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?

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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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Monday, September 1, 2014

When Satan Taps Your Shoulder, DON'T LOOK BACK!

Most people know the story in the Bible about Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot and his family. For those of you who don't know, or only know a fraction of this wonderful lesson, let me recap it briefly without losing any of the content. The biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were situated near the Dead Sea in Israel, most likely, and in all probability, on the southern end. Lot and his family lived in Sodom. The Lord told Abraham, who was Lot's uncle, that He was going to destroy the city because of the wicked immorality of its inhabitants. Pretty strong statement I might add! Abraham begged the Lord to show mercy toward those who were living there, for the sake of the good people in it, which included his nephew Lot. So Abraham asked the Lord if He would spare Sodom if 50 righteous people could be found in it (Genesis 18). The Lord said He would. Abraham gradually lowered the number to 10. The Lord said He would not destroy Sodom if He could find even 10 righteous people there.

Two angels visited Sodom and found that Lot was the only one there who had any decency. They found that the city was full of adulterers, pride, gluttony, greed, fornicators, extreme wickedness, people going after "strange flesh" and homosexuals who even tried to rape the angels while they were staying with Lot. Here is an account of this particular visit in Genesis 19:4-11, "But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.  And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”  Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.  Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”  But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.  But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door.  And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.” 

Knowing God was about to destroy the city, the angels told Lot to get out of the city quickly with his family. Lot's sons-in-law didn't believe the city was going to be destroyed, so they chose to stay. Lot had sons as well but we aren't told that Lot so much as warned them, so many believe, and are of the opinion, that it's very possible the sons were so deeply involved in the immorality of the city that Lot saw it was pointless to warn them. As far as Lot's sons-in-law, Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, said they were betrothed to the daughters and not yet married to them, which may explain why the girls were still virgins. This leads to the “assumption” by some scholars that Lot only had two daughters, but because it wasn't clearly understood, and maybe not of great importance to the whole of the story itself, it is then POSSIBLE that he had married daughters as well. God didn't breathe these words into His love letter to us so we can only go by what we KNOW from His words.

In any event, the angels only led Lot out of the city along with his wife and two daughters from among the parents and sons and daughters. One of the angels told the family to escape to the mountain, not to stay in any of the nearby cities of the plain, and not to even look behind them. Genesis 19:17, “So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” But Lot, who was very hesitant and resistant to go to the mountain, said he'd rather stay at the small village of Zoar where he THOUGHT he and his family would be safe. He eventually feared for his life in Zoar and went to the mountain anyway, showing us how much better it is to follow the Lord's guidance directly!

Found Near the Dead Sea!
As they entered into Zoar, the Lord rained massive fire and brimstone upon the Sodomites and the city of Sodom, and upon Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain and their inhabitants. And next, we are told of something truly amazing and in many cases, unimaginable, that Lot's wife “looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” She looked back longing for the old ways, the wealth, the forbidden pleasures and the things of "old" that they were told to turn from. She disobeyed and longed for what used to be so she looked over her shoulder and became a pillar of salt.

In Gen 19:24-25, it says, "Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. v25) So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." God will once again destroy the sexually immoral, the sexual deviants, and that day will come when either that person dies or Christ returns. As Jude wrote in Jude 1:7, "as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." To clarify, "Going after strange flesh" means going after flesh that is "different" than what is rightfully ours to claim (our spouse's body -1 Corinthians 7:4, "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.").

Notice that Jude mentions both "fornication" and "going after strange flesh." Obviously, Sodom's sins were more than fornication, and certainly more than a "lack of hospitality" as some people tend to believe. But the lack of hospitality is referenced in Ezekiel 16:49-50, "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit." The "strange" flesh simply refers to that which is forbidden by God for us to have, it is flesh outside the bounds of God's laws; hence, the term "sexual deviance"  which means to deviate from what is acceptable to God. This does not just mean with humans. Anything that is outside the bounds of God's laws is a sexual deviance because it DEVIATES FROM THE NORM! Bestiality, raping, homosexuality, fornication, adultery. The list is endless but it must be understood to understand the extent of the extreme wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In 2 Peter 2:6-8 it says, "v6) and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; v7) and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked v8) (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)...." The "filthy conversation" of the wicked, literally means, the "filthy manner of life" of the wicked. The Greek noun for "conversation" is "anastrophe," which literally means, "behavior." Hence, Sodom and Gomorrah were saturated with sexual deviance, filthy behavior, and every form of godlessness known to mankind. I might be so bold to add at this point in this post that there are cities in this present day and age that very much resemble that of Sodom and Gomorrah! And those numbers are growing the closer we come to the return of our Lord! Las Vegas, Nevada is one of those cities and has been aptly nick-named, "Sin City." Well, that isn't something to boast about, but the world over does! Genesis 13:13, "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly."

God said that the men of Sodom were sinners EXCEEDINGLY! Exceedingly means, "to an extreme degree; extremely; severely; excessively." Surely we don't need a degree in theology to know that the word EXCEEDINGLY meant that these men of Sodom were rotten to the very core! These weren't some petty criminals we're talking about here. Remember, Genesis 19:4-9 tells us about two angels who were sent by God to deliver Lot, and his family, out of Sodom. The angels came in the appearance of regular men.  The homosexuals in the city of Sodom wanted to rape the two visitors.

In it's entirety, it says, "v4) Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. v5) And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” v6) So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, v7) and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! v8) See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” v9) And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door." If you read verse 4 closely, it CLEARLY says ALL the men of Sodom were outside their door. Sodom was predominantly homosexual, and these homosexuals were violent.

Ok, now with that refresher course in place, let's talk about the desires of the human nature's desire to "look back" longingly for those things that were part of our distinct past. Our past is what Satan and his little minions want us to constantly remember because our past is full of sin. Desires that were mistakes, rebellion, desperate. But they were momentary "pleasures" as well and THOSE are the things he helps us remember. It's those times when he taps ever so slightly on our shoulders and says, "Psst, hey, remember THIS? Wasn't THIS fun? Wasn't THIS exciting? Didn't THIS make you feel good? Remember how THIS made you feel?" Oh he's conniving, isn't he? No wonder he took on the form of a snake, because that's exactly what he is....a slippery, slimy, sneaky, sorry, sly SNAKE! I've said over and over, that he cannot do anything new, ONLY GOD can! He only has the authority to drudge up our past, harass us with those temptations and plant thoughts in our minds. Nothing else though. He's good at what he does as it is.....but he's been defeated! He's condemned already and THAT, my dear readers, is exactly what he wants YOU to feel like....CONDEMNED! I wrote about the difference between Conviction and Condemnation and if you haven't read that yet, it's probably a good time to do so now! Satan CONDEMNS! A child of God, a Christ believer, born again, is convicted and the conviction comes from the Holy Spirit!

God's Authority to Us!
Satan is always tapping our shoulders and the closer we get to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, the more rapidly he taps! He doesn't want us to get close. He wants us to stumble. To fall. To doubt. To rebel. After all, isn't that exactly what he did himself? He was so good at the deception and the manipulation that he got a third of the angels to rebel against God and they too, got cast out of heaven. There is always going to be temptations that get in our way. It doesn't mean we have to act upon them. It doesn't mean we have to give up if we act upon the temptation. The path isn't easy and it gets harder the closer you become, BUT, it's not impossible!!!! That's where Satan fools so many into believing that once they slip and fall into a past sin, that God won't take them "back" so to speak! Satan wants us to doubt our Savior! That's why he's constantly trying to trip us up! God, however, gave us an armor to wear daily to protect ourselves from the fiery darts of the enemy, our adversary. The armor of God will not only protect us, but it will DEFEAT the enemy! The power given to us in Luke 10:19 says CLEARLY and LOUDLY, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Ah, this alone should bring boldness and courage and strength to you!!!

Worth mentioning at this point is that the whole armor of God can be found in Ephesians 6:10-20, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. v11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. v12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. v13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. v14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, v15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; v16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. v17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; v18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— v19) and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, v20) for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."

Satan knows our weaknesses especially if we say them aloud! Remember, ONLY God can hear our thoughts not Satan. Satan can only drop a few of them in our minds to tempt us back to the days of old, but in no way, is he able to HEAR what's in our minds, thoughts or hearts! He does NOT have that authority. Once Christians understand that fully, it makes things a little easier. If you aren't a child of God, and you haven't accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, then the torment is much greater because Satan knows he already "has" you in his darkened grip and that you are already doing his work for him without resistance. However, it's NEVER too late!!!! Satan also knows that the MOMENT that you begin to come towards the "Light" of the Lord Jesus Christ, he's lost another soul to Jesus! Praise the Lord! Satan doesn't want you to choose Jesus' side! He wants you to stay in the darkness....for all eternity! That's why he makes everything sinful on this fallen earth APPEAR pleasing, fun, innocent, beautiful, good and pure. That's part of his lure, his lies and his deception. He wants to MOCK God, after all, that's why he rebelled was because he wanted to be like God. Well, in an ironic chain of events, he IS a "god." Not THE Creator God, but he is the god of this world! Roaming this earth seeking whom he may devour. Some go with him willingly, some put up a fight. But those that are children of God....they are the ones he wants to torment the most. They're the ones he wants to make doubt the Lord Jesus Christ! 1 John 4:4, " Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."

Anything that is a stronghold of yours, or was in the past, are the things he will use to tempt you and tap your shoulder ever so aggressively! Oh, at first he whispers. At first he taps you lightly. At first he is gently calling your sins out. But the more you listen, the more you pay attention to the lies, and the more you try to turn from them, the more rapidly and loudly and aggressively he proceeds. He thinks it's a green light! The moment you say "What?" when he says, "Psst, Hey___" is when he THINKS you've given in to him. He thinks that since you've answered him, well, he has free reign now. So remember this, if nothing else......when he comes calling your name....tapping your shoulder.....helping you remember your past.....don't ANSWER! When he taps your shoulder, don't look back because that's where he wants you to STAY! Jesus wants us to be present, to look forward to His return, to remember our sins are all covered by His shed blood on the cross, paying our sin debt in full for a debt He didn't owe! There is freedom in Jesus! There is bondage in Satan. There is PEACE in Jesus! There is Torment in Satan. There is Confidence in Jesus! There is Doubt in Satan. There is Love in Jesus! There is Hate in Satan. There is Victory in Jesus! There is failure in Satan. There is Comfort and Consolation in Jesus! There is Misery in Satan. THERE IS TRUTH IN JESUS! THERE IS LIES WITH SATAN. Every single time you look back, you miss out on one of the blessings of Jesus because Satan told you a lie that you believed. For a moment! For a time. For a season. Anytime we slip, stumble and/or fall, we're getting what the devil gives us, NOT the wonderful things the Lord God Almighty has for our obedience!

When we become a child of God, entering into a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ, our transformation begins. But it doesn't ALL happen overnight. We also become a bigger target for our enemy too! Some people continue to struggle with the same strongholds, or bondage, for many years before they're finally delivered. There are lessons to be learned in those struggles too. For some, it's learning to surrender. For others it could be Faith, Trust, Pride, or even control. God allows us to suffer through some of our struggles because we need to LEARN and in that learning, we need to LEAN on Him and use His strength and not our own. Some people deal with strongholds until the day they die, but they didn't have to! They just needed to understand how Satan operates in opposition to the Lord! Let's give an example here.....let's say you're dealing with an addiction to drugs. You're trying to fight this addiction in the FLESH and not relying solely on the Lord for your deliverance. I'll stop here before going on to say that the majority of the strongholds that can't be "dealt" with is due to our unwillingness to let go of them and when we "try" to overcome them, we're doing it in the flesh, thereby pushing the Lord right out of the equation. Ok, so you're trying to fight your addiction in the flesh and you think you're doing pretty good because you haven't done any drugs for a few months. Then, when you're feeling down or depressed, knowing those are your "trigger" emotions, Satan taps on your shoulder and says, "Hey, you know if you took (insert drug name) then you wouldn't feel so sad or depressed." Well, you don't look over your shoulder or don't look back. So, he taps your shoulder harder, but this time, places a person, place or thought in front of you to make you stumble, and loudly says, "Here. Look what I did for you! I brought you into the path of so and so, they'll get you hooked up just like before." This goes on and on until finally, if you aren't strong enough in the Lord and are trying to use YOUR strength, you give in. And the cycle begins all over again......

I'm going to spend just a moment on trying to overcome something in the flesh as opposed to using the strength of the Lord that has been given to us at the Cross! Many people don't want to admit that they are trying to overcome some kind of sin or temptation or stronghold in their flesh and using our own weakened strength. In many cases, that's exactly what's being done. We get so used to trying to do things OUR way, that it becomes a natural reaction to do everything in our wills. For those who struggle with giving up control, it's more prevalent in their lives. Some will convince themselves that they're relying on the Lord's strength to fight the battle when in reality, they just can't admit it's their own flesh. Giving up control is hard for anyone. But moreso for those who are fully engulfed in controlling all aspects of their lives. There are so many who can't let go of the control long enough to surrender to the Lord's WILL, that they continue fighting strongholds over and over and over! Now let me say at this fork in the road that just because a deliverance is made from a stronghold, doesn't mean we won't be TEMPTED. Just the opposite. Sometimes, the temptation is greater for AWHILE. Then it weakens. It lessens. It goes to sleep quietly, but only awakens rarely.

This could be ANY stronghold. Satan works the SAME way with everyone he has been given authority to harass, torment, chase after. We all must stomp on his talons, spit on his lies and turn from his thoughts. He lies. He manipulates. He deceives. He Tempts. He torments. Nothing new under his darkness. Same old same old. Once we grasp that truth, then we can be better armed for a future temptation. The best way to thwart his shoulder tapping ways is to replace each thought that comes to your mind with a promise from the Lord. For every negative thought, replace it with something positive the Lord spoke. For every single dark and evil thing Satan speaks or does, our Father God has overcome with His Son Jesus Christ and IN Jesus, there is LIGHT. The LIGHT ALWAYS OUTSHINES THE DARKNESS! Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, that is done in this world, by the god of this world, can ever win over the LIGHT OF THIS WORLD, THE LIGHT OF THIS UNIVERSE! So anytime you are struggling with some dark thought, or dark temptation just remember the Light that's within you is much greater than the darkness that surrounds you!

We all need to remember that Sodom and Gomorrah had more than just one sin. They were filled with pride, gluttony, greed, homosexuality, extreme wickedness, adulteries, and fornication as well. The sins of these evil cities are among us today. Their inhabitants fill the land. Let us never forget that these sins will not only destroy a nation, but also each of us individually. That's why it's so important to understand that our sins were paid in full at the cross but it doesn't mean we can WILLINGLY relish in them without guilt, conviction or repentance. As David wrote in Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” 

Never looking back is part of our Salvation process. We become a new creation in Christ Jesus. In Luke 17:30-32 says, "v30) Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. v31) “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. v32) Remember Lot’s wife."  Many people miss this one verse in the midst of the small three word verse, Remember Lot's Wife. It is packed full of warning though! It's warning us not to be apprehensive about leaving a place marked, or bound, for destruction, otherwise our wicked, sinful ways, and that whoever and/or whatever that's left behind that you find precious or dear to you shouldn't be longed for. We're not to look back in case we should be tempted to go back to our ways, or to the places marked and bound for destruction. Turning back to our old ways could definitely be construed as going back in heart to those eyes upon us who are watching our walk. Therefore, when we leave our past behind us, we should leave our old heart's longing behind as well. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt so that she might remain a lasting monument of God’s. Was Lot's wife looking back so wrong? Apparently what was really wrong with Lot’s wife wasn't that she was just looking back; it was IN her heart that she wanted to GO back. She looked back LONGINGLY with desire in her heart. In short, her attachment to the past most definitely outweighed her confidence in the future. The confidence that we can only find in Jesus! That, apparently, was at least part of her sin. It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, according to Scripture, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her. She didn't have FAITH. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. She apparently thought, fatally, as it turned out, that nothing God laid ahead of her could possibly be as good, or better, than those moments she was begrudgingly leaving behind. So it's what's in our HEARTS that make the difference and our FAITH that pulls us through!

You need not dwell on the days now gone away, or the pains and sorrows they hold. Nor you need not vainly yearn for any of your yesterdays, no matter how good those yesterdays may have been. They're gone. The past is to be learned from but NOT lived in. We can look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not gather up the ashes from the fires that burned out. Then when we've learned what we needed to learn, no matter how long it takes us, then we look ahead! We remember that Faith is always pointed toward the future. Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives. To yearn to go back to a world that can't be lived in now; to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances and have only dismal views of the future; to miss the here-and-now-and-tomorrow because we are so trapped and bound up in the there-and-then-and-yesterday, well, these are just some of the sins of Lot's wife. Longing in the heart for things of old. Things we don't want to practice in our own lives! The Apostle Paul, after reviewing the very privileged and rewarding life of his early years, his birthright, education, his standing in the Jewish community, Paul says that all of that was nothing compared to his conversion to Christianity. Basically he says he stopped rhapsodizing for the old days and eagerly awaits the future when he may "apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me.” And then this wonderful reminder comes along. Philippians 3:13–14 tells us, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, v14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

No Lot’s wife here for Paul. No looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah. Paul knows it's out there in the future, straight up ahead, wherever heaven is taking us, where we'll win “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14. 

There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life, either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. To be bound, tied or held in contempt to earlier mistakes, our own or others, is one of the worst kind of "wallowing in the past" that we are called to cease and desist. Such dwelling on one's past life, including past mistakes, strongholds and bondage, is just not right! For ourselves and in others. It isn't the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does in Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins." 

So, When Satan Taps Your Shoulder, DON'T LOOK BACK!

There's only deliverance in the Lord Jesus Christ! If you are not a born again believer in Jesus Christ Alone, then I invite you to kneel down before the Almighty God and cry out for forgiveness, repent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, as the only Begotten Son of God, who died on the Cross for ALL of your sins, paying our sin debt in full, who rose again three days later and who will return again! He's waiting for you with arms wide open!

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams-Suicide and Salvation

John 1:12 - But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

The recent passing of Robin Williams has sparked one of the most heart wrenching "debates" that I've seen in a long time. This will not be a debate and I won't allow it to become one. It would serve no purpose other than to incite pain and misinformation. But it was because of those debates that I didn't intend to write about his passing, or his life in front of the cameras. After all, I didn't know him personally, obviously, and all I would be able to do is just pay homage to him, grieve for the loss of another life and pray for comfort for his family and the loved ones he left behind. But, then, something changed. Something began to eat at me the more I read commentaries, articles and discussions. It seemed everyone had a "comment" or an "opinion." That part didn't surprise me because of this social media age of anonymity,  where everyone can "bravely" say what they want without regards to the feelings of others. However, something else was gnawing at me, something that I couldn't quite nail down and then! There it was, right in front of my eyes. One of the most horrific statements, that not only hurt my heart and shook up my spirit, but broke my heart for the millions of eyes who were reading those very harmful words who either suffered this kind of loss in the past or were in the middle of suffering and dealing with this kind of loss currently. What statement was it that turned my intention around? People were saying that suicide sent him to Hell! And worse yet was reading those words, from Christians! From people who didn't KNOW him on a personal level, and only knew him like the rest of the world.....PUBLICLY and IMPERSONALLY.

I always pray about my blog posts before writing them because I really try to write what the Holy Spirit leads me to write. I had two ideas laid on my heart, and on the burners, when he passed. I couldn't seem to write more than a few sentences before this subject would pop into my head and spirit. Well, as a result of not being able to finish the other posts right now, I prayed about it, was lead to a new, but hidden, article about him, and the Lord took me off the first article and changed my direction to this one! I'm OK with that because I pray that these words that I will soon be writing, will touch someone, comfort someone or give wisdom to someone that needs it!

Robin Williams was one of those rare comedic geniuses who crossed over into different generations. Comedy is a unique career path and an even more unique skill, or talent depending on how you look at it. The majority of comedians are generational-specific. By that, I mean, they resonate with those of their time and never really span much more than a decade, if that. Not Robin Williams. He came on the scene in the late '70's with a sit-com called, "Mork and Mindy," taking the world by storm ever since. Who was this man!?! Everyone has some memory of their favorite movie, stand-up routine, cartoon voice overs or the ingenious way he would completely take over an interview! No matter who you are, or where you live, he could make you laugh with his brilliance. He could make you forget about your pains and sorrows for just a little while. He could make you relate to his "characters" that he would so brilliantly create on the spot. His mind was amazing. His mind was unbelievably creative....unlike any other. The people who really knew him on a personal and professional level, couldn't say enough about his talent, his improvisational skills and his bullet-speed quickness in his delivery!

But, his mind was also fractured too. It was fragile and broken. Something, I'm sure, he didn't want to admit to the world; the same world he so desperately needed love from! Laughter was his fuel, his gas that kept him going, but more so, laughter was love. What Robin Williams showed, and shared with, the world and his fans, was the person he could never quite shut off. The person who was always making people laugh, who NEEDED that laughter for his own sadness, who was always "ON" and always in "character." That must have been so difficult to live the majority of one's life in full on "character" always afraid of not bringing joy and laughter to the world because that was what was lacking in the real life of Robin......Comedy is a mask. Some can take the mask off in private, and live semi-normal lives and some can't. Mr. Williams was one of those people who couldn't. Not because he didn't want to. Not because he didn't desire to. But because he didn't have the ability. He was clinically depressed. His television show recently was cancelled. He had addictions. He had failed marriages. He had financial burdens from those failed marriages. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, which also is connected to depression. He had heart surgery. God only knows the rest of his battles. He had been battling depression for most of his life. If truth be known, there was likely a personality "disorder" that was likely evident, and possibly diagnosed, that we'll never know about. It would only make sense for someone to have a personality disorder that lived split lives. But it's really none of our business anyway. He didn't want the world to know about his Parkinson's Disease, and probably other silent things he was internally dealing with, and the only reason we found out about it is because his most recent wife of 3 years, disclosed it. It just added to the rest of his battles and maybe helped some people understand a little more just how tortured he was, how desperate he became and how cornered he felt, but more so, how much pain he was truly in!

Now, with that said, when the media lit up about his suicide, it ignited so much emotion across the social media that it was mind blowing. First of all, it's not the first suicide that Hollywood has experienced and sadly, it won't be the last. Second of all, suicide is NOT the problem here and too many people focused on the ACT instead of the problem that caused the action. Mental illness, addictions, trauma and physical issues. The mind is a curious thing. It's one of the mysteries of our existence. It's fragile and can be "broken" at any time. I remember watching "Mork and Mindy" one evening with my mom and out of the blue she said, God rest her soul, "Sweety, now there's a broken soul. He's a very SAD man behind those eyes." Well, at 15-16 years old, what did I know, right? Then maybe a few years later, we saw an interview with him, and I could actually SEE that sadness that mom had spoken of a few years earlier. I suddenly saw someone that couldn't turn it "off" and for a second, when he'd pause briefly for reflection, you'd see it in his eyes. They were sad. Very sad. Very hurt. Very lost. This was the beginning of my looking at people in a whole different light. That was one of those "moments" that one doesn't forget and every time I'd see him in an interview after that moment, I saw the same thing, sometimes worse, but always behind those eyes, was a deep sadness. I remember the discussion mom and I had afterwards about depression and hiding behind "masks" and this was around 1979-1981! She felt it important enough at that time to talk to me about it and so I listened. And learned.

2 Corinthians 3:17
I saw him as having two personalities. The one he let the world see, which was the one he couldn't turn "off" and the one that nobody saw, only MAYBE a select few, and that, I believe, was solely out of fear of not being "accepted" for who he really was. That second person was the hurt one, the sad one, the struggling one. Maybe he didn't know who he really was since he primarily lived a life of a "character" in front of the world. I don't know. None of us like to be rejected. But when you're in the public eye for years and you're expected to act a certain way and BE a certain person, I only imagine how hard it would be to find one's "true self." Couple that with clinical depression and addictions, along with all of the other strongholds, and well, that's a toxic recipe for disaster! I read an article from someone who said they'd been CLOSE friends for over 30 years and knew of his battles with depression and addictions but NOT to the extent of it's true destruction and he said he felt Robin didn't have the capability of allowing that side to be seen much more than what his small circle already knew. How very sad to be so brilliant in some areas but to also be trapped by that brilliance! By this time, people were talking about the fact of him committing suicide was going to send him to eternal hell. Not people that KNEW him personally but lay people like you and me! People that had NO clue about who he really was as a person, a father, a husband, a son, a friend. Much less knowing about his salvation......

Before I begin my discussion on suicide, and his salvation, take a look at the below information found straight out of the Bible!

Christ died for US
John 3:16 - "And God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life."
Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Acts 3:19 - "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."
John 3:36 - "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 1:12 - "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name."
Ephesians 2:8-9 - "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Assurance of Salvation
John 10:27-28 - "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."
Salvation ONLY in Him
John 14:6 - "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Acts 4:12 - "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Remember, it isn't by the works you do, nor the hours you spend in church. It isn't about how good you are, or how good you THINK you are, that will get you saved and guarantee eternal life. Because it is important to understand that ALL people have a sin problem! Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" and in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." It's believing that Jesus died for your sins, repenting, asking for forgiveness and receiving the Son into your heart! And you will have everlasting life, reigning with the King forever more! Did you see conditions or exceptions there? Anywhere in those scriptures?! No! The conditions are set forth by your belief in Jesus Christ, your repentance of your sins, your receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior! Receiving the FREE GIFT. It isn't a gift until you accept it, receive it and hold it!

Back to the issue at hand....Suicide! This is an awful, terrible act and out of ALL the ways to die, suicide is the ONE act that not only leaves so many loved ones feeling as though they "missed" something, but it leaves behind guilt and blame and in some cases shame. Nobody understands suicide! Nobody really can even explain it because that would mean knowing the thoughts and minds of those who commit this tragedy. Only one person can do that and that's God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! People call it "selfish" and "cowardly" or taking the "cowards" way out. To some, it is seen as such. Well, in the minds of those who take their lives, they BELIEVE the opposite. They believe everyone ELSE would be better off without them being a "burden" to their friends and family. That's how their minds work through this act and they convince themselves that they are being BRAVE by removing themselves from burdening others. Remember, if someone is at the point in their lives to commit suicide, they are NOT mentally stable. Whether they've been battling a mental disorder/disease all of their lives, or something recently "snapped," they have become unstable for whatever reason.

Suicide is MURDER. Let's make that distinction first. This makes suicide NO different than any other "sin" in the bible EXCEPT the ONE unpardonable sin of "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit." Matthew 12:31-32, "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. v32) Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." And in Mark 3:29, "but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” If you deny the Holy Spirit's entrance into your life, to work his sanctification in you, you cannot be cleansed from unrighteousness. Therefore, "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" can be understood as a continued and persistently stubborn rejection of the gospel of salvation. This would be an "unpardonable sin" because as long as a person remains in unbelief, he voluntarily excludes himself from forgiveness of sin.

It would be difficult to argue that suicide is not a sin, because it's the taking of a human life, or to put it bluntly, murder. It isn't the murder of someone else, it's self-murder, but murder nonetheless. Murder is the taking of A LIFE. Yours or someone else's life. Period. The Bible clearly expresses the sanctity of human life in Exodus 20:13, "You shall not murder." God is the author of life, thus, the giving and taking of life ought to remain in his hands, Job 1:21, "And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, you can hear the truest heart of God crying out for His people to choose life, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; v20) that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” 

His Hands Hold YOU!
But, the question is, and remains to those who have been voicing their "opinions," can a sin as grave as suicide destroy one's salvation? Is suicide any different of a sin than the rest? Remember, suicide is an ACTION. It's not the root cause of the action but rather the RESULT of something else. The Bible tells us that at the moment of salvation a believer's sins are forgiven John 3:16, "And God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life." And again in John 10:28, "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." When we become a child of God, ALL of our sins, even those committed AFTER salvation, are no longer held against us. ANYONE who turns to Jesus for forgiveness is made righteous by His blood as stated in Romans 5:9, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." He covers our ALL of our sins, through His shed blood on the cross of Salvation, past, present and future!!! When God purchased us with the blood of Christ, ALL of our sins were paid for (1 Peter 1:19). If a person who has truly received Jesus Christ as Savior, demonstrating that they have been redeemed, reconciled, forgiven, justified, etc., by God, commits suicide, the SIN of suicide was bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Suicide is a terrible tragedy, but it does NOT negate the Lord's act of redemption! Our salvation rests securely in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. So then, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13! Will Jesus welcome home a believer who died at their own hands? I absolutely believe He will, tenderly and lovingly because He said ALL of our sins were forgiven and remembered no more. Would He not welcome home a believer who chose to have an abortion? Is this sin any different than suicide? He said that nobody would snatch them from His hands and that whosoever believes in Him shall have ETERNAL life. The Biblical basis for this is in  Romans 8:38-39, and I'm capitalizing the whole thing for emphasis upon His precious PROMISE to us, "FOR I AM PERSUADED THAT NEITHER DEATH NOR LIFE, NOR ANGELS NOR PRINCIPALITIES NOR POWERS, NOR THINGS PRESENT NOR THINGS TO COME V39) NOR HEIGHT NOR DEPTH, NOR ANY OTHER CREATED THING, SHALL BE ABLE TO SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD." This covers A LOT of ground, wouldn't you say?! Are WE not "created things?" So then, how is it that we can trust in this beautiful promise that He so profoundly spoke to us, then deny its same comfort to those people who doubly grieve for brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and friends who, in horrible, desperate, clouded moments of total despair and in their darkest moments, decided to end their lives? I believe that Jesus died not only for the sins of us all, but for all of our sins, including the forgotten ones, even suicide.

Some people, Christians included, think suicide can't be forgiven. They say it's because the person who took their own life couldn't have repented of doing it and they were playing "God." I find terrible fault with this way of thinking because all of us commit sins that we're too spiritually cloddish to recognize for the sins that they are! And, as born again Christians, we ALL die with sins not named and repented of. That's why we have a Savior who remember our sins no more....covered us in His precious blood and forgave us of every single sin - past, present and future. Even those that we don't recognize as sin in our worldly fleshly ways. It's because of our humanly natural ways that we can't recognize all of our sins because we tend to justify them....sometimes to death. But if we are truly born again believers in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we will have eternal life with our Father in Heaven!

He Paid Our Sin Debt in FULL
For those Christians who believe taking one's own life is playing God and can condemn a fellow Christian to HELL, then I would suggest to look deep inside and remember that abortion, too, would be considered playing God just as much as murdering someone else would be considered playing God. Taking a life is taking a life no matter if it's yours or someone else's. And murder is a sin. No exceptions. Sin is forgiven, bought and paid for by the shed blood of Jesus for those who accepted Jesus as their Savior. I would also lovingly caution you not to be too quick to judge in this area because NOBODY knows if someone close to them could fall into this same kind of desperation, same kind of despair and suddenly decide to end their lives. Mental disorders are the "silent" disorders with shame attached. In many, they can go undetected for many years. Even the ones that seek and find help, still can "slip" into a bottomless pit and never fully recovery. There are those who have a temporary breakdown that can't find their way back. The list goes on. This can happen to anyone. Suicide has affected alot of lives and has touched many more. Suicide is a permanent “solution” to temporary problems. But it's really not about the ACT of suicide that counts. It's whether they are saved, born again, repentant Christians when they die! It's about their eternal salvation, not about the sins of commission.

As a quick side note, before I continue, is to make mention of being in bondage and under strongholds. Many Christians struggle with bondage and strongholds, most not even realizing it until something finally grabs hold of their spirits and shakes them up a little. Anyone who has been truly delivered from a stronghold or a form of bondage, understands how blinding they can be, how BINDING they can become, how heavy they can be to carry around and how they can cloud your views and judgment to a point of making poor life and spiritual choices. Satan is behind each of them. Lying through his teeth. Laughing the whole time. Being in bondage to a sin, or to sins, to the world itself, stifles your relationship and growth with the Lord BUT it doesn't mean He forsakes you or turns His back on you. Quite the opposite if we call out to Him with our hearts and souls! In our darkest moments, when we call upon the Lord the loudest, when our hearts are the most broken, is when He will be felt and seen the most! Sometimes, for some people, though, their illness, or bondage or strongholds consumes them and they find it more difficult to cry out during those times of total desperation. When you have strongholds and are under bondage and also have a mental illness/disorder, then how much more confused and desperate do you think that person becomes? Being in bondage is a very real thing. Some people would say something like, "Oh they are fighting their own demons." Or something like, "They've been fighting their own demons for years." And even something on the lines of, 'They're afraid to be alone in silence because they don't want to deal with their demons." Well, those are all pretty good examples of what being in bondage is like. Just because you are a saved, born again believer in Jesus, doesn't mean that everything changes overnight! We are sanctified daily! But the transformation doesn't happen overnight....and depending on if there is discipleship in that persons life, can also predict growth or lack thereof.

Every single day we are being worked on, growing, learning, changing, cleansed. It's easier for some than for others just as it is quicker for some than for others. Robin Williams was definitely in bondage to many things to a point that it overwhelmed him. It consumed him actually. He felt hopeless. And it's sad. Very sad. Nobody knows the torment this man suffered. Except for the Lord Himself! Yes, it's true that by accepting Jesus as our Savior transforms us from the inside out, but it doesn't happen overnight. Some very good, God fearing, born again believers in Christ suffered immensely unto their deaths because of bondage and strongholds, because of addictions and diseases. There are many more that weren't saved that went to their deaths the same way....which ones should WE, as Christians, be more concerned with?

Many commentators, bloggers and others reporting on this "breaking news" automatically ASSUMED that Robin Williams wasn't a born again Christian BECAUSE he committed suicide. How presumptuous! They flooded the comments sections with their thoughts and "truths" and they flooded the cyberspace areas with thoughts and memories. All on the first day of hearing about his death. All without even knowing for CERTAIN that it was suicide, even though it appeared that way. It's still presumptuous. It's still premature. So the next day, in a hidden article, tucked away nicely from the public view, late at night, there is the headlines...."Robin Williams "accepted Jesus Christ!"" For all to SEE. But did they? Not too many discussions arose after this hidden away article came out. Interesting? Not really. People would rather focus on other things of less importance and spewing condemnation of his eternal soul. I cringed but I prayed for peace! Now for those who followed Robin knew he had an Episcopalian upbringing and would base some of his jokes on that said upbringing. He was searching still when sometime later in his career, and through his depression, seeds had been planted by a few friends and one person in particular who shared the same kind of upbringing in the Episcopalian church and later became a born again Christian. This person is a Dr of Theology and said that after one of Robin's many stints in rehab, he "accepted Jesus Christ." He reminisced about their conversations and upbringing and how this Dr shared the gospel with Robin.

If you did follow Robin and happened to have the privilege to catch some of his interviews, on those rare occasions, when he would be able to contain the "public" Robin, he'd mention his reliance upon his FAITH and Jesus to get him out of his dark places. It was GENUINE. If you had eyes to see, then you would see how God was behind his eyes during those rare interviews. It wasn't a put on. Some things are just evident. He said at one point he realized, and I'm paraphrasing this, when he was at his lowest point, in the darkest part of his life, coming face to face with God made him come closer to Him and made him realize God and his family was ALL he had!!! As I read that, I was warmed to my spirit BUT furious at the same time!! Furious that people had already condemned this man without knowing anything about him. Or his HEART! Judging him before knowing truth. I was furious that they spoke about him spending eternity in hell because he committed suicide, to a world of HURTING people!!! To people who may have lost a loved one, that was a born again believer, to suicide now possibly putting doubts in their minds about where they will be spending eternal life. Furious that these Christians were HURTING the kingdom of God more than they were HELPING!!!

Then there's that statement, ""No one who is truly a Christian will succumb to addiction and depression or (fill in the blank) much less take his own life" which is tragically false. With all due respect, this is the sort of theology that damages God's children and minimizes one's ability to serve in God's Kingdom. There are "true Christians" all over the world who love Jesus with all their heart, who have faith in Him, but yet, are in bondage of some kind, or who suffer mental disorders/diseases. Being a Christian doesn't make any of us exempt from pain, suffering, flaws and mental disorders...but it does provide us a source in overcoming them daily. Still...with that being said, there are sometimes when we are overcome today by what we defeated yesterday. Remember what Ephesians 6:12 tells us, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." This battle is very real and while yours may not be provoking you toward suicide, depression or addiction, Robin's definitely was. What Robin lost was his perspective. I know you've all heard the saying, "Perception is reality." Well, Robin's perception became his reality. He may have lost perspective of life, but he didn't lose his status as a 'Christian' or his love from God.

And anyone who followed his career, and what he allowed in the public eye, also knew Robin Williams as a "giver" of himself and his wealth. He LOVED the  wounded warriors program and our soldiers, and put on some shows for them as well as visiting soldiers and supporting their cause financially. He LOVED children and supported St. Jude's hospital. He donated to causes that he DIDN'T brag about. He gave to others unselfishly because he loved. He did it humbly. Just like the bible tells us! Be humble givers and don't brag. He never did. He lived a primarily quiet life, out of the spotlight, unless he was promoting a movie or his recent television show, or a stand up comedy tour. Otherwise, he humbly stayed in the background, fighting his demons, struggling with his life, and silently crying out! There are lives he touched that none of us will ever know about. He made so many people laugh, and cry, and covered up his own sadness and tears. He had problems, sure. He had made mistakes. Sure. He wasn't perfect. But we all have problems, we all make mistakes and NONE of us are perfect. We ALL fall short of the glory of God! When Robin Williams accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, he was sealed with the blood of Christ, promised eternal life and forgiven of ALL of his sins. The only thing that would condemn Robin Williams to hell is if he CHOSE NOT to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Not suicide. Not the sin that was bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. Let Jesus' own words be a comfort to all of you who may have experienced this kind of tragedy of a loved one who was a suffering Christian! Loved ones who have died at their own hands we can safely entrust to our gracious God!

He DOES Hear Your Cries!
I believe that, as Christians, we should worry less about whether Christians who have killed themselves go to heaven, and worry more about how we can help people like them find hope and joy in living! The loved ones whose spirits are, even right now, this very moment, slipping so silently toward death without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, these are our burdens. The most urgent problem facing us today and facing the world in general, staring us right in the faces, isn't the morality of suicide. It's the spiritual and mental despair that destructively drags the people down TO it. Satan is a thief! He lies to each of these hurting souls that they'd be better off dead. NOT TRUE!!! Satan is a liar! He wants to steal moments of joy that God has placed before you! Allow God to take victory over him. God knows each of us intimately, down to the very number of hairs on our heads, and He desires that ALL of us spend eternity in His presence. It's our choice though. His heart truly breaks over all the pain we suffer in this temporary life, but He promises us eternal life with Him, free of all life's burdens, through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." He knows that this life is difficult, so He wants to remove the burdens we carry. We, as Christians, should be very careful what we speak, how we speak and why we speak while publicly commenting, instructing or directing others TO Christ and FOR Christ. Our words are likened to life and death in the Bible.....and we have a huge responsibility to others in the Kingdom because many eyes are upon us! Both Christians and non-Christians alike. Our purpose here isn't to push people away, or to plant doubt where doubt shouldn't be! Doubt only draws people AWAY from Jesus....doubt is from Satan himself. Condemning people also draws people away from our Lord! Not a responsibility I want to assume! I desire to do the will of God! Our purpose is to love, comfort and share the TRUTH with others. Both Christians and Non-Christians alike. Our voices in writing may be the only voices they hear....So does a true, born again Christian lose their eternal place in heaven because they commit suicide? No.

The REAL question we need to ask ourselves, and not OTHERS, is, "Are WE doing the will of the Father? Or are we just acting like it?" If we truly have the love of God residing within us, we are mature enough to know that addiction, depression, idolatry, jealousy, pornography, murder and many more battles are being waged against God's children by Satan himself. Ephesians 6:12 once again, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."  This is why all of God's people need each we don't lose each other to the lies that Satan and the suicidal thoughts he whispers in the ears of our loved ones, or those we may know. We need each other to be encouraged to pray for one another and to serve each other in Jesus' name! I'm convinced there wasn't many, if any at all, of those kinds of people in Robin's circle doing those kinds of things for him. This serves as a grave reminder to be sensitive to others around us, to be able to spot someone who may be battling these same battles, and who just might be spiraling into that deep darkened pit of despair. Suicide is an act taken in RESPONSE to feeling absolutely defeated by life.

Robin Williams death left me convinced that what had driven him to commit suicide had been his inability see the Hope and Joy that Jesus set in front of him because of his mental instability that consumed his very existence. He struggled for many many years to try to shake his addictions, to conquer his inner demons that produced his clinical depression and that would eventually cause him to feel like a failure in everyone's eyes, but especially his own. He couldn't feel that way because he was expected to make the whole world laugh. His expectations, not others. I'm convinced that as he looked in the mirror, he didn't see the person the whole world saw. The person he created for the world to see was the person he wanted to be but just couldn't for whatever reason. I'm convinced that Robin Williams saw a totally different man that was broken, bound up, sad, and fractured. his death also left me convinced that we, as Christians, need more compassion and love towards the battles of others, and less of fingers wagging and condemnation. Nobody escapes this life without sin....there are two choices, to have those sins covered by the blood of Jesus and to accept Him as our Savior, spending eternity in Heaven with our Father, or to go to our death with our sins fully exposed, refusing the free gift of Salvation that is offered to us in this life, spending eternity in Hell. I've made my choice many years ago.....I pray that you have chosen Jesus too. If you haven't, please take this time, where you're at right now, and believe on Jesus Christ as the only Begotten Son, who was born of a virgin, died on the Cross for ALL of our sins, who bought and paid for our sin debt in full, and rose three days later, repent of your sins, ask for forgiveness, and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior!

In closing, with relation to depression, which is the primary reason for suicide in the first place, there isn't anything more of an extreme act of self-hate than taking one's own life and often the need to express such an overpowering and consuming emotion will manifest itself completely by the act of taking one's life! Self-hate comes in many forms. Some are seen, but many more are unseen, hidden deep within the recesses of our minds. Those are the ones that only God sees. This kind of clinical depression  drowns out God's voice of love and redemption just long enough to be overtaken. Asking for help is hard for anyone, and more so for someone suffering the degree he was...and most people can only see the depths of someone's pain on the surface. Nobody can see the true depths of someone else's internal pain, suffering or hopelessness. So, PLEASE, if your are reading this for whatever reason you were brought here in the first place, and YOU are struggling with thoughts of suicide, battling depression, or some other stronghold I ask you with all the love inside of me, to seek the help of a Pastor, Spiritual Mentor or Christian counselor. Someone you can trust who will lead you to the hope that can only be found in the Lord! Don't try to carry this battle on your own and don't try to carry all the burdens by yourself!!!! The devil is fighting hard for you; so whatever you do, don't give in to his lies. Don't listen to him. Realize that whatever you are facing will pass. Seek out someone to pray for you and with you. Seek out help! But more than anything else, SEEK THE FACE OF THE LORD! You may not think He's listening, but He is!!! Cry out and He will comfort you!!! There are those who love you dearly and want to help....Especially Jesus! May your darkest moments be interrupted by the purest love of God displayed through others He sends into your life for that very moment! May the lies that cloud your life be cleared by the TRUTH of God's love!

May you rest in peace in the arms of God!

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