Category Archives: Humility

Pondering the Hard Places of Life

I have learned much in my 60 years of life. God used many people to train me up. From my daddy, I learned faithfulness and frugal living. From Aunt Peggy and Aunt Shirley I learned how to care for a home. From Aunt Maxine I learned the importance of Scripture to daily life. From Aunt Edna and Uncle Bobby, I learned the importance of living those Scriptures through a faithful, Christian walk. In the power of His Spirit, God has used His Word to instruct me, His Church to build me up, and His people to encourage and help me. God uses many things in this life and in our situations in order to grow and mature us. Today my thoughts are on the hard places He takes us to for His purposes and our good.

Why am I thinking on such and side tracking from my pondering of Hebrews? Two reasons:

During what I call my “Prescription walk” I am currently listening to the book of Jeremiah. In it, over and over again, God uses Jeremiah to warn the people of Israel and Judah of His hand coming against them, sending them into captivity. Over and over they are told to give themselves freely to their captors or suffer destruction. With each warning comes promise that if they will willingly surrender to God’s will and put themselves under the taskmasters He is sending to enslave them, that in their time of captivity they will find their lives fully restored.

That’s one reason I am pondering our subject today. And these words catch my attention for the second reason.

I have a friend who is facing a very difficult decision, one in which he has to choose whether he will surrender himself to captivity, or fight to see if he can win his freedom. I don’t envy his decision one bit: in fact I grieve it for him and all involved terribly. Nor do I know the answer. Only God does. But as I think of his situation in light of the words in Jeremiah, this I do know:

In any situation we face where the choice is to surrender ourselves to go through a very hard place in life or fight to see if we can win our freedom, the opinion of God is vital. He knows which direction is our ideal soil for growth, maturity, service, obedience, and the glory of the Lord. He has a purpose in the mountains, and He knows which way will bring true freedom.

Sometimes God calls us to go around a mountain and avoid it at all cost. Sometimes He leads us to go over that mountain and defeat it by fighting our way to the other side. And sometimes He calls us to go through that hard ground to the other side, trusting His hand for us.

If we choose to fight when He says to surrender, we fail to trust His hand and His purpose, and we find ourselves actually fighting Him. So discernment of God’s will is vital. If we are called by Him to surrender to a challenge or enemy force, it is truly Him we surrender ourselves too. And God is faithful. He will see us through those difficult places and bring us through with greater understanding of who He is and how faithful He is to us who choose to trust Him. If we choose to fight when He says “surrender”, we may find ourselves facing the very terrors we fear.

In my times of surrendered trust in God, as He took me through the middle of my hard places in life, I found these reasons for His doing so:

Sometimes it takes the crushing things in life to remove those deeply imbedded, huge roots of sin that we often do not even realize we have. God is always at work to make us into the image of God, and if that means captivity for a time so that we can be made truly free, that is what He requires. Cooperation with Him is the only way to survive such experiences.

Sometimes there are things and people in our lives that we value more than God, making them an idol. God will take us through hard places in order to lead us to trust Him alone, to relinquish our idols, and to more fully bond with Him as our first, most vital necessity. These are the times He calls us to realize Him as our greatest desire above all else, choosing first His Kingdom and His righteousness. And once we make that choice, we find more of all the good things in life, only they are rightly prioritized, having no power to pull us from Him as the One possessing first place in everything. Having Him first and foremost as our greatest desire makes everything else taste sweeter.

CrossDaily05And then there is the reason of His need of our special gifting and life experience to bring light into dark places. Sometimes our captivity is nothing more than a mission field and opportunity to bring Him glory.

Many of us have hard decisions to make from time to time. Before balking at a place that looks like enemy captivity that will harm and destroy you, stop to ask the Lord His opinion. Get His heart for the situation. Hear His promises for the call of the captive. If He is there, in the hard place before you with some purpose of His own in hand, your only choice is whether to surrender to Him there and have His help for the journey, or fight against Him where you are. Whichever side of the issue God is on, that is the safest place to be. Discern where God is standing; enter into His rest through faith-filled, believing obedience; and follow Peace to the pastures of His choosing.

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” ~ James 4:10.

Who De Judge?

Read John 3:16-21

The judgment of God can be confusing. Why does Jesus say He did not come to judge the world, while in other passages saying He does judge? Why is God the Father the Judge, and yet He has left all judgment to Jesus? Why are we told to not pass judgment, while in another Breath of His Word we are told to judge righteously? I don’t know if I can help make sense of it, but this passage calls me to try. Thus we will break it down and talk it through.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. …” (vs. 16-18).

Jesus IS the Word of God, incarnate, living, and active. He somehow, fully understood by God alone, is the power through which God spoke all into existence. He is the Messenger, I believe the One called the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament who delivered God’s message to man pre-Christ, and now anew as Christ. He is the Word lived out fully before us as an example to us for life more abundant and full. He spoke only as God instructed Him, so every Word given is God breathed through Him from beginning of days to their end. The Word of God is the judgment of God already passed, by which we are already judged.

Jesus is the Word of God come to live as an example and die as propitiation; thus He says rightly that judgment is already passed through Him who is the incarnation of the very Word of God so that those who believe are already judged as righteous in and through receiving His gift of sacrifice and following Him; and those who deny Him are already judged guilty as they refuse the gift of God in Christ and the Lordship He has bought as the living Word of God to direct our life. (John 1:14; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Luke 4:32; John 6:68; 1 John 1:1-5; John 18:37; John 5:30; John 8:28; John 12:48-50; Romans 2)

Thus Jesus did not need to judge the world, because the world is already judged by the Word. The Word is God and is in perfect alignment with all God is and desires. Anything standing in opposition to His Word, stands against Him and is judged guilty. Any in agreement with the Word stand with God and are adjudged righteous through Christ. So Jesus was not sent to judge, because judgment is already defined and passed. But when He is required to pronounce judgment, He does so as the Word of God, expressing the dictates of God that are already set.

We are told to not pass judgment as our right to do so, for in such an attitude we too often judge according to our own ideology of right and wrong. Thus, in doing so, we set ourselves up as a god in His place. He has already judged, and His word is His judgment, set in place to show us how to live in righteousness.

Another reason we are told not to judge is because we too easily look at the external without thought of the internal or the underlying issue of the heart. Only God knows the true intent of the heart of every man, and only He can justly and by right pronounce judgment and pass sentence.

However we are called to righteous judgment. This can only be achieved when we first judge ourselves against the Standard of God’s word and make sure we are in right relationship with Him. We can only fully judge self, with God’s help, as He reveals to us the true intent found in our heart. This is because the heart of our flesh is deceptive and we too easily fool ourselves.

We see this principle as Jesus kneels down to scribble in the dirt, then stands to tell a crowd, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one, all dropped their rock and turned to walk away. Jesus knew their desire to stone the woman caught in sin was unrighteous on several plains of thoughts: one – they only brought the woman, leaving the man behind as if he had no part in the sin. The law they were partially following says to bring “them” out for stoning who are caught in adultery, not “her”. Two – He also knew that the heart desire of those leading the unruly crowd was to test Him to see if they could catch Him in sin. I have no doubt that a wrong response from Jesus, and the stones would have been aimed His way. And three – these were forgetting rule one, righteously judge yourself and remove the plank from your own eye so you can see to help another with their splinter. Many in the crowd were more deserving of stoning than our adulterous young woman. Many probably just had yet to be caught. (Read John 8)

We are to judge others only in accord with God’s Word as we can physically see them standing in disagreement to It; and then only as we ourselves are walking in agreement with that area of life in Him. I know someone has committed the sin of stealing when I see them steal, I judge them guilty of stealing because God’s word ordains, “Thou shalt not steal.” And I can rightly address that issue with the person when I do so realizing it is God’s judgment based on His word, and I stand before Him in the cover of His grace, doing the best we can to walk with Him in agreement with His Word, will and way. None are perfect in flesh yet; we are perfected in Christ and we are continually being perfected. So righteous judgment can only be done when we do all we can know to do to be in right standing with God, and as we have a heart attitude that we, too, are but flesh apart from Christ.

“…This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (vs. 19-21).

As we consider the heart issues involved, only God can fully comprehend the intent of the heart of any man. Only He can reveal that intent. And only He can divvy out righteous justice or decide for grace. Our righteous judgment toward self or any other can only truly happen as we realize these things and seek the heart of God to know the truth and follow His will in passing judgment. Because of this, people will either love the Word of God, and run hard to practice it, or they will hate it.

People who hate the word of God most often do so because it is His light to reveal to us our own hearts, whether we stand righteous or guilty. They avoid it for fear that they will have to change their ways, being unwilling to do so. And they don’t like feeling their guilt, so they baulk at His word and our pronouncements of His judgment.

Those who love the Word love it because they realize that it teaches them Christlikeness that restores the image of God to our hearts. Jesus gives us His Spirit to help us choose to love the Word and to instruct our understanding, granting power to follow through with its dictates. Thus we must choose to believe His life, example, and sacrifice, taking it fully to heart and making it our own, so that we may be saved unto eternity and live a life after God’s own heart.

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 4

Spirit and Fire 

Isaiah 4:4-6 “When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.”

It was interesting to me to find this passage after a recent conversation with a friend about another passage that I would say goes hand in hand with this. In it, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). From these two passages we can glean a little discernment of these baptisms from the Father through the Christ.

First of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of judgment, Jesus says that the Spirit He will send us will “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Here we see that the baptism of the Spirit comes to those of the world who receive within themselves this conviction that brings understanding of their sin, God’s righteousness and that sent through Christ on our behalf, and the judgment to come that will be determined by whether or not we believe and receive. This baptism is the baptism of rebirth that brings our spirits fully to life with His, making us one with Jesus and part of the Kingdom of God. After this baptism of rebirth, the work of the Spirit of judgment continues as He teaches us to recognize the source of the choices we have in life, whether they will produce sin or righteousness and wisdom to discern the consequences of our choices. Without this work of the Spirit in us, we cannot walk with God in truth.

Second, this first baptism of the spirit of judgment leads to the baptism of fire or burning. As we grow in our maturity as people of God, His Spirits begins to burn within us to reveal sin habits and patterns that must be surrendered to God and transformed to His likeness. This can be an arduous process to go through, much like burning away our flesh with fire would be difficult to live through. The more we fight the change God calls us to make the more fierce the fire burns through consequences meant to move us toward Him and away from the evil we run after to easily. This fire is not only burning away the rule of flesh in our lives, it is removing the desires and pursuits that make up the dross that hinders His image from reflecting in our lives.

God will do what it takes to make us into His image because He loves us and no unrighteousness can enter the gates of the eternal. The more we work in cooperation with the Spirit of God, the less of the burn we will experience. So be quick to hear and believe; and receive and press forward in faith. Then the fire of God can impassion us for the things of God, empowering us for good and glory as never before.

Father, we cry out for the baptism of Christ to do its work in us, making us a reflection of Your glory, grace, and love. Holy Spirit, have full sway to the glory of God’s name. In Jesus, amen.

Dispelling the Darkness—Begins with the Mind of Christ: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 4-Ab

In our last excerpt of this study we looked at the humility of Christ that comes to us through the mind of Christ. Today we continue looking at this vital aspect of walking in the dictates of His mindset as we consider the first half of our scripture passage.

Philippians 2:1-8

 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. …” (vs. 1-4, NASB)

You know, I think the thought of humbling ourselves too often frightens us because we do not truly understand the heart of humility. Humility is linked with meekness and many mistakenly believe that to be humble and meek of spirit is to be a rug under the feet of those who would take advantage of our humble estate. This is so far from the truth of what I perceive it means to be humble and who it is we humble ourselves to.

Jesus never bowed to the wishes and whims of man. He always did as He perceived the Father doing. His obedience was always to God first. He only did what God instructed Him was in God’s will for Him. Therefore, as a mob tried to throw him off a cliff, he walked away because it was not yet His time to die and it was not the way in which death would come to Him. When His brother’s tried to goad Him into going into the city and revealing Himself, He stood in the will and authority of God to refuse their demands. When those came, mistakenly believing that Messiah would come to rule and deliver them physically as king before first delivering them spiritually as the Blessed and Beloved Lamb of God, He did not allow them to crown Him knowing God had a bigger plan in heart.

Also, when He saw men doing evil against God’s will and way, He took a stand against them as God instructed His heart to stand. He stood against the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He did not cower under them or give Himself to their wishes.

And then there is the episode in the Temple. With whip in hand, He overturned the tables of the money changers and ran those selling livestock and other goods for use in sacrifice out of the temple, because they were defiling the purpose of the temple, which was to be a house of prayer.

There is a verse where Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39. See also Isaiah 50:6-7). People too often think that we should back down in a fight. Do you think Jesus backed down in that day when He cast the seller of goods out of the temple court? Do you think that no one of those selling their goods tried to stop Him? Who or what do you think He used that whip on? The cattle alone? Or do you think a few men left the temple with whelps on their person as He stood firm despite their fists flying?

Scripture teaches us to stand firm in the things we know to be God’s will and way; to stand firm in godly righteousness. I have come to understand that turn the other cheek means to stand ones ground in the authority God gives us to stand, even if it means we will be hit again.

The humility and meekness God desires is rug to no man. It is surrender to the authority of God in and over us. That surrender often puts us under the authority of others, but only as far as is God’s will and as is in agreement with God’s way.

Yes, there are some in life who are given authority over us. Giving self to God’s authority in those instances is to bow to the authority of those who are in authority at His ordination for the purpose of harmony and peace—the boss at work, our mates, the governing authorities, etc. But never do we bow to any authority that tries to force us to come out from under the authority of God over us. God and His way is our check and balance. He has first rule and right in our lives, and our surrender is always to Him above all. The mind of Christ humbles itself to God first, and then to others as God leads.

That said, we are to pay our taxes, because God ordains through the example of Christ that we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is His. We are not to kill abortionists because God tells us “Thou shalt not kill,” and Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, showing us the way to live and providing a righteous sacrifice for sin. We are not to burn down their clinics, because God tells us to obey the laws of the land which are in place at His ordination in raising up one leader over another and setting the laws by which good is rewarded and evil is condemned.

How do we then, stand against laws that fail to surrender to God’s Law? By our being faithful to vote the heart of God: doing all we can to vote into office godly leaders and laws that agree with His ways; and by teaching and promoting truth in raising up those godly leaders.

God gives to every person of mankind the right of choice. It is the choice of the individual to decide whether they will obey God, or walk in the will of the flesh.

By making sure each person has full understanding of the choices before them and the consequences their decision will bring according to God’s viewpoint, we give them the knowledge needed to make their decision. By praying for their wisdom and ability to bow self to the authority of God and take up His authority in doing His will, we help them make a better choice. Do this sufficiently, and we remove the need of the abortionist and their clinics. By letting the abortionist live, we give him opportunity to see the light and enter into the gates of God’s paths for life, knowing that God desires that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Humility bows to God, always. It is through bowing first to Him that we are equipped to meet the needs of those around us, knowing when to put them before our own need and desires. Humility stands on God’s Right, not my perceived rights. Humility has His purpose in heart for every person we deal with and every decision we make. Humility stands firm on His truth and denies the will of any flesh, whether my own or that of others over me.

Thus we begin our journey to discover the mind of Christ in us. Wow. What a beginning this has been for me. I hope it has blessed your heart as well. Our next excerpt will move on to discover other passages that reveal the mind of Christ to us.

(Passages referenced in this excerpt: Luke 4; John 7:1-13; John 6:15; Matthew 23, Mark 12:13; Matthew 21; Matthew 22:15-22; Exodus 20; Matthew 5:17; Romans 13:1-8; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 2 Peter 3:9.)

Dispelling the Darkness—Begins with the Mind of Christ: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 4-Aa

Do you realize that through our relationship with God in Christ Jesus that we are told in scripture that we have the very mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)? Not that we will get it in some eternal future. We have the mind of Christ living in us to direct us right now if we are in Him, and He in us, by the power of God’s Spirit.

Just as the heart in our body functions at the dictates of our mind / brain, and the heart works to feed nourishment to our brain, so also, having God’s heart-desire flows from being dictated by the mind of Christ, and God’s heart then feeds our mind good thoughts and desires.

How do we know and recognize we are working out of the mind of Christ? Can we say as some believe that our every thought is from the mind of Christ? Definitely not!

James warns us to be aware of the three false wisdoms that can enter in to influence our thoughts: the fleshly, the earthly, and the demonic (James 3:13-18). We must continually be on the alert to the signs given in that James passage that help us to discern the source and motive of our thoughts.

Now we must ask, what is the mind of Christ and how can we know it is living and functioning within us? We will begin to answer that question by looking at Scripture that points us to His mindset.

I say “begin” because scripture teaches of Jesus as it does the Father, that His thoughts are higher than ours. We can only begin to understand His mind this side of eternity. And we can only work with hope toward growing in that understanding. That said; let us begin where God sent me as first thought in finding the mindset of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-8

“…. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (vs. 5-8, NASB).

Jesus left His high position with God, leaving the comforts of home with all its benefits, surrendering all his authority to God—and we too have authority because God gives us right of choice.

I believe Scripture teaches that the hosts of heaven have authority of choice as well. Why? Because God is the same always: why would He give us right of choice and not them. And because without their having that authority, how would a war have risen up in heaven that led to the overthrow and casting out of Lucifer with 1/3 of the hosts of heaven. They had choice, and the part of God that came in the form of the Christ chose to lay His authority of choice down at the feet of the Father in order to accomplish His purpose. Do we fully understand with comprehension this truth? No. And we won’t until we join them around the throne where the partial will be done away so that the complete can replace it with full and true comprehension.

The thing we know for a fact is that Jesus laid it all down before the Father to pick up the authority of God in Him for the assignment He freely and willingly accepted. And humbling Himself to the point of putting Himself in our position, in human flesh, He fulfilled His assignment in the earth, giving us the perfect example of how to follow our Holy God in humility of mind.

Then He did the unthinkable. He laid down His very life on our behalf, trusting God’s promise that in doing so, He would rise again to victory over God’s enemy – death, bringing all who will believe with Him to join in His glory for all eternity. Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we might be free from the death of sin’s grip.

Now this is not the coming of Christ where He will overthrow Satan once and for all to rule in the earth as King for a thousand years. His assignment for this visit was to defeat death. But He will return as Messiah to win that final victory, ruling in the earth for a thousand years before Satan is unleashed again for a short time to test the heart of man. At that time, he will be defeated forever and cast away for all eternity.

~*~

I want to make note of this fact: Jesus surrendered His authority in the heavenly to take up the authority of God in fulfilling the assignment given to Him. He laid down His own desires and dreams to receive God’s as His own, and in the authority of God, representing His interests in the earth, He accomplished God’s desire, making what we would call “a dream come true”. This is the picture of what is accomplished in us when we choose the role of bondservant to God through Christ, humbling ourselves before a Holy God, emptying self of our will in order to take up His desires with His authority to see them fulfilled. It is what we accomplish when we pray and live and breathe in the name of Jesus. We represent Jesus in our humility that follows in His likeness.

We represent Him in the earth, completing His assignment of bringing the rest of those who would be numbered in God’s sheepfold into the gates of glory. How do we do that? By surrendering our own authority, in which we would accomplish our own desires and will, to God. Then, taking up His authority through our relationship in Christ, we accomplish His bidding as a bondservant, emptied of self so that He may live and breathe through us. In this way we become His light in the world, useful to God in dispelling the darkness.

This is the mind of Christ in us. I hope you will return tomorrow for part 4b on humility.