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A Modern Parable: Computer and Our Spiritual Journey

20140210-153759.jpg“Our lives are run [enabled, controlled] by one of two ‘operating systems,’ either the [natural] flesh or the Spirit [supernatural]” -Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

THAT was the statement made on this morning’s radio program “Revive Our Hearts” that spurred this post.

Suddenly I was developing an analogy between the computer and our Christian walk. Sort of like the object lessons that Jesus would use to explain spiritual concepts, my creative mind hurriedly captured the thoughts for a modern day parable. Any brand names are used for illustrative purposes only.

Let me start with the initial phrase and build from there:

Computer and Our Spiritual Journey.
Our lives are run [enabled, controlled] by one of two ‘operating systems,’ either the [natural] flesh or the Spirit [supernatural].”Computer and Our Spiritual Journey
The pure operating system was made by the Creator to work perfectly: powerful, useful, pleasurable and efficient. When initially installed properly the OS works great in and of itself.
But we users [people, believers or not] make operator errors. We must interact with other programs and the internet [world] which are infected without becoming infected ourselves. When, not if, we do encounter problems [sin, embedded patterns of behavior] we must turn to the manufacturer [God, personally in prayer] and/or the manual [Bible, THE source] to know how to identify the problem [discern and identify sin] and how to properly fix it. [The Word of God instructs us how to repent and reconcile, purge and correct].
WE, ourselves, must be diligent at installing [applying] the latest upgrades [truth of God’s Word] and pay attention to ‘error messages’ [warnings] to prevent ‘bugs, viruses & crashes’ [sin in thoughts, patterns and behavior] from slowing our progress. It is our responsibility to exercise care.
We must stay alert for unwanted ‘spam’ [diversions] and “false links” that hijack us to a foreign place or plant a “worm” [not so unlike that ‘snake’ in the garden] which causes bad things to happen [as we stray from pure truth], often when we are carelessly unaware.
Carelessness can result in having the Enemy be able to steal the contact info for all our friends or even our passwords. Then the enemy will not only infect our system, but also those of others. He can send out all kinds of junk [problems] to all our contacts [loved ones] without our even being aware of it via background programs running invisibly. [we war with not just the “seen” but the unseen]. Worse yet…these false links are sent out in OUR name. Our testimony , reputation and relationship with others is damaged! The Trojan Horse is allowed into the gate because your friend trusts you not to harm them.
We ALL need to be discerning when receiving messages; even from friends, lest we ensnared.
How do we do that?

These are just some of the basic things that I have learned:

1. Know your Operating System (OS)
– If you have a MAC based [Christian] system, then you need to know that a Windows program [non-Christian] will NOT work with it, and vise versa, UNLESS there is a [conversion] program [Holy Spirit] is at work as well. Likewise, if you are used to working on an Apple based computer at home and then at work they use an IBM, you will NOT be able to operate in the exact same way.

2.Know where you are going and why.
-A link (place you are heading) sent without any explanation (no ‘Re:’ in an email’s topic field) or one that makes promises of instant gain or other “too good to be true” outcomes are earmarks of trouble…EVEN IF sent from a friend or family member! [God’s Plan is Understandable, true and knowable by our purposely seeking God and His ways]. Appearances can be deceiving- false labels and promises [deceit and lies are Satan’s forte] are more easily recognized when we study the truth [Bible and its teachings].

3. Know your “friends”.
– Really know who they are and help them know when you believe they are under attack.
-The definition of the word “friend” has been warped to include not just our true friends, but also acquaintances, service or business contacts and previous strangers. The nature of the Internet allows some people to assume false identities and to put forth falsehoods much too easily. By personally knowing your friends…you can watch out for one another against the various dangers surrounding us.
[the book of Proverbs speaks to the importance of keeping good company, dangers, and the need to not only beware of enticements but to put distance between evil and ourselves.]

4. Know the SOURCE!
– There are many places that offer us information and even FREE programs, items, music, computers and devices. In this I quote an oft repeated Army phrase– “STAY ALERT; STAY ALIVE!” [Bibles numerous warnings on deception and staying alert and wickedness] Remember that problems often enter by posing as temptations and pretty packages. [remember the temptations of Jesus Himself by Satan who twisted the truth. The victory came as Jesus quoted God’s Word… not an interpretation…the ACTUAL words of Holy Scripture revealed and overcame the deceit].
Likewise, There are ways to check if a link is taking you to where it “says” its taking you (view sources). In general, the old rules of common sense is right on, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” AND “nothing is FREE”. Also, the more familiar you become with Truth, the more easily recognized is deceit.

5. KEEP CURRENT. [don’t stop growing in righteousness]
“Use it or lose it”. The longer that you’ve been away from your computer, the greater the chance that there may be more work to bring it up to date. Everyone can see this in that a daily attended E-mail box has hundreds less waiting items than does one that hasn’t been opened in a week! The junk builds up, important items may be overlooked and opportunities and deadlines missed.
It’s important to install updates and upgrades, because they most always have improved filters of junk and fixes of problems. BUT…even with those… KNOW the source. It is possible to get a blindly sent email CLAIMING that you just need to install this onto your computer or click this link or tell them your password, birthdate and Social Security ID! Don’t fall for it! There are legitimate ways for real people to get those private pieces of information and it does NOT involve email where we don’t REALLY know who is asking or what they intend to do with the information.

Although God created man in His own image and pure. Because of sin, this Life is NOT problem free! We must turn to God [the Creator, manufacturer] for a rebuild [forgiveness and grace; the application of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross paid for our sin=justification] and then subsequent training and upgrades [sanctification, growing in Godliness]. God’s way is not just an “additional” program or “add-on app”! God’s way is the Operation System! We can do NOTHING (good, holy, right) without Him!
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I pray this modern day parable is helpful to you in some way. I hope you have enjoyed this little analogy and that it has given you pause to think about other ways that God uses in our everyday life and activities to continue to teach His ways to us. Of course, it is MOST important to be reading, learning and applying the Bible to our lives. But it is nice that He uses things all around us to turn our minds toward Him.

I would love to hear your own thoughts. Please leave a comment below.”

Taking it Up a Notch

Take it up a notch – Acts 19:8-10 The Apostle Paul & the Halls of Tryannus.
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I LOVE GOD’s WORD!! It is forever enlightening me to God’s wondrous ways! It fascinates me how God’s word is overflowing with discoveries of treasures that I have passed right over in previous readings. Suddenly a word, thought, term, place or person will “jump off the page” and stir my curiosity, enliven my spirit, or in some other way cause me to dig deeper.

That is what happened this morning! I made an interesting observation while Bible reading in preparation for hearing the next in a series of messages taught by my church’s pastor on Sundays. God’s Holy Scripture says: “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:1, 8-10 ESV)”

Here is what jumped out at me. Initially, the apostle Paul was holding true to his pattern of behavior while on mission trips (this was known as his 3rd missionary tour) he would always go to the synagogue (or closest thing to it if there wasn’t one) and preach, teach, reason and debate according to the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These visits were usually cut short by arrests, jail time and/ or beatings and being run out of town.

But here we see Paul “step it up a notch” as he entered the city he “found some disciples” and Paul took them into the synagogue WITH him where Paul spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. After three months, when some were not only stubborn in their unbelief, but also spoke evil against “the Way” (the Gospel), Paul withdrew from them because those in the synagogue had hardened their hearts against truth and were now rejecting the truth of Scripture and Paul’s Gospel message.

So Paul left… taking the disciples with him. It appears that Paul didn’t want those he was discipling to hear such evil, nor to sit under false teaching so he took them WITH him. He led by example and did not return evil for evil, nor insist on his own way. He was learning through experience how to continue despite adversity and opposition. Paul remained faithful to the mission, the Word, the Gospel AND to those he was training.

But where did they withdraw too? I noted a place unfamiliar to me; “the Halls of Tyrannus”. I have read over this phrase several times. What IS this place? From my limited Web search I discovered this place may have been like a university or place of learning that was owned by a fellow named Tyrannus. It’s not a very creative University name, but I guess it is distinctive.

Tyrannus himself may have been a scholar who lectured here and was sympathetic to Paul. Some articles on the internet suggest that Tyrannus lectured up until 11am and then again after 4 pm, daily. The culture at that time was such that work ceased daily from 11am to 4 pm because of the extreme heat. So this “leisure time” was a time when Paul could reason, speak and evangelize from within these halls of learning to great congregations. A secular place being blessed by Holy teaching. I wish we had that going on at All of our schools today.

Profound things that I’ve noted in just these three verses from Acts: (1)Paul is now actively finding and training disciples IN the place he evangelizing. He used to bring disciples with him that would typically continue on with him. Here I see Paul is actually training up native disciples that live there.
(2) Paul is not going into just the synagogue of jews any more. He is now teaching and evangelizing jews, greeks and anyone and in a secular place. As a result of Paul withdrawing and not fighting in the synagogue, by following the wisdom found in the Scriptures to live at peace with all men inasmuch as it depends upon you … shake off the dust off your feet and move on… the Word of God never fails to accomplish what God intends).

The Gospel is NOW being spread. Did you see that?! It says ALL the residents of Asia! No longer confined to just the men within the walls of a single synagogue, the Truth of God’s Word and the saving Gospel are being proclaimed everywhere! To everyone who are actually seeking and it is being received. This is a stark contrast to the close-minded, stubborn group he left back at the synagogue.

(3) I think it is especially worthy of note that Paul taught DAILY at the Halls of Tyrannus… for TWO YEARS. 700 days of such a passionate teacher of the Gospel that Paul was, can you even imagine that? What an impact that had on the Kingdom of God growing among men!! Plus, I am sure that Paul much preferred the accommodations of this great hall and the type of people interactions that he had here in contrast to the dingy, dank cells of imprisonment in which he had previously been contained.

Finally, I wish to close with the main thought that repeats throughout the book of Acts. “Regardless of the circumstances we face in life. The Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ WILL be proclaimed. God’s Word will never fail and His gift to us of the Holy Spirit will help us to live out the Greatest Commandment to love the Lord, your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength AND to love your neighbor as yourself. Then that same Spirit will help us accomplish the Great Commission of going out into all the earth proclaiming the Good News Gospel which saves the lost and condemned thru the sacrificial blood given on behalf of all who will believe and place their trust in Jesus Christ.

We are so blessed to be given this glorious Word of God! Our Savior Jesus Christ is a treasure to us for eternity. The Holy Spirit can work through and with us to make a difference. Now!, right this moment, there are people who’ve not even heard or don’t even know how God wants to love them. I am sure you know of at least one person; someone near you right now. 2014 is a new year. Will you join me in purposefully “looking” for disciples? I am continuing to pray for revival among the people of God, not just IN the churches, but even moreso outside those walls and amongst the people. For one Day EVERY tribe, tongue and nation WILL proclaim that Jesus is Lord, but those who continue to reject Him now will been viewed as an enemy and not a beloved child.

We have a mission… every single one of us! We do not need to preach from a pulpit or lecture to a crowd to impact another for all eternity. Right now, with what the Lord provides, YOU and I can make 2014 be a year in which people enjoy true rebirth that will last forever. All we need to do is “take it up a notch”.

The Wonders of Christmas

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As Christmas is just now officially arriving at midnight I wish you a WONDER FILLED Christmas! Not just an occasion for gift giving and receiving, singing and feasting, but a really marvelous time of being caught up in the wonder of Christmas. I wish for you, and your entire family, the kind of wonder that is displayed in this photo (thanks Isha S.).  Do you see the beautiful blend of delight and awe, curiosity and joy that is seen as this young child reaches out for the Christmas tree ornament? THAT is the kind of Christmas I wish for you!!

Delight in the love and merriment of gathering our families and friends together. Awe at the fact that God; the Almighty Creator of Heaven, Earth and everything, sent His only son to earth that we might receive forgiveness and mercy and be allowed to have an everlasting relationship with Him.

The curious excitement at exploring the many sights, sounds, foods and traditions that accompany this special time of celebration. And finally the JOY, pure bliss, of learning that it is not our ability to buy loads of gifts, or give the best presents that make Christmas so very special. It is not the things that make this time most memorable. Rather, I have learned in the leanest of times, in the poorest of health, even when we don’t have the time and energy to participate in a lot of different activities that the modern world thinks typify Christmas celebrations; it is even at the darkest of times, that we come to learn Christmas is NOT about things… it’s about people.

Most importantly, as we center around the true meaning of Christmas, we learn that Jesus was more than just some baby born in a stable over two thousand years ago. Jesus demonstrated what Christmas is all about. It’s about giving of ourselves. Even in the poorest of surroundings, when it looks as though we have nothing of value to give, there remains this truth. There is no greater gift than giving ourselves for the sake of others.

So for those friends of mine who must rest up for three days to be able to have enough energy to be able to even attend a gathering of family for a few hours (and then need another day or two to recover), I say, “rest up. For your just being there is a great gift to your loved ones.” To those who are so very sad or depressed because the lack of sunshine or the reminders of dear ones who have passed on are causing your emotions to weigh heavy upon your spirit, I say, “take heart. Your loved ones love you; sadness included. Get dressed, chin up, and get out that door to your friend’s or families gathering. Allow yourself the grace of knowing that your emotions may be down, but that your heart and soul may be uplifted simply by purposing to go out and partake in the wonder of Christmas.”

You see, if God can take the form of a tiny helpless human child for the sake of bringing hope to others, we can follow this example. It cost Jesus greatly to forgo the ultimate bliss of heaven and enter into our world. Yet, because He did, we have been given the greatest gift of having our sins forgiven and an eternal relationship with the Holy God who created us and wants so much to have a good relationship with us that He sent His only son Jesus to accomplish this for us. He was an example of how to give of ourselves for the sake of others. And when we do give of ourselves it always costs us something. Yet, in so doing we receive back many more blessings than we could have even imagined.

Christmas joy and wonder are so very simple. . . it is in looking around you . . . intentionally opening your eyes to see the many beautiful things that God created, gives and shares with us. Just look at the children. Jesus Himself valued the simple way in which a child comes to understand his world; how they come to faith in Jesus. “Let the Children come to Me,” Jesus commanded as adults tried to keep them away from Him. Everyone knows that it is so much more fun to celebrate Christmas with a child in the home. The bubbly excitement, the many questions, the laughter and wide-eyed awe that are seen with children are good reminders for all of us to get back to the basics of what Christmas is all about.

As Christmas 2013 is now officially here, I wish you a Christmas filled to overflowing with the love that Jesus Christ brought to us that very first Christmas. May you discover it first-hand and then dare to share what you’ve found with others, so that your joy (and theirs) may be multiplied many times over as God’s presence fills the missing void. “Glory to God is the Highest!” the angels proclaimed on that first Christmas. Let us join in that song, now and forever.

 

Happy Birthday Jesus! O’ what a wonder you are!

Shepherds and wise men, paupers and kings;

all who would follow the star.

 

Coming as helpless babe. Your life for us to give.

Humble or sickly, poor or common;

ANY who sought you could live.

 

We celebrate you Jesus! All else put asunder.

Lights, gifts and presents, music and gatherings

YOU are the source of ALL wonder.

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” — John 3:16    The truth is so simple. Have you believed?

I pray that you, dear reader, will discover the deepest and sweetest sense of wonder yet known to man . . . may you discover the sweet gift of Emmanuel ( God with us ) . . . Jesus Christ who came to be the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace, and should you choose, your Lord and Savior. Merry Christmas!

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