Friday, July 31

Wake Up, and Lift Up Your Head...

"And when these things begin to come to pass,
                    then look up, and lift up your heads;
                                          for your redemption draws nigh."

                                                                                                          (Luke 21:28)


  Perhaps one of the most startling and painful things that I have experienced in my life took place at pre-season football camp in college. It wasn't something that occurred during conditioning in the weight room, during practice on the field, or even during a game. It was what happened at 4:00 AM each morning during "four-a-day practices".

           Each morning the members of the coaching staff would position themselves up and down each hall of the athletic dorm. Just as their synchronized watches hit 4:00 AM, each of them began blowing those obnoxiously loud and ear-piercing boat horns or, as I call them, "heart attack" horns. And, at the same time, they would scream at the top of their lungs, "Wake up! Wake up!"


           Aside from my time working on the water front at a marina during high school, I had never heard so much violent profanity coming out of the mouths of so many guys at one time, as when in response to those horns being blown! To this day, I can't find words that can even remotely begin to relay how excruciating the pain, and how agonizingly disorienting it was! You see, enduring four hard practices during each day of training camp was so fatiguing that our being woken up that way was literally a shock to our system. Each morning, those who fought their way out of bed and into the locker room were provided with another opportunity to make it onto the team roster. Those guys who didn't fight their way out of bed, and, instead, ignored the wake-up call and went back to sleep, were disqualified and sent off to clean out their lockers and leave camp - no if's, ands, or buts about it!

           The crucial importance of answering the wake-up call, and staying awake, had everything to do with either making the team or being disqualified from pursuing a spot on the team. On a side note, the guys who took the initiative to bring their own alarm clock to use in getting up on their own, they were the guys who beat everyone else to the locker room for practice, and always grabbed the coaches attention first. Interestingly, this same principal applies to our Christian walk of faith as well.

           In 1979, through a series of events orchestrated by God, I came in off the road from doing music outreach concerts. That's when I focused my life on reaching out to people and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was no question in my mind that God was calling me to use my gifts, talents, and everything else I had to give, to share the Gospel that Jesus Christ preached, so that those who needed and wanted Him would have an opportunity to know Him and to receive Him into their hearts and lives. I can remember, just like it was yesterday, I asked Jesus if He would anoint my life, and raise me up to be used in His work, to watch out for, pray over, and awaken those who have been lulled to sleep by the venomous cares of this world.

           From the moment I knew in my heart that God was calling me to start this work, I began praying two foundational prayers. The first was asking God if He would prepare, equip and strategically position me for the privilege of working with Him, to lead His beloved children into His loving and waiting arms. My second prayer was asking for God to clear the way for me, and now Brenda and I together, to play a substantial role in His final harvest of souls. This was my passion then, in 1979, and it has grown even greater every year since then. My closing in prayer had always been, and even is today, "Father, I ask for Your wisdom to obtain Your strategy so that we can reap an abundant harvest of souls, working with You, so that You will be glorified in the eyes of everyone we reach!"

           As a result of my prayers, Jesus helped me understand and share with others the crucial life-or-death importance of making sure we are not lulled to sleep, blinded by the cares of this world, or distracted from Christ's unfathomable love for us. The first passage that comes to mind is where Jesus gives us an emphatic warning to watch and pray, saying, "Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."  (Mark 13:33-37)

           What I have always loved about this passage of Scripture is just how plainly Jesus lays out what is expected of us. If we maintain our focus on what Jesus has entrusted to us -- occupy our place as He provided it for us; maintain the work He has equipped and created for us to do; and walk by faith in His authority -- our watching and praying for His return becomes a natural part of the process. Walking in the authority of Christ also ensures that we line up to fulfill the call of God on our life, both, as a member of His Family, and as a warrior in His Army.

           Isn't it as though we often complicate what God makes simple?! It would be a mistake to focus so much on *when* Jesus will return, that we miss out on the very joy and privilege He came to provide for us, to begin with. We must enjoy becoming “one” with our Heavenly Father - us in Him, Him in us, every moment of every hour of every day. So... those who are gonna be caught up to be with Jesus when He returns, will be those who are caught up with Him right now!

           On the other hand, if we let down our defenses (studying The Word of God and putting on the Full Armor of God), we can be sure that wicked spirits will come around. Beware, at the time of our vulnerability, it gets easier to fall prey to the media (a central and growing source of deception), and the many distractions that come to consume our life in this world. We won't have long to wait before our focus turns more toward the world's cares, leading us away from our Father, ever so gradually, unless we catch the alert and "wake up" before it's too late.

           There is a wartime alert and command for military personnel that perfectly illustrates this important point. When military personnel are away from base, or "on leave", and an enemy force is approaching the camp, the watchman on duty sounds the alarm, commanding the troops that, "ALL LEAVES ARE CANCELLED; EVERYBODY BACK TO BASE!" It is time now for the WATCHMEN - those who have eyes that see and ears that hear - to sound the alarm for the benefit of those who need AWAKENED. Sound the alarm to the wicked spirits that come to steal, kill, and destroy our offensives - robbing us of the unspeakable joy awaiting ALL who WANT, and diligently seek, our Loving Father!

           On a sobering note, it is vitally important that we, as Christ's watchmen, heed the warning Jesus gave when He spoke to Ezekiel, "But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand." (Ezekiel 33:4-6)

           Some who teach this message will wrongly emphasize that we must primarily secure our escape from eternal damnation. We must realize that the real benefit of giving our heart and life to Christ, is getting to enjoy oneness with The Lord and Savior, and leading other individuals into Truth. Our focus must be for awakening folks to the reality that they must also turn their eyes and hearts, wholly, to our unfathomably Loving God and Father, and experience Life (and have it abundantly). We cannot allow ourselves to make the terrible mistake of being focused only on preparing ourselves to see the return of Jesus. We mustn't cheat ourselves from sharing with others the privilege of lifting up Christ Jesus every minute, and working with our Heavenly Father every single day.

           There are growing numbers of folks who lack the knowledge of God's Word. Simply put, we don't have to be so caught up with preparing for Jesus Christ's return if we are already caught up in working with Him right now. For all who will heed the "wake-up" call, they will stand to gain an eternity of joy, at its fullness. The greatest joy, and unspeakable pleasure of all, will be the privilege of looking on God for all of eternity! "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psalm 16:11)

           God is our Loving Father. Unfathomable fulfillment awaits each one of us when we come to offer back to Him our gifts and talents that He so graciously has given to us. To do our part to fulfill His plan and passion for all of His Wonder-Full Creation, we serve The Consummate Family Man and Father, God. Just as we refer to Jesus Christ as, "The King of kings and Lord of lords," God is "The Loving Father above and beyond all dads!"

      "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)

      This message is provided to help fan the flame in your heart for Christ Jesus, His wonder-full ways, and His plan and purpose for us in this life. To ask questions, make a special donation, place a special order for books or CDs, or to share a testimony or prayer request with us, please click for e-mail, or write a letter and mail it to the address shown on our website, and as provided below.

      We look forward to meeting here for the next blogpost as we keep Pressin' In Toward The Mark! Please make sure to invite your friends who are unsaved, or those who just need encouragement in the things of God's Word, His Will, and His Ways. We pray that God bless and keep you!

      In Christ Jesus,
      










___________________________________________



To Show GOD BIG in a World that Sees Him small… 
sums up the reason Keith stepped out in faith to focus on reaching the lost and strengthening believers everywhere, through Toward The Mark, Inc.  Keith and Brenda's prayer is that you will be encouraged and edified by the Secrets from God's Word that Keith recounts in our written and recorded products.  The complete collection of original podcasts, music, blogs, books, CDs, and other resources of Toward The Mark, Inc. are made possible by the prayer and financial contributions of the TTM Support Family.  We'd like to welcome you onboard TODAY!



We INVITE You ... to follow and share these resources that are available as well, for helping build your faith in God, His Will, and His Ways:

      

      

http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/3489319


This blog message, along with the rest of our inventory of Bible-based resources, is made possible by the support of our faithful monthly partners. Would you consider helping us expand our outreach capabilities by becoming a monthly financial partner? Your support will go toward fulfilling our God-given calling to help provide effective, contemporary outreach tools, available to everyone, the churched and un-churched alike, for getting to know the love, truth, and salvation of Jesus Christ. We invite you to partner with us as we "press Toward The Mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)


CLICK HERE to make a tax-deductible contribution securely by PayPal.
Every gift is tax-deductible and helps, and we thank you for it!


Mail tax-deductible contributions by check to the order of:
Toward The Mark, Inc., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152.

Thank you in advance for sowing your financial seed into the fertile soil of this ministry! We pray God bless you with a 100-fold return for your generosity!

Wednesday, July 29

For every day including Wisdom Wednesday


"God is not nearly as consumed with our understanding Him
as He is with our believing Him!" -- TTM Magazine



If you have not personally made Christ Jesus the Lord and Savior of your entire life, or if you or someone you know has turned away from Him, pray this...





To Show GOD BIG in a World that Sees Him small… 
sums up the reason Keith stepped out in faith to focus on reaching the lost and strengthening believers everywhere, through Toward The Mark, Inc.  Keith and Brenda's prayer is that you will be encouraged and edified by the Secrets from God's Word that Keith recounts in our written and recorded products.  The complete collection of original podcasts, music, blogs, books, CDs, and other resources of Toward The Mark, Inc. are made possible by the prayer and financial contributions of the TTM Support Family.  We'd like to welcome you onboard TODAY!

We INVITE You ... to follow and share these resources that are available as well, for helping build your faith in God, His Will, and His Ways:
      
      
http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/3322600



This blog message, along with the rest of our inventory of Bible-based resources, is made possible by the support of our faithful monthly partners. Would you consider helping us expand our outreach capabilities by becoming a monthly financial partner? Your support will go toward fulfilling our God-given calling to help provide effective, contemporary outreach tools, available to everyone, the churched and un-churched alike, for getting to know the love, truth, and salvation of Jesus Christ. We invite you to partner with us as we "press Toward The Mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

CLICK HERE to make a tax-deductible contribution securely by PayPal.
Every gift is tax-deductible and helps, and we thank you for it!

Mail tax-deductible contributions by check to the order of:
Toward The Mark, Inc., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152. 

Thank you in advance for sowing your financial seed into the fertile soil of this ministry! We pray God bless you with a 100-fold return for your generosity!


Wednesday, July 22

The PROSPEROUS SOUL "Are you 'Well done' or half-baked?"

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2)
  Do you realize that God's Holy Word tells us that one of the tribes of the nation of Israel was half-baked? Hosea, one of God's preachers of the Old Testament, said, "Ephraim is a cake not turned." (Hosea 7:8) What does he mean by that? If you don't understand the meaning, could the same thing be said about you? Well, let's see if we can shed some light on this matter.

       Let's take a look at what God's Word says to us in the letter of 3 John 2, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." God's number one wish for us is that we be prosperous. Note though, while He wants us to have material and physical prosperity, He tells us that those things depend upon the condition of our soul, saying, "...even as thy soul prospereth." So, what does God mean by a "prosperous soul"? A prosperous soul is one that is transformed out of the corruption of our old flesh nature, into the new nature that is like Jesus - filled with love, joy, peace, and all things good!

       So how do we go about getting a prosperous soul? Jesus summed it up with this command, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." (Matthew 6:33) What does this mean? A related Scripture explains that answer this way, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1,2) So, we get a soul that is prosperous by being conformed to the image of Christ is a process in which we have accepted responsibilities that God assigned to us, for our good. Furthermore, as we run this race of faith, this passage reminds us to keep our focus upon Jesus, because God never intends for us to run this race alone.

       But what if we don't lay aside the sin? What if we don't keep our focus upon the Lord? What if we try to sit down instead of continuing on in the race? Is God going to let us get away with that? No, as the passage continues, we find, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." (Hebrews 12:5,6) Notice that it does not say, "For whom the Lord 'is ANGRY' He chasteneth." God is clear that those whom He LOVES are those whom He chastens, or to whom He gives correction or discipline. And that, my friend, applies to You.

       How does God chasten us? God will often use the unique circumstances in our life, as well as the consequences we encounter as a result of our individual life choices. The Scriptures use the word "fire" to demonstrate these experiences. Most believers do not realize just how important God made the role of fire to be, in helping His children grow and develop in their potential. Jesus promised, "...He (Jesus) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." (Luke 3:16) However, many people have the mistaken notion that becoming a Christian means the end of their earthly problems. They believe that the Christian life is supposed to be characterized by absence of trials. This is directly opposite of God's plan.

       Isn't it ironic that many people decide to get saved out of their fear of suffering in the fires of Hell?! They think that becoming a Christian is their way OUT of pain and anguish - like an eternal fire insurance policy. Instead, from the time we become saved and a Christian, we find ourselves in a place of having fire *assurance*. In other words, you can be *assured* that, almost from the moment you become saved, you will experience fire in your life, and pain and suffering from the fiery resistance being levelled against you in this life on earth.

       Although fiery trials and the suffering that accompany them, often come by the unwise choices of our old flesh nature or of the old flesh nature of someone else, God redeems them for our good, because He loves us. When we, as Christians, don’t understand this, we often ask God for relief from our trials, suffering, and the circumstances of unwise choices (our own or someone else's). This is often a major source of frustration for many of God's people because their priorities focus on getting relief while God's priorities focus on making us into a "new, Christ-natured" person. The fact is, we must learn to rejoice in knowing God is lovingly redeeming our old ways of life, so we benefit and grow from the trials and suffering they bring.

       Now, to explain what God meant by using the term "half-baked", He was trying to heal His people, but they would not let Him. They did not turn to Him when the trials came, so they, as a cake not turned, became burned on one side instead of being cooked throughout, evenly. They were half-baked. The only way to avoid being half-baked is to turn toward God even more, when the heat is on. That means, when we find ourselves in the midst of a fiery trial, our best results will come by facing it with full focus on God, our Redeemer. Satan, of course, will try to meddle in the process by tempting us to avoid the trial, or to attempt to quench the fire.

       There are many ways people try quenching the fire, seeking to find relief from its heat: turning to TV, alcohol, self-medication, divorce, job-change, church-hopping, shopping, moving, and many other spontaneous and harmful situations. Those are simply ways of trying to avoid the inevitable event of facing the truth. This is how God's people responded, and God said they were "half-baked". They wouldn't turn to Him and be healed.

       Notice that God's motivation in using the fiery trials was for the benefit of His children. The chastening is "for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." (Hebrews 12:10) God uses our trials to chasten us because He loves us, not because He is angry with us. If we respond properly, then we profit, and prosper, from the benefits, "afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:11)

       Is every trial we experience the chastening of God? Certainly not. The important point, however, is that God's bride will be purified by fire, as Isaiah 48:10 explains, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."

       The Apostle Paul described the trials and sufferings that afflicted him as, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3:10) Paul realized that his suffering was teaching him more about Christ Jesus, helping him to become more like Him. God wants us to realize that we have the choice to resist or accept His intension of using our trials in our lives to bring us closer to Him. To accept, is to make us "new" and more like Him. Rather than being half-baked, God wants His servants "Well done".

       When we stand in the fiery trials of pursuing NEW LIFE IN Christ, we allow them to do their perfect work, so we will one day be able to hear the sweetest of sounds, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21a)

"I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see." (Revelation 3:18)

  This message is provided to help fan the flame in your heart for Christ Jesus, His wonder-full ways, and His plan and purpose for us in this life. To ask questions, make a special donation, place a special order for books or CDs, or to share a testimony or prayer request with us, please click for e-mail, or write a letter and mail it to the address shown on our website, and as provided below.

  We look forward to meeting here for the next blogpost as we keep Pressin' In Toward The Mark! Please make sure to invite your friends who are unsaved, or those who just need encouragement in the things of God's Word, His Will, and His Ways. We pray that God bless and keep you! In Christ Jesus,



___________________________________________

To Show GOD BIG in a World that Sees Him small… 
sums up the reason Keith stepped out in faith to focus on reaching the lost and strengthening believers everywhere, through Toward The Mark, Inc.  Keith and Brenda's prayer is that you will be encouraged and edified by the Secrets from God's Word that Keith recounts in our written and recorded products.  The complete collection of original podcasts, music, blogs, books, CDs, and other resources of Toward The Mark, Inc. are made possible by the prayer and financial contributions of the TTM Support Family.  We'd like to welcome you onboard TODAY!

We INVITE You ... to follow and share these resources that are available as well, for helping build your faith in God, His Will, and His Ways:
      
      
http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/3489319



This blog message, along with the rest of our inventory of Bible-based resources, is made possible by the support of our faithful monthly partners. Would you consider helping us expand our outreach capabilities by becoming a monthly financial partner? Your support will go toward fulfilling our God-given calling to help provide effective, contemporary outreach tools, available to everyone, the churched and un-churched alike, for getting to know the love, truth, and salvation of Jesus Christ. We invite you to partner with us as we "press Toward The Mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

CLICK HERE to make a tax-deductible contribution securely by PayPal.
Every gift is tax-deductible and helps, and we thank you for it!

Mail tax-deductible contributions by check to the order of:
Toward The Mark, Inc., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152. 

Thank you in advance for sowing your financial seed into the fertile soil of this ministry! We pray God bless you with a 100-fold return for your generosity!



Keep PRESSIN' IN!



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