Still Learning

The past few years have been very different years for all of us but one of the good things that has come from it is a relationship that has grown deeper with a Christian colleague of mine.  She is twenty-two years younger than I am, but her walk with God is deep and consistent.  One of my prayers this year has been that God will make “old things new”.  As I have aged, I began to think there was nothing new that I could learn from my Bible reading.  I was wrong!  I learned something new from my friend about Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” 

Look at the sequence of that scripture: Wait on the Lord and strength will be renewed. Not maybe, not if the weather is good, not if everything is going my way.  Our strength is renewed as we wait on the Lord, as we listen to him, as we learn of him.  That first part of the scripture has been providing hope for me for the past 50 years, but I did not always appreciate the promise.  As you all know, I am an impatient persona and stay too busy for my own good.  The sequence of the next part of the verse has a new meaning to me.  As a new, young Christian, I was soaring like an Eagle.  Everything was new, fresh and wonderful.  I was learning spiritual things.  The next part of my life I was running and not growing weary.  School and church were keeping me busy.  I sometime wonder how I survived.  God was faithful with everything that was going on in my life.  As I have matured physically and spiritually, is it now time to walk?  My challenge for now is making decisions about my retirement. What to do?  How can I be useful if I am not working at school?  Am I still in a running phase or is it time to walk?  I don’t know, but I am waiting on the Lord for direction.  I have promises that I will be okay.  I know he is holding my hand.

And speaking of hand holding.  That is another new inspiration to me.  I am reading “Low and Gentle” and one of the stories the author tells is of a dad walking into the shallow end of a pool with his three-year old son.  The son thinks he is holding on tot he dad’s hand ever so tightly in anticipation of the uncertainty of the deeper water.  Actually, it is the father that is holding on to the son.  He is not going to let go.  I often thought that through my life I was holding on to God, but he, our heavenly Father, is holding on to me and he will NEVER let go!

Guest writer JoElla Skaggs

 

Are You An Encourager?

Helping HandGuest Writer: Alesia Campbell

For decades I’ve had the privilege of knowing Delores and James Fields. On numerous occasions I’ve been a benefactor of their ability to share words of comfort and encouragement. I must add that I don’t know two other people who are more suited to run a ministry called “Comfort and Encouragement”. Their kindness and application of God’s Word was often timely as I endured various trials and discouragement. I will always be grateful for their prayers and acts of caring.

As believers we are ALL called to help comfort and encourage one another. In the body of Christ, we definitely need each other.

           Hebrews 10:24–“Let us think of ways to encourage one another…”

           1 Thessalonians 5:14–“… take tender care of those who are weak.”

           Galatians 6:2  NLT—“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

The Greek word for encourage is “Parakaleo” and it also means to help strengthen. Are you actively engaged in ways to help strengthen others? Are you offering words of encouragement and building up others or are you offering negative words which do nothing to help? Whining, grumbling and complaining rarely help improve a situation. You may think you are sympathizing with a person who is struggling, but it is rarely beneficial. Negative words are depleting.

BibleIn the three scriptures above, encouraging or helping others is really not a suggestion. They strongly instruct us to encourage, care, and lift each other up. And, in these current times, there are a lot of folks who sure could use it!

Some people have a natural way of encouraging others. It seems their personality is more pleasant and positive. They look on the bright side of things and rarely get discouraged even during difficult times. Perhaps they have the spiritual gift of encouragement. Some really seem to have the hang of it. So, should we just let them be the ones to go about encouraging others? The obvious answer is NO.

You may be wondering how you can do a better job of this. You may neglect to be there for others because you feel ill-equipped or not capable. Based on my experiences with the Fields, and others who have also ministered to my heart when I greatly needed it, I’ve listed ten basic ideas which may help.

  1. Ask the Lord to reveal someone whom you need to contact. Think of who is going through a discouraging time or enduring ongoing hardships. Do you know someone who is currently struggling in some way? Be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. You don’t have to know them very well and perhaps it’s an acquaintance whom you rarely see. Often the Lord uses His children to reveal His love and provision so ask Him to direct you to the person for whom He wants you to minister. And, the Lord may want you just to encourage a friend whom you have no idea whether or not there is a problem in their life. Just encourage them!
  2. Ask the Lord to prepare your heart and help you be willing and ready to reach out to someone with encouragement. Ask Him to empower you for the task. Ask God to fill your heart with love so you can serve with the right attitude and motivation.
  3. Reach out and express your concern to a person in need. A nice, sincere, and uplifting message goes a long way! Write a note or card. Call, text or email them. Or show up in person for a short visit. It’s all about letting them know you are thinking of them, you care, and that you are sorry they are going through the difficulty. We seem to have forgotten how to do this in our American culture and we have lots of excuses, but truly the smallest act of kindness can mean a lot.

          “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet and delightful to the soul and healing to the body.” Proverbs 16:24 (AMP)

  1. Encourage with a scripture verse. Often times the Holy Spirit will put a verse on your heart to share. You can Google search for any particular verse you have in mind (putting technology to good use). God’s Word will not return void.
  2. Ask to pray with the person. Who knows, you may be the only one praying with them! Ask God to bless that person with divine strength, peace, provision and care. And continue praying for the person later.
  3. Offer to help. Think of some practical acts of service which would be a great encouragement such as sharing a meal, mowing a lawn, paying a utility bill, running an errand, driving them somewhere, etc. Just running by with a cup of Starbucks coffee or special snack can be uplifting to some people. But, DO SOMETHING! Your kindness and thoughtfulness will touch their heart.
  4. Be willing to listen. This does not necessarily mean telling your own similar story. Give your full attention to hearing what they have to say. Put away electronic devices which distract. Make eye contact and ask questions to show you’re interested. Seek to understand their perspective as they are going through this battle.This helps you gain valuable insight into their struggles and may help you gain a plan for their additional aid.
  5. Advise only if you are sure they are ready to receive advice. It’s easy to hastily express your opinions, but it’s best to ask them first before you state them. This is especially true if you don’t know the person very well. However, in all situations, definitely console and express you care about them which is often times better than advice. It may not be a teachable moment so refrain. And also please refrain from judgement.
  6. Compliment them for the way they are helping themselves and for the good things which are already happening. A word of praise and affirmation lets them know you notice the positive aspects at work and this sure can be emotionally bolstering and edifying.
  7. Express hope! Let them know God is at work behind the scenes. He cares very deeply for them and He has a plan for their situation. Assure them the Lord is mighty to help and deliver. And, that He has a purpose for all we endure. Encourage them to wait on the Lord and His timing and trust Him. Also, remind them that they are not alone.

In conclusion, do not let the enemy tell you that you are too inexperienced or broken to help someone else. God repeatedly uses broken or unlikely people to get His work done and share His grace. Simply having a willing heart to be used by the Lord is what is most essential. Then step into the role of encouragement with His leading and empowering. Watch Him do the work through you!

And, after reaching out with encouragement, don’t second guess yourself wondering if what you did or said was well-received. You may never know the impact you made. You may never receive a thank you note, but regardless, keep doing the work by being obedient to the Lord. Needs will be met, people will be edified, and our Heavenly Father will be glorified.

Matthew 5:16–“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Blessings,

Alesia Campbell

 

Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief

For most of my life I took my health for granted. As a child and on into my young adult life I was mostly healthy, skinny, due to a high metabolism and a somewhat active life. I ate what I wanted, exercised if or when and how I wanted, but really never very disciplined. The same went for my spiritual life. I was saved as a child and then baptized with the Holy Spirit as a teenager when I truly understood Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yet, I wasn’t very self-disciplined in my walk with Jesus Christ.

My health fell apart in my late twenties, because of a poor self-image due to childhood trauma, lack of personal responsibility for my eating habits, exercise and spiritual well-being.

I believed more about what I said about myself than what my Heavenly Father said about me. I lived a very self-centered and sinful life for several years. I’m not talking about the sin I acknowledged as a teenager and became saved from because my Heavenly Father worked in my heart and showed me the truth of Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NKJV) I’m talking about the kind of willful sinning a non-mature or weak Christian will fall into because their everyday life is not centered in/on Christ Jesus.

I do believe I was saved from an eternal life separated from God, however, the Holy Spirit at work in me tried to save me from myself and gently steer me away from the sin I was committing that would ultimately lead to my eternal separation from my Heavenly Father.

He spoke to my spirit on two occasions and said, “If you continue in this sin, I will have to withdraw my eternal life from you.” The third time he said, “I cannot work in you because you have not heeded my warnings. I will be here when you decide to return to and follow closely your Savior, Christ Jesus.”

Please understand that my Heavenly Father treated me with so much love during this time of my life despite the repercussions I faced due to my decision to walk away from my faith. I wouldn’t even come to understand just how much he deeply loved me and watched over me and my family for many years to come.

Open BibleI say this to encourage you to believe the Bible, God’s Holy Word, our heavenly Father’s love letter to us when it says, “The Lord your God is a merciful and compassionate God; He will not fail you, nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them,” Deuteronomy 4:31 AMP.

In fact, earlier in Deuteronomy 4:23 (AMP) he says, “So be on your guard and watch yourselves, so that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He has made with you.”

However, even if you do forget or walk away from your covenant with the Lord if “you will seek the Lord your God, …you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and tribulation and all these things come on you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice,” Deuteronomy 4:29-30. He never stops waiting for us to return to him and will welcome those who do seek him diligently with open arms like the prodigal child (Luke 15:11-24).

I believed I deserved nothing good in my life because I had not earned it or because I had not followed the Bible to the letter. I thought of God as a Judge not my Heavenly Father.

I am so thankful that is not how grace and mercy from my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ works! I did ask for God’s forgiveness, and he graciously and compassionately gave it and gives it each time I repent. As my daily walk with my Heavenly Father has ebbed and flowed, my trust and faith in him has grown. I believe he uses our unbelief, our misgivings, our trials in this life to mature us or grow our faith and trust in him if we allow him.

My Heavenly Father, because I do think of him as my Father not my Judge, brought me and my family to a place where I could understand just how much he truly loves me. Coming to understand just how much he loves me despite everything was so transforming.

Have I been perfect? By no means!! Yet, he has never left me. He has been there to pick me up and place me back on the pathway with him when I have stumbled or just plain wandered off the trail. He has stayed right beside me when I struggled with my doubts in him and my insecurities.

I love the list that went around at one point and is probably still out there, of all the imperfect people in the Bible that God used to further his kingdom. It helped me see that despite all my imperfections he can and will use me for the goodness of his eternal kingdom. “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you [and me] will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return],” Philippians 1:6 AMP.

This is my prayer for you: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God,” Philippians 1:9-11 NIV.

May my Heavenly Father pour out all his love and forgiveness and blessings upon you as you come to understand just how much he loves you!!

Bonita Burleson

Comfort and Encouragement Ministries, secretary

The Car Wash Kind of Faith

Car Wash

My Heavenly Father teaches me in so many different ways and uses every day things to help me understand his ways. The automatic propelled car wash has been one of those things.

For years now, when I go through an automatic propelled car wash I think of “blind faith.”  Think about it! You take your dirty vehicle and drive up to an attendant who then tells you this is what we will do for you, trust us!

You follow the attendant’s directions to drive onto a track that you lose sight of before you actually get onto it. You blindly trust that this person will guide you to correctly line your tires up to the track. Once you’ve successfully done this they ask you to place your vehicle in neutral and take your foot off the brake!?! The first time you do this you truly feel unsettled. I mean you are no longer in control of where your vehicle is going.

Soapy Car WashJust when you start to trust that process, you lose complete sight of the pathway because of all the soap suds blanketing your vehicle. At this point you are truly blind. Yet, weirdly in this moment, it feels quiet, like a pocket of calmness.

Now the storm comes and washes away the dirt and grime. Just when you think you are all finished, the last whirlwind comes along to dry you off and pushes you out into the world again.

Yes, I do overthink things, lol. Yet, come on, don’t you see the similarity between the car wash and your Faith walk?

You come to your heavenly Creator, the One true God, all dirty and sin-filled. You hear the Holy Spirit say, “Follow God’s directions and he will guide you down the unfamiliar path even the ones you can’t see. Spend time with him cocooned in quiet meditation of the Holy Word and prayer and He will envelop you with calm and peace. Cry out to Jesus and he will wash you clean.”

Next comes the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit fire to spur you on your way!! Then, your Heavenly Father lets you put your foot on the gas and go so you may do His Will in the world around you both big and small.

Have you ever seen when one of those car washes have a car that gets off track?  Maybe someone didn’t go into drive at the end of the process? Or got scared and hit the brake when they couldn’t see. I have to admit there have been countless times that I have stepped on the brakes and jammed up the process of my faith. But just like that conveyor system once I let my Heavenly Father get me back on track, he is faithful to guide me along the way to the end. “I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in [me and] you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return],” Philippians 1:6 AMP.

So next time you go through that car wash remind yourself, “If I can have this much faith in this man made operation, I can have faith in God, too!”

May God wonderfully bless you and yours,

Bonita Burleson

Guide to Successful LIving

Huge Benefit From a Small Book

Thirty-one short chapters comprise Proverbs.  However, we must not judge the book’s value by its size.  Its benefit for our everyday lives infinitely surpasses its smallness.

Delores and I began reading Proverbs through once a month by reading one chapter a day according to the calendar date.  On the first of the month we read chapter one; on the sixth, chapter six; on the thirty-first, chapter thirty-one.  In this way we go through Proverbs twelve times a year.  If we miss a day we read two chapters the following day or we just wait until the next month.

Of course, portions of Proverbs don’t apply to everyone.  Overall, however, everyone profits from the wise sayings and instructions of this wonderful guide to successful living.

What is a proverb?

A proverb is a short saying that expresses a truth.  Example: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” means that a proper diet will keep you healthy.  Proverbs teach lessons for life.  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger” Proverbs 15:1.

Who benefits from Proverbs?

Proverbs show us God’s truth so we can cooperate with his efforts to make us happy.  Solomon introduces this book with an invitation for all to learn (2:2-6).  His invitation is all inclusive; he invites:

  • All People, verses 2-3
  • The Simple, verse 4
  • Young People, verse 4
  • The Wise, verse 5
  • The Understanding, verse 5

The Purposes for this Book
(Proverbs 2:2-6)

  1. So people may know God’s wisdom and teachings.
  2. So people can understand words of insight. Seeing “beneath the surface” appearance of life situations.
  3. So people can know wise dealings, righteousness, justice and integrity.
  4. To give prudence to the simple. Prudence is sound judgment in practical matters; being sensible, not rash.
  5. To give knowledge and discretion to young people. Discretion separates error from truth.
  6. To help a wise person increase in learning.
  7. To help a person of understanding acquire skill in applying that understanding.
  8. To help a person understand a proverb and its interpretation or application.

To help people understand the words of the wise and the hidden truths behind their sayings.

Be greatly encouraged,

Pastor James Fields

Giving God Time to Enjoy You

            God enjoys being with you!

            “The Lord your God…will take great delight in you…he will rejoice over you with singing,” Zephaniah 3:17.

            “The Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession,” Deuteronomy 26:18.

            “You are precious and honored in my sight and…I love you,” Isaiah 43:4.

            “I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,” Isaiah 49:5.

            “I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine,”  Ezekiel 16:8.

            Obviously, God created you to enjoy you.

            Look at the beginning of human existence recorded in Genesis.  First, God goes through the trouble of creating a universe which sustains humans.  Second, he created male and female so he could be with them.  “The Lord God…was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you,’” Genesis 3:8-9?  God yearned for human companionship!  The entire Bible describes God’s effort to bring rebellious humans into loving fellowship because he wants us near himself.

            The Bible ends by describing the new heaven and new earth where God eternally enjoys being with us. “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God,” Revelation 21:3.

God Sets Time Aside for Being with Us

            Private time with us is God’s highest priority.  Consequently, in the very beginning of human history, He set aside the seventh day of the week and called it “holy” Genesis 2:2-3. “Holy” designates this day as special to the Lord.  Why special?  Because this day provided time for God to enjoy fellowshipping with the humans his hands made.  Under Moses’ leadership, the Lord designated lots of other days and weeks as time for his people to set aside to be with him.  He called these days “Passover,” “feast of unleavened bread,” “feast of Pentecost,” and “feast of tabernacles.” (Other feasts are listed in Leviticus 23.)

            Is there any doubt that God wants special time with you, when he can enfold you in his arms and love you?  Truly he wants to speak to you, to soothe you, to appreciate you and be appreciated by you!  Now let’s look at our part in giving God time to enjoy us.

Quit Belittling Yourself!

            It’s so easy for humans to diminish their own importance to God by ignoring what he says about them in his Word.  Even Jesus during his absolutely horrible suffering, called himself “a worm and not a man,” Psalm 22:6. We quickly forget how God feels about us during difficult times.  We effortlessly disparage ourselves when we’ve failed to obey our heavenly Savior.  Nevertheless, we can only give ourselves to God’s enjoyment by conquering the tendency to belittle ourselves.

            By accepting God’s assessment of our value we become empowered to believe what God’s Word says about us.

             “The Lord was pleased to make you his own,” 1 Samuel 12:22.

            “Your hands shaped me and made me,” Job 10:8.

            “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” Psalm 139:1.

            “This is what the Lord says—he who created you…he who formed you…. ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine,’” Isaiah 43:1.

            Then there’s Jesus, heavenly Father’s ultimate expression of his longing for our company, our fellowship!  2 Corinthians 9:15 designates Jesus as heavenly Father’s “indescribable gift.” Through Jesus, heavenly Father freed us from our sinful insignificance and elevated us to share Jesus’ throne in God’s eternal kingdom (1 Samuel 12:22).

Giving God What Belongs to God

            Time is a gift from God because time came from God.  Concurrently, our lifetime is a gift from our heavenly Maker.  We exist because he wants us to.  He both brought us into being and sustains our years in these bodies. They are his property on loan to us!

God gives us time so we can give it back to him!

            Shouldn’t love for God motivate us to give our time back to him?  Shouldn’t love for God seek to rejoice his heart by spending time in private fellowship with him?  Church attendance and other forms of fellowship with believers express our desire to rejoice the Lord.  However, I’m specifically emphasizing your private communion with the God who loves you and wants you near himself.

            Since God created us to rejoice in our love, we set time aside for loving him.   Praise, thanksgiving, adoration and serve as instruments for loving him, but these instruments are only useful as we pull away from life’s busyness and enter His presence.

            “You’re not praying,” the Lord’s Spirit spoke to me when I was about 28 or 29 years old.  I didn’t care to hear this, but I understood what the Lord meant.  I was busy with lots of things, but I set no special time aside for being with the Lord.  So I chose a specific time of my day and set it aside for spending time in God’s presence.  I remained faithful to this appointment with God even when I couldn’t sense his nearness.  But persistence paid off!

            After several days of disciplined private time with Jesus without feeling him near, I blurted out, “God, you have me whether or not you want me.”  Immediately the Lord honored my determination to rejoice his heart with my presence by pouring his presence into me.  His Spirit energized me with praise feelings and praise words that flowed from my innermost being.  That day began an ever-deepening fellowship between the God who rejoiced in me and the God in whom I rejoiced.  The same experience awaits every one of God’s children who give him time to rejoice in them!

            Start now.  Choose a small segment of your day for being alone with the God who enjoys your presence.  Persist in keeping this appointment with the Lord and he will reward you with an ever-greater awareness of his nearness.  “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what he has promised,” Hebrews 10:36.  God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can hardly wait the thrill of your presence!

Be greatly encouraged,

Pastor James Fields

Enjoying the Bible Jesus Loved

Jesus With Holy Scroll             Jesus loved the Holy Scriptures written by his Jewish forefathers.  Jesus didn’t merely read the Bible with his mind—his innermost being cherished it.  The Word of God filled him with inexpressible joy that saturated him with an affection for it.  He delighted in God’s commands because he loved them.

Our record of Jesus’ life shows him constantly quoting Scripture or referring to it.  He once pointed out that, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” Deuteronomy 8:3.  Jesus’ quotations of the Hebrew Bible and constant references to it fill the pages of the Gospels.

When Peter attacked the mob that arrested Jesus, our Lord commanded him to put away his sword.  Then, he explained why he refused to allow his followers to resist his arrest.  “This (arrest) has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled,” Matthew 26:56.  Jesus devoted himself to the fulfillment of all prophesies about His life.  What tremendous dedication to the Scriptures!

How can we enjoy the Bible that Jesus loved?

Appreciate the Bible Jesus Loved

Jesus only had access to what Christians called the Old Testament.  His reading of the Bible was confined to something between Genesis and Malachi.  The New Testament did not exist in Jesus’ day.

Many Christians fail to appreciate what Jesus loved.  They seldom read the Old Testament because they find it exceedingly boring and see no application to their lives.  How different from our Lord Jesus!

In reality there is not a Hebrew Bible and a Christian Bible.  The division into Old Testament and New Testament is artificial.  “All Scripture is God breathed,” 2 Timothy 3:16 refers to both testaments.  What we call the New Testament did not replace the Old Testament, the Bible Jesus loved.

The Old Testament is the foundation of the New Testament.  The New Testament depends entirely on the Hebrew Scriptures, written by Jewish people.  The Jewish Jesus declared “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished,” Matthew 5:17-18.

Refuse to discount the Bible Jesus loved.  There will be lots in the Old Testament you will find boring, but that is also true of the New Testament.  You will not always understand what you are reading, but isn’t that the same with the New Testament?  Ask the Lord to open your heart to a new appreciation of the Bible Jesus respected and loved.

Look for Phrases, Not at Verses

The New Testament quotes the Old Testament hundreds of times but never mentions a chapter or verse number.  That’s because chapter numbers and verse numbers were not included in either the Old or New Testament writings.  These numbers were added hundreds of years after the last book of the Bible was written.  Chapters and verses help us locate sections of the Bible that interest us.  However, they also focus our attention on huge chunks of text.  In this mass of words are buried wonderful phrases that apply to our 21st century lives.

For example, I read Isaiah 49:23 many, many times.  Regrettably, I regarded the fifty words of this verse as a unit.  Therefore, I failed to pick out the phrase that applies to all of us.  Please notice the last part of Isaiah 49:23: “I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”  Can’t we in the 21st century make the same declaration?  We accept God as our Lord, and because we hope in him we will not be disappointed!

Apply the Promises not the Curses

            Multitudes of wonderful promises fill the pages of the Bible Jesus loved.  The Old Testament also records lots of consequences for disobeying God.  We usually refer to these consequences as curses.

I continually share with people promises recorded in the Old Testament.  Some of these folks question why the promises apply to them but not the curses.  Here’s my explanation.

First, Jesus bore all the consequences of our disobedience to God.  Galatians 3:13 declares that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”  Then, the apostle explained that, “It is written: cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”  The curses pronounced on the disobedient no longer apply to us after Jesus’ blood washes away our sin.

Jesus “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles,” Galatians 3:14.  You see God’s promises to his Old Testament saints can be applied to us in this age.  We should feel completely comfortable trusting in Old Testament promises while not fearing Old Testament curses.

Be Filled with the Spirit of the Author

          Jesus At The Temple  God used about 45 people as his partners in writing the Scriptures.  Here’s how Peter described the partnership between God and humans that resulted in the writing of the Bible.  “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” 2 Peter 1:21.  No, they weren’t puppets or dictation machines.  God incorporated their personalities, education, vocabulary and experiences in writing Scripture.  Nevertheless, God’s Spirit superintended the work of compiling the Bible.  His infallibility enabled fallible men to record words we can confidently call the Word of God.

Now, we can be filled with the Spirit of the Author.  The One who superintended the recording of Scripture dwells in everyone who trusts Jesus as Savior.  As we persistently read the Bible the author who lives in us explains it to us, little by little.  He makes the Bible come alive.  He opens our hearts to understand Scripture and shows us personal applications that help us in everyday life.

Be greatly encouraged,

Pastor James Fields

 

 

Keeping Yourself Victorious

See Hear Say No EvilYour eyes and ears are gatekeepers for your brain, your thoughts.  Your eyes and ears are doorways through which ideas, desires and thoughts enter your mind.  Therefore, as a follower of Jesus, you must watch over your eyes, ears and thoughts.  Basically, you are a gatekeeper in charge of what enters your mind and resides in your thoughts and controls your desires.

Your Creator entrusted to you the control of what you think, what you desire and what you pursue.  The Lord assigned you the position of guarding your thoughts so they would please him and keep you free from sin.  Then, you will live a victorious life free from sin, discouragement and defeat.  So, regard yourself as a gatekeeper in charge of your eyes, your ears and your thoughts!

Be Faithful to Your Creator

“The gatekeepers had been assigned to their positions of trust,” 1 Chronicles 9:22.   God loves you and wants to guide and lead your life into the victory that originates in overcoming sin.  He entrusts you with the power to faithfully say “No” to sin that attempts to fill your thoughts.  On the other hand, he empowers you to say “Yes” to the purity that Scripture describes.  Therefore, as gatekeepers of our thoughts we say “No” to thoughts that contradict God and His Word and “Yes” to all that agrees with His Word.

Do you recall Jesus’ temptation?  Satan placed sinful thoughts in Jesus’ mind, but Jesus always rebuked him and quoted scripture that defeated every anti-God idea.  Matthew chapter 4 describes the mental battle that Jesus fought against Satan’s wicked suggestions.  Well, Jesus’ Spirit lives in you.  So, you can win every mental battle you will ever face!  You can keep yourself victorious no matter what comes your way!  The Spirit of Jesus in you coupled with the Word of God makes you more than a conqueror!

Think On These ThingsYou are in Charge of Keeping Yourself Victorious

When you became a child of God he appointed you a gatekeeper in charge of your eyes and ears, your thoughts and desires.  In fact, God placed you in charge of guarding your eye gates and ear gates and whatever resides in your thoughts and attitudes.  Heavenly Father placed in you the power of Jesus’ presence so you can remain in charge of what happens in your mind, your attitudes and your thoughts.  1 Chronicles 9:23 declares that the priests “we’re in charge of guarding the gates of the house of the Lord.” So, you are in charge of guarding your eye gates and ear gates.

“Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God,” 1 Corinthians 6:19.  You are in charge of guarding your eye and ear gates!  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and so you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to guard what enters your mind and thoughts.  You cannot always prevent ungodly thoughts from entering your mind but you say “no” to these thoughts.  Remember that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” Romans 8:37.   You are in charge of keeping yourself victorious through the power of the Lord who lives in you!

You are a Winner!

When you received Jesus as your personal Savior, you became a gatekeeper in charge of whatever enters your eyes and ears and resides in your thoughts.  “The gatekeepers…are entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of the Lord,” 1 Chronicles 9:26.

When you received Jesus as your personal Savior the power of God entered you and bestowed on you Jesus’ ability to defeat impure thoughts, discouragement, attraction to sin and everything else that is ungodly.  You are a house of God in which he dwells by his Spirit.  You can defeat every thought that is against the Lord and his Word and his will.  He empowers you by his Spirit to destroy every ungodly feeling, idea or attraction that touches you.

Yes, we cannot control everything we hear and see, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can reject all these impure thoughts from residing in us.  Jesus’ presence in you equips you with his super human ability to defeat every thought that damages your relationship with the Lord.  When God assigns divine responsibility to us, he accompanies the responsibility with divine power to guard the godly life he entrusted to us.  Jesus in us is more than a match for all Satan throws in our path.  We keep our bodies and our minds sinless through the irresistible power of Jesus who lives in us!

Be greatly encouraged,

Pastor James Fields

Returning to the Primary Purpose of Tongues

What Does The Bible Say About Speaking In TonguesThe apostle Paul pointed out to the Corinthian believers that he valued his ability to speak in tongues.  “I thank God that I speak in [strange] tongues more than…all of you put together,” 1 Corinthians 14:18 AMP.  On the other hand, he made it plain to the church that he rarely spoke in tongues during church meetings.  “In the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue,” 1 Corinthians 14:19.

If Paul spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians put together and yet didn’t speak in tongues in church meetings, when did he speak in strange languages?  Well, obviously he spoke in tongues during his private time with the Lord.  Not only that, but his claim that he spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians put together required him to employ tongues a lot.  Why did he bother with tongues?  Why did he thank God that he spoke in tongues outside the church walls?  Paul understood the primary purpose of tongues!

Speaking to God from the Human Spirit

“If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays,” Paul testified (1 Corinthians 14:14). Through tongues the Holy Spirit equips the human spirit to commune with God who is spirit.  Basically, the Holy Spirit gives a voice to the human spirit so it can pour forth praise and adoration for Jesus.

On the Jewish festival day of Pentecost, one hundred and twenty of our Lord’s followers gathered in Jerusalem.  “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them,” Acts 2:4.  The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to speak from their human spirits.  What were they saying?  Acts 2:11 concisely records that the 120 were “declaring the wonders of God….”  They were praising the Lord, not with their minds, but with their spirits.

Brother Paul loved Jesus supremely.  Nevertheless, he found it impossible to adequately express his feelings for Jesus from only his extensive human vocabulary.  So Paul, like the believers on the day of Pentecost, spoke his admiration of Jesus from his human spirit as the Holy Spirit supplied him with limitless vocabulary.  How good it felt to speak the overflowing love for Jesus that dwelt in his heart!

When by himself Paul communed with the Lord using both his mind and his human spirit.  “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind,” 1 Corinthians 14:15.  His mind and spirit took turns worshipping his redeemer who mercifully met him on the road to Damascus.  This undemonstrative communion with Jesus satisfied his spirit’s need for the Lord’s presence.

Focusing on the Primary Purpose of Tongues

“Anyone who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God,” Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 14:2).  How plain can it be?  Tongues are primarily for communing with God, not speaking messages to people.

The immature Corinthian believers misused the gift of tongues in church. As a result, Paul recorded detailed rules governing the use of tongues during public meetings.  These guidelines occupy the majority of 1 Corinthians Chapters 12 and 14.

Consequently, many modern era Christians mainly focus their attention on the gift of tongues.  Regrettably, this stress on tongues during public meetings diverts our attention from the primary purpose of tongues.  Then we devalue the importance of tongues as a means of communing with God from the human spirit.

Many dear Christians who experience the baptism with the Holy Spirit speak in tongues when initially filled with the Spirit.  After that, they use tongues less and less.  This neglect of our God given ability to speak to the Lord from the human spirit robs us of the benefits of using tongues in private.

Unrestrainable Joy

Paul experienced huge disappointments and massive doses of physical pain.  He stated, “I have…been in prison…frequently, been flogged…severely, been exposed to death again and again,” 2 Corinthians 11:23.  We would naturally expect Paul to drag from one degree of depression to another.  However, he plainly declared, “In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds,” 2 Corinthians 7:4.  Where was the depression?  How could he experience unrestrainable joy when Christians disappointed him and unbelievers tortured him?

Part of the answer lies in his frequent use of tongues.  Paul pointed out, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself,” 1 Corinthians 14:4. Speaking from his spirit in languages supplied by the Holy Spirit reinvigorated Paul’s God-given joy.  His joy didn’t originate in this world, his circumstances or his feelings.  Joy that flowed from the throne of God sustained his unbounded happiness!  It’s the same with us in the twenty-first century.

Due to legal blindness, I lost my driver’s license when only 29 years old.  By age 34 I began using electronic recorders for achieving more and more of my office work.  My secretary printed my sermon outlines in ever larger letters.  Many other setbacks have occurred in my personal life and ministry because of my decreasing vision.  I admit that depression and discouragement often attempted to smother my determination to continue in ministry.  Fortunately, during my early twenties I began daily using tongues during my private communion with the Lord.  As a result, I experienced Holy Spirit edification that beat back attacks of despondency and despair.

I think that many ministers of the Gospel have failed to latch on to 1 Corinthians 14:4: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.”  They miss the self-edifying effect of partnering their spirit with the Holy Spirit in tongues.  In partnership with the Holy Spirit, our spirits praise, magnify and glorify the God in whose presence is the fullness of joy.  These expressions of our delight in God allow superhuman joy to flood our feelings and our thoughts.  Depression loses its grip on our hearts and minds and “in all our troubles [our] joy knows no bounds.”

Self edification isn’t selfish. The Lord who placed us in ministry edifies us by his presence so we can edify others by his power.  Let’s return to the primary purpose of tongues and use our spirits in communing with the God who depends on us to bless people.

Be greatly encouraged,

Pastor James Fields

May I suggest my book Demystifying Speaking in Tongues if you would like to learn more about this gift from our Heavenly Father.  Click here to order it for $5.00 plus shipping and handling.

Identifying the Spirit of Antichrist

Open BibleThe Bible predicts a miraculous event commonly referred to as the rapture. “We who are.. .alive.. .will be caught up.. .to meet the Lord in the air,” 1 Thessalonians 4:17. However, this catching away of God’s people does not shield us from the many anti-Jesus deceptions present in the world today.

Scripture predicts a world government headed by a man called Antichrist. Before this evil person arrives on earth, “Many antichrists [will] come. This is how we know it is the last hour,” 1 John 2:18. Let’s consider Jesus’ warnings regarding deceptions advanced by the spirit of antichrist:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many,” Matthew 24:4-5.

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christ’s and false prophets
will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it,” Matthew 24:23-26.

We must learn to identify the spirit of antichrist who currently stalks planet earth!

BIbleFirst Declaration Made by the Spirit of Antichrist: The Bible Isn’t God’s Word

Every person and every group controlled by the spirit of antichrist claims that the Bible is merely a book written by humans. This assertion isn’t surprising.  In Genesis 3 the supreme deceiver attacked the validity of God’s Word. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

First, Satan insinuated doubt about God’s Words: “Did God really say?” Second, Satan distorted God’s Word: “You must not eat from any tree in the garden.” God actually said to Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” Genesis 2:16-17.

Genesis 3 exposes the pattern the spirit of antichrist always uses—deny the Bible is God’s Word and distort it. What does the Bible say about itself?

“The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets” (Exodus 32:16 ).

“I wrote for them the many things of my law” (Hosea 8:12).

“Jesus replied.. .These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (John 14:23-24).

“Every Scripture is God-breathed—given by his inspiration” (2 Timothy 3:16 Amplified).

“These are the true words of God” (Revelation 19:9).

“He who was seated on the throne saidthese words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

God handpicked various men who served as his co-laborers in recording Scripture. “Understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” 2 Peter 1:20-21.

In summary, Scripture is the reliable Word of the Creator of the Universe. There is no writing from either ancient or present times remotely equivalent to Scripture. Therefore, everyone who declares their word equals Scripture is of the spirit of antichrist. Everyone who changes the meaning of Scripture is under the control of the spirit of antichrist. Scripture means what it says and says what it means.

Second Declaration Made by the Spirit of Antichrist: Jesus is not God in a Human Body

 Verses in 1st and 2nd John clearly expose another deceptive teaching of the spirit of antichrist.

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. The spirit of the antichrist…even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:2-3).

“Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

Jesus’ humanity is absolutely essential to God’s plan for creation. In the man Christ Jesus, heavenly Father exalted a human to lordship over all things. When we repent of our sins and submit to Jesus’ lordship, we participate in Jesus’ exaltation. “God…seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6. The Spirit of antichrist hates this because our enthronement dethrones him!

The spirit of antichrist always alleges that Scripture is not God’s Word and Jesus isn’t God’s Son. Each teaching depends on the other. If Scripture is invalid, then Jesus’ claims to deity are untrue. Conversely, if Jesus’ words are unreliable, then Scripture is undependable. Every human is free to determine truth. Basically this teaching goes back to Satan’s lie in Genesis 3:5, “You will be like God.”

 Satan desires equality with God. In reality, he regards equality as superiority to God. In the same way, the spirit of antichrist seeks to elevate its teachings above Scripture. This so-called superior teaching downgrades Jesus to a mere mortal like every other human. For example, a Hindu can easily fit Jesus into his pantheon of innumerable gods; Jesus is just a good teacher who lived about 2,000 years ago.

During these days of rampant deception, we trust “him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and great joy,” Jude 24.

Be greatly encouraged,

Pastor James Fields

 

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