Friday, August 28, 2015

If My People

If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV)

If My People
When the tiny word “if” is spoken in a sentence it gives the meaning that something "could" happen. “If” is strictly a word based on a condition or stipulation. Here in this part of the country, we might say if we do “thus and so” then “this and that” just might happen! 

But as far as God is concerned, there’s a lot hinging upon the little word “if.” God says that if His people will humble themselves in prayer, seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, He will forgive their sins and their land will be healed. All of a sudden, the little word “if” seems to have graduated from a tiny word to a big stipulation. 

Beloved, the floodgates of heaven are bursting at the seams, but our nation must come to repentance before great things can happen. Repentance has to be done before this land can be healed and blessings to flow. To put it in simple terms, the slates of our hearts must be wiped clean and it can only be done through humbling ourselves before Almighty God. Our nation needs to repent because our sins are many.

What is repentance? It’s simply asking God for forgiveness from all sins and wrongdoing. It takes only simple, uncomplicated words that even a child can say. Repentance is not a suggestion, but a command. In fact, Jesus preached repentance on a regular basis (Matthew 4:17). 

Romans 10:9-10 gives us instructions on repentance: 

(9) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

Repentance is the first step to take at the time of salvation. Without it, trying to be a Believer, will not and cannot happen. Believing with your heart brings justification, and then confessing with your mouth that you are indeed saved and that you believe it.

One religion teaches that as long as you do good works it makes up for all wrong deeds. There’s another religion that says you must fast to make up for all sin, but we can look at Scripture and see clearly what God’s way is and that we're not saved by our own works, but by grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

We must go to the Father and ask for forgiveness and He will be faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Have you ever thought how repulsive sin truly is? Are you appalled by the sin and evil that is so evident in our nation? Evil is increasing in our land on a daily basis and seems to be more rampant as time goes by. The newspapers and newscasts are full of one report after another of murders, child molestation, rapes, robberies and many other crimes.

Sin tastes terrible. It smells disgusting. It looks despicable. Nothing feels good about it. Nothing “is” good about it. Sin has an allurement for a season and from there spirals down into darkness. The enemy will set a trap to snag his prey. If we could see from a spiritual standpoint how sordid sin truly is, we would never touch it and would be so repulsed by it, that we would run from it every time it rears its ugly head. Scripture tells us we're to avoid every type of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

The Apostle Paul said to turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21). We must turn away from all evil and seek God to help us walk down the path of righteousness, doing our best for Him every day.

For me personally, I want the Master Potter to mold and shape me like never before. In order for the Holy Spirit to do that, He must reveal my secret sins. If I feel the wooing of the Holy Spirit revealing things He sees in my heart not pleasing to Him, I must confess them. If I hold off and do not humble myself before God, I will not go further in my experience with him. I could become cold and possibly lose out with God. With that thought, I have to say as the Apostle Paul did: “God forbid!”

It’s important to remember that we must not quench the Spirit when sin is pointed out to us (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Never think for a moment that the Holy Spirit stands over us with a whip, but gently in His infinite love, points to those things not pleasing. When that happens in my life, I’ll have an overflow of tears. Those times usually come in quiet moments when it’s just God and me.

We have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting to hear us call upon His name in prayer. He longs for us to come, humbling ourselves in repentance so He can cleanse us and make us pure. If you have never done so, run into His arms now! He is waiting for you.

May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Danna Appleby

Father, we come to You humbly repenting of our sins. We sometimes do things, have thoughts and say things that are not what Christ would do or say. Cleanse us and make us pure and holy in Your sight. Make us into the one You want us to be as we look full in Your wonderful face. Father, purify us so that we can serve You with our whole heart. We give ourselves totally to You and run into Your arms this moment and are grateful for Your forgiveness and mercy. Where would we be without it? Heal our land now Father, heal our land. We cry for mercy and ask that you forgive this nation for sins that are overtaking us and ask You to change the hearts of our people. Help our nation to turn back to God. In Your Son’s name. Amen.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Top Tourist Attractions

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NAS)

Top Tourist Attractions
Top holiday destinations around the world have been named and renamed almost every year. Of the world’s 50 most visited tourist attractions, Las Vegas Strip, New York City’s Times Square, Central Park and Grand Central Terminal, the Niagara Falls and DisneyWorld Orlando were among the top ten listed in an article of February 26, 2014 at HuffingtonPost.com.

A number of years before that, the Pyramids of Giza, Big Ben in London, Roman Coliseum in Rome, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Statue of Liberty in New York City and the Niagara Falls were ranked the top ten, according to an article of March 28, 2012 at TheMost10.com. Notwithstanding that Niagara Falls often come in top ten of tourist attractions list, it is no wonder visits to the American Falls and Canadian Falls are popular with tourists.

Like many tourists, among the first things my wife and I would do when we arrive at the hotel of our holiday destination is to find out the local attractions of the place. Given that they are tourist attractions, there is almost always no chance to have private moments to admire the place or to take photographs without the crowd in them. All we could do is just to appreciate the experience in our hearts and minds, although on occasions we may perform a little magic with the help of photo editing applications to lift off unwanted objects from pictures.

When we travel to our holiday destinations, do we ask ourselves the reason for our travel? Are we on a holiday to catch some rest, to cover as many tourist attractions as possible or to admire the works of God? Is our holiday a time to free ourselves from God and man, or a time to renew our spirit to appreciate more of God’s handiwork and the God-given works of people who made artifacts of wonder?

Visiting places of natural wonders like the Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon can help us liberate our minds not to limit what God can do (for us). Seeing and understanding artifacts like the pyramids, Big Ben, Roman Coliseum, Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty help us not limit ourselves to what God can do through us when we work together for His purpose. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen and understood through what has been made (Romans 1:20).

Rather than keeping away from God or trying a little magic of our own to avoid or stay away from people during our holidays, let us with renewed minds see beyond the invisible attributes of God. If we would just pay a little more attention, we would see His handiwork and the works of the God-given.

Dear Lord, thank You for the many tourist attractions around the world that declare Your handiwork and showcase the works of the God-given. Your amazing works have opened our eyes to see greater things are yet to come, and opened our hearts to trust You to lead us beyond our own abilities. You alone are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive all glory, honor and power, for by You all things were created and because of Your will, they existed. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Setting Captives Free Quits

Setting Captives Free repents of focus on sin and repentance...
by Tim Bayly on August 17, 2015 - 4:17pm

The problem with my original writings was the focus on sin, the labeling of people according to their sin, the sharing and discussing of sin, and the constant reminders of the sin. This is Old Covenant law-oriented, problem-focused doctrine and not according to biblical truth, and it hurt many people to whom I’ve recently been apologizing.

- Mike Cleveland, announcing his repudiation of thirteen years of work with Setting Captives Free
Setting Captives FreeOne change in the past quarter-century that has been terribly destructive within the Church and Her households is the ubiquity of the internet through smartphones, tablets, and laptops. These tools have enabled the private consumption of horrendous moral filth and Christian men and (increasingly) women have found this wickedness almost irresistible. The percentage of young Christian men who have succumbed to internet fornication on a regular basis is likely close to ninety percent, and now women have joined men and are consuming thirty percent of the internet filth.

At Clearnote, we've given ourselves to working closely with men and women repenting of this sin. A critical part of our work with those repenting of this sin is that each man and woman has been required to enroll in an internet discipleship program called Setting Captives Free (SCF).

For this reason we were quite sad to be notified recently by several men of our congregation that SCF is now repudiating and will no longer be offering their former courses, including the Way of Purity (for heterosexuals who are struggling with sexual sin) and Door of Hope (for homosexuals in the same position). After a preliminary investigation, one of our elders wrote "it would appear [they] are watering down the gospel by shifting focus away from sin and the need to repent from it."

We contacted SCF to express our concern and this was their...

response:

From: SettingCaptiveFree Support [mailto:support@settingcaptivesfree.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 11:07 PM
To: [John Doe]
Subject: RE: Ticket: [_____]

Greetings,

Thank you for the kind and encouraging words.  We will pass them on to the Board of Directors for their consideration.

We do apologize for your disappointment in the upcoming change to the Setting Captives Free ministry. Most of the current course materials will still be available in a printed format through Focus Publishing and other online retailers such as Christianbook.com, Amazon.com, etc.

Below are some thought from Mike Cleveland specifically explaining more behind the Boards reasons for changing to the new ministry format; we hope you will find them helpful.

Thank you for writing. I appreciate your comments. I’ve wrestled through this issue too, as you might imagine. It wasn’t easy, and I’m happy to share some of my findings and realizations with you. The Board of Directors did pray a lot about this very issue too.

The reason that Setting Captives Free had to go was because it was flawed. The problem with my original writings was the focus on sin, the labeling of people according to their sin, the sharing and discussing of sin, and the constant reminders of the sin. This is Old Covenant law-oriented, problem-focused doctrine and not according to biblical truth, and it hurt many people to whom I’ve recently been apologizing. Setting Captives Free had to go because it was like any typical program that started with people’s sin and gave them principles to apply to be free. This is typical behaviorism, “put off-put on” type of an approach. It was very much like the law, which contained principles for living, instructions for directing our lives, and yet it actually sent people away from God for they were unable to be perfect through the law. The gospel, on the other hand, draws us to God where we find real intimacy:

18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:18-19 (NASB)

I also mistakenly taught principles at Setting Captives Free that were not contextually biblical, that were law based and rules oriented. Let me give you one example. The principle of radical amputation which comes from Matthew 5. The statements of Christ in Matthew 5 were not designed to be a principle for freedom, but rather to show us the extent we would have to go, the radical things we would have to do (cut off our arm and pluck out our eye), if wanting to be righteous under the Law. That is one example of a passage taken entirely out of context and made to say something the passage did not teach.

At Gospel Growth Ministries we are bringing in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. It is the method Christians have used for thousands of years to bring hope and freedom to others.

While you have found the material to be helpful, we have had numerous Setting Captives Free mentors say things such as this, “I am so thankful to be out from under the sin focus, the old covenant focus, and under the new gospel ministry. I had heartburn after about 2 years mentoring over there, and was considering leaving, and now I’m delighted to see that the problems have been fixed and the focus is right.”

It is a fairly common thing for people to think that they must have help for their specific sin, in their timeframe, in the manner they think they need it. A case in point is Naaman (2 Kings 5) who came to Elisha because he had leprosy, and he expected specific help from the man of God, and he had certain expectations of exactly how that help should come.

Yet the man of God did not do as Naaman expected nor required; he had Naaman do something very humbling instead, sending him off to dunk in the Jordan river 7 times. What did dunking in a muddy river have to do with curing leprosy? The two seemed unrelated. Here was Naaman’s response:

Naaman replied, “11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.”

We might imagine Naaman saying “I came here expecting specific help in curing me of my leprosy, and what you’re telling me to do is of no help. Yes, it’s good to bathe in the river, but it certainly wouldn’t help me with my problem. Leprosy is a much deeper problem.”

And yet Elisha knew what Naaman needed and so did not change his instructions. The man of God did not focus on Naaman’s specific need, but rather that which would humble him first, and then cure him. I'm sure you know the end of the story, when Naaman humbled himself and submitted to the truth he dunked in the Jordan river 7 times and came up cured.

This is what we are doing at Gospel Growth Ministries. Yes, some will not want to “dunk in the gospel”, especially not seven times (over and over) and will go away mad that we did not address their specific issue in the way they thought we should. And yet this truly is the way to freedom. “Gospel dunking”, over and over, has produced more truly free people over the thousands of years than any specific, problem focused method ever would. This is how people have been finding freedom for two thousand years, long before there ever was a Setting Captives Free or all the numerous programs and methods like it.

It’s difficult to change, I understand that. Jesus said it this way: "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" Luke 5:39 (NIV)

And yet the truth is the old is not better; the new wine of the gospel is better, it is just that it is an acquired taste. And Jesus does not allow both to exist together, the old and the new, and simply give people their choice. No, it is the gospel or nothing. We hope you’ll continue “dunking in the gospel river” and see how it would indeed free someone who comes. It just doesn’t free them in the way that they think it should.

I hope this makes sense to you. I appreciate your comments, and as I said above I have wrestled and prayed through this issue for a long time. So you are voicing something I struggled with for many years, and have come down firmly on the side of where we are now.

When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8:13 (NASB)

We hope this information is helpful to you. If we can assist further, please let us know.

Sincerely,
Webservant Setting Captives Free

There are a number of men in our congregation who, in the hard work of sanctification, have been greatly helped by the very curricula Mike Cleveland now is apologizing for. How sad.

Likely, here on Baylyblog there will soon be more about this sad reversal by Mike Cleveland and the two men who serve as his board.

Friday, August 14, 2015

I've Got A Mansion

I've Got A Mansion
If you have ever had to live in an unfinished house or “live out of boxes”, you know it is a frustration. It is a trial that requires a great deal of patience.

What a wonderful thought to me as one who has done the “box thing” and lived in “unfinished” housing. Jesus said He has gone to prepare a place for me. It is a promise from the Savior’s lips. When it is ready for me, he’ll call me home. I won’t have to pack. Everything I need will be there. Everything will be completely finished and furnished. I remember, too, that He said there are many mansions. I’ve got an address. I have a reservation. Yes, beloved, that is a comfort (John 14:1-6).

Thomas, as always, showed some doubts. He didn’t know where Jesus was going … so how could he know the way.

Jesus said, lovingly, “I am the way.”

There is that echo that came from the Sea of Galilee when He called His disciples … He was saying once again, “Follow Me."

There is a precious story of a little boy who got lost in the city streets. Darkness was beginning to fall and the child became afraid. An old gentleman stopped to help and asked the child, “where is your home?”

The little boy replied, “I don’t know, I’m lost. But if you can just take me to the corner where the church is with the big cross I can find my way home.”

Dear One, the Cross of Jesus always points toward home. What a comfort. What a joy. What a promise. E.J. Swanson

Father, it is a comfort to know that someday we will be able to dwell with you. We know that because of the loving sacrifice of your Son, Jesus, this is possible. The cross helped make it possible for me to get home. Thank you, Father. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Weekend Getaway

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:10 NAS)

Weekend Getaway
A public holiday on a Friday. That’s an extended weekend break!

Alfred thought to himself, his heart leaping for joy as his mind started planning.

"Honey, let's get away over the weekend," Alfred suggested to his wife.

"Not unless our grandchildren are taken care of," Sue answered.

"Don't worry about them, Mom," said Gail with her husband by her side. "Tom and I will take care of the kids."

Not wanting to travel too far away from home, the older couple decided to just leave the busy city to a small town—Corning, in Steuben County. Besides visiting the famed Corning Museum of Glass, exploring the picturesque Finger Lakes region, and enjoying the fabulous food of various cultures, Alfred and Sue found rest during their weekend away.

Rest is what all of us need. A break from our routines to spend time to rest, refresh and refocus can do a lot more good than we realize. Regardless how busy we are, we must make time to rest.

The Epistle to the Hebrews mentioned a rest for the people of God. All of us who have received Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior have been given that rest because of our Lord’s finished work on the cross. We ought therefore to be diligent to enter that rest so that we might not fall (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Are we finding it hard to rest because we are too busy trying to do so many things by our own effort? Are we casting our care on the Lord and committing everything we do to Him?

God’s word exhorts us to cast our anxieties to the Lord who will sustain us. Commit to the Lord whatever we do, and He will establish our plans (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; Proverbs 16:3).

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us rest through Your finished work on the cross. Help us not overwork ourselves trying to prove our worth through works, for we know it is not by our effort but by Your grace and unmerited favor that You have chosen to bless us. We commit to You all that we do and cast all our anxieties on You, for You are the One who establishes our plans and have given us rest.

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