Saturday, September 23, 2006

Feast of Trumpets

Today is one of God's commanded holy times, the Feast of Trumpets, or Yom Teruah. It's annually a rehearsal for that wonderful day when the Trump of God will sound and the dead in Messiah will rise, then we which are alive and remain will also rise to meet Him in the air and so shall we ever be with the LORD. Which is also a reminder to me to be sure that my heart is right with Him and that I am ready & waiting for that call. Which follows on the heels of my previous post, to take the time to examine myself and see where I need to make changes or reorder my priorities. Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Yeshua!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Time Is Running Out

The following is a post I wrote yesterday for an internet group that I belong to. I want to make sure I don't forget my own advice so I am posting it here, too. With all that is happening around the world, I must not grow complacent and lazy, thinking that our LORD's return is some far off someday sort of thing. Time is running out! Our LORD's return is ever closer. I have always believed that He would return in my lifetime, and though I cannot say that with certainty because I certainly do NOT know the day or the hour of His return, I still believe that it is quite likely to happen during my lifetime--and as the world is going, likely it will be quite soon. The Holy Spirit continually reminds me that this world is passing away and I need to be ready. May I not forget to be ready and waiting...

Each one of us need to examine ourselves and see whether we be in the faith or not. It isn't enough to have grown up in a Christian home, to have been baptized whether as an infant or when older, to have been to confirmation or catechism classes, to be a faithful church member. You must be born again! I know it's been around for ages, but the saying is still true: going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in your garage will make you a car. The only thing that makes you a Christian is believing in the LORD Jesus the Messiah and walking in His ways. It's not even enough to have gone forward at an altar call or to have repeated the sinner's prayer. That's merely a first step. If it isn't followed by a changed life, then it means nothing. Faith without works is dead. Jesus said that if we would be His disciples then we must take up our cross and follow Him. Believing in Him is good, but just believing that He is, isn't enough; the demons also believe and tremble. We must also walk in His ways. And how do we learn what His ways are? Going to church can help, but the first and most important way to learn and to grow in faith is to read His Word every day, regularly. He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us--and if we sincerely seek Him in His Word, the Holy Spirit WILL teach us. Jesus IS coming back soon; all the signs point to it. I can't say positively that it'll happen in the next 5 or 10 years, but it's closer to us now than it was yesterday. We need to be ready. He's returning for a Bride who has made herself ready, who is eagerly awaiting His appearing, and who is faithful to Him in every way. It's time to put aside the things of this earth, to live like people who are looking forward to that New Jerusalem, to set our affections on things above instead of on things of this earth, for this earth is passing away and all of the things we love in it with it.

It's time to wake up! Our redemption draweth nigh! How should we then live? Are we redeeming the time or are we wasting the precious minutes and hours that He's given to each of us? None of us knows when we will die, how long we have to take our relationship to the LORD seriously; let's do it now! How many of us would ignore a handsome, loving, human lover? Not many of us, I'm thinking, and yet we ignore the Lover of our soul! We ignore His love letters to us--the Bible. We ignore time spent with Him in prayer, communicating the deepest desires of our hearts. What's up with that? I know I need to make some changes in my priorities; how about you? Think about it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See!

Remember that Christian children's song from Sunday School?
"Oh, be careful little eyes what you see!
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see!
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see."
There's a second verse that talks about being careful little ears what you hear, also.

I've been doing quite a lot of meditating on this, as regards what print materials I choose to read, what television or movies I choose to watch, or what music I choose to listen to. Does it matter what I as a believer choose to fill my mind with in the form of visual or auditory media? I believe it does. This whole subject was one of the areas that the Holy Spirit brought conviction to my heart about way back when the LORD was showing me that I needed to walk as He walked.

Why does it matter so much? One of the things I've learned in my journey of faith is that the mind is the arena of faith and can also be the devil's playground, if we are not careful. Every day I have to make choices about which voices I will listen to: the voices that call me to a walk of righteousness or the voices that encourage me to indulge the lusts of the flesh. I have also learned that the Word of God is my best defense and guide for every area of life. In fact, one of my favorite scriptures is:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (Amplified) Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So, I look to the Word of God to give me guidance in this area of my life.

The Word says:

Proverbs 4:23 (Amplified) Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.

Romans 12:2 (Amplified) Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Luke 6:45 (Amplified) The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.

Psalm 24:3-5 (Amplified) Who shall go up into the mountain of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood or to what is false, nor sworn deceitfully. [Matt. 5:8.] He shall receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Proverbs 23:12 (Amplified) Apply your mind to instruction and correction and your ears to words of knowledge.

So from these passages, I conclude that it is very important what I fill my mind and heart with, if I want to have "good treasure" laid up in my heart, so that I can speak words of blessing to others and to my LORD. Also, Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing; it makes sense to me that if I want to have a strong faith, I need to make sure that what I am hearing will help to build my faith rather than tear it down. I do not want to be a "double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

Having established that, how do I decide what I will read or watch or listen to? Are there certain medias that God has put His stamp of approval on and others that He has not? Where would I look for that stamp, if there is one?

First and foremost, I believe that I need to be a daily student of His Word. Once I know His Word and Him, as revealed in His Word, it becomes easier to discern between things that will help me to grow in His image & righteousness and those things that, though they may not be overtly sinful, will draw me away from Him and weaken my faith, being distractions for my time and energy. As Ephesians 5:15-17 (Amplified) says:
Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.

Unfortunately, Scripture does not have a list of "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots" when it comes to print, movies, music, video games, etc. How much easier it would be if you could turn to God's Movie Guide and see which movies get His 2 thumbs up! Instead He expects us to exercise the Godly wisdom and discernment which He gives to us. Some people decide to eliminate all music of certain genres as a result, or to ban all movie-watching, or to limit themselves to strictly Christian books, etc. Certainly it is easier to guard your heart when you eliminate certain things all together from your life and one can do that, but most of us are not willing to go that route. I know I still enjoy watching a movie from time to time, though it is not a weekly or even a monthly practice in my life. I know I enjoy a broad spectrum of musical styles also. And reading is like breathing to me: it's a daily necessity! So how do I make choices that will guard my heart and promote the growth of His righteousness in my life?

Again, I turn to Scripture to find guidelines. Imagine a line scale with Positive on the left end, Neutral in the center, and Negative on the right end. It looks sort of like those pain scales at the doctor's office that go from 0 to 10.

Now, let's define what we mean by Positive, incorporating the Scriptures as we do so. Media that falls into the Positive category would be media that:
1) glorifies and honors God (1 Corinthians 6:20; Hebrews 13:15)
2) exalts righteousness and Truth
3) contains Godly, Biblical values
4) edifies and builds up the reader/listener (Acts 20:32; Jude 1:20)
5) constructive
6) asks honest questions, is seeking for God's purposes
7) encourages us to walk in love and righteous deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

As Philippians 4:8 (Amplified) says: For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

Galatians 5:13 (Amplified) For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another.

Neutral media is neither positive nor negative. Examples of this would be instrumental music, particularly classical and folk music. Non-fiction print media that is strictly informative probably fits here, too. There may be other media that fit here, as well.

Negative media is media that:
1) has no place for God or actively dishonors Him
2) exalts sin and unrighteousness (2 Thess 2:10)
3) exalts self above God or other authorities appointed by God
4) disrespectful of authority and others
5) often uses crude, foul-mouthed language
6) tears down, destructive

Psalm 119:36-37 (Amplified) Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetousness (robbery, sensuality, unworthy riches). [Ezek. 33:31; Mark 7:21, 22; I Tim. 6:10; Heb. 13:5.] Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways.

Psalm 101:2-8 (Amplified) I will behave myself wisely and give heed to the blameless way--O when will You come to me? I will walk within my house in integrity and with a blameless heart. I will set no base or wicked thing before my eyes. I hate the work of them who turn aside [from the right path]; it shall not grasp hold of me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil person or thing. Whoso privily slanders his neighbor, him will I cut off [from me]; he who has a haughty look and a proud and arrogant heart I cannot and I will not tolerate. My eyes shall [look with favor] upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks blamelessly, he shall minister to me. He who works deceit shall not dwell in my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence. Morning after morning I will root up all the wicked in the land, that I may eliminate all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.

Proverbs 4:11-19 (Amplified) I have taught you in the way of skillful and godly Wisdom [which is comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God]; I have led you in paths of uprightness. When you walk, your steps shall not be hampered [your path will be clear and open]; and when you run, you shall not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not go on it; turn from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have caused trouble or vexation; their sleep is taken away unless they have caused someone to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the [uncompromisingly] just and righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines more and more (brighter and clearer) until [it reaches its full strength and glory in] the perfect day [to be prepared]. [II Sam. 23:4; Matt. 5:14; Phil. 2:15.] The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. [John 12:35.]

Proverbs 4:24-27 (Amplified) Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you. Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you. Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left; remove your foot from evil.

Proverbs 5:1-14 (Amplified) MY SON, be attentive to my Wisdom [godly Wisdom learned by actual and costly experience], and incline your ear to my understanding [of what is becoming and prudent for you], That you may exercise proper discrimination and discretion and your lips may guard and keep knowledge and the wise answer [to temptation]. For the lips of a loose woman drip honey as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil; [Ezek. 20:30; Col. 2:8-10; II Pet. 2:14-17.] But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged and devouring sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold of Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead). She loses sight of and walks not in the path of life; her ways wind about aimlessly, and you cannot know them. Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Let your way in life be far from her, and come not near the door of her house [avoid the very scenes of temptation], [Prov. 4:15; Rom. 16:17; I Thess. 5:19-22.] Lest you give your honor to others and your years to those without mercy,
Pro 5:10 Lest strangers [and false teachings] take their fill of your strength and wealth and your labors go to the house of an alien [from God]--And you groan and mourn when your end comes, when your flesh and body are consumed, And you say, How I hated instruction and discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers nor submitted and consented to those who instructed me. [The extent and boldness of] my sin involved almost all evil [in the estimation] of the congregation and the community.

Proverbs 8:13 (Amplified) The reverent fear and worshipful awe of the Lord [includes] the hatred of evil; pride, arrogance, the evil way, and perverted and twisted speech I hate.

1 John 2:15-17 (Amplified) Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one's own resources or in the stability of earthly things]--these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.

My very first consideration for what media I choose to expose myself to should be this:

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (Amplfied) Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord [the only Lord]. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might. And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts.

In the final analysis, any media that takes my affection and focus away from the LORD, from His Word, and from doing His Will does not belong in my life. Even perfectly acceptable music or books or movies, if they occupy inordinate amounts of my time and resources, time and resources that should be spent with the LORD and doing His Will, can be bad. This requires me to continually evaluate not only what media I allow myself to be exposed to, but how much of my time and resources are given to that media. It's all about priorities and being like one of the 5 wise virgins who were ready when the Bridegroom came. Yeshua our Messiah IS returning soon and I want to be ready & waiting, not lulled to sleep by media and unprepared.