Tag Archives: God

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.

Religion: or Jesus?

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

I arise early this morning with a flow of Spirit speaking what I believe to be truth to my heart over an issue that more and more becomes important to me, because it is used by enemy forces to tear asunder and dismember the body of Christ. We are called to be one, yet we are separated by religious doors. It breaks my pea picking heart, as my momma might say.

I have many friends and family members of many differing religious persuasions, and the one thing I find that draws us and closes the gap of our respective belief systems is unity of faith in Christ and common grounds of truth. Oh, I want so for this to flow to you as beautifully as it has to me. Lord, here am I, a conduit looking to You to flow through me.

I am thinking on this subject this early morn because of questions to a friend and Sister in Christ in a group we attend together where she is being asked to share about her religion of choice. Always unnerves me when the body starts talking religion. You see, as I look at this subject of religion or Jesus, what I see is that when we come together through the veil of Christ, we find bonds that bind us as one through the truth we unite under in faith of mutual belief. But religion exists because of differing opinions of truth. There is only one real truth: God’s truth; so how can this be? Where there are differing opinions of truth, at least one in a group of two is living behind a veil of falsehood.

God is truth, and in Him we find fullness of truth that unites. But Satan, the father of lies, throws little twists into our understanding of God’s truth, just enough to work separation and dismemberment in the body. A house divided will soon fall, right? Satan cannot destroy Truth, but he can throw a few wrenches in through weak flesh that is open to the allure of the lie and destroy the fullness of the effectiveness of the body to work together as one. So what is the answer?

This friend I mentioned earlier, I love her so much and I see and experience Jesus in her. It is where our bond comes from. But she was raised in and still resides in a religious faction that is very controversial in our day and is seen by the rest of Christendom as a cult. Now, from what I have been taught of that belief system, when held against the strictest defining parameters that separate the true church from the cultic practices, I cannot argue with that evaluation regarding her religion. But I can argue with any who would try to tell me that she does not know Jesus, the Savior, and God the Father, as I do.

Some others I love warn me, “Darlene, they are being taught how to talk Jesus so as to be more palatable to us Christians.” I have no doubt that can happen in any church, but the Spirit of God and the connection He brings to the equation cannot be mimicked or taught by human reason. I have experienced the sincerity of her faith. We are Sisters in Christ, I have no doubt, but we are divided by religious falsehood in some areas: whether hers or mine, God knows.

Now here is what God showed me that I found to be so beautiful as I awoke with this heartache over religion and its dismemberment of Christ’s body. I believe it is the solution to the division if we can grasp it to walk it out in the earth.

When Jesus gave His life, a propitiation for all sin, the instant He breathed His last breath of His earthly life, God, the Father, reached down to the temple of Israel and rent asunder for all time the veil that divided Him from those who seek His face. In the place of that veil stepped Jesus at the ordination and beckoning of God the Father.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; He is the only Door by which we may be saved and have access to the Father; and all who desire to enter in to the holy of holies must first pass through Him by faith in the sacrifice of blood He paid. None who go through Him are turned away. All who go through Him have personal access to God, as Jesus is our advocate; and in Him we are raised up as part of the Royal Priesthood.  No man or human institution has right to restore the veil God removed in Christ. Any who would hold another back telling them they are not pure enough to enter the holy place of God’s presence are standing in falsehood and resurrecting the old veil, lacking understanding of the fullness of Christ to the equation of salvation and sanctification. How can I say that? (1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews)

There, in the holy of holies we find the purest of love, truth, righteousness, holiness, justice—a justice wrought through grace found in Christ, peace, unity, and wholeness. As I thought on this fact, I saw myself step through the Veil, Jesus, into God’s presence with my Sister in Christ, and I physically felt all the fetters of this life fall away: sin, falsehood, division, enmity, fear, distrust, and separation fell to the wayside and the only thing that mattered in that place was the common ground of the fullness of God’s truth coupled with faith to believe. We were one in Christ. All religion swept away. We both felt this burden removed and turned with amazement to the Door we just passed through in believing faith together.

I long for a place like that. The only way I see of finding it in our earthly existence is to lay down all of our preconceived ideas of truth and walk through the veil. Only as we begin to see churches rise up with only one name over their doorway will we find it. Only as we step through the door of Jesus together and enter into the presence of God with open hearts to full truth will we find healing to bind up the brokenness in the Body of Christ in our day.

My heart breaks as I see lines drawn that seem to say, “Follow me in my religious beliefs and understanding if you want unity with me, even though our separation works disunity in Jesus’ body.” And a flipside to this that furthers the gap between us is the watch groups who are so bent on pointing out the falsehood they see in others, when all that is needed is to present truth and let God draw the hearer through the veil. What separation we breed when we raise the hair on the neck of those who feel they have to fight for their religious right. Truth unites. Speak truth and watch God bring down the veils of separation among us.

I have had the privilege through ministries God has placed me in to walk in the doors of many differing churches of most every differing religious faction. What I have found is this: though I may not agree with all I hear, when I walk in to hear from God, I will receive something, some truth I can cling to that inspires my day and helps me on my way. There I find common ground with believers in that place. When I enter those doors with Jesus-love in heart, I always find, without exception, a brother or sister connection with others who have believing faith on common grounds of truth too.

Religion: or Jesus? Won’t you come through the veil with me where we find wholeness of truth and faith to believe? Let us cast off our preconceived ideas of the things that separate us and bring them to the holy of holies where truth is found. If God is God…and He is…if He desires truth…and He does…don’t you think He will teach our hearts unity of faith to believe and be one in Christ’s beautiful body?

Father, teach us truth that we may be whole and accomplish Your purpose in the earth. In Jesus, the veil, the only true door, we pray. Amen.

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.

Caught in the Wake: Allowed by God?

Part 1

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

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

 

Did God, who is Holy, allow the sin, which is not? Is He the author of it? Why or why not? These are the questions we seek to address today.

My answer would be “yes and no”. How can that be?

Throughout scripture, here is the picture I see. God has chosen to have a vital and growing relationship with mankind. He has chosen me, and, whether or not you choose Him, He chooses you. He gives His all to the growth and development of this relationship He desires and designed to be. But “relationship” is two-sided. There is no relationship without both parties giving themselves to it. Therefore, in order to have the relationship of His heart’s desire, God had to make a way for man to choose Him as He chooses us. For choice to be true, there must be something else from which to choose. Thus God planted two trees in the earth.

The first tree, known as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, supplied us with choice. The second tree, that upon which the Savior hung as the sacred Lamp of God, provides us assurance in our choice. The choice of those who had it in the beginning was to choose the tempting fruit of the lie over the truth of God and unhindered relationship with Him. Before going to our focal passage in James, let’s take a quick look at Adam and Eve.

EveAndTheSerpent_lIn the story of Adam and Eve’s fall found in Genesis 3, first enters the serpent. The serpent back then could speak, and it says that he “was more crafty than any beast of the field.” He came to the woman, asking, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman replies, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

Now my question, before we go further, is why did the serpent approach Eve rather than Adam? I believe we get a clue in the response given by Eve. Her response is that of second hand knowledge. God told Adam, “Don’t eat that or you will die.” He never said, “Don’t touch it.”

How often do we see someone who has been warned of danger carry the warning of “do not taste” to a level of “don’t even touch it.” Eve was not even around when God gave warning to Adam. To our knowledge at this point in the story of God, she did not have this one on one instruction of the Lord in her experience, from what we are told in scripture.

I don’t know about you, but for me it is much easier to believe a truth from God when we are instructed on it personally by Him. So the serpent came to Eve, who most likely, as many of us would do, was wondering about the truth of the warning because the fruit of that tree just looked too good to be harmful. And what did he do next?

“You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vs. 4-5).

Now we know that this serpent is being instructed in what to say by Satan, most likely possessed by him, because we are told of Lucifer’s desire to be God in Ezekiel 28 and other passages. He often works to lead others to desire to be their own god, and he does so by causing us to question the truthfulness and integrity of God. Satan, through the mouth of the serpent, caused Eve to doubt further the truth about God she was taught by Adam, and caused her to question the veracity of her God. The fruit of that tree being appealing to the eye, and the words of the deceiver sounding good to the ear, she was tempted and did eat. The serpent, being the pawn of evil, lied to Eve, who believed the lie and she made her choice regarding relationship with God.

She, then, carried the lie further as she offered the fruit to Adam. We are not told what occurred between Adam and Eve in that Eve2moment, but I can just hear it now, can’t you? “Look, Adam! It is luscious. I did eat, and I did not die! God lied.” So Adam, enamored with Eve and always desiring to please her, as is often the case in male-female relations as we seek to please one another: Adam forgot his God, and seeing Eve still breathing, doubted God’s veracity and he ate.

Note something important here, the eyes of their heart did not open to the knowledge of good and evil until Adam bit the proverbial bullet and it exploded. It was Adam that God gave charge to in the Garden to tend it and care for all living creatures in it. He had not only the authority to rebuke the serpent, but I believe that if he had grabbed the hand of his wife and dragged her running to the Father, things would have been different. Instead he too, fell, and their eyes opened to see evil.

Death was not the expected instantaneous death from life, though their bodies began the process of decay in that instant—aging little by little, leading to that final breath in this life to enter eternity with, or without, God. The death experienced in Eden was worse than instant cessation of the life of their body. Instead the death that came was instantaneous separation from intimacy with God. As the voice of God came to them, Him searching the Garden for their presence, I believe because He sensed the disturbance of their intimate connection that occurred, hearing Him calling, Adam and Eve knew they sinned against God and were afraid, so they hid themselves. In an instant, their relationship with Him was never the same.

Thus we find ourselves in the wake of sin still today. Sin is deceptive, leading to belief of lies that destroy relationships. Unlike Adam and Eve, we come into this world in a flesh of sin with the seed of sin ruling, causing us to doubt the truth and trustworthiness of God. From the day we are born, unless our parents or someone else tells us of Him, we do not know there is a God to acknowledge. We are separated from Him, knowing only our own fleshly desires as ruler and master. And sensing the emptiness left by His absence, though not knowing what is missing, we run to our lusts for fulfillment.

James 4:1-5 ~ “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD IS HOSTILITY TOWARD GOD? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?”

Our intimacy with God is our spirit united with His Spirit. Yet even today our lusts and desire for the pleasures of this world wage war within us, drawing us by the lie away from the Truth. That pleasure we seek says to us, “Take me and you will be satisfied and made complete. If you can just have me, you will have all you need for life more abundant and full.” But only One can fill that place in us.

Note the Capital S in this verse, “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.” James here is speaking to Christians who have chosen God through the second tree. This second tree, the tree of Calvary, where the Savior gave His life to purchase all who will believe, gives us assurance of eternity with God, as we take the fruit of that tree with faith to believe Him who provided it. Even Christians, who have trusted and believed Him, receiving His Spirit that quickens our own to bring Life to us again through eternal relationship with Him, even we can be drawn away by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the boastful pride of life. Look at verse 5 in the Amplified version of scripture:

“Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love?”

As long as we are in weak flesh that is perishing, living in a weak and alluring world of deceptive desire, we can be tempted away from the sincerity of our relationship with God. Though we do not lose our relationship with Him as before, the intimacy can still be hindered, weakening us as His witnesses, His ambassadors, His holy priesthood in this life. We must grow day by day and opportunity by opportunity to continue to choose relationship with Him over the ways of this life.

Our spirit is made to unite with His. It is our choice whether we will believe God and choose Him over the fleeting pleasures of sin’s lie. Anything that brings separation from intimacy with Him destroys all we can be and have in this life. Still today the serpent of old robs us of our abundance by way of his lies that lure us to choose other things over the goodness and glory of our God.

So yes, God allows the opportunity for us to choose to sin against Him, because every opportunity to choose sin comes with opportunity to believe in and choose God. However, no, evil is not set before us by God, nor is it created by Him. God is truth and always deals with us out of His integrity. But there is loosed upon the earth His arch enemy whose desire is to destroy all God cares for. God cast him out of His kingdom and he allows him to tempt us so that we have choice, the lie, or The Truth. Sin, first in the fall of Lucifer, and then in the fall of man, unleashed evil in the world and in the flesh of every person, making it slave to its lusts. God is not evil and no evil comes from His hand, but He allows evil to reach out to us so that we have choice in our relationship with Him.

Choose truth, Beloved, and walk with God in unity of faith to believe Him over the lie before our eyes. God gives us the plumb-line of His word. If the desire of our heart does not stand up to the truth of God’s word, it is sin, and sin separates, hindering a right and true relationship with a holy God.

“Choose life, that you may live, you and your children with you” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19.

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 – 1

mary-mother_of_jesus_21Behold, the bondslave of the Lord

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. FOR NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:26-38, NASB)

Advent—the time of remembering what God did through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; what He is doing in your life today; and the earnest expectation and hope of His promised return. One way we can celebrate Advent is to have this attitude expressed by Mary in each day of life and every situation: “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; me it be done to me according to your word.”

A bondslave is slave by choice out of trust in and love for the Master. The saying goes, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will for me.” Total surrender to the will and purpose of God, trusting His fulfillment of all the good He desires even when it puts us in precarious positions, is the most glorious place on earth; safe in His perfect will. Celebrate today the relationship with God that is available to us as Bondslaves set free in Christ to choose this love walk with the Father in likeness to the Son.

Worship: Positions From the Heart – Bow the Knee

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:6-7).

It is interesting to watch military personal when in the presence of the commander and chief. You can tell by the way they salute where their heart lies toward the man in the office. Some are very respectful and sincere in their salute. Others salute the office position because it is expected, but there is no real respect for the man in it. And then there are times when the man in the office is such a disappointment that the soldier at arms will refuse to salute.

Like with these soldiers, it is the same with those who profess to worship God. Yesterday we discussed the heart of worship. God looks to the heart and it is the sincere of heart toward Him that He best responds to. Today we look at the first of several positions of worship that scripture speaks of and the heart behind each, beginning with the bow.

Bowing before a sovereign is a show of respect to that position of authority. It is like the salute, honoring the office of one in authority, and the heart behind it makes all the difference. As I consider the positions of worship, I see in each a heart issue that must be in play for God to recognize it as sincere worship in spirit and in truth.

Taking first the bow, we bow to the authority of God over us. It is a position of surrender. And that position must begin in the heart of the man. To bow without consciousness of the surrender to God’s authority is position without true thought and intent.

Today, in the wake of the storms of life that come at us, in the challenges we face through the day, our call is to bow the knee by first bowing the heart in surrender to God. In closing, let us realize anew what the “heart” is. Heart in scripture speaks of the core of ones being. It is body, soul, and spirit. To bow physically to God in our body is easy in itself, but what of the rest of our core being?

Bowing the spirit, the eternal part of us that lives on into eternity, requires unity with the Spirit of God that quickens us—breathing new life into our being that will remain with God forever. Our spirit man bows to the work of His Spirit in us.

Bowing the soul: the mind or thoughts, the will and the emotions, this is the biggie to our surrendered posture. As the thought of a man goes, so goes his body or his being. We bow to the sovereignty of God in our minds when we take every thought captive to obey Him in Christ. When we bring our thoughts in line with His, our wills will quickly fall in line with His, and our emotions will follow our will.

Bowing before Sovereign God is a heart issue that must be whole and complete to be real and true of spirit.

We Bow Down

Chasing Rainbows With DADDY – Part 1: Introduction

The Highway

There is one car commercial that thrills my heart every time I see it. I have to back the DVR up as we are flying through the commercials on a recording and watch it over again. In the commercial, a little girl and her daddy are flying down the back-road highway, looking for something.

“Do you see it?” daddy yells.

“There it is!” exclaims daughter.

Later, “Where is it?” asks dad.

“Its gone. We lost it,” the dejected voice of his little girl says.

“We’ll find it,” assures daddy as he turns on a dirt road, splashing through a puddle.

Next you see them running excitedly through an open field, daughter anxiously hurrying daddy, beckoning him to come quickly. Grasping hands, together they enjoy the rainbow across the way.

Watching that commercial fills me with excitement because I know in my heart that Daddy-God is beckoning me—and you—to chase the rainbow with Him.

For many, the rainbow has come to be synonymous with the promise of God, a reminder of His faithfulness. Today we begin a journey that, for me, is a ride in the car with Daddy-God, watching to see where we will wind up. I see vaguely the direction we need to go on this journey, but the specifics of the path to get to the treasure of the rainbow is unclear. Thus we get into the car with Daddy as we begin by looking at the first rainbow, found in Genesis 9:8-17.

In this passage, Noah and his family just disembarked from the ride of a lifetime, one in which they are led to a new beginning like no other before it or since. “Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, ‘Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.’

“God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ And God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.’”

The rainbow: the sign of covenant promise. To remind who? God? Really? Do we really think that Daddy-God forgets anything? I believe that anything He “forgets” is by choice; not because He has a faulty memory.

“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, And the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:14-16).

“Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, so that we may sell grain, and the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?’ The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob, ‘Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds’” (Amos 8:4-7).

“Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, O Israel. You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, nor wearied you with incense. You have not bought Me sweet cane with money, nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities. I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:22-25).

God is not short of memory. He chooses what He will hold on to and what He will let go. He does not need to tie a string around His proverbial finger as we too often do. The rainbow is placed in the sky as a remembrance, yes, Him saying to us, “I choose to remember my covenant-promise and I remind you of it with this reaffirmation of my commitment to you.” And what have we discovered such signs to be placed for in our study of the stones of testimony? A sign such as this not only acts as a covenant agreement between two parties, but is reminder to pass the testimony on to our children and grandchildren, telling them of the work of God in our midst that led to the sign being put in place.

Science may give us the details behind the making of the rainbow, but it is God who set up the chemistry for its making. We can trust the faithfulness of God, and the rainbow reminds us of this truth.

Thus begins our journey to chase the rainbow with Daddy-God. When I first thought of this series of study, I thought we were to look at some of the specific promises of God to His people, however, though we may do some of that, I have come to believe that we are to discover together what a child of God who is chasing rainbows with Daddy looks like. Again, I am not sure where all this will take us or how long this series will be, but I hope you will get in the car with us as we see where all Daddy-God will take us on this chase.

Thoughts on Love

As we come near to Valentine’s Day, my thoughts turn to love. What is love?

Scripture has much to say on this subject, defining several degrees of love. One that comes to heart today gives definition in the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and we are called to love as He loves. From this I understand that love begins within. True love comes from who we are, and therefore is undisturbed by what people do or don’t do. When love flows from my being, I will find it easier to keep on loving others, despite insult, making 1 Corinthians 13 easier to follow.

Then I think of the passage in Ephesians 5, where the husband is encouraged to love his wife as Christ loved the church. How did He love the church? Through giving Himself for it, nurturing it, and cherishing it.

Jesus gave His life for those He loved. To give oneself fully to a relationship requires compromise: meaning I have to be willing to give up what I want and have for the sake of those I love—and vice versa, by the way. Jesus died to self to come to this life as the Lamb of God: giving up all He had before in order to come to this life in flesh; show us how to love, live for and honor God and each other; and then to give His life for us, leading us then to do the same in giving our all to God.

That was His first act of love toward those who would be the people of God. But He did not completely neglect Himself while here. He often drew apart from the crowds for a little self-care and time with the Father so as to replenish His stores for giving into the lives of those He loved enough to die for. We, too, must take care of ourselves if we expect to have any supply to give into the lives of others.

Jesus nurtured those He loved. He encouraged their spiritual growth, called them up higher in their thinking, and did all He could to help them be the best person they could be. Nurturing others we love in this same way is vital to a love relationship. Love desires the best good of those loved and encourages them to be and do their best. Love sees the potential wrapped up in the person and nurtures it, calling for it to come forth and live.

Jesus also cherished those He loved. When we cherish something or someone, we do all we can to treat them right, as one we treasure. We also do all we can to protect them from harm, destruction, or loss. Love treasures, cherishes, and protects.

When asked which was the greatest law, Jesus rightly said that loving God is the greatest, followed by loving others as we love ourselves. Love fulfills the law, for love will always keep God first, having no other gods before Him, honoring His name in word and deed. Thus love of God does the things He requires of us, beginning with keeping the Sabbath holy, giving honor to parents, protecting life, honoring the marriage bed as holy; love will give and not steal, it will build up by speaking truth in love and not tearing down others through false witness, it rejoices over God’s blessing toward others without being envious and jealous and covetous.

True love never fails, because love will always see the potential and work to help the one loved reach that potential. Love will not keep a tally of hurts, spouting them off at every opportunity, but love will always be open to starting anew, leaving the past in its grave to go forth to improved relations.

Love always seeks the greatest good for the one loved, therefore faith, love and hope are seen together in the relationship that withstands the test of time and the growth of individuals.

Before ending this note on love, we must realize that if we are to love our neighbor, Jesus’ response to the question posed makes clear that for us to truly know how to love others, we must first know how to practice all that love is toward self. That means that to love self properly, we cannot focus on and add up all our flaws and failures, but must maintain hope of better and encourage our own success toward becoming our better best. It means cherishing oneself enough to value ourselves in ways that lead to us being protective over the things we want to maintain and work to shore up the areas of our being that need improvement. Being “love” will cause that flow to touch all we are in relationship with, beginning with God and self. As they say, “I better like me because I am the one person I cannot get away from.” Love of oneself works toward being able to like oneself and causes us to become one of our most faithful supporters.

When we can first love God, then rightly love self as an outflow from our relationship with God, then we will have what it takes to know how to truly love others. The greatest valentine card we can give to God is to be love as He is love, and to let that love flow to all in our sphere of influence, from our glance in the mirror every morning, to “the least of these” we meet every day.

And lest we forget!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).

I perceive this call to perfection as meaning that we are to be who we say we are in truth; not putting on a façade of Christlikeness or godliness, but truly being as He said He is: “I AM who I am. I’m just me.”

For other insights on love, read: 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12; Colossians 3.

Genesis 1: The Creation Story, Part 4

“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day” Genesis 1:14-19.

There you have it: the insight I have worked to reach since beginning this series. I see here the absolute beauty of God’s creation purpose. Do you see it? God, in all His glory, places on His pic-ta-board the distinguishing marks of day against night, bringing light to dark places. Today we will begin to look at these distinguishing features, beginning with:

~~*~~

The Sun: As I look at the sun in light of what I know / understand about our universe and how it functions, I am inspired to recognize that God, The Father, is represented in the Sun.

Revelation 21 says that the new kingdom to come will have no need of the sun we see in the sky, because He, the Father, will provide the light through His glory.  He rules the day because He is LIGHT in its purest form, “and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). When we are close to God, companion with Him, we walk in the Light of Day, literally. All darkness will be cast away and all that stands within that darkness will be revealed as we draw near to Him.

There is another thing I note here that is true of the Sun and depicts God. Everything in the vicinity of the sun revolves around it. The sun is central to everything in our galaxy. Without being in right relationship with the sun, the earth would be void of life. For every body that revolves around the sun, its positioning to it determines light, temperature, gravity, tidal waves (or lack of peace, if you will), on and on we could go; everything necessary for an environment friendly to abundant life is determined by the planet’s position to the sun.

Thus it is with regard to our position to God. All we need for life is found to be most fulfilled in God. Our abundance in life, our ability to be content and have our deepest needs met are dictated by that relationship. The life within us and our ability to bear the fruit of life is determined by our position to God. And whether we realize it or not, all that we are or ever hope to be revolves around Him and is determined by our position, our stance where He is concerned.

So, He is pure light, and the darkness cannot overcome Him, nor does it have any part in Him. He is pure, righteous Light, and He cannot even look on unrighteousness, because unrighteousness, when exposed to pure Light, is made clear. When He draws near to us, our unrighteousness is revealed as the darkness is pushed away by His light.

When darkness in our life is pulled away, revealing the hidden things within it, we recognize the void and enter the place of choice. We will recognize the unrighteousness hiding in our darkest places and will either give way to the light, being overcome by its power, and, entering into relationship with Light, thus allowing that evil to be burned away and purified and set in order; or we will choose to pull back from the heat of the Light, returning to the darkest cold, and giving self to all that is evil.

When we consider a relationship with God, we are made aware of the expanse, the void where no light exists in us. This flings us back to realize the expanse—the things that separate us from Him, and we will make our choice. The rays of the Sun reach out into the expanse looking for those who are ready to have a relationship with Him and who will allow His light to penetrate into our darkest places. His rays penetrate the cold of death, resurrecting life within, and bringing the warmth of His influence to our lives. Because of His search for those who will companion with Him, He gives the moon to rule the night until He rises anew.

~~*~~ Tomorrow ~~*~~

I Believe, Therefore…

“…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.’” (Isaiah 46:9b)

I am in awe as I read this proclamation from the God I believe: the God of the Holy Bible. He is the One True God who reveals Himself through the power of His Spirit, the flesh of the one He calls “Son Incarnate” and the beauty and glory of the one too awesome to behold, the one called “Father”.

All the problems of life melt away to hope in believing that this God I love and trust is in control and is working a plan to bring many—including me and mine—into His Kingdom. All is not lost in this life. It is only suffering the birthing pangs that are leading to life more abundant and full, a life where all will know and understand that He alone is God, and there is none like Him.

This world we live in would try to convince me that, not only is my God one among many and I should honor all equally, but they would have me believe that He is an impotent god. What I know is that my God is the One True God. And He is not impotent, but He is patient toward us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

Those who believe in other gods, or in no god at all, would call me and those like me “intolerant” and “separatist” or “haughty”, because I believe wholeheartedly the truth of this proclamation, refusing to honor other gods. And, I guess, they would be right in that respect.

My God tells me He is the only one and I am to give no credence to another god, nor am I to honor their ways. He tells me that other gods are the creation of the heart of mankind who refuse to acknowledge His existence and Lordship as the only One. To fail to believe these truths is to be conflicted and schizophrenic as a believer of the God of the Bible, thus dishonoring what He says about Himself and the path He demands of those who would be His.

But God also instructs our heart that we can love those who refuse Him without condoning their ways. Is not that the true meaning of tolerance, to continue to love and care for and treat with respect those who believe different and live in ways not one’s own. God gave one innate law to every man that is the one law all follow faithfully; that law is the right of choice that gives to every person freedom to choose whom they will follow and how they will live.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Thus, as believers in this One God and His proclamation of what He says is true, we hold our head high and refuse to be beat down and made to feel inferior and intolerant by those who refuse to honor our right to believe our God: those who would have us be like them before they will love us and respect our God ordained ways. And we do so knowing that our God will reveal fullness of truth one day soon, as the birthing pangs draw closer to the completion of all things He has ordained to be fulfilled.

(See also 1 Corinthians 4; Joshua 24:15Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Walking in the Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

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

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

Am I better than my friend who fell to sins grip? No. Scripture warns, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).

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

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

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

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

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

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

GraceDifined#2: Spiritual Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret Place – Clarified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SECRET PLACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiving God’s Way (Part 1 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

That You May Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Know ME. I am seeking your face.”

Without Ceasing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eyes Open; Ears Attentive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Know Me. I am seeking your face”

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

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

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

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

God: Devoted to His Image Bearers 

Heart and Soul

Eyes Open; Ears Attentive

Presence 

Quick Review

 – Without Ceasing 

That You May Live

God Planted Two Trees

God So Loved The World That He

PLANTED TWO TREES IN THE EARTH

Darlene Davis ©

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

New Revelation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeper Understanding:

The first tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second tree

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

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

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

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

The Proof?  The Wisdom of God Revealed

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

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

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

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

Gift To Receive

God holds Jesus out as a gift.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

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

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

How?

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

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

Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

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

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

Assurance

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

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

WHAT NOW? 

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

Seek spiritual growth

Through Prayer

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

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

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

Through Bible study

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through fellowship of the believers

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

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

Through focused learning about God

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

Blessing Promised

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

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