Tuesday, July 17, 2012

THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE


Thoughts of going through a “wilderness experience” more often than not bring feelings of trepidation. No one really wants to go through it. The truth is, however, that every believer will, and actually should have at least one wilderness experience.

The wilderness is an in-between place – when you have left one stage of life and are on your way to another. Most, if not all of the patriarchs, had their own wilderness experience which we can read about in the Scriptures.


Abraham – Father of Faith
It was in the wilderness that he was challenged to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac. But it was also in the wilderness that his faith in the Lord was tested, and it grew.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” - Genesis 22:9-12
 David – Man after God’s own heart
He spent much of his time in the wilderness while he was running from King Saul who was trying to kill him. Many times his life was threatened. There were also times when David had a chance to kill Saul and end the relentless pursuit. But it was in the wilderness that David’s integrity was proven.
 So David and Abishai came to the people by night; and there Saul lay sleeping within the camp, with his spear stuck in the ground by his head. And Abner and the people lay all around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hand this day. Now therefore, please, let me strike him at once with the spear, right to the earth; and I will not have to strike him a second time!” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and be guiltless?” - 1 Samuel 26:7-9
Elijah – greatest prophet of the Old Testament
After a resounding victory on Mt. Carmel, Elijah fled to the wilderness to escape Jezebel. Although God had stopped the rain for three years, at Elijah’s word, the prophet still had to learn more about the Father. Therefore it was in the wilderness that he met God in a whole new way.
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. - 1 Kings 19:11-12
The Israelites
When God freed them from Pharaoh’s oppressive grip they had to pass through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. They experienced many challenges, but each one was an opportunity for them to see God move on their behalf.

As believers, life in this world is a wilderness experience. You see, just like the Israelites, we were freed from satan’s grip when we accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. However, before we enter into the “Promised Land” of heaven and eternity, we must still live in the wilderness of this world while not being of it. For us, the wilderness experience should be one of maturing in Christ. Therefore it should not be shunned, but rather embraced.

Your response to your wilderness experience will determine whether you go on to the next level in your relationship with God. This is where the Israelites fell short. They saw the wilderness as an inconvenience, a drudgery, something to complain about and be avoided….to the point that they desired to return to the bondage of Egypt.

Have you ever felt like that? Is life getting too hard for you to bear? Do you long for the old life the world has to offer? Before you continue to gaze back at your former life with longing eyes, please take the time to remember how it really was back then. Remember the sense of hopelessness, the emptiness inside that only God could fill. Remember how you longed for a change…..any change to come and get you out of the rut you were in. Remember, too, that the freedom the world offers is really bondage hidden behind a mask.

You may feel you are in a dry place. But the difference is that the God of miracles is right there with you. If you just keep moving, and keep trusting in Him, eventually the wilderness comes to an end. The question is……when you get to the end what will your state be? Will you have learned everything that God wanted you to learn, or will you have to turn back once again, like the Israelites, for one more round….in the wilderness?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

MARRIAGE

Thanks to Allison Sylvester-Conliffe
for another powerful article

God instituted Marriage, therefore it is a holy institution and it is sacred … just because it came from God.  He in His Wisdom saw that man should not be alone, and that he should have a help meet, a companion … someone to share himself with, someone to be intimate with, someone who he could love and from whom he could receive love in return.  It should be noted that God made the selection of a wife for Adam.  Adam did not have a choice in the matter at all … and God expected Adam to love her and to be intimate with her … and she with him … regardless.

As I pondered Adam and Eve’s relationship, I realized that God was also included as a part of their relationship.  He was in the midst of it.  The Bible tells us that in the cool of the day God visited them.  Both Adam and Eve were free in God … no secrets, nothing hidden.  You say how do I know that?  The Bible said that they were naked.  That means that all was exposed with nothing hidden. They were free beings in God.  Until … the serpent, our enemy called satan, visited one of them.

We have an enemy folks, and his name is satan.  He is alive today, just as he was alive in the Garden in the day of Adam.  Now whether you choose to believe that or not, would not alter the truth.  Our enemy’s intent and sole purpose is to take us away from close communion with God and from being free in God.

Back in the Book of Genesis Chapter 3 it captures for us, what happens when we refuse to harken unto God’s Word, and when we choose instead to harken unto another voice and so yield to it.  That “other voice”, people, is always the voice of the enemy which is used to entice you to want to please self rather than to be pleasing unto God.  That voice causes you to ignore God’s Word, yield to temptation and do what appeases your flesh. 

In the husband/wife relationship, the enemy just has to whisper into the ear of one of the parties, either the husband or the wife … present a scenario which would appeal to his/or her senses (which is fleshly) and it’s up to the subject to take the bait or not.

It really doesn’t matter to the devil which one accedes to the challenge you know, because he’s looking toward the end result, which is to cause the couple to displease God.  He wants to make a breach in the union which God had sealed.  That is his motive and that is his job … to convince us of his diabolical plan by deceiving us into believing one … just one … of his lies.  Then it would be mission accomplished. All it takes is for him to whisper into the right ear, and so cause that vessel to waiver in his or her faith and he would have his hook firmly set into your jaw and then he yanks it.  This way, you would be totally under his control.

If we take a look at broken marriages, or even divorced couples … you would see a common thread.  In the majority of cases, the reason for the separation was because one of the party’s self dis-satisfaction.  The other person was not doing this right.  It was because the other person was not bringing enough into the relationship to satisfy me.  Not taking me anywhere … not buying me nice things … not making me happy.  But did God’s Word not say that you ought to esteem others more highly than yourself? (Philippians 2:3)  Believing otherwise, or contrary to that Word would tell me that you are disobeying the Word of God. 

It is also recorded in the Word of God as a command, that the husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church … and in return the wife should submit to the husband.  Read Ephesians Chapter 5 again.  The parties who are involved in the covenant of marriage are supposed to concentrate on esteeming the other more highly than their own selves.

Each one should concentrate on loving that other person, cherishing the mate and not looking with expectancy for the mate to esteem and cherish us.  The latter would eventually happen, but it should not be the focus.  The husband’s energies are to be placed in loving the wife and the wife’s energies are to be in loving the husband.  That is the key that we miss as married couples.  In truly loving the other person, we would indeed be pleasing God.

The reason why we were created was to be pleasing unto God.  We were made for God’s pleasure.  We are to please God in our relationships, marital or otherwise.  Loving each other as God wants us to love will bring to each individual the ultimate benefits in God. 

We cannot assume that what we call love is what God calls love.  We have to seek God to know how to love our spouses. Our prayer should be “What should I do Lord, to bring satisfaction to my partner?  Please show me how to love him/her!”  Because what you may call love may not appeal to him or her at all.  Your prayer should never be “Lord, change my partner to be this or to be that so that I could be satisfied”!  Do you see the difference?

Love is selfless, it is a giving of yourself to another, unconditionally.  Just as God loved us so much, even in our wretched state, that He gave the Son that He loved to die in order that we should live.  True love, is really a dying to self.  It is a deep expression towards another.  Love is never selfish, nor does it seek its own.  Love pours outward unto another.

That other thing which caters to self satisfaction, and fulfills me is called some other thing, but don’t call it love at all.  Love is a sacrificial giving of oneself to another.  The pleasure is the joy in seeing the other person happy and fulfilled. Think what would happen if we all approach our marriage relationships in this manner.  In this way, when your spouse feels hurt you will feel hurt too.  Love would seek the welfare of the spouse and this will spill out unto the children too, and they will follow the same pattern in their own married lives.  God will indeed be pleased.

We have to get back to loving God first as He has commanded, before we even attempt to get ourselves a husband or wife and committing to marriage.  Pleasing God should be our motive and this would be reflected in our relationships.  What I have seen is that we go after the physical attraction and breach God’s laws by hitting the sack, then maybe we will get married and because we go after pleasure for our individual selves, there are all sorts of friction and head butting being experienced in the marriage.  This arises because God is not our focus.  We instead, make ourselves the focus and this is wrong.

For those of us who are experiencing turbulence in the marriage, stop for a while and purpose to do things differently.  Instead of wanting to get “whatever” out of the relationship, try putting something in.  Try treating your spouse differently.  Now I did not say that the spouse was deserving of anything.  We are going beyond that. Ask God to show you exactly how to go about it.

Let your creativity loose and start by giving the spouse maybe a granola bar, a box of chocolates, some flowers, a new shirt or a pair of socks.  It may be that you would give of yourself by watching a movie with your spouse, especially if that is not what you would normally do. Be creative and give, because you want to please God.  Remember, that you even have to love the unlovely! Therefore you are without excuse.

Daily, purpose to do some good act in order to bring pleasure to your spouse … no, not to you … to your spouse!! Try this method for the first month.  God in His Wisdom will break down barriers and heal wounds and cultivate a newness in your marriage that cannot go unnoticed.  It is supernatural because it will be all God’s doing.

Visit Romans 13:10 which says –
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law!”

I summarize by saying that just by expressing love as God wants you to love, will cause you to keep all of the Commandments … in which case you will then be pleasing God … you will also be pleasing your spouse and your spouse will in turn be pleasing you.

God Bless You!
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