Monday, April 21, 2014

YOUR DAY OF VISITATION


Written by Allison Sylvester-Conliffe

Contrary to what you may think, we all will have a day of Visitation by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Some recognize Him when He appears to them and some of us don’t.

The Father’s will is that all of us should come to repentance and accept His gift of Salvation.  This statement is proven to be true as we see in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself as He spoke in the following verse of Scripture.
 “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10 

Also, the apostle Peter reveals to us God’s heart toward us as he says in the following verse –
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

In the Book of Luke and chapter 19 we see, just as all of us, Zacchaeus had his day of Visitation, but he was wise enough to accept the Lord Jesus’ offer of Salvation and so was spared the agony of eternal death.  Let us walk with Zacchaeus and observe him as he experienced his Visitation with Jesus.

Everyone knew Zacchaeus as a tax collector.  In those days tax collectors were thieves, to put it bluntly.  They took more than the actual taxes from the people and put the excess money into their own pockets.  This is called extortion which is sin in the eyes of God.  Zacchaeus must have heard that Jesus was passing through his town, Jericho that day, and so wanted to catch a glimpse of Him.  That desire to see Jesus must have been put there by the Lord Jesus Himself.  He came to save the lost – meaning those persons who are entangled in the mire of sin.  Zacchaeus allowed no obstacle to get into his way so being a short man, he climbed into a sycamore tree in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus.

Not only did Zacchaeus see Jesus, but Jesus saw Zacchaeus and beckoned him to come down from the tree.  Jesus said it in these words in Luke 19:5
"Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house."

The Bible also said in verse 6 that Zacchaeus made haste and came down and received Him joyfully even in the midst of those who stood by scoffing and judging both Jesus and Zacchaeus.  Their thinking was that Jesus should not be embracing sinners.  They branded Zacchaeus as dammed to hell because he was a known sinner but notice that Jesus accepted him, as sinful as he was.

It is interesting when you look at the Power of God at work on a man’s soul when he experiences a Visitation with Jesus.  Let us look at Zacchaeus’ conviction after meeting with Jesus.  Notice that Jesus never mentioned to Zacchaeus about his sinful nature – never once did Jesus rail accusations toward Zacchaeus.  However, the conviction of sin was all over Zacchaeus as he met with Jesus and as a result his response to Jesus’ invitation to dine was one of repentance.  He turned away from his sin, and more than that, he knew that he had to restore money to those whom he would have stolen from in previous times.  This was an act of true repentance and the Lord Jesus was pleased as He said openly -

"This day is salvation come to this house, for-so-much as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:9-10

Let us bring this scenario home to our door step as I invite you to search your own heart concerning your Day of Visitation.  What was your response when you were invited to a church service where Jesus was going to be present?  Did you go to all lengths as Zacchaeus did to meet with Him?  Or was it that you were otherwise occupied and could not be bothered?  Maybe you did attend the
service, but when Jesus called you, you refused to come down from your sycamore tree and then went back to your “tax collecting”? 

Since Jesus had made up in His mind that He was going to invite you to dine on that particular day you were invited to church, how do you think that He felt, when He looked for you in the service and did not see you? 

The Bible says that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, because they did not know their time of Visitation …..
they even missed it.

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and
compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
Luke 19:41-44

These are truly perilous times that we live in, and Jesus continues to call for those who were
pre-destined to be called His own to come unto Him.

He means for all of us to be saved.  Saved from eternal death spiritually, saved from hell.  His will is for our souls to return to the Father and not be lost in sin to the devil and hell’s fire. 

Why not accept Jesus’ invitation to dine with you?  You will realize that your life on earth will be sweeter as you experience a relationship with the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and so return joyfully to the Father when your work on this earth is over.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

7 FINAL WORDS: 3 - WOMAN, BEHOLD YOUR SON

Written by Audrey E. Charles
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, 
He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 
Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” 
And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
John 19:26-27

It would stand to reason that His mother was Jesus’ greatest earthly treasure. After all, she raised Him and taught Him about His miraculous birth. She sacrificed the pleasure of having her first born Son with her because she knew of His awesome calling.

Jesus’ love for His mother is evident in that, even while He was suffering on the cross He thought about her well-being. He knew she would miss Him terribly and wanted to make provision for her welfare. With that, He placed His mother in the care of His close friend John, and John in turn became Jesus’ substitute as Mary’s son.

This was not the first time that Jesus would leave His mother. In fact, starting at age twelve, He was about His Father’s business, and that entailed being away from her for extended periods of time.

There were times when it even seemed that He was ignoring His family. We read in Matthew 12:46-50 that Jesus’ mother and brothers were standing outside the place where He was ministering, desiring to speak to Him. When Jesus was told that they were there and were asking for Him, His response must have puzzled the onlookers. Instead of excusing Himself and going out to greet His family He posed a question. “Who are My mother and brothers?” He asked. Then He answered His own question. He pointed to His disciples and said essentially, “Look at My mother and brothers right here. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and brothers.”

Jesus is not insulting His family here, but rather using their visit as an opportunity to teach a principle about the Kingdom of God. Unlike the world system in which family is often limited to those who share the same DNA as you, Jesus removed those limitations. He didn’t deny that those waiting outside were His family, but rather He included those who were grafted in also.

There will be times when you will have to make the choice between your biological family and your wider spiritual family – the Body of Christ. Your biological family may expect certain things from you, especially if they don’t share in your enthusiasm and commitment to the Lord. If you are not careful and discerning, guilt and a sense of obligation can often play a part in your decisions. Please be sure to choose wisely, seeking the Father’s will for you, and then doing it.

Sometimes friends are closer to you than your biological family. Like the people in Jesus’ day, they have become your brothers, sisters, mothers etc. However, there will be those who God places in your life for a season, and you must discern when that season is up and be willing to relinquish that loved one to go on to their next assignment.

It is so important to remember that no one should be held in higher esteem in your life than God Himself. Learning to hold loved ones with an open hand and not a closed fist is no easy feat, but it is absolutely necessary in this journey to freedom. Because of the emotional connections that we have to our loved ones – be they biological or otherwise – our emotions can wreak havoc during those times when we must separate from them in order to usher in a higher good.

Jesus promised, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life." – Mark 10: 29, 30

If a beautiful butterfly landed on the palm of your hand and stayed there for a while, you would probably admire it and savor its presence. However, if you noticed that the butterfly was about to fly away you wouldn’t close your fingers around it to trap it in your hand, would you? Doing so would mean certain injury or even death to the innocent creature. We are to treat each of our treasured relationships like that butterfly, holding them close to our hearts, savoring the fellowship, but at the same time allowing them the freedom to move on as God requires.

Who or what are your greatest earthly treasures? Are you willing to take up your cross of walking alone without them? If so, then declare to whoever or whatever that treasure is, “________________________ (insert the name in the blank), I give you over to the Father. Father, here is my greatest treasure.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 FINAL WORDS: 2 - YOU WILL BE WITH ME

Written by Audrey E. Charles

"Assuredly, you will be with Me in Paradise."
Luke 23:43

Jesus was hanging between two men that He created, on a cross made from a tree that He created. The men were convicted thieves and both men spoke to Him, but each in a totally different manner. One thief, knowing his guilt but being unrepentant, jeered at the Lord to set them all free from their predicament. To him Jesus was just a way out. The other thief however, recognized Jesus’ innocence and saw the power of His words of forgiveness. He knew he was wrong and deserved death. He desired a way in, so he asked that Jesus remember him when He went into His Kingdom. To this request Jesus responded, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

These two thieves typify the two kinds of people who respond to Jesus…and to you as a Christian. There are those who will see you as a channel for a quick fix out of whatever problem they are facing. They may be willing to share their difficulties with you, but stop short of taking ownership for their own actions. They want you to do the work for them so that they can get on with their lives in the same condition that they are in now.

But then there are those who will recognize the Christ in you, and will sincerely seek to follow you, not just for what you have but for who and Whose you are.

Jesus’ mandate to us before He left the earth was that we should make disciples. Many have taken this directive to heart, and have employed various methods to reach this objective.

In telling the dying thief that he would be with Him in Paradise, Jesus was patterning for us the kind of victory we can often achieve in leading souls into the Kingdom. It happens when we give up the plans and purposes that our limited minds construct, and we simply allow our own lives to be the living testimonies of who Christ is in us. This is simple, but it certainly demands more from us personally than does handing out a tract! It requires that you and I become the walking Word 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days each year because you never know when the Holy Spirit will usher a “thief” into your presence!!

Jesus Himself was the power that brought the repentant thief into the Kingdom of God. He hung on that cross, denying Himself the right to call on myriads of angels to rescue Him. He submitted to the persecution and gave His life over completely to the Father. In doing so, He won over not only the thief next to Him, but many others who witnessed His selfless sacrifice, down to the very last second.

When you and I live our lives with transparent sacrifice, others are able to see the manifested power of God happening now, in real time, and not just read it as a historical event. It is then that this wonderful gospel of the Kingdom of God will have its appeal, as the Holy Spirit woos others to experience the freedom in Christ that you demonstrate.

Are you willing to not only take up your cross, but allow yourself to be nailed to it? Are you willing to be one of those whom Jesus talked about – who would be persecuted for righteousness sake? It doesn’t mean necessarily that people will spit in your face, or that you will have to face physical martyrdom. But when you choose not to go according to the tenets of this world system – even the world system that has infiltrated the church – you automatically open yourself up to persecution. You will face two kinds of “thieves” – those who will jeer and criticize you and those who will be drawn to the Christ in you.

When you ignore the criticisms you give the Holy Spirit a powerful weapon that will draw men unto Christ – the weapon of your sacrificed life that says to seekers, “You too, will be with me in the Kingdom of God.”


Monday, April 7, 2014

7 FINAL WORDS - 1. FATHER FORGIVE THEM

Written by Audrey E. Charles
 
As He hung on the Cross on that fateful day Jesus made the first of seven dynamic, life-altering utterances...

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. – Luke 23:34

Unforgiveness is often a major stronghold in the minds and hearts of believers and unbelievers alike. The mind, will and emotions like to hold on to the wrongs that were done, replaying them over and over in one way or another. Very often these memories lie dormant, hidden in the recesses of your mind until something similar in nature happens.....and you react.

Have you ever thought you had forgiven someone only to have that memory triggered, and you feel the twinge of uneasiness or pain again? That is an indication there is still some work to be done in that area.


Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a decision. It is the doorway, so to speak, through which all other things in your relationship with the Lord must come. Without forgiveness it is impossible to have right relationship with the Father. He forgave you of all that you have done, are doing and ever will do.

In forgiving someone you give up the right to be right. You release your offender from any obligation to make it up to you. How do you do that? Let’s examine Jesus’ choice of words.

“Father, forgive them…”

Because the Father’s life is already the powerfully limitless life, He can forgive in a way that you may not yet be able to. God will not do anything that you don’t ask Him to do, so in essence you ask the Father to extend His forgiveness on your behalf in a particular area. You can then release the offenders and yourself from the burden of the offense. You no longer are affected by the “nail” of unforgiveness.

“…for they know not what they do.” – This is the key to forgiveness.

There is a saying that ‘hurting people hurt people’. People hurt others because they themselves had been hurt. Think of your offender as a wounded animal, bruised by the pain of some past offense – whether real or perceived. When a wounded animal is backed into a corner – when it has to face the reality of its own vulnerability – it strikes out at whomever or whatever is closest. This is the way it tries to convince itself that it still has some modicum of control. It is the same with hurting people. Hurting people are in survival mode...flesh-dominated and not spirit-led...so their mind, will and emotions are in control.



Now, see yourself as that wounded animal. Have you ever lashed out at someone either deliberately or instinctively? Was it not an effort to retain or regain control in some area of your life? If you had it to do all over again would you have said the same words? Done the same thing? You hurt that person because you didn’t fully know the extent of what you were doing. Your offenders hurt you for the same reason.

People hurt others because they don’t fully understand who God is, or who they are. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created all mankind in His image and in His likeness. You have your parents’ physical DNA imprinted in you, so you look like and act like them in many ways. Similarly, if you are a Christian, you have God’s DNA embedded in you. The characteristics of God are a part of your make up. It is when you don’t recognize this truth that you malfunction in your thoughts, attitudes and actions.

Are you willing to do as Jesus did and ask the Father to forgive? In doing so, you deny your flesh the right to have its own way. Be cautioned that your flesh will not submit without a fight for its right to survive in this area. It may lie dormant for a while, and then arise again at an unexpected time, showing up as anger, depression, resentment, feeling overwhelmed or some other negative emotion. But if you are willing, the Father will enable you to tell your flesh, “Be quiet!” when the temptation to hold a grudge presents itself.

Will you take the time now to quietly ask the Father to bring back to your remembrance any offenders that you have not been able to completely release in forgiveness? Then ask Him to forgive them. In doing that you will have taken the first step out of the flesh-dominated life and into the limitless life that Jesus always intended for you to have.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SEEK YE FIRST

Written by Allison Sylvester-Conliffe

In this day that we live, it is easy to find pleasure in acquiring “things” unto ourselves.  Allow me to simplify this statement, by posing the following examples.

We find pleasure in going after our degrees, we also find pleasure in acquiring the best job that pays a tidy salary and we take pleasure in moving up the ladder of success to acquire even more money.  We find pleasure in owning our own homes and decorating them with the finest of furniture and accessories.  We find pleasure in owning our dream car and in parking it in our dream garage.  We even find pleasure in going to the gym and developing well-toned and muscular bodies, and acquiring and courting the opposite sex with the intent to get married.

There is nothing sinister or evil about the pleasures mentioned above.  However, there is a tendency to get consumed with these pleasures and the like.

Jesus spoke to us explicitly in the Book of Matthew 6:33 saying
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
What does this phrase mean to us as believers?  This is actually a command given by the Lord Jesus as He taught His disciples on Kingdom living.  By this command, Jesus meant for all believers to have the Kingdom of God, and its advancement, first and foremost in their hearts.  This is supposed to be what we live for.  All other agendas are to fall below in rank into second and third places. 

We, as Jesus’ disciples, are to look for every opportunity to win souls into the Kingdom of God, and we are to promote this new life that Jesus paid the ultimate price to give to those of us who would dare to believe.  By doing so we build up and strengthen the population of the Kingdom of God.  This is our mandate …. but, we have an adversary, the devil, whose aim is to de-rail our purpose and destiny if it takes the last of his strength to do so. 
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour 1 Peter 5:8
Do you know that we were also cautioned and schooled in how to deal with the devil’s tactics?  In the Book of James 4:7 we were instructed to
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
This we ought to do and continue to keep our focus towards our mandate from God.

God takes the work of building the Kingdom seriously, as well as our obedience to His Word He takes seriously.  In the Book of Revelation 3:16-17 the Lord addressed the Church at Laodicea. 
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked
We seem to be caught up in the getting of things rather than focusing on the mandate given by Jesus to seek first His Kingdom.

In the Book of Haggai, God spoke in anger against His people because of how they shifted their focus.  They had left off from building His House and were overly concerned and occupied with building their own houses and making themselves comfortable with goods. He told them that because they had moved in their positioning and focus, that they ought to “consider their ways”!  In other words … they should take stock of themselves. In verse 6 of chapter 1 God said this to the people because of their shift in focus…
In short, because of their lack of obedience to God’s Word, they would not see nor benefit from the blessings due to them.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He does not change.  His Word does not change. His purpose for His people will not change.  We are the ones that need to conform to His will for our lives and not yield to that which satisfies our flesh.  When we give satisfaction to our flesh instead of being obedient to the Word of God, it leads us away from God.  Paul the Apostle tells us in this way -
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:6-9)
These verses of Scripture are pretty straight forward and clear.  Carnal in the text means pertaining to the flesh.  Spiritual in the text does not mean spooky nor does it speak of having attributes of a ghost.  Rather, to be spiritual simply means to follow after the teachings in the Word of God, and observing to do them without compromise.  It is plain to see that if you prefer to live after the flesh, pleasing the flesh and that which it wants to do … no matter how many times you go to church per day, you would not be counted as one that belongs to Christ Jesus.

Our pleasures should lie in fulfilling God’s command of putting the Kingdom of God first.  This would cause us to make other disciples of Jesus Christ.  How so? You may ask.  Surely, as we follow explicitly the Word of God and seek the advancement of His Kingdom, we will become witnesses to the Grace of God upon our lives and the Holy Spirit will be stirred up in us to draw men and women unto Jesus through us.  God will then be glorified and He will make tangible all the blessings that pertain to life and godliness as is promised in His Word. 
God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to his own glory and goodness.
Halleluia to the Lamb of God!
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