There are two types of repentance: worldly repentance and godly repentance. Godly repentance works the will of God, and that is what we want.
Worldly repentance is:
Self-centered – repentance flowing out of worldly concern (must change before I lose my job…my ministry…their love/respect).
Insincere – having a hardened heart to sin, repentance is only for show.
Insecure – believing God delivers from the penalty of sin, but we are still enslaved to the sin nature with no hope of freedom in this life.
Godly Repentance is:
Relational – concerned about pleasing God and protecting relationship with Him; and because of right relations with God, desiring to protect relationships with others.
Transforming – knowing that we not only possess the righteousness of Christ in the Spirit, but that the Spirit is with us, to empower our righteous acts accomplished through surrendered lives.
Eternal – knowing that God loves us at all times and will bring us into His eternal Kingdom because of Jesus, while also realizing that we are His representatives in our here and now, called and equipped as His image bearers to reveal Him to the world. Godly repentance truly desires to surrender to God’s work of making us into His image.
True repentance comes to those who know that God has a good work for us as individuals, beginning with us being His image bearers. Surrendered living with sincere effort to conform to His transforming power leads to accomplishing His purpose.
True repentance surrenders to eternal purpose through trusting faith that knows “nothing shall be impossible with God”, who so greatly desires a love relationship with us that He gave His only begotten Son to have it. And have it, He will, for His Word succeeds at accomplishing His purpose.
Take God at His Word and repent from a godly stance of faith made sure in Him.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:12-13 NASB
“You 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 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.
“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
“You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB
If we are setting a bad example where we are, why do we tend to expect God will give us a position where we can lead others to be twice the hypocrite we are being?
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:7-10 NASB
God does not often put us in the position we desire until we are being that person, living the level of integrity required for it, in the place we currently hold. You want to come up higher? Live the degree of faithful, integrity required now.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Colossians 3:23-25 NASB
People have said in my presence many times that we in America don’t know what persecution is. That very statement proves it – especially of the one speaking. What they are saying is we have not had our lives threatened by people wanting us to openly denounce our God. With that definition of persecution in mind, they are correct. We do not often see that in the USA, though, in recent days, we are seeing a rise in that type of attack. But that narrow definition of the parameters of persecution causes a failure to recognize that all face persecution in some way every day.
“How is that?” you may ask. To respond fully to the how, the question we have to answer is, what is persecution? What is its purpose? What is its underlying resource? One of the oldest texts in scripture answers all these questions and gives them definition through the more subtle attacks we see there, and in our land.
What is persecution and its resource?
We find this answered in Job 1, in the discourse between God and Satan. God points out Job, his righteous life and careful care of his relationship with God, seeking always to please God. Satan questions that loyalty, accusing God of having Job so protected and cared for that he only sought to please God for what it brought to his life. He goaded God, “Remove all his blessings from You and let me at him, and he will curse You” (Darlene’s paraphrase).
Persecution, whether that seen in the life of Job, or that intended when people say we, in America, do not truly know persecution, comes through the resource of Satan, who hates God. It is his attack against God, his attempt to destroy all that God holds dear. Some is the obvious persecution we recognize as we see those who refuse to deny God having their heads removed by those through whom Satan sends his attack.
Thus, in response to the third question, what is its purpose, we see that best defined by the words spoken through Job’s wife in chapter 2:10, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Satan’s whole desire is to get us to curse God, deny Him as God and Lord, and to enter the death that comes when we refuse to fully trust Him.
That brings us to the subtle aspects of persecution that we too often fail to recognize as that. The things Satan did to Job to try to get him to fall away from his “integrity” by cursing God and turning from faith in Him came in the following ways:
- The death of loved ones.
- The removal of wealth, bringing him to poverty.
- Assault against his health, threatening his life.
- The voice of a wife who fell, in her grief, to give voice to his persecutor, Satan, goading him to curse God too.
- The accusations of friends, convinced that some hidden sin and failure to repent was the cause of all his trouble, thus attempting to lead him to doubt his assurance in God.
Any of this sound familiar? I see it every day in our land. In fact, my thoughts today flow to this long understood truth, not only because of my husband’s battle with cancer, but also because of learning of a young, dearly loved woman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. She is still raising her children, two of them young teens. Her battle against this unseen enemy that wants not only to steal her life, but hopes to steal her faith in God, is well under way. My prayer for her and for her family today is for faith to trust God more. As Job said to his wayward, grief stricken wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Trusting God for me in my husband’s battle means trusting God’s hand of healing, whether it is experienced in this life or the next. It means trusting that God will continue to minister to my needs even if He takes my husband, who is our bread winner. It means trusting that He will help me face the days ahead with strength of faith and assurance of hope.
For my young friend, it means trusting that God has a purpose in all this. That He will help her face these days with courage and peace, joy and hope. That, if He takes her home, He will remain with her family to help them. That He will take up with her children where she leaves off, to help them be the men of God she desires. That He will help her husband stand firm of faith and be the daddy her kids need; and that God will meet him at his greatest needs.
We all hope healing in the here and now for her and for my husband. But true trust acknowledges that we cannot know all God sees in what He is doing and allowing. Trust knows that His purpose is eternal good, and His plan will succeed in accomplishing what is best for all concerned.
Our journey, whatever the struggle that comes, is made easier when faith stands firm on trust in God. That trust wins the battle against all the enemy can throw at us. That trust is what our loved ones need to see most of all, so whichever way God’s plan takes us, they are helped to have the resource of our example to help them carry on. May we be found faithfully trusting God.
“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
“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
“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.
“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.
A friend of mine wrote a beautiful FB post on the benefits of fasting prayer. It is linked below, but not sure it will open. I, too, have practiced fasting prayer many times for many reasons, and have experienced what Becky speaks of here. In fact, I have been doing some short fasts and praying, even Jerichoing our city as I pray for the desperate needs of family and friends.
I fasted a day last week for these things, plus for God to strengthen my resolve to eat right and do what is needful to take care of me in this season with my husband’s health and other family issues.
I am a stress eater by habit and have been so out of control, it is hurting me. My husband had me promise that I would take care of me and not let all this get me down physically from the lack of self care. Failing at that, I took a day to seek the Lord’s strength and resolve: and I believe I will keep doing so at least weekly through this season. It’s the only way I see of keeping my promise, by seeking Him who is my First, Most Vital, Need and Necessity. Without God, I can do nothing.
Since starting this routine in praying for family and friends, and now for myself, my strength and good appetite is returning, and I see the signs of God moving on behalf of family and friends. In fact, a “son” returned to his family the other day. Now for him to return to his God.
Keep praying! And as the Spirit leads, do fast before the Lord and be strengthened.
““And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance That I gave you; And I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.”
“Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:4-10 NASB
After this revelation from God, Jeremiah cried out in verse 14, “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise.”
God’s wrath remains kindled against sin: all that stands against God, denying His Lordship, and refusing His way, which is found in relationship with Jesus, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Each person is judged by God’s standard, according as He sees to be their individual heart toward Him. A nation is judged according to the culmination of the judgment against its people. Thus it is better to stand alone with a right and true heart before God, than to follow the crowd into chaos. Seek the Lord through the saving grace of Jesus, the Christ, and let your heart be healed.
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?
“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.
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME” ~ Revelation 4:8.
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.
“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.
Just 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
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
Considering the wisdom of Philippians 4:4-13 in our focus to follow the dictates of 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, which instructs us to take every thought captive, we finish up our arsenal from this Philippians passage. Beginning with joy in the Lord that brings strength, to it Paul adds the godly attitudes and temperaments of gentleness, an unselfish consideration, with forbearance, restraint, tolerance, and patience. To this Paul adds trust in God that produces peace of mind and heart, protecting against anxious thoughts. Last post Paul’s instruction added the need to make sure our thoughts dwell with God, letting His truth and perspective dictate so that we turn to thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely; thoughts of good repute, excellence, and praiseworthiness. Dwelling with such thinking causes those characteristics to work their way out in our life practices. Today we add what may well be the most needful and effective weapon for our arsenal against stinking thinking:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” ~ Verses 10-13.
Trust in God that empowers us to be content despite life’s circumstance is one of our greatest tools against skunk-thoughts. This contentment is not that fed by discouragement, but by hope. True contentment is not the passivity, apathy, or indifference that leads to us lying down to die in defeatism, instead of getting up to move forward in faith. This contentment Paul speaks of requires us to enter into the rest of God: a rest fed by faith to trust Him, leading to those actions of obedience required of us wherever we are in life; trust filled action flowing from those right and true thought processes. This active-rest holds us in God’s sure peace while believing with assurance of heart that He is in control and will get us safely to wherever He is taking us through the situation at hand (consider Hebrews 3:12-19; Philippians 3:1-14).
As I think on these things, I realize that contentment is greatly dependent on our ability to place our joy in the Lord Himself, instead of in His gifts or provision, or in our wants and desires. When we let our joy fall on what God does for us instead of realizing Him as our exceeding great reward, we will fall easily to discontent when a desire or even a perceived need goes unmet. Thus, we come full circle, beloved.
Where are you in your life journey today? Do you readily rest things in God’s capable hands, following His instruction in obedience as you walk through life’s challenges? Or do you kick against the goads of thoughts not settled and secure in God’s will and way? Let’s close with God’s words to us through James:
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.
“You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose:
“‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?
“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” ~ James 4:1-10 (consider the Amplified version of this passage).
Contentment in whatever circumstance life brings us begins with God being our first, most needful joy, knowing Him to be our exceeding great reward. No other perceived need or want truly sustains us.
We are covering Philippians 4:4-13, seeking God’s wisdom concerning things taught here that help us take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). As a quick review of verses 4-7, covered to date, we learned the importance of rejoicing in the Lord. With God as the source of our joy, we have strength to face life’s challenges, and resource to stand firm against stinking thinking that leads to a fall. We must refuse to let anything rob us of the joy we find in our relationship with God. Nothing can rob us of that true joy that rests by faith in Him, for He holds us secure in Christ (Romans 14:4).
With our rejoicing in Him, we discover that He equips us to respond to people and circumstances with gentleness that expresses itself through patient forbearance and long-suffering tolerance, dictated by right attitudes of mind seen in selflessness and temperance that knows Jesus is coming and that we are to represent His interests until He gets here. As people of God who know the Lord is near, we choose to be people of faith, trusting Him, not given over to anxiety that robs of peace, but people filled with God’s peace, having hearts and minds enveloped by His protective peace that is beyond our full comprehension. Continuing Philippians 4, in verses 8-9, Paul gives this wisdom from God as a watch-list for our thought-life:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Our next spiritual weapon is the practice of dwelling with God in our thought life. We are told in this passage to dwell on these things, the first being: truth ~ I believe that this is not just any truth, but God’s truth. God’s truth sees things as they really are, getting to the heart of the matter; and God’s truth always considers God’s supply: His presence with us, His resource for us.
One example that comes to mind is one I find myself having to remember these days. With the health issues my husband and I are dealing with, I find myself to be very tired most days, and often find rolling around in my head the thought that “I can’t”! When opportunity to meet a need arises, the feeling of being tired and the words “I can’t” move in on me so fast that I have to be careful to not just run with that evaluation. Capturing that thought requires me to do two things: 1) look at the truth of the situation to see the reality of the need; and 2) remember God’s word to Paul that I believe true for us as well, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Matthew 17:20; Philippians 3). Our thought life can hinder our participation in things God desires for us if we fail to seek Him for a right evaluation and to trust His supply for our need in accomplishing His purpose.
Paul instructs us to “dwell on (think on, meditate on)” the true, the honorable, the right, pure, and lovely things of good repute and excellence, focusing on the praise worthy things. The truly praiseworthy flows from a heart focused to honor God and please Him first and foremost. Paul’s instruction given is with the purpose that our minds may be set on the works and words worth putting into practice: “Practice these things,” Paul instructs.
Our thoughts should inspire words and actions that prove us as God’s true servants, practicing the honorable, righteous, pure, and lovely ways of God in truth, doing His will as people worthy of good repute, producing excellence worthy of praise that glorifies God as God, pleasing Him in all things. Take every thought captive, beloved, by inviting God to inspire right thinking, dwelling with God in your every thought, allowing His Spirit and Word to inspire right and true understanding leading to accomplishing His good will in His glorious way to fulfill His eternal purpose.
Rejoicing in the Lord despite circumstance strengthens us for a life that honors God as God, even when the road before us is rough. Finding our joy in God protects our way of viewing the situations we face, thus protecting our way of thinking about life’s challenges. Our thoughts then flow from this joy in God that trusts in Him, bringing us to respond in gentle ways that bear up under the pressure with patients, realizing the Lord’s nearness and trusting Him to guide us as He works in our lives.
Knowing that the Lord is near strengthens us when difficulty threatens our faith. God’s word reveals two ways we are to know His nearness. One is realizing that the Lord is returning and we must be ready for Him as His servants by following His will and way in our day. This understanding empowers us to keep moving forward, having minds set on our eternal relationship with Him, destined to live with Him forever. The second way we know His nearness is in trusting that He has given us His Spirit to be with us, instruct us, and empower / equip us for each challenge faced. This faith in God’s provision helps us to obey as His representatives, fulfilling His purpose, seeing challenge as opportunity to please Him. We patiently endure every difficulty as we take up the next spiritual weapon against stinking thinking that brings a fall:
“…Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. …” ~ Vs. 6-7.
Besides robbing us of our joy, leading us to respond in self-protective and hurtful ways, bringing us to forget the nearness of our God, the enemy of God loves when he can tickle our minds with anxious thoughts that raise up doubt toward God and fear of the things we see in front of us. In today’s scripture, God’s Word gives instruction regarding ways of dealing with anxiety.
First, the word “be” implies that we have a choice. We do not have to be anxious people. We can choose to be people who trust in God, thus overcoming the anxious thoughts through faith. That trust reveals itself as we seek His answers regarding the path ahead through prayer. God’s word teaches us to seek Him in faith, believing He will answer (James 1:5-8, 5:13-18; Hebrews 11:1, 6).
Trust also reveals itself in our ability to choose to be thankful people. We may not feel thankful for the situation we are in, but we can be thankful for God and all we know of Him that will have an effect on our outcome. We can be thankful for His presence and supply that will be there for us as we walk the path ahead of us. We can be thankful for the words of wisdom He gives our hearts that overcome the anxiety threatening our ability to face the day. And we can be thankful for all we will learn about Him through our journey of faith, and all He will do in growing us to be strong as people of God.
As we choose in this way to be people of faith, not given over to anxiety, God’s word promises that He will respond with an outpouring of His peace. He gives more than just a little peace. He pours it out to and through us in ways that surpass our comprehension. That peace envelops our hearts and minds, protecting us from the anxiety and fear that seeks to defeat us by making us feel weak and worthless. Choosing to push anxiety and fear away with trust in God that seeks Him and rejoices in Him empowers us to have right thoughts within, leading to right actions, flowing out of the strength of God’s sure supply.
On this journey to consider truths we need to practice, as we work to take every thought captive and bring them in line with the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), our first divinely, powerful spiritual weapon is the possession of true joy that rests securely in the Lord. Joy in the Lord protects us from walking contrary to Him. It is not dependent on circumstance; and nothing can steal that joy away from us when we work with God in taking every thought captive to follow the example of Christ in obedience to Him, and in the likeness of His. Continuing to consider the wisdom of Philippians 4:4-13, we come to verse 5:
“…Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. …”
I see two truths here necessary to our arsenal of weapons equipping us to bring our thoughts in line with God’s ways. One is our attitude or temperament in life situations, addressed here in the call to work out of a “gentle spirit”. The classic Amplified translation defines a gentle spirit, giving other words used in translating that phrase:
“Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].”
Walking in a gentle spirit requires us to be unselfish. Consider the impact selfishness has on our thought processes. We cannot accomplish the will of God or work well with others when we care more about our own desires, needs, and comfort than we do theirs. Being unselfish equips us to work with others in harmony, as it leads us to be considerate of them, their needs, and their opinions, while bowing to the will of God.
Walking in gentleness also requires us to be forbearing. Forbearance means tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation, bearing the fruit of patience toward others. It realizes that no one is perfect, and we all have habits and ways of doing things that differ. Gentleness practices understanding patience in our ability to let others be who they are without constantly insisting we have things done our way. Forbearance is self-controlled, knowing how to motivate and influence others without belittling them.
Our ability to control our attitude and temperament greatly affects the way we think in a situation and toward others. The second thing Paul adds here to motivate us, is that we are to remember that the Lord is near. There are two potential interpretations of that. One shared in the Amplified version is that we must realize that the Lord is returning, thus, we must take care to live in a way where we are ready for Him when He gets here.
Another interpretation of the Lord’s nearness is the realization that God causes His Spirit to dwell in us, to teach us and help us live in that readiness for the soon returning Christ. Wherever we are, in whatever situation we are in, recognizing the presence of God with us and His work in us, and surrendering to that, equips our representation of Him and His interests. We bear the fruit of gentleness when we relate with others out of this realization of His presence in us through the Spirit, living in ways that reveal understanding that Jesus is returning.
People are watching, beloved. They need to see us responding to life situations in line with the nature of God at work in us through the Spirit that indwells us. Our thought life very often affects our attitude and temperament. Surrendering to the Spirit’s nudge to remember gentleness, being unselfish and considerate, while practicing forbearance toward one another, strengthens our arsenal against bad attitudes and temper flares. In this way, remembering we are His representatives, we live in readiness for His return.
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, God’s word instructs us on the weapons of our warfare, telling us they are “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”. Following that, verse 5 points to a particular battlefield that, left unchecked, is the opening through which enemy forces can strike in gaining access into areas of our lives where they can set up strongholds of sin and oppression. That area of battle is in our thoughts. Verse 5 instructs us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
One frequent stronghold in my life is in my eating and health practices. Realizing that I am too quick to run to food in certain situations, I focus this month to put a check on my stinking thinking, realizing that taking stress filled thoughts captive and making them bow to the Sovereign and His opinion is the pathway leading to overcoming such strongholds.
As I seek the Father to adjust my thought life, bringing all in agreement with His teachings, following the example we have in Christ, my heart turns to the teachings of Paul found in Philippians 4. There I find a treasure-trove of wisdom to help me on my journey of capturing stinking thinking that hinders my Life practices. Beginning with verse 4, I will spend several days considering the truths found here and how they apply to my journey of capturing wrong thinking and bringing it into agreement with Scriptural principles.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! …” ~ Philippians 4:4-14.
As I begin looking at this focal passage, I see several areas of life-practices that can influence our way of thinking and, when we fail to practice these truths, it makes us vulnerable to thought processes leading to a downfall. The first is this need to find our joy in the Lord. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy we find in God – in who He is, in our relationship with Him, and our following after Him – is what gives us strength for life.
“Then he said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
The enemy of God loves when he can rob us of this true joy because it weakens us. It is easiest for him to do that when our joy is misplaced. Finding our joy in the things of this life is easily disturbed when those things that bring us joy become difficult, are out of our reach, or fail us. Placing our joy in God protects us, as our ability to face hardship abounds in Him who is our source of true strength and security. Nothing in this life can overcome our joy when it is set securely in Him who is trustworthy and faithful. Such trust in our God and the joy of relationship that trust brings to us empowers us to face difficulty with the strength of two, as He faithfully helps us surpass our weakness.
Rejoicing in the Lord despite circumstances greatly helps our perseverance. A heart attitude of joy in the Lord is a weapon against the doubt and fear set to take our thoughts captive and lead us to a fall that rises up as a stronghold in our lives. Rejoicing in all we know of our God breaks that cycle of doubt and fear.
When your thoughts are disturbed within you, the first thing to do is rejoice in the Lord. Let all that He is and the benefit He provides be your focus, beloved, and rejoice. Again I say, “Rejoice!” and find your Strength.
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off” ~ Isaiah 55:12-13.
Continuing with yesterday’s focus, this promise is awesome as well. Yesterday we saw that, as we practice walking the word out into life, God’s promise instructs us that in seeking His Word, opinion, perspective on our journey and walking His instruction out, His Word lived in and through us will fulfill its purpose. Reading on in the Isaiah 55 passage God promises in today’s passage that we will go out with joy, and be led by peace as we trust His Word (Colossians 3:15-17, See in AMPC). True joy and peace are intimately linked to trust in, faith in, reliance on, and confidence in God, who always does what He says He will do. He fulfills His word.
God also promises in this passage that all of creation will rejoice over our obedience to live God’s word out. That tells me that, when we are truly and fully following God and all others shun us for it or try to discourage our course, we have a cheering section in God and all of His creation. (Luke 19:37-40)
Finally, our passage today bears a promise that took a little research to fully understand: We will see the thorn bush replaced by the cypress, and the nettle replaced by the myrtle.
Thorn bush is easy. Get pricked by a thorn, and we move away from that place in a hurry. It is a deterrent from drawing near. Sin is thorn bushes that hinder our drawing near to God. As God removes sin from us, He is removing the thorn bush that is standing between us and the intimacy He desires for our relationship with Him.
Replacing the thorn bush with Cypress: the Cypress most often mentioned in scripture is a tree. It is open, inviting one to draw near, and it provides shade for comfort, enticing us to sit and rest under its branches for a while. It pictures a close, welcoming relationship with God.
Nettle has leaves with prickly hairs that cause an allergic sting. The sting of sin hinders our relationship with God, inflaming God against us. Sin inflames our relationships with others. Trouble and fear increases with the sting of the nettle. The allergic sting of sin comes to those who fail to align with God’s Word.
Replacing the nettle with Myrtle speaks of healing: Myrtle is one of the first NSAIDs, a pain reliever that aids against inflammation. Healing comes to hearts, relationships are restored, and strength increases for a life abundant and full. Myrtle can be used as a tea. I see a seeker of God, sipping that healing cup of tea, while enjoying the presence of Jesus in intimate relationship.
The promise of God for us who actively seek to walk in His word, is that we will find welcome as we draw near, receiving comfort and respit under the shade of His provision and healing from the pain and inflammation caused by sin: one’s own, or that of this world.
“… Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. … Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” ~ James 4:1-10.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” ~ Isaiah 55:6-11.
WOW! This speaks to me the vital importance of us making sure to seek the Lord for right thoughts that are in line with His, leading us to right ways on the paths of His choosing. Coming in line with God’s way of thinking on any issue of life, while recognizing thought as being the words in one’s mind that dictate beliefs and actions, such a practice walks in this promise of God. When God’s thoughts, found in scripture and raised up as reminders to direct our paths, dictate our own with trust in His word to us leading us to walk in His ways, this passage promises us that His word flowing to and in us will accomplish His purpose.
Taking every thought captive in Christlike obedience, we walk in the Light as He is in the Light. In that way, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 John 1:7).
Walking God’s word out in our lives assures us of a successful journey that fulfills His purpose in us.
“But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the Holy Spirit of God really dwells within you to direct and control you. But if anyone does not possess the Holy Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he does not belong to Christ, is not truly a child of God]” ~ Romans 8:9, AMPC.
When we truly belong to God, Galatians 2:20 tells us “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. He does that by the power of the Spirit working in us to make us more Christlike (godly), more what God intended from the beginning of creation when He made man and woman to bear His image. The Holy Spirit moves in to direct our lives to bear His image, but He will not force us to follow His dictates. We still have choice. By choice, we must choose to surrender our fleshly ways in order to lay hold of and possess the Spirit within who instructs and empowers us to live God’s way.
One passage that tells us what that looks like is Galatians 5:22-23, where we are told the fruit born in us, as we possess the Spirit through surrender to His lead: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. One example of our possessing the Spirit is in our love walk. Through scripture, we learn that God is love. His love is not dictated by how happy He is with our behavior, but it is dictated by who He is: He is love. Though we fail Him, His love toward us continues, because He is faithful and He cannot deny Himself (1 John 4:8; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Timothy 1:13).
As we possess the Spirit of God, who brings His image to us and empowers us to possess His nature, we too will love because we are as He is: love. Scripture teaches us how to possess this love through a few “Let love” passages, love being one flavor of the fruit born out of one who possess the Spirit of God and is possessed by Him.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” ~ Romans 12:9, NASB.
This verse, to me, speaks the call of God for our love to be like His, not dictated by the actions of others, but dictated by our possession of His Spirit, as we allow the fruit of His Spirit to grow strong in us.
“Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1, NLT.
To love as God loves is the greatest goal we can have, empowering us to deny self and serve others’ needs without hypocrisy. One teaching on Galatians 5:22-23 says that love and self-control are bookends that hold all the other flavors of the fruit of the Spirit in place. Without love as God loves and without self-control, we cannot truly possess joy or peace, as every evil that strains love and self-control will rob us of it. We cannot practice patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, or gentleness without a love like God’s love that, by self-control, denies self and chooses to practice these glorious attributes toward others, even when they are not being as we think they should be toward us. Love with self-control as powered by the Holy Spirit fully possessed in us, enables us to maintain joy and peace while continuing to minister patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness to others, even when they struggle to do the same in return.
“Let love for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you [never let it fail]” Hebrews 13:1, AMP.
God is love and He requires us to love others in likeness to Him. For us to truly accomplish that goal, we must deny self, possess the Holy Spirit of God, and cooperate with Him in bearing the fruit that proves He lives in us with full authority. That authority is twofold: God saying, “Yes, that is my child. Fill them to overflowing, pouring Yourself through them”; us saying, “Yes, I choose God through Jesus and surrender to Him. Fill me. Be mine, and make me His. Empower me to bear His image by pouring Yourself through me.”
Whether by way of practicing and possessing the fruit of God’s Spirit in us, or the gifting He gives for our service and ministry, our unity with the Spirit of God is vital. That unity is a symbiosis, us possessing Him who possesses us. He will not force on us His right over us, but He will fully fill and spill Himself out of one willing vessel, ready to possess all He has to pour through us.
“So it is with yourselves; since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, concentrate on striving to excel and to abound in them in ways that will build up the church” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:12, AMPC.
(NOTE: My husband’s chemo finished, we are recuperating and getting back into a more routine life. Hopefully I can get back to a regular posting here as we do. Thank you for hanging in with me. BLESSings, Darlene)
“Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—POSSESSING the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” ~ Matthew 5:8, AMPC.
“Grace. Grace. God’s grace.” Oh how happy we are when we possess full understanding of the blessing and work of God’s grace in us.
This Amplified Classic version of Matthew 5:8 speaks of possessing the happiness of Spirit that comes from personal realization and experience of God’s favor and grace, producing purity of life. That speaks to the importance of each individual of us personally possessing true understanding of God’s grace. We possess assurance of God’s grace through understanding our life of purity in Him by the power of work of Christ Jesus, our Savior.
As people made fully pure when we receive Jesus as Savior, our lives covered by the grace of that supply, Jesus instantly makes us eternally right with God in Christ through the power of His Spirit. The death that separates us from God is destroyed and we are made alive forever in Christ. However, God also calls and equips us in this life to grow in purity as we grow our ability to follow the dictates of the Spirit, thus producing the fruit born out of a life, saved and made whole by grace. Being pure of heart leads us to produce words and deeds that are pure, revealing us as the children of God in Christ. When we fail to produce the fruit of a pure life, the gift of Christ’s purity covers our failure through grace, holding us eternally secure, while working through repentance to lead us back to a life that bears the fruit of purity.
Grace is not a license to continue as we are, living as people dictated by fleshly desires. Instead, God, through grace supplied in Christ, gives us His Holy Spirit to direct our lives as we grow in righteousness: the product of purity. A person who truly possesses grace follows the dictates of the Spirit to live righteously for conscience sake. These produce fruit in keeping with a repentance that reveals the purity of heart graciously gifted to us in Christ (Matthew 3:8; Romans 14:13-23).
Possess God’s grace, beloved, for His grace brings us to true purity of heart, mind, soul, and strength that produces God’s blessing in and through us.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. …And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:21-23.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16.
Paul often opened and closed his letters with a blessing of peace and hope of the realization of God’s presence for the reader. He knew it was vital for the heart of the person to trust the presence of the Lord in life and circumstance so they would walk in the peace of God.
Peace disturbed signals that the mind’s eyes shifted focal point, turning from trust in God and His presence in life to the problems inherent in life’s difficulties. Peter sank when his eyes shifted from Jesus to the enormous waves coming at them, faith disturbed by his eye’s understanding of the situation. As a baby learning to walk, falls when looking away from the outstretched arms of the parent, so we find ourselves stumbling through life when we fail to fix our eyes on Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Trouble in life is often overwhelming, for when in the midst of it, it is difficult to see the path through it. Turning eyes to God, knowing He sees and knows all fully, while trusting His greatness that far exceeds any trouble, quiets the soul. Realizing His closeness to us, His presence in our day-to-day lives, His trustworthiness toward us who look to Him, brings His gift of peace and the assurance of His hand made ready to move on our behalf. Looking to Him stills us so that we may know God and receive from Him the wisdom needed to face the storm. With eyes on Him, we hear the voice of the Lord speak to our storm, “Peace! Be still” (Mark 4:35-41, KJV).
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” ~ Hebrews 13:20-21.
I truly appreciate the word “POSSESS”. My computer’s grammar checker sure dislikes it. Grammar checking programs often underline the word “POSSESS”, encouraging the author to choose a simpler, more acceptable word. God, however, desires we come into our possession, to lay hold of all He desires and provides for us.
In the past several years, God inspired in me an increased understanding of His call for His people to “POSSESS” and fully walk in all He gives us. Possessing all God calls us to, with the authority He gives us to lay hold on His provision with the full power He supplies, is a vital practice for these troubling days. Learning our authority in Christ and possessing all that is ours to lay hold of empowers us to face each day with the strength of God’s supply. Thinking on this underlined, grammatical undesirable, leads me to my next series of Ponderings: Called to POSSESS.
Beginning today with defining the word “possess”, we come to understand the full impact of God’s call and equipping our possession. Following posts will take us through several passages over the days to come that instruct our heart in all God’s calls us to possess: revealing His good desires for us in this life, and the next.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart” ~ Psalms 37:4.
Delighting in the Lord leads us away from fleshly desires to hearts that desire the good He has for us to possess. The dictionary of English words defines “possess” as follows:
POS·SESS (pə-zĕs′) tr.v. pos·sessed, pos·sess·ing, pos·sess·es: 1. a. To have as property; own. b. To have under one’s power or control. 2. a. To have as a quality, characteristic, or other attribute. b. To have mastery or knowledge of. 3. a. To gain control or power over. b. To occupy fully the mind or feelings of. …. d. To control or maintain (one’s nature) in a particular condition. 4. To cause (oneself) to own, hold, or master something, such as property or knowledge. 5. To gain or seize.
Thus, for the purposes of our study, as we look at all God calls us to possess, the meaning we will apply to this word is to take hold of with power to control, occupy, or maintain in a particular state or condition: to master, as one with authority.
Having these defining parameters, we begin in our next post to look at some passages of scripture that instruct in things God expects us to possess on the authority of His Word, in obedience to Him with the authority that obedience provides us, and in honoring Him as God.
“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]” ~ Psalm 27:8, AMPC.
On the Authority of God’s Word, we seek after and take possession of His good gifts to us.
(Note by way of reminder: My husband is battling cancer, which dictates our calendars right now. I will get each post out as quickly as possible. Thank you for your continued support when time constraints in this season hinders those timely posts. BLESSings to you, Beloved of God and me, Darlene)
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” ~ Luke 6:27-28, NLT.
God speaks this passage as reminder to me today, especially the command to “Pray FOR those who hurt you. Check how you are praying, Darlene.”
People hurt people. There are many causes that lead people to hurt one another, some malicious, some incidental and unintended. Some hurt comes with the best of intentions. We all struggle in various ways that can lead us to carry our feelings as on our shoulders, where the actions and words of others easily knock us around: fear of rejection and other such insecurities. Some carry their “feelings” on their shoulders because they are walking in an ungodly lifestyle, they know it, and they don’t want anyone telling them about it. People who struggle in any of the above tend to hurt those around them out of their own struggle and insecurities. Those trapped in the common sins of our day tend to hurt those around them in the very practice of their lifestyles: drug addicts steal from those they love most; adulterers destroy their own families; etc. We hurt each other, and praying properly for those who hurt us is often a challenge.
What does it mean to pray for those who hurt us? Too often, in praying for someone who hurt me, I find myself truly praying for me: praying selfishly.
“Lord, they falsely accused me. Make them know the truth and apologize.”
“Lord, they stole from me. Make them repent and pay it back.”
Problem is that their heart intent may be nowhere near my comprehension of the truth of their heart. I may have misunderstood their words. I may be reading between the lines and comprehending an accusation they never meant. I may receive insult from actions that truly were not aimed at me as I stepped between them and their target. Praying for others out of our hurt can lead to selfish requests that God cannot answer. Our best, most effective praying seeks the heart of God for His truth regarding the need of the one whose actions / reactions hurt our feelings or did harm to our life, reputation, or sense of security.
We can learn a lot from how Jesus prayed FOR those hurting Him. He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Praying for others realizes truth: Jesus proclaiming “they know not what they do”. Praying for others refuses to give preference for one’s own desire, right, or recompense. Praying for others seeks God and His desire for them. Praying for others focuses on their deepest, truest needs. We all need God’s grace sufficient for us. We all need truth that sets us free from any lie. We all need repentant hearts that seek wholeheartedly after God.
Until we can pray for others, our own heart toward them will fall short of truly loving and caring for their need. Until we can pray for God to forgive them, just as Jesus did, and mean it, our own ability to forgive will fall short. Until we can pray for them to know His love, our ability to love those who hurt us truly will suffer loss. Until we can pray for eyes that see as God sees, compassion will fail us, transforming-truth will escape us, and love will find no roost for new growth.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good…” ~ Romans 12:9-13 (Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; Romans 13:7-14).
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him” ~ Deuteronomy 32:11-12.
God stirs the nest of His child when He is ready for them to move to a new phase of growth and maturity. God stirs the nest, bringing discomfort to our comfort zones. He stirs a nest of our own making when we are in bad company, heading to a temptation that will catch us unawares if we fail to move with His stirring. He stirs the nest of those who settle into a comfort zone that we feel insecure and inadequate to leave; or one we feel accomplished in, not being ready to stop what we are doing. God forces us to leave a nest in order to teach us to fly in new directions, soaring to ever-greater heights of faith and effective ministry. He stirs the nest to wake us to ever-increasing depths of His love and faithfulness.
As we cooperate with God, we grow to lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all our heart and mind, not relying on our own insight and understanding, but fully trusting Him alone as God. We grow in faith so that in all our ways we come to know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, believing fervently and fully that He will direct and make straight and plain our paths.
He stirred my nest several times, moving me to a position where He used me for some work He wanted accomplished, amazing me with His majesty in each situation. Every experience of God forcing me out of my comfy, little, just my size nest, I found God faithful and grew to know Him and His ways as I never knew Him before.
In one such experience, in a church I loved and served in for 20 years, I was serving the Lord in leadership areas I long wanted to participate in, thriving beyond my imaginings. Suddenly a sense that I was out of place hit me. It often knocked me off my proverbial feet, as I found my heart sitting before God, wondering what was going on. “Why is my soul disturbed within me” was my frequent cry.
During that time, another church kept coming to my heart. Finally, one day, asking the Lord to direct me, I visited the church, seeking the Lord for confirmation the stirring of unsettledness within me was Him. That led to my change in church just before my beloved Pastor1 in the church of 20 years moved at God’s direction to a new place of service. Trusting God’s stirring of my nest put me in position to jump on board in a leadership role for a city wide, ministerial alliance coordination, gearing for a cooperative evangelistic focus, to get The Jesus Video into every household in our three town/community complex.
As we prepared for the day of distribution, that stirring returned, pushing me back to the previous church for some reason I did not understand. I liked my new church and my Pastor2, and I was enjoying the doors of ministry that swung open for me there. What was up?
Once back in the church of 20 years with its new Pastor3, I discovered that none of the membership knew anything about the Jesus Video project. Our previous Pastor1 started the ministerial alliance in the direction for that Jesus Video Project. The new leadership knew of it, but they were not promoting it to the church for their participation. Realizing the membership knew nothing about the project, when I learned that the ministerial alliance was lowering their aim, planning to get the video out in segments instead of covering the entire area, being unable to afford to do the entire area without the largest church in town helping with it, I made a phone call to the new Pastor3. Visiting with him, I discovered why the video was not on their radar.
Because God unsettled me and moved me back, I was in a position to act as go between. Informing Pastor2, the then-leader of the ministerial alliance, telling him of my findings in my conversation with Pastor3, he was able to address the issue and gain the support of the new leadership. The biggest church in town jumped on board and we covered the entire area with the Jesus Video.
God mightily moved on our behalf, leading us to fully complete the work as He intended when He laid it on the heart of our Pastor1 who moved to his new assignment. That Pastor1 and his wife are still very good friends of mine. I am greatly honored that God chose to unsettle me and allow me such an integral role in His plan for our city, placed in the heart of the Pastor1 I love.
Feeling restless and unsettled? Trust in the Lord and make the leap He sets before you, doing the good He prepared for you to accomplish. It may not be easy, but you can know that He will carry You through to the finish line like a momma eagle looking after her young.
God desires unity for His people, that we may be one as He is One. Our flesh, the ways of this world and demonic influences constantly work against that unity, seeking to destroy the work of God in and through us. The Apostle Paul calls the solution to our relationship issues, the “still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:11), the way that fulfills the law of God (Romans 13:8). Last post, we left our series with the following thought:
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:15.
Realizing and walking in the truth brings healing to one’s own life and makes us more like Christ. Walking in truth accomplishes His work in our situations.
Series on topics like this are difficult to address as we don’t always like seeing the truth about ourselves. We live in a day when many focus on God’s love and grace to the point that we tend to shun any words used of the Spirit to point to sin issues in need of change. This series is disciplining me on my own issues seen in the course of the study, but the blessing of coming into agreement with God in a way that helps me adjust to Him far outweighs the struggle. When my struggle helps others in the process, that fruit born in others is glorious!
Controversy between people is like the old quarters with the gold colored strip in the center. There are two sides to every situation between two people. The truth is in the gold strip between them, found only in seeking God, who knows the heart of each involved. He faithfully leads us to know our habitual responses that promote separation. He helps us to work our way to the gold strip where unity and peace reside. I am thankful for the truth God is teaching me about myself in this series; and I am watching for His word to come to pass that He highlighted for me in promise for the produce of this series:
“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” ~ Psalm 102:18.
I read this promise and I see families, friendships, and churches working their way to healing that will have an effect on future generations, leading to their worship of God. Thus, we continue today to our conclusion.
Have you read the scripture that talks of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17)? When we have a habitual sin that causes trouble and separates us from God, as well as from others, God often puts people in our lives that rub that area raw. His purpose is to help us let go of old ways of the flesh and walk in the new, testing / proving our obedience. The question is, will we realize God’s purpose and cooperate with His Spirit in taking off the old to dawn the new?
“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” ~ 1 Peter 1:22.
Truth purifies the soul, making us fertile soil for God’s love to produce a crop through us. There are two things I find God constantly working on me to accomplish: one is my ability to forgive as He forgives. The other is my ability to love as He loves.
The ability to forgive is vital to a love relationship that lasts. Forgiveness must be from the heart as God forgives. God, our example, taught me long ago to forgive “for my own sake” as He does (Isaiah 43:25 Note that Israel was unrepentant when God professed His grace toward them).
The purpose of choosing forgiveness “for my own sake” is so we can move on in life, be all God desires, accomplishing His work as one who is truly able to love even those who hurt us. Our choosing to forgive protects from bitterness, anger, and other emotional snares that hinder love, destroy relationship with God and people, and rob of effectiveness in ministry.
God is our hope and help in every relationship issue. He desires our unity, especially with those who are brothers and sisters with us in Christ. Our true enemy is our own sin nature that opens us to the influence of demons and principalities that work against God, separating brothers, and destroying our witness as God’s people.
In any discord between people of God, we see that battle continue when we fail to realize the true enemy and wind up fighting against each other. The enemy of our soul realizes our fleshly impulses that lead to discord and makes sure, when relationship issues come, our minds keep returning to “what they did to me.” Therefore, when we have a habit that makes us vulnerable to God’s enemy, God puts iron in life to sharpen and hone our character.
The love God calls each to possess as His child is a type we can freely give even to those we struggle to get along with. That love desires what is best for those we love, seeking to help them achieve all the great potential God places within them, leading them to God, and encouraging them to come up higher in Christlikeness. That love is unconditional: not hindered or harmed by insult. It is also incorruptible: it does not act unbecomingly toward the object of love, nor lead the one loved into sin. The very heart of a factious nature seeks to lead others to disunity for ungodly reasons that oppose love.
The love God calls us to possess in likeness to Him does not keep a count of all we believe a person has done to hurt us, bringing that back into play every time a new situation arises. Love, coupled with forgiveness given for one’s own sake, deals with the situation at hand, puts it to rest (RIP), and wipes the slate clean. This is healing, and this series pictures a love-walk God can use for His glory.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” ~ Jude 1:24-25.