There are two types of repentance: worldly repentance and godly repentance. Godly repentance works the will of God, and that is what we want.
Worldly repentance is:
Self-centered – repentance flowing out of worldly concern (must change before I lose my job…my ministry…their love/respect).
Insincere – having a hardened heart to sin, repentance is only for show.
Insecure – believing God delivers from the penalty of sin, but we are still enslaved to the sin nature with no hope of freedom in this life.
Godly Repentance is:
Relational – concerned about pleasing God and protecting relationship with Him; and because of right relations with God, desiring to protect relationships with others.
Transforming – knowing that we not only possess the righteousness of Christ in the Spirit, but that the Spirit is with us, to empower our righteous acts accomplished through surrendered lives.
Eternal – knowing that God loves us at all times and will bring us into His eternal Kingdom because of Jesus, while also realizing that we are His representatives in our here and now, called and equipped as His image bearers to reveal Him to the world. Godly repentance truly desires to surrender to God’s work of making us into His image.
True repentance comes to those who know that God has a good work for us as individuals, beginning with us being His image bearers. Surrendered living with sincere effort to conform to His transforming power leads to accomplishing His purpose.
True repentance surrenders to eternal purpose through trusting faith that knows “nothing shall be impossible with God”, who so greatly desires a love relationship with us that He gave His only begotten Son to have it. And have it, He will, for His Word succeeds at accomplishing His purpose.
Take God at His Word and repent from a godly stance of faith made sure in Him.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:12-13 NASB
“You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB
If we are setting a bad example where we are, why do we tend to expect God will give us a position where we can lead others to be twice the hypocrite we are being?
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:7-10 NASB
God does not often put us in the position we desire until we are being that person, living the level of integrity required for it, in the place we currently hold. You want to come up higher? Live the degree of faithful, integrity required now.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Colossians 3:23-25 NASB
People have said in my presence many times that we in America don’t know what persecution is. That very statement proves it – especially of the one speaking. What they are saying is we have not had our lives threatened by people wanting us to openly denounce our God. With that definition of persecution in mind, they are correct. We do not often see that in the USA, though, in recent days, we are seeing a rise in that type of attack. But that narrow definition of the parameters of persecution causes a failure to recognize that all face persecution in some way every day.
“How is that?” you may ask. To respond fully to the how, the question we have to answer is, what is persecution? What is its purpose? What is its underlying resource? One of the oldest texts in scripture answers all these questions and gives them definition through the more subtle attacks we see there, and in our land.
What is persecution and its resource?
We find this answered in Job 1, in the discourse between God and Satan. God points out Job, his righteous life and careful care of his relationship with God, seeking always to please God. Satan questions that loyalty, accusing God of having Job so protected and cared for that he only sought to please God for what it brought to his life. He goaded God, “Remove all his blessings from You and let me at him, and he will curse You” (Darlene’s paraphrase).
Persecution, whether that seen in the life of Job, or that intended when people say we, in America, do not truly know persecution, comes through the resource of Satan, who hates God. It is his attack against God, his attempt to destroy all that God holds dear. Some is the obvious persecution we recognize as we see those who refuse to deny God having their heads removed by those through whom Satan sends his attack.
Thus, in response to the third question, what is its purpose, we see that best defined by the words spoken through Job’s wife in chapter 2:10, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Satan’s whole desire is to get us to curse God, deny Him as God and Lord, and to enter the death that comes when we refuse to fully trust Him.
That brings us to the subtle aspects of persecution that we too often fail to recognize as that. The things Satan did to Job to try to get him to fall away from his “integrity” by cursing God and turning from faith in Him came in the following ways:
- The death of loved ones.
- The removal of wealth, bringing him to poverty.
- Assault against his health, threatening his life.
- The voice of a wife who fell, in her grief, to give voice to his persecutor, Satan, goading him to curse God too.
- The accusations of friends, convinced that some hidden sin and failure to repent was the cause of all his trouble, thus attempting to lead him to doubt his assurance in God.
Any of this sound familiar? I see it every day in our land. In fact, my thoughts today flow to this long understood truth, not only because of my husband’s battle with cancer, but also because of learning of a young, dearly loved woman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is still raising her children, two of them young teens. Her battle against this unseen enemy that wants not only to steal her life, but hopes to steal her faith in God, is well under way. My prayer for her and for her family today is for faith to trust God more. As Job said to his wayward, grief stricken wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Trusting God for me in my husband’s battle means trusting God’s hand of healing, whether it is experienced in this life or the next. It means trusting that God will continue to minister to my needs even if He takes my husband, who is our bread winner. It means trusting that He will help me face the days ahead with strength of faith and assurance of hope.
For my young friend, it means trusting that God has a purpose in all this. That He will help her face these days with courage and peace, joy and hope. That, if He takes her home, He will remain with her family to help them. That He will take up with her children where she leaves off, to help them be the men of God she desires. That He will help her husband stand firm of faith and be the daddy her kids need; and that God will meet him at his greatest needs.
We all hope healing in the here and now for her and for my husband. But true trust acknowledges that we cannot know all God sees in what He is doing and allowing. Trust knows that His purpose is eternal good, and His plan will succeed in accomplishing what is best for all concerned.
Our journey, whatever the struggle that comes, is made easier when faith stands firm on trust in God. That trust wins the battle against all the enemy can throw at us. That trust is what our loved ones need to see most of all, so whichever way God’s plan takes us, they are helped to have the resource of our example to help them carry on. May we be found faithfully trusting God.
“For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].” Hebrews 2:18 AMPC
In each of our situations that is exposing us to suffering, the temptation we face is to stop trusting God. It temps us to fail to cry out in faith, believing; to refuse His gift of Peace and not enter His Rest. It temps us to refuse putting our joy in Him, thus robbing us of our strength.
The longevity of the trial is meant by Satan to break our resolve. But God wants to use it to reveal our perseverance and increase our hope muscles.
The signs of our times speak loudly to this being the last days. Jesus is coming. Satan is seriously working to destroy the Church and dull God’s Light in us. It is vital that we stand firm in faith and stay the course.
A friend of mine wrote a beautiful FB post on the benefits of fasting prayer. It is linked below, but not sure it will open. I, too, have practiced fasting prayer many times for many reasons, and have experienced what Becky speaks of here. In fact, I have been doing some short fasts and praying, even Jerichoing our city as I pray for the desperate needs of family and friends.
I fasted a day last week for these things, plus for God to strengthen my resolve to eat right and do what is needful to take care of me in this season with my husband’s health and other family issues.
I am a stress eater by habit and have been so out of control, it is hurting me. My husband had me promise that I would take care of me and not let all this get me down physically from the lack of self care. Failing at that, I took a day to seek the Lord’s strength and resolve: and I believe I will keep doing so at least weekly through this season. It’s the only way I see of keeping my promise, by seeking Him who is my First, Most Vital, Need and Necessity. Without God, I can do nothing.
Since starting this routine in praying for family and friends, and now for myself, my strength and good appetite is returning, and I see the signs of God moving on behalf of family and friends. In fact, a “son” returned to his family the other day. Now for him to return to his God.
Keep praying! And as the Spirit leads, do fast before the Lord and be strengthened.
““And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance That I gave you; And I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.”
“Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:4-10 NASB
After this revelation from God, Jeremiah cried out in verse 14, “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise.”
God’s wrath remains kindled against sin: all that stands against God, denying His Lordship, and refusing His way, which is found in relationship with Jesus, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Each person is judged by God’s standard, according as He sees to be their individual heart toward Him. A nation is judged according to the culmination of the judgment against its people. Thus it is better to stand alone with a right and true heart before God, than to follow the crowd into chaos. Seek the Lord through the saving grace of Jesus, the Christ, and let your heart be healed.
Today is a day of prayer for Texas, and indeed for the USA. With everything going on in the world today, it’s a good day to pray and to praise the Lord for the good He has done and will do. May He lead us through all the turmoil and trouble in paths of righteousness for His names sake.
Thankfully, our joy does not depend on things going on around us. Despite the day’s news of trouble, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle 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 in Christ Jesus.
“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
“You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.” Psalms 92:4 NLT
Are storms evil? No. Storms happen because they are keeping the law. There are laws in nature that determine when it rains, snows, hails, when the wind blows and how hard, where the lightening strikes or tornadoes form. These things, in themselves, are not evil, though they can bring great destruction; nor are they necessarily good, though they can bring good and needful things to the earth. However, storms can be used for evil, or they can lead to great good.
When a storm produces destruction, we see one of two things come from those effected:
Some come out to take advantage of others out of selfishness and avarice.
Others come, even out of their own extreme poverty, to help those in need and to build anew.
I read a devotional that eluded to this passage of scripture and the purpose for Christ expressed here:
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
“No one who ABIDES in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who PRACTICES righteousness (as a deliberate and habitual action of choice out of love for God and allegiance to Jesus) is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who PRACTICES sin (as a deliberate and habitual action of choice, which is rebellion against God and His chosen King) is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (sin and all that stands in opposition to God, His will, His way, His sovereignty). No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John 3:4-9 NASB (my understanding)
The storm is not evil or good: but the force behind it and the spirit it brings can produce great evil, or healing balms of good through the actions and reactions of people effected by the storm. A person reveals his heart in such seasons.
Jesus came to destroy the work of Satan that leads people to do the evil seen in such times. With Job, when His children were killed in a tornado, the purpose of Satan and the trap of temptation set by him was to prove Job would lose faith in God and rebel against Him. That is what Satan seeks to accomplish through the storms of life.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB
To die, in God’s value of things, is to turn away from Him in lack of faith to trust Him in the storm. It is to rebel against Him out of anger, self-centeredness, pride, greed, or any number of evils that get a controlling hold on our hearts and lead us to turn against God’s way.
Life, in God’s economy, is this relationship with Him from a heart that trusts and follows Him despite the tricks of the devil. We don’t easily and habitually give in to temptations to sin out of fear or because of stressors to faith in God. We stand with God and for God, no matter the length of our waiting for His hand to move, and we find Him faithful. This is the Life, abundant and full, that Jesus provides.
The abundance Jesus provides is peace beyond measure; joy unrelated to circumstance; faith fed by deep pools of belief’s hope; and a River of love flowing to and through us, all fed by God, who is love. Evil that seeks destruction cannot win when God’s people stand firmly planted on Him.
“Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb. Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.” Psalms 37:1-9 NASB
“My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:1-8 NASB
Yes, Satan used a storm and other devastations in Job’s life, intending it for evil; but God allowed it, knowing it would produce the good He desired. The question is, on which side of the equation will we stand?
Considering the wisdom of Philippians 4:4-13 in our focus to follow the dictates of 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, which instructs us to take every thought captive, we finish up our arsenal from this Philippians passage. Beginning with joy in the Lord that brings strength, to it Paul adds the godly attitudes and temperaments of gentleness, an unselfish consideration, with forbearance, restraint, tolerance, and patience. To this Paul adds trust in God that produces peace of mind and heart, protecting against anxious thoughts. Last post Paul’s instruction added the need to make sure our thoughts dwell with God, letting His truth and perspective dictate so that we turn to thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely; thoughts of good repute, excellence, and praiseworthiness. Dwelling with such thinking causes those characteristics to work their way out in our life practices. Today we add what may well be the most needful and effective weapon for our arsenal against stinking thinking:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” ~ Verses 10-13.
Trust in God that empowers us to be content despite life’s circumstance is one of our greatest tools against skunk-thoughts. This contentment is not that fed by discouragement, but by hope. True contentment is not the passivity, apathy, or indifference that leads to us lying down to die in defeatism, instead of getting up to move forward in faith. This contentment Paul speaks of requires us to enter into the rest of God: a rest fed by faith to trust Him, leading to those actions of obedience required of us wherever we are in life; trust filled action flowing from those right and true thought processes. This active-rest holds us in God’s sure peace while believing with assurance of heart that He is in control and will get us safely to wherever He is taking us through the situation at hand (consider Hebrews 3:12-19; Philippians 3:1-14).
As I think on these things, I realize that contentment is greatly dependent on our ability to place our joy in the Lord Himself, instead of in His gifts or provision, or in our wants and desires. When we let our joy fall on what God does for us instead of realizing Him as our exceeding great reward, we will fall easily to discontent when a desire or even a perceived need goes unmet. Thus, we come full circle, beloved.
Where are you in your life journey today? Do you readily rest things in God’s capable hands, following His instruction in obedience as you walk through life’s challenges? Or do you kick against the goads of thoughts not settled and secure in God’s will and way? Let’s close with God’s words to us through James:
“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” ~ James 4:1-10 (consider the Amplified version of this passage).
Contentment in whatever circumstance life brings us begins with God being our first, most needful joy, knowing Him to be our exceeding great reward. No other perceived need or want truly sustains us.
We are covering Philippians 4:4-13, seeking God’s wisdom concerning things taught here that help us take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). As a quick review of verses 4-7, covered to date, we learned the importance of rejoicing in the Lord. With God as the source of our joy, we have strength to face life’s challenges, and resource to stand firm against stinking thinking that leads to a fall. We must refuse to let anything rob us of the joy we find in our relationship with God. Nothing can rob us of that true joy that rests by faith in Him, for He holds us secure in Christ (Romans 14:4).
With our rejoicing in Him, we discover that He equips us to respond to people and circumstances with gentleness that expresses itself through patient forbearance and long-suffering tolerance, dictated by right attitudes of mind seen in selflessness and temperance that knows Jesus is coming and that we are to represent His interests until He gets here. As people of God who know the Lord is near, we choose to be people of faith, trusting Him, not given over to anxiety that robs of peace, but people filled with God’s peace, having hearts and minds enveloped by His protective peace that is beyond our full comprehension. Continuing Philippians 4, in verses 8-9, Paul gives this wisdom from God as a watch-list for our thought-life:
“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.”
Our next spiritual weapon is the practice of dwelling with God in our thought life. We are told in this passage to dwell on these things, the first being: truth ~ I believe that this is not just any truth, but God’s truth. God’s truth sees things as they really are, getting to the heart of the matter; and God’s truth always considers God’s supply: His presence with us, His resource for us.
One example that comes to mind is one I find myself having to remember these days. With the health issues my husband and I are dealing with, I find myself to be very tired most days, and often find rolling around in my head the thought that “I can’t”! When opportunity to meet a need arises, the feeling of being tired and the words “I can’t” move in on me so fast that I have to be careful to not just run with that evaluation. Capturing that thought requires me to do two things: 1) look at the truth of the situation to see the reality of the need; and 2) remember God’s word to Paul that I believe true for us as well, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Matthew 17:20; Philippians 3). Our thought life can hinder our participation in things God desires for us if we fail to seek Him for a right evaluation and to trust His supply for our need in accomplishing His purpose.
Paul instructs us to “dwell on (think on, meditate on)” the true, the honorable, the right, pure, and lovely things of good repute and excellence, focusing on the praise worthy things. The truly praiseworthy flows from a heart focused to honor God and please Him first and foremost. Paul’s instruction given is with the purpose that our minds may be set on the works and words worth putting into practice: “Practice these things,” Paul instructs.
Our thoughts should inspire words and actions that prove us as God’s true servants, practicing the honorable, righteous, pure, and lovely ways of God in truth, doing His will as people worthy of good repute, producing excellence worthy of praise that glorifies God as God, pleasing Him in all things. Take every thought captive, beloved, by inviting God to inspire right thinking, dwelling with God in your every thought, allowing His Spirit and Word to inspire right and true understanding leading to accomplishing His good will in His glorious way to fulfill His eternal purpose.
Rejoicing in the Lord despite circumstance strengthens us for a life that honors God as God, even when the road before us is rough. Finding our joy in God protects our way of viewing the situations we face, thus protecting our way of thinking about life’s challenges. Our thoughts then flow from this joy in God that trusts in Him, bringing us to respond in gentle ways that bear up under the pressure with patients, realizing the Lord’s nearness and trusting Him to guide us as He works in our lives.
Knowing that the Lord is near strengthens us when difficulty threatens our faith. God’s word reveals two ways we are to know His nearness. One is realizing that the Lord is returning and we must be ready for Him as His servants by following His will and way in our day. This understanding empowers us to keep moving forward, having minds set on our eternal relationship with Him, destined to live with Him forever. The second way we know His nearness is in trusting that He has given us His Spirit to be with us, instruct us, and empower / equip us for each challenge faced. This faith in God’s provision helps us to obey as His representatives, fulfilling His purpose, seeing challenge as opportunity to please Him. We patiently endure every difficulty as we take up the next spiritual weapon against stinking thinking that brings a fall:
“…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 in Christ Jesus. …” ~ Vs. 6-7.
Besides robbing us of our joy, leading us to respond in self-protective and hurtful ways, bringing us to forget the nearness of our God, the enemy of God loves when he can tickle our minds with anxious thoughts that raise up doubt toward God and fear of the things we see in front of us. In today’s scripture, God’s Word gives instruction regarding ways of dealing with anxiety.
First, the word “be” implies that we have a choice. We do not have to be anxious people. We can choose to be people who trust in God, thus overcoming the anxious thoughts through faith. That trust reveals itself as we seek His answers regarding the path ahead through prayer. God’s word teaches us to seek Him in faith, believing He will answer (James 1:5-8, 5:13-18; Hebrews 11:1, 6).
Trust also reveals itself in our ability to choose to be thankful people. We may not feel thankful for the situation we are in, but we can be thankful for God and all we know of Him that will have an effect on our outcome. We can be thankful for His presence and supply that will be there for us as we walk the path ahead of us. We can be thankful for the words of wisdom He gives our hearts that overcome the anxiety threatening our ability to face the day. And we can be thankful for all we will learn about Him through our journey of faith, and all He will do in growing us to be strong as people of God.
As we choose in this way to be people of faith, not given over to anxiety, God’s word promises that He will respond with an outpouring of His peace. He gives more than just a little peace. He pours it out to and through us in ways that surpass our comprehension. That peace envelops our hearts and minds, protecting us from the anxiety and fear that seeks to defeat us by making us feel weak and worthless. Choosing to push anxiety and fear away with trust in God that seeks Him and rejoices in Him empowers us to have right thoughts within, leading to right actions, flowing out of the strength of God’s sure supply.
On this journey to consider truths we need to practice, as we work to take every thought captive and bring them in line with the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), our first divinely, powerful spiritual weapon is the possession of true joy that rests securely in the Lord. Joy in the Lord protects us from walking contrary to Him. It is not dependent on circumstance; and nothing can steal that joy away from us when we work with God in taking every thought captive to follow the example of Christ in obedience to Him, and in the likeness of His. Continuing to consider the wisdom of Philippians 4:4-13, we come to verse 5:
“…Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. …”
I see two truths here necessary to our arsenal of weapons equipping us to bring our thoughts in line with God’s ways. One is our attitude or temperament in life situations, addressed here in the call to work out of a “gentle spirit”. The classic Amplified translation defines a gentle spirit, giving other words used in translating that phrase:
“Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].”
Walking in a gentle spirit requires us to be unselfish. Consider the impact selfishness has on our thought processes. We cannot accomplish the will of God or work well with others when we care more about our own desires, needs, and comfort than we do theirs. Being unselfish equips us to work with others in harmony, as it leads us to be considerate of them, their needs, and their opinions, while bowing to the will of God.
Walking in gentleness also requires us to be forbearing. Forbearance means tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation, bearing the fruit of patience toward others. It realizes that no one is perfect, and we all have habits and ways of doing things that differ. Gentleness practices understanding patience in our ability to let others be who they are without constantly insisting we have things done our way. Forbearance is self-controlled, knowing how to motivate and influence others without belittling them.
Our ability to control our attitude and temperament greatly affects the way we think in a situation and toward others. The second thing Paul adds here to motivate us, is that we are to remember that the Lord is near. There are two potential interpretations of that. One shared in the Amplified version is that we must realize that the Lord is returning, thus, we must take care to live in a way where we are ready for Him when He gets here.
Another interpretation of the Lord’s nearness is the realization that God causes His Spirit to dwell in us, to teach us and help us live in that readiness for the soon returning Christ. Wherever we are, in whatever situation we are in, recognizing the presence of God with us and His work in us, and surrendering to that, equips our representation of Him and His interests. We bear the fruit of gentleness when we relate with others out of this realization of His presence in us through the Spirit, living in ways that reveal understanding that Jesus is returning.
People are watching, beloved. They need to see us responding to life situations in line with the nature of God at work in us through the Spirit that indwells us. Our thought life very often affects our attitude and temperament. Surrendering to the Spirit’s nudge to remember gentleness, being unselfish and considerate, while practicing forbearance toward one another, strengthens our arsenal against bad attitudes and temper flares. In this way, remembering we are His representatives, we live in readiness for His return.
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, God’s word instructs us on the weapons of our warfare, telling us they are “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”. Following that, verse 5 points to a particular battlefield that, left unchecked, is the opening through which enemy forces can strike in gaining access into areas of our lives where they can set up strongholds of sin and oppression. That area of battle is in our thoughts. Verse 5 instructs us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
One frequent stronghold in my life is in my eating and health practices. Realizing that I am too quick to run to food in certain situations, I focus this month to put a check on my stinking thinking, realizing that taking stress filled thoughts captive and making them bow to the Sovereign and His opinion is the pathway leading to overcoming such strongholds.
As I seek the Father to adjust my thought life, bringing all in agreement with His teachings, following the example we have in Christ, my heart turns to the teachings of Paul found in Philippians 4. There I find a treasure-trove of wisdom to help me on my journey of capturing stinking thinking that hinders my Life practices. Beginning with verse 4, I will spend several days considering the truths found here and how they apply to my journey of capturing wrong thinking and bringing it into agreement with Scriptural principles.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! …” ~ Philippians 4:4-14.
As I begin looking at this focal passage, I see several areas of life-practices that can influence our way of thinking and, when we fail to practice these truths, it makes us vulnerable to thought processes leading to a downfall. The first is this need to find our joy in the Lord. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy we find in God – in who He is, in our relationship with Him, and our following after Him – is what gives us strength for life.
“Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
The enemy of God loves when he can rob us of this true joy because it weakens us. It is easiest for him to do that when our joy is misplaced. Finding our joy in the things of this life is easily disturbed when those things that bring us joy become difficult, are out of our reach, or fail us. Placing our joy in God protects us, as our ability to face hardship abounds in Him who is our source of true strength and security. Nothing in this life can overcome our joy when it is set securely in Him who is trustworthy and faithful. Such trust in our God and the joy of relationship that trust brings to us empowers us to face difficulty with the strength of two, as He faithfully helps us surpass our weakness.
Rejoicing in the Lord despite circumstances greatly helps our perseverance. A heart attitude of joy in the Lord is a weapon against the doubt and fear set to take our thoughts captive and lead us to a fall that rises up as a stronghold in our lives. Rejoicing in all we know of our God breaks that cycle of doubt and fear.
When your thoughts are disturbed within you, the first thing to do is rejoice in the Lord. Let all that He is and the benefit He provides be your focus, beloved, and rejoice. Again I say, “Rejoice!” and find your Strength.
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off” ~ Isaiah 55:12-13.
Continuing with yesterday’s focus, this promise is awesome as well. Yesterday we saw that, as we practice walking the word out into life, God’s promise instructs us that in seeking His Word, opinion, perspective on our journey and walking His instruction out, His Word lived in and through us will fulfill its purpose. Reading on in the Isaiah 55 passage God promises in today’s passage that we will go out with joy, and be led by peace as we trust His Word (Colossians 3:15-17, See in AMPC). True joy and peace are intimately linked to trust in, faith in, reliance on, and confidence in God, who always does what He says He will do. He fulfills His word.
God also promises in this passage that all of creation will rejoice over our obedience to live God’s word out. That tells me that, when we are truly and fully following God and all others shun us for it or try to discourage our course, we have a cheering section in God and all of His creation. (Luke 19:37-40)
Finally, our passage today bears a promise that took a little research to fully understand: We will see the thorn bush replaced by the cypress, and the nettle replaced by the myrtle.
Thorn bush is easy. Get pricked by a thorn, and we move away from that place in a hurry. It is a deterrent from drawing near. Sin is thorn bushes that hinder our drawing near to God. As God removes sin from us, He is removing the thorn bush that is standing between us and the intimacy He desires for our relationship with Him.
Replacing the thorn bush with Cypress: the Cypress most often mentioned in scripture is a tree. It is open, inviting one to draw near, and it provides shade for comfort, enticing us to sit and rest under its branches for a while. It pictures a close, welcoming relationship with God.
Nettle has leaves with prickly hairs that cause an allergic sting. The sting of sin hinders our relationship with God, inflaming God against us. Sin inflames our relationships with others. Trouble and fear increases with the sting of the nettle. The allergic sting of sin comes to those who fail to align with God’s Word.
Replacing the nettle with Myrtle speaks of healing: Myrtle is one of the first NSAIDs, a pain reliever that aids against inflammation. Healing comes to hearts, relationships are restored, and strength increases for a life abundant and full. Myrtle can be used as a tea. I see a seeker of God, sipping that healing cup of tea, while enjoying the presence of Jesus in intimate relationship.
The promise of God for us who actively seek to walk in His word, is that we will find welcome as we draw near, receiving comfort and respit under the shade of His provision and healing from the pain and inflammation caused by sin: one’s own, or that of this world.
“… Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. … Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” ~ James 4:1-10.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” ~ Isaiah 55:6-11.
WOW! This speaks to me the vital importance of us making sure to seek the Lord for right thoughts that are in line with His, leading us to right ways on the paths of His choosing. Coming in line with God’s way of thinking on any issue of life, while recognizing thought as being the words in one’s mind that dictate beliefs and actions, such a practice walks in this promise of God. When God’s thoughts, found in scripture and raised up as reminders to direct our paths, dictate our own with trust in His word to us leading us to walk in His ways, this passage promises us that His word flowing to and in us will accomplish His purpose.
Taking every thought captive in Christlike obedience, we walk in the Light as He is in the Light. In that way, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 John 1:7).
Walking God’s word out in our lives assures us of a successful journey that fulfills His purpose in us.
“But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the Holy Spirit of God really dwells within you to direct and control you. But if anyone does not possess the Holy Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he does not belong to Christ, is not truly a child of God]” ~ Romans 8:9, AMPC.
When we truly belong to God, Galatians 2:20 tells us “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. He does that by the power of the Spirit working in us to make us more Christlike (godly), more what God intended from the beginning of creation when He made man and woman to bear His image. The Holy Spirit moves in to direct our lives to bear His image, but He will not force us to follow His dictates. We still have choice. By choice, we must choose to surrender our fleshly ways in order to lay hold of and possess the Spirit within who instructs and empowers us to live God’s way.
One passage that tells us what that looks like is Galatians 5:22-23, where we are told the fruit born in us, as we possess the Spirit through surrender to His lead: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. One example of our possessing the Spirit is in our love walk. Through scripture, we learn that God is love. His love is not dictated by how happy He is with our behavior, but it is dictated by who He is: He is love. Though we fail Him, His love toward us continues, because He is faithful and He cannot deny Himself (1 John 4:8; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Timothy 1:13).
As we possess the Spirit of God, who brings His image to us and empowers us to possess His nature, we too will love because we are as He is: love. Scripture teaches us how to possess this love through a few “Let love” passages, love being one flavor of the fruit born out of one who possess the Spirit of God and is possessed by Him.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” ~ Romans 12:9, NASB.
This verse, to me, speaks the call of God for our love to be like His, not dictated by the actions of others, but dictated by our possession of His Spirit, as we allow the fruit of His Spirit to grow strong in us.
“Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1, NLT.
To love as God loves is the greatest goal we can have, empowering us to deny self and serve others’ needs without hypocrisy. One teaching on Galatians 5:22-23 says that love and self-control are bookends that hold all the other flavors of the fruit of the Spirit in place. Without love as God loves and without self-control, we cannot truly possess joy or peace, as every evil that strains love and self-control will rob us of it. We cannot practice patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, or gentleness without a love like God’s love that, by self-control, denies self and chooses to practice these glorious attributes toward others, even when they are not being as we think they should be toward us. Love with self-control as powered by the Holy Spirit fully possessed in us, enables us to maintain joy and peace while continuing to minister patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness to others, even when they struggle to do the same in return.
“Let love for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you [never let it fail]” Hebrews 13:1, AMP.
God is love and He requires us to love others in likeness to Him. For us to truly accomplish that goal, we must deny self, possess the Holy Spirit of God, and cooperate with Him in bearing the fruit that proves He lives in us with full authority. That authority is twofold: God saying, “Yes, that is my child. Fill them to overflowing, pouring Yourself through them”; us saying, “Yes, I choose God through Jesus and surrender to Him. Fill me. Be mine, and make me His. Empower me to bear His image by pouring Yourself through me.”
Whether by way of practicing and possessing the fruit of God’s Spirit in us, or the gifting He gives for our service and ministry, our unity with the Spirit of God is vital. That unity is a symbiosis, us possessing Him who possesses us. He will not force on us His right over us, but He will fully fill and spill Himself out of one willing vessel, ready to possess all He has to pour through us.
“So it is with yourselves; since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, concentrate on striving to excel and to abound in them in ways that will build up the church” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:12, AMPC.
(NOTE: My husband’s chemo finished, we are recuperating and getting back into a more routine life. Hopefully I can get back to a regular posting here as we do. Thank you for hanging in with me. BLESSings, Darlene)
I truly appreciate the word “POSSESS”. My computer’s grammar checker sure dislikes it. Grammar checking programs often underline the word “POSSESS”, encouraging the author to choose a simpler, more acceptable word. God, however, desires we come into our possession, to lay hold of all He desires and provides for us.
In the past several years, God inspired in me an increased understanding of His call for His people to “POSSESS” and fully walk in all He gives us. Possessing all God calls us to, with the authority He gives us to lay hold on His provision with the full power He supplies, is a vital practice for these troubling days. Learning our authority in Christ and possessing all that is ours to lay hold of empowers us to face each day with the strength of God’s supply. Thinking on this underlined, grammatical undesirable, leads me to my next series of Ponderings: Called to POSSESS.
Beginning today with defining the word “possess”, we come to understand the full impact of God’s call and equipping our possession. Following posts will take us through several passages over the days to come that instruct our heart in all God’s calls us to possess: revealing His good desires for us in this life, and the next.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart” ~ Psalms 37:4.
Delighting in the Lord leads us away from fleshly desires to hearts that desire the good He has for us to possess. The dictionary of English words defines “possess” as follows:
POS·SESS (pə-zĕs′) tr.v. pos·sessed, pos·sess·ing, pos·sess·es: 1. a. To have as property; own. b. To have under one’s power or control. 2. a. To have as a quality, characteristic, or other attribute. b. To have mastery or knowledge of. 3. a. To gain control or power over. b. To occupy fully the mind or feelings of. …. d. To control or maintain (one’s nature) in a particular condition. 4. To cause (oneself) to own, hold, or master something, such as property or knowledge. 5. To gain or seize.
Thus, for the purposes of our study, as we look at all God calls us to possess, the meaning we will apply to this word is to take hold of with power to control, occupy, or maintain in a particular state or condition: to master, as one with authority.
Having these defining parameters, we begin in our next post to look at some passages of scripture that instruct in things God expects us to possess on the authority of His Word, in obedience to Him with the authority that obedience provides us, and in honoring Him as God.
“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, AMPC.
On the Authority of God’s Word, we seek after and take possession of His good gifts to us.
(Note by way of reminder: My husband is battling cancer, which dictates our calendars right now. I will get each post out as quickly as possible. Thank you for your continued support when time constraints in this season hinders those timely posts. BLESSings to you, Beloved of God and me, Darlene)
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” ~ Luke 6:27-28, NLT.
God speaks this passage as reminder to me today, especially the command to “Pray FOR those who hurt you. Check how you are praying, Darlene.”
People hurt people. There are many causes that lead people to hurt one another, some malicious, some incidental and unintended. Some hurt comes with the best of intentions. We all struggle in various ways that can lead us to carry our feelings as on our shoulders, where the actions and words of others easily knock us around: fear of rejection and other such insecurities. Some carry their “feelings” on their shoulders because they are walking in an ungodly lifestyle, they know it, and they don’t want anyone telling them about it. People who struggle in any of the above tend to hurt those around them out of their own struggle and insecurities. Those trapped in the common sins of our day tend to hurt those around them in the very practice of their lifestyles: drug addicts steal from those they love most; adulterers destroy their own families; etc. We hurt each other, and praying properly for those who hurt us is often a challenge.
What does it mean to pray for those who hurt us? Too often, in praying for someone who hurt me, I find myself truly praying for me: praying selfishly.
“Lord, they falsely accused me. Make them know the truth and apologize.”
“Lord, they stole from me. Make them repent and pay it back.”
Problem is that their heart intent may be nowhere near my comprehension of the truth of their heart. I may have misunderstood their words. I may be reading between the lines and comprehending an accusation they never meant. I may receive insult from actions that truly were not aimed at me as I stepped between them and their target. Praying for others out of our hurt can lead to selfish requests that God cannot answer. Our best, most effective praying seeks the heart of God for His truth regarding the need of the one whose actions / reactions hurt our feelings or did harm to our life, reputation, or sense of security.
We can learn a lot from how Jesus prayed FOR those hurting Him. He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Praying for others realizes truth: Jesus proclaiming “they know not what they do”. Praying for others refuses to give preference for one’s own desire, right, or recompense. Praying for others seeks God and His desire for them. Praying for others focuses on their deepest, truest needs. We all need God’s grace sufficient for us. We all need truth that sets us free from any lie. We all need repentant hearts that seek wholeheartedly after God.
Until we can pray for others, our own heart toward them will fall short of truly loving and caring for their need. Until we can pray for God to forgive them, just as Jesus did, and mean it, our own ability to forgive will fall short. Until we can pray for them to know His love, our ability to love those who hurt us truly will suffer loss. Until we can pray for eyes that see as God sees, compassion will fail us, transforming-truth will escape us, and love will find no roost for new growth.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good…” ~ Romans 12:9-13 (Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; Romans 13:7-14).
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him” ~ Deuteronomy 32:11-12.
God stirs the nest of His child when He is ready for them to move to a new phase of growth and maturity. God stirs the nest, bringing discomfort to our comfort zones. He stirs a nest of our own making when we are in bad company, heading to a temptation that will catch us unawares if we fail to move with His stirring. He stirs the nest of those who settle into a comfort zone that we feel insecure and inadequate to leave; or one we feel accomplished in, not being ready to stop what we are doing. God forces us to leave a nest in order to teach us to fly in new directions, soaring to ever-greater heights of faith and effective ministry. He stirs the nest to wake us to ever-increasing depths of His love and faithfulness.
As we cooperate with God, we grow to lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all our heart and mind, not relying on our own insight and understanding, but fully trusting Him alone as God. We grow in faith so that in all our ways we come to know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, believing fervently and fully that He will direct and make straight and plain our paths.
He stirred my nest several times, moving me to a position where He used me for some work He wanted accomplished, amazing me with His majesty in each situation. Every experience of God forcing me out of my comfy, little, just my size nest, I found God faithful and grew to know Him and His ways as I never knew Him before.
In one such experience, in a church I loved and served in for 20 years, I was serving the Lord in leadership areas I long wanted to participate in, thriving beyond my imaginings. Suddenly a sense that I was out of place hit me. It often knocked me off my proverbial feet, as I found my heart sitting before God, wondering what was going on. “Why is my soul disturbed within me” was my frequent cry.
During that time, another church kept coming to my heart. Finally, one day, asking the Lord to direct me, I visited the church, seeking the Lord for confirmation the stirring of unsettledness within me was Him. That led to my change in church just before my beloved Pastor1 in the church of 20 years moved at God’s direction to a new place of service. Trusting God’s stirring of my nest put me in position to jump on board in a leadership role for a city wide, ministerial alliance coordination, gearing for a cooperative evangelistic focus, to get The Jesus Video into every household in our three town/community complex.
As we prepared for the day of distribution, that stirring returned, pushing me back to the previous church for some reason I did not understand. I liked my new church and my Pastor2, and I was enjoying the doors of ministry that swung open for me there. What was up?
Once back in the church of 20 years with its new Pastor3, I discovered that none of the membership knew anything about the Jesus Video project. Our previous Pastor1 started the ministerial alliance in the direction for that Jesus Video Project. The new leadership knew of it, but they were not promoting it to the church for their participation. Realizing the membership knew nothing about the project, when I learned that the ministerial alliance was lowering their aim, planning to get the video out in segments instead of covering the entire area, being unable to afford to do the entire area without the largest church in town helping with it, I made a phone call to the new Pastor3. Visiting with him, I discovered why the video was not on their radar.
Because God unsettled me and moved me back, I was in a position to act as go between. Informing Pastor2, the then-leader of the ministerial alliance, telling him of my findings in my conversation with Pastor3, he was able to address the issue and gain the support of the new leadership. The biggest church in town jumped on board and we covered the entire area with the Jesus Video.
God mightily moved on our behalf, leading us to fully complete the work as He intended when He laid it on the heart of our Pastor1 who moved to his new assignment. That Pastor1 and his wife are still very good friends of mine. I am greatly honored that God chose to unsettle me and allow me such an integral role in His plan for our city, placed in the heart of the Pastor1 I love.
Feeling restless and unsettled? Trust in the Lord and make the leap He sets before you, doing the good He prepared for you to accomplish. It may not be easy, but you can know that He will carry You through to the finish line like a momma eagle looking after her young.
God desires unity for His people, that we may be one as He is One. Our flesh, the ways of this world and demonic influences constantly work against that unity, seeking to destroy the work of God in and through us. The Apostle Paul calls the solution to our relationship issues, the “still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:11), the way that fulfills the law of God (Romans 13:8). Last post, we left our series with the following thought:
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:15.
Realizing and walking in the truth brings healing to one’s own life and makes us more like Christ. Walking in truth accomplishes His work in our situations.
Series on topics like this are difficult to address as we don’t always like seeing the truth about ourselves. We live in a day when many focus on God’s love and grace to the point that we tend to shun any words used of the Spirit to point to sin issues in need of change. This series is disciplining me on my own issues seen in the course of the study, but the blessing of coming into agreement with God in a way that helps me adjust to Him far outweighs the struggle. When my struggle helps others in the process, that fruit born in others is glorious!
Controversy between people is like the old quarters with the gold colored strip in the center. There are two sides to every situation between two people. The truth is in the gold strip between them, found only in seeking God, who knows the heart of each involved. He faithfully leads us to know our habitual responses that promote separation. He helps us to work our way to the gold strip where unity and peace reside. I am thankful for the truth God is teaching me about myself in this series; and I am watching for His word to come to pass that He highlighted for me in promise for the produce of this series:
“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” ~ Psalm 102:18.
I read this promise and I see families, friendships, and churches working their way to healing that will have an effect on future generations, leading to their worship of God. Thus, we continue today to our conclusion.
Have you read the scripture that talks of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17)? When we have a habitual sin that causes trouble and separates us from God, as well as from others, God often puts people in our lives that rub that area raw. His purpose is to help us let go of old ways of the flesh and walk in the new, testing / proving our obedience. The question is, will we realize God’s purpose and cooperate with His Spirit in taking off the old to dawn the new?
“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” ~ 1 Peter 1:22.
Truth purifies the soul, making us fertile soil for God’s love to produce a crop through us. There are two things I find God constantly working on me to accomplish: one is my ability to forgive as He forgives. The other is my ability to love as He loves.
The ability to forgive is vital to a love relationship that lasts. Forgiveness must be from the heart as God forgives. God, our example, taught me long ago to forgive “for my own sake” as He does (Isaiah 43:25 Note that Israel was unrepentant when God professed His grace toward them).
The purpose of choosing forgiveness “for my own sake” is so we can move on in life, be all God desires, accomplishing His work as one who is truly able to love even those who hurt us. Our choosing to forgive protects from bitterness, anger, and other emotional snares that hinder love, destroy relationship with God and people, and rob of effectiveness in ministry.
God is our hope and help in every relationship issue. He desires our unity, especially with those who are brothers and sisters with us in Christ. Our true enemy is our own sin nature that opens us to the influence of demons and principalities that work against God, separating brothers, and destroying our witness as God’s people.
In any discord between people of God, we see that battle continue when we fail to realize the true enemy and wind up fighting against each other. The enemy of our soul realizes our fleshly impulses that lead to discord and makes sure, when relationship issues come, our minds keep returning to “what they did to me.” Therefore, when we have a habit that makes us vulnerable to God’s enemy, God puts iron in life to sharpen and hone our character.
The love God calls each to possess as His child is a type we can freely give even to those we struggle to get along with. That love desires what is best for those we love, seeking to help them achieve all the great potential God places within them, leading them to God, and encouraging them to come up higher in Christlikeness. That love is unconditional: not hindered or harmed by insult. It is also incorruptible: it does not act unbecomingly toward the object of love, nor lead the one loved into sin. The very heart of a factious nature seeks to lead others to disunity for ungodly reasons that oppose love.
The love God calls us to possess in likeness to Him does not keep a count of all we believe a person has done to hurt us, bringing that back into play every time a new situation arises. Love, coupled with forgiveness given for one’s own sake, deals with the situation at hand, puts it to rest (RIP), and wipes the slate clean. This is healing, and this series pictures a love-walk God can use for His glory.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” ~ Jude 1:24-25.
“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage” ~ Jude 1:16.
When a disagreement with others that gets contentious, our flesh getting out of control of the Spirit, we tend to grumble and complain about others involved, finding their every flaw, blaming them for causing the problem. Desiring to believe oneself in the right and true of heart (lust of our flesh), we see things as we want to see them (lust of the eyes), telling others of the situation from that viewpoint (boastful pride of life). Without the Spirit to correct our course, our flesh desiring others to agree that we are right and the other party wrong, we will tell our side with flattery meant to win the advantage.
Seeking God for a more clear understanding of this flattery as seen in a divisive situation, He sent me to the dictionary:
Flatter ~ To show off becomingly or advantageously. Give an unrealistically favorable impression of.
In other words, flattery in the context of our discourse means to make oneself and one’s own actions sound better than they are in order to gain approval. It makes sense that when we are refusing to see our own flaws that add to the discord, we would speak all that we want to believe true of self, desiring others to agree that the other party is at fault. Going to the scriptures for increased understanding, here is what I find:
“They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak” ~ Psalm 12:2.
The problem with this flattery when we are a true child of God: the Spirit will not allow us to get away with ignoring our own sin nature and habits. Every time I tell my side from a flesh-driven viewpoint or think my thoughts, bitterly blaming the other party, thinking more highly of myself than I ought, the Spirit nudges me. In that instance of my thinking and telling in opposition to the Spirit’s nudge of truth within, I am struggling with a double or two-faced heart. It is not until I sit still before God and sincerely ask “What?” that I can find the truth in myself that brings the repentance that heals a breach of relationship.
“A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin” ~ Proverbs 26:28.
This says to me that in refusing to seek the Spirit for truth, not only does my false understanding and representation crush those I come out against, but it crushes me. When I am walking in sin, refusing the work of the Spirit that convicts “concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8), I hurt myself, putting a wall between my God and me.
I can do nothing apart from God, beloved. Without God working in me, I can’t mend the proverbial fences, repent and change my ways so as to be a better person, or truly forgive and love those around me as I should. Healing in any contentious situation must begin with me coming into agreement with God’s view of the issue by getting still before God, knowing Him and His ways, so that I can adjust to be as He is in truth and in deed.
“He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue” ~ Proverbs 28:23.
One thing this speaks to me is our need to keep the situation between the others involved and me alone. I am not to go around destroying the reputation and relationships of others with my viewpoint. Any complaint I have must be addressed only with those I have the complaint against. Bringing other people into the situation only makes it worse, as we put the other party in a defensive position. When we do sit down with the other person, it is vital to come with a heart set to speak the truth in love, and to have ears attuned to hear their side of things.
Part of this “sitting before God” means considering the complaint on the other side, seeking God to reveal if there is any truth in their viewpoint, with willingness to make amends where needed. Now, I have been in situations where there is no truth in the complaint, only miscommunication and misunderstanding. In those instances, God instructs in ways of clarifying truth. When the other person continues to believe the lie, He instructs to entrust the one choosing to believe the lie to Him. He also frees us from the condemnation that is from demonic sources.
Seldom is there no fault of my own to deal with in a situation. If I am truly seeking God and honest with myself, He will show me my habits that lead to discord. Knowing the truth about my own bad habits that lead me to cause a relationship issue is vital to healing the current situation and to avoiding future encounters from the same type of harmful, inappropriate actions / reactions.
“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:15.
True love requires truth within us. True love cannot exist in a lie. Truly loving others requires that we seek to know and understand truth about ourselves as well as about the situation and others involved. Next post concludes our study as we look at the love-walk that honors God as God in our fickle, fleshly, relationship issues.
“These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” ~ Jude 1:19.
Who are “these” our author refers to? Verse 18 says these are “mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” Verse 16 defines those ungodly attributes that produce division:
“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”
Here we find warning, alerting us to watch against grumbling, fault-finding, feeding one’s own lusts, speaking arrogantly, and speaking to flatter with hope of gaining an advantage. Acting out of these worldly-minded habits that are not Spirit led and fed, we cause division. Taking action to avert these habits protects unity and heals relationships.
Grumbling and fault-finding
If we learn little else in the books of Moses, we learn how destructive grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding are to ones relationship with God and other people. These habits fail to see what God can and will do in our situation; they refuse to appreciate the good He does and accomplishes for us; and they deny any good in those around us. A focus on the negatives seen in grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding robs us of the ability to find, know, and appreciate what we have in front of us.
During a time of difficulty in our marriage following the death of his mother, the negatives my husband exhibited snared my mind. I learned later the things he was doing are commonly seen in men grieving the loss of a mother. God gradually revealed how my grumbling mind and mouth were hurting the situation. One day, He clearly led me to purchase one of those two-year pocket calendars. He instructed my heart to write in each day something I saw to appreciate in my husband. By the end of a year, I had a new appreciation for my husband, my thoughts focused on his good attributes. Reading the year’s entries, I found 365 different positives about my man. God inspired me to give the calendar for him to use the second year. He told me later that he made his entries keeping his time in his calendar section, and then he read what I wrote on that date the previous year. During that year, he determined to major on those things I appreciated in him. That calendar remained in his lunch box, safely kept in a Ziplock bag, for five years of daily reading. God restored our relationship by changing my focus, and I found my faith in God strengthened by the experience.
When we fall to the habits of grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding, we leave our First Love, failing to trust God and the good He works through our days of struggle. In our complaint, we become part of the problem instead of the solution, pushing people away or causing factions to form a line of dissenters with us that dishonor God. Making the choice to focus one’s mind and heart to discover the good God has hidden within our situations and the people around us equips us to serve as His instrument for healing, unity, and peace.
Wow. I thought I finished this series, and then God spoke again through another passage and added to my understanding of the factious, divisive spirit that grabs hold on us and leads us away from God’s Light and the peaceful unity found there. Beloved, in any divisive situation, it is never one-sided. There are always two sides, pulling away from each other, trying to win a battle.
In the previous 5 devotional thoughts we covered the following thought patterns that are found in the mindset of one ensnared by a factious spirit: 1) the desire for those they tell to agree with their position in their situation with another, thus causing the hearer to feel they must pick a side; 2) holding to a truth that is closed off to hearing the other side of the issue; 3) refusing to seek the whole truth as God sees it, missing out on the Light of God that leads to the peace of unity; thus 4) a factious mindset is snared by the old flesh, the old nature’s way of thinking and being.
There are factious people we are to stay away from completely. We are to avoid and stay away from people who continually lead us away from God and His ways, as in the false teachers spoken of in the Titus 3 passage and in the one we will begin looking at today. God condemns those who would deliberately lead us away from Him. However, if the enemy of God cannot lead us away from believing in and following after God, he will stir up strife between God’s followers in order to divide God’s people. In this way, that enemy of God weakens our effective service to God, separating us from Him in less obvious ways. This divisive spirit is the one I am addressing in these blogs. He tears apart the fellowship of family, friends, and fellow believers. Such division stems from failure to come under God’s light where we find full truth and unity, and it fails to love with God’s unconditional, incorruptible love, thus falling away from God as His image-bearers.
Why write on these things? God never leads me to write things without leading me to evaluate my own life and ways in the area He reveals to me. The things that speak to and help me personally are the things I write about. God desires us to evaluate ourselves truthfully now, so we may come into His likeness and avoid the judgment to come (1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Romans 12:1-3; Hebrews 4:12). Throughout the writing of this series, I have had to look at myself in each area, and repent for my own failures.
The passage we start devouring today speaks clearly to me of my own habits I tend to fall to, causing and adding to division; and it warns me of others I must be alert to. We cannot change to be more like Him if we are unwilling to evaluate ourselves and come to stand in agreement with Him in the light of His word. When we refuse to see as He sees, acknowledge our own sin within, thus, continuing to walk in divisive ways, God says:
“These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” ~ Jude 1:19.
Worldly-minded actions dictated by fleshly lusts flow from the life that, at least in that moment of divisiveness is devoid of Spirit. God showed me how, recently, I sought Him for direction in a situation, but when it came to implementation of the wisdom given, my flesh got in the way. In that instant, despite the Spirit’s warning, I went my own way, made a situation worse instead of better, becoming devoid of Spirit in that moment of surrender to the desires of my flesh-man. Shifting away from the Spirit to follow my flesh, I perverted the way of God before me, fell to my own sin nature, and stand self-condemned. Praise be to God, who disciplines me, bringing me back to Himself through His Word, by the Spirit and blood of Christ.
Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines His children, and that discipline proves our position with Him as His Kingdom People. God proves we are His when He does not allow us to get away with our fleshly, old-nature behavior. God’s discipline comes through His word that instructs us in righteousness.
As we continue this series on overcoming a factious spirit, we will look closely at this Jude passage touched on above. There we find an outline of potential characteristics found in a person given to being divisive; to which I cry:
“Ouch, Lord! Father, forgive me, a sinner apart from Your grace found in Christ. Set me free in Christ to be in His likeness so I do not give myself so readily to the lust of my flesh. In Jesus, amen.”
In any divisive situation, each person often acts and reacts out of their pain and woundedness. When that happens, we miss the full truth of the current situation, stray from the Light of God, and fall prey to a divisive, factious spirit that is out to steal, kill, and destroy our ability to live together in love, acceptance, and grace. Overcoming that enemy requires us to seek God and His ways. Coming into His Light, we are to seek understanding of truth, repent where needed, and give grace that restores fellowship. Too often, however, our flesh gets in the way of our victory in Christ:
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” ~ Romans 8:6-8 (read verses 1-8).
Another reason for a factious spirit getting a stronghold set up between us is our refusal to follow the dictates of the Spirit of God. When a factious mindset so gets ahold on us that we cannot, and will not reconcile with another – forgiving the insult, forgetting the injury and pain of it, and going forward in grace and love – we dishonor God. When we refuse to see the separation caused by our falling back to fleshly ways in a controversy, we follow the dictates of our flesh and, denying the work of God’s Spirit of Light, we refuse His direction for our paths.
If the Spirit of God shines a light on something within me that is causing my problem with a friend and I refuse to deal with it, I follow the dictates of the flesh and grieve the Spirit of God. If God reveals to me the truth of a friends situation that is causing them to behave in an unacceptable way, and I refuse to give them grace and show love in helping them wherever I can, I follow the dictates of the flesh and deny the leading of the Spirit.
“The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward GOD.” When we refuse to follow the calling and direction given us by God’s Spirit, we stand against Him.
The verse in the first of our series on recognizing and dealing with a factious spirit said this:
“Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” ~ Titus 3:10-11 (read verses 1-11).
This rebellion against God is, I believe, the reason God tells us to reject a factious person: reject their message, reject their ways and attitudes, and especially reject the dictates within one’s own flesh that leads us to respond inappropriately in a divisive encounter. A factious spirit leads us away from God, and indeed, stands hostile to Him. Participating in that puts us in opposition to God as well. We think we are in discord with another person, but when we refuse to follow the teaching of God as peacemakers, we stand against Him. The Amplified Classic version of this Titus 3:10 verse says this:
“[As for] a man who is factious [a heretical sectarian and cause of divisions], after admonishing him a first and second time, reject [him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him]” ~ Titus 3:10, AMP.
Scripture warns us that bad company corrupts good morals. There are times when it is best to leave a relationship than continue on with one that constantly brings us to fall to our flesh. There are also times when we love and care for a person who is given to a factious nature or who has a mental or physical health issue that is causing them to be paranoid and given to complaining about others. We cannot “remove from fellowship” by leaving the relationship when it is a person we care for and those who are within our sphere of responsibility to look after, like my poor daddy who suffered with paranoia for many years. What are we to do then? There is a way to remove ourselves from such unhealthy fellowship without removing ourselves from the relationship. See you next post.
“Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” ~ Titus 3:10-11 (read verses 1-11).
Factions form around controversy. It is human nature to pick a side and stand on it.
There are situations in which God calls His people to separate themselves from others. Jesus said in His prayer in John 17 that we are to be a people who, though we live in the world, we are not of its mindset and ways. There is to be a difference seen in us from that of the world around us. As Christians, God calls us to represent His interests, standing on His side of every issue. So, factions form because of sin that stands in opposition to God, but we are not to be a factious people. What is the difference? I believe it is a heart issue.
We have all had times when misunderstanding, hurt feelings, disagreement, etc., causes a problem between one and another. What, in such times, reveals a “factious man”? God is showing me a vital, defining characteristic of someone who is taking actions in a factious spirit or mindset. The realization God is leading me to causes me to evaluate my own reasons for mentioning a controversy to parties who are not part of the situation. We do it for affirmation, wanting others to approve us and disapprove the opposing side.
As people, we often need affirmation. Seeking affirmation from any but God, however innocently, can often lead to fractured relationships. The factious spirit begins by leading a person’s heart and mind to want others to tell them that they are right, and the other side is wrong. The problem is that, when we do that, we put the people we call on for affirmation in the position of feeling they have to pick a side. Only God truly knows all sides and only He can reveal the righteous stance.
When lack of peaceful relations and discord come, seldom are any fully standing with God in the controversy. Asking other people to tell us what only God can know places them in a position of possibly lying to us about what they truly think as they try to placate and pacify our need for affirmation. When they do take our side, we cause a breach in their relationship with the other party. Even if they don’t pick a side, it can still fracture their relationships with the parties involved as they try to avoid them so they are not dragged into the war.
God’s Word encourages us to seek sound counsel and to comfort one another. Sharing controversy with those goals as the heart of our desire is good. However, a teachable spirit must accompany our seeking of counsel and comfort: we must possess a heart to receive instruction, and walk in the sound counsel and comfort given. Also, we must take care that the person we share with is able to give the comfort and counsel without feeling they must choose a side in the controversy.
Today I present the subject matter, the factious spirit that seeks to separates friends and family, causing a breach that puts all in danger of a fall. Over the next several posts, we will cover things God is revealing we must do to counter and protect against a factious stronghold coming between us in an ungodly way.
“But He knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls’” ~ Luke 11:17.
Yesterday morning, I had a vision that I believe to be from God. Lying in bed, hoping to go back to sleep, eyes closed, in that darkness I clearly see our bedroom filling with white smoke. Immediately following my asking the Lord, “What’s going on?” two angels step into the smoke and lift holy hands to God. I cannot hear what they are saying, but I sense worship in the air and step forward, joining the angel’s song. As I do, the image changes. I see many scenes of people all over the world, running in a panic from something. I get the strong sense that whatever is causing the fear and panic is allowed or sent by God. My heart of worship continues and the vision ends.
Last night, thinking on the vision from yesterday morning, I sought God for greater revelation. As I considered the scene of the Angel’s song, God pointed my heart to the position from and to which all occurred. Noting the position of things, I recognized the smoke, coming from the west, is the sacrifice of praise and worship coming from God’s people. The Angels came up into that worship from the southeast and turned to face due east. All the hosts of God’s creation who believe in and seek Him, were watching for and working to be ready for the King’s arrival.
I said above that I stepped forward to join the Angel’s song. I did not see myself do that. I was not seen in the vision, I was part of it, physically joining in the worship going on. It was a heart movement as I mentally and emotionally turned my focus to the East and began to worship God with full control of my very alert faculties.
As soon as I did that, the scene literally swiped away from the southeast where the Angels came from, to the northwest, being replaced as if seeing the screen of a video swiping up to replace the view of those worshiping God, changing to many scenes in a collage of views from everywhere on the earth.
The first, most evident scene was a woman, climbing a big hill or mountain covered with huge boulders, panic stricken, moving north. The next was a couple in a well-groomed, middle class neighborhood, running in a panic, the man looking over his shoulder to the west where the worship was coming from, dragging behind a woman with a panicked expression. Another had city skyscrapers surrounding many people on the run, with all I can recall seeing looking back as if to escape some approaching enemy, having facial expressions of panic. I vaguely remember scenes including a Japanese style building (a pagoda and huts), forest or wooded areas, and there was more my mind could not focus on before the vision quit.
God told me yesterday that the meaning of the vision would be found in my next portion of scripture reading. I finally got to focus on my reading last night, which was 2 Thessalonians. There, in chapter 1, verses 3-10, God reveals it.
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, AWAY FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD AND FROM THE GLORY OF HIS POWER, WHEN HE COMES TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS ON THAT DAY, AND TO BE MARVELED AT AMONG ALL WHO HAVE BELIEVED—FOR OUR TESTIMONY TO YOU WAS BELIEVED” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.
Those who believe God run to Him in every avenue of life, their very being expressive of the true worship of God. Those who do not believe God run from any evidence of His presence and fight against the knowledge of God that makes Him evident.
I believe God is calling all who truly seek Him with a whole heart, desiring and recognizing His presence, to be more overt in our worship of Him in every way that the Scriptures reveal to be the true and evident heart of worship (1). Every part of our being must seek to possess and remain in the presence of the Lord through a holy life that truly and sincerely worships and honors Him as Lord. Those who do not want to know His presence will flee from us because they recognize and do not want the presence of the Lord. We are not to turn from worshipping God, as man pleasers, but as God-seekers, our focus is to be on the presence and power of our soon returning King.
Every act of our worship reaches out to Him as the savory aroma of the sacrifice of praise. Glorify the Lord with every breath, for the day of His return is nigh (very near to us, quickly approaching).
A few passages that instruct in the true worship seen in the saints of God: Isaiah 58; John 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; Philippians 3 (esp. AMPCL).
Reading Genesis 11, the story of Babel, I note anew the reasoning of the people as they plan to build and the rebellion against God found there. In verse 4, the people proclaim:
“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Here they are talking about pooling their resources together to build a permanent residence where they can dwell under one name and stop roaming over the earth. They refused to scatter over the whole earth, choosing instead to become great as one people under one name. This is rebellion against God who told Adam, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]…” ~ Genesis 1:28, AMP.
God repeated this command with Noah, “And GOD pronounced a blessing upon Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” ~ Genesis 9:1.
These people refused the will of God, deciding instead to set themselves up in one place, become great in stature together, and stand deliberately against the call to scatter over the earth, subduing it and making full use of its resources. In God’s response to this rebellion, we see Him doing what it takes to force the hand of the people and set them back on the path He laid out for them.
“And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city. Therefore the name of it was called Babel—because there the Lord confounded the language of all the earth; and from that place the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” ~ Genesis 11:6-9, AMP.
Beloved, God has a plan and a purpose for each of us on the path of life. Part of that plan, the key piece, is that we rely on and seek after Him and His will first, desiring Him above all, and fulfilling His purpose. Anytime we choose self-reliance over trust in Him, we leave the path of God’s desire for us, and fail to fulfill His purpose. God cannot let that stand. He must act as God and be God in the situation; and He is not above doing whatever it takes to set our feet on the path of His choosing.
Is there a difficulty in your life that has you stumbling about in confusion, frustrating your efforts to do what you want? Stop and seek the Lord to discern where you are on the path of life. Are you with the Lord on the path of His choosing? Then fear not. The trouble has a purpose and God has a plan and provision for dealing with it. Have you deliberately walked away from God, going your own way in your own strength to do your own thing? God does not leave us, but we can walk away from Him through rebellion that sets us on a path He cannot allow to succeed.
Holy Habitation with God requires that we get our bearings lined up with His as His people, called by His name, so we are on the path to fulfilling His purpose for us. Take a moment right now to check your position. Are you with God on the path, or have you slipped away?
“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” ~ James 4:6-10.
Listening prayer is a lifestyle of ceaseless communication with God; making every step and every breath an act of obedience flowing from a living and active relationship with Him as our Lord, our very breath of life. This lifestyle is vital to our function in this age in which we live and to our ability to overcome the challenges of a world that is daily moving farther from Him. In closing out this focus today, I am reminded of the purpose and goal of such a vital, God-breathed lifestyle of prayer.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6.
The goal and purpose of listening prayer is to make all our being and all we do and think acknowledge God as Lord, knowing that He is our first and most vital need. He is our Treasure: our eternal Inheritance. To be still within, lifting every breath to Him, the One in whom we place our trust, acknowledges His right as God over us, and our need of Him in all our ways. Here in Proverbs, God promises that, as we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will make our paths straight.
As I read this proverbs passage today, I found myself praying for God to reveal anything at the heart of my life that fails to acknowledge Him as Lord; anything hindering my seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Shortly after that prayer, a book I am reading led me to Deuteronomy:
“The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” ~ Deuteronomy 30:6.
Circumcising the heart is the removal of all that separates us from complete allegiance to and relationship with God. God reveals the things we lean on or want more than we do Him, and He begins the work of removing from our lives all that hinders our relationship with Him. Some things God graciously removes with hardly any notice of it or work on our part. We just suddenly lose all desire for that thing that interfered with our communion with our Beloved. However, there are some things where God will reveal the interfering offender and then tell us, “Circumcise your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:12-21 *vs. 16). Some things God requires us to do the work; He wants us to choose Him as much as He chooses us.
God holds us as the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). He loves us so much that He made a way for us to have relationship with Him by sacrificing His Son on our behalf (John 3:16). God’s desire is for us, not wanting ANY to perish, but ALL to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Repentance means to let go of one’s own way, aligning self with God and His ways, so that we walk beside Him in unity of mind and heart, fulfilling His purpose and plan. That requires us to love and desire Him as He does us.
The question is, do we hold Him as the apple of our eye – the center, most prominent treasure we seek to obtain and hold dearest to our heart when possessed? Do we desire relationship with Him so much that we willingly deny ourselves, and, taking up our cross of self-sacrifice daily, determine to follow Him at all cost (Luke 9:23, see AMPC)? Do we truly see God in all His triune essence as our first, most vital need and necessity, so that we choose Him above all else?
The goal and purpose of this call of God for us is that we may grow to love Him and desire Him above all else, fully possessing the eternal relationship He purchased for us. The love He calls us to grow in our possession of as we practice a living, life-giving, listening-prayer life that fully relates with and works alongside Him is best expressed in these words of Paul:
“Grace (God’s undeserved favor) be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying and INCORRUPTIBLE LOVE” ~ Ephesians 6:24, AMPC.
Loving God with a love so strong and sure, eternally binds us to Him. Nothing can draw us away from relationship with Him, corrupting our walk, when we come fully into this living, breathing walk of love with Him.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.
“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.
As we covered yesterday, we quench the Spirit in many ways: fear, doubt, disobedience, and more. Along with God’s instruction to not quench the work of the Spirit in us, here Paul gives a specific way we tend to quench the Spirit of God: through despising prophetic utterances.
What is prophetic utterance?
One work of the prophet is to make God’s word clear and evident as a source of truth and wisdom that applies to our lives today. As the pastor, a teacher, or a friend seeks to encourage us in the truth of God and its application to current life situations: that is prophetic utterance. To ignore that instruction and fail to apply it to some situation the Spirit points our hearts to as we learn of His truth is to despise prophetic utterance. To tell ourselves, as our fleshly soul is prone to do, “Oh, it won’t hurt just this once,” going against the nudge of the Spirit who reminds us of the truths of God and its application to some course we are considering is to despise prophetic utterance.
However, prophetic utterance takes another form in the power of God’s Presence that too many fear acknowledging as true and right in our day. Many in our day do not believe that the Spirit of the prophet works any more as it did in the days of the Old Testament. Though prophesy is a gift listed in the New Testament teachings we live by today, people deny this work of the Spirit. Though Jesus and His apostles taught that God will increase the number of His people who dream dreams and see visions as the day of Christ draws near – methods used by God in making prophesy known, many refuse to believe this gifting still works in our day. They deny themselves the benefit of this communication method sent by God to help us in these days.
I am talking here about those sent by God to warn us of things coming in our day so we can prepare ourselves to face those things, yes; but often times the Spirit of prophesy is a work that is much more personal and close to home than that. Let us look at two examples of such occurrences:
When one of my daughters was a teenager, she was obviously struggling with something, growing more withdrawn and depressed with each passing day, but was not opening up to me about it. Seeking God for Him to reveal and heal the problem, I heard in the “voice” I have long experienced as God communicating with my heart, “There is a demon in your house and he is raping your daughter.” Wow! Too weird for words, I shook my head as if to shake off the ridiculous, but I know that voice, so I did not ignore it. Instead, I prayed, “Lord, that thought is too strange to me, but that is the voice I know as You, so I do not want to just ignore it if that is You. What I am going to do is lay that at Your feet, rest it with You, and ask that, if it is truth from You, You reveal the truth of it and prepare us to deal rightly with it.”
A few days later, my daughter finally came to me, “Mom, I have to talk to you.” She shared with me about horrible, too real to fathom, nightmares she kept having of ghostly, demonic beings raping her in the night.” Now if God had not warned me, I might have shook it off as something other than a battle to be fought on the eternal frontlines.
We covered together all the possibilities: a real life rape forgotten or denied; someone bothering her and causing a fear of potential harm, etc. Anything thought of as a possibility, we discussed and dealt with, but nothing was clear to us at that time. We began fighting on the spiritual frontlines and called on believing friends to help us, praying protection over her and seeking the revelation of any contributing factors. Eventually God did reveal that our daughter saw something as a child that was perfectly innocent, but that was beyond her understanding. It caused a fear in her that revealed itself through this demonic attack against her, along with other troubling dreams. The battle was long and we saw God move in ways that are awesome to my understanding, all of which we would have missed experiencing if I failed to trust that God speaks to us today in such ways.
Then there is the more recent experience of a person in my life who awoke one morning to God telling her, “You need to check your husband’s computer. He has thousands of pornographic pictures.” Again, the message came to her in the “voice” of God, as she knows it.
Her husband struggled for many years with pornography when he was young. When they married, he assured her that God delivered him from that issue. Later she discovered he was again delving into that evil. It led them to separate, but they were trying to work through it and get their marriage back on solid ground. She asked him frequently how he was doing in that area, holding him accountable, and, every time, he told her that it was not a problem. Then there came this word of God’s warning to her.
When opportunity presented itself, knowing the prophetic proves to be from God with revelation of the truth of it, she got on his computer to check things out. Sure enough, there were thousands of images on his computer just as the Spirit said, along with numerous thumb drives full of the stuff. The truly disturbing thing she found is that he had one folder full of pictures of her teenage daughter that he saved from the daughter’s Instagram account. She could find no other family pictures anywhere, not of herself, or of his blood-born son from his previous marriage, only that one folder of her teenage daughter’s pictures, innocent headshots of her, saved among all that porn.
This was not the first time her family’s life was touched by perversion. There were things going on that had many praying for the revealing of truth concerning her current husband, as warning signs kept rising up to cause us to question what was going on with him. The prophetic warning from God received in answer to many prayers for the truth of his heart intentions, a marriage is in shambles, but a child is safe from harm’s way. I shudder to think what might happen if this woman of God despised the prophetic voice of God within, thus, failing to check it out for herself and find the truth.
God gave prophets to the people of Israel because the people were afraid to hear from God for themselves (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). God sent Jesus to restore us to full relationship with Him, bringing this work of the Spirit as a resource to help us. Do not let fear and doubt keep you from trusting God’s voice in you and having the full experience of Him that He desires for you. Trust the Lord who promises to make His word to us known as from Him through His faithfulness that brings all to pass just as He says it will.
Know the voice of God. Cooperate with the work of the Spirit within you. Do not despise and deny the prophetic word sent by God for your good. Instead, examine everything carefully, looking for the truth revealed. Hold fast to that which is good, following the lead of God into righteousness. Abstain from every form of evil, being quick to flee harm’s way when God lovingly reveals an area of danger. God promises that if He is the author of the word sent, we will see the truth of it. Trust Him, and only believe.