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.

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 3

 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. …”(Read Matthew 13:18-23 and Exodus 3).

Take a look at this picture, because I believe this shows what happens when we let the worries of the world and deceitfulness of wealth or sin into our lives.

Do you see the conversation of God with Moses here? What about conversations you have with God—or self as if to God (Luke 18:9-14 – note who the Pharisee is said to be praying to)?

Note the large, flattened stone under all the boulders of doubt and fear. I may have it so covered up that you can’t see it, but pressure with heat on a stone, the wear and tear of good soil being washed away, makes for these large, flat boulders that absolutely cover the good soil of the earth—or the heart, hindering the good seed from reaching the soil where it can sprout forth to grow. This is what we do to ourselves when we choose fear over faith, doubt over believing God; when we look to self without considering who our God is and the might He has within Himself to work His will in our lives.

Note the little eyes, peering out from its hiding place. This was me for two years as Complicated Grief Disorder took hold, capturing my focus in all the deceptive thoughts, attitudes, and disbelief that took hold on me. Is it you? Is this the picture of your life, or of portions of your life?

Also take note in our focal verse that this person is able to hear the promise and instruction of the Lord. They know it is from God. They know Him, His power. They are His chosen instrument. But their focus, like Moses, is on their own ability without consideration of God’s equipping. Their fear and anxiety see the limited power of the forces in life and they pull away in fear without considering with belief the almighty and unlimited power available through the God above all. Thus, because of failure to focus with faith on God and His promises to those who believe, bedrocks of doubt form becoming obstacles that hinder God’s good seed from taking root: producing nothing.

For years now God has given me focal verses to meditate upon for long periods of time, sometimes for years, meditating upon them at least weekly until I fully comprehend and receive the truths there as my own bedrock of belief. One such scripture I am focused on this year, being reminded of it often, bears testimony of Abraham as spoken of him by Paul in Romans 4:19-22:

“Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.”

Note that Abraham recognized his andSarah’s own weaknesses and the seeming impossibility of it all. But what did he set his heart to believe? The promise of God, who is fully able to accomplish in us all He proclaims. He believed God would be God in his life.

The difference between thoughts of concern that lead to bedrocks of doubt and that of recognizing what is while waiting with hope for what is to come is the focus of our belief. Where do we rest our faith? Are we like the Pharisee who looks to self so much so that his prayers are seen by God as being self-focused, never touching the heart of God? Whether through self-righteousness or self-preoccupation, this is a danger we must realize. Or are we like Abraham and the Tax Collector, realizing our own limits and flaws, but knowing that with God, nothing shall be impossible?

And what about fear: where should fear be? What was it that saved Joseph, and even Jesus from the deceitfulness of sins lure? When tempted by Potipher’s wife, what fear saved Joseph? “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

And Jesus’ temptation? “Then the devil took (Jesus) into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, “HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU”; and “ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST”’” (Matthew 4:5-7).

Do we fear God enough to trust Him? I don’t know about you, but I would rather believe for a miracle from my Miracle Making God of all power and live with hope, believing, producing the fruit of faith, than spend one more wasted day in the grip of ungodly fear, worry and deception.

“NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. …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 11:1, 6, AB and NASB).

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 2

“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. …” (ReadMatthew 13:18-23, and chapter 21).

“Hosanna!” the people cried out in Matthew 21. “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”

The people believed that Jesus was there to save them. But, as we know, when Jesus was led to the cross instead to the throne, the people quickly fell away. Why? What happened to their faith?

“Expectation” happened to their faith. They had their understanding of what Messiah would do—He would come in to save the people as many before had done, gathering the force of God’s chosen nation to lead them to break the yoke of those who had authority over them. But it did not happen the way they thought it would–not yet anyway, so their faith, hindered by the hard, rocky, under-soil of expectation, died in the heat or reality.

Is Jesus the Messiah Israel watches for? I believe so. But before coming to fulfill the promise to Israel of deliverance that will set Him on a throne, He first provided a saving grace, a final sacrifice for sin that reaches not only those of Israel who will receive and believe it, but out to an entire world. One day the Messiah we both await will arrive in the body of this resurrected Man-God, Jesus, riding on a white horse, all the forces of heaven at His beck and call, to defeat not only the oppressive force of this life, but the eternal enemy of God that powers that oppression. Then He will take His throne in the earth, just as it is in heaven now, and we will be one together in Christ forever.

Meantime, the little faith we have forms a top soil in which hope from the seed of promise sprouts, but is often hindered from taking full root and producing good fruit by the error of expectation unfulfilled in the way we anticipate.

Jesus, in Matthew 21:43, told the Pharisees of their day – and ours: Pharisee representing a spirit of hypocrisy in our day, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” That’s us, folks, the one who has faith in our day that He is who He says He is, and though we do not see it yet, we know the promise of eternity is coming to fruition in due season and in God’s way—not mans. Thus through faith we allow that hope to work in our lives in ways that produce a crop that honors God, making His Promise known to all who see.

Earlier in this same chapter of scripture Jesus cursed a fig tree for failing to produce fruit, proclaiming that it would never do so again. Then He explained to the disciples questioning the act that failure to produce fruit is a sign of lack of faith to believe.

Faith is the producer of good soil in the heart of man. The greater our faith to believe God and trust His way of doing over our desire and expectation, the deeper the soil of our heart will be; ready to receive the seed of His word and produce a crop of good fruit into the earth.

What is this fruit of the Kingdom?

We see numerous passages that give us instruction for recognizing the fruit God is looking for in us. Galatians 5 tells us of the fruit that God’s Spirit produces in us. Add Colossians 3 to that for still more personal fruit that will be found in the life of a believer with soil deep enough to sustain the seed. Personal growth in our ability to love as God loves, know the internal peace that overshadows the sorrow of life, be faithful, and the state of humility that equips us to draw nearer to God in our personal knowledge of Him are just a few of the flavors found in the fruit born out of the life of one who believes by faith.

Paul, talking to the people in Romans, 14, encouraging them to take care to accept people in the faith they have and not judge those of little faith harshly says something in verse 17 that gives us a picture of the fruit of the Kingdom in which we are to major. “…the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The faith we are to have in God should produce in the individual the building of their character that increases His image in them and that reveals to all the depth of faith they hold. These spoken of in this second point made by Jesus in this Parable of the Sower have a little faith, enough to believe until things do not go as they hoped, then they fall away out of discouragement, never growing deeper in faith to trust God and His way, nor producing any significant fruit.

Jesus, in John 12:24, says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If we are to have deep faith, we must let our expectations of the way we think things ought to be die under the sword of faith to believe that God holds the better plan in His hand; and He will do things in the way that will produce in and through us the greater fruit.

God has many times spoken promise to my heart in specific situations, many of which I have seen come to pass to the glory of His name; but seldom in the way I expected. Trusting and seeing the proof of it fulfilled has deepened my soil of faith, equipping me to believe the seeming impossible with greater patience and perseverance. One such time was through a very real dream that grabbed me and stayed with me. Going through a divorce, one babe on my hip, the other in the oven, crying out to God in fear as I fell fitfully into a restful sleep, I dreamed of a God-given husband who loved me and my children. One year after marrying the man I have been with for almost 36 years now, that dream was suddenly a moment in time as I watched it come to pass, like a memory relived.

I will put my long story up here one day, telling my dream come true, but suffice to say, God keeps His good word to us. There are other clear words of promise God has given that I still wait to see, but He keeps reminding me of His promise, and experience of His move in other areas brings faith to believe as I wait for these promises to be seen. Meanwhile faith digs deep roots of hope in me.

So go forth, dear friend, with faith and hope to believe in and trust God, even when it is unpopular and others think you foolish to do so. The thing about the fig tree is that it was not the season for figs. To expect fruit was seen by the disciples as impossible and unreasonable. Jesus wants us to know that God can do the impossible, even when it seems unreasonable, in ways we cannot even imagine. But we must choose to trust His promises for He requires our faith.

“For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment” (Luke1:37, AMP).

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 1

“He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar]” (Matthew 13:52, AB).

Read Matthew 13:18-23

The passage we will cover this week is familiar to us, that precious parable of the sower, explained and made clear by Jesus. I love the word of God. It is vital to our ability to know Him, and I believe the study of God’s word for oneself is vital.

To fail to study God’s word for self is like God having a wife that never talks to Him herself or makes time for Him; nor does she respect Him enough to listen and take heed to His words. She is always too busy, talks to Him through others, never taking time to grow the relationship.

Always gaining our understanding of God’s word from others is like being on the outside of the house, looking in. We cannot develop the depth of relationship God desires when we do not approach Him in ways that allow Him to make Himself known to us. And I can tell you from experience, there is nothing more exciting than to hear from God, receiving understanding of Him and His ways for oneself. Even truths we have heard over and over through others takes on new meaning when received for ourselves from personal time with Him. But what is needed for one to begin on this path of personal relationship with God, knowing the power of the Teacher Spirit?

“Hear then the parable of the sower. …”

There are several parables where Jesus teaches us about God’s word, calling it seed that is sown into our lives. This parable in 13:18-23 instructs us on several things that are necessary for us to receive and bear the fruit of that seed.

 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. …”

The first point  Jesus  makes in His training of what is needful for us to bear the fruit of the seed of God’s word is “understanding.” When we hear God’s word without understanding it, the enemy of God will snatch it from us, hindering our ability to consider what we heard and receive understanding. So here is what I have learned through the years about how to grow in understanding.

One: Jesus teaches that those who are His will hear and know His voice, and that He has given them His Spirit who will teach them (John 10:1-5, 11-16 and 14:26). The first thing necessary to understanding is believing God and taking Him at this word of promise. I pray constantly to know and trust God’s voice and to recognize the stranger so as to not be led astray by becoming so familiar with a voice not of God that I am deceived. I pray to have a teachable spirit that is alert to the Spirit of God and open to the truths He leads me to. Then I choose to trust God.

Are there ever times when I miss the mark? Sure. We are human and can be deceived, but more often than not, I hear truly, and when I don’t, God is quick to correct me; He does not leave us as orphans, but instructs us as children. So choose to believe that God will make His voice clear and will increase the work of the Teacher-Spirit in you, and press forward to read His word with faith.

Two: God instructs us to meditate upon His word for a reason, so when a passage jumps out to me as being important, I stop and seek the Lord for understanding. It does not matter how many chapters and books I read a day if I never comprehend and receive instruction.

Sometimes I read numerous chapters before something speaks to me personally. sometimes I get through only a few verses before the Spirit draws my attention to His instruction. Sometimes He will speak clearly to my heart of understanding without research. Sometimes I am called to reference the passage and look at related scriptures that bring understanding. And sometimes I have to get out a dictionary to define a word or a commentary to instruct my heart. But always God will lead me to understand not only His truths, but how they apply to my current life situations.

Three: With or without full understanding, when a passage stands out as important for me to consider, God will often inspire me to put it on paper where I can carry it with me. I pull it out often throughout the day, putting it to memory, meditating on it, continuing to seek understanding. It is awesome to see how God uses that word and brings me to greater depth of the knowledge of Him through His teaching and instructing me. Our relationship is more real and personal because of His training me in how to understand His word for myself.

Does that mean I never receive instruction from others who have an understanding? Of course not. But I find that often what happens is God instructs me, then confirms and broadens that understanding by way of the teaching of His Spirit through others.

The first point is that the Father sows the seed of the word to us, and we must deliberately do the things that make that word productive. To be fertile soil for God’s Word of truth we must first choose to trust His word of promise: believe that He can and will speak to “me” personally because He desire a relationship with “me” that is vital and growing; and know that His Spirit is with “me” to help me understand if I will only listen with faith to hear. Then we must realize that when He speaks to us, it is vital that we stop to seek understanding, for without understanding, the word will be snatched from us, prevented by God’s enemy from forming any good root into our lives, and thus from bearing any good fruit that would work God’s purpose for having given it to us.

An example comes to mind that, though this is already longer than intended, I feel led to share for greater emphasis of the need to understand.

When I was a child, my younger sister and I went to a church picnic at the park with my aunt. As we ran off to play, my aunt hollered to get my attention. Turning with “what?” intending to listen, she hollered back her instruction. I did not understand a word she said–park noise, road noise and wind hindering, and instead of getting closer to her to hear her words with understanding, in childish exuberance I yelled “OK” as if I heard. Grabbing the hand of my sister we were off and running.

Where did we go first? In this park was a huge slide, some 20 feet tall. We ran headlong to that slide. Long story short, without boring you with the details and blaming someone else with my ignorance, I watched from the top of that slide as my little sis fell over the side, landing face first on a large stone below. Now my sister lived, thank God; only having a slight concussion, she was sent home on bed rest. Only then, after the harm was done, did I hear with understanding as my aunt yelled, “I told you to stay off that slide!”

When we fail to stop and listen to God’s Spirit instructing us until we have understanding, we risk running headlong into trouble. But when we deliberate practice “stop, look, and listen” until we have understanding, we grow strong in our relationship with Him and learn to abide there.

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).

Walking in the Wind

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’  When they got into the boat, the wind stopped” (Matthew14:28-32, NASB).

People who have read my materials long know that I have struggled the past two or three years with almost agoraphobic social anxiety because of Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD – a type of PTSD) brought on by some things going on in life right now. It makes doing things I normally love doing very difficult if it requires me to get out of the house and move among others. There have been times when I have lost the battle: fully dressing for an occasion, grabbing my purse only to find myself unable to put my foot out the door. Since God revealed the problem with which I struggle, I am slowly doing what is needful to heal; which is to deny the fear and press forward in faith to do the things I fear. Every victory makes the next occasion easier to face, though there are times of regress, like today.

Often times a call will come to “go and do” that I know is God’s will for me. He speaks to my heart that I need to be there to participate with family and friends or fellow believers. Looking with faith to Jesus in the instant of that call, I commit myself to the task. That faith to trust in God who calls us is the first move toward stepping out of the proverbial boat that often depicts a false sense of security.

Often I take that step with joy, believing; but quickly the enemy of my soul, desiring that I sink in the mire, points to the wind. Doubt enters about my own safety in the place where God has called me, forming worries over “what ifs” into a resistance against my faith, and waves of worry and fretting begin to overtake me. Because of the messed up brain chemistry brought on by CGD, my own body’s false wisdom, the messed up chemistry that brings unreasonable “fright or flight” into play, works against me with that wind, making the battle of faith over fear fierce.

This passage reminds me this morning that when such happens, it is vital that I keep my heart turned toward God, knowing that I am safest in the midst of His will. To walk out of His will into disobedience is when I am in the truest of dangers. When with Him and trusting Him to get me to the boat of His leading, I walk safely forward as I deny fear’s assault.

Note that both boats are in the water, storm tossed; but in the presence of God’s will, empowered for obedience, protection comes; and when finally in that place of obedience, the winds die. While on the water, heading toward obedience, focus on Jesus keeps me in peace with Him despite the storm tossed seas that threaten me. Finally reaching the boat, the destination of God’s desire for me, the waves stop as I busy myself about the business of service in that place, whether that service is some work I committed to, or just that of being God’s light to encourage family and friend. And every time I succeed at finding that place of peace besideJ esus and walk in it, the experience rewrites the brains proper chemical response, bringing healing from CGD. (Just as an FYI here, every time we choose fear over faith, the body’s chemistry that puts us in “fright or flight” overtakes us and we help to write within our brains a stronger lean toward social anxiety, fear, paranoia, OCD, CGD, PTSD and many other such things.)

God never takes us to a place without a purpose, so as long as I am mindful that I am there as His instrument to love and encourage others, I do alright. But if I allow my mind’s tempest to get hold, making me a wall-flower in that place; I find myself clinging to the side of the boat, just outside of God’s will and robbed of His protective cover and power to overcome and perform.

As I read this passage in Matthew and am impressed with these thoughts, I do so while under attack by fear’s worries right now as I think of going to a baby shower I know I am to attend. This timely passage reminds me that I can keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing that God has a purpose for me in that place, and all will be well. As I do so, peace enters in with God’s grace that is power to overcome and to perform flowing to me. I am feeling better now about going and will persevere by the grace God supplies. As I do so, I pray to remember this lesson with every opportunity to step out of my personal place of false security. And I pray for those reading, for whom God had me post this pondering, that you too will be empowered by faith in God to walk free of debilitating fear.

Here am I, O God. Your servant is listening.

Grace Defined Series: 1-5

Feel free to pass this post on to loved ones who will be encouraged by these defining characteristics and work of God’s grace.

#1 Unmerited Favor – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/gracedefined-1-unmerited-favor/

#2 Spiritual Blessing – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/gracedifined2-spiritual-blessing/

#3 Power to Overcome – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/grace-defined-3-power-to-overcome/

#4 Power to Perform – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/grace-defined-4-power-to-perform/

#5 annonym: The Idol Lie – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/grace-defined-5-an-annonym-the-idol-lie/

 

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

“LABORING TOGETHER [as God’s fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them—do not receive it to no purpose]” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

I have a very dear friend that I love greatly, who, in a season of trouble, was going through a very difficult time of life. I wanted so to be there for her and walk with her to its conclusion, but she turned to fleshly things and began running in ways contrary to God’s ways. Sitting with her, trying to encourage her to trust the Lord and stay close to His ways, she quickly informed me, “God understands that I am but flesh, and He will forgive me.” Is that truth? Yes. But is it truly applied? No.

My friend continued on her path, and God instructed my heart, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). I was not allowed to walk with her in her season of trouble as she walked quickly into the consequences of her sin.

This morning, as I visited with the Lord, He led me to see that the philosophy spoken of by my friend is a lie about grace. That lie is used of Satan to set up a type of God’s grace as a false idol in the lives of those who would be God’s people, and it works to defeat them because they do not fully know, understand and acknowledge the truth of who God is in all His fullness when they practice that idolic grace. In leading me to understand this truth, God took me to some Old Testament passages.

“Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand’” (Isaiah 1:2-3).

So what is it that we must know and understand if we are to avoid falling to this idol lie?

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-26).

Four things we must know about God in order for Him to protect us from falling to this idol lie about His grace:

FIRST, God is LORD. If we truly know His grace, we must not only call Him LORD, but walk in ways that reveal His Lordship in our lives. That walk in His Lordship comes day by day, in good times and in bad. The practice of that Lordship is what brings us into the obedience of Christ, who says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NASB). What does it mean to take up ones cross?

I have many times heard people say of some illness, “It is my cross to bear,” but is that what Christ is speaking of here? No. That may be their thorn in the flesh, but it is not a cross. When I hear of bearing a cross and think of choosing to pick it up, I think of the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, when, facing His own cross, Jesus cries out, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NASB).

Our pastor pointed out the other day that this cup Christ speaks of is not that of taking up the cross. The cup was bearing the sin that would bring separation from the Father. Jesus never once in His life of ministry had to face anything without God’s presence. He knew that taking up the cup meant separation from the Father in the moment of His bearing our sin. For us, to take up our cross, we must lay down the cup that separates us from God.

In every situation where we are caused to cry out, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done,” as we press forward in obedience to His will and way, we lay down the cup of separation to take up our cross and follow Christ in His example of obedience to God. Thus, through obedience to God’s will in every circumstance, we successfully remember His Lordship so as to walk in His grace, trusting His power to perform the requirements of the path God sets before us.

SECOND, God practices lovingkindness toward us: God is love and He always acts toward us out of that love, giving grace as unmerited favor and spiritual blessing in His lovingkindness toward us. That is the part of His grace that covers us through Christ-crucified, bringing us into salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).

But the truth of that Ephesians passage continues on in verse 10 to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

God expects that His work of grace in us will bring us to be the living image of God revealed to us through Christ’s earthly ministry. When we receive His gift of grace through Christ with thought that we can go on our merry way and do what we want without fear of eternities death, we walk quickly out from under that cover of His lovingkindness in Christ to this idolic grace that deceives us. In so doing, we commit the sin Paul speaks of in 1 Timothy 3:1-8:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, HOLDING TO A FORM OF GODLINESS, ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE DENIED ITS POWER; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

True knowledge of God’s grace brings with it the power to overcome evil and perform the good works of God. When we deny that power, we believe a lie about grace and set it up as an idol we bow to as if we have no call or responsibility to live righteously in the earth. When we walk away from God in this way, we quickly find the next characteristic of God for ourselves, for love always does what is best for the one loved, in order to bring them to good and glory. But some choose to learn the hard way the next truth about God’s character.

THIRD, God is just and He delves out justice to those who sin against Him.

Now that sounds horrible, and it is for the one who is not truly in Christ, for they are doomed to an eternity without God. When I see people walking in this false-belief my friend has about God’s grace, I have to wonder if they truly know His salvation, for scripture teaches that the tree is known by the fruit it bears, whether good or evil (Matthew 7:15-23).

For those who are truly in Christ, yes, we have a tendency to fall to the flesh from time to time, but sin is not a habit we willing run toward. What does scripture say to assure our hearts of God’s grace to work in our lives when we as His true children do sin?

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

This brings us to our FOURTH truth about God: God is righteous. For those who are true sons, understanding the power of grace as well as its favor, He disciplines us as sons in order to develop His righteousness and holiness in us. What is “discipline”?

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul, teaching Timothy about God’s way of training His children says the following, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (vs. 12-17).

Thus, the true child of God is trained by God through the teaching of His word that they may know truth, through reproof that points out sin’s stain, through correction of wrong doing and believing, and through training in righteousness, thus equipping the true child for good works.

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised…for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.’”

God works in us as sons to circumcise our hearts, removing from us the flesh-man and making us new creations in Christ, image bearers who are wholehearted toward God. As He removes the flesh from our hearts, He establishes us to be Spirit led, seeking Him first in all things, trusting His power to work in us the glory of God’s grace, sufficient for every need even in difficult times. That work of His Spirit changes us from glory to glory, making us to be more like Him day by day, perfecting us until the day of Christ’s return. For those who truly know and surrender to God, they do not deliberately and rebelliously walk away from God and test Him by taking advantage of His grace in ungodly dissipation. Instead, we long for Him, to be clothed in His righteousness, thus we are quick to repent and remain in fellowship with Him in Christ.

Am I better than my friend who fell to sins grip? No. Scripture warns, “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. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).

It is dangerous to think too highly of self, for “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” as the old testament King James passage says (Proverbs 16:18). But what does God’s word promise in the 13th verse of 1 Corinthians 10?

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and 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.”

What is the way of escape? Grace in all its power! We can trust God to empower us to walk in the victory of His grace: unmerited favor and spiritual blessing with power to both overcome evil and perform what is good.

Is my friend beyond help? How about your loved ones who walk in this falsehood? No. Grace can minister healing to her still, and when grace moves in to do so, I am here. “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7, NASB).

God would not let me walk with her into destruction, but He has me ready, willing and able to walk with her as His hand of grace and love brings healing from sin. Before I can, there must be proof of sincere repentance and understanding of these truths of grace, otherwise the crushing pain of watching helplessly as she falls again will be the experience, for those who set grace up as an idol constantly fall away to follow the flesh of their heart.

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (1 Peter 3:14-18, NASB).

Grace Defined #4: Power to Perform

“According to the grace of God (the special endowment for my task) bestowed on me, like a skillful architect and master builder I laid [the] foundation, and now another [man] is building upon it. But let each [man] be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10, AB).

According to grace, we do our work in Christ. Did you see the definition? Here the grace revealed in this passage is “power to perform” our tasks in life and in our God-given work.

I am often struck by a passage speaking of Christ that says, “and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” (Luke 5:17, NASB). Since noticing that portion of scripture, I pray to work in God’s “power to perform.” Now I see more clearly that His power for the task is a work of His grace toward us and it is awesome to behold.

Last segment we learned that God’s grace is not only unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, but it is power to overcome the things of life that hinder our growth in redeveloping and walking out of the image of Christ, and now we see that His grace empowers us to do all that He calls us to, all that is needful for us to do in this life.

Whatever task is required of us in our God given rolls for life here, whether it be the daily tasks and duties of our offices and stations in life, doing our work as unto the Lord, or whether it be tasks found in special called ministry opportunities, God is committed to pour forth through His grace all that is needed to empower and equip one fully surrendered to and trusting in Him for the task of His calling. Oh, if Moses had understood that from the beginning, what a difference it would have brought him when his call to service came. Exodus 3 would have been a totally different testimonial chapter, don’t you think.

And what about you and me? What difference does this truth mean for us today? For me it is a new assertion from the Father, saying to me, as He said to Paul:

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

There is no weakness we have in our flesh that can hold back one rested in and empowered by this grace of God’s supply. When we fail to remember this, putting our eyes on our weaknesses as Moses did in Exodus 3, we too insult the living, all powerful and trustworthy God who calls us. When God calls, “I can’t” does not belong in the vocabulary of one truly rested in His grace, trusting in Him.

So what will you do with this grace, now that you are aware of its power?

“And now [brethren], I commit you to God [I deposit you in His charge, entrusting you to His protection and care]. And I commend you to the Word of His grace [to the commands and counsels and promises of His unmerited favor]. It is able to build you up and to give you [your rightful] inheritance among all God’s set-apart ones (those consecrated, purified, and transformed of soul)” (Acts 20:32).

(PS: God added one more session to our study of grace. I am excited to share this and am heading now to write it out. See you back here tomorrow, by the grace of God’s power to perform.)

Grace Defined #3: Power to Overcome

“But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it)” (James4:6).

What a powerful statement about God’s grace. Grace—God’s unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, flows to us in order to bring power to our lives that will equip us to overcome every evil tendency. Read this full passage, James 4:1-10, in the New American Standard Bible Version:

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?

“Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Wow, what promise this grace is. Here is what I know about God’s work of grace:

God desires us so much that He provided a way through Christ for salvation to come to us weak willed beings who falter and fail so constantly. Sending salvation to us through His grace found in Christ, as we humble ourselves to admit our need of it, He gives to us His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing. As we humble ourselves to receive His grace, He then places within us His Holy Spirit to teach us and to do a work of transformation, making us back into the image of God first placed there in creation. But this work of transformation is not instantaneous, though some may have more instantaneously obvious results than others, all will have a lifetime of work yet to accomplish. We become a work of art, God bringing healing to us a little at a time as we are ready and able to humbly submit ourselves to Him and receive it.

Step by step, God reveals to us our ungodly pleasures, our self-centered motives, our murderous adulteries: all the while He jealously longs for more of His Spirit to be found in us. So He keeps heaping on grace as we will receive it, using the hope that grace brings to our struggling hearts to empower our victory. Equipping us to recognize our own need of His grace, He empowers us to receive His Spirit through Whom He equips us to stand against our every evil tendency, thus He is able to make you stand (Romans 14:14; Jude 1:24-25).

Is there an evil-issue you find yourself constantly struggling to overcome? Ask God to reveal the root of the problem to you and surrender to the grace He gives you to stand.

Second Corinthians 1:11-12 (AMP) encourages us further as we note this work of grace, “While you also cooperate by your prayers for us [helping and laboring together with us]. Thus [the lips of] many persons [turned toward God will eventually] give thanks on our behalf for the grace (the blessing of deliverance) granted us at the request of the many who have prayed. It is a reason for pride and exultation to which our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world [generally] and especially toward you, with devout and pure motives and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues).”

This is the work of God’s grace, found in Christ Jesus, and brought to bear in our souls by the power of His Spirit. All things are possible for me, for nothing shall be impossible with God. Therefore I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me through the power of His Spirit working within a humbled and submissive me, as I stand in agreement and surrender to my All Knowing, Almighty, and Omniscient God.

GraceDifined#2: Spiritual Blessing

Returning finally to my focus on grace, in our last session we defined God’s grace that is found in His unmerited favor. That unmerited favor is “free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving-kindness” expressed toward us because of who He is and because of His purpose toward us. This grace is “unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing.” It is the mercy of God toward His chosen people, chosen for a sincere love relationship with Him and to be useful in the accomplishing of His good will and purpose in this life. It is His provision of spiritual blessing and saving grace through Jesus Christ; and by it He gifts us for service (Romans 3:24, 5:20-21; 1Peter 5:12).

This review of the first blog on grace as unmerited favor reveals one aspect of God’s grace as being spiritual blessing. In the Amplified Bible, several passages use the term spiritual blessing, divine blessing or divine favor as the defining characteristic of God’s grace. That definition qualifies the grace spoken of as originating from God in the power of His Spirit. When we truly walk in the knowledge of that grace, being affected by its work in our life, that grace is coming to us from God. It is only through the flow of grace from God to us in the power of the Spirit that we can give true grace to others.

One thing I note as I look at these passages is the expression of that grace found in the recipient. We often see Paul and others write a greeting that expresses hope for those receiving their word to walk in God’s grace (spiritual blessing) and peace. Peace accompanies this grace in the life of the recipient of God’s spiritual blessing and divine favor. One verse stands out to me in which we find this union of spiritual blessing with peace, as it defines this work of grace in the recipient.

According to 1 Peter 1:2 in the Amplified Bible, those who walk in the spiritual blessing and divine favor of God experience Christ in ways that bring ever increasing measures of His grace with peace. This grace mixture at work in our lives is expressed in us through many degrees of freedom: freedom from fears; freedom from agitating passions; and freedom from moral conflicts being listed in this passage. When we are walking in constant fear, constantly struggling with ungodly passions agitating our souls, wavering on moral issues, most likely it is because we fail to fully receive by faith this grace mix in ways that cause us to walk it out.

What is there about this grace that allows us to walk in peace and freedom? First Peter 1:13, Amplified, says it is hope, but hope in what? “…the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed.”

It is hope in the Divine favor of God found in the work of Christ’s completed ministry in us, faith in the finished work of His coming again to rule for all eternity, that brings this grace with peace to work freedom in us. It is trusting that whatever is tempting us to leave our freedom is there with a purpose that will make us more Christlike. It is such a faith and hope in our eternity with God through Christ that no threat to our freedom can cause us to waver in fear, ungodly passion or moral conflict. This verse instructs us to brace our minds on this hope, being sober, circumspect, morally alert to the returning Christ and His work in us as we wait. Our hope set wholly and unchangeably on this provision of God’s grace found in Christ is what allows us to receive His grace with peace that sets us free.

The following quote fits here to explain this truth. Speaking of Christians, Rev. Rick Parnell said, “In this life you and I live by promises, not by explanation.” We must trust God’s promises, taking Him at His word if we are to walk in the full freedom of His grace.

Speaking with regard to suffering brought to us by the work of God’s enemy, 1 Peter 5:10 tells us that by this spiritual blessing and Divine favor found in Christ’s work in us, God Himself uses our suffering to complete and make us what we each ought to be, establishing and grounding us securely, strengthening and settling us into this grace more fully and surely.

And in passages like 1 Peter 5:5 we see the coupling of humility with this work of God’s grace. God’s grace comes to the humble. The humility called for is pictured for us in Christ, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ chose to be of lower stature than the Father in His triune manifestation, showing us the way of God’s work of grace to the humble.

As I read that description of Christ, realizing that we are to walk in the same spiritual blessing He had—that grace of God that provides peace and freedom from fear, ungodly passion and moral conflict—we too can be loosed into bond-service that can face any insult, even threat of death, with God’s power in play. We can walk in victory, because of the hope of grace sufficient to overcome every difficulty.

Dying to self and living to Him, we find grace, sufficient and working in us to bring us into His glory and peace. May we each find God’s saving grace working freedom in us to the filling of His purpose and plan at work in us (1 Peter 1:10).

The Secret Place – Clarified

The following is response to a dear sister that was concerned that I was teaching and believing falsehood about Jesus’ deity. I know if one is brave enough to ask, others are wondering silently. So I share this response with you in its entirety.

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Thank you,Darlene, for giving me opportunity to clarify. I hope I can do so in a way that will increase understanding of what I am trying to say in my article titled, The Secret Place.

Yes, the use of the word “pre-Christ” is before His time in the earth. And yes, God, in all of His person, is one: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and Jesus is fully God and fully man. They are fully God together, three aspects of the one God, but they are distinct in their own revelation.

In trying to understand what I am saying, let’s look at this from our relationship with others. I am Darlene. You are Darlene. We have the same name, and, by another unfathomable truth, we are one together in Christ, but we each are individual beings. I have a power and ability to reach into your life, touching you, hugging you, influencing your life, and you mine. That power is a picture of the Holy Spirit. But that power is not my fullness, nor is it yours. I know of you by that power reaching out to touch me, and me you. But we only know one another in part. To say I KNOW you, fully, because of your touch in my life would be false. That is only a part of you, as the Holy Spirit is only one manifestation of God in all His glory.

We have the same given name, Darlene, but I have a body that does not look like your body. Our faces are different. We can sit together and be together because we have a separate body that allows us to do so. I can reach out and touch you, and you me. We can hug. We can know one another’s face. But we are distinctly different people. Our bodies allow us distinction and movement. Our bodies allow us to know one another better, but just because we can touch one another, sit together, and recognize one another’s face does not mean that we KNOW one another. I am deeper than that. You are deeper than that. And even beyond that, what is it that Paul said, “I do not even examine myself” (1 Corinthians 4). Why? Because I don’t fully know myself and can even deceive myself. Each of us can have subconscious things going on that even hinder us fully knowing ourselves, much less one another. We have need of the Father to help us.

Like with our power to move and influence our world, our bodies are not us, they are but a part of who we are. Jesus is the Body of God that can reach out to touch and interact with sinful man. But Jesus Himself made it clear that He in His humanity was not privy to all the knowledge and fullness of God. That is beyond our human comprehension how Jesus can be fully God but not privy to all the knowledge and fullness of God. But He made it clear in setting an example for us to follow that human flesh needs constant communion and direction from the God-head called “Father.”

You and I are more than our movements. We are more than our flesh. We are deeply hidden persons. There are things about each of us that the other cannot know unless we reveal it. I hold myself back from you in areas of my essence because I do not know you well and know if I can trust you. My full personality is masked with you and you with me. And as I said, there can even be things about me that are hidden from my own conscious self because the timing is not right for it to be revealed and used or handled in a healthy way. So God, who knows me fully, blocks those things from me for my good and His glory, revealing them in His timing, for His purpose, to work some good in me at a time when I am better prepared through my growing relationship with Him to handle it and to use it for His glory.

This full essence of our being is a picture of the Father in the trinity of God. There were things that the Father is fully aware of within His depths that Jesus’ mind was not privy to, and would not be privy to until Father’s fullness of time made it available to His body’s mind.

I have friends that I am very close to, my husband being one. They know me as fully as any can. I feel I can be myself with them and trust that they will still love me. But even with them, there are things I hold to myself and God. God is the only one who knows either of us better than we even know ourselves. He knows everything about us and loves us unconditionally. The Father wants us to open ourselves up to that depth of relationship that only He and “I” can have. But Father also wants us to know the greater depths of HIS essence. And that essence is only found in the part of Him that is made known to us as The Father.

God chooses to hold back parts of Himself from us until we choose to pursue a deeper, more trustworthy, uncompromising, unconditional relationship; one that is completely surrendered to that pursuit and fully committed to that relationship becoming all it can be. That depth of God that is found in the Father is what God in all His person wants us to pursue. That depth of His essence, drowning ourselves in that deep relationship, is the Secret Place of God’s glory. And that is what I am trying to point us to in this, now, series of writings.

I hope this helps you to understand better what I am trying to say. God is incomprehensible. He is so deep that there is no way for human mind to fathom Him. Thus it is difficult to delve into that depth, human flesh to human flesh, without chancing misunderstanding. But try we must, because jumping in head first with faith in Him is the only way to go deeper. Your sharing makes sure of my understanding. And sharing our findings as we go deeper into Him is one way He helps us to find those deeper waters for ourselves.

Thank you, again, Darlene, for not just sitting in your concern that I was speaking falsely about the Christ. If you had questions, others did as well. Thank you for letting God use you to give opportunity for clarification. I hope and believe this will at least clear up the water a little, settling the mud of confusion and misunderstanding to bring clarity and the ability to catch the reflection of God and His glory.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah33:3).

THE SECRET PLACE

“The Secret Place of Most High” God, the place in which Psalm 91:1 calls us to dwell—our dwelling place of healing, strength, power, provision, protection, freedom, etc: What is The Secret Place? I’ve been thinking on this awhile and here are the thoughts rolling around in my head.

Is being “in the Spirit” theSecret Place? I don’t think so. However, The Spirit in us and us in Him is needful for entry into the Secret Place. The Spirit is the “third person” or revelation of God. He is palpable. We know when He is near. He opens up to us the truths of God, empowers us for service, and to overcome fears and failures. He is the seal of God’s approval and relationship with us for all eternity. His authority over us comes from both the Father and the Son. He speaks to us only what the Father instructs Him to. He is wholly God, but somehow limited in His authority and work by the will of the Father and the Son.

Is the Son theSecret Place? He is the Hiding Place, but I don’t think He is theSecret Place. We are completely hidden in Christ. He gives the Spirit charge to fill us and be our teacher in His stead, while He covers us. Jesus covers us with His blood of propitiation—the full price that covers our sin. He covers us in His robes of righteousness. Why? Because the Father cannot look on sin, so Jesus covers us, hiding our sin ridden flesh, so that we may have fellowship with the Father. But Jesus is not the Father—somehow, beyond my comprehension, they are one and the same but different.

Jesus worked hard in His earthly ministry to make a clear distinction between Himself and the Father. He told us that the Father has given Him all authority in heaven and earth, making Him King and giving Him power over His own life, to take it up or lay it down. He had the keys to Hades where He deposited all sin for all eternity; the debt is paid, and acceptance of His provision assures that we do not join our sin there for everlasting time. But He is not Father.

He made it clear when another called Him “good” that only the Most High God, our Father is good. Why would not the Sinless Lamb of God be considered good? Could it be that, in order to prove Himself sinless and able to withstand temptation, He had to be open to temptation? That says to me that there had to be a struggle of some sort there that was overcome, otherwise how would He truly know how we struggle in our flesh? How would He truly understand?

Jesus also made it clear that only the Most High God and Father knows all, for He said, “But of that day and hour (of His return) no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).

So God is one, but He reveals Himself to us in three distinct personalities: the all powerful Spirit who is sent out to do the bidding of Father and Son; the Son who, according to inklings throughout Scripture is the part of God that can relate with sinful man and has done so throughout the ages in the form of “The Angel of the Lord” and in the body and work of the Son of God and Savior of man, and in the Father. We don’t fully understand all this, but this is the picture we get throughout scripture, and it is glory to behold. God, who cannot look on sin, made provision through His seeming Split Personality that is beyond our full comprehension, so that He could fulfill His promise to be with us always and so that He could bring about the fullness of His purpose and plan in the completeness of time.

But there is a part of God—the part that Jesus calls “Father” and instructs us who are His children-in-Christ to call Him that as well—that is kept in holiness, separate from man. He is the One who has all authority in Himself. No one gives it to Him. No one can take it away. It is Who He is. Father is the one who has all knowledge and understanding in Himself; amazingly and unfathomably holding some things even from the conscious understanding of His Son—who is somehow Himself in the flesh of a Man. The Father is the One part of God’s wholeness who cannot even look on evil; The One whose holy essence is the cause of any inkling of evil trying to enter His presence being laid out in instant death upon entering His sanctuary. He is the one who is only found in the Holy of Holies. This is the part of God that Jesus and the Spirit constantly call us to draw near to and know. Could this be the Secret Place of the Most High God?

In pre-Christ days, God poured forth His presence into the tabernacle area known as the Holy of Holies. This is where Moses and the spiritual heads that followed him entered in to the very presence and fellowship of God. As the days of the priests came in, it was permitted for the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies once each year to make atonement for the sins of the people. But it was required for that high priest to be thoroughly washed of all sin before he could enter. He went through spiritual cleansing for days before his entry, then was washed physically and placed in specific robes for his entry into the presence of God. Before he entered, the priests serving alongside him would tie a rope around his ankle, for if he failed to repent of even what man would deem to be a “small sin,” he would drop dead in the presence of God’s holiness. The rope allowed for the body to be removed without endangering those who would retrieve him.

Then enters Jesus, the High Priest ordained by God, the last one ever needed. He paid the price for all sin, and in the instant of that debt being fully covered, God tore open the Holy place of His dwelling. Now it makes sense to me why Jesus is somehow the housing of only a part of God’s wholeness, for if all of God was in the Lamb, all mankind would be dead from the touch of His holiness, and He would have no need to get on that cross.

Jesus came in the power of God’s Spirit and paid the full price of sin, and the Father tore open the Holy of Holies, inviting all in who will receive the covering of the Price and walk in the Power. In His earthly ministry, Jesus constantly pointed all who would listen to God the Father and His ways, instructing us to worship The Most High God and Father in Spirit and in truth. And He taught us to pray, not to Himself, but to the Father in the name of the Son—as representing Him and His interests and in His authority and covering; thus, fulfilling our earthly role in Christ as His priest unto God for mankind; His representative in the earth; His body, having His authority to enter into the holiness of God by the blood of the Lamb who is our High Priest and has made the way open to us.

The Secret Place: the place where God in all His fullness is made available to us. The place where we find healing and power and provision and protection and peace and all that God is, as He reveals Himself more and more to each individual member of Christ. It is said of Joshua, the son of Nun, that when Moses left the tent of meeting , Joshua would remain there. He was seeking to dwell in that Secret Place, the inner sanctum of God. This is our calling. This is our aim.

“He who DWELLS in (the shelter of) the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty, Whose power no foe can withstand” [Psalm 91:1, AMP (NASB)].

GraceDefined #1: Unmerited Favor

Using the Amplified version of scripture in her sermons, a verse used by Joyce Meyer stands out to me one day, as it brought greater refinement to my understanding of what God’s grace is and how it works. Hearing that verse read aloud started me on a personal journey to discover the greater depths of God’s grace toward us. Digging out every scripture I could find using the word “grace” in the Amplified, what better place to start than with what is already known.

The most common definition of grace I know of is “unmerited favor.” It is undeserved favor that God chooses to give, not because of who we are or what we do and don’t do, but because of who He is and because of His own desire toward and for us. God is the giver of grace.

This grace is spoken of in such passages as 1 Peter 3:7, where husbands are called to honor their wives, realizing that though they may be physically weaker, they are joint heirs of equal standing in God’s grace. Paul says in Romans 12:3 that it is because of this grace, this unmerited favor, that he is able to give warning to others against thinking more highly of self than we ought. It sounds to me like this “unmerited favor” is important for us to understand and possess so that we can rightly relate to one another, and so as to think correctly about self and others. But what exactly does “unmerited favor” mean?

According to the angels words to Mary in the Amplified version of Luke 1:30, this unmerited favor means “free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving-kindness.” This grace toward Mary is what made her worthy of being God’s chosen mother of the Christ Child. This chapter of scripture states no particularly outstanding attributes that Mary had to make her favorable beyond the fact that she was a pure virgin. It was God’s grace toward her that chose her for the honor of service as the chosen one for birthing the King of kings and Lord of lords into this world.

John 1:17, Amplified, defines this grace as “unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing.” It is the mercy of God toward us that honors us as His chosen people, useful in the accomplishing of His good will and purpose in this life, providing us spiritual blessing and saving grace through Jesus Christ; and by it He gifts us for service (Romans 3:24, 5:20-21; 1 Peter 5:12).

So that means no worries, beloved, if you feel unworthy and inadequate for God’s use. God has you covered by grace—His unmerited favor and lovingkindness that gives to us the spiritual blessing of partnership with Him in His purpose and plan. One thing I noted that accompanies our receipt of this grace of our God is the heart-peace to walk in it (2 Timothy 1:2, 9-10). So go forth in peace and prosper the Kingdom. God’s grace has you covered.

“By Silvanus, a true, loyal, consistent, incorruptible brother, as I consider him, I have written briefly to you, to counsel and urge and stimulate you and to declare to you that this is the true account of the grace (the undeserved favor) of God. Be steadfast and persevere in it” (1Peter5:12).

Join me in my next blog session for more on grace.

(PS: My blogs have a tendency to run words together, when pasted in. Sometimes I forget to proof for that before posting. Please forgive when that happens.)

The Royal Wedding – by Adele Simpson

As I watched England’s Royal Wedding I kept being drawn to dwell on “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb” where the groom is Christ Himself and the bride is the Church.

There was great mystery and anticipation surrounding Catherine’s wedding gown.  In Revelation 19:7 & 8 NKJV we can understand how important the wedding garment is:   “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

Prince Williamwas dressed in red which reminded me of the blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Catherine kept being referred to as a “commoner” and I thought about “gentiles” being grafted into Christ with Israel.

The music was beautiful ending with the hymn, “Jerusalem”. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  God is our song and has become our salvation.

Westminster Abbey was adorned with trees. JESUS is the Tree of Life.

The couple was exhorted from God’s Word throughout the wedding. Catherine’s brother read from Romans 12. May all the world know that heaven and earth are passing away but God’s Word abides forever.  May Prince William and Princess Catherine and all the world know that man is like the flowering grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fade but the Word of God abides forever.  May they and we build our lives on the eternal. 

England’s Royal Wedding cost millions of dollars and was a labor of love. We are purchased with God’s very own blood—THE ULTIMATE LABOR OF LOVE.

It is estimated that 2 billion people watched “The Royal Wedding” but someday every eye will SEE JESUS.

Only the Holy Spirit can prepare us for “THE DIVINE WEDDING”.  May we be putty in our Father’s hand allowing Him to make us like Christ.  May we be ready for the Wedding of all weddings where there will be unspeakable joy, full of glory for all of eternity.

People at the The Royal Wedding were from all walks of life from all over the world.  The Kingdom of God is made up of every tongue, tribe and nation. The invitation is open to all.  God is not willing that any should perish but all should have everlasting life.  He stands with open arms ready to receive unto Himself all who will repent of sin and receive Him as LORD.  He is LOVE.

Soldiers riding horses were prominent at the celebration of The Royal Wedding.  In Revevelation 19:11-14 NKJV we read: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.”

Yes, the King is coming—BE READY!!!

Take a righteous R & R with Romans and Revelation and BE BLESSED!!

Written by Adele Simpson, Pastor’s wife in Oklahoma. © 4/30/11. Used by permission.

On the Frontlines

“When you came into and became a part of the Kingdom of God, you were given spiritual territory to maintain and rule over. You were given authority over the devil and the power to overcome temptation and to rule over your own flesh. You have been appointed as watchmen to stay alert and be aware of any intrusion into your environment. Now you must re-establish yourself in your authority by way of faith, and evaluate the condition of your spiritual atmosphere, and then go to work to make it a clean habitation for My presence, says the Lord” (SMALL STRAWS IN A SOFT WIND by Marsha Burns – 4/28/11)

This “prophesy,” shared by a friend, is very true to what God has called me to and had me do for two years now.

Two years ago, God put me into a type of Nasserite vow time of fasting for what He revealed to be for the mental, physical and spiritual health of the men in our family, and for the State of the Union—meaning every union created by God: especially for our unity with God and in our marriages, as well as for unity of every alliance created by God. It has been an intense, God led time of reclaiming territory in my own life and crying out for the lives of family members for things I did not fully understand, but I knew that God knew.

When we begin to deliberately stand firm against enemy incursion into our territory inChrist, we must be ready for enemy encounters. This is a spiritual warfare truth that has proved out in my own personal experience in this two year fast for my family, as well as in previous similar calls to battle array.

When God’s people realize that we are on the frontlines of spiritually inspired battles and we take our stance with God we must be ready, for there can be some ugly things come out of filthy closets as God reveals where the enemy is hiding.  That filth may not come out of our own closets, but out of the closets of those around us who affect the spiritual atmosphere of our territory.

Little did I know the horror that God would uncover as He revealed the cause of my call to this rather unusual and long session of fasting. That reason for my call apparently began at the time of my call to prayer and fasting and is finally revealed to us.

It was two years ago that someone we love dearly and that we trusted and respected as a man of godly character, went on a two week spree of sexual assault against a then 11 year old child. That child recently opened up about it, and we learned of other, more recent ungodly conduct involving another child.

It is astonishing to me that God called me to pray and fast, somehow using that to uncover this horrendous truth. But, as I consider all we know right now and the timing of my call, I wonder: is it God’s call on me to fight for things unseen that kept his assault against the first child to only a two week occurrence that did not progress to greater, more horrendous assault?

Never doubt, nor question, the call of God to stand in battle array, fighting in spiritual realms to take and hold territory God ordains to be His. There is always good purpose in it. My experience shared here is only one of many such calls. I always hate finding the things God uncovers that is bringing destruction to our sphere of influence, but God has proven faithful every time to bring good and glory in the restoration of that territory to His good use and purpose.

As difficult as it is to face a filthy closet, there is nothing like the peace and sense of accomplishment when it is cleansed and in good order again. So when the call comes to you, go forth in faith, mighty warrior, and prosper the Land.

DarleneDavis©4/28/11

Armory

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle (forbearing) spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds inChristJesus. 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. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NASB)

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Looking at this in light of recent spiritual and physical assaults to my state of mind and heart, I can see where this passage would fit well with those like Ephesians 6:10-18 and 1 Peter 5:6-11. I see this passage as fitting into our spiritual warfare armory.

One thing our enemy does through our circumstances and struggles is to try to keep us down and discouraged, focused on the storm, the darkness, the valleys of life, rather than focused on our God and His power to prevail over these things that come against us. So what are the aspects seen here that fit our spiritual armory?

First rejoicing in the Lord: Rejoicing in the Lord encompasses both the shield of faith, as rejoicing requires trust in and focus on the good things of God and His ways toward us, and the belt of truth, for truth about God and His ways frees us from fear of life’s issues. And second, it is part of our sword, the word of truth, for true rejoicing in the Lord requires we know the truth about our God and His ways.

Letting our gentle, forbearing spirit be known says to me to live the life we profess, standing firm in faith, bearing witness of our God, trusting Him. It requires our helmet of salvation be in place and our feet shod with the peace the gospel brings us. It requires the belt of truth to be in place because the truth of God abides within us.

Prayer with thanksgiving is a vital part of the armor of God. It is like holding the shield up to cover us and those around us. True thankfulness stems from hope in God that believes He is who He says He is and He is doing what He says He will do. Lifting up prayer with gratitude is like lifting our shields up over ourselves and those around us to ward off the fiery darts of evil. I think of the practice of armies who would huddle together, shields up, to form a turtle shell affect over the whole when enemy arrows would fly in. That is what prayer with thanksgiving does for us. Through these things we receive the peace of God which guards our heart and mind inChristJesus.

As we stand firm in this way, we are to dwell on “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.” This tells me that the scriptures upon which I meditate, the songs I listen to, the words I let rest within me, all should lift me to higher ground through truth, the honorable, righteousness, purity, the lovely and loveable things of good repute, excellence and praise worthiness. Any meditation that leads me in the opposite direction, bringing me to focus on the lie, the dishonorable, the unrighteous, the impure, the unlovely and unlovable things of evil repute, half-hearted, and condemning, should be avoided.

Even listening to good, true, Christian songs and meditations is wrong place, wrong time for us, if it focuses us on the bad and evil dark things of this life, instead of on the good and right, true, lovely and excellent qualities of God and His promises and ways. For example, I was listening to a good, Christian song that was talking about how God walks with us through the valleys, but my heart was focusing on the valley I am in and becoming sad, instead of hearing the work of God in that valley, and being lifted up. So that meditation at that moment was harmful to me. I realized that and changed my focus rather than being led into a pity party for the day. Others listening to that same song in that same moment, could have focused on God’s presence in the valley and been encouraged and lifted up by it. But my being brought deeper into the shadows of that valley was sure signal to change to a new song.

The greatest part of this armory supply list is that as we learn to practice these things in the midst of our spiritual battles, God’s very presence joins us there. God’s enemy cannot stand so as to prevail in His presence. When we use our God given armor in this way, we usher in the Presence and Power of God, who turns our darkness into brightest day.

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit of God

“Who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1:1b-2).

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit equips us to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John15:1-5).

Without God’s Spirit at work in us, it is beyond us to fully obey. Many people believe their works will save them, but it is only through saving grace that we have access to the power of God in the Spirit, and only with His sanctifying work can we be seen by the Father as good. Even Jesus said of Himself as a man that “no one—not even me—is good, but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing of any truly good nature. Our flesh will always destroy the goodness we desire, without God’s grace working to cleanse us.

Thus the Spirit also sanctifies us through the constant sprinkling of the blood of Christ. What is the significance of this sanctifying work of the Spirit? Let’s look at a few Old Testament passages to get a glimpse of this important work of the Spirit.

“So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8).

The blood of sacrifice sprinkled on the people is a sign of the covenant promise that will not be broken by God. The Spirit of God is our covenant seal authenticating the work of God in us. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise; who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

“Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him” (Exodus 29:21).

To consecrate is to purify and make holy, setting it apart for service. The sprinkling of His blood on us, consecrated us, making us holy acceptable as vessels, useful in His service.

“He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean…” (Leviticus 14:7).

The sprinkled blood cleanses and is a sign of cleansing. We are cleansed of all unrighteousness, cleansed of the leprosy of sin by the blood of this Lamb of God (John15:3; 1John1:9).

“Thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body and wash their clothes, and they will be clean” (Numbers 8:7).

Jesus is the Living Water who quenches the unquenchable thirst of mankind, filling that empty spot that will be satisfied by none other, and giving to us true life more abundant and full. Sprinkled in Him we are purified and made clean.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:25).

He not only cleanses us immediately and eternally by the sprinkling of His blood, but His blood, like Living Water, cleanses us from all filthiness and all idolatry day by day, here a little there a little, removing unrighteousness from us as He reveals our need of His constant cleansing and perfecting work (Philippians 1:6).

“Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand” (Isaiah 52:15).

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He died as a sacrifice for sin that we may be spared that death, and He arose to new life as the First Born of God, taking His rightful seat as one worthy to reign on me and on all who will believe.

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“What does it say? ‘THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED’” (Romans 10:8-11).

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).

As Sunday approaches, I am rejoicing over our King this Easter, praying the sprinkling of His blood for all who will receive it.

Mirror Image

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:21-15, NASB).

 

Jesus is the Word, John tells us, and when He is vitally abiding within us, we are saved by God’s grace in Christ for all eternity.

In this passage I see that we need saving grace in two ways: first and foremost being the eternal salvation of our souls through belief in and surrender to the saving grace found in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection paying the price due. But then we need step by step salvation from acting out in the flesh to walking steadfastly in the truths of God, otherwise we would just believe in Jesus and continue on our own path without any difference found in our life through Him.

Every word of God is useful to cut away the things of the flesh and grow us in the truths of God and His way, so that we are able to choose life over death in our day to day circumstances, and thus restoring in us the very image of God (Hebrews 4:12).

Jesus, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, brings His Word to life in us. He uses His Word to equip us to understand, putting all together so as to help us to know and grow in His ways and to know how to apply His truths to our daily circumstances. Thus, through His Word applied to life, He saves us choice by choice as we see and walk in that truth day by day, keeping us through His word from falling away from Him, where our ability to relate with Him is hindered. The word implanted, becoming more and more who we are and dictating more vitally our lives and paths as a result, saves our souls, our fleshly bodies, from walking contrary to our God.

That being true, when we have the word truly implanted in this vital, life directing way, it proves us to be His as we become doers of the Word, living it out as He did, rather than hearers who are deluded. Did you get that? Those who merely hear God’s word and never apply it to their lives are deluded. How are they deluded?

Hearers who do not do are those branches spoken of in John 15: the ones that fall away, dry up and are burned. You see, we are grafted into the vine of God’s people, Israel, through Christ (Romans 11). When a person hears the truth, they may momentarily bump up to the vine as if to graft with it. Desiring eternity without giving self to the relationship, they fail to become vitally united with it, thus drying up for lack of the food of the Word and the Living Water of His Spirit.  Having no vitally growing root in them, they fall away and are burned.

These hear of God’s grace in Christ and accept it as a truth in their mind, seeming to attach to Him, but then they never feast on Him so as to remain in Him. They die on the vine, never fully committing to His Lordship, failing to be changed by His word, and they fall away with no root in them. Then because they know He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in their head, they, believing they are safe for all eternity, go on living their lives of wanton pleasure, and never realize they are still lost in sin because they failed to have The Word Implanted. They are deluded, having a form of religion, without truly belonging to the Vine, which is Jesus. So they struggle, wavering back and forth like the seas, wondering why they never get anywhere with the power of others they see growing in Him.

Am I saying people can lose their salvation? No. I am saying that people can have a head-knowledge of Jesus that sets them up against the vine as if to graft to it, but that never gets into their being to unite them to the vine for all eternity. They are like the demons who know of Jesus, but refuse His Lordship. (Luke 4:34; James 2:19)

God uses His Word, implanted in us, to transform us from the fleshly person we are who has the image of God in them distorted by sin, to one who is restored to that image through grace and the Word, living and active within. For this to happen, God’s Word of truth and righteousness has to become part of who we are, the very makeup of our being and personality. To habitually read God’s word and be encouraged to do better in an area of life, only to consistently turn away and immediately forget what we read, returning to our own way, is like looking in a mirror to see who we are to be, only to forget what we look like when we turn away, never truly becoming Christlike in nature.

People who quickly forget the good word they hear, waver back and forth from hope with faith to destitute poverty of soul, never being changed by God’s revealed will. But those who receive the word into themselves, making it the vital, life-giving seed that works in them this change into godliness, find liberty and blessing that transforms their lives to the abundance and effective example that God desires us to be in Him. Such bear within themselves the very image of Christ that makes them whole and empowers them to stand, firm in faith and faithful in Him.

Does this mean that a true Christian will never waver? No. We are each on a journey to perfection, being continually transformed day to day into His likeness, but our flesh does not give up easy (Philippians 1:6). For us, we will look in the Mirror of God’s Word, see who we ARE in Christ, only to walk away and forget to live it in that area of struggle; but we do eventually grasp the word and transform to the image. God does not generally lead us into perfection over night. It is a process, growing us to greater depths of righteousness, here a little, there a little, as we are able to bear it. We have times of struggle when He leads us to deal with deeper root issues; and times of great growth, when we bear the fruit of His image in the power of His Spirit, never to fall back into the old-man-ways in that area of maturity again.

I have about 50 rose bushes in our yard. They put on big, beautiful roses for the most part, very hardy, lasting in beauty for the entire summer. But some of my bushes are obviously grafted to other roses to effect a change in them that is meant to make them the hardy bushes they are. From time to time the grafted bush will put on wiry, sprawling branches with less desirable small roses that destroy the beauty of the bush. If I let those branches keep going, they will take over the bush, destroying the larger roses. So I have to cut those sprawling branches away, allowing the transformation of the bush to take root and produce the desired fruit.

It is the same with us. When we are vitally grafted to Christ, we will as a branch in Him, grow to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness and glorifying our God. But then on occasion, our old nature will sprout forth, bearing fruit in keeping with our old habits and ways. That is when we see God’s discipline come in, pruning away the fruit of death so that the fruit of life more abundant and full can take full root and grow strong. As we fully surrender to His pruning shears, we graft more fully to Him producing the desired fruit.

Just as we can know the bad tree—the ungodly person—by their fruits, so the godly person is known and revealed by theirs. As we are daily changed into greater depths of His likeness by His Word implanted, we prove to be His children (Matthew3:8-10; 7:15-22; Hebrews 12:1-13).

So the Word of God is a mirror for us, revealing to us what we look like in Christ. And that Word, implanted into our very being, equips us to walk away from the mirror as living proof of Christ in us. The important thing is that day by day, as we look in that spiritual mirror, we see more of Him, and walk away from the mirror with that image intact, being more like Him throughout our days.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 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 12:1-3).

Forgiving God’s Way (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday we looked at our call to forgive as God forgives, in accord with His seventy-times-seven principle. Today we seek to answer the question, “How do we do that?” I believe God long ago taught me a very important principle that must be practiced by choice if we are to achieve the 70 X 7 goal of grace.

“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins” Isaiah 43:25.

In a season of struggle in our marriage, reading through Isaiah, I come to chapter 43. Over and over I try reading to the end of the chapter and beyond, but can’t go on, as I keep being drawn back by the Spirit to verse 25.

Finally I say, “What? What, Lord? What do You want me to see?”

Yes, I was that brazen. I was frustrated, not wanting to look at what God was saying. I knew it would require something of me that at that instant I was not sure I wanted. But that question was the first step toward healing in my marriage. And God’s answer has led me to a greater walk of grace toward self and others.

Finally opening up to God’s work in me, I read that verse again and saw the words “for My own sake.”

“What do you mean, ‘for Your own sake,’ Lord?”

Backing up to see what came before, I note that Israel was still in the midst of their sin against God when He penned this wonderful verse of assurance. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”

“Why would You forgive while they are still in their sin, Lord? Isn’t repentance required for forgiveness?”

“For My Own sake,” says He, impressing upon my heart the following understanding. “Israel was constantly falling away from My will for them. If I had not chosen to forgive them from the beginning of time, I would have wiped them from the face of the earth. And I certainly would not have sent my Son to die such a cruel death on their behalf or yours. But from the beginning of time I have been working a plan, to create for Myself a people after My own heart, people I can love and walk in relationship with.

“For My Own sake, so I could fulfill My purpose rather than destroy it, having the relationship with My created beings that I desire, I chose to forgive today tomorrows insult, making My grace ready as a gift to be given. And you, for your part, must forgive as I have forgiven you, for the sake of relationship with Me and with your husband, and with yourself. For your unforgiveness will not only destroy your marriage and My will for you, but it will also destroy your health: mentally, physically and spiritually.”

“I am willing, Father. Make me able.”

We got through those rocky days and will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in August; daily growing more in love than ever before and happily wed we are, by grace. Was it always easy? No. I often had to remind myself, even convince myself that “I forgave that insult yesterday, for my own sake and God’s.”

That lesson has helped me to deal with every insult since, letting others off my hook and leaving them to God so that I can maintain peace within and peace with Him. Now that does not mean that I keep putting myself into the fire. I have a relationship that I had to walk away from. The constant hurt and struggle was destructive. I love that friend dearly, and I am ready when they are to mend our relationship. When I encounter them, my love soars to the heights for them and we relate well together by grace, but I sense release from putting myself into that position of hurt until they are ready to deal with the issue.

Another such difficult relationship is with my daddy. I love him dearly and love visiting with him, hearing all his old stories and laughing together with him. But I have learned that it is okay, when he starts getting into his paranoid accusations, for me to hug his neck and say “so-long for awhile.”

I do not have to sit in the hurt when it is obvious that there is nothing I can do to change the other person’s thinking and beliefs; when the other person is unwilling or incapable of hearing truth or changing their way. It falls out of my sphere of responsibility and into God’s lap when there is nothing I can do about ‘it’.

Now that brings thought of a truth that must be realized. When insult comes from accusation, make sure to sit before God with it before letting it go. It is important to learn to allow God to help us rightly evaluate the accusing words of others. If we find that what they say is true, we need to deal with that, coming into repentance, making amends, etc. If we find the accusation to be false with no conviction of Spirit leading us to some fault of our own, then forgive, forget and go forward without looking back so as to cling to hurt, anger, and unforgiveness. If we can address the issue with the person and get things lined out fine; if not, we have to trust it to God and go on with life.

Jesus taught in His own example in life and in His own words of instruction that there are times when we need to knock the dust off our feet, like with my friend that I do not deliberately associate with anymore. And sometimes, for our own safety and ability to continue our journey in right standing with God, we have to walk out of the situation and go on our way, as when He walked out of the crowd in His own hometown. (Matthew10:14;Luke4:16-30)

So what does it mean to “shake the dust off your feet”? There are two things I know of.

One, according to the passage in Luke, is that it is a testimony against them, bearing witness before God as to the insult to Him and / or self, and leaving the judgment to Him.

And two, it is an act of leaving the anger, hurt, unforgiveness, resentment, etc, behind with the dust. Shaking it off is a refusal to allow the effects of the insult to cling to us so as to harm us: refusing to allow the emotions brought on by such to hinder our effectiveness in Christ, our relationship with God, our ability to relate with the offender or others, or our own health and wellbeing.

This act of knocking the dust off is what is meant by “remember it no more.” That does not mean that thought of the insult never enters our mind again. The memory of the insult may still flare up, but because we effectively knock the dust off, the impact of the insult no longer affects us. Thus, like God, who certainly has an excellent memory, often reciting Israel’s sins to them, we remember the sin no more in ways that would cause us to reenter the hurt and sever relations needlessly.

“So, Darlene,” you may ask, “if we are to forgive today tomorrow’s insult, where then does repentance fit in. After all, we are called to repentance.”

Forgiveness is our part in the discord, and we can choose to forgive as God has forgiven us through Christ. Repentance is the responsibility of the one who sins against us. It is the hand of an individual, reaching out in acknowledgment of one’s need of forgiveness with understanding of the requirement to change one’s ways; thus, being ready to receive the forgiveness given. Like with God, our choice to forgive beforehand makes our forgiveness a gift of grace. Our forgiveness, like God’s, is then found at the ready, gift wrapped with bows of love-filled hope for a better tomorrow in that relationship.

“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins,” for I am leaving the dust behind me.

 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32; see alsoMatthew6:9-15; Mark 11:20-26)

Forgiving God’s Way (Part 1 of 2)

 “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22, NASB).

 Peter asked Jesus this question about forgiveness, quoting the number of times required by the religious law of the day as the number of times to forgive. They took that number literally to mean that after seven times, they were free to hold unforgiveness even if the person was sincere in their repentance.

Jesus’ answer seems to up the number greatly to seventy times seven. But what exactly does that mean? Is it just a bigger number that we can count? If it is just a bigger number that we can count out, what of the teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 where it says that love—God’s kind of agape love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (vs. 5), meaning that it does not add up the insult to be used against someone over and over?

So what does it mean, this seventy times seven? Here’s a possibility.

Seven is the number of the perfection of God. Zero is the number of infinity. Seventy times seven times is telling us that as God forgives perfectly, we are to strive to forgive as He forgives, in infinitum. Only by His grace can we do that. It is a call to rely fully on Him for our ability to forgive those who hurt and offend us.

So how do we do that? I believe God took me deeper into understanding His call to forgive as He does long ago in a personal time of struggle. We will look at that tomorrow.

That You May Live

I love reading the verses in the Amplified version of scripture that talk of God’s desire for our seeking after Him.

“Now set your mind and heart to seek (inquire of and require as your vital necessity) the Lord your God…” (1 Chronicles 22:19).

“…If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him as your first and vital necessity] you will find Him…” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

“Asa…commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers [to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity], and to obey the law and the commandment” (2 Chronicles 14:4).

“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]” (Psalm 27:8).

With this craving desire for God in heart, Amos 5:6 gives our closing principle for our journey to discover what we can about why God would say to my heart, “Know Me. I am seeking your face,” and to get an idea of what that means. Amos 5:6 says, “Seek the Lord, that you may live…”

No, I am not going to suggest that without us, God would die. God is God. He is self-existent, all powerful, everlasting God; and Jesus said that the Father can raise up rocks to praise Himself if we don’t. But He has chosen that we be vitally united together. He is our vital necessity, needed for life. And He chooses to link with us as if we are His very body.

Think of the number of ways God reveals that link to His being our needful sustenance for life through His Word. Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life and the Living Water. Food and water are both vital necessities for life. Without food, we would die in a matter of a few weeks. Without water, only days.

Over and over in scripture we are told that we are the body of Christ; and that God has chosen our bodies as His Temple in which to dwell. Calling us His body is not insignificant. He is stressing His choice to work through us to finish the work of Christ in the earth, as if we are His very body. Sounds like a vital, symbiotic union, doesn’t it? He has chosen to dwell with us and know us. And He desires for us to realize our need of Him to be that of food and water for life. Not only that, but how do we receive the Spirit?

God gave life to man as He breathed into his nostrils. “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Just minutes without breath, and we die.

God gives new life to man, sealing us with His Spirit, through the breath of His mouth. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).

We feast on His Word and find food for thought in facing the challenges and choices of our day. Go for weeks without His word, and we will know its destructive effects. We drink deep of His Spirit, flowing to us with all that He is and through us to affect the world around us. Just a few days without experience of the Spirit, and we wilt with the weariness of life. Relationship with God is as easy as breathing. Exhale sin in repentance, inhale grace with righteousness. Exhale worry and fear; inhale faith and hope. Exhale “me”; inhale HIM. Stop breathing, and….

Inhale. Exhale. Hear His heartbeat. Flow with His Spirit. Breathe prayer without ceasing. Be His feet. Touch as His hands. Shine forth His love from a heart that beats in rhythm with His.

God is as vital to our existence as food, as water, and as the air we breathe. And He chooses to vitally connect with us, dwelling within us; making us into His very body on earth.

“Know ME. I am seeking your face.”

Without Ceasing!

“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face CONTINUALLY” (Psalm 105:4).

Seeking God’s face is seeking Him for who He is rather than for what He can do for us. When we seek Him in this way, He desires us to do so continually:

Continually: “Continuing indefinitely in time without interruption. Recurring in steady, rapid succession. Forming a continuous series,” says Webster. We are called to seek God’s face without ceasing. That, I believe, is because He first seeks our face continually. He desires unbroken relationship with us.

John quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:1-6).

Seeking God’s face continually requires that we “abide” in the true vine of Jesus. When we profess faith in Christ, we are grafted into the vine: Jesus. For that grafting to take, we must adhere to the vine in such a way that our very life force flows from Him, the true Vine, to us, a branch in the Vine. Proof of our abiding is seen in the growth of the branch and the bearing of fruit—and even in the pruning, for God disciplines those He loves, digging out roots of sin so we can be all He desires.

Some would say that fruit is the winning of others who will graft to the Vine. That is a type of fruitfulness, but it is not the fruit that is spoken of here. The fruit spoken of here is twofold. It begins with the branch growing and changing to look like and be an extension of the Vine. There is a saying that fits here. “God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there.”

Those who have truly grafted to the vine will begin to change and metamorphose to the very image of Christ; growing us in the fruit of the Spirit to produce so as to have within ourselves such characteristics of His very nature as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, Colossians 3:1-17). Out of that ever growing image of His perfection in nature will come the second part necessary if we are to abide in Christ, the True Vine. Again the words of Christ instruct us:

“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. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. … Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 14:15-21, 15:9-10).

Abiding requires obedience stemming out of a love for God that desires Him and to please Him above all else. In this obedience to the calling and equipping of God we find a unity with Father and Son in the power of the Spirit that solidifies our union, making for us a successful grafting to the Vine that cannot be broken.

Note that God sends the Spirit to help us. In the first verses of John 15 quoted above, we are told that we can do nothing on our own, but only in Him. It is the Spirit-Helper that empowers change and obedience in us. We cannot do this on our own, to any degree of righteousness; only through Christ, in the power of His Spirit-Helper, can we become all He desires.

We can be good people without the Spirit according to this worlds definition of goodness, and we may even grow in goodness, but there will always be something flawed in our effort of self-righteousness. Such effort in one’s own strength contains within a reliance on one’s own efforts rather than reliance upon or faith in God. Our motives when pursuing our own goodness is generally self-centered. On we could go. The Spirit helps us deny self and come to realize our destitute need apart from God and His power equipping us to live and breathe and have our being; enabling us to do so for His glory and not our own self-exaltation. John again quotes Jesus, revealing His own selfless motives:

 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:5-11, *8).

One role of the Helper is conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The reasoning given by Christ for this conviction shows that we need the Spirit’s work in us to know our need for Christ, and to believe the truth about Him. This begins with the Spirit’s wooing: helping us recognize our complete separation from God, the sacrifice of Christ and our inability to be good enough in our own strength; helping us to realize the righteousness of God that needs to replace our sin nature; and giving to us the good sense to know that, without making the changes needed as provided by the Spirit, we are doomed to an eternity without God in it. Once we make that choice and come into saving grace by this wooing of the Spirit at work in us, there is another role this convicting work does.

How many of you have a decision to make today? If you awoke with breath in your body today, raise your hand; because the very first thing you had to do upon waking was decide whether to lay there all day and while the hours away, or get out of the bed and face whatever challenge the day holds. We all have decisions to make in life.

In His work of conviction, the Spirit helps us to see the sin potential in each decision—the negatives and bad paths of life; He reveals to us the path of righteousness—the positive and good, God-things in life; and grants wisdom to discern the judgment for the path chosen—enabling us to recognize the consequences for our actions, whether we choose the good resulting in blessing, or the bad resulting in curse. The Spirit continually cries out, “Choose life that you may live, you and your children with you” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Thus God longs for us to abide in Him through the True Vine, seeking His face continually, just as He does ours.

“‘For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken, grieved in spirit, and heart-sore—even a wife, wooed and won in youth, when she is later refused and scorned,’ says your God” Isaiah 54:6)

Quick Review:

God desires relationship with us, with me. This I know, but God takes us deeper into the knowledge of Him and His ways, here a little, there a little. Before continuing to the next thought, let’s review our conclusions thus far.

I shared last week that God spoke softly to my heart, “Know Me. I am seeking your face.” That set me to discovering more deliberately what it means in Scripture when God tells us to seek His face, and how that might help us to understand more fully His seeking after our face.

Thus far we have discerned together that we are blessed by God’s presence when we devote ourselves to Him, surrendering our all to His will and way. And that He is blessed by us when we do so. Because He desires a relationship with those He created for the purpose of relationship, He seeks after us with the fiery hot desire of a devotion to us that we cannot fully fathom. That devotion is proven through the fact that He so desires a relationship with us that He gave His Son as propitiation—full payment for sin, providing us a way into this relationship He desires with us.

Through every act of love, desiring relationship with us, God is setting an example for our seeking after Him with all our personality—all our being, everything that makes us who we are. He sets the example always, doing first that which He calls us to in relationship; so our next conclusion is that God desires us wholeheartedly, with everything He is.

That leads to longing for us. When we fall short of seeking His face, He longs after us, like the father of the prodigal son. He stands at the ready, eyes open, watching for our return; ears attentively listening for any sound of our feet on that straight and narrow path back to Him.

Then we found that seeking a face to face requires presence; and not just being in the same room, but giving full focus and attention to our relationship, seeking to please God fully. Any relationship will die on the vine if not tended to and given the proper care needed for it to live and function properly. So we must give God our full attention if we desire to know Him. Consequently we can know that He is there for us fully, ready to give us His complete attention, being always in our presence.

Beginning tomorrow, we will press forward this week through two or three more sessions, bringing this course of study to a conclusion.

PRESENCE

“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]. Do not hide Your face from me….” (Psalm 27:8-9a, AMP)

Have you ever tried to talk with someone who is fidgety: constantly moving, eyes wondering, seldom looking you in the eye? How does that make you feel?

I used to do that. I remember standing outside church once, talking with a friend and ministry partner. I was listening—for the most part. But I really focused in on him when he suddenly reached out and grabbed me by the shoulders, stopping my constant sway. Since then I have made a concerted effort to be sure that I look a person in the eye, and I stop my own fidget when I realize it.

It is difficult to visit with someone when they are constantly moving, their focus being stolen by every passer-by. And I have learned that those who habitually avoid eye contact often have issues that hinder their ability to have close relationships: not the least of which is extreme lack of confidence, often from being beaten down in this life.

And then there are those of us who are just so busy that they have no time for relationships? These issues often translate into our inability to truly and fully meet with God.

Note in this focal passage the instruction for our seeking God’s face, “inquire for, require My PRESENCE as your vital need.” We should so desire to have God’s presence and attention, that if we feel He is not listening, we will reach for His shoulders to get his attention and acquire His presence.

But God is not like us. He is all present and all knowing and all sufficient. He does not sway or fidget, nor is He flighty (James 1:17; Hebrews 1:10-12; 4:13). God’s “PRESENCE” waits for us, longing for our full attention so we can commune together in truth. Crying out for us to open up to Him so we can commune together on the deeper issues of life. He longs for us to require His presence as our body needs breath for life: To long to sit with Him, walk with Him, know Him.

“I saw the Lord always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your holy one to undergo decay.  You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.”  Acts 2:25-28

Just as God wants us to long for His presence, seeking after Him, so He longs for our presence. He is ready to give each of us His undivided attention.

Look at this passage in Acts. See what it says.

God is ALWAYS in our presence, ready to help us, available to commune together over our situations as we face them, able to help us choose right paths. But what else does it say? “I SAW the Lord always in my presence….” It is a practice of faith. We must believe, as David did, that He is, that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him, and that He is present with us (Hebrews 11:6).

Through David’s testimonial we learn that He stands at our RIGHT HAND. That is the place of protection, ready to fight for us. Thus there is no need for us to be shaken by the issues of this life, knowing that our God is a consuming fire, a valiant warrior, and He stands beside us to come to our aid and protect us. No matter the difficulty of life, we have hope because of the PRESENCE of our God.

“You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your holy one to undergo decay.” God does not always protect us from every difficulty. Jesus warned that there will be trouble in this life. It is inevitable. But we have the promise that anything God allows has good purpose and will work for our good and His glory (Romans 8). We have the assurance that He will comfort and help us, then He will use us to walk with others in their situations to give them the comfort we received (2 Corinthians 1). And as I think on the fact that He will not allow us to come to decay, I realize that He will protect from any difficulty or trouble bringing us to destruction as we trust ourselves in Him. Though our flesh may die, to sin or even physically, as a result of our trouble in this life, the outcome will always be that of greater intimacy with God, in this life or the next.

Our God stands beside us, ready and waiting to make known to us the ways of life—life more abundant and full. Walking with Him, He will make us full of gladness in His presence.

He waits at the ready. Will you enter into the rest of your God through the practice of His presence and be blessed (Hebrews 3-4: focal verses 3:12, 19, 4:1-14)?

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