Tag Archives: Focus

The Practice of Focus

MY sweet husband, in pain, says, “This is the worst day yet,” as he struggles to move. Then he begins thanking me for my care for him. That’s my husband: realize the struggle, but focus on the blessings in the midst of it.

The Apostle Paul of the Holy Bible encourages us to realize the importance of contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4). One of the greatest aids to contentment when trouble screams for our attention is the practice of focusing on the blessings all around us, being grateful for the good that trouble seeks to rob from us. Learning to see the beauty in life and taking time to smell the roses helps us walk a life of contentment in the midst of pain.

Oh, Those Bath Days!

Today is Missy’s bath day. She is too big to bathe in the sink, and too heavy for me, getting her out of the tub: plus, my knees don’t handle that well any more, so off she goes to the vet for a spa day every 2 weeks.

Getting her ready to go is not a problem. She hears her leash come off it’s hook, and the excitement is on. She loves a good road trip and pulls me readily to the car. Seated happily in Johnny’s lap, she eyes every site and takes in all the smells.

This morning, as I pull into a parking spot, she starts sniffing the air vent like crazy. Obvious recognition in her eyes, her happy face drooping with every breath, she glares at me, “I don’t like where you parked!” I know that’s what she said.

Getting her reluctant body out of the car, I sit her down and the battle is on. She wants back in the car immediately! When that doesn’t happen, her goal becomes that of getting me to change course. Fighting her over the threshold, she wearily follows me to the desk. While I take care of business, she stands like a pointer, leash taught, making sure I know where the door is and begging, “Please! Help me.” Little does she know that she stinks, and my nose keeps me pointed toward her bath.

This morning, as our ritual dance at the desk plays out, she suddenly grabs my attention with some extra exuberant tugs on the line. Looking back, she points intently at the door. A woman, just stepping to the door, reaches the handle and pulls. Missy’s excited eyes and joyful tug scream, “Hurry! The door is open. Now’s our chance.” 😂

Missy is a lot of laughs for us. She is so expressive and so smart. But there are times when we know what is best for her, so we fight to get her where she needs to be. It is the same with God and us mere mortals. We so often tug against something God is leading us to, not liking the discomfort of getting there. I wonder if He laughs at us like we do Missy.

Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”

I don’t know if you have ever read Jeremiah. It is worth the read, if not. In it, God calls His people to willingly go into captivity, promising those who do will find His faithful presence and provision while going through a designated timeout from their destiny because of corporate sin. Many, the prophet Daniel being one, went willingly and found God’s faithfulness. Others, like the King of the day, refused to willingly follow God’s path. Most of them lost their lives  the King lost his eyes, his freedom, and his throne. Kicking against goads God sets in our path only hurts our feet. And, as Missy will tell you, fighting the Master’s pull only chokes us down. Better we go willingly into the Father’s plan.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “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.”

That’s a promise. God is faithful to His Word. Question is, do we believe and trust Him, even when the road gets rough? If we choose faith and a willingness to walk His way, we will find ourselves shining like gold and smelling like a rose on the other side of the difficulty we dread.

Greetings, Mighty Warrior of God

“…The LORD is with you, mighty warrior…. Go in the strength you have…” – Judges 6:12-14.

“The Lord with you” is the strength of the mighty. Nothing will be impossible with God. Even contentment in every circumstance is empowered in those who remember “the Lord is with you”. He will get you to His plan for you as you trust in the Lord and do the good He strengthens you to do. So press forward, Mighty Warrior, and have a BLESSed day!

Surrendered Faith

People say we are all made in the image of God. That was true in the beginning, but then came sin that distorted the image. From Adam on, all are born with this birth defect that is only healed in Christ.

I wish I could learn everything with ease and readily cooperate with God’s Spirit as He works to make in me that image made new through Christ. I must admit that some days are a struggle when I fail to remember the old me is dead, and live in the new creature Christ quickened in me. One thing I have noticed, in hard times that come, God’s presence in it makes the truth of who He is most evident to me. In those times, I learn of Him, and with greater surrender to the seed He is growing in me, desiring to be a faithful image bearer in Christ, more of me looks more like Him day by day.

As He changes me, I find greater ease in responding as He desires to the challenges found on the path of life. Never has that been more true than now, as I watch my dear husband fight a cancer that is out for his life. The peace I have in this season has me rested in my God who instructed me to trust His Word of promise:

Acts 17:24-26 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”

This cancer is not in control. God is. He gives life and breath and all things to us, having determined our appointed times, setting in place the boundaries of our habitation. Nothing can move the boundaries set by God one second before the time appointed by Him, except our failure to trust and follow Him. Sin kills.

Our only care is to live each day, trusting in God, and making the most of the life and breath and all things He so graciously gives, while surrendering to His healing of our birth defect, making us to bear His image more clearly each day. I am grateful for the good and the hard, where God reveals Himself; and for Jesus, who paid the price of sin so I can be healed; and for His Spirit that heals the Image in me. Surrendered faith in God quickens for life more abundant and full.

Necessary Fires

Read 1 Peter 1:1-9.

“…In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” ~ verses 6-9.

The thing that stands out to me as I read this is the word “necessary”. It says the trials God allows are only allowed IF NECESSARY, and that necessity has a glorious purpose: that some greatly needed “revelation of Jesus” come out of the fire with us.

The trials and tribulations God allows to touch the lives of His people He only allows out of necessity, in order to reveal Christ to and through us. For that to happen, does that not mean that Jesus is in the fire with us, even though we can’t see Him for the smoke and heat burning our proverbial eyes, and the flames blocking our view?

Take courage, Beloved of God. You, who are the “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” are not alone. God will bring Glory’s good out of the flames of adversity.

Look at what this says and be filled with the confidence of Christ.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” ~ Romans 8:28.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 5

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.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 4

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.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 3

In our consideration of the truths found in Philippians 4:4-13, we find instruction to help us take every thought captive to obey God in Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

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.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 2

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.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 1

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.

Walking the Word, Trusting the Promise

“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.

Ever Present Peace

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

Paul often opened and closed his letters with a blessing of peace and hope of the realization of God’s presence for the reader. He knew it was vital for the heart of the person to trust the presence of the Lord in life and circumstance so they would walk in the peace of God.

Peace disturbed signals that the mind’s eyes shifted focal point, turning from trust in God and His presence in life to the problems inherent in life’s difficulties. Peter sank when his eyes shifted from Jesus to the enormous waves coming at them, faith disturbed by his eye’s understanding of the situation. As a baby learning to walk, falls when looking away from the outstretched arms of the parent, so we find ourselves stumbling through life when we fail to fix our eyes on Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Trouble in life is often overwhelming, for when in the midst of it, it is difficult to see the path through it. Turning eyes to God, knowing He sees and knows all fully, while trusting His greatness that far exceeds any trouble, quiets the soul. Realizing His closeness to us, His presence in our day-to-day lives, His trustworthiness toward us who look to Him, brings His gift of peace and the assurance of His hand made ready to move on our behalf. Looking to Him stills us so that we may know God and receive from Him the wisdom needed to face the storm. With eyes on Him, we hear the voice of the Lord speak to our storm, “Peace! Be still” (Mark 4:35-41, KJV).

~*~

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” ~ Hebrews 13:20-21.

See also John 14:1; 23-27; Hebrews 13: 5, AMPC; Psalm 37:3-9; Psalm 46.

Called to Possess: On the Authority of God’s Word

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)

Pray For Those Who Hurt You

“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).

Recognizing and Defeating a Factious Spirit ~ Part 10

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.

Recognizing and Defeating a Factious Spirit ~ Part 7

“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.

Recognizing and Defeating a Factious Spirit ~ Part 5

“[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.

Answering the question, what do we do about a person that we love when a factious mindset threatens the relationship? How can we reject a contentious, divisive fellowship without leaving the relationship? To answer that, I think of the things God taught me over many years of dealing with my sweet daddy.

In his later years, my daddy suffered depression and paranoia common to aging. He was hard of hearing and often misheard or misinterpreted things. That fed his paranoia, leading to discord with family members. His actions and attitudes became factious, as he freely shared his beliefs about “what people are doing to me”, based on his misunderstanding of truth. There was no consoling him, and no changing his mind about the things he believed. It was very difficult some days to be around him. But I love my daddy, who is now with the Lord, and through that time of dealing with him, God taught me another way to reject the factious fellowship.

  1. First, realize the truth of the person’s mental, physical, and emotional state. What is going on in their life that is wearing them down? What is going on that may have them constantly meditating on the false information, further feeding the falsehood? Put yourself in their shoes and get a little compassion flowing toward them.
  2. Try to speak truth to the situation if you know it, in an effort to console, impart wisdom, and give peace, with hope of correcting the misunderstanding. Point to God’s ability to reveal truth and heal the situation.
  3. If they will not be consoled, try to change the subject.
  4. If they keep returning to their complaint and you cannot get them off the subject, excuse yourself with promise to return another day.
  5. Do not participate in a lie that is feeding discord. We tend to want to let one sharing their contentions have their way and pretend to agree with them hoping they will go on to some other topic of discussion: I.e., saying, “Yeah, that was horrible for them to do that,” when we know the other person did not do the stated deed. That just gives fuel for a factious spirit to use in breeding more discord.

Dealing with people in my dad’s situation, where they truly do not realize what they are doing and the harm it is bringing to relationships can be difficult. Those who do not have a mental issue causing them to behave factiously can be even harder to cope with; but if you want to maintain relationship without taking part in the divisive misinformation, knowing when to leave the conversation and change the subject is crucial.

So is watching oneself to be sure you are not inadvertently adding to the problem by talking with others about the situation with your loved one, inadvertently participating in the battle with a factious spirit of your own. In another situation where a person would not believe I did not do the thing accused of, they shut me out of their life. In my own hurt, when people would ask me how that person was doing, I would respond, “I don’t know.” Dependent on who it was, I would tell why I did not know, “They believe I did something I did not do and have shut me out of their life.” Then one day God inspired my heart to quit telling people about the other person’s insult to my heart or talking about the problem. He instructed that in doing so, I was hurting their reputation and relationship with others, and the reliving of the account was keeping the scab ripped off my own wounds. Following God’s instruction freed me to work toward loving that person anyway.

In another situation, I thought the other party was hearing me incorrectly. Then I realized that I said just what they said I did. With that revelation, it was time for a very sincere and heart-felt apology, first to God, and then to them. God reveals the truth. When He does, we must be ready to deal with it appropriately so that healing and restoration can begin.

Beloved, in whatever situation you find yourself, seek the wisdom of the Lord in dealing with it. Find truth as God sees it. Realize people’s life situation and their tendency to return to old coping mechanisms when wounded. Give yourself that same courtesy, realizing that we learn coping mechanisms over time, and may be walking in old ways that fail to glorify God. Find the truth as God reveals it and walk in the fellowship of His light, learning new ways of coping and dealing with such trouble. Be a peacemaker where you can, shining the light on God and His word, coming into agreement with Him. And most importantly, remember, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).

“Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]” ~ 1 Peter 4:8, AMP.

“The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! The Lord, the Mighty One, is God! He knows the truth, and may (God’s people) know it, too! …” Joshua 22:22, NLT (author’s translation).

Recognizing and Defeating a Factious Spirit ~ Part 3

Thus far, we covered that a factious spirit that gets hold of our mind and emotions is one that says, “I need someone to agree with me.” It is a spirit that fails and often refuses to open itself to seeking and finding the full truth of a situation. Defeating this tendency requires us to realize that the only one we need in agreement with us is God. He knows our hearts and if He does not convict or condemn us, then we stand righteous before Him.

Overcoming discord requires us to seek to understand our own thoughts and feelings, and to know that we stand pure of heart before God. Restoration requires us to seek to understand the thoughts and feelings of the others involved in the conflict. Today we discover that successful effort in this accomplishes the main work of a peacemaker.

Reading on from yesterday’s scripture:

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” ~ 1 John 1:5-7.

As I read this passage, God’s Spirit reminds me of something He recently inspired me to understand about the true role of a peacemaker. The number one characteristic of a peacemaker, in the way God intends it, is being a person who can walk in the light of truth, and help others do the same. These seek and find the truth of a situation, seek and find the truth of God’s will and way, and bringing all under that light, they seek to lead all parties to find the unity and fellowship we have in Christ and His truth. The true peacemaker seeks after and leads those around them to come to The Light, making amends wherever truth reveals the need, thus restoring fellowship with God first, and then with man.

1 John 2:7-11 says, “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

Fleshly indulgences, worldly ways, and Satanic influence is darkness that seeks to separate us from God, His Light, and those we love, especially from other believers. When we set our minds and hearts on our own version of truth, refusing to seek to understand others and bring a situation into God’s Light, Satan attacks our minds and hearts with thoughts that feed our false understanding, giving approval to fleshly indulgence and worldly ways. He takes us ever deeper into his pit of despair and discord.

We cannot develop a true and lasting fellowship with others unless we are willing to comecomfort002 into God’s Light with them. When we sit together, with ears attuned to hear their heart, eyes focused on seeing their situation and need, and hands ready and willing to give that healing touch of love, we get to the heart of our issues. There we find that any problem between us is seldom a one-sided problem, and often we find the truth of it to be not what we thought it was.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned” ~ Luke 6:36-37.

Recognizing and Defeating a Factious Spirit ~ Part 2

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” ~ 1 John 1:1-4.

I love this passage of scripture. This is one of those passages of scripture that speaks my call in ministry, to write the truths God teaches me concerning Himself and His Word. It tells me to write what I hear, see, look at intently so-as-to know with true understanding, and the things I touch or am touched by in life that teach me about God and His truth: the Word of Life. The things we learn from all our senses, touched by God in life, we are to share with others, finding fellowship through the truth of God and His ways. This sharing and the unity it brings is joy made complete.

Today, however, this passage speaks to me concerning a second aspect of the factious spirit. Besides wanting someone to affirm their stance as right and good, the person under the influence of a factious spirit wants others to know their opinion of what truth is. Often fearing the other side is talking, they want their side known.

Here is the problem: when an argument ensues that hurts feelings, or that puts people on the spot, etc., truth is seldom on one side or the other of the controversy. It is somewhere between them. In a contentious encounter, we may see, hear, and feel ok, but when our emotions get involved, we misunderstand what we are looking at. That leads us to take action out of an emotional place where our understanding of what is truly happening becomes even more twisted by misinterpretation of what we see, hear and feel.

In any dispute, the factious spirit convinces each person involved that their understanding of the event and the feelings they felt are full and complete truth. There is nothing from the other side to understand in the pursuit of clarity. It says, “My truth is all right and theirs is all wrong.” For example, a person may interpret things they sense in an encounter with another as the other person being angry, when the fuel of discord is actually heartache over past false assumptions and a lack of trust toward the one making false assumptions. Issues cannot be resolved truthfully when dictated by false assumptions and failure to get to the heart of the problem.

In our focal passage, we see that the proclamation of truth known brings fellowship. However, the thing we must realize is that the truth that brings true and abiding fellowship is not the truth I think I know from the situation experienced. The truth that brings true and abiding fellowship is the one that seeks after God and the truth He sees. God sees the heart in all things and He can lead us to it.

Seeking God’s truth that brings fellowship requires us to sit down with one who has a complaint and understand their heart. It requires each party to be open to facing their own flaws. It requires each to practice grace toward the other, knowing we all are a work in progress, “CONTINUALLY being perfected until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). True and abiding fellowship requires a love for God and a love for one another that hates the division that works destruction, and that determines to find the truth that brings fellowship.

When we can make application of the Word of God to our life situations, sit down together, and work toward truth that brings fellowship, we honor God and participate with Him in bringing LIFE to our words. In seeking truth, we replace the factious heart and mind with the heart and mind of Christ.

Recognizing and Defeating a Factious Spirit ~ Part 1

“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.

The King is Coming! ~ A Vision

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).

Path to Greatness: One Name

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.

Difficult Things 3: God Causes Good

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” ~ Romans 8:28.

Who of God’s people have not had opportunity to trust the promise of God that He will turn our troubles to a good purpose? The question is, do we have the right to claim this promise?

John Piper, in his revised version of “Future Grace” points out that many of God’s promises to us are conditional. This is one such promise. God does work all things together for good, conditionally, “to those who love God” and “to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Qualification 1) God works all things to good “for those who love God.”

This love we are to have for God, 1) holds love for Him first above all else; 2) proves itself through obedience; and 3) is incorruptible.

We are called to love God first, above all else. My husband knows there is only One I love more than I love him, and that is God. God gets my first and best. Without this, I cannot truly love, nor can I do any good, for God is love, and He alone is good. Only in abiding relationship with Him can I hope to love as He loves or do any good thing. God is the source of true love and we can only accomplish the truly good with His power supplying. That is a good thing for my husband, because, as I keep God first in my affections, then my love for him flows out of my love for God. If we have anything positioned in our life above God, we fail to love God in a way that causes Him to work His good in our lives.

Jesus made it clear that proof of our love for God is seen in our obedience to follow Christ (John 14:15, 23-24; 15:10), practicing the obedience He exhibited as example for us (John 5:19; 5:30; 8:28; 8:42; 10:18; 12:49; 14:10; 16:13; Galatians 2:20). We prove our love for God through our obedience in following Him above all others. A love that keeps God first and obeys Him at all cost is incorruptible and everlasting, not falling away to falsehood or any evil thing. God knows those who love Him in this way will continue to love Him despite every difficulty. He knows they will seek to have His viewpoint for every situation they face in life and that they will watch for the good God chooses to do through those circumstances. He knows they trust Him because they love Him and they know His love always does what is best. So their love remains steadfast even when the outcome of life’s challenges takes turns they may not see as a good thing at the time.

Qualification 2) God works all things out to a good conclusion for “those who are called according to His purpose.”

If we choose to do something God does not call us to do, He is not obligated to work good out of it; thus it is vital that all we do be done in and by the calling and equipping of God. To do less means we do so in our own strength, which will fail us. Doing something even if called to it, but going outside God’s purpose and plan for us, thus walking in disobedience, nullifies His obligation to work good out of our circumstances. Loving obedience within the confines of God’s call to and equipping for us is required if we are to see the promised good from God that this Romans 8:28 promise of God holds for us.

I don’t know if you have ever been on a mission trip, but there are several things I find common to those who go in the calling and equipping of God. Great strength pours through the body of one who goes in the will of God, having God as first love. That power pours forth to accomplish great things, from reaching the masses with the gospel message and love of Christ, to ministering to the physical, spiritual, mental, and social needs of the masses. We often see the miraculous as God’s power pours forth through us, granting us the privilege of experiencing Him as His instrument in ministry. Then we get home and that anointing of His power for that specific time and purpose lifts. Strength seems sapped because that power is not as evident as when on the field for a season of ministry. At the same time, the joy and excitement of the experience spurs the desire for more of the same on the home front.

I believe the disciples, in our Mark 9:14-29 passage for this series, were in this post mission exuberance. They wanted to be God’s instrument for healing the boy, but their faith was resting on their past experience of God’s calling and equipping. They failed to seek God out of love for Him, entering into His equipping for this opportunity in front of them. They were not moving out of the calling and equipping of God, but out of their desire to do the miraculous. They fell to loving the experience of His power instead of truly loving Him, and out of that love, letting His power have control. They came off the mission field too big for their britches, forgot their first love, and found they had only a little power, which proved to be insufficient for the need.

For God to fulfill His promise of working His good into our lives, we must have hearts attuned to Him as our first love: our most vital need and necessity for life. We must also walk in the calling and equipping of God for current situations, with faith firmly resting in what He can and will do through us and for us. Anything less and the good of God may not reach us, His obligation to act on our behalf voided by our failure to fulfill His will through obedience that keeps Him first in our affections.

Difficult Things 2-C ~ A Faith That Moves Mountains: Personal Testimony (Long)

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord” ~ Lamentations 3:21-26.

My journey of learning to walk by faith, knowing I can trust God for every need, began with a very small issue that was mountainous to me. A wart on my hand refused to heal, despite every effort.

On the day I was considering the need to go to our medical doctor and let him take care of it, I walked into our living room where a TV program was talking about a little booklet, just out at that time, titled, “My Heart, Christ’s Home.” They were talking about the “room” of our heart where faith resides. Struck by the discourse, I went back to the kitchen I was in the process of cleaning, praying along the way for God to grow my faith. The person sharing the booklet suggested asking God to point to a particular need that He would use to enliven our journey to increased faith that fully trusts in Him. Doing so, as I reached into the sink for the next dish, I bumped the wart.

Memory of my mother telling me of a time when I had several warts on my hand came instantly to mind. She said they could not afford to do anything medically for it at that time, so she prayed for God’s healing, and He took care of it: within a week, they were gone. There it was! Revelation of the conduit for my beginning on the journey to grow in faith that fully trusts and looks to God. Praying for God’s healing to increase my faith to trust Him more, I went on with life. Not many days later, again doing dishes, I saw it, my perfectly healed hand. I forgot about the wart after giving it to the Lord and paid no attention until reaching into the water again reminded me. Ever since then, just the inkling of a wart meets with prayers of faith that trusts God. I have not had one wart since. In fact, one threatened to rise up just last week, and it is gone because God is faithful.

My journey of growth to greater levels of faith continues today. Our God is so very great; He is beyond any ability we have to fully comprehend His glory and power this side of eternity. I am convinced that, no matter how strong we grow in our knowledge of and understanding of Him, when we meet Him in eternity, amazement will be ours as we meet a Father much greater than we can ever comprehended in this life. Every situation we face presents us with opportunity to grow in faith as we come to better understand our God. Acts 17 tells us:

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist…” ~ vs. 24-28.

God’s desire is that we grow in our knowledge of Him, and the purpose of every experience under the sun is that we reach for His hand expecting to find it. This is the journey of ever-growing faith.

My husband and I are in new territory for us even now that is giving ample opportunity to seek and find the hand of God in ways never before experienced by us. My beloved husband of over 40 years received a diagnosis of stage 4 prostate cancer just a few weeks ago. He had no common symptoms of prostate issues, thus the advanced state (Men, it is vital you have a physical every year that includes a prostate exam and PSA lab work). The symptoms he does have pointed to a myriad of possibilities. Addressing the most likely cause first, his presenting symptom went on for 10 months before another symptom finally led to looking more closely at what was going on. So here we are, on a journey that, short of God’s work in my husband’s body, has us facing the reality that his life may end sooner than desired by us.

Seeking God as the shock of the diagnoses of earthly medicine hit, Father made it clear that He is in control. This thing is not outside the scope of His plan nor beyond the reach of His hand. He has purpose in this season and will accomplish it. This is a journey set by God to increase faith in us as we seek the Lord’s direction for each and every step. God’s purpose in this health issues is to give us opportunity to seek Him so we may grow in our knowledge of Him. As we do, we take every opportunity to share the journey in ways that help the faith and growth of those walking with us. You are now part of that group.

In our journey, we are discovering as never before the greatest of faith that cries out as Jesus did, “Yet not my will, but Your will be done.” We seek God, having our desire in the outcome, but we know God’s will is of greatest importance and must prevail, for His purpose will see its fulfillment. The soil for the seed of faith is always and only in the calling and equipping of God available to us in the things that challenge our faith. If we are not in the center of God’s will, reaching for His Hand in any given situation, His power and supply for our ability will not be there to help us. Faith either fails to sprout forth to accomplish any good thing because of immaturity, or because of lack of obedience that fails to receive the nutrients available to us in the soil of life-challenges. Growing and productive seeds for abundant life root out by faith in God, revealed as such through trusting obedience to Him, bearing the fruit of righteousness.

Faith seeks God first, finds His will and way for the path ahead, and walks that path with assurance that He is in control, leading to the outcome of His choosing. Faith trusts that the One who sees and knows all things, from beginning of time to end of days, is working a plan that establishes and accomplishes our divinely appointed role in this life.

All the good we seek to do can only come to fulfill His will and purpose as we grope for Him, finding His hand to lead us to it. Fighting death as if it is the mountain is a waste of energy apart from God’s leading in the fight. Short of the Rapture coming to take us, death is a promise to all human flesh. Death is the natural course of life in this shell we call “body”, and God is the one who sets in place the time and method of our death. Unless raptured, we will all one-day die.

God’s word tells us that He plans the number of our days while there is yet one of them. Before we are born, He knows our hour of death, because He set the course of our life and planned how each breath fits His eternal purpose. Our walk of faith is to grasp for His hand with every step, trusting Him to direct our paths to fulfill the purpose He planned before we were born. Continue in attempts to do what we see as good without waiting on God to direct, equip, and establish our path, and we deplete the soil of the heart, using up resources meant for other things, and missing the mark of fulfilling His purpose.

Depleted soil cannot bear good fruit. That is when our everyday ministry begins to falter as we deplete resources given for it while trying to do more than God calls us to do. Johnny has strength to keep working because God set His feet on the path and Johnny trusts God for each step. He is not fretting over things He cannot control. Though he is putting up the fight against cancer as God leads us to, He knows God is the only one who can bring the victory. God’s will for Johnny’s life will be done.

My husband’s health issue is a huge mountainous challenge in our lives, but it is not the only mountain, nor even the main one. Death being part of life, the mountain to cast away is anything in us that hinders our facing it with faith, hope, and trust in God, knowing He will not allow our death one instant before He fulfills His plan in us. The mountain God reveals to me is most important to Him is the things in us that hinder our faith and rob of strength needed for us to walk this journey well, in ways that glorify Him. Oh how sad it would be to come to the end of our days and fail to finish strong in faith filled obedience to God, being too busy fighting death to live the life He gives us!

One of the biggest challenges revealed so far on our journey is the mountain of my need to control things. My routines are messed up, and my calendar is no longer my own. I know. It never truly was, not if I truly follow God; but all sense of time ever belonging to me to control is falling to the wayside, as we must do what is necessary to travel the path God has us walking. We often get calls to remind of appointments one of his doctors set up without consulting us. The reminder for the appointment becomes the first we knew of it, reminding us that our calendar is not our own: it must rest in God’s capable hands (Psalm 37:23; 40:2; Proverbs 16:9). Household duties and my husband’s work duties pile up as we spend time normally put to those things, running to appointments and tending to health needs.

As we seek God in every challenge Johnny’s health journey brings, God directs us step by step. He is pouring strength to my husband, thus far protecting him from the side effects of chemo and symptoms common to his illness, empowering him to keep working and to get the work done as he gets to it. Hubby’s patience has always amazed me, and his ability to let God be God in this hour is strengthening my own.

As for me, God told me shortly after this journey began to fret not over things that can wait, but pick my battles with His priorities at heart, reserving the energy I need to be the wife Johnny needs in this season. That wisdom and the faith to let God have control, knowing God will provide the energy and ability for each thing in its time, brought down a huge mountain in me as I surrendered my times to God’s care, trusting my days to Him.

“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your lovingkindness. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon You…” ~ Psalm 31:14-17a.

When faced with an issue that looks like a mountain to overcome, the first step is to go to the Father and ask if we are the one to tackle it. The voice of persecution from God’s enemy often comes as a sense of urgency to jump on tasks that are truly unimportant in that moment, only serving to rob of needed strength for things we do need to take care of. We must seek His revelation to know if that thing in front of our eyes is a mountain He wants us to face, and whether it is one to cast aside or whether it is His provision of a place of fertile soil for our spiritual growth and service. His answer fertilizes our faith, making it ready for germination. Planting that seed by trusting Him for each step, following in obedient faith, grows in us the fruit bearing trees that glorify Him.

Knowing our calling and equipping, and having God’s focus, requires a vital and growing relationship with the Father. That begins and ends in prayer: communication with God that earnestly seeks Him with seeds of faith ready for His provision for growth. Seeking Him must be in faith that trusts Him to give the right answer, with commitment to follow the wisdom He supplies without wavering (James 1:1-8).

The question that comes to my attention next is, how do we know that our faith is planted in the fertile soil of God’s making so that mountains fall and good springs forth? Next post we address another difficult thing about God’s word and way that is necessary to understand if we are to see His good worked out into our circumstances. Hoping to see you back here next week as our life circumstances allow me time to write subsequent posts.

Difficult Things 2-B ~ A Faith That Moves Mountains

“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you’” ~ Matthew 17:19-20.

Last post we discovered that the “littleness” of faith Jesus warned of was not a lack of enough faith, as Jesus says that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains. The “littleness” Jesus speaks of in this analogy is faith that is immature, being unable to sprout forth and grow. It does not matter how much faith we have if that faith is immature: incapable of growth producing the fruit of the Seed. Faith, inadequately mature for growth, is useless, even though we possess enough of it to pile it up to mountainous heights. However, the smallest amount of faith, made ready to grow, is powerful, to the removing of mountains. That is the teaching of Christ I see.

No doubt, we each have many seeds of faith within us, each in various stages of maturation, some already grown into large, mature trees. Trees sprout forth in fruitful glory when, having experienced God enough in some areas of life, we no longer question His ability and willingness. Instead, we readily and easily trust Him in areas kin to our experience. In those areas, we bear much fruit to the glory of God, for we know from whom our help comes.

Facing new needs requiring faith, finding just that tiny seed available for the new situation standing before us, our past-experience of God helps prepare the new seeds of faith, making them ready to germinate at the unction of God’s Spirit. Just a little time with God’s Presence, receiving instruction regarding the path ahead of us, assuring our hearts of His faithfulness, and roots spring forth to produce a harvest. In the process, mountainous issues fall away into nothingness as we grow to know how great God is.

The problem the disciples had hindering their faith was that Jesus, the one who instructed them in the heart of God and His purpose, was unavailable for consultation. The Presence of God they knew was nowhere to be found in that moment of need.

Last post, covering this understanding that the seed Jesus sights as having “littleness” is immature, we ended with the thought that we must realize the mountain God has set His sights on removing. Knowing the mountain set by God for removal with hope set on Him who powers it is vital to victory.

Beloved, we will never, this side of eternity, have sufficient understanding of God and His ways so as to never have need to plant new seeds of faith. There is always new growth and fruitfulness to possess in our knowledge and understanding of God. The thing I am learning is that the mountain we think we see in front of us is most often potting soil, set in our path by God as the soil required for our faith-seed to grow.

We see the difficulty standing in the middle of our road; the hardship that we cannot get past. That thing standing in front of us, causing such frustration and doubt as it refuses to move, becomes enormous in our eyes as we fight the challenge we deem an obstacle. Wanting not to have the difficulty that challenge presents us, we decide it must be a mountain to cast off. Failing to recognize the soil made ready for seeds of faith’s growth, discontented in the place God plants us, we find ourselves fighting against God, thinking we are working with Him to move the mountain in our eye’s sight.

The truth I find is that the bigger mountain God is always after is those things in us that hinder our knowledge of Him and His ways, destroying our trust to believe Him and take Him at His Word. Let us look at our disciples again to glean from that example and see that, though they failed to heal the boy, a mountain did come down.

Before their mission trip, Jesus gave the disciples an assignment (Mark 6:7-14). They listened to the Creator of all things, The Living Word sent from the Father. He prepped the seeds of faith they would plant for fruit bearing as they faced each challenge set before them. That seed fertilized by God through Jesus’ words, commanded what they were going on mission to do, giving them authority to do it. The mountain was not the challenges lying ahead of them, but the things within that would stop up the growth of their faith to believe the command of Christ who gave them their authority. Believing Jesus, they overcame the challenges as they went forth in victory to fulfill Jesus’ Word to them. Their seed, impregnated by His instruction, grew to a fruit-bearing tree as they came to each challenge to their faith. They learned that they too could follow the instruction of God in the power of His supply and accomplish the great things of God’s choosing by trusting Jesus.

Now back home, the disciples faced a similar situation as that successfully met on their mission journey. Unable to perform the work they easily faced before, what happened to their faith? Why were they unable to heal this one brought before them now?  I believe God was working on a new seed of faith they needed to germinate in preparing for the ministry ahead of them, but they had their eye on the wrong mountain. They saw the potting soil set before them in this one needing healing, and failed to see the mountain found in the lack of their knowledge of God that made for their littleness of faith. The healing of the boy was God’s will. Healing Him was within God power to accomplish. The demonized boy was soil prepared by God for a growth encounter that would remove a mountain of doubt standing in the way of the effective ministry He had for these disciples to possess.

Jesus, the one they communicated with to know the Father’s heart, was off doing something else. He was not there, readily available to instruct and prep the soil of their hearts by speaking to them the truth of God’s authority given to prepare their seed of faith to see the boy healed. They apparently did not realize fully that they could speak with and know the Father’s will for themselves, receiving His instruction and authority with power. Prayerlessly skipping the communication phase of their journey, doing what they had done before without clear direction for the “now” situation, they tackled the challenge with immature faith that could not sprout. Chopping at what they saw as a mountain to defeat, they failed to plant the seed of faith there and watch for what God would do. They tried to heal the boy with no root of authority and power established for that particular work. Good as the work they wanted to do was, they were working off depleted resources, using seeds of faith that Jesus called “littleness”.

In this account of the disciples little faith, I see that the disciples needed to grow to know that when Jesus was gone, the Father was with them to help them. They lacked faith to understand that the Father hears and responds to them personally. All they needed was to call to Him and seek His face with earnest expectation and hope of receiving His response. That is the mountain I believe God was after, their lack of reliance on Him as Father, and understanding to know that He was with them even when Jesus was gone. The next verses in the Mark account of this faith encounter, shows Jesus, beginning to prepare them for His soon departure. Jesus being about to leave the earth, we can see that it was vital they grow to know and seek the Father for themselves.

What mountainous challenge are you facing, Beloved? Are your sights truly set on the one to be cast away, or is that challenge in your sight truly God’s field of fertile soil made ready for your seeds of faith to germinate as you discover and overcome the true mountain God is after? If a situation stands, immovable, perhaps it is time to ask God to reveal the true mountain He is working cast away as He uses the experience to mature seeds of faith in you. Seek the Father with faith that knows He is faithful to respond in due season. He will show you what you need to know on the journey to cast out every mountainous obstacle to your mature and effective faith.

Difficult Things 2-A ~ Faith That Moves Mountains

In the first “Difficult Things” post, speaking of truly trusting God, we mentioned that the disciples were unable to heal the demon-possessed boy brought to them by the man who came with a small seed of hope that Jesus “can” heal. We talked about what Jesus said to the man, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

Jesus spoke straight to the point, both to the man seeking healing, and to the disciples, standing by, wondering why they could not perform the healing. The man’s “if” revealed how small his faith, but the man was not the only one struggling with faith…

…and “small faith” was not the true problem. …

We see this fact in the response Jesus gives the disciples when they seek answers.

In Matthew 17:14-21, we see the same story told by Mark in the Mark 9 passage covered two posts back. Here Matthew tells us that the disciples come to Jesus afterward and ask, “Why could we not drive it out?” Jesus replied, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’ …And He said to them, ‘This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer (Mark 9:29).’”

Difficult thing 2: How much faith does it take before we see a mountainous issue thrown aside?

Jesus said the disciples problem of faith was in its “littleness”.  Was He talking amount or size of faith? I don’t believe so, because Jesus then says it only takes a mustard seed sized faith to move mountains. The mustard tree seed is one of the smallest seeds there is: reportedly, the smallest of seeds known by man at the time Jesus spoke this analogy. Use of the word “littleness” was not talking about size.

I believe the “littleness” Jesus speaks of implies the seeds maturity. There is a point in the life of a seed when it is not of sufficient maturity to germinate, therefore it is incapable of producing fruit. Jesus is not talking about having great faith, but a faith that is capable of growth: a faith that makes us fruit bearing trees in God’s eternal purpose.

In the analogy used by Jesus, we see that faith does not have to be big to grow, but it does have to be capable of resting in God and receiving the nutrients He gives that springs forth life in Christlikeness, producing the fruit of that Good Tree. Where do I get the need to rest the seed in God from Jesus’ analogy? From His remark that told them they were not prayed up enough.

What is it that resources our spiritual growth of faith? Where does that seed have to be in order to grow? That seed must fully and completely rest in hearts that fully and completely rely on God: trusting His resources as we cooperate in His work, seeking His instruction, and watching for the great things He can do in response to our faith. The disciples had faith, but the One they looked to for instruction and equipping was not with them when the man came with his “if you can” hope. Jesus, out doing a work of God’s choosing, unavailable to help them, they apparently did not think to go to the Father for themselves and plant the seed in the soil of hearts relying on Him. All it takes is a mustard seed of faith, the smallest inkling of trust to believe God, seeking Him to meet our need, but in order to get that, we have to seek Him.

There lies the key: He meets our need, whatever it is, however great or small, once we seek Him with a faith ready for growth. He grows our faith from glory to glory, here a little, and there a little more. The “can you?” of a hope filled seeker, and “I know You can, if You are willing,” sprout from the smallest of seed, mature enough to search for Him and find Him.

No matter how small our faith, if it has maturity for growth, it will find God ready to nourish it, growing our faith with ever-deeper roots into the One who moves mountains. But realize too that our eyes may be sighted on the wrong mountain. What do I mean? See you in our next posting for the answer.

 

Listening Prayer (Part 5) ~ The Purpose

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.

Listening Prayer (Part 4-A) ~ The Way of It

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Recall from previous posts in this series that listening prayer is two-way communication.

We speak: God hears and responds. When He responds with words in the Spirit, whether through scripture, the encouragement of other believers, or that gentle inner voice, the work of the Spirit is to grant us understanding of the voice of the Lord. Our work is to hear with the listening ears of a disciple possessing a heart to obey. When God speaks to us in the work of His Spirit in us to encourage our wait for His action, we know the word is from the Lord as it happens in the earth.

He speaks: by faith, we listen and hear with understanding ears open to the Spirit of God who brings knowledge and remembrance of things we need to know so that we can follow through to accomplish the will of God in every situation. The Spirit gives wisdom with understanding comprehension. Listen! And give Him glory.

In today’s focal passage, we see that the will of God for us is that, in every situation of life, we rejoice in Him, praying without ceasing, possessing a grateful heart that expresses itself in us.

Note the “pray without ceasing”: How do we possess a ceaseless prayer life? We accomplish this as we realize that listening prayer begins with communion – friends, walking together in the partnership of life, and it culminates in action. We seek the Lord. He instructs us. We follow His instruction, doing what He equips us to accomplish. Meanwhile, we watch to see Him do what only He can do through our situations and in response to our obedience. We praise the Lord for His work in and through us all along the way. The topper? He rejoices over us who walk so closely with Him.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” ~ Zephaniah 3:17.

Now, what of the “Rejoice ALWAYS…in EVERYTHING give thanks”? That appears easiest to do when things are good—or is it? However, things are not always good. When things are bad, it is definitely difficult to always rejoice and give thanks in everything—isn’t it? Difficulty being part of our always and everything, how do we continue to rejoice and be thankful?

It should be easiest to rejoice in the Lord with grateful heart when things are good; however, that is too often not the case. When God brings us out of a season of difficult and delivers us into the good land, we rejoice in recognizing His work on our behalf. However, when we neglect to realize God moved on our behalf, or when we are long in the good land, we too easily take for granted that goodness and neglect to rejoice and give Him thanks as we should.

Listening prayer maintains constant communion with God, being always aware of the good He does for us, and being faithful to this call in our rejoicing over Him with thankfulness. The stronger we grow in this practice of prayer, the more ceaseless our walk in this will of God for us. Be alert in the good days that you fulfill the will of God in listening communion with Him, laying claim to no good thing as if of your own making, taking nothing for granted.

What about the difficult days, how do we rejoice and give thanks when we see nothing to rejoice over and definitely are not thankful for what is going on? The answer is in our focus during such times, and in our understanding of what this passage teaches us.

Rejoice always: in what? Certainly not in our situations: good or bad. Rejoicing in our situations or in the provision God makes for our life circumstances and possessions He provides for us makes these an idol in our eyes. Rejoicing is always to be in our God – who He is in all seasons, His faithfulness, His help toward us, His presence, etc.

Scripture tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of Your heart.” When our greatest desire is God, we will find Him in every situation, good or bad, and we will be satiated, strengthened, and helped. The scripture says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”. Growing strong in our ability to find joy in the Presence of our Lord, whatever is going on in life, is what brings us strength to be able to face all that comes to our day. (Psalm 37:3-6; Nehemiah 8:10)

Focus in rejoicing is always in the Lord. When our lives focus on delighting in Him, thankfulness comes easy as we note His work and provision more readily, seeing Him move in to help us, in good days, and in difficult ones.

~*~

“Rejoice in the Lord always – delight, gladden yourselves in Him; again I say, Rejoice! Let all men know, perceive and recognize your unselfishness, your considerateness, your forbearing spirit. The Lord is near…” ~ Philippians 4:4-5, AMPC.

Listening Prayer (Part 2-A) ~ The Work of The Helper

“For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:4-5, NLT.

God calls and equips us to listen as His disciples, having His provision for our ears to hear and our mind to understand and our heart to stand in agreement so-as-to fulfill His plan and purpose for our being in this time in history. There are two main things God supplies us to equip us for success in our journey as His disciples: The Spirit of God and the mind of Christ. For these two resources to have full sway in accomplishing God’s will in us, we must understand their work in us, and BELIEVE! Today we look at the work of The Spirit of God in the lives of His children.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. …These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” ~ John 14:16-17, 25-26.

Jesus tells us a lot about the work of the Spirit in Scripture. Here we see the PROMISE from Jesus that He sends His Spirit to help us. The promise is that we will receive the Spirit and KNOW Him. We can and must as God’s children discern when the Spirit is speaking to us, doing His work as Helper. What is that work?

The Helper empowers us to understand the truth of God and His word.

We cannot fully comprehend the truth of God and His word to us without this work of the Spirit, so when understanding comes, that is not ours to brag about. All credit for our ability to understand the Holy Writ belongs to Spirit-God.

By the same right, when we set under the teaching of our church leadership, they must share with us what the Spirit taught them. The Spirit uses their teaching to take us into deeper understanding, and it is the Spirit of God that raises an “amen” in our Spirit when we hear His truth.

The Spirit is our Teacher and our Brain of Remembrance.

Think about what it takes to teach. There must be clear communication between teacher and student / disciple. The Spirit of God instructs our hearts and enables us to understand the teaching so-as-to apply it to our daily lives. When we forget some instruction, the Spirit is the one who brings it to our remembrance.

Though it may seem to us that our thoughts are our own, that is not always true. The Spirit is God’s response to the prayer of Jesus that we be one with them as they are with each other. Every good and true thought that leads us to the good God desires is from Him in the power of His Spirit that unites us as one with the Father. We cannot take credit for any good that comes to our understanding and actions.

The scriptures tell us two things about God that lead me to this assertion. One, God alone is good, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him (Mark 10:18; James 1:17). Two, when we ask for wisdom, believing and trusting Him to give it, He answers (James 1:5-8).

There is a true and good wisdom available for our possession in the power and equipping of Spirit-God. That wisdom is a gift from God in the power of His Spirit. It is not our own. We can take no credit for it. (James 3:13-18)

I believe this truth is why Proverbs describes Wisdom as if speaking of a person (i.e.: Proverbs 1:20-33). The Spirit of God is true and good Wisdom.

Often people will hear me proclaim, “God said to me” or “God told me”. These truths that I believe are why I do that. Every true and good understanding of truth that comes to me from Him is His speaking to me the instruction needed for life more abundant and full. Giving Him credit for it keeps me mindful that such good is not my own, but His.

I believe He speaks clearly to my heart because I have heard Him. He, many times has told me what is about to come; He gives understanding of what is going on, and truth I need to remember. It comes as a clear thought rising up as my own, but clearly not from my physical mind. Such thoughts always prove to be truly from Him and they lead my feet surly to the path of His choosing (Jeremiah 28:9; Ezekiel 33:33; Isaiah 30:21). I dare not take credit for it.

There is much taught concerning the work of the Spirit in scripture. We continue our journey tomorrow.

Listening Prayer (Part 1) ~ Requires Circumcised Ears

“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, He wakens My ear to hear as a disciple [as one who is taught]” (Isaiah 50:4, AMP).

Dialogue - one person is speaking and one listening
Dialogue – one person is speaking and one listening

I love this verse in the Amplified Bible version. God often highlights it as a truth for my life, a life-goal to walk out into my reality.

As the saying goes, “God gives us two ears and only one mouth for a purpose; so that we will listen twice as much as we talk.” Listening is a skill God calls and equips us to develop. As Isaiah says, the tongue of a disciple speaks a word in season to those in need of it because that child of God first listens to hear the words of God as His disciple.

God not only gives us physical ears, but He wakens our spiritual ears, circumcising our ears and our hearts so that we hear Him in the power of His Spirit and understand what He is telling us.

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit…” ~ Acts 7:51 (See also Revelation 2:7; Luke 8:8; Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 6:10; John 8:43; Romans 11:8).

Have you dealt with instructing children any? How do we know a child fully understood and received an instruction we gave them? We know when they do what we told them.

The title, Listening Prayer, comes from a book on prayer I read many years ago, bearing that title. In all my years of studying prayer, that book included, my understanding and practice is this: Prayer begins with seeking God on any subject or need; it progresses through hearing and receiving His opinion and instruction; and it ends in our obedience to do as He instructs. Prayer goes from faith filled seeking after God, to belief-fed obedience in action.

Listening prayer flows from a heart that is completely dependent upon God. We humans have a tendency to see our need and pray as if we know what the solution is, failing to realize that, without the Spirit of God’s help, we see dimly, as through a glass.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV.

See self through God's eyes.

 

Have you ever looked at things through a glass? Glass greatly distorts an image. Some versions translate the word “glass” used here to “mirror.” Even our modern mirrors can greatly distort our understanding of reality. Plus, when we look in a mirror, the focus is on what we see of self and our surroundings. It is not on God and His purposes.

Only God sees all things clearly. He knows our hearts better than we know our own. He knows the hearts of those for whom we pray. He knows how our little thread in the tapestry of eternity fits best into His great plan. Understanding these truths makes it vital that we learn to first seek the Spirit’s instruction even in how we should pray. Once we have his heart on how to pray, it is finished. Once God says, “Here is my opinion,” ‘nough said! Standing in agreement with God says all that needs saying. This is one reason I believe we are to listen more than we speak.

Thus, we begin our journey to understand and practice listening prayer with understanding of our need to seek the Father first in every situation: seeking Him for His circumcision. We need Him to remove our fleshly focus and give us spiritually astute eyes that see as He sees, spiritually astute ears that hear His thoughts on the matter, and a spiritually astute heart that understands fully as He gives discernment in the leading power of His Spirit.

~*~

NOTE: My plan is to do this series of blogs quickly, getting them out each day to its conclusion. However, we have a family health situation that may take precedence over my time for writing. I will do my best to maintain the flow by getting the next posts out quickly. See you next post for part two.