Wednesday, May 28

It's Time To Turn Loose



As a young boy I use to love hiding under this big bush in our front yard.  One day, as I was under the bush looking out toward the street, something caught my eye.  About ten feet or so from my " hide-out" standing on our side walk was one of those big black and yellow bumble bees.  I watched as he was desperately try to fly, but each time he did he could not get but a few inches off the ground and would fall back down after only a few seconds.  Thinking that the bee might be injured, I crawled out from under the bush and went over to assess the problem.  As I drew closer to him I noticed that his legs were so completely covered in thick bright yellow pollen that it weighed him down to the point that he was, to coin an aviation term, "grounded."  If the bee had only known to turn loose of some of the pollen, he would have been able to get back to doing what God had created bees to do, "FLY!"
The simple fact is, if we are going to be able to move into the things that God has for us we are going to have to become proficient at turning stuff loose!  Paul, knowing just how detrimental the past and the things that lie there can be to our future successes teaches us, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 3:13-14)
So often we allow things into our lives that restrict our ability of "reaching forth unto those things which are before."  Satan knows full well that if he can get us loaded up with enough stuff, that he can essentially "ground" us to the status quo, making any forward progress in our lives extremely difficult to achieve.  "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"  (Mark 8:34-36)  A very wise man, who witnessed my overloading and spreading myself way too thin in the ministry, once pulled me aside and said something to me that would forever change my life.  He simply told me that I needed to select my battles more wisely.  The same goes for the choices we make concerning who we allow to get close to us, what we allow into our eye-gate and ear-gate, and so on.
Until we finally come to the place where we know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nobody or nothing worth our relationship with God, we will continually find ourselves "grounded" under the weightiness of the cares of this life.  Jesus warns us, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting (excess), and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth."  (Luke 21:33-35)
No matter how we slice it, the effects of sin are terribly weighty!  Like having someone three times your size continuously pinning our shoulders to the floor, the results of sin will always cost us our freedom and, ultimately can and will cost us, our lives.  Whether the burden you may be carrying today is self-inflicted or a result of someone else's actions, it really does not matter.  What does matter is that we become proficient at "turning them loose!"  Jesus said, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:5-10)
You might ask, what if the thing that I am struggling with is not a direct result of my committing a sinful act?  What do I do then?  It is of the utmost importance that we first understand what sin really is.  Sin is not simply sex, drugs, murder, stealing and the like.  These are merely means by which sin gains access into our lives.  Sin is actually "anything" that separates us from God Himself.  It's that simple!  Whether the sin in your life is self-inflicted or a result of a generational curse, it does not matter.  Sin is sin and Jesus stands more than ready to forgive, or deliver, us from them all!  So, if you know that things are not right between you and God, if your communication with Him has been cut off, if you find yourself "grounded", do not panic.  Take a deep breath, relax, examine your heart, confess your sins, and walk away from practicing whatever it is that gave the sin access into your life.
So, you see, if the pollen-laden bumble bee in our story would have only "turned loose" of the pollen that weighed him down, he would have been free to fly.  I beseech you desperately, if there is anybody or anything in your life that is separating you from God, "Turn it loose- right now!!"

We invite you to follow these additional Scripture-based resources that we make available to help us Press Toward the Mark of becoming "one" with our Heavenly Father:
"Keith Shealy & Toward The Mark" on Facebook
Keith's "Between The Lines" Podcast on LibSyn channel; and

Thursday, May 15

(Conclusion) What is It?...that makes some Christians passionate when others aren't... Part II of II

         Keith and I are a team, passionate about reaching people with our music and writings that proclaim the Gospel that Jesus Christ preached.  We are distributing our works by way of podcastsocial mediaand  website, as well as by care packages and teaching messages by mail.  I must say, as effective as these outreaches have proven to be, I'm blessed to be part of Keith CONTINUING to boldly, yet lovingly, approach people at gas stations, supermarkets, and stop lights.  In fact, since about a month after we met in 2008, I realized that it is impossible for me to keep account of people he befriends, everywhere we go, blessing them with one of his books or CDs.  Anyone who has seen him in action will tell you, Keith knows, intimately, how God uses these opportunities to provide folks with something they need, at the place where they are, at exactly the right time.

         I hope, as you read this blog, Part II of one of Keith's bold approaches, that your heart, soul and spirit is stirred with an increased passion for oneness with Christ Jesus and for pouring into people.  I have referenced this writing in a personal letter we are mailing out this month to the friends, family members and financial partners of Toward The Mark.  If you would like to begin receiving regular mailings from us, just send an email request to Keith and BrendaLee Shealy or mail a printed request to:  Toward The Mark, Inc., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152.
Now... Part II of II, conclusion about what IT is:



How did the Apostle Thomas get his nickname, "doubting Thomas"? 
It happened shortly after Jesus had been resurrected. He had already appeared to some of the disciples, “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he [Thomas] said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25)

His presumptuous words notwithstanding, Thomas' days as "the Doubter" were short-lived. Jesus, knowing that Thomas would react in that manner, had a plan to help Thomas with his unbelief, while also providing a powerful object lesson for others.
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29)
          How dramatic was Thomas's encounter with the Risen Savior? 
Thomas' encounter with the Risen Savior was dramatic, indeed! The Lord challenged Thomas to put his hand into the opening in His side, the place where the soldier had thrust his spear after Jesus died on the Cross. Thomas' reaction was limited to exclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus gave a simple acknowledgment of Thomas' declaration of faith, and then the Lord pronounced a blessing, but not upon Thomas. Jesus blessed those who, unlike Thomas, would believe in the Savior without having seen Him.

Scripture reveals that more than five hundred people saw Jesus in the weeks after His Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). These sightings culminated with Christ’s proclamation of the Great Commission, including the Promise of the Father, and Christ's subsequent Ascension into Heaven. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts provide different portions of that wondrous event.
The Great Commission...
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16)
“Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)
“Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven...
“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19)

“And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:49-51)

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9)


The Promise of the Father... 
“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49-51)

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” (Acts 1:8)
What promise was fulfilled at Pentecost?
Jesus told His disciples that they were to go back to Jerusalem and wait until they had received the Promise of the Father, because then they would be “endued with power from on high.” The word endued translates a Greek word that means “put on clothing.” The word power translates dunamis, from which the word “dynamite” is derived. In essence, Jesus was stating that He would send the Promise of the Father which is the Holy Ghost so that the disciples would be clothed with the dynamic power of Heaven. This was fulfilled a few days later on Pentecost.

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
They were all filled with the Holy Ghost! The work of the Great Commission began immediately. The word of what had happened swept through the city and a large crowd formed comprised of people from many nations and speaking many languages. (Many of them had traveled to Jerusalem for the east.)

“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:5-6)         
The disciples had left the house and were in the street speaking in tongues, because “every man heard them speak in his own language.” The people who had gathered included “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians.” (Acts 2:9-11)
       What were the disciples saying? 
Those who could understand them said, “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:11) What an amazing moment, and yet there were some present who mocked the disciples!
“And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What does this mean? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.” (Acts 2:12-13)
How instructive were the eleven Apostles' reaction to the mockers?
They launched into a public defense in front of a crowd that numbered in the thousands. Peter, as he stood up with the eleven, “...lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” (Acts 2:14-15)

These were the same men who had fled from the Lord when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemene. The account of Peter's subsequent denial of His Lord is well known, and when Jesus was crucified, only John was there to the end. Peter and the others had gone into hiding.


In addition to dealing with Thomas’ unbelief, the Lord had much to do to get His disciples ready for the tasks for which He had been preparing them. Even after the Apostles had seen their Lord, John 21:2 informs us that Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples returned to fishing. Jesus, however, appeared on the shore to restore them to their calling as fishers of men. A few days later, these same men stood up before thousands of people and boldly proclaimed the Gospel!
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)
       What IS IT??
The transformation in the behavior of the Apostles is evidence that they were clothed with the dynamic power of Heaven. They had had an encounter with the Holy Spirit, and we can add that to the answer to the question posed in Part I: What is IT?
       Why would a person passionately go where others won't?
What would cause a person to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, having the same desire as God to see every creature come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? The Apostles had met Jesus and had spent considerable time with Him, and yet, that was not enough for them to go forth and preach the Gospel.
They were not effective witnesses for Christ until they had also had encountered the Holy Ghost. Even seeing Jesus alive after His death on the Cross was not enough to motivate the disciples to be witnesses for the Lord. This fact is dramatically illustrated when you consider that while over five hundred persons had seen Jesus after He was raised from the dead, Acts 1:15 tells us that only one hundred and twenty of them obeyed His instruction to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high!
The one hundred and twenty had seen, and they had believed, but more importantly, they obeyed.
“Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)
They had diligently sought the Lord, and God had blessed them by sending the Holy Ghost to give them power, to teach them, and to comfort them (see John 14:16-26). These had seen and believed and received the Promise of the Father. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) The Promise of the Holy Ghost awaits each of us who will diligently seek God for His blessing.
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that ask receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:9-13)
       Do you study Scripture to impress others or to find your way to God?

You will find that diligently seeking God will result in hearing and seeing things that many Bible scholars never get to see or hear. Why is that? For one thing, many of them seek knowledge for knowledge's sake and not because it draws them into oneness with God.
       Are you seeking acceptance by others around you or God Who is Love?
If you are seeking God, then you must seek Him for the Gift of the Holy Ghost, because He will lead your soul into oneness with our Heavenly Father, empowering you to be an effective witness for our Lord and Savior.
The Apostles had been taught by Jesus personally and had seen Him after His Resurrection, but those experiences were not sufficient to make them strong eyewitnesses for Him. 

Even the Apostles needed to be clothed with power from on high, and so do we. The Holy Ghost will be in the place of Christ as our teacher, walking with us every step of the way.
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)
We are witnesses, but not with our eyes. We have the witness in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, and we want others to know that He is alive! If we are not clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit, however, then we will most certainly misrepresent God. We would be false witnesses, not having experienced encounters with Christ and with the Holy Spirit. In such a state, attempting to tell others what God is like would be based upon hearsay, even if it comes from knowledge of the scriptures. There is no way to be an effective witness for Christ apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
      How does this apply to us today?
Notice the contrast in this verse. The letter, meaning knowledge of the scriptures, kills, while the Spirit gives life. Even the Apostles could not be able ministers of the New Testament unless and until they were endued with power from on high. They had spent three years living with the Savior, so how much more does this apply to those of us who have never seen Him?
The need for the Holy Spirit is as true for those who stand in the pulpits as for those who sit in the pews. It applies equally to worship leaders and choir members. In short, everyone who names the name of Christ has the obligation to seek God for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Unless we submit to the tutelage and leading of the Holy Spirit, all we can do is misrepresent God and His Word, leaving in our wake, not the evidence of the sweet Fruit of the Spirit, but the sickening stench of fleshly works. We will be stumbling blocks to people around us.
“Then said he [Jesus] unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:1-2)
          What does Jesus mean by "offend one of these little ones"?
The word “offend” translates skandalizo from which the word “scandalize” is derived. According to Strong's, it means “to entice to sin,” "to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey,” “to cause to fall away,” to cause one to displeasure at a thing,” “to make indignant.” 

The Greek word rendered “little ones” is also translated by the words “little,” “least,” “small,” and “less.” “Little ones” can be understood as referring to size, age, relative importance and most importantly babes in Christ. 

Jesus is saying that no matter how insignificant someone may seem to us, the consequences for us are severe if we influence them in a manner that leads them away from trusting God. 

If you have met Christ but have not received the Holy Ghost, what you have been doing is misrepresenting God. All who are guilty of this must humble themselves before our Savior and ask His forgiveness for being guilty of offending the people around them, even if this has been done in ignorance. For it is true that few of us are aware of how guilty the average Christian is of being a false witness for Christ.
         What??!!
Why is this? It is because the leaders of the Church, by and large, are even more guilty! Keith, how can you say that? I am not being the judge: Jesus said the same and more.
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13-15)
      Do these words strike to the core of our beings?
These words should strike to the core of our beings. Whether you have been to Seminary or attended a church for fifty years makes no difference. Consider this: replace the words “scribes and Pharisees” with preachers, pastors, evangelists, teachers, elders, deacons, worship leaders, youth ministers, and any other words that come to mind that refer to leaders within the Church.
            
Woe unto you, pastors and deacons, hypocrites! Woe unto you, preachers and evangelists, hypocrites! Woe unto you, youth ministers and worship leaders, hypocrites! The pew warmers are not to be excluded, either. If the leader is a hypocrite, then those who follow that leader will be, as well. If any of this describes you, repent, turn from the deadness of your religious ways, and seek God diligently with your whole heart. Heed my humble warning: For your own sake, and for the sake of those you meet, get into the scriptures and seek God with diligence for the gift of the Holy Spirit that you may be clothed with the power of Heaven.
           
It is well past the time when we seek to please ourselves. Be forewarned, however: You should expect to be misunderstood and maligned by those who are bound in dead religion and dead works, especially those who are steeped in the Bible. The Apostles knew the Word of God, and they knew Jesus Christ, and still they forsook Him. After He restored them to the ministry, they took His message to heart, tarrying in Jerusalem until they received the Promise of the Father. Only then were they able to be effective witnesses for Christ, because the letter of the Word within their hearts had come to life, being energized by the power of the Holy Ghost!
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
That is also what happened to Saul of Tarsus, and he knew full well the difference between the deadness of the letter and the lifeof the Spirit. Before becoming Paul the Apostle, Saul of Tarsus was well-educated in the scriptures, and he was the chief persecutor of the Church! The letter of the Word kills; it is the Spirit that gives life. After becoming an able minister of the New Testament, Paul could truthfully write these words.
“Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:33)
Paul, who had been a destroyer of churches, no longer sought to please himself. How different from what is practiced in so many churches.
“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” (Philippians 2:21)
The majority will not receive this teaching, but will continue on the destructive path, seeking to please themselves. Remember that more than five hundred had seen Jesus after He was raised from the dead, but even that was not enough to get them to seek God for the clothing of the power of Heaven! Only about one hundred and twenty tarried until they were filled with the Holy Ghost. These had set their affection on things above, as should all who call themselves Christians.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
In short, the one hundred and twenty had obeyed Christ and received the Promise of the Father. We must not let feelings of guilt and shame deceive us into believing that we cannot receive the same gift. It did not matter that many of them had deserted Jesus. They repented and sought God, and He poured His Spirit upon them. We must do as they did: Obey Jesus.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Jesus promised to manifest Himself to those who love Him, and who prove that love by keeping His commandments. Do not let the things of this life get in the way. Set your affection on things which are above, and seek them with all your heart. Tarry until you are endued with power from on high.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:20-22; Emphasis added.)


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Prayer Of Salvation
Father God, in the precious name of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of all lords, I lay my life at Your feet. I come before You confessing that I am a sinner, and am asking that You forgive me of all my sins, those that I know that I have committed as well as those that I am not even aware of. I ask that You come into my heart and be my Lord. I lay my life and everything in it at Your feet, and ask that You would take me now and begin the process of changing me into Your likeness. I ask that You redeem the time that has past and allow me the opportunity to become exactly what You have predestined me to be from the foundation of the earth. I commit my life to You now, and thank You for receiving me as Your own. In the wonderful name of Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God, Amen.


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When you finish reading this very important and timely message,
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If you missed Part I of "What is it?", check out last month's Pressin'IN:  


We invite you to take advantage of these additional Scripture-based truths we have available to help you Press Toward the Mark of becoming "one" with your Heavenly Father:

"Keith Shealy & Toward The Mark" on Facebook;
Keith's "Between The Lines" Podcast on Libsyn;
"TTMSingingSgt" on Twitter; and
"Sharingwith you the Secrets that God Whispers to me" monthly website scripture messages.





Celebrating MOM...and the HIGH CALLING of MOTHERHOOD!!


Dear MOM...
YOU are a MASTERPIECE!


YOU are CELEBRATED for accepting the HIGH CALLING to MOTHERHOOD...

For plans you put on hold, for sleepless nights, countless tears & hours spent on your knees in prayer! WE HONOR YOU!

Mothers play a principal role in God being able to have & enjoy His Children here on earth. YOU hold that special place in God’s heart. WE HONOR YOU!


Yours with a heart for Mothers and Moms,