The Wood of Ephraim — Opening Act

The Wood of Ephraim — OPENING ACT

“And while Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.”— 2 Samuel 15:12 (ESV)

Wood of Ephriam

In my last Freedom Fighter I began to un-wrap the root of having an “Absalom Spirit” through the actual life of King David’s son Absalom. Today I would like to continue unpacking it.

What would have made Absalom flat-out rebel against his father may have been found as deep as the sin that David committed with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband. Pretty much summing up that the treachery of this time period in history had come to roost. As some commentaries have written, Ahithophel may have been Bathsheba’s grandfather and had been harboring a disdain for David for quite some time, being Absalom’s advisor now would complete a possible vengeance against King David. But ya know something…if you wanna rebel, you’re gonna rebel. You’ll need no-one to advise you in the matter. So with that said let’s touch on the first six stages of having this behavior as listed by Dr. Dick Chase.

  1. An Independent Spirit…The first stage involves an attitude which takes on an independent spirit. The person no longer wants to serve the leadership but seeks recognition and a reputation. (Like the person that starts a study in their home but doesn’t list it in the church bulletin. As matter of fact, they only invite and seek out the like-minded only)
  2. Self-Promotion…In this stage a person will maneuver for the praise of men. II Samuel 15 tells us that Absalom stood by the gate of the city and stole the hearts of the people. (Absalom was on a handshaking campaign. Like a politician, he agreed with everyone needing solutions for their problems but he needs your vote so he could be in a position to bring solutions to your doorstep. Wolf in sheep’s clothing?)
  3. Spiritual Pride…As people recognize and praise the Absalom, the deceived individual begins to believe that he is more spiritual than the leaders. (They keep score, don’t they? They announce how many folks are at their private studies; the amount of people heard their version of the Gospel message and became saved; how many people seek their counsel…”I should start my own church”)
  4. An Offended Spirit…Fourthly, we find the Absalom falls into an offended spirit because of spiritual pride. When his ideas and gifts are not promoted by the leadership as he believes they should be, he becomes highly offended. Often he will seek others that will agree with him in his offense. (They occupy the annual church meeting with their agenda to make things better for the sake of growth in the congregation. After all, they ((and their friends at the private study)) have had this mapped out for months)
  5. 5. A Critical Spirit…This leads up to a critical attitude toward the leadership. At this point, almost all the decisions of the leaders are questioned and undermined to the people. Sadly, with this critical spirit, the Absalom no longer can receive any spiritual feeding or direction from the leadership. (I have often wondered if it was the person or people who get up and walk out on the Pastor’s message once he has zoned in on his delivery.)
  6. A Competitive Spirit…At this stage, the Absalom sets himself up in competition with the church leadership and begins to distort and misrepresent the decisions and directives the leaders are giving. (Like Absalom, they and their version of fifty chariots are lined up along the side walk leading to the church building saying things like “Can you believe what they decided at the Elders meeting last night”)

I can almost bet (if I did such a thing) that you have been exposed to this Absalom Spirit in your church. This “Absalom” doesn’t even know the damage they cause other Christians who are struggling with their faith…they may not even care. Jesus was very clear when He said a little leaven, leavens the whole lump and if you understand the Levitical law pertaining to the grain offering, leaven is an unacceptable sacrifice. So if it didn’t fly in the Tabernacle it shouldn’t fly in our Churches. I’ll finish this up in my next Freedom Fighter but until then continue to pray for your Pastor and the leadership against such a spirit to come against them. It is your reasonable service, Amen? – Chris Hughes blogs weekly for Freedom Fighter and is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy

Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 15-17

Think About This: Some unstable Christians begin to doubt their church. They are notorious for causing fights in the fellowship, starting confrontations because they no longer see any evidence of the “power of God.” The evidence they seek is emotional in scope. Without the feeling, they deduce, there is no power. The truly unstable Christian, when confronted with a less emotional church, eventually stops coming to church altogether.”—Brunson & Caner

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15-16

Daniel the Scientist

Daniel the Scientist

Faith and science are described as adversaries, and in many cases, it is absolute truth. However, if we look closely there are instances where the two meet.

Daniel the Scientist

In Daniel 1, a dilemma arose that needed some attention. “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore, he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, having confidence the Lord.” (Daniel 1:8, 9)

Observation: There was conflict for the eunuch between allowing Daniel to eat as he wishes and keeping his appearance acceptable for the King.

Question: “and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age?” (vs10)

Hypothesis: “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” (v13)

Experiment: “So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.” (vs14)

Results: At the end of ten days, it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. (vs15)

Conclusion: “So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. (vs16)” Daniel’s prediction was right his appearance was good, moreover he look better than the rest of the youth.

This story reveals the benefits of eating well and trusting in God in various crisis. In addition, it demonstrates a scientific methodology in a fundamental way; it also shows that that God is not an enemy of science, but in fact the author.  Juan Mendez serves full-time at America’s Keswick and is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy. You can write to Juan at jmendez@americaskeswick.org

Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 13-14

Think About This: Timing is so important! If you are going to be successful in dance, you must be able to respond to rhythm and timing. It’s the same in the Spirit. People who don’t understand God’s timing can become spiritually spastic, trying to make the right things happen at the wrong time. They don’t get His rhythm – and everyone can tell they are out of step. They birth things prematurely, threatening the very lives of their God-given dreams. T D Jakes

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15-16

How Do You Spell Relief?

How Do You Spell Relief?

Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!” Psalm 116:4

If you’re like me you have your source of relief according to the discomfort you’re experiencing.

How Do You Spell Relief

I like antacids for neutralizing digestive discomfort, I’ll take an occasional Advil for muscle pain, etc. But where do you go when your soul hurts?

I’m convinced that most addictions and habits are formed by people who want to fill a void that is hard to recognize, heart and soul ache, a troubled spirit. One of my memory verses is Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.

If you’re asking “Who can heal my broken spirit?” the answer is The Great I AM, the Great Physician and the Lover of your soul.

So what does “Come to Me” look like to you? I suppose there is a time to seek council and to talk to someone but I have to tell you if your burdens have fallen on deaf ears or the comfort you seek is not coming from man there has to be a scripture or even a scripture based praise song or hymn. Sound biblical council should lead to a relying on the scriptures. It’s as if your lost and need directions, pull over and find someone to lead you to Jesus.

Lately for me it’s been psalm 116. Some say it might have been song by Jesus the night before His death. When Jesus experienced anguish and troubled spirit He called to the Father. I can almost picture myself being lifted up out of a miry clay as is recorded in Psalm 40 “He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps”.

So if you have been relying on your defense mechanisms to get you thru a troubled or disquieted soul, stop, cry out Hosanna, Hallelujah or cry Jesus, verbally. David says,” I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. ​​Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live”.  

So, how do you spell relief? J-E-S-U-S! – Rob Russomano serves full-time at America’s Keswick and is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy. You can write to Rob at rrussomano@americaskeswick.org.

Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 10-12

Think About This: Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token homage to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is ABOVE, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choice he makes day after day throughout his life. A W Tozer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15-16

Not I, But Christ

Not I, But Christ

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Not I But Christ

Good morning, my brothers. Welcome to a new week of Freedom Fighter blogs. I really, really appreciate you walking this journey of victory with me.

Last week I share about what God has been teaching me, reminding me that it is not all about me.

I wanted to share these lyrics with you from a powerful hymn that I learned about through the friendship of Dr. & Mrs. Eric Crichton:

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted,
Not I, but Christ, be seen, and known and heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

Christ, only Christ, no idle work e’er falling,
Christ, only Christ, no needless bustling sound;
Christ, only Christ, no self-important bearing,
Christ, only Christ, no trace of I be found.

Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying,
Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;
Christ, only Christ, for body, soul and spirit,
Christ, only Christ, then live Your life in me.

Christ, only Christ, someday will fill my vision,
Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see.
Christ, only Christ, by every wish fulfilling.
Christ only Christ, my all in all to be.

Refrain

O, to be saved from myself, dear Lord! O, to be lost on Thee!
O, that it might be no more, I, but Christ that lives in me.

Wow. This sure runs counter-culture to the work we live it where it is all about us. My daily prayer has been – Not, I, but Christ.

Are there areas in your life, brothers, where it is all about you? What steps will you take to be more less about you and more about Him? – Dr. Bill Welte is President/CEO of America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 8-9

Think About This: …to do any any service for God without regard for what may be the will of God, without understanding the real principles of Christian service, is not only foolish but sinful. To do so asserts the right to choose your own task, your own sphere of service, your own life, and ignores the claims of the Saviour, which should take first place. Alan Redpath

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15-16

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