Worth My Knee

Reading through John and pulling thoughts chapter by chapter to help me celebrate Jesus in this season of rebirth and renewal, John 18 speaks:

Jesus asked, “Whom do you seek?” (“Who are you looking for?” – NLT). “…When He said to them, ‘I am He’, they drew back and fell to the ground. …Put your sword in its sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it? …You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

It is very interesting that, as I go through John, remembering and celebrating Jesus, I come to these thoughts on this first day of 2012. My focus for spiritual growth in this year is to grow in my surrender to His Lordship, giving Him all that I am for His use in whatever way He desires. There are three things I see here that will help me as I begin this journey of the Spirit in this New Year:

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Realizing, remembering and hearing within, by faith, that He is the Christ, He is the one we look for, will bring me to fall before Him in acknowledgement of His glory. He is God’s chosen King, the Christ, the One we look for.

I have always been amazed by this passage. I don’t take it as a mockery toward Him that they feel down. It is almost as if all who came to take Him to the death that would come to this One who so loved the world that He willing gave His own life, His love covering a multitude of sins; they realized in that instant that this was the One worthy of bowing before. He was worthy of their knee.

I think the fear of the Lord God, the Father, struck their hearts and put them on their knees before His Son and King. This is the heart attitude I must have as I begin this year of growing stronger in giving myself to His Lordship. I must come into greater depths of realization that He is the Chosen King, and He is worthy of my knee in worship and acknowledgement of His rightful position in my life. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

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Next, as I read His word to Peter when Peter tried to protect his Lord, I see the example set by Jesus as One who is surrendered to His Lord, “This cup I am to drink is from my Father. How then shall I not drink it?”

Jesus never gave us false hope. He never told us that God WILL heal every disease and keep us from suffering in this life we now live; that all things will be well with us at all times while here in this earth, ruled by the father of lies and lord of sin. That promise of complete healing and total safety is truth and can happen in the here and now, but it is for the life to come, perfected in eternity because of the sacrifice of Jesus in this world, saved for those who believe Him and given to those who receive Him as Lord now, through faith believing even though we do not yet see it in the physical (Hebrews 11:1).

So what did Jesus promise? He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. EACH DAY HAS ENOUGH TROUBLE OF ITS OWN” (Matthew 6:34). He called us to face today’s trouble with His power and leave tomorrow to Him. Grace is promised to be sufficient for each day’s trouble. Wasting that energy on worry over what MIGHT come tomorrow only weakens us and makes today’s trouble unbearable, having insufficient strength for today because we spent our strength yesterday on worries that may never come to pass. And if they do come to our life, we often find that we drained our strength through worry, having little reserve for dealing with it now that it’s here.

He did promise, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” Then He added, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Heart-trouble and fear are products of worry and fretting, often over the ‘what-might-be-s’ of life. To warn us to not let our hearts be troubled or fearful in life but to receive and live with peace of heart as He has gifted us to do says to me that there will be cause for us to have troubled and fearful hearts, and resting it in His care, receiving His peace to persevere is the solution that overcomes the troubling of the heart, preserving strength for overcoming.

Also He advised us, “These things (His words of warning, promise, hope and instruction) I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. IN THE WORLD YOU HAVE TRIBULATION, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Following Jesus will mean cups of trouble and tribulation that must be drank with understanding that as we walk through trouble in life with the peace and grace He supplies, we too will be overcomers. As such, we will be used of Him to help others to find relationship with God and His supply through Christ for dealing with troubled lives. Just as His sacrifice for us covered a multitude of sin, He uses our experiences in this life to help others who struggle as we have in knowing how to find hope, peace and restoration in their similar situations.

Someone I love dearly is going through a very troubled time right now, trouble that is too common to our world, the consequence of sin in life. He wants to see God’s mercy as His hand reaching down to remove those circumstances. I cannot seem to help him understand that God’s mercy keeps him in the hand of God, saved by grace through faith for an eternity in His presence, but mercy does not always remove consequences from our here and now. What mercy does do is supply grace sufficient to help us walk through the consequences with peace of heart and hope for eternity as we wait for restoration. And restoration will come; if not here, then there. It can come here. But experience tells me it does not usually come until we say, “Shall I not drink of this cup set before me by my Lord?”

So what is God telling me? He is reminding me that following Him wholeheartedly will not always be easy, but it will always bear kingdom fruit. As I grow deeper in my relationship with Him and as He uses the way I walk through trouble to help others in their struggle, it will make me an example of one who is an overcomer with Him. One cannot be an overcomer without first being one who has overcome, and we overcome by walking in His grace provided to us because He drank the cup and overcame the world, Satan, sin, death, and troubled flesh. We enter into Him who has overcome, receiving within us the hope of His promise and provision, so that we can walk through as overcomers.

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Lastly, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

The surrendered life requires that I recognize that He is the King, promised by God, and that I listen for and heed His “voice.” John 10 promises that those who are His hear His voice and follow Him. It also promises that the voice of a stranger will not be followed.

God taught me long ago to trust that He can make His voice clear to me. I trust Him to speak and move quickly to obey in faith that I hear my Shepherd-Master and am expected to follow without hesitation. When doubt enters, I begin to ask God if the voice I am hearing is that of the stranger, or if I am hesitating out of fear and disbelief, which leads to disobedience. And I am learning to seek the Lord to help me so greatly to know His voice that the knowledge of it keeps the stranger’s voice strange to me.

Who is the stranger? The stranger is my own flesh, which wages war against me, opposing God’s work in me; the world, which stands in opposition to God and His ways; and Satan, who desires to be God. These three, the flesh, the world and demons—which are the armies of Satan, are called “wisdoms” by James in James 3. These constantly speak a wisdom to us that is in opposition to truth.

As I begin this New Year with focus on growing stronger in follow-ship, in complete surrender to His Lordship, giving all I am to Him for His use, He reminds me to count the cost and realize that though it will be with challenge that I follow Him, He will help me bear it, and through me He will bear fruit for eternity that will make all worth it one day. No matter what this year holds, it is His voice that will lead me to choose life, and live it with abundance that glorifies His name, accomplishes His purpose, brings His eternal Kingdom to my reality, and bears fruit in me that makes me an overcomer through Christ: my Example, my King.

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As we begin this New Year, I pray for us to know the King of kings and Lord of lords. May we walk in His provision to overcome the world. May we have courage to drink the cup He sets before us, and come out of it having born the fruit of righteousness through resurrection power.

Get Up, Let Us Go From Here

“So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here” (John 14:31).

Through this Christmas and New Year’s season, I am putting up portions of scripture from John on my Spark and FaceBook status in celebration of the Christ for which I observe the season. There is so much meat in John 14, I want to put the entire chapter up on my status bar this morning. But with the New Year coming, this small portion seemed best of all to share.

Look at these words. Don’t they seem a good place to begin in preparing for a New Year? Jesus is our example for life, and what better place to end one year and prepare for another than to check our relationship with the Father.

Through John 14, Jesus tells of His leaving to prepare a place for us. He instructs that He and the Father are one, and we can see the Father by looking at Him – not His physical appearance, which is not truly known, but His character and actions, the things He gives focus to and the preoccupations He sets His mind on. Then He tells that we, too, can be one with Them, Father and Son. How is that accomplished? By following His example, developing like character, and doing as the Father commands us, setting our focus and preoccupations on the things that are important to the Father—on truth as He sees it.

As we draw a close to the year 2011, I must ask God how I have done at developing godly character and in following in Christlike obedience. In this evaluation, it doesn’t matter what I perceive that others have done to me. God is dealing with MY own character and actions right now. He judges me on the merit of my own choices, not what others did that may have led to it. Our relationship with the Father, the building of His character in us and our obedience in following the example of Christ is the true gauge of success or failure.

I first typed, “ask myself”, but our hearts are deceptive. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are better than we truly are. And we can also beat ourselves up pretty bad, beating ourselves down to a point of being useless to God, ourselves and others in the days to come. So let’s ask God for His opinion. God looks at the heart and He is not deceived. He will lead us to truth and work with us to increase righteousness and make us like Jesus, who is like the Father.

As we draw near to 2012, I must ask God what areas of life I need to give focus to in developing godly character; and I must recognize if there are specific instructions God is giving me for following Jesus.

I have a long road to go this coming year as I deal with Fibromyalgia and work to change habits of a lifetime that affect that health issue. It will not happen overnight. I did not develop the habits overnight, and unless God works a miracle, which is not happening yet, it will take time and work to change the habits. But nothing shall be impossible with God. As long as my heart is set on that as fact, there is hope. He will help me, and His patience toward me is unfathomable.

How about you? What challenge do you face this year? God has given me the following passage to encourage my journey. Perhaps it will encourage you as well.

“…Behold, I will make you to be a new, sharp, threshing instrument which has teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest or whirlwind shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the Lord, you shall glory in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:8-16, AMP). Wow! There is a whole other blog in that.

Father, as I consider this passage, I realize change will not happen overnight. I see this fact clearly as I consider this passage. A sharp threshing instrument which has teeth has to chew the mountain down one bite at a time. It will take work on my part, hard work, and deliberate effort. I pray for each of us as we face our mountains that we will have Your patience and endurance, Father. May we see our progress through Your eyes, and rejoice in Your work in our lives, giving You the glory due Your name. In Jesus, amen.

Jesus Had The Choice

John 10:17-18 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

This speaks to me today as I consider that Jesus is our example in all things. I note here anew that from the day of His birth till the instant of His death, Jesus had the choice. He chose to lay His life down for you and for me, but He had the right, given Him from the Father, to change His mind at any point along that road.

You and I have been gifted with the authority to choose as well. Just like Jesus, we are called day by day to lay down our life—our own wants and desires—and take up our cross—choosing God’s will and way, His assignment for the sake of others, over our own wants and desire, thus following Jesus. At any point along the way we have the right to change our mind, lay down our cross, and take back up our life.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus stayed the course for our sake? I find myself asking today, “Is there an area in my life where I am failing to stay the course for His sake?”

I also note, as I read this passage, that Jesus knew that laying down His life was only temporary. By laying it down to fulfill the will of God, He would win it back again with greater abundance. Sounds like another example worth following, doesn’t it?

In this Christmas season, let’s give back to Jesus the blessed gift of followship.

“I AM”

In one of my groups on SparkPeople community, we are covering the names of God found in scripture. Today, as I posted the next name going in the order in which they are found in scripture, deeper understanding hit my heart. It seemed good to share it here.

When someone introduces themselves to us and they give us their name, it is an honor. Especially when they give us the name they desire us to call them and it is an intimate, lesser known name. That is the honor God gave the people of Israel with the following name:

JEHOVAH (YAHWEH)—The Self-Existent One. I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14).

This common translation being true, when we see Jehovah used as the first part of a name for God, it is as if He is saying to us, “I AM”. “I AM your…”. This is its use when we see names like Jehovah-Jireh: “I AM your provider.”

The deeper?

As I look at this with the knowledge I have under my belt concerning who God is, I realize that Jehovah also could mean “The Self One” or “The Self-Defined One.” God is who He is. He knows who He is and who He wants to be. He is not conflicted like we too often are. He needs no one else to tell Him who or how to BE. He just is. The opinions of others that misunderstand Him do not sway His self-understanding and way of being, as it too often does us.

This is what I believe it means when it says in scripture that we are to be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). It has always been such a self-defeating understanding to me that we are to always do things perfectly as He does. I fall too often and that brings me to discouragement where following this edict of the perfect is concerned. But this new realization gives me hope. I can understand myself and be who I am.

We need to know who we are and what we believe to be truth so that we can BE who we are to be. When we know what we believe and how we want to be in any given situation, we are no longer conflicted and we are better able to endure whatever may come our way (James 1:4). Wow! Is that not awesome?

Thus God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not one way today and another tomorrow. We are to strive to be the same as He is, perfect in our understanding of who we are while we are continually being perfected to be more like Him, restoring the image of Him that He put there before the fall of man distorted it (Philippians 1:6, Genesis 1-3). By His grace, with this as the goal, I can be perfect as God is perfect while continually being perfected. And so can you. Nothing shall be impossible with God!

Tis the Season: To remember my life goal

Deeper roots. That is the call of God for my 2011 spiritual focus.  God has taken me into a greater depth of understanding that I can and must believe Him. No matter what is going on around me, I can trust Him, His truth, His faithfulness, His grace that is truly sufficient for every need. He is who He says He is. He can do what He says He can do. I am who He says I am. I can do all things through Christ who is my strength. His word is alive and active in me.

Thinking on these things, as 2011 comes to a close and as God begins to form my focus for spiritual growth in 2012, I am drawn to my life goal passage anew: Philippians 3:8-10, in the Amplified version of scripture, which adds to my understanding of that blessed text.

“Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege, the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish, refuse, dregs, in order that I may gain Christ the Anointed One, And that I may actually be found and known as in Him, not having any self-achieved righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands—ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired, but possessing that genuine righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, the truly right standing with God, which comes from God by saving faith.

“For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, which it exerts over believers, and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness, even to His death, in the hope that, if possible I may attain to the spiritual and moral resurrection that lifts me out from among the dead, even while in the body.”

It has been a challenging year for many of us. People have lost jobs, homes, loved ones. We have seen an adult child’s marriage dissolve, leaving us crushed in the quake of the cause of that break. Children struggle as never before. There are many life challenges that draw our attention and can leave us devastated. But this passages leaves this struggling one with hope in understanding that if all else is lost, as long as we come through it with a greater understanding of God and deeper relationship with Him, we have won.

We were never promised a rose garden in this life. In fact, Jesus said that we will have trouble in this life, but if we seek God first, He will meet us at our need. Every good and perfect gift in life comes from the Father. And for every difficulty that comes to us, He is able to supply our need to get through it and come out stronger for it.

I pray that your year was filled with more roses than thorns. But more than that, I pray that as you look back on your life in 2011, that you see more of Him and an ever deepening relationship with Him. He is the Rose that makes the thorns worth the trouble.

To Make a Leader

For years I prayed for my husband to be a strong spiritual leader. The first thing God taught me is for anyone to lead in anything, there must first be willing people standing ready to follow. If I am not watching for his lead with willing and submissive readiness to accept God’s use of his way of leading, why should he lead.

The next thing God taught me is when I let my husband experience my willingness to trust God to use him to lead the way, he grows stronger in following God in his leading. God does amazing things for those who surrender the controls and willingly sit in the co-pilot’s seat.

The Promised Lands of Life

What I have learned about getting older: it wasn’t the big 50 that got me; nor the usual 30 that everyone baulks about. It was facing 40 that nearly did me in. I kept thinking, “There are 70 years allotted to man, and if blessed of God, 80. Half my life is over!”

Then God reminded me, “After 40 years, they entered the Promised Land. There is greater still to come, kiddo.” So I am looking for the promise.

However there is one important thing God didn’t remind me of that I have had to learn from experience: the taking of the Promised Land was one battle after another, and it has been that way for me. I have grown spiritually more in the past 16 years than in all the 40 before them. But it has not been an easy walk to glory. It has been one spiritual up-hill-battle after another, usually focused on digging out some root in me that hinders my walk with God.

In this journey to the Promised Lands of life, I have learned from experience that the battles ordained by God are always with His presence in the fight—He never leaves me nor forsakes me; and it always works a greater good than I can even imagine. So press forward, Beloved of God, knowing the journey ahead may not always be easy, but it will be worth the effort in accomplishing the greater things of God’s glory.

God-Watching

One awesome thing God has taught me through the years of praying for loved ones to grow in the Lord that I pass on just in case it is needed:

When praying for God to do a work in another, we don’t look for the work—for our expectation of what that work should look like will likely cause us to miss seeing what the actual work does look like. We look instead for God. When we look for God in the God-work prayed for, we will see awesome things we know not of.

Happy God-Watching!

(NOTE: For those who read my blogs in other places, there will be a lot of overlap for awhile. I will try to title them the same in each, so watch the titles to know what is new for you. BLESSings, and thanks for patroning my writings.)

Praying The Lord’s Model Prayer

I write at the unction of the Spirit, and there has been no flow there for awhile—feeling yucky physically may have something to do with that. However I love using the Lord’s Model Prayer as outline to follow in praying over my own life and others. Impressed to do so yesterday, I typed up the following and, sensing God’s leading to do so today, I share it with you. As you prayerfully go through these for yourself, I speak agreement with the Holy Spirit over you and yours today. May the Lord truly bless you as you pray. Hugs, Darlene

The Lord’s Model Prayer

As Prayed by Darlene Davis

Oh Father, how grateful I am that You who live in heaven—as the earth cannot contain You, You still choose to abide in me as I abide in You by the power of Your Holy Spirit. That is awesome to me, as I realize how Majestic is Your Name. You are too awesome to fully comprehend, and still You desire that I know You as an intimate friend who calls You by name, just as You call me by name.

How awesome it is to me that You desire Your will in the earth and work Your will in me, just as You have planned it beforehand, revealing the perfectness of Your will from the Glory found in Your Heavenly Kingdom. Let Your will be done in the earth, and especially in me, granting me to experience Your heaven on earth as I follow hard after You, and let it begin through my love walk.

Thank You, Father, that I can trust You to meet my daily need perfectly, for You promise in Your Word that You supply sufficient for my need, and abundance for every good deed. You are always true to Your word above and beyond what I can ask, think, or fathom. I look to You for wisdom in the use of Your supply so that I might help others along the way just as I am helped by You, for You are faithful.

Father, forgive me that I frequently fall short of Your glory. Your word tells me that Your grace is sufficient for me. I rest with hope in You. You tell me that You cast my sin as far as the east is from the west and to the depths of the deepest sea, never to remind me of them in a punishing way again, for we have no condemnation who are truly in Christ. I want to walk in Your forgiveness, Lord; not only to receive it to myself, but to give it as You do. Your Word through Isaiah 43:25 says You wipe out my transgressions for Your own sake—so You will continue to want to have a relationship with me. Help me to forgive others in obedience to Your example and command, and to do so for my own sake in likeness to You, so that my relationship with You is not hindered, and so that I can continue in relationship with those who hurt me. Make me an example of Your love and grace.

Thank You, Lord, that You do not tempt us to evil, but You deliver us from sin’s grip and Satan’s trickery as we draw near to You with a sincere and repentant heart. I trust You to make me alert to Satan’s schemes so that I do fall to strongholds of sin, dishonoring You.

Yours is the true Kingdom, O God and You are its King. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your people, a people for Your own possession.

Your power is beyond estimation, Father, and You are strong toward us who believe. Desiring to bring Your Own safe to Your enteral Kingdom, You fight for me as a Father for His child. Desiring that I take part in the building of Your Kingdom, empower me through Your mighty power that I may serve You well all the days of my life, so that others may see You in me and be drawn to know You for themselves.

All glory is Yours and is due Your blessed name. I long to see Your glory in the land of the living. Let Your light shine to and through me, and let me see Your Glory being revealed to the fulfillment of Your great Kingdom purpose.

As Jesus taught and in His name I do pray, believing. Amen—So be it!

Greener Grass?

“You can picture a million lives and never have one of your own” (Character on CSI).

Wow, that line hit my heart whenever I heard it. Not that I don’t have a life, mind you. I have lived dreams. But that line made me think of times when dreaming can take over and lead us to discontent with the now we have to the point that we lose the life set before us.

I wonder, are you — like me — one who needs someone on occasion to give you a good boot and say, “Wake up! Smell the roses where you are”? We have to realize that though the grass may be greener on the other side, it can also be bitter with a hidden poison that will destroy the deceived and weary grazer.

“…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. …” (Philippians 4:11-13, NASB).

A Conversation with God

Recalling a promise God spoke to my heart from a Bible Gateway daily scripture that came to my inbox, I go through my deleted file looking for it in preparation for a trip to a large conference that had my social anxiety quaking in my proverbial boots. As I searched, I grabbed all the Bible Gateway mailings that spoke to me for the journey ahead. Following is the conversation I discovered once I had all God highlighted for my fright-filled heart. These words carried me through the week with a confidence I have not had in a long while. For this I give Him the glory due His name; and I pray this conversation to fill the heart of all who would profess faith in Him while pressing into life despite fears grip.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. …You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. …I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. …You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word.”

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. …The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. …The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. …So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

You have shown me Your glory, O God! I will not fear, for You have revealed that You are with me. I will not be dismayed, for You are my God. You have strengthened me and helped me; You uphold me with Your righteous right hand. With Your help, my heart will recall these things and I will draw near to You in hope of faith, believing Your promise so as to walk free of the grip of fear all the days of the life You have ordained for me. In Jesus I pray You, show me Your glory.

(Psalm 121:1-2; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 46:4; Isaiah 48:17; Psalm 16:8; 119:114; Isaiah 41:10; 40:31; Psalm 121:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:35-36)

I Believe, Therefore…

“…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.’” (Isaiah 46:9b)

I am in awe as I read this proclamation from the God I believe: the God of the Holy Bible. He is the One True God who reveals Himself through the power of His Spirit, the flesh of the one He calls “Son Incarnate” and the beauty and glory of the one too awesome to behold, the one called “Father”.

All the problems of life melt away to hope in believing that this God I love and trust is in control and is working a plan to bring many—including me and mine—into His Kingdom. All is not lost in this life. It is only suffering the birthing pangs that are leading to life more abundant and full, a life where all will know and understand that He alone is God, and there is none like Him.

This world we live in would try to convince me that, not only is my God one among many and I should honor all equally, but they would have me believe that He is an impotent god. What I know is that my God is the One True God. And He is not impotent, but He is patient toward us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

Those who believe in other gods, or in no god at all, would call me and those like me “intolerant” and “separatist” or “haughty”, because I believe wholeheartedly the truth of this proclamation, refusing to honor other gods. And, I guess, they would be right in that respect.

My God tells me He is the only one and I am to give no credence to another god, nor am I to honor their ways. He tells me that other gods are the creation of the heart of mankind who refuse to acknowledge His existence and Lordship as the only One. To fail to believe these truths is to be conflicted and schizophrenic as a believer of the God of the Bible, thus dishonoring what He says about Himself and the path He demands of those who would be His.

But God also instructs our heart that we can love those who refuse Him without condoning their ways. Is not that the true meaning of tolerance, to continue to love and care for and treat with respect those who believe different and live in ways not one’s own. God gave one innate law to every man that is the one law all follow faithfully; that law is the right of choice that gives to every person freedom to choose whom they will follow and how they will live.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Thus, as believers in this One God and His proclamation of what He says is true, we hold our head high and refuse to be beat down and made to feel inferior and intolerant by those who refuse to honor our right to believe our God: those who would have us be like them before they will love us and respect our God ordained ways. And we do so knowing that our God will reveal fullness of truth one day soon, as the birthing pangs draw closer to the completion of all things He has ordained to be fulfilled.

(See also 1 Corinthians 4; Joshua 24:15Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

In the Midst of the Rubble

As we have seen how glorious the cross came forth from the rubble after the World Trade Center collapsed and how tall the cross stood in Joplin in the midst of the rubble after the Joplin tornado we should be very encouraged about the cross coming forth in the midst of the rubble of our own lives.

Truly the old rugged cross makes the difference.  May we glory in the love of the Father who sent His only Son to be our own personal Savior in the midst of our rubble of sin and disgrace to make us holy and blameless in His sight.  May we be putty in the Master’s Victorious Right Hand for His glory!!!

I am reminded of what Betsy Ten Boom said as she and Corrie, her sister, were imprisoned at Auschwitz, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” Corrie also said, “JESUS was Victor; JESUS is Victor and JESUS will always be Victor.”

Have a most blessed day in JESUS…

NOW IS THE TIME,

Adele Simpson © (Used by permission)

“Behold, now is the accepted time:  behold, now is the day of salvation.”  II Cor. 6:2b

PS: I know many of us have watched and remembered with great detail the days of 9-11. It is important for us to recall the reason our young men and women fight today on the frontlines of that beginning. But as I listened to K-Love yesterday, I was reminded that after the rubble comes determined purpose, increased faith, and the beginning of restoration. Today let’s remember that as well and celebrate our God of new beginnings. HUGS to each as we morn the loss and rejoice in renewal, encouraged and strengthened by a victorious Cross that comes forth shining like gold in the midst of the rubble. Thank you, Adele, for this reminder.

Proven Faith

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8).

My study Bible’s footnote points out that Jesus, the Son of God and very God incarnate, “learned obedience through maturing and proving.”

The word “proving” reminded me of some things that God has been rolling around in my head with regard to Job and his suffering that has helped me to understand why suffering comes though there is no sin-cause. Do you realize that Job is reported to have been righteous in God’s opinion, and that it is God who pointed him out to Satan as an example of faith in the earth?

God allowed Job to be tested, not so Job could prove his faith: God already knew his faith; but so that God could prove his faith. When Job began to struggle under the load, that is when God stepped in, stopping the test, and giving instruction to Job for his maturity in righteousness. The hedge went back up as soon as God had proven to Satan the resolve of Job’s faith.

What load are you bearing that tests your faith? Realize that God knows your heart just as He did Job’s. Press forward with faith that proves what God sees in you, trusting with heart-knowledge that He will step in when the load becomes a burden, for “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Kindle Afresh His Gifting

“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

I still haven’t made it past verse seven as I read God’s word this morning, trying to press through the reading of 2 Timothy. God continues calling me to realize the role of self-discipline in my walk of healing from social anxiety and the stressor that brings it on. But today He highlights verse six for me. Did you note that to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” is our responsibility?

God is giving me opportunity right now to do just that as He has called me to volunteer some time each day at the college where my husband works, using my organizational and administrative gifts in working his office and taking care of secretarial needs there. To do so requires me to trust God’s power to equip me to overcome the struggle with social anxiety. Persevering in faithfulness to be there requires that I know His love and be a conduit of that love in caring more about meeting this need than I do about the fear that so easily assails me. And the practice of self-discipline to treat this as a responsibility to God and man and to do my best work without caving into fear is a must.

In hearing and responding to God’s call to fill this need, I had to choose to kindle afresh the gifting of God within me, trusting that He who empowered me in times past to fill such a role would do it again. Trusting His love to care for my every need and choosing to love Him and my husband enough to do this, I discipline myself to go forth and conquer the emotional onslaught that comes against me. In doing that, God graciously reminded me of a prayer practice taught by Dr. Jesse McElreath in his book, The Believer’s Confession Guide. In his book, He covers the confession we have as believers in Christ—knowing who God says we are because of that relationship. Then he covers numerous categories of
sin natures and all their various aspects to help us in our walk of repentance. Lastly he gives the following hedge prayer, giving a prayer for each wall of the hedge.

North wall – The Escape Prayer (1 Corinthians 10:13):

“Lord, I realize that no temptation has overtaken me that is not common to man. I confess that you are faithful and will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able. Thank you for providing The Way of Escape that I may be able to endure any work of the enemy.”

East wall – The weapons Prayer (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Philippians 4:7-8):

“Lord, I ask you to move into my circumstances and pull down all strongholds and false reasonings raised up against the knowledge of God and bring my every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I pray that the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Help me to think on things that are honorable, right, pure, lovely and attractive.”

South wall – The Armor Prayer (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 6:10-17):

“I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will wrap himself about me and that I would make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. I believe that the strong strength of the Lord and the full armor of God will enable me to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. I gird my loins with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness, and cover my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I take up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and hold forth the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. With my armor in place, ci come against the ruler and powers of darkness which would seek to take me captive and I bind them in the name, power, and blood of Jesus and place a protective hedge about my life.”

West wall – The Position Prayer (James 4:6-10, 1 John 4:4, Revelation 12:11):

“Lord Jesus, I submit myself to you and resist the devil knowing that he has to flee. I cleanse my hands and purify my heart and confess godly sorrow for any sins committed against Holy God. I draw near to you and place the blood of Jesus between myself and all principalities, power, and rulers of darkness. I humble myself in the presence of the Lord, knowing that God is opposed to the wicked but give grace to the humble. I claim the overcoming grace of God in my life, knowing that greater is He that is in me that he that is in the world. Thank you for the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit which enables me to overcome because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of my testimony. In the strong name of Jesus, I pray, amen!”

May God empower us to overcome in the strength He supplies, through the provision and practice of love, and with the temperance of a sound, disciplined mind, kindling afresh the gifting of His grace and provision, making us useful to His kingdom and as His witnesses and workers in the fields where we live.

Healing Discipline

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NASB).

More people than has ever been recorded before time struggle daily with stress, depression, anxiety and fear issues. And in this time of war, we are seeing more and more people disabled by bouts of PTSD, Complicated Grief and Social Anxiety issues. This verse of Scripture is God’s provision for us in this day.

All versions of this verse that I read use the words power and love—except for maybe the old KJV that often used charity in the place of Agape love; but the word translated “discipline” here is often translated in other versions as “temperance” or “a sound mind.”

Temperance, having control of our emotions and not being given over to things like anxiety or fear, is a must for us to practice, especially if we suffer from emotional ailments that cause us to struggle in this area. Our being of sound mind, having right thought with regard to life issues and not being carried away by worry and fretting over things that are not yet and may never be, is also vital to our walk of freedom from fear and anxiety issues. But today this word “discipline” stands out to me as something we must consider so as to possess it in order that it may possess us.

If you are like me, as a wife, mother, and grandmother, I do not have time to be taken over by fear and anxiety to the point that I cannot function. Most of us have responsibilities that require our attention and demand that we be able to function. It is vital that we walk with disciplined commitment, doing the things we are responsible to do, taking care of our household duties and family responsibilities with faithfulness to God and family.

For those who work outside the home, we certainly do not have time to be overcome by our emotions to the point that we cannot function to keep up and take proper care of our duties as wife, mother, co-worker, and any other hat we must put on from time to time. Yet we are finding that so many people in society are stressed to the point that they find themselves to be fallen soldiers in life, struggling with these very issues.

Sometimes in our struggle with depressive disorders and anxiety issues, it is required of us to take a deep breath, and with self-disciplined resolve, do what is ours to perform, trusting that as we are faithful to obey the teaching of 2 Timothy 1:7, God will be faithful to meet our obedience with His power to perform. Amazingly, as we do what is ours to do, our thoughts turn from self and situations to God and others, and we find our healing.

AN Abundance

“…And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed….” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

“Do you believe this, Darlene? Then rest!” is the question and instruction that came to my heart this morning as I reread this scripture. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”

I am called upon again today to do something I feel very inadequate to do. As I seek the Lord to prepare to minister counsel to a friend who called me in distress last night, my own limits and weaknesses hit me in the heart this morning, and I cry out anew, “Father, I look to You …. I pray You, show me Your glory!”

Thus God faithfully responds as I read my focal passage this morning and am acutely aware anew that His grace and provision, sufficient for everything, is abundant for every good deed. All I need to is believe and receive.

Then my attention is drawn to where my spell checker underlines something it says may need correction. It is telling me to change “an abundance” to “abundance.” As far as sentence structure goes, they may be correct; but as I consider how God led the interpreters to write it, I realize the abundance He sends is very specific to our need. He does not necessarily send all abundance into our lives for all things. In fact, the promise here is “all SUFFICIENCY in everything” with “AN ABUNDANCE for every good deed.”

God sends all sufficiency in everything. He sends specific abundance in our time of need for every good deed. Thus I rest, trusting that God has very specific and timely supply for me as I seek to glorify Him in the life of this beloved one. You know, as I think on this truth, I can see how understanding and believing these things will keep me in contentment in whatever circumstance I find myself (Philippians 4:10-13).

“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Like the Son of a King

“Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength” (Judges 8:21, NASB)

Gideon won a mighty battle against the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. Standing before him, Gideon asked them what sort of men it was that they killed at Tabor. They replied, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king” (vs. 18). Gideon, who began in fear, led by God became like the son of a King; and that is what we are.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:20, NIV).

As we realize to whom we belong; as we relinquish all to Him and choose to honor Him in our bodies, we become men and women of strength. Whatever enemy we face today, we can face our Goliaths knowing that the same God who turned a wimpy, trembling Gideon into a man of valor, like the son of a King, is with us to help us stand against our enemies with strength. There is no battle too great for Him, and He allows no battle in our lives that is without purpose and glory to His Name, in preparing us and others around us for His Kingdom. Whatever giant you face today, realize to Whom you belong, and go forth with faith, believing.

“But my horn (emblem of excessive strength and stately grace) You have exalted like that of a wild ox; I am anointed with fresh oil” (Psalm 92:10, AMP).

Thank You, Father God, as this all goes together to make an awesome meditation for my day.

That You May Be Filled!

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God…” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NASB).

The Holy Spirit at work in us strengthens us through His power in the inner person, making in us a place where Christ may dwell; and that, by faith. Note this: as we surrender by faith to Christ’s indwelling, we begin to grow to understand the depth and breadth of His love for us. The more we surrender to allowing Christ to continue to live in this life through His presence is us, the more we will grow in our understanding of His love toward us. The knowledge of that love enables us to be filled up to all the fullness of God. The greater our understanding and our receipt of His love for each individual of us, the more His Spirit will be housed within us.

As we understand and surrender to this love of God found in this vital relationship with Christ, we are prepped and equipped to be filled with His
Spirit; filled to all the fullness of God—all that He is, available and working in and through us to the glory of His name. Is that not an awesome truth to grasp! And what is the proof of His fullness at work in us?

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (5:1-2).

Love is the proof. And not just any love, but that unconditional love that is self-sacrificing; that love that will die to one’s own agenda in order to honor God in our love-walk through benefitting others through love; even when that love hurts or requires sacrifice on our part. It is through our example of Christ’s love that others around us can begin to comprehend the unfathomable love of God that allowed His Son to get on that cross where the sins of all time weighed down his shoulders. And our filling through understanding and receiving and giving that love becomes a fragrant aroma to the nostrils of our God, bringing rejoicing to His heart.

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (5:16-18).

Our time is short in this life. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a month, and just 12 months to a year. And our years are truly just a breath in eternity. So few days to make a difference in the lives of those we say we love. There is no time to waste—which is what drunkenness is; whether that drunkenness is with wine, our own sense of self-worth and self-exaltation, the pursuit of riches in this life that are doomed to destruction; you name it. Any pursuit, any preoccupation that deadens our spiritual senses and robs our time from giving into the lives of those we love is tantamount to drunkenness. So we must choose wisely how we use our time, and we must have right motives in it all if we are to walk in the power and filling of the Sprit to make the most of our short time here.

“…Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NASB).

A Suitable Administration

“In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:8b-10).

The footnote says of this administration that God is working all things to bring in the millennial kingdom, so that He might head up all things. He is bringing in His Kingdom where He is ruler of all.

As I look at this, I see the inner workings of this ultimate work, as God places His people into positions in life for the purpose of accomplishing the work of ringing this millennial kingdom into completion. We each are His instruments, having an administration in this age we are in, a place in life where we have a calling and equipping from Him, that He is using to accomplish in our day this work of building His kingdom. It is the Esther principal: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Where does God have you right now? Is it a hard place to be? Are there things going on where you are that give opportunity for God to use you to make a difference for His Kingdom purpose? Have you sought Him to discern why He has you where you are in this season of life? Who knows whether you have not attained this position with a view to an administration for such a time as this?

Out of The Wilderness

“Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1 Corinthians10:5-6).

As I read God’s word in my quiet time, God’s highlighting stops me here. I feel like I am laid low in a wilderness. Now, granted, we are dealing with a grievous situation in our family right now, and I am at the end of the tunnel where the light is before me, leading me out of the pit that grief put me in. But still, it seems that I have been in a wilderness place a lot lately. If their wilderness happened as examples for us, so we would not crave evil things as they craved, I have to ask what evil I am craving that is laying me low in this wilderness.

My immediate thought as I think of things I choose to do is that I crave positions of authority—to be in control of things in life, and when I feel out of control, it lays me low. I crave positions of honor, and when I feel that others look down on me in my own life struggle, it lays me low. I long to be recognized as a godly woman of character, and when I feel some accusation, whether true or false, compromises that, it lays me low. Knowing these truths immediately as I read this passage, contemplating my own issues, I know that I must evaluate my heart before God, repent, and make sure I am doing what I do as His servant, called of Him, equipped by Him, and desiring only His glory, honor, authority, and recognition.

Am I the only one who struggles with wilderness issues from time to time? Well, I hope I am not the only reason for Jesus getting on that cross, but only each individual can judge for oneself. Thus, let’s do that. As I evaluate myself using the insights from these following verses, hopefully it will help others to do so as well.

 ~~*~~

Verse 7: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’”

I noted in the previous passages I read this morning that the idol is only a god of any authority because our minds make it to be such and give it that place in our lives. The idol is anything in life that we give power to in excess of the power God has to dictate us. We surrender to it instead of following the dictates of God’s leading.

I know that there are things that I give myself to in this wilderness I find myself stuck in and that hinder my coming out into the broader places of light and life that God desires for me. I too often bow to fears, frustrations, laziness, even health issues that I surrender to instead of trusting God’s promise:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed….” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

If I truly believe that God’s grace abounds to me so that I always have what is needed to do the good He calls me to, then why bow to these things that rob me? How many times have I marveled at those who struggle in their health, and how faithful they are to do things that go beyond their physical limitations? If they can tap into God’s sufficiency, so can I; by remembering the God I trust.

 ~~*~~

Verse 8: “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.”

When I think of immorality and seek to evaluate if any immoral thing has slipped into my life, I think of the verse that seems to define this sin: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

What am I doing that stands against my own body? For that matter, what is “my own body”?  Obviously this shell I live in is my body, so anything I do that hurts my physical shell needs to be dealt with if I want freedom from this wilderness. Self-care is an important issue to evaluate, as we are called to love and care for self as God’s creation, God’s temple, and in knowing that we can only love others as well as we love ourselves.

Then comes to mind these words: “the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31). My husband and I are one in Christ. Is there any immoral thing in that part of my body?

Also comes thought: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

We are one body with God in Christ, and we are one body with God’s people. Is there any immorality in me that is sin against any part of my own body?

  ~~*~~

Verse 9: “Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.”

Trying the Lord—putting Him to the test: This was a temptation thrown at Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness. What was His reply? “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST”’” (Matthew 4:7).

We are not to use the promise of God toward us as excuse for sin. Yes, God’s grace is sufficient for us, but only when we are walking the path He desires for us in the way He requires of us. We cannot say, “I am going to do this thing over here that looks good to me and is a good work. Though the Spirit in me is saying ‘not this way,’ I trust God to give me sufficient for this good work because that is His promise to me.” Such is a misuse of God’s promise. If we are not following the dictates of the head, which is Christ, we bring dysfunction to our body and cause harm to our flesh, bringing on that wilderness experience.

In the same way, we cannot sit in our wilderness licking our wounds, saying, “God understands that I am but flesh,” refusing to get up out of our place of struggle and walk free by faith in God’s supply. This, too, tries our God, misappropriating His promise for our own desire. Thus I ask myself, am I trying the Lord?

  ~~*~~

Verse 10: “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”

Paul wrote, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13).

Too often we grumble against things in life, being dissatisfied with our lot. When we are grumbling, we are not praising God or being thankful for His good toward us. Job puts it into perspective for us as he speaks to his wife’s grumbling, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” To which God’s word comments, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

What grumbling has me snared?

  ~~*~~

Can the sins, failures, and struggles of those around us knock us into the wilderness? Yes. As Paul says, “God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

My daughter’s suffering at the hand of her husband’s sin can bring suffering to me and to all who love her; as she is flesh of my flesh, and she is one with me in Christ, so I hurt with her. But I do not have to let her suffering keep me in the wilderness, nor should my struggle bring her down. We each must evaluate where we are and why so we can walk out of this desert place and maybe even help the other through on our way. Thus I must ask self, am I using my grief as an excuse to lay down in my wilderness, or am I setting an example that she can follow?

And what about these health issues I struggle with: is it sin for them to keep me down? No. Sickness and poor health happens to the best of us when we least expect it. There are times when health issues are a legitimate hindrance. The trick is to find where that legitimacy starts and our wilderness ends. That is where I have to evaluate whether I am doing all I can to help my health improve. It is where I have to evaluate my faith and God’s call: do I trust God for the strength to meet Him at His call? It is also where I have to evaluate the call and discern God’s voice from the Pharisee in my ear.

A true call to service from God will come with the power to perform. It is vital that I recognize His voice and walk out His will when He leads me. But we also have to have wisdom to discern that there are those who would have us start an epidemic rather than miss church and thus break their idea of what it means to “fall to forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” And we have to realize that sometimes our sickness and need of others to minister to us is God’s call to those He desires to use in visiting the sick and ministering to them.

God will equip us with strength to do what He calls us to. When we are sincerely ill, doing all we can to recover, and the strength is not there to go and do what we or others think we should, we do harm to our body by pushing ourselves, and risk the destruction of our health. Thus, am I walking in the wisdom God gives, cooperating with Him in my healing; or am I—because of my tendency to want to be in control or to live in ways that others see as godly—pushing myself in ways that are against His will and destructive to my body?

“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come…” (vs. 11-15).

Thus, as I consider this testimony concerning those who have gone before me, I find the starting place for evaluating my own struggle, and the strength to walk out of it. Are you in a wilderness? Come. Go with me. The promised land lies ahead of us.

Darlene Davis © 7/30/11

Navigating Tribulation

“After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:21-22).

In the past numerous months I have become acutely aware of so much heartache and difficulty in our day:  As an instructor in a college welding program, my husband trains up welders for the fields of metals. Many of those who come into his school for this training are people who are or have been enslaved to methamphetamines.  Their ability to function has been severely impaired and it takes them three times longer to learn a skill than it does for non-meth effected students.

He also sees a lot of VETs come through, just back from the frontlines of war, devastated and hindered by varying degrees of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). They so long to develop their skill, but the noise in a weld shop brings on flashbacks and intrusive thought that hinders their ability to remain in the class, thus they struggle to get back into normal life.

Recently, our family has been devastated by a person we trusted being wrapped up in addiction to porn that lead to the harm of one of our children. It has crushed us as we watched what we thought was a good marriage disintegrate before our eyes, and as one we loved and respected became reprobate to us.

Then, as always, I think of those like my sweet daddy, falling to such things as paranoia, Alzheimer, and other age related mental issues that rob those they love of the person they knew, before their time.

So much in the world is crushing to us, bringing trouble to life, proving the truth of Jesus’ promise that “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage” (John 16:33).

In the world we have tribulation, Jesus tells us, but, look at the full verse:

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He has overcome the World, and through Him we can live as overcomers. Here in our focal passage, we get a glimpse of how we can overcome, as Paul points us to realize that through tribulation, we enter His kingdom. We have studied Kingdom living before as we looked at “Walking the Street of Gold on Earth” (https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/walking-the-street-of-gold-on-earth/ ). But today as I look at Psalm 37:3-7a and 34, a passage I meditate on frequently, I see more we can glean from Gods word to help us walk through difficulty in life:

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.  Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him….  Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land”.

In every difficult situation in which it is hard to know what is best, we are to trust in the Lord in ways that keep us focused on doing good in life. We are to dwell in the land in faithfulness, cultivating our own faithfulness to God in the way we dwell there. We are to delight ourselves in God, knowing that the things we need will be accomplished by Him in due season.

We can trust that in our doing of good, practicing faithfulness, and delighting in Him, He will bring forth our righteousness as the light and show our judgment to be true. But if we fail to do good and practices faithfulness in Christ that flows out of delight in God and a desire for a right relationship with Him, we cooperate with “tribulation,” inviting more to come. Recognizing this and putting these things to practice in every situation, we can rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to reveal truth. As we wait for the Lord, keeping His way while trusting His hand, we can know that He will exalt us to inherit the land in which He has placed us to possess it for His glory.

Easy? Not always, for as I said, some things we go through are hard to know what is His right path; like the situation with our son-in-law. Do we trust his cry of repentance and work for restoration that could put our little ones in harm’s way again; or do we protect our little ones, as pearls we refuse to cast before swine and see a marriage dissolved in divorce, knowing that God hates divorce (Matthew 7:6)? Should my daughter have to live with the intrusive thought of him with her daughter every time he reaches for her in intimacy? Is it true love for him to expect it of her? Or is she free to leave him in light of Jesus’ condition of immorality? And if she leaves, is she free to find love elsewhere? Is our forgiveness true, though we want nothing to do with him anymore: as Robert Jeffress says in his book, “When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense,” chapter 6: “I forgive you, but I don’t want to have dinner with you (or breakfast or lunch for that matter)”? Some things are difficult to know, but one thing I do know, whatever we do must be done in faith, trusting God to lead, and living the days ahead in righteousness that reveals God as God. And He who is God will make our righteousness known and prove our judgment to be from Him.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

May we be found facing tribulation in faith, believing the overcoming power of our Holy God and Christ.

 

The Talents Revisited: Part 5

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (:21).

God gives us His Spirit in trust, empowering us by first helping our choosing to believe through ever increasing measures of faith. Through faith He establishes in us His very nature, rebirthing in us the characteristics that bear the image of God in us. Then pouring forth from us, He touches the lives of others as we live His morality out into the earth, bringing the flavor of the Kingdom to life.

In any well run Kingdom, there has to be proper use of the talents and recourses of the people of the Kingdom, along with equipping and authority for organizing those resources for best effectiveness in increasing the Kingdom. The wise use of human resources brings cohesion to the society of man, thus we have our final produce of the Spirit rightly invested in our lives:

Produce 4 – “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

We are given by the Spirit these gifts of ability for use in the power of the Spirit to perform the work of service as ambassadors of Christ. We are given by Christ through His Spirit authority in the earth to represent His interests here, and are called to fulfill His role as Priests unto God, fulfilling Kingdom purpose in this foreign land in which we live. Gifts of service are given to each believer by God’s Spirit of Power to be used for the common good.

We are called of God to function as a body, each member using ones gifts in the position God has placed us. Each position is important and we are to be the best at our God-given role, as empowered by His Spirit at work in us. A hand that tries to be a foot will wear down quickly. A nose that tries to be an ear will be dysfunctional.

It is unwise, as members of Christ’s body, to knock out an eye, stomp on a toe, or treat as of no worth those parts of the body that seem of less importance, for a healthy body needs every cell functioning at optimal capacity, the great in cooperation with the small. To do otherwise breads sickness and can even cause death in the body. Failure to function in a healthy way that realizes the importance of every individual part is to fall short of love’s unifying work in bringing cohesion to the whole. A dysfunctional body distorts the image of God and brings destruction to His work in the earth. (1 Corinthians 12-14)

If you have never studied the gifts of the Spirit and come to know your place in the body, I encourage you to do so soon, for a mouth called to speak His truths, but functioning as a hand instead, is a waste of energy, misappropriating His Spirit and failing to walk in the obedience God desires. Here are links to get you started: http://www.kodachrome.org/spiritgift/, http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/.

Before closing this course of study, the master in our Matthew 25 passage told the wicked lazy slave that he should have at least put His money in the bank so he would have returned it with interest. What might the bank be for us as we consider the work of the Spirit in our lives as the treasure of our Master-Savior?

“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). When we do not have confidence in ourselves, we can bank on the promises of God, choosing to believe, and seeing faith increased to us.

“Such confidence we have through Christtoward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

~~*~~

“…His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”

OR

“…But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’”

Which will you hear when He comes? It is not too late to move from wicked and lazy to good and faithful. As long as He tarries, we have time to receive His Spirit and cooperate in His work to the increase that pleases our Master-God and King.

“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. …” (Matthew 25:14-30).

The Talents Revisited: Part 4

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (:21).

God has provided for us His Spirit as a trust to be expended into our lives in ways that bring Him increase. The Spirit increases faith in us so we can please God in all things. He increases in us the fruit of character that rebirths the image of God in us. How else does this treasure of God produce increase to us that we can hand over to our returning Master-Christ?

Produce 3 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and
in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:2-11).

Look at these “qualities” that are ours and are expected to increase in us in the power of the Spirit. How do these “qualities” differ from and work with the fruit we bear to increase?

The thing I note here is fruit’s character is internal and personal to each individual member of Christ. It is what makes us who we are. These qualities are the equipping of God for us, enabling us to take the fruit we bear and use it as we give into the lives of others in ways that effect His Kingdom purpose in the earth.

These qualities equip us to know how to put the fruit to use in our dealings with others and in our external practice of our internal character. I have a Bible study on this passage that is in depth, but here let us take a brief look, breaking down what Peter is telling us in this passage.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Grace and peace is multiplied to those who know Him in truth, granting to us by His grace this divine power found in His Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit is granted to us for the purpose of teaching us to know Him in all His fullness in greater depth of understanding, and to impart in us His character that makes us more and more like Him, from one degree of His glory to ever increasing glory.

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” It is increasing faith granted by His Spirit that equips us to recognize His promises and have hope in them. As His promises are fulfilled in us in the taking on of His divine nature, we escape corruption and are empowered to walk out His nature in the earth, unhindered by its lusts. But this does not happen as if by magic.

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence…”  We are called to apply diligence to faith that supplies moral excellence. There is a gifting in our faith, yes; but the gift is dependent on our choice to believe. Remember, the Master gives to each according to his ability. As I am able to believe and practicing diligence in that ability, God supplies faith to help my belief, and that faith works to equip my moral excellence. This is important, so I say again, as I choose to believe God, He pours forth a measure of faith to help my belief. As I see faith fulfilled it becomes easier to choose to believe, and God increases the measure of faith to me, producing in me moral excellence.

“…and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”

Do you see the progression?  Choosing to believe what God says and act on it, the Spirit empowers me through faith to succeed in ways that bring moral excellence. As my moral excellence grows, so does my ability to know God and to understand His ways. That knowledge increases my self-control to persevere in godly character that reaches out to others in brotherly kindness that expresses God’s love to them.

Godly character produced in us in the power of the Spirit is the goal and we noted in our first session of this study that righteousness is the cornerstone of godly-character. Righteousness is this ability to know God and His ways, accept within self the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit that make us Christlike, then allow that Spirit to empower us to express that fruit in external ways that make for moral excellence. The righteous are the only ones who have access to the heavenly kingdom, and as we saw in a previous study on experiencing heaven on earth, righteousness is one of those things we will walk in now. But there is more about this moral excellence that reveals righteousness.

As I read the rest of Matthew 25, when the King of kings calls for the sheep to be separated from the goats, what are the sheep called? “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (verses 37-40).

It is dangerous when we fail to practice diligence in expressing godly character, giving self to attributes like fear, anger, bitterness, or any other thing that will hinder God’s work in us, destroying the increase of the Spirit. Someone who never has any increase needs to ask if they have truly received God’s gift of grace that imparts His Spirit to us.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. …’” (verse 34). Those of us who have increase, but also have areas of struggle where we fall short in our diligence to take every opportunity to minister to Jesus through our ministry to one another need to realize that with failure to take every opportunity we step out from under and miss His blessing. The blessing of God comes to our obedience, granting to us many crowns with which to honor our King when we are presented to Him in eternity.

“…For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you”

Thus God equips us to be His hand reaching out to others. But not only to reach out to one another. Note that in the fulfillment of seeing this produce in our lives, we take the first steps into His Kingdom. The internal produce of God pouring out equips us to begin experiencing Kingdom living even while in this life.

That leads us to our final point, produce 4. See you tomorrow.

The Talents Revisited: Part 3

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (:21).

Thus far we have covered the fact that God gives us His Spirit when we receive His gift found in the sacrifice of Jesus; and we are called to let His Spirit increase in us. Yesterday we saw that God gives to us through His Spirit a measure of faith and expects it to grow like a mustard seed, producing a Kingdom harvest in the earth. Faith is vital to spiritual success in every area and endeavor of life, and we are told in Hebrews that without faith it is impossible to please Him (11:6).

Thus God makes provision for our success by leaving to our charge His Spirit of provision, equipping us in faith that pleases Him as we cooperate with the work of the Spirit in us. As we surrender ourselves to walk in the power of the Spirit through this faith, certain things will be harvested in our lives. Today we will cover the second produce in life as we continue our trek through to discover the ever growing work of God’s Spirit in us:

Produce 2 – “THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Scripture calls these character traits of God that are birthed in our lives “the fruit of the Spirit.” Note first that “fruit” is singular. The Spirit bears only one kind of fruit in our lives and that fruit pours forth all the flavors that make up the image of God. The fruit born is the rebirth of God’s image that was placed in mankind when creation took place.

As I look at each of these, I see heart issues that define those who possess them. These attributes produced within the child born of God through Christ is the restoration of the image of God in all His fullness so that we may BE like Him. Everyone who calls upon His name in Christ must possess this fruit and it must increase in them, making their very nature back into the godly character God intended for His image bearers.

Each of these characteristics listed here and others listed in passages like Colossians 3:12-17 express the many flavors found in the one fruit; again, that fruit being the very nature and character of God rebirthed in the heart of His created beings. Let’s take a minute to look more closely at some of these attributes that should be birthed out of the life of a true believer:

Love – the love spoken of here is the Agape love that defines God. God is love, and we are to be love as He is love. The scripture that keeps coming to my mind as I think about this attribute being our character is Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Abhor the evil and cling to the good, along with the thoughts interjected in the remainder of this chapter, is not a separate thought, but instead it describes how this love works. Let me give you an example from my life right now.

I have a family member in-law who we have loved and cared for as our own for nine years. We love him and have looked up to him as a man of God. Then we learned that in the time with us he committed sin that Jesus said is worthy of a forced swim in concrete boots. Now I hate the sin he did, the harm to those he hurt that was caused by his sin, and the break in family ties that is the result and consequence of his actions, but I still love him. Even as I write this, thinking of him, a love sores in me for him, grieved though it is by the sin he committed.

As I read the remainder of Romans 12, I see that my fruit of love will hate the evil done, while still having love and gratitude for any good in him. We have good memories with him and I know he seeks after God, though he fell in this area. As I look back on some things, I know he was grieved over his fall as I realize, “That is why he seemed grieved in that conversation.”

Because of love for God and all concerned, including him, I can choose to withhold my own revenge against him, letting God use the government of human law in dealing with him; letting God be the avenger. Because of love being in me by the power of God, when he writes me or calls, I can take a deep breath to overcome the grief and hurt, and yes, anger over his sin against another beloved, and practice loves grace in dealing with him; thus I see in the remainder of Romans 12, not disjointed thoughts for right conduct, but a picture of love in action.

Each attribute listed in our focal scripture revealing the produce of the Spirit in us can be further defined for us in Scripture, just as this walk of love is given greater defining character by this passage in Romans and others, like 1 Corinthians 13.

Joy is ours despite life’s difficulty because it is based in our relationship with our God (Nehemiah 8:10). Peace comes to us even in times like my family is in now because it is God’s gift to us in Christ in the power of the Spirit to experience peace beyond comprehension (John 14:27). Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: all attributes that are common to man, but that are increased in us to work in our lives and situations with power beyond our normal ability as we tap into the Spirit, letting Him flow through us to effect the world around us.

Thus we see how this Spirit we are charged to be filled with and return to God with increase—for He is jealous for more and more of His Spirit in us—works to make us who we are in Christ (James 4:5). But there is more. See you tomorrow for produce 3.

Darlene Davis © 6/24/11

 

 

The Talents Revisited: Part 2

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master….’” And likewise did the slave with two talents (:19-23).

Yesterday we were informed in the beginning of Jesus’ account of this well-known parable that each was given that which they received “according to their ability.” What “ability” might this be for us, as we consider our character, empowered and equipped by God’s Spirit as our “talent,” charged to our responsibility of care?

I would suggest our ability is determined by our understanding—our comprehension—that brings us to belief. According to our ability to believe, we are given charge.

When I heard of the promise found in Jesus at the age of 10, I had childlike faith to believe in the degree of my ability to comprehend. As I grew in my ability to understand this awesome gift of Jesus, my grasp on the importance of this gift and the responsibility that comes with it grew stronger. With growing ability to believe, I began to use the “talent” God charged to my responsibility, expending it in ways that brought increase, making me ready for the returning Christ.

How do I know this increase in my life to be true? By the produce seen that points to our success as servants given charge of the wealth of our Master. What is it that is produced in me and in you who hold in trust the resource of our God? This week we will look at four ways our expenditure of God’s resource will produce a harvest worthy of His trust, beginning with:

Produce 1 – “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

When we believe God about any facet of His work or desire to work in us, He grants to us a measure of faith to help us succeed. Faith, along with the Kingdom of God, is two things that Jesus described as being like a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6; Mark 4:30-31). The significance of the use of this analogy is seen in the words of Christ describing the mustard seed in Mark 4:31-32:

It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”

The Spirit sows within us this seed of faith, which begins to grow in measure with our ability to believe. As we expend faith through belief, it grows stronger and bigger, producing a harvest of faith-actions. Each experience of faith fulfilled increases our ability to believe, and thus, our measure of faith. But there is an arch enemy of faith we must be alert to. What is it?  I believe we see that enemy of faith in the account of the third servant of our parable.

“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours’” (:24-25).

Because of fear, this one the Master later calls worthless and lazy hides the “talent” of His master in the ground where dead things belong. He never does anything with or for it that would cause growth and a harvest. Any growth that might come to one dictated more by fear than faith is then smothered out by the weeds of life.

One cannot walk forward to productive living while being dictated by fear and faith at the same time. Either fear will win, bringing stagnation in growth, or faith will win. And faith must win for increase to come that makes us good stewards of God’s supply. Faith empowered by the Spirit must prevail.

Consider then the truth that God gives supply to us for the purpose of producing a harvest. He expects increase. That being true, did this worthless slave return to his Master all that was His?

Over and over in Scripture we see the provision of God in the power of the Spirit that is given to those who profess to believe. It is expected that our understanding of these truths will cause a work that will grow the provision of Spirit into a harvest, one beyond our natural ability, thus glorifying God and increasing His Kingdom. When we fail to show this increase, we rob God of the full return.

Now, with faith in place and growing, let us continue to the next aspect of the Spirit’s produce. See you tomorrow.

 

Darlene Davis © 6/24/11

The Talents Revisited: Part 1

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (:14-18).

Who is the master Jesus is alluding to in this passage? I believe that He is talking about Himself. Knowing that He was about to leave us for a time, He is letting us know that He is leaving, but also that He will return one day. While He is away, He is leaving us with something valuable, and we are responsible to increase it so we return greater value to Him when the account is due. The question then becomes, “What is this valuable commodity?”

This passage is often used to speak on our responsibility to be accountable to God for the use of our possessions and finances, and that is a good application. But let’s look at it from a heavenly standpoint? What is the currency of heaven?

It is not gold. God uses gold in the place of asphalt and bricking materials. It is not jewels. They too are imbedded into walls for decoration and possibly even bricking. (Revelation 21)

What is the currency of Heaven? Could it be character?

In passages that give us a glimpse into the heavenly streets we are told that we will not use money to purchase our need. It tells us that what we need to obtain entry to the Kingdom and anything of Heaven’s supply is righteousness. It is the righteous who are allowed to walk the streets, eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and drink the cool water from the spring of Living Waters. Righteousness is the cornerstone of godly character.

With this thought, the question becomes, “How did Jesus leave us with this currency and how do we bring increase to it?” May I suggest the “talent” the Lord left us to increase in our lives and in the earth is the produce of the Spirit of God.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. …If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:1-18) .

Jesus promises to give us His Spirit, and Ephesians 5:18 makes it clear that we are responsible then to be filled with the Spirit. How do we increase the amount of filling we have of this Spirit of God? By the expenditure of the power that Spirit supplies for godly character and righteousness. How do we spend that power? Through allowing the Spirit to do His work and have His will in and through our lives. So what does that look like so we may know we are succeeding in being good stewards of this provision of God? And what does it mean when it says that He gave talents to them “according to their ability”? Hum? See you tomorrow. 🙂

Bride Awaiting

Read Matthew 25:1-13

“…The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’…” (Matthew 25:8-9).

Have you ever tried to minister to someone who is constantly struggling in their faith; constantly battling anger, resentment, fear, or a sundry of other fruits of doubt, disbelief and failure to trust God to be God? It is difficult, isn’t it?

As I read this passage, thought of several situations cross my mind, particularly those like one friend of the past. When she moved to our area, she seemed strong in faith, loved to sing for God’s glory and did so professionally; she enjoyed encouraging the faith of others. This woman was injured some time before moving to our area, being thrown from a horse and suffering a head injury that nearly killed her. As a result of her injury, she suffered from a seizure disorder that required medication to keep it under control. She so longed to be fully healed and never to have to take those meds again, but God continued to hold back that healing.

Instead of being grateful for the meds that brought a functional healing to her, as time went by, this friend gave way to anger and bitterness toward God for not moving in the way she thought He should. Many of us tried to encourage her faith to trust God’s way, but one by one, each fell away from close relationship with her, feeling themselves drained by her bitter lashings. That friend finally found herself in a mental institute, where, as far as is known, she remains today.

What was the problem that led to her demise? I believe this passage in Matthew 25 reveals some truths that show how any one of us can fall away from God, lose close relationships, and end in bitter straights.

First, like the foolish brides in our passage, my friend had many friends, and she leaned heavily on them, calling on them for her encouragement, looking to them to fill her cup with oil. What is this oil? Well, it could be related to many things in life, but as I read our focal passage I see the oil of God’s Spirit flowing too and through us to others. It is good to encourage one another. Scripture even teaches us that we all have a load we must bear personally, but there are times when the load becomes a burden and we need help with it (Galatians 6:1-5).

There is nothing wrong with sharing encouragement with one another, but each has a responsibility before God to seek Him first and get our Oil of encouragement and enlightenment from Him. When we constantly look to others for our source of strength, we put them in the place of God, and He will not allow that to succeed. Plus in constantly relying on others around us, we empty them of their supply while seldom or never flowing anything back their way. Even though they may try, I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to receive words of encouragement from a person who seems never to practice the “beliefs” they speak. So God causes such a person’s friends to realize that they are sapping their supply and putting them in danger of running short of what they need for ministry opportunities He has for them. Thus He leads them to fall away from the relationship so that struggling person has to run to God or sink in the mire of doubt and disbelief.

Second, I see in this Matthew passage that, yes, we each have a responsibility before God to be sure we go to the right source for our provision of Oil, and we also each have a God given right to recognize when that supply will be misused and wasted, leaving us in need. Note that the Master did not condemn the virgins for failure to share when they realized it would cause them to fall short of being themselves ready for the Bridegroom. He condemned those who failed to seek His supply for themselves so as to be ready when He arrived, saying, “I never knew you”. Why did He never know them? They did not give themselves fully to a growing, vital relationship with Him.

Here is the question: Which am “I”? Am I one who is always looking to others for that push to do what is right and have faith? Am I one who is constantly drained and sapped of strength because I do not know how and when to say “No”? Or am I one who seeks the Lord first for my supply—which He sometimes sends my way through others who have wisdom to discern how and where to use their supply?

God desires that we know Him personally, being supplied the Oil of the Spirit by Him through that relationship. He will let no other have His rightful place in our lives; He will remove them if they try or if we rob Him of His place in our lives by seeking them first. But as we seek Him for ourselves, He is faithful to give us all we need, pouring His light through us, producing fruit in our lives, creating for Himself a bride made ready as she awaits the Bridegroom.

 

Walking the Street of Gold on Earth

“I did not see a sanctuary in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:22-24, HCSB).

As we saw a mission team off from church a couple of weeks ago, my pastor read most of Revelation 21 from his Holman Christian Standard version of scripture and the above passage within that reading caught my attention. Numerous articles ago God led me to write about how He is “The Secret Place” in which we can find refuge from the fearsome things of this life. As we draw near to Him, trusting Him to be our sanctuary and our protection, we find in Him the secret place, the sanctuary that gives us rest from the difficulties this life holds. And as we learn to live in that place of sanctuary, we can walk without ungodly fear in this life.

As my pastor read the above, I realized that this passage in Revelation combined with the Psalm 91:1-2, AMP, passage gives us a picture, telling us
that when we learn to dwell in The Secret Place of God, we experience the Sanctuary of heaven on earth. That excited me, as there are numerous such passages that tell us how to experience heaven on earth: a spiritual practice that keeps us living in that place even now, that place where we will dwell for all eternity. Thus we have this first point on learning to dwell in The Secret Place of God’s Presence, where we are safe in the Sanctuary of the Heavenly Kingdom, protected from fear. So what are the other passages that came to mind with this revelation?

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

This passage tells us that we experience God’s kingdom on earth as we walk in righteousness. Righteousness begins as a heart issue, for from the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Paul taught that he could eat food sacrificed to idols because he knows there is only one true God and he eats with gratitude to that One God for the food received as from Him; but he chose to not eat it for the sake of those who did not understand this truth (1 Corinthians 8).

Over and over in Scripture God reveals through His inspired word that it is the circumcision of the fleshly wisdom of our heart that leads to true righteousness. For the Christian, we understand that this circumcision of heart comes through recognizing the sacrifice of Christ as needful for salvation and by following His example which reveals to us the true righteousness of God. James tells us that this righteous wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:13-18). When we learn to walk in righteousness on earth, we experience what we will find on the golden street of the New Jerusalem where no unrighteousness is allowed entrance (Revelation 21:27).

Note that peace comes to us as we practice this righteous wisdom. Learning to walk in peace as promised to us by Christ in John 14:27, we experience the peace of the eternal kingdom. What does that promise say?

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Jesus brings to us a peace that comes from knowing the righteous fruit He bears into our lives, equipping us to know the peace that comes from God to those who practice His righteousness. There is no need of fear when our fear is only in God, the righteous fear that leads to choosing His right and good over that of the wisdom of the flesh, the world, and demons.

With His peace, we also find our Joy in the Lord, as in the power of His spirit we walk in righteousness to find His peace. This joy in the Lord, Nehemiah tells us, provides for us the strength we need to persevere (8:10). Therefore righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit of God bring a slice of the heavenly to our daily lives. Through this practice in the earth, we bring the glory of God found within that life into the eternal kingdom. It is worthy of noting that in the Psalm 91:1-2 passage provided for you below, that dwelling in God, in His presence—His sanctuary, requires this practice of righteousness, peace and joy if we are to succeed at remaining in His sanctuary. These practices are required for us to dwell in Him. But there is more we can learn about Kingdom living.

“For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus—the leaning of your ENTIRE HUMAN PERSONALITY on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness—and of the love which you have and show for all the saints—God’s consecrated ones, because of the hope of experiencing what is laid up, reserved and waiting for you in heaven.” (Colossians 1:4-5a, AB)

Note this Amplified version passage tells us of some things we do “because of the hope of experiencing what is laid up, reserved and waiting for us in heaven.” We experience it while on earth, with the promise and knowledge that these things we experience in part here will be our existence in heaven. What are these things?

First is the fact that by faith, when we lean our entire human personality entirely on Christ with absolute trust and confidence that by His power and wisdom and goodness, we can be all God desires and designed in us, we know in part our heavenly existence. Can you fathom that? To live with peace that as we trust God’s lead and provision through Christ for our very personality, we can rest ourselves in Him. No more struggling with dislike of self or with insecurity as we trust God through Christ’s provision to make us all He desires we be, even in the personality we exhibit. Without this work of God in our personality, we will not have what is needed to lean that personality fully on Him in faith. It is a necessary work of faith to equip us with personality that honors and trusts in God fully. When we struggle to be who we are with faith in God, we fail because we do not trust Him to work through our personality in the power of the Spirit.

Next we see that we experience heaven as we practice God’s kind of agape love toward others; and by trusting that, as Christian brothers and sisters, God gives those around us His agape love toward us. A walk of faith, trusting God’s love for us, entrusting our very personalities to Him, and loving and being loved in God’s way opens the gates of heaven to our today experience. What joy, to realize a piece of heaven on earth as we practice these things for life more abundant and full. It brings new meaning as we look at Psalm 91:1-2 in the Amplified:

“HE WHO dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!”

As we learn to practice His Secret Place, Sanctuary living day by day, we become stable and fixed in our personality, faith, love, righteousness, peace and joy, walking on streets of gold in hearts of purity toward God and each other.

 

 

 

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 4

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

Many years ago, after the death of his mother, my husband’s grief came out in ways that made marriage difficult at best. In fact, if it was not for God, I wonder if we would have made it through those days. What happened to change my Sweetie in that time? Not much really, his change came after the fact; but as I sought God for strength to persevere, a lot happened to change me.

The first thing God did was grab my attention through Isaiah 43:25. Here is where God taught me the truths shared with you in my Ponderings posted in April, titled “Forgiving God’s Way: Parts 1 & specifically 2” (found under archives in April 2011). Learning that forgiving every perceived insult “for my own sake” would deliver me from anger and bitterness, and leaving my husband to God for Him to deal with would free me to love him unconditionally and incorruptibly made all the difference in my ability to bear the fruit of perseverance and forbearance while God returned my husband to me.

Another thing God led me to in that season was 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. Every time something was done to bring hurt and heartache, God would lead me in several different versions to look at that passage and find the attribute of love that was needed to be practiced in that situation. As I did so, I learned love and grew stronger in bearing that fruit out in my life.

Another passage that spoke clearly to me was Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” As I read that verse one day, God spoke to my heart to find something good in my husband each day and to dwell on that. As I obeyed that instruction, my attitude toward him changed, and that change came out to him through improved words and deeds toward him.

Early in my practice of dwelling on the better things, God inspired me to purchase a two-year pocket calendar. He instructed me that for one year I was to write down something good about my husband that I saw in each day. Thus I did at the end of every day. I asked, “So why a two-year one? Why not just one year?” To which I heard in my Spirit, “You will see.”

So I purchased that two year—plus a few months—calendar and began my project just before thanksgiving. Everyday I would think of something I noticed in that day. Some days were easy. Others, not so. Some days all I could think of was something like, “I love the color of his brown eyes.” At the end of one year, as I read through that calendar, I was amazed to find that not one day was exactly like another. I had 365 reasons listed that I found good about my man. But the greatest thing I found is that my attitude toward him was 180 degrees different, my love for him stronger than ever, and I learned true grace toward others that sets them free to be and me free to rest in being my best with them.

Then God told my heart, “Now, I want you to wrap it and give it to Johnny for Christmas.” I did so, little knowing what God had up His proverbial sleeve. My sweetheart carried that calendar in his lunch box for five years, and has it put up in safekeeping still today. During those years of carrying it, he read it often, and he took it to heart. The good things I saw in him, he wanted to do even better at, so God used that calendar to inspire good in my husband that is still producing its crop today.

Scripture working to direct our lives and bearing its fruit within is only one side of the coin. On the flip side, I once went through a season of receiving great words of truth, instruction for living, and encouragement for the practice of faith, but God was not having me write about it, I felt longing to speak it. I longed to share the things God was giving me, knowing that as they benefited me, they could help others as well. Called of God to go on mission to Ukraine, as I was packing, the Spirit nudged me to grab my notes on those lessons. When on mission like the ones I go on, it is sometimes difficult to get a good quiet time in, so I thought God was sending those for me to use for meditation while there.

In these trips, we go to work with churches of the area. The Project leader came to me and said, “Darlene, we are short people. Do you mind going to a church by yourself?” Now I told God I trusted Him to put me where He needed me and make me able, and God reminded me of that as I opened my mouth in response. “Sure.” The church I was posted to was in a small town outside of the main area being worked and the church had hoped for a preacher. They got me.

That first Sunday morning service, the pastors all formed a circle as we prepared and began to talk seriously with my interpreter. Directly she asked me, “Darlene, can you preach.” Good little Baptist woman that I am, I said, “If you mean, can I share an encouraging word from scripture, yes” (My pentecostal friends giggle at that). I shared those words of encouragement through nine sessions that week, two Sunday mornings and every night between; and God had me ready with outlines drawn up. That church did not bring into the services large numbers of those who did not know Christ. They kept the services for the people of the church and were hungry for words of encouragement. God used His word to bear fruit of encouragement in the lives of the church there.

During each day throughout my time there they took me to many who did not know Christ, where I shared with individuals and groups in their homes. Fifty-seven people turned their lives over to Christ that trip through another teaching God gave me for use in sharing the cross of Christ with them.

Am I sharing all this to brag on me? No. But all of this testimonial word gives a clear picture of all the ways God’s word bears fruit: in us personally as we walk out His instruction with faith to believe, in other Christians as we share His word as encouragement, and in those who need deliverance  as we share the message of Christ.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Only as we study God’s word with open heart to receive it, understand it, believe it, trust it, live it—in good times and in bad, can we see it bear fruit into and through our lives. And when we do so faithfully, we can know beyond doubt that it will produce a harvest of true and eternal treasure in this life and the next. So go forth and prosper, my friend. I am praying for your understanding to grow strong in the Lord.

Seeking Holy Habitation, seated at God's feet (Exodus 15:13).