Confused? Frustrated? Perplexed? You're not alone. Today these are common reactions to the often baffling world we live in. But this plague isn't restricted just to the secular world; it has seeped into the church as well.
The Bible speaks out about the many pressures that would fall upon the church prior to the coming of Christ. It is amazing, though, that so many Christians have disregarded this warning from the Word of God. As a result, many have lost their sense of purpose and direction. The Way Forward explores the various challenges faced by the believer and the church today. It is intended to help you better understand God's glorious purpose for the church and your personal part in it. It will give you God's perspective, rather than man's.
The content emphasizes the soulful plea of the "called-out" believer for the return to holiness, as delineated by God. The church is positioned for the most crucial stage of its human and spiritual experience-the Lord's arrival. This book seeks to be a gauge as to where one may be in God's economy and to spiritually awaken and inspire the thirsty soul to a higher level of consciousness. The message of this book is simple: move forward and refuse to become stagnant or motionless!
In today's confusing, challenging, and directionless world, it's just too easy for a person of faith to feel lost and alone. The Way Forward provides inspiration to help maintain and redirect your walk with God.
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The Way ForwardEmbracing Unity, Faith, and Power
By O'Niel Fisher
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 O'Niel Fisher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTake a Moment to Consider
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? —Psalm 8:3-4
The clamor, noise, stress, and strain of life can make it so difficult to stop and enjoy. So many times, the unrelenting pace of life and the instant mind-set has made it almost impossible to stop and smell the roses! This nonstop wave of progression has plunged its fangs in the lives of countless millions, and as a result, it has revolutionized the way we live—"on the go." In light of this, I have heard too often the complaint, "I don't even have time to think!" The pressure of life has so many in a headlock, suffocating them from understanding and fulfilling their purpose and experiencing happiness. Along with that, time itself has become a formidable foe that has heightened this standoff. But if you had a moment to consider something, what would it be?
Have you ever stopped to consider the grandeur and splendor of the celestial terra firma or the innumerable angelic hosts or the serenity of this place? Or have you just pondered the extent of God's limitless power as He created man from the dust of the earth and how the body is really a display of wonder and intricate detail? Or have you pondered why God, in His infinite love and mercy, selected you from billions of people? Have you wondered what it was in God's mind that made you stand out from so many others? Really, have you just stopped and wondered in the sheer amazement of why?
David in Psalm 80:4 asked God this poignant question, "What is man that thou art mindful of him and the son of man?"
David, in his pursuit to understand, questioned God by juxtaposing the splendor and radiance of the heavens to the insignificance of man. But after conversing with God, David remained awestruck as to why God is so cognizant of sin-prone man and his actions and affairs. The Psalmist then was left to worship and observe with wonder the infinite mercies of God.
Like David, we need to take periodic moments in our lives where we just stop and consider. David's moment to question God and His enthrallment of man is an example for us to follow. It is a starting point for movement—forward!
Love that Moved God!
Fostering any relationship can be a daunting experience. In the relationship between God and His creation, He made the first move, showcasing His immeasurable love and admiration for us. John 3:16 puts it this way:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The price Jesus paid on Calvary was not the simple action of trying to woo mankind. It was the purest declaration of His unfailing and limitless love to us. First John 4:9–10 conveys God's heart and admiration to man this way:
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God, through Jesus Christ, became the ultimate sacrifice to break the curse of sin that tore the bond between God and man. Without question, the infinite suffering of Jesus to bring man back into fellowship with Him goes far beyond any human parent or spouse. This is certainly the greatest love story known to man!
If you or I were in a relationship with someone for any length of time, there would be an expectation that the level of communication established would enhance the union of the parties involved—agreed? This law is true in both the natural and the supernatural. Once one has developed that intimate relationship with God, the outcome and experience are wondrous. For so long, many have believed that attending or participating in church is the sum total of one's experience with God.
Sadly, this erroneous concept has strongly pervaded Christendom. Actually, the experience of knowing and serving God goes far beyond the confines of the four walls of a church building. There is so much more of God that we have yet to tap into. Unfortunately, the experience of church as it pertains to what happens within a building has placed limitations in how we perceive and understand God.
Consider Your Position. Are You Stagnant?
I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. —Revelation 3:15–16
Stagnation: a state of inactivity, being stagnant, standing still, without current or circulation (www.thefreedictionary.com).
Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese American novelist, emphatically declared, "March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path." Certainty life experiences or circumstances and external worldly influences can aid in diminishing and hindering our consciousness for spiritual growth. As easily as these challenging occurrences happen in one's life, negative emotions or feelings can grab hold, and without realization, one can slide into discontentment and abject despair. The outcome is spiritual stagnation, which has the insidious ability to siphon one's desire for God, and as a result, barriers of frustration, discontentment, fear, denial, and anger are constructed.
Revelation 3:15–16 gives us a view into God's thoughts on spiritual stagnation. Although the primary purpose for John's letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor was to give God's report card of their spiritual condition, it also describes the seven types of churches. Clearly John's writings to the churches of Asia Minor have significant pertinence to us today. It is a direct warning not only to the church at large but also to us on a personal level. It should propel us to consider our personal walk with God. Am I lukewarm? Am I growing spiritually? Am I truly matching up to the word of God? Do my daily actions and disposition reflect and demonstrate spiritual growth?
These are very important questions that each of us needs to consider in our daily walk with the Lord. We can quite easily become so caught up in the experience of church that we lose sight of our personal relationship with the Lord. Unfortunately, many have equated the church experience as the sum total of their personal experience with God, but God is so desirous for greater communion and for us to be His disciples and follow after His precepts.
Recently, in my personal devotion I wondered to myself whether or not I was experiencing the awesomeness of God as I should. In those moments of reflection, I was confronted with the following questions from the Lord:
Have I allowed life's challenges to cripple me so that I am unable to move forward in God?
Why are we not seeing the occurrence of miracles on a greater scale?
Why is there seemingly a lack of direction within the church in the twenty-first century?
After being confronted with such challenging questions, my response was personal introspection and repentance. This unrelenting burden to see God move changed my outlook on ministry in such a radical way. The weight of this burden stirred me to the point of evaluating the personal challenges I faced and what steps I took to ensure my spiritual vitality.
Realign Your Focus
At some point or another in our annual doctors' visits, our physicians will check our eyes to determine their health. Generally doctors will request the patient to focus his or her eyes on a distant screen and identify the numbers, and letters to determine the eyes' current condition. Focus is required for this assessment to be effective. In the same vein, before we can take strides forward, we must first consider where we are now. What does it take to move forward in God?
One of the key elements that is essential is the ability to focus on God and what He deems vital for spiritual growth and development. Isaiah 26:3 exhorts, "Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee."
There are times, though, when life's challenges can cause us to lose focus, and chaos ensues. But Isaiah is underscoring that there is a connection between one's focus and one's peace. In other words, the mind that is centered and confident in God will not be agitated by the trials to which it may be subject, be they sickness, poverty, persecution, or rejection. It should also be noted here the condition of the mind: "whose mind is stayed on thee [God]." In other words, it is a mind that is fixed, rooted, grounded, and firmly persuaded in God. As such, we must discipline and develop ourselves to understand and perceive life's particular circumstances and troubles God's way. Otherwise we can be prone to lose complete focus and reliance upon God.
Daniel 3:1–3 is a portrait of unwavering focus and belief. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not moved by Nebuchadnezzar's decree to worship the golden image, even if it meant death as the final outcome. Their conviction and resolution is what is noteworthy here. Nebuchadnezzar's plea for them to reconsider did not change their response. They articulated with undeniable confidence:
O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it know unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
It certainly takes sheer resolution and sound conviction even when faced with certain death not to compromise or change one's mind. The online dictionary definition for the word "focus" sums up the stance of the three Hebrew boys best, "maximum clarity or distinctness of an idea" (www. thefreedictionary.com). What was in the minds of these young men that kept them so committed to God in Babylon?
Another key point to moving forward is having the ability to see things through God's perspective. In Isaiah 55:8–9 it affirms it this way:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This Scripture clearly states that no man can ever comprehend the mind of God. God is infinitely beyond anything we can comprehend. This dichotomy is further emphasized through Isaiah's remarkable use of measurement or scale imagery of the heavens to the earth. In other words, man's inability to measure the heavens and the earth speaks of the polarity of the thoughts of God to those of man. In Romans 3:11, the Amplified Bible confirms it this way:
No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God.
Instinctively, it is just easier to accept what we can understand and prove. But what is foreign or unknown to us, we generally have the tendency to dispel or disregard as truth. But if we were in the same situation as the three Hebrew boys, would our focus shift to compromise or despair, causing us to lose our ability to be (spiritually) objective? This could magnify or blow the problem out of proportion.
I am certain, that at one point or another we have been faced with problems that seemed mammoth or bigger than they actually were. All common sense and godly reliance went through the window. The problem seemed greater than God at the time. Why is it at the points of trouble or testing that we lose godly objectivity? Why do we seem to forget that problems have the ability to paralyze us within the immediacy of the circumstance?
Again, there is a principle that must be considered in the lives of the three Hebrew boys and even Daniel in Babylon. Their conviction and commitment to God gave them the courage to thrive despite the challenges of living in a heathen society. The Scriptures clearly show their unshakeable resolve even at the pain of death or the attempt to change identity as means to convert them. The fervency of their love for God surpassed the various tests they endured in Babylon.
If one is unable to see things God's way, then one may never feel inspired to seek after what is greater. There must be a personal yearning for the heart of God and an elevated spiritual scope to perceive and understand life. If we look at Enoch, Abraham, and Noah, we see that they followed the voice of God—something they could not comprehended naturally. But they acted with sheer obedience and willingness even if it meant being criticized by their peers. Their desire for greater communion with God propelled them to move. As a matter of fact, the pursuit for God requires one to move.
Moving forward spiritually also involves emptying your mind and spirit of blockages or hindrances. Hebrews 12:1 instructs us this way:
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us ...
Paul uses the analogy of runners in the Greek games as an example of how we are to live as Christians. The hope of athletes is the reward of winning. Their strict concentration, tension, energy, and strenuous effort are the only means to obtain victory. The apostle Paul exhorts that this is the manner in which to run if we want to attain the reward.
Any successful runner knows that to minimize resistance, you must wear suitable clothing. Extra pounds, whether in body weight or clothes, impede speed and performance. In other words, to acquire victory, one must run "light." As the Scripture above says, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us." Sin can generally be identified or recognized, and we know how to rightly respond—repent. Weights, on the other hand, can be deceiving, for they can be often obscured by well-intentioned motives. Emotional baggage, such as low-self esteem or guilt from past failures and disappointments, can be a weight that inhibits strides forward and ultimately victory.
Sometimes life can deal us blows that may cause us to become stuck or unmotivated to seek after God. Instead of us standing our ground, we resort to curling up, flight, and ultimately throwing in the towel. It is at these times when we must put on all our spiritual armor and prepare for battle. One battle at a time! One fight at a time! This is the kind of attitude we need to move forward. Once we have come to this spiritual understanding, our perspective begins to change. You begin to look deeply and further ahead to the next horizon. Mediocrity is no longer an acceptable spiritual experience.
Conversely, when we truly begin to view things God's way, then the next challenge we encounter will give us the drive to keep moving forward. The apostle Paul asserted the following after assessing his personal life hardships, trials, and insufficiency from the perspective of God:
For I reckon that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
The perspective that the many heroes of faith demonstrated must be something that we hold on to and follow. In so doing, it will give us the strategy of God to be victorious when challenged with circumstances. Looking forward, then, is not a mere option but is mandatory for one to achieve spiritual success.
In the words of a familiar proverb, "What you behold is what you become." This guiding maxim is not just a common theoretical prose, but found in its simple packaging are pearls of wisdom. Thus, it behooves us to consider that the abstract of the supernatural cannot be understood by the carnal mind. The things of the spirit require a spiritual mind to perceive and understand. Seeing things God's way will result in moving God's way, which is forward.
Excerpted from The Way Forward by O'Niel Fisher Copyright © 2011 by O'Niel Fisher. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Take a Moment to Consider....................1
Get Rid of the Robbers....................15
Politics and the Church....................31
Leaders at Loggerheads....................39
Is the Church Powerless?....................53
The Church—a God Thought!....................65
Faith Will Find a Way....................73
The Way Forward....................93