Archive for July, 2012

F4F #29: Our REFUGE in the Day of TROUBLE

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble;

And He knows those who trust in Him.

Nahum 1:7

This past weekend was a dark time in our nationOne sick individual carried out a sinister plan to take the lives of total strangers, impacting not only the victims and their families, but a whole community and nation in the process.

As followers of Jesus, our hearts ache for those affected by the shooting, and we pray for God’s mercy, healing, and help on those injured and on those who mourn.  May the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” draw each one close, and may they find true love and healing under the shadow of His wings.

While America returns to “business as usual” this week, you and I face a pressing question: How should Believers respond to such a tragedy?  How do we move forward with confidence and trust in the light of such senseless evil?   

Here are three vital points that will help us maintain focus and stay fruitful in such a dark day.

1.      Remember: Jesus said that we would experience troubled times in the season before His return:

“And because lawlessness will abound,

the love of many will grow cold.”

Matthew 24:12 

Tragically, we see “lawlessness abounding” in our nation in distressing and unprecedented ways.  The enemies we face are spiritual – not human – but the battles play out in America’s political and cultural arenas.  Consider:

  • Abortion continues to shed the blood of millions of innocent and helpless victims on our soil, including “sex selection abortions” where healthy babies are aborted after 5 months (when brain and nervous system are developed) simply because the parents don’t like the baby’s gender. A portion of our tax dollars goes to fund many such murders (that amount will increase significantly under “Obamacare”). 

 

  • Giant corporations – like Starbucks, Nike, General Mills Foods, JCPenneys, and Office Depot – are spending millions of dollars to help force an aggressive homosexual agenda on our nation.  Examples include bankrolling political efforts to “redefine marriage,” and supporting various programs to teach our children that homosexual behavior is good and normal. (In California public schools, children as young as 5 years of age receive pro-homosexual indoctrination). 

 

  • Cultural hostility toward Biblical Christianity is increasing, as popular opinion rails against the concepts of absolute truth, sin, and accountability for actions.  America has embraced the mindset of lawlessness – the absence of absolute “right and wrong” – and has taught it in our schools…
As one who deeply loves and prays for our nation, I must ask the question:
Should it really shock us when members of this young generation act out what they’ve been taught – that there is no meaning, no absolute truth, no definitive right or wrong, no value on life, and no accountability for one’s actions? 
 

2.      And yet, regardless how dark or troubled the day in which we live becomes, every life surrendered to Jesus is under His covering and care – your life and death are not a matter of chance or circumstance, but are ordered by divine wisdom and will:

 

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…

Psalm 46:1-2 

 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

2 Timothy 4:16

 …He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

2 Samuel 22:31

The One who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you(Hebrews 13:5) is with us today.  He knows the day and hour in which we live, the spiritual darkness afflicting our land, and the compromised state of the American Church.  He has promised to guide, provide, defend, and watch over those whose hearts are set wholly after Him:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him

2 Chronicles 16:9

 3.      Our prayers still matter, still move the Father’s heart, and still weigh heavily in the balances on behalf of souls in our nationAnd
He is looking for a remnant people who will pray today.  Our spiritual foe would tell us, “It’s no use – America is too far gone!  Save yourselves, run for the hills, and withdraw from the society around you.”  And yet we are still called by Jesus to be “salt and light” – a loving, living witness for Truth and salvation in this dark land.  It’s not an easy calling, but it is a vital one:

You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.

Philippians 2:15 NLT

Come what may and regardless the cost: we won’t back down, won’t deny Him, won’t give up, won’t stop praying, won’t quit seeking Him, and won’t be intimidated by the lies and schemes of a defeated devil.  Jesus has won the victory, and He will shine His light all the brighter through our lives as the day grows darker if we trust Him. 

For Prayer“Father, please re-ignite my passion to pray for America, to share Your love with others, and to see lost souls come to know the Savior.  Anoint me afresh with power from on high!  Deepen my hunger and thirst for Your presence, and remind me to “often slip away and pray” as Jesus did, prioritizing time with You.  Lord, give me a vision for revival in my life, my family, my church, and in this nation.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” 

May the Lord anoint, empower, and use you for His glory,
Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012

 

 

Fuel for the Fire, #28: Repentance, Life, JOY!

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Psalm 32:1-2  NLT 

Heartfelt repentance is a vital part of a friendship with Jesus.  Far from being a one-time experience at salvation, repentance is an essential part of how we grow in God’s grace and goodness.  That’s why satan regularly launches forth teachings in the Church that seek to create confusion about or underemphasize the importance of repentance. 

Here is the Biblical truth: GOD LOVES YOUHe is not angry with you, not disappointed with you, not frustrated with you or considering giving up on you – He is delighted that you are His child! 

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

But I still sin!” you might be saying.  The answer is: “You’re right!”  With our very best efforts and intentions, on our very best day, we still fall short of the glory of God (sometimes in ways that we don’t even realize).  That’s not an excuse to sin, not making light of sin, not giving us license to disobey God – it’s simply acknowledging the truth of God’s Word:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:8   

That verse commands honesty; the next verse tells of the reward for the honest:

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

Here is a simple message from God’s Word, but one that we need to revisit regularly in our journey with the Lord:

  • Repentance leads to forgiveness, to freedom, to fellowship with our Father, and to JOY!!! 
  • ALL sin can be forgiven – no matter how big, how ugly, or how many times you’ve done the same sin.
  • ALL unrighteousness can be washed away, including the burden of guilt and feelings of shame.  JESUS’ BLOOD TRIUMPHS OVER ALL!!! 
  • And ALL THINGS can be made new in our lives (2 Corinthians 5:17) as we continue to grow in His love, learn His Word, and rely on His Spirit’s power (this is a lifetime journey, not just a momentary experience). 

Let us re-emphasize the Scriptural pattern:

  • REPENTANCE always precedes FORGIVENESS
  • GENIUNE (heartfelt) repentance leads to GENUINE forgiveness (more than just a feeling – it’s a fact, guaranteed by the Blood of the Lamb)
  • However, NO REPENTANCE = NO FORGIVENESS.  God doesn’t force His mercy on you, me, or anyone – repentance is a choice, with corresponding blessings or consequences.  Choosing not to repent = forsaking mercy available to us.  It’s our choice. 

This explains why satan is working so hard to remove teaching about “sin” and “repentance” from the American Church today.  He’s more than happy to see a church’s pews filled and their budget overflowing, provided that the message being preached helps people feel good about themselves without repenting.  He knows that repentance = honesty, and honesty is essential to any real relationship (even earthly relationships ~ how much more so with our Heavenly Father!) 

I shall write more in a future “Fuel for the Fire” about the confusion being sown in the Church regarding repentance, and the heresies popping up in popular books and self-help sermons across the country.  I encourage you to re-read chapter 7 of The Return: An end-time epistle to the Church in America* to understand the types of subtle lies that satan is using to undermine the Church’s message, devotion, and power in our day.

FOR PRAYER: “Father, thank You for loving me!  For choosing me!  For never forsaking or leaving me, even when I sin.  Search me, O God, and know my heart – show me where I’ve allowed any hardness to build up due to unconfessed sin.  Shine the light of Your Word through the power of Your Spirit, and cleanse me anew.  Purify my heart, renew my mind, deepen my love for You and my hatred for sin.  Teach me afresh the joys of repentance, of honesty, and of walking in Your light.  Help me truly understand and receive how greatly You love me, and that I delight Your heart.  In Jesus’ Name, amen!”

“…Unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. 

So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!

Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!”

Psalm 32:10-11 

He loves you, and He is your righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

May your fellowship with Him be sweet this week,

Pastor Matthew Casey

 

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012

* The Return: An end-time epistle to the Church in America is available through online sources like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.  For more information about the book, visit: http://www.matthewcasey.org/thereturn.php

 

Fuel for the Fire, #27: Developing a Life of DEPENDENCE

Monday, July 16th, 2012

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding… Be not wise in your own eyes…”

Proverbs 3:5, 7 AMP

Is the title of this week’s devotional a mistake?  Didn’t I mean to say independence?  We humans tend to dislike the whole idea of “dependence,” seeing it as an indication of weakness, lack, and inability to solve one’s own problems and meet our own needs.  God’s Word tells us otherwise:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 

2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV

We are safest when we are most aware of our weakness; we are most vulnerable when we feel strong (in our own strength).  Those most aware of their dependence on God will possess the greatest portion of His love and presence.  Jesus told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” but He never said, “Blessed are those who figure things out through long hours of intellectual effort… Blessed are those who don’t need to rely on Me for anything… Blessed are those with no problems to help them see their need.”  Quite the contrary! 

Only those who feel their need enjoy God’s supplyWe need Him every day, every hour, every momentAnd developing a life of dependence on His Spirit, His Word, and His love is the secret to a truly blessed life

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV

Growing in Dependence, or Growing Independence – 3 Indicators:

Here are three clues that can help us stay on track in this area. 

  1. Watch out for Martha:  When our focus constantly centers on “doing” and very seldom on praying and trusting, we’ve lost focus of our dependence on Jesus.
  2. Watch out for Rush:  If your thought life is typically busied with distractions, diversions, and a din of this world’s voices instead of learning to listen for the still, small voice of the Spirit, you are existing instead of living.  And you run the risk of straying from God’s presence due to neglect.
  3. L-O-V-E:  When time with the Lord begins to feel like a heavy burden or chore instead of a delight, we’ve allowed part of our heart to become hard, calloused, and numbed by the busyness of this life.  You are slowly growing deaf to His Spirit’s wooing, and need your heart refreshed in His love. 

When we see these indicators in our lives (and everyone will, at times), they tell us that it’s time to RETURN to a place of:

  1. Awareness of our need
  2. Brokenness, humility, crying out for His help
  3. Relying, trusting, depending on His power
  4. Worship, thankfulness, expressing our love for Him
  5. Servanthood (choosing the place at the end of the table)
  6. Prioritized time with our Father; more constant communion with Jesus

The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:8 NLT

For Prayer:  “Holy One, help me take stock of where I place my focus, my thoughts, and my trust… Please forgive me of every way in which I’ve trusted self, trusted man, trusted in the visible world – but failed to trust in You.  I surrender every shred of dependence on any other helper or source, and I commit to depend on You alone.  Please help me grow in this grace this week.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  

 

Much love in our faithful, forgiving, and almighty Savior,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012

Fuel for the Fire, #26: FREEDOM from the TYRANNY of SELF

Monday, July 9th, 2012

“…and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 NKJV

Ever felt miserable?  I believe we can trace much of the misery in our lives to areas of uncrucified self-life.  Wherever self is allowed to reside unchecked, the waters of our hearts will be muddied.  And wherever self is allowed to reign, the fruit will be misery.  Abundant life (which Jesus promised us – see John 10:10) is stolen, and in its place we find a meager existence that lives on diversions and passing pleasures, largely void of the presence of God. The answer to this problem is simple, but costly:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 NKJV

Paul understood that to truly experience “the good life,” we must stop seeking “the good life” and start seeking to let Jesus live through us.  The sooner we humble ourselves, choose the place of servanthood, and cease striving to do or get for ourselves, the sooner we enter into His joy, peace, and rest.  We simply bring our entire lives to the Cross once more in full and unconditional surrender, abandoning every shred of “self” – like self-will, self-preservation, self-reliance, self-justification, self-promotion, self-love, and every other form of seeking our own good or glory, and invite Jesus to rule and reign anew in us.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30 NKJV

Only in surrendering self and seeking Jesus will we ever be fulfilled.  Every earthly treasure or prize, ever award or accomplishment, every dream realized – all will be empty and void unless it comes in the path of loving and serving Jesus and others.  Self-life spoils everything it touches; seeking Jesus first brings meaning and joy to even the valleys and deserts of life.  You and I don’t need to seek “our best life now,” or a purpose-driven life, or any of the other self-focused fads that pop-church culture has sold us.  We just need to seek Jesus

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

Luke 17:33 NKJV

When Jesus is our treasure, all else finds its proper place and priority.  I believe that 1 hour in the manifest presence of the King of Kings is of more real spiritual value that many hours of man-centered religious activity.  For in His presence, we are transformed into His image.  We’re made more like Jesus, our minds are renewed, our hearts are healed, we’re better equipped to serve others with His love…And we’re set free from the tyranny of self.  

For Prayer:  “Abba, teach me to cease seeking self, and to simply seek You… Grant me grace to abandon every care and concern to You, to put aside the busyness of this life, and to focus on Your Word and will.  Refresh my heart with a hunger and thirst for Your Presence.  Teach me anew the joys of being a servant, of worship, and of walking humbly before You every day.  Fill my life afresh with Your love and Holy Spirit this week.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  

 

May the Lord bless you with His freedom this week,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012

 

 

F4F #25: Making Jesus Marvel

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The Bible (*NKJV) shows just 2 times when Jesus “marveled.”  One involved a Roman Centurion, and the other involved the folks in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.  The very Son of God was caused to “marvel” only by:

FAITH:

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

Matthew 8:10 NKJV 

UNBELIEF:

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.

Mark 6:5-6 NKJV

Faith invited and received a display of God’s miraculous healing power.  Unbelief hindered and impeded an outpouring of healings and miracles that Jesus was willing but unable to do. 

How did the Centurion get such faith?  He 1) believed what he had heard about Jesus, and 2) recognized the authority Jesus possessed.  Thus, faith in Jesus’ power was a natural – even a logical – step.  Who wouldn’t trust a totally loving, all-powerful Messiah like Him?

You and I have every promise in God’s Word as a “Yes and Amen” to us in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).  We have the testimony of His character, His goodness, and His unfailing love as shown in Scripture.  We have the report of countless lives and situations He has touched, helped, and healed.  And we have the witness of manifold miracles and answers in our own lives, if we will but look back on how His grace has brought us this far. 

Now our choice is just like the Centurion’s: Will we believe what we have heard about Jesus?  Will we recognize the power and authority He possesses?  And therefore, will we trust our need to Him – regardless of how big the problem or how dire the need?  Will you honor Jesus with your faith, even when all earthly hope is gone? 

I’ve seen many miracles over the past 25 years, but none of them came while I was sufficient to meet my own need.  His miraculous power comes in when our ability and resources are exhausted. 

I realize that an extended trial or protracted need can try to sap our faith, and force us into “survival mode” – just trying to get by, living with a broken heart and dormant faith.  If that’s you, the challenge is this: will you put your eyes back on the power, character, and promises of your loving Father, and choose to trust Him anew?

We must also recognize that the unbelief of those in Jesus’ hometown was also an expression of what was in their hearts.  It could only take root due to their hardness of heart.  Faith grows strong in the rich soil of a heart that is seeking Him… Even trials and sorrows will prove to be like fertilizer for faith as we continue to cry out to Him.  But if we allow the fire of our first love to grow dim due to neglecting our time with Him, we run the risk of allowing hardness to build up.  And that always produces the bitter fruit of unbelief.    

So I ask you: are you making Jesus marvel?  Are you moving toward Him in childlike trust, or drawing back in unbelief?  Let’s fix our eyes on the perfect love of our Savior this week, and make Him marvel at how we trust Him.  Let’s dance in the midst of the fiery furnace, sing His praises in the heat of the battle, and glorify His Name in the presence of our enemies.  May He find in us a heart like Job’s: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). 

For Prayer:  “Father, please revive and increase my faith, and the faith of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Bless, help, and strengthen the hearts of those under attack; cause them to remember Your goodness and believe Your love.  Anoint our lives afresh with Your Spirit’s presence and power, and help us honor You with our childlike trust.  In Jesus’ mighty Name and matchless authority, Amen!”   

Love & blessings in Jesus,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012