Monday, August 4

Will you burn for Him?

"But the Lord said to him [Ananias], Go, for this man [Saul] is a chosen instrument of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the descendants of Israel; For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name's sake." Acts 9:15-16 (AMP).

Ananias, a faithful believer, couldn't believe that God would call one of the most notorious killers of the brethren to be one of the greatest apostles for His glory, but God did and Ananias went forward under God's direction to help in the process of redeeming Saul of Tarsus. If Ananias wouldn't have stepped out in faith, what would've become of this killer of Christians? When moments come up in your life that call for more faith than you believe you have and more capabilities than you have been graced with, what do you do?

Hide or step out, knowing that God in large and in charge and even in your mistakes you can be a vessel for God's grace, even if you are the one to partake of it's redeeming power.

"We need men of the Spirit—empowered and operating out of the dynamic of the promise and reality of that which Christ promised in the Upper Room," Bob Beltz, writer, speaker and film producer remarks, "and delivered on the day of Pentecost."

"Movement, despite fear." my mentor, Scott Engelmann, Spiritual Director of Awakened Hearts which operates the "Men Mentoring Men" ministry I attend. Moving in chaos, defining order and beauty, is what man was created for, to which his warrior heart calls out for; adventure, rescue, and defiance: of the evil one and his plans for all humanity.

Where are these men today?

I felt the call of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so many years ago it seems. It has consumed my passions since, following hard on God's heels…… What 'pushed' me over the edge wasn't an emotional swelling of the breast or a thought of abilities used for my own glory...I have experienced those things in the years since, when speaking of the "Call", until God has weaned such out of me....painfully, and purposefully...but rather God Himself speaking to me. "This is what I want you to do for me."

I have put my trust in those who lead, in the churches, in the councils, and in the ministries to which I've been pointed to with God's direction. I have had forced growth in some areas of my life because of those influences, I've endured some suffering and some humiliation also because of those influences, and rejection....also, because of those influences. I have found that those who are attuned to God's purpose for them can see God's purpose for me; those who are in the business of doing church, who are led away from God's ideal, don't and are the loudest scoffers.

Those voices, the ones who say "You aren't qualified, You aren't 'spiritual'" have hurt the most and done the most damage to my desire to follow God's purpose. And in those times, I have found my hope dwindled, my wilderness full of thorns and thistles, my temperament tried and found lacking. Even despite a few fellow soldiers who sent encouragement my way:

"This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit." Jeremiah 17:5-8 (New Living Translation)

But I've always gotten back up and struggled on....imperfectly, brokenly, and sometimes, with heartfelt grumblings under my breath.

I've had my Ananias....before he stepped out in faith, arguing about the wisdom of the mission....and I've had those who would stand around me like the ones who found the harlot and brought her to Jesus to be stoned, per the Law. I've had, and still do, my Barnabas...much like Paul did, who has stood for me within the councils of the leaderships. And I've had my Barnabas turn into an Ananias (after he stepped out in faith), helping me restore my lost sight..."One day, I will have the honor of watching you teach from a pulpit, Jim."

I've had my High Priests, Sadducees and Pharisees; speaking to me of the laws men have set, gained from the principles and laws God commanded, and used as grounds for the refusal of my "Call". The redemptive, restoring process is something they see as an overnight thing, and until it is complete, God cannot move.

Still I wait, not for God to move....although we've had discussions about His timing and my impatience before.....but for man to finally accept the 'Call' God Himself has placed upon me, for I know that is where my true 'happy job' lies; behind a pulpit, teaching what God would have me preach instead of what man wants to hear. I have watched too many of the faithful leadership of the 'universal' church fall, unchecked by their fellows, into the gallows of conviction by congregation because they have listened to the standards set by man that no man can achieve.

That 'acceptance' will come, maybe not in the lifetime that I have left in this body....but it will. Either in that time or at the throne. Such denial doesn't release me from the call I've answered. It doesn't dampen the desire to follow, the fervent prayer to honor and bring what small glory such service at the hands such as mine would bring to God, or even the frustration.

Craig Fryar, executive vice president of Torquin, LLC, an Austin, Texas-based pharmaceutical discovery and IP (internet protocol) development company, says: "Becoming more aware of the overall process of being refined and purified provides us with a powerful perspective on our current situation. It also allows us to rise above the noise level of the particulars of the day. Those of us who keep our cool and stay true in the midst of extreme difficulties will influence many around us through our example."

But to become 'more aware', as Fryar said, we have to regain that knowledge given when we took our first breath after our rebirth in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, like those before us and the twelve apostles on that day of Pentecost so long ago...........

We are 'beloved' sons and daughters of the Most High. And in His eternal view, we are saints--fully righteous and invested in the rewards of the Kingdom. And it is that knowledge, of what we will become in the fullness of time that helps us defy the enemy's plan to derail us through deceit and distortion. Sinners, yes, who have experienced the Father's love.

Much like a true earthly father, who allows his children to experience their own failures, struggles, and reaching for higher goals; sometimes falling flat and sometimes attaining so much more, who loves them even when they disobey or commit sin. Who has a plan, hopes, and dreams of each success but acknowledging there will be failures, but knowing what we will become. Sinners, who will be saints, knowing that when we stand before our God and King, we will have experienced the fullness of life, and found in our Savior the talent and skill to make it to the end.

We are victors, fighting a war already won. But each day we gather ourselves under the protective armor of the warrior; helmet, sword, shield, breastplate and the determination of a chosen, and wage into the darkness complete and thick a battle for the souls of those still being wounded, sometimes by our very own blades, and consumed by the sin that governs their souls so that they cannot see God.

"The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.' Psalm 37:23-24 (NASB)

I remember when my son was born, lying in an incubator. So big, yet premature right at the 'viability' of life at 33 weeks. Because of his prematurity, we had to give him additional help in learning what comes naturally to some newborns....walking, running, and so on. Though some of the problems were his cognitive impairment, such 'physical therapy' was typical for preemies. I can remember helping him learn to walk.....when he was going to fall....he never hit the ground, for my hand had his firmly grasped. And he heard before he would even try, "Go ahead, Daddy's got you. You won't fall. And if you do, I'll catch you."

Step out…..small at first, but larger and larger as you realize what you are pursuing….

"Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. Mark 10:28-30 (New Living Translation)"

There is nothing more valuable in this world, than the pursuit of the hope. There no greater thing you can do than to show that to the world. You will fall, hard sometimes and barely at other moments……but remember….

My heavenly Father is no less able to catch me in my fall. In fact, He is prepared; knowing when I am going to fall, and when to hold back just a that I may learn not to fear that sensation of falling....knowing He will catch me before harm can come to me.

"God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering" (Genesis 41:52).

In 1501 Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus) wrote, “I am only a most unworthy sinner, but ever since I have cried out for grace and mercy from the Lord, they have covered me completely. I have found the most delightful comfort in making it my whole aim in life to enjoy his marvelous presence.”

Much like the mighty King David, who has been known as the 'man after God's own heart', Columbus had human failings and sins even after this moment in 1501…..yet, he continued to be consumed by the passion to spread the gospel.

He gained his fame, fortune, and lose it, regain it, and struggle within it all of his life.

"But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering." (Romans 8:17).

We seem to create ways around suffering….we would rather have the share of the glory than to deal with the suffering. We try to make money buy our way out of it, good works to cover our time in it, or even make deals with God concerning the outcome of it. But trials and tribulation shake the faith, and our souls cry out in despair and torment because we feel consumed, ignored, and helpless. Righteous or evil, flames bear the same heat in our minds……

Where are the men who stood against false doctrines, false beliefs, and were so secure in their identity as 'beloved sons' of God that not even the flames of a furnace could move them….even if God didn't 'deliver' what they expected…..?

"[Then] Nebuchadnezzar said to them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, dulcimer or bagpipe, and every kind of music to fall down and worship the image which I have made, very good. But if you do not worship, you shall be cast at once into the midst of a burning fiery furnace, and who is that god who can deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, it is not necessary for us to answer you on this point. If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up!" Daniel 3:14-17(Amplified Bible)

Men who will stand upon the promises and deliverance of God, despite the raging fires of persecutions. Who will accept nothing less than the call of God in whatever purpose He has for them, be it ministry to the flock, outreach to the lost, or even serving in the highest capacity a man can serve: Father.

Men who will not accept false doctrines and will make a stand upon the Rock.

Men who will move despite fear and uncertainty.

Where are these men today?

I may never stand before a congregation and fearfully lead them in the ways of the Lord. I may never be called upon within the Army of the Lord to stand with many against the coming horde of the enemy.

I may stand alone.

But I've heard the gentle whisper of my King, listened to His instruction and have given my will freely to Him for use in bringing His glory to the darkness of other men's hearts. I cannot do anything less even in the midst of trials and tribulation.
He gives me those who will help sustain me in this journey, who will lift up and exhort me, and who will call me into account when I stray.

And I know that when I stand before the judgment, I will be called to task for that which I failed to do and given my reward for those things I have successfully, by the grace of God, done well.

Can you say the same? Do you face the fiery furnace of those who would deny your faith?

What will be your response?

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