Thursday, January 22, 2015

Freedom From the Rat Race of Life

“Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength before going out to face the world again.”
- A.W. Tozer, Of God and Men
We can find ourselves caught up in our own pursuits
which in the end will take us nowhere.  

      Idleness is the Devil's workshop they say.  There is a lot of truth to that.  Extreme busyness can also be the Devil's workshop.  How many homes might still be together if a father or mother had not spent so much time at work that was beyond what was needed?  Many people seem to be proud of the long hours they spend at their jobs.  There is a satisfaction in earning money with your own hands which is good and proper.  The danger comes when busyness puts us in a rut where we can't even stop to value the things which are most important.  This is a danger that Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower. He explained the soul threatening dangers of several groups of people. The group that relates well to this subject of busyness is the seed that was planted among the thorns.  I tell people that this group looks like America.  Of course, the meaning of it can be seen universally.  Jesus explained the meaning of this group by saying, "And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful" Mark 4:18-19.

     Different people have different situations when it comes to quiet time with God.  I remember a saying that went like this:  Those that love the "church" come to fellowship on Sunday mornings.  Those that love the pastor come to fellowship on Sunday evenings.  Those that love the Lord come together on Wednesday night prayer meeting.  I couldn't help but recognize from some of my own observations that there was some incidental truth to the saying, especially in the first two observations.  There is a danger of making another tradition out of "going to church." There can become a perception that rest of the week belongs to us.  We will find a greater satisfaction in giving God our whole week.  Going to some meeting or program is not what we need to be closer to God.  There is an undue pressure to make people feel guilty for not making it to every program.  For some, there are distractions everywhere, and coming to a program set up by a church fellowship might be just what is needed.  It could act like an oasis of quiet time in their busy lives.   Others might find themselves so divided in their time with religious programs that it takes what little time they might have with the Lord.  The programs could become a care of the world if they are not careful; this is especially true because of the nature of many church services today. For those in this situation, it would be better to scale back the programs and dedicate some time alone with God in His Word. 

     We all have the same amount of hours in a day.  Many of us tend to be very busy.  Those that have a greater demand from others have to space their activities closer together or have more things to say "no" to.  When I was a child, I desired to play piano.  It was suggested that I take lessons from a woman who was great at playing piano, but also known to be very busy.  It was decided by my parents to not ask her because of the consideration of the tight schedule the lady already had. From the considerations made in that decision, I remember my grandpa saying that if you want something to get done, ask someone who is already busy.  They'll get it done. This is speaking of the good character of many that are busy.  It is good to be busy with good things.  It involves wisdom to know what things we should be busy about, and then we all have to decide what to say "no" to.   Let's pray for wisdom.  Let's purpose to say "no" to things that would take time from things of higher purpose.  Business owners recognise that things like social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can hinder their success in business by robbing time from their business activities.  This can also be the case with all of us when it comes to our quiet time.   May we purpose to make a quiet time to be alone with God to be refreshed from Him who gives us living water.  We will find if we weed out those things which cause us unneeded cares that there will be a fruitfulness about our lives as God's word prospers in our lives unhindered by those weeds.  Let's find that quiet time with Him in order to be refreshed so that we may do great things!

The author of the following story is unknown.  It illustrates how Satan could use busy lifestyles.
The Devil’s Convention:
Satan called a worldwide convention.
In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, ’We can’t keep the Christians from going to church.’
‘We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.’
‘We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Jesus Christ.’
‘This is what I want you to do angels …
Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!’
‘How shall we do this?’ shouted his angels.
‘Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,’ he answered. ‘Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.’
‘Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children.’
‘As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!’
‘Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.’
‘Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.’
‘Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly!’
‘Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week’.
‘Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead.’
‘Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.’
‘Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus.’
‘Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.’
It will work! It will work!
It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.
I guess the question is has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge!
Does ‘busy’ mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seeing Through And Not Just With The Eye

This past year, I saw an amazing, cloudy sky that gave me a sense of awe.  The colors could not be described with my limited vocabulary.  I snapped a picture of it.  The camera could not capture the true beauty of that sky.  As I considered the beauty of it, I thought of an atheist friend who loved taking pictures of the sky and posting the vividly colorful  photos on his social media site.  He possessed a real appreciation for color.  I thought of how color cannot be explained by vertical Evolution.  The world could function quite well without color, yet our Creator gave us color to enjoy and appreciate.  I suppose God could have given us just enough sight to grope along and not bump into things, but instead, we have been given the ability to even see things like the distant stars.  After I had gazed into that bright, cloudy sky, I thought of the thoughts of a song writer who wrote these words thousands of years ago:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
     I realized that God was sending messages to my friend that could be found in the sky if only he would have the eyes to see them.

     A poet, William Blake, described how people can see things, but miss them this way:

"This life's dim window of the soul
Distorts the heavens form pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye."

     Jesus spoke of how eyes can see things and yet the mind is not always able to see what is seen.  He, the Creator of the eye, asked His disciples, "Having eyes, see ye not?"   They had just seen some outstanding miracles, but still did not grasp those things that He wanted to teach them. 

     When you look into the eyes of a friend, you can usually tell some of how he is thinking about you because the eye has a way of communicating.  The eye is directly connected to the brain.  It is as if it is part of the brain.  When you see the eyes of someone, it is as if you are looking at the brain.  They are like a window of the mind.  John Bunyan in his classic book, The Holy War, spoke of an entryway to the soul of man called Eye-Gate.  Christ spoke of the powerful influence of the eye, and used an illustration of it to help us understand why we need to direct our attention towards Him.  He said,
 "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matthew 6:22-23.
It is sin that causes people to be unable to see God.  In our current state, we cannot see God and live, but when Christ returns and changes our bodies we will be given eyes that will see him. (1 John 3:2)
     Saint Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus.  He saw a great light that caused him to be blinded.  While he was blinded physically until he was prayed for by a believer, his spiritual eyes were opened in that encounter with Christ.  In that encounter, Christ gave him a mission to reach the Gentiles and stated this purpose to him...