Tag Archives: Holiness

Christmas, or Not? The Controversy and Our Choice

nativity 02
Merry Christmas

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

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

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

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

Some interesting facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s the solution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

Sites of interest:

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

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

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

Who De Judge?

Read John 3:16-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take It To Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Jesus – The Advent 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Jesus: The Advent – 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Jesus: The Advent – 1

mary-mother_of_jesus_21Behold, the bondslave of the Lord

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

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

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

The Work of Light

“Do not despair when you see darkness and godlessness all around you, for I tell you honestly that the deeper and more profound the darkness, the more prevalent your light. Shine on!” [From Small Straws in a Soft Wind by Marsha Burns (11/19/12)]

As I read this thought this morning, it dawned on me, what does light do except reveal the things hidden in the dark. The closer we are to God, the stronger His light will be both in and through us. Don’t be discouraged when you realize the godless places in and around you. That only means that Light is doing its job. If the godlessness revealed is within you, clean the house. If it is around you, ask the Lord what you are to do with regard to the things revealed. Do as He instructs and press forward in faith, realizing that God is on His throne and you are in His hands. Godlessness has no victory where Light resides.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

http://spiritlessons.com/Documents/Jesus_Pictures/Jesus_Christ_Pictures.htm

Word of God, Speak

 

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

Do you read the word of God, realizing and believing that it is breathed by Him through the men used to author it? Do you enjoy the privilege of allowing God to highlight passages for you that just fit your need in your day? This is one such verse for me.

It has been difficult in this season of dealing with my parent’s paranoia. It has caused me to be clinically depressed, which increases one’s sense if inadequacy in negative ways that hinder one’s ability to feel they can be of use to a Holy God. About two years ago, God highlighted this passage to assure me that I can trust Him still to speak to and through me to the need of others, despite this current pain in life. And today, as it comes up in my journal for review, He gives highlight within the highlight.

Another problem that comes with depression and health issues like fibromyalgia, and with having a lifestyle right now with hubbies work that is in opposition to my internal clock, is sleep issues. I am a morning person that loves rising early to spend time with my God, but all these issues work to hinder my ability to wake and have brain cells to function. It has been a source of struggle and subject for prayer since this new cycle of life began. This morning, as I read and thank God for its truth once again, He highlights promise for my need: HE wakens me. He wakens me morning by morning. He wakens my ear to hear.

I don’t have to fret over when I rise. I don’t have to struggle to hear. All I have to do is rise when I awake and be faithful to listen with earnest expectation and hope in God who promises it is He who wakens me, and He gives me an ear to hear.

Trust God today, beloved. Be faithful to be in His word at every opportunity. Know that He will highlight His word for you, just as he does for me and others.

“Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell]. For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:11-12, AMP).

Word of God, Speak – Mercy Me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8cJQMU9Q-U

A Call to The Elect

“For the Lord spoke thus to me with His strong hand upon me, and warned and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, ‘Do not call conspiracy [or hard, or holy] all that this people will call conspiracy [or hard, or holy]; neither be in fear of what they fear, nor make others afraid and in dread. The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor His holy name by regarding Him as your only hope of safety, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him. And He shall be a sanctuary, a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him; but He shall be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:11-14, AMP; brackets removed for easier reading).

We are in precarious days as a nation and indeed, the whole world, facing many and diverse challenges. As I watched things unfold over these weeks of the election season, the Sandy storm thundering its bolt upon our land, God has spoken many things to my heart.

He often speaks warning to me of things to come, and through these weeks of waiting and watching for Him, He again warns of difficult days ahead. The true election of our day was and is “God” or “not God.” Not only was that our true choice where our vote for a President was concerned, but it is our true choice with every decision and every potential path throughout every day of our lives. As for the Presidential election, the days ahead will reveal our vote.

One thing God is making clear to me as I consider all He is revealing is that I am not here to cause further dread, calling things a conspiracy, giving way to paranoia. I am not to give focus to the hard things ahead, or call things ‘holy’ that this world calls ‘holy.’ Instead my cry is to the possessed of God, those truly belonging to and surrendered to Him. My cry is a call to look up; look up to the Lord, your shelter and strong stay; and look down, look down to your feet and check your stance. Where are you standing on this issue of God and His ways. “…Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” (2 Peter 1:1-10).

Our stance on the issue of God and His way is vital to our nation and to each individual professing faith or no faith in Jehovah—Yeshua. “The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor His holy name by regarding Him as your only hope of safety, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him.” I believe we are a nation heading into the winds of adversity right now, but God is our help and hope. “…And He shall be a sanctuary, a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him….”

“…but He shall be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” At the time of the writing of Isaiah 8, Israel and Judah were failing to honor and follow God. They were coming under the disciplining hand of God and Assyria was raining down on them. God allows such adversity in the lives of those who are His chosen, who refuse to heed His instruction that is given for our good, His glory, and the fulfilling of His purposes.

The days ahead will call each individual to make our choice. Will we look to and stand in the shade of the Mountain of God? Or will we look to and follow the dictates of the winds of adversity coming down off the hills of false hope?

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust! For [then] He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. [Then] He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler” (Psalm 91:1-4, AMP).

~*~

If you would like to join a prayer force as we watch to see the Lord’s opinion of the recent election, join us on Facebook at Living Worshipers (http://www.facebook.com/LivingWorshipersPage?ref=hl).

 

Worship: Positions From the Heart – Prostration

“So I fell down and lay prostrate before the Lord forty days and nights because the Lord had said He would destroy you” (Deuteronomy 9:25).

Prostration: laid out, face down, in complete and utter surrender, laying one’s life down to be had by the One before whom we fall down.

Pastor Marshall at my church tells of when he finally surrendered to God, receiving Christ as Savior. He tells of going for months and months, unable to get through a service at church upright. He was so overcome by gratitude to God for saving him that he prostrated himself, feeling his absolute destitution without God and totally surrendering himself to Him.

Prostration is the greatest form of worship I can imagine. It again begins in the heart, for true prostration before our Holy God must be wholehearted and sincere. It pours forth from a heart that knows our lives belong to Him and He will do with us what He will. Our surrender and cooperation, in complete agreement with Him, is necessary to the heart that prostrates itself, laying life and limb before His throne. If ever we need to prostrate ourselves in complete surrender to God, laying our lives out before Him, it is now.

Our nation and indeed the world is in dire need of God’s work in our midst. God can do more in and through one person that is totally and completely surrendered to Him, than a thousand can do without Him. We want to impact our world for the glory of God and see Him victorious in our situations and circumstances? Fall down before Him in complete and utter surrender, realizing, “I cannot, but You can. I cannot unless You do.” Surrender all to Him and see Him high and lifted up in you.

Take Me In – Kutless: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vG9Cx767mc

Worship: Positions From the Heart – Bow the Knee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Bow Down

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 6

His Robe Fills the Temple

 “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Isaiah 6:1)

My heart soars to the heights as I read this. Why? Because the train of His robe, all His royalty and glorious regale, fill the temple, and that temple is us, God’s people! We who have Christ as Savior, the Lord who not only equips our righteousness, but covers our sin with His righteous robes, we are made by Him to house the essence of God in all His glory. Can you fathom what that means for us? For little O struggling soul called “me”?

All that God is, in all His fullness, is available to fill up all that I am or ever hope to be.

Have you read “The Shack” by William Paul Young? Many are turned off to it because he portrays God’s three personas with the Father depicted in the beginning as a woman—which, by the way, God Himself likens Himself to a mother, caring for her young. He gives good reason for this depiction, but still, many miss a good read for that reason. There was another thing I noted, a comment I believe I understand the gest of but that could easily be blown out of proportion. Still, I digress.

There is one thing that comes across from “The Shack” very clearly that I believe is true of God and worthy of note. Mr. Young does an excellent job of depicting God’s full love that is available for every man, woman and child. God is not like us, trying to divide Himself between us all, giving “quality time” to each, being worn out by the sheer number of us and our endless needs, having less and less to give us because of waning strength. Each of us has His full attention, His total love, and we are each His favorite. The problem is that we don’t all realize, recognize and receive that. The author of The Shack makes that point clear as well. God is for all of us, though not all of us choose Him; and He is fully available to each of us with the whole of His love and care, but He will not force Himself on us. Only those who choose Him as the One true God become the temple in which the train of His robe flows forth.

I believe that when we begin to truly realize and comprehend the incomprehensible love of God for us and how much He longs to be involved in our lives, that is when we will experience the train of His robe filling the temple of our lives, and we will join the heavenly throngs…

“…‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory…’” (vs. 2-3).

I sing “Holy,” O God. “Holy!” I am only just beginning to rest in the joy and realization of Your robes flowing into the rooms and spaces of my life. I thought I knew it before, but I only knew in part, as I still only know so little. But I am realizing You more and more each day as You speak clearly to my heart to reveal the greater depths of Your essence and presence with me. Here am I, O God. Fill me up. Spill me out. In Jesus, amen.

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 4

Spirit and Fire 

Isaiah 4:4-6 “When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.”

It was interesting to me to find this passage after a recent conversation with a friend about another passage that I would say goes hand in hand with this. In it, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). From these two passages we can glean a little discernment of these baptisms from the Father through the Christ.

First of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of judgment, Jesus says that the Spirit He will send us will “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Here we see that the baptism of the Spirit comes to those of the world who receive within themselves this conviction that brings understanding of their sin, God’s righteousness and that sent through Christ on our behalf, and the judgment to come that will be determined by whether or not we believe and receive. This baptism is the baptism of rebirth that brings our spirits fully to life with His, making us one with Jesus and part of the Kingdom of God. After this baptism of rebirth, the work of the Spirit of judgment continues as He teaches us to recognize the source of the choices we have in life, whether they will produce sin or righteousness and wisdom to discern the consequences of our choices. Without this work of the Spirit in us, we cannot walk with God in truth.

Second, this first baptism of the spirit of judgment leads to the baptism of fire or burning. As we grow in our maturity as people of God, His Spirits begins to burn within us to reveal sin habits and patterns that must be surrendered to God and transformed to His likeness. This can be an arduous process to go through, much like burning away our flesh with fire would be difficult to live through. The more we fight the change God calls us to make the more fierce the fire burns through consequences meant to move us toward Him and away from the evil we run after to easily. This fire is not only burning away the rule of flesh in our lives, it is removing the desires and pursuits that make up the dross that hinders His image from reflecting in our lives.

God will do what it takes to make us into His image because He loves us and no unrighteousness can enter the gates of the eternal. The more we work in cooperation with the Spirit of God, the less of the burn we will experience. So be quick to hear and believe; and receive and press forward in faith. Then the fire of God can impassion us for the things of God, empowering us for good and glory as never before.

Father, we cry out for the baptism of Christ to do its work in us, making us a reflection of Your glory, grace, and love. Holy Spirit, have full sway to the glory of God’s name. In Jesus, amen.

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 3

All for One

“When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying, ‘You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler, And these ruins will be under your charge,’ He will protest on that day, saying, ‘I will not be your healer, For in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; You should not appoint me ruler of the people. …’” (Isaiah 3:6-12).

It always amazes me in the season of deciding who will lead our country here in the USA that we look for a man to fix the ills of our land. Here I am reminded that no man has the answers that will heal our land.

I find it interesting that, in the verses above, the people come and ask the one to be their ruler. And he responds, “I will not be your healer.” He has wisdom enough to realize that he is as flawed as the rest, impoverished in his own right. We look in the wrong place when we look for a man who has THE PLAN that will heal our land. There is no such thing.

One ploy of every opponent for an office is to reveal the trash in the household of the other. As I consider this passage, I am reminded that there is no one person who has it all together perfectly. There has not been a flawless man or woman since Jesus, nor any before Him. We can look at the men who are running for office now and be brought quickly to despair. For as the remainder of this passage says, so it can be said of our nation:

“…For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, To rebel against His glorious presence. The expression of their faces bears witness against them, And they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. …” (Isaiah 3:6-12).

We, the people who make up our nation, whichever that nation might be, if we hold our sin out there as if we are proud of it, never turning from wickedness to righteousness, there is no man who can help us. Only as we—each individual of us—turn to and walk with God will we see the Physician turn to heal our land. When we seek Him first, we will find Him and He then will lead us to leaders of nations that are men after His own heart, equipped by Him to lead the way in righteous paths that work God’s healing in our lands.

“Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions. Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him. O My people! Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray And confuse the direction of your paths” (Isaiah 3:6-12).

Who should rule? If God does not rule in each individual of us who are called by His name, then we are a nation most to be pitied. When “We the People” turn wholly to God, that is when we will see the end of our downward spiral.

No man has the answers, not fully. I am watching for those who know the One who does have the answers and will walk with Him to lead the way. It will take all of us to find His healing, all for One, walking in His ways.

Father, lead us in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake, to Your glory, and the fulfilling of Your good purpose and plan. Help us as a nation of people to choose today whom we will serve, knowing that as the least of us go in following You, so goes the nation. Make us wholly Yours, following You in holiness. In Jesus, grant us to have eyes to see the man who is Your choice for our nation, and grant him Your Spirit and Your equipping that he may lead with strength and bring us forth in power. In the blessed and holy name of the Savior who covers our sin, amen.

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 1

Passion Inflaming Gardens

Wow. For the first time in several months I find myself without a clear direction for our time of Pondering together. Seeking the Lord for where He desires to speak to me, I am led to read Isaiah. Until God directs otherwise, we will consider thoughts from Isaiah, most likely looking at one thought for each chapter. Today we consider thoughts from Isaiah 1:27-31:

“Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her [returned] converts with righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God). But the crushing and destruction of rebels and sinners shall be together, and they who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. For you will be ashamed [of the folly and degradation] of the oak or terebinth trees in which you found [idolatrous] pleasure, and you will blush with shame for the [idolatrous worship which you practice in the passion-inflaming] gardens which you have chosen. For you shall be like an oak or terebinth whose leaf withers, and like a garden that has no water. And the strong shall become like tow and become tinder, and his work like a spark, and they shall both burn together, with none to quench them” (AMP).

Passion: What is the passion of your life and focus right now, in this very instant? If you are like me, your desire is to say that God is; that the things that God is passionate about are the things that impassion you. But I have to ask myself as I read this thought for today if that is truth. Or is my passion an idol to be dealt with?

Today’s world has many pleasures to be had in it. We can become impassioned to those pleasures with ease, but do those pursuits help our witness or hinder it? Do those things we give ourselves and our time to bring increase to the kingdom of God? Or do we watch the clock tick by hours and minutes in uselessness?

There is nothing wrong with me enjoying a good game of Jewels 2 or Majong Titans. But when I watch 10s of minutes fly by, hour after hour in pursuit to the higher score and faster win day after day while hurting friends are ignored and the house needs attention, my passion for the game becomes an idol that robs of the weightier things of life more abundant and full.

Consider your passions today. Are they driven by eternity, or driven by the earthly?

Father, grant us to have Your heart of passion for those around us and for meeting needs. Help us to have right priorities that, yes, allows for rest and fun things, but not at the expense of our being Your hands and feet in the world. In Jesus, show us Your glory and help us to be Your light reflecting in the earth. Amen.

The Hedge: Part 2

Remembering His Footstool 

Last posting we saw the protection of God that watches over our walls or borders. Today we consider the protection of God found in Lamentations 2:1. Though God was speaking discipline to His wayward children, we can learn good things from this word, which says, “How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger! He has cast from heaven to earth the glory of Israel, and has not remembered His footstool in the day of His anger.”

This is an accounting that reveals the disciplining hand of God that comes to a nation when He removes His protection from them. What do we learn here about God’s protection of His people? Note the statement, “has not remembered His footstool in the day of His anger.” What is the footstool He speaks of?

I believe we get a glimpse of “His footstool” spoken of here and a better understanding of who the “His” is that is mentioned here as we look at Luke 20:41-43:

“Then He said to them, ‘How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’’” (See also Psalm 110)

The footstool God chooses to not remember when disciplining a nation is the footstool He is making of the enemies of Christ, which are those who come against God, His people and His ways.

God is the strength of a nation and a people and a person. When He steps aside to let an enemy have the upper hand in our lives, it is to discipline us for our good or to work a plan that will bring greater victory in the end.

God protects us from His enemies and the victories He brings to us are the materials that make up the footstool of Christ, showing His preeminence over all. When we cooperate with God in the battles of our faith, I believe we take part in preparing the footstool of Christ. Also God makes it a point to connect us with the victory of Christ as He calls us the Body of Christ. When the enemy is under His feet, they are under ours with Him.

God protects us from His enemies, fighting as Champion on our behalf. And He does so, not only fighting personally and through His angelic forces in the heavenly realms, but He is the source of our strength to persevere in the physical against the forces of darkness as is seen in verse 5 of our Lamentations passage:

“He has broken off in His fierce anger every horn (means of defense) of Israel. He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy. And He has burned amidst Jacob like a flaming fire consuming all around” (Lamentations 2:5).

What is the “horn” that is broken off? Psalms 92:10 in the Amplified gives us understanding:

“But my horn (emblem of excessive strength and stately grace) You have exalted like that of a wild ox; I am anointed with fresh oil.”

The preeminence of a people is determined by God who is our strength. The “horn” in scripture is often used as a symbol of this strength. It is vital, as a people and as a nation that we remain in right standing with God Almighty. He is our hedge of protection, Victor over those who would come against us; and He is our strength to persevere and come out on top as “the head and not the tail”.

“The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully” (Deuteronomy 28:13).

“Even to your old age I am He, and even to hair white with age will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; yes, I will carry and will save you” (Isaiah 46:4).

God is our hope, our help, our saving grace, and our strength. We need His hedge as people of God and as a nation under God. To turn from Him is our greatest enemy and our sure destruction. Any hope for any people-group to stand victorious is only found in God: our shield and bulwark. The US of A is not a strong nation because of any physical power in our own right. We are a strong nation only because of our spiritual strength, and that is ours only in God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

“…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…” (Isaiah 55).

The healing of our land is not promised to us because of prayer alone. It is turning back to God that raises His banner over us and brings us back inside The Hedge. We must be His people, called by His name with right standing, to humble ourselves and, yes, pray, seeking His face, and turning from our wicked ways as His people, we can know that He will hear from heaven, will forgive our sin and will heal our land.

Are you in the midst of a struggle, feeling like the underdog? Seek the Lord while He may be found. Listen for and heed His voice. Trust and obey, and see your horn lifted as you receive fresh anointing from Him. Come in under His protective cover and stay there by remaining in close, personal, and deliberate relationship with Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, granting Him His due right to sit on the throne of your will and way. Then you will have assurance that He who watches your walls will also be alert to His footstool.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 14

The Joy of One Flesh Living

A review of 1 John 4:12-16 brings us to the final aspect of our ministry to God in Christ as we work to fulfill what is lacking of Christ’s afflictions: given here in the Amplified version, verse 12-13 adjusted for easier reading.

“No man has at any time yet seen God. But if we love one another, God abides, lives and remains in us and His love, that love which is essentially His (and can only come from Him in His power) is brought to completion—to its full maturity, running its full course and is being perfected in us! By this we come to know, perceive, recognize, and understand that we abide so as to live and remain in Him and He in us: because He has given / imparted to us of His Holy Spirit” [vs. 12-13 (love-defining thought added by author)].

In Christ, as we come to know, recognize, believe and rely upon the love God has for us, we enter into a life experience of one flesh living—being fully one with God and He with us. His body, His bride, His child: every way in which the scripture speaks of “this being bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” He uses to describe the life of one who is one with Him in Christ.

This fact is awe inspiring to me. I can see this principle of God in His word more clearly than ever before. There is a part of me that knows I am already there in His power and provision. But I desire more than ever to get to that place in my every day experience in ways I have yet to know.

How do we do that? I do not have it all figured out yet, but here are some clues we can grasp hold of as we look at the remainder of this passage in chapter 4 and on through chapter 5 of this book. Continuing with verses 14-16 of chapter 4, we find our first answers to our “How” question.

“And besides we ourselves have seen and have deliberately and steadfastly contemplated and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world. Anyone who confesses (acknowledges, owns) that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides (lives, makes His home) in him and he [abides, lives, makes his home] in God. And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.”

Know Jesus: The first step to one flesh living with God is to know Jesus, His Son, acknowledging with full belief of understanding Who He is in all His fullness. Through faith in Jesus as the Christ, God incarnate, the propitiation for all sin and victor over the death that separates from God, we enter into the body of Christ, which brings us to this one flesh relationship with God.

Know and trust the Love God has for us: We become ingrained perpetually into one flesh with Him as we come to greater realization and more full assurance of knowledge to understand, recognize, being conscious of by observation and experience, and to believe so as to adhere to, put faith in, and rely on the love God cherishes for us.

Realizing that God IS LOVE, in all its fullness, and all He does flows forth from His heart of love to us, equips us to trust His hand in our lives and come more fully into agreement with His will and way. It helps us to have His thoughts and walk in His ways when we trust His love for us.

Trusting His love removes fear of any hardship that may come to us because we live in a fallen world. Believing His love, we are equipped to know that we are part of His flesh, protected and encompassed by Him, only being touched by pain as will make us stronger and provide us opportunity as His witnesses to a lost world still ensnared by death’s grip. We are His hands and feet, reaching out with His love so that others may enter in with us to live and abide with Him.

Pressing on through Chapter 5 we find:

Love as He loves (vs. 1-3): Unity with the Father produces love in us, equipping us to love those in our sphere of influence. The better we become at our roll of being a conduit for His love, the more we will experience this one flesh dimension in our relationship with Him. His love flow includes empowering our sincere love for Him that will produce in us…

Obedience to His commands(vs. 1-3): Whether His commands are from His written and Holy Word, or whether they are the day to day directives He gives us personally in the power of His Spirit, love for God produces a unity that makes His desire our own. And more than that, it makes Him our greatest desire. Thus we willing choose His will even when it is hard, because we desire to walk in one flesh with Him who is our true desire. And that flows not only out of our love for Him, but from…

Faith in Him (vs. 4-6): True belief in God’s testimony to us produces a faith that will follow Him in obedience. We become one with Him in thought, desire, and understanding, and we walk as one with Him. I believe this is the walk that led to Enoch being no more, “for God took Him” (Genesis 5:21-24).

What a testimony to have: that we walked with God as Enoch did, being known as the friend of God like Abraham, thus being a person after His own heart as David was, doing only what we see Him doing, as Jesus did. We have the capability of having this testimony as we grow strong in one flesh living in God through Christ. This is the faith we are called to. And this faith…

Believes the testimony of God in the power of the Spirit (vs. 7-12): It is God who sent the Spirit as His testimony that Jesus is the Christ and that His Kingdom has come to us who will enter into it by faith. It is God who sends the Spirit to reach out to us and woo us to Himself still today. To refuse to believe the testimony of God concerning the Christ and all He is and does in us by God’s provision of grace, a testimony sent to us in the power of His Spirit, is to call God a liar, and that is the unforgivable sin (see vs. 16).

There is an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees where they accused Him of casting out demons in the power of Satan (Matthew 12:22-31). In so doing, they blasphemed against the work of the Spirit in the earth and through Jesus Christ. So, was the real issue that they did not believe Jesus, though He was casting out demons in the power of God? No, that would be speaking against the Son of Man and was the symptom of the true underlying issue. Jesus says speaking against Him can be forgiven. What was the issue?

The work of God through Jesus in the power of the Spirit was done for the purpose of making the Christ known in the earth, proving His coming, and calling people to enter into the Kingdom of God with Him. The work of the Spirit is the testimony of God regarding Himself and the Christ. The Spirit does the work of God in the earth, proving He is.

I believe the point Jesus is making is that, to refuse this work of the Spirit being the testimony of God, sent to equip us to live this one flesh Kingdom life, that is the unforgivable sin. Refusing the Christ when the Spirit is doing all He can to make Him known to us is the only unredeemable sin—refusing to believe the Spirit’s testimony concerning God and Jesus, proving they are and that Jesus is the way, is the only true suicide. All else is covered by the blood of Jesus and can be forgiven man.

For us who believe the testimony of God and enter into one flesh relationship with Him, never to be killed by sin again, we find…

Our Confidence (vs. 13-21): In the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, Jesus is our confidence for all eternity. Because of the Spirit in us, we experience God in new and real ways that help us to know that we know that He is and that He is the redeemer of all mankind who will put their faith in Him through Christ.

Because of relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit, we have confidence that we have the mind of Christ, and being covered in His blood, we can freely approach the throne of God and make our request of Him. We receive our request from God because we have His heart desires within us when we are actively living in one flesh with Him through the Spirit at work in us.

We have the mind of Christ, being equipped to have the thoughts of God. Being a people birthed through Christ to be people after God’s own heart, God’s heart beats within us, thus equipping us to have His desires. And the Spirit flows through us, the blood of Christ coursing through us in the power of the Spirit in which the true life flows, making us one with Him. Therefore, we have the full resource of God at our disposal as we walk with Him in obedience.

By this power in us we KNOW with confidence that He is, and that we have eternal life. With this confidence we know that we are in Him as He is in us. And our lives can flow with confidence from Him as we grow in one flesh living with Him.

John ends his discourse with this warning, which is worthy of repeat: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”

Idols rise up in our lives when we follow the voices of the false prophets. These lead us away from God and when we walk out of the protective cover of God, our one flesh life with Him is hindered and harmed.

The joy of the Lord is our strength because we are in Him and He is in us. By this truth, not only do we have joy in Him, but He rejoices over us, calling us “friend,” and He fully equips us for a life of abundance that honors Him. Our protection, power and provision for a life of victory supplied in Christ is found through one flesh living in God.

“By this we come to know, perceive, recognize, and understand that we abide so as to live and remain in Him and He in us: because He has given / imparted to us of His Holy Spirit. …Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”

Don’t follow the false. Follow the truth as testified to us by God and we will remain in Him.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 12

The Delightful Proof of His Nature Practiced

Read 1 John 3:

“…Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)…” (1 John 3:4-24, Amplified version quoted herein).

The number one clue of our belonging to the Kingdom of God is seen in our practices stemming from His nature at work within us. It is a practice without hypocrisy. This practice of righteousness does not merely say what we believe then habitually walk off to do the opposite. It proves what we believe in our practices even behind closed doors with no one watching but God alone, because we love Him and what we believe is who we are in Him.

God delights in the righteous acts of His people, in a righteousness that is not just external for show and tell, but that begins in the sincerity of heart that is surrendered to Him for His use. True righteousness stems from the heart of who we are. The remainder of this chapter reveals ways in which we see this action in the lives of the people of God’s pasture. Those who delight in righteousness as God does, bringing delight to His heart in the sincere practice of it from a nature made one with Him will:

Practice the Keeping of His Law / Commands / Will:

“Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will)…” (vs. 4-10).

I have a wall hanging that quotes G. K. Chesterton as saying, “The only faith that wears well is that which is woven of conviction.” Keeping the laws and commandments of God, practicing them in sincerity and truth from the heart of our being, requires conviction in the veracity, integrity and credibility of God. If we do not trust Him to lead us in righteous paths for our good and His glory, we will say one thing and do another as if to placate Him and look good to others while going our own way. Completing the sufferings of Christ means to continue in His likeness of trusting fully the veracity, integrity and credibility of God, walking with God in His ways, even unto death, with hearts that are pure toward Him.

“…Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous. [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done]” (vs. 7-8).

The practice of righteousness through the keeping of the laws, commands and will of God comes natural and is of vital importance to the one who truly belongs to Him, having His Spirit residing within by the gift of grace through Christ. If this is absent from our lives, we have need to question whether we truly know Him, for “No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God” (vs. 9). The same is true when it comes to…

The Practice of Love Toward the Brotherhood / Sisterhood

“By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ)” (vs. 10).

God is love. Him truly residing within us in the power of His Spirit will produce love in us as well, not only for those we call “brother and sister in Christ,” but for all mankind. We do not love the ways of the evil one that resides in those who do not know Him, but we do love the person with a holy love from God that desires them to enter into this union we possess. Thus we do good to all, especially to the brotherhood, and we do good to those who do us evil with hope that through acts of lovingkindness we may indeed win some (Romans 12).

“For this is the message (the announcement) which you have heard from the first, that we should love one another, [And] not be like Cain who [took his nature and got his motivation] from the evil one and slew his brother. And why did he slay him? Because his deeds (activities, works) were wicked and malicious and his brother’s were righteous (virtuous)” (vs. 11-12).

The world, on the other hand, will hate us because they do not have within them the love that can come only from God, living and active within.

Now realize that there are several kinds of love in this life: brotherly love, sensual love, self-love—these three being dictated by the object of ones affections and the fickle emotions within us. The love God speaks of in this passage we consider is the unconditional Agapé-love that is not destroyed by sin done against it. This love is not subject to its surrounding or physical emotions, but comes from within, from who we are in Christ by the power God supplies. It presses forward to do that which is best for the one loved even when the one we love sins against us. It is a love that can only be achieved when surrendered to the Father’s love flowing through us to those around us. Though this Agapé-love may be hindered for a time by our flesh warring against the Spirit within us, this love will eventually win out as the nature of God within us takes hold and has control, proving us to be one with God and working in His nature.

“Anyone who hates (abominates, detests) his brother [in Christ] is [at heart] a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding (persevering) within him. By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him]. But if anyone has this world’s goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him? Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)” (vs. 15-18).

Thus, as we live the life as He lives, having a nature like His, we…

Practice Confidence Before God

“By this we shall come to know (perceive, recognize, and understand) that we are of the Truth, and can reassure (quiet, conciliate, and pacify) our hearts in His presence, Whenever our hearts in [tormenting] self-accusation make us feel guilty and condemn us. [For we are in God’s hands.] For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything [nothing is hidden from Him]” (vs. 19-20).

Even when we are caught in any sin, we stand with confidence before a holy God in the grace gift He supplies through Christ, knowing that nothing can separate us from His love for us. God convicts of sin and brings us to repentance as He disciplines us as sons and daughter through Christ (Hebrews 12). Desiring to remain in His love, we come quickly to repentance and work to cooperate with His Spirit’s work of transformation within us. Equipped by Him to stand in confidence and without condemnation before our holy God as we desire, we work to…

Practice What is Pleasing to Him

“And, beloved, if our consciences (our hearts) do not accuse us [if they do not make us feel guilty and condemn us], we have confidence (complete assurance and boldness) before God, And we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we [watchfully] obey His orders [observe His suggestions and injunctions, follow His plan for us] and [habitually] practice what is pleasing to Him” (vs. 21-22).

Confidence in our eternal destination though Christ is ours to possess. And the possessing of it through the practice of His nature proves our relationship with Him, completing the work of Christ, who made a distinction between the hypocrisy of those snared to evil, refusing the work of God within. And He proved the nature of God within Himself by His habitual practice of righteousness and God-pleasing from a pure heart. We join in fulfilling His sufferings by proving the nature of God that frees from sin and His work in the world of men that is available through the sacrifice of Christ, as we live, breathe and move in the power of His Holy Spirit residing within us, thus destroying the work of the evil one with Him.

“And this is His order (His command, His injunction): that we should believe in (put our faith and trust in and adhere to and rely on) the name of His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and that we should love one another, just as He has commanded us. All who keep His commandments [who obey His orders and follow His plan, live and continue to live, to stay and] abide in Him, and He in them. [They let Christ be a home to them and they are the home of Christ.] And by this we know and understand and have the proof that He [really] lives and makes His home in us: by the [Holy] Spirit Whom He has given us” (vs. 23-24). This being true, we…

Practice Walking in the Spirit of God

“…But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…” (Galatians 5).

Giving the Spirit full sway in our lives, trusting God to make His presence and leading surely known to us, surrendering to His lead so as to not quench the work of the Spirit within, this is the nature of Christ in us. He always lived to please the Father.

We carry on to completion His suffering against the flesh, the world and the demonic as, in the power of the Spirit, we stand against evil by walking “in the Light as He Himself is in the Light.” Thus “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” and we prove ourselves to be in Him and He in us (1 John 1:7, NASB).

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 11

The Delight of His Kingdom

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3).

Children of God: Princes and Princesses of the Kingdom. We are part of the royal court. God rejoices over each one of us, and the more we come to look like His Firstborn Son, the more joy we bring to Him.

The only real goal we need to have for life more abundant and full is to grow strong in our likeness to Christ, purifying ourselves as God is pure; wholly belonging to the Father, being passionate about Him and all He that is passionate over. If we do this one thing, our weight will line out as we surrender our health practices to Him. We will overcome health issues, if not finding our healing this side of glory, then finding our strength in the wait for the healing. As we learn to deal with the situations and circumstances of life as He would, we will have peace in knowing that we followed Him and we can trust Him to deal with the situation in due season.

Like Jesus, we are to strive to live lives as children of His kingdom in our here and now experience. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching about the Kingdom and what it looks like. That is a clue to us that we should know how the Kingdom of God functions and looks so we can be an expression of His Kingdom as His ambassadors to the world, completing His work of making the Kingdom of God known in the earth.

In doing so, we also must realize that though we are of His Kingdom already, secure in our citizenship, we are not in the Kingdom yet. Thus the reason Jesus prayed that though we are in the world, we would not be of the world (John 17:13-19). Our lives are to continue His work of expressing the Kingdom lifestyle into our surroundings.

We have covered the Kingdom life before in other studies, and I don’t want to belay our time here spending too much time on that again, but just by way of review for those who have read my materials for long and intro to the new reader, let’s touch on a few of the aspects of the Kingdom life that should be in us. The Kingdom is:

†   Love – God is love and those who are truly His will love as He loves for His love abides in them and will flow through them, even to the unlovable (1 John 2-5; Matthew 5:43-48).

†   One – Those who truly belong to God are one with the Son, who makes us one with the Father and with one another. There is unity in the Kingdom and we are to work together toward unity in the earth (John 17; Matthew 12:25-28).

†   Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost – By the power of the Spirit at work in us, we strive to be righteous as He is righteous; we enter into His peace provided for us even in the difficult seasons of life in a fallen world; and we have joy in Him because He empowers us to know our God and trust His hand (John 12-16; Romans 14:17).

†   Kingdom Revelation – The Kingdom is no longer mysterious to the true believer, for it is given for us to know, understand and proclaim His Kingdom on earth; it is ever growing within us; it is a treasure worth discovering and possessing for oneself; it is a resource to us, equipping us to separate the good worth keeping from that which is to be cast away (Matthew 13).

We could go on, but suffice to say that ours is to possess and release the Kingdom of God on the earth in ways that encourage all who will to enter in with us. We are in the world, though not of the world: we are of the Kingdom while yet we await our entrance for all eternity.

While in the world, we are warned, “For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1). We are in the world, but because we do not behave as those of the world, they often find us strange and disagreeable to their way. They cannot know, recognize or understand us because they do now know, recognize or understand Him (Amplified). John 15:18-21 warns:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”

It is not us they truly persecute; but it is our ways that are not their own. And when they come against us because our ways are not like theirs, it is not truly us they come against, but Christ in us. They do not know, recognize as legitimate or acknowledge the righteousness of our ways because they do not know, recognize or acknowledge Him. Those who stand in opposition to God and His ways, naturally find themselves standing in opposition to all who represent Him and His ways.

Kingdom life is upside down to that of the ways of the world. We love those who hate us, choosing to do good toward them where we can. We find peace in the midst of turmoil; joy in the Lord within the pages of life’s sorrows; and when we are weak, that is when we are truly strong. We do not walk the paths of life as the world does, but while on paths with them we walk the straight and narrow way of the Father. And we seldom fret as the world does, coming quickly to remember and realize our limitless supply is made sure through His grace toward us who believe. This is our call, to finish the work of Christ in our day, making His Kingdom known to all who will hear.

“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).

“And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing” (Luke 9:2).

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 8

Joyful Cross Bearing

Jesus, in Luke 9:23, said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (NLT).

The Amplified version clarifies the call to “deny self” as “disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself.” And it says of those who choose to respond to Jesus’ “follow Me” as including “cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also.” To me, our passage for today in First John is the call to complete the sufferings of Christ by choosing to take up our cross daily and follow Him.

“Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever” (1 John 2:15-17, AMP).

Too often I hear people define the cross we bear as things that are beyond our control: sickness in our bodies that we can do nothing about, wayward children, a philandering husband, etc. That is so far from the truth. Jesus did not have to bear the cross. He chose too. He even told His disciples when they started to fight to save Him from arrest, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

Just as taking up His cross was His to choose, so is our cross. And it is a daily choice of denying self so as to follow Jesus. This passage speaks of one thing that most often hinders our cross bearing. Let’s break it down to discover what that is.

“Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. …”

Love of the world and the things of the word will definitely stand in the way of self-denial and choosing to follow Jesus through cleaving to Him and His ways. When we choose the world and its pleasures, we deny our love for Jesus and choose to love the world over our love for Him and the Father. We cannot love both. That is what this passage is saying.

The world is polar opposite to God and His ways. To choose the world, we must walk away from God. And what is it that the world appeals to in luring us away from our call to bear the cross with Jesus? Self-interest.

“…For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. …”

The world appeals to our flesh through our craving for sensual gratification. Don’t mix “sensual” up with “sexual”. Sensual gratification has to do with the body’s sensory systems that love to be pleasured. That includes our taste buds, music preferences, desire for freedom from every form of pain that is too often used to lead us into addictions that cover up that pain, etc. These are the things that appeal to our physical appetites, and yes, that can and often does include our sexual appetites. The world loves to draw us away from God by appealing to our sensual appetites.

This passage also warns of the world’s appeal to us through a particular sensory organ, our eyes—further defined here as the “greedy longings of the mind.” Think on a desire too long and we will give into it.

Take, for example, my Spark Journey. Try as I may, I struggle constantly to find victory and freedom over my desire for sweets. Why? I see one I like, and though I may walk away successfully, my mind will start thinking about how good it tastes, how the texture is on my tongue, etc. The next thing I know, though it may take several days of thinking, I will fall away from my commitment to stay away from the sweets. Once I taste that sweet, it re-enlivens the desire for more and off on a binge I go.

The world and the desire it parades before us is not our friend. It is a pawn in the hand of the enemy of God that wants to keep us ensnared to the sins of the flesh, working hindrance to our relationship with God. And what does that enemy often use to defeat us? Our own sense of pride, rightly defined here as assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things.

Continuing our example above, do you know what knocks me down for the count every time I fall to snacking on sweets? Pride spurred by frustration to say, “I should be able to do this. I am stronger than this pull to sweets. I can do this”; All the while forgetting that though I can do this, I can do nothing apart from Christ, who is my strength.

Then there is the pride seen in the pity party: “Oh, I fell again. I am never going to get this. I may as well quit trying.” Yes, this is a strike against one’s sense of pride as it centers on the failure of one to have power, forgetting where one’s power is found; calling God a liar who says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Does God never give us anything out of the world? Yes, He does. But when He gives it, whatever it is, it is always for use toward our good and His glory. He gives me and you food for the building up of the body so we may have strength to live good days on the earth, bringing glory to Him whom we look to for our provision. But when we love the world and the things in the world, we go after those things for the sake of meeting our sensual appetites and we glorify the world for its bounty. When we seek God first and foremost, what does He say?

“…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well…” (Matthew 6:25-34). And what is God’s promise in our passage today, given to us who will take up our cross daily, denying self to follow Jesus.

“…he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.”

Life more abundant and full, with all the provision needed for life, belongs to those who complete the suffering of Christ through denying self, daily, in order to please God alone.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 7

Delighting in Victory Over Evil

Thus far in our study to cover our role in completing what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings and find the joy of victory in those afflictions, have you noticed as I have that we are finding in that work our calling, equipping and purpose in the earth?

We are called and equipped to be His witnesses, not only repeating what we read in Scripture, but knowing its truth and knowing Him by experience of Him through our faith in Him. We are called and equipped to build up the body of Christ, helping others find their way into the fold, all the while promoting unity in the body. We are blessed to know with assurance of faith our freedom in Christ, freeing us from sin and death. We complete His sufferings through our own walk of obedience, no matter the cost that comes to us as we obey God’s will and accomplish His purpose. And finally we are called to complete His suffering-affliction in our love walk, even and especially when hurting people hurt people in the body of Christ.

As we grow in our ability to successfully do all these things in completing His afflictions, we have a good start in completing the next of His afflictions:

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:12-14).

“…you have overcome the evil one (the devil).”

Throughout His life, from the womb to His ascension, Jesus was in the business of overcoming evil. The devil was after Him while in the womb, but God led Him to victory through directing the path of His earthly parents. He overcame with every temptation, and believe me, there was more temptation than seen in His wilderness experience. He overcame in His love walk, the speaking of truth, the revealing of the Father, and lest we forget, He defeated sin and death authored by the evil one when He went to the cross and walked out of the tomb to rise again as King of kings over the Kingdom of God.

We complete this aspect of His sufferings in every way when we face evil in life as He did. How? I see numerous avenues by which we walk in this victory with Him in this passage. Looking at the Amplified version, let’s see what is there:

“I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven [pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name]” (vs. 12).

We defeat evil when we confess His name through repentance from sin and walk in assurance of faith. But look at our assurance. Our assurance has not so much to do with our repentance as it has to do with the “for His name’s sake.”

God forgives first and foremost “for His name’s sake.” As we realize that He forgives us fully for the name of Jesus, Immanuel (God with us) who paid the full price for sin, we increase in our assurance that He forgives our sin, great and small. But take it a step further to Isaiah 43:25.

“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”

God desires relationship with His people. Just as He chose for His own sake to forgive Israel even while they were still in sin, doing so for His own sake so that He could fulfill His purposes in building the lineage of the Christ; in like fashion He forgives us for His own sake in completing the work of Christ, leading us to assurance and trust in our relationship with Him while He builds for Himself a people for God’s own possession.

And note the exciting thing about Him choosing to forgive for His sake instead of for ours alone. He promises that He will remember our sin no more.

Now God is not forgetful, is He? I don’t think so. He leads His prophets to recite the sin of Israel before them as reminder several times in scripture. What this means to me is even though it may cross His mind as we keep doing like or same things over and over in our journey to freedom, He does not remember it in ways that bring it up in condemnation.

Condemnation is not from God. For His own sake more than ours, He chooses to forgive so He can continue to strive toward a Kingdom of strong relationships with a people of His possession. When we walk in assurance of such a grace as this, we are encouraged to walk in victory as He is victorious over evil. Our walk with Him is strengthened through this trust and we are equipped by it to walk free of sin and stand firm as His servant. And when we do sin, our relationship is protected by the assurance we have in His forgiveness and commitment to help us walk free in victory.

“…I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be aware of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning…I write to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be conscious of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning…” (vs. 13a, 14a).

Here we see a growing relationship with God that is not only aware of Him, but grows strong in its ability to be conscious of His presence in our here and now lives. We not only recognize that He is, but we realize He is with us. We are aware, alert and conscious of Him. And we grow in this knowledge of Him to understand Him and His ways. When we come into this knowledge we are equipped to walk in victory against the schemes of the evil one. For what does it say of those who hear Him in John 10, being alerted to His presence and led forward to follow only Him?

“When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (vs. 4-5).

The better we know Him, the more easily we recognize His voice—the way He talks to and leads us. And the better we know His voice, the easier it will be for us to recognize that of the stranger who would lead us astray. We know victory over the evil one as we grow to know Him, becoming fathers of the faith in our maturity.

“…I am writing to you, young men, because you have been victorious over the wicked [one]…I write to you, boys (lads), because you have come to know (recognize and be aware) of the Father…” (vs. 13b).

In growing in our ability to know and recognize and trust Him, we come to know Him as “Father.” Walking close to our Father, learning to emulate Him, we find victory over evil.

“…I write to you, young men, because you are strong and vigorous, and the Word of God is [always] abiding in you (in your hearts), and you have been victorious over the wicked one” (v. 14b).

Learning to listen to God as Father and follow hard at His heals as a child that wants to be just like Daddy not only pleases the heart of God, but it wins the victory over evil. As we listen to and learn from God, treasuring His word, we have our weapons and armor in place and at the ready for any battle that may ensue. Each victory won strengthens us to win the next with greater ease.

Like Jesus, our growing faith in and reliance upon God grows us strong in the ways of God so that we can then “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). There is a lot to learn from Romans 12 on overcoming evil. We won’t go into great detail—I will leave it to you to read the passage, but just to do a quick run by these truths, we overcome evil:

  1. As we present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God (vs. 1).
  2. By refusing conformity to the world and choosing instead transformation of mind to God and His ways (vs. 2).
  3. By not thinking more highly of self than we ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, according to our measure of faith (vs. 3).
  4. Through unity as His body, learning to serve one another through our giftedness (vs. 4-8).
  5. Loving without hypocrisy (hypocrisy says one thing while doing another). Vs. 9-11 give us a picture of a proper love-walk.
  6. Abhorring evil, but clinging to good (vs. 9).
  7. Bless those who persecute and curse you (vs. 14).
  8. Being there for one another in times of joy or grief (vs. 15).
  9. Not being haughty or arrogant, but being likeminded toward each other, treating one another with respect (vs. 16).
  10. Not paying back evil for evil, leaving judgment and revenge to God, we do good even to those seen as “enemy” (vs. 17-21).

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

We overcome evil through good, and the greatest good is love, God’s kind of love that is not based on emotion, but on choice and desire for the greater good for all. In these ways we fulfill what is lacking of Christ’s affliction in bringing victory over the evil one.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 4

Rejoicing in Freedom

“If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts]. If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. If we say (claim) we have not sinned, we contradict His Word and make Him out to be false and a liar, and His Word is not in us [the divine message of the Gospel is not in our hearts].

“My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father—[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action]. And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (1 John 1:8-2:2, AMP).

~*~

Together, in cooperation with the Spirit of God within us, we make the Father known to the world, continuing that work of Christ in our age. Together, in cooperation with the Spirit of God, we are not only tasked with continuing the work of Christ in building the church, but we are tasked with His work of unifying the body of Christ. Now we add that together, in cooperation with the Spirit of God within us, we spread the gospel message. In this work, I see several things that we are tasked with in our day.

First is cooperating with the Spirit in making distinction between sin and righteousness and the judgment (or consequences) that comes to each.

In our day, truth is too often seen as relative. Each person can decide for themselves what truth is, and therefore what is wrong and what is right as dictated by circumstance, according to their value system. To the world there is no absolute right or wrong and therefore, no absolute truth. But God has a different opinion and we are tasked with finding, portraying, and promoting His truth that makes sin as He sees it clear to the observer.

This responsibility in completing Christ’s afflictions includes being humble enough to admit our own sin nature, and surrendered to Him in not only turning from our own sin, but in allowing Him to use our experience of His grace as witness of His work in our lives to those who struggle as we do.

Our Minister of Evangelism at our church shared a visit they had with a young girl who said she never sins. Everything they suggested as a possibility, she said she never did. Her mother agreed that she was just a good kid. But this passage proves her sin, for those who refuse to recognize they are a sinner in need of a Savior call God a liar.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we just don’t always recognize our sin for His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways higher than our ways. Our sin may be so subtle that we do not realize it is sin, but it is there.

This is our task, to help others realize that we cannot be all that God desires and designed us to be in the limits of our fleshly nature, no matter how “good” we seem to the world’s ways. Thus we fall short of His glory and prove ourselves to be sinners in need of a Savior.

Second we are tasked with the gospel message: sharing with all who will hear that Christ chose to give His life as atoning sacrifice for all sin. The sin of the entire world is covered by His victory as the Lamb of God, sacrificed for all. That victory belongs to God alone. But it is passed on to all who will receive the work of the Spirit in imparting His freedom from sin and death to us who choose to believe by faith and surrender by grace.

Third, we are tasked with the responsibility to help people grow strong in faith and in the bearing of the fruit of the Spirit. We are called to make disciples, students of Christ and the ways of God, of all who believe. Only as we begin to grow in the knowledge of the intricacies of the nature of God can we recognize deep underlying roots of sin that we would otherwise be unaware of possessing.

Fourth, we are tasked with the privilege of helping all who trust in Him to come into the assurance of His victory, gifted to them.

Though we are saved by grace through faith, made whole eternally in Christ, we are here and now a work in progress. Each of us, too often get caught off guard and stumble into sin’s traps. The enemy can defeat us through a spirit of condemnation if we are not walking in the assurance that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, who forever lives to intercede on our behalf. In the power of the Spirit, Father and Son “[continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” We are tasked with helping the elect come into this assurance of faith in His finished work, and trust His continuous work in us as He leads us from sins grip and increasing degrees of glory as we surrender all to Him.

Working together with God’s Spirit in making sin and righteousness and judgment clear, rejoicing over one another comes to us. We become one another’s testimony of the work of God through us in encouraging and helping one another grow strong in faith and in assurance through Christ that we have died to sin and death and are raised to life in Him. Anyone who has children or other loved ones they have prayed long over and poured themselves out to in hope of seeing them grow in the Lord knows the joy of watching their faith and obedience blossom strong.

As I sought God in where to go with this portion of our study, He led me to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. The Amplified version of this passage seems a fitting close to this thought as it illustrates these points:

“Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) be to you and [heart] peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, [So] that in Him in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech [to speak of your faith] and complete knowledge and illumination [to give you full insight into its meaning].  In this way [our] witnessing concerning Christ (the Messiah) was so confirmed and established and made sure in you that you are not [consciously] falling behind or lacking in any special spiritual endowment or Christian grace [the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in your souls by the Holy Spirit], while you wait and watch [constantly living in hope] for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and [His] being made visible to all. And He will establish you to the end [keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication; He will be your warrant against all accusation or indictment so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

May we all be busy about the Father’s business, bearing witness of the Gospel message, and know the joy of seeing those we love come into their own strong and growing freedom from sin and assurance in Christ.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 3

Rejoicing in Unity of Fellowship

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

I love the Amplified version of verse 5: “And this is the message [the message of promise] which we have heard from Him and now are reporting to you: God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all [no, not in any way].”

Yesterday we looked at the fact that the first thing we are called to do in completing what is lacking in the affliction of Christ is continuing His work of bearing witness concerning the truth of God, who He is and the way He is that is recognizable in and through us. He is Light, righteousness, goodness, truth, love, etc. There is no falsehood or darkness in Him. And as we grow in understanding of who He is and in our work of image bearing for His name’s sake, bearing witness of His Presence and work in our here and now lives, we enter into the second of our roll in filling up what is lacking of Christ’s afflictions: unity of fellowship.

There are two things about fellowship that I see to discuss today. For the first, let’s back up just a bit to verse 3: “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

The first insight I glean here is that our roll in completing what is lacking continues Christ’s work of building the church, the body of Christ. As we share how we experience God in our daily lives with those who do not believe, they have opportunity to join in fellowship with us by receiving our testimony and choosing the grace we walk in for themselves. That one is simple and clear. But there is a second aspect to this thought that I want to focus on. I will try to stay off my soapbox with this one.

The Amplified version of verse three adds to our discussion: “What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah).”

Our greatest call in adding to the fellowship of Christ’s afflictions is in the area of building unity within the body of Christ that gives proof of the distinguishing mark of our kinship. I’ll tell you, people, we are not there yet. We are divided, not by religious differences, but by pride and arrogance stemming from those differences. I hate when I hear someone standing behind the pulpit speaking divisive words against another denomination. Next to that, I hate when I hear God’s people setting around in public places, putting down other Christians. And most of all, I hate when I hear such slipping out of my own mouth. That is not fulfilling this call of Christ in completing this work of unity. So what does scripture teach us with regard to faith issues that we too often state in divisive arrogance?

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:1-4).

We grow strong of faith at differing paces. Some have faith as Paul did to shake off snakes and eat without fear. Others are not at that place in their walk. Some practice their freedom within the confines of their religious practices. Others seek the freedom of following the Spirit’s lead in ways that seem to have no bounds of religious tradition. But what I have observed in both is deep faith in those who remain bound by religion, and traditions of a different kind forming boundaries in the practices of those who appear bolder in their faith.

Those who are not as bold are not to judge the heart of those who are. And those who are bold are not to condemn those who appear of weaker faith. To do so in any setting is to aid the enemy of God in dividing the house of God. Instead we are to accept one another and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. And as we do, we will be able to share with one another out of love, bearing testimony of our individual experience of our living God in ways that help each to grow stronger and bring the body of Christ to the unity He desires. This is our calling and equipping in filling up the lack.

And, just FYI here, for those who may be arrogant against Israel, including those who do not recognize the Christ in Jesus the Messiah, remember this:

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  (Romans 11:17-22).

And the second point in fulfilling this call to fellowship is “[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]” (vs. 6, AMP).

Sin destroys our unity with God, bringing separation from fellowship with Him and destroying our ability to find unity with the brotherhood of Christ. We cannot walk in darkness and have fellowship in His Light.

“But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]” (vs. 7, AMP).

When we walk in disunity, dividing ourselves up because of faith differences, which is clear sign that we walk in sin against God and one another, in our sin we do harm to the kingdom of God and our witness in the earth. Freedom in Christ requires us to trust in God who is able to make each of us stand firm as His beloved servant and fellow believer. And trusting that fact for each other, we walk in unity of our faith in Christ, trusting His work in growing all to the glory of His name.

Instead of judging one another and condemning each other, which is sin that destroys fellowship with God and each other, we must love one another, accepting each other in the degree of faith that we have. We cannot encourage one another and help each other in spiritual growth and maturity while condemning each other.

Unity of fellowship requires that instead of looking at one another and judging our differences in belief systems that stem from our faith in Him, that we look to see the image of Christ that is present. If we see Christ, the image of God born forth in the life of others, bearing fruit of His character and likeness, we are brothers and sisters in Christ and are called by Him to unity not hindered by differences in faith practices. In this way we complete the work began by Christ in bridging the gap between us and God, and between one to another.

Great rejoicing comes to those who can stand as one in Christ, despite differing beliefs. That rejoicing is increased as we learn not only to accept one another where we are in our faith walk, but as we work to encourage one another and grow stronger together in Him.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 1

Introduction

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24).

“Lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? The day that statement from Paul caught my attention, I began a quest to understand what it means and how it is that we fill up that which remains to be done. I mean, after all, Jesus on the cross shouted, “It is finished!” In His prayer in John 17, He said to the Father, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (vs. 4).  What is there that remains lacking?

There are several passages that speak of the sufferings or afflictions of Christ, such as Paul’s proclamation in Philippians 3:10-11 talking about his ultimate goal in life being: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Considering these words from Paul, we can surmise that fellowship with His sufferings is part of the process that makes us one together with Him. It is part of the recipe that resurrects in us the Life of Image Bearers that God intended we have.

In this study, which looks like it will take a couple of weeks to cover unless God has more to say than I do, we will see what we can discover about the afflictions of Christ, what they are, and how we have fellowship with His sufferings as we walk with understanding in this journey to filling up what is lacking.

Our text for this study will be the book of 1 John, in which I see many thoughts that give us a picture of our responsibilities that accomplish this call of Paul given to us through his example. Like with so much of the teachings found in the word of God, this study will be a good start to our journey of discovering God’s will for us as people called to this fellowship.

I hope you will join me these next two weeks as we look at this subject. The words “afflictions” and “sufferings” I know do not make this an appealing subject, but I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the things God has shown me as we consider this vital aspect of our walk with Him. Looking forward to getting started, I anticipate seeing you back here tomorrow as we begin to look at 1 John and find that this work of suffering with Christ truly is cause for rejoicing as we see the fruit produced in it.

Love So Pure: But Forbidden Just the Same – Part 1

The Struggle Revealed

 I have experience of numerous deep, abiding, holy, pure loves in my life. They are equal to each other and beautiful to behold, bringing rejoicing to my heart; but distinctions in relationships make equal expressions of love forbidden, hindered by rite of Law. What do I mean?

This will be a two part article, first looking at our love relationship with and in Christ; then looking at God’s love relationship to us through Christ and the effect that has on our eternal destiny.

So what do I mean and how can love equality be? Aren’t we to love God first and foremost and each relationship falls in a line under that? God’s love flow is the answer. In making the point I am to share with you today, I tell you of three of my love relationships; made equal by the degree of God’s love flowing through me, but unequaled by rite of relationship Law.

My first Love, of greatest importance, though equal to the others because of its source, is for my God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I choose to love Him and be in relationship with Him as my God, but the love, which is my own, is limited by the weakness of my flesh. However, as I choose to love God with my all, keeping Him as first in my life, trying as I may to love Him as He deserves despite this limitation of flesh, God moves in with His supply and I am helped by Him Who fills me with love that goes beyond the bounds of my ability. He, who is Love, couples His supply with my own, making my love for Him pure and full blown for His glory. It wells up in me and I soar to the heights of the knowledge of His presence.  In this way I am equipped by Him to love Him in ways that please and honor Him fully.

My second love is my husband. Now, I have always said that my love for my husband is less than that I have for my God, because I BELIEVED that was as it should be. As far as hierarchal Law goes in determining who I will follow first as Lord, that is true. But lately, as God has grown and blossomed my love for my husband, God has shown me that my love for my man should equal my love for Him, for it too is supplied and made whole and full through our union as one with Him in holy matrimony: our love making us one flesh together through Him, His love for my husband swells in me and the experience of it is equal to what I have when love soars to God.

God is not a jealous God when our love for others is based out of our love for Him. The only jealousy He has is when we turn from Him to others as a type of god. I can love my husband fully, as I love my God, because God pours His love through me. In this way I am capable of loving my husband as God desires and designed me to, and through the purity of God’s love flowing through me, I am protected from sinning against my first love, God.

The purity of God’s love desiring the very best for and toward the object of love, whether God or man, protects my relationship with God as God, keeping me from seeing my husband take God’s rightful place in my life. My love for my husband is kept in right priority and rite of relationship by this love of God that flows through me to him. And I am protected by the full and pure love I have for my husband from sinning against my marriage vows, whatever temptation the enemy may send. Now, if that is clear as mud, let’s throw a third party in the mix.

I love my husband as I love my God, with whole heart that is helped and empowered by His love-flow, desiring to please God in my relationships. And like with my love for my God, my love for my husband, empowered and made strong by my God, is pure love, and I cannot fathom ever sinning against that love. Nonetheless, there is a love in me that has been there and grown strong for many years. It, too, is pure and holy and supplied by God, and when it wells up in me fully, it is equal to my love for my God and my husband. It is different in its expression and intent and purpose from that of my love for my God, but part of that love. And it is different in expression from my love for my husband, but a love made great and soaring strong in me in likeness to my love for my God and my husband because of the source of love’s flow.

This love has a forbidden dimension to it because it is love toward another man, not my husband. By rite of marital Law, though I love this other man of God fully and have enjoyed serving God together with him on many projects for many years now, I cannot act on this love in the same way that I do toward my husband.  Still there is the call of God in me to minister alongside this other man as is proper, just as the women who served at the feet of Jesus, and those who were ministers with Paul and Elijah. Our union of heart desire toward God swells in my heart with the love of God toward him, filling me with love that equals my love for my God and my husband, pure and holy in its intent and sourcing.

Then enters Satan: often Satan will try to distort love, for our experience of love is the closest thing to sitting in the lap of God, who IS love. Satan does not want us to truly know that heart of love where we may come to greater understanding of and stronger relationship with God, so he works to make our experience of love into something it is not meant to be.

Satan often moves in when that love for my Christian Brother soars, using my misunderstanding of God’s love-flow, my fleshly wisdom and that of this world to bring thoughts that make this love seem wrong. When love toward my Brother wells up so strong in me, lies of evil regarding it using the way the world thinks about love, twists the love into something different in my mind, causing me to feel guilty though I have done nothing wrong and have no wrong intent or desire toward him, for I can see no other man for me than my husband.

In that moment of struggle, this love that, if acted upon fully in accord with the temptation of the distortion Satan seeks to work, would be sin against my God, my husband, and this man. When it is full blown in me, Satan working to make it appear ugly, I struggle with guilt and anguish over it, and it hinders my ability to work with peace together in our common desire to fulfill the purpose of God. It has been a confusing journey and a long lessen I am grateful to have lived through, for it has shown me great things about my God who knows and understands our struggle in life, and He allows it for our good, not for harm.

I know this love that swells in me for my Brother is of God because I know the love of my God personally and intimately. God, in His grace, has always helped me to deal with this twisting of satanic ploy, putting my thoughts and my relationship back in the position it belongs, thus equipping me to continue serving God in righteousness alongside this other man. But the twisting of distortion has hindered me from fully living in the love-flow of God toward him for fear of the struggle, and I often pull back from things I feel called to alongside him in order to avoid the struggle.

When I shared the turmoil of heart with my husband, he encouraged me with his understanding of how it can be when people of opposite sex work together and have like desires in the work. He prays for me and helps me with his trust and support. And I have grown to trust this love to God for His protection, so that I may serve as He leads without sin, at the time, not understanding its source because of the hindrance within.

God’s love toward my friend wells up in me unexpectedly and often, calling me to prayer for my friend in Christ who is often in harm’s way in his ministry, helping me to reach out to meet the need of my ministry with him with right heart and priority. But false wisdom and understanding hinders the joy of love’s purity.

I have cried out often for deliverance from these wrong emotions that hit me with this love and for understanding of the struggle demonic thoughts throw into the works; but until now there has been no response from God. Today I share this struggle with you so that I may make clear God’s answer that finally came to my understanding.

Now, before you get all judgmental and close off to the moral of the story, hang with me. Like with Hosea who was led to take a bride of harlotry in order to understand the message God had for Israel, there is a lesson here that God taught me and wants you to hear. And believe me, you are not thinking anything about it that I have not thought during my struggle. You may even be able to relate to it from your own experience. If so, I hope you had God’s help to protect you from sin as well. So, setting the judgment aside to God, now that you have the background, let’s continue to the truth God revealed to me through this situation.

Last night I had a dream that this man came for a visit. When he comes, we open our home to him as Lydia and her family did to Paul. My husband and I love him and we minister to him together in the Lord. And he loves us with a pure love. It is a joy when he comes.

During this visit in my dream, he became very ill and I began to minister to him, doing what I could for him in our home, in the hospital, and after his release. As I did so God’s love welled up in me. Again, that temptation of forbidden love came and I began the struggle anew in my dream, feeling guilty over a love so strong toward one who is not my husband. Crying out to God as I ministered to him, drawn of God to care for him, I am as grieved and confused as ever.

Waking from the dream, that love still overwhelming my heart, I cry out to God as never before, seeking understanding of why He would allow such a struggle to exist in me. Seeking discernment as never before, do you know what God said to my heart?

“For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVES in Him shall not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life” (John 3:16).

In that instant knowledge of why God allowed me to experience this love from Him was clear to me: God is love! He cannot help but love. And He loves all equally and fully: saved and sinner alike, He shows no partiality in His love. But like with my love for this other man who is not my husband, His love is hindered toward some because it is forbidden by rite of the Law He himself set, limiting Himself toward us so that we can have rite of choice to love Him in return.

God loves all who are in the world, giving His Son for all, but He has set up a law, the law of sin and death, where sin was allowed to enter by His design that we should have choice regarding our personal relationship with Him.

Mankind began with full access to God, but sin entered to separate us from full relationship with Him, working a spiritual death that would set the stage for spiritual birth to new life, where those who receive it will never to be separated from Him again.

God had this plan from the beginning. He developed for Himself a people, out of which He sent a Healing Balm to restore life anew to all who choose to receive it, and that is found in the sacrifice of the Son, the Messiah Christ Jesus.

Blood has long been required as sacrifice for sin, and before Christ there were long lines of people bringing their offerings for sacrifice in order to be seen as pure in God’s eyes. But sin and death reigned in the earth, and very few were allowed to know the presence and reality of God as a result.

God loved all His created beings, wanting so much to have a personal and living relationship with each one, so His plan from the beginning included the Gift of a final offering on our behalf. Therefore, sending Jesus, His Son, who willingly gave His life as a sacrificial Lamb, God provided in likeness to His provision for Abraham on the mountain with Isaac, his son. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God removed the rite of sin and death to hold us captive, returning to us the right to choose life or death, good or evil, blessing with Him, or curse of living without Him, never to know His love flow. He desires to flow His love to all, but He chooses to honor our decision regarding Him and holds back from forcing Himself on us.

Do you see the flip-flop effect here? Where Adam and Eve had God in all His fullness right there with them and their choice was to remain with him or depart to a life of death, separated from Him by sin; we are birthed to a life without right to God and must choose to be born again in our spirit by receipt of the Sacrifice for sin that restores our relationship with God to its full intent. He then, begins the work of restoring our love relationship with Him to its full capacity, giving Himself fully to us, making us whole, and reviving His likeness in us, including our ability to love as one in Him.

This remedy to the law of sin and death says that all who choose God by accepting the sacrifice of the Son as the work of the Spirit accomplished at the hand and bidding of God will be cleansed and set free forever from the consequence of sin and death; and they who choose life in Christ then receive all of God’s love with all the perks of relationship with Him. With Christ as our covering, God then can pour out His full love on us through the vital relationship He desires to have with every person born to the earth.

God ministers to all, sending the blessing of rain on the just through Christ and the unjust alike: He must by right of the pure love within Him, do what He can for those He loves. But, for those who have not chosen to enter into a marriage relationship with Him through Christ, He cannot give Himself fully to them and sin against His law of sin and death, nullifying His marriage vows to the church, the Bride of Christ; His beloved children through Jesus. Those who are born to the earth are separated from God by the death brought to all mankind that separates them from Him because of sin, and our God of Love struggles in His affections toward them, desiring to give Himself fully to them, but hindered by Law.

Just as by rite of relationship laws, I can only show my love for my friend to a small degree of the full relationship of love I have with my husband, so God is limited by the Law regarding rite of relationship with Him, mankind being separated from experiencing all that He is by sin’s right over them. For those who receive by faith the sacrifice for sin in Jesus, the gap between God and that person is closed, and God again has right and delight in giving all He is and all He has to us for our joy and fulfillment. We are made whole together with Him, made one in the Beloved. Thus the flow of equal love to many in my life is made clear, and the struggle that the flesh, the world and the demonic would work to hinder that love flow and the power it brings to work together in unity is squelched. I am free.

God loves all fully, and through relationship with His Son we experience His full love when we choose Him through believing faith. So what does our choice or lack thereof mean for our eternity? See you tomorrow for the conclusion of this thought…

Dispelling the Darkness: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 10b

This has been an awesome journey for me. I cannot tell you what God has taught me and done in my life as we have walked with one another through this time. Seeing all these truths flow together has been like putting the puzzle pieces in order and finally seeing the full picture of what God is showing me personally: a portrait worth affixing to the backing I call “my life”, hanging it up for all to see. My hope is in God that the communication of the things in my heart flowed to the pages of this text well enough to help your journey as it has mine.

Today we conclude our study of “Dispelling the Darkness” as we continue our look at 1 Peter 2:4-10: having covered 4-8 yesterday, we continue through verses 9 and 10 adding to our understanding of who we are in Christ.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (vs. 9-10).

As living stones with Christ, we are:

A Chosen Race

We become part of the household of the chosen people of God when we enter the gate that is Christ:

“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’ …So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Matthew 7:13-14; John 10:7-10).

Those He calls He also chooses, and as we choose Him, we enter through the gate to walk the narrow way found in life through Christ. God turns none away who come with repentant heart, sincerely desiring the new life provide through His Son.

Do you struggle with a spirit of rejection, beloved? To us in Christ, God says, “You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9). So smile and take heart. You are not alone and you are not cast away. We are chosen to be…

A Royal Priesthood

We are back at 1 Peter 2:4-5, “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

In Christ we are birthed into the lineage of Levi, made one with Christ in a holy priesthood. He is now High Priest forever, interceding on our behalf before the Father. The curtain is torn and cast away because He stands perpetually in the Holy of Holies as Advocate on our behalf; thus slinging wide the doors so we may enter in through Him, the Narrow Way, to address the Father in the name of Jesus: we are Christ’s own beloved representatives. We are enabled through Christ to be the beloved children God desired we be from the start, having communion and walking with Him in the garden of our lives. Thus we are Royal Priests with all the responsibility that blessed position holds.

I believe we pretty well covered that role yesterday as we went through the traits of living stones, but let us apply that now here as a beginning toward understanding the role of our priestly estate. As priests unto God:

† We call all to the time of response to the Holy Sacrifice for sin, announcing Messiah as the Holy Lamb provided by God, calling all to repentance and to restoration with God through Jesus.

† We encourage others to turn from sin to God, bringing to the altar in their body the sacrifice of denying self to follow Christ, so He may reign in all who respond through Life, making us holy, consecrated to the Father.

† We grow strong in God’s truths, His law and His ways, proclaiming them to all in need of greater understanding of their application in our day. We not only proclaim these truths, but we walk them out in our daily lives, not living as hypocrites that say one thing while doing another, but realizing that we represent Him and His interests in the world as ambassadors of Christ. Thus we walk as He walked, honoring God as Lord, following Him as Master; and we live as He lived, denying self to meet others at their point of need, with hope that they might enter into this blessed union with us.

† We rejoice over God in all His fullness, leading others to join us in celebration as we share His presence in our lives. Encouraging one another in the Beloved, we share God’s comfort as He has comforted us.

Thus we have a beginning of understanding our role as a Royal Priesthood. As each of us rest in the truth that we are a chosen race, seriously taking on our priestly role, He works in and through us to make for Himself…

A Holy Nation

Becoming Holy together: willingly consecrating all that we have and all that we are or ever hope to be to God for His use. To surrender ourselves: taking up our cross daily, denying self-will and our sinful ways so as to follow Christ as God does His work of sanctification in our lives. As we surrender every area of our sinful, fleshly nature to Him, He corrects His distorted image in us day by day, setting us apart to Himself for holy purposes. As this is accomplished in each individual of us, we become…

A People for God’s Own Possession

God takes as His own beloved possession those who willingly give themselves to Him, bit by bit possessing our lives and bodies as His land, making us one with Him. And as we willingly surrender to His Lordship in each area of life, we unite with Him in fulfilling His purposes. In so doing, we become His willing bondservant’s with Christ, AND HE BECOMES OUR PASSION. His desires and purposes become our own and all that we do in life is focused on eternity, serving Him and being His light where we are with hope of many joining us in Him.

As we find for ourselves and make as our own this blessed relationship in Christ, surrendering to it, we do not lose ourselves. Instead we find ourselves as He fine tunes us to make us all He desired we be: all the good and quality that He desired for us springs forth to Light. Bringing us to our full potential as individuals at one with Him, we become…

Proclaimers of His Excellence

What joy it is to express God’s presence and work in our lives. But how much greater still it is when we can rejoice with knowledge of His excellence even when our circumstances are difficult and the hand of God seems stilled. This is the place where we go deeper: from knowing His ways and desiring His hand, to knowing Him and desiring His presence. Being satisfied and content even when we feel He is all we have left to us; we are satiated together with Him. Here we walk with Him as a friend, rested in His care, trusting whatever He is doing or allowing, assured of His love, content and at peace in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Here we become His…

Light

The light of His glory not only shines to reflect off of us, but it shines in us and through us in this place in our relationship with Him. In this position with Him we become a light so bright, others who see may not understand; they may even resent us because of it. But we and those with us know and understand for we are…

One

United with Him and one another, we become the fulfillment of the answer to the Lord Jesus’ prayer that we may be one with Him, just as He and the Father are one. Here we realize that we are the Bride of Christ. And we become wed to Him who is one with the Father, making us to be united with them in the Spirit.

There are two pictures in scripture that explain this place to us, the first being this relationship of being Bride of Christ. Wed together, us the Holy Bride, Him the Holy Groom, what do we see?

† TOGETHER AS ONE: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23a).

† HUSBAND (CHRIST): “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. …You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (Ephesians 5:28-29; 1 Peter 3:7. “In the same way”: see 1 Peter 3:1-6).

† HOLY BRIDE, CHRIST’S CHURCH: “In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [SUBORDINATE yourselves as being secondary to and DEPENDENT on them, and ADAPT yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives” of the Bride of Christ (1 Peter 3:1, AMP. “In like manner”: see 1 Peter 2:13-25).

One with God in all His fullness, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, we are made complete as one flesh through Christ, and we become our second picture of oneness with Him: the Body of Christ in the earth. As such we are destined to function in unison with His every move, totally dependent on Him.

Christ is the mind, the head: dictating function as the Father instructs, equipping us to do as He did in only doing what we see the Father do; serving His interests. Thus we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

God is the heart: first supplying the blood, in which is the life, through the movement of His Spirit that feeds and empowers us to live in Him; granting us life more abundant and full. Next He unites our spirit with His to dictate our thoughts, will, and emotions, leading us to one desire with Him.

Thus we are His body, His hands, His feet, His mouth, doing the work of service, being His representatives in the earth. Rested in the unifying force of His love, we become strong and useful…

Vessels of Mercy

All the cracks filled in with the mortar of grace, we begin to hold secure the Living Water of Jesus as He fills us up to spill us out into the earth, thus to effect the heart of mankind bringing them closer to the kingdom of God. Being vessels in the weakness of flesh, we may still spring a leak on occasion, but grace continually brings us back to restoration, and God’s understanding sustains us as He patiently works to bring us to completion.

This is us: the beloved of God in the Beloved of God. One together in Him, made whole and made holy: sanctified and set apart for His glory, shining His Light that dispels the darkness in the heart of mankind. Selah (pause and calmly think of that, letting it soak in to take hold and find its place within you).

~*~

“Now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:13-23).

And all the Children of God said…AMEN!

~*~

If you have never taken the first steps of faith through Christ, I point you to the Good News: Click on -> Here’s Hope, for that is where this journey begins.

Soon to Come

If you are in Christ with me and want more, I will be back next week after the Grand Kids leave to begin a series titled “Completing the Suffering of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). We will be looking at 1 John to discover more about our walk with Him.

Dispelling the Darkness: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 10a

Today we go deep as we begin to close out and conclude these truths we must realize if we are to be His lights, dispelling the darkness. I pray, not me Lord, but You. Only as He flows His Words of understanding through me with clarity can I share what I see in my heart.

In closing our study, we turn to 1 Peter 2:4-10; today covering through verse eight. I want to encourage you who walk in this present age with me, surrounded by darkness and often discouraged by it and brought to depression. We must remember who we are in the Lord if we are to overcome and persevere. We must be His body together if we are to see the darkness dispelled in our land and His hand moving to bless us anew.

Breaking our passage down into areas of thought:

“And coming to Him as to a Living Stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ …” (vs. 4-6).

Drawn to this passage, I asked God to instruct me in this thought of us being living stones. The first thought He brought to heart before building on it is:

Living stones of proclamation and announcement

“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:28-44).

We are the living stones of God who cry out, proclaiming and announcing that the Messiah has come. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, ruling the Kingdom of God now in our hearts, soon to return to rule in the earth.

Living stones birthed to Abraham

“Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9).

We are living stones, birthed through Christ into the household of Abraham: his children by a birthing through Christ that adopts us to God. No longer gentiles in sin, we are brought into the covenant of Israel, circumcised of heart, consecrated to God.

Living stones holding His commandments

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “ I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).

The first tablet of the Law was written on stone. The new tablet of the Law is written in the heart of true believers in Christ who seek His face and receive His word implanted.

Living stones in the Master Carver’s hands

“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” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

In the Master Carver’s hands, we are being remade into His image, from one degree of His glory to the next, restored to His intended plan and purpose.

Now, just real quick here, let’s touch on this “predestined” thing. Who did God foreknow? All. God knows all things; He is not bound by time as we are, but sees the beginning from the end; and He foreknew each person who would ever be born. Who did He predestine? All are predestined by His desire and design to be His. And all actually are His if we get right down to it, because each person’s eternal destination is set by His judgment which is already passed through His Word. Those who walk with Him, having received His gift of freedom from the bonds of sin and death have eternity with Him; those who do not…. It is already judged and sentence set. It is our choice which way we go.

Jesus is the way to God, making us priests to God with Him; He is the truth of God, His Word Incarnate, explaining the Father and His ways perfectly and removing all hypocrisy; and He is the LIFE. When death came, separating mankind from God, the breath of Life in God left. Jesus restores that breath as seen in John 20:22.

So whom did He call? He calls to all, for it is His desire that NONE perish, but ALL come to repentance, and Jesus was sacrificed by God so that ALL may be saved. But not all hear so as to accept the call, and not all choose Him, refusing to believe that Jesus is the Christ, come first to pay the price and defeat sin and death before one day returning as King to rule God’s Kingdom. God’s word says we have the choice with good or evil, life or death, blessing or curse at every crossroad, and God cannot lie. To believe in predestination, which removes all choice, is to deem God a liar and the whole of scripture false.

So all are called, but not all respond to the call given through Christ to receive God’s gift of grace in Him. Those who do answer the call are justified through Christ, instantly perfected in the eternal realm, proclaimed set free of sin and death in Christ, and destined for eternity with God, living forever with Him in His Kingdom. These also are continually being perfected from one degree of glory to the next through the finished work of Christ’s redeeming blood as God carves us into His image, purifying us in the flesh and making us whole.

Living stones of memorial and remembrance

“So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:4-7. See also passages like Genesis 31:43-55 and Joshua 22, esp. vs. 26)

We are being built together by God to be a memorial of His story and to bear witness, bringing all to remembrance of God and His ways. We are to so know Him that though evil enemies burn all our Bibles, the story of God and His will for and ways toward mankind will continue in us.

Living stones for honor, commitment and consecration

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21)

“To love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33).

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

Because of Christ being the final and complete sacrificial Lamb of God, paying the full price to purchase back His creation, freeing us from sin and death, there is no longer need of blood sacrifice on an altar of stone. Jesus purchased rights to our lives, thus our lives, our bodies become the altar on and in which all sacrifice is achieved. As priests unto God with Christ, we bring the sacrifice of repentance, praise and adoration. As workers with Him, we give the sacrifice of consecration and sanctification in our bodies, committing our all to Him. Our lives—our bodies are a place of sacrifice to God, as we daily take up our cross of self-denial to follow Jesus.

Finally, for now, continuing todays focal passage:

Living stones of stumbling and offense

“This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. …” (vs. 7-8).

Peter was “Petrose”: a piece of The Rock. Jesus is “Petra”: THE ROCK. Together, through unity in Christ with Peter, we become a piece of the rock of Christ—a truth we will go deeper into in my next series already in the works.

When people turn against us because of our belief in Christ, they truly turn against Christ, thus stumbling over the Stumbling Stone. When people are offended by our righteous stance in Him, they run into the Stone of Offence in Christ. So rest, precious ones, when people come against you because of your faith and faithfulness to God; it is not you they oppose but all He is and stands for, His living in you that they deny.

We are living stones in Christ, set in places where we are to proclaim and announce Him through our lives. We are living stones, birthed through relationship with Christ as children of Abraham, adopted into the family of God. We are living stones, making His commandments known in the earth. We are living stones in the Master Carver’s hands, being renewed and restored to His image as originally intended. We are living stones of memorial and remembrance, telling His story to all who will hear and bearing testimony of His presence in our lives, calling all to remembrance of His truths and His covenant promise. We are living stones, given to the purpose of committing our lives as sacrifice, consecrated in service to and with Him through Christ. And as we live in agreement with Christ, we are living stones with Him, bringing stumbling and offence to a world that is contrary to God.

Okay, people. God apparently had more to say than I did. My plan to finish up today continues into tomorrow as we run to the finish line.

Dispelling the Darkness: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 9b

Yesterday we began looking at attributes of the righteous lot found in the remainder of Psalm 37 and forming for us a good review of the majority of the study, adding some to our thought process as we go. In it we covered the attributes of 1) graciousness; went in depth on 2) the giving heart that wisely uses the provision of God; touched on 3) the assurance of heart that comes to those established by God through Christ; finding that the righteous 4) delight the heart of God by delighting in His ways, thus; 5) departing from evil in order to do good. Today we finish up the review as we cover these last verses:

“The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.The wicked spies upon the righteous and seeks to kill him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand or let him be condemned when he is judged. Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. I have seen a wicked, violent man spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found.  Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; for the man of peace will have a posterity. But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked will be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him” (vs. 30-40).

6) The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice:

The righteous who continually seek the Lord and grow in Him are often called by Him to speak or write His word in ways that add understanding to the heart of the reader. Those righteous speak a wisdom that points to justice, instructing us in the way we should go.

All of the righteous lot are called of God to “go to a friend” and talk with them about the path they are on. We are all to bear witness of our faith and the work of God in our lives whenever opportunity presents itself. These will couple their words of truth, justice, and wisdom with love, knowing that without a heart of love, the words come across as a clanging cymbal to the ears of the listener. Whichever way we are called of God to use our wisdom, whether friend to friend or publically, we must remember to couple our witness with love.

Let’s take a look at what the word of wisdom and justice looks like by turning to two key passages that give us a clue:

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8).

Jesus promised that when He went away to be with the Father, He would not leave us alone, but would send the Helper, the Spirit of God charged with teaching us wisdom and righteousness and empowering us to walk it. This passage tells us that part of His role as Helper-Teacher, is to convict or convince us of sin, righteousness and judgment. He does this in two ways:

1) He reveals the sin we are practicing, He instructs us in the righteous path needed to correct our lives, and He warns us of the judgment of God against such sin should we choose to continue in our own ways, refusing the work of our transformation in the power of His Spirit. This is the work of discipline accomplished by the Spirit in the life of a wayward child of God.

2) He grants us wisdom to discern right from wrong and understand the potential consequences for our choices so we can make right decisions that keep us on the righteous path. In other words, He helps us to weigh the pros and cons of a crossroad point of choice, equips us to discern the potential outcome, and gives us wisdom to make the right decision.

When people keep coming into our lives, telling us the same thing about what we should be doing and why; we would be wise to realize that the Spirit of God may be using those who love us to convict of sin, instruct in righteousness, and warn of consequences. Remember, the Father disciplines those who are sons and daughters through Christ. It is not a disgrace to enter in to a season of discipline that removes sin from us. It is an honor that proves we are His child.

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

Here James contrasts for us the false wisdom that comes from the fleshly, the worldly, and the demonic; putting it up against the backdrop of true wisdom that comes from God’s Spirit at work in us.

False wisdom produces bitter jealousy, selfish ambition of heart, arrogance, falsehood, disorder and every evil thing. Sounds messed up, doesn’t it? God is orderly and full of peace and love. Evil dwells and rules where there is discord, disorder, and chaos. So let’s contrast the false wisdom with true wisdom, breaking it down some to explore each characteristic found there. True wisdom that is from God is:

First pure – true wisdom will be based in good, godly motives and desires that protect and produce purity.

Peaceable – true wisdom handles things in peaceful ways that most often bring peaceable results not lending to an atmosphere of chaos.

Gentle – true wisdom has strength of resolve that comes across with gentleness.

Reasonable – true wisdom knows how to reason things out so as to lead to truth and unity.

Full of mercy – true wisdom recognizes the limitations of the immature and of those without the Helper, so as to grant mercy and deal properly with those of opposition to sound judgment.

Good fruits – most of what we have covered as traits proving wisdom are on the list of the Fruit of the Spirit, thus we conclude that true wisdom produces the Fruit of the Spirit in us. But we also see that following true wisdom brings about good results.

True wisdom is also unwavering: one who has true wisdom receives with it a heart of assurance and conviction that helps them stand, firm and resolute in the course laid out.

It is without hypocrisy: because true wisdom produces the fruit of God’s character in us and leads to the paths of His choosing and the heart of His purposes, it will always line up with a flow that comes from who we are in Him, and it will stand in agreement with what we profess to believe. We will not say one thing while doing another when dictated by wisdom.

“And the SEED whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

I think “seed” should be in caps here, as scripture teaches that the “seed whose fruit is righteousness” is Jesus, the Messiah King, Lord of lords, and Saving Grace. This Seed of righteousness in us is sown in peace and produces peace, the first in the list of flavors found in the Fruit of the Spirit. One Fruit—many flavors, all restoring the image of God in us.

Thus wisdom flows from the peace of God to bring peace to us that allows us to walk in wisdom with purity, being peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. We cannot have true wisdom without first surrendering to receive the Seed of Righteousness, Jesus Christ the Savior. Why?

Because His ways are higher that our ways; His thoughts are higher that our thoughts. We can reason in the flesh and come up with wisdom that sounds good to us and is agreeable with the wisdom of others, but we cannot discern right and true motives, or discover the higher road of His purposes without His righteous wisdom.

7) The Righteous Holds God’s Law in his heart to direct the sure step.

Oh, my. Don’t ‘cha know that to those of us who possess the Seed of Righteousness—being filled with His Spirit, seeking His wisdom—His Word is precious to our hearts? We long for the Word as our bread of life and living water. We don’t just grab it, finding what looks good to us and making it our own, for use often to promote and give excuse for ungodly ways. It grabs us. And by the power of the Spirit of God at work in us, His Word is used of Him to make us His very own possession.

The passages that affect me most and have done the most to change my life forever reached up off that page and grabbed my heart of flesh, circumcising it and kneading it into His own heart, filling me with desire for their proof to be in me, and making me one with Him in belief, desire, and purpose of action. Many of them continue to grab me and revitalize my commitment.

When I read “For my DETERMINED purpose is that I may KNOW HIM…”, my heart soars anew with increased resolve to grow ever stronger in this relationship (Philippians 3:10-11, AMP).

When I recall “Set your mind and keep it set! …” I get excited and check my course to be sure my focus lines up with His (Colossians 3:1-2).

My heart often cries out with Moses, “Show me Your glory” (Exodus 33). My life has changed forever, watching for Him with “earnest expectation and hope” (Philippians 1:19-20).

My boast is forever in Him, looking to Him for my approval as I remember that “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”, for I realize that I “can do nothing apart from Christ,” but “I can do all things through Christ who is my strength” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, John 15:4-5; Philippians 4:10-13).

“Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 3:11-16).

Through Jesus, we enter the presence of God through the Grace He supplies, and hiding His word in our hearts, we find our protection from sin, being transformed into His image anew.

8) The righteous rests in the shelter of God’s protection, trusting His judgment and advocacy when assaulted by accusation.

There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. When we hide His word in our hearts, letting Him tell us who we are, heeding His instruction for life choices, receiving the assurance of His promises by faith, we are protected from the false prophet and from the lies of the enemy who would beat us down and hinder our progress of faith.

By hiding His WORD in our heart, we know that through Christ we are saved by grace through faith, being adopted into the household of God, having right of inheritance with The Son as the adopted through Christ: and knowing this we know that when we commit sin, the Father of lights then disciplines us as children (Ephesians 1-2; Hebrews 12).

As children of God who seek the Father’s pleasure, we come in under His protection where no evil can eternally harm us. And when accused, He who does not condemn us helps us to know truthfully whether we are guilty of sin—equipping us to correct that area of life; and if we are not guilty, He assures our heart and has given us an advocate in Christ who “ever lives to intercede on our behalf” (Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 7:25).

9) The righteous waits for the Lord while keeping His way.

While waiting for God to move in our lives, defending us from assault, changing us from one degree of His glory to the next, delivering us from trouble and sorrow, we do not wait as those without hope, but we keep doing what we know to do until He changes our course. No matter the difficulty, by faith in God, forgetting what lies behind, we keep pressing forward to the goal through righteousness in Christ. Not taking our own revenge, we leave that to God and choose rather to “…overcome evil with good” (Romans 12), knowing:

10) The righteous is a person of peace because they take refuge in God:

God, through grace found in Christ, is our hiding place and our secure tower. Through Him we can have peace and walk in peace knowing that no matter what goes on in the earth, we, His children, have a posterity protected by God, an inheritance held secure in the heavens with Him.

Through His provision we have strength to face each day. Because He loves us, we do not fear facing any struggle or challenge, trusting that by the power of His Spirit, we are helped by God to face each day with His comfort in us. And because of the Christ who paid the price as propitiation (full and complete payment) for sin, bringing those who truly believe from their heart into the kingdom of God, we know we have deliverance from death through God.

There is no sin that can keep us, no trouble that can stop God’s will for us, no sword that can come against us to keep us from our appointed course, when we live the righteous life of faith in God: rested in Him, trusting Him, serving Him with a willing spirit of obedience and coming quickly to repentance when we fall.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no [filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming;] but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for 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.

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.’

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:1-17).

Tomorrow our concluding thought.

Dispelling the Darkness: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 9a

By way of review we will finish our study of Psalm 37 today and tomorrow in Part 9a and 9b as we cover attributes seen in the righteous lot; then we will have Part 10 in another passage to conclude our study of Dispelling the Darkness. This excerpt of our study is long as I seek to finish this series this week. Hang in there with me. We are almost at the conclusion.

“The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives. For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, but those cursed by Him will be cut off. The steps of a (righteous) man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing. Depart from evil and do good, so you will abide forever. For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” (vs. 21-29).

The remainder of Psalm 37 reveals attributes seen in those who practice His righteousness in likeness to Christ. Our righteousness is the product of a life surrendered to God for His use in the earth. God’s light shines bright through those who willingly surrender in obedience to His ways, portraying Christlikeness in all they do. Here in the remainder of this passage of Scripture today and tomorrow we learn 10 attributes that will bear out of the life of the righteous as fruit from the Spirit of God at work in them.

1) The righteous are gracious:

One fruit of a righteous life is the ability to be gracious. As I think on what graciousness looks like, I see that it requires the practice of Agape (Godly love), for the act of the gracious is to give grace. Grace requires forgiveness of wrongs done against us and it requires us to be able to relate with those forgiven with a spirit of graciousness.

This fruit of graciousness practices patience toward others. It portrays kindheartedness even toward those who hurt us, not being arrogant or vainglorious, and it does not act unbecomingly through rudeness and unmannerly ways. Graciousness is not self-seeking or self-centered; it does not merely looking out for one’s own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). All that is found in 1 Corinthians 13 is part of a gracious heart.

I am not going to go back over forgiveness again (see my blogs on that subject). I am going to say this. God hates broken relationships, because it is contrary to His desire for His creation and it misrepresents Him and His harmonious nature of unity. He desires our unity with Himself and with one another. But He understands that sin exists in the earth, and though we may forgive someone for a harm they do to us or another we love, that does not mean we will have a heart to go back to the same old relationship. That is why Jesus said that God allows divorce, because of the hardness of our heart.

Our ability to relate is adversely affected when trust is broken. Even God has shown this to be true of relationship with Him. When we break trust through sin against God, it brings a separation in our ability to have relationship with Him. But even in relationships that are broken by sin done toward one another that destroys trust, the practice of graciousness can and should be the trait of the righteous in Christ. There is still a relationship potential with those we forgive. It just may be hindered and changed by a wall of mistrust. If that is the case, the only thing short of a miracle from God that will heal the breech if for trust to be restored, and that takes time that often changes the dynamics of the relationship.

2) The Righteous are Giving:

As we said before, the righteous in relationship with Christ through saving faith have already inherited the land: we are part of His eternal kingdom and one way we experience His kingdom on earth is through our righteous practices. As the children of God, we are promised that we will receive of His supply: sufficient for every need, sufficient for every good deed, and surplus to help those who are in any need.

God graces us with His supply, giving us the ability to work and make a living. He supplies for us through the inheritance of wise parents who saved so as to take care of themselves in their old age and to have some to pass on as inheritance to their children and grandchildren. And He supplies for us in miraculous ways. All of His supply to us belongs to Him and is given to us for our wise stewardship. The principles of God are as stated above, and if we practice them well, we will find His provision in abundance. Read the following passages of scripture, and then I will give my opinion in the matter of our finances and wealth:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

“I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it (collect an offering). But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:10-14).

God supplies us sufficient for our need. He calls us to give to others “according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” He does not expect us to go hungry or let our children be without necessities while we give it all away to others. God expects us to meet the need of our families and to pay our bills—beginning with the Tithe to God through our home churches. It is obedience here in the use of our finances for our daily needs that shows God we can be trusted with more. As we show Him we will not fritter away our supply on our lusts, but will respect and follow His principles for their use, He trusts us with surplus.

Once we prove faithful with the little, He begins to call us to do good deeds, and He supplies extra, sufficient to cover the good deeds He leads us to. His heart desire and goal is that we grow strong in our stewardship in these areas so that He can then pour out abundance to us above and beyond the need and the good deed. Out of that abundance we are called to help in meeting the need of others “so that there may be equality.”

But it is our choice whether we prove faithful in the use of His supply or not: that should not fall to government. Governments take these passages out of context, thinking that no one is to be wealthy in this world’s riches while others are poor. Jesus said, “The poor will ALWAYS be with you” (Matthew 26:11). So what is it that we are to work at bringing to equality?

I believe it is that needs be met: that none be in desperate need while growing in their walk as stewards of His supply. If a man loses his job, we are to help him feed his family while he seeks another. If a woman’s husband leaves her and the kids, we are to help her get on her feet. Are we to give to all who have need? NO!

“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

God desires those who are His to grow to be good stewards of His supply, and He supplies through our ability to work. “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

Ephesians 4:28 says, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” This tells me that God desires us to grow through these stages of stewardship in our wealth, working up to a level of faithfulness that brings His abundance, so He can pour out His blessing through us to meet the need of others from the abundance He gives us. That is the call of every believer, and this giving heart will be seen in us as the fruit of righteousness springs forth.

Now there is a problem in our day, not only of people who take advantage of the welfare system and the benevolent organizations, stealing what could help another when they are either unwilling to work or are unwise in the use of their finances. There are also those who steal from the funds that should be used to pay their bills, “sowing” into God’s work as if to bribe Him for more so that they can spend it on their lusts and make more bills. This is backwards from what I see in scripture. God expects us to pay our bills, to owe nothing to anyone but love, and to be wise in what we deem to be a need.

Does that mean we should never get any of the niceties or things that bring us pleasure? No, but it does mean that we must seek the Lord’s opinion and bring our desires in line with His first, making sure He is wanting to bless us in that way and that we are not spending funds intended for meeting a need on our greed. If His peace is not umpiring the transaction, best to step back and wait awhile.

“For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12). All have a responsibility to learn how to live in sufficiency, recognizing and meeting their need, being content with what they have and not robbing the surplus that could be used to meet another’s need. The wealth God gives is His, trusted to us as stewards of His kingdom for our use in ministry to our own needs and the needs of our family, and to His church through the first fruits of the tithe, then to meet the need of others around us. And when we do help another, we should help them to realize their role as steward of the gracious gift of God, helping them on their journey to abundance.

Do you think this principle explains why scripture says more than once that the children of the righteous will not be seen begging bread? I do. If we are setting the good example of stewardship and righteousness, we will raise up a righteous lot of good stewards. But if they do come into any need, they will find the family, godly friends and their church standing at the ready to help them get back on their feet, and they will seek after and find the faithfulness of God to supply them with ability to again make wealth.

3) The steps of a (righteous) man are established by the Lord

The righteous seek the Lord for their step by step instruction for living. They trust the Lord to direct their path and establish their course. They also know and trust that when the path takes an unexpected turn, it is at the Lord’s bidding for a purpose of His own: whether as consequence for some sin, as pruning and refining our lives, or as a door of opportunity with some eternal purpose.

The righteous realize that they are secure in Christ with an eternity made sure. Any difficulty along the way to the eternal has Kingdom purpose, either to work something wonderful in their lives, or to help them on their path to transformation to Christlikeness. When the path takes an odd turn, ours is to seek the Lord for the next step and to discern the purpose, knowing that we are in the place we find ourselves for a reason.

Knowing that we are established for all eternity through Christ, “WHEN we fall, we are not hurled headlong, for God holds our hand” to keep us from undue harm. We are eternally perfected in Christ; but we are continually being perfected in our earthly existence. There are times in all our lives when we stumble over some root sin, or stone of temptation. God will allow it only as far as is necessary to get our attention and lead us in dealing with the root issue that makes us vulnerable to stumbling. But He never lets us go so as to lose us from eternity with Him.

Even if we die as the consequence of a momentary sin, being unable to repent for that particular sin, if our faith and belief in Christ is active and working in us, we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, secure with Him in the eternal realm.

Realizing that God only allows me to stumble in order to promote my growth in righteousness helps me to get back up, dust off, and be transformed to His likeness. And you know what causes that goal to be important to me?

4) The Righteous Delight the Heart of God

The righteous man seeks to know the ways of the Lord so that they may know HIM, and so they may walk in the way of the Lord, growing stronger in relationship to Him. This process of growth in the knowledge of God is important and vital in the life of the righteous who desire to be known by God, called by name as a friend of God.

5) The righteous, when he discovers sin within, departs from evil to do good in order to show His delight in the Lord and to bring delight to God. I have shared the following in my writings many times, but it bears repeating here:

Years ago, I was reading God’s word and, coming upon one of the passages that speak of us getting a new name from God in eternity, I sensed a familiar prayer to know mine well up in me from the depths of the Spirit of God as never before. And just as I thought I would burst with desire for the answer, I heard clearly in my spirit, “Abigail.”

Knowing God had something awesome for me to discover through that name, I pulled out my concordances and other books I have that show the meaning of words and names. In my study I discovered that Abigail has a twofold meaning, like the flipside of a coin. On one side it means “One whose heart rejoices in God.” On the other it means “One in whom the heart of God rejoices.”

This is the call of all who would be the Righteousness of God. We are to so greatly rejoice over the Lord and our relationship with Him that we will do anything to protect the relationship. And as we do that, He finds rejoicing of His heart in us.

Thus is the call of this study, be sanctified, set apart to God as never before. Be Abigails in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Scripture teaches that the sins of the parents are visited on the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. I believe that not only means that they will suffer from the consequences of our actions, but it provides a loophole in the law that gives Satan permission to set up stumbling stones before them, tempting them in the same area of sins we have fallen too. But the descendants of the righteous shall see the lovingkindness of God to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 20:4-6)! And we are told in our passage today that the descendants of the truly righteous – the children of us who delight the heart of God, will be a blessing.

We want our nation to rise up from the ashes? We want the prosperity of our children protected? “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Beloved child of God, seek righteousness, it is the only cure for our land and the best hope for our children. Sanctification begins in Christ, covering you with the blood of the Lamb of God, and making you His delight. And your righteous sanctification is perfected as you seek God wholeheartedly, desiring Him first and foremost, having no other gods before Him. As we in this way become the delight of God, the apple of His eye, He will heal our land.

Tomorrow, more on righteousness.

Dispelling the Darkness: A Look at Psalm 37 – Part 8b

“The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow to cast down the afflicted and the needy, to slay those who are upright in conduct. Their sword will enter their own heart, and their bows will be broken. Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord sustains the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they will have abundance. But the wicked will perish; and the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away” (vs. 12-20).

Yesterday we covered the first of three truths about the Lord that give example to us and resource that will brighten the light through us to dispel the darkness of evil around us. That truth covered is “The Lord laughs at the wicked, for He sees his day is coming.” We discovered that the wicked one that God laughs at is not the man or woman or child deceived by sin, but the evil spirit behind it. We, too, can find laughter when evil strikes, knowing that their day is coming. Today we cover in this passage the last two truths about God that we need to adopt in brightening our reflections of His light in dark places.

Two – “The Lord sustains the righteous.”

My first thought as I read this focus for today is that the Lord provides sustenance, meeting the need of those who walk in righteousness and right standing with Him. And that is true; the Lord blesses those who seek to please Him through righteous living. It can also be concerning to us when we consider the frequency with which we fall on our faces, hurled headlong by some sin that too easily entangles us. If it is true that God sustains the righteous, knowing that His sustenance continues through grace even when we fall on a daily basis, then there must be some deeper truth to be had here, right?

We are a people called to righteousness, yet still, I know of none who are without sin, even among us called “saints” through Christ. As we said before, our greatest good is as filthy rags before our Holy God, because apart from Him, we are incapable of doing good, thus true righteousness that honors God eludes our grasp as we traverse daily the path to righteousness found in His transforming grace at work in us.

Transformation can take place immediately in our lives, and I know some in whom that has happened, but it more often is a process over a lifetime, and too often we can find ourselves falling back into old ways when we least expect it. Paul, speaking of the people of the true circumcision in Christ, says:

“And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), ‘Let us do evil that good may come’? Their condemnation is just. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one’” (Romans 3:8-12).

We are told in John 15 that we can do NOTHING apart from Christ. That includes the practice of our righteousness. We are completely dependent upon the work of God in us through the sacrificial gift of Christ. Our light shines brightest in the earth when we stand in the light of His righteousness reflecting through our lives.

I love the exclamation of Paul as he debates his own struggle with sin found in Romans 7:14-25. Proclaiming his desire, Paul cries out, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do(in following the Spirit of God), but I am doing the very thing I hate (following the dictates of the flesh)” (thoughts added by author). Desire to do right in God’s eyes is often hindered by fleshly indulgences.

I struggle with this as did Paul, and as I am sure do you in some area of life. Right now I am coming against an addictive level sweet tooth, fighting for my freedom from that bondage. Things go well most days, then, wham! That tooth will flare up and, if I am not mindful to heed the Spirit’s lead in dealing with it, the next thing I know I am hurling headlong into a sweets-frenzy. In those times, like Paul, I cry, “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched (wo)man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? (AMP)” Then God leads me to remember with him, “O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord!”

Concluding His discourse, Paul interjects, “So then indeed I, of myself with the mind and heart, serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” We are free from the eternal grasp of sin’s death through Christ, and as we stand firm with Him in this life we are able to walk away from it. But we must continually be mindful of the flesh and, taking care to lay aside every encumbrance, we must stand firm against the sin which so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1).

What is God’s instruction to us when we are hurled headlong into a stumbling fall to sin? We, who are in Christ, are free from condemnation, knowing that through Christ, “When (we) fall, we will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds (our) hand” (Psalm 37:24). Our God promises that He is able to make His servant stand (Romans 14:4). We are a work in progress, yes; “continually being perfected,” and during this process and all through eternity, the righteousness of Christ is imputed or credited to us, covering us even while He works transformation in us (Philippians 1:6; Romans 3:21-26, 4:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30). When God looks at us, He sees the Righteousness of Christ all over us.

Realizing these truths will keep us from falling away in discouragement when stumbling comes to make us feel unworthy. We are unworthy: apart from Christ. So just get that settled now, and praise God for sustaining our righteousness through the gift of grace He provided through the sacrificial gift of God found the in Lamb who hung on the cross.

Three – The Lord knows the days of the blameless and their inheritance will be forever:

God knows the days of the wicked and laughs with joy that evil will be put away from influencing His creation on that day. And I believe He smiles with satisfaction over all who enter into His rest through their relationship with Him in Christ, God’s provision for our sanctification. Those who are in Christ, saints—yea, though they occasionally fall to sin—are covered with His blood sacrifice for all eternity.

Remember the “O thank God,” of Paul as he considered the struggle in his flesh even as strong as he was in Christ? The next verse in Romans 8:1, Paul resounds, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And for those who remain in Christ, this remains their truth forever, their inheritance with Christ assured.

So does that mean we can profess faith in Christ and carry on our lives as always? Remember what we covered earlier, the truth of our faith will be seen in the transformation of our lives that bears the fruit of the Spirit of God into the earth.

As many have been heard to say, “God loves us where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there.” If there is no change in our lives, no work of the Spirit through transformation, then there most likely was no sincere commitment to God through Christ. One sign that we are His is the hand of His discipline in our lives, working transformation in our person.

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

True children of God through Christ are children forever, their eternity and their inheritance secure. There is no one, not even we ourselves, who can take us out of the hand of God and remove His love from us when we are in sincere relationship with Him through Christ. To think that every time we stumble as we struggle with sin, we somehow fall anew into condemnation and must be saved again, is to deny the power of God through the finished work of Christ. It is to think the words of Jesus a lie as He breathed His last and said, “It is finished!” Death and sin were defeated at the cross for all who will believe and enter into this vital, life changing, transforming relationship with Him.

So laugh with God in knowing the day is nearing when wickedness can no longer influence our lives; smile with Him in knowing that He sustains our righteous stance in Christ; and bow to Him as a son, rejoicing that He cares for you to much to leave you in the condition in which He found you. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”