The Wood Of Ephraim

The Wood of Ephraim

PROLOGUE

“With Absalom went two hundred men from Jerusalem who were invited guests, and they went in their innocence and knew nothing.” 2 Samuel 15:11 (ESV)

Wood of Ephriam

According to thegreatestbooks.org, William Faulkner’s novel “Absalom, Absalom!” is the 25th most critically acclaimed work of fiction ever made. The title refers to the Biblical story of Absalom, a son of David who rebelled against his father (then King of Kingdom of Israel) and who was killed by David’s general Joab in violation of David’s order to deal gently with his son, causing heartbreak to David. To read Faulkner’s novel gives one a sense that SOMEONE should have told Thomas Sutpen about Jesus just like SOMEONE should done the same for Absalom…well at the very best how to show grace and mercy to those who hurt you.

Now if you need a refresher on who Absalom was, here it goes…You remember King David in the Bible, a man after God’s own heart? Well he had a son named Absalom and he was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. Then, Absalom killed his half-brother Amnon because Amnon raped their sister Tamar.  This put David and Absalom in conflict and Absalom fled to a city of refuge provided by his maternal grandfather.  When David finally invited Absalom back to Jerusalem (side note: David was pressured into doing this) Absalom worked to take the kingdom from David. Eventually Absalom would die by the hand of Joab (his barley field was sent a blaze by Absalom once) during The Battle of Ephraim’s Wood.

So where am I going with this? Well I am not too sure how this happens but every so often I find a book that Bill Welte use to own. (I think they all wind up in the Keswick Thrift Store) In this case the book I am paging through is titled, “Why Churches Die” by Mac Brunson & Ergun Caner, and it lead me to remember that I had a handout written by Dr. Dick Chase titled “The 12 Stages of an Absalom Spirit”. So, do you know where I am going now? If not, then stick with me and if you do…then stick with me, this is gonna get rough. Because I think there is time when we are sitting in the Sanctuary saying to ourselves, “Our church would better off if this, that or the other thing/person wasn’t here or happening.”

Now how far we going into these kinda thoughts should be of great concern to us.  Because to allow an “Absalom Spirit” to settle into ourselves can lead to bad things for us and for those around us. Basically there are 12 stages that we can go through to exhibit that we’ve been influenced by the Absalom spirit of rebellion and disloyalty. And if we progress through these stages, any church we are in will experience increasing strife and disunity. Ultimately, if this “Spirit” isn’t dealt with, the rebellion and disloyalty that can spread throughout the congregation will bring a church split or the departure of many Christ-centered people.

What is important to grasp a hold of is this, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2Cor 10:4-6) So if you are being Christ-centered in your thinking in a very Romans 12:2 way the Absalom Spirit will not find its place in you. I will be going over those 12 steps in my next few Freedom Fighters but until that time think upon this question, “Is it unrealistic to want church to be a place of spiritual edification?” And then ponder why the people are there. Amen?

Daily Bible Reading: Romans 14-16

Think About This: “When you do not learn to forgive people for the wrong they have done to you, you become a victim a second time. You become ensnarled in a cycle of hatred, poison, and bitterness that has no end and has no solution. This is why Jesus told the offended person to go to the one who has wronged him. (If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.—Matt 18:15-17 MSG)”—Brunson & Caner

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

What Are You Worried About?

What Are You Worried About?

 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

This verse has much to say about our relationship to the LORD and His ability to meet our needs.  This verse is found in the great sermon that Jesus spoke to a crowd of people that we call the “Sermon on the Mount”.  I am going to share with you some insights that I have learned over the years about this idea of worry or being anxious.

Have you ever experience worry or anxiety?  I can assure you that the things that we worry about the most are things that are in the future.  Look at the verse, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself”.   The next time you are feeling anxious asked yourself if what you are thinking (worrying) about has to do with the now or the future.

I remember two years ago, when my wife Ellen was laying in the hospital bed, unconscious, on all kinds of life support things and I was worrying about what I was going to do, if God should take her home.  It took me a few weeks to get out of this habit of thinking but God did show me that my worries were for naught.  As a matter of speaking, Ellen was unconscious for 9 days, and I remember going to church the morning that she gained consciousness and my pastor during the corporate prayer time, had asked the church to cry out on Ellen’s behalf to take her home without much suffering.  I had the peace of God in my mind at that time and said to the LORD, “if that is your will LORD, I am going to be okay with that”.  I really meant that in my heart, but my anxious thoughts were thinking of all the things that I would need to do if that became my reality.

This brings me to another verse where Paul encourages his readers, to think on things that are true.  I had to remind myself, that Ellen was still alive even though she was on a breathing machine and unconscious, she still had life in her.  I also had to remind myself that God wants me to focus on today, and not on the hours, days, weeks, or months ahead.  We had a trip planned in November that year and it September was coming to the end, LORD are we going to be able to make the trip?  Do not worry about that Doug.

So, what does worry do for us?  Nothing!  It cannot add a single moment to our life, as a matter of speaking, worry tends to rob us of moments of life.  Think about it, if we are so focused on the future and not the moment we are living in, we are missing all that God wants to do in and through us at this moment.  It took me some time to learn this.  So, two days that we really can not afford to have our minds fixed on, yesterday (because it is behind us) and tomorrow (it isn’t even promised to us).  Our focus needs to be on today.  Jesus says that today, has it own trouble and these troubles should be our focus.

I love how Jesus can minister to us in the simple things of life.  Worry is focusing on that which is not true (because it usually is about the future) and we use words such as “what if”.  The next time you say “what if” stop yourself and say, “what is”.  You see, today has its own troubles.  How are you and the LORD handling those troubles today?  What is he teaching you in those troubles?  Is he LORD of your life?  That means that He is sovereign, in control of all things.  Do you believe that with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength?  Of course not, we all struggle with these things, but are you growing?  Are you moving towards Christlikeness or away from it?  Only you (and the LORD of course) know whether or not you are moving towards Christlikeness.  I tell the men that I work with to honestly asked themselves if they are truly different today than they were 30 days ago, 60 days ago, 90 days ago.  Not only are they doing different things, but are they different.  If so, do they look more or less like Jesus.  How about you?  Doug Barger is the Director of Men’s Ministries at Bethesda Mission outside of Harrisburg and is the former Colony of Mercy Administrator

Daily Bible Reading: Romans 11-13

Think About This: There never was a person who did unfeignedly repent of sin with believing repentance who was not forgiven. On the other hand, there never was a person forgiven who had not repented of his sin. Charles Haddon Spurgeon

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Guilty By Association

Guilty by Association

“Because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.” John 12:11

I remember growing up and being warned about certain kids that I was forbidden to hang around because “they are trouble”. As a kid I did well to heed that warning. However when I got older and the supervision wasn’t there, not only did I associate with them, I was one of them.

guilty-by-association-header-manchester

It’s a little different now, I am “guilty by association”, but it’s become a good thing. This verse in John 12 is referring to Lazarus and because of him being raised from the dead his testimony caused certain Jews to believe.

The value of a good testimony is a great tool God uses to bring people to Himself. If you’re a child of God and you live in such a way that people who don’t know Christ will come to know Christ because they knew, and now know you (you might want to re-read that last line) is a responsibility we all have.

There can be a type of symbolism in the story of Lazarus, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.” Colossians 2:13 NLT People should see a new life, like the sign says outside of Keswick from 2nd Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”.

Then of course we have the opposite, Jesus said “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you”. But that’s the subject for another Freedom Fighter.

The focus here is that you were saved and delivered for greater reason then you know. I once heard it asked, “If you were brought up on charges for being a follower of Jesus, is there enough evidence to find you guilty”?

Ephesians 5:1, 2 tells us “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” An Aroma is much different than an odor. Martha thought that Lazarus was going to give off a stench, instead it was a sweet smelling aroma.

So let’s remember when we walk to follow what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4, “ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Rob Russomano is a weekly Freedom Fighter blogger and is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy. He serves full-time at America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: Romans 8-10

Think About This: So often we are in danger of abusing the Scriptures… We use them as mere phrases in that manner, or lightheartedly we sing our hymns, and we feel better for the time being. But the question is, How do we stand up to temptations when we are in the street outside, and what are we like at home? When you turn Scripture into a drug, into something which gives you a temporary relief without your knowing why or how, the effect does not last. It gives a temporary feeling of exhilaration, but fails you when you are in the struggle and in the heat of the battle. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

When We Mess Up!

When We Mess Up!

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5 ESV)

When We Mess Up

In life, we can count on times when we are not at our best, and we will mess up. Not if we mess up, when we mess up? Furthermore, what is our response, when we mess up? Since we are not the only ones that make mistakes, let’s look at two example from the Bible of individuals who have messed up.

First, King Saul had specific orders from the Lord to destroy the detestable Amalekites’ idols, and all that they have. God did not want Saul to spare anything, and to kill both man, woman, children, and life stock.

Saul declared to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep, and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” (1 Samuel 15:20-22)

Saul directly disobeyed the instructions of God, to make matters worse, when Samuel confronted him; he tried to justify his action with his own reasoning. The Bible warns, “Do not be wise in our own eyes.” Saul’s reign seemed to have plummeted from that very moment.

Conversely, King David was not at his best, fell into temptation, and eventually led him to a sinful relationship with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan confronted him, And David responded, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:2-4)

There is no question; both were in sin; however, David had a different approach. He demonstrated an attitude of repentance, as well as, a concern for His relationship with God.

Here are two principles, out of many, to consider from His word when we mess up.

  1. Confessions bring Healing

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

  1. Our strength comes from Him:

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

These two principle seem to work alongside each other closely, it is at the moment when we begin confessing our weaknesses, God reminds us that we can do this without Him, and He provides the strength we need. Are you feeling powerless over your circumstances or a specific situation today? Good, you are in good company, because the moment you let go, He will be magnified in our life. Let Go, and Let God! Juan Mendez is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and serves full-time at America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: Romans 4-7

Think About This: The Church on earth is a cross-eyed church, with one eye on God in His heavenly benediction, and one eye on the needy world of men. David Head

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

It’s Not All About Me

It’s Not All About Me …

Welcome to this new week of Freedom Fighter blogs. I want to thank you for joining me and the guys who are faithfully writing each that encourage you and me to walk in victory.

It's Not All About Me

Last week I was having one of those rough days and I was finding myself getting frustrated with everything. One morning last week, the Lord reminded me that it is not all about me …

It isn’t all about me:

My flesh wants:

To be right
To be respected
To be understood
To be appreciated

BUT …

I don’t need to be right
I don’t need to be respected
I don’t need to be understood
I don’t need to be appreciated

Jesus wants me

To serve HIM whether or not I am right or wrong
To serve HIM whether or not I am respected
To serve HIM whether or not I am understood
To serve HIM whether or not I am appreciated

If I can fully grasp this – then I can really say, “But none of these things move me nor do I count my life dear to myself – so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 – Dr. Bill Welte is President/CEO of America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: Romans 1-3

Think About This: The long dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the Devil. C. S. Lewis

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Out of Order

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

“Out of Order”, now there’s a familiar sign. Sometimes when I respond to a work request I arrive to see that because of a dysfunction there is an out of order sign. My job is to examine the issue and take the proper steps so when I’m done the issue is resolved and things are back up and running.Matthew 6:33

Out of Order

“Out of Order” is a good way to describe my life when I allow things to bring me to a place of dysfunction. There are times when, because of misuse or overuse of my time and my treasure that I become useless.

Sometimes it’s as if I was walking around with my own “out of order” sign hanging over my neck and the responses to some of my reactions from people cause me to fill out a spiritual work request. There are many places in scripture where God has provided us a place to come to Him and allow Him to put things back in order. I find myself taking time to examine the path I’ve been walking and use a good method to allow God to show me the areas I need to give Him for repair.

The verses King David records in Psalm 24 have become my spiritual diagnostic formula. He asks the question in Psalm 24, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?”  He goes on to instruct us, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully”.
  For me this is a good place to start. Clean hands tells me that when I’ve gotten dirty from the things of this world I need to wash my hands by confessing my sin. A pure heart is allowing the Holy Spirit of God to take His proper place by reading and meditating in His word, making sure there are no idols on the throne of my heart and the truth of God is in focus and ruling my walk.

So, maybe it’s time to take the “dys” out of dysfunction, fill out a spiritual work request and allow the Spirit of God to “do His thing”!  — Rob Russomano is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and serves full-time at America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1-4

Think About This: Someone asked William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army,  what was the secret of his success. He replied, tears filling his eyes. “I will tell you the secret, God has all there was of me to have.” William Booth

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20

Don’t Jump Like Jehoshaphat

Don’t Jump Like Jehoshaphat

“Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” He answered him, “I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war.” 2 Chronicles 18:3 (ESV)

Jumpin' Jehosophat

There was time in American life where the phrase “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat” had been in use. I think when I was a kid I may have heard hit on the TV (F-Troop comes to mind) when it was still a black and white world without any idea of HDMI or High Definition. The phrase can be traced back to Mayne Reid’s novel “The Headless Horseman” written in 1866 but it might just go back a bit further. Maybe back before the Ten Tribes of Israel had been carted off into captivity. Maybe around a time when the people of Judah watched as King Jehoshaphat jumped from doing the very will of YHVH to aligning himself with the wicked kings like Ahab and Ahaziah.

We get introduced to King Jehoshaphat in 2Chronicles 17:1 and 1Kings 15:24. For the most part he is a man of YHVH and we know this by what we can see in the text of 2Chronicles 17. The first thing we can see is he just may a king who will cry out to YHVH, we know this because he is of the house of David, the great-great-grandson I do believe (if this isn’t right…eh, I tried). David is known for crying out to his God. Another thing we glean is that Jehoshaphat delights in the ways of YHVH because he removes those high altars of the Baals. And then he sends many men of YHVH to go out and teach the people the very things of YHVH he himself delights in. Not Too Shabby!!

And by 18th chapter of 2Chronicles Jehoshaphat jumps, not so much physically but certainly spiritually. He makes two of the three worldly alliances he is known for with Ahab, first by an arranged marriage between his son and Ahab’s daughter then by helping Ahab with his army against the occupiers of Ramoth-gilead. That military campaign goes bad for Ahab so Jehoshaphat jumps back to the safety of Jerusalem, having learned his lesson it was back to the things of YHVH. But before his death he will make his third worldly alliance with Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, in a commercial boat building venture that a prophet named Eliezer exclaims, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.” And the boating business sinks to the bottom of the waters…Not Too Smart!!

In the 19th chapter there was a real “tell it like is” from a guy like Jehu and by the 20th chapter Jehoshaphat was getting his reign back on track and vertically aligned. Which leads me to think how we all need a Jehu in our lives to say, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?” We tend to think that we can take a step backwards and help those that God leaves behind in our lives and I think this is what Jehoshaphat is thinking. We think that helping out those left behind is an okay thing so we’ll jump into something that is clearly ungodly, take our place with Elohim for granted and have to run back to Him for safety. Praise Him that He will…but not without consequence.

If there was anyone who understood what it meant to run back to the safety of Him who is able it was Peter. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)  When Peter gets outta the boat to meet with Jesus on the shore after the Crucifixion I wonder if it could have been Jehoshaphat as well or me or you? None the matter of who it is coming out the boat it’s Who is on the shore that makes the difference. I think we’ll be jumpin’ like Jehoshaphat every so often but for those of us who name the Name above all names we will find comfort, rest and a healthy breakfast waiting for us, all established ahead of time by Him who is worthy to be called El Elyon! Amen?  Chris Hughes is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and is a weekly Freedom Fighter blogger

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15-16

Think About This: “Another reason why Christians know Christ and God so little is that we want things instead of God. We are more interested in the gift than the giver. God wants to us Himself. God wants to impart Himself with His gift. Separated from God, the gift is dangerous.”—A.W. Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20