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)

~~*~~ 

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)?

Eyes Open; Ears Attentive

“Now, O my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place” (2 Chronicles 6:36-40).

 There are many passages in Scripture that call us to wait upon and watch for God in our life situations. One of my favorite passages that keep me mindful to watch for God in my day to day, moment by moment times, is King David’s words quoted in Acts 2:25-28. It is my constant goal and hope.

“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.”

In Solomon’s prayer covered yesterday, Solomon prays for God’s eyes to be open and His ears attentive to our prayers. Just as He graciously answered the rest of Solomon’s request as found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, He also responds to this part of the prayer in 7:15, “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” When we follow the directions given in verse 14, we have the assurance of verse 15. But what about when we fall short of the goal in verse 14? God’s grace is always available for our return to Him.

I believe that God watches and waits for us, seeking our face with eyes open for our coming and ears listening with hope for the sound of our presence. As I envision that picture, I see the Father in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

Too often we let our own sin and failure hold us back from God. Satan knows this, and uses our weaknesses and failures against us, leading us to such a sense of guilt that we enter into the condemnation that God tells us we do not have in Christ (Romans 8:1). Satan knows that if he can get us into a spirit of condemnation, he can hinder our ability to commune with and have relationship with God.

Scripture mentions that there is a sin that leads to death (1 John 5:10-21). Now many, myself included, believe this passage teaches that there is sin of many types that can lead Christians, saved by grace, to an-earlier-than-God-desired physical death; sins where we simply will not repent, keep falling to, in which our witness is hurt and our ability to be His light in the earth is dulled. But I also recognize that there is one sin that God cannot forgive, leading to eternal separation from Him. This is the sin I believe this passage teaches us we cannot pray over for another and it be answered apart from their own prayer for deliverance.

I believe that sin we cannot pray for in the place of another’s own prayer is revealed to us through one specific teaching. The only name given in scripture by which we must be saved is “Jesus”, and that requires the recipient to recognize and receive within self the gift of God found in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, on the cross through which He bore all sin. Paying the full price required that we may be saved, all sin is covered by Christ and that saving grace is ready as a gift to be received. Once truly coming under His cover of grace and His Lordship, the proof or our salvation is “in the pudding,” as they say. Lives change when God through Christ truly has our lives, and we will, day by day, little by little, become more like Christ, who came to save those who believe and show us the way of God (Acts 4:12; Romans 10, focal: vs. 9; 1 John 1:1-2:6, focal: vs. 2:1-2).

Now we can pray for people to be open to receiving this gift of grace for themselves, but we cannot accept the gift on their behalf. It can only be received by those who confess with their own mouths Jesus as Lord, and who believe with their own hearts this teaching about Christ’s death as sacrifice and His resurrection as the first fruits of new life to be received by all who accept the gift.

God the Father, desiring us with all that He is, so longed for a relationship with the people of His own heart that He provided through His Son an atoning sacrifice—the final sacrifice ever needed for sin. For all who enter the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, there is no sin so deep, no failure so disastrous that it can keep us from finding God waiting eagerly to receive us. The Father waits eagerly for our renewed and ever deepening companionship, with a robe of righteousness at the ready for our sin-drooped shoulders, and the feast of the Lamb on the banquet table, set and ready to welcome us home.

Heart and Soul

Yesterday we concluded that God designed us for blessing—Him, blessing our lives, and us, blessing His. We also found that God is devoted to us, seeking our face as His vital necessity. Hard to fathom, isn’t it; that our God would choose to need us in His life? Before pressing to the next “Seek My face” passage, the scripture covered yesterday in 2 Chronicles 7:14 led me to a prayer prayed by Solomon in 6:36-40, as they dedicated the temple to God for His use. In it, I find another “seek My face” principle.

“When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near, if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have committed iniquity and have acted wickedly’; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers and the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name, then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You. Now, O my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place” (2 Chronicles 6:36-40).

Realizing as I read this passage that God’s call in 2 Chronicles 7:14, following the instruction of which places us in a position of blessing, is answer to Solomon’s prayer; I note the requirement for that blessing to come to us being our return to God – “with all their heart and with all their soul.” We are to be wholehearted toward God, giving our all to the relationship.

There is a portion of scripture that I meditate upon often which deepens our understanding here: “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” (Colossians 1:4, AMP). Our entire human personality—all that descriptively reveals our essence as a person, rested fully and absolutely with utmost confidence in Him.

You realize, right, that God never does anything half heartedly? That means that His devotion toward us has the full force of His entire being behind it. He seeks our face with all that is within Himself, longing for us from the depths of His being. What a great longing that must be, as our God is incomprehensible to our finite thought and understanding; and what better proof of His wholehearted pursuit of us than Jesus Christ?

“But,” you may say, “He can’t lean on us like we lean on Him.” O, beloved, I believe that He has provided a way for Him to be able to lean on, rely on, be confident in us in this relationship.

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

God provides His Spirit to dwell within, making us all we need to be for vital relationship with Himself, and when He looks at us, He sees His completed work in the power of that Spirit and leans Himself on His own Spirit at work in us.

Other proofs of His ability to be confident in us: Scripture teaches that He is able to make His servant stand strong and firm (Romans 14:4). And the Father jealously desires this Spirit in us to prevail, working in us a drawing to Himself that He can respond to in like kind (James 4:1-10).

All that God is longs for us, desiring you and desiring me with a longing we cannot begin to fathom. No matter how close we get to touching His face in fellowship this side of eternity, we will never know the depths of His desire for us in this life. Stand in awe! And get ready, for tomorrow we will press forward to try to understand still more

God: Devoted to His Image Bearers

Going online to that trusty BibleGateway.com site, I type in my search: “seek My face.” Taking the results in the order God gives it to me, the first passage I see is 2 Chronicles 7:14.

“If…My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Drawn to the footnote, I read, “This well-known verse states God’s requirements for blessing: humility, prayer, devotion, and repentance.”

Wow. I see a couple of cool applications here.

When we seek God’s face in right ways, with humility of heart, praying in earnest, devoted to Him and repentant of sin, we enter the blessing of God. How awesome is that.

Now reverse that thought. When we are humble before God, seeking Him through unceasing communion of prayer, totally devoted to Him, desiring His ways above our own, we bless the heart of God. God created us not only so that He can bless our lives with His presence, but so He can have the blessing of our presence in His life! “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me; bless His Holy Name!”

Did you note the word used in the footnote for “seek My face”? DEVOTION.

God said to my heart, “Know Me. I am seeking your face.” If seeking His face comes from a heart of devotion, reversing the picture to His seeking our face reveals that God is devoted to His children. Devotion, according to Webster, is “the fact or state of being ARDENTLY dedicated and loyal to.”

Ardent: “Fiery hot, shining, glowing. Characterized by warmth of feeling typically expressed in eager, zealous support and activity.” Our God is ardently dedicated and loyal to us. The Amplified translation of this verse adds to our understanding:

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer offered in this place.” (vs. 14-15 AMP)

Could it be true that God is devoted to us, seeking for, craving after, and requiring our face as His own necessary need for life made full? I believe so, as God chooses to love us because He is love, and love needs a place to go (1 John 4:7-8). God chooses that place to be the heart of His image bearers: the men, women and children for whom He—in the body of His Son—died with the purpose of providing for us this relationship with Him.

What an awesome beginning to my journey, as I continue my study to know and understand fully that God, whom I am called to come into intimate knowledge of, is seeking “MY” face.

“Know Me. I am seeking your face”

These are the words that came as I bowed in prayer, preparing to seek my God. Praising Him, I sense that I am to be still and be quiet. Listening with anticipation, these words come sweetly to my conscious mind, “Know Me. I am seeking your face.” My heart leapt with awe and wonder. God is seeking MY face!

I know that God desires an intimate and vital relationship with us. I know that my call to resolve for this year of focus in the Spirit is for the roots of my life to grow ever deeper into Him. With these things in mind, I am excited to understand more fully what God is saying to me. What exactly does He mean: “I (the God of the universe and creator of all things) am seeking your face (Little ol’ insignificant me who too often falls short of His glory)?”

Drawn to search for the scriptures that tell us to seek His face, desiring to refresh my understanding of that terminology and its significance, I discern that in the true meaning of my need to seek His face, I will understand what He means in saying that He is seeking my face. Thus begins several blogs that will be linked in below, showing my journey into the greater depths of God-Love, this God who seeks “my” face (1 John 4:7-8).

Index (beginning tomorrow, each title below and those yet to be added will be linked in as I upload the next session from now to the conclusion of my study. May God bless us to know Him more):

God: Devoted to His Image Bearers 

Heart and Soul

Eyes Open; Ears Attentive

Presence 

Quick Review

 – Without Ceasing 

That You May Live

The Cure for Anxiety

 “More than food” came to heart as I was in prayer this morning. Looking it up on BibleGateway.com—actually in context to desire for God—I found the following thought for us who struggle with anxiety issues.

“[ The Cure for Anxiety ] ‘For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’” (Matthew 6:25)

Anxieties is a symptom of worry; and, let’s face it, worry is sin. Worry is sin because it proves lack of faith to trust God and take Him at His word.

Worry 1: God told us that He knows the number of our days; they are set in stone apart from our sin making our days fall short of God’s count. So why fear the things in life that may kill us. As I say to people who fear flying, “If God has ordained death by plane and we won’t get onboard, He can land it on us.” Likewise, if that is not our lot, why fear what will not kill us.

Worry 2: God promises to always be with us, to help us and protect us. He promises to provide for us, including providing opportunity for growth in faith and for imparting that faith to others. Yet we lock ourselves in our houses, refusing to go where God would have us go for His use and glory, being self-protective—which is pride’s false believe that we CAN protect self, or anything else for that matter.

Worry 3: God promises those who seek Him wholeheartedly and desire Him above all, that He will give them favor with man, and He does so in order that He can use us to reach others and to glorify His name in the earth. Seeing the look on their face, refusing to trust that God will give us favor with them, we fear man.

Failing to see that favor with God gives us favor with man that is beyond comprehension, we wallow in self-pity and self-preoccupation, often accusing others from our hearts with thought of what we think they think of us. In actuality, if we are honest with ourselves and God, the thoughts we fear others think of us, the things we fear they see, most often reveal our opinion of self; thoughts often ingrained in us by others who are likewise self-preoccupied, putting their insecurities and false identity, fears and faithless anxieties off on “me”.

On we could go. Worry, fear, anxiety. They are all linked together. We cannot have one without the other, and all are based in the sin of unbelief, an inability to trust God. Such struggle is all too often the result of an issue in life commonly known as the generational curse: the sins of the forefathers that open doors and provide loopholes to God’s enemy for plaguing the heart of the next generation. And yes, some struggles with such are due to faulty body chemistry that needs medication to correct, but more than not, our struggle causes the foul up in body chemistry.

Here is the procession I see and believe to be true with regard to such sickness of our flesh: we can cause our body chemistry to foul up with constant thoughts of worry and fretting.

Constant fretting causes a stress in the body that keeps the fight or flight chemicals churning. After awhile, just as happens when a person repeatedly eats so many sweets that the insulin systems of the body breakdown, we breakdown our body’s ability to cope with stress, causing us to require medications to help our body function properly.

Now you take a child who is raised under the influence of parents who walk in constant fear and anguish, and that child will grow to have messed up coping skills and a messed up body chemistry to boot. Continue that practice generation after generation and I believe we create through our sin the breakdown of the genome, planting within the very seed of man the tendency to give self to worry and fretting, and the flawed gene that makes our descendents more prone to the chemical imbalances of body that hinder one’s ability to cope.

There we have it, the next generation, set on course of a destructive force that rivals our own.

Ah ha! But then there is HOPE. With the help of our God, reverse the process. Deny the tendency to fret and worry and choose faith despite the spillage of chemicals begging us to cave under the strain. Deny our fears and step out with faith. Make it a habit, and the body will begin to heal. Though “I” may always need meds to help “me” on “my” way, the dosage can be lessened with perseverance in choosing to think with right thought. And as we train up the child in the way they should go, that gene pool can be transformed back to God’s design, bringing healing and freedom to future generations.

Most of us who struggle so can look back and see ourselves in our parents, and if we are not diligent to the task, we will look forward and see the same struggle in our children’s children. The only way to break generational issues is to learn the truth and walk in the victory of God’s deliverance from sin, while at the same time training the next generations in how to stand firm in faith and be overcomers. We open the door for their temptation when we give self to our sin. As we become victors in the battle, we can be used of God to train them in how to stand, firm in faith, when their temptation comes.

This is our task. This is our journey. This is the call of God on us: that we walk free from such faithless lives and self-preoccupations as is causing us worry, fear, and anxiety.

~~**~~

 NOTE: I oversee a support group on FaceBook for Christian Women who are dealing with depression, anxiety, and grief disorders. This article was written for them, but I know there are many who struggle with such, so I am posting here as well in hope of encouraging others to deal with these issues. There is help and there is hope to overcome.

          Our FaceBook support group is new, only 3 strong right now, but God is doing a mighty work among us. We are private, so we don’t show on the boards, but there is room for a few more. If you need a place to heal, contact me for details.

Silencing the Tempter

“…“MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.”…” (Read Matthew 4:1-11).

I have heard many use Matthew 4:1-11 to teach how Jesus used the word to counter Satanic lie and attack, and so should we. Yes, Jesus shows us here how we can perfectly counter every Satanic banter. Beyond that, what can we learn from this passage about stilling the false voice of evil? Here is what I see this morning as I read this passage anew.

One (4:3-4): yes, Jesus portrayed knowledge of the word of God well and used it to counter the false in verse three. We too must have this same working knowledge of God’s word if we are to counter the false. That requires that we be in the word regularly as God commands. And what does that command say (see Deuteronomy 6:7-8; 11:18-19)?

     Write it on our hands—that is to have it readily available for our eyes to see and vitally established in our lives so as to effect the things we do in life and come to our minds readily when in need.

     Writing it on our foreheads or frontals—the parts of the brain responsible for short term memory where we rehearse a verse or a truth of God until it moves from there to the permanent memory stores of the brain. There it can affect our decisions and actions, our way of life, our personalities, our belief systems, and our way of thinking about our God, ourselves, and others.

     It also says to talk about it when we sit up, lie down and go about our day—the word of God is active and effective, applicable to our daily lives and should color our decisions and direction. Talking about it with one another and especially with our children helps us to perceive and understand how to apply God’s word to the circumstances we live. It also equips us to help others see the right path before them in any struggle they may face, accurately applying God’s word to it. So yes, knowledge of God’s word is vital in countering falsehood and in avoiding the snares of the evil one. However, in this encounter with Jesus we see…

Two (4:5-7): Satan knows how to lie. He knows that the best lie is coupled with enough truth to be believable, and he, too, knows the truth of God, using it against us. After all, he once walked with God. So it is vital, as Jesus reveals in His counter to Satan in verse 7, that we not only know the Word, but we know the God. Jesus knew God and His promises to and about Himself, and He knew Him well enough to know that He did not need for the Father to prove anything to Him. He trusted God because of His intimate relationship with Him.

     Scripture teaches we can know His voice, discerning His speaking to us from the stranger, and so we follow Him. It teaches that we can have the Spirit and heart of God and the mind of Christ, discerning His ways from the false, so we are not deceived by the stranger. That also requires that we have an intimate relationship with God, more so than any other, so that the stranger’s voice is truly strange to us. Also God promises that His Spirit teaches us how to respond, just as Jesus did. Intimacy with God protects us from believing the lie and being tricked into putting God to the test.

     (See John 10; 1 Corinthians 2:16; John 14-16 – teachings on the Holy Spirit’s work; Acts 13:22; Romans 2:29; 6:17; 10:8-11; Ephesians 6:5-6; Colossians 3:12-17; and so many more that point to like heart with God being required of the believer)

Three: Jesus, having enough, stands on His authority and commands the enemy to leave. He did not continue to deal with Satan, but told him to leave and He did so by pointing out His relationship with and commitment to God alone. In the New Testament teachings, not only does Jesus promise that His authority goes with His Spirit to help those who stand for Him, but we are called His ambassadors, having authority to rightly represent Him in the earth. I believe that when we come to this point and take our stand as Jesus did, that God the Father steps in.

     Have you seen the movie Lion King? Remember the part when the little lion son is acting big, trying to send the hyenas away. Of course, he is way to small for his enemy while standing alone, just as we are. But then Daddy comes up behind him and just smiles at the enemy, as if to say, “If you don’t see his authority, you better see mine.” That is what I see in my mind when we stand on the authority God gives us. Our Daddy God comes up behind us and the enemy flees.

 What an awesome God we have. He cared enough to send His Son, not only to pay the full price as the final sacrifice for sin, but first He came to live a life that sets the example we can follow in living victorious on the earth.

     “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2). 

Darlene Davis © 3/28/11

God Planted Two Trees

God So Loved The World That He

PLANTED TWO TREES IN THE EARTH

Darlene Davis ©

“Which love is the greater one we can receive: that which is forced upon us or that which we give by free-will choice?”  This is the question I found myself asking people over and over during a mission project.  Without exception the answer was always the same, “That which is freely given by choice.”  So why did I ask that question?  Because I had a message to share.

New Revelation:

Some time ago, while reading Genesis one, I noticed something I never noticed before and it solidified my understanding of Christ and Him crucified.  Reading through Genesis one, I began underlining every instance in which God looked with approval on His work.  At the end of each day’s work, scripture records that God surveyed all He did that day and He “saw that it was good.”  All, that is, except for one day.

As I marked each occurrence, it suddenly dawned on me that God proclaimed the work in each day “good” except for that of day two.  Looking back at day two, I asked, “Lord, why did You proclaim each day’s work good except for that one.”

Reviewing the passage, “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.  God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.  God called the expanse heaven.  And there was evening and there was morning, a second day” (:6-8).

Meditating on that in light of my question, I recognize that water is water.  Whether it is in the form of mist, steam, ice or liquid, it is all H2O.  All water is alike.

My thoughts turned to verse 26 of Genesis 1, where, when God created humans, He said, “Let Us make man (humankind) in Our image, according to Our likeness….male and female, created He them.”  Throughout scripture we find that God desires an intimate relationship with the people of His creation, people He created to be like Himself.

Thinking on these things, I looked back to creation-day one.  There God calls only the light good.  I realized that God did not say that the expanse separating the like waters was good because of sadness.  God knew from day one that the darkness of sin would enter the world to separate Him from the beings He created for the purpose of relationship.

So I asked God, “All of this being true, Lord, why did You put that tree in the midst of the Garden?”

With that question, understanding flooded my soul, and I personally realized for the first time something I’d heard many times but had never seen it in scripture myself until that instant.  Jesus was never plan B, He was always plan A.

Deeper Understanding:

The first tree

We are told in 1 John that God is love.  That is His very nature.  Love is useless without someone on which to pour out that love.  And a love not returned is sad.  The thing I have come to understand is that God placed that tree in the center of the Garden with a command to not eat of it, not to be mean, but to set in place the plans leading to the fulfillment of His ultimate purpose: creating living beings like Himself who love Him by choice as He loves them.

Now, we are also told in the book of James that God does not tempt us to evil.  That being true, why would He place that tree there where Satan could use it to tempt His loved ones away?

I believe His purpose in placing that tree in the midst of His people where it could be used by Satan was to give His loved ones a choice.  Remember, a love by choice is always better than that which is by force. Deuteronomy records that our choice is life or death, good or evil, the blessing or the curse.  As I think on this, I understand that there is one other thing that Deuteronomy passage does not specify, but that is ours to choose nonetheless: to love, believe and trust God—or not.

In 1 Corinthians 13 we are told that love trusts; that love always thinks and hopes the best of the one loved; and that love never fails.  To choose to love God is to choose to trust Him, to believe in and have hope in the fact that His motives and purpose is always right, true and good—for our good, to give us a hope and a future.  This is the choice God provided for Adam and Eve: to choose for themselves whether to love, believe and trust Him wholeheartedly and above all else.

But get this: God is all knowing and He knew that Adam and Eave would fail to choose life, good, blessing, love, yet He still chose to plant that tree.   Why?

I believe it is because not only did God know that they would fail, He knew that they MUST fail.  Why?  Because God was not just building a home where He could live with Adam and Eve.  God is building a Kingdom of many people, descendants of creation with whom He desires to live in love and harmony.  All who enter in must have chosen to be there out of a personal love relationship with the Creator.

So we see that the tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, continues in the heart of mankind, giving a choice.  That garden failure is followed by thousands of years: God allowing each human born to choose to love or not, and in the process, letting mankind learn that we cannot be good enough to please Him in our own strength and that it takes a lot of perfect sheep being sacrificed daily to cover our own sin.

The second tree

After allowing plenty of time to pass in setting a precedent revealing our lost-ness and inability to save ourselves, God planted a second tree, the tree of Calvary on which hung the Perfect Lamb of God.  God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him and chooses Him can have eternity with God.

You see, true death, the death that God speaks of when He tells Adam and Eve, “In the day you eat of it, you will surely die;” that death is the eternal separation from a loving God who longs to have an intimate relationship with us.  That death began for all mankind the day Adam and Eve chose to hate God through disbelief and lack of trust.

But there is another eternity available to us.  That is to see the tree of Calvary, and choose life!  This is to choose to love God by believing all He says to be true about Jesus.  It is to choose to rely on, trust in, and lean on the Christ of the cross of Calvary; trusting and being confident in the fact that through Him we have eternal life with God renewed.  But get this: as God sets this tree before us, He says, “Come and eat of its fruit.” The fruit of the cross of Calvary is life eternal with God in Christ; it is cleansing from all sin; it is power to become one with the tree, bearing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Through this vital relationship with God found in Jesus Christ, we are reborn spiritually and set in right standing with God again.  The separation is bridged, the gap closed by Christ.  Never again can we be eternally separated from God by sins grip.  Once we sincerely and fully choose Jesus as our hope of salving grace, never again will we die the death brought into existence by Adam and Eve’s failure to choose life – and love.

The Proof?  The Wisdom of God Revealed

How do I know that this was God’s plan all along?  THE PROOF BEGINS by looking at the end of creation week.  At the end of the week we are told that God “saw ALL that He had made, and behold, it was very good”: ALL includes the expanse—the time of separation that gave mankind a choice.

Scripture tells of the wise builder does not begin to build without first making sure he has all he needs to finish the work begun.  It tells of the wise king does not go to war without first figuring if he has sufficient resources to win the war.  God is wisdom.  He counted up all He needed to build for Himself a Kingdom of people with whom He can have an intimate love relationship.  He saw the war that was necessary to secure that Kingdom.  And He paid the price by deliberately and strategically planting two trees so we could have a choice—to love and live with Him—or not.

Both of these trees call us to the same choice that Joshua set before Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”  Scripture tells us that today is the day of salvation.  Why is it important to choose today?  Because we have no guarantee of a tomorrow.

In Tanzania, not long before writing this, a team of believers shared Christ with a Tanzanian man, who joyously and sincerely prayed to receive the gift of Jesus on Monday.  On Tuesday, they ran up a hill in response to the screams of a woman, and they watched that man’s earthly life fade away.  On Wednesday they rejoiced with Christian brethren there, knowing that they will see this man again in the eternal Kingdom of God, and they shared Christ with over a hundred of his friends and family. We never know when our last breath will come, and the opportunity to choose will be behind us. “Choose today Whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord” ~ Joshua 24:15.

Gift To Receive

God holds Jesus out as a gift.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “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.”

In John 6:51 Jesus said of Himself, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  Jesus gave His life for the whole world.  All of sin—the sins of an entire world is paid for in Christ.  Now He is a gift, held out by the hand of God for all who will believe to take and have for all eternity.  But a gift remains the property of the giver until the one it is offered to chooses to reach out and take it for his own.

Choose you this day.  Today we have two trees to choose from.  Will we continue in the way of Adam and Eve, choosing the tree of the knowledge (intimacy with) the good and evil of this world, struggling in our flesh to find significance and to reach the god called “desire”?  Or will we choose the tree of Calvary on which a sacrifice of love was made, giving opportunity to enter into an eternal love relationship of intimacy with the only true God and Father who gave His Son so that we might know Him intimately for all eternity?

How?

How does one reach out and receive the gift?  It starts by acknowledging the truth that God spent eons revealing: that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); that we are incapable of earning our way to heaven because of our tendency to fall to sin’s ways, thus we need the provision of God to give us that way.

With true and sincere repentance, desiring to turn from sin to walk in righteousness with God, we must believe and acknowledge that Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice for our sin, and that God raised Him to life again, the propitiation—full price required to pay for our sin, and that He has seated Him at His right side on the throne of glory as Lord and King of His eternal Kingdom.  Then we must acknowledge that only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, just as He proclaimed—that no man can come to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).  Once we acknowledge these facts, then we can reach out by faith and ask God to place the gift of Jesus into our hearts, giving us the eternal life He died to provide, and giving us power over our own sin, equipping us to follow in Jesus’ example, making Him Lord of our lives.

Romans 10:9-10 says, “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.”

“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22, NASB).

Go to someone you know is a believer who has chosen Love of God through Christ and tell them of your decision.  They can help you know what to do next.

Assurance

Verse 11 of Romans 10 promises, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  You can have assurance of eternity with Christ.  It is promised to those who believe.  God is big!  Nothing is to great for Him and all things are within the realm of His possibilities. He is trustworthy.  You can take Him at His word.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (The words of Jesus in John 5:24).

WHAT NOW? 

Spiritual growth is a result of true salvation: seek to grow in the Lord through prayer and Bible study.  God gives His Holy Spirit to teach and instruct our hearts.  He gives us His God inspired word, to instruct us in righteousness.  He gives us each other, the family of God and Church of the Living God, that we may encourage one another in this life, helping one another to spiritual growth and to a stable commitment of faith.   

Seek spiritual growth

Through Prayer

Prayer is simply talking to God as one friend talks with another.  You may feel awkward at the first, but believe that He is listening and that His Spirit will instruct you as promised, and He will do it.

Jesus, in John 10, tells how His sheep—his followers—hear His voice and they follow Him, and a strangers voice they simply will not follow.  That is a promise we can walk in. We can call to Him in faith, trusting Him, in the power of His Spirit, to make us aware of His truths and His directions, and to keep us from following falsehood.  I can tell you from personal experience that God is faithful to His promises, this one included.

Though not many have heard His audible voice, He promises to reveal Himself to the true seeker, those who search for Him wholeheartedly. He will impress His truths upon your heart, confirm them through His word and the encouragement of fellow believers, and with time, you will recognize His presence “speaking” into your life, causing you to know and recognize Him as you commune together through prayer.   

Through Bible study

Grow in the knowledge of His Word: Jesus promises that when we become His, He sends His Holy Spirit to teach and instruct us, to empower us to live righteous lives that honor Him, to grow and mature us and do a work of transformation in us.  This work is greatly aided as we trust God’s Spirit to bring understanding of Scripture and as we read His word daily, allowing Him to instruct and direct us through its teachings.

The best way to grow in knowledge of God’s word is to read through His word.  It is recommended to begin reading in John following this pattern.

  • Read John through Revelation
  • Read Matthew, skip to Acts, and read through Revelation
  • Read Mark, skip to Acts, and read through Revelation
  • Read Luke, skip to Acts, and read through Revelation
  • Read John through Revelation again
  • After reading the New Testament through 5 times in this fashion, then go to Genesis and read from the beginning to the end.  Once you have done that, start the process again.

This allows the reader to know the New Testament more fully before reading the Old Testament, which enables us to see the correlation of the two and how God was working a plan.  Plus it protects from discouragement: for the Old Testament believers were under Law, which was hard.  God’s discipline is more readily seen in the Old Testament than is His grace.

We are under the grace revealed in the New Testament, though we can still fall under the disciplining hand of God, who disciplines us in love as a Father disciplines a son.  God’s discipline in our lives, teaching us right from wrong, according to New Testament teaching, is a sign that we are a child of God.

A thorough study of the New Testament helps us to get a firm grasp on God’s grace in Jesus and the love that is coupled with His discipline before we face His disciplinarian characteristics expressed in the Old Testament.   It is much easier to understand and face the disciplinarian characteristics of a Father once we are assured of His unconditional and incorruptible love and grace. And, as I am finding, we more readily realize the grace and love that was coming to the world in the discipline sent during pre-Christ days when we understand the ways of God found in Christ.

Through fellowship of the believers

Another vital need in growing spiritually is to get involved in a true Bible teaching church.  Find someone you know believes these things about Jesus, and find out where they go to church.  Start there in your search of the place God would have you make your church home and family.  Get involved in Sunday School class and Bible study groups as often as possible.  There you can not only learn scripture, but the things going on in Bible days that help us to understand the scriptures.  And it is in church, among fellow believers, that deep, abiding relationships and ministry begin.

Which brings us to another important reason for getting involved in church, and especially the small group settings provided there: we need fellowship/family.  God created us for Himself, for a people with whom He can have a relationship.  Inherent in that is the fact that God created us to need companionship—thus we need each other.  The company we keep truly does make a difference in the character we exhibit.  We need each other, and if we have been involved with people who live lives in clear opposition to God, it is important to begin today to distance ourselves from those associations and develop relationships with people who have characteristics that will influence us for good: people who understand God and His ways and who work daily to emulate Jesus.

Through focused learning about God

Apostle Paul is recorded in the Amplified version of scripture to have said, “For my determined purpose is that I may know Him…” (Philippians 3:10).  God not only created us to need companionship, but He placed in us a space to be filled with companionship that can only be filled by Him.  Thus we are back again to the need to grow in our prayer life.  Through prayer, intimate communion with God, we grow to know Him, and He is faithful to fill that empty place within us.  The Amplified Bible continues Philippians 3:10, explaining that the knowledge of God we seek is progressive, here a little, there a little, as we grow to perceive, recognize, and understand God more strongly and in ever deepening intimacy.  Only with God possessing His rightful place as our companion can we experience the deep, true peace and rest of wholeness that all the world is looking to find.

Blessing Promised

I pray God’s BLESSings for you as you seek to grow in your relationship with Him.  I pray the Lord BLESS you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.  Numbers 6:27 promises that, with this prayer of BLESSing, we invoke God’s name on those we give it to, and He will BLESS them.

Let it be as You have said, O Lord. Amen!

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