Monday, July 7, 2014

The High Calling

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 KLV) Have you ever read this verse of scripture and just wanted so badly to get inside of the Apostle Paul’s head and figure out just how he did that? How did Paul forget his persecution of the believers? How did he forget that he denied the very Christ that he now professes? How did Paul go from referring to himself as “the chief of sinners” to saying in 2nd Corinthians chapter seven, “we have wronged no one”? How did he forget that he gave consent and held the coats as the people stoned Stephen? I wonder about this, not to judge Paul, but to free myself. How do we walk away from our past and break the ties that hold us hostage to become all that God is calling us to be in Christ Jesus. Once I became a Christian, it was very easy for me to forget the things that I did outside of salvation, because I understood that when I did those things, I was simply doing what sinners do. My struggle comes when I mess up as a Christian. How do I walk away from those things? How do I leave them in the past and reach forward to the things that God has before me? Then a couple of weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me where the problem laid, a spirit of unworthiness. All of my life, I have struggled against this spirit of unworthiness. Once I became a Christian, the warfare with this spirit intensified. As time passed, instead of growing more confident in my walk with God, my footing became less and less sure. I would hold back, thinking that surely God does not plan to use me! I am certainly not the one He will use, maybe my mom or my sisters, but surely not me! Yet God continued to speak to my heart the things that He was calling me to. Each time I thought that I was able to stand in the confidence of who I am in Christ, that same spirit of unworthiness would fire off another arrow, “who do you think you are that God would use you? Remember when…” So my confidence would be shaken and I would fall back to that position of “surely God does not plan to use me!” I know what you are thinking, “OK Evangelist, we get that part, but where is the remedy?” The remedy beloved is found within that same verse of scripture. In Philippians 3:3 the Apostles admonishes that we put no confidence in the flesh. You see, our human weaknesses, our human failings will never satisfy the righteousness and holiness of God. We will NEVER be worthy of what Christ did for us, we will NEVER be worthy to name ourselves among the sons and daughters of God if we place our confidence in our flesh (our humanness). We will NEVER stand justified before God in that place, if that were so Christ would never have taken on our sins. What we do is just what the Apostle Paul did, we forget those things that are behind us, even if the “behind us” was only two minutes ago, and we look ahead to who Christ is calling us to be. We see ourselves as the Father sees us, through the cleansing blood of Christ and we keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck in condemnation and recrimination. The Father knew every time that you were going to mess up before you ever did. Does that mean that He excuses our sins, no; it means that our failures NEVER determine God’s love for us and it NEVER changes His plans for our lives. Paul realized this and made the decision that all the things that were important to him, all the things that gave him confidence in his flesh were garbage when compared to the call of God on his life. He forgot the man that Saul had been and he saw himself in the light of what Christ had done for him. So what is my remedy for us, dearly loved ones? Both you and I must forget our failures; dismiss that sense of unworthiness, because Christ made us worthy. Our goal must be to reach forward, striving to catch hold of what has caught hold of us. Christ made us worthy through His blood, the Father sees us as worthy through the blood of Christ and His plan for us is eternal. There is a high calling in Christ Jesus that once we determine we are going to pursue it with our whole heart, it will lead us into the fullness of who God created us to be and we will be able to stand before Him in confidence that we fulfilled His purpose in our lives. Be encouraged dearly loved ones!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In Preparation for the Harvest

In Galatians Chapter six and verse nine, the Apostle Paul offers believers some encouraging advice; “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Paul knew that often we as believers forget that God put a system into place where there is a time of planting and a time of harvesting and this doesn't just apply to natural things, but to spiritual things as well. From the very beginning, God made this promise to His people; “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:22 ESV) I believe that as long as we don’t give up on God, we will reap the harvest of our faith. Placing our trust in the promises of God is our seedtime. Our faith as we wait is our “doing good,” the two then will produce in their season. It does not matter what the promise is; if we remain faithful and trust the God who promised, we will reap in our season! I was reminded of this a few weeks ago in a very practical way. On the road that I travel to and from work each day, there are peach orchards; as far as the eye can see on either side of the road. Growing up in the south, there is one thing that I have learned about peach trees, at the first sign of warm weather they begin to blossom. It doesn’t matter if it is still winter, as sure as the temperature climbs above seventy degrees for a few days, you will begin to see the pretty pink blossoms paint the orchard. But there is something else that every southern born person knows and that is this; in the south, cold weather is not over for the season until after Easter; my great grandmother used to call it “the Easter snap.” The peach trees obviously don’t know this pearl of wisdom. But because the peach growers know about the “Easter snap,” and because they know that the peach trees always get ahead of themselves, they make preparation early on for the cold weather. The peach orchard that I drive pass has tall windmill-like contraptions that are actually heaters; and when the temperature drops below freezing and the trees are already in bloom, the growers use these heaters to keep the trees warm and prevent the cold from damaging the harvest. Not only do they use these heaters, but they also have bales and bales of hay lined around the orchard that they burn to keep warmth on the trees. When the temperature drops below freezing, the workers stay up all night making sure that the fires burn and the trees with their fragile blossoms are protected. Why do they do this? They are preparing for the harvest. I am certain that on those nights when the temperature dips into the low twenties, the workers would much rather be at home in their warm beds instead of standing out in the cold with only the fire from the hay to keep them warm. The peach growers will do this night after night, even when it seems like an impossible task, because they want to see the harvest. The end result of their faithfulness is a harvest of delicious fresh peaches for all to enjoy come July and August. So what is my purpose in telling you this? Well, I believe that when we receive a promise from God, sometimes we see the early blossoms of this promise coming to pass and we get excited and hopeful, but when we run into a road block and the promise looks like it is not going to happen, we give up. What do you think would happen to the peach harvest if the growers gave up when the temperature dropped? There would be no peaches in that season, or there would certainly be a much smaller harvest. Paul encourages us, do not get tired of doing good, in other words, don’t get tired of trusting God, don’t look at the circumstances of our lives and decide, “I must not have heard God right.” Or “God did not come through for me.” Everything has a “due season.” Peaches have their harvest season in July and August, but there are other fruits and vegetables that have their season in fall or winter, or early spring. Just because your due season hasn't arrived yet, don’t give up on God! God is not limited by time; He does not have to keep our schedule. The scripture tells us that Abraham is the father of us all,”in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist…No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.” (Rom. 4:17; 20-21 ESV) Despite the passage of time, twenty-five years to be exact, Abraham continued to believe God; and now he has the eternal testimony in the presence of God and all creation that he is the “father of us all.” God knows our days, beloved. He knows every promise that He has for us! And when His timing is complete, we will receive that promise. What we have to do is prepare for the harvest. Trust that God is going to do what He said. Know that even those things that appear dead matter little to God because He gives life to the dead, and He calls things which do not exist into existence. Are you believing God for something today? Perhaps you long to be a parent but biology says you’re too old. Maybe you are longing for a spouse but it seems that all you ever get is rejection. Or you may be a parent that has been waiting for God to deliver a child from a life of sin and destruction. You might be a husband or wife in a bad marriage and you have been trusting God to save your spouse. Whatever your harvest is, don’t give up. You may need to add the fertilizer of faith to your prayers, or maybe you just need to rest in the knowledge that the God who promised is faithful, and just because you have not received your harvest yet, does not mean that your due season isn't coming! Be encouraged believed, trust God and you will enjoy your “peaches” if you don’t give up!