Opening the Gift of the Present

The GIft

Today as I ate my lunch, I decided to do a little research regarding, “How to increase focus and concentration” and I found some nuggets to add to my treasure chest. In my search, I found that what resonated with me more was actually some information on what to focus and concentrate on more so than how to increase focus and concentration.

These days I find it increasingly rare to have someone’s undivided attention. Once upon a time it was considered rude to engage someone without stopping what you were doing to make eye contact. When someone looks directly at you it is a sign that you have their attention. These days you are often forced to share someone’s attention with personal electronics like mobile phones, laptops, and other multimedia devices. There are times when multi-tasking is the best way to be productive and then there are times when giving less than your undivided attention results in time thwarted. Sometimes when you are not fully engaged in something that is occurring, you miss cues and subtleties that give important information causing that time to be less fruitful.

We have been given life by a GOD that is detailed to an infinitesimal degree. He packs so much into every moment we live. The secret to abundant life is learning to be fully aware in every moment we are blessed to live, in order to be mindful of the present goodness. Be sure the things you focus on are worthy of your time, and if anything is worthy of your time, you should make sure you get everything you can out of it. Prudence is one of the truest markers of maturity and enlightenment.

Enjoy these exerts from an article I read from a website called “The Art of Manliness” :

“Modernity has given us a lot of comforts and conveniences, but it has also unleashed a torrent of stimuli competing for our attention. To live a truly flourishing life amidst this cacophony of distractions, mastering your attention is key. At the end of your life, who you’ve become, what you’ve learned and accomplished, and who’s there at the end with you will be the sum total of what you chose to pay attention to each year, day, and hour of your life. Will a series of cat videos flash before your eyes? Or will you look back on the deep conversations you had with your family and friends, the books that changed your life, and the little details you discovered in all the places you visited?”

“Practice attentive listening. Focus isn’t just useful for intellectual endeavors. It’s also an essential interpersonal skill. The ability to be present with a loved one or friend builds your rapport, intimacy, and trust with them. At the same time, making an effort to focus all your energy on someone else strengthens your concentration muscles overall. It’s win-win. So next the time you’re talking with your main squeeze, put away your phone and listen as attentively as possible.”

Practice mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is simply focusing completely on what you’re doing, slowing down, and observing all of the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing in that moment.”

All the life you have is happening right now, everything beyond this present moment is a matter of faith.

 

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Fire Insurance or Life Insurance

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As we approach another religious observation of Easter, aka Resurrection Sunday, what is the take away from reflection on the Cross? I have spoken with many Christians on the topic; it seems the prevailing take-a-way is “Fire Insurance”. The carnal man, as we all are initially, is mostly concerned about avoiding hell fire. He wants that fire insurance. Knowing this, many churches have parked on the gospel of forgiveness to fill the pews. Most see the Cross of Christ as a means of avoiding damnation and relieving the burden of guilt. These are great blessings, but they are not the benefits most emphasized in scripture. A gospel centered primarily on the Cross as a means of forgiveness will always promote sin consciousness. This is so prevalent that most Christians see themselves as mere sinners. What is the result of this perspective? …more sin. Proverbs states, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you see yourself as a sinner, then you expect that you will sin. This mindset binds you to the habits of death that the Savior came to free you from. This fire insurance is a carnal interpretation of salvation from those who have failed to understand the true virtue of the Cross.

As far as fire goes Christ doesn’t save us from fire, He assures us of fire. He tells us that our life’s work will be tested by fire, we will be purified by fire, and the Holy Spirit is the Baptism by fire. In fact, He desires that we would be ablaze for Him and His Kingdom. Fire is common for believers.

When I was a teenager, I had a discussion with a man on the bus who tried to persuade me that Christianity was a religion taught to me by my oppressor. He also told me that the cross symbolized death. He went onto to say that he couldn’t understand why people would wear a symbol that represented death. While the Cross does remind us of the death of Yeshua, it also reminds us more importantly of the power of His resurrection. Yes, Christ died for all, but He was also resurrected and obtained new life for all. The teaching of the Cross in Holy Scripture emphasizes this new Life. Yeshua said, “I come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.” The Cross of the Gospel of Christ is where the eternal life of Yeshua is made available to those willing to lay down their own interpretation of living. Existence outside of the life that Christ gives is filled with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, and fear. The life given to us through the Cross of Christ is the life of an obedient son of GOD. The obedience in this new life is rooted in Love and is lived out in Spirit and Truth. It is a life that is pleasing to GOD; a life that is centered in GOD.

When the teaching of the Cross is limited only to forgiveness, it leaves men attached to their carnal lives. It offers them compassion without a cure for their suffering. So much more has been provisioned through the Cross. It was nearly impossible to know GOD before the Life of Christ was made available through the Cross. The only life obtainable was the life inherited through Adam, which rebels against GOD and questions His Love in unbelief. This carnal life from Adam is alienated from GOD in that it has made a god of its own carnal reasoning.

We have to leverage the love manifested to us in the Cross of Christ unto a new hope and belief, and to faith in the promises of GOD’s love, which goes beyond forgiveness but also brings the promise of a new and powerful Life.

The powers of darkness don’t want you to know the fullness of the Love manifested through the Cross. It is a divine Love that breaks the shackles of sin and enables you to manifest the Light of GOD. All sin is rooted in selfishness and fear. The scripture teaches us that GOD’s perfect Love cast out fear. Fear is diminished in us as we grow in our understanding of the Love of GOD. The secure embrace of GOD’s love frees us from self-concern and empowers us to love others with divine love. Divine love being that beautiful and sacrificial love, that gives at the cost of self to benefit others.

The true sign that we understand and appreciate the Cross of Christ is that we have also taken up our own cross, by daily sacrificing carnal living, that the spiritual Life of Yeshua might be manifest in us. Just as the Spirit raised Yeshua from the dead, the Holy Spirit is present in the earth to empower new life in us. The Holy Spirit opens the life-giving teachings of Yeshua to us, and affirms the love of the Father in our hearts. He who the Son makes free is free indeed. He frees us through the workings of the Cross.

Learning the lesson of Jonah

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Yahweh gave Jonah a commission to go Nineveh and call the people to repentance before he punished them. Jonah wasn’t willing to carry the message of reconciliation to Nineveh because he had judged them as being unworthy of mercy and grace. Without delving into the history of the people of Nineveh and all they had done, our merciful GOD Yahweh decided to reach out and offer them a path to reconciliation. Jonah was very reluctant to carry out the commission he had been given. Jonah had no concern for Nineveh and just wanted GOD to destroy them and be done it.

Jonah called himself a prophet of the Most High GOD, and a descendant of GOD’s chosen people. He obviously felt that he and his people were the only ones worthy of the deep riches of GOD’s mercy and grace. I see Christians today with this same disregard for others and mindset of privilege. These Christians want as many chances as it takes to avoid the wrath of GOD, however when it comes to people of other beliefs they want swift judgment. Like Jonah, these Christians have somehow mistaken the grace they have received in this world as something they have earned. When I see the lack of empathy and compassion in many Christians today, I realize they have not learned the lesson of Jonah. Living on the welfare of GOD, some Christians have the nerve to want to hoard the grace of GOD for themselves. They want to create standards and make others earn what they have received freely. “Send in the troops, squash the uprising, unleash the police, they are disturbing my peace,” say these redeemed.

At the conclusion of the book of Jonah, we see our Lord asking Jonah if it right that Jonah wanted Him to come running to his aid when something disrupted his comfort, but when it came to saving the very lives of others who were lost,  Jonah was indifferent. I don’t expect the unbeliever to care about someone other than themselves, but those that confess to have been saved by GOD’s amazing grace, those who have asked for the innocent blood of the Lamb of GOD to cover their transgressions and have been granted redemption, I expect more.

There is a parable Yeshua taught about a servant that had been forgiven a great debt by his King but turned and would not show compassion to a fellow servant that owed him much less. Here is how the parable ended:

“Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.” (Matt 18:32-34)

We should not be like the wicked servant in this parable or Jonah, and allow our hearts to become hardened from too much focus on the debts and wrong doings of others. We have to stay sober-minded and remember the debt Christ paid for us.

It is easy to begin harboring ill feelings for a particular religious group or ethnic group if you just believe information circulating in popular media outlets or popular culture. There is a lot of propaganda in mainstream media circulated to form views that serve special interest. News is often reported without disclosing all the facts and it leaves people with misconceptions. We have to care enough to want to know the whole story and be willing to seek out the truth.

Yeshua says if you are not with Him then you are against Him, and if you aren’t gathering with Him then you are scattering abroad. If you proclaim that you are with Him, then let your conversation and witness be seasoned with compassion, understanding, empathy, humility, mercy, grace, and thanksgiving toward drawing people unto Christ. You will not be able to do this if you are feeding on the news more than the Word of GOD. You will not be able to do this if you have chosen, like so many people, to turn a blind eye to the facts of history which reveal that all people have committed wickedness. None of us are better and have greater value than the other. This is a key message in the testimony of Christ since He paid one price as a ransom for ALL people.

Through a grateful heart for the redemption that has been shared with us, we too should be eager to carry the same gospel of reconciliation to the rest of the world.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

 

 

The Cost of Living

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It takes the same energy to run to life as it does to run from death. I say this because I have often heard people say, “It doesn’t take all of that,” in regards to living spiritually. On the other hand, I have seen the results of living carnally: baby mama drama, divorce, stress, poor health, financial duress, being bound to destructive cycles, and I have had the same thought…jeeez, it doesn’t take all of that! It is better to run to life without the stress of death snapping at your heels. The majority of people don’t develop a zeal for life until the reality of death cast a cloud on their horizon. Hardship is just a part of our sojourn here on earth. It can be hardships experienced in climbing against earth’s gravity toward new horizons or it can be hardships experienced in giving in to earth’s gravity and tumbling towards darkness. Living spiritually is the climb, while living carnally is the fall. Either way, it will involve some struggle and hardship. The rewards of climbing are eternal while the rewards giving in to the downward pull are temporal. In climbing, living spiritually, there is the tendency to lift others up as well. In falling, living carnally, there is the tendency to pull others down as well.

Thing is, the cost of living spiritually is a lot less than the cost of living carnally when you look at the total cost in the end. Carnal living is like the deception of a deferred payment plan where the high interest starts immediately on what you owe. When the bill arrives later, the debt is more than you can pay, then more debt is created by an act to cover the debt at hand and eventually every thing becomes due with no more extensions. Spiritual living is about paying the cost up front, as more of an investment in your life, with dividends that start showing up before you expect it and a great return in the end.

Through the light of Yeshua, I am sharing some principles of life that I hope will motivate you either to begin or to continue a struggle towards Life. The beauty of the journey to life is that Life actually loves you. Life calls to us through the person of Yeshua the Messiah who himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Yeshua has shortened the distance we need to travel because He ascended from Heaven to earth and brought Life within our reach. The distance we have remaining is the short distance to our knees where we surrender our efforts to sustain our own lives to the one who created life in the first place. Christ pays our debts and invites us to get rid of our struggles through exchanging our death for His life. That is a deal no one should pass up!

Open to Promotion

Are you currently or have you ever been in a relationship that seemed to sputter out or that reached a point of complacency, still well but obviously lacking a zest that was once present? This is often due to the lack of promotion. Promotion is the process of transitioning closer to God’s ideal’s for us. Promotion comes from testing, which happens through adversity, which is the born out of conflict, and conflict is necessary for change because the “new” has to confront the “old”. The carnal nature is more in favor of complacency because change can often come with the cost of work and pain, heated with a degree of uncertainty. Is promotion worth the trouble? Can we even arrive at God’s best for us? We must firmly believe that whatever God has planned for us is worth the effort it takes to realize it and we must firmly believe that God has made His promises obtainable. We have to keep hold on God’s vision for our lives.

 

As uncomfortable as it can be at times, we must bring all things pertaining to our lives into the light of Truth and look at them soberly after the spirit with a willingness to strive for whatever changes are needed to bring us closer to God’s will.

 

God is merciful in that He gives us liberty to work out our change based on His guidelines.  The Lord compels us through scripture to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Salvation is the process by which we are changed from our current state to a place where we are in the likeness of God. We should be employing all that we know of God to methodically bring every aspect of our lives in to submission to God so that He can transform it. I am not saying we should be focused on what is wrong but that we should be pursuing what we know to be right whole heartedly, without reservation. In relationships, this means asking the tough questions when we have reason to ask them, also revealing the things that have been hid in darkness. It means exposure. The tendency to want to hide can be traced all the way back to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, but by the grace of God we have to overcome the shame and fear and be bathed in light. Relationships sputter because the truth that ignites change is seldom sparked in conversation. The tendency to avoid conflict keeps us from the tough talks that create the adversity which leads to testing and promotion.  We have to live and love courageously. It is written that we should love one another “fervently” with a “pure heart”. Love on fire and in truth!

There is a thirst in the soul that will only be satisfied by waters purified through the fire of Holy adversity. Jesus didn’t sugar coat it. We enter the kingdom through much tribulation. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy. God wants to bring our entire lives into His Kingdom. If we will have righteousness, peace, and joy in our relationships then we must subject them to tribulation; tribulation born from suffering the old to be transformed into the new. The “new” is the things God has resurrected in our lives from those things we have sacrificed to Him by faith. Let us move forward in full acceptance of the fact that we will have suffering in this life but let us make sure it is the suffering that Jesus is referring to which comes from bringing forth new life and not the suffering that comes from the afflictions of fear or the stagnancy of complacency. Let’s take the promise land in full confidence knowing that an enemy will not arise that we can’t conquer with the Lord that fight’s for us.

A Shemittah Lesson

I was recently counseled by the Holy Spirit on some emotions I was holding. I broke my leg a couple of months back and have been on crutches and quite honestly I have been needy. I have been needy, not only physically but emotionally as well. I had begun to feel somewhat let down by the lack of engagement from those I considered close friends, as well as those I considered just friends. As dejection began to creep in, the Spirit of Truth began to stir inside of me to repel this darkness. I was reminded that God alone is my source of strength, joy, comfort, and peace. So, even as He alone is my source, then I should only rely on Him. How can I count it debt to anyone else, if they were never ordained to be the source in the first place? Behind this correction of the Spirit, I began to analyze my attitudes towards people and friends throughout recent years. I realized that I have at times put undue expectations on people. So I began to consciously release people of perceived debts, calling their names as I went along…I release such-and-so, and such-and-so…who ever I had some feelings of letdown from. As I set them free, my spirit of heaviness began to lift and liberty renewed.

As I went through this process, I was also reminded that this is the year of “Shemttah”. This is a Sabbatical year, also known as “Shemittah,” which is Hebrew for release. On the Jewish calendar, it runs from Sept. 25, 2014, through Sept. 13, 2015. I have learned to tune into the Jewish calendar with its feast and observances, as a good Hebrew should. You can look in the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 15 for a scriptural reference. During this year of “release”, I would encourage all to lighten their hearts by forgiving and releasing those whom you may have debts for. It will lighten your load, bring liberty, and give you a greater capacity to receive from God. I say a greater capacity to receive from God because that is where our focus should always be for the things we need in life…PERIOD.

There are seasons of sanctification that the Lord brings into our lives, when He sets us apart from the usual circles or comfort zones, to impart something into our lives that might be hindered otherwise. It can seem lonely until you realize what is going on, then at once your focus shifts to the Lord, and He pours into you all that you need, and you are changed for the better, and you find His work of redemption has taken more ground in your soul. After this time of sanctification, you are better suited to freely love those the Lord has placed in your path.

There will be no “Shemittah” in your soul if you are not willing to trust God’s ability to provide EVERYTHING you need. If you ever want to be truly free, you really don’t have a choice, because people and other things will continue to fail you, because only God alone can sustain our strength, peace, joy, hope, faith…Life. Until we learn to look steadily to Him, the debts and weights will accumulate.

Are You Watching

What does it mean to watch as the Lord commands in Matthew 24:42?
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
We are cautioned to watch so that the coming of the Lord does not take us as a thief in the night. It says in scripture that no man knows the day or the hour that the Lord will return but it is given to those who watch to know the season. If you know the season then you can be like the 5 wise virgins of Matthew chapter 25 that had their lamps trimmed and filled with oil and found their way into the marriage supper when they heard the cry. Now the night is symbolic of dark times when evil pervades, not the middle of the night, and the marriage supper is the catching away of Christ’s bride, the church, and the cry is when the Archangel will ascend from heaven with a trump.
The book of Matthew chapter 24 gives a good account of Christ teaching about His eventual return and the rapture of the church. Since Christ teaches this, it is clear that it is something that we should be mindful of however, He also teaches that we should take up our cross daily and follow Him which ensures that whenever He calls for us we will be ready. In fact, many have and will continue to be called home before He returns. So it is imperative that we “watch” every day so that we are ready if we are called together with the rest of the saints or if we are called individually.
In the book of Genesis our Lord tells us that He created the lights in heaven that separates day and night (the sun and the moon) for signs, seasons and times. So we are not to ignore the blood moons and eclipses and holy days because the Lord does use all of these to communicate to us. I do believe that we are living in the culmination of the church age however nothing takes precedence over the sign of waking up in the morning and realizing we have been blessed with the present of the current day. So while I am excited about the signs of heaven I am most occupied with the moment at hand and what the Holy Spirit is saying about right now. So here in is the secret of watching for the Lord.
To watch for the Lord means to stay alert, living consciously in the reality that the Lord is always WATCHING US. So we should always be about doing the things we are appointed to do that whenever we meet Him we can have our conscious clear knowing we were doing what we were supposed to be doing. Awake in comparison to unconscious. Unconscious, living as though God is not watching us always with an intent to hold us accountable to our actions. Asleep, in the dreamland of over indulgence: too much TV, movies, sports, video games, eating, sexual pleasures, wealth seeking. Walking as one drunken from the intoxicating effect of sensory overload in carnal pleasures to the extent that you are numb to the prodding and convicting of the spirit. As a drunk person unable to walk on a straight path stumbling often from the path of righteousness or just lights out unconscious.

I know there is a lot of pain and suffering in this world but we have to stop self-medicating with the spirit dulling drugs of this world. We have to seek the comfort given by God through the Holy Spirit that strengthens us to endure the pain in soberness of mind. When we suffer in the flesh righteously, it generates spiritual life.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reads,
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
The Holy Spirit comforts us through giving us assurance in the knowledge of truth which gives us hope and inspiration to endure these temporal sufferings as we look forward to the rewards to come. Watching means we are focused on the eternal as we live through the temporal. To watch is to maintain a vigilance over our lives to ensure we are living our faith out in a real and tangible way evidenced through what we do each day. By the grace of God, if we live in this way we can be confident that whenever we meet the Lord it will be an anticipated and joyous occasion.