Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Believer's Companion: God the Holy Spirit.....(Part Two)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  (II Corinthians 13:14) 

       How can any believer really experience the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father if they do not have fellowship with the Holy Spirit?  God the Father is not here on planet earth, nor is God the Son.....

       It is an undeniable truth that God the Holy Spirit directed the life of Jesus during his short ministry.  Just as important, especially for us believers today, Jesus taught His disciples about His and the Father's divine plan to have the Spirit come to earth to continue the Savior's ministry.  Jesus, in pure obedience, had thoroughly submitted to the Father by way of God's Spirit.  As His time on earth rapidly came to a close, He desired to share the truth of the Holy Spirit with His disciples so they too could experience fellowship with the Father, and with Him!

       Scripture teaches that the Christ, when He came to earth, "stripped" Himself of all power in order to become like man.  (Please refer to Luke 4:18-19; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:9, 2:14-17)  In and of Himself, He was completely powerless and depended wholly on God the Holy Spirit for everything He did in His ministry.  Important scriptures that illustrate Jesus receiving and submitting to God's Holy Spirit are:  "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him."  (Matthew 3:16); "Jesus, full of the the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil."  (Luke 4:1); and, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside."  (Luke 4:14) 

       Jesus depended on God's Spirit for everything.  He, without doubt, kept deep, abiding, intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit at all times.  His success depended on it because by having uninterrupted fellowship with God the Holy Spirit, Jesus had the necessary, constant link to His Heavenly Father.

       Continuing, there are two important considerations as we reflect on the Holy Spirit and His ministry upon coming to earth.  Firstly, we note that the Spirit came to earth per Jesus' request to the Father.  This was a planned, coordinated effort between all members of the Godhead.   "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever--the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."  (John 14:16-17)  It wasn't coincidental that the Lord shared this with the disciples shortly before His crucifixion, knowing that soon He would have to leave them to fulfill the Father's plan that He, the Christ, die upon the cross, and thus have to leave behind his beloved followers. 
       Secondly, the Lord refers to His Spirit as the "advocate," or "comforter" in the King James.  The Greek word here is paraklētoswhich means (1) summoned, called to one's side, especially called to one's aid, (2) one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate, (3) one who pleads another's cause with one, and intercessor [Please please read Romans 8:26-27 to see what the Spirit can and will do for you!], (4) of Christ in his exaltation at God's right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins, (5) in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant, (6) of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom.  It should be evident how desperately we need this wonderful Person with us in the absentia of Christ! 

       Jesus later assures the disciples that when the Advocate (Spirit) comes, He would vouch for the reality of Christ.  "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father--the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father--he will testify about me."  (John 15:26)  The Spirit will ALWAYS, unfailingly give an honorable report about the Son of God.  He will witness the presence of Christ in our hearts.  This affirmation is sure and certain; we can depend on it!  Furthermore, and no less importantly, the Apostle Paul told the church that this same indwelling witness of the Holy Spirit allows us to recognize and acknowledge God Almighty as our Heavenly Father.  "Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'"  (Galatians 4:6)  [See also Romans 8:15.] 

       How incredibly exciting it is to have more than just head-knowledge of the truth that we are sons and daughters of God, and joint-heirs with Christ!  (Romans 8:16-17)  The Spirit, Who lives in the heart of every believer per the will of God the Father and God the Son, testifies directly to us the reality of who we are in Christ and to Whom we belong!  Praise the Lord for His goodness!  And thanks be to Him for allowing us to have uninterrupted, sweet fellowship with His Spirit!  It is in the depths of this intimacy that we can indeed know who we are.  Additionally, we can through the Spirit enjoy the love of our Heavenly Father and move forward in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Believer's Companion: God the Holy Spirit.....(Part One)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  (II Corinthians 13:14) 

       How can any believer really experience the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father if they do not have fellowship with the Holy Spirit?  God the Father is not here on planet earth, nor is God the Son.....

       The Lord Almighty God; the Maker of heaven and earth; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of the Bible is a Triune God:  He is three Persons:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Yet there is only one God.  "Hear, O Israel;  The LORD our God, the LORD is one."  (Deuteronomy 6:4)  We often refer to, or hear, the word "trinity" in clerical parlance, and in layman's terms as well.

       The mystery of the Trinity has baffled man, theologians and non-academics or layman, for centuries yet there really isn't any "plausible" explanation for the three in one truth of this Eternal God simply because it defies the human mind.  How can there be only one God and yet He is three separate Persons Who are not the same?  Logically and mathematically, this is an impossibility, isn't it?

       The Bible teaches the existence of the Trinity.  Most assuredly, God is three Persons and yet there is only one God.  It is not within the scope of this particular blog to convince the reader of this.  There are ample scriptures, as well as a plethora of writings and books on the subject, which should convince the willing heart that is open to God's truth to indeed accept the trinitarian nature of the Lord even if an individual cannot reason or figure it out.  Basically, there are many things we must accept by faith even if we don't understand them, and the truth of the trinitarian God certainly falls into that category!  Thankfully, God has given all humans (unbelievers included) a measure of faith.  (Please read Romans 1:17; 12:3)  (NOTE:  The author of this blog judiciously reminds all readers to "test the spirits to see if they be of God....."  [I John 4:1]  "But test everything that is said.  Hold on to what is good."  [I Thessalonians 5:21]  Do NOT believe something written here just because the author purports it as the truth.  You, the reader, should settle anything and everything promulgated in this blog in your heart by searching out the scriptures and prayerfully meditating.  This cannot be overstated!  You, reader, are responsible for not being deceived!)

       The Apostle Paul closes his second letter to the church in Corinth with the benediction posted at the top of this blog, II Corinthians 13:14.  The King James Version of the Bible uses the word "communion" in place of "fellowship."  The Greek word for "communion" is koinōnia” which means (1) fellowship, (2) association, (3) joint participation, (4) intercourse, (5) intimacy, and (6) the share of which one has in anything.  Clearly, the implication is that all believers in Christ are to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit that is quite personal and intimate!  Paul also bequeaths the love of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to the church, and to all believers today!  Hence the question remains.  If God the Father and God the Son are not here, but rather in heaven, how can we experience their love and grace if we do not have fellowship with the Holy Spirit?  The question warrants thoughtful soul-searching, moreover especially for struggling Christians who cannot seem, despite themselves, to experience God's love and grace for whatever reason, and whose lives appear void of victory promised to all believers!

Friday, August 19, 2011

When in the Midst of Sheer Chaos and Crisis

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day.  Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag.  They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old.  They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.  So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.  David's two wives had been captured--Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel.  David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.  But David found strength in the LORD his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, "Bring me the epod."  Abiathar brought it to him, and David enquired of the Lord, "Shall I pursue this raiding party?  Will I overtake them?"  

"Pursue them," he answered.  "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue."  (I Samuel 30:1-8)

       David finally reached the pinnacle of his wilderness experience as the Lord had prepared him to assume kingship over Israel.  In I Samuel 16, the Prophet Samuel anointed him as king of Israel, a position that David would not assume for quite awhile since the Lord desired to test and refine him by placing David in numerous difficult situations, some even life-threatening!  Yet despite great persecution and betrayal that almost defies human imagination, David grew in his faith and remained steadfast. 

       King Saul had tried repeatedly to kill David because of profound jealousy, knowing full well that David would eventually replace him as the king of Israel.  Interestingly and significantly, David on two instances could have circumvented the process by killing Saul, yet he chose not to do so because he knew that Saul was still the anointed king of God's people.  David knew the scriptures of his forefathers.  "It is mine to avenge; I will repay.  In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."  (Deuteronomy 32:35)  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would avenge all wrongs committed against David and he rested in those promises although there were no doubt numerous times that he wondered if God had surely not forgotten him.

       David returned to Ziklag where he and his two wives had been living for several years.  Ziklag was in enemy territory, a place given to him by King Achish, a philistine king.  (David had decided to settle there because he felt that he would finally be out of the clutches of Saul if he were in the enemy's domain.)  The Amalekites, a vile enemy of God's people, had raided Ziklag, burned everything to the ground, looted the livestock, and had taken the woman and children.  Obviously, at that point, David and his men had no idea if even any of their loved ones had survived the merciless onslaught.

       Bleak as the whole scene presented itself, "fuel was added to the fire" when David's men decided to take their anger and frustration out on him:  they were ready to kill the poor guy!  After all, he was solely responsible for what happened, wasn't he?  Despite everything, the scripture teaches us that "David found strength in the LORD his God."  These are strong, powerful words that indicate to the reader the state of David's heart and how henceforth from that point he was prepared to assume the leadership of Israel, God's people.  No, David didn't immediately become the king, as the scriptures clearly indicate.  There was still a major battle to fight, because he chose to not only find strength in the LORD his God, but decisively sought the Lord to find out what God wanted him to do to rectify this horrific situation.  David and his men would enter the camp of the Amalekites, slaughter them and reclaim all that the enemy had stolen from them. 

       Unquestionably, there isn't a reader of this blog that would deny that life is not quite difficult at times.  In reality, for many it appears that life is unyieldingly complicated most of the time!  We find ourselves in one quagmire only to find out that after one situation is resolved, we're in the middle of another hardship.  Heaven forbid, sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of several dilemmas all at once!  Thus is life.  Though the difficulties we incur seemingly suggest that we do not have a choice regarding how we can respond, the truth cannot be denied.  Indeed, we do have choices!  We can choose to be like King Saul and become increasingly bitter toward the circumstances in which we find ourselves or we can choose to be like David and find strength in the Lord.  Moreover, as the scriptures teach in 1 Samuel 30, we can go beyond that and seek the Lord for what He would have us do.  His silence might suggest that we not do anything at any given point.  Or, He may give us specific instructions regarding how to handle an adversity.  Whatever the case, we can and must always trust His sovereignty.  His way is always best.

       There are two noteworthy things that David did when he returned to Ziklag only to find it completely decimated.  Firstly, David found strength in the Lord his God.  He didn't consult anyone or anything.  He didn't fret or raise "Cain."  He didn't express unspeakable doubts about his situation --there's nothing wrong with doing that-- nor did he blame God for his plight.  He found strength in the Lord his God.  What does that mean?

       Finding strength in the Lord is a reality that is not based on a one-time event.  Furthermore, it is not a mental ascension into the heavens by way of human endeavor.  Rather, finding strength in the Lord comes "by practice" when we daily seek His face and learn to enjoy His presence.  It is in the precious moments of intimacy with the Savior where we learn that certainly, we can trust Jesus in every situation of life --He becomes our strength, our solace, literally our everything!  He infuses His strength into our inner man as we bask in His glory for He ministers to the deepest part of our being when we're in that secret place.  The psalmist expresses this in God's Word.  "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."  (Psalm 42:7) 

       It cannot be overstated that enjoying God's presence takes practice on our part simply because our flesh doesn't want to submit to the presence of the Lord, and will resist Him all the way.  The Bible alludes to how the flesh opposes God.  "The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God."  (Romans 8:7-8)  Fortunately however, once we get into a consistent habit of seeking His face (presence), it becomes quite natural as the flesh is forced into submission again and again.  We'll then soon discover we cannot survive without regularly seeking the Lord!

       Secondly, David made a conscious decision to seek advice from the Lord regarding how he should handle his grave situation.  "Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, "Bring me the ephod."  Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue this raiding party?  Will I overtake them?"  (I Samuel 30:7-8)  We see that the Lord instructed him to proceed and chase the enemy.  Noteworthy, David didn't just assume that he should pursue the Amalekites just because He had enjoyed the presence of the Lord.  He specifically asked the Lord if he should go ahead after his enemies.  (The Lord certainly reserved the right to prevent David and his men from perservering after their adversaries.)

       Dear friends, God is constantly refining his people, you included!  The Master Craftsman (Jeremiah 18:6) is always chiseling us not only for the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), but also for the intention of lovingly preparing us for bigger and better things in this life.  David was anointed to be the king of Israel and would subsequently become the greatest king in that nation's history.  Yet is was necessary for the Lord to realize a great work of preparation for the young man in order to prepare him for such an enormous task.  And so it is with us, His saints today.  God's Spirit, in accordance with the will of the Father (John 15:1-2), will surely take us to those places of life where utter destruction and decimation seem to be the ruling force, or even the norm.  It is the Lord's will we see and experience that aspect of life.  Why?  Because it's there that the Lord refines us as we begin to realize that we can't save ourselves and so we trust wholly in His salvation.   

       Thankfully, we will discover that in God's divineness He will gladly and lovingly deliver us from the utter ruin of the situation --our Ziklag if you will-- if we'll allow Him!  Throughout all the process the Lord desperately wants us to be acquainted with His presence and unfailing supremacy, that which will ultimately deliver us from the most utterly hopeless situation in which we could ever find ourselves.  The end of Jonah's prayer expresses God's deliverance from the most seemingly impossible situations.  ""When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.  "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.  But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.'"  And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:7-10) 

       Dear Father in Heaven, today so many of your loved ones find themselves in terrible situations, Ziklags.  Some are physically ill, some without jobs and adequate finances, some are experiencing the breakup of a marriage leaving them feeling rejected and hurt beyond words.  Lord, some of your saints feel as if You're a million miles away and care nothing about them.  The dryness of the soul is so profound that it feels as if one spark would ignite a devastating fire, one that would leave them completely whithered.  Father, I pray that God the Holy Spirit would bring to all of these precious souls the reality of the comfort of God given us in Christ Jesus our Messiah, the Savior.  May His peace flood us as we march through the pains of the experience You have us in.  May the Spirit remind us of your gracious presence that You so long to imbue, and may He further instruct us with that which You desire us to know.  Thank You Lord for conforming us into the image of Jesus.  We joyfully look forward to the other side of the heartache when we'll be that much more perfect and ready for every good and perfect work you have for us!  (James 1:1-2)  In Jesus' Mighty Name I pray.  Amen and amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Use Your Own Weapons

David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him."

Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth."

But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep.  When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.  When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine."

Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you."

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic.  He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.  David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. 

"I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them.  So he took them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.  (I Samuel 17:32-40)

       The Bible, as it conveys the epic tale of David and Goliath that many know from childhood, tells us that once King Saul released David with a blessing to fight Goliath, he dressed David in his own tunic and gave him some articles from his personal armamentarium.  David tried walking around with this garb, but quickly realized that it didn't fit and that it would actually be a hindrance when he fought the giant.  He expressed this to Saul, removed it all, and straightway chose out of a nearby stream five smooth stones and placed them in his pouch.  The stones, along with a slingshot, became David's entire weaponry that he would use successfully against Goliath.

       We Christians today find ourselves precariously surrounded by giants, just like the Israelites did.  Unfortunately the giants we face are invisible to the naked eye and yet they're just as dangerous and terrifying as Goliath was to Israel.  Giants of sickness, financial ruin, joblessness, addictions of all kinds, unhealthy and perverted relationships, divorce, betrayal, abuse, depression, to name a few of the many, often leave us frightened and impotent.  Like the fighting men of Israel who endured great taunting at the voice of an immensely huge enemy, we find ourselves cowering in the shadows hoping these monsters will soon disappear.  There is good news for the believer, however.

       Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!  "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:37-39)  Regardless of whether your enemy is "external" such as unemployment, or if it's "internal" such as battling demonic influences, your victory was assured when Jesus died on Calvary's cross!  This an irrefutable fact!  BUT, there a catch that many saints miss.

       Though Christ guaranteed our victory by His death, burial and resurrection, we cannot sit idly by.  We must fight for what has been given to us.  Jesus said, "And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize--a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion]."  (Matthew 11:12, AMP)  God gave victory to David before he fought Goliath, however David had to fight the battle in order to receive the blessing.  Obviously, Goliath didn't just automatically die.

       We saints must battle valiantly against our giants, and for that which is ours in Christ.  Moreover, God has given us weapons to use so that we can always win!  He has given us the Word (Bible) so we may discern and discover truth.  We have praise which leaves the enemy defeated and confused.  (Read II Chronicles 20:22-23 of how God confused the enemy that rose up against King Jehoshaphat after the king appointed men to praise the Lord before and during the battle.)  The Lord has opened up the heavenly places in Christ allowing us to directly communicate with Him.  Prayer is powerful.  There are other weapons given God's people as well.  The Apostle Paul writes, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."  (II Corinthians 10:4)

       Most importantly, it is crucial to understand that the weaponry we utilize is ours and ours alone!  We cannot use someone else's weapons to fight our personal spiritual battles!  (This does not mean that the Lord cannot give someone else a word for your situation.  He can and does do that, however that would be an exception rather than the rule.)  David could not use King Saul's armor or any of his weapons to fight Goliath.  As the scripture clearly indicates, Saul's protective weaponry would have been more impedance than help.  So, what does this all mean for us as believers today?

       The Lord gives us weapons to use against the enemy such as the Word, prayer, praise, etc.  Further, He expects us to use them, otherwise we will exist in total defeat throughout this earthly existence or worse yet, our lives may be shortened unnecessarily!  (Proverbs 3:16; 10:27; and there are many others!)  AND, God the Holy Spirit desires to teach us how to use these weapons effectively as we spend time with Him in communion.  Consequently, they become our personal armaments, tailor-made exclusively for each individual and for no one else.  Simply, I cannot use your weapons; you cannot use mine, even though they are the same in nature.

       Far too many believers today try to "ride to heaven" on the wings (successes) of others.  Paradoxically, they spend an inordinate amount of time getting others to pray for them to the utter exclusion of praying for themselves.  They may even seek a word from someone else regarding their personal circumstances when the Lord Himself would gleefully give them the word they need and desire.  Beloved, please don't misunderstand.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with saints helping each other.  Indeed, we are to pray one for another, and bear one another's burdens in real life as well as in the prayer closet.  (Please refer to Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 6:18-19, James 5:14-16, just to name a few.)  With this in mind however, we must all take individual reponsibility for our own spiritual well-being.  This cannot be evaded or forfeited to someone else.

       When God was commissioning Joshua, He wanted Joshua to realize that He could not in the least rely on Moses because He was dead.  (Joshua 1:1-2)  Joshua had to pick up the torch and fulfill the divine plan which was to take Israel across the Jordan in the Promised Land.  He would have to take personal responsibility and accountability.  There was no one other than God upon whom Joshua could rely.  Jesus tells the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins, found in Matthew 25:1-13.  The moment of reckoning had come; the bridegroom was getting ready to arrive.  The five foolish virgins had no extra oil so they approached the five wise virgins and asked for some of theirs.  The wise virgins were prepared and desired to remain that way so they refused to lend their oil for fear of running out, and rightly so!  While the foolish virgins went to get more oil, the bridegroom came.  (They had been lax with maintaining their supply of weapons, if you will.)  Sadly, these foolish ones were excluded from the marital festivities.

       The message is clear.  David had a slingshot and five smooth stones.  He could not use King Saul's weapons to battle Goliath.  Ultimately, when the "rubber meets the road," we cannot rely on others to spiritually sustain us or fight our battles.  We must develop a relationship with Jesus, our Savior, and allow Him by way of God's Spirit to teach us how to use the weapons He has already issued us.  We will therefore then be totally equipped for battle against the giants in our lives.  No less importantly, we will be ready and able to assist other believers as they develop and learn to use their spiritual weapons.  Together in this ongoing warfare, we will present as the unified, undefeatable Church Triumphant of the Lord Jesus Christ, conquering all of our foes.  "They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers.  They all march in line, not swerving from their course.  They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead.  They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks.  They rush upon the city; they run along the wall...."  (Joel 2:7-9)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Unnatural Separation

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
   when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
   we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
   our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
   they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

How can we sing the songs of the LORD
   while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
   may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
   my highest joy.   (Psalm 137:1-6)

       This past June 20, Cafecita, our dog died.  We knew she was going to soon because she had suffered from end-stage congestive heart failure for about two years.  The last weeks before her death, she seemed to spiral downwardly at a faster rate.  The Thursday before her passing, June 16, I had taken her to the vet's office to board her with the staff since we were going on vacation and could not take her along.  (We were on vacation when she passed away.)  I kissed her tenderly, told her I loved her and got in my car to return home.  No sooner had I gotten out of the vet's driveway, I began to cry.  Something or Someone inside me, the Holy Spirit I do believe, caused me to realize that I probably would not see Cafecita again.

       Through the flood of tears I began to cry out to the Lord, telling Him that I was sick and tired of separation.  I was tired of being separated from loved ones who had died and gone to heaven, those who had left me behind.  And yes, I was sick of having to board Cafecita, of not being able to take her on vacations with us because some places did not accommodate pets.  Somehow, the acute sense of separation brought out a deep cry in my heart that caused me to passionately call out to God Almighty in a way that I had not for a while.

       The psalmist who penned psalm 137 described a time in history when Israel was in captivity in the foreign land of Babylon.  They were far from their home in Judea and Jerusalem, and were struggling with being separated from all that was familiar.  They remembered fondly the great City of Zion, the city that for centuries had been the habitat of the kings of Israel.  The homesickness these people felt was so strong that they could not possibly beget music hence, they hung up their instruments and wept sorrowfully as they reminisced about their homeland.  Despite that the Babylonians greatly afflicted God's people by demanding that they sing songs of Zion, the latter could not perform.  Their duress was too great.  The Israelites as prisoners were suffering from an unnatural separation.  They were in a place they were not destined to be consequently, they experienced great affliction of the soul.

       Saints, we, whether or not we recognize it, are in a similar position:  we are in a foreign land unnaturally separated from God because of sin and its consequences.  Many times we suffer homesickness, a longing to be reunited with the One Who made us, our Creator.  Often it comes in the form of melancholy, and yet we may attribute our feelings to depression or some other mental anguish.  Notwithstanding, these are natural responses.  Note what the Bible says about Abraham, our father of faith.  "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.(Hebrews 11:8-10)  Clearly, Abraham, along with other great men and women of God, diligently sought a land that was not of this world.  He also searched for this God Who even today longs --and eventually will-- to reveal His Glory to His beloved creation.

       We believers need to rightly understand that as long as we dwell on planet earth, we will indeed love our spouses, children, parents, friends and others in our lives.  This is right and natural.  We are also compelled to live victoriously in the spirit of being more than conquerors through Him Who has loved us unconditionally.  (Romans 8:37)  We are able to do this because of the reality of sonship that God's indwelling Spirit brings to our hearts.  (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6)  Yet however, this does not negate our deepest longing to be at one with our God, the One Who died on Calvary's cross so that we mighty live forever with Him in glory.  We would do well to acknowledge this as a fact so that we recognize the "tugging" that always is an undercurrent in the profound recesses of the heart.

       Far too many Christians today are deeply entrenched in the things of this world.  Too many are spiritually complacent while living out the "dream" of this earthly, temporal existence, short-lived though it be.  Unfortunately this type of lifestyle with its corresponding mindset tends to squelch the heart's natural desires and thus precludes the ability to feel any separation from God.  Moreover and sadly enough, many of these same people are terrified at the mere prospect of Jesus Christ returning to claim His Bride because that would prevent them from living their lives the way they would choose.  (How incredibly selfish!)  The scripture speaks of this attitude.  "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?  Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?"  (James 4:4-5)  The truth cannot be denied.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is exceedingly jealous, and so much so that He deems His people adulterers if they esteem the world or anything in it greater than Him.  This candid word must elicit a sobriety in the hearts of God's elect causing us to question ourselves.  Do we truly long to see Christ return so we can be ultimately reunited with our Heavenly Father?  Do we really feel any tugging in our hearts?

       Saint, do you find yourself at times feeling nostalgia and not know why?  Do you at times feel an unquenchable yearning for a place and you're not even sure where it is?  There's no need to worry or fret.  Just as the children of Israel were missing their patria, Jerusalem, that great city while they were in babylonian subjection, you're feeling a tugging for your heavenly home.  There's a sense of an unnatural separation.  The psalmist rightly expresses this life on earth while also yearning for that eternal home.  "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion."  (Psalm 84:5-7)  May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by His indwelling Spirit pour out the pools of Living Water to refresh us as we go from strength to strength, until He calls us home and this unnatural separation ends forever.