Archive for September, 2010

Is Your Atlanta Burning?

Is there a war going on inside of you right now? A civil war of the flesh opposing the spiritual — knowing what you ought not to do, yet doing it, is but one possibility. It is likely to be a civil war subtler. Your heart might be split between following Christ, and following your own desire, but it can be hidden with good intentions. Sometimes when we pray, we do not recognize that what we ask for is not best for us. Prayer is not about changing God to agree with us. Prayer is about changing us to agree with God. It is only through victory in the civil war in our heart, when we agree with God, that we can expect victory in any other realm of our life.

This does not mean we should not be persistent, but it is the civil war in our heart we must win, before a victory comes any other way. Is your prayer life resembling a man who has found an Aladdin lamp, trying to rub it until the Genie comes out to grant wishes? That is not persistent in the way that pleases God, it is simply wishful thinking. To have confidence in our prayer life, it requires but one thing.

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

I want to use a few examples from the turmoil of the civil war in our nation, as an illustration for the turmoil of civil war in our heart. Is your prayer life influenced most because of life situations around you, or a desire to have fellowship with God? This first excerpt from a sermon preached by Rev. Thomas Atkinson, in 1861, gives us thought about when things go well in our life.

Temptation or Trial (for they mean the same thing) comes to man in two forms, Prosperity or Adversity, of which the former is the more generally dangerous. Prosperity tempts us by inclining us to forget God, and to love the world which so smiles upon us, by slackening the reins on the necks of our appetites and passions, by opening the door to vices which our very circumstances might otherwise shut out from us, by nourishing selfishness, by deadening sympathy, and by weakening faith.

Does your prayer have a foundation that lines up with the word of God? Sometimes it is difficult to understand if God is in a thing or not. This next excerpt from a message delivered on September 15, 1864 at Christ Church, Savannah, GA, is during a desperate time of trial. It is also an illustration of things going wrong. A war that both sides thought would be over in sixty days was now more than three years old.

War and its attendant horrors have come very near our own homes, and we meet to-day to beseech our Heavenly Father that its bloody tide may be stayed, and its proud waters may not be permitted to roll over us. For months past has it been steadily advancing toward us; we have heard its hoarse and cruel murmuring as it came nearer and nearer; the spoils of its destructive progress have been brought to our feet in the exiled women and children who have fled to us for refuge, and in the dead bodies of our noble young men which have come back to us for Christian burial. But it has not yet reached us, and we unite to-day, with the citizens of our sovereign State, to pray that God would utter his decree, “Thus far shalt thou go and no further.” Trouble is near enough to us to make us earnest; already have the flutterings of distress disturbed many hearts; already is the enquiry frequent and anxious, ” What shall be the end of these things?” Man is looking to his fellow-man with gloomy face and troubled spirit. Woman is summoning up her fortitude to give her strength in the day of adversity. Our counsellors are at fault, and our armies have been steadily driven back. We cry unto man and no help comes; we labor and fight and there is no fruit of our labor, and no permanent success to our arms. We have nothing left but to follow the example of the Psalmist and crying unto God to “give us help from trouble,” to acknowledge that “vain is the help of man.”

The prayers of these well meaning Christians would not stop Sherman. They would not persuade God to change His mind and side with them, for God had a much better plan.

On December 21, 1864, Sherman would lead 62,000 Union soldiers into Savannah after a 300-mile march of destruction through Georgia that was sixty miles wide. It would still be another year before slavery was abolished.

Is your “Atlanta” under siege? Do you feel like all the problems of the world are crashing in on you just now? God may have your liberation from slavery in mind, as opposed to your destruction.

Romans 6:15-23

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The civil war in your heart does not affect you alone. According to the 1850 census, of the 9,000,000 living in southern states, about 300,000 were slave owners. Less than 3000 of these had around 100 slaves each. I have selected this excerpt from a diary of Dolly Sumner Lunt (Mrs. Thomas Burge) a southern lady, from one of those large plantations. This is her account of events during the march of Sherman through Georgia.

JULY 22, 1864.
[The day of the battle of Atlanta]

We have heard the loud booming of cannon all day. Mr. Ward [the overseer] went over to the burial of Thomas Harwell, whose death I witnessed yesterday. They had but just gone when the Rev. A. Turner, wife, and daughter drove up with their wagons, desiring to rest awhile. They went into the ell [a large back room] and lay down, I following them, wishing to enjoy their company. Suddenly I saw the servants running to the palings, and I walked to the door, when I saw such a stampede as I never witnessed before. The road was full of carriages, wagons, men on horseback, all riding at full speed. Judge Floyd stopped, saying: “Mrs. Burge, the Yankees are coming. They have got my family, and here is all I have upon earth. Hide your mules and carriages and whatever valuables you have.” Sadai [Mrs. Burge’s nine-year-old daughter] said: “Oh, Mama, what shall we do?” “Never mind, Sadai,” I said. “They won’t hurt you, and you must help me hide my things.”

I went to the smoke-house, divided out the meat to the servants, and bid them hide it. Julia [a slave] took a jar of lard and buried it. In the meantime Sadai was taking down and picking up our clothes, which she was giving to the servants to hide in their cabins; silk dresses, challis, muslins, and merinos, linens, and hosiery, all found their way into the chests of the women and under their beds; china and silver were buried underground, and Sadai bid Mary [a slave] hide a bit of soap under some bricks, that mama might have a little left. Then she came to me with a part of a loaf of bread, asking if she had not better put it in her pocket, that we might have something to eat that night. And, verily, we had cause to fear that we might be homeless, for on every side we could see smoke arising from burning buildings and bridges.

Major Ansley, who was wounded in the hip in the battle of Missionary Ridge, and has not recovered, came with his wife, sister, two little ones, and servants. He was traveling in a bed in a small wagon. They had thought to get to Eatonton, but he was so wearied that they stopped with me for the night. I am glad to have them. I shall sleep none to-night. The woods are full of refugees.

JULY 23, 1864.

I have been left in my home all day with no one but Sadai. Have seen nothing of the raiders, though this morning they burned the buildings around the depot at the Circle [Social Circle, a near-by town]. I have sat here in the porch nearly all day, and hailed every one that passed for news. Just as the sun set here Major Ansley and family came back. They heard of the enemy all about and concluded they were as safe here as anywhere. Just before bedtime John, our boy, came from Covington with word that the Yankees had left. Wheeler’s men were in Covington and going in pursuit. We slept sweetly and felt safe.

SUNDAY, JULY 24, 1864.

No church. Our preacher’s horse stolen by the Yankees. This raid is headed by Guerrard and is for the purpose of destroying our railroads. They cruelly shot a George Daniel and a Mr. Jones of Covington, destroyed a great deal of private property, and took many citizens prisoners.

NOVEMBER 19, 1864.

Slept in my clothes last night, as I heard that the Yankees went to neighbor Montgomery’s on Thursday night at one o’clock, searched his house, drank his wine, and took his money and valuables. Sherman himself and a greater portion of his army passed my house that day. All day, as the sad moments rolled on, were they passing not only in front of my house, but from behind;

they tore down my garden palings, made a road through my back-yard and lot field, driving their stock and riding through, tearing down my fences and desolating my home – wantonly doing it when there was no necessity for it. Such a day, if I live to the age of Methuselah, may God spare me from ever seeing again!

As night drew its sable curtains around us, the heavens from every point were lit up with flames from burning buildings. Dinnerless and supperless as we were, it was nothing in comparison with the fear of being driven out homeless to the dreary woods. Nothing to eat! I could give my guard no supper, so he left us. I appealed to another, asking him if he had wife, mother, or sister, and how he should feel were they in my situation. A colonel from Vermont left me two men, but they were Dutch, and I could not understand one word they said.

My Heavenly Father alone saved me from the destructive fire. My carriage-house had in it eight bales of cotton, with my carriage, buggy, and harness. On top of the cotton were some carded cotton rolls, a hundred pounds or more. These were thrown out of the blanket in which they were, and a large twist of the rolls taken and set on fire, and thrown into the boat of my carriage, which was close up to the cotton bales. Thanks to my God, the cotton only burned over, and then went out. Shall I ever forget the deliverance?

To-night, when the greater part of the army had passed, it came up very windy and cold. My room was full, nearly, with the negroes and their bedding.

NOVEMBER 20, 1864.

This is the blessed Sabbath, the day upon which He who came to bring peace and good will upon earth rose from His tomb and ascended to intercede for us poor fallen creatures. But how unlike this day to any that have preceded it in my once quiet home. I had watched all night, and the dawn found me watching for the moving of the soldiery that was encamped about us. Oh, how I dreaded those that were to pass, as I supposed they would straggle and complete the ruin that the others had commenced, for I had been repeatedly told that they would burn everything as they passed.

Some of my women had gathered up a chicken that the soldiers shot yesterday, and they cooked it with some yams for our breakfast, the guard complaining that we gave them no supper. They gave us some coffee, which I had to make in a tea-kettle, as every coffeepot is taken off. The rear-guard was commanded by Colonel Carlow, who changed our guard, leaving us one soldier while they were passing. They marched directly on, scarcely breaking ranks. Once a bucket of water was called for, but they drank without coming in.

About ten o’clock they had all passed save one, who came in and wanted coffee made, which was done, and he, too, went on. A few minutes elapsed, and two couriers riding rapidly passed back. Then, presently, more soldiers came by, and this ended the passing of Sherman’s army by my place, leaving me poorer by thirty thousand dollars than I was yesterday morning. And a much stronger Rebel!

Likewise, the civil war of your heart will effect the people around you. You may often leave a path of destruction in your march. You may allow a path of destruction to befall those people you love the most. End the civil war in your heart by giving your “burning Atlanta” over to God today. It is not in your reach to stop the destruction without His help.

Psalm 18:2-3

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

Diary excerpt used by permission of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you would like to read more of this diary, it is found at Documenting the American South, at:
http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/burge/lunt.html

 

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Feel Like Giving Up?

Have you ever felt like things were so hopeless, you just wanted to give up? Ok, so you want to give up now, but whom do you surrender to? What is it you want to give up? Why are you willing to accept defeat? Wars are not won by killing enemy soldiers and destroying enough equipment or supplies. Wars are won by breaking the enemy’s will to fight. Is that where you are right now? Has Satan broken your will to fight? One strategy of Satan is to get us to compare ourselves to others, so that we become unsatisfied with who we are or what we have. This was the wrapper to the first lie Satan used on Eve.
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

This does not mean we have no room for improvement, but he wants to control our will. If he can wrap the lie in an attractive presentation, your will to fight is more likely to be broken. If you want to give up right now, it could be a marriage, a vision, or even a ministry, is it because you have been comparing your life or your possessions to someone else? The thing we need to compare our lives to is the word of God. You may think your freedom and peace comes from giving up, but if you give up because your will to fight is broken, you may be surrendering to Satan. This does not lead to freedom and peace, but to captivity.

2 Timothy 2:22-26

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

When you feel like giving up, you must surrender to God, not to Satan. This runs the risk that God may not want you to give this something up, but it must be a decision made according to God’s word. His will not our emotions. So then, what is it we are giving up? Some have been willing to give up their very lives to follow the will of God.

Daniel 3:28

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Although Nebuchandnezzar did not accept God as his own, the faithfulness of these three men changed a law that was contrary to God’s word. A decree went throughout every nation that nothing must be said against God again. The words of Jesus support a willingness to give up all to Him.

Luke 14:33

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Has God required you to give your very life and it is too much to handle? This probably is not the situation today that is overwhelming you. Most likely your trial that is cause for you to feel like giving up, is even based on a lie.

There are three stages in your heart that effect decision making. First is “want”. Do you want to follow God in all your decisions, no matter how difficult? If the “want” is not there, you are not in a good place in your spiritual life. If this is what you do want, you are on the right track.

The next is “wish”. The “wish” in your heart could carry you either way because it is more emotional. If you wish you could be more like Jesus, you can. If you wish you could be more like one of your contemporaries, you should not. God created you, and called you to a specific purpose. It is just for you, and should not be compared to others.

The third is “will”. This is the one based in faith, which is conviction of the truth. Satan tries to adjust your wish list until it breaks your will to fight. Many people in the church today have a want, but have not learned to control the wish, and have allowed it to defeat the will.

Search the scriptures and seek God for direction and confirmation about giving up. Have you allowed your emotions and circumstances to break your will to fight? Your wish needs attending. Give up to God, and trust Him to help you see the future through a new wish list. This is the way to strengthen your will until it is unbreakable.

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Are You Desperate?

Psalm 142:6

Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

Have you ever felt like you were in a desperate situation? Maybe you are feeling a little desperate even now. Desperation moves deeper than discouragement and can skew your thinking. Asking if you are desperate may be like asking most people reading this if they are hungry. We do not necessarily understand the word hungry, since there are levels of being hungry. When you keep returning to the refrigerator hoping something new will appear to satisfy your appetite, it is not yet hungry. When you did not eat all day because of your schedule, it is not yet hungry. Being hungry, is more like the pictures you would see on a “feed the children” commercial. You know the ones with the skin and bones children, with flies on their face. That may be a true example of hungry. When God looks at us in our churches, does he see pews full of nicely dressed people with smiles? No, when God looks at us in our churches, I think He sees something that looks more like the “feed the children” ads. That is because God sees us spiritually. He sees us for what we really are and not as we appear. A people starving for God’s word, yet not realizing what it is to be hungry.

Your desperation may drive you in the opposite direction from the answer. It might be though, that if you look at your desperate situation from God’s perspective, it would draw you into a hunger for His word and His fellowship. That is entirely your choice. While David was hiding from Saul and the thousands of hand selected, finest soldiers in all of Israel, he cried out to God.

Psalm 142:5-7

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

The word prison he used here, is a metaphor for trouble and distress. Are you in a prison right now? When you are in such a prison, it is hard to remember that God is your portion (inheritance). 

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Your prison may seem desperate, but there is always another perspective to see it from. God had a greater call for David than hiding in a cave to survive. God has a greater call and purpose for you than surviving your current crisis.

When you are desperate it is not uncommon to feel alone, as though even your God has abandoned you. It is God’s desire for us all to be united with Christ, but we must be willing to relinquish our entire self unto Him.

When we think of sin, we may think of it like hunger or desperation. We may set it aside into degrees of severity. God does not look upon it that way. Our pride of being able to accomplish anything, including walk out of our prison, without His help is just as much a sin. Our unwillingness to release all that we think we own and hold affections for unto Him, is just as much sinning. Not being willing to serve where He has ordained, no matter how meager it may seem, is just as much a sin.

One of my favorite stories about desperation brings my own desperation into a new perspective for me.

2 Kings 6:24-31

Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, “Help me, my lord the king!” The king replied, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?” Then he asked her, “What’s the matter?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.” When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and there, underneath, he had sackcloth on his body. He said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!”

What a story of desperate people that has lost hope and the sense of direction. Have you ever been desperate enough to eat a donkey’s head, (and pay a great price for it) or to eat a child? No, you have not! Perhaps we do not really understand what desperate is.  Even the King himself could not help the people who came to him. Essentially, his response to the woman was if your God cannot help you, what could I do? The king did not consider the nation had turned its back on God under his own leadership, but placed the blame on the prophet of God.

As you cry out to God, do not think He cannot, or is not willing to hear you. Perhaps the despair you feel is a call to draw near to Him. When God sees you, perhaps He is looking at you like a child in the feed the children ad. Maybe He is calling you near through your circumstances, that you may be well fed, and that He may be glorified. Is there this thing in your life right now, that if God does not take control, you will fail? Give Him control of everything. Your government cannot deliver you and you cannot rescue yourself. It is God alone with the power to open the doors to your prison. Relinquish all to Him today, for His grace is sufficient for your desperation.

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