Are You Keeping Your Promises?

The blue-collar work ethic of Americanism remains a virtuous strength of our land. The drive and desire to achieve and accomplish has long fueled the machine of human progress. Someone waxing poetic and patriotic fails to see that unbridled ambition can easily become an indulgence. While dreaming, working, and conquering are evidence of those who envelop American spirit, can a focus on personal accomplishment blind us to the purpose of our Creator?

One such man whose ambition caused him to fail to follow God’s purpose was Samson. A Nazarite from birth, he had taken a vow to abstain from immorality and to conform to a strict code of conduct. This oath included not shaving any hair on his head, abstaining from wine and alcohol and avoiding being near a corpse. As long as Samson was faithful to this vow, God showed him his divine favor – and he accomplished many wonderful acts as a judge of the Children of Israel.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Our ways can seem right to us as long as we get what we want. But getting our own way is never a true indicator of God’s approval.

As Samson matured into a young man, his appetite for pleasing himself increased. His abilities and strength spoiled him into expecting only the result of his will. As the appetite of his desires grew, Samson’s vow and God’s purpose soon had little influence over the decisions he made.

Samson’s decisions established a path that led away from God and toward a road of broken vows and disappointments. On this road, he found honey in the carcass of a lion. Breaking his vow, Samson found sweetness amid that which was dead and crawling with maggots. He found love among his enemies and he lost his eyesight as he lost his vision of God’s plan for his life. He also lost his life.

This way of self-will remains a well-travelled road. Too many decide to traverse this path and ignore God’s direction. They give little thought to God’s will or to the promise they gave to serve God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. The vows of serving God, being faithful to a marriage or honest with their fellow man are quickly abandoned because a more convenient, self-satisfying option is made available. Therefore, many decide, and go and do with little thought for God’s purpose or approval.

James 4:15 reminds us that we “ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.” When was the last time you bridled your ambitions and considered God’s plan for you? It takes time to consider, listen, and wait upon God. This solemn time of seeking God exhibits a pure desire to please Him and not ourselves. In finding and doing His will we will find “the blessing of the Lord maketh rich and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)

by M Karns

Consecrated to God

Do you know the full plan of salvation? First, it means to be saved from sin. The person you once were has been cleansed and you are made new. This transformation is so amazing it is almost like having a new identity. Bad habits and vices have been forgiven and you no longer wish to do those wicked things. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17) Yet, there is more to this wonderful plan! The second work of grace, called Sanctification, is the culmination of the Christian experience.

Sanctification (or sanctify) means to set apart as holy, to consecrate. Some will argue that people cannot be holy, that perfection is reserved only for God. Yet, the scripture says, “…be ye holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16) The Bible would not set forth an unattainable guideline for man to follow. That would be like dangling the proverbial carrot in front of the horse’s nose.

Being holy does not mean you no longer make mistakes or errors, but that your heart is made perfect. Sin is no longer a part of it; the Holy Spirit enables you to stay that way, if you choose. This is the true evidence of the Spirit of God in one’s life. It is not to speak in an unknown tongue, as some will claim; but to have the power to live pure in the sight of God.

Pastor Karns often reminds us, God does not find pleasure in supposed holy water, beads or statutes; He delights in hearts that are clean and holy! Men and women that love God supremely and are truly dedicated to following His will for their life. That reverent dedication does not hide one away in a monastery or a convent, but uses the opportunity to be a light to those around them. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

In a recent sermon, our pastor also likened the sanctified heart to clay in the potter’s hands. Physically, the potter molds the clay into the shape he needs. The clay does not demand to be made into a vase or bowl, but is submissive to the potter’s design. In like terms, God knows when, where and how you need to be used. He has a specific design that He needs you to become. The second work of grace brings a desire to “… be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21) After experiencing the miracle of salvation, the least we can do is willingly give our lives back to God, to be used in whatever capacity He chooses. To be as clay in the Potter’s hand requires Sanctification.

So many today have twisted values, “… and worshipped the creature more than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25) For this second work of grace to be truly effective, God must be one’s chief joy and main priority in life. We live in a society with ever-changing opinions and trends. Many prefer to chase their own ambitions and goals but forget about God’s opinion.

The sanctified heart considers God with every move, asking for His guidance and desiring to stay in His will. The song “Consecration” by Mildred E. Howard beautifully details the sanctified life.

~ J. Shick

The Eleventh Mile Climb

During my second half-marathon, located in the steep hills of the Laurel Highlands, I learned a secret of running: You have more strength than you think and it doesn’t come from training or preparation, but from your own determination.

There are times in life we feel inadequate or overwhelmed. Often, our capabilities are limited by our own minds. Self-preservation causes us to look at life and say, “I can bear this, but never that. I can cope with this, but never that. I can endure this pain, but surely not that.”  We pose boundaries on our test, sometimes before it even begins.

Yet, when a greater trial or burden comes our way, we find a way to endure. How? Only by God’s strength and grace, step by step. The problem with our human minds is that we look at situations as a whole and not one step at a time. We take one long gaze at the mountain and feel faint at the thought of conquering it. We act as though we are running a whole race in an instant.

Of course, anyone who attempts to run this way will fail. That foolish person will collapse under the strain of an impossible feat. But one step at a time? That is doable. You can endure much more than you think if you put energy into your next footfall, rather than thinking of the many miles ahead. Will it be uncomfortable, even painful? Of course. But you do have the strength within you. It comes from a determined mind and purposed heart to follow God to the end.

On this particular half-marathon, the first two miles included a steep climb to the top of a ridge. Never had I trained on inclines so steep or long. I managed to keep a running pace, but by the top, my legs were already feeling like jelly, and I still had eleven miles left.

Having already reviewed the course online, I knew there was a much steeper eleventh-mile climb that lasted almost to mile thirteen. My mind raced to the hill that I hadn’t reached yet and I immediately felt defeated. In that moment, I contemplated stopping. I didn’t feel prepared; my legs were not strong enough for this race.

But I kept on, saying to myself, “I know I can at least run this mile here in front of me.” On I continued, repeating this to myself across flat stretches and slight dips, tripping through the rocky trails that wound through the dense forest. By the time I reached the eleventh mile, I was sore and my ankles were throbbing.

Suddenly, I was staring up at the dreaded hill. It was an awesome and overwhelming sight. Up the muddy trail stretched, curving out of view. The runners ahead were bent at the waist, bear-crawling when the path grew too steep to run. I heaved for air and wondered if this would be where I failed.

Yet I didn’t want to fail, so I endured. Charging at the hill, I determined to finish. That climb was the toughest physical and mental challenge I have ever encountered as a runner. About 500 feet into the incline, running was no longer an option. The ground was slick with mud. Every step took monumental energy. After fighting to gain a few feet of progress and slipping every step, I became mad at that mountain. This would not be the end.

I passed by a young man who had shot out ahead in the starting mile. He was clearly a seasoned runner, but now he crouched, looking up defeatedly while holding a cramp in his side. It occurred to me that even the young, strong and fit will be challenged by the race. At some point, everyone looks failure in the face. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31)

I became fixated on the finish line. Each step, I thought of the satisfaction I would feel in receiving my medal. This would not merely be a race I had run; this was a race I had fought for! At long last, I reached the summit and looked back down at the beautiful view of the autumn foliage. I wasn’t done running, but that medal was as good as mine. You see, once I determined to finish, there was nothing great enough to discourage me. Even though I felt weak in those miles, I was proving the strength of my resolve.

We all have those eleventh-mile climbs. There are days of pain and frustration in life. Sometimes we look ahead and see only a steep trail ahead. We must keep climbing. We must do what we can today, in this mile. We will reach the summit and enjoy the view. We will taste victory. It will be by the strength of God within our hearts. If we resolve not to fail, and rely on Him to bring us through, we can endure anything. You can endure anything. “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

– By R Smith

A Lasting Change

Another year is here. People are making New Year’s Resolutions again…how many times does the same person make the same resolutions every year only to break them before January is over. For some, it is a cycle played out over and over again. Promises made to self that usually end up broken. I wonder what the success rate is of New Year resolutions. Surely there are some resolutions that are kept. There are those who keep their resolve to lose weight or run a marathon. That is just the thing with us humans. We are capable of both success and of failure. We can make an incredibly wise decision in life at one time while another day we can let our human emotions of the moment sway us to make a foolish choice that we will afterwards regret.

That is why as the New Year starts I am so thankful to be serving a God whose success rate is 100%. A divine God that NEVER makes a mistake. He has never made a promise that he has not kept. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus tells us that he is with us always, even unto the end of the world. Friend, you do not have to carry your burdens alone. What is it that you resolve this year? No doubt, there are some that resolve to try to quit smoking, drinking, or doing drugs. Perhaps you have resolved to be honest this year or to be more kind and loving to others. If you attempt to make some of these changes on your own, I will just be honest, you have a high chance of failing. You may do well for some time, but addiction and the power of sin have a way of working our determination down and causing us to yield to its force. I do not tell you this to discourage you from trying but rather I want to share with you the hope we have in Christ. There is a solution to your problems. You can be free and stay free. Many religions will tell you to do the best you can, that we all fail. They say that we can not be perfect and sinless until we reach heaven. The word of God tells us to be perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) If it was not possible, then God would not say it. I am blessed to have felt God’s saving power in my own life. To have been set free and given the power to live without sin. I am doubly blessed to have witnessed this same saving and freeing power in many others lives. I have seen the sinner transformed and the addicted delivered. If you are interested in forsaking sin and living a life of power through salvation through Christ, then we invite you to the Church of God at Connequenessing where God is still changing lives.

-Christie L Karns