“In Time”

We live in time. We will live forever somewhere, after our brief sojourn on earth in time is over. We are allotted a period of time to accomplish, within that period, what God intends for us to accomplish. The sad truth is that the majority have no particular interest, while on earth, in what happens when we are taken out of time and find ourselves in eternity. What we do in time determines where we exist when we are removed from time. It will be in one of two places: Heaven or Hell! Some do not believe that there is a Hell; others do not think they will ever enter that place. If they are mistaken, there will be no opportunity after the grave to undo that mistake. This is one reason why time is given to us. We are not trusted with time as an end in itself. Time is to be used, not settled down in. The paramount use of time is to establish a personal relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord. Taking care of this settles that you will live in His Presence forever. Once you have done this, your responsibility to use time wisely is even more important. We are to be filled with Him and yield the control of our lives to Him to use, to work through, to touch other lives and to share His love for them through us. Certainly, things like rest and recreation; things like work and wholesome pleasure have a place in our day to day living. Allowing for these, we are nevertheless on a mission. What happens in too many lives is that people live for time alone and the next thing they know, they have run out of time. Jim Elliot had it so right when he said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." We yield time to God for His use. In eternity, we will rejoice that we did. Selah! God help us to live each hour, each day, each month, each year with eternity's values in view.    Ron
 
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many…." (From Hebrews 9:27-28). Time can run out almost any minute!

Do You Have A Plan?

When I was in sales, we were told that if we didn't have a plan to succeed, we had a plan to fail. I see that as having some truth as a good guiding Spiritual principle. Yesterday, we spoke of Spiritual drifting and that is a dead end, as far as God using us the way He wants to use us. In the Spiritual context, this translates that if you have no plan to grow Spiritually, you plan to experience little or no Spiritual progress. Let me ask you this question: Do you have a plan to mature Spiritually? If you do have a plan, thank God, because many people don't even know that they need a plan. It doesn't just happen! If you don't have a plan, let me encourage and challenge you to develop one. Ask God to help you do it. What should a plan of this type look like? You need a framework within which to work. This is a schedule balancing discipline and flexibility. Discipline here means that you will keep at it, no matter what. Flexibility doesn't give up on the schedule but allows adjustments in unusual circumstances. You'll need tools. For a minimum, a good readable Bible, a Bible dictionary, a down to earth commentary written by someone that God has really used and a concordance. The Bible alone is more than just enough but the aids can be a great help. You'll need a place where distractions and interruptions are able to be kept at a minimum. Good lighting and no phones would be a real help. Then you need a plan. You must make time each day for prayer and Bible study! If you are having trouble working everything in to your daily schedule, let nothing but emergencies get in the way of prayer and Bible study. Getting going on this might require a small start that you can gradually build on. I got into daily Bible study by determining that if I didn't do any more than pray, read "Daily Bread" and the accompanying Scripture, I would do that much for sure. From there, I have gradually increased to where I do much more. (In emergencies, I have fallen back on what I started with). Good books, good quality music (with the old hymns), and serious Christian friends are also of great value. A plan like this will take dedication and determination but the rewards will be huge. Try it!  Selah! If you will carefully work the suggestions above diligently, you will see progress!  Ron
 
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (From II Peter 3:18).

Spiritual Drifters

It is astonishing how anyone who is saved can live from day to day with no definite objectives in mind, no excitement to speak of and little thought given to Spiritual matters. In fact, we wonder if they are saved. I understand that they may not have the "bubbling over" kind of excitement (the outward show of emotion), but is there deep feeling and a keen interest in the Word of God and Spiritual Truths? How can these folk go to services where the Bible is expounded and be bored? Do they enjoy getting together with Christian friends, brothers and sisters, or are they more comfortable with worldly friends? Do they love the messages contained in the old hymns more than the music? What does their demeanor show? Is the joy of the Lord noticeable or do they look like they lost their best friend? (I know sorrow and discouragement can reflect on their faces at times but I'm talking about usually). I'm not opting for a pasted-on smile, like an actor might be able to produce. I'm thinking of the natural overflow of a deep work of the Holy Spirit within. Just drifting along, day after day, with no growing hunger and thirst for more of God is one of the greatest tragedies of life. If the gospel is only a story then it won't make much impact or at least for very long. However, if it's reality (and it most certainly is), then it must make dramatic changes in all of our living. Christ is claiming our love and worship and He is the focus of our hearts. Our lives are more and more centered on Him, and His grace in our lives motivates our determination to give ourselves to honoring and valuing Him, and serving Him with drive and purpose. Selah! Christianity cannot be taken lightly. If we truly know Him, we belong to the order of the burning hearts. (Luke 24:32).    Ron
 
"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

When Truth Is Felt

It takes years for most of us to get out of the habit of Truth exposure, without applying it, and into the experiencing of the Bible's great Truths. We need to draw a sharp distinction between Truth imparted and Truth internalized. Many Christian's minds are loaded with good Truths but a much smaller percentage seem able to live it out experientially. Certainly, we need to take in Scriptural Truth regularly but we also need to live it out. Not a few, who are well taught in God's Truth, ever let it change their values, attitudes, passion or conduct. With the Truth that God has allowed us to grasp, we should be the most excited people on earth. For example, what person who has been saved for any amount of time doesn't know that the resurrection life of Christ lives in us. God in our being is a concept that is so amazing that we should be thrilled with the wonder of it. I haven't met many Christians who have even given serious thought to the implications of such a marvel of God's grace. This is just one Truth that is usually far more academic than actually lived in the glory and wonder of it. We need to take the time to let these great Truths fill us with love, worship and abundant living. We need to break down the invisible wall between head and heart. We need mentors and role models whose lives exude joy and peace in their strong gratitude for God's Presence filling their bodies (His temple) with His very own self. We need teachers who will inspire and motivate us to realize what a holy honor has been granted to us. We need to be examples of a true believer, as He enables, in word, thought and deed. Selah!  We need to be men and women and young people of the Pentecostal flame. Let's not allow ourselves to settle for less.   Ron
 
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Holy Times for the Gatherings of the Redeemed-12

Getting Together-For A Good Time
 
Social times (and even work days at the local assembly) can be holy gatherings. A good dinner or banquet, perhaps a movie and/or a speaker, or maybe a musical time or hymnsing can be edifying. However, something is wrong if folk attend only when motivated by a desire for fun, entertainment or a good meal. Too often these times are planned to hopefully promote increased attendance. Another consideration is what goes on at these times. Are those attending concerned about Spiritual things? Is anyone excited about an answer to prayer? Does prayer arise that the activities might minister to some needy attendee? Are there any testimonies about someone being witnessed to and prayer requested that it might bear fruit? Has someone found a passage or verse of Scripture that really spoke to them? Does someone need some Bible based counseling? Certainly, there is nothing wrong with these social times when they are designed to minister, evangelize or just give people a chance to fellowship. Something is seriously wrong, if Christians present never have something of a Spiritual nature to share, giving encouragement, challenging a fellow believer, offering prayer if someone needs that or even a reaching out for help Spiritually. Can you imagine the impact at these gatherings, if all the believers present were excited about Jesus, burdened over the lost or concerned about each other's growth in grace? While the major emphasis might be a pleasant time, shouldn't Spiritual concerns spontaneously be a part of all such times of Christian fellowship? Selah! By all means enjoy these gatherings but look for ways to bless and be blessed, while you are there.   Ron
 
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Colossians 3:17).
 
          

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Resurrection-An Event That Changes Everything
 
Yesterday, we talked about Christmas. Recently ("Communion"), we looked at Jesus' suffering and death. Today, let's give some serious thought to a measureless miracle. The greatest enemy of mankind is death! Death came by sin. Death is the end of our life on earth. Death is our introduction to "forever." "Forever" will be in one of two places, Heaven or Hell. Those are the only two options. Think deeply on what it would mean if the grave ended everything. We would be lost forever to all that counted during our time on earth. Life on earth would be a cruel hoax if the grave ended all. Actually, the grave is a transition to eternity. Where our eternity will be spent depends on our choice. If Jesus did not enter our history, there would be no choice to be made. We would all be lost eternally. God could not and would not allow any sin(s) to enter His Presence. Jesus did come, however! He came miraculously, He died on a Roman cross, paying in full the sin debt of the entire world. Nevertheless, He had to rise out of death thereby conquering it forever. If He hadn't arisen, death would be the victor. A dead Savior would have no life to give anyone. In His victory over death, He offers us the privilege of deciding for or against Him. Within His Sovereignty, He grants us the right to choose. His resurrection is just as essential as His coming and death. When we receive Him as Savior and Lord, our sin debt is justly cancelled and His life enters our being. His life active within us brings increasing holiness and decreasing sinfulness, until that moment when sin is all gone and holiness reigns supreme. If we refuse to receive Him, there is no hope of escaping judgment. Deciding nothing is just another way of rejecting Him. Life on earth is our narrow "window of opportunity." If you haven't availed yourself of that opportunity, seize it while you can! Selah! The Living God within the redeemed heart, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, is a miracle and a marvel of God's grace. Deity in humanity is beyond amazing! How can anyone refuse such a glorious Savior? We have every reason to celebrate Easter!   Ron
 
"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" ( I Corinthians 15:54-57).

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Christmas-A Subtle Danger
 
Christmas is a wonderful time of year - or is it? Depends! What is the "bottom line" of Christmas? The birth of Jesus! Yes, but….is that what registers most with us, with all its implications? Somewhere, hidden under a lot of wonderful things that we look forward to and enjoy at this time of year, is a wonder that surpasses all the Christmas delights together. Imagine Almighty Creator God, inhabiting the body of a baby in a mother's womb. God contracted to the size of a virgin's womb. As Wesley phrased it, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail th' incarnate Deity."  Hopefully, not buried under an avalanche of distractions, we really take time to seriously reflect on the real wonder of this unprecedented event. Amidst the music, plays, parties, testimonies, church services, family times, cards, shopping, decorations, advertising, gift exchanges, tiredness and expenses, have we lost sight of Him and what His coming means to us? Oh, I know that we read the account, listen to the messages, sing the carols and could even explain it to others, but do we really come to grips with it? Think long and hard on this: what if He hadn't come?  There are more subtle dangers. One is that we are so familiar with the Christmas story that we forget that it is an actual historical event that far exceeds any other great moments in all of time. Another danger is majoring on the birth of Jesus to the neglect of His mission here on earth. All too often, Calvary and the resurrection are eclipsed by the manger. By all means enjoy the season and all the pleasant sights and sounds but make a disciplined effort to take the time to appreciate the miracle of God's redeeming entry into our world to rescue us from eternal separation from Himself. Selah! Don't let the Christmas tree block an intense view of Calvary's tree!  Ron
 
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night and, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid  and the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:8-11).  "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

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Prayer Meeting-Suggestions for Improvement
 
It's one thing to lament the sad state of too many prayer meetings; it's another to come up with suggestions for improvement. Here are some ideas: 1). Be sure that you are saved. If you are not born again, prayer will only be a religious practice. If you are truly saved, do some serious study of prayer. (E.M. Bound's books are very helpful but the Word is the most important source of understanding prayer). 2). Make attendance at prayer meeting habitual, with rare exceptions. Come with excitement and expectancy. That is contagious. 3). Let each pray for the concerns on his or her heart. (Do not try to catch up on personal devotions. Prayer meeting is for corporate prayer). Pastor(s) and/or other church leaders can pray for things on their hearts and anything that the brethren missed. 4).Speak up when you pray. Let others hear so that they can join with you on your requests. 5). Have testimonies in the meeting of answered prayer at home or at the gatherings. 6). Let the Bible Study portion be brief unless the Holy Spirit indicates otherwise. Let whoever is doing the study be excited about sharing. The study should be challenging and should engage the listeners. Be sure to "bring home" application of Truth shared. 7). Why not select hymns that either give voice to the feelings in the hearts of those assembled or that reinforce the message of the study (or both)? 8). If Prayer meeting is usually only about an hour, make every moment count. 9). If we expect answers to prayer, we must harbor no known sin in our lives. 10). Pastors, if you are aware of any sins in those who are assembled that might be affecting the whole assembly and blocking God's blessing, go to them privately, in love and concern and admonish them to get right with God. If they will not, discipline done the right way probably will have to be used. These are a few suggestions that could make a big difference. Selah! Pastor(s), you and your excitement are essential. If Prayer Meeting is a thrilling time for you, the people will usually follow your lead. Pray that God will set your heart afire with zeal for corporate and personal prayer.   Ron
 
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…." (Ephesians 6:18).

Holy Times for the Gatherings of the Redeemed-8

Prayer Meeting-Can it be fixed?
 
The question implies that prayer meeting is broken or damaged. In many churches today, it has been eliminated or replaced. Why are many prayer meetings in such sad shape or even non existent today? Until we recognize the problems and deal with them, prayer meetings will soon be a only a memory from the past. What are the problems? Unless people who claim to be saved are truly saved and are disciplined, they will find it easy to stay home and relax. Many prayer meetings are boring. We've allowed prayer meetings to deteriorate into a dull routine. We major on secondary things and minor on what God considers major. We pray for hurting people (and this is right that we should) but fail to pray for the lost except maybe in a perfunctory way, without much passion. Do we even expect God to heal? Of course, it is sometimes His will not to heal. He, in that case, has a higher purpose in mind. (Incidentally, this is where real trust comes in). However, do we fall back on this as an excuse not to expect God to heal? We should expect Him to heal but trust His judgment when He doesn't. Do we pray for revival for God's glory or to seek better conditions in our world? Do we pray fervently? Do we pray for a heavenly visitation in our church and community? Are we just going through a spiritual "shopping list" of wants for God to grant us? Do we pray loud enough for other brothers and sisters to be in one accord with us? How depressing to hear someone mumble a prayer (unless they have a voice problem). What about the singing? Just a habit, a form we go through in the prayer meeting, or do we enter into it with enthusiasm, identifying with the message of the hymns? What about the message or study? Is it real "meat" or just some nice thoughts? Does it challenge us? Is the Pastor intense or just taking care of that facet of the prayer meeting? Can prayer meeting be rescued? Yes, if pastor and people want to badly enough! Selah! Do we honestly believe that prayer meeting is the most important meeting of the week? If so, waiting on God, let's do our part to restore its dynamic.   Ron
 
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…." (Ephesians 6:18).  "….The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (From James 5:16).

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Communion-The Preparation For It
 
"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (I Corinthians 11:27; 29-30). These elements that represent so very much are not to be treated lightly. Notice, first, what it does not say. It does not say that we ourselves have to be worthy. That would exclude all of us from participation. His righteousness was credited to us enabling us to share in this holy time. It does say that we are not to partake unworthily. We are not to partake in a careless or unprepared way. That invites damnation (i.e; condemnation). We are to be soberly aware of His body, broken for us, and reflect on the cost to Him for our redemption. We must avoid anything that distracts from our worship and that distracts our minds and hearts from His sacrifice for us. Treating this lightly has caused weakness, sickness, and even premature death. Failure to prepare properly is among the sin and sins that required Him to be wounded and killed. How do we prepare? "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (I Corinthians 11:28;31). We need to examine ourselves, identify any sins in our lives, admit our sin(s) to Him, receive His forgiveness, and turn from those sins. (I'm less than sure that two or three minutes before we partake is long enough to discern adequately all that we may need to deal with). "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.  Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another and if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come" (I Corinthians 11:32-34). If we fail to prepare to partake properly, we invite chastening (corrective discipline; punishment) such as mentioned above. But even this is the grace of God. It is this that distinguishes our way of being judged from the judgment that falls on the unsaved. Paul reminds them to behave at the love feast and the table of the Lord with love and courtesy and respect. The rest he says he will deal with when next he is with them. Selah! I pray that this somewhat longer treatment of the subject will motivate us to take communion very seriously and help us avoid unwanted discipline.   Ron