Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our Rainy Days

Hosea 6:3, "Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth."

James 5:7, "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain."

Psalm 72:6, "He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth”

Rain is mentioned literally and symbolically in the Bible for many different reasons. As I was listening to a Christian program, I was overcome by the one sentence the Pastor spoke. It had nothing to do with rain or this post but it DID inspire me. It seems the Lord has been giving me inspiration in subtle and profound ways of late and as I begin to receive these "thoughts" He's put into my mind for my lessons, I find myself on yet another journey. A beautiful journey discovering the ways that He works in our lives, the ways that He speaks to us and the ways that He shows us His love and compassion.

Let The Lord Rain Upon You!
I love the rain! I love how it smells after a good, long downpour! I love the way the land begins to drink the water deep into the earth's soil, giving and maintaining life! Ah! Rain! Before I begin sharing this inspired post, let's talk about what rain does for us first. We're all very much aware of how vitally important water is to the existence and the sustenance of life. We depend upon it as our driving source of life. Without water, our crops and cattle, along with all the other food supply that we depend on, would die. Most of the greeneries would wither, there wouldn't be any fishes or sea life in the ocean and rivers, the earth would eventually overheat, and all life on earth would perish one after another. As you can see, water is indispensable for life! God created it for His creation to survive and flourish, including the land, and all of its inhabitants, the oceans and their inhabitants, the air and their inhabitants. His design is PERFECT! It surrounded the world when God created the earth, and surrounds a fetus as it grows in its mother's womb. It nourishes us when we drink it, cook with it, or use it to irrigate our crops. Plants depend on water to produce energy in photosynthesis, which means a process that's used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms' activities. That's why plants spring up around water. Just take a quick look at a satellite map of any river and you will see a lot of green vegetation on both banks of the river. God's PERFECT design!

Without the rain, the earth could not endure! Israel, God's chosen land and the Holy place, is a particularly semi-arid land but water there is a sign of it being a "good land." Deuteronomy 8:7 tells us, "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills;" Rain is a tremendous force God has put into the world and sometimes God's power can be manifested through the rains! It can be used as a life force as well as destruction, as was the case when the great flood cleansed the earth of it's vile corruption. So it's fair to say that rain is a blessing and a curse or both. Rain is a blessing when it waters crops to grow food. This was God's promise given to the nation and land of Israel. Leviticus 26:4, "Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." God tells us that He will give rain when we ask. Israel is instructed to ask God for rain to water their crops of their land! Zechariah 10:1, "Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds," Then in Isaiah 30:23 it says, "Then shall He give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures." Notice how God blesses us with rain to cause grain seed to grow for bread, and grass to grow for cattle. So rain also provides milk and meat.

Now let's take a look at how rain is used as a curse. Rain is a curse when there is too much of it! We've seen torrential rains, tsunami's and rains coming down so fast and hard that the earth just doesn't have time to soak it all up fast enough, thereby causing rain to accumulate. God judged the whole earth with a flood but He provided Noah with a way to survive through the Ark. That’s because God saves the righteous from His judgments. What about hail? That's hardened rain. Exodus 9:18 tells us about hail as well. "Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now." See, God God sent Moses to judge Egypt with several plagues. This one was hail. In this time the rain is too hard! Next, in Deuteronomy 11:17, "lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you." First there is just too much rain, now too little; this is the polar opposite of giving rain to water crops. In this instance, God withheld the rain so crops don’t grow. When crops don't grow, they don't produce food. When no food is produced, people don’t have food to eat and eventually die. This is God’s judgment for sin.

Rain is good for wheat except when it is time to harvest! 1 Samuel 12:17-18, "Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the Lord, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking a king for yourselves.” v18) So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel." A heavy downpour can ruin a crop that is ready to pick. We are all in the hands of God’s provision no matter if we forget that from time to time or we find ourselves embracing it so tightly that our hands hurt! He sends rains where and when He wants to. He blesses and curses where and when He wants to. God chooses the time and place for rain to fall. God chooses whom He will bless or curse. He chooses when He will bless or curse them. He distinguishes between the field of the righteous, and the field of the wicked. He knows the thoughts of a man's mind and intents of a man’s heart. Amos 4:7, "I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered." Curse falls upon the wicked and unrighteous, but the blessings fall upon the saved and the righteous. Sometimes, though, we have to be tested......

But what about when He rains on us for testing and provisions? Let's look at Exodus 16:4, "Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not." In this verse, we clearly see how this was a test for them while also His provisions! What an awesome God we have! We've all had those days where we've been tested, the skies weren't so blue but were filled with rain clouds. When it began to rain on our otherwise normal day, we couldn't readily see that we were being tested through the rain but was also being aptly provided for at the same time! Rain is a sign of God’s active direction of earth. God directs all of the processes of nature. Every single drop of rain! Who is like God is?! This is evidenced in Job 37:6, "For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’; Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength." Rain is a sign of God’s active direction of earth. God directs all of the processes of nature. Who is like God is?! Proverbs 16:15 we are also told of the FAVOR of God! "In the light of the king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain." Sometimes we are sent trials to bear through and to test the foundation of our faith. Matthew 7:25-27 says, "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. v26) “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: v27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” This is telling us to make sure our faith is built upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ our Savior and not in the sinking of the sand that won't withstand any trials, nor stand in the midst of the storms! We will ALL experience storms in our lifetime and when we do, we better have built our house on solid rock!

Matthew 5:43-48 says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ v44) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, v45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. v46) For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? v47) And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? v48) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." 

I mention these verses because this stands as a reminder of how we're to do good to even those who hate us, do evil and who spitefully use and persecute us! Just like God makes the sun rise and sends rain on evil (the unrighteous) people AND on good (the righteous) people, we should also be the example of love to our enemies. After all, God extends His love toward us while we are sinners. So too, He blesses people even when they are wicked, so they can respond to His kindness. This example shows how Jesus wants us to get out of our comfort zone, to leave our place of "safety" and "protection" and show His love through us to those who see only the darkness. We were once like them.

Many people have heard the anonymous saying, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain." Since the author is never been revealed, we really don't know what "dance" represents but considering the theme of the saying, I'd have to say it would closely resemble having an intimate relationship with Jesus. We're to rejoice always and that "always" also includes through our rainy days, on our stormy thunderous days, and through the tornadoes of this life! While we are waiting for our storms to pass, or the clouds to part, we still need to remember to remain patient, rejoice in His name, continue to grow closer in relationship to God and to keep the joy in our hearts. So how do we learn to dance in the rain and having an intimate, closer relationship with Jesus?

The best way is to lament. Lamenting is more than just being sad. As a matter of fact, a third of the Psalms are laments and there's an Old Testament book in the Bible called Lamentations. For good reason that I will talk about in just a moment, Even when Jesus was on the Cross, those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament know He was quoting Psalm 22 when they heard his anguished cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He also lamented in the Garden of Gethsemane when He begged His Father to remove the cup He was about to drink. It was so intense that he even sweated drops of blood as witnessed in Luke 22:39-44, "Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. v40) When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” v41) And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, v42) saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” v43) Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. v44) And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." To lament is way more than just being sad! Here's the official definition, "to mourn or wail aloud; to express sorrow, mourning, or regret often demonstratively; a passionate expression of grief or sorrow;  A song or poem expressing deep grief or mourning." So in order to "dance" we need to be REAL WITH GOD! That's the only way we can truly, and fully, worship Him. The Lord God wants ALL of us! He doesn't just want our thank-yous and some happy I-love-yous. He also wants all of our anger, rage, pain, frustrations, fears, doubts, and so on! That's why it's so important not to hold back! It's imperative to surrender your ALL to Jesus!

Philippians 3:10, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death," Lamenting is the one way that we can know Christ in the fellowship of his suffering just like Paul lamented in the above Scripture! Some people, even Christians think of lamenting as more of grumbling when in reality there is a difference, a clear difference. When we grumble, we focus on OURSELVES and we can only see our physical needs. Grumbling is "me" centered. We don't really want, or desire, God's presence at that moment. But to lament is, and always will be, about us being real with God by being able and willing to give Him ALL of our emotions, the good, bad, ugly and indifferent! Then right in the middle of the process of being real, or being totally surrendered, we desire one thing: God's intimate presence!

Our rainy days are often full of doubt, fear, anxiety, pain and suffering just to name a few. Some days are full of all of our emotions and other times, just a few. Some people go through so many rainy days while others seem to have fewer with fewer seasons of rainy days. Those aren't to be compared to eachother because we are individually created, with individual purposes from God, and we are all going through our rainy seasons for specific and unique reasons unto ourselves that is only known to God the Father! I've had my share of rainy days and, as a matter of fact, I'm still in my season and it's been a LONG season too! I am always reminded of one of the most powerful Scriptures for times likes these and it's found in 1 Corinthians 3:13, "each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is." So we may study, but also we may be tested, to show ourselves approved.

We may have long seasons, and in some cases, as is mine, we may have many seasons, but how we go through those rainy days is what will end up mattering in the end! Will we grumble and be self-centered? Will we lay it all out for our Lord Jesus Christ and lament to know Him better? Will we be patient in waiting for the storms to pass? Will we be rejoicing and dancing in His provisions? Fire always will test our faith! Rainy days are often times our "fire." God tests our service for approval to see whether it is genuine. Everything we go through, all the lessons we learn because of it, how we apply it in our lives as well as others, and all that we do in the Kingdom of God will be what our rewards are based on in the Judgment Seat of Christ! Before I go on, I would like to make clear that the Judgment Seat of Christ is for the believers where they receive rewards and the Great White Throne Judgment is for the unbelievers for their condemnation for rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's break that verse down for a little more clarity. "each one's work will become clear" simply means that God will bring them out into the open and the Lord will evaluate each and every believer separately. This is kind of like a performance review and we'll be giving an account of our works in this life to God. "for the Day will declare it" refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is where the Lord will evaluate each believer for what QUALITY of work they did for the kingdom. The word “declare” here means literally to prove. God tests our service to see whether it is genuine. "because it will be revealed by fire" means that the fire will be the distinguisher between the genuine and the phony. It's the character of fire to part the destructible from the indestructible. "and the fire will test one's work" There isn't discipline in this testing as there is also no punishment for the Christian at the Judgment Seat of Christ because Christ took all of our judgment at the Cross! Romans 8:1 tells us, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." To put this simply, the fire is the to distinguish between what God can reward and what He cannot reward. "of what sort is." Sort is indicative of quality, not quantity so literally, it's the nature and the quality of our work that matters and makes a difference, and not the quantity of our work. In God's nature and character, being a just and loving God, He will test everything that we do in the light of His own standards.

Bema Seat of Christ
So, every single believer will have to give an open account to the Lord of themselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ. What each believer has done will be patently clear to God and I assure you that God won't reward on the basis of popularity! It will be their faithfulness, their trust and their genuine works that will be rewarded. I've heard it once described as our efficiency rating and I love that analogy! The author went on to say that God will measure that rating strictly on our performance. I would agree because it's in His character to do so. It's not OUR character as a fallen human living in this fallen world to evaluate our peers in the same way because we can't be so "just" and this is evidenced in our daily lives in many different ways. It's the high quality of our workmanship in our service in His Kingdom that glorifies our Lord, so God rewards everything we've done in the complete fullness of the Spirit. And I will stress here at this point in the post that God will NOT bring up ANY sin at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Remember? This is for our rewards! However, God WILL bring up the rejection of Christ of the unbeliever at the Great White Throne judgment because the non-Christian has rejected the completed, finished work of Jesus Christ for their sin. Hebrews 4:13, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

Paul writes about the Judgment Seat of Christ,or the "Bema Seat" in Corinthians. 2 Corinthians is written to believers. Paul opens the letter with "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:" In chapter 5, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to labor for Christ, telling them that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Here it is in it's entirety, "v10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."  Paul then goes on to say that the judged will receive what is due them, depending on the works they did here on earth. The Judgement Seat of Christ is also referenced in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. v11) For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. v12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, v13) each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. v14) If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. v15) If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

Let's see what John writes about the Great White Throne Judgment. First in Revelation 20:11 it mentions the great white throne, "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them." The we go to the next verse in Revelation 20:12, "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books." Just like the Judgment Seat of Christ for the believers, we can see here that the dead are judged "according to their works," as well. Revelation 20:13-15, "The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. v14) Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. v15) And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." So these verse show that the unsaved are definitely judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. The Great White Throne Judgment will be far different than the loving Bema Seat Judgment of Christ because it's for the unsaved unbelievers. The judgments will be harsh and severe; severe, but fair. I'd have to say that this particular event has to be the most disturbing, heartbreaking and most bothersome event in all of Scripture. Why? Well because, by NOT choosing to accept Christ’s free gift of salvation and eternal life by asking Him into their heart, one is simply choosing an eternity of fire and brimstone, all alone, known to no one, tormented eternally, known not even God, in the Lake of Fire.

I know I got off on a rabbit trail but sometimes hopping down the rabbit trail is enlightening and I like to take the scenic route anyway! It's more pleasing, and refreshing, to discover new things to understand the older things. I go where the Lord leads me....and from the rainy days and the storms of this life, He lead me to describing the righteous and unrighteous, the believers and the unbelievers and the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgment. It actually all kind of falls into place but you can be the judge of that. Someone out there, someone the Lord is leading to this particular post is in need of some of this information I've set before all of you who are reading this post!

OK, so back to going through our storms and having rainy days. I urge everyone to remember that if your days are rainy, even storming to where you think you can't survive, cling to the Lord's Promises, His words, His Love! Those days won't be easy by any means but it's how we respond to those days that's going to matter. That's going to make a difference. And that will impact our relationship with the Lord as well as impact who we become. Who we become in Christ strengthens us to make the impact in other's lives. We may impact those lives while STILL going through our rainy days! They may be watching us from a distance, from afar, watching how we handle the trials, the tribulations, the hurt, the pain, the sorrow. It's all a testimony. All of it! It's all lessons. God is always talking to us, always watching, always loving us.

Copyright Info Below!
No matter how frustrating, how upset and angry I ever got, I never turned my back on the Lord! I've had some extremely difficult times in my lifetime but rarely would one really see it in my actions or behavior because I knew deep inside my spirit that my Lord and Savior has heard every prayer, every petition and every praise. I knew He heard me, and provided for me just what I needed and when I needed it. Provisions don't always come by way of tangible goods. I've been spiritually fed, I've been spiritually grown, and I've become more intimate in my relationship with the Lord. I've been an example to others while the flood gates seemed to open up and nearly drown me! Those, too, are provisions! I remember sharing with someone, a few years back, about some of my trials and "rainy" days and they said they never would have known I was going through anything so intense and asked me how I was able to face each day with a smile. I first told them that my hope is in the Lord, my faith is built on the rock's foundation, my heart is full of His joy, and then I proceeded to share with them my favorite line that I give to anyone who's ever asked me that or noticed that I don't fall apart when the storms come rumbling my way......
"On those rainy days, I ALWAYS bring my own SUNSHINE!" God is my Light! Need I say more!

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying I don't have bad days because I'd be lying to you if I said that because I'm human and let me tell you my brothers and sisters, I've had some bad days. But, I didn't LIVE in those bad days. I didn't LIVE in my tears, my pain, my sorrows, my fears. I lamented! I surrendered! I cried! And then they all were laid at the foot of the Cross for Jesus to take care of! Yes, for Jesus to take care of! I can't take care of those things because I mess things up when I try. I've learned a long time ago to surrender all. It's not always easy especially when we don't recognize something we need to release. But as with everything else, He eventually shows us those things too when we are willing to HEAR His voice! I usually ask Him to take those feelings away and replace them with His promises and to fill my heart with His Light. Although my rainy days may not seem to be ending its season just yet, I bring my own sunshine each day! He's my Light! He's my Rock! I may even grumble a little bit but those times don't last very long. I notice if I remain in that state of mind, it usually takes me a lot longer to "recover" from bad days. So I really try to practice not letting myself get focused on things that the enemy wants to dangle in front of my nose. They're all lies and I know it! I also know the dangers of remaining in the muddied waters left behind in the storms too. Don't stay there! Don't live in the muddy waters! Remember that we need to dance in the rains of our pain because that pain was written just for us!

Pain makes us grow. It makes us strong. It makes us soften the heart. It makes us alive. It shapes us. It molds us. It is a purpose given to us to change us! God is in control and when He is allowed to direct your paths, you have nothing to worry about!

Let the rains wash away all that remains of who you were, how you behaved, what you thought or what you did. Let the rains water and grow all the seeds that have been planted along the way. Let the Lord rain down upon your life and break the mold of the things you cling to. The rainy days might be difficult, but they sure will produce a wonderful harvest in you!

Copyright © 2014 Soldier of God All Rights Reserved. No part of this document or referenced photo may be reproduced, reprinted or used without written consent from the author.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Are YOU Dehydrated?

I'm going to start off by sharing with you just how God spoke this post and it's idea into being! How AWESOME is our GOD?! Yesterday, I signed into my blog to check on the stats of the countries that visited my site. I sometimes like to do that from time to time to sort of get a handle on the audience and also to see how far this has reached. I was looking at the graph and I said to myself, “Wow, my mouth is dry. I'm thirsty.” Immediately upon thinking that, I thought of the Woman at the Well, and by no accident mind you! So for some reason God took my thoughts to dehydration. I'm not connecting the “dots” if you will because all I wanted to do was get something to drink and to quench my thirst! So I ask God, “What's dehydration got to do with my being thirsty?” I had a few minutes of silence when He whispered the answer in my spirit. Some of His people are SO thirsty for the TRUTH that they're dehydrated and ALL of the lost souls are already dehydrated because they don't drink from the LIVING WATERS! BOOM! My new blog post was born! Just as simple as that and all from me being thirsty. I believe had I just been thirsty without looking at my blog site, this may not have come to fruition. But God works in mysterious ways and this is definitely a testament as to His guidance and direction!!

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well can be found in John 4:1-42. I'm going to post those Scriptures in their entirety so that those of you who don't know the story, can read and understand this beautiful lesson in God's Love and Acceptance! Sometimes, I will refer to the Scriptures when the story is as expansive as this but in this case, I feel it to be a necessity to share the entire story here before I continue writing!

The Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah:
"Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John v2) (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), v3) He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. v4) But He needed to go through Samaria. v5) So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. v6) Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. v7) A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” v8) For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. v9) Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. v10) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” v11) The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? v12) Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” v13) Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, v14) but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” v15) The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” v16) Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” v17) The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ v18) for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” v19) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” v21) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. v22) You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. v23) But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. v24) God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” v25) The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” v26) Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

The Whitened Harvest
v27) And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” v28) The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, v29) “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” v30) Then they went out of the city and came to Him. v31) In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” v32) But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” v33) Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” v34) Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. v35) Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! v36) And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. v37) For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ v38) I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

The Savior of the World
v39) And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” v40) So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. v41) And many more believed because of His own word. v42) Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ,[a] the Savior of the world.”

Living Waters of Jesus Christ
Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well, who was never named, is one of the most beloved stories in the Gospels. Now, in this story, while He was resting at Jacob's Well, after traveling from Jerusalem in the south to Galilee in the north, Jesus and his disciples took the quickest route, through Samaria. He was tired and thirsty. While His disciples went to the village of Sychar, about a half mile away, to buy food, we begin to see how the story begins to unfold and how Jesus easily crosses over a number of cultural bridges: the holy, Jewish man reaches out to a sinful, Samaritan woman. It was estimated to be around noon when Jesus rested at Jacob's Well, which is the hottest part of the day, and is when at this most inconvenient time, that she came to draw from the well. In this encounter, He breaks down barriers of holiness, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Moreover, by offering the gift of salvation to the fallen Samaritan woman, the Lord shows that there is hope for all of us. He is, indeed, the Savior of the world!

In His encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus broke three major Jewish customs of the time: first, He actually spoke to a woman which was frowned upon; second, she was a Samaritan woman, a specific group of individuals that the Jews traditionally despised; and third, He asked her to get Him a drink of water, which would typically have made Him ceremonially unclean from using HER cup or jar. This shocked the woman at the well. Jesus then told the woman that He could give her "living water" so that she would never thirst again! Ah, to never thirst again! That must have resonated deeply within her spirit even though she didn't understand it clearly just yet! Jesus' use of those words, living water, was simply to refer to eternal life, the free gift that would satisfy her soul's desire that was ONLY available through Him.

They had never met before but Jesus showed her that He knew all about her by revealing she had 5 previous husbands and was now living with a man who wasn't her husband. Jesus had her attention! She was shunned and rejected by the other women of the area for her immorality. They talked about their two views on worship and the woman voiced her faith that Messiah was coming soon. Jesus answered, "I who speak to you am He." Jesus knew her history but still accepted her and ministered to her. By this time, the woman began to grasp the reality of her encounter with Jesus. Shortly after, the disciples returned and was shocked to find Jesus speaking to a woman. She left behind her water jar and returned to town. She invited the people to "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did." In the meantime, Jesus told His disciples that the harvest of souls was ready, which had been sown by the prophets, writers of the Old Testament, and John the Baptist. The Samaritans were genuinely happy and ecstatic over what the woman had told them and they wanted to know more, they wanted to learn more from Jesus so they asked Him to stay. He stayed two days, as recorded above, and taught the Samaritans about the Kingdom of God. When He left, the people told the Samaritan woman that they heard for themselves now and believe that indeed, Jesus is the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD, recounted in John 4:42!

So now let's take a look at some points of interest from this wonderful story before moving on.

1) Since He interacted and spoke with a woman AND a Samaritan who the Jews clearly shunned, showed that His Gospel message is for EVERYONE, all mankind, and broke barriers for ancient traditions of the roles concerning women of the time.
2) He explained the differences between the water from the well that the Samaritan woman was at, known at Jacob's Well, and the "living water" that Jesus offered as the Messiah, "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
3) He loved and accepted the Samaritan woman and told her also, the truth about herself, which was a sign, as Paul stated separately, that NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God the Father.
4) He told her who He was/is.
5) The contrast between the astonishment from His disciples that He spoke to a woman AND her people reacting to her telling them "Come and see a man who told me everything I have done!" showed just how Jesus confounded traditional expectations!
6) The Samaritans were a mixed race people, who had intermarried with the Assyrians centuries before. They were hated by the Jews because of this cultural mixing, and because they had their own version of the Bible and their own temple on Mount Gerizim.
7)  In the book of Acts, after Jesus' ascension into heaven, His apostles continued His work in Samaria and to the Gentiles. So by His reaching out to the Samaritans, He showed that His mission was for the entire earth and not just for the Jews.
8) This is also about the ministry of the Gospel as well as we learn from the Samaritan woman who went to her people to witness to them.

Jesus Loves and ACCEPTS Us!
Jesus loves and accepts all of us no matter what we've done, no matter how we've acted, no matter how far down in the "gutter" we've slipped. It doesn't matter what tongue we speak, what tribe or nation. I know we've all felt rejected, just like the Samaritan woman. Nobody likes that feeling. We've felt like we're not good enough, rich enough, wise enough, smart enough, skinny enough, kind enough, friendly enough, accepted enough and perfect enough. The thing is, friends, we'll never be "enough" of anything because we're humans. We'll always fall short in this life as long as we're comparing ourselves to MAN. That's our shortcomings because many people compare themselves to others and find they never measure up but they fail to realize that many of those people they're comparing themselves to have hidden problems that they don't show the world, or they can't see because each of us who's ever compared ourselves to another human being, can only compare ourselves to WHAT WE CAN SEE! We all need to accept the life the Lord God gave us and accept who we are as a result. There are always things we can improve on in ourselves because life is, afterall, a sanctifying journey of discovery and we should be ever-changing anyway. We should never compare ourselves to others though because they just may be like the Woman at the Well.

These harmful comparisons oftentimes brings on feelings of depression, insecurities, anger, jealousy and a number of other sinful emotions that we weren't meant to feel. As they are left unchecked at the door, if you will, they can be the precursor to dehydrating us. We begin to get thirsty for the things of THIS world and not the things of God and the more we get stuck in the mire of life, the more some people continue to chase those things of the world that they believe will quench their thirst. At the end of the day, as they lay awake in bed, they're still thirsting for a cool drink of water but they can't seem to quench their thirst. We want to be accepted and loved for who we are, for who we are in Christ and from our friends and family, co-workers and bosses, from neighbors and acquaintances. It doesn't always work out that way though. That's the beauty of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well! What a testimony she had! And what a lesson in the power of the love of Jesus for EVERYONE! He didn't judge her. He didn't turn from her. He didn't condemn her. He loved her. He accepted her. He revealed Himself to her. He accepts and loves each of us too. Just the way we are. We need to make the choice though to believe in Jesus, just as the woman at the well did. She was anticipating the Messiah even though she was a broken, hurt and rejected woman! She was a woman of faith, of strong faith and she then went out and ministered to her people what she had experienced in Jesus Christ!

So comparing ourselves to the "man" of this world is like comparing ourselves to our adversary the devil because he is sin. He is the "god" of this world and is the ruler of this world. He is the deceptive one who leads us down that slippery slope in believing those lies of rejection and not being "good enough." He doesn't deserve us! So let's not give him his due. See, Jesus said, in Romans 3:21-26, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, v22) even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; v23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, v25) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, v26) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." This is what we need to focus on! We all do fall short of the glory of God because we all have sinned. But look at v24, "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," and that alone should be our "ENOUGH" of everything that He IS!

There are many lost souls out there who are so thirsty that they are dehydrated! They've been searching for the water to quench their thirst. The water from the well will only leave them thirsting for more because a drink of water is only meant to quench the thirst temporarily. While the "living water" is meant to quench the thirst ETERNALLY and that's way more important than the water from the well. Lost souls are already dehydrated but their dehydration could be mild, moderate or severe based on where they're at emotionally and mentally. There are also born-again, Christ believer Christians who are also thirsting for the living waters because they've strayed from His word, His instructions and have slipped into the world. Dehydration causes many things to happen in our bodies so let's first look at the definition. It says: 1) Excessive loss of water from the body or from an organ or a body part, as occurs during illness or fluid deprivation. 2) The condition of not containing or being covered by a liquid (especially water). Medically, dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should and can be mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body's fluid is lost or not replenished. When it is severe, dehydration is a life-threatening emergency.

Yes. Dehydration can turn into a life-threatening emergency. Let's take a look at some of the symptoms of this easily avoided illness. Irritability or confusion. Fever. Dizziness or lightheadedness. Listlessness. Unconsciousness or delirium. Sleepiness or tiredness. Excessive thirst. While these symptoms are physical, they also can be symbolic of our spiritual dehydration without the "living waters" flowing in us. In John 7:37-39, it says, "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. v38) He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” v39) But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." So let's ask ourselves, "Since I trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior, has it been my experience that ever-flowing, abundant rivers of living water have gushed up inside of me and flowed out of me?” Well, if we're brutally honest with ourselves, that question should be both convicting and hope-producing. Convicting because none of us, if we’re honest with ourselves and God Almighty, can say, “Yes, those words nailed it! That’s exactly how I'd describe my life since becoming a Christian!” But let's face it, honesty forces us to say, “Well, there's usually been a steady trickle of living water, although there's also been some droughts from time to time that has even dried up. But, occasionally, there's been a creek of living water. But ever-flowing, abundant rivers (which I'll point out is PLURAL)? It'd be a big stretch to describe my Christian life like that!” So Jesus’ words convict me with the barrenness of my walk with Him. And it should convict you too of the same! This is why we need to strive to be in His word daily, chewing the meat of His Word, continually drinking from His cup!

But this also should give us hope too. In Jesus’ words is HOPE. If my life doesn’t match His description here, it can! So can yours! This is a promise from the Son of God to ALL who will come to Him and drink: Out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water. And notice it's to ALL who believe. Not just some but ALL. In Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], pp. 308-309, it's described as an ideal that none of us can possess perfectly in the present life because of indwelling sin and because of differing measures of faith. But it’s an ideal in which we can make progress as we walk with the Lord. We really can experience consistent fullness of joy in Him that flows from us to others. And so we should have hope because He who began the good work of salvation in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6). But we need to press on toward the goal (Phil. 3:12-16). Jesus Christ blesses all who believe in Him with rivers of the living water of His Spirit so that we will bless others.

It's at this part in this post that I will remind you that God loves us ALL so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son to die on the Cross for ALL of our sins, to pay for our sin-debt in full by the blood that He shed for a debt He didn't owe! It was ours. But God created all of us not to be condemned to Hell, but to have everlasting life with Him in heaven. It's OUR choice where we want to spend eternity. God gave us a choice. He won't, and doesn't, force any of us to choose Him. He wants us to come "willingly" with our full hearts, minds and souls. So, make your choice wisely!

In John 7:37, it states if "ANYONE" is thirsty. “Anyone” is as broad as you can get! It's even extended to Jesus’ enemies, the very ones who were trying to kill Him. Even they could come and drink. It was later extended to a man who described himself as the chief of sinners, the apostle Paul. This is found in 1 Tim. 1:15, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." By giving the offer in the temple, it extended to the religious Jews, who had come to Jerusalem from all over to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles. Even though they were going through all of the prescribed Jewish rituals, those rituals could NOT save them. Religious observances cannot save anyone, then or now. Everyone needs to come to Jesus and drink. EVERYONE. Since the Spirit inspired John to record Jesus’ words here, the offer extends to each of us. It doesn't matter if you grew up in a Christian home and have always gone to church or whether you are a complete pagan or a convicted criminal, THIS OFFER IS FOR YOU: Come to Jesus and drink. No one is excluded. No one is rejected. And to lovingly underscore this truth, the Bible virtually ends by repeating Jesus’ offer in Rev. 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” 

There is just one condition of this have to be THIRSTY. Jesus cries, “If anyone is thirsty….” You HAVE to be thirsty for God. The Bible often uses that kind of language as we just saw in Rev. 22:17 above. Isaiah 55:1 proclaims, as an invitation to the Abundant Life, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.” The psalmist cries out Psalms 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” as a deep yearning for God in the middle of distress! David cries out in Psalms. 63:1, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” And in Revelation 21:6, Jesus says, “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” 

Now, it would appear, that being thirsty for God would seem easy enough. But the problem is, because of sin people either don’t recognize their thirst or they seek to satisfy it in wrong ways, in the ways of the world. People don’t usually sense their own desperate need for Christ, and some twisted way, some of those same people seem to be able to point out someone else's need for Christ. In any event, they just don’t feel thirsty for Him. So instead, they try to quench their thirst with many of the wrong things. They tend to think that success, money, fame, sexual pleasure, drugs, false religious teachings that tickle the ears, diversions or other things will satisfy that deep inner thirst. It won't. It actually just leaves you thirstier than when you first realized the "thirst." Thirsting for those worldly things other than God and His glory is the root of all sin. J. C. Ryle observed (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:40): "The beginning of all true Christianity is to discover that we are guilty, empty, needy sinners. Till we know that we are lost, we are not in the way to be saved. The very first step toward heaven is to be thoroughly convinced that we deserve hell.

Once you recognize your thirst for God, the good news is that the offer is a free gift. You must ACCEPT the gift in order to benefit from the present. You don’t have to work all your life to earn it. You don’t have to clean up your life or try to make things "right" first to in order to qualify for it. All you have to do is ACCEPT it. Receive it. Embrace it. Just as you are right now. There is such a simplicity to His promise and just to put it simply as possible, to receive the living water, come to Jesus and drink! Simple. Right? To come to Jesus is to come to the One who loves YOU so much that He came into this wicked earth and suffered all of the painful horrors of the cross to pay for your sins, if you will believe in Him. That’s what drinking of Jesus means. The parallel comment in John 7:38 makes clear: “He who believes in Me ….” John repeats “believe” in the clarifying statement of v39. To receive the living water that Jesus offers, come to Him and drink, or in otherwords, BELIEVE IN HIM!

Since the requirement is THIRST, then we ALL have thirsted for a drink of cool flowing water when we've been parched. Our thirst is an indicator of what our body needs in order to function properly. So we drink water. This is a parallel to our THIRST for the "LIVING WATERS" as well. Our spirits thirst for the eternal rivers of living waters so our spirits will be hydrated, full of flowing rivers, and in order for our spirits to function properly, we MUST thirst for Jesus' "LIVING WATERS!" Make Him your own by faith in Him. A river running through the desert does you absolutely NO good if you don’t drink from it. If you choose not to drink from it, then eventually you will become dehydrated and in the severe form, die. So, if you feel thirsty, ask Jesus to satisfy your thirst with His abundant, free salvation. He'll quench your thirst in a way that you won't be able to explain! The breadth of His promise is as wide as humanity. The condition of the promise is that you must be spiritually thirsty. Being spiritually thirsty is that feeling, that knowing, that internal dialogue that lets you know something is "missing." It lets you know you aren't being filled, that your hunger isn't being fed, and that your thirst for TRUTH isn't being quenched by anything of THIS world.

There are many Old Testament Scriptures that link water to God’s abundant blessing on believers. Here are just a few for you to look up, ingest and then DIGEST! Psalms 78:15-16; Proverbs 4:23; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:26-27 and 47:1-9; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 13:1 and 14:8. Christ blesses us with abundant rivers of living water so that we will be a source of blessing to others. The rivers flow out of us to others who are thirsty. The world is an extremely barren desert, and people are dying of thirst! They are dehydrated and don't realize just how close to spiritual death they really are. Their dehydration is in the severe stages and they're probably exhibiting some of the "spiritual" symptoms of the physical symptoms listed above! We're to be the living waters that these dehydrated, dying people need. Lost people desperately need what only we who have believed can give them. As they see Christ through us by the fruits of the Spirit, we can tell them how they too can have what we have and lead them to the "living waters."

The rivers of living waters should also flow from us to other believers, especially to those who may be going through a dry spell or a drought. Even Paul and Titus were refreshed by other believers as evidenced in 1 Corinthians 16:18 and 2 Corinthians 7:13. As you’re filled with the Spirit and satisfied in Christ, and you're thirst has been quenched, you can overflow to those around you with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All these should be flowing freely to even those Christian believers that we find hard to be around.

Don't compare yourself to others because you are unique to God! He created you for a purpose, a special time, and appointed you for a special ministry. His will for you isn't based on someone else. He wants you to drink from His rivers of living waters so you can grow into a strong, loving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, His Son. He doesn't want you to be jealous of others. He wants you to be content and secure in your own skin. Remember, He has a plan and a perfect Will for each of us individually and what one person has or is going through isn't always what it appears to be upon closer observation. Especially if you tend to compare yourself to unbelievers. These things drain you and empty your souls. They make you thirst for the wrong things and force you to search for the water in the wrong places. When you find yourself thirsting for a drink to fill a void, search not in the world for that water. Seek Jesus and come to Him for His rivers of living waters and drink from Him! Eternity awaits you! Refresh yourself. Keep drinking and keep yourself "hydrated!"

When thirst becomes dehydration, there is only ONE source that will satisfy that internal, spiritual thirst and that's our Lord Jesus Christ! Are YOU dehydrated? Won't you come and take His free gift?

Copyright © 2010-2014 God's Soldier All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, reprinted or used without written consent from the author. 

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Monday, September 8, 2014

The Heart's Intent

Jeremiah 17:9-11, “v9) The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? v10) I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. v11) As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in the end he will be a fool." 

Matthew 6:1-4, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. v2) Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. v3) But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, v4) that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

Ah, the heart! In Proverbs 16:1-2, it shows another issue with our heart's intent! It says, "The intentions of the heart belong to a man, but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord. v2) All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives."  The heart is a very wicked, sick, and deceitful organ! What does "intentions" actually mean though? Let's see what the true definition of this is, found in the online dictionary: "purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct: the act or fact of intending: a determination to act in a certain way : resolve: a thing intended; an aim or plan." Webster's Dictionary says, "A plan of action or purpose, either immediate or ultimate."

Our intentions, from our heart, tends to rule over our actions and behaviors, and sometimes even take precedence over our true plans, hopes and desires. Many Christians have good desires to serve the Lord and to become a disciple of Jesus, which is what we are supposed to desire. However, something happens along the way, along the little journey to become what we desire for Jesus. See, our intentions are our will, motives, designs and wishes, and they often suppress our own commitment to serve Jesus with all of our heart and mind. This is what Paul was referring to in Romans 7:21-25, "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ my Lord. So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." 

Let's take a short look at some of the steps and processes we take to get to the intentions by starting where it all starts: The MIND.

The all-powerful, all knowing God connects to us through our mind. This is the seat of reflective thought, and where we are God conscious, and where God is on the throne (in control) or we are. We connect to God and worship Him in the mind. It's the seat of understanding. The Bible doesn't separate the mind and the intellect. Prov. 23:7, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” So that takes us to The INTELLECT.

The intellect is where we accumulate all of our knowledge. It's the seat of our wisdom gained, our morality (right and wrong), learning processes, and our reasoning. It's in the intellect that we can know God’s Word and His will for us because it's through our intellect that we can understand His commands, precepts, and judgments. We can understand truth in the intellect, and our sinful nature. Dan. 10:12, "From the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard.” The intellect then leads us to The INTENTIONS.

Intentions are where the will, desire motives, purpose, consideration, designs and wishes lie. This is where we make our choices, and it is also the seat of the sin nature that Paul talks about in Romans. It's where the deliberate exercise of volition happens. We often have good intentions, but then, what happens? Romans 7:15-20, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. v16) If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. v17) But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. v18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. v19) For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. v20) Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." Well, from our intentions, we move right on to The IMAGINATION.

The imagination is where we often find ourselves disassociating with reality. We fantasize, and create mental images which have little to do with reality. It's where many of us escape to when we want to focus on something other than reality. Our imagination includes ideas, our many schemes, what we contemplate about, where our fantasies and images originate and all of these things usually aren't even evidence of us being connected to the real world at all! Luke 1:51, "He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." Our imagination isn't necessarily a bad thing because this is the place where our creativity, art, poetry and new ideas originate and come from. Phil. 4:8, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” Imagination then leads to The SENSES.

Our senses include our sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. They are the gateway to the inner person and without them, we wouldn't even know there was a real world. Our senses aren't necessarily bad unless we choose to use them for the bad. These steps and processes are what we take to live in the real world. Here on earth. The access to the inner person from the real world has to first go through the imagination and then to the intentions. That's why we make so many wrong decisions. Advertisers know this about the human nature and they use this knowledge to appeal to our imagination and NOT to our intellect. If they appealed to our intellect, well, they wouldn't sell very much and eventually go out of business! When we examine these observations closely and understand the connections they have with one another, we can clearly see why we have so many problems and why bad choices are made. It's so important not to let your imaginations run your life and how extremely important it is for you to let the Word of God and your relationship with Jesus Christ rule your ACTIONS and DECISIONS.

The Bible has A LOT to say about the heart of man. So much so that the word “heart” is found in the Bible 835 times in 775 verses in the New King James Version according to E-Sword! So this must be especially close to God's heart and important enough to be repeated over and over and over again for OUR minds to understand it and apply it. I Kings 8:39, "For you alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.” God knows ALL of our hearts, our intentions, our thoughts that are dropped IN to our hearts. Yes, He knows it ALL! We may start out wanting to do a good thing but suddenly that turns into something selfish, self centered, egotistical or just down right with ill intent! How many times has each of us questioned ourselves over the years of our own intentions? I would say there's a tiny minority that hasn't examined themselves from time to time, but as I stated, they are in the minority. I believe it's our human nature to doubt and question and examine ourselves. Although, as the end draws near, I'm guessing more and more just don't care about their heart's intention. But, when we read passages in the Bible about men deceiving themselves like in Galatians 6:3 and James 1:26 it should cause us all the more concern  because the question now becomes "am I being honest with myself?" We obviously need to learn all we can about the human heart, about its condition, and its obvious ties to our choices with the hope that we can come to know ourselves better and improve our hearts health.

When the Bible speaks of the human heart it is speaking of the THINKING of a man, a man’s will, a man’s emotions or feelings, a man’s conscience, or any given combinations of these. Or, likely THE combination of those all. The question that should come to mind when we think about this aspect of the human heart is “Am I responsible for the way I think?” Well, the Bible answers that in the affirmative. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Romans 8:6. I admit it is a very tough exercise to change the way you think but isn't that what every man does when he repents? Absolutely because repentance is certainly a changing of the will but it's also a changing of the mind and the ways of our thinking. When a man comes to accept the Bible and its teaching as his own TRUTH, the way God breathed it to be accepted, he is not only committing himself to a new way of thinking about the world and his relationship with God but also with his fellowman. When we accept the gospel we are saying we are going to let the Bible guide our thoughts, our ways of thinking and we aren't going to think about things the way we used to. We will NEVER be perfect or sinless, but we CAN change our attitudes and the WAY we THINK. Worth repeating here, Proverbs 23:7, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Biblical decision making begins with a willingness to submit your intentions to God's perfect will and humbly follow His direction. It's hard to wait for His direction sometimes, as I'm sure many of you have found out on your own! The problem is that most of us don't know how to figure out exactly what God's will actually is in every decision we face, especially the big, life-altering, mind blowing decisions. We've all been there. We've all struggled with how to figure these things out. But the main thing is the lesson it teaches us for our future decision making. PATIENCE and WAITING. Two things the Lord had dropped boulders down on my head about many times before I finally got it! I admit, it was a hard and difficult lesson for me.....but I learned. Am I perfect? Not by far. But I have submitted myself, my intentions and am humbly following His directions. One lesson, and probably the most important one is to begin with PRAYER. We need to frame our attitudes into trust and obedience as we totally commit the decision to prayer, laying it at the foot of the Cross. There's no need to be fearful in decision making when we're secure in the knowledge that God has our best interest in mind. Jeremiah 29:11, " For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." 

Remember that all of what we allow in our minds, will be settled in our hearts and from our hearts will show who we are by the choices we make and things that we do. Everything starts with a thought. Good, bad, or indifferent. A thought has an outcome. And after the thought is configured, our intentions eventually become known. Prayers and good intentions need a plan. Good intentions and prayer are important in your struggle against sin, but be sure to also make a precise, practical plan about how you will battle those temptations in your life. When you combine prayer, intentions, determination, and a plan based on God's word, you will find victory comes a little easier and sooner rather than later. It says in Proverbs 21:5, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." And we find in Proverbs 21:29, "An upright man gives thought to his ways." Being a born again Christ believer isn't just a free ride. It requires action on our part as well. We must all do work in order to flourish and grow and blossom into the person God already knows we ARE!

In Hebrews 4:2, it tells us, "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it." I tell you this because the deceitfulness of sin will continually hide in the shadows, not as an external enemy that we can see and know, but as an internal enemy as mentioned in Hebrews 3:12-13, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; v13) but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."  Today, we are in the age of the Second Exodus but we share in the same fallen condition of those of the First Exodus. Therefore we are urged not to "fall by the same sort of disobedience" as described in Hebrews 4:11. Our need, then, is to soberly allow the word of God to do the excruciating work of a surgeon's operation, dissecting us, tearing apart those rough spots, taking out the disease that's laying underneath and to re-sculpt our internal person. We need to let Him pierce through our weakened defenses and false facades deep into our most inner places. We need to let the Scriptures read us as we read His Word and allowing them to leave us "naked and exposed" because we can't hide from the Almighty God!

Mark 7:20-23
If we pay attention and look closely, while also listening, it's easy to identify behaviors that contradict God's nature and His Word. In Mark 7:20-23 and Luke 6:43-45, Jesus taught about how wrong living is the overflow of a wrong heart. Intentions. So being able to see through the external behaviors, which encompasses the sin, to see the heart's attitudes beneath them. The behavior is the "fruit," and the heart is the "root." The heart is where the SEEDS are PLANTED, and so in order to free a garden of weeds so the fruit grows unobstructed, the roots have to be removed and picked out. And because we are all susceptible to the same kind of blatant disobedience as Israel, we also have examine our own hearts. We have to recognize the root that is causing the weeds to grow so that we know what roots are damaging to our bearing fruit. And we need to exercise our will in examining our hearts in order to find those destructive roots.

So is there right ACTIONS but wrong INTENTIONS? Absolutely! First of all, we all know that our God is a God of justice and He hate treacherous dealings. We can read it from the following verses in the bible, Proverbs 11:1, "Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.” And in Micah 6:8 it says, "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" As we are going about trying to do the right thing, we also have to remember that God also delights in mercy and forgiveness. As much as God likes Christians to do the right thing and report injustice, wrong doing, to rebuke or correct, it all MUST be done with the right intentions of the heart. God is still the God that looks at the heart of man, found in 1 Samuel 16:7, "But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God will always discern the hearts of the person to check for the motivation behind our actions. And motivation sometimes isn't a pretty thing! We can see this in the famous sermon of the mount where Jesus was talking about committing adultery in the heart (Matt 5:27-30), as well as killing a brother in the heart (Matt 5:21-26).

Let's look at a scenario in two different ways. One with the RIGHT intention and one with the wrong intention.

Ok, so the first scenario is you're in college, working very hard to pass your studies with good grades, you study hard, sometimes up all night, maybe even attend study groups, you find all of your resources, and you take your exam. While you're in class, hunkering down for the exam, you notice a fellow student who is clearly cheating. You don't like this particular student and know they don't do the same hard work that you do to pass their tests. They've been mean or disrespectful to you. So you report them to your teacher/professor/dean. You did it BECAUSE you didn't like them first of all and it angered you that they were skating along without doing the work that you and the rest of the class had to do and second to that was the fact that it bothered you that they were cheating. The wrong intention here is the hatred and revenge.

The second scenario is the same exact setup only the twist is even though you don't like this person, it's not your dislike that drives you to report them, or the fact that you have to study and the other students have to study to pass and that person took the cheater's way out. It's clearly the wrong thing to do. Cheating is wrong and you want to see proper justice be done in the right way. So you report that person BECAUSE it's wrong and NOT because you don't like them as was mentioned in the first scenario. So you see how the intentions of the heart can be wrong or right?

Let's take a quick look at how the Bible defines the heart as found in Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [W.E. Vine, Edited by F. F. Bruce, Fleming H. Revell Co. Old Tappan, N.J., 1981, pp. 206-207]: "The word came to stand for man's entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements..." As to its usage in the N.T. it denotes the following:
(a) the seat of physical life, Acts 14:17; Jas. 5:5;
(b) the seat of moral nature and spiritual life, the seat of grief, John 14:1; Rom. 9:2; 2 Cor 2:4; joy, John 16:22; Eph. 5:19; the desires, Matt. 5:28; 2 Pet 2:14; the affections, Luke 24:32; Acts 21:13; the perceptions, John 12:40; Eph. 4:18; the thoughts, Matt. 9:4; Heb. 4:12; the understanding, Matt. 13:15; Rom. 1:21; the reasoning powers, Mark 2:6; Luke 24:38; the imagination, Luke 1:51; conscience, Acts 2:37; 1 John 3:20; the intentions, Heb 4:12; cp. 1 Pet 4:1; purpose, Acts 11:23; 2 Cor 9:7; the will, Rom. 6:17; Col. 3:15; faith, Mark 11:23; Rom. 10:10; Heb. 3:12.

The heart, in its moral significance in the O.T., includes the emotions, the reason and the will. The mind isn't viewed as being inferior to the heart in Scripture. In one of the most famous verses on sanctification in the Bible, Paul exhorted the believers in Rome by telling them to "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" in Romans 12:2. Similarly, he exhorted the Ephesians believers be telling them to "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind" Ephesians 4:23. Paul spoke to the Corinthian believers of having "the mind of Christ" 1 Corinthians 2:16. Luke said that the Lord "opened [the disciples'] understanding [literally mind in Greek], that they might comprehend the Scriptures," that is, the Old Testament Scriptures, concerning His resurrection in Luke 24:45. So, while the words "believe" and "faith" occur approximately 450 times in the Bible, only a few passages specify WHERE belief takes place. They speak of believing as though the reader of Scripture knows what that means and where it occurs. Romans 10:9-10 directly speaks of believing in your heart. "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. v10) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." That is set in direct contrast to "confessing with your mouth," because one is external while the other one is INTERNAL. The former is by faith alone. The latter includes works.

1 Samuel 16:7 speaks LOUD
What a comforting and encouraging Scripture is in 1 Samuel 16:7! How good it is to know that God doesn’t look at how we look, who we know, what we wear or what church we go to! The Lord looks at, and examines, our hearts. He searches it for intentions. He knows our motives. He knows our true intentions towards Him and people. Where there are ulterior motives or intentions, He will try to replace them with what is right and pure and true if we allow Him to do so! If we don't keep our hearts right, our good intentions will not produce good fruit. Good intentions will always produce the sweet fruit that is pleasing to our Lord. Bad intentions will produce the rotten center which is not pleasing to the Lord. It's so important to be aware of your intentions BEFORE you act and is something that I practice all the time! When I am feeling compelled to act in a swift manner, I  HAVE to slow myself down, ask myself what my personal intentions ARE and I really try to search my heart to make sure they are pure. If I'm having a hard time seeing my intentions for what they are, then I don't ACT upon the initial action UNTIL it's clear. Sometimes, us not seeing the intentions clearly, is God's way of giving us that little warning and time before we act so that we don't act with ill intentions! It's happened to me and I've learned some hard knock lessons in my past! That's why it's wise for me to not speak or act until I KNOW it's with good and right intentions! The heart deceives and Satan wants you to immediately ACT without giving time for the Lord to say GO.

Our intention and the effect of our actions don’t always necessarily line up. Any action of ours that is ultimately sponsored by our faltering ego, inevitably leads to suffering. For ourselves and others. This is why God mentions the heart so many times with warnings, lessons and guidance on our intentions of the heart! Remember Jeremiah 17:9-11, “v9) The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? v10) I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. v11) As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, And in the end he will be a fool." We can't always trust it without examining it!

God is looking at that place inside you where your mind is constantly weighing various options, various factors and various situations. This just simply means that He's looking at more than just your behavior. He is looking at why you do what you do and THAT goes to the level of the heart.  After King David's sins of murder and adultery, he really needed a new heart. But he knew that he was not capable of providing it for himself. So he asked God to do it as he prayed these words, "Create in me a pure heart, O God." Psalm 51:10. The word "create" is hugely significant. It reveals to us the fact that David knew he was powerless to fix his heart. It was too messed up. And by that time, King David had his motives made once again pure, even though his recent actions had been anything but. If your motives are pure, you will be moving in a good direction. It will be in the direction of godliness and righteousness, as compared to continually chasing after things which are outside of God's will for your life.

As D.L. Moody used to say, "We have to be emptied before we can be filled." As we admit our bad motives and sinful decisions to the Lord, we then ask Him to remove them and their chilling effects from our heart and soul. That emptying is crucial in order to make room for God's living water to fill us up with all that is pure, good and beautiful.

So in closing, if you find your heart today filled with unholy desires, bad intentions and egotistical motives  rather than righteous ones, you can ask God to do something about it. Submit your ways and your heart to Him FULLY. Who else is capable of performing delicate and precise surgery on the soul? Who else, but the Holy Spirit, can give us a genuine love for Christ and an ongoing desire to do His will in all things? The bottom line is that our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves. And He sees those issues deep within us that no one else can even come close to seeing. Yet He still loves us even with all of our conflicted desires and imperfect follow-through and imperfect executed actions. But that's the power of our Loving God!

Let Jesus search your heart. Submit it fully unto Him and He will make it new.

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