Sunday, October 12, 2014

Social ME-dia - Idolatry and The Tech Obsessed Christian

This post has been laying heavy on my heart for nearly 6 months. I've started and stopped this a dozen times, either because the enemy got in my way or in other incidences, the Lord redirected my attention to other topics that HE wanted me to write instead. I've mentioned a time or two that I pray for His guidance on what He will lead me to discuss so that I remain in His will for, not only myself, but, all of you readers who will visit this page. So I'll start by gently reminding us just how important it is to remain focused on our Lord and Savior by quoting Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."

I want to first begin by giving an account of Jesus Christ's Imprint that is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 by Paul to the church of Thessalonica: "v2) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, v3) remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, v4) knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. v5) For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. v6) And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, v7) so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. v8) For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. v9) For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, v10) and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He 
raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." 

City of Thessalonica

Here's just a little cultural background on the city of Thessalonica for those who aren't familiar with it. It was a major city in Macedonia that became an important trade route in the Roman Empire during this time frame. The culture was undoubtedly pagan and downright immoral. And for those who claimed the resurrected Christ as their Lord and Savior, there was alot of persecution, some severe, that they had to contend with because of their belief. Paul didn't want to see these new believers get discouraged nor did he want to see them be deceived while they lived out their faith in this dark culture. So he wrote letters to keep them focused on the gospel message. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to a group of new believers in Thessalonica. It becomes very clear and evident that the Thessalonians held a very special place in Paul's heart. He uses such passionate and strong phrases throughout the passages like, "we were torn away from you in person, not in heart," and "we long to see you." Paul really had such a significant, powerful message to share with a group of people who had come to mean a great deal to him in a short amount of time. The words that Paul wrote could be compared to the time he spent with the Thessalonians to the equivalence of a short-term mission trip. Sadly, however, this particular “mission trip” abruptly ended with rioting by unbelievers who forced Paul and his companions out of town. The amount of time may have been short, but the impact of this particular ministry was huge. Though Paul was physically in another part of Greece, his love for the Thessalonians and his desire to see them grow spiritually weighed heavy on his heart.

The Apostle Peter’s letter was written to the “exiles,” those believers facing persecution far greater than any of us have ever seen, or may ever see. These Christians were living under a tyrannical government far worse than any bureaucrat in a D.C. office. Yet Peter graciously instructed believers to live honorably among others in 1 Peter 2:11-17. " Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, v12) having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. v13) Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, v14) or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. v15) For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men v16) as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. v17) Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." The “others” refer to those who are not “in Christ.” In biblical times when the word idol was mentioned it was typically one made of stone, wood or sometimes precious metals. While these are still very real types of idols in other parts of the world today, an idol can be any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion and anything or anyone that we hold in higher regard than God. So you see, ANYTHING that's deemed more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart, thoughts and imagination more than God, or anything that you seek after to give you what only God can give you is really an idol. Some may argue that their "obsessions" aren't being deemed above God or they don't think they're putting their "obsessions" above God. Well, I would beg to differ and by the end of this post, you will find my reasons for this differing opinion.

C.S. Lewis makes the claim, in The Problem of Pain, that the greater potential something has for good, the greater potential it has for bad. I thought this was a good way to lead into this post. So let's start off by a getting a good, sound understanding of what idolatry actually is before we continue. In the online dictionary, it's described as such:
1. idol worshipping, fetishism;
2. adoration, adulation, hero worship, apotheosis, exaltation, glorification, idolizing, deification.
3. excessive admiration or devotion.
4. great devotion or reverence.

So what about the Scriptures? What do THEY say idolatry is from God's perspective? Well, let's take a look. Image-worship or divine honor that is paid to any created object. CREATED OBJECT. This means not only a physical object, but anything that has been or can be created. In Romans 1:21-25, Paul describes the origins of idolatry and then in Romans 1:28, he says, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;" Men forsook God and because of that, they sank deep into the pit of ignorance and moral corruption and decay. In Scripture, idolatry is regarded as being of a heathen origin, and also as being imported among the Hebrews through contact with those heathen nations. There are many varying forms of idolatry, some of them are, fetishism, the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc. nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature. Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of perceived living heroes. Here are just some of the Biblical references to idolatry:
1 Samuel 15:23, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
Ezekiel 8:5-6, "Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance. v6) Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.”
Psalm 97:7, "Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods."
Exodus 20:3-4, "“You shall have no other gods before Me. v4) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;"
1 Peter 4:3, "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime[a] in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries."
1 Corinthians 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."

Just to name a few! God takes idolatry VERY seriously! And so should we!

In Genesis 31:19 we find the first place idolatry was alluded to when Rachel stole her father's teraphim. The teraphim were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban's progenitors "on the other side of the river in old time" Joshua 24:2. The first and second commandments are directed against idolatry of EVERY form. In the New Testament, the term idolatry is used to designate covetousness. These references are found in Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Colossians 3:5; and Ephesians 5:5. Idolatry has a broad range, now doesn't it?! So much so that God emphasizes it's destructive ways more than once!

1 Peter 2:12, "having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation."

The word “conduct” appears thirteen times in the Bible, and eight of those times are in Peter’s letters. So I would venture to say it’s safe to assume, Peter cared about how our conduct was viewed by outsiders. Yes, by outsiders! The "outsiders" that are all around us watching our every move. watching what we do, how we behave, listening to what we say and how we say it. Those "outsiders" who don't have the light of the Lord within them but could if we'd conduct ourselves more Christ-like even if hiding behind a computer screen, tablet, cell phone or any other digital device. It's really our conduct anyway that people first look at and observe when we claim our Faith along with our words depending on the situation we're in at any given moment. Because there are so many forms of idolatry, I'm only choosing the social media for this post because as you will see, the idol worship of social media often leads to others. Much like a gateway drug leads to a heavier addiction into the hardcore drugs, so to can the social media be a gateway to other idol worship, or other hardcore obsessions/addictions.

Why am I focusing on social media? Because IT focuses on the "ME" and not the Kingdom of God. Not ALL people get hooked, if you will, but they are the minority. Social media has become the new drug of this age. It's sadly turned into the ME-dia of ISOLATION and has put a barrier up in the lines of communications. The REAL TIME communications. You know, like conversations and face to face contact?! There really isn't anything SOCIAL about "Social ME-dia" anyway. It doesn't REALLY connect you to anyone. Rather, it DISCONNECTS you from everyone ELSE in the real-time sense of the word. A connection is a personal thing. A real thing. It feeds off of reality and being and sharing the same AIR SPACE. So is it REALLY social? Not if you're honest with yourself.

Let me first say that I do not, will not, nor have I ever, had a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace, Tumblr, Reddit, or any other format deemed, and categorized under, Social ME-dia. First of all, I'm not a follower. I never have been. I remember as a young, impressionable girl, my mother would always tell us girls that it was better to LEAD than to follow and I took that to heart. Literally. I was never the one to follow all the fads, the newest crazes or the next fleeting fancy. Then again, I'm one of those people who listens to the WORDS that someone CHOOSES to speak and takes them at face value!!! Always! Anyway, aside from that, the main reason was that I saw quite a bit of spiritual danger in it when MySpace first hit the ground and began to take off. In combination with "chat rooms" and instant messengers, well, I could see where this would and COULD take a society. It was the GATEWAY to the drug of this decade for certain. The IDEA intrigued me at first. A way of expression, a way of artistic flair, and maybe even a way to connect with like-minded individuals. But that's all it was for me. Intrigue. It was almost like the "forbidden fruit" syndrome. Only I didn't take the bite of the deadly fruit. Why? I know myself. That's why. That's the simple answer. This blog is the closest thing to anything I've done on social media and this was solely directed and led by God Almighty. I finally obeyed. And to be clear, I was even a little skeptical doing this until I realized what impact being a vessel, a willing vessel, of Jesus could be for someone who happened upon the truths passed on from the Lord God. The Lord spoke it clearly and so I obliged.....and obeyed.

I sort of have an addictive personality to some degree, (but one that is definitely controlled now after some valuable lessons I've had to learn the hard way), a curious, inquisitive mind and an ongoing relationship with rejection! Those, in combination, could be a very deadly concoction for me if I were to have given in to my own desires and intrigue. In this area, it took everything out of me to not join in the reindeer games! I knew beforehand how dangerous this was going to be for people, for society, me included, and I was tested on my self control. Through prayer and obedience, I never gave into it though. I found out years ago just how damaging that combo can be for ME so in order to stay in close proximity of Jesus, and in order for Him to guide my steps, He had to teach me to let go of everything and learn to control myself. He knows me. He knows what I've struggled with in the days gone by. He's reminded me many times when that little "demon" wanted to tempt me into starting an account with MySpace, that I COULDN'T because it would hurt me instead of HELP me. The Lord won EVERY SINGLE TIME! I wanted to share that with you because, even though I'm writing on this subject without ever having joined the "craze," I am the outsider looking in at all the worldly upheaval this kind of "socializing ME-dia" has caused a whole generation! As a Christian, I feel I should point out some dangers.....

Before I go on, this post is for the OBSESSED and not the casual user. Social ME-dia can be used for the good IF it's used properly, with good intentions and isn't an obsession. I will caution here, IF you KNOW something like this would cause you to stumble, then you should steer clear of it period! If it begins to cause you to stumble, then leave it behind, deactivate yourself. I know some, although very FEW, who don't obsess over it, and use it rarely from time to time. I am not claiming ALL social media is bad or an obsession because in moderation, it all can be used for the good. The key word here is MODERATION. But it CAN be bad. It can BECOME an obsession and a bad thing. More often than not, it has already reached a level of obsession in your life that you may not even be aware of. If you are like me, MODERATION doesn't apply because to someone who has an addictive personality to ANY degree, or for that someone who lacks self control altogether, it's like an alcoholic saying they can drink in moderation. It DOESN'T work that way! This is when you should take notice of your "socializing ME-dia" habits and look at it honestly in the form of a question: Does this glorify God or has it actually already BECOME my god? Do I spend more time checking my status, feeds, likes and comments more than I spend doing things in the Kingdom or spending time in His word? Do I spend time constantly looking at my phone seeing what's going on in everyone else's life, while missing out on having a life of my own? Compared with many other potential idols, technology, in and of itself, has the greater idolatrous potential; not only because it can become an idol itself, but it can also serve as an enabler of other idols.

I think Christians mean well when they voice their "faith" and "opinions" and "engage" on Facebook. Intentions are fine from the onset but sooner than later, someone along the way will have something negative to say, or want to bait you into a debate, or even try to pull you into something that isn't even worth the time it took to read it. Therein lies another idol....anger. Most of the time you will end up angry or bitter or resentful by the time you're done "posting" something, debating something, arguing about something until you and the rest of the "eyes" are blue in the face and red in the eyes. But while doing so, I also believe Christians tend to do more harm than good because it soon becomes too easy to get into a "battle" with other brothers and sisters in Christ but also with the non-believers who may be challenging something that was said or posted or liked. Under the veil of “taking a stand” for Christian values, for the faith and for the love of Jesus, I fear we are letting loose all kinds of dishonoring, uncharitable, un-Christ-like and argumentative speech. I'm going to focus on Facebook for the sake of not having to continue naming all the other ME-dia formats, because this just happens to be the place where so many "gather." This technology has opened many doors, some to the dark side and some that can be used for the Light. It all depends on how YOU use it. How much time you GIVE it and how immersed in it you become! Technology can play the role of  an enabler because as I mentioned before, it is a gateway into other idols. Social ME-dia is ME oriented. Anytime we focus on the "ME" in any area of our lives, well, it usually doesn't end up so well. The thing about idolatry is that we all tend to spend time with others who worship the exact same idols, and that commonality always ends up blinding us from realizing it.

Let me point out the types of people who become tech obsessed with Facebook and see if you fall into any of these categories. Those with low self esteem so they post a gazillion "selfies" for affirmation of their beauty. They always need affirmed of something or they don't feel accepted or liked. The Fashionista's so they post "fashion selfies" of their new outfits, their outfit/shoes/purse of the day, or in outfits that many would consider inappropriate, all so that they’ll get more "likes" and their beauty will be affirmed. The Attention Seekers so they are often the ones posting things that are mainly for laughs or shock value. Anything for ATTENTION. The more they make jokes or shock, the more attention they will receive. The Rejected so they will do whatever they can to BECOME accepted by posting interesting, humorous, fun stuff. Depending on their audience. The Chameleon so they will post or comment or like based on the person they are viewing at the time. They tend to become like the other "friends" at any given moment. The Coveters so they secretly stalk others to see what they have, where they're going, who they're with, what they do. They're so jealous of others yet aren't content with what they have themselves. The Lonely ones so they try to fill that void with as many "friends" as they can get to validate their own existence. The Money-Status so they always "share" their newest high end purchases, showing all kinds of pictures of their "beautiful" THINGS they own, bragging about getting the newest technology when what they had was perfectly good enough! The Boyfriend/Girlfriend poster so they post all about how "in love" they are, how "happy" they are, always about one thing mainly, THEM. The Influenced so they follow the "crowd" and never really showing or embracing their own identity. The Intelligent/Knowledgeable so they often argue with alot of facts and challenge other people's intelligence to determine their worth and purpose rather than the one true God. The Men/women lovers so they troll all the "most beautiful/handsome" sexes and fulfill the lust of the eyes and heart also being validated of worthiness because it becomes a challenge to "like" or "friend" them. The Competitor so they see how many "friends" they can get and compete with others to get more. They will also poke fun of someone who has less which elevates their self worth and popularity in their own eyes. The competitor is usually combative and is always in competition with their "friends" for comments and so on.  Oh the list goes on and on but you get the point.

The "ME" in ME-dia
As you can see from above, the types of people who can become obsessed is ANYONE and EVERYONE. Why? Because we ALL have some form of insecurity or issue for a lack of a better word. If you look at each one objectively, you will see just how it can enable yet another idol to worship. Let's say someone baits you into a "discussion" about your Faith. They seem to appear to be questioning your Faith and they aren't so sure they even believe in God. You then try to engage in a loving manner but that loving demeanor becomes a little less loving as they continue to "bash" your faith and God. By the end of the banter back and forth, you end up angry. Ta Dah! Anger. And so it goes.....Social ME-dia is focused on the "ME" so that's ALL it boils down to at the end of the day. That's how the majority of the people use it anyway. Social ME-dia is an aggressive distraction that ends up demanding way too much of one's attention, and eventually one's response. It is the enemy of association and connection and it regularly, and aggressively, fosters a consistent  failure to connect to the REAL world. We ALL have idols in our lives, some more than others, and it's hard enough to deal with them when they creep up or when we recognize them much less spending an exorbitant amount of time on Social ME-dia furthering the problem! Our idolatry takes many shapes and different forms, but ALL of them have worship of self at the very core of each of them. Let's look at 4 of them before I continue.

1) Materialism – This is when we worship our stuff, our THINGS. It’s important to many people to have the newest clothes or the coolest gadgets or the top technology. Often this leads to debt, and even can lead some people to fall victim to a spending addiction. Stuff feeds our desire to acquire as many things as we can and at any cost, taking our focus off God.
2) Ego – We worship our own egos. Yes, that's right! Our own EGOS. This is also where the obsession with social ME-dia manifests itself. The worship of our own egos usually presents itself to look like an obsession with education or career. Anything that WE pat ourselves on the back with a self-centered love of ourselves. We think that the more successful we are in our career or the more education we have, the better. Career and educational status feed our ego and take our focus off God.
3) Mankind – This can take many forms, from idolizing celebrities to idolizing the scientific achievements of humanity. Some idolize their Pastors, people in authority, and of the opposite sex. This worship of mankind gives us the illusion that we’re the lords of our world and that we have no need for God.
4) Indulgence – This sort of worship generally takes the form of overeating, drug abuse, alcoholism, shopping, sex, sports, gambling and can even take on the opposite form, which is completely abstaining from certain things, including those mentioned above. It can also show up as obsession with exercise.

1 John 2:16, "For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world."

That’s the heart of idolatry, things that the self lusts after. It’s giving in to things that feed our own fleshly desires instead of letting God align our desires with His. In the case of the golden calf, the Israelites gave into self-lust for security. Instead of trusting in God for their security, they decided to trust their security to a non-living statue that their eyes could see. Idolatry often times comes from a desire to control our own circumstances. The problem with idolatry, however, is that it really isn't in our control.  No matter how much we want to think that our "idol" allows us some amount of control over our life, when it becomes an idol (and sometimes it does), it’s no longer under our control. It’s controlling US. When anything is in control of US, then it's an idol.

While doing my research for this post, I stumbled upon something by Tim Challies that I would like to share on this topic. He said, "[Technology] certainly delivers on its promise, allowing us to live longer and cleaner and healthier and more comfortable lives. But because it is so effective in meeting our needs, it can easily begin to replace the one true God. We begin to think that it is the doctor or surgeon who heals us rather than the God who gives men wisdom to understand the inner workings of the human body. We begin to think that it is the mobile phone company that provides us with the blessing of communication rather than God’s grace enabling families to stay in touch over long distances. We easily assume that technology has the power to grant us the benefits we desire, and we forget the Author of technology and the true purpose of our technologies—bringing glory to him. Technology becomes an idol when we start to believe that humanity’s hope, humanity’s future, will be found in more and better technology. It becomes an idol when we place greater hope in technology than in God and when we measure human progress, not by the state of our hearts, but by new innovations in technology…We can make an idol of technology as we flip through the weekly advertisements, looking for something, anything, that will make our lives just a little bit better and fill the void in our hearts."

Nobody talks to eachother any more. Or they do way less of it. Texting and Facebook has replaced so much human interaction that the new generation doesn't even know how to have a conversation in person! It's sad. At first it was truly frightening how this took off and how quickly everyone got so sucked into it's vacuum without even batting an eyelash. Now? Now it's just sad. The amount of time wasted on that ME-centered site is almost embarrassing. I sat one day, alone in a corner at a popular eatery around lunchtime, and decided to people watch more than have lunch myself. As the place began to fill up, I started to see more and more faces looking DOWN. Some were pulling out tablets, some had laptops and most of the remaining people had their phones out. Not everyone, but the majority. What hit my heart the most was that approximately 80% of these people were WITH someone sitting right there beside them or across from them!! I sat back in shock at how everyone was so immersed into their "tech gadgets" and not talking to eachother or spending time together. After all, they were out to lunch together. They were together but not together. They weren't speaking, and if they were, it was in brief shortened sentences. This is not healthy relationship building. There was a family of 5 not too far from myself and the mom and two of the kids were on their phones doing something, dad was gadget free, and the other one, who was around 16 had his notebook out. The dad, I observed eating quietly, occasionally glancing up and around, but rarely did any of his family members engage with him. I felt a sadness. Is this what life is coming to? Is this what family and relationships have become? The more I looked around, the more the answer appeared to be YES.

The enemy sure took this Social ME-dia to the far end of the dark side! He saw how it would feed on people's obsessions or addictions. He saw how it would be used and abused. He saw a way to make everyone's life a little more accessible. He found a way for the deviants to find their "fix" of choice, for theft, identity theft, home invasions, rape, perversions, pornography, child trolls, bullies, predators and he saw a way to break down the family unit even further than he did with his other devices. This has really become a tool of Satan for the most part. He's opened up so many forbidden channels through this media format that has tempted otherwise decent people to enter in through a door that only leads to darkness and emptiness. When the evil side is too easily accessible to everyone, it drops down people's guards and they become more and more conditioned to what's out there. Things don't always appear to be bad in the beginning but watch out! It's a subtle snare made to reel you in until you're hooked. The lines are being blurred and they have been for some time now. Christians of all levels, wouldn't openly and honestly say that they were an idolater. Yet many believers today are, in fact, blatant idol worshipers.  I believe part of our disconnect and blatant denial of our own idolatry is rooted in the fact that we seldom, if ever, think about the sin of idolatry, either because we're ignorant of its nature or still think of it as nothing more than worshiping carved images of old. But the truth is, idolatry is a very serious and frequent violation of God’s truth and love. Its allure, however, has become so sophisticated and subtle in our day and age that we tend to dismiss it, rationalize it, or even embrace it in ignorant bliss for lack of clear understanding and honest evaluation.

A.W. Tozer said, "The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.and also said, "An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.Psalm 115:4-8 describes the lifeless, powerless idols of man’s design with this conclusion: “Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.”  We all become like that which we worship. Either we will become a testament of the grace and truth of Christ or an empty shadow of a form of godliness without the power thereof. Facebook has made living life much like a carnival on display for everyone to see. Most of the topics are mundane, trivial, of little importance and surface. Rarely will you be able to engage in something more meaningful because, well, it really wasn't created for meaning.....anything. Facebook became a way for everyone to share snippets of bits and pieces of their lives in a few sentences or less. Or a few words or's so impersonal. Really. Without a doubt technology is idolatry for so many. Do you control it, and does it serve you? Or does it control you, and you serve it? Think about that for just a moment and reflect on how Facebook is managed into your daily life. In many ways, social ME-dia alienates others. Facebook was once just a tool to "reconnect, keep in touch and update pics" but it has turned into a weapon instead. Selfies included here! I've never seen a generation of people who took so many pictures of THEMSELVES as I'm seeing now. It's truly amazing at how self absorbed some people have become especially when technology has allowed it to happen so easily! Selfie refers to one thing, and one thing only.....the "ME."

Facebook has made people lazy too. They get most, if not all (for some people) of their information from feeds they receive, or information posted from others. They take that as the truth without ever confirming it or researching it or just questioning it. That really isn't where I would personally want to get all of my information from considering most are just being reposted to begin with from a chain of others. It's made people forgo phone calls, meeting for lunch, taking time with each other. It's made our youth focus way too much on themselves, and devoting too much time to the online world. A familiar sight for many of parents is teenagers checking in on Facebook on their smart phones or laptops at every chance they can get, becoming a process they'll painfully repeat at every opportunity throughout each and every single day. They habitually scrutinize or ‘face-stalk’ the profiles of others, check for responses to their own status updates or recent posts and chat with friends about the trivialities of life. Ah, but it isn't just the teenagers, now is it!? Is time THAT insignificant? Of course not! It's extremely valuable and precious. It's been given to us by God in order for His people to live to His praise and glory. LIVE not vegetate in cyberspace in a "fantasy" world.

Time is a Gift from God
There have been so many people that I've come across that have tried convincing me to join Facebook. People are actually shocked when I say I don't have an account. Of ANY social ME-dia. They tell me that I just don't know what I'm missing. Well, as I just repeated this to a friend of mine recently, I tell them, "I can't miss something I didn't have to begin with." I've gotten along just fine without any of it, and I guarantee you, I will continue to do just fine! The time that would be taken up maintaining it and obsessing over it, is time I could be spending elsewhere, with the Lord, with others, being in His Kingdom and serving Him. That time can't be relived. It's lost. And I don't want to lose any time that I've been blessed to live each day. I will continue to tell people the same thing over and over. I'm happy without it and since I know myself, actually, HAVING a Facebook account would depress me. Do I REALLY want "pretend" friends that I don't know, that I never talk to on the phone or go see or hang out with? Do I really want to share my every single waking moment with people I barely know? Not really. What purpose does that serve? The ONLY purpose that serves is ME. And I'm not inclined to make everything about me every waking moment. I prefer to interact, to see the expressions on someone's face, or to hear the tone of their voices instead of SEEING a little icon emoting their "feelings."

Everyone knows the good things that a Christian can do with Facebook and as long as they are keeping themselves in check and aren't obsessing over it, then use it for His glory! This post isn't for those who can control their time on Facebook, nor for those who can control their words. The Social ME-dia Facebook has LITTLE accountability and that's another topic for another day! People tend to get a little more "brave" behind the guise of a screen while typing words than they would normally be face to face. For instance, there has ALWAYS been bullying. But now with this avenue, it's more vicious, more hostile, and way more prevalent. Should teenagers, young people, be allowed to FREELY use the social networking sites without accountability when they still aren't fully mature enough to KNOW what the ramifications are from the things they post, what they say, pictures they post? There is an age limit to a Facebook user of 13. THIRTEEN! They aren't mature enough to be responsible in their lives much less on the internet! Whatever you do on the internet, it's always safe to assume it will ALWAYS remain to be seen SOMEWHERE! FOREVER.

Like with most things, if you spread something too wide, it loses its depth: if you speak too often, your words will lose their influence; if you divide your time between 20-30 people a day, your relationships will plateau; if you confess to the world wide web, and receive no accountability. There is something to be respected in those who can, or eventually, recognize that they have a social media addiction and/or obsession and take a proactive approach against it, whether it's permanent action or a temporary one. They have realized something many people don't.....God is more important and He is the giver of time. We are responsible for what we do with that time that He's given us, and we're responsible for HOW we spend it each day with Him! We are living in an identity obsessed culture, one that places way too much emphasis on the outside and by doing that, it feeds the EGO. The EGO is nothing more than focusing only on yourself, placing more importance on YOU than what's really important. Nobody's identity should be dependent upon, or determined, by a social networking site that only caters to self love. Our identity is in Jesus Christ! We need to clearly understand what it means to have our identity firmly and consistently rooted in Christ, so we may then live out of that identity, being totally confident in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We need to know our position and the promised inheritance as children of God in order to live lives that are concerned to glorify God rather than ourselves or others.

The only way I know of to defeat idolatry is through regular self-checks and prayer. Stop and ask the Lord to check your heart, to check your life and show you anything in your life that has taken His place. Then repent and put God back in His rightful place.

Religion Blogs
Top Blogs

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our Rainy Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Religion Blogs
Top Blogs

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Are YOU Dehydrated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religion Blogs
Top Blogs