ. One who is extremely grateful and indebted to  our God who has blessed our nation immensely through the ages!

The true and effective stand for America begins with fervent prayer for her: consistent, fervent prayer. It continues with living by the holy principles of God's  Word. This of course, will require that you live counter-culturally in this world. Counter-culturally means you won't go with the flow of the forces of this world. It means you will become obvious as one who has not bowed the knee to the Nebuchadnezzars of this world. You may even be hated as a follower of Jesus! But America will not stand unless the people of God become serious and take their stand as those NOT from this world! So what will you do my Christian friend? The time has come (and nearly passed us by) for God's folks to stand for our nation!

 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Pressing In!

Pressing in! There's an interesting title. I'm not talking about pressing your pants, or pressing your nose against a glass window! The pressing I'm talking about involves your relationship with Jesus. This kind of pressing involves "pressing forward, or onward". It also involves "pressing in" to the Spirit's presence. "Pressing in" to His presence is the one I want to talk about.

To "press" means: To move by weight or force in a certain direction or into a certain position. As far as direction goes, our only concern should be moving toward or into God's presence. And as far as position goes...closer to Him. 
 
Pressing in doesn't happen without effort. It takes force. There are times in which we won't move deeper into His presence unless we "press in" to His presence. And some of these times must be designated for the purpose of pressing in. In times when you feel dry in your walk, even stagnated, press in deeper to the presence of God. The reward is that His incredible presence changes you and me! The world will cause you to acquiesce in your walk, and become apathetic toward Him. If that is you today, press in...to His presence. That's where the fire is!

But pressing in also will not happen without our pressing deeper into our relationship with Him. James tells us to "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." This is a powerful promise to us. However, this promise comes with conditions. If we're truly serious about pressing in, we must be serious about the conditions James lays before us. He continues, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (James 4: 8 - 10)

All of the above are vital keys to pressing deeper into the things of God in your personal walk with Jesus. It begins with submitting ourselves to God, and resisting the devil. (James 4:7) But then we must stop sinning! That's how we cleanse OUR hands. We must also purify OUR hearts. We do that by determining we will be single-minded toward Jesus, and serving only Him! James also said that friendship with the world is hostility toward our God. (James 4:3) And for many of us, we must be miserable, and weep over the current status of our relationship with Jesus. This is pressing in. It's also called repenting! How does all of the above happen? By humbling ourselves in the presence of the Lord. The lifting up is His job...and He will!

Pressing in to the presence of God is a heart thing. When we press in, we are truly seeking God. We are dissatisfied with the status of our relationship with Jesus. So we do something about it. We press to go deeper. It's one thing to conform to a regimen of daily prayer. It is quite another to press in. Pressing in occurs when the heart cries out to God. It is when we yearn for God's presence from deep within, with a determination that we won't stop until we break through into His presence. ""As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God." (Psalm 42:1) Let me tell you my friend...this will change your life! Circumstances are not as impacting when your life is changed from being in His presence!

I've learned over the years that a short time in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit does more for me than months of counseling. Don't misunderstand me. We need Godly counseling. But what we need more is time in the life-changing presence of God's Holy Spirit. That's what we are created for. You cannot hang out with Him long without being drastically changed! And because we live in a world that pulls us in multiple different directions, and demands ALL of our time...pressing in must be made our priority.

The "reward of pressing" is that it brings us closer to Jesus. And the closer to Jesus we become, the more like Him we become.


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

What Happens When You Are Sent?

Early one recent morning I was reading in the 13th Chapter of the Gospel of John. I treasure the rich words of Jesus as He taught and encouraged His disciples, while on the earth. His words apply to you and me today as well, and are still just as powerful.

In this Chapter, Jesus washed the disciple's feet as an example of how we must serve one another. He added that if He, the Teacher and Master, washed their feet, his followers must wash each other's feet. Serving and loving one another displays the very humble heart of Jesus to the world. We are not greater than our Master, Jesus, and if He served, so should we. Great stuff! Stuff that you and I must embrace as His true followers.

Jesus spoke something very powerful during His discourse. Something we must stop and ponder. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." (John 13:20) As I began to ponder this verse I saw the whole plan of salvation for man, in just one verse. What a super descriptive picture of God's infinite grace, in just a few words, and how true they are!

God so loved the world that He sent Jesus. Ultimately He went to the cross and bore the sins of all mankind. He died on that cross, but three days later rose from the dead. He remained on the earth for about 40 days. Just before He ascended back to heaven He charged His followers with what we call The Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Listen to Mark's version:  "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." (Mark 16:15-16)

Here is the most powerful thought I received when reading John Chapter 13. The Great Commission is the command for us to go. That means that Jesus sends us. Whether it is across the street, or across an ocean, we must obey the command to go. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." (John 13:20)

From the fall of man to the Cross of Christ, man was separated from God the Father by sin. In His perfect timing, God sent Jesus, His Son. In John 14, Jesus said to His disciples, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way? Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:3-6) (Underline added)

It's not just that Jesus came and made the way for us. He is the way. By virtue of His command to go, we are sent out by Jesus. As we go, we must share Jesus, who He is, and what He has done for us. Whoever receives you and me, receives Jesus. And whenever a person receives Jesus, they receive the Father. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30) He told the disciple Thomas, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father..." (John 14:9) The barrier of sin has been obliterated by Jesus. We are reconciled to the Father. But we must receive Jesus to receive the One who sent Him, Father God. The barrier of sin has been broken down.  Once again, we have access to God's domain! No wonder it is called the Gospel, or good news!

The reason we must ponder this is so that, with the Holy Spirit's help, we understand the power of going and sharing Jesus. Jesus is the link between lost mankind and our loving Father. He is the power of the Great Commission! Without obeying His command to go and make disciples, His earthly ministry and sacrifice would have no power. We must go!

"WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" (Romans 10:13-15) (Underline added)