Tag Archives: Holiness

A Word for Today: LOVE

“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” 2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our focal verse may seem not to fit the word for today, but bear with me a moment while I explain.

Remember the parable of Christ when He described the day all will stand before Father as sheep separated from goats. I had a dream years ago about that, in which God allowed me to experience the position of the goat.

As we were ushered in to His presence, upon seeing the Father, we all were overwhelmed and filled to the full with understanding of His essence. Many, knowing their vehement rejection of Him, instantly knew they missed the boat; others who trusted a false salvation were just figuring out that they were on the wrong side of the gulf. The thing that overwhelmed us all was full understanding of God’s pure love for us even in that moment, and that we were finally complete – made whole by His love.

We watched as the names of saints were called one by one, greeted by Jesus, and ushered into His Kingdom by angels. Then came the time when the goats were cast into the outer darkness. I woke with realization that the hottest flame in eternal damnation will be the knowledge of never knowing God’s great love so clearly again.

God used that dream to call me to two major foci in ministry: one being the importance of calling others to the Cross of Christ before it’s too late; the other being the importance of making God’s love known now, while there is time to make an informed decision.

God calls us to be love as He is love. God is the love we are to have and walk in, allowing Him to be love in us, so people can see while they still have a chance of changing sides. This is why Jesus warned us, “”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 (complete).” Matthew 5:43-48 NASB (author’s note)

The most dangerous prayer I have ever prayed is for God to be love in me, loving a person in my sphere of influence with His unfailing love. I say “dangerous” because when God answers that prayer – and He will do so to the sincere heart cry for it – no matter what that person we love does, our love for them does not stop. We keep knowing God’s love for that person as our own. We feel a portion of the pain God feels for those who refuse Him. Their rejection hurts, and it’s hard, and the love keeps pouring out for them with longing for a right and true relationship fueled by and filled with the unity that is only found in mutual relationship with the Father. Only the brave, with true love for the Father that desires His love be found by all who need it, can face the heart of rejection experienced by God’s love for all. Are you ready to love in Jesus’s Name? He will supply the power for it, if you are willing to walk in His love-supply for all.

My prayer for us today, Beloved, is for our Strength to go forth and love in Jesus’s Name and in the power of His supply before time runs out. The eternal clock is ticking.

Journey to Freedom

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Love is the first flavor in the fruit of His Spirit that God used to teach me how His strength works best in my surrendered weakness.

God is love. We are told to love as He loves, which means we have to surrender to BE love as He is, and in likeness to Him. We can only do that when He, who is love, becomes love in us.

Our love is weak and insufficient apart from Him, never able to measure up to adequately represent Him. Only as we surrender ourselves to be a living vessel for His love to reach those around us can we truly love as He loves. And when we truly rest our effort in that truth, loving even the greatest of enemies becomes easier and more effective.

Knowing this, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize that the same principle is true of His fruit flavor known as self-control / self-discipline. I learned it easily with peace, joy, and goodness; finding a greater challenge in my surrender to His patience in me, but finally beginning to get there. I guess the holdup on learning this truth in the bearing of the flavor of self-control is that little word, SELF.

I expected God wanted me to do it on my own, by choice; which didn’t make sense when Scripture clearly teaches that I can do NOTHING apart from Him. So finally, I am walking in the truth that the “help” I constantly cry out for in this need of self-control only fully comes when I surrender to the truth that I am too weak to do it. That He who lives in me and wants to live trough me in a process that makes us truly one is key to fruit bearing in all His flavor.

Thus, I must allow His strength to live it’s perfection through this area of my weakness: not struggling to have some part in the controlling of self, but fully surrendering with trust in Him to empower control.

I finished my 21 days of fasting prayer, quickly discovering that the things practiced during this time of commitment are to be my new way of daily living Christ into the world around me. Today is the first day of the rest of my life – which is eternal in Christ.

Welcome to the new me, which is, by the way, another pound lighter. YAY!!

Maintaining my Streak with God’s Strength

: Bragging on Father Today

Please bare with me while I do a little bragging on our God.

I have struggled with sweets addiction off and on since childhood. All the common triggers can knock me off my resolve, stress and tiredness topping that list.

The past three years have put me in the worst struggle ever as I care for my husband of 42 years and counting. He is in a fight against prostate cancer: stage 5. His goal is to work and live Life until he just can’t keep going. Our journey began with him at stage 4 because he had NONE of the typical symptoms, so it slipped up on us and last year it went to the bones. (Men, don’t neglect your health. Get your physicals.)

God faithfully strengthens him so he is still working and living, and my #1 ministry right now is to help him press on to live Life. For the most part, I do well, but when life gets hard for him – can anyone say “stressed and tired”.

When our journey began, Johnny begged me to promise I would take care of me and not let this journey destroy my health and strength. I have tried to do that, but throughout the stress and exhaustion that comes following hard days when I must pour into helping him, sweets overwhelmed my resolve and set up a stronghold.

Recently, as I cried out to God over my inability to stand against that addictive habit, He spoke clear instruction to me through Paul’s experience of Him in 2 Corinthians 12. Father assured me that the same grace made available to Paul is there for me as well. Thus began my journey of thanking God for His faithful provision to meet each temptation with the strength of His resolve. I tell you, I have never knowingly experienced such pure freedom as I am walking in because of belief in the truth that God’s grace is sufficient for me, too.

Today is Day 13: no sweets or bread. God’s strength prevails! And he has shown me another area in need of faith in Him for His gracious strength to flow through. My Strength is there for me and most days are good. For the days when I am exhausted from little sleep and too much activity, He is my rest. I am so grateful that He loves us and provides Himself for our overwhelming weakness.

What would you brag on God for today? Share it here or with someone today.

My Pleasure, My Passion

As I ask God, with thought of His highlighting of Galatians 1:10, where in my life He sees me seeking to please man rather than Him alone, my thought to push myself to make it back to church comes to heart. My husband’s ebbing and waning health has held my focus as I care for him. On good days for him, my need for rest comes on strong. Church takes a back burner in this season.

I do miss church family. I do desire faithfulness in obedience to God. I do want to please God through my obedience to His Word of instruction. But it dawns on me as I think on these things that these are not secondary desires, as they should be. They are the drive behind my desire, along with this desire to be found faithful in man’s eyes God is revealing to me today. My heart is not solely set on seeking God above all else. The pursuit of God as my one true passion is not the motivating drive behind my desire.

Father, as I think on these things, I pray for passion toward You to drive me to church in Your time and place. I pray passion for You to be the driving force behind my desire for Your people, through whom You shine. I pray passion for You to drive my faithful obedience. I pray passion for deeper discovery of You to drive me to Your Word.

Be the passion in me that starts and revs my spiritual engine, and that keeps it running smooth to the glory of your name, wherever You may lead me. In Jesus’ holy and beloved name, fill me with His passion. Amen

Mark of Discipleship: Word Symbiosis

The original language word, translated continue, remain, abide, is a symbiotic word meaning to live in/with it while it lives in/with you.

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”” John‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The Word is living and active because of God’s Spirit in us that enlivens our desire for God and empowers our comprehension of His ways. The Word given is our path to communication with God, and it’s His way of instructing us in the way we should go in serving His purpose for our days.

The Spirit draws the true disciple to desire God’s Word and seek out communion with Him. The more His Word is in us, the more prepared we are with wisdom to direct our steps through life as honors and glorifies God. Desire in us to honor and glorify God makes time in His Word a joy we run to every day – and often throughout the day.

If there is no desire for God’s Word, then truly we need to question our claim to discipleship.

Our Portion

I am starting my year following the daily scripture focus for January, put out by BibleStudyTools.com. Today’s Scripture focus is that well known Lamentations passage in 3:22-23 pictured above. But my focus falls to what comes after.

I know so well those two beloved, frequently quoted verses, I shamefully forget what follows.

“”The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.” ‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:24-25‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God is our portion, our great reward and most precious treasure. Our greatest calling is to seek Him for those reasons alone. Knowing and striving toward that, our waiting for Him is made easier, for we can know His goodness will come forth to meet our need.

And the next verse says, “It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations‬ ‭3:26‬ ‭NASB‬

We don’t have to have words for Him who is our portion, reward, treasure. As we draw near to Him, He draws near to us, and His faithfulness is sure to meet our every need.

Sometimes the great needs we face are to help us realize that our only true need is the Treasure of Heaven. When we possess that, our waiting is eased as we know the wealth of His supply will come out of His faithful love for those who treasure Him above all else.

BibleStudyTool.com January Scripture Focus Challenge

Free Indeed

For some reason, Lord, as I read this verse in Psalm 147, I think of repentance. How greatly we need You if we are truly to repent.

You, Father, see and know the heart to greater depths of understanding than we can even begin to fully fathom. Only You can help us know the true issue of heart that keeps us snared in habits of sin.

I keep thinking of how weak willed I am, frustrated in areas of struggle I feel powerless to change. The thing I discern right now is my need to stop striving against what I see in my struggle and begin sincerely seeking Your revelation of the heart of my struggle. I need You, Lord.

So search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any hurtful or grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

What freedom we possess when we trust in You, Lord. Oh, my soul, take a breath and rest in God.

In Jesus and for Your glory I pray, amen.

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NASB

In Need of a Miracle

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ ….” John 2:1-11 NASB (http://bible.com/100/jhn.2.1-11.nasb)

I love reading this account often called “the first miracle of Christ”, however, I believe it is most likely the first RECORDED miracle. It’s just pretty obvious to me that His Momma knew from experience what her Son was capable of doing. She also knew that her Son would give her what she asked Him to give. I see, in this passage, three things that sound to me like good advice for us all.

Know what God can do. Learn of Him. God responds to faith. Faith comes by hearing; and hearing by the Word of God. When we have a need, we turn to what we know. Mary knew her Son, so she turned to Him for the need she perceived.

Ask of Him. Mary knew her Son and what He could do, so she asked Him for it, knowing He could and would supply. Later, Jesus, after training His disciples, told them, ““If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7 ). Like Mary, when we know God through Christ and believe what He can do, we gain confidence to ask with faith of receiving.

The third, vital lesson to seeking and receiving are in Mary’s words, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Like these servants, to experience and participate in God’s miracles, with ability to recognize what He does for us, we must also listen to Him and do what He says. Like with these, the instructions God gives may seem strange to us. Can you imagine: needing wine and hearing, “fill these pots with water and take it to the head waiter.”

My first, real experience of this happened many years ago. I had a headache that would not go away. For weeks on end, I could get it dulled, but not gone.

One day, after a particularly excellent quiet time with the Lord, praising and praying to him, that headache had a stronghold on me. Already having taken the med for it with no results, I told the Lord I was so tired of that headache. To my heart came clear instruction to lay down.

As I laid down flat on the sofa, I told the Lord, “This is weird to me, but I trust You.” The Spirit led me to relax, eyes closed and focused fully on God, beginning with my feet and working up. With His coaxing, I relaxed so deeply that I felt like I sank into the cushions.

When we reached my neck, a very small circle of light appeared in the darkness behind my eyes. Watching it, the circle grew bigger and brighter. Then the image of an angel appeared, flying up through the circle of light and out the top of my head, fist clenched in front of him and the biggest, laughing smile on his face. Followed by one after another in like fashion, those angels kept flying through my head until my entire skull was full of light so bright that I squinted trying to see. I laid there totally relaxed and in stunned awe for a bit, before sitting up, absent the headache.

That healing lasted for many weeks, not having any type of headache at all. And I’ve not had that particular headache again since then.

Scripture tells us God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours. When we seek Him to do a work only He can do, trusting Him when the clear instructions sent seem strange to us is vital to our experiencing His answer to our need.

Learn to know Him, Beloved. Be quick to seek Him in faith, believing. Then listen to His instruction, which can come through His Word, through the insights of those around us, or in that knowing place in us that houses His Presence with us. Once His instruction is clear, do what He says, and get ready to stand amazed.

God’s New Year Resolve

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul encourages the reader to “excel still more” in their Christian walk and desire to please God. Reading that at this time of year brings my thoughts to the yearly habit of New Year’s resolutions.

I stopped years ago hopping onto that see saw. I’m not good at sticking to those. However, that doesn’t mean I stopped the work of changing my habits in the areas that need work. God simply inspired a different focus for me to practice in seeking to make progress in bettering those habits that are not the best. His way, with His help, works much better for me. I’ve shared it before, but here it is again, with hope of inspiring others like me.

Each year, for many years now, God has highlighted some verse or passage of scripture regarding an area He sees that I need to grow in. Last year (2016) was the need to strengthen my practice of “Holy habitation” with Him, a work of sanctification (Exodus 15:13). This year’s focus is a continuation of that: to realize and surrender myself to the fact that my old life is crucified with Christ, and that my new life requires cooperating with His work, allowing Him to live on in me (Galatians 2:20). For 2018, God if leading me to a much narrower focus on this sanctification He is working in me.

Through Hebrews 12:1-13, God is instructing me to excel still more at surrendering to His discipline. Most specifically my charge is found in verse 11-13:

“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. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:11-13 NASB

Throughout my 2017 journey, God has constantly brought to my attention that all sin is sin because it refuses those things that please Him. It is refusal to acknowledge His Lordship and seek Him first in our choices.

God is calling me to excel still more in strengthening my hands and feet for straight paths by making decisive resolutions with every breath to do what pleases Him as His disciple. Healing will come to areas of struggle with bad habits as I receive His discipline that keeps my feet on the straight and narrow.

Beloved, I encourage you today to get God’s focus for you in this new year. Don’t just reach out and grab something. Watch for the Spirit to grab you with the word from the Father for you. He knows best what you need, and Him being at the center of it is the power that accomplishes the good He desires.

When you receive His focal passage for you, write it out. Read it in many different translations. Carry it with you and refer to it often. Meditate on it. Keep a journal of experiences and other passages God uses to instruct you on your subject matter. You’ll be amazed as He directs your path this year to thoughts and opportunities that grow you in the area of HIS RESOLVE.

Remove Satanic Advantage

“But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 NASB

The example of forgiveness given us by God is to forgive “for my own sake”, just as God did in Isaiah 43:25. In the midst of Israel’s sin, God chose to forgive for His own sake, and we are instructed to forgive as God forgives (Ephesians 4:32).

The main reason to forgive, expressed in this 2 Corinthians passage, is so that Satan cannot take advantage of the situation to do harm to the cause of Christ. Forgiveness “for my own sake” protects me from bitterness, anger, and a slew of other negative emotions that lead to my own sin against God, through lack of love, failure to trust God to tend to the offender, and other bad fruits born out of lack of forgiveness.

Our forgiveness does not free the offender from the consequences of their sin. It leaves those consequences to God, for Him to tend to, and frees us to go on with life, free of the influence those negative emotions can have on our bodies, minds, and soul. It frees us to live a life of peace that glorifies God and bears the fruit of righteousness.

Though forgiveness can aid in continuing relations with those we love, forgiveness does not mean we must maintain relationship with the offender. Bad company corrupts good morals, and wisdom let’s us know when we need to remove a person from our midst. Forgiveness simply lets go of the insult and let’s God tend to the offender.

What do you need to forgive today, surrendering it to God, so you can press forward in peace? Bow to God now, and lay it at His feet.

“‘Be still, cease striving, let be and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.” Psalms 46:10-11, (multiple versions)

Stolen Profit

“Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, and for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 AMPC

Most of us have times of struggle to be in the Word of God, to even read it comprehensively, much less to have any depth of personal study in it. Why is that?

Scripture tells us that the Word of God is profitable to us. God’s word is the seed of God’s Kingdom, sent to establish us as His people (Luke 8:4-15). God’s Word is a mirror, helping us to look more like our Father (2 Corinthians 3:18, AMPC). God’s word is a sword, useful for defeating enemy assaults, and faithfully used by God in separating old man mentality and fleshly desire from the eternal purpose of making us the new creation we are in Christ (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12-13). And, as Paul tells us in 2 Timothy, God’s Word has purpose for us, instructing in the ways and will of God, convicting of sin, correcting error, disciplining us in obedience, and for training in righteousness (in holy living; in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action).

All of this has the purpose of making us complete and proficient, being adequately equipped for the good work that God planned for us to accomplish. So, yes, our flesh, the world’s demands, and demonic influence (all being the false wisdoms of this life) is going to fight against our time in God’s Word. God’s enemy, Satan, does not want this profit produced in us. He does not want to admit his defeat.

Scripture is vital food for fruitful lives God can use. Think for a minute, asking the Father for inspired insight. What most often hinders you having time every day in God’s Word? Is there something you can do to thwart that enemy assault on your God given treasure?

Even a few minutes to grasp a portion of scripture to carry with you throughout your day, meditating on it, digesting every morsel of nourishment from it, will be life changing: increasing profit for the need of your life. Refuse to let the enemies of godly wisdom to steal one more seed of profit from you (James 3:13-18).

Repentance That Works

There are two types of repentance: worldly repentance and godly repentance. Godly repentance works the will of God, and that is what we want.

Worldly repentance is:

Self-centered – repentance flowing out of worldly concern (must change before I lose my job…my ministry…their love/respect).

Insincere – having a hardened heart to sin, repentance is only for show.

Insecure – believing God delivers from the penalty of sin, but we are still enslaved to the sin nature with no hope of freedom in this life.

Godly Repentance is:

Relational – concerned about pleasing God and protecting relationship with Him; and because of right relations with God, desiring to protect relationships with others.

Transforming – knowing that we not only possess the righteousness of Christ in the Spirit, but that the Spirit is with us, to empower our righteous acts accomplished through surrendered lives.

Eternal – knowing that God loves us at all times and will bring us into His eternal Kingdom because of Jesus, while also realizing that we are His representatives in our here and now, called and equipped as His image bearers to reveal Him to the world. Godly repentance truly desires to surrender to God’s work of making us into His image.

True repentance comes to those who know that God has a good work for us as individuals, beginning with us being His image bearers. Surrendered living with sincere effort to conform to His transforming power leads to accomplishing His purpose.

True repentance surrenders to eternal purpose through trusting faith that knows “nothing shall be impossible with God”, who so greatly desires a love relationship with us that He gave His only begotten Son to have it. And have it, He will, for His Word succeeds at accomplishing His purpose.

Take God at His Word and repent from a godly stance of faith made sure in Him.

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:12-13 NASB

Faith: Secure and Sure

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” John 5:39-40 NASB.

Be careful where you put your faith.

Look carefully to where your faith for eternity lies. In Jesus’ day, many let their faith slip off of the Word Giver and land on the word given. Without God behind it, the word is nothing.

We, today, see faith slip off of God to many things:

– a continuance of the Old – placing faith in His word instead of in Him;

– in our own righteousness instead of in Him, Who is our righteousness;

– in the church we attend;

– in the strength of our faith;

– in the baptism we receive.

All of these are part of our faith walk, but, apart from Jesus, they are nothing! Make sure that your faith is standing firm on God in all His fullness, not on the things of God.

The radical God-centeredness of the Lord’s Model Prayer

“The radical God-centeredness of the Lord’s Model Prayer teaches us that man’s pride has no place before the throne of God.” (Dr. Albert Mahler, The Prayer That Turns The World Upside Down)

I have a decorative plate, given to me by my son, that misquotes the verse, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It says, “Give us this day THY daily bread.”

I’ve searched many translations, even looking through the oldest versions available to me, and none translate it that way, but I love the plate, not only because my son gave it to me, but because of the truth it reminds me to realize.

I, too often, fail to truly know what is best for me. I need the Father to instruct and form right desires and healthy appetites within me, leading me to seek after, recognize, and receive His best for me.

Pride hinders our ability to trust God for His best.

“”Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]” Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

Note: when struggling to pray, break down the outline of the Lord’s Model Prayer into its parts. Beginning with realizing that He is FATHER, who loves you and gave His all for you, let each part soak into your hurting soul to direct your heart in prayer for the trouble before you. Add to your praying the heart of Jesus that cried out in His time of agony, “Yet not my will, but THY will be done,” and you have a heart attitude God hears and responds to in amazing ways.

Opportune Times

“It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.” Luke 21:13 NASB

Speaking of end times, Jesus warns His disciples of the persecution coming to believers. Alerting them to the fact that they will be taken to court for their faith, he tells them to realize the opportunity they have in that situation to bear testimony of their faith.

As I read these words this morning, it speaks to me for the difficulties we face each day. Whether we face illness that threatens our now-life, or whether we are constantly challenged by bosses without integrity; whatever difficulty comes to our day, it brings opportunity to bear forth our testimony by a life of righteousness well lived. Though no one sees but the “cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (Hebrews 12:1), the things that test our resolve bring opportunity to bear testimony that tells the truth about our faithful trust in God.

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

“By your endurance you will gain your lives. … Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”” Luke 21:19, 34-36 NASB

The BLESSed Trust of Being His Light

“You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB

If we are setting a bad example where we are, why do we tend to expect God will give us a position where we can lead others to be twice the hypocrite we are being?

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:7-10 NASB

God does not often put us in the position we desire until we are being that person, living the level of integrity required for it, in the place we currently hold. You want to come up higher? Live the degree of faithful, integrity required now.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Colossians 3:23-25 NASB

The Subtle Nuances of Persecution

People have said in my presence many times that we in America don’t know what persecution is. That very statement proves it – especially of the one speaking. What they are saying is we have not had our lives threatened by people wanting us to openly denounce our God. With that definition of persecution in mind, they are correct. We do not often see that in the USA, though, in recent days, we are seeing a rise in that type of attack. But that narrow definition of the parameters of persecution causes a failure to recognize that all face persecution in some way every day.

“How is that?” you may ask. To respond fully to the how, the question we have to answer is, what is persecution? What is its purpose? What is its underlying resource? One of the oldest texts in scripture answers all these questions and gives them definition through the more subtle attacks we see there, and in our land.

What is persecution and its resource?

We find this answered in Job 1, in the discourse between God and Satan. God points out Job, his righteous life and careful care of his relationship with God, seeking always to please God. Satan questions that loyalty, accusing God of having Job so protected and cared for that he only sought to please God for what it brought to his life. He goaded God, “Remove all his blessings from You and let me at him, and he will curse You” (Darlene’s paraphrase).

Persecution, whether that seen in the life of Job, or that intended when people say we, in America, do not truly know persecution, comes through the resource of Satan, who hates God. It is his attack against God, his attempt to destroy all that God holds dear. Some is the obvious persecution we recognize as we see those who refuse to deny God having their heads removed by those through whom Satan sends his attack.

Thus, in response to the third question, what is its purpose, we see that best defined by the words spoken through Job’s wife in chapter 2:10, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Satan’s whole desire is to get us to curse God, deny Him as God and Lord, and to enter the death that comes when we refuse to fully trust Him.

That brings us to the subtle aspects of persecution that we too often fail to recognize as that. The things Satan did to Job to try to get him to fall away from his “integrity” by cursing God and turning from faith in Him came in the following ways:

  1. The death of loved ones.
  2. The removal of wealth, bringing him to poverty.
  3. Assault against his health, threatening his life.
  4. The voice of a wife who fell, in her grief, to give voice to his persecutor, Satan, goading him to curse God too.
  5. The accusations of friends, convinced that some hidden sin and failure to repent was the cause of all his trouble, thus attempting to lead him to doubt his assurance in God.

Any of this sound familiar? I see it every day in our land. In fact, my thoughts today flow to this long understood truth, not only because of my husband’s battle with cancer, but also because of learning of a young, dearly loved woman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is still raising her children, two of them young teens. Her battle against this unseen enemy that wants not only to steal her life, but hopes to steal her faith in God, is well under way. My prayer for her and for her family today is for faith to trust God more. As Job said to his wayward, grief stricken wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

Trusting God for me in my husband’s battle means trusting God’s hand of healing, whether it is experienced in this life or the next. It means trusting that God will continue to minister to my needs even if He takes my husband, who is our bread winner. It means trusting that He will help me face the days ahead with strength of faith and assurance of hope.

For my young friend, it means trusting that God has a purpose in all this. That He will help her face these days with courage and peace, joy and hope. That, if He takes her home, He will remain with her family to help them. That He will take up with her children where she leaves off, to help them be the men of God she desires. That He will help her husband stand firm of faith and be the daddy her kids need; and that God will meet him at his greatest needs.

We all hope healing in the here and now for her and for my husband. But true trust acknowledges that we cannot know all God sees in what He is doing and allowing. Trust knows that His purpose is eternal good, and His plan will succeed in accomplishing what is best for all concerned.

Our journey, whatever the struggle that comes, is made easier when faith stands firm on trust in God. That trust wins the battle against all the enemy can throw at us. That trust is what our loved ones need to see most of all, so whichever way God’s plan takes us, they are helped to have the resource of our example to help them carry on. May we be found faithfully trusting God.

Believe God

‬ “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.” Luke‬ ‭4:28-30‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The faith of Jesus seen in his journey to the cross, refusing the crown of man and the fear of every threat, because He knew the promise of God and trusted His provision on the course set before Him, amazes and inspires my own faith, as does the faith of the apostles. To believe God for each step taken in obedience to Him is my heart’s cry. I see it in those who have gone before us. I saw it lived out in my friend, Steve and in many others who set a good example through faith. I pray to walk out that faith daily as I seek the Father to trust Him more. I choose to believe God, that it will turn out exactly as He tells us it will. 
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NASB‬

Make Disciples

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“And Ananias said to Paul ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” Acts‬ ‭22:14-16‬ ‭NASB‬‬
This Matthew call to go and make disciples still speaks today. Note: it does not say, “Go and make converts.” A convert, untaught, will too easily fall away (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). The work has only just begun when a person turns to Jesus, as it is more than telling about Jesus. The true call is to help each seeker grow to become a true disciple-believer, learning and growing as a Christ follower that bears His image and stands the test of time. 

We are to help others become a disciple maker. In so doing, we will one day see the Righteous One face to face. As we fulfill this call, knowing it as God’s will, our hope is to hear His voice say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Be more than just a believer. Even the demons knew Jesus was the Son of God: The Very God incarnate; one with Father and Spirit, but their belief did not change them. We must be a disciple, continually being made new as we grow strong in Christ.

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” ~ Matthew 4:19

“Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. ~ Matthew 9:9

And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me. ~ Matthew 10:38

Stand Firm and Stay the Course

“For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].” Hebrews‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

In each of our situations that is exposing us to suffering, the temptation we face is to stop trusting God. It temps us to fail to cry out in faith, believing; to refuse His gift of Peace and not enter His Rest. It temps us to refuse putting our joy in Him, thus robbing us of our strength. 

The longevity of the trial is meant by Satan to break our resolve. But God wants to use it to reveal our perseverance and increase our hope muscles. 

The signs of our times speak loudly to this being the last days. Jesus is coming. Satan is seriously working to destroy the Church and dull God’s Light in us. It is vital that we stand firm in faith and stay the course. 

Possess That Perfection 

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A FB friend wrote a post on this Philippians passage encouraging us to possess the full treasure of God’s grace and provision to, in, and through us, (see link below). My thoughts in giving an example of possessing all that is ours through Christ, flows out of hers. I’ve probably posted similar before. In this day and age, with the trouble we see in this world, I cite Paul:“Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught. And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live.” 2 Peter‬ ‭1:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

On to our example of possession: 

We are called to love as God loves. If we are to love others as He loves us – unconditionally and incorruptibly, then we must fully possess the love He provides us to walk out. 

God IS Love. He loves out of who He is. His love is not dependent on who we are or what we do. It depends fully on the fact of who He is; thus, Jesus paid the full price for ALL and the grace available through that sacrifice of love is held out as a gift to receive and possess as one’s own. 

The only thing about God’s love that is dependent on us is the degree to which we choose to receive it. Once we receive His Love, He has provided for us to possess that same love ability as our own through His Holy Spirit. As we possess and work out of that fruit of the Spirit expressed best in Galatians 5:22-23, we love as He loves, out of WHO WE ARE IN THE SPIRIT we possess for ourselves as He possesses us. 

He provides love for our possession so we may BE LOVE on His behalf, being His love to those He places in our sphere of influence on any given day. Thus, love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is not something we have to learn. It is something we possess as our own, flowing out of THAT which flows into us. And we possess it by letting God’s Holy Spirit fully possess us. 

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James‬ ‭4:6-10‬ ‭NASB‬‬

When we possess Him who possesses us, things like bitterness, hate, and unforgiveness find “no room at the inn” of our heart’s dwelling place.

Michelle Gray

Fast and Pray

A friend of mine wrote a beautiful FB post on the benefits of fasting prayer. It is linked below, but not sure it will open. I, too, have practiced fasting prayer many times for many reasons, and have experienced what Becky speaks of here. In fact, I have been doing some short fasts and praying, even Jerichoing our city as I pray for the desperate needs of family and friends. 

I fasted a day last week for these things, plus for God to strengthen my resolve to eat right and do what is needful to take care of me in this season with my husband’s health and other family issues. 
I am a stress eater by habit and have been so out of control, it is hurting me. My husband had me promise that I would take care of me and not let all this get me down physically from the lack of self care. Failing at that, I took a day to seek the Lord’s strength and resolve: and I believe I will keep doing so at least weekly through this season. It’s the only way I see of keeping my promise, by seeking Him who is my First, Most Vital, Need and Necessity. Without God, I can do nothing. 

Since starting this routine in praying for family and friends, and now for myself, my strength and good appetite is returning, and I see the signs of God moving on behalf of family and friends. In fact, a “son” returned to his family the other day. Now for him to return to his God. 

Keep praying! And as the Spirit leads, do fast before the Lord and be strengthened.

Becky’s post

Better to Stand Alone

““And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance That I gave you; And I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.”

“Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. 

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah‬ ‭17:4-10‬ ‭NASB‬

After this revelation from God, Jeremiah cried out in verse 14, “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise.”

God’s wrath remains kindled against sin: all that stands against God, denying His Lordship, and refusing His way, which is found in relationship with Jesus, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Each person is judged by God’s standard, according as He sees to be their individual heart toward Him. A nation is judged according to the culmination of the judgment against its people. Thus it is better to stand alone with a right and true heart before God, than to follow the crowd into chaos. Seek the Lord through the saving grace of Jesus, the Christ, and let your heart be healed.

The Son of God Appeared for this Purpose

Are storms evil? No. Storms happen because they are keeping the law. There are laws in nature that determine when it rains, snows, hails, when the wind blows and how hard, where the lightening strikes or tornadoes form. These things, in themselves, are not evil, though they can bring great destruction; nor are they necessarily good, though they can bring good and needful things to the earth. However, storms can be used for evil, or they can lead to great good. 

When a storm produces destruction, we see one of two things come from those effected: 
Some come out to take advantage of others out of selfishness and avarice. 
Others come, even out of their own extreme poverty, to help those in need and to build anew. 
I read a devotional that eluded to this passage of scripture and the purpose for Christ expressed here:
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 
“No one who ABIDES in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who PRACTICES righteousness (as a deliberate and habitual action of choice out of love for God and allegiance to Jesus) is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who PRACTICES sin (as a deliberate and habitual action of choice, which is rebellion against God and His chosen King) is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. 
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (sin and all that stands in opposition to God, His will, His way, His sovereignty). No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John ‭3:4-9‬ ‭NASB‬ (my understanding)
The storm is not evil or good: but the force behind it and the spirit it brings can produce great evil, or healing balms of good through the actions and reactions of people effected by the storm. A person reveals his heart in such seasons. 
Jesus came to destroy the work of Satan that leads people to do the evil seen in such times. With Job, when His children were killed in a tornado, the purpose of Satan and the trap of temptation set by him was to prove Job would lose faith in God and rebel against Him. That is what Satan seeks to accomplish through the storms of life. 
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John ‭10:10‬ ‭NASB‬
To die, in God’s value of things, is to turn away from Him in lack of faith to trust Him in the storm. It is to rebel against Him out of anger, self-centeredness, pride, greed, or any number of evils that get a controlling hold on our hearts and lead us to turn against God’s way. 
Life, in God’s economy, is this relationship with Him from a heart that trusts and follows Him despite the tricks of the devil. We don’t easily and habitually give in to temptations to sin out of fear or because of stressors to faith in God. We stand with God and for God, no matter the length of our waiting for His hand to move, and we find Him faithful. This is the Life, abundant and full, that Jesus provides. 
The abundance Jesus provides is peace beyond measure; joy unrelated to circumstance; faith fed by deep pools of belief’s hope; and a River of love flowing to and through us, all fed by God, who is love. Evil that seeks destruction cannot win when God’s people stand firmly planted on Him. 
“Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass And fade like the green herb. Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.” Psalms ‭37:1-9‬ ‭NASB‬
“My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs ‭3:1-8‬ ‭NASB‬
‭Yes, Satan used a storm and other devastations in Job’s life, intending it for evil; but God allowed it, knowing it would produce the good He desired. The question is, on which side of the equation will we stand? ‬

The Smoke

“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke” ~ Joel 2:30.

Smoke: Cloud. The steam rising above one of our local fuel or fertilizer plants; the plume from some distant fire; the trail left by some long gone jet: it all draws my attention and begs the taking of a picture for posterity. God, getting my attention?

It happens most when I am praying around the city, seeking His hand of healing for family, friends, church, and nation. Does God want me to discern something about smoke? These questions have hit my heart several times, thus I pause to see how smoke might link with God in scripture. My findings?

First, smoke in the following passages and many more like them are a symbol of God’s presence, His touch (work) among us, His glory all around us. Smoke represents the revelation of God who is with us: it signifies who He is, what He does, His praiseworthiness.

“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently” ~ Exodus 19:18.

“He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke” ~ Psalm 104:32.

“… I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” ~ Isaiah 6:1-4.

Please permit me a little side note here, before pressing on to the second important reason for God’s revealed Presence in smoke and cloud. This is important for us to realize as we seek Him.

Note all that is going on in the Presence of God’s glory. The Seraphim are in the positions of God’s choosing, standing, for God is able to make His servants stand, doing all that they are called to do in this scene. They are gifted with six wings that give a picture I believe to be a vital message for all who stand in the Smoke or Cloud of God’s Presence.

First we are told that, with two wings they covered their faces. I believe this is because we cannot look upon the Lord to see His face and live. This is the reason that God put Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him with His hand until He passed by, to protect Moses’ life (Exodus 33). Such reverence for God is a weapon of warfare that protects our lives.

Next we are told that two wings covered their feet. I believe this is a picture of humility, because where God is, that place is HOLY GROUND. Realizing that, apart from Christ, we are unholy and unworthy to enter into the Presence of God is a vital weapon of warfare, for apart from Him we can do nothing. Only those covered by Jesus can enter through the veil removed by Him, granting us full access to the very Presence of the Holy One: Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.

Also note in the picture presented us, that, as the angels stood before God in humble reverence and awe, worshiping His Holiness, the temple filled with Smoke. We are the temple of God in the earth today, and His Spirit fills us with His glory. Wherever we are is Holy Ground, because where we are, He is. Behaving accordingly is vital to our victory.

Finally, with two wings, they flew. Why? I believe it signifies the fact that reverence for and awe of God produces movements that glorify Him as God: we do what He calls us to, fulfilling our good purpose, because we reverence God and hold Him in awe as Holy and worthy of full and complete commitment to Him. In this way we surrender ourselves to Him as sanctified vessels, set apart for service.


On with the Smoke or Cloud of God we go…

The second thing noted is that smoke represents God’s judgment: God’s hand in the wrath to come against the sons of disobedience. All who refuse to bow to His Lordship will meet the smoke of His wrath as death (eternal separation from God) swallows up the sons of disobedience.

“He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit” ~ Revelation 9:2.

Note also that the smoke of His judgment includes those times when His people cry out for Him to rescue us from the accusations and attack of enemy forces that come to condemn us or stop our successful following after the Lord. He judges between us and our accusers, and He rescues us.

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, Yes, I cried to my God; And from His temple He heard my voice, And my cry for help came into His ears. Then the earth shook and quaked, The foundations of heaven were trembling And were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, Fire from His mouth devoured; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With thick darkness under His feet. And He rode on a cherub and flew; And He appeared on the wings of the wind. And He made darkness canopies around Him, A mass of waters, thick clouds of the sky. From the brightness before Him Coals of fire were kindled. The Lord thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice. And He sent out arrows, and scattered them, Lightning, and routed them” ~ Psalm 18:7-15

Before leaving this thought, I am struck by the fact in the previous passage, that as God comes against those who come against us, “coals are kindled!” Coals, believers that have gone cold because of hearts melted within them; or because of discouragement due to over-worked lives that have grown weary. God will kindle and set aflame the discouraged people around us, as they see the work of the Lord on our behalf, and are encouraged that God is still with us and for us.

Who can stand against us?

Third, smoke is seen in warfare, especially as a city is overtaken and possessed by the people in victory.

“Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city. Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, ‘Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.’ But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the whole city was going up in smoke to heaven.” ~ Judges 20:38-40 (also Joshua 8:20-21).

In the Spirit, as we are praying over our city and making full use of every spiritual weapon at our disposal, the victory will reveal itself as smoke going up to the Lord. We will see God’s reality, His Presence made clear. We will see His glory assert itself, making His holiness evident in ways that humble us and press us on in the work at hand. The revelation of His Holiness will work to reveal sin, righteousness, and judgment in the earth, the work of the Spirit in our midst. We will see enemy strongholds crumble and the tongues of our accusers hushed, as the righteous judgment of the Lord becomes clear to all.

In closing:


“For I have become like a bottle – a wineskin, blackened and shriveled in the smoke in which it hangs, yet do I not forget Your statutes.” ~ Psalm 119:83, AMPC.

Over and over, as I traveled the outskirts of our city, my eye was caught with awe at the strange beauty of the blackened carbon black plants, their smoke column wafting above. Now, as I read this verse, I understand why God is highlighting these plays as something that is beautiful. It is this picture of a wineskin, blackened and shriveled in the Smoke.

We are wineskins, made new in Christ and filled with the wine of His presence. And we are surrounded by Him at all times, experiencing the Smoke of His Presence with us.

Apparently, wineskins that hang constantly in the presence of smoke become blackened – covered with its soot, and they shrivel. What does this mean for us as wineskins that hold the Living Wine of God’s presence and power? Two things about this blacken and shrivel us:

The realization of His glory humbles and shrivels us to size as we learn to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought; surrendering fully to His Lordship.

The smoke of His judgments humble and shrivel us as we are transformed and made new by our surrender to His opinion of us: both bringing us to repentance in the areas of sin, and lifting us up in the areas of our confident hope.

img_2213Just as these pipes and brackets are blackened by their constant exposure to the billowing smoke of carbon black production, the blanket caused by standing in His presence covers us completely, our flesh-being, hidden from view, so that His holy eyes only see the sacrificial covering of Christ’s image in us.

Beloved, the “soot” of God’s smoke is His glory.  The nearer to Him we stay, He takes us from glory to ever greater depths of His glory. 

The Power of God is among us, prayer warriors. So keep seeking the Lord, standing in His presence fully clothed, bowed down in complete surrendered trust of Him, assured of His work in our midst that will reveal itself in smoke for many days to come.

“The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words: ‘He is good! His faithful love endures forever!’ At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.” ~ 2 Chronicles 5:13-14.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16.

“IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [Ps. 110:1.] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.” Colossians‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

Beauty: Not Beyond the Reach of Grace

These are beautiful!

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I saw this plant come into view, and my heart leapt! It was just beautiful to me. 

These carbon black plants have been here for multiplied-decades, the last remnants of many more that used to be here. I remember momma stepping out to see which way the wind was blowing before daring to hang laundry. And heaven forbid the wind to change directions! 

Through the years I’ve heard people express joy in the smell of laundry, dried on outdoor lines. I never understood that. Ours always smelled of carbon and fossil fuels. LOL

As I look at these stacks and the criss-crossed sections of pipelines darkened by decades of carbon soot, I note the mostly white steam escaping the shoots, and my heart rejoices in the Hope of Christ. 

You see, no matter how many decades of sin and shame covers our lifespan, we are not beyond the reach of His saving grace. And even in the earliest stages of our surrender and commitment to Him, His Spirit moves in, fills us up, and begins the lifetime work of cleansing, purifying, and transforming us to be the vessel God planned from before time began. 

Even in our earthen vessels marred by passing sin, the glory of the Lord seeps out of us who are His, like steam rising to draw the eyes of others in need of a fresh view of Splendor’s beauty and grace. The greater our surrendered commitment to God through Christ, the purer our cleansing flow will be. Rising up as testimony of our relationship with God, His cleansing, Life-giving flow reaches out to touch others in need of His grace, sufficient for them too.

We each choose daily the steam flowing forth: either the dark stench of sin, or the purifying flow of Love’s grace at work in us. Which do you want those you love to be covered by when they are near to or up wind from you?

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15, AMPC

“I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live And may love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19-20‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 5

Considering the wisdom of Philippians 4:4-13 in our focus to follow the dictates of 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, which instructs us to take every thought captive, we finish up our arsenal from this Philippians passage. Beginning with joy in the Lord that brings strength, to it Paul adds the godly attitudes and temperaments of gentleness, an unselfish consideration, with forbearance, restraint, tolerance, and patience. To this Paul adds trust in God that produces peace of mind and heart, protecting against anxious thoughts. Last post Paul’s instruction added the need to make sure our thoughts dwell with God, letting His truth and perspective dictate so that we turn to thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely; thoughts of good repute, excellence, and praiseworthiness. Dwelling with such thinking causes those characteristics to work their way out in our life practices. Today we add what may well be the most needful and effective weapon for our arsenal against stinking thinking:

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” ~ Verses 10-13.

Trust in God that empowers us to be content despite life’s circumstance is one of our greatest tools against skunk-thoughts. This contentment is not that fed by discouragement, but by hope. True contentment is not the passivity, apathy, or indifference that leads to us lying down to die in defeatism, instead of getting up to move forward in faith. This contentment Paul speaks of requires us to enter into the rest of God: a rest fed by faith to trust Him, leading to those actions of obedience required of us wherever we are in life; trust filled action flowing from those right and true thought processes. This active-rest holds us in God’s sure peace while believing with assurance of heart that He is in control and will get us safely to wherever He is taking us through the situation at hand (consider Hebrews 3:12-19; Philippians 3:1-14).

As I think on these things, I realize that contentment is greatly dependent on our ability to place our joy in the Lord Himself, instead of in His gifts or provision, or in our wants and desires. When we let our joy fall on what God does for us instead of realizing Him as our exceeding great reward, we will fall easily to discontent when a desire or even a perceived need goes unmet. Thus, we come full circle, beloved.

Where are you in your life journey today? Do you readily rest things in God’s capable hands, following His instruction in obedience as you walk through life’s challenges? Or do you kick against the goads of thoughts not settled and secure in God’s will and way? Let’s close with God’s words to us through James:

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.

“You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose:

“‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” ~ James 4:1-10 (consider the Amplified version of this passage).

Contentment in whatever circumstance life brings us begins with God being our first, most needful joy, knowing Him to be our exceeding great reward. No other perceived need or want truly sustains us.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 4

We are covering Philippians 4:4-13, seeking God’s wisdom concerning things taught here that help us take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). As a quick review of verses 4-7, covered to date, we learned the importance of rejoicing in the Lord. With God as the source of our joy, we have strength to face life’s challenges, and resource to stand firm against stinking thinking that leads to a fall. We must refuse to let anything rob us of the joy we find in our relationship with God. Nothing can rob us of that true joy that rests by faith in Him, for He holds us secure in Christ (Romans 14:4).

With our rejoicing in Him, we discover that He equips us to respond to people and circumstances with gentleness that expresses itself through patient forbearance and long-suffering tolerance, dictated by right attitudes of mind seen in selflessness and temperance that knows Jesus is coming and that we are to represent His interests until He gets here. As people of God who know the Lord is near, we choose to be people of faith, trusting Him, not given over to anxiety that robs of peace, but people filled with God’s peace, having hearts and minds enveloped by His protective peace that is beyond our full comprehension. Continuing Philippians 4, in verses 8-9, Paul gives this wisdom from God as a watch-list for our thought-life:

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

Our next spiritual weapon is the practice of dwelling with God in our thought life. We are told in this passage to dwell on these things, the first being: truth ~ I believe that this is not just any truth, but God’s truth. God’s truth sees things as they really are, getting to the heart of the matter; and God’s truth always considers God’s supply: His presence with us, His resource for us.

One example that comes to mind is one I find myself having to remember these days. With the health issues my husband and I are dealing with, I find myself to be very tired most days, and often find rolling around in my head the thought that “I can’t”! When opportunity to meet a need arises, the feeling of being tired and the words “I can’t” move in on me so fast that I have to be careful to not just run with that evaluation. Capturing that thought requires me to do two things: 1) look at the truth of the situation to see the reality of the need; and 2) remember God’s word to Paul that I believe true for us as well, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Matthew 17:20; Philippians 3). Our thought life can hinder our participation in things God desires for us if we fail to seek Him for a right evaluation and to trust His supply for our need in accomplishing His purpose.

Paul instructs us to “dwell on (think on, meditate on)” the true, the honorable, the right, pure, and lovely things of good repute and excellence, focusing on the praise worthy things. The truly praiseworthy flows from a heart focused to honor God and please Him first and foremost. Paul’s instruction given is with the purpose that our minds may be set on the works and words worth putting into practice: “Practice these things,” Paul instructs.

Our thoughts should inspire words and actions that prove us as God’s true servants, practicing the honorable, righteous, pure, and lovely ways of God in truth, doing His will as people worthy of good repute, producing excellence worthy of praise that glorifies God as God, pleasing Him in all things. Take every thought captive, beloved, by inviting God to inspire right thinking, dwelling with God in your every thought, allowing His Spirit and Word to inspire right and true understanding leading to accomplishing His good will in His glorious way to fulfill His eternal purpose.

Capturing Stinking Thinking: Part 3

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

Rejoicing in the Lord despite circumstance strengthens us for a life that honors God as God, even when the road before us is rough. Finding our joy in God protects our way of viewing the situations we face, thus protecting our way of thinking about life’s challenges. Our thoughts then flow from this joy in God that trusts in Him, bringing us to respond in gentle ways that bear up under the pressure with patients, realizing the Lord’s nearness and trusting Him to guide us as He works in our lives.

Knowing that the Lord is near strengthens us when difficulty threatens our faith. God’s word reveals two ways we are to know His nearness. One is realizing that the Lord is returning and we must be ready for Him as His servants by following His will and way in our day. This understanding empowers us to keep moving forward, having minds set on our eternal relationship with Him, destined to live with Him forever. The second way we know His nearness is in trusting that He has given us His Spirit to be with us, instruct us, and empower / equip us for each challenge faced. This faith in God’s provision helps us to obey as His representatives, fulfilling His purpose, seeing challenge as opportunity to please Him. We patiently endure every difficulty as we take up the next spiritual weapon against stinking thinking that brings a fall:

“…Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. …” ~ Vs. 6-7.

Besides robbing us of our joy, leading us to respond in self-protective and hurtful ways, bringing us to forget the nearness of our God, the enemy of God loves when he can tickle our minds with anxious thoughts that raise up doubt toward God and fear of the things we see in front of us. In today’s scripture, God’s Word gives instruction regarding ways of dealing with anxiety.

First, the word “be” implies that we have a choice. We do not have to be anxious people. We can choose to be people who trust in God, thus overcoming the anxious thoughts through faith. That trust reveals itself as we seek His answers regarding the path ahead through prayer. God’s word teaches us to seek Him in faith, believing He will answer (James 1:5-8, 5:13-18; Hebrews 11:1, 6).

Trust also reveals itself in our ability to choose to be thankful people. We may not feel thankful for the situation we are in, but we can be thankful for God and all we know of Him that will have an effect on our outcome. We can be thankful for His presence and supply that will be there for us as we walk the path ahead of us. We can be thankful for the words of wisdom He gives our hearts that overcome the anxiety threatening our ability to face the day. And we can be thankful for all we will learn about Him through our journey of faith, and all He will do in growing us to be strong as people of God.

As we choose in this way to be people of faith, not given over to anxiety, God’s word promises that He will respond with an outpouring of His peace. He gives more than just a little peace. He pours it out to and through us in ways that surpass our comprehension. That peace envelops our hearts and minds, protecting us from the anxiety and fear that seeks to defeat us by making us feel weak and worthless. Choosing to push anxiety and fear away with trust in God that seeks Him and rejoices in Him empowers us to have right thoughts within, leading to right actions, flowing out of the strength of God’s sure supply.