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Friday, September 30, 2011

Do you get distracted easily?

Trying to keep an infant distracted is an art mastered by most fathers. This is especially true when trying to soothe a crying baby or trying to calm her whilst mum is busy with other chores. I read somewhere which mentioned that the Greek word for distraction means to draw away. It is literally drawing away the attention from an original purpose, goal, direction, position, interest, or association.

Distraction is a powerful tool employed by the enemy of our souls in attempts to steer our focus and vision away from their rightful direction. It is powerful because all it takes is a small, minor distraction and before long, we can be miles away from pursuing the right goal in the right direction. Distractions come in a variety of shapes and forms and they usually 'visit' us unannounced through the subtle engineering of circumstances that do not appear to be anything out of the norm.

We are told in the Scriptures that the eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22). Proverbs 29:18 also tells us that without revelation or vision, we perish. The picture of Samson's eyes being gouged out by the Philistines speaks a thousand words to the discerning soul. He lost his anointing and physical vision because of his inability to deal with 'distractions'. His Nazirite calling and vocation appear to be perishing but in God's great mercies, we read of his penitent soul and an unexpected ending to his story. Perhaps, not as graphic as Samson's account, many today are also in the danger of being distracted without realizing that they have fallen prey to the crafty tool of distraction employed by the adversary. I just read from an email that I received a few days ago which highlighted the danger of distraction: -
We are living in the last days of God’s timetable for the world. We have no time to waste on any distractions. We can’t afford to be delayed, detoured or distracted from fulfilling our destinies. Even a short delay can be fatal to those following us, as well as to the generations at risk that will be impacted by us.

A few examples of how distractions can come in a very subtle manner are as follows: -

(a) an out-of-balance prosperity gospel teaching. If all we care about is prosperity and blessings (motivated by selfish greed), perhaps a fine tuning of our vision and focus at this juncture of our lives would be necessary to keep us re-aligned to God's purpose and calling for our lives.

(b) the popular, yet twisted teaching of grace. If grace is only 'viewed' as a means of enriching and pampering our self at the expense of God's holiness and righteousnes, such a lopsided emphasis of grace has become another form of distraction to many honest but gullible minds.

(c) an obsession of social and political concerns to the point of neglecting the weightier matters of the kingdom. We can fall into the danger of making light of the love of our God, as demonstrated in the sufferings and death of His Son.

(d) an obsession of physical manifestations including signs and wonders at the expense of the pre-eminence of Christ and glorifying God in righteous and holy living.

We are not denying that God desires to prosper His people and shower His extravagant grace on His people. In fact, each child of God has an important prophetic part to play in the earthly place and boundary God has placed him or her. Further, there is no doubt that there is going to be a mighty move of God in the last days that will increase the frequency and magnitude of God's awesome power through signs, wonders and miracles. But, keeping first things first is of utmost importance and when we put all our attention and energy on what seems to be "the good" in our eyes, we may miss out on "the best" of what God has prepared for us since "the good is always the enemy of the best." And "the good" becomes a distraction to us from having "the best."

Perhaps the more common form of distractions would be the day-to-day busyness of our routine lives. Sometimes, we allow the happenings in a day to edge out times set apart for God. We have somehow allowed circumstances to dictate our lives and little by little, we just drift along in life, being swayed by which ever wind that blows our way, having no sense of divine direction and purpose in life.

A time of shaking is coming to the nations and if we are constantly swayed by the various winds of distractions and our relationship with God is not firmly established in Him, we may not find ourselves in perfect peace when the perfect storm hits our shores. The Lord our God promised us that He will keep us in perfect peace whose eye (mind) is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3). We are also exhorted in Hebrews 12 to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us. And we can only be on this path when we fix our eyes, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Christ Himself has set the example for us to follow. He could have been distracted by the deceptive snares of the devil in the wilderness. Or He could have easily been swayed by the attempts of His disciples to establish an earthly kingdom and overthrow the then ruling kingdom. But, we read that He kept His eyes on His Father and the mission His Father entrusted Him with.

It is not difficult to return to the place of undistracted stillness in our walk with God. Make time and space for us to bare our souls before God in sincerity and humility. Like a longing father waiting to embrace his wayward child, our Heavenly Father longs to embrace us and keep us in His embrace. In times of communion with Him, He will whisper in our ears the areas that require alignment and adjustment so that by implementing His instructions, we may once again be walking in the path He has prepared for us. Are you distracted? Draw near to God and you will not be drawn away.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rosh Hashanah 5772

This year, Rosh Hashana (literally, "head of the year") marks the Jewish year 5772, which began at sunset Wednesday and ends at nightfall Friday. Interestingly, it is both a celebration of the Jewish New Year as well as a time of reflection and repentance. Unlike our Gregorion calendar, the New Year is actually not the first month in the Hebrew calendar, rather the first two days in the seventh month, known as Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah takes place 10 days before Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur), and many use this time to ponder, reflect and meditate, especially throughout whas is known as the 10 days of reflection. During the 10-day period, many will seek forgiveness from those they have wronged in preparation of Day of Atonement.

Little did I know that God has prepared a couple of divine appointments with Him during this time of the year. Firstly, a day before Rosh Hashanah, I attended a meeting where an evangelist from Pakistan was scheduled to minister. I have not heard him speak before but as he began to share from the Word, you just know that you are listening to a humble, servant of the Most High God. It was a simple yet penetrating message that spoke to my heart indeed. But the icing on the cake was when he ministered prophetically to everyone personally. I whispered in my heart, asking the Lord to speak a timely word that I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear. Then, beyond my expectation, the evangelist released a word of knowledge about something very personal that touches my heart deeply. Somehow, knowing that God speaks something so personal to you through a total stranger brings a fresh revelation of God's love for you. And together with the word of knowledge, he released a timely word of encouragement from the throne room of God. Amen and hallelujah!! What a great God we serve.

On the next day, I received an sms in the morning from a dear pastor that his church was hosting the last meeting of a series of meetings with a couple from South America whom my wife and myself have last met about five years ago. Cutting a long story short, armed with the Lord's divine confirmation, favour and arrangement, I drove about 144km to attend the meeting with my wife and children in the evening. It was a joyous ocassion to be re-united with the dear pastor and family as well as the South American pastors. My wife and myself were tremendously blessed by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through His servants and again, God spoke to us in an intimate manner. All glory to God!

If you are reading this post now, believe that God has also arranged His little surprises to bless you as you seek Him today, especially during this period of time. It is a time that God will bring to your remembrance, the great and precious inheritance you have in Christ Jesus in your life. There may be dreams, aspirations and visions that God has planted within you in the past but they have been buried deep in the valley of disappointments, disillusionments and discouragements. Fret not, for this is the time, dry bones shall live again! It is the Lord's desire to visit our valley of dry bones today even as He will open the doors for us to enter into the next phase or the next season that He has prepared for us.

Yes, undoubtedly, we are living in the midst of shakings all around us. Tremendous change is taking place at every level of life that we know. And things are happening at a frightening pace. In the midst of this increasing deep darkness, there are also a lot of spiritual activities amongst the remnant of His people, His bride. Now is the time for us to be equipped and be prepared as we allow the Lord to work in us as He builds His ark within us. Now is the time to seek Him while He may be found. Let's set aside the next couple of days to seek Him with all our hearts and also a time of reflection and repentance. As we ask, seek and knock before the throne of God, certainly doors that have been shut in the past will be opened to us for there is no denying that now is also the appointed time to know the goodness of the Lord and that His love endures forever.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holy Spirit or Power Spirit?

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)" Apart from John 3:16, this is another oft-quoted verse, especially amongst Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians. We cannot deny that Christendom has lost somewhat the dunamis (dynamite) power of God in our every day living and ministry. We'd like to make reference to the demonstration of God's power during the times of the apostles in the book of Acts. Our hearts would often skip a beat when we listen to testimonies of the demonstration of God's power in far-away lands.

Surely, we are living in a kairos time where we are going to witness the greatest outpouring of the glory of God in the history of mankind as we enter the last days. Mighty signs, wonders and outrageous miracles will no longer be a domain for the select few but just as prophesied by Joel, it shall come to pass a day when the Holy Spirit shall be poured out upon ALL flesh.

However, in our pressing in into the Kingdom of God and praying and believing for breakthroughs and revivals, have we somewhat lost the understanding of the true identity of our God and inherited a mixed identity of the Spirit of God instead? Have we been guilty of reducing the Holy Spirt to just a Power Spirit? Does the end justify the means? Just because a person could display an array of the gifts of the Spirit, can we then justify his or her less-than-exemplary character or lifestyle? Surely, we are not in a position to judge another but how do we then reconcile such incompatibility in the light of the nature of Christ? These are valid questions that we should confront and honestly ask ourselves.

We have to be aware of the two pronged strategy of the adversary towards believers today. The enemy of our soul is the father of lies and would attempt at every opportunity to corrupt the intended work and purpose of God among His people. Firstly, the spirit of this age has lulled many Christians to sleep and to be complacent with their spiritual lives. The indifference of the younger generation and the complacency of the older generation are signs that the spirit of the age have penetrated believers worldwide. Will it be too late for us to realize that we are after all seeking a curse camouflaging as a blessing? Would it grieve our souls to realize how much of the world is inside us compared to the degree of Christ possessing our lives?

On the other hand, the influx of half-truth doctrines in churches today is alarming and errors have been spreading like wildfire. The passage in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 is taking place right before our eyes today, i.e. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." Undoubtedly, we are living in times when God is pouring out His revelation and mysteries of the Kingdom of God are being unfolded to us but we would be naive to be thinking that the adversary of our souls would merely sit still to watch what God is doing.

We serve and worship a holy God. Nothing can subtract the holiness of God. We may be more interested in power and prosperity but God is interested in His pure and spotless bride. His bride will be gloriously beautiful indeed for God will not withold any good thing from His bride. But we should not lose sight of our holy God. The Spirit of God is FIRST, the HOLY SPIRIT of God. As much as we desire the power of God manifested in our midst, we must come to the realization that holiness is His nature. It is His desire that His bride be holy, just as He is holy. The priority of the workings and dealings of our God in our lives is the fruit of the Spirit. Yes, He is more interested in our character, our walk with Him, our relationship with Him. Our "being" precedes our "doing". There is a call to a deeper consecration for the body of Christ in this hour. It is a call to welcome the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and purge us from everything that is not of Him. Oh yes, we may have surrendered our lives to Him but He is calling us deeper and His demands of love are knocking at the doors of our hearts.

Christ Himself could say that "the ruler of this world has found nothing in Me" (John 14:30). As we allow His grace to work in our hearts to purify our motives and intents and search into the depths of our hearts - perhaps we could also echo the words of Jesus that our adversary has nothing in us. When the Word (Jesus, the word manifested) and the Spirit (alighting in the likeness of a dove) were in union during the baptism of Jesus, there was an open heaven and the commissioning of the public ministry of Jesus, signalling a new page in the history of mankind. We are also at the verge of entering a new chapter in this time and season we are living in. Let us consecrate ourselves to God and allow Him to work in us towards Christ-likeness. Allow Him to bring forth a revolution of His holiness among His people in preparation of the great outpouring of His glory. And the bride of Christ shall indeed arise and shine in purity and power. Come Holy Spirit!

Monday, September 19, 2011

My kingdom is not of this world

Jesus made a remarkable statement in John 18:36 when He told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Indeed, how relevant is this statement for us to ponder and reflect upon today! If Jesus were to walk on our lands today, He would have resisted numerous attempts from well-meaning Christians to install him as the leader of a political party to overthrow other wicked governments around us.

Many Christians today are both distracted and peer-pressured by the political happenings around them. As much as we are called to be salt and light of the earth and to pray for all that are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2), we are not to be sucked into the conforming pressure of worldly political demands. In Daniel 2, we read and understand that it is God who sets up kings and removes kings. We also read throughout the history of God's people in the Scriptures that earthly kings and governments are but the vessels He used to fulfill His eternal plan and purpose.

My heart has been recently troubled by the overzealousness of some Christian leaders and Christians who have shifted their devotion from God and from what He has called them to do in pursuit of a change of worldly political government and at the same time elevating political affiliations and inclinations in the name of upholding justice and righteousness. As people of God, we are those who should know better that true righteousness and justice are only to be found in Christ alone. Let us not be deceived into thinking that the answer to a nation's problems lies in the natural political realm. I am so delighted to read Wade Taylor's recent short message that he sent out which aptly describes our condition today (italics mine):-

We are living in the time of transition from the rule of Gentile world powers, into the Millennial Kingdom of God. These Gentile world powers are in a process of decreasing, and the Millennial Kingdom is beginning to increase. Most of the Lord's people have their eyes set on the Gentile world governments, and are praying and seeking ways to bring correction. But instead, we should consecrate our prayers and attention on the developing government of the Kingdom of God, as the Gentile world governments are in the process of being brought to an end.

Yes, we have a part to play as His prophetic people on this earth but we are to be aware of the danger of us falling into the trap of being distracted from our supernatural and spiritual calling and destiny in Him and not to be overwhelmed by a natural cause propagated by this world. When we are distracted and begin to also be conformed to the wordly demands and priorities around us, we are in danger of the warning in Jeremiah 17:5, i.e. "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD."

A few weeks ago, whilst browsing a church's webpage on the Internet, I was attracted to one particular sermon title that reads something like this: "The Holy Spirit is the hope of [name of nation]" How simplistic yet true! The title is indeed true for every nation in this world. Romans 8:19 tells us that, "the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19)." We are living in a time and season where we cannot afford to be distracted and fall short to heed what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to His people today. Lest we forget, the very prophetic words of Christ uttered two thousand years ago should ring loud and clear in our hearts today, i.e. to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness(Matthew 6:33a)." Let us return to seek Him with all our hearts.