Tag Archives: Focus

The Young Don’t Always Do What They are Told

“For after I turned back, I repented; And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated because I bore the reproach of my youth” ~ Jeremiah 31:19.

I have three children, twelve grandchildren, and many friends and acquaintances that are younger than me, and one thing I have learned through the years is that the young don’t always do what they are told. I can warn one of these from my experience of a path they are thinking of traveling, and instead of hearing and receiving the warning, they too often choose to walk the path for themselves and learn things the hard way. In the world’s economy, there is too often an unseen badge of honor we feel we have earned by learning things the hard way, by experience rather than through instruction. But in God’s kingdom, the badge of honor comes to those who hear and, through faith, obey the instruction given.

“The young don’t always do what they are told” comes to me in the voice of a Stargate SG1 character named anteausAnteaus, a leader of the Nox in episode 107. He was not just speaking of the child Nox under his care, but he was speaking of the SG1 team and the people of earth. What has me thinking on this subject this beautiful Sunday afternoon?

On my way home after Church, mulling over the message and its application to me personally, the Spirit, in the voice of Anteaus, said to me—about me, “The young don’t always do what they are told.”

I am nearing 60 years of age, an elder in our society, yet to God whose age is beyond number, I am “the young.” Still, at my age, I too often fail to hear fully what God is telling me. There are a couple of things we flesh beings are prone to do when we are not hearing and receiving through faith God’s instruction to us with understanding and clear comprehension:

One – We too often hear, but then add more to His instruction than He intended we bear; just like Adam and Eve. Adam was told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet somehow when the serpent asked Eve about it, it was translated to and through her as, “We are not to eat, or even touch it!” (Genesis 3) So one way we fail to do what we are told is by making God’s instruction burdensome by adding to it things that He did not intend us to bear. Or, if you are like me, we often add things that make it less our fault when we fail, as you will see in my example below.

I am not beyond making God’s instruction to me more difficult or convenient by adding ultimatums or a way out beyond what He instructed me. Just today God instructed me through 1 Peter 1:1-2 that we are chosen for the purpose of obedience to Christ. As I noted that in my study notes, I had to scratch two words out as I wrote, “We are chosen for the purpose of obedience to and through Christ.”

Now is the “and through” untrue? No. I can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15). And it is through the Spirit of God that I am empowered (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5). But in that moment God was instructing me that I must choose to obey. It is my responsibility to hear and obey: my choice, given me by God, to do so. As a result, as soon as I finished writing “obedience to and through Christ,” God caught my attention with “That is not what My word says,” and I had to scratch the “and through” to take responsibility for the “to do” I am called to.

Two: Another way we fail to do what we are told is through forgetfulness or by setting God’s instruction aside and ignoring it altogether. No matter how old I get, and even the older I get, the more prone to forgetfulness I am. How many times of late I have slapped my thigh with the words, “Man! I forgot.” I have to deliberately work to grasp hold on God’s instruction and choose to do it with determined conviction and deliberate effort to remember. I know that, from the earliest Bible days to now, I am not alone in this struggle, as Paul and Peter both often taught “by way of reminder, lest you forget.” And farther back still, God would have the patriarchs of faith set up altars of remembrance, so when they would see it, they and their children would be reminded of the ways of the Lord, what He did for them, and His instruction to them.

No matter how old we get in this life, we have to remember to take care, for “The young do not always do what they are told.” Like the child Nox and the SG1 team in episode 107, when we fail to hear and receive instruction, we very often get ourselves into a world of hurt that could be avoided if we would only listen with intent to put into practice the wisdom of those older and wiser: especially when that Older, Wiser One is God the Father.

Raised Up and Seated

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Ephesians 2:4  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Note the past tense in the words “raised” and “seated,” beloved. The spirit of your being, united with God’s Spirit in Christ Jesus, is already raised up and seated with Him. When the flesh, this world, demons, the stress of this life, and whatever else, tries to make you feel distant from God, don’t you believe it.

I am reading the book by Tony Evans, titled “The Battle is the Lord’s.” In the first chapter he points out that we may physically be here on this earth; but spiritually we are already raised to a position of victory in Christ, in the heavenly places with Him. So when we battle the spiritual battle in this life, we cannot fight it from a stance of physical position and win. However, if we remember where we are in Him spiritually, victory is assured. Why? Because we are translated to the position of a soldier in the Lord’s army and, as part of His army, we are assured everything we need.

First Corinthians 9:7 records these words, “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense?” A soldier is provided all his needs by the government under which he serves. So it is with God. He supplies our food, our clothing, our weapons for war, and our ammunition. All that is needed, He supplies, even our strength. And strength is greatly plussed when we remember that though our bodies are of this earth for now, our spirits are already raised up and seated with Him. We are part of His army. And He supplies all we need for victory in the war of the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Faith’s Endurance 3

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” ~ James 1:20-27.

People often think James and Paul contradict one another in their teachings. This is not the case. James and Paul are saying the same thing from different ends of the continuum.

Paul often stressed salvation by faith, not works, because those known as Judaizers were coming to where he was teaching mainly the Gentile believers, and they were trying to press the Gentiles into thinking that unless they received circumcision of the flesh of the foreskin, they could not be saved. So Paul stressed that it is faith in Christ that saves, not any work of the flesh. But he also stressed that, once having been saved and filled with the Spirit, those who are led by the Spirit will also follow the example of Christ in the keeping of the Laws and call of God on their personal lives.

James is dealing with a group that is tempted by the flip side of the issue—the other end of the continuum of faith. These he speaks to believed that if we are saved by faith in Christ, it doesn’t matter what we do from there on out; sin or not, we are still saved, so why care about the Law or the works of the flesh. James is teaching them, as he says, “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works” ~ (See James 2:14-26). True faith in God through the saving faith of Jesus Christ always walks in the fullness of the Spirit to obey God in all things. True faith in God through saving faith of Jesus Christ brings the filling of His Spirit that empowers us to accomplish every good work in accord with the will and way of God.

Endurance in our faith does what is godly. Endurance, because of faith that believes in and trusts God through Christ and in likeness to Him, chooses to “be doers of the word and not merely hearers of it.” A person who hears the word, while not being changed and influenced by it to walk in God’s will and way, needs to seriously look at where his faith lies and whether it be true faith.

We learn of God through what He requires of us, for God requires of us what He Himself believes to be true; and what He requires us to do in the strength He supplies us for doing it, He Himself does, for He is faithful to His Word. Thus one whose faith endures the trials of life knows how to bridle his tongue to the glory of God, producing a wellspring of sweet Living Water; and by faith, he or she knows how to serve God through the works of their hands. When we grow strong in faith to believe God so we may endure temptation’s pull that leads away from the will and way of God, then we will endure to the finish and produce the works that prove the source of our faith and protect us from falling to the lusts of the flesh.

 

Faith’s Endurance 2-c

Begin by rereading our focal passage ~ James 1:12-20.

In our last post we covered the path to protection from temptation as we looked at watching our love walk, especially love for God; remembering secondly that evil is not God’s desire for us—evil being anything less than God’s desire, will and way; and third, God’s idea of good is His ideal for us, so follow the good. Continuing the seven guiding principles to victory in our endurance that withstands the trials and temptations of life, thus achieving the righteousness of God as we choose faith in Him, we press on to the fourth aid to our journey:

Fourth: God leads by the way of truth.

God’s truth sets free indeed. Those who hear His voice and follow Him will walk in the truth of God and be set free from the stress of trying to keep the laws in their own strength. My missionary friend said something the other day that struck me as odd until I thought about it and realized the truth of his words.

My daughter brought a cookie cake in with her. I said, “O, she is tempting us.” He said, “You tempt yourself.”

What he is saying is that though Satan sets something before us to bring temptation to us, it is only because he knows our lusts. It is our own lusts that tempt us. “…for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust….” It is a truth I needed to hear, and ponder. Satan sets traps intended to test our love of God, and/or challenge our emotional responses, and/or tempt us to our lusts. It is our choice whether we are tempted and given to fall into his trap.

“All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies” ~ Psalm 25:10.

“It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect” ~ Psalm 18:30-32.

Fifth: be quick to hear.

STOP when temptation comes:

S ~ Set your mind on the things of God

T ~ Take a moment to inhale Him and get His thoughts and His heart

O ~ Observe His ways by walking in Obedience to His leading

P ~ Pause to listen for Him before pressing forward, then do so with assurance of God’s will and way set before you

“…Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren…” our focal passage warns us. God’s desire for us is good. Therefore we must take time to hear Him and do the good. Just as we can avoid relational discord by taking time to listen with hearing ears, so we can avoid fleshly struggle that falls in the trials of life by taking time to hear from God. And God is not one to leave us in confusion. He desires our best and speaks clearly to the listening ear that is ready to receive.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:33-34.

“…God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:33.

Sixth: be slow to speak.

One thing my missionary friend is working on is listening: listening to what others are saying while visiting with them, but also listening to the Spirit to know how, when and if he is to respond. It is a good practice to have when our desire is to encourage one another in the Lord. Why? Because…

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well…” ~ James 3:1-3 (I highly recommend that you prayerfully read through James 3-4).

Learning to listen before we speak protects us from temptation to speak foolishly. And keeping self from speaking foolishly avoids a lot of the trials of life. It is a good habit to have at all times, protecting us from running into temptations trap wherever it may be found. Taking time to listen for God and align ourselves with Him gives us time to get our desires under control before we speak up to get something we really don’t need, including protecting us from setting a bad example in our actions and reactions.

Seventh: be slow to anger.

Here we are told to be slow to anger, especially over the words of others. Anger is but one emotion we can give ourselves to that will defeat God’s purpose for us, so I will add here to “be slow” to give yourself to emotional responses. Any emotional response in the leading of our flesh will quickly lead us to sin against God. Endurance, taking time to STOP with faith in God to lead us, getting hold on God’s heart and response to the issue at hand, saves us from giving ourselves over to the lordship of our fleshly emotions.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” ~ James 3:13-18.

Beloved, faith-filled endurance perseveres under trial, and it practices these seven steps to successfully walk in victory over difficult times in life, thus enabling us to help others have knowledge of God and His ways. Without faith’s endurance in the midst of trials, our foolish hearts deceive us, our fleshly lusts temp us, and our ungodly emotions to easily rule us. Thus we must remember that we are His workmanship, created for good works, set in the places we find ourselves so we may be His ambassadors, the first fruits of His purpose in creating us; and part of that is to achieve the righteousness of God in the earth, thus bringing glory to His name.

 

Faith’s Endurance 2-a

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” ~ James 1:12-20.

Endurance achieves the righteousness of God. Faith to trust God and stand firm against that which tempts us away from the path He has for us increases righteousness to us. Temptation is not just the flesh being drawn to something less than the best for us. Temptation is there to call us away from following God on paths of righteousness.

God promises us the way of escape from temptation:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13.

I see seven things in our James 1 passage that give us instruction on how to escape temptation and are important to our success in standing firm to endure the trials of life. In scripture, seven is the number of perfection – of completion. We complete our endurance and reach our destiny in achieving the righteousness of God by following this course we will cover over the next few days.

This got long, so it will be split into two or three posts. That said, I will see you back here tomorrow, when we will begin to look at the seven things that we can do to walk in the path of endurance that works the righteousness of God in our daily lives.

Faith’s Endurance

God has had me meditating on James 1:2-12 most of this week, with instruction to see the absolutes in Him and make them part of me: the guiding light, stepping stone, and solid rock of my journey; the assurance of His faithfulness being seen in my day to day walk of faith and hope. Here, as I meditate upon this passage, the first thing that stands out to me is the fact that faith, when tried and proven, produces endurance (steadfastness, and patience). But look at what we are told is the produce of this endurance, steadfastness, and patience:

“And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” ~ vs. 4.

Endurance, which is steadfast patience, having its perfect result, produces perfect completeness that lacks nothing. God will accomplish His purpose in, through, and toward us as we wait patiently upon Him with assurance of heart that trusts His hand.

Then, after proclaiming this perfecting work, God has James pen:

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting…” ~ Vs. 5-6.

Sometimes endurance has to wait for wisdom to produce a heart and mind and way that lacks nothing. Seeking wisdom requires faith to wait for it, trusting God to give it, knowing He is always on time with His instruction, realizing that the wait has the purpose of producing the perfecting work of endurance.

Beloved, if you are seeking wisdom and getting silence, it is not because God is not hearing. It is because He is not ready for you to take action yet. He is doing the work of endurance in you. Hangeth thou in there, O Baby ~ as Kay Arthur oft says ~ for those who wait upon the Lord in faith will find Him faithful to make sure they lack nothing.

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” ~ vs. 12.

The Flavor Of Patience

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For several weeks now I have noted a particularly strong struggle with impatience. I chide at rude drivers, calling them stupid, then quickly repent as I realize I have chided them for something I am prone to do myself when in a hurry. I stand in line when I am in a hurry with anxiety of heart and frustration toward those in my path.

Praying for God to instruct my heart in ways to practice His fruit-flavor of patience, even as impatience spoke out from me while dealing with the traffic on the morning drive to church, He mightily responded to my query through our worship service Sunday.  The first song we sang that grabbed my attention to instruct my heart in response to prayers prayed was full of insights to help me in times of waiting and dealing with others.

“Standing here in Your Presence,

Thinking of the good things You have done…

Waiting here PATIENTLY

Just to hear Your still small voice again…

I will worship You for Who You are, Jesus.”

Spirit-fruit3What a novel idea! To use the times of waiting in line, the moments of frustration with slow traffic, to stand in His Presence and think of the good things He has done: To wait patiently as with Him, expecting to hear His voice; To stand with rejoicing, worshiping Him in the times that stress my patience. As I go through this month with focus on developing His fruit flavor of patience, I am called of Him to see everything that slows my pace as His call to be alert to Him and as opportunity to worship. That glory was followed by:

All I need to do is worship;

All I need to do is say His name out loud.

All I need to do is lift my hands, surrender, and bow down.

ALL I NEED TO DO IS FIND HIM.

All I need to do is let His presence fall.

All I need to do is worship; worship the Lord.”

That is all I need in this life to help me through the times that test my own patience: Worship Him; think on Him; say His name out loud; surrender to Him; bow before Him; and wait for His presence to fall upon me. If I will do that, O Lord, I will stand…

In the glory of Your Presence

I find rest for my soul

And in the depths of Your love

I find peace, makes me whole.

I love, I love, I love Your Presence”

For…

In the Presence of Jehovah

God Almighty, Prince of Peace

Troubles vanish, hearts are mended

In the Presence of the King.”

God has mightily responded to my heart of prayer for Him to inspire me in ways to surrender to bearing His fruit of patience. I look forward with rejoicing to a month of discovering the greater depths of the flavor of His fruit of patience at work in me as I give focus to deliberate surrender in my Spirit to His work of growth in this area of fruit bearing.

Oh, and by the way, the title of the sermon for Sunday? “The King has personally invited you to Come and Rest” ~ Matthew 11:28-30.

Journey to Self Control: Part 7 of 7

Self-control: The Path to Spiritual Wholeness in all things

Spirit-fruit

“[The] women likewise must be worthy of respect and serious, not gossipers, but temperate and self-controlled, [thoroughly] trustworthy in all things. …” ~ 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 1:8; 2:4, AMP.

Our ability to live with restraint of passions in the practice of self-control touches every area of life and greatly determines whether we are people of trustworthy character. I have heard it said that if we are out of control in our diet and health practices, it will translate to other areas of life as well. Chaos breeds the chaotic. Thus a focus on self-control will translate to breed peace and victory over chaos.

As I practice self-control in this area of life, I am seeing other areas in which to apply all that I am learning. Life as a whole is improving. And I am praising my God who leads me.

“For the grace of God (His unmerited favor and blessing) has come forward and appeared to us for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind. It has trained us to reject and renounce all ungodliness and worldly-passion and desires, to live discreet, temperate, self-controlled, upright, devout, and spiritually whole lives in this present world, awaiting and looking for the fulfillment, the realization of our blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus” ~ Titus 2:11-13.

Living devout, spiritually whole lives in this life, what an awesome, godly goal to attain to, and as I readSpirit-fruit3 this passage, I realize that is the journey “self-control in the power of the Spirit” has me on. A devout, spiritually whole life begins with taking the step to live discreet, temperate, self-controlled lives of uprightness that grows out of the grace of God within, leading to a devout life of spiritual wholeness. As I consider living a life of love coupled with self-control, all powered and equipped by the Spirit of God, I can see how that practice of loving self-control and temperance holds in place joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness, to make one whole as a spiritual being in all areas of life.

Joy and peace come to the heart and mind of the person who, out of love for all concerned, is walking in self-control that protects from guilt, condemnation, and struggle. A self-controlled person, surrendered to God and persevering in faith, understands the need to practice patience on the journey; patience with self and patience in all things that would hinder our journey if we did not persevere with patience to overcome the struggle.

Those who are self-controlled by love’s work within are not easily led astray from acts of kindness and Spirit-fruit2goodness. Faithfulness to live lives of self-control that flows out of love produces a gentle soul who also possesses strength of character that is not always understood by those who are not on this journey as well. I realize this truth as I discover that there is not much that is able to shake my resolve as I give full focus to the Spirit-fruit of self-effort (my choosing to take needful action) empowered by the Spirit of God giving control to my fleshly soul that is beyond the natural means of mankind.

I continue to grow strong in maturity as I work toward being self-controlled in all things out of love for God, love for you, and a right love for self that chooses what is best for all I love, faithfully taking action in the power God supplies for doing so as a victor in Christ. And you are in my prayers as you, too, journey this way with me.

Journey to Self-Control: Part 6 of 7

Training the Eye

I am rejoicing today as I survey my recent journey and feel the strength flowing into my being. My diet is much improved. As suspected, setting my mind to stop the night time eating has greatly diminished the number of excess, low quality calories. The numbers on the scales drop .2 – .5 lbs. most every day. (Daily weights help me see when I have eaten something that is causing inflammation. The constant drop reveals success.) My heart and my journey are strengthened, and I am encouraged as I continue my current path for the next several weeks.

That is one thing I am learning: stay the course. Don’t add more to my proverbial plate until I am able to live with what it already holds. I could easily say, “Man, I am doing well. So let’s add such and such goal to my journey.” I have done that sooooo many times. But I am finally learning that moving forward to new foci too quickly pushes the old off my plate. By end of April, the habit should be well ingrained. Then I will pick a new focus. If I find myself ill-prepared, I will continue where I am awhile longer.

This is a slow journey for me, and I am learning that success for me is in the changes from bad habits that I make, little by little. Success truly is a journey, not a destination. Victory is in the eye of the beholder and I am training my eye to see the victory I am walking in.

I learned the importance and freedom of training my eye long ago, when I learned how to use the eye to measure my food. There is a trick I learned to use in training the eye with regard to measures. Put the portion on the serving dish to the point I believe to be the correct measure. Then measure my portion to see if I got it correct. If not, add to or take away as needed and place it back on the serving dish, letting the eye learn what that serving looks like. I still check my eye from time to time and retrain where I need; but most often I am right on.

Training our eye is important to our journey. Training to recognize the correct serving size protects from over eating when unable to measure—not to mention, setting one free from measuring cups and scales. Training them to realize success is just as vital. I am walking very successfully on this month’s journey, determined to reach my goal, and it feels good.

Self-control thought for today:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7, AMP.

This one verse pulls everything I have learned thus far about self-control together and adds to it “courage”. Self-control God is teaching me is a work of His Spirit’s power, motivated and flowing out of love that leads me to action, protected and directed by a spiritual calm that does not give way to emotional onslaught. It is well-balanced, temperate, and disciplined by a will surrendered to God. Thus we have self-control, and I am training the eye of my mind, heart and desire to realize it and walk in it.

Now I add to my journey the courage to walk it, not being timid or cowardly, falling to craven, cringing, and fawning fear. You see, I know I can be self-disciplined. I have done it many times, for short periods of time. It is staying the course that scares me. Too often I have begun strong, only to have my perseverance challenged. Falling back, I struggle again to return to self-control. So, realizing the need of courage to help me persevere in my journey to self-control in all things, I continue my journey with you.

Victory and success is in the eye of the beholder. To me, my eye says I am a victorious success on this journey to walking in Spirit-filled, self-control; and I will, by courage and steadfast determination, persevere to the finish, step by step.

Journey to Self-Control: Part 5 of 7

Restraint That Sets Free

I am seeing progress in my journey to self-control, as I continue to fill my mind and heart with determined purpose to practice walking out this fruit from within. Though the challenge at times is fierce, God is empowering my concerted effort to practice this part of His nature. Signs of success to date:

  • My mind quickly goes to the practice of self-control when challenge comes.
  • I am 8 out of 9 days victorious on my journey to stop eating after dinner, and I feel the strength and resolve to end each day strong growing within me.
  • I am averaging 6 days per week without having ice cream—as opposed to the 5-6 days per week that I was eating it. Ice cream’s draw on me is waning.
  • The sweet or processed foods I do have are greatly diminished and diminishing.
  • The scales remain down and continue to drop daily as I weigh to encourage myself and to use the tool of the scale as a measure for when I have eaten or done something to flair inflammation.
  • I am feeling better physically with greatly diminished inflammation.
  • I am getting in over 3000 low-end, lazy-day steps per day, despite the limitations my foot injury is bringing to the table. I have 2 days over 5000 before I decided the cardio walking was causing harm and hindering healing. So I am getting up several times per day to get 300-500 steps in at a time until goal is met or exceded. By end of day my foot is making it known that enough is enough, but I am being disciplined and deliberate in my resolve while being wise in my limitations.
  • My alertness to God’s presence with me on this journey has already doubled.
  • Hope for victory is reviving.

As with previous months of focus this year, the challenge now is to persevere and end with the strength I began in. In an effort to do that, I felt led to find scripture that specifically address the issue of self-control and will end each blog with one and what it says to me for my current emphasis.

“But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire]” ~ 1 Corinthians 7:9, AMP.

Boy, do I see the truth of this in my love affair with sweets. Here is what it looks like in me:

I see or think of or hear about some favored sweet delicacy. My passion for its delectable flavor and texture makes my mouth water. Despite efforts to push it out of mind, ungratified desire burns within me as it batters the door to my mind and appetite. Suddenly, often with unfettered passion, I run into its waiting arms.

One thing I have rediscovered in this week of focus on self-control is the need to take every thought captive, denying my mind the privilege of holding the thought of some sweet passion. Now I am not completely sweets free: but what I have resolved is that any sweet allowed will be home made, eaten with control, and only eaten immediately following a meal. My understanding—and experience is that eating a lower quality carb with protein and a high quality carb will curb the desire, and the body goes for the higher quality first. If passion still flares, I sit on my hands and put my mind on other things. Before I know it, the desire is gone, and I carry on.

Joyce Meyer is correct in her saying that the battlefield is truly in the mind; and I would add, in the passions. Thus, taking every thought captive for any ungodly passion I face, I restrain my passions, so that I may walk free from bondage to them and the things that inflame them. Each step of victory in this challenge increases hope to me that I will one day have more passion for the victory of obedience and the presence and pleasure of God than I have for the taste of the delectable; and that the joyful flavor of the pleasure of God will make the taste of the sweet abhorrent. As I typed that last statement, hope and joy at the thought of such freedom soared within my soul. I know that by God’s grace, I will get there if I faint not in the way of self-control.

Now, for you here, I thought that I was finished with the sharing of my SparkBlogs on this subject of self-contro and the restraining of passions. But it seems that there is at least one more to come. BLESSings to you on your journey. Thanks for reading my blogs and praying for my victory. Back here with you tomorrow.

Journey to Self-Control: Part 4 of 7

To Self-Control, add: My journey continues!

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” ~ 2 Peter 1:5-7.

“Now for this reason”…What reason? Verse four answers my query, telling me that because I am among those who are recipients of the promises of God, I am, by His promises, to apply the following so that I can “become a partaker of the divine nature.”

There it is. I am on this Spark Journey for the purpose of experiencing God. And I am to experience Him as I walk with Him to develop within me the fruit of His Spirit found in the practice of self-control. This passage God led me to adds understanding to my path.

To DILIGENCE, in faith—faith in what? God and His promises.

God's Promise2

Practicing diligence with faith in God and His promises, I am to supply moral excellence—the immoral man sins against his own flesh (1 Cor. 6:18). I must realize the importance of this journey anew as I recognize my body as the very temple of Holy God, and be deliberate in behaving in ways that are beneficial to the health and well-being of God’s abode.

To moral excellence I add knowledge. That means I must study to be approved so I know what I am doing on this journey.

To knowledge I must add—and there it is—self-control: my deliberate effort to do the good empowered by God.

To self-control is added perseverance. God does not always change us in an instant. More often than not, He does His work here a little, there a little. To become discouraged is to fall away. If I truly want this, it will require me to persevere.

Persevere3Through this cycle we find godliness—His nature, alive, well and working within, which produces brotherly kindness, and well-springs with Love—God is love.

After God started speaking to me, reminding me of this lesson learned long ago, my self-control bounced off the wall of exhaustion and fell into a bowl of ice cream about two hours after dinner last night, breaking my “No ice cream” streak and my “Stop eating after dinner” streak. Because of God reminding me that to self-control we add perseverance, I did not fall to discouragement, but was immediately able to get back up, dust off, and carry on. As the result of not falling into a binge, but immediately getting back on track, the scales were up only two tenths of a pound this morning. Today has been strong again.

Two words that stand out to me for adding to my practice of self-control:

  • Perseverance – Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.
  • Diligence – Earnest and persistent application to an undertaking; steady effort; assiduity (??). Attentive care; heedfulness.Persevere6
    • Assiduity – Persistent application or diligence; unflagging effort. Constant personal attention and often obsequious solicitude (??). Devoted attention.
    • Obsequious solicitude – essentially “as a servant seeking the aid of her Master.”

Thus, my journey continues as I determine to be diligent in my efforts to persevere, not raising the white flag of surrender in my journey to have victory in the area of self-control, but by the power of the Master to whom I cry out as the supply needed to win the goal, I stand firm and press forward.

(One more blog point to follow and our journey to self-control is finished…for now 😉

The Journey to Self-Control: Part 1 of 7

Sensing God’s leading to share my current SparkPeople journey with you here, I will be copying a current blog series from my Spark to these pages here until the season of instruction ends. I hope that some here will be helped with their walk of faith in God in some area of your life.

Blog #1: Founded and Built to Last

SparkPeople’s Coach Nicole says: “Every day is another chance to turn things around.”

Two of my teams are studying the book, Made to Crave. In chapter 5, the thing that struck me and brought a gasp of inspiration to my heart was the thought that not only does God want to be a part of our journey, even in the things that seem mundane to us, like our dietary struggles, and not only does He desire all that we do—even this journey—to be done for Him and His glory, but He wants this journey to be another avenue in life whereby we experience Him and His presence and personal desire for relationship with “me”. That is awesome to me, again! So as I think about today being a day of second chances, I begin a journey of considering what this thought in chapter 5 of Lysa Terkeurst’s Made to Crave means to and for me.

In future posts on this subject, I will be looking at some of my life verses that fit this thought, making the connection between them, the experience of God, and how to deliberately bring that to my Spark Journey. For now, in my scripture reading this morning, the following passage really struck me as the place to begin as I consider how to bring the experience of a stronger relationship and walk with God into my Spark.

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK IS BURNED UP, HE WILL SUFFER LOSS; BUT HE HIMSELF WILL BE SAVED, YET SO AS THROUGH FIRE.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise”  ~ 1 Corinthians 3:10-18.

I am wowed as I realize anew the connection of this call to recognize our body as the Holy temple of God and its introduction following on the heels of how we build on a foundation. Our care of our body is not unimportant to God. It is vital to our relationship with Him as we realize we are His temple, and we are building on and maintaining His residence. And what does this passage tell us that fits with our walking this journey with realization that we are in company with God Almighty as we travel this path?

The first thing I note that I must realize is important to God and vital to my experiencing Him in this journey is, “no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” There are foundations to every work that must be laid, and when that foundation is cemented in Christ, it will withstand every quaking challenge to its stability. The foundation of my healthy lifestyle is vital, and Jesus—God with us (Immanuel), God incarnate, the One through home salvation comes—Jesus must be the cornerstone.

The thing that came to heart right off as I consider this is the realization that all that I do is to be done in ways that honor Him as Lord and bring glory to His name. So seeking Him before I bite, making Him part of my dietary and exercise regimen, seeking His appetites and His instruction for activity is vital to my ability to experience Him in this journey; and vital to my ability to do that with greater realization is for me to understand that this journey is as important to Him as my relationship with Him and my Kingdom experience. He must be the foundation, and His teachings can direct me to firm up the foundation of my journey to health and a healthy lifestyle as a part of my Kingdom journey.

The second thing I note is the material I use to build my healthy lifestyle is vital to building a healthy body with lasting results that will not burn up and fall apart when touched by the fires of life’s challenges. I will know God’s presence and work with me in this journey as I begin to seek Him to help me discern the gold, silver, and jewels that I need to use to replace all wood, hay and stubble in my current practices. To see the better choices set before me as God’s gold, silver, and jewels, and to choose them over the wood, hay and stubble that may seem easier, quicker, and more appealing enlivens my journey, seeing God at the core of every decision for healthier living. Any decision I face, I need to look at with a view of discerning which is the jewel in the hand of God; and the greatest building material of all is my attitude and motive in the decision made. By lining my attitude and motive for this journey and its choices up with God’s, I experience Him on the path to health and well-being.

Thus begins my journey to experience God in this journey, taking it from the mundane must do, to the glory of the eternal path walked deliberately hand in hand with the Father.

I am looking for a new body of health and strength which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Take Up Your Cross—Made Easy!

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith ~ 1 John 5:4.

God speaks so clearly to my heart today, and He does it through a picture search. My thoughts on “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” looking for just the right pictures to portray that thought, I come across two that add new meaning to my understanding. Before covering that, lets cover the usual thought people have in that and the understanding I have long held that was added to today.

Most people I hear from on the subject believe carrying our cross means accepting our lot in life and bearing up under it as pleases and portrays Christ. The problem I too often see with this ideology is the person bearing it most often hangs their head, shakes it, and says, “Oh, it is just my cross to bear.”

Now I have no doubt that ideology can be part of bearing the cross, but it falls short of God’s teaching in that passage we use as our instruction on cross bearing. The preceding ideology hears the words of Christ, “Take up your cross daily and follow me” while forgetting the rest of the passage, and they do so with a defeated spirit that oft does more harm than good to the cause of Christ. God taught me much about cross bearing through the rest of that passage, so we go there for my understanding to date and what I call cross bearing.

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” ~ Luke 9:23-24.

The clue to true cross bearing is the denying of self and the losing our life now so that we can gain it for eternity. It is to say as Jesus did, “Not my will, but Thy will be done, O God.” It is the practice of Philippians 2:1-8:

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Before today I would have said that this is cross bearing at its best. Then I ran across two pictures that added insight to my understanding of the best cross bearing, whether we are accepting our lot as Job did, or denying self as Jesus did.

Picture 1: Praise and Promise!

CrossDaily01

Taking up our cross is made better than best when we take it up as one who is grabbing hold by faith to the promise and praiseworthiness of God, trusting Him despite our lot, knowing that as we deny self for the sake of others, He will meet us at our need and we will not miss our sacrifice for His name’s sake.

Picture #2: VICTORY!

CrossDaily02

Taking up our cross means to walk out the challenges of this life realizing the victory is already won in Christ. No thing we face in this life can defeat us if we are bearing our cross in faith, believing Christ who says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” ~ John 16:33.

Taking up our cross is not a drudgery to be born. It is not hard. Because as we learn how to take it up, it is done with hope of promise, assurance of victory, and joy of glory in Christ the King, and God our Father. So take up your cross daily, my friend, and press forward in faith with strength, believing.

The Light Within

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him’” ~ John 11:5-10.

Verses 8-10 Ryrie Study Bible Footnote says: Jesus states that He could safely go back to Judea, where an attempt had been made to stone Him as long as He was walking in the Light of His Father’s will.

In this passage of scripture, Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, is deathly ill. When news reaches the ears of the Christ, what does He do? He waits two more days. Why? I believe for two reasons:

God was not finished with Him where he was at that moment, and

Lazarus was not ready for resurrection.

When God had things ready for the great and glorious work to be done, then He sent His Son into harm’s way, and only then. I just imagine that those who would have stoned Him had second thoughts of who might be stoned after the Christ called out, “Lazarus, come forth!”

There is safety in the will of God for us, too. God’s word does not go forth without accomplishing its purpose, and when He calls us to something, that purpose will be fulfilled as long as we are following hard on His heels, walking in the Light of our day. “If anyone walks in the Day, he does not stumble.” Trust the Lord’s lead, go forth with faith, and prosper. There is no need of fear when we follow the Light within.

Trust God’s Call, and Walk in It without Fear

Jesus responds to Sanhedrin
Jesus responds to Sanhedrin

John 7:30 ~ “So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because HIS HOUR HAD NOT YET COME.”

John 8:20 ~ “These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because HIS HOUR HAD NOT YET COME.”

John 6:15 ~ “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” Why? Because the hour of His Kingship has not yet come.

It is awesome to me to read and discern the relationship Jesus had with the Father. He trusted God’s lead and understood the path before Him. He knew God’s timing to be perfect, and He worked in that understanding without fear.

He did not fear when those who were jealous of Him and those who did not understand God’s plan for Him threatened His life, for He knew His death and the way of it was set by God for a purpose of His own. Though He did not needlessly put Himself in harm’s way, He faced His accusers with assurance of God’s sovereignty, and He saw their intention as God’s leading to move on from there to the next assignment, going on not spurred by fear of their threat, but by understanding that there was more yet to accomplish.

He also was not tempted by the desire of those who wanted to make Him the King they were waiting for because they recognized His greatness. He knew that the Father was working a greater plan to grow the Kingdom by saving grace found in His sacrifice before the Father’s desire for Him to be King would come to fruition.

I have a friend that I call a modern day Paul who has caught this heart of Christ and lives it. Missionary to an area unfriendly to the cause of Christ, he walks with faith that God will fulfill His purpose through him, just as He did through Jesus, so there is no need of fear when faith will do so well.

Jesus-Lazarus
Lazarus, come forth!

John 11 tells of such a time of Jesus’ faith in God. The example we see through Jesus in this chapter fits both this call to trust God in the call on our life, and it is excellent example of yesterday’s blog on the comfort we find in God because He allows us to experience the opposite end of the continuum from Him and all He is and does.

In this chapter we see that Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, has fallen deathly ill. Jesus holds off going to his aid, knowing that The Father has a greater plan to reveal His glory. When He decides it is time to go to Lazarus, His disciples caution Him about going back to the area where the leaders of the Jewish faith were ready to kill Him, but Jesus knew His time had not yet come, so trusting the Father, He went. The disciples follow with the determination of dying with Him there and then. But God had a plan to reveal His greatness through His unique method of comforting the sorrowful. We pick up the story with Mary’s encounter with the Christ.

“Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ JESUS WEPT. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?’” (John 11:32-36)

The shortest verse in all of scripture, “Jesus wept.” But why did He weep? It was not weeping over Lazarus, for He knew what He was about to do. I believe Jesus wept for the great sorrow these He loved were experiencing. And He wept for the lack of faith and understanding of the greatness of God their words expressed. Still today we bring the Spirit of God to grief by our sorrows and our lack of understanding of the greatness of God. He grieves for us as we are in the process of coming into understanding the continuum of God’s power and comfort toward us.

“Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”

I love watching Beth Moore when she teaches on this passage. She loves to use the KJV version of verse 39, and she acts it out so well. Hear Martha in these KJV words.

“…Lord, by this time he stinketh! …”. Lord, He stinketh!

Oh how we raise such a stench to the nostrils of God when we fail to understand His ways and walk with faith to believe that we will see the glory of God in our situations and circumstances. But God is so merciful that despite the stench, He will move anyway to reveal His glory.

Our daughter shared recently about a cavern of death she was experiencing because of being unable to see God moving. Her faith shot and her need greater than me, I prayed fervently to see the greatness of God move quickly to meet them at their need and to comfort the sorrow in my daughter. His move was so awesome as He quickly opened up doors that got them into a better position to carry on with the life call He has for them. God cares! He weeps over us still because of the stench this dead world can bring to us. But He moves mightily to our cry of faith in Him, revealing His glory to all who see.

“Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, ‘What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.’ Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples” ~ John 11:45-54.

God is still in the business of revealing His glory, and one main purpose in that is so that those who see may believe unto salvation. We, like Jesus, are in this life and this time for a purpose set by God. Here at the conclusion of this chapter, man thought they could not “let go on” these things that they felt would rob them of their place in society and their nation. They failed to realize that in standing against Jesus with fear of losing all, they were standing against God Himself who sent Jesus to restore them to the position God intended that we all have from the beginning. Only Caiaphas, filled with the Spirit as High priest that year, recognized the truth and spoke out of faith to believe that they would see the glory of God in the completed work of Christ.

Friend, our lives are in God’s hands. We, like Christ, can follow to serve Him with faith to believe that staves off fear and grants wise discernment to know where to go when, and what to do when there. Next post we will look at the example of Christ who said, “…the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing…” ~ John 5:16-20. Next time we will look at how this practice of Jesus is true for us as well, and how to discern what God is doing.

Love vs. Trust

arms - hurting

Can love reside where trust is held in check? Some say, “No. If we love, there must be trust.” But what, then, when someone we love lets us down? Does love stop because trust is broken? I don’t believe it should. Love has blinders on, so as to overlook things that would sidetrack it, but love is not blind. I believe we see in Jesus a love that was boundless coupled with a trust that was guarded. Read John 2:23-25: ~ NASB.

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man”

And ~ AMP ~ “…But Jesus [for His part] did not trust Himself to them, because He knew all [men]; …He Himself knew what was in human nature. [He could read men’s hearts.]”

As I read the example of Christ, how He knew men’s hearts and the core of their nature (1), I have to ask myself, did Jesus Christ not love them, being cautious in His trust toward others?

I know that is not true, for Jesus was here to represent God’s interests and “God so loved the world that He gave” His Son on our behalf. Jesus had a choice as to whether to come: that is made clear in scripture. Up to the end, He could have called out for God to deliver Him, and He said there were Legions standing ready to do that if He chose it (Matthew 26:51-54; Philippians 2:1-11). But He loved the Father and He loved us, so He went to the cross on our behalf. Denying Himself, He took up His CROSS DAILY, to fulfill the will of the Father. He had blinders on for our sake, so that He would not be sidetracked from His purpose, but He was not blind. He was ever watchful against overly trusting the untrustworthy, and being thrown off course completely.

What was His daily cross? It was dealing with people He loved so and desired a relationship with, but He could not entrust Himself to them because He knew they were fickle of heart and given to sin, and the pain they caused Him if He trusted too much might make Him turn from His task. In order to take that final cross on that final day, He had to hold Himself back from the relationship He wanted so as175 to not be disappointed and, through that, led to choose to lay His cross down and leave us without a way to truth and life.

People hurt people. It is a fact of life. We may give ourselves fully to a relationship, but once hurt. and trust broken, it is hard to get that back. Love is usually still there, but trust is held in check, knowing from experience what is in the heart of the one who hurt us. This, too, is a fact of life in a fallen world of self-centered people who do not understand the love of God.

I think what I am learning as I consider this testimony concerning Christ is this: we are wise to not entrust ourselves to others in ways that chance the destruction of love. If we, like Jesus, realize the nature of mankind and that no one is perfect, we can then separate love from trust enough to continue to love and care for those who hurt us. Realizing no one is perfect, we are not crushed when someone we love fails us. Though the closeness of the relationship may be hindered or even destroyed because of lack of trustworthiness, it is possible to maintain a degree of relationship because of love that remains though trust is lost. Trust can be regained when love maintains relationship, but without love to stay the course, hurt remains, and trust is destroyed.

So focus must be on 1) love that does not throw the sins of those who hurt us in their faces at every turn, especially when they show themselves to be truly repentant—repentance involving proof over time that one can be trusted anew, thus bringing strength back to relationship; 2) love that gives grace to cover when fleshly insult comes by not being too easily offended; and 3) a love that realizes the weakness of flesh that can disappoint and chooses to have what relationship is available in the confines of trust.

There are people in my life who are difficult to deal with because they act and react out of some deep woundedness within their flesh that is not yet healed by God or some self-centered way that does not consider the interests of others as more important than their own. But I can’t fathom life without them because I love them. So I choose the relationship I can have with them, however guarded against insult I may have to be. There are others who have so deeply hurt me over and over again, and proven themselves untrustworthy to the point that, though I love them and want relationship with them, for my own sake and the sake of others I love, I have to step back from the destructive relationship so as to have strength for the relationships with those I can maintain.

Jesus knew better than to entrust Himself fully to man if He was to fulfill His purpose, because He knew the nature of man. We have the 425109_135478716573009_812090474_nmind of Christ in the indwelling Spirit of God. He warns us when we need to let love cover a multitude of sin for the sake of relationship, and when we need to step back and give our energy to those we can love wholeheartedly. But love, true love that is from the Father, never fails. We can love and accept love from others within the confines of their ability to love and be trustworthy, while awaiting the work of God to grow both of us in greater degrees of love and trustworthiness. Sounds like a plan to me.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” ~ Romans 12:9-13.

Scriptures of Jesus’ knowledge of the nature of mankind: (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%201:24;%2015:8;Matthew%209:4;John%201:42-47;John%206:61-64;John%2013:11&version=NASB;AMP).

Caught in the Wake: Part 3

Clean Hands, Pure Hearts

“Extol the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill,

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

Walking on water04How do we recoup when the storm of the sea of life around us is not made by us alone, and despite our cooperation in walking with Jesus, the storm still rages? How do we press forward to calm waters anew when we cannot control the stones tumbling in from the unclean hands of others around us to cause the wake that threatens us with every growing wave? Here in our passage we have two vital ingredients to calm the raging seas: James 4:8b-12.

“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” ~ Vs. 8b-10.

As said in the previous post, part 2 of this series, we can only control ourselves and the stones we are adding to cause the wake. So peaceful waters begin as we watch ourselves, remembering that we are not infallible; for apart from cooperation with the work of Christ in us, we too are sinners. We must set our minds to clean hands, which require us to seek pure hearts in agreement with the holiness of God. We accomplish this by being “miserable and mourn and weep” over our own sin, letting “your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” by way of repentance that is truly saddened by sin, however pleasurable it may seem. Thus we “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord” trusting that by His grace, “He will exalt you.”

You and I, who know God through Jesus Christ, are to be holy as He is holy despite sin’s surge all around us.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16.

“If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:17.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” ~ Romans 12:1.

Remembering that we are made to be and live holy lives as the living temple of God, housing His Spirit as seal of our unity with Him; the practice of holiness is vital to our ability to walk the stormy seas and experience the calm that is found when we walk hand in hand with Jesus. Actively being alert to every opportunity to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, is the step by step path to crossing storm tossed seas that are out of our control.

Note, in our James 4 passage, vs. 8b-10 above the call to “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” I believe that wording is vital to our understanding as we seek to walk with clean hands that cast no stone of sin into the water. Our thinking can cause all sorts of trouble for our hearts. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The will of God for whom? For each individual of us. You and I can only choose for self to align our wills with God’s will. So we must seek the thoughts and will of God as we relate with others who stir the waters, responding to each challenge as pleases Him so we do not add our stones of sin to the wake of the stormy seas.

The way we allow ourselves to think and feel toward others who are troubling our waters will drop stones that soil our hands. We must remember, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” ~ Romans 12:3. Our minds are transformed from the blame game the world plays as we remember from whence our grace comes, and choose to have sound judgment that does not think more highly of self than we ought, but that has God’s grace toward those still struggling with sin.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” ~ Colossians 3:12-13.

And “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”

It is vital, especially when we are coming out of hurt that has caused us to stumble, that we leave the judgment / condemnation of those whose sin sends trouble to stir the seas of life around us to God. If we fail to practice grace and leave vengeance to God in dealing with those who hurt us and make trouble for us in this life, we enter into bitterness, and anger, and all sorts of depression and oppression that will bring destruction to our bodies and add to the wake of sin we are in.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coalsl109149486 on his head.’ DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD” ~ Romans 12:9-21.

This is the prescription for persevering and walking free of the storm tossed seas around us: Forgive self and walk in the righteous path of God that is set before you; forgive those around us and deal with them righteously, trusting God to pass judgment and send the consequences for sin righteously. This prescription taken daily as we deal with those who trouble the waters, we can not only see our own hands cleansed and our heart purified as our minds are transformed to love with God’s love, but we can help those with us on the seas to grab the hand of Him who can cause us to walk upon the waters. And the next thing we know, the waters around us are calmed, though the outskirts of the sea still be tossed and turned.

(Recommended reading: Good read when caught in the wake of sin and working your way out is The Practice of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.)

Caught in the Wake: Part 2b

Humble Enough to Draw Near

Walking on Water06“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” ~ James 4:5-8a.

Here, in the last portion of our focal passage for part 2 of “Caught in the Wake”, we have a step by step blueprint to walking on water in the midst of stormy seas.

Submit to God:

Sin is failure to walk in unity with God, and walking with God requires us to follow His will, doing so in His way. When we realize our part in causing a surge of sin around us, we must reach up our hand to God by admitting where we got off track in following Him and coming into agreement with Him that our fall was sin and we need His grace again.

Two things I want to look at here is the “Note” from yesterday promising to cover the “personal sin” issue; and we need to look at the work of the Holy Spirit who “convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.” Without understanding in these two areas, a storm tossed sea that continues even though we submit will confuse us and can be used of Satan to discourage us. So let’s begin with the first, the fact that it is personal sin we have to deal with.

As was hopefully made clear in the introduction to this series, a wake of sin of this proportion is not generally caused by one person,

Returning to walking with Jesus
Returning to walking with Jesus

but by many whose waves of consequences combine to cause surging seas that appear insurmountable. Now, as is the way of God, I can do nothing by way of repentance on behalf of another. Each person is responsible before God to repent for their own sin issues. I can confess in agreement with God that what they did is sin, and I can pray for the Spirit to do His work in drawing them to God, but I can only repent for my own sins and make myself right with Him anew. Why? Because repentance requires one to turn from walking their own way, to walking in God’s ways. That requires a choice of heart, for from the heart flows the issues of life. My feet will follow my heart, so if my heart is not following God in His desires, my feet will continue to struble over the stones of sin coming from my hardened heart. Only I can choose for myself whether I will follow God and obey Him, doing things His way. My relationship with God is my own and yours is yours.

When we get our eyes focused on the surge of waves brought up by the sins of others, we put ourselves in danger of sinking under the emotional assault and fault finding that comes to us with such a focus. When caught on stormy seas, our focus must be to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our attention on making sure we are hand in hand with Him who equips us to walk on top of the water. This is where the Teacher and understanding His role come into play. The Spirit is responsible to instruct our hearts, and His instruction is clearly stated as being that of bringing understanding to us regarding sin, righteousness and judgment.

The work of the Spirit in the life of one not yet united with Christ is to draw him to realize sins grip that has him enslaved in an eternity without God. He causes that lost soul to realize that God is righteous and holy and can have no part with sin. And He makes that person aware of the judgment already passed against sin, which is separation from God for all eternity. Then the Spirit causes the person’s eyes to open to the saving grace of God that is found only in the Lamb provided by God, Jesus Christ, the Savior. That person then has the choice of remaining under sin and slave to it, or having the chains torn asunder by their choosing to enter into the sacrifice of Christ that frees from sin. Once they choose saving grace, the Holy Spirit of God enters into their lives, becoming one with their spirit, granting them access to the Father through their new birth in relationship with Christ.

Now this new Christian has the Spirit forever within, and the role of the Spirit takes on a deeper dimension of grace that starts this new creature in Christ on a road of transformation and the Spirit works to restore the image of God that was created in mankind from the beginning, but was distorted by sin. With every choice that comes before the Christian, the Spirit works to make them aware of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He instructs their heart, if they are listening: “This way leads to sin, the judgment and consequences of which is against God and contrary to Him. That direction leads to righteousness, the effect of which will maintain relationship with God and accomplish His purpose.”

Submission to God heeds the teaching of the Spirit, reaches out from the heart to grab the hand of Jesus, who empowers us through the Spirit to walk on top of the waters of life and complete His sufferings of accomplishing the work of God in the earth. The blood of Jesus keeps us covered while the Spirit of God is doing the work of transformation in us, bringing us to completion until the day of Christ’s return, when eternity in God’s new Kingdom begins. Thus is the path of submitting to God, which automatically produces our next point in overcoming the storm tossed seas.

Resist the devil:

Note that submission to God is automatic resistance to the devil, who is always in opposition to God. We cannot walk with God and with the devil at the same time. When we are in submission to God’s will and way in life, we stand hand in hand with God through Christ, and the devil turns with cringing fear to get away from us.

The devil is total opposite to God. God is truth. The devil is the lie and the father of lies / liars. God is good and loves goodness. The devil is evil and loves evil. God is love – love always does what is best for the one loved, which is to protect unity with the Father-God and our ability to walk with Him. The devil is hate, desiring to be god himself, he does all he can to destroy our relationship to God and cause us to fall away to following after sin.

When we give ourselves to sin, we walk away from God to walk with the devil, making him god of our lives. When we become a stumbling block in the lives of others, leading to their falling into sin, we cooperate with Satan’s desire and work in the earth. So we must resist the devil by submitting to God, which causes us to…

Draw near to God:

Walking on water04When we choose to walk with God, His glory surrounds us as He draws near to us in renewed relationship. The devil will cringe at the presence of God with us and run away from us. This is the cycle that comes from drawing near to God through submission to Him that resists the devil and causes God to draw near to us.

And how much greater still it is when we live a life that not only holds to the hand of Jesus who enables us to walk on the waters beneath us, but we reach our hand out to help another grab His and walk with us to victory.

When we love God and begin to take on His likeness anew, we search for truth and walk in it, making it known to those around us. God’s goodness begins to flow through us like a river to refresh and help those around us. And His love fills us and spills out to the lives of others.

The Spirit grows strong within us, quickening us – making life found in relationship with God come to our eternal spirit. And we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, compassion, and other qualities of God flourish within us, making us holy as He is holy.

“Extol the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill,

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

Even as we practice these spiritual disciplines on a personal level and get on top of the water in the midst of stormy seas, the surge can continue because we are not the sole source of the surge. Remember in our example, one sinned, hurting another in a way that made them an open target as the hurt cracked their armor, allowing the tempter to draw them out from their relationship with God. Sin has a domino effect that brings an avalanche crashing into the calm waters below, and the ripple of sins hitting the peaceful places surges the stormy winds of sin’s consequences. Each person involved plays a role in the cause of the storm that is sending waves of harm to the lives of all around them. And each must do their part to get back on top of the water with Jesus. Until each one is in right relationship with God anew, the storm will continue to beat down on all in its path.

This being true, how do we recoup and press forward while waiting for others involved to do their part in calming the storm around us? What can we do to quiet the winds and bring calm to the waters of life again? See you next post.

Caught in the Wake: Part 2a

Humble Enough to Draw Near

“Extol the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill,

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

Now that we have looked at how the of wake sin forms around us and why a holy God would allow it, providing us choice as to whether we want to be with Him in relationship or against Him and separated from Him, what is one to do who finds themselves caught in such a wake?

Jesus 01 - water walkIt can be so difficult to walk out of a current of sin that is dragging us under with every attempt, but, dear one, “NOTHING shall be impossible with God”. He has provided the way for us to step out on stormy seas and walk on water (Luke 1:37; Matthew 14:22-33).

“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.’…” ~ James 4:5-8a.

First off, take hope if you, a committed Christian, have discovered that you are trapped in such a place as I describe, hit by waves of consequences for your own sins and that of others around you, wondering where God is and if, in your own sense of His absence, you have lost the saving grace you once possessed. Note that this scripture that is written to people in such a position as you, is written to those who HAVE as a possession the Spirit of God dwelling in them.

Christians still face choices every day that determine how close they follow to God, but they do not lose their eternal position when they deny God’s will and follow the dictates of the flesh; not if they truly believe in, trust in, rely on, and are confident in the saving grace of God received by belief in Jesus as the Christ come first to save. What they lose is that privilege of walking with the Father in the cool of the day. Just as Adam and Eve lost the privilege they had in the Garden of God’s presence, so do we when separated from God by currents of personal sin. (Note here the wording, “currents of PERSONAL sin” as we will look close at this important aspect of the wake of sin later).

Then, you may be asking, what’s the difference between the Christian and the eternally lost? If we can still fall to sin and experience loss of intimacy with God, what differentiates the Christian who sins from the sinner who is lost for eternity?

The Christian will, by the leading of the Spirit of God, recognize and turn from revealed sin. The Christian will grow stronger in the ways of God. The Christian will bear the fruit of the Spirit. Though the Christian falls from following God in some moment of weakness of flesh, the Spirit of God remains with us, a seal of our position in His eternal kingdom, and He does so as the teacher who convicts of sin, charged with instructing us with regard to sin, righteousness, and judgment (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30).

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

Just as Jesus is God in some way we do not fully understand, The Word and Message of God become flesh as the Angel of the Lord of old was sent, being empowered to relate with fleshly mankind in order to deliver the message sent by Holy Father; so the Spirit of God, though holy as God the Father is holy, has the ability to dwell among sinful flesh. The separation we Christians sense when sin hinders relationship with God is that holy essence of His fullness that cannot dwell with sin. Though we may still know He is with us in the midst of our sin by the grace that provides the indwelling Spirit, we also realize that there is an absence of intimacy with His essence, the fullness of His person. But the Spirit of God remains, and His work of grace upon grace brings us to conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment, leading us back to God’s will and way so as to reestablish our intimacy with God (John 14-16, esp. 16:5-11).

And God, according to this passage in James, is made jealous for the connection with us that Spirit provides here in the earth. Our intimacy with God is taken from us by sin, not our salvation, and Abba-God longs to reunite with us through the connection provided by His Holy Spirit within us.

So how do we regain that intimacy and come out of the surge of sin that is pulling us under? Just as Peter reached for the hand of the Master for help to walk on the storm tossed sea (Matthew 14:22-33), so must we who find the waves of sin’s sea thrashing around us. It takes humility to reach out to God and His saving grace found in Christ Jesus. It takes humility to admit one’s own part in the forming of a surge of sin. It takes humility to admit one’s need of the hand of God in the form of the Savior He provided. And humility comes as the Spirit of God does its work of instruction leading us to humbled stance in realizing our need of Him anew.

And how do we reach up to grasp the Master’s hand? See you here for the answer to this question on our next post.

Living Worshipers’ Jehovah-Nissi Rally

Living Worshipers’ Jehovah-Nissi Rally.

Living Worshipers is a prayer and worship website, calling God’s people in Christ to unite as a Spirit of Worship to seek Him in our day. This is our first call to rally together in Spirit for a day of prayer.

Jehovah-Nissi Rally (The Lord our Banner), is coming together under the banner of our God to cry out for our nation. We hope you will check us out and join us for this event wherever you are.

Look the Right Way!

MM900395755[1]“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, and as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy and loving-kindness for us” ~ Psalm 123:2, AMP.

Several months ago God instructed my heart that “A Storm” is coming to our land and He began using me to call many to prayer.

When Sandy hit, I said, “Lord, is this it?”

“No,” He replied, “This is only a part of the greater.”

Then He impressed on my heart that our nation will see its economy crumble and immorality increase like a storm never seen before in our land. So we watch and we pray.

MP900443311[1]Over the past numerous days God has been instructing my heart, and these words penned in a devotional by Sarah Young in her book “Jesus Today” sum it all up: Look the Right Way!

As I have pondered all that God is speaking to me through His word and the words of His People, I realized that I have gained 10 pounds since God’s warning me of The Storm to come. Though I thought I was keeping eyes on Him, I would say that I am stress eating, which signals me that my eyes are looking in the wrong direction.

What if things fall apart? Is that not what we anticipate as a sign that Christ’s return draws near? Does the chaos in the earth make God any less capable of tending to His Own? Have not many generations seen similar storms blow through and lived to tell of the Wonderworks of God in seeing them safely to the other side? “Look the Right Way, Darlene, and press forward with hope.”

I know not what “tomorrow” holds, but I know Who holds “tomorrow”.  He has a purpose in all things, and it is for eternal good and glory. I can rest in Him Who is my Rest, Strong Tower, Secret Hiding Place, Firm Foundation, and Possessor of my soul. He is my Rock out of which the Stream of refreshing and provision come. He is Hope and Song. He sees! Nothing escapes His notice and He cares for all that concerns me and those with me who seek to Look the Right Way. When I look at Him and keep my eyes on Him and His purpose, I find peace that passes understanding and hope beyond measure.

As I have looked at Him, He instructed me on some important things I am to give myself to: loving Him first and foremost, and others as I should be loving myself. My eating is not a loving act toward me, nor Him whose temple I am, so that has got to change. Relationships are vital in this hour, and the busyness of life threatens that, so I must be deliberate in taking time for others.

I must keep up my ponderings, reflecting on the things God shows me and sharing them with you in the hope of being a help to lift youdreaming and happy up in these difficult days ahead. Too often we read His word, hear Him speak, and go off never giving Him time to fully instruct and transform us by His Word. Taking time for reflection, “Pondering these things” as Mary did, is vital to our weathering the storm ahead.

And rest is vital in these days; not only the rest of leisure time that physically rests our weary bodies, but entering into His rest despite the approaching storm. We learn in Hebrews that entering His rest comes through faith that believes God and takes action through obedience. We are not without Hope. He is our Hope. But Hope is most often missed because of unbelief that leads to actions of sin—going against God’s expressed instruction.

Join me, and Look the Right Way, my friend, as the days unfold before us, and smile as the rays of Hope lead you surely through the storms of life.

~*~

Bigger God“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle (forbearing) spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, DWELL on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” ~ Philippians 4:4-9, NASB.

Pondering the Point of Christmas:

“As I see it, there really are only two Gods in this world. There is the Creator who designed it all, who imbues our life (potentially) with meaning and mission. And there is the autonomous self. The lives of each of us orbits One or the other. We choose to live as a child of God or of the lesser god named self. In a way, its the only choice in life that really matters, since all the other choices-our beliefs, morals, priorities-cash out as natural extensions of this one choice. At Christmas, God comes to us as Emmanuel, God with us. But only if we want Him to be with us in life, to orbit His life with ours. This is the choice each of us makes, not by any profession of faith, but by a thousand little decisions each day, to do it His way or mine. Think carefully. Choose well. Merry Christmas.”

Author: Curtis Martin of Fort Collins, Colorado ©

Used by permission

In the Spirit and Power of Elijah, Go Forth!

Read Luke 1:1-20

1 Kings 18
1 Kings 18

“…For he will be great and distinguished in the sight of the Lord. And he must drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit even in and from his mother’s womb. And he will turn back and cause to return many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will [himself] go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn back the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient and incredulous and unpersuadable to the wisdom of the upright [which is the knowledge and holy love of the will of God]—in order to make ready for the Lord a people [perfectly] prepared [in spirit, adjusted and disposed and placed in the right moral state] …” ~ Luke 1:15-17, AMP.

Look closely at this good word. This is us in our day, beloved. This passage gives us a picture of our calling and equipping as the people of God in our day, again awaiting the Messiah. We are the “great and distinguished of God”, having His favor upon us for a purpose, however great or lowly our position in this life.

From the time of our new-birth in Christ, we are given His Spirit and called to be filled and controlled by Him. We are instructed in Ephesians 5:18 to not be drunk with wine, but be filled with His Spirit. The instant of our spiritual birthing, the words concerning Christ became true for us as He breathed on us and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Our calling and equipping, Beloved, is that of John the Baptist, making ready the way of the Lord. In this passage, we get a glimpse of what that call on our lives entails. Simply put, our calling and equipping includes:

  1. Turn the hearts of the people Jesus died for to turn to the Lord their God. Helping people realize that God is, and that He is God of all; their choice being eternity with Him, or without Him: this is our call and the power supplied for our equipping.
  2. We go before Him in the Spirit and Power of Elijah to accomplish His will and announce His way in the earth.
  3. We are equipped to “turn back the hearts of the fathers to the children.”
  4. We are empowered to reach “the disobedient, incredulous, and UNPERSUADABLE to the wisdom of the upright, which is the knowledge and holy love of the will of God.”

God empowers us to reach even the unreachable! Is that not awesome? And all of this is so we can fulfill our ultimate goal, “to make ready for the Lord a people, perfectly prepared in spirit, adjusted and disposed and placed in the right moral state”: ready for His coming; ready to meet Him.

It is so totally awesome to me to realize this anew. Is it to you? But take warning from what came next.

Zachariah doubted the word of the messenger and did what Jesus—and God the Father, hate. He asked for a sign, essentially saying, “Prove to me that your words are truth.” And what did the angel say to him?

“I AM GABRIEL. I STAND IN THE [VERY] PRESENCE OF GOD, and I have been sent to talk to you and to bring you this good news. Now behold, you will be and will continue to be silent and not able to speak till the day when these things take place, BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT BELIEVED WHAT I TOLD YOU; BUT MY WORDS ARE OF A KIND WHICH WILL BE FULFILLED IN THE APPOINTED AND PROPER TIME” (vs. 19-20).

It was good news Gabriel brought to Zachariah, but did he receive it that way? No. He let doubt hinder faith. He chose disbelief over trust in God.

Friend, I bring you good news today. There is no one that God instructs you to share with that is beyond your ability to persuade. Not one. The question is, do you trust God enough to choose to believe His word by faith, or are you stunned to silence through disbelief and failure to trust God. Friend, my words are of a kind which will be fulfilled in the appointed and proper time; and His word does not go out without accomplishing that for which it is sent. You do not need fancy words or desperate pleas to reach the unreachable. All you need is words of love backed up with a life of faith and God will do the rest.

And what does the Scripture say?

“Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37)

And again:

“You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

The proof comes as we obey God in faith and see His word fulfilled. So go forth, distinguished of the Lord, and see the glory of God in the land of the living as you fulfill your purpose where you are in the sphere of influence given you (Exodus 33:12-17).

Darlene Davis © 12/22/12

The Conversation

The Conversation, recorded below, was given to me, a humbled follower of Christ. I am Darlene, and I currently suffer with Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD), an emotional disorder kin to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, that presents with the same symptomology and is given the same treatment regimen. It is the result of the breakdown of normally good coping mechanisms, brought about by some stressor in life that snaps that system. As a result, I struggle often with almost agoraphobic social anxiety. It is most difficult during the holidays when my stressor has to be faced as family gatherings begin. While looking for some other recorded document, I ran across this and am encouraged again. Here is the story of how the conversation recorded below came to be.

As part of God’s treatment regimen in helping me to deal with my CGD, God led me to the study of Christian Counseling with Light University. Preparing for a trip to Nashville for graduation from that first stage of study and for an American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference, my social anxiety flaring severely, I recall a scripture I received via email from Bible Gateway that kept coming to mind. Going through my deleted files, I discover many others and begin printing them and taping them to index cards that I can carry with me for meditation while on the trip. Reading through the compilation of scriptures God highlighted to my heart, I am amazed to find the conversation I now share with you.

Father, I pray for all into whose hands you put this conversation. May their hearts be helped as they truly comprehend this being from You for them, as much as it was for me. I pray that all the days of their lives will be filled with the sure knowledge of Your presence and Your rich rewards promised to those who choose to believe.

~*~

The Conversation

~*~

Living Water
Living Water

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

Christmas, or Not? The Controversy and Our Choice

nativity 02
Merry Christmas

This morning, as I awoke, my thoughts ran quickly to the controversial issue I have been mulling, and yes, fuming over for weeks now concerning Christmas as a Christian holiday and it being “stolen from us in our day and culture”. I am hearing that there are even people gearing up to fight to get it back. And until I started my research, I was leaning toward getting aboard the boat with them. But after just barely starting my research, God began to minister to my heart and lead me to adjust my understanding and perceptions. I am now leaning toward a thought that has hit my head several times of late; that thought being that we need to celebrate Christ in peace with those who celebrate their “holidays” or set another time as a time for our celebration of Christ. Why do I say that?

The very beginning of my research reveals what I have heard for years; that Christmas as a celebration started out of other traditions of the day. Quoting one article on History of Christmas website:

“Believe it or not, many of the traditions that we observe during the Christmas holiday season began way before the birth of Christ. Exchanging gifts, decorating trees, and the burning of the Yule log were all winter traditions that began before Christ was born, but were eventually incorporated into the holiday that became known as Christmas, and became part of Christmas history.” 1

According to this same article, “One theory about the evolution of the winter celebrations to the celebration of the birth of Jesus is that the Roman emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity, wanted to incorporate the pagan winter rituals together with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In this way, Constantine hoped to help both pagans and Christians celebrate together. Many believe that this is the reason for celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th. It is widely believed today that Jesus was not actually born on, or even close to, December 25th. Eventually, the Roman church became more successful in making the December celebration about the birth of Christ, replacing any celebrations that were in honor of pagan gods.” 1

Some interesting facts:

†   The original date of the celebration in Eastern Christianity was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. 2

†   The first Nativity was created by St. Francis of Assisi in 1224 and was a living nativity, set up in an effort to explain the birth of Jesus. The Nativity is exclusive to the Christian faith and the celebration of Christ at Christmas in many parts of the world. 3

†   Decorated trees were used in celebrations long before Christ, as well as being seen as home décor for luck and other such beliefs. It is believed that Boniface, a Monk who came to Germany in the 7th/8th century, first introduced the use of the fir as a Christmas tree, its triangular shape being used to signify the Trinity. 4

†   The 12 Days of Christmas is believed to come from the Zagmuth in Mesopotamia, a festival in support of their chief god, Marduk, who was believed to battle the “monsters of chaos” at the beginning of winter. 1

†   The Council of Tours in 567 established the period of Advent as a time of fasting before Christmas. They also proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany a sacred, festive season. 5

I could go on, but you can read the articles linked below for more information. The fact is that the celebration of Christmas, meaning “Christ’s mass”, is highly linked with celebrations of other non-Christian cultures through adoption of timing, traditions, and symbols. Do we have a right to celebrate it with freedom and respectful consideration by those who choose not to? Yes. Is this season solely ours? No. There are too many other cultures with similar celebrations, some linked with other gods, who have had this same season for eons, long before our choosing it for our purpose of honoring and remembering the Christ.

So what’s the solution?

†   “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31.

†   Remember that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20.

†   And, lest we forget, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, INTENT ON ONE PURPOSE. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” ~ Philippians 2:1-8.

Our main purpose for still being here, the reason we continue to watch for Christ’s return, is because He still has a work for us to do in the earth. We are here to represent His interests, and His interests are for us to be an expression of His image in the earth, reaching out to those He died for with arms and attitudes of love. And we are to do so in likeness to Christ, who gave up His high position and all the rights that afforded Him to come here and suffer the loss of all He had for a time so that He might provide a way of saving grace for us. Thus, we are to lay down our lives, if need be, in order to win some. (Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-24)

The celebration of Christ is a heart issue. We cannot force it on others. They cannot truly take it from us. My decision today as I think on these things is this: When I say “Merry Christmas” and someone else responds with Happy Holidays, I will smile and thank them while lifting a prayer for their ultimate blessing. If someone complains about my nativity being visible to all in my front yard, I will do my best to respond to them with grace while standing my ground in celebrating my King. Hopefully as I do so, with respectful consideration for him while still standing firm for my Christ, that person will come to some understanding of my love of my God and will return the respect of my right of choice as I respect their God-given right to choose against Him. Remember, rejection of Christianity and its practices and peoples is not ultimately rejection of the person serving Christ, it is rejection of Christ Himself, and He will deal with that (Luke 10:16; Titus 1:16). Ours is to love Him and love others as He does: unconditionally and incorruptibly.

Are some things worth fighting for? Yes. Are we, as Christians to do so? We are called to “fight the good fight of faith”, so I would say we are to pick our battles well, make sure our heart and attitude in the fight line up with God’s will and way, then stand firm on Him.

We are called to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in this world. To me, that means to understand the ways of evil and know what God has supplied us in the set-up of world government that can be used to fight the good fight within the legal bounds of His Law and the laws of man, but we must do so always with our role of ambassador in heart, being innocent of unrighteous motive and clear of attitudes that misrepresent Him, standing with His Law when man’s law is in contention with Him.

Christmas is the focus of the Christian in celebrating this Holiday season. But other belief systems coincide with our Christmas. Let them have theirs while we keep ours with respect and peace one to another, or change the date for ours and separate from the rest. It is our choice, people of Jehovah in Jesus, the Christ. What will we do?

References:

History Of Christmas on History of Christmas website: http://www.historyofchristmas.net/page1.html

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas; See also History of old Christmas day: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/old_christmas_day.htm

Nativity History: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/nativity.htm

Symbols of Christmas on The Holiday Spot.Com: http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/christmas_symbols.htm

History of Advent: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/trivia/advent.htm

Sites of interest:

History of Holidays: http://www.historyofholidays.com/

The History of Christmas: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/

The Holiday Spot: http://www.theholidayspot.com/

Who De Judge?

Read John 3:16-21

The judgment of God can be confusing. Why does Jesus say He did not come to judge the world, while in other passages saying He does judge? Why is God the Father the Judge, and yet He has left all judgment to Jesus? Why are we told to not pass judgment, while in another Breath of His Word we are told to judge righteously? I don’t know if I can help make sense of it, but this passage calls me to try. Thus we will break it down and talk it through.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. …” (vs. 16-18).

Jesus IS the Word of God, incarnate, living, and active. He somehow, fully understood by God alone, is the power through which God spoke all into existence. He is the Messenger, I believe the One called the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament who delivered God’s message to man pre-Christ, and now anew as Christ. He is the Word lived out fully before us as an example to us for life more abundant and full. He spoke only as God instructed Him, so every Word given is God breathed through Him from beginning of days to their end. The Word of God is the judgment of God already passed, by which we are already judged.

Jesus is the Word of God come to live as an example and die as propitiation; thus He says rightly that judgment is already passed through Him who is the incarnation of the very Word of God so that those who believe are already judged as righteous in and through receiving His gift of sacrifice and following Him; and those who deny Him are already judged guilty as they refuse the gift of God in Christ and the Lordship He has bought as the living Word of God to direct our life. (John 1:14; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Luke 4:32; John 6:68; 1 John 1:1-5; John 18:37; John 5:30; John 8:28; John 12:48-50; Romans 2)

Thus Jesus did not need to judge the world, because the world is already judged by the Word. The Word is God and is in perfect alignment with all God is and desires. Anything standing in opposition to His Word, stands against Him and is judged guilty. Any in agreement with the Word stand with God and are adjudged righteous through Christ. So Jesus was not sent to judge, because judgment is already defined and passed. But when He is required to pronounce judgment, He does so as the Word of God, expressing the dictates of God that are already set.

We are told to not pass judgment as our right to do so, for in such an attitude we too often judge according to our own ideology of right and wrong. Thus, in doing so, we set ourselves up as a god in His place. He has already judged, and His word is His judgment, set in place to show us how to live in righteousness.

Another reason we are told not to judge is because we too easily look at the external without thought of the internal or the underlying issue of the heart. Only God knows the true intent of the heart of every man, and only He can justly and by right pronounce judgment and pass sentence.

However we are called to righteous judgment. This can only be achieved when we first judge ourselves against the Standard of God’s word and make sure we are in right relationship with Him. We can only fully judge self, with God’s help, as He reveals to us the true intent found in our heart. This is because the heart of our flesh is deceptive and we too easily fool ourselves.

We see this principle as Jesus kneels down to scribble in the dirt, then stands to tell a crowd, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one, all dropped their rock and turned to walk away. Jesus knew their desire to stone the woman caught in sin was unrighteous on several plains of thoughts: one – they only brought the woman, leaving the man behind as if he had no part in the sin. The law they were partially following says to bring “them” out for stoning who are caught in adultery, not “her”. Two – He also knew that the heart desire of those leading the unruly crowd was to test Him to see if they could catch Him in sin. I have no doubt that a wrong response from Jesus, and the stones would have been aimed His way. And three – these were forgetting rule one, righteously judge yourself and remove the plank from your own eye so you can see to help another with their splinter. Many in the crowd were more deserving of stoning than our adulterous young woman. Many probably just had yet to be caught. (Read John 8)

We are to judge others only in accord with God’s Word as we can physically see them standing in disagreement to It; and then only as we ourselves are walking in agreement with that area of life in Him. I know someone has committed the sin of stealing when I see them steal, I judge them guilty of stealing because God’s word ordains, “Thou shalt not steal.” And I can rightly address that issue with the person when I do so realizing it is God’s judgment based on His word, and I stand before Him in the cover of His grace, doing the best we can to walk with Him in agreement with His Word, will and way. None are perfect in flesh yet; we are perfected in Christ and we are continually being perfected. So righteous judgment can only be done when we do all we can know to do to be in right standing with God, and as we have a heart attitude that we, too, are but flesh apart from Christ.

“…This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (vs. 19-21).

As we consider the heart issues involved, only God can fully comprehend the intent of the heart of any man. Only He can reveal that intent. And only He can divvy out righteous justice or decide for grace. Our righteous judgment toward self or any other can only truly happen as we realize these things and seek the heart of God to know the truth and follow His will in passing judgment. Because of this, people will either love the Word of God, and run hard to practice it, or they will hate it.

People who hate the word of God most often do so because it is His light to reveal to us our own hearts, whether we stand righteous or guilty. They avoid it for fear that they will have to change their ways, being unwilling to do so. And they don’t like feeling their guilt, so they baulk at His word and our pronouncements of His judgment.

Those who love the Word love it because they realize that it teaches them Christlikeness that restores the image of God to our hearts. Jesus gives us His Spirit to help us choose to love the Word and to instruct our understanding, granting power to follow through with its dictates. Thus we must choose to believe His life, example, and sacrifice, taking it fully to heart and making it our own, so that we may be saved unto eternity and live a life after God’s own heart.

The Bronze Serpent

John 3:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (vs. 14-15).

~*~

“And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived” ~ Numbers 21:9.

Jesus replaces the bronze serpent on Moses staff, the healing balm that takes away the sting of consequences for standing against God and His way. And He brings healing to our sin stained lives from now into out eternity, delivering us safely to our eternal destination with Him. That is what Jesus is saying. Is that not exciting!

There are always consequences for our actions. When we do good, standing in alignment with God’s will and way, we reap a good reward—the blessed consequence. When we do evil, standing in disagreement with God’s will and way, we reap the cursed consequence. As long as we are in this flesh body that brings its fleshly wisdom leading to lust of the flesh, we can and too often do stumble up in our walk with God. But when we look to Jesus as the snake bit sinners of old looked on the bronze serpent head with faith in God to heal them, realizing the promise of healing represented in Christ, He restores life to us. Though there may be residual effects of the consequences to deal with as a scar from a snake bite, God reveals the way to live to the full where we are. And the scars only act as a reminder to keep us from walking that path to sin again.

Thank You, Father, that You do not leave us without hope. You are there for us and have provided the way of healing, not only for our personal lives when we make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, but for our nation. For as we, Your people called by Your name, humble ourselves individually and corporately, praying in earnest and seeking Your face with whole heart, turning from our evil ways to look to the Christ with faith for healing and strength to follow You fully, then You will hear our prayer, forgive our sin, and heal our land. O how greatly we need You, O God, in Jesus, amen.

Take It To Your Heart

MC900434748[1]…take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other ~ Deuteronomy 4:39.

I, along with many others I know, too often struggle with depression. I wrote an email today to just such a one encouraging them in things they can do to help themselves. As I read this simple statement of truth about God this morning, I am mindful of how the things we take to heart affect our thoughts, mental attitudes, emotional stability, and even the very delicate chemical balance of our bodies, all of which affect our mental health and sense of well-being, and our physical health. The things we take to heart will either make us better in every way, even improving our physical health; or they will make us bitter and sickly in every way: mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, relationally, and behaviorally; and yes, even economically.

I am really taking this insight to heart right now, as I know my beloved friend who is struggling with depression is not alone. I am right there with her as the winter season couples with the holiday events that so often lead to depression. Relationship struggles and fear of the “what ifs” have taken my heart captive again. So as I read this with God’s highlight on the “take it to your heart,” I realize that I have to fill my heart with good thoughts of truth worth holding. Thoughts and truths that will help my heart, mind, soul and strength to be in good health and able to withstand whatever might be.

The truth is that the things I let grab my heart and roll around in my thoughts to be taken to heart usually do not happen. When they do, God is always faithful to equip me to deal with whatever that might be. Truth is that the things I often think about what other people think of me is usually not true, and I judge their hearts unrighteously when I take those thoughts to heart as if true.

When it gets right down to it, the thoughts I think of others color their reputation for me. I will give bad repute toward those I think are thinking bad of me, thinking them harsh, unloving and uncaring, often without cause. But I will give good repute to those I choose to take good thoughts to heart toward, giving them grace when they fall because I choose to give focus to the good in them over the bad.

Truth is that it does not truly matter what others think of me, or even what I think of myself. It only matters what God thinks and knows to be true of me. When I focus on what He thinks, it leads to me being and doing things righteously, in ways and with right attitudes and motives that not only please Him, but make me feel better about me, thus causing my actions and responses to be such as gives me favor with mankind.

Things we take to heart, my friend, will make us, or break us. So weigh every thought and intent of the heart on God’s scales, and think good thoughts: thoughts that are right, true, pure, lovely, excellent, of good repute, and worthy of praise, and peace will come to dwell in the heart in which such thoughts prevail.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” ~ Philippians 4:8-9.

Celebrating Jesus – The Advent 3

El Shaddai“Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).

At the ripe age of 100, Abram is about to receive again the promise of God that he will have a son by his barren wife Sarai (90 years old). God knew that at this point in life when they were not only barren, but beyond the age of child-bearing, that Abram would do what he did later, he would laugh in disbelief; just as Sarai would in the next chapter. So He started the conversation with the proclamation of His might as God Almighty: El Shadai.

In our day and age, with the challenges facing us as a people and a nation, we desperately need to remember our God is God Almighty. The problem in our day is people read scripture without the aid of God’s Spirit to teach them and think the truths shared there about God are impossible. They fail to have faith to believe because they see the wrath of God and decide God must be cruel and unworthy of following. They see the miracles reported in its pages and think such to be impossible. Therefore they choose to not believe. They do not understand that God was creating a holy people through which to birth Messiah, the greatest miracle of all that would bring down the curtain of division and make the Holy of holies available to all.

In the Amplified version of Genesis 17:1, we read “…walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete).” This is the requirement for the people who would be the lineage of Christ, and it is the requirement of those who today profess Christ as Savior and returning Messiah. God needs a people wholly set apart to Him, and then, as today they had to sometimes be dealt with harshly to get their attention and draw them away from false deities of the day that tempted them away from the purity of a relationship with Holy God. Those who struggle to understand, lacking the help of the Spirit to discern the truth, fail to discern that any God worth following must be almighty in power, able to hold His position as God. Not only is El Shadai a God who is able to hold His rightful place as God, but He is able to meet those who follow Him at their most desperate of needs. Without the ability to believe that God is able, why is He worth following?

God is still working a purpose for eternity out in our day, and it requires that people have the choice to believe or not believe, for in that choice we choose “God” or “not God”. Through allowing evil in the earth for a short time—short in comparison to eternity—He has allowed a line to be drawn that gives us choice in whether to believe in, love and honor God as God or not. True love must make room for love to be returned willingly. True love would never force the one loved to love in return. Thus God’s love made a way for us to have a choice in this life. God, or not God, but some other god. Even those who believe there is no god have set themselves up as god to rule their own way. And though there is no other god except the One True God, Jehovah, other false gods exist with a power that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, says has the power of demons behind it.

God called Abraham to believe the impossible to be possible because the God he chose to serve is ALMIGHTY GOD. Out of Abraham’s faith in choosing to believe God for the HIMpossible, God birthed through Him the lineage of the Christ, who was to come out of a people wholly set apart to God as His beloved people. And out of that Seed of Righteousness, Jesus the Christ, He provided the way for His people, Israel, and indeed the entire world, to come into eternal relationship with Himself.

By faith to believe the HIMpossible of Almighty God found in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, we enter into the family of God, being made through Christ into “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The season of Advent is a time to remember and proclaim this gift from El Shadai through the lineage set up in Abraham.

Nothing is beyond the ability of God Almighty to take care of, and He will do so in due season. Just as Abraham’s Isaac was born in God’s timing, so that all would know it was God who did it because of the advanced age of Sarah and Abraham that made conception impossible without God doing it, so Jesus coming as Messiah in ways that are beyond our ability to comprehend reveals the work of the Almighty for a purpose that is His own: the salvation of a world of people in need of One True God.

Our situations today are the same, opportunity to watch the perfect timing of God Almighty at work in ways that show Himself strong on our behalf. God is able. As He said to Abraham at the time of conception, so He says to us who will hear today, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). All we need is to have a mustard seed of faith in God, relying on Him, trusting in Him, being confident that He will do the HIMpossible at just the right time to accomplish the greatest good for all concerned. That is His way revealed throughout the ages, working not only on our behalf for our good, but on behalf of all around us who will see and come to believe El Shaddai.

Celebrating Jesus: The Advent – 2

Jesus_103The great King, anticipated by Israel for millennia, came first in an unexpected way: in the flesh of a human, to die as a sacrificial Lamb for the sin of all mankind. Jew and Gentile alike are called to come in under the blood of the Lamb of God, the covering for sin that brings all who will believe into the Kingdom of God. For He is returning one day as that long awaited King to set up His rule in the earth, and all who do not have this covering of blood will be denied access to His kingdom, just as the first born were lost to all not under the blood at the time of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.

Before the Christ was born into the earth, God brought forth John, who would be called the Baptist, called and equipped with the filling of the Spirit to be the forerunner to the Christ. Of himself He said, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said” (John 1:22).

So what does this, “make straight the way of the Lord” mean? The angel who appeared to John’s father, Zacharias, explains it:

“It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).

It is our faith as Christians that Jesus is the Christ, first come to purchase back the people of God through blood sacrifice of His own flesh, purchasing Jew and Gentile alike, making us one people for God’s own possession in Christ as we receive the gift of this grace by faith. Jesus is the Kinsman Redeemer, paying the full price as propitiation for sin, so we can walk free in Him. Through the power of the Spirit He gives to all who will believe that He is the Christ come first as sacrifice for sin, we are empowered to turn our hearts back to our children and turn from disobedience to righteousness in Christ. Thus we are prepared for the Lord who will return as the long awaited King of kings, ready to set up His kingdom on earth.

So what are we, His people by the new birth of spirit through faith, to do in our wait for His return? I believe we are to “go as a forerunner before Him (who is returning) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Advent is a time of remembrance the full and completed work of Jesus, past, present and future. We begin by calling to mind the first coming of the King as the Christ Child, the Bright Morning Star who showed the way of righteousness, then gave Himself as Sacrificial Lamb, becoming the blood covered door by which all who believe and receive His gift may enter into His righteousness and find saving grace that grants us relationship with God the Father in our here and now existence while making us ready for the Kings return. Are you ready, my friend? For He is coming back, and when He returns it will be too late for Jew or Gentile to make that choice.

Make ready, Beloved. Your sin is already covered by grace and is setting before you as a gift of His love and desire for full restoration of relationship with you. For that gift to belong to you, you must now reach out to receive it. That gift is received by simply believing that He first came as sacrifice for all sin, including your sin, then, with repentance for your personal sin and willingness of heart to surrender to His work of grace within, reach out to receive the gift of grace He has for you, surrendering all to Him as Lord who purchased the right over you. By His grace sufficient, He will then fill you with His Spirit to empower the journey of a lifetime as He works to restore the image of God in you, step by step, day by day, working to perfect you as His image bearer until the day of Christ’s return (Philippians 1:6).