Tag Archives: Overcomers

Dear Grandkids, Part 5

Principle 4, the B – “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

This scripture does not mean that we are to look at one person as better than another, being judgmental; nor are we to have an attitude of, “I” am better than “them” so “I” won’t run with “them”. Then what does it mean?

It means that those who practice good morals and try to be good people, when in the company of those with a lesser moral code, can easily be corrupted. We all are corruptible. We never get so good on this side of eternity that we are free from the grip of temptation to do wrong. Running with people who do not have the same moral stance that we desire to walk in puts us into a position where we can, and too often will fall from our commitment to a moral purity in line with God’s will and way for us.

On the same line, giving our eyes and ears to things of lower moral excellence than we want to have can and will lead us to corruption. I don’t know a kid who ever said, “I want to be addicted to porn and a pervert when I grow up.” Or “I want to be a drug addict when I grow up.” Etc. But too often we run with people who are in such things and wind up trapped with them.

Even good friends who are normally good people can take us to places and to do things that are bad, making them in that moment to be bad company. Your job then is to set the standard for yourself and be a leader among your peers, helping others to come up higher as human beings of good character. We are to set our own minds and keep them set on the good paths of God, following His will and way (Colossians 3). By setting a good example and encouraging your friend to leave a bad environment, you protect yourself and them from corruption.

When finding yourself in a bad situation, decide now to have the courage and character to leave that place. If a friend is there with you, encourage them to leave too. If they will not leave with you, you leave, and if they are in danger of corruption, love dictates that you have courage enough to call for help in protecting them. If your friend is in a place that will be dangerous for them mentally, physically or morally, you need to be friend enough to tell someone who can help you draw them out of harm’s way.

Always make sure that you have a way to call your parents or another friend or family member who can come to get you.

Such situations as winding up in less than desirable surroundings and having to call parents to rescue you is one of those times when parents, afraid for your life and future, may overreact and punish you for going to such a place. Principle 1, 2 and 3 all come into play here in helping you to accept the consequence of letting yourself be led to a place of potential harm. Remember you are Keeping God First by Loving and Honoring your Parents, who also desire that you Know Who You Are And Who You Want To Be. God and your parents desire you to do those things that will help you reach your highest goals in life. Your parents actions are dictated by that desire. It is better to call your parents to help you out of a bad situation and potentially have to face a just or even unjust punishment than to stay where you are in the midst of bad company, setting a bad example for your friends, and potentially suffering harm for it.

Am I telling you never to have friends who are not Christian? No, not necessarily. What I am saying is that in any friendship, you need to always be the your own leader making choices best for you, and hopefully drawing others to the good things in life. Being the unwitting follower who falls into the pits of life with them is being a person who cannot take credit for their own bad choices, laying blame on others.

If you cannot have courage enough to say, “I will not do that. It puts me in danger of corruption, so how can I do that with you and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9), then you do not need to run with those who follow a wayward path in a life without moral commitment.

Dear Grandkids, Part 4

Principle 3, the third K – Know who you are and who you want to be:

You know, we cannot be our best self if we do not know who that is, and we cannot become more of what we want to be if we do not know where we are now and how we need to change and grow. Now is the time to begin understanding who you are, who you want to be, and how to discern where work and growth are needed.

Sit down with a pen and pad or Word.doc and write down the following things you see about yourself: what your strengths are; what your weaknesses are; your talents and abilities; your struggles and areas of your personality that leave you open to temptation. Now answer the following: When you die, 150 years from now J, what will you want people to say was true about you, and you be able to know that it was true? Write down the things you want to be true about you. Then ask yourself, “If they set pedestals up center stage at my funeral, displaying things on them that depict things of life that are most important to me, what do I want to be best known as important in my life?”

Too many times I have left funerals after hearing all kinds of good things about someone only to hear another leaving the funeral saying something like, “Were we at the right funeral? I never saw any of those good things in that person. Who were they talking about?” You have to decide now the kind of person you want to be, the character traits you want to be known for, and begin now to be that person, known for the things that are truly important to you.

The place to begin your search for character traits worth having is with God and His word. Some passages to consider in scripture that may help are Galatians 5 (especially verses 22-23); Romans 12; Philippians 1-4, Colossians 3.

Continuing on with the thought of self-discovery, answer the following:

What are things about you that you like and want to protect (example: loving others, caring about others, sexually pure until marriage, not addicted to wine or any other substance, etc.)?

What are things about you that keep you from being the best person you can be (stubborn, know-it-all attitude, unbelieving of the things of God, unteachable, resistant to change, manipulative, mean spirited, etc.)? Be real with yourself and real with God. It is often recommended to ask others what they see as your strengths and weaknesses, as we often times are too easy or too hard on ourselves.

Now that you have a picture of the person you are and who you want to be, it is time to plot the course to becoming that person. That means you have to set up some “do’s and don’ts” for life. Looking at all the things you see that are good about you and all the good traits you want to develop, answer the following:

What must you consistently do in being and becoming the person you want to be?

And what must be avoided at all costs – those things that would destroy your goal of becoming the person you want to be?

I would suggest doing a self-collage: a poster of pictures and sayings, words or scriptures that depict the person you want to be known as. Place it where you can see it and be challenged every day to be that person. Realize that as you grow and mature, you will need to re-answer all these things and update your collage. Mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity changes how we see ourselves and our goals for who we want to be.

Dear Grandkids, Part 3

Principle2, the L: Love and honor your parents.

Loving God and loving your parents will help you to give them the honor God dictates we have for our parents, and that will greatly help your obedience to the things they teach you about what is right and what is wrong, coupled, of course, with what God teaches us. Love, dearest, comes from the depths of our being, stemming from who we are in Christ. Love hopes the best for the one loved and strives to help them attain to it. Honoring parents begins with honoring God through the way we treat our parents and ends with living a life that makes them look good as parents, causing them to have a good reputation as parents who have succeeded in their parenting great kids. Even if your parents are unworthy of honor or respect, you can obey God’s call to honor them by being the great kids He desires you to be, expressive of His image, making your parents look better than their parenting skills prove them to be.

The world says that right and wrong are personal choices and, therefore, they are grey-matter with no clear definition; but Scripture teaches that right and wrong have clear divisions that help us to discern which is which with the help of God’s Spirit and umpire Peace. Your parents try to give you the guiding principles that will help you to discern right and wrong, but there is a false wisdom in the world that will cause you to question those guidelines. When that happens, there will be differences of opinion between you and them.

Remember this principle when you are angry with parents for standing in the way of what you want to do. When they put up roadblocks before you because they see something you desire as being something that will lead you astray, principle 2 coupled with principle 1 will help you to honor your parents as God desires you do. When struggling with your parents’ rights over you, no matter what may have led to them taking their stance on the matter at hand—differences in opinion will occur, but love does not stop. God is love. Love always moves to respond as Jesus would, in ways that honor God first and that seek the best for those we love.

When Mary asked Jesus to turn the water into wine, wanting to show off her Son, Jesus said, “You know, mom, it is not My time for being revealed to the world yet” (John 2:4 paraphrased). Then He lovingly honored His mom through obedience. As long as you practice walking in God’s ways, keeping Him first, with love and honor for your parents, you will bring joy to your parents and weather the storms of disagreement.

Dear Grandkids, Part 2

Principle1, the first K- Keep God First:

Remember that God is the one who can direct your path to His ideal plan for you. Pausing to give His Spirit a minute to instruct your heart before making a rash move that may do harm to you or someone else will protect you and keep you on a good path.

Of course keeping God first means that you must know His ways so you may know Him that you may walk in His ways (Ex. 33). It means that you must come into personal understanding of Who God is and surrender yourself to Him, not only recognizing that He is God, but that He is Lord and Master, having paid the price for you through Jesus the Savior. If you have not surrendered to His Lordship, you will find it difficult to Keep God First.

If there is any question about the sincerity of your relationship with Him, you need to talk to one of your parents, me, or someone of true faith who can help you come into the assurance of this vital Relationship.

Building this relationship with Him as Lord means you will need to commit to daily reading of the Scriptures found in the Holy Bible. There are teachings there that, with the help of the Spirit to teach you, will give you wisdom for making the best decisions. One recommendation I really like where the reading of scripture is concerned is that you read scripture using the following reading plan – 5 times through the New Testament, 1 time cover to cover; repeat as follows:

First Reading – John through Revelation

Second Reading – Matthew, skip to Acts through Revelation

Third Reading – Mark, skip to Acts through Revelation

Fourth Reading – Luke, skip to Acts through Revelation

Fifth Reading – John through Revelation

Sixth Reading – Genesis through Revelation

Repeat cycle.

This cycle allows you to get a firm understanding of the New Testament that will aid in better understanding the Old Testament.

If you will study God’s word, seeking to truly KNOW HIM, He will send His Spirit to instruct you and make Himself known. My life-verse, the one I am most inspired by and strive to attain to is Philippians 3:10-11, Amplified version. I hope that you will make this your goal for life as well:

“For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, which it exerts over believers, and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness, even to His death, in the hope that, if possible I may attain to the spiritual and moral resurrection that lifts me out from among the dead, even while in the body.”

Dear Grandkids, part 1

The challenge:

 

Hello, Beloved. Meems here with a heart full of things I want you to know. I am writing this to several of you with plans for it to be passed on to others of my babes as they get old enough to hear, and with hope that you will pass these insights on to friends now, and to your children in the future, as opportunity comes to do so.

We live in such a messed up world that sometimes it can be difficult to know the path ahead of us. You each have already experienced some challenges that have you standing in places of decision-time. As you get older and begin to leave the protective custody of your parents, it will be important for you to know how to make wise and good choices.

As a grandmother watching a world filled with news of drug abuse at record highs, peer pressure like never known before to do things that are not good things to be involved in, sexual perversion and sin rampant in our society, all effecting young lives at younger and younger ages, it is a concern to my heart that you understand some basic truths. I know that your parents try daily to impart these things to your hearts, but I also know that as your grandparent, it is my responsibility before God to help them to do that.

Awhile back I had this conversation with one of you in person. But you are all so scattered and busy in life, that opportunity for a face to face conversation does not always come easy. You are growing up fast, and now is the time when you need to consider these basics and how to apply these things to your daily lives. Following are five truths that, if observed in every time of decision, will lead you to the right path. Please write these things on your heart so when the need of remembering them comes, you will have these guiding principles ready and available to your heart. I’m going to call these the KLKBY principles. Thus we begin. (To Be Continued)

Under Compulsion

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.’” (Exodus 6:1)

I see here the Fatherly example of dealing with the strong willed personality: make life in the things they insist upon so uncomfortable for them that they have a change of heart that changes their path.

The strong-willed child gets stuck on what they want to the point that they cannot see beyond that to care about those around them and the needful things of life. They have to be shown the err of their understanding in ways that tame the child without breaking the spirit. God has a purpose in this life for those strong of will, but they have to be trained to recognize the True God and surrender their will to His. If we as parents fail to train them as a child, God will do it when they grow up. We may think it is difficult to discipline the strong-willed child and give ourselves to the ease of giving in to them, but wait until we have to watch them under the hand of God. That can be even more difficult to watch.

Of course, with Pharaoh God had a purpose here where He egged the ego and will of Pharaoh on. Pharaoh believed himself to be a god. The Egyptians worshipped many gods, including Pharaoh. Each of the 10 things God did in forcing the hand of Pharaoh was to show the people that not only was he not a god, but each plague sent was to show the impotence of a false god served by them, thus revealing the greatness of the One True God of Israel.

From this verse and insights surrounding the story of deliverance I see two potential situations we need to be aware of when dealing with strong-willed people: one is what is God desiring to reveal to me about Himself through the things I see Him doing in His dealings with the hard-hearted. There is something about Him to be known. The other is to realize my need to be very surrendered to God in my own dealings with the person, so I become God’s instrument in helping the stubborn to recognize their need to surrender to Him. It takes a courageous person to care enough about those around them to allow God to use them in helping another get over themselves.

God is still in the business of dealing with false gods and delivering people from their influence. And, like Pharaoh, we and those around us can be enslaved to the most powerful of false gods: our own ego. When finding ourselves being dealt with under compulsion by God, we need to get our heads out of the sands of Egypt and recognize our plight. God loves us where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us here. He deals with us as with sons. When He finds a stubborn issue in our person or life, He is not opposed to turning up the heat in whatever way that is necessary to work the dross of falsehood out of us. The quickest way to relief from the compulsory discipline of God is to realize His hand and cooperate with His purpose. But whoa to the one standing too close to the strong-willed little Pharaohs of life. It can be a fearsome thing to watch when God decides to deliver from false understanding and stubborn strongholds. And whoa to the stubborn of will when God decides to go through them to make a point.

The question we each must ask self today is “Which am I? Am I pliable in the hands of God, surrendered to His Lordship; or am I stubborn of heart? Is there an area of life in which I have not surrendered?” I don’t know about you, but I can immediately see an area I have in my life where I am under compulsion. It is better to choose today to let Him be Lord than to continue in the compulsory discipline of God. He has shown me the way. I must choose to obey. How about you?

(Chart revealing gods attacked: http://www.dabhand.org/Ten%20Plagues.htm ).

Genesis 1: The Creation Story, Part 6

 In our last excerpts we discovered how God created the great lights to distinguish day from night and give light to overcome the darkness. We saw how the Sun might represent God and the Moon, Messiah. We saw how all the bodies created revolve around the Sun and reflect its light. And we saw how the Moon reflects the Sun, overcoming the night, and showing the pathway through the night, just as Jesus lights the way to God. Then we saw that God scattered across the night skies more stars than can be counted (both planets and moons that reflect the light of a sun, twinkling in the night for us and true stars that generate their own light).

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The Stars: Realizing that many of the lights in the night sky that we see as stars give off their light by reflecting in the night the Light from the sun, we see that any cosmic body within reach of the sun’s rays will reflect its light. The sun, representing God in this analogy, is always there. It never moves. Planets, however, rotate as they fly around the sun, thus when we are on the side of the earth farthest from the sun and unable to see it, we are reminded of the sun’s presence by reflected light on planets and moons around us. God has placed the Moon and Stars to reflect the Sun, bouncing light to our path, reminding us on the darkest of nights that He has not moved. He is still there, beckoning us to take our cues from the Sun’s reflection off the Moon and the Stars we see in the night, so we can find our way in the dark. Like the sun, God can reflect Himself into dark places using any object, creature or being that crosses the path of His light.

We who believe and follow the guiding Light of the Moon—representing Jesus in this story I tell, are the star light, scattered, faces turned to the God we companion, reflecting Him in the darkness around us. When the Moon-Jesus is high in the sky, shining bright, He acts as an example for us in how to revolve around the Light of God and reflect His Glory, while simultaneously being in alignment with other beings near us who need the light reflected to them. Jesus gives off the brightest light in the night skies of this life. But, like the moon, there are times when we cannot see the light of Jesus. Remember and take courage that when we cannot see the Light of Jesus, it is because He stands between us and the heat of the Sun, interceding on our behalf. In the darkest times, when the moon seems to be nowhere, that is when God twinkles at us through the reflected light of others on a starry night.

Like the stars in the night sky above us, our light is lesser than that of the Moon, which has greater honor and rules the night, overcoming it through the sacrifice and service of His Love. And we are workers with Him, drawing near to God through Him, and, following His example, becoming a type of light in likeness to Him; thus we Stars are useful for piercing the darkness and giving light to help others find their way as well, by reflecting the light and glory of the Sun—the God of all creation.

But let’s not forget the example seen in the true stars, those other suns in the distance that have light within themselves. To me these flaming stars represent those who have the light of God within them. The Holy Spirit of God enters in to spark light from within. For these, even the darkest nights, when reflected light is absent, is overcome by the light residing within them. These are the people of God who can go through some of the most horrific things, and come through shining brighter than ever, because they have God at work within them, making them like He is.

Thus we have the great analogy of God seen in the sky. But there is more to learn from God’s pictorial.

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Notice now these Lights: the Sun that never leaves its position of authority and that cannot be overcome by the darkness, the Moon that revolves around and worships the Sun with us, the stars both the reflectors of light, and having it within us. The Moon, having overcome the night with its light, now reveals the path to right relationship with the Sun, revolving around and watching over us as victor in the world, showing us how to worship God and minister in His name, with the whole of life revolving around the God of its creation.

Now note that this passage says of these lights that they are all set in place “for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.”

God, like the sun, holds His place throughout the ages and His authority and reality is not hindered by lack of faith to believe. He is Who He says He is, and He can do what He says He can. He reflects Himself to us and reveals Himself through all creation, whether or not we recognize it. Unlike the moon, Jesus is fully God and one with Him. He, too, is throughout the ages. As example to us, His ageless testimony and sacrifice, follows every generation, beckoning us to follow Him in worship of and service to God.

Then there are the stars. Like the stars, we are in our positions as little lights—lamps, if you will—set here in this particular season of life, for a purpose.  

We’ve discussed the importance of the lamp before in other writings. Like the lamp, stars are scattered according to God’s will, placed in strategic places where their light is most needed. Some stars may seem dim to us, but if you get past the blanket of darkness to draw near, you will see the brilliance of their light, as they reflect the Sun. Our position in life: the age in which we live, the state of our condition, the destiny before us, is no accident. We are strategically placed where most needed for reflecting His light. You are not an accident. You are God’s creation, purposed to reflect His glory, and you are set on course with a plan. Like with Esther, God has a plan for your position in life. He is set to reflect His glory through you to light up the dark places in your path.

The story goes on to tell how God then created the fish of the sea and the birds of the air on the 5th day, with animals of all kinds following on the 6th. Paul, in the book of Romans, tells us that these too are a type of star as they are there to glorify, or shine the light of the Father that reveals the Creator God. But His greatest creation came, also on the 6th day, as God of all created beings worked in all His fullness to create man in His own image, able to know right from wrong and to choose right, thus being companions and friends of God.

We most reflect His glory when we follow the example of the Moon in revolving around the Sun. But notice something more here, as depicted in creation. As we revolve around the Sun—representing our entire being committed to relationship with God; God, in the form of the living Christ, God incarnate, the part of His being that can relate with humankind, seen in the action of the Moon, revolves around us, making all that He is available to us.

God’s greatest desire is for a relationship, a companionship with us. He watches over us in the night. He reflects His own light to us, making Himself knowable. He provides the path and gives light to the way for finding that relationship. He beckons us with His light, shining in the night.

 God can reflect Himself off of any object that gets in the path of His light. Many seem to shine with Him for a time, only to fall away when darkness comes. Thus, we need to note that the true star, the body that can shine light in the night even when something gets in the way of the Sun’s light, are those bodies that catch the flame of His Light. They are so in relationship with Him, that He puts Himself in them in the form of His Spirit, so they then can shine His Light in the darkest night, when the Sun is hidden from view. He grants to those who truly find the path of relationship and receive the gift of His Light within themselves the power to perform. He never leaves them nor can be hidden from them because He is within them. We are told in the Holy Bible that these are the stars that choose relationship with Him through the Sacrificial Lamb. Into these He places His Spirit to light up their life from within.

Over those who choose the position of the Star, those who choose to reflect and be filled with His Light, Creator God who ordained the night as well as the day looks on with a smile. With the beam of a proud Daddy, He says of His creation, “Wow. Attention, angelic forces! Attention all created beings. Look up. See it. It is good. Well done, though good and faithful servant.”

Shine on, beloved star of God. Shine on to light up the place where you stand.

Genesis 1: The Creation Story, Part 5

“Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Jacob. Sing! Beat the tambourine. Play the sweet lyre and the harp. Blow the ram’s horn at new moon, and again at full moon to call a festival! For this is required by the decrees of Israel; it is a regulation of the God of Jacob. He made it a law for Israel when he attacked Egypt to set us free.” Psalm 81:1-6, NASB

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There is one other thing about the sun that we need to know. It is too hot from its core for any living thing to survive in its presence.  

God had Moses build within the tabernacle a place known as the Holy of Holies. Moses entered into the presence of God when beckoned and communed with God, who called him “friend”. After that was ordained the call of the high priest for the year. God had Moses build within the tabernacle, the place where the “High Priests” of Israel entered once a year after a ritualistic cleansing to come before God on behalf of the people. To enter into His presence with any sin uncovered or without that invitation of God that stood yearly before those priests was to fall to one’s death, just as we would die if we drew too close to that sun in the sky.

Sin cannot stand before God. It and anything it is attached to burns up in the purifying heat of His holiness. When that High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, they tied a rope around his ankle so, if any sin was missed in his cleansing and he fell over dead, they could retrieve his body without putting themselves in danger.

There was a curtain between the inner court and the holy of holies, beyond which no person was allowed to go except for this once a year passage of the one called to stand before God on behalf of the people. It stood as reminder of the expanse that separates mankind from their Creator; that is, until entered the One who would bring down the curtain with His performance on our behalf.

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The Moon: Some might think this represents Satan in the cosmos of God’s creation, because it says that the moon rules the night and Satan is called the prince of the power of the air, ruler of the world forces of this darkness. But as I look at this passage with understanding that light represents God and His ways and darkness represents Satan and evil, I see that the moon represents the promised, Christ, the Messiah, the one I believe is Jesus, sent to rule as King, showing us the way through the night.

Looking at the portion of Psalm 81 shared above, speaking of the festival of Passover when God passed over the people of Israel as the angel of death took all the first born of the land in God’s battle against Egypt—a picture of the slavery of man to sin, we see reference to the moon. They were called to blow the rams horn at new moon and full moon.

It is awesome as we look at the cycle of the moon to see what that means. WikipediA says of this portion of the moons cycle, called the New Moon:

“In astronomical terminology, the new moon is the lunar phase which happens when the Moon, in its monthly orbital motion around Earth, lies between Earth and the Sun, and is therefore in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth. At this time, the dark (unilluminated) portion of the Moon faces almost directly toward Earth, so that the Moon is not visible to the naked eye.”

The new moon as defined here occurs when the moon stands between earth and the sun, as the mediator’s position of High Priest stands between man and God. Another definition for this phase of the moon is as the first sliver of the moon becomes visible in the eastern sky: a picture of the coming Messiah—the one who, in Christendom, is Jesus Christ. And we watch to the east for the coming Messiah, when He will return to set up His reign as King of glory.

I have shared before my belief that Jesus is God incarnate, being that part of God that has, all through scripture, been able to relate with man, bringing His message to those willing to hear. He is God, and yet, in His earthly existence, this part of God called the Messenger of God, the Living Word, the Angel of the Lord, chose to step down from His position with God to be the Living Sacrifice that would give example to man for a righteous life, while becoming the Sacrificial Lamb, slain for the sin of all mankind. Messiah is a lesser Light to God because He chose to step down from His high position to live in the lowly state of humankind as an example to us. God, the Father, is the Head, having greater authority than the God-man, Jesus. Jesus bowed to that authority throughout His earthly life, a life which revolved around the Father and His will, giving us example, and reflecting the light of God to enlighten every man. We see this authority differentiation as the Son bowed to pray, “Yet not My will, but Thy will be done.”

Jesus gained rule over the night because He overcame the world by walking in it as a companion to God, un-darkened by evil. He ruled over sin, becoming the Sacrificial Lamb that took upon His shoulders all sin for all mankind living then to now and beyond until the end of time. He ended the need for the sacrifice of animals by dying as propitiation—the full price owed for all that sin; and He carried that sin to hell where it remains today.

Our sin is already paid for and we are bought with a price, but until we acknowledge Him as the Lamb and receive His gift that covered our sin, we remain chained in slavery to that sin and destined to join it for all eternity. He is the Passover blood. Without His blood over us, we remain in slavery to sin, separated from God. The rams horn is blown at new moon, beckoning the strength of God to send His Savior to deliver us. When we face the Father, we can come into His presence without fear of death because Jesus, the Mediator, blocks the fervent heat of His glorious holiness.

The Moon overcomes the night, reflecting the glory of God by walking in His Light, reflecting it so as to show us the way to do the same, and making for us a doorway, lighting the path to our own relationship with the Father. By receiving His gift, following His example of coming into and walking in the Light, He breaks the chains of our bondage and frees us to live an eternity in that Light.

Now He holds that freedom from sin, paid for by His sacrifice, out to us as a gift to all who will believe; and receiving Him as our Sacrificial Lamb becomes the way by which we reunite with the Father. God has responded to the New Moon call of the ram’s horn. Through His obedience to God the Father, and His sacrifice for sin, He paid the price and became victor over the evil that worked death in us, otherwise known as separation from God the Father, brought about by slavery to sin. Jesus rules the night as victor over death and darkness, deliverance from bondage to slavery.

As we turn from Facing God to go into the world and live, we see the light of the moon, turning with us. The farther the earth turns from the sun, the brighter shines the moon as we see the sun’s glory reflected in the moon. Thus the ram’s horn blown at full moon is the call of the heart for Messiah to lead us, shining the way for us to live in obedience to God. God has given us the example of the Christ-man to follow until He returns to reign, when all who will have responded to His call to “choose today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Jesus rules over the dark, standing as the brightest light seen in the night, beckoning all to His brightness and leading all who will come near Him by faith to reunite with the God of Creation for all eternity. Then He stands as Mediator between us and God: High Priest forever, who needs no cleansing before He can enter the Holy Presence of God Most High. Thus the curtain was torn away and we come freely through Christ to the Father.

Even the fact that the moon is a dead rock speaks of Christ, for those who do not believe think that He is dead, for it was “expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish”, said the high priest of the day as empowered by the Spirit of understanding. It only appears that He is dead for a time, His resurrection and asscension standing as a call to believe by faith, giving us a choice for life, for “blessed are those who believe while they do not see” (John 11:50, 20:19-29).

One day He will reveal Himself anew as the returning Christ who will rule as King for a thousand years, and then the eternal Kingdom. In the wait, through Him we are called to make our choice. The choice to believe Him means we choose that our lives revolve around the Sun of our eternal universe, becoming in ourselves a reflection of the Light of the God of creation. Thus we come to the next aspect of God’s creation.

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God, the creator of the great expanse of darkness, having a purpose of His own, He scattered star light across that great expanse. Still today, if you get out where the darkness is dark indeed, you will see them, scattered thick across that great expanse, twinkling their light in the night, bringing hope, and even giving clarity of direction to those traveling under those night skies. It is no accident that we are told that wise men followed a star to find that Small Child in Bethlehem. Stars are a vital part of God’s plan in revealing the great glory of the Sun, as we will see tomorrow.

 

Genesis 1: The Creation Story, Part 3

Thus far in our study we have discovered God’s creation of light and dark that distinguishes day from night and gives visual aid for understanding good verses evil. Then we have covered the introduction of choice as depicted in the creation of the expanse that divided the water. Today, as I read on, I notice something that thrills my soul: the rest of the story that is illustrated in the creation seen in day four. Oops. Before we look at it, let’s not skip day three:

In day three, God collected the water together on the earth to form the seas, exposing the dry land upon which He produced a garden. In that garden He created various plants and vegetation that had its seed in it.

I am sure you have noticed, as I have, that God is a Creator who believes in variety. Yes, there are apple trees and orange trees, each having seed in it by which to reproduce itself. God obviously never meant for everything to be the same. But even in looking at an apple tree or an orange tree—or an apple or an orange for that matter, each will be different from the rest. God created there to be many varieties of plants, animals, and people. And though we have the seed of reproduction in us, and though there is likeness for each, none ever brought forth from that seed is exactly like another. There will be something unique and special about each one. And God looked, and He saw, saying, “It is good.”

We are not supposed to be like everyone else, so quit trying.

Some are smarter with greater wisdom for use of knowledge. Some are more talented in various forms of the fine arts. Others are gifted in craftsmanship. We can learn from one another and become better at being who we are in the process, but we are not meant to be clones of each other. Each creating being is meant to grow and become the best “me” possible.

To try to hold those who are gifted, talented and smarter back in their progress to becoming their best so one who is less apt in that area can feel better about themselves, is to rob society of the contribution those people can one day make if their gifting, talent, skill, and intelligence is cultivated and encouraged. To tell someone that they should be as good as that other one in an area of talent, gifting, intelligence, etc., frustrates their life, causing them to pursue after something that is not theirs to have, while keeping them from discovering what their strong-suit in life is.

We are supposed to discover that unique beauty within, created there by God, and rejoice in who we are, while finding a unity with Him and His companions in which to use our uniqueness in bearing fruit that betters the whole of His creation. It is through each of us becoming the best we can be that He is able to shine the light of His glory through us to those around us. Which leads us finally, to see something beautiful revealed in God’s creation-flannel-board of life, and at which we will begin to look—tomorrow.

Worth My Knee

Reading through John and pulling thoughts chapter by chapter to help me celebrate Jesus in this season of rebirth and renewal, John 18 speaks:

Jesus asked, “Whom do you seek?” (“Who are you looking for?” – NLT). “…When He said to them, ‘I am He’, they drew back and fell to the ground. …Put your sword in its sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it? …You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

It is very interesting that, as I go through John, remembering and celebrating Jesus, I come to these thoughts on this first day of 2012. My focus for spiritual growth in this year is to grow in my surrender to His Lordship, giving Him all that I am for His use in whatever way He desires. There are three things I see here that will help me as I begin this journey of the Spirit in this New Year:

~~*~~

Realizing, remembering and hearing within, by faith, that He is the Christ, He is the one we look for, will bring me to fall before Him in acknowledgement of His glory. He is God’s chosen King, the Christ, the One we look for.

I have always been amazed by this passage. I don’t take it as a mockery toward Him that they feel down. It is almost as if all who came to take Him to the death that would come to this One who so loved the world that He willing gave His own life, His love covering a multitude of sins; they realized in that instant that this was the One worthy of bowing before. He was worthy of their knee.

I think the fear of the Lord God, the Father, struck their hearts and put them on their knees before His Son and King. This is the heart attitude I must have as I begin this year of growing stronger in giving myself to His Lordship. I must come into greater depths of realization that He is the Chosen King, and He is worthy of my knee in worship and acknowledgement of His rightful position in my life. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

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Next, as I read His word to Peter when Peter tried to protect his Lord, I see the example set by Jesus as One who is surrendered to His Lord, “This cup I am to drink is from my Father. How then shall I not drink it?”

Jesus never gave us false hope. He never told us that God WILL heal every disease and keep us from suffering in this life we now live; that all things will be well with us at all times while here in this earth, ruled by the father of lies and lord of sin. That promise of complete healing and total safety is truth and can happen in the here and now, but it is for the life to come, perfected in eternity because of the sacrifice of Jesus in this world, saved for those who believe Him and given to those who receive Him as Lord now, through faith believing even though we do not yet see it in the physical (Hebrews 11:1).

So what did Jesus promise? He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. EACH DAY HAS ENOUGH TROUBLE OF ITS OWN” (Matthew 6:34). He called us to face today’s trouble with His power and leave tomorrow to Him. Grace is promised to be sufficient for each day’s trouble. Wasting that energy on worry over what MIGHT come tomorrow only weakens us and makes today’s trouble unbearable, having insufficient strength for today because we spent our strength yesterday on worries that may never come to pass. And if they do come to our life, we often find that we drained our strength through worry, having little reserve for dealing with it now that it’s here.

He did promise, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” Then He added, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Heart-trouble and fear are products of worry and fretting, often over the ‘what-might-be-s’ of life. To warn us to not let our hearts be troubled or fearful in life but to receive and live with peace of heart as He has gifted us to do says to me that there will be cause for us to have troubled and fearful hearts, and resting it in His care, receiving His peace to persevere is the solution that overcomes the troubling of the heart, preserving strength for overcoming.

Also He advised us, “These things (His words of warning, promise, hope and instruction) I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. IN THE WORLD YOU HAVE TRIBULATION, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Following Jesus will mean cups of trouble and tribulation that must be drank with understanding that as we walk through trouble in life with the peace and grace He supplies, we too will be overcomers. As such, we will be used of Him to help others to find relationship with God and His supply through Christ for dealing with troubled lives. Just as His sacrifice for us covered a multitude of sin, He uses our experiences in this life to help others who struggle as we have in knowing how to find hope, peace and restoration in their similar situations.

Someone I love dearly is going through a very troubled time right now, trouble that is too common to our world, the consequence of sin in life. He wants to see God’s mercy as His hand reaching down to remove those circumstances. I cannot seem to help him understand that God’s mercy keeps him in the hand of God, saved by grace through faith for an eternity in His presence, but mercy does not always remove consequences from our here and now. What mercy does do is supply grace sufficient to help us walk through the consequences with peace of heart and hope for eternity as we wait for restoration. And restoration will come; if not here, then there. It can come here. But experience tells me it does not usually come until we say, “Shall I not drink of this cup set before me by my Lord?”

So what is God telling me? He is reminding me that following Him wholeheartedly will not always be easy, but it will always bear kingdom fruit. As I grow deeper in my relationship with Him and as He uses the way I walk through trouble to help others in their struggle, it will make me an example of one who is an overcomer with Him. One cannot be an overcomer without first being one who has overcome, and we overcome by walking in His grace provided to us because He drank the cup and overcame the world, Satan, sin, death, and troubled flesh. We enter into Him who has overcome, receiving within us the hope of His promise and provision, so that we can walk through as overcomers.

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Lastly, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

The surrendered life requires that I recognize that He is the King, promised by God, and that I listen for and heed His “voice.” John 10 promises that those who are His hear His voice and follow Him. It also promises that the voice of a stranger will not be followed.

God taught me long ago to trust that He can make His voice clear to me. I trust Him to speak and move quickly to obey in faith that I hear my Shepherd-Master and am expected to follow without hesitation. When doubt enters, I begin to ask God if the voice I am hearing is that of the stranger, or if I am hesitating out of fear and disbelief, which leads to disobedience. And I am learning to seek the Lord to help me so greatly to know His voice that the knowledge of it keeps the stranger’s voice strange to me.

Who is the stranger? The stranger is my own flesh, which wages war against me, opposing God’s work in me; the world, which stands in opposition to God and His ways; and Satan, who desires to be God. These three, the flesh, the world and demons—which are the armies of Satan, are called “wisdoms” by James in James 3. These constantly speak a wisdom to us that is in opposition to truth.

As I begin this New Year with focus on growing stronger in follow-ship, in complete surrender to His Lordship, giving all I am to Him for His use, He reminds me to count the cost and realize that though it will be with challenge that I follow Him, He will help me bear it, and through me He will bear fruit for eternity that will make all worth it one day. No matter what this year holds, it is His voice that will lead me to choose life, and live it with abundance that glorifies His name, accomplishes His purpose, brings His eternal Kingdom to my reality, and bears fruit in me that makes me an overcomer through Christ: my Example, my King.

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As we begin this New Year, I pray for us to know the King of kings and Lord of lords. May we walk in His provision to overcome the world. May we have courage to drink the cup He sets before us, and come out of it having born the fruit of righteousness through resurrection power.

Get Up, Let Us Go From Here

“So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here” (John 14:31).

Through this Christmas and New Year’s season, I am putting up portions of scripture from John on my Spark and FaceBook status in celebration of the Christ for which I observe the season. There is so much meat in John 14, I want to put the entire chapter up on my status bar this morning. But with the New Year coming, this small portion seemed best of all to share.

Look at these words. Don’t they seem a good place to begin in preparing for a New Year? Jesus is our example for life, and what better place to end one year and prepare for another than to check our relationship with the Father.

Through John 14, Jesus tells of His leaving to prepare a place for us. He instructs that He and the Father are one, and we can see the Father by looking at Him – not His physical appearance, which is not truly known, but His character and actions, the things He gives focus to and the preoccupations He sets His mind on. Then He tells that we, too, can be one with Them, Father and Son. How is that accomplished? By following His example, developing like character, and doing as the Father commands us, setting our focus and preoccupations on the things that are important to the Father—on truth as He sees it.

As we draw a close to the year 2011, I must ask God how I have done at developing godly character and in following in Christlike obedience. In this evaluation, it doesn’t matter what I perceive that others have done to me. God is dealing with MY own character and actions right now. He judges me on the merit of my own choices, not what others did that may have led to it. Our relationship with the Father, the building of His character in us and our obedience in following the example of Christ is the true gauge of success or failure.

I first typed, “ask myself”, but our hearts are deceptive. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are better than we truly are. And we can also beat ourselves up pretty bad, beating ourselves down to a point of being useless to God, ourselves and others in the days to come. So let’s ask God for His opinion. God looks at the heart and He is not deceived. He will lead us to truth and work with us to increase righteousness and make us like Jesus, who is like the Father.

As we draw near to 2012, I must ask God what areas of life I need to give focus to in developing godly character; and I must recognize if there are specific instructions God is giving me for following Jesus.

I have a long road to go this coming year as I deal with Fibromyalgia and work to change habits of a lifetime that affect that health issue. It will not happen overnight. I did not develop the habits overnight, and unless God works a miracle, which is not happening yet, it will take time and work to change the habits. But nothing shall be impossible with God. As long as my heart is set on that as fact, there is hope. He will help me, and His patience toward me is unfathomable.

How about you? What challenge do you face this year? God has given me the following passage to encourage my journey. Perhaps it will encourage you as well.

“…Behold, I will make you to be a new, sharp, threshing instrument which has teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest or whirlwind shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the Lord, you shall glory in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:8-16, AMP). Wow! There is a whole other blog in that.

Father, as I consider this passage, I realize change will not happen overnight. I see this fact clearly as I consider this passage. A sharp threshing instrument which has teeth has to chew the mountain down one bite at a time. It will take work on my part, hard work, and deliberate effort. I pray for each of us as we face our mountains that we will have Your patience and endurance, Father. May we see our progress through Your eyes, and rejoice in Your work in our lives, giving You the glory due Your name. In Jesus, amen.

“I AM”

In one of my groups on SparkPeople community, we are covering the names of God found in scripture. Today, as I posted the next name going in the order in which they are found in scripture, deeper understanding hit my heart. It seemed good to share it here.

When someone introduces themselves to us and they give us their name, it is an honor. Especially when they give us the name they desire us to call them and it is an intimate, lesser known name. That is the honor God gave the people of Israel with the following name:

JEHOVAH (YAHWEH)—The Self-Existent One. I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14).

This common translation being true, when we see Jehovah used as the first part of a name for God, it is as if He is saying to us, “I AM”. “I AM your…”. This is its use when we see names like Jehovah-Jireh: “I AM your provider.”

The deeper?

As I look at this with the knowledge I have under my belt concerning who God is, I realize that Jehovah also could mean “The Self One” or “The Self-Defined One.” God is who He is. He knows who He is and who He wants to be. He is not conflicted like we too often are. He needs no one else to tell Him who or how to BE. He just is. The opinions of others that misunderstand Him do not sway His self-understanding and way of being, as it too often does us.

This is what I believe it means when it says in scripture that we are to be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). It has always been such a self-defeating understanding to me that we are to always do things perfectly as He does. I fall too often and that brings me to discouragement where following this edict of the perfect is concerned. But this new realization gives me hope. I can understand myself and be who I am.

We need to know who we are and what we believe to be truth so that we can BE who we are to be. When we know what we believe and how we want to be in any given situation, we are no longer conflicted and we are better able to endure whatever may come our way (James 1:4). Wow! Is that not awesome?

Thus God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not one way today and another tomorrow. We are to strive to be the same as He is, perfect in our understanding of who we are while we are continually being perfected to be more like Him, restoring the image of Him that He put there before the fall of man distorted it (Philippians 1:6, Genesis 1-3). By His grace, with this as the goal, I can be perfect as God is perfect while continually being perfected. And so can you. Nothing shall be impossible with God!

Tis the Season: To remember my life goal

Deeper roots. That is the call of God for my 2011 spiritual focus.  God has taken me into a greater depth of understanding that I can and must believe Him. No matter what is going on around me, I can trust Him, His truth, His faithfulness, His grace that is truly sufficient for every need. He is who He says He is. He can do what He says He can do. I am who He says I am. I can do all things through Christ who is my strength. His word is alive and active in me.

Thinking on these things, as 2011 comes to a close and as God begins to form my focus for spiritual growth in 2012, I am drawn to my life goal passage anew: Philippians 3:8-10, in the Amplified version of scripture, which adds to my understanding of that blessed text.

“Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege, the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish, refuse, dregs, in order that I may gain Christ the Anointed One, And that I may actually be found and known as in Him, not having any self-achieved righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands—ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired, but possessing that genuine righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, the truly right standing with God, which comes from God by saving faith.

“For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, which it exerts over believers, and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness, even to His death, in the hope that, if possible I may attain to the spiritual and moral resurrection that lifts me out from among the dead, even while in the body.”

It has been a challenging year for many of us. People have lost jobs, homes, loved ones. We have seen an adult child’s marriage dissolve, leaving us crushed in the quake of the cause of that break. Children struggle as never before. There are many life challenges that draw our attention and can leave us devastated. But this passages leaves this struggling one with hope in understanding that if all else is lost, as long as we come through it with a greater understanding of God and deeper relationship with Him, we have won.

We were never promised a rose garden in this life. In fact, Jesus said that we will have trouble in this life, but if we seek God first, He will meet us at our need. Every good and perfect gift in life comes from the Father. And for every difficulty that comes to us, He is able to supply our need to get through it and come out stronger for it.

I pray that your year was filled with more roses than thorns. But more than that, I pray that as you look back on your life in 2011, that you see more of Him and an ever deepening relationship with Him. He is the Rose that makes the thorns worth the trouble.

The Promised Lands of Life

What I have learned about getting older: it wasn’t the big 50 that got me; nor the usual 30 that everyone baulks about. It was facing 40 that nearly did me in. I kept thinking, “There are 70 years allotted to man, and if blessed of God, 80. Half my life is over!”

Then God reminded me, “After 40 years, they entered the Promised Land. There is greater still to come, kiddo.” So I am looking for the promise.

However there is one important thing God didn’t remind me of that I have had to learn from experience: the taking of the Promised Land was one battle after another, and it has been that way for me. I have grown spiritually more in the past 16 years than in all the 40 before them. But it has not been an easy walk to glory. It has been one spiritual up-hill-battle after another, usually focused on digging out some root in me that hinders my walk with God.

In this journey to the Promised Lands of life, I have learned from experience that the battles ordained by God are always with His presence in the fight—He never leaves me nor forsakes me; and it always works a greater good than I can even imagine. So press forward, Beloved of God, knowing the journey ahead may not always be easy, but it will be worth the effort in accomplishing the greater things of God’s glory.

In the Midst of the Rubble

As we have seen how glorious the cross came forth from the rubble after the World Trade Center collapsed and how tall the cross stood in Joplin in the midst of the rubble after the Joplin tornado we should be very encouraged about the cross coming forth in the midst of the rubble of our own lives.

Truly the old rugged cross makes the difference.  May we glory in the love of the Father who sent His only Son to be our own personal Savior in the midst of our rubble of sin and disgrace to make us holy and blameless in His sight.  May we be putty in the Master’s Victorious Right Hand for His glory!!!

I am reminded of what Betsy Ten Boom said as she and Corrie, her sister, were imprisoned at Auschwitz, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” Corrie also said, “JESUS was Victor; JESUS is Victor and JESUS will always be Victor.”

Have a most blessed day in JESUS…

NOW IS THE TIME,

Adele Simpson © (Used by permission)

“Behold, now is the accepted time:  behold, now is the day of salvation.”  II Cor. 6:2b

PS: I know many of us have watched and remembered with great detail the days of 9-11. It is important for us to recall the reason our young men and women fight today on the frontlines of that beginning. But as I listened to K-Love yesterday, I was reminded that after the rubble comes determined purpose, increased faith, and the beginning of restoration. Today let’s remember that as well and celebrate our God of new beginnings. HUGS to each as we morn the loss and rejoice in renewal, encouraged and strengthened by a victorious Cross that comes forth shining like gold in the midst of the rubble. Thank you, Adele, for this reminder.

Proven Faith

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8).

My study Bible’s footnote points out that Jesus, the Son of God and very God incarnate, “learned obedience through maturing and proving.”

The word “proving” reminded me of some things that God has been rolling around in my head with regard to Job and his suffering that has helped me to understand why suffering comes though there is no sin-cause. Do you realize that Job is reported to have been righteous in God’s opinion, and that it is God who pointed him out to Satan as an example of faith in the earth?

God allowed Job to be tested, not so Job could prove his faith: God already knew his faith; but so that God could prove his faith. When Job began to struggle under the load, that is when God stepped in, stopping the test, and giving instruction to Job for his maturity in righteousness. The hedge went back up as soon as God had proven to Satan the resolve of Job’s faith.

What load are you bearing that tests your faith? Realize that God knows your heart just as He did Job’s. Press forward with faith that proves what God sees in you, trusting with heart-knowledge that He will step in when the load becomes a burden, for “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Kindle Afresh His Gifting

“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

I still haven’t made it past verse seven as I read God’s word this morning, trying to press through the reading of 2 Timothy. God continues calling me to realize the role of self-discipline in my walk of healing from social anxiety and the stressor that brings it on. But today He highlights verse six for me. Did you note that to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” is our responsibility?

God is giving me opportunity right now to do just that as He has called me to volunteer some time each day at the college where my husband works, using my organizational and administrative gifts in working his office and taking care of secretarial needs there. To do so requires me to trust God’s power to equip me to overcome the struggle with social anxiety. Persevering in faithfulness to be there requires that I know His love and be a conduit of that love in caring more about meeting this need than I do about the fear that so easily assails me. And the practice of self-discipline to treat this as a responsibility to God and man and to do my best work without caving into fear is a must.

In hearing and responding to God’s call to fill this need, I had to choose to kindle afresh the gifting of God within me, trusting that He who empowered me in times past to fill such a role would do it again. Trusting His love to care for my every need and choosing to love Him and my husband enough to do this, I discipline myself to go forth and conquer the emotional onslaught that comes against me. In doing that, God graciously reminded me of a prayer practice taught by Dr. Jesse McElreath in his book, The Believer’s Confession Guide. In his book, He covers the confession we have as believers in Christ—knowing who God says we are because of that relationship. Then he covers numerous categories of
sin natures and all their various aspects to help us in our walk of repentance. Lastly he gives the following hedge prayer, giving a prayer for each wall of the hedge.

North wall – The Escape Prayer (1 Corinthians 10:13):

“Lord, I realize that no temptation has overtaken me that is not common to man. I confess that you are faithful and will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able. Thank you for providing The Way of Escape that I may be able to endure any work of the enemy.”

East wall – The weapons Prayer (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Philippians 4:7-8):

“Lord, I ask you to move into my circumstances and pull down all strongholds and false reasonings raised up against the knowledge of God and bring my every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I pray that the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Help me to think on things that are honorable, right, pure, lovely and attractive.”

South wall – The Armor Prayer (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 6:10-17):

“I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will wrap himself about me and that I would make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. I believe that the strong strength of the Lord and the full armor of God will enable me to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. I gird my loins with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness, and cover my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I take up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation and hold forth the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. With my armor in place, ci come against the ruler and powers of darkness which would seek to take me captive and I bind them in the name, power, and blood of Jesus and place a protective hedge about my life.”

West wall – The Position Prayer (James 4:6-10, 1 John 4:4, Revelation 12:11):

“Lord Jesus, I submit myself to you and resist the devil knowing that he has to flee. I cleanse my hands and purify my heart and confess godly sorrow for any sins committed against Holy God. I draw near to you and place the blood of Jesus between myself and all principalities, power, and rulers of darkness. I humble myself in the presence of the Lord, knowing that God is opposed to the wicked but give grace to the humble. I claim the overcoming grace of God in my life, knowing that greater is He that is in me that he that is in the world. Thank you for the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit which enables me to overcome because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of my testimony. In the strong name of Jesus, I pray, amen!”

May God empower us to overcome in the strength He supplies, through the provision and practice of love, and with the temperance of a sound, disciplined mind, kindling afresh the gifting of His grace and provision, making us useful to His kingdom and as His witnesses and workers in the fields where we live.

Healing Discipline

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NASB).

More people than has ever been recorded before time struggle daily with stress, depression, anxiety and fear issues. And in this time of war, we are seeing more and more people disabled by bouts of PTSD, Complicated Grief and Social Anxiety issues. This verse of Scripture is God’s provision for us in this day.

All versions of this verse that I read use the words power and love—except for maybe the old KJV that often used charity in the place of Agape love; but the word translated “discipline” here is often translated in other versions as “temperance” or “a sound mind.”

Temperance, having control of our emotions and not being given over to things like anxiety or fear, is a must for us to practice, especially if we suffer from emotional ailments that cause us to struggle in this area. Our being of sound mind, having right thought with regard to life issues and not being carried away by worry and fretting over things that are not yet and may never be, is also vital to our walk of freedom from fear and anxiety issues. But today this word “discipline” stands out to me as something we must consider so as to possess it in order that it may possess us.

If you are like me, as a wife, mother, and grandmother, I do not have time to be taken over by fear and anxiety to the point that I cannot function. Most of us have responsibilities that require our attention and demand that we be able to function. It is vital that we walk with disciplined commitment, doing the things we are responsible to do, taking care of our household duties and family responsibilities with faithfulness to God and family.

For those who work outside the home, we certainly do not have time to be overcome by our emotions to the point that we cannot function to keep up and take proper care of our duties as wife, mother, co-worker, and any other hat we must put on from time to time. Yet we are finding that so many people in society are stressed to the point that they find themselves to be fallen soldiers in life, struggling with these very issues.

Sometimes in our struggle with depressive disorders and anxiety issues, it is required of us to take a deep breath, and with self-disciplined resolve, do what is ours to perform, trusting that as we are faithful to obey the teaching of 2 Timothy 1:7, God will be faithful to meet our obedience with His power to perform. Amazingly, as we do what is ours to do, our thoughts turn from self and situations to God and others, and we find our healing.

Like the Son of a King

“Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength” (Judges 8:21, NASB)

Gideon won a mighty battle against the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. Standing before him, Gideon asked them what sort of men it was that they killed at Tabor. They replied, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king” (vs. 18). Gideon, who began in fear, led by God became like the son of a King; and that is what we are.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:20, NIV).

As we realize to whom we belong; as we relinquish all to Him and choose to honor Him in our bodies, we become men and women of strength. Whatever enemy we face today, we can face our Goliaths knowing that the same God who turned a wimpy, trembling Gideon into a man of valor, like the son of a King, is with us to help us stand against our enemies with strength. There is no battle too great for Him, and He allows no battle in our lives that is without purpose and glory to His Name, in preparing us and others around us for His Kingdom. Whatever giant you face today, realize to Whom you belong, and go forth with faith, believing.

“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” (Psalm 92:10, AMP).

Thank You, Father God, as this all goes together to make an awesome meditation for my day.

A Suitable Administration

“In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:8b-10).

The footnote says of this administration that God is working all things to bring in the millennial kingdom, so that He might head up all things. He is bringing in His Kingdom where He is ruler of all.

As I look at this, I see the inner workings of this ultimate work, as God places His people into positions in life for the purpose of accomplishing the work of ringing this millennial kingdom into completion. We each are His instruments, having an administration in this age we are in, a place in life where we have a calling and equipping from Him, that He is using to accomplish in our day this work of building His kingdom. It is the Esther principal: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Where does God have you right now? Is it a hard place to be? Are there things going on where you are that give opportunity for God to use you to make a difference for His Kingdom purpose? Have you sought Him to discern why He has you where you are in this season of life? Who knows whether you have not attained this position with a view to an administration for such a time as this?

Out of The Wilderness

“Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1 Corinthians10:5-6).

As I read God’s word in my quiet time, God’s highlighting stops me here. I feel like I am laid low in a wilderness. Now, granted, we are dealing with a grievous situation in our family right now, and I am at the end of the tunnel where the light is before me, leading me out of the pit that grief put me in. But still, it seems that I have been in a wilderness place a lot lately. If their wilderness happened as examples for us, so we would not crave evil things as they craved, I have to ask what evil I am craving that is laying me low in this wilderness.

My immediate thought as I think of things I choose to do is that I crave positions of authority—to be in control of things in life, and when I feel out of control, it lays me low. I crave positions of honor, and when I feel that others look down on me in my own life struggle, it lays me low. I long to be recognized as a godly woman of character, and when I feel some accusation, whether true or false, compromises that, it lays me low. Knowing these truths immediately as I read this passage, contemplating my own issues, I know that I must evaluate my heart before God, repent, and make sure I am doing what I do as His servant, called of Him, equipped by Him, and desiring only His glory, honor, authority, and recognition.

Am I the only one who struggles with wilderness issues from time to time? Well, I hope I am not the only reason for Jesus getting on that cross, but only each individual can judge for oneself. Thus, let’s do that. As I evaluate myself using the insights from these following verses, hopefully it will help others to do so as well.

 ~~*~~

Verse 7: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’”

I noted in the previous passages I read this morning that the idol is only a god of any authority because our minds make it to be such and give it that place in our lives. The idol is anything in life that we give power to in excess of the power God has to dictate us. We surrender to it instead of following the dictates of God’s leading.

I know that there are things that I give myself to in this wilderness I find myself stuck in and that hinder my coming out into the broader places of light and life that God desires for me. I too often bow to fears, frustrations, laziness, even health issues that I surrender to instead of trusting God’s promise:

“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 9:6-15

If I truly believe that God’s grace abounds to me so that I always have what is needed to do the good He calls me to, then why bow to these things that rob me? How many times have I marveled at those who struggle in their health, and how faithful they are to do things that go beyond their physical limitations? If they can tap into God’s sufficiency, so can I; by remembering the God I trust.

 ~~*~~

Verse 8: “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.”

When I think of immorality and seek to evaluate if any immoral thing has slipped into my life, I think of the verse that seems to define this sin: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

What am I doing that stands against my own body? For that matter, what is “my own body”?  Obviously this shell I live in is my body, so anything I do that hurts my physical shell needs to be dealt with if I want freedom from this wilderness. Self-care is an important issue to evaluate, as we are called to love and care for self as God’s creation, God’s temple, and in knowing that we can only love others as well as we love ourselves.

Then comes to mind these words: “the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31). My husband and I are one in Christ. Is there any immoral thing in that part of my body?

Also comes thought: “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” (John 17:20-21).

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

We are one body with God in Christ, and we are one body with God’s people. Is there any immorality in me that is sin against any part of my own body?

  ~~*~~

Verse 9: “Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.”

Trying the Lord—putting Him to the test: This was a temptation thrown at Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness. What was His reply? “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST”’” (Matthew 4:7).

We are not to use the promise of God toward us as excuse for sin. Yes, God’s grace is sufficient for us, but only when we are walking the path He desires for us in the way He requires of us. We cannot say, “I am going to do this thing over here that looks good to me and is a good work. Though the Spirit in me is saying ‘not this way,’ I trust God to give me sufficient for this good work because that is His promise to me.” Such is a misuse of God’s promise. If we are not following the dictates of the head, which is Christ, we bring dysfunction to our body and cause harm to our flesh, bringing on that wilderness experience.

In the same way, we cannot sit in our wilderness licking our wounds, saying, “God understands that I am but flesh,” refusing to get up out of our place of struggle and walk free by faith in God’s supply. This, too, tries our God, misappropriating His promise for our own desire. Thus I ask myself, am I trying the Lord?

  ~~*~~

Verse 10: “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”

Paul wrote, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13).

Too often we grumble against things in life, being dissatisfied with our lot. When we are grumbling, we are not praising God or being thankful for His good toward us. Job puts it into perspective for us as he speaks to his wife’s grumbling, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” To which God’s word comments, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

What grumbling has me snared?

  ~~*~~

Can the sins, failures, and struggles of those around us knock us into the wilderness? Yes. As Paul says, “God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

My daughter’s suffering at the hand of her husband’s sin can bring suffering to me and to all who love her; as she is flesh of my flesh, and she is one with me in Christ, so I hurt with her. But I do not have to let her suffering keep me in the wilderness, nor should my struggle bring her down. We each must evaluate where we are and why so we can walk out of this desert place and maybe even help the other through on our way. Thus I must ask self, am I using my grief as an excuse to lay down in my wilderness, or am I setting an example that she can follow?

And what about these health issues I struggle with: is it sin for them to keep me down? No. Sickness and poor health happens to the best of us when we least expect it. There are times when health issues are a legitimate hindrance. The trick is to find where that legitimacy starts and our wilderness ends. That is where I have to evaluate whether I am doing all I can to help my health improve. It is where I have to evaluate my faith and God’s call: do I trust God for the strength to meet Him at His call? It is also where I have to evaluate the call and discern God’s voice from the Pharisee in my ear.

A true call to service from God will come with the power to perform. It is vital that I recognize His voice and walk out His will when He leads me. But we also have to have wisdom to discern that there are those who would have us start an epidemic rather than miss church and thus break their idea of what it means to “fall to forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” And we have to realize that sometimes our sickness and need of others to minister to us is God’s call to those He desires to use in visiting the sick and ministering to them.

God will equip us with strength to do what He calls us to. When we are sincerely ill, doing all we can to recover, and the strength is not there to go and do what we or others think we should, we do harm to our body by pushing ourselves, and risk the destruction of our health. Thus, am I walking in the wisdom God gives, cooperating with Him in my healing; or am I—because of my tendency to want to be in control or to live in ways that others see as godly—pushing myself in ways that are against His will and destructive to my body?

“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come…” (vs. 11-15).

Thus, as I consider this testimony concerning those who have gone before me, I find the starting place for evaluating my own struggle, and the strength to walk out of it. Are you in a wilderness? Come. Go with me. The promised land lies ahead of us.

Darlene Davis © 7/30/11

Navigating Tribulation

“After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:21-22).

In the past numerous months I have become acutely aware of so much heartache and difficulty in our day:  As an instructor in a college welding program, my husband trains up welders for the fields of metals. Many of those who come into his school for this training are people who are or have been enslaved to methamphetamines.  Their ability to function has been severely impaired and it takes them three times longer to learn a skill than it does for non-meth effected students.

He also sees a lot of VETs come through, just back from the frontlines of war, devastated and hindered by varying degrees of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). They so long to develop their skill, but the noise in a weld shop brings on flashbacks and intrusive thought that hinders their ability to remain in the class, thus they struggle to get back into normal life.

Recently, our family has been devastated by a person we trusted being wrapped up in addiction to porn that lead to the harm of one of our children. It has crushed us as we watched what we thought was a good marriage disintegrate before our eyes, and as one we loved and respected became reprobate to us.

Then, as always, I think of those like my sweet daddy, falling to such things as paranoia, Alzheimer, and other age related mental issues that rob those they love of the person they knew, before their time.

So much in the world is crushing to us, bringing trouble to life, proving the truth of Jesus’ promise that “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage” (John 16:33).

In the world we have tribulation, Jesus tells us, but, look at the full verse:

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He has overcome the World, and through Him we can live as overcomers. Here in our focal passage, we get a glimpse of how we can overcome, as Paul points us to realize that through tribulation, we enter His kingdom. We have studied Kingdom living before as we looked at “Walking the Street of Gold on Earth” (https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/walking-the-street-of-gold-on-earth/ ). But today as I look at Psalm 37:3-7a and 34, a passage I meditate on frequently, I see more we can glean from Gods word to help us walk through difficulty in life:

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.  Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him….  Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land”.

In every difficult situation in which it is hard to know what is best, we are to trust in the Lord in ways that keep us focused on doing good in life. We are to dwell in the land in faithfulness, cultivating our own faithfulness to God in the way we dwell there. We are to delight ourselves in God, knowing that the things we need will be accomplished by Him in due season.

We can trust that in our doing of good, practicing faithfulness, and delighting in Him, He will bring forth our righteousness as the light and show our judgment to be true. But if we fail to do good and practices faithfulness in Christ that flows out of delight in God and a desire for a right relationship with Him, we cooperate with “tribulation,” inviting more to come. Recognizing this and putting these things to practice in every situation, we can rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to reveal truth. As we wait for the Lord, keeping His way while trusting His hand, we can know that He will exalt us to inherit the land in which He has placed us to possess it for His glory.

Easy? Not always, for as I said, some things we go through are hard to know what is His right path; like the situation with our son-in-law. Do we trust his cry of repentance and work for restoration that could put our little ones in harm’s way again; or do we protect our little ones, as pearls we refuse to cast before swine and see a marriage dissolved in divorce, knowing that God hates divorce (Matthew 7:6)? Should my daughter have to live with the intrusive thought of him with her daughter every time he reaches for her in intimacy? Is it true love for him to expect it of her? Or is she free to leave him in light of Jesus’ condition of immorality? And if she leaves, is she free to find love elsewhere? Is our forgiveness true, though we want nothing to do with him anymore: as Robert Jeffress says in his book, “When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense,” chapter 6: “I forgive you, but I don’t want to have dinner with you (or breakfast or lunch for that matter)”? Some things are difficult to know, but one thing I do know, whatever we do must be done in faith, trusting God to lead, and living the days ahead in righteousness that reveals God as God. And He who is God will make our righteousness known and prove our judgment to be from Him.

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

May we be found facing tribulation in faith, believing the overcoming power of our Holy God and Christ.

 

The Talents Revisited: Part 2

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master….’” And likewise did the slave with two talents (:19-23).

Yesterday we were informed in the beginning of Jesus’ account of this well-known parable that each was given that which they received “according to their ability.” What “ability” might this be for us, as we consider our character, empowered and equipped by God’s Spirit as our “talent,” charged to our responsibility of care?

I would suggest our ability is determined by our understanding—our comprehension—that brings us to belief. According to our ability to believe, we are given charge.

When I heard of the promise found in Jesus at the age of 10, I had childlike faith to believe in the degree of my ability to comprehend. As I grew in my ability to understand this awesome gift of Jesus, my grasp on the importance of this gift and the responsibility that comes with it grew stronger. With growing ability to believe, I began to use the “talent” God charged to my responsibility, expending it in ways that brought increase, making me ready for the returning Christ.

How do I know this increase in my life to be true? By the produce seen that points to our success as servants given charge of the wealth of our Master. What is it that is produced in me and in you who hold in trust the resource of our God? This week we will look at four ways our expenditure of God’s resource will produce a harvest worthy of His trust, beginning with:

Produce 1 – “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

When we believe God about any facet of His work or desire to work in us, He grants to us a measure of faith to help us succeed. Faith, along with the Kingdom of God, is two things that Jesus described as being like a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6; Mark 4:30-31). The significance of the use of this analogy is seen in the words of Christ describing the mustard seed in Mark 4:31-32:

It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”

The Spirit sows within us this seed of faith, which begins to grow in measure with our ability to believe. As we expend faith through belief, it grows stronger and bigger, producing a harvest of faith-actions. Each experience of faith fulfilled increases our ability to believe, and thus, our measure of faith. But there is an arch enemy of faith we must be alert to. What is it?  I believe we see that enemy of faith in the account of the third servant of our parable.

“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours’” (:24-25).

Because of fear, this one the Master later calls worthless and lazy hides the “talent” of His master in the ground where dead things belong. He never does anything with or for it that would cause growth and a harvest. Any growth that might come to one dictated more by fear than faith is then smothered out by the weeds of life.

One cannot walk forward to productive living while being dictated by fear and faith at the same time. Either fear will win, bringing stagnation in growth, or faith will win. And faith must win for increase to come that makes us good stewards of God’s supply. Faith empowered by the Spirit must prevail.

Consider then the truth that God gives supply to us for the purpose of producing a harvest. He expects increase. That being true, did this worthless slave return to his Master all that was His?

Over and over in Scripture we see the provision of God in the power of the Spirit that is given to those who profess to believe. It is expected that our understanding of these truths will cause a work that will grow the provision of Spirit into a harvest, one beyond our natural ability, thus glorifying God and increasing His Kingdom. When we fail to show this increase, we rob God of the full return.

Now, with faith in place and growing, let us continue to the next aspect of the Spirit’s produce. See you tomorrow.

 

Darlene Davis © 6/24/11

Bride Awaiting

Read Matthew 25:1-13

“…The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’…” (Matthew 25:8-9).

Have you ever tried to minister to someone who is constantly struggling in their faith; constantly battling anger, resentment, fear, or a sundry of other fruits of doubt, disbelief and failure to trust God to be God? It is difficult, isn’t it?

As I read this passage, thought of several situations cross my mind, particularly those like one friend of the past. When she moved to our area, she seemed strong in faith, loved to sing for God’s glory and did so professionally; she enjoyed encouraging the faith of others. This woman was injured some time before moving to our area, being thrown from a horse and suffering a head injury that nearly killed her. As a result of her injury, she suffered from a seizure disorder that required medication to keep it under control. She so longed to be fully healed and never to have to take those meds again, but God continued to hold back that healing.

Instead of being grateful for the meds that brought a functional healing to her, as time went by, this friend gave way to anger and bitterness toward God for not moving in the way she thought He should. Many of us tried to encourage her faith to trust God’s way, but one by one, each fell away from close relationship with her, feeling themselves drained by her bitter lashings. That friend finally found herself in a mental institute, where, as far as is known, she remains today.

What was the problem that led to her demise? I believe this passage in Matthew 25 reveals some truths that show how any one of us can fall away from God, lose close relationships, and end in bitter straights.

First, like the foolish brides in our passage, my friend had many friends, and she leaned heavily on them, calling on them for her encouragement, looking to them to fill her cup with oil. What is this oil? Well, it could be related to many things in life, but as I read our focal passage I see the oil of God’s Spirit flowing too and through us to others. It is good to encourage one another. Scripture even teaches us that we all have a load we must bear personally, but there are times when the load becomes a burden and we need help with it (Galatians 6:1-5).

There is nothing wrong with sharing encouragement with one another, but each has a responsibility before God to seek Him first and get our Oil of encouragement and enlightenment from Him. When we constantly look to others for our source of strength, we put them in the place of God, and He will not allow that to succeed. Plus in constantly relying on others around us, we empty them of their supply while seldom or never flowing anything back their way. Even though they may try, I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to receive words of encouragement from a person who seems never to practice the “beliefs” they speak. So God causes such a person’s friends to realize that they are sapping their supply and putting them in danger of running short of what they need for ministry opportunities He has for them. Thus He leads them to fall away from the relationship so that struggling person has to run to God or sink in the mire of doubt and disbelief.

Second, I see in this Matthew passage that, yes, we each have a responsibility before God to be sure we go to the right source for our provision of Oil, and we also each have a God given right to recognize when that supply will be misused and wasted, leaving us in need. Note that the Master did not condemn the virgins for failure to share when they realized it would cause them to fall short of being themselves ready for the Bridegroom. He condemned those who failed to seek His supply for themselves so as to be ready when He arrived, saying, “I never knew you”. Why did He never know them? They did not give themselves fully to a growing, vital relationship with Him.

Here is the question: Which am “I”? Am I one who is always looking to others for that push to do what is right and have faith? Am I one who is constantly drained and sapped of strength because I do not know how and when to say “No”? Or am I one who seeks the Lord first for my supply—which He sometimes sends my way through others who have wisdom to discern how and where to use their supply?

God desires that we know Him personally, being supplied the Oil of the Spirit by Him through that relationship. He will let no other have His rightful place in our lives; He will remove them if they try or if we rob Him of His place in our lives by seeking them first. But as we seek Him for ourselves, He is faithful to give us all we need, pouring His light through us, producing fruit in our lives, creating for Himself a bride made ready as she awaits the Bridegroom.

 

Walking the Street of Gold on Earth

“I did not see a sanctuary in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:22-24, HCSB).

As we saw a mission team off from church a couple of weeks ago, my pastor read most of Revelation 21 from his Holman Christian Standard version of scripture and the above passage within that reading caught my attention. Numerous articles ago God led me to write about how He is “The Secret Place” in which we can find refuge from the fearsome things of this life. As we draw near to Him, trusting Him to be our sanctuary and our protection, we find in Him the secret place, the sanctuary that gives us rest from the difficulties this life holds. And as we learn to live in that place of sanctuary, we can walk without ungodly fear in this life.

As my pastor read the above, I realized that this passage in Revelation combined with the Psalm 91:1-2, AMP, passage gives us a picture, telling us
that when we learn to dwell in The Secret Place of God, we experience the Sanctuary of heaven on earth. That excited me, as there are numerous such passages that tell us how to experience heaven on earth: a spiritual practice that keeps us living in that place even now, that place where we will dwell for all eternity. Thus we have this first point on learning to dwell in The Secret Place of God’s Presence, where we are safe in the Sanctuary of the Heavenly Kingdom, protected from fear. So what are the other passages that came to mind with this revelation?

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

This passage tells us that we experience God’s kingdom on earth as we walk in righteousness. Righteousness begins as a heart issue, for from the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Paul taught that he could eat food sacrificed to idols because he knows there is only one true God and he eats with gratitude to that One God for the food received as from Him; but he chose to not eat it for the sake of those who did not understand this truth (1 Corinthians 8).

Over and over in Scripture God reveals through His inspired word that it is the circumcision of the fleshly wisdom of our heart that leads to true righteousness. For the Christian, we understand that this circumcision of heart comes through recognizing the sacrifice of Christ as needful for salvation and by following His example which reveals to us the true righteousness of God. James tells us that this righteous wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:13-18). When we learn to walk in righteousness on earth, we experience what we will find on the golden street of the New Jerusalem where no unrighteousness is allowed entrance (Revelation 21:27).

Note that peace comes to us as we practice this righteous wisdom. Learning to walk in peace as promised to us by Christ in John 14:27, we experience the peace of the eternal kingdom. What does that promise say?

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Jesus brings to us a peace that comes from knowing the righteous fruit He bears into our lives, equipping us to know the peace that comes from God to those who practice His righteousness. There is no need of fear when our fear is only in God, the righteous fear that leads to choosing His right and good over that of the wisdom of the flesh, the world, and demons.

With His peace, we also find our Joy in the Lord, as in the power of His spirit we walk in righteousness to find His peace. This joy in the Lord, Nehemiah tells us, provides for us the strength we need to persevere (8:10). Therefore righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit of God bring a slice of the heavenly to our daily lives. Through this practice in the earth, we bring the glory of God found within that life into the eternal kingdom. It is worthy of noting that in the Psalm 91:1-2 passage provided for you below, that dwelling in God, in His presence—His sanctuary, requires this practice of righteousness, peace and joy if we are to succeed at remaining in His sanctuary. These practices are required for us to dwell in Him. But there is more we can learn about Kingdom living.

“For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus—the leaning of your ENTIRE HUMAN PERSONALITY on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness—and of the love which you have and show for all the saints—God’s consecrated ones, because of the hope of experiencing what is laid up, reserved and waiting for you in heaven.” (Colossians 1:4-5a, AB)

Note this Amplified version passage tells us of some things we do “because of the hope of experiencing what is laid up, reserved and waiting for us in heaven.” We experience it while on earth, with the promise and knowledge that these things we experience in part here will be our existence in heaven. What are these things?

First is the fact that by faith, when we lean our entire human personality entirely on Christ with absolute trust and confidence that by His power and wisdom and goodness, we can be all God desires and designed in us, we know in part our heavenly existence. Can you fathom that? To live with peace that as we trust God’s lead and provision through Christ for our very personality, we can rest ourselves in Him. No more struggling with dislike of self or with insecurity as we trust God through Christ’s provision to make us all He desires we be, even in the personality we exhibit. Without this work of God in our personality, we will not have what is needed to lean that personality fully on Him in faith. It is a necessary work of faith to equip us with personality that honors and trusts in God fully. When we struggle to be who we are with faith in God, we fail because we do not trust Him to work through our personality in the power of the Spirit.

Next we see that we experience heaven as we practice God’s kind of agape love toward others; and by trusting that, as Christian brothers and sisters, God gives those around us His agape love toward us. A walk of faith, trusting God’s love for us, entrusting our very personalities to Him, and loving and being loved in God’s way opens the gates of heaven to our today experience. What joy, to realize a piece of heaven on earth as we practice these things for life more abundant and full. It brings new meaning as we look at Psalm 91:1-2 in the Amplified:

“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!”

As we learn to practice His Secret Place, Sanctuary living day by day, we become stable and fixed in our personality, faith, love, righteousness, peace and joy, walking on streets of gold in hearts of purity toward God and each other.

 

 

 

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 4

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

Many years ago, after the death of his mother, my husband’s grief came out in ways that made marriage difficult at best. In fact, if it was not for God, I wonder if we would have made it through those days. What happened to change my Sweetie in that time? Not much really, his change came after the fact; but as I sought God for strength to persevere, a lot happened to change me.

The first thing God did was grab my attention through Isaiah 43:25. Here is where God taught me the truths shared with you in my Ponderings posted in April, titled “Forgiving God’s Way: Parts 1 & specifically 2” (found under archives in April 2011). Learning that forgiving every perceived insult “for my own sake” would deliver me from anger and bitterness, and leaving my husband to God for Him to deal with would free me to love him unconditionally and incorruptibly made all the difference in my ability to bear the fruit of perseverance and forbearance while God returned my husband to me.

Another thing God led me to in that season was 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. Every time something was done to bring hurt and heartache, God would lead me in several different versions to look at that passage and find the attribute of love that was needed to be practiced in that situation. As I did so, I learned love and grew stronger in bearing that fruit out in my life.

Another passage that spoke clearly to me was Philippians 4:8, “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.” As I read that verse one day, God spoke to my heart to find something good in my husband each day and to dwell on that. As I obeyed that instruction, my attitude toward him changed, and that change came out to him through improved words and deeds toward him.

Early in my practice of dwelling on the better things, God inspired me to purchase a two-year pocket calendar. He instructed me that for one year I was to write down something good about my husband that I saw in each day. Thus I did at the end of every day. I asked, “So why a two-year one? Why not just one year?” To which I heard in my Spirit, “You will see.”

So I purchased that two year—plus a few months—calendar and began my project just before thanksgiving. Everyday I would think of something I noticed in that day. Some days were easy. Others, not so. Some days all I could think of was something like, “I love the color of his brown eyes.” At the end of one year, as I read through that calendar, I was amazed to find that not one day was exactly like another. I had 365 reasons listed that I found good about my man. But the greatest thing I found is that my attitude toward him was 180 degrees different, my love for him stronger than ever, and I learned true grace toward others that sets them free to be and me free to rest in being my best with them.

Then God told my heart, “Now, I want you to wrap it and give it to Johnny for Christmas.” I did so, little knowing what God had up His proverbial sleeve. My sweetheart carried that calendar in his lunch box for five years, and has it put up in safekeeping still today. During those years of carrying it, he read it often, and he took it to heart. The good things I saw in him, he wanted to do even better at, so God used that calendar to inspire good in my husband that is still producing its crop today.

Scripture working to direct our lives and bearing its fruit within is only one side of the coin. On the flip side, I once went through a season of receiving great words of truth, instruction for living, and encouragement for the practice of faith, but God was not having me write about it, I felt longing to speak it. I longed to share the things God was giving me, knowing that as they benefited me, they could help others as well. Called of God to go on mission to Ukraine, as I was packing, the Spirit nudged me to grab my notes on those lessons. When on mission like the ones I go on, it is sometimes difficult to get a good quiet time in, so I thought God was sending those for me to use for meditation while there.

In these trips, we go to work with churches of the area. The Project leader came to me and said, “Darlene, we are short people. Do you mind going to a church by yourself?” Now I told God I trusted Him to put me where He needed me and make me able, and God reminded me of that as I opened my mouth in response. “Sure.” The church I was posted to was in a small town outside of the main area being worked and the church had hoped for a preacher. They got me.

That first Sunday morning service, the pastors all formed a circle as we prepared and began to talk seriously with my interpreter. Directly she asked me, “Darlene, can you preach.” Good little Baptist woman that I am, I said, “If you mean, can I share an encouraging word from scripture, yes” (My pentecostal friends giggle at that). I shared those words of encouragement through nine sessions that week, two Sunday mornings and every night between; and God had me ready with outlines drawn up. That church did not bring into the services large numbers of those who did not know Christ. They kept the services for the people of the church and were hungry for words of encouragement. God used His word to bear fruit of encouragement in the lives of the church there.

During each day throughout my time there they took me to many who did not know Christ, where I shared with individuals and groups in their homes. Fifty-seven people turned their lives over to Christ that trip through another teaching God gave me for use in sharing the cross of Christ with them.

Am I sharing all this to brag on me? No. But all of this testimonial word gives a clear picture of all the ways God’s word bears fruit: in us personally as we walk out His instruction with faith to believe, in other Christians as we share His word as encouragement, and in those who need deliverance  as we share the message of Christ.

“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” (Hebrews 4:12).

Only as we study God’s word with open heart to receive it, understand it, believe it, trust it, live it—in good times and in bad, can we see it bear fruit into and through our lives. And when we do so faithfully, we can know beyond doubt that it will produce a harvest of true and eternal treasure in this life and the next. So go forth and prosper, my friend. I am praying for your understanding to grow strong in the Lord.

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 3

 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. …”(Read Matthew 13:18-23 and Exodus 3).

Take a look at this picture, because I believe this shows what happens when we let the worries of the world and deceitfulness of wealth or sin into our lives.

Do you see the conversation of God with Moses here? What about conversations you have with God—or self as if to God (Luke 18:9-14 – note who the Pharisee is said to be praying to)?

Note the large, flattened stone under all the boulders of doubt and fear. I may have it so covered up that you can’t see it, but pressure with heat on a stone, the wear and tear of good soil being washed away, makes for these large, flat boulders that absolutely cover the good soil of the earth—or the heart, hindering the good seed from reaching the soil where it can sprout forth to grow. This is what we do to ourselves when we choose fear over faith, doubt over believing God; when we look to self without considering who our God is and the might He has within Himself to work His will in our lives.

Note the little eyes, peering out from its hiding place. This was me for two years as Complicated Grief Disorder took hold, capturing my focus in all the deceptive thoughts, attitudes, and disbelief that took hold on me. Is it you? Is this the picture of your life, or of portions of your life?

Also take note in our focal verse that this person is able to hear the promise and instruction of the Lord. They know it is from God. They know Him, His power. They are His chosen instrument. But their focus, like Moses, is on their own ability without consideration of God’s equipping. Their fear and anxiety see the limited power of the forces in life and they pull away in fear without considering with belief the almighty and unlimited power available through the God above all. Thus, because of failure to focus with faith on God and His promises to those who believe, bedrocks of doubt form becoming obstacles that hinder God’s good seed from taking root: producing nothing.

For years now God has given me focal verses to meditate upon for long periods of time, sometimes for years, meditating upon them at least weekly until I fully comprehend and receive the truths there as my own bedrock of belief. One such scripture I am focused on this year, being reminded of it often, bears testimony of Abraham as spoken of him by Paul in Romans 4:19-22:

“Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.”

Note that Abraham recognized his andSarah’s own weaknesses and the seeming impossibility of it all. But what did he set his heart to believe? The promise of God, who is fully able to accomplish in us all He proclaims. He believed God would be God in his life.

The difference between thoughts of concern that lead to bedrocks of doubt and that of recognizing what is while waiting with hope for what is to come is the focus of our belief. Where do we rest our faith? Are we like the Pharisee who looks to self so much so that his prayers are seen by God as being self-focused, never touching the heart of God? Whether through self-righteousness or self-preoccupation, this is a danger we must realize. Or are we like Abraham and the Tax Collector, realizing our own limits and flaws, but knowing that with God, nothing shall be impossible?

And what about fear: where should fear be? What was it that saved Joseph, and even Jesus from the deceitfulness of sins lure? When tempted by Potipher’s wife, what fear saved Joseph? “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

And Jesus’ temptation? “Then the devil took (Jesus) into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, “HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU”; and “ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST”’” (Matthew 4:5-7).

Do we fear God enough to trust Him? I don’t know about you, but I would rather believe for a miracle from my Miracle Making God of all power and live with hope, believing, producing the fruit of faith, than spend one more wasted day in the grip of ungodly fear, worry and deception.

“NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. …And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6, AB and NASB).

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 2

“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. …” (ReadMatthew 13:18-23, and chapter 21).

“Hosanna!” the people cried out in Matthew 21. “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”

The people believed that Jesus was there to save them. But, as we know, when Jesus was led to the cross instead to the throne, the people quickly fell away. Why? What happened to their faith?

“Expectation” happened to their faith. They had their understanding of what Messiah would do—He would come in to save the people as many before had done, gathering the force of God’s chosen nation to lead them to break the yoke of those who had authority over them. But it did not happen the way they thought it would–not yet anyway, so their faith, hindered by the hard, rocky, under-soil of expectation, died in the heat or reality.

Is Jesus the Messiah Israel watches for? I believe so. But before coming to fulfill the promise to Israel of deliverance that will set Him on a throne, He first provided a saving grace, a final sacrifice for sin that reaches not only those of Israel who will receive and believe it, but out to an entire world. One day the Messiah we both await will arrive in the body of this resurrected Man-God, Jesus, riding on a white horse, all the forces of heaven at His beck and call, to defeat not only the oppressive force of this life, but the eternal enemy of God that powers that oppression. Then He will take His throne in the earth, just as it is in heaven now, and we will be one together in Christ forever.

Meantime, the little faith we have forms a top soil in which hope from the seed of promise sprouts, but is often hindered from taking full root and producing good fruit by the error of expectation unfulfilled in the way we anticipate.

Jesus, in Matthew 21:43, told the Pharisees of their day – and ours: Pharisee representing a spirit of hypocrisy in our day, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” That’s us, folks, the one who has faith in our day that He is who He says He is, and though we do not see it yet, we know the promise of eternity is coming to fruition in due season and in God’s way—not mans. Thus through faith we allow that hope to work in our lives in ways that produce a crop that honors God, making His Promise known to all who see.

Earlier in this same chapter of scripture Jesus cursed a fig tree for failing to produce fruit, proclaiming that it would never do so again. Then He explained to the disciples questioning the act that failure to produce fruit is a sign of lack of faith to believe.

Faith is the producer of good soil in the heart of man. The greater our faith to believe God and trust His way of doing over our desire and expectation, the deeper the soil of our heart will be; ready to receive the seed of His word and produce a crop of good fruit into the earth.

What is this fruit of the Kingdom?

We see numerous passages that give us instruction for recognizing the fruit God is looking for in us. Galatians 5 tells us of the fruit that God’s Spirit produces in us. Add Colossians 3 to that for still more personal fruit that will be found in the life of a believer with soil deep enough to sustain the seed. Personal growth in our ability to love as God loves, know the internal peace that overshadows the sorrow of life, be faithful, and the state of humility that equips us to draw nearer to God in our personal knowledge of Him are just a few of the flavors found in the fruit born out of the life of one who believes by faith.

Paul, talking to the people in Romans, 14, encouraging them to take care to accept people in the faith they have and not judge those of little faith harshly says something in verse 17 that gives us a picture of the fruit of the Kingdom in which we are to major. “…the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The faith we are to have in God should produce in the individual the building of their character that increases His image in them and that reveals to all the depth of faith they hold. These spoken of in this second point made by Jesus in this Parable of the Sower have a little faith, enough to believe until things do not go as they hoped, then they fall away out of discouragement, never growing deeper in faith to trust God and His way, nor producing any significant fruit.

Jesus, in John 12:24, says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If we are to have deep faith, we must let our expectations of the way we think things ought to be die under the sword of faith to believe that God holds the better plan in His hand; and He will do things in the way that will produce in and through us the greater fruit.

God has many times spoken promise to my heart in specific situations, many of which I have seen come to pass to the glory of His name; but seldom in the way I expected. Trusting and seeing the proof of it fulfilled has deepened my soil of faith, equipping me to believe the seeming impossible with greater patience and perseverance. One such time was through a very real dream that grabbed me and stayed with me. Going through a divorce, one babe on my hip, the other in the oven, crying out to God in fear as I fell fitfully into a restful sleep, I dreamed of a God-given husband who loved me and my children. One year after marrying the man I have been with for almost 36 years now, that dream was suddenly a moment in time as I watched it come to pass, like a memory relived.

I will put my long story up here one day, telling my dream come true, but suffice to say, God keeps His good word to us. There are other clear words of promise God has given that I still wait to see, but He keeps reminding me of His promise, and experience of His move in other areas brings faith to believe as I wait for these promises to be seen. Meanwhile faith digs deep roots of hope in me.

So go forth, dear friend, with faith and hope to believe in and trust God, even when it is unpopular and others think you foolish to do so. The thing about the fig tree is that it was not the season for figs. To expect fruit was seen by the disciples as impossible and unreasonable. Jesus wants us to know that God can do the impossible, even when it seems unreasonable, in ways we cannot even imagine. But we must choose to trust His promises for He requires our faith.

“For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment” (Luke1:37, AMP).

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Defined #4: Power to Perform

“According to the grace of God (the special endowment for my task) bestowed on me, like a skillful architect and master builder I laid [the] foundation, and now another [man] is building upon it. But let each [man] be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10, AB).

According to grace, we do our work in Christ. Did you see the definition? Here the grace revealed in this passage is “power to perform” our tasks in life and in our God-given work.

I am often struck by a passage speaking of Christ that says, “and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” (Luke 5:17, NASB). Since noticing that portion of scripture, I pray to work in God’s “power to perform.” Now I see more clearly that His power for the task is a work of His grace toward us and it is awesome to behold.

Last segment we learned that God’s grace is not only unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, but it is power to overcome the things of life that hinder our growth in redeveloping and walking out of the image of Christ, and now we see that His grace empowers us to do all that He calls us to, all that is needful for us to do in this life.

Whatever task is required of us in our God given rolls for life here, whether it be the daily tasks and duties of our offices and stations in life, doing our work as unto the Lord, or whether it be tasks found in special called ministry opportunities, God is committed to pour forth through His grace all that is needed to empower and equip one fully surrendered to and trusting in Him for the task of His calling. Oh, if Moses had understood that from the beginning, what a difference it would have brought him when his call to service came. Exodus 3 would have been a totally different testimonial chapter, don’t you think.

And what about you and me? What difference does this truth mean for us today? For me it is a new assertion from the Father, saying to me, as He said to Paul:

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

There is no weakness we have in our flesh that can hold back one rested in and empowered by this grace of God’s supply. When we fail to remember this, putting our eyes on our weaknesses as Moses did in Exodus 3, we too insult the living, all powerful and trustworthy God who calls us. When God calls, “I can’t” does not belong in the vocabulary of one truly rested in His grace, trusting in Him.

So what will you do with this grace, now that you are aware of its power?

“And now [brethren], I commit you to God [I deposit you in His charge, entrusting you to His protection and care]. And I commend you to the Word of His grace [to the commands and counsels and promises of His unmerited favor]. It is able to build you up and to give you [your rightful] inheritance among all God’s set-apart ones (those consecrated, purified, and transformed of soul)” (Acts 20:32).

(PS: God added one more session to our study of grace. I am excited to share this and am heading now to write it out. See you back here tomorrow, by the grace of God’s power to perform.)