Tag Archives: Righteousness

Journey to Self-Control: Part 4 of 7

To Self-Control, add: My journey continues!

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” ~ 2 Peter 1:5-7.

“Now for this reason”…What reason? Verse four answers my query, telling me that because I am among those who are recipients of the promises of God, I am, by His promises, to apply the following so that I can “become a partaker of the divine nature.”

There it is. I am on this Spark Journey for the purpose of experiencing God. And I am to experience Him as I walk with Him to develop within me the fruit of His Spirit found in the practice of self-control. This passage God led me to adds understanding to my path.

To DILIGENCE, in faith—faith in what? God and His promises.

God's Promise2

Practicing diligence with faith in God and His promises, I am to supply moral excellence—the immoral man sins against his own flesh (1 Cor. 6:18). I must realize the importance of this journey anew as I recognize my body as the very temple of Holy God, and be deliberate in behaving in ways that are beneficial to the health and well-being of God’s abode.

To moral excellence I add knowledge. That means I must study to be approved so I know what I am doing on this journey.

To knowledge I must add—and there it is—self-control: my deliberate effort to do the good empowered by God.

To self-control is added perseverance. God does not always change us in an instant. More often than not, He does His work here a little, there a little. To become discouraged is to fall away. If I truly want this, it will require me to persevere.

Persevere3Through this cycle we find godliness—His nature, alive, well and working within, which produces brotherly kindness, and well-springs with Love—God is love.

After God started speaking to me, reminding me of this lesson learned long ago, my self-control bounced off the wall of exhaustion and fell into a bowl of ice cream about two hours after dinner last night, breaking my “No ice cream” streak and my “Stop eating after dinner” streak. Because of God reminding me that to self-control we add perseverance, I did not fall to discouragement, but was immediately able to get back up, dust off, and carry on. As the result of not falling into a binge, but immediately getting back on track, the scales were up only two tenths of a pound this morning. Today has been strong again.

Two words that stand out to me for adding to my practice of self-control:

  • Perseverance – Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.
  • Diligence – Earnest and persistent application to an undertaking; steady effort; assiduity (??). Attentive care; heedfulness.Persevere6
    • Assiduity – Persistent application or diligence; unflagging effort. Constant personal attention and often obsequious solicitude (??). Devoted attention.
    • Obsequious solicitude – essentially “as a servant seeking the aid of her Master.”

Thus, my journey continues as I determine to be diligent in my efforts to persevere, not raising the white flag of surrender in my journey to have victory in the area of self-control, but by the power of the Master to whom I cry out as the supply needed to win the goal, I stand firm and press forward.

(One more blog point to follow and our journey to self-control is finished…for now 😉

The Journey to Self-Control: Part 2 of 7

Continuing to share my SparkPeople journey to self-control:

Feeling Good About Me in the True Victory!

SparkPeople community moderator Denise says: “Don’t let the scale tell you how to feel about yourself!”

As I sought the Lord about where to begin on my journey to experience Him through my journey to improved health, He pointed me to the flavor of “Self-Control” found in the fruit of the Spirit’s produce in us. I know that flavor is a vital bookend to the fruit of the Spirit, Love holding things together on the one end, and Self-Control on the other, but that is the flavor of the fruit of God’s presence that least enters my mind when I seek His flow in the day. Yet it is there, a bookend to all the others, signaling me to the need of my deliberate effort in surrendering myself to His controlling power of life if I truly want His Spirit flow.

So I began, and as I prayed to discover a starting place for my journey to experiencing Him through self-control, He led me to start anew the goal to eat nothing after dinner unless it is something lite and healthy in response to true hunger. I made it through last night, day 1 on this renewed journey to the goal of overcoming night time eating, and it showed on the scales in a big way this morning.

Now I know that extreme changes in diet—and this is a biggy for me—will result in water weight loss, so I am not letting that loss determine how I feel about myself in this victory. It is not the scales that are the true success, but the success in standing firm in faith to practice self-control, calling on the Lord for strength as my husband had his snack, and seeing success in staying the course and winning the day. That is cause for rejoicing: increasing my nature of self-control as a faithful, faith-filled child of God.

On this journey to discover how I can experience God through my weight loss and lifestyle change efforts, I promised to look at two of my life goal verses, sensing there is wisdom to be gleaned there. The first is found in the Amplified version of Philippians 3:8-11.

“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 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.”

Self-control means to die to something, denying self in order to enter into the controlling power of God’s Spirit, bearing the fruit of life in the earth. As I learn to walk in the power of dying to self, I experience more of Him through His power that resurrects true life in me.

Wow! To God be the glory. I think I will mull on that one for a while. See you back here in my next post.

Take Up Your Cross – Trade With Christ

Cross2God is really encouraging my heart to realize the cross we are called to take up. It is not one of our own making, but one He gives us to carry in His name, just as He took ours in our name and bore our penalty of sin. My heart is soaring with renewed strength in realizing the cross I take up is one He trades me.

Jesus bore my cross and yours at Calvary, paying the full price on our behalf. We do not have to continue to bear the cross of sin, shame and sorrow any more. Once we receive His gift of grace, the cross of judgment’s condemnation comes off our shoulders and He hands us a new cross to bear. Here is what I see as I think on all God is revealing to my heart.

Jesus says to me, “Darlene, I want to use your communication skills to my glory. Now take up your cross daily and follow me to fulfill your purpose in my Kingdom.” Then he hands me His cross as my own, which like His yoke, is lite and easy to bear. How does He do that?

He says to my heart, “I give you the tongue of disciple, that you may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. I awaken you morning by morning, awakening your ears to listen as a disciple. Your tongue is Mine, the pen of a Ready Writer, useful to Me as a conduit of My word of praise, promise, warning and instruction” (Isaiah 50:4; Psalm 45:1).CrossDaily05

Receiving His word of instruction as promise, I take it up as my cross to bear by believing with trusting faith that He will fulfill it, and I follow hard on His heels, trusting my verbal and written tongue to Him. He flows surely and easily through my mind to fulfill His good will and purpose. The only requirement of me is my willingness to believe by faith, surrendering myself to Him for His use, and watch Him accomplish His purpose in me. You be the judge. Does He?

At times He gives me a difficult word to share with another, and He tells my heart, “Fear not for I am with you. Speak my word with boldness and it will accomplish the purpose for which I send it” (Example scriptures He might use with me are: Isaiah 12:2 and 55:11). So I do as He instructs, sometimes trembling, but always trusting, taking up the cross He gives me to carry. And He brings victory through the word to me in my obedience, and to all who receive it with faith, taking up their cross to walk out CrossDaily04His instruction, hard on His heels.

Like the yoke of Jesus, I am coming to believe His cross is ours to carry as we complete what remains to be done in the earth in His name. And like His yoke, His cross is not meant for us to carry the weight of it; it is a student cross where He, the Teacher bears the load and we learn as we carry the lite end. He carries the bulk; and we help by surrendered trust to do all He instructs us in following hard after Him as students of righteousness.

Thus I say to you, reader, take up your cross with faith, knowing the cross you bear is filled with promise that produces victory to the praise and glory of God.

Religion: or Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Count Your Blessings A Comfort

“If the world were perfect, you would never experience the pleasure of receiving comfort from Me” ~ * Sarah Young.

I know how true this is, but to see it in print brings a whole new dimension to life in a world of sorrow and hardship. How would we know the comfort of God if we never experienced the need of it? This truth is awesome to realize.

If Eden had stood firm and we all lived in perfect bliss, in the constant presence of God with His full provision at arm’s reach, we would not realize how blessed a life the Garden of God provides. We would not know the extent of the joy and security of the Secret Place of His presence if we never knew fear and distress, loneliness and sorrow. And the assurance of His provision would go unnoticed if we never tasted hunger, depravity, helplessness, worry, and hopelessness. Joy and peace would have no measure without sadness and anxiety to mark the other end of the continuum. His righteousness, grace, mercy, and love would escape us if we had no understanding of sin, shame, judgment, disappointment, and even hate.

Thinking on these things brought whole new meaning to these words of Jesus as I read them this morning:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” ~ John 4:10.

Oh the gift of God; to know and understand Him because we have a gauge of measure for recognizing just how great He truly is. Realizing the contrast raises in me greater hope and anticipation of His coming to take us home to that Garden, my friend. Does it you?

God longs for us to experience His full provision, relationship, peace, and power. For that to be known, we must know the opposite end of the equation. Rejoice, beloved. As difficult as it may be or get here in this life, there is an opposite to be known in the Secret Place of God’s eternal presence.

“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]” ~ Psalm 91:1, AMP.

* Sarah Young, Jesus Today, Devotional #15, Page 34.

The Gift

Truth about sensuality, sex, and marriage.

Watch video: Touching Animation of a Dying Man’s Final Words of Love to His Wife – True Story!

There is something important I want to tell my grandchildren, and the video above sets it off. Watch the video and note the gift of love shared in a life together.

Kids, Meeme loves you, so I am going to speak quite frankly to you about a difficult subject: sex and marriage.

Jesus-Bride001The sensual intimacy of sex, when approached God’s way, is beautiful and fulfilling. It is the greatest, deepest level of giving one’s self to another that can be shared. God has given you one gift that you can give back to Him and to one other in life: that gift is all-that-you-are; the greater depths of the intimate expression of yourself out of love for another.

You will give a part of yourself to many people throughout life, as needs arise and God inspires you to for their encouragement and to help those people through a time in their life. You can give encouragement to many; you can give love to all; you can give expressions of emotions in time of need: but all you are in mind, heart, emotion, thought, sensuality, will, soul, strength belongs to only two, God and the mate He brings to you.

The one part of you that God requires you save for Him and your mate is your sensuality: that special intimacy that is deep and abiding. That part of you that becomes one-flesh with the one with whom you share it. When we fall to temptation to give any part of our sensual self to another before we are united as one in God, we lose a part of ourselves that cannot be fully restored. When you give any part of your sexuality to another outside of marriage, you link with that one in a way that will forever haunt you to rob of the joy of intimacy with God and the husband or wife He has for you.

What the world calls “petting” takes part of the gift God has given you for sharing with husband or wife and robs the purity of the gift.

The pornography many turn to causes expectations that can destroy our ability to fully give self, or to give sincere acceptance of the one who gives themselves to us. Porn gives a false impression of how people should look, how the act of marriage should be experienced, and it robs of the beauty of the emotional connection that marital union should possess.

And by the way, oral sex is still sex.

Do not let the devil lie to you and tell you that as long as you have sex with the belief that you are one in God that you are married of heart and it is okay. If that were the case, there would be no need of the law that says fornication is sin (1). There is a ritual that is seen over and over through scripture that designates two as married to become one in unity with God. That picture is the giving of the bride to the groom by the father.

We see this in the Garden of Eden as God, the Father of Eve, gives her to Adam to be his wife and helpmeet, the completion of him as they become one in union (Genesis 2).

We see it as the servant goes to get a bride for Isaac from the people of Abraham. The head of household, Rebekah’s brother, in the absence of her father, and her mother, after making sure she was agreed to the union, gave her to be wed to Isaac (Genesis 24).

It is seen when Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, after being raped by Shechem, was given to him as his wife. They were not married by the rape or sex act, they were married by the giving of the bride to the groom (Genesis 34).

I believe Jacob chose to give her to spare her the shame for something that was not her fault. Back then the shame of the loss of virginity by choice or by force made a young girl less than likely to be chosen as a wife, as they were considered impure. Jacob’s eldest two sons disagreed with Jacob’s decision and used the agreement between Jacob and Hamor, king of the land and father of the groom, which required them to be circumcised, as opportunity to kill the men and get Dinah back. They lost their birthright because of their breaking of the covenant of marriage made by Jacob.

The giving of the bride is also seen as Jesus prepares to give His final sacrifice as kinsman redeemer of all mankind. Those who follow Him are often depicted as the Bride of Christ. In His prayer in John 17, He says in verse 6, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” We are told in scripture that none may enter into relationship with Christ unless the Spirit of God woos or draws them (John 6:44). God, the Father, gives the Bride of Christ to the Groom, Jesus.

Until your earthly father, parents, or guardian give you in marriage to your groom, sensual relations are fornication or adultery, a sin Jesus-Bride006against God and against your own body and the groom or bride God has for you.

You are a precious gift of God to us, but you have right to give all that you are to only two, God and the beloved He has for you to marry and become one in unity of flesh; and only then after you are given by right and ritual. And no one has the right to steal that gift from you. Protect that gift. It is precious. Realize the joy of this gift God has given you, and keep it wrapped for the one who shows that they love you enough to wait and do things God’s way.

You are constant in my prayers!

Much love,

Meeme

PS: If you have fallen or been fallen upon, God has provided a way for cleansing and rebirth of spiritual virginity in Christ. As Jesus said to the woman He helped to escape stoning, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:1-11). Consider your renewal in Christ, remember His grace when times of haunting come, and hold yourself for Him alone and the one He has for you to spend your life with as one flesh together with Him.

Definitions:

Fornication: two unmarried people in sexual relations.

Adultery: two partners in sexual sin, not married to each other, but at least one of them married to another person.

Caught in the Wake: Part 3

Clean Hands, Pure Hearts

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

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

Walking on water04How do we recoup when the storm of the sea of life around us is not made by us alone, and despite our cooperation in walking with Jesus, the storm still rages? How do we press forward to calm waters anew when we cannot control the stones tumbling in from the unclean hands of others around us to cause the wake that threatens us with every growing wave? Here in our passage we have two vital ingredients to calm the raging seas: James 4:8b-12.

“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” ~ Vs. 8b-10.

As said in the previous post, part 2 of this series, we can only control ourselves and the stones we are adding to cause the wake. So peaceful waters begin as we watch ourselves, remembering that we are not infallible; for apart from cooperation with the work of Christ in us, we too are sinners. We must set our minds to clean hands, which require us to seek pure hearts in agreement with the holiness of God. We accomplish this by being “miserable and mourn and weep” over our own sin, letting “your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” by way of repentance that is truly saddened by sin, however pleasurable it may seem. Thus we “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord” trusting that by His grace, “He will exalt you.”

You and I, who know God through Jesus Christ, are to be holy as He is holy despite sin’s surge all around us.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16.

“If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:17.

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

Remembering that we are made to be and live holy lives as the living temple of God, housing His Spirit as seal of our unity with Him; the practice of holiness is vital to our ability to walk the stormy seas and experience the calm that is found when we walk hand in hand with Jesus. Actively being alert to every opportunity to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, is the step by step path to crossing storm tossed seas that are out of our control.

Note, in our James 4 passage, vs. 8b-10 above the call to “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” I believe that wording is vital to our understanding as we seek to walk with clean hands that cast no stone of sin into the water. Our thinking can cause all sorts of trouble for our hearts. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The will of God for whom? For each individual of us. You and I can only choose for self to align our wills with God’s will. So we must seek the thoughts and will of God as we relate with others who stir the waters, responding to each challenge as pleases Him so we do not add our stones of sin to the wake of the stormy seas.

The way we allow ourselves to think and feel toward others who are troubling our waters will drop stones that soil our hands. We must remember, “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. Our minds are transformed from the blame game the world plays as we remember from whence our grace comes, and choose to have sound judgment that does not think more highly of self than we ought, but that has God’s grace toward those still struggling with sin.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” ~ Colossians 3:12-13.

And “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”

It is vital, especially when we are coming out of hurt that has caused us to stumble, that we leave the judgment / condemnation of those whose sin sends trouble to stir the seas of life around us to God. If we fail to practice grace and leave vengeance to God in dealing with those who hurt us and make trouble for us in this life, we enter into bitterness, and anger, and all sorts of depression and oppression that will bring destruction to our bodies and add to the wake of sin we are in.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coalsl109149486 on his head.’ DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD” ~ Romans 12:9-21.

This is the prescription for persevering and walking free of the storm tossed seas around us: Forgive self and walk in the righteous path of God that is set before you; forgive those around us and deal with them righteously, trusting God to pass judgment and send the consequences for sin righteously. This prescription taken daily as we deal with those who trouble the waters, we can not only see our own hands cleansed and our heart purified as our minds are transformed to love with God’s love, but we can help those with us on the seas to grab the hand of Him who can cause us to walk upon the waters. And the next thing we know, the waters around us are calmed, though the outskirts of the sea still be tossed and turned.

(Recommended reading: Good read when caught in the wake of sin and working your way out is The Practice of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.)

Caught in the Wake: Part 2b

Humble Enough to Draw Near

Walking on Water06“Do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” ~ James 4:5-8a.

Here, in the last portion of our focal passage for part 2 of “Caught in the Wake”, we have a step by step blueprint to walking on water in the midst of stormy seas.

Submit to God:

Sin is failure to walk in unity with God, and walking with God requires us to follow His will, doing so in His way. When we realize our part in causing a surge of sin around us, we must reach up our hand to God by admitting where we got off track in following Him and coming into agreement with Him that our fall was sin and we need His grace again.

Two things I want to look at here is the “Note” from yesterday promising to cover the “personal sin” issue; and we need to look at the work of the Holy Spirit who “convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.” Without understanding in these two areas, a storm tossed sea that continues even though we submit will confuse us and can be used of Satan to discourage us. So let’s begin with the first, the fact that it is personal sin we have to deal with.

As was hopefully made clear in the introduction to this series, a wake of sin of this proportion is not generally caused by one person,

Returning to walking with Jesus
Returning to walking with Jesus

but by many whose waves of consequences combine to cause surging seas that appear insurmountable. Now, as is the way of God, I can do nothing by way of repentance on behalf of another. Each person is responsible before God to repent for their own sin issues. I can confess in agreement with God that what they did is sin, and I can pray for the Spirit to do His work in drawing them to God, but I can only repent for my own sins and make myself right with Him anew. Why? Because repentance requires one to turn from walking their own way, to walking in God’s ways. That requires a choice of heart, for from the heart flows the issues of life. My feet will follow my heart, so if my heart is not following God in His desires, my feet will continue to struble over the stones of sin coming from my hardened heart. Only I can choose for myself whether I will follow God and obey Him, doing things His way. My relationship with God is my own and yours is yours.

When we get our eyes focused on the surge of waves brought up by the sins of others, we put ourselves in danger of sinking under the emotional assault and fault finding that comes to us with such a focus. When caught on stormy seas, our focus must be to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our attention on making sure we are hand in hand with Him who equips us to walk on top of the water. This is where the Teacher and understanding His role come into play. The Spirit is responsible to instruct our hearts, and His instruction is clearly stated as being that of bringing understanding to us regarding sin, righteousness and judgment.

The work of the Spirit in the life of one not yet united with Christ is to draw him to realize sins grip that has him enslaved in an eternity without God. He causes that lost soul to realize that God is righteous and holy and can have no part with sin. And He makes that person aware of the judgment already passed against sin, which is separation from God for all eternity. Then the Spirit causes the person’s eyes to open to the saving grace of God that is found only in the Lamb provided by God, Jesus Christ, the Savior. That person then has the choice of remaining under sin and slave to it, or having the chains torn asunder by their choosing to enter into the sacrifice of Christ that frees from sin. Once they choose saving grace, the Holy Spirit of God enters into their lives, becoming one with their spirit, granting them access to the Father through their new birth in relationship with Christ.

Now this new Christian has the Spirit forever within, and the role of the Spirit takes on a deeper dimension of grace that starts this new creature in Christ on a road of transformation and the Spirit works to restore the image of God that was created in mankind from the beginning, but was distorted by sin. With every choice that comes before the Christian, the Spirit works to make them aware of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He instructs their heart, if they are listening: “This way leads to sin, the judgment and consequences of which is against God and contrary to Him. That direction leads to righteousness, the effect of which will maintain relationship with God and accomplish His purpose.”

Submission to God heeds the teaching of the Spirit, reaches out from the heart to grab the hand of Jesus, who empowers us through the Spirit to walk on top of the waters of life and complete His sufferings of accomplishing the work of God in the earth. The blood of Jesus keeps us covered while the Spirit of God is doing the work of transformation in us, bringing us to completion until the day of Christ’s return, when eternity in God’s new Kingdom begins. Thus is the path of submitting to God, which automatically produces our next point in overcoming the storm tossed seas.

Resist the devil:

Note that submission to God is automatic resistance to the devil, who is always in opposition to God. We cannot walk with God and with the devil at the same time. When we are in submission to God’s will and way in life, we stand hand in hand with God through Christ, and the devil turns with cringing fear to get away from us.

The devil is total opposite to God. God is truth. The devil is the lie and the father of lies / liars. God is good and loves goodness. The devil is evil and loves evil. God is love – love always does what is best for the one loved, which is to protect unity with the Father-God and our ability to walk with Him. The devil is hate, desiring to be god himself, he does all he can to destroy our relationship to God and cause us to fall away to following after sin.

When we give ourselves to sin, we walk away from God to walk with the devil, making him god of our lives. When we become a stumbling block in the lives of others, leading to their falling into sin, we cooperate with Satan’s desire and work in the earth. So we must resist the devil by submitting to God, which causes us to…

Draw near to God:

Walking on water04When we choose to walk with God, His glory surrounds us as He draws near to us in renewed relationship. The devil will cringe at the presence of God with us and run away from us. This is the cycle that comes from drawing near to God through submission to Him that resists the devil and causes God to draw near to us.

And how much greater still it is when we live a life that not only holds to the hand of Jesus who enables us to walk on the waters beneath us, but we reach our hand out to help another grab His and walk with us to victory.

When we love God and begin to take on His likeness anew, we search for truth and walk in it, making it known to those around us. God’s goodness begins to flow through us like a river to refresh and help those around us. And His love fills us and spills out to the lives of others.

The Spirit grows strong within us, quickening us – making life found in relationship with God come to our eternal spirit. And we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, compassion, and other qualities of God flourish within us, making us holy as He is holy.

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

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

Even as we practice these spiritual disciplines on a personal level and get on top of the water in the midst of stormy seas, the surge can continue because we are not the sole source of the surge. Remember in our example, one sinned, hurting another in a way that made them an open target as the hurt cracked their armor, allowing the tempter to draw them out from their relationship with God. Sin has a domino effect that brings an avalanche crashing into the calm waters below, and the ripple of sins hitting the peaceful places surges the stormy winds of sin’s consequences. Each person involved plays a role in the cause of the storm that is sending waves of harm to the lives of all around them. And each must do their part to get back on top of the water with Jesus. Until each one is in right relationship with God anew, the storm will continue to beat down on all in its path.

This being true, how do we recoup and press forward while waiting for others involved to do their part in calming the storm around us? What can we do to quiet the winds and bring calm to the waters of life again? See you next post.

Caught in the Wake: Part 2a

Humble Enough to Draw Near

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

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

Now that we have looked at how the of wake sin forms around us and why a holy God would allow it, providing us choice as to whether we want to be with Him in relationship or against Him and separated from Him, what is one to do who finds themselves caught in such a wake?

Jesus 01 - water walkIt can be so difficult to walk out of a current of sin that is dragging us under with every attempt, but, dear one, “NOTHING shall be impossible with God”. He has provided the way for us to step out on stormy seas and walk on water (Luke 1:37; Matthew 14:22-33).

“Do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’…” ~ James 4:5-8a.

First off, take hope if you, a committed Christian, have discovered that you are trapped in such a place as I describe, hit by waves of consequences for your own sins and that of others around you, wondering where God is and if, in your own sense of His absence, you have lost the saving grace you once possessed. Note that this scripture that is written to people in such a position as you, is written to those who HAVE as a possession the Spirit of God dwelling in them.

Christians still face choices every day that determine how close they follow to God, but they do not lose their eternal position when they deny God’s will and follow the dictates of the flesh; not if they truly believe in, trust in, rely on, and are confident in the saving grace of God received by belief in Jesus as the Christ come first to save. What they lose is that privilege of walking with the Father in the cool of the day. Just as Adam and Eve lost the privilege they had in the Garden of God’s presence, so do we when separated from God by currents of personal sin. (Note here the wording, “currents of PERSONAL sin” as we will look close at this important aspect of the wake of sin later).

Then, you may be asking, what’s the difference between the Christian and the eternally lost? If we can still fall to sin and experience loss of intimacy with God, what differentiates the Christian who sins from the sinner who is lost for eternity?

The Christian will, by the leading of the Spirit of God, recognize and turn from revealed sin. The Christian will grow stronger in the ways of God. The Christian will bear the fruit of the Spirit. Though the Christian falls from following God in some moment of weakness of flesh, the Spirit of God remains with us, a seal of our position in His eternal kingdom, and He does so as the teacher who convicts of sin, charged with instructing us with regard to sin, righteousness, and judgment (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30).

I love the Amplified version of this verse in James, which says, “But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).”

Just as Jesus is God in some way we do not fully understand, The Word and Message of God become flesh as the Angel of the Lord of old was sent, being empowered to relate with fleshly mankind in order to deliver the message sent by Holy Father; so the Spirit of God, though holy as God the Father is holy, has the ability to dwell among sinful flesh. The separation we Christians sense when sin hinders relationship with God is that holy essence of His fullness that cannot dwell with sin. Though we may still know He is with us in the midst of our sin by the grace that provides the indwelling Spirit, we also realize that there is an absence of intimacy with His essence, the fullness of His person. But the Spirit of God remains, and His work of grace upon grace brings us to conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment, leading us back to God’s will and way so as to reestablish our intimacy with God (John 14-16, esp. 16:5-11).

And God, according to this passage in James, is made jealous for the connection with us that Spirit provides here in the earth. Our intimacy with God is taken from us by sin, not our salvation, and Abba-God longs to reunite with us through the connection provided by His Holy Spirit within us.

So how do we regain that intimacy and come out of the surge of sin that is pulling us under? Just as Peter reached for the hand of the Master for help to walk on the storm tossed sea (Matthew 14:22-33), so must we who find the waves of sin’s sea thrashing around us. It takes humility to reach out to God and His saving grace found in Christ Jesus. It takes humility to admit one’s own part in the forming of a surge of sin. It takes humility to admit one’s need of the hand of God in the form of the Savior He provided. And humility comes as the Spirit of God does its work of instruction leading us to humbled stance in realizing our need of Him anew.

And how do we reach up to grasp the Master’s hand? See you here for the answer to this question on our next post.

Caught in the Wake

Introduction

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

for the Lord our God is holy!”

Psalm 99:9.

God is Holy. What does that mean?

Holy means separated from sin; set apart from evil; filled with good, righteousness, and truth.

God IS and He IS Holy!

Two things about this reveal to us that God and sin cannot abide or dwell in the same place. One who is separated from sin cannot remain where sin resides. And One who is fully good, righteous, and true will shatter and scatter sin, for sin cannot remain in the presence of the Holy. Sin is dark. God is Light. Light dispels darkness. Thus God tells us, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” ~ James 4:7-8.

As we walk away from sin, we walk into the glory of the very presence of God. But, as we see mentioned in the verse above, there is an Aliveenemy who seeks to draw us away from God. He is the epitome of sin and the father of lies. He desires all God has, wanting to be god himself, so he fights all that God is and all that He loves, seeking to destroy God’s desire and design.

This demon-king, Satan, knows that the flesh is weak. He knows that apart from God, we can do nothing. So he works overtime, appealing to our flesh, enticing us through our lusts, and luring us away from God so that sin can rule. And when he cannot lure us, he will put us on the run in a panic, causing us to forget grace, leading to our struggle to work our way back to a righteous stance, thus, we try to become our own savior and usurp the work of Christ.

In introducing this short series of study, let me tell you a little story that is true of many today, and that could be true for any in our day.

A family of people is going through life with all the normal ups and downs we all have. They are strong Christian people, seeking the Lord fervently. Faithful in church, they are actively involved and growing strong in their personal ministry of faith. Their children are strong in the Lord, growing, and greatly loved as exemplary pupils of the faith.

One day the father, upset over some personal hurt, takes a step toward an old sin struggle and begins anew to look at porn. His sin grows stronger as his addiction renews its old hold and enslaves him. He winds up committing adultery in a way that causes his family to turn from him. Divorce ensues.

In her hurt, the wife reaches out to friends for help. Many come to her aid, both male and female. One thing leads to another and she falls into the arms of sin for her comfort.

Divorce leads to the necessity of moving the kids off from their strong support system. The kids, devastated over their family falling apart, made worse by the loss of strong friendships, begin to struggle with the ugliness of life. One falls into depression. Another turns to anorexia. Still another follows the example of the father and falls to addiction to porn. They begin to be snared by a spirit of falsehood, and lies seem easier to them than the truth.

The mother has pressed on to try to get life back where it should be, but one hardship after another knocks her down. Worry over the children, financial issues, discord with the ex-husband, the struggle of new relationships, all of it begins to take its toll on her weary soul.

All these beloved of God are trapped in the wake of sin—their own and that of those near to them.

Wake – The visible track of turbulence left by something moving through water. A track, course, or condition left behind something that has passed. In the aftermath of; as a consequence of.

Sin starts a ripple effect that disturbs all around it. One wave hits, bringing about another, over and over, each building the next until a surge of insurmountable proportion brings flooding and devastation. Many in our day are trapped in the wake of sin. How to get out? That is the question.

Over the next few days we will look at this phenomenon and discover the answers to the following questions:

  • Did God, who is Holy, allow the sin? Why or why not?
  • What is one to do who finds themselves caught in such a wake?
  • How do we recoup?
  • How do we press forward?

Beloved, no one living in this world is immune to sin, and sin can and will clutch the lives of even the most godly if it is given the opportunity of a crack in our defenses. My hope is that by the end of this series, we will not only have the answers to the above questions, but that we will know and understand this word from James:

“…do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” ~ James 4:5-6.

 

 

 

Look the Right Way!

MM900395755[1]“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, and as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy and loving-kindness for us” ~ Psalm 123:2, AMP.

Several months ago God instructed my heart that “A Storm” is coming to our land and He began using me to call many to prayer.

When Sandy hit, I said, “Lord, is this it?”

“No,” He replied, “This is only a part of the greater.”

Then He impressed on my heart that our nation will see its economy crumble and immorality increase like a storm never seen before in our land. So we watch and we pray.

MP900443311[1]Over the past numerous days God has been instructing my heart, and these words penned in a devotional by Sarah Young in her book “Jesus Today” sum it all up: Look the Right Way!

As I have pondered all that God is speaking to me through His word and the words of His People, I realized that I have gained 10 pounds since God’s warning me of The Storm to come. Though I thought I was keeping eyes on Him, I would say that I am stress eating, which signals me that my eyes are looking in the wrong direction.

What if things fall apart? Is that not what we anticipate as a sign that Christ’s return draws near? Does the chaos in the earth make God any less capable of tending to His Own? Have not many generations seen similar storms blow through and lived to tell of the Wonderworks of God in seeing them safely to the other side? “Look the Right Way, Darlene, and press forward with hope.”

I know not what “tomorrow” holds, but I know Who holds “tomorrow”.  He has a purpose in all things, and it is for eternal good and glory. I can rest in Him Who is my Rest, Strong Tower, Secret Hiding Place, Firm Foundation, and Possessor of my soul. He is my Rock out of which the Stream of refreshing and provision come. He is Hope and Song. He sees! Nothing escapes His notice and He cares for all that concerns me and those with me who seek to Look the Right Way. When I look at Him and keep my eyes on Him and His purpose, I find peace that passes understanding and hope beyond measure.

As I have looked at Him, He instructed me on some important things I am to give myself to: loving Him first and foremost, and others as I should be loving myself. My eating is not a loving act toward me, nor Him whose temple I am, so that has got to change. Relationships are vital in this hour, and the busyness of life threatens that, so I must be deliberate in taking time for others.

I must keep up my ponderings, reflecting on the things God shows me and sharing them with you in the hope of being a help to lift youdreaming and happy up in these difficult days ahead. Too often we read His word, hear Him speak, and go off never giving Him time to fully instruct and transform us by His Word. Taking time for reflection, “Pondering these things” as Mary did, is vital to our weathering the storm ahead.

And rest is vital in these days; not only the rest of leisure time that physically rests our weary bodies, but entering into His rest despite the approaching storm. We learn in Hebrews that entering His rest comes through faith that believes God and takes action through obedience. We are not without Hope. He is our Hope. But Hope is most often missed because of unbelief that leads to actions of sin—going against God’s expressed instruction.

Join me, and Look the Right Way, my friend, as the days unfold before us, and smile as the rays of Hope lead you surely through the storms of life.

~*~

Bigger God“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle (forbearing) spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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

Christmas, or Not? The Controversy and Our Choice

nativity 02
Merry Christmas

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

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

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

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

Some interesting facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s the solution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

Sites of interest:

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

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

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

Who De Judge?

Read John 3:16-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take It To Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Jesus: The Advent – 1

mary-mother_of_jesus_21Behold, the bondslave of the Lord

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

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

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

The Work of Light

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

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

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

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

Worship: Positions From the Heart – Prostration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship: Positions From the Heart – Bow the Knee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Bow Down

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 4

Spirit and Fire 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 3

All for One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dream – Part 3

God Intends Good 

Though this dream I shared with you is obviously meant for the body of Christ, as God instructs my heart for the writing of this short series, I can see clearly my own life in its meaning. During the time of many things coming at me and my family in the past few years, I have walked the premise of this dream out with realization that God is doing a work in me and in mine. What the enemy intends for harm, God uses for good (Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 8:28). In my many and growing number of years in this life, one thing I have learned is that any evil allowed to reach me is intended by God to do a work in me that purifies and helps me to grow in Him, so I face such struggles with earnest expectation and hope of seeing God do just that. And I know that He is after a root of rejection that has been with me from my earliest days. A root that has grown so deep for so long sometimes has to be burned and blasted out: thus the fires of testing and trial.

Besides doing a work in me, it also gives me opportunity to bear testimony of His work in my life as doors open for me to share the comfort He gives me with others who struggle. So as I relayed to you these things I perceived from God as the many faces and forms of the enemy, I was made acutely aware that though this dream is for the Body – the Bride of Christ, it is also very much for me as an individual part of that Body, thus, the testimonial of my struggle flowed to the pages. Just as this message is for me, so it is for you in your struggle.

I know that I am not alone in this struggle with the enemy suitor who seeks to destroy our ability to bear righteousness into the earth. Everywhere I turn I meet people of God who have their own story of heartache and challenge to tell: devastating, stagnating, unbelievable things coming at the body of Christ. Beloved, if that is you, please know, what the enemy means for harm, God uses for good.

I also want you to realize something I am increasingly aware of in my own struggle. Our flesh is one of the faces and forms of the enemy. Our own bodies, when under great stress, give way to the stress. Though we fight to do right in our situations, the effects of extreme stressors mess up our hormones and body chemistry in ways that turn our own bodies, minds, and emotions against us, making the body we live in an enemy to overcome. This is the battle I am in, and it is the battle I believe is portrayed by Paul in Romans 7.

It is important for us to realize this truth about the physical body and its limitations for several reasons: one being to protect us from falling to guilt and shame in our struggle. Like Paul, we need to realize the righteousness of Christ that covers us and makes us whole even when our own flesh betrays us.

Try as I may to carry on as the daughter of my daddy, doing right by him, many days my flesh gives way to the stress and breaks down in the effort. I’ll tell you, there are days when I need someone to come alongside me and be the hand of God, grabbing mine and helping me do the good I desire when my own flesh is shut down, destroying my ability. This is especially true when my grief over daddy gives way to social anxiety. We need to not only be alert to our own struggle, but as people of God watching others who are in such a battle, we need to be there for those we can help. This is the time when those of the Body who are weak need the strong to cover them like a hand going to stop the bleeding wound: not just with prayer, but with encouragement, and even walking alongside them in their struggle.

One thing I have learned in my Christian lay counseling studies is that those who are ensnared by paranoia and anxiety issues that are empowered by out of control body chemistry need people who will walk with them faithfully, not turning from them in their time of need. It is difficult to deal with the negativity of those who struggle. It is frustrating to see them begin to make progress, only to fall back again and again in their battle. But let me tell you something, we are the hands and the feet, the arms and the legs, the mouth and the ears, the heart and the mind representing God in the earth. We are the Bride, yes; but we also are the body of the Groom and we need one another.

How are the legs of Christ lopped off? Through the frustration of us, His body, working with individual members of His body who are in the fight of their lives. Through our indifference to those who are in difficulties we want to run from. Through our own protectiveness that pulls away from them instead of sticking it out with them. I’m not just speaking to you, the reader, here; this is truth I need to realize as well. There are times in our lives when we need the physical hand of the Groom, the Body of Christ in the earth, to reach our own and help us heal so we as the body of Christ can move unhindered by disabling forces of life in the world.

Today’s blog is my hand reaching out to those who struggle as I am struggling, sharing some of the things God is teaching me through my experience, hoping that it will be the bandage and balm you need as well. Because of His grace toward me and His work in helping me through this season of life, I have learned many things that are vital to our ability to be the Bride and the Body, bearing righteous fruit in a difficult day and age. Following are some of those things. I have learned…

†   The greater depths of God’s love for me personally and how understanding and trusting that love frees from fear: He loves me with a love that will not be moved.

God, for years, has used my husband’s love for me to teach me of His love. I have heard my husband profess his love for me verbally and seen him show it in ways that amaze me, over and over again, expressing his love in ways that have me convinced of its veracity. When we first married, I feared the loss of his love, wondering of its trustworthiness because of childhood experiences and that of a previous marriage in which “love” proved unfaithful and fleeting. But he has so poured his love into me that I no longer doubt it or fear the loss of it.

Like most children, I learned of love through childhood experiences, and though I have always believed that God loves me, fear of somehow losing that love has been there to hinder. During this season of struggle, God has done the same thing for me that my husband did. He has assured me over and over of His love for me being faithful and trustworthy. I no longer fear that God will turn from me in my struggle. I know He will stick with me until I come out strong, shining like gold, having legs to birth righteousness in the earth as He intends.

†   I can trust God when I can trust no other: That is ingrained into me as never before. He loves me, knows my heart, and will never leave or forsake me. I am His servant. He has chosen and not rejected me (Isaiah 41:8-16). Though my daddy may reject me, disbelieve me, turn with anger and suspicion from me, God knows my heart and He chooses me. He has repeated that Isaiah 41 phrase to me so many times since my struggle with Complicated Grief Disorder began that I believe it with all my being and trust Him in it. My trust in God’s presence, understanding, faithfulness, love and care in choosing me and not rejecting me is beyond measure. I stand in awe of God.

†   God understands better than I where I am right now, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He is the one who led me to the study of counseling that revealed the Complicated Grief Disorder that I am in, which is akin to and treated the same as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He diagnosed it, and He will lead me to healing when He is finished using the grief to work change and maturity in me. In the meantime, His grace covers my “I can’t” with His righteousness while I seek to grasp the Groom’s hand and walk in His “I can.”

†   God’s opinion is true and righteous judgment: As long as I know God’s opinion of me and my situations, the opinion of man has no bearing on me. I do not have to worry about what man thinks of me as long as I walk forward in the Lord’s pleasure. He sings over me when no other will. I was amazed a few weeks back when the pastor called for the weary to come to the altar. As I knelt there alone at the altar, I feel the hand of a woman I do not know on my shoulder. She did not know my pain, but as she prayed, her prayer turned to singing over me, and I knew though she did not know what to pray, God was responding to the need. He is Lord of my life and my relationships, and He alone gives favor with man. Please God and He will take care of the rest.

Though I struggle to minister to daddy right now, I am not without a ministry to my Lord. He keeps me active in His work in other areas while He is building me up to be what He needs me to be as my daddy’s daughter. I know He will be victorious in the situation and I rest with hope in Him to see my legs restored in this struggle.

†   Footstool praying: there is value of what I call “footstool prayers.” Though, in my pain, I may not have words to express the need for which I pray, God does. In the power of His Spirit I have learned that God loves to respond affirmatively to the prayer that is lifted to His throne without words, but with sincere desire for Him to have His will and way in the need. My concern being laid at His feet, beside the footstool of Christ, I can then turn my attention to go on my way without that burden weighing me down. I am freed by faith to know that I can leave that need, whatever it is, with Him and He will deal with it. I may not think of it again until I realize His answer. Some days thought of the need may come with many words of prayer pouring forth in the power of His Spirit. But when it overwhelms me, I know He hears my heart’s groaning, though my mind can form no thought for words, as I lay it beside His footstool for His disposal.

†   I can! When God wants me to, I can press forward to minister to daddy and deal with him, because God through His Spirit supplies power to perform. When that power moves, I go in obedience with it. If that power from Him is not there, I wait for it, trusting Him to meet the need where I can’t. I have grown to trust His covering and His faithfulness to Himself (2 Timothy 2:1-13). Though I may not always be able, He always can, and He will accomplish the purpose of His will.

†   Jesus is our example: The ways He revealed through example are mine to portray as need arises. In the dream, the example of Christ was to have faith to believe God and see Him faithfully supply. I am learning to choose to believe even when my body fails me and fights me.

Did you know that sometimes Jesus walked away from a situation knowing it was not yet His time? I am growing in faith to know that sometimes God moves us to step back and let Him deal with a person or situation that is beyond us to cope with. He does not want us beat down by the assault of those given over to their own flesh.

Earlier I said that we, the body, need to be God’s hand to grab hold a struggling body part and help them heal. But God knows when that part is not open to being helped. So there are times in life when God tells us to step back and get out of the way so that He can deal with it.

Did you know that my daddy, who cannot read, quoted scripture to me verbatim the other day? Years ago when my daddy’s struggle began, I got up in the night, grieved over him, and God led me to pray through whole chapters of scripture for him. During that prayer session, God spoke very clearly to my heart that I would see my daddy sitting fully clothed and in His right mind, sharing His word with those who will listen. Also years ago, God led me to give my daddy the entire Bible on tape. He, for many years now, has listened to it faithfully. Thus, I saw that promise fulfilled as we talked together my last visit and I came to discover that my daddy has the gospel figured out and secured in his own heart—he is fully clothed and in his right mind spiritually. And he spouted several verses as he shared his faith. I am praising God for His hand that can, even when I am without legs to press forward.

~*~

Bride of Christ, nothing shall be impossible with God. Keep seeking the hand of the Groom and give your life to the birthing of His seed. Trust in Him no matter the appearance of the circumstances of life; listen for His voice crying “only believe”, knowing that it is unity with Him that grants us strong legs and a birth canal. Then rise up and go forth to prosper His kingdom, even in the midst of enemy incursion. Hold close the child of righteousness birthed through you by His grace, and trust His protection over you and it. He alone can produce the seed within you, and He alone can protect and empower its growth and maturity to His intent and purpose. Let no enemy-suitor draw you away from holding tight to His hand. Only BELIEVE!

The Dream – Part 2

Ploy Uncovered 

Yesterday the battle was revealed, the enemy of the Groom seeks to cut the legs and reproductive canal off the body of the Bride, hindering the bearing of the fruit of Righteousness into the earth. How does he do that? Is it through sin? Yes and no. What do I mean?

Unrepentant sin habits stunt the growth of a Christian and hinder the intimacy of their union with the Groom. But remember in the dream, this is the Bride who intimately loves the Groom and seeks with all her being, even to the loss of her life, to birth healthy righteousness into the earth. So I would say that this is not a professing Christian who is walking as an unrepentant, wayward child of God, never fully developing the intimacy that He intends. This is the mature and growing Bride who desires right and intimate relationship with the Groom at all cost, and she seeks to protect the birthing of the child into the earth, even if it has to be by C-section. So I do not see sin itself as the issue that hinders and disables this Bride, but some attack from this enemy of God that cripples and disables, leading to a sin struggle beyond one’s ability to cope apart from the grace of the Divine. Why?

Because as a mature Christian, this Bride is vigilant against sin and seeks quickly to turn back to the Father to walk with Him in His way. She understands that her sins repented of are covered by the blood of the Son, her Groom. So what do I see that Satan is using to lop the legs and ability to bear off of this mature, vital and productive Bride?

~*~

Guilt / Shame:

Satan can trip up even the mature: that is clear. This Bride, mature of faith and growing, recognizes her sin—generally very fast, and repents quickly. When Satan cannot lop off our legs by leading us into a life of habitual and continuous sin, he will try the next best thing, snaring us in guilt and shame. “How can ‘I’ go forth to bear Righteousness when ‘I’ am so worthless,” he says to our minds. Stunned by some fall, though we got back up and turned to the right path, if we are not mindful to the voice of the Father, we will believe this suitor’s lie spoken as our own thought. Though we press forward when so snared, our gait is slow, the path arduous, and we too often hit a gap we cannot cross because we receive the thought as true and forget the Cross of our Groom.

So let’s just put that one to bed right now. Guess what? We are worthless—apart from Christ. Even our greatest good is as filthy rags before our holy God. Thus enters the Groom to grab our hand and remind us of His covering. We are set free indeed through Christ. When God looks at us, He sees us as righteous because He sees us through the covering of the Savior.

We are worthless in our own right. But to God? By His grace, we are PRICELESS; so priceless and desirous that He loves us, and He loves us so much that He gave His Son on our behalf, the propitiation for our sin. In Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). So, in the name of Jesus, as representing Him and His interests, tell the devil where to go, forgive yourself, and get on with the bearing of the righteous seed within you. Otherwise you risk…

~*~

Discouragement / Despair:

When we cannot forgive ourselves, trust the covering of God, and speak truth to counter the lies of the enemy-suitor who wants to turn the grace of God to foolishness that is useless to the nurturing of the righteous seed within us, discouragement and despair make that seed sickly. Jesus is our Righteousness. He covers us with His blood of cleansing and He has put His Spirit within us: the seed of righteousness. That seed will bear forth if we faint not in the battle because the seed is the source of our ability to bear the produce of God’s Righteous Lot. The seed, the Spirit of God in us, will grow and bear its fruit if we will only believe and surrender to its work. Realizing where our righteousness comes from will protect us from guilt and shame that brings discouragement and despair.

Are we to live righteously and be righteous? Yes. But we can do nothing apart from Christ at work within us. And when we fall only to get back up and press forward anew, we can trust the cover of Christ that reveals His righteousness on our behalf. So don’t give up and don’t give in to discouragement and despair over your own struggle with the enemy suitor. That only leads to…

~*~

Fear / Unbelief:

One of the enemy suitor’s greatest instruments of destruction is fear. If he can lead us into fear, he can trap us there in unbelief. Fear is rooted in and fed by unbelief. If we believe God truly loves us purely, we believe He can and will supply all we need to succeed in fulfilling His intent and purpose, and we have courage and confidence in Him to press forward to reach the goal He sets before us knowing that He will protect His purpose and plan in us. Fear and unbelief are vitally linked in order to destroy our ability to trust that we hear from God or that He will supply us to have what it takes to get the job done.

God’s word in John 10 promises that those vitally linked with Jesus know His voice and follow Him and the stranger’s voice they simply will not follow. Part of what makes one mature in Christ is growing faith in knowing His voice and following Him. He speaks to us in ways we can recognize. The enemy suitor, the antichrist, wants us to doubt the voice of God and fear moving forward. Getting us trapped in this cycle of fear fed by unbelief leads quickly to …

~*~

Self-preoccupation / protection:

Oh my! This one slipped up to grab me and I am still fighting this battle, unsure really how to walk free. But I know God has the answer…God IS the Answer.

I have shared many times about the paranoia my dad is trapped in. He accuses those who love him most of doing things to and against him that they would never think to do, and there seems to be no changing his mind on what he believes to be true. After many years of dealing with this and watching it get worse, one day I heard the lie spoken as from my own thoughts and physically felt something in my psyche snap like the pop of breaking a stick in two. By way of reminder, this is the way it went:

“‘I’ CANNOT do THIS (deal with daddy) anymore.” SNAP!

To which I, replying to what I believed was my own thought, said, “That’s right! I cannot do this anymore.” Agreement. Two or more in agreement has power, whether for good or for harm.

I have struggled with stagnation and hindrance ever since, trapped in all kinds of fear and anxiety over the issue, some reasonable, some ridiculous, but all leading to a discouragement and despair over the situation that has me absolutely snared by self-preoccupation and self-protectiveness. “I can’t deal with it anymore.”

And you know what, that is true. “I” can’t. I am worn out from it. I am so grieved over daddy’s struggle and accusations that I cannot bear to hear it any more. It is beyond me. And there is where my thoughts are trapped and snared up in the line of one “I can’t” after another.

Trapped by a long line of self-preoccupied and protective statements, I struggle to press forward in that area of life, and it affects my ability to press forward in other relationships as well. Where dealing with daddy is concerned, I can do no less than to grasp the hand of the Beloved who reaches out to walk with me in bearing forth Righteousness into the situation. I cannot move to function without Him. The enemy suitor of self-preoccupation and protectiveness fights against my grasp constantly. When the Beloved gets through to grab hold on me, I go forth with power to perform that is all and only that of my Beloved’s working through me; and the victory of it lifts me for a time. Then, unwittingly, I slip back into self-preoccupation and protectiveness, my legs lopped off to half of the pelvis, and the battle begins again.

Preoccupation with self and protection of one’s own in this way quickly can lead to…

~*~

Disunity / Starvation:

For a long while in this struggle I found it difficult to be around others. I could read God’s word, and somehow He always spoke to me through it, but my focus was off. I know His loving, caring presence constantly, ministering to my hurt, but often still I find prayer illusive—deliberate, focused prayer that is. In this struggle with my pain, though God is very near me and I am acutely aware of Him, I see two major ploys listed above in play:

Guilt and shame over the fact that I cannot deal with daddy and do what I feel I should be doing as his eldest daughter. Worried about what others think of me as I feel I have deserted daddy and the rest of the family.

Then there is fear: fear of my family turning from me in their own struggle with anger brought about by this situation we are in. They appear to understand my struggle and often comfort me in it, but still the fear of losing them is there. And finally, social anxiety with others: feeling that if my own daddy cannot see who I really am and that I would never do the things he thinks I have done, how can I trust anyone else to love me and know me?

This guilt, shame and fear have led to “feelings” of disunity, being unable to relate comfortably and confidently with family, friends or church family. I am not feasting in the food found in relationships with others, and am starving for companionship as a result. This struggle has at times led to…

~*~

Procrastination / Misappropriation:

I procrastinate on things I need to do, but that put me into a vulnerable position. When opportunity to gather with others comes, social anxiety leads me to hide out, wasting the energy God gives on fretting, worry, and what amounts to my own unrighteous judgment of the hearts of others I fear are judging me. When it is time to plan family gatherings for some special occasion, I drag my feet, if I move at all. Time and attention I should be giving to friends in need and family indeed, I give to anything that will protect me from having to deal with the situation. The worry and fretting over having to deal with others wears me out, so I wind up behind in everyday things that keep the house in order and me ready for meeting together with others. Thus I procrastinate and misappropriate my time and energy when I am deep in my struggle with this family situation. That, then, finds me in the midst of…

~*~

Distraction / Busyness:

I either struggle with distraction, lacking focus to get anything of significance done, or I get myself to a place of being too busy to have time for dealing with such difficult issues. If Satan cannot slow us down in our pursuit of God and His ways, he will throw us into a season of distraction and / or busyness.

~*~

Well, that took an unexpected turn into a personal testimonial that I did not intend. But I trust God did, and that somehow, as you read my personal struggle, you are helped to see and understand your own disabling, enemy-suitor attack, and the path it too often takes us.

Now, let me tell you, I am getting better, and God has used this season to grow me in areas and ways I am not sure I could have learned as well in any other way. So, to keep this from being way longer than it is, next post will cover things God has taught me and how He is growing me through this struggle. God never wastes anything. He lovingly uses it, as a smelter uses fire to remove dross and as Vine Dresser uses pruning shears and manure fertilizer to promote growth. See you back here for the rest of the story.

The Dream – Part 1

The Battle Revealed

 

Father, the dream, it is pregnant within me, filled with meaning and power. Here am I, O God. Help me to write it. I can do nothing on my own, but only as You give utterance can I.

~*~

Last night I had a dream that I believe is vital for our day. In my dream there were three main characters: the Groom, the Bride, and the enemy suitor that took many forms and had many faces, all coming at the Bride and Groom at one time.

~*~

Now you have the characters, here is the setting:

The Groom has a Bride that He is absolutely mad about. He loves her more than life itself and she is His by promise and by right. All that He does, He does for her, giving even life and breath to show His love and care for her.

The Bride loves the Groom like no other and desires Him above all. Her heart soars at the site of Him, and her greatest delight is His pleasure.

But there is a rival to the Groom who is constantly trying to separate them from one another and woo the Bride away. This enemy suitor puts on appearances of having love and care for the Bride like that of the Groom’s, but his motives are sinister. Though she is not swayed, this rival suitor is relentless in his pursuit.  

~*~

Now you have the setting, here is the dream.

The suitor is constantly pulling at the Bride. She frantically reaches for the Groom who is chasing hard after her as His rival works to separate Him from her presence, but every time they get near to a firm grip on one another, she is swooshed away by the suitor in some new form or many. The Groom runs hard after her, never doubting her faithfulness to Him as He sees in her eyes her desire, and knows her heart for Him.

As the Groom chases His Bride, the enemy suitor takes His legs from Him. Each time he does, the Groom yells, “I believe!” to His Father, and His legs grow back fully restored. He starts His pursuit of the Bride again with ever increasing fervor. Over and over, the enemy suitor takes the Grooms legs, the Groom cries out His faith to the Father who responds to His faith, restoring His legs with power to perform, and the chase goes on.

Determined to win the battle, the suitor turns and takes the legs up to half of the pelvis of the Bride. The Bride, impregnated begins to show signs of her pregnancy as the fetus grows strong within her. The suitor tells her the child is his, to be raised up for his intent and purpose. Missing half of her body, the Bride puts the whole of her life energy into the focus of growing the child within her to be birthed healthy and strong. She has lost sight of her Groom in her pain and stopped reaching for Him, putting all her energy into growing a healthy child within, trusting that something will happen to free her from the pain as she gives her life for the child.

Meanwhile the Groom is calling to her, reaching and fighting to get to her side only to be hindered and fought at every turn by the enemy suitor’s many forms and faces. Calling out to her, as she focuses to grow the child, she hears with recognition the voice of her Beloved, shouting, “Only believe!” Her focus on delivering a healthy child, filled with hope, increases.

Finally the Groom breaks through to the Bride grabbing hold of her hand and assuring her, “The child is ours! We will raise it to our intent and purpose.” Her legs grow back, full and strong, and the suitor with its many faces and forms steps back for a bit as the child is born. I awake to the scenes of the Bride holding the child close and protected; and the Groom standing guard and fighting off the enemy that is now intent on steeling the child.

As I wake, I come quickly to discern the meaning of the dream. The Groom and the Bride are, of course, Jesus and His Bride, the Church. The enemy suitor is Satan and all he uses to lure the Bride away from the Groom, with all their many forms and faces. They try to stop Jesus from complete, intimate, and faithful union with His Bride, but Jesus looks always to the Father who protects His ability to pursue her and get to her. The Bride is impregnated by the Groom with the seed of Righteousness that will work His intent and purpose in the earth. But we have the enemy suitor that is doing all he can to hinder our union with the Groom and get hold on the fruit of our lives, souring it for his intent and purpose, to hinder the birthing of Righteousness in the earth and the bearing of the good fruits of the Kingdom and Crown.

So what are these hindrances used of Satan to cut the legs to half the pelvis off of the Bride? Next post we will look at some I believe are the biggest influences that make the birthing of Righteousness a challenge to be overcome by faith to “Only Believe.”

Thoughts from Isaiah – Chapter 1

Passion Inflaming Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hedge: Part 2

Remembering His Footstool 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon…” (Isaiah 55).

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

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

Chasing Rainbows With DADDY – Part 3: Earnest Expectations

In the Car

Thus far on our journey with Daddy to chase the rainbow, we considered the fact that we must first choose to go on this wonderful journey with Daddy-God, and that comes through trusting in the faithfulness of God. Next we have to get in the car with Him. That is accomplished as we “only believe”: believe we can hear Him and know His voice, discerning what He is telling us; believe with trust that He will lead the way on paths of righteousness that will reach the destiny; believe what He says is truth; and most importantly believe that God is who He says He is and He can do what He says He can do. Today we seek to discover what that belief looks like, beginning by going back to that car in the commercial:

“Do you see it?” daddy yells.

“There it is!” exclaims daughter.

Later, “Where is it?” asks dad.

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

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

The roller coaster ride of anticipation; oh my, what a journey that can be. Riding in the car with Daddy-God on numerous journeys of my own has been wrought full of excitement too often tempered by time of wondering if we will ever reach our destination. And when the ride is long, the journey can include times of distraction and impatience that can lead us to become disinterested in the journey, detached, apathetic. So what are we to do while in the car of destiny to protect ourselves from the malady of apathy? What does God expect from us? Let’s take a look at this little girl in the car, Noah, Moses, and Abraham to discover some of our roll in the journey.

From our little girl in the car, I am reminded of one of my favorite Paulian quotes found in Philippians 1:18-20: “…according to my earnest expectation and hope….”

Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. Even in long waits, when we catch a glimpse of the rainbow, we should be filled anew with earnest expectation and hope that has us yelling with excitement, “Daddy, I see it!” And what does that earnest expectation and sincere, faith-based hope produce?

Noah:

“Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).

We do not see any sign that Noah questioned God as Moses did. He simply began collecting the wood and tools, drawing up the plans just as God gave them to him, and making the pitch ready.

Another act of obedience and hint of what Noah did during the time of awaiting the flood is seen in the account of events as given by Christ in the Gospels:

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).

Apparent to me in this account of Christ is that Noah warned the people of the wrath to come, imploring them to repent and turn to righteousness. The hint in this passage to this fact is that the people “did not understand” what they were warned of until it was too late. And who do we think warned them but the one that God told to prepare for it? Surely people asked Noah, “What on earth is this thing you build, and why?” God did not tell him to keep it secret. And I know if it were me, I would certainly be trying to warn other family members and friends to prepare for what was to come. And like Jesus in the parable of the bridegroom’s unwilling guests, when family and friends would not listen, I would tell anyone who would lend me an ear (Matthew 22:1-14).

We also find similar hint to Noah’s warnings in the words of Peter who called Noah the preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22). And so must we, in the car with God as off we go, our rainbows to see.

Moses:

Moses is also an example of obedience, as are all who ride in God’s rainbow seeking auto, though, like all of us, he had his moments of slipping to the flesh. So what can we learn through Moses experience about being in the car on a long journey to a rainbow with God? There is probably a lot more than we will cover here, but I see two things about Moses that is important to our ability to make rainbow runs that avoid apathy.

First is his perseverance. As some have been heard to say, it took Moses and Israel 40 years to make what should have only been a 15 day journey. Why?

“For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Say to the sons of Israel, “You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you”’” (Exodus 33:5).

Standing at the foot of the Mountain of God, waiting for Moses to come down, the people of Israel became impatient and questioned the faithfulness and ability of God to protect and keep Moses for so long, and thus, to protect and keep them; so they sinned against God by making a molten image to bow down to as their god. They failed to stay in the car with God, bailing out when doubt came, and wound up wondering the desert wastelands for 40 years. But God remained faithful though they were not, empowering Moses to lead them during that time, helping him to persevere, though their obstinance and rebellion would often test his patience.

Perseverance in life’s journey is a must if we are to stay in the car with God. Life too often challenges our resolve in this journey. But God will help us to persevere if we keep looking to Him as our resource and encouragement. And that brings us to the second thing I see in Moses that we can learn to incorporate into our journey with God. Continuing in Exodus 33:

“Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people!” But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.’ And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name’” (vs. 12-17).

Moses had an awesome, personal, real, vibrant and vital relationship with God that was fed and sustained by his sincerity in his communications with God. He not only grew to trust God, but he relied on Him and expected Him to be the faithful God that God made him to understand He was.

God told Moses from the beginning that His name is “I AM”. That name resounds the faithfulness of God by emphasizing that what we can come to know of Him is who He is, thus His story tells us, “I AM Love”, “I AM Real”, “I AM with you”, “I AM Faithful”. To know God intimately in ways that give us confidence to communicate with Him as Moses and other examples of faith have done will keep us in the car with Him even when the journey is long.

Abraham:

“Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ …” (Genesis 22:1).

Abraham had a promise from God that all the land of the Canaan of his sojourning, as far as he could see, would belong to him and his posterity. But all the life of Abraham was spent as a squatter in the land of promise. Any land he gained was given or sold to him by those who possessed the land in his day. He lived his entire life in waiting, for, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Abraham did not sit around and twiddle his thumbs, waiting aimlessly on the sofa of faith. He did not try to force his way into possessing the land. He trusted God’s timing, waiting on God’s instruction, and he possessed a “here am I” attitude that was prompt to respond to God’s call. He lived the life he had to the full with God while awaiting the promise to come. Even when God tested him, telling him to sacrifice his one and only heir of promise, the one through whom Abraham expected the promises of God to be fulfilled, he did not hold anything back from God, but he trusted two things: that God would provide for Himself in His faithfulness, and that God was able to raise up people even from the dead if that was His way of fulfilling the promise (Genesis 22:2-14; Hebrews 11:19).

Because Abraham believed and trusted God with a “here am I” attitude, the promise of God proved faithful to do as Abraham had come to trust He would and His promise was affirmed to him.

“Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice’” (Genesis 22:15-18).

A “here am I” attitude does not sit on faith as the means to an end. Faith is the engine. But there must also be a can do attitude that willingly does what is required.

“But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:18-24).

Inside the car with Daddy-God we find earnest expectation and hope coupled with faith that produces unquestioning, immediate obedience pouring forth from a “Here am I” attitude of readiness that holds nothing back from God and that perseveres the challenges, tests, and extended journey of life. And where does our time in the car with Daddy take us? To the concluding post in this series of study.

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 12

The Delightful Proof of His Nature Practiced

Read 1 John 3:

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

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

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

Practice the Keeping of His Law / Commands / Will:

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

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

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

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

The Practice of Love Toward the Brotherhood / Sisterhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice Confidence Before God

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

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

Practice What is Pleasing to Him

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

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

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

Practice Walking in the Spirit of God

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

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

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

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 11

The Delight of His Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 8

Joyful Cross Bearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejoicing Comes in the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Part 7

Delighting in Victory Over Evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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