Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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August 17th entry on Rebekah Clark's personal website.
Have you ever been blessed or healed in a gathering of saints, or even on your own, or just feeling really good in the Lord and then suddenly you find yourself relaxing, not staying as focused on Jesus as you were before you were blessed? It's almost a feeling of, "Wow, I'm feeling so good nothing can bother me!" So, unlike when you had your mind really on Jesus, you carelessly choose to throw in a wordly CD or spend a little extra time flipping through the channels, maybe watching a movie or two just because you "want to relax", or you go out with friends and spend all the time joking or being silly. Then, the next thing you know, a few days have gone by and those good feelings that you were having have started to fade away. You realize this too late, and you want those feelings back, but... where did they go? Then, you realize that you've missed it. I don't know about you all, but if I had a nickel for every time I have foolishly done this... well, you can imagine. A year or so ago, I finally began to notice the pattern – I began to pay attention when I would start to loose the feelings from a good message or good thoughts or experiences with the Lord, and I began to pay attention to how and why they were being lost. I knew there was a reason, and I knew it was something that I was (or was not) doing. After all, God doesn't give blessings out on loan – it isn't His fault that they don't last!
So, I have been trying to keep my mind on Jesus whenever he condescends to turn it towards him. I want to reach a place in the Lord where there is no need even to say that I try to do this; I want it to be second nature to respect Jesus when he is working! It's not hard when you really learn to value the feelings and appreciate them, because then you don't even want all the other stuff. It's not even on your mind – not even on the horizon! You do whatever it takes to protect what you have from the Lord because nothing else holds any value to you in this life without it. I am learning still the great importance of appreciating and not taking for granted anything from God that you feel or know. In this lost and hopeless world, whatever light or peace or joy that you feel from God truly is "more to be desired ... yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:10). Whew! Those are not just words!
Now, I want to say that I am not at all advocating never watching movies, or listening to the type of music that you might like, or getting silly every now & then with friends :-P, or any of those kinds of things. But, there is a time and a place for all of that. In their time, those things are appropriate. What I have noticed is that a lot of times those small things try to come in offering themselves to you as a trade-off for something that you have gained in the Lord – they want your attention & concentration at a time when you need to be feeding on something else. At such times, those things are never appropriate.
I say all of this to get to something that I have been realizing this week, because it is somewhat connected. And it has a lot to do with being a wise virgin & not a foolish one, I think. For, the foolish virgins were not outside the kingdom of God – they were, in fact, children of God. The difference between the two groups was that one was prepared when the bridegroom came and the other was not. This isn't anything we haven't already been taught; but think about it. I have been feeling this week that I need to work on staying prepared – not getting slack in the Spirit just because nothing big happens to be going on at the moment. Do we need a crisis in our lives to stay close to Jesus? If we do, then if he loves us, he'll make sure that we have one. And I don't want him to have to resort to that anymore! Sometimes it seems like the biggest test of our stability in the Lord is when the waters are relatively calm, not always when things are being blown in every direction. What are we going to do with our minds and our time when we aren't forced by pain or burdens to stay on our knees in prayer in order to survive? How much do we keep our mind on God then?
Anyway, I was thinking about some different things several days ago, and a little thought crossed my mind somewhere in there to the effect of, "What exactly is the reason why we should stay 'prayed up' when things are relatively smooth and we are feeling pretty good?" Now, first of all, this was such a tiny, fleeting thought that I had completely forgotten about it until Jesus both answered that question for me today and then reminded me that I had the question in the first place! Secondly, it was not that I was questioning whether or not we should stay "prayed up", but more like my heart was wondering what exactly happens when you do or do not. It's hard to explain. And again, it was a very brief thought. Well today, I learned a very valuable lesson about the benefits of staying close to Jesus. It's simple really: The reason to stay close to Jesus is because only he knows what is coming up ahead! If you let yourself wander off somewhere in a corner and don't keep your mind on where you need to be, then you are not ready to handle it when something does come up. You aren't prepared – you aren't being a wise virgin.
On the way to school today, I finished up listening to a really good CD that Amanda had lent to me on not having a froward tongue. It was really good and I felt really good. (I might put part of it on here [on my web site], if you all would like to hear it... just let me know). After it was over, I decided to put in a CD of some simple country songs that I enjoy singing along with. But, as soon as I did, I had that little feeling like, "You don't want to do that right now, do you?" I hesistated a minute, but I could think of no reason why I shouldn't – after all, it was a normal day and I was feeling pretty normal, and I have the liberty to listen to what I like, right? – so I put it in anyway and listened to it the rest of the way there, and the whole way home. Look folks, we may have a lot of liberty, that's true; but you don't have the liberty to ignore the voice of the Spirit and keep your liberty in Christ. Like Uncle Rob says, we are all going to serve something. You don't have an option of not being a slave to something in this life; all the philosophical, new-age talk about being "free" is a bunch of garbage. You only have the option of what you serve: you can choose to serve Jesus and feel liberated and free in the Spirit all the time, or you can choose to follow the world and be in bondage to it all the time. It was not time for me to listen to those songs and pull my mind away from the strengthening feelings of God. Why? I obviously didn't know, and as a result, I chose not to obey. But, Jesus knew, and no sooner did I step into the house tonight when BOOM. Something came along for which I really needed that strength that comes from the joy of the Lord. I was shaken by some news that I should have sailed right through with joy and peace. But, I wasn't prepared!
That's when everything started to come together and I realized that Jesus was answering that tiny question in my heart that had been completely forgotten: The reason for staying prayed up and prepared during the less rocky times is so that when trials or tests do unexpectedly come our way, we keep our victory! I really want to stay prepared. I want to be like those three-hundred men whom God told Gideon to choose for the army because, although they were as thirsty as everyone else, they drank at the river cautiously in case an enemy were to approach, and not with abandon like the rest. They stayed constantly aware of what was around them – they might not have known if something was coming or not, but they were still prepared. I want to stay close to the One who knows what is coming, good or bad. If good, I want to be doing what I am supposed to be doing so that I will deserve it and get the most out of it; if bad, I want to be doing what I am supposed to be doing so that my eyes will be on the Solution and not on the problem.
Wow! God is so good. He even cares about the littlest things that we wonder! Isn't that wonderful? What a good Daddy. :) I am going to bed tonight feeling very loved.