Strongholds of the mind

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strongholds of the mindSpiritual strongholds of the mind

When the Bible talks about spiritual warfare, it uses the imagery of mental battlefields and strongholds of the mind. The main battlefield of spiritual warfare is the human mind and each area of defeat corresponds to the foundation on which Satan internally constructs strongholds in our lives. Normally these evil strongholds lodge themselves in our thoughts and manifest themselves through various mentalities.

One of the literal definitions of these spiritual “strongholds” of the mind is “A spiritual building constructed by thoughts established through successive arguments, which give shelter to evil spirits of a corresponding nature”.

The enemy builds his spiritual strongholds with mental walls of thought and mentalities that he erects on top of feelings of failure, impotency and desperation that come upon us as consequences of the sins that we have committed. This occurs when we permit arguments that base themselves on the inability to avoid what we clearly know is against God’s will to remain in our minds.

Each time that we unsuccessfully face temptation, we lower our guard, successively removing each part of our spiritual armor and allowing sin to enter our lives. Eventually we become defenseless, like a city without walls before what appears to be a solid and irresistible effort of the enemy in infiltrating our mind.

Because of this, some Christians lead a traumatized sentimental life, progressively breaking principles and wounding relationships; others suffocating their financial lives by multiplying debts, committing fraud and suffering loss; still others fail in marriage due to hidden adultery or unresolved sexual problems.

In other words, each time that similar types of temptation confront these people, they yield to it and the temptation becomes stronger and stronger, building up a spiritual conditioning that develops into sinful bonds, chains and spiritual captivity. Again, the definition of a spiritual fortress of the mind is a deep spiritual state of despair and unbelief in which the infected person sustains arguments that he or she knows are clearly contrary to the known will of God. When this happens, an existential crisis begins to establish itself between knowledge and life and knowledge and practice, or in other words, an inability to add faith and obedience to the truth. The only thing that remains is a deep sensation of intense spiritual inferiority and depression, which causes the person to tolerate defeat. We must teach those who struggle in these areas that they can and must overcome these feelings!

The source of pain – the principle of healing

The source of pain is precisely that situation that has deeply wounded our memory, which we recall with anguishing shame, and at the same time, with indescribable anger or indifference. This origin of pain corresponds to an extremely sensitive area of our psyche, where we do not want anyone to draw near. This is the deepest point of the cycle of chronic reproof.

We try to protect ourselves in every way and from all people, even from God. However, God desires to touch us precisely at the point where we do not want anybody to reach. This is where the healing must occur. The principle in play and the possibility of healing, reside at the source of the pain. Without exposing the source of the pain, repentance or a change of thinking and challenge to spiritual strongholds of the mind that imprison the person, become impossible.

The great redemptive strike against shame and guilt is simply to expose them through confession to people who have a divine anointing to pray for us. Confession, reconciliation and restitution accompany all repentance and genuine desire for change.


Spiritualization of emotional wounds

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Spiritualization of emotional woundsSpiritual Warfare and emotional wounds

In the last post: The prison of emotional trauma I compared the Christian’s spiritual battle to a boxing match in which one of the two fighters is repeatedly pummeled by the opponent. God always gives us the means to gain the upper hand in the conflict but often Christians become victims and suffer devastating trauma in the conflict. Even though the situation does not seem to be very serious on the surface, and others may not even imagine what is happening inside, the person feels the pain grow deeper and deeper each time he suffers defeat and failure in testing.

Repeated failure imposes a slow process of spiritual death on people. This explains the apathy and spiritual depression that assails many people’s lives. Trauma has the terrible power to penetrate the soul progressively each time that a person goes through it. In the same proportion that the pain deepens and becomes rooted in the soul, many harmful behavioral tendencies begin to manifest themselves. It is merely a matter of cause and effect, of roots and fruit. From this a subtle process of spiritualizing hurts begins to emerge.

Imagine a person involved in alcoholism, drugs, immorality, etc., who has just converted. Together with a conversion to Christ, he or she also receives the label of “believer”. Many people in the church superficially define a believer as someone who does not drink, smoke, go to bars and nightclubs, no longer practices immorality, etc. of course these things should be avoided, but not by imposing abstinence to satisfy the newly adopted religious pattern without considering the root causes that sustain them.

For example, let us suppose that a new convert has suffered the painful process of conjugal infidelity, or suffered violent sexual abuse in childhood. The resulting residual pain lodged in his or her wounded memory not only nurtures sinful bonds, but also demonic influences that begin to manifest themselves in his or her behavior.

As long as this shame is not removed by an adequate and sufficiently deep treatment, the person continues to subject themselves to various types of defense mechanisms and compensation in pursuit of relief from the emotional and moral pain that is felt, that all which only reinforces the spiritual problems that he or she is confronted with.

Since this person has now become a believer, feeling obligated to abandon worldly behaviors, the tendency is to migrate from “worldly vices” to “Christian vices. Some take refuge in music, others in church related activities, and others in theological study, etc. We can call this the spiritualization of emotional wounds, it is very common but also very destructive.

We commit a grave mistake in discipleship when we only deal with people’s sins and vices without dealing with the emotional pain and moral shame that these people carry. We cut off the plant while leaving the roots intact. Naturally the problem will return to manifest itself, except now in a more “Christian” and “spiritual” manner since the sap proceeds from a contaminated root.

An intense religious activism arises from this root of shame and pain. Although such people become tremendously cordial and helpful, their inspiration comes from emotional need and an anguishing attempt to make up for or cover up the shame that they feel. At the same time that these people attempt to serve God’s purposes, they also find themselves under a strong demonic oppression.

The truth is that this religious activism is spiritually passive. It is the disguise of the wound. As impressive as a person can be in what they accomplish, spiritually speaking, everything that they do produces minimum results in the spiritual world. A sick motivation destroys spiritual effectiveness of those who try to work for God. No matter how much a person grows in position due to his or her activism, his or her spiritual life is undermined and their work is compromised.

This speed of defeat and fragility acts as a dormant weapon that can be activated when a person begins to react and threaten the spiritual scheme imposed by the enemy. As long as the person remains quiet, in darkness, all is well. The enemy may even permit a certain growth. However, when this person begins to react and to do something that represents a threat, Satan activates his stronghold by attacking the person’s weak and vulnerable points.

These types of situations are unfortunately very common. People are put forth and promoted too fast and all the sudden a great scandal destroys everything. Those who neglect to recognize this settled scheme of spiritualizing wounds remain clueless: wondering how that person who was so spiritual, so active, fell in such a grave and absurd mistake.


The prison of emotional trauma

Prison of emotional trauma

Emotional trauma in the life of God’s people invariably weakens the personality while at the same time compromises the formation of character. I will be more specific by saying that the deeper the trauma, the greater the hypersensitivity, withdrawal and vulnerability. This is tragic because God has given his people ample provision to live in freedom and victory and the strength and stamina to run through enemy lines on the spiritual battlefield of life. God wants to keep us free from all prisons including the prison of emotional trauma.

Unfortunately however, emotional trauma is a common symptom among God’s people. This sequence establishes a strategy of attack in which Satan casts us into an emotional abyss, a prison of emotional trauma. This “spiral of reproof” pulls us in to this emotional prison, with the strength of a tornado.

Cellmates in the prison of emotional trauma

Hypersensitivity

Whenever we sustain a wound on part of our body, any touch or nudge no matter how slight can be extremely painful. Just as we become hypersensitive when we suffer repeated physical blows on the same part of the body, we become emotionally hypersensitive when we suffer repeated rejection or other emotional hurts. This chronic emotional hypersensitivity then becomes part of our personality thus locking us away in a prison of emotional trauma. This hypersensitivity affects our relationships and causes us to become unstable. It also creates an imbalance in our humor and temperament, making it hard for others to get along with us.

Some people are so hypersensitive that it becomes necessary to go through an Olympics level gymnastic routine in order to draw closer to address their problem. They may drastically misinterpret well-intended correction as rejection and aggression. The resulting hypersensitivity may then spiritually compromise the person even more, throwing them into a greater level of withdrawal, which only worsens the situation and makes it even more dangerous.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal casts a person in a behavioral prison where the wound becomes the center of life. You know how this works: when someone threatens to touch the “wound on top of the wound that is already wounded”, the tendency is to withdraw abruptly, to flee, step away, or isolate oneself from the possibility of touching the already painful wound. The natural tendency is to withdraw.

It might surprise you, but emotional pain is even more scathing than physical pain. The rejected person begins to withdraw in isolation and relationships become superficial. The preponderant objective is to prevent anyone from getting close. Some people swear to themselves that no one will be able to get close enough to them to hurt them again.

The fear of being hurt, the terror of a new rejection, the shame of trauma and guilt, end up leading the person into darkness, concealment of sins and spiritual isolation. Many people become spiritually imprisoned because of sexual abuse, the practice of abortion, attempted suicide, adultery, homosexual practices, pornography, homicide and other such tragedies. Many people conclude that the best option is to hide and conceal these types of situations.

One of the worst types of the occult is “Christian occult”, the belief that it is better to cover up our sins and shame. The problem is that Satan reigns in the realm of the occult. He is the Prince of darkness. Every sin and trauma that we fail to submit to the light comes under the power of cruel demonic exploitation. Therefore, at the same time that withdrawal brings a certain “emotional comfort”, it also imposes a terrible vulnerability. This can easily become Satan’s favorite point of attack whenever he decides to torment us.

Vulnerability

Trauma, by definition becomes an ever-increasing point of weakness. It becomes a progressively easier target for Satan to hit the bull’s-eye! Upon examining many people’s life story, we can perceive repeated blows that follow the same pattern of attack. We perceive that there are always areas that have been heavily persecuted and repeatedly pummeled. Some people have suffered racial discrimination very early in life. Others have suffered sexual abuse and immorality; others have been abandoned and betrayed. From time to time, different people and situations inflict more of the same aggression, which deepens the wounds even more.

In spiritual battle, trauma follows a routine direction of attack. It is like a boxing match. After one of the fighters is able to cut the eyebrow of his opponent, he begins pummeling him on top of the wound. A few more blows on top of the same wound, and the opponent is summarily knocked out. He becomes vulnerable! This is exactly the same dynamic that occurs in spiritual warfare; however, God’s purpose and desire is that his people inflict the damage against Satan and his hosts, not the other way around.

The disintegration of character

disintegration_of_character

The syndrome of chronic moral debility

We live in a morally debilitated and degenerate world resulting in the disintegration of character. Decadence is on the increase. The line between morality and immorality has been blurred so much that most people can no longer distinguish one from the other. Society has engendered such a sharp inversion of values that it has absurdly considered this to be a culturally and modern advance.

The worst part is that this is entering into the church and contaminating it. People who accept chronic moral debility allow themselves to be conformed to the immoral circumstances that routinely confront them. They end up conforming to the ungodly values of the present age.

In many churches growth has been accompanied by worldliness due to disintegration of the character of Christ in their respective leaderships. To the detriment of the ethics of character, the ethics of personality, which ignore and violate the basic principles that rule the spiritual world, leave many believers at the mercy of satanic bonds. The problem is that ignorance does not exempt us from the consequences and punishment of breaking the law.

A lifestyle wrapped up in moral ignorance gives place to social chaos when we become indulgent with sin calling it “weakness”. It begins with tolerance of sin, continues with collusion, then comes insensibility and finally a damaged conscience, which compromises the foundation of life. Sin becomes a comfortably natural routine.

In this generation where society subjects true laws and values to relativity, the collusion with moral weakness has placed the message and integrity of the church in checkmate. The avalanche of emotional problems that are debilitating modern society is nothing more than a symptomatic collateral effect of the moral disintegration of a passive “prosperity”.

Some people think that certain debilities are part of their personality. Many people, some of which are Christian workers, leaders and pastors, have embraced their moral weakness as an evangelical vice, and are trying to convince God that they were born morally weak, but that’s the way they are and there’s nothing they can do about it.

However, the truth is that this spiritual debility produces ungodliness and evil. This lack of moral strength gives place to the devil, profaning the work of God and bringing on scandals and destruction.

Defining defeat due to the disintegration of character

What is defeat? From the perspective of approval, we can quickly define defeat as “a cyclic life of reproof”. A vicious cycle is any evil dynamic or situation to which we feel obligated to return.

When someone faces a situation of testing and fails, he or she will be obligated to return to the same type of situation. Each time that we go through a test and we fail to pass it, we have to go through it again.

This obligatory return to the point of defeat defines the law of the test, from which no one escapes. Through repeated confrontations with this law, either a character of obedience or an alternative moral failure eventually emerges.

However, the draining dynamic of having to return routinely to the same situation, to which we subject ourselves repeatedly, begins to build a picture of defeat. In other words, whenever we take a test we fail! Therefore, we take the test again and we fail again! We repeat the test and suddenly we fail again! Each time the test defeats us more easily and we become convinced that we are a failure. It is just as Jesus declared:

Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34)

We feel defeated and without hope. This has become a periodic cycle in the lives of many people, leading them to spiritual disintegration, apathy and apostasy.

In this way the specific points of testing become oppressive internal giants, building up fortresses that we are convinced are impenetrable. We must learn from David to leap over these walls and overcome these enemies.

The Bible tells us how Goliath, the most famous Philistine hero, challenged any man of the armies of Israel to face him in personal combat. Each day he came at the same time and repeated his humiliating and psychologically crushing challenge to all:

And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening. (1 Samuel 17:16)

This represents a cold and calculated strategy, in which the enemy plants a mentality of defeat. Each warrior of Israel had to tolerate two challenges per day. They were defeated each morning and each afternoon every day! Goliath imposed a cyclic process of personal and collective reproof simultaneously.

Because of the terrible challenges of the giant, day after day, each warrior had to accept failure through their cowardice. That became a humiliating routine, destroying the self-esteem of each man of Saul’s army. This represents more than a defeat, it was a massacre!

And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. (1 Samuel 17:24)

Each of Goliath’s public challenges imposed a deep sense of impotence that immobilized each soldier of Israel. Not only were they already accustomed to the situation of defeat, but also they were totally intimidated, desperate and terrified. This lasted 40 days without interruption, until God sent David. We have here a true picture of spiritual defeat.

This episode reveals what happens in many people’s lives. When they are in the church, with all of the members, they appear to be ready for anything. They pray, worship, preach and zealously testify. However, personally, alone before their internal giants of anger, impatience with their spouse, pornography, debts … they can’t control themselves, they feel discredited and defeated.

Defining trauma due to the disintegration of character

In the dynamic of this cyclic life of reproof resides the true point where our weaknesses are concentrated. It is impossible to speak of defeat without speaking of trauma. Areas of defeat are also areas of trauma. Each new reproof represents a newly inflicted wound. From this perspective, we can define trauma as “the result of wounds and reproof concentrated at the same point”.

An example of this would be children roller-skating without kneepads. Years ago protective equipment was not readily available or at least sought after by children of that generation. The joy and thrill of racing down a hill on roller skates, during a time, supersedes the fear of falling head over heels and smashing up knees and elbows. Only after several falls and multiple wounds on top of wounds does the fear of falling overcome these children’s fun.

This is a good way to describe a trauma: it is when you sustain a wound on top of a wound! The mere thought of someone touching the place that was hurt, causes pain! The terrible fear of being hurt again installs itself, as in automatic defense mechanism.

Psychologically, this point begins to suffer a constant weakening, becoming ever more acceptable to collapse where the structure itself can be broken, like a bone that can be broken, producing permanent damage, or a healing process that takes much longer.

Some people after four or five attempts to enter a college or university, who repetitively fail to pass the entrance exam, permanently give up their professional dreams. Similar types of things happen all around us wherever our abilities are tested. All of this describes most people’s moral and emotional life. The truth is that we can rightly claim that almost everyone has struggled or is struggling with areas of trauma and defeat.

Disintegration of character and the process of deepening a wound

Reiterating, each cycle of reproof imposes a new blow on the wound. The level of pain begins to intensify and deepen each time we are subjected to the same type of test. Wounds are sustained on top of wounds. This picture of defeat works according to a type of “spiral effect” deepening the pain and the roots of the state of reproof.

Morally speaking, we can define the deepness of the trauma as feelings of “shame”. The intensity of the shame and spiritual embarrassment can be determined by the distance between the first and the last reproof.

There is a type of shame that is healthy and promotes decency, however there is another type of shame that is an enslaving feeling that comes as a result of this chronic process of moral debilitation, abuses suffered, losses marked with the feeling of injustice, inferiority and bitterness. As much as we try to flee, that same thing always pursues us and repeats.

Invariably, wherever this type of spiritual shame exists, much fear, guilt and pain also exist. The moral shame that torments our memory establishes the depth that this cycle of chronic reproof has dug into our soul.

Paul insists that it is necessary for us to be before God not only as a worker, but “as a worker who does not need to be ashamed.” It is fundamentally important to deal with this shame of the soul. We must present this same position and disposition of conscience with that which Jesus faced and confronted all of Satan’s ability to accuse:

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (John 14:30)

You just can’t skip the test!

Approved Christian workers can’t skip the test!

skip-the-test

Imagine if your doctor confessed that while he did go to medical school, he never bothered taking any of the tests or exams. He just sat in class, took notes, opted to skip the tests and start his practice without a diploma or an internship. Would you trust in his untested training without verifying if he really learned something? Isn’t that what many seminary graduates do? They may take theological tests to verify if they know their Greek, church history and hermeneutics, but have they really proven themselves under the pressures of pastoral ministry?

The apostle Paul chose Timothy, one of his young disciples to care for the church in Ephesus. Timothy already had certain qualifications but Paul his mentor, was testing him and his test consisted of leading a church under the apostle’s supervision. In this context, Paul wrote Timothy in his second letter:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Timothy was already leading the church and he was going through challenging times. Paul wrote this epistle to encourage him to continue, to be diligent and for what? The answer is that Paul’s goal was for Timothy to be approved as an unashamed Christian worker who, in spite of ministerial difficulties would diligently press on to provide spiritual light from God’s Word to his flock. Supervised ministry was the test and every Christian worker must successfully pass the test in order to be approved!

Before becoming a Christian worker or minister, it is necessary to be approved by God. As you can observe in the title above, the word “approved” precedes the word “worker”. It is essential to obey the sequence. A person who has not been approved can compromise not only his own life, but also the work that he does and the people he serves.

For a Christian worker to present himself approved suggests the need of qualification. It should be obvious that Christian workers must have an intimate relationship with God as the first pre-requisite. The starting point of God’s work lies in our motivations. First, we must align our motivations with the fear of God. Second, we must secure God’s approval, only then should we attempt to develop our service to the Lord.

Strictly speaking, before anything else, it is important to understand that we are God’s work. We are under construction. We are the temple that the Holy Spirit edifies. Jesus is preparing an eternal abode within us (John 14:2) inside of us. Our inner man will manifest his presence in us in glory through a heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:40-54).

That “mansion” that you hope to live in when you get to heaven is being invisibly built inside of you, through the visible work and transformation that the Holy Spirit is operating in your life, in virtue of your flexibility, brokenness and submission to his divine will.

When we speak of serving God, the most important thing is not to do something for him or in his name, but allow him to do it in and through you. When he does it in you, he certainly will also do it through you. The fact is, that there is a great difference between you doing the work of God and God doing his work through you. For this reason the principle of cooperation is so important.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9)

The basis for approval

I would like to propose a question: What is the first thing that we have to do in order to be approved by God? Stop reading for a minute and answer this question…

Almost every time I ask this question, I hear answers like, “We have to obey! We have to fear the Lord! We have to walk in holiness! We have to live by faith!” Each person sounds off the answer, each sounding more “spiritual” than the one before, but all fail to see the simplicity of the question.

Others get closer to the right answer by saying that it is necessary to pass the test since approval suggests passing a test. However, before passing any test it is necessary to take the test. Therefore, the first thing that we must do to be approved is simply: to take the test! No one can pass a test that they have never taken! There is only one path to “approval”: to take or go through the test, the trials, the temptations, etc.!

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

How many times do we make promises or vows to God that we do not fulfill? We say things like, God, I will believe in you! … I will obey my ministerial call!… I will be faithful to you through my finances! … I will win many souls for your kingdom! …

However, when the first need arises, we fall on our face. When the first difficulty of our calling comes, we consider the possibility that maybe this isn’t exactly what God has for us. When people who help us financially forget us, or our salary is cut, we recoil, feel hurt and become depressed. Little by little, we accustom ourselves to the rituals of church, to church meetings, to seminars and other meetings and we forget the lost. Each time we are tested with respect to the purposes that we have established, we simply fail.

The truth is that many tests, in a natural and subtle way through the natural process of our life. However, each inadequate and insufficient response that we give to these tests imposes spiritual bonds that, little by little, distance us from the possibility of reaching God’s purpose for us and fulfilling his purpose.

If we really desire to be workers in the kingdom of God, we must enter the school of the Holy Spirit, with the willingness to be treated and edified by the Word of God. This school lasts for the rest of our lives and the Holy Spirit has a special curriculum, dynamically appropriate for each one of us.

Our most intimate motivations, our faith and perseverance, our convictions and feelings, our knowledge, our call and ministry will be tested by all types of specific and adverse circumstances. God never superficially trivializes character faults and distortions that we still have in our personality. Above all, faith is a muscle that must be exercised.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

This passage points to the need to break a sophism that many people attempt to defend. In other words, when we heed the call of God, even when walking in obedience, it doesn’t mean that only positive and enjoyable things will happen to us. The center of the will of God does not exempt us from tests, difficulties and the resistance offered by the spiritual realm of evil.

When Paul said,“… Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37), what did he mean by that? What was he referring to when he said what we would conquer? What did he mean by “all of these things”? It means the resistance that is coming, that which will consistently test us.

We like the idea of being overcomers without having to fight, or by being approved without having to take the test. However this isn’t correct and does not work. Therefore, Paul explains:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35)

If you are going through any of these types of situations, then you face a great opportunity to refuse to doubt God’s love and becoming a conqueror. The correct attitude of agreement with God’s character in each test, works as a master-key that unlocks doors and breaks through our limitations. We must endorse the victory of Jesus in each fight that we face by identifying with his character.

Basically, it is necessary for us to release control in order to face any given situation. We must learn to face all things as a divine acquisition, or in other words know how to take advantage of the good part of any and every adverse situation. Without this understanding we abort the real possibility of being “approved”.

The prayer closet comes before prominence

The secret altar of the prayer closet precedes the public reward from God

Prayer Closet

But you, when you pray, go into your prayer closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:6)

Our prayer closet represents the place where we routinely enjoy privacy with God. In our prayer closet, we are ourselves. We are completely transparent and we can pour forth our heart in complete sincerity.

The altar is a place where our will is broken and we give God everything that he requires of us. It is a place of sacrifice, where we offer God something that costs us that is also pleasing to him and real. The word “sacrifice” in Latin means “to make holy”. Every altar is a place where God’s voice powerfully touches and transforms us. This is the highest principle of personal sanctification.

On the “altar of our prayer closet”, we offer part of our day, time and therefore, our life, seeking God’s face and examining the Scriptures.

We do not build this secret altar in the church or through fellowship with other Christians, but in the prayer closet, alone with God. Jesus explained the power of a devotional life and a personal relationship with the Father.

We receive the strongest and most intimate revelations and experiences in the prayer closet. In the prayer closet, we learn to place our faith in total dependence on God and not on people.

The personal conviction that God is a limitless source, determines the level of our maturity. Many times, we place our expectations in people or things when we should channel them exclusively in God.

This attitude is understandable during a certain time as new converts, however if we persist in this attitude, we run the risk of condemning ourselves to an immature spiritual life that vacillates according to circumstances. Whenever we depend more on people than on God, we expose ourselves to many disappointments that tend to weaken us even more.

A successful “public” ministerial life is nothing more than the spiritual effect of a personal relationship and secret life with God.

The sheep field precedes the battlefield

Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, ” Go, and the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37)

Here we have the solitary altar of the sheep field preceding the testimony of the battlefield, the public defeat of the Philistine war-hero that taunted the Army of Israel.

Before David publicly defeated Goliath, he overcame the claws of the lion and the bear in obscurity. Before being impressed with the intimidating presence of the giant, David was previously impressed with the greatness of God. The truth is that David did not defeat Goliath, but the relationship that he had with God was the factor that gave him the victory.

David knew how to transform the loneliness of the field into a constant opportunity to enjoy the presence of God. This transformed him into a true worshiper. There was no one around him to impress or to corrupt his motivation. His life of worship was pure and legitimate.

Before taking the sword of Goliath, David received the harp of God. We receive the harp of God on the hidden altar of our prayer closet and the sword of the giant on the altar of public testimony, when God publicly rewards us.

This is the anointing of David: the harp of God in one hand and the sword of the giant in the other. In this manner, he rebuked and overcame the demonic principality that tormented the King and the governor of the nation for so long:

And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. (1 Samuel 16:23)

After David defeated Goliath, and held his head up to the multitude, the King, impressed with the feat, tried to find out who that little boy was. David surprised everyone. It is interesting that nobody knew who David was:

When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” (1 Samuel 17:55, 56)

David was unknown, a “John Doe” of society. However, in spite of the fact that he was unknown among men, he was well-known to God!

When Goliath challenged the whole army demanding, “… Give me a man, that we may fight together” (1 Samuel 17:10), God heard Goliath’s prayer and gave him David. In spite of the fact that the giant also despised David, he was God’s secret weapon.

This is the blessing of the valley, the altar of testimony, where God rewards our relationship with him, and publicly delivers our enemies into our hands. The valley is strategic because many opportunities arise from the valley.

The anointed testimony that comes from a hidden life with God has the power to extend our borders. After defeating the hero of the Philistines, God put David on the path that led him to rule the nation.

The hidden altar in the Jordan River precedes the Memorial outside the Jordan

The Jordan River is the dividing line of change, where you leave the desert and begin conquering and enjoying a territory of enjoyment of God’s promises. You either leave the desert approved of God, or you do not leave at all, you die in the desert!

The Jordan is for those who not only left Egypt, but also abandoned the slave mentality. The Jordan also communicates the real meaning of repentance.

Repentance is not merely the recognition of your sin or the admission and confession of moral failures. Repentance does not say things like, “I really did do those things, I shouldn’t have, and I’m very sorry.” None of these examples defines repentance. It is a grave mistake to confuse confession with repentance.

Repentance, from the Greek word “methanoia”, means a change of mind and purpose. It is when you mentally decide with absolute determination, “This sin that I often commit, I will no longer commit! The temptations to which I yielded my will, I will no longer yield to! Even if I have to sweat blood! I have changed my motivation, my disposition, my direction and my mentality!” This is the genuine attitude of repentance.

This internal decision of change establishes a new direction that reconciles us with the truth in God’s purposes. We substitute inconsistency with firmness and determination. We firmly establish a new stature that agrees with God’s will. God leads us into unexpected and surprising victories! It is here that sin and corruption kneel before the power of the Holy Spirit. When you genuinely repent, it is not that you abandon sin, but sin abandons you.

The altar in the Jordan River is one of the principle landmarks of God in a Christian’s life. We celebrate the baptism of repentance on two altars: one hidden in the riverbed of the Jordan and the other beside the Jordan with stones taken out of the riverbed.

God, through the hidden altar of the Jordan, testifies of our intimate experience and change of heart and mentality.

Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant stood; and they are there to this day. (Joshua 4:9)

This altar is only for those who have walked on the dry riverbed of the Jordan. After the waters returned to flow through the riverbed, no one else could see that altar, except God.

The public altar however, is the testimony that we give to what God has done, of how he accomplished the miracle of the change in our lives. It is simply the fruit of a personal and intimate experience with God:

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, (Joshua 9:3)

Every river crossing in life, every spiritual change of address and mentality is marked by these two altars. Everything begins with the testimony that God gives concerning us and is completed by the testimony that we give of him. This is therefore the first factor of the principle of presenting ourselves before God.

 

The Law of two Altars

law-of-two-altarsPRESENT YOURSELF TO GOD FIRST

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Presenting oneself to God principally involves the motivational aspect of service as its foundation. The intentional action of one’s heart is just as important as the development of the ministerial task that a person exercises.

Christian service is not only a matter of doing something. Whom we serve is just as relevant as what we do in our service. It is vital to focus on the discipline the motivation of our ministerial development in pleasing God before we begin to serve men.

This is a matter of foundations. Visible growth is founded upon that which no one can see because it is buried under the ground. This is an important law of edification. Whenever we think about foundations, we understand that it is necessary to grow down before growing up. This work in our foundations points to the work of God in our motivations. Without this foundation, whatever it is that we are doing for God will be compromised.

God evaluates the intention of each of one of our efforts in our service to him. He sees beyond the external impression that we cause in people. Obviously, he knows our most intimate of intentions.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This was a warning given to a prophet that had a deep sensitivity to the voice of God and a highly developed ability of discernment. Even the prophet Samuel allowed himself to be deceived by appearances.

This however is a mistake that God never makes. The truth is that it is just as easy to deceive people, as it is impossible to deceive God. He sees and discerns our deepest intentions.

It is in this way that we testify to God of our moral failure and our emotional sickness. A corrupt motivation condemns a work even before it has begun. It is a house without a foundation or with too small of a foundation. On one hand things happen, but on the other hand they become more and more unstable and vulnerable.

If our motivation is wrong, the time will arrive when the fragile resistance of the foundation will be crushed underneath the weight of its own work thus exhibiting its lack of strength. This is a mathematical matter. The truth is that in spite of the fact that things in the spiritual world do not work immediately, they work with extreme precision.

Whenever a construction collapses many people die or get hurt. In the same way, every ministerial investment made through impure and hidden motives is suicide, since it can involve the destruction of many people.

Our motivation is crucial with respect to being qualified as Christian workers. Whatever inspires our actions and motivates our service is just as relevant as the service itself. The truth is that every inner effort that is motivated to impress men disqualifies us before God.

Whenever we value human opinion above divine approval, we exhibit a highly corrupt spiritual motivation, which compromises our service.

The law of two altars

In various occasions in the Bible, we see the need of building two types of altars: a hidden or inner altar and a public or testimonial altar, the former for God and the later for people. The first altar speaks with respect to the testimony that God gives of us and the second speaks with respect to the testimony that we give of God.

There is however an important sequence to be obeyed. The inner or hidden altar always precedes the public altar of testimony. This is the law of two altars. In other words, before being presented to man, we must present ourselves to God.

The affirmation of man does not mean very much when we do not have divine approval. An inner, hidden life with God always precedes a public life before men. Whenever we invert this sequence we sin against this law. Here, we understand why so many people who in the same way that are lifted up in a highly visible and impressive public manner, suddenly “disappear”.

Without an intimate life with God, we end up fostering a lack of consistency that will sooner or later, make us victims of public life and of the public image that we have worked so hard to establish. This was King Saul’s problem. His transgression disqualified him from being king. Even after disobeying God, he continued to be more worried about his public image than about his relationship with God:

Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” (1 Samuel 15:30)

The Bible warns us that we cannot base our lives on appearances devoid of a consistent godly character. Superficial impressions that convince public opinion don’t last very long. In the long run, you cannot avoid the inevitable destruction of the visible. It is like the dry grass and the fading flower under the caustic heat of the “sun of righteousness”:

For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. (James 1:11)

Will we choose what is apparent or what is permanent? This is the great motivational dilemma. The recipe for spiritual consistency is a personal, intimate and constant commitment to the revealed will of God:

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17)

Motivations and principles

When we offer sacrifices on the hidden altar we reveal our motivations and when we offer sacrifices on the visible and public altar we express our values and our principles. By nature, motivations are can be concealed, while our values and principles are much more observable and behavioral.

In the same way that it is easy to perceive values and principles of an action, it can be extremely difficult to discover the motivation behind it.

Consistency of personality and spiritual integrity depends on the synergistic adjustments between the sanctified motivation of the heart and the divine principles practiced.

No matter how correct our motivations may be, if the principle is wrong, the result will be death. In the same way, no matter how much we act in the correct principle, if the motivation is wrong and corrupted, the results will also be death.

David had correct motivation in returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem; however, he acted in the wrong principle when he used an ox-cart to transport the ark instead of transporting it on the shoulders of the priests in the Biblically prescribed manner.

This principle teaches that the priests carry the weight of responsibility of directing the presence of God. This principle was broken. The first time that an ox stumbled, Uzzah stretch out his hand and steadied the ark so that it did not fall. He was just trying to help. Again we see someone very well-intentioned, however, breaking a principle. He wasn’t authorized to touch the ark. No matter how good the intentions of these men were, God struck down Uzzah.

In another example, Ananias and Sapphira gave a large offering from the proceeds of a piece of land that they had sold. They were practicing the correct principle of giving. However, they were not giving with the correct motivation. They wanted public recognition for offering the entire amount at the same time that they lacked the generosity that they were attempting to demonstrate. They wanted to impress others so much that they failed to honestly confess that they needed part of the money. They claimed that they were giving everything, when in truth they kept back part of the price. They lied not only to men, but also the Holy Spirit. Both of them died. How many brothers and sisters like this couple have already died or are dying within our churches?

Stricken by God with his knowledge

God reveals himself to those who he strikes

Stricken-by-God

The following passage expresses a clear and frank vision of how God deals with us in a way that we can really get to know him:

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, but he will heal us; he has stricken, but he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live in his sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; he will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

Stricken by God and healed by God

The great drama of God’s healing is that most of the time it is preceded by a wound with which he himself inflicts upon us. Before the surgeon removes the tumor, he needs to cut into the body with the scalpel. You can’t be cured unless you submit to the surgery and you can’t undergo a surgery without being wounded. This is an obvious law for those who responsibly deal with people’s root problems.

We need to grow in our knowledge of God in this sense. It is common to skip over the first two verses of this passage, fleeing from the implications of the context and theorizing or rationalizing an alternative and more pleasing interpretation. However, the essence of knowing God is to experience what Hosea experienced. The knowledge of God begins with wounds that he himself inflicts in our lives: “… He has torn, but he will heal us; he has stricken, but he will bind us up.”

Every person powerfully used by God in ministry needs to be able to say what Paul said: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. In the same way, Isaiah described the Messiah as “stricken by God”. Jacob was also stricken by the sword of the angel of the Lord. God knows how to wound us in the right place and in the right manner. He has the expertise of a surgeon.

There is however a difference between a wound and a scar. The scar is nothing more than a wound that has healed. The mark and the memory remain, however the pain, the shame and the vulnerability have been completely overcome.

It is important not only to talk about the “wounds of God” but also the “scars of God”. God is a god of scars. The essence of the messianic anointing is to mend the broken reed and re-light the smoking wick. Each scar from God represents a gamut of profound experiences that results in legitimate and palpable divine knowledge. This was perfectly expressed through the words of Job after all of his suffering:

“I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5, 6)

To know God is not merely being an expert in the Bible and theology. The truth is, to the extent that someone becomes an expert defender of his or her doctrines, he or she can also develop the tendency of becoming unteachable, independent, closed to change and anti-synergetic.

This type of resistance hinders growth and sins against the progression of divine revelation. This is the diseased process of binding the mind through tradition.

It is crucial to maintain a flexible attitude taking care not to despise the “old” as well as not being overly opposed to the “new” moves of God:

Then he said to them, “therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)

According to Hosea, to progress in the knowledge of God is a process through which God wounds, heals the wound, leaves a scar, revives and resurrects. In each surgical process, God removes everything that hinders our faith concerning his character. The more this faith grows, the less value we give to circumstantial crises. Spontaneous worship and a solid perspective of the greatness of God powerfully spring forth in our lives.

Habakkuk’s song: the spirit of the true worshiper

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls – Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This is the spirit of the song of Habakkuk! Even though we do not see the possibility of growth and fruitfulness, even though we do not feel the anointing, even though we are being confronted with the scarcity of resources and results, even though many are abandoning us, however, God remains faithful and worthy of our happiness! This is real worship!

This is the process through which we get to know God and place in God and nothing else or no one else our trust and satisfaction. Then the Lord will be our strength, and will make us to live and walk in high places, above the most elevated obstacles. The book of Habakkuk begins with a question and ends with an exclamation mark. God desires to transform all of our questions into surprising answers of faith!

Faithfulness must exist, not only when everything goes well, but when everything goes bad. They say that: “when the ship sinks the rats abandon ship”. This is the way that God tests and discerns who is who. Who are you? Only through trials and testing will you know the answer!

Worship is the positive balance of faith in our spiritual account accrued through the tests of God. Here is where not only a new song is birthed, but where the spirit of a true worshiper is forged. Such was Habakkuk’s prophetic stance.

Only people who understand the power of God’s dealings will reach this level of faith and worship. These are real people who have God’s scars in their lives, healthy people who have gained the necessary integrity to serve the Lord and support the pressures of a true revival!

O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)

In evangelical circles the word revival is in vogue. Revival is a popular subject. However, it is easy to perceive that most Christians do not understand the personal implications of revival very well. If we really desire and aspire to attain revival, if we want God to come to our lives, our church and our society, we must respond to this question that Malachi asked:

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderer’s soap. (Malachi 3:2)

Are you able to support being stricken by God? Can you withstand his purification process? Can you withstand his correction? Will you be able to support the purifying and cleaning fire that he will lead you through? When he begins to wash all of your dirty laundry and cleanses your soul, will you be able to support it? Do you still want revival, revival that begins with you?

Unashamed Workman

HOW GOD PREPARES THE UNASHAMED WORKMAN

unashamed workman

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Before Paul discusses the requirements of the unashamed workman, he touches upon two fundamental situations which, under no circumstances, can be neglected. He spoke of the need to “be diligent” (1) to present oneself to God and (2) as a workman approved of God.  I plan to discuss how God prepares the unashamed workman in the next few posts.

The primary objective of being diligent as an approved workman is simply to satisfy the conditions necessary for approval. The truth is that some things are a lot harder to accomplish that they appear and the process often takes longer than expected. As we will see, it took all of 20 years in the desert for Jacob to fulfill the requirements necessary to restore his relationships and redeem his identity as a worker that no longer had to be ashamed.

Without exception, the truth is that before the Christian worker does anything for God he must recognize these realities. This process works deep into the recesses of the soul to eliminate the shame and other impurities that block the flow of the Holy Spirit.

Once this happens, the man or woman of God gains the divine ability to rightly divide the Word of truth which causes them to express a lifestyle that overcomes every chronic state of reproof or disapproval. According to this perspective, the Word of God is not the “sword of the worker”, but as Paul taught concerning the armor of God, is the “sword of the Holy Spirit”, that only can be used by us to cut in to others to the extent that it has cut into us:

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

UNDERSTANDING GOD’S JUDGMENT

“Look among the nations and watch – be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

How many of God’s people are prepared to embrace this tremendous prophetic message? How many believe in this unbelievable work of God? Perhaps it is about to be fulfilled in your own life or in your church or denomination? This is an admirable and surprising message of such magnitude that its fulfillment would be perceived throughout the whole world! What could God do that would make us unable to believe that such a thing could happen if it were told us? To what kind of miracle, promise or divine intervention was the prophet referring?

At first glance, this all seems very desirable. The expectations provoked here make this verse an even more frightening reality. This is God’s great surprise for people, ministries, cities and nations. The truth is that few people are able to understand this passage. Or in other words most Christians believe this verse, however in a completely mistaken way that does not line up with its original context. The truth is that this is one of the most abused prophecies in the Bible among believers. Therefore it is of extreme relevance that we better understand what is happening backstage while this promise is in the spotlight.

After a time of much excellence and prosperity that culminated in the kingdom of David and Solomon, the nation, little by little, from generation to generation, began to enter into an expressive state of apostasy being warned in many ways by many prophets. As a result, a terrible period in the history of Israel is ushered in where it appears that idolatry and ungodliness permanently triumph.

Therefore this was the answer that God gave to the desperate prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, when he cried out and complained about God’s silence and his apparent indifference to so much sin and injustice practiced without impunity by the “holy nation” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Only those who see sin through God’s eyes can really understand this passage. The truth is that what is happening in this passage is a strong, divine intervention occasioned by a great and surprising judgment, which was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken captive to Babylon.

Normally, sin brings not only slavery, but also a terrible moral insensibility and hardness of heart, followed by a searing of the conscience. This would make the prophetic office even more difficult, radical and challenging.

TWO CHALLENGES OF THE UNASHAMED WORKMAN

First the unashamed workman must lead the people to believe in the work of God’s judgment

He does this by destroying false convictions. Invariably, religious people seek prophecies of blessing. They are not interested in hearing and understanding the heart of God and for this reason they don’t tolerate the prophetic word when they are warned. Too often God’s people program themselves against hearing anything that contradicts their selfish interests and desires. The more that we insist on tolerating this attitude, the more we accelerate and intensify of God’s judgment, and worse, the less we believe in this coming judgment and the more we will be surprised by it.

What could be so astounding and so surprising and unbelievable about this word prophesied by Habakkuk? The answer is nothing other than a terrible time of divine judgment. The nation would be destroyed and exiled! A difficult process designed to deal with the deepest roots of apostasy and idolatry. This principle also teaches and warns us that we have a strong tendency towards unbelief when we question God’s judgment!

Miracles do not transform our character, but the judgment of God does! Judgment always begins with the house of God. This is a principle of action in the moral kingdom. In the first chapter of Habakkuk Israel is judged, in the second, Babylon is judged and in the third the nations are judged. It began with Israel and spread to the whole world.

Before the worldwide revivals caused by the testimonies of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace of fire, and by Daniel when he revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and when he deciphered the message written on the wall for Belshazzar and afterwards when he escaped the Lion’s den, Israel experienced the greatest judgment of its history. It was in the context of the judgment of God and his purification of Israel that he was glorified and made known. On several occasions this happened in the arena of all of the nations of the world!

The time has arrived when God will severely deal with our pride, our stubbornness, our traditions and our habitual sins, no matter how spiritually “healthy” we appear to be. Any type of security that dispenses with brokenness and humility is a trap that we set for ourselves.

God was calling the people to purification, however they ignored his call. Time after time the prophets tried to warn this deaf and stubborn people. The religious class was so sure of itself that any prophecy along these lines was considered totally absurd. They despised the true prophets. They were so comfortable with their sinful and religious lifestyle that it was inevitable that they would be caught by surprise!

This always happens when a “spirituality” that tolerates immorality and corruption is practiced. Judgment may indeed be delayed, but it will not fail, as God told Habakkuk:

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

Upon thorough examination, this marvelous work of God was in reality a marvelously horribly work. The judgment that it brought shocked everyone. The people were sacked, the temple, seen as an amulet that guaranteed the divine protection of God was ruined. The children were taken captive and the walls and the gates of the city were burned and destroyed.

Nobody believed that such destruction and slavery could have come to pass. All the people were exiled to a strange land, with a strange language and even stranger gods. This was the only way that Israel learned to hate the idolatry that they had practiced for so long.

The first type of unbelief that God wants to break in our lives is with respect to his judgment. That optimistic and romantic vision motivated by our religiosity that makes us insensitive to our own sin must fall. Our concept of prosperity is normally faulty, involving shortcuts that many times cause us to lose the direction of God.

We like quick, microwaved solutions and miracles, but this goes against our own nature which demands a process in order to develop. The more people concentrate on these momentary solutions to solve their difficult problems and alleviate the pain, the more this attitude contributes to worsening the chronic character of the situation.

The more we think that everything must happen the way we want, the more we will be surprised by God’s dealings in our lives. It is not easy to break that false conviction that God is with us when the truth is that we are lost and alone in our stubbornness. Nobody believed that Jerusalem would be lost to the enemy and taken to a “land of confusion”: Babylon. No one tolerated the idea that the temple could be profaned and destroyed, and its treasuries stolen. Nobody believed that the holy city could be humbled, wounded and taken captive.

When Jeremiah prophesied against Jerusalem, his words were interpreted by the leaders of the nation as a sacrilege and terribly absurd. However to everyone’s surprise that is exactly what happened! Only unashamed workmen men like Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Ezekiel believed that such a prophecy could come to pass. The whole nation had been deceived! The leaders of the nation were distracted! The priests were mistaken! It’s terrible to think that God is with us in one way, when he is with us in a completely opposite way!

Being exiled to a foreign land, having to remain in a place that is not the place where God’s promises would be fulfilled is the greatest trauma that anyone could suffer. It’s not easy to learn how to be a fish out of water.

The process by which God changes certain wrong convictions that we have is extremely painful, but it is necessary. The process involves many disappointments. The problem is that many disappointments not only kill false convictions, but also true convictions.

Even after the prescribed time of captivity came to an end, the exiles continue to remain in the inertia caused by so much disappointment and suffering. This is where the second prophetic challenge enters in.

The second job of the unashamed workman is to convince the people to believe in restoration!

Now the prophet of God has a new challenge: to convince the people to believe in God’s restoration. This was just as difficult a task as having to convince the people of God’s judgment.

One has to read the books of Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah, to understand the effort necessary to restore the faith of a dejected and disappointed people who have experienced divine judgment.

Every person in ministry has their moment of trouble, disappointment and unbelief. Many times this is a very long time. A good example of this reality happened in the ministry of John the Baptist, the apostle of revival. He was so depressed and downcast inside his prison cell that all of his convictions were shaken.

Even after having seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in corporal form as a dove, confirming his messianic identity, and having openly declared to everyone that they were before the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, having fulfilled that which God had spoken (John 1:33), even after all of this, he had lost his faith in his greatest mission as the precursor of the Messiah. His life seemed empty and meaningless in that prison cell. Maybe that is how you are feeling right now!

The truth is that all of us go through situations and tests like these. However, these provide us with the greatest opportunities for growing in faith, for learning to fly with eagles and for rising to even higher planes of spiritual power and effectiveness. The problem is that few people are able to perceive these opportunities that throw us into dependence on God.

LESSONS CONCERNING DIVINE JUDGMENT

God always has a rescue plan ready before delivering us to captivity. Before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, in chapter 40 of the prophet Ezekiel, God had already drawn up the plans for the new Temple to be restored.

Here we understand the principle where the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. God never acts irresponsibly. He is prepared to deal with the detours of the human race. The final objective of judgment is not to destroy, but to rebuild according to the original purpose.

Any and all judgment that we experience is a testimony to God’s investment. After God judges someone, the next step is that he will use this person. Identity, consciousness and purpose are made clear through our dependence and then we will be able to build upon an adequate foundation. This process enables us to better understand who we are in God and where we need to be.

We have to understand that tribulations are important in the development of our mission. That romantic optimism based on selfishness is a substitute to a non-negotiable motivation of glorifying God alone, whether through life or through death, abundance or want, success or “failure”. The cross involves these types of paradoxes.

To rebuild is more difficult than to begin a new construction, however another principle exists in this regard. Whatever you rebuild is always better than what you built at first. Experience is the teacher of wisdom. The glory of the second Temple is greater than that of the first. Everything that you learned through destruction will be used in rebuilding.

Habakkuk declared that “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This is perhaps the principal lesson that we learn when we are plowed through God’s judgment. We learn fear and trembling before the word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We learn that the only source of direction and security is the Word of God. The Word is above all circumstances, pressures, oppression and situations.

Concerning destruction the psalmist declared: “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand. But it shall not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)

How many of us trust in this truth in spite of the fact that we live in a time when so many have been shaken and contaminated by unbelief and surrender? There is a place of protection. Some people have already found this place. They are the ones that faithfully submit to God’s dealings. Unashamed workmen like Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Shadrach Mishak and Abednego and many others, that even in captivity remained faithful and experienced the manifest power of God.

These workmen prevailed in the most unfavorable circumstances. They understood divine judgment, confessed the sins of the nation and the iniquities of the fathers. They had compassion on that generation and interceded for the restoration of the people who found themselves in total ruins. Their courage to stand firm as unashamed workmen made all the difference!

 

Chosen by God – The People that God can use

chosen by GodApproved and chosen by God

The Bible affirms that there are three types of people for which God is constantly searching.

God is searching for intercessors:

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

God is also seeking worshipers:

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (John 4:23)

The lack of intercessors destroys the earth, while the lack of worshipers saddens the heavens. And finally, Jesus himself affirms the need for workers:

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38, 39)

God is seeking workers

The lack of workers determines the failure of the church in relation to the great harvest. When the church fails to reap souls, Satan does so, widening the gates of hell and assailing society.

This passage presents the crying out that weighed down the heart of Jesus. Before a world of needs, he perceives the need for workers, people who are not only available, but legitimately tuned in to the will of God in order to develop the noblest service that a human being could ever be involved in: the transformation of the eternal destiny of many others.

An important issue with respect to the mobilization of workers in attending to the demands of the great commission is preceded by a process of qualification to which one responds or submits oneself. Jesus concludes by saying:

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

There is a great distance between being called by God and being chosen by God. I would like to invite you to examine this subject by passing through this “narrow way”, along which so many have failed and thus disqualified themselves from being chosen by God.

This affirmation of Jesus reveals a funnel effect. Out of many few remain. This shows us how the spiritual realm imposes a selection process upon our lives. Or in other words, many are called by God, all are tested, however, few are chosen by God, few are approved.

God will not allow us to walk in his calling in just any way, or in our own way. It is important to understand, that although we may be called, God does the calling and not us.

Despite everything that is involved in God’s dealings with his people, called people face the most sublime and significant way of living out their lives. To accept the call of God means to agree with the great reality that we do not know the best way to live out our own lives, but the Lord does.

God’s search should meet with our search, and our search should meet with God’s search. From this intersection a genuine ministry can emerge, even to the point of affecting our whole generation. This was the great appeal of the most tireless worker of the kingdom of God:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

In order to be of any use to God, we must be able to perform a type of surgical “x-ray of the human personality” under an uncommonly spiritually perceptive angle of observation that reveals its basic and motivational deficiencies, leading us to an eradication of everything that sustains the most serious foundation for divine disapproval.

On the backstage of your soul, a great spiritual revolution is ready to burst forth. A profound change which certainly will be perceived by the one who is most concerned: the God who loves us. I challenge you to pursue the subject of usefulness with open eyes, attentive ears and above all a responsive heart! Will you be chosen by God? Will you be approved by him? Will you be useful?


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