Friday, August 31, 2012

The Call to Repentance... It's Not What You Think!

"Repentance" has become considered to be such an ugly and judgmental word in today's culture.
People on street corners hold signs that say "The end is near!" and they yell "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" Well, that certainly worked 2,000 years ago when John the Baptist did it... but today? Today, passersby are either offended, annoyed, confused, oblivious or desensitized to it. Most don't have the theological background that the Jews did two millenia ago to fully understand the meaning behind the words. Even some Christians, including myself, who understand the theology and "get" the terminology, have at one point or another looked at these "street-corner prophets" like they are possibly being over-zealous or possibly even judgmental, as if they have condemned us before even asking our name!


This method of trying to get others to come to Christ might just be too abrasive and I'm not sure if it's a good tactic to use in a society that already has so much NOISE.

The Word says that God speaks to us in a still, small voice, and maybe those on the street-corners need to take a quieter, more gentle approach in getting us to see our need for repentance.

When they keep yelling "Repent! Repent! Repent!" people may take it to mean: "You must change who you are before God will accept you! If you don't change your wicked ways, then Jesus will not love you!"

THIS IS A LIE!

I hope this is not what is on their hearts as they yell "Repent!", and I don't really believe it is, because that is not what God's Word says! Jesus loves everyone no matter your circumstance and He wants you to COME AS YOU ARE - broken, sinful, and dirty. He wants you to come to the foot of the Cross, with ALL your sinful ways, and He wants you to lay all of that at His feet so that He can make you whole, righteous and spotless!

Don't even think about trying to change anything in your life in order to come to Jesus, because you will never, ever - no matter what you do, or how hard you try - you will never be "good enough"! But the good news is, He wants you anyway! He is already knocking at your door, even amidst your sinful life. Like the song "Love Me" by JJ Heller, Jesus says to us "I will love you for you. Not for what you have done or who you will become."

Repenting is looking the other way... Looking away from yourself and looking toward the Cross. 


I may be wrong, but it seems to me that, just like there is "saving faith", that there is a certain degree of repentence necessary for you to turn your heart to Jesus... a degree of "turning" necessary... (or maybe it's just a small amount of faith?) Nevertheless, when your heart has been changed by the Cross and your mind is being continuously renewed by Christ, you will find yourself repenting of various things (i.e., turning away from them)... but only after we come to have faith in Jesus can we have an honest and fruitful repentance.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Still Small Voice in the Middle of the Night

A couple months ago I went up after church to receive prayer for a serious and deep-rooted issue that I have had with anger ("intense emotional state induced by displeasure or annoyance"). More importantly to address were my bouts of rage/fury ("a loss of self-control from violence of emotion"), but I also have a problem being easily angered over very little things that seem out of my control or that offend me... I am not such a rage-filled person as I was in years past, but it is like an old "friend" who likes to come around when I am most weak and tempt me to destroy relationships with the people I love with hateful and malicious words.

Anyway, I was prayed over and God told two people praying over me "Psalm 139" (we really are ONE in Spirit!!!). So, they/we prayed for God to search my heart to bring to light the reasons for my anger and they rebuked the spirit of anger in Jesus' Name:

Psalm 139
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you. 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! 20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Since then God has been speaking to me in the middle of the night as I lay awake in bed after putting Jacob back to sleep. Sounds like Psalm 139:11-12, huh?! (Love You God, You're SO cool!)

The first time, I kept getting the number "2" in my head... Weird, I thought... Finally, when I woke up from Jacob crying, and again the number "2" immediately popped in my head, I said, "God, confirm that you are telling me something. Confirm it with the alarm clock." I pulled myself up and looked over and lo and behold: 2:22 A.M. I almost started laughing out loud!! The next day I posted about it in a Facebook group and someone wrote "Isaiah 2:22... That is what God led me to when He was telling me the #2 a few years ago." (Isaiah 2:22 - Cease to trust in [weak, frail, and dying] man, whose breath is in his nostrils [for so short a time]; in what sense can he be counted as having intrinsic worth?) I almost immediately dismissed it, saying it didn't "click" with me because I don't feel like I put my trust in others (a.k.a. "man"). I proceeded to look up every "chapter 2, verse 22" of every book of the Bible... lol. These are the ones in which I "settled on" because they seemed to make the most sense to me:

Daniel 2:22 AMP
He reveals the deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him!

(This one because it reminded me so much of some of the verses from Psalm 139, and because I was also given a word of knowledge on an entirely separate occasion that things revealed in the dark would be brought to the light.)

Mark 2:22 AMP
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the bottles destroyed; but new wine is to be put in new (fresh) wineskins.

(This one because I know I have not put off all of my old self and need to do so in order to have any renewal of my mind.)

The second time God spoke as I lay in bed, the word "Ephesians" kept popping in my head and the numbers 4, 5 and 7... Ephesians doesn't have a 7th chapter.... but Ephesians chapters 4 and 5 are about: Unity and Maturity in the Body, Instructions for Christian Living, and Instructions for Christian Households. Ephesians chapter 4, verses 4-7 are:

"4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."

(I assumed this was in reference to the joining together of the Body in our region right now and the spirit of revival sweeping through the Northeast. But, more personally for me, it is referring to my own church family and those who have prayed with me or talked with me about this situation.)

Then last Monday night as I was falling asleep, I heard the words "high places" and then I listened more and meditated on that a short bit and immediately knew that God was referencing the Jews in the Old Testament and He was telling me to remove ALL of my "high places"!!!

When God was leading the Israelites to the land He promised them, He commanded: "Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods." Deuteronomy 12:2
However, there were VERY few instances where they obeyed... Instead, this is a typical reference to "high places": "The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns." 2 Kings 17:9

In the Old Testament, of the 50+ references to "high places" there is NOTHING good said about them. They were places associated with idolatry, worship to false gods, pride, debauchery, and stubbornness. Sooo... this is of utmost importance to not ignore, I know that much is true.

I asked God to show me what my high places were...

"Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find." Matthew 7:7

The next night - again in the middle of the night - the following words were spoken to me when I was putting Jacob back to sleep:
  • Inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance
  • Self-righteousness
I can honestly say that I had never heard the first two phrases before... So the next morning, I put them into a Google search. Some things I found about people who have an inflated sense of self-worth or self-importance are:
  • in the search for approval, they seek to be the center of attention and tend to be "on stage," dominating the conversations
  • they have a sense of entitlement (belief that one is deserving of something for one reason or another)
  • they have a fear of rejection and jealous tendencies
  • they believe their problems are "unique"
  • criticism or disapproval sends them into defensive anger, and they feel a sense of betrayal since pointing out flaws means they are not perfect or makes them feel less valued
  • when things go wrong, they have difficulty accepting responsibility or forgiving others
  • tend to be very driven in order to seek approval. Many are workaholics or perfectionists in whatever they do, like school, hobbies or work
Well, when I asked God to search my heart and bring to light anything that was offensive to Him, I meant it and voila, He answered me. He sure is faithful ;-)

God knows I'm not always like this, but it is often enough that it is preventing breakthrough in fully resolving my anger problems. I have discovered that when I do act like this it not only leads to my anger, but when experienced in my anger they then increase the anger to rage or fury.

At first when reading these descriptions, I was in a little bit of denial... then I was offended... then, when I realized that I would only be offended if it were TRUE, I was embarrassed and discouraged. Once I felt discouraged however, God said to me, "There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus" and also "I am with you even in your jungle of SELF". That second phrase is from a sheet of paper that Frank Eiklor passed out last Christmas. When I went to my fridge to read it to see what verse it was referencing, I found the following (below are included a couple more verses at the beginning and the end that spoke to me):

Romans 7:14-25 NLT
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 8:1-8 NLT
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

Being again encouraged by His Word, I wanted to find out what the Bible says about what kind of "sense of self-worth" I should have. Lo and behold, I came across Isaiah 2:22 (go back to the "#2" revelation above if you forgot why this is important!):

Cease to trust in [weak, frail, and dying] man, whose breath is in his nostrils [for so short a time]; in what sense can he be counted as having intrinsic worth?

Wow God, You're really showing me something here... and the investigation continued! I entered "intrinsic worth bible" into a Google search and I found a Christian website that explained it so well that I will just copy the sentences that popped out to me here (http://gracebibleny.org/the_value_of_human_life... bold emphasis added to point out parts that really spoke to me):

"What basis is there for believing that human life has intrinsic value? The answer is not found in man himself, but in the God who created him." (Genesis 2:7, "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Later, in Genesis *2:22*, God created Eve from Adam's rib.)"What gives man his greatest value is that he is made in the image of God.... Man wants to think of himself as autonomous, but he is not, for we are all absolutely dependent on God... The value of something is determined by its owner, not someone else. Man belongs to the God that Created him, not himself, and God places value on man because He made man in His own image. That is why all men, regardless of their intelligence, physical abilities or social standing have intrinsic value...... All humans break God's commandments, and their personal sin places them under God' just condemnation. In addition, man has no means within himself by which he can appease his Creator which he has so offended. All of man's attempts at righteous deeds are filthy before our Holy Creator... Yet despite man's willful disobedience, God loves mankind and provided a way of salvation from sin and its consequences through the person and work of Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh. Jesus paid the price necessary to redeem man from sin by dying on the cross in our place. He suffered and died so that you could be forgiven and have eternal life. The value of man is the value of the price God paid to redeem him from his sin.... God values you so much that Jesus, the second person of the triune Godhead, set aside the glories of heaven that belong to Him and became a man and humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross. God did not do this because of anything in you, but because of His own character of love. The value of human life is based on what God declares it to be, which in this case is the value of the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that is infinite.... Think about what these truths mean in your own life. Your value is not based in how well you perform in school, or what you scored on an intelligence test, or on what you can do physically, or how well you fit into societies concept of beauty, or how well you behave, or on your family background, ethnic heritage, or social class, or in what other people think of you, good, bad or indifferent. It is not even based in what you think of yourself. Your value is based in God creating you in His image and in His declared love for you proven in Jesus Christ."

WOW!!! Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!!! Thank you for this revelation... Continue to work in me Lord and search me, convicting me to be righteous in Jesus alone. Let me not forget Your Word and that I am created in Your image and that this is how my value is measured. Give me strength to hold my anger and swallow my pride, so that others may see ONLY Jesus in me!

Luke 12:3 "What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs."

AMEN!!!