Tag Archives: Truth

Genesis 1: The Creation Story, Part 5

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

~~*~~

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

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

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

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

~~*~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~*~~

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

 

Get Up, Let Us Go From Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Had The Choice

John 10:17-18 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

This speaks to me today as I consider that Jesus is our example in all things. I note here anew that from the day of His birth till the instant of His death, Jesus had the choice. He chose to lay His life down for you and for me, but He had the right, given Him from the Father, to change His mind at any point along that road.

You and I have been gifted with the authority to choose as well. Just like Jesus, we are called day by day to lay down our life—our own wants and desires—and take up our cross—choosing God’s will and way, His assignment for the sake of others, over our own wants and desire, thus following Jesus. At any point along the way we have the right to change our mind, lay down our cross, and take back up our life.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus stayed the course for our sake? I find myself asking today, “Is there an area in my life where I am failing to stay the course for His sake?”

I also note, as I read this passage, that Jesus knew that laying down His life was only temporary. By laying it down to fulfill the will of God, He would win it back again with greater abundance. Sounds like another example worth following, doesn’t it?

In this Christmas season, let’s give back to Jesus the blessed gift of followship.

“I AM”

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

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

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

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

The deeper?

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

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

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

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

Greener Grass?

“You can picture a million lives and never have one of your own” (Character on CSI).

Wow, that line hit my heart whenever I heard it. Not that I don’t have a life, mind you. I have lived dreams. But that line made me think of times when dreaming can take over and lead us to discontent with the now we have to the point that we lose the life set before us.

I wonder, are you — like me — one who needs someone on occasion to give you a good boot and say, “Wake up! Smell the roses where you are”? We have to realize that though the grass may be greener on the other side, it can also be bitter with a hidden poison that will destroy the deceived and weary grazer.

“…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. …” (Philippians 4:11-13, NASB).

Out of The Wilderness

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

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

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

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

 ~~*~~

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

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

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

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed….” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

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

 ~~*~~

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

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

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

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

Also comes thought: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

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

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

  ~~*~~

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

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

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

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

  ~~*~~

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

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

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

What grumbling has me snared?

  ~~*~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darlene Davis © 7/30/11

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 1

“He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar]” (Matthew 13:52, AB).

Read Matthew 13:18-23

The passage we will cover this week is familiar to us, that precious parable of the sower, explained and made clear by Jesus. I love the word of God. It is vital to our ability to know Him, and I believe the study of God’s word for oneself is vital.

To fail to study God’s word for self is like God having a wife that never talks to Him herself or makes time for Him; nor does she respect Him enough to listen and take heed to His words. She is always too busy, talks to Him through others, never taking time to grow the relationship.

Always gaining our understanding of God’s word from others is like being on the outside of the house, looking in. We cannot develop the depth of relationship God desires when we do not approach Him in ways that allow Him to make Himself known to us. And I can tell you from experience, there is nothing more exciting than to hear from God, receiving understanding of Him and His ways for oneself. Even truths we have heard over and over through others takes on new meaning when received for ourselves from personal time with Him. But what is needed for one to begin on this path of personal relationship with God, knowing the power of the Teacher Spirit?

“Hear then the parable of the sower. …”

There are several parables where Jesus teaches us about God’s word, calling it seed that is sown into our lives. This parable in 13:18-23 instructs us on several things that are necessary for us to receive and bear the fruit of that seed.

 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. …”

The first point  Jesus  makes in His training of what is needful for us to bear the fruit of the seed of God’s word is “understanding.” When we hear God’s word without understanding it, the enemy of God will snatch it from us, hindering our ability to consider what we heard and receive understanding. So here is what I have learned through the years about how to grow in understanding.

One: Jesus teaches that those who are His will hear and know His voice, and that He has given them His Spirit who will teach them (John 10:1-5, 11-16 and 14:26). The first thing necessary to understanding is believing God and taking Him at this word of promise. I pray constantly to know and trust God’s voice and to recognize the stranger so as to not be led astray by becoming so familiar with a voice not of God that I am deceived. I pray to have a teachable spirit that is alert to the Spirit of God and open to the truths He leads me to. Then I choose to trust God.

Are there ever times when I miss the mark? Sure. We are human and can be deceived, but more often than not, I hear truly, and when I don’t, God is quick to correct me; He does not leave us as orphans, but instructs us as children. So choose to believe that God will make His voice clear and will increase the work of the Teacher-Spirit in you, and press forward to read His word with faith.

Two: God instructs us to meditate upon His word for a reason, so when a passage jumps out to me as being important, I stop and seek the Lord for understanding. It does not matter how many chapters and books I read a day if I never comprehend and receive instruction.

Sometimes I read numerous chapters before something speaks to me personally. sometimes I get through only a few verses before the Spirit draws my attention to His instruction. Sometimes He will speak clearly to my heart of understanding without research. Sometimes I am called to reference the passage and look at related scriptures that bring understanding. And sometimes I have to get out a dictionary to define a word or a commentary to instruct my heart. But always God will lead me to understand not only His truths, but how they apply to my current life situations.

Three: With or without full understanding, when a passage stands out as important for me to consider, God will often inspire me to put it on paper where I can carry it with me. I pull it out often throughout the day, putting it to memory, meditating on it, continuing to seek understanding. It is awesome to see how God uses that word and brings me to greater depth of the knowledge of Him through His teaching and instructing me. Our relationship is more real and personal because of His training me in how to understand His word for myself.

Does that mean I never receive instruction from others who have an understanding? Of course not. But I find that often what happens is God instructs me, then confirms and broadens that understanding by way of the teaching of His Spirit through others.

The first point is that the Father sows the seed of the word to us, and we must deliberately do the things that make that word productive. To be fertile soil for God’s Word of truth we must first choose to trust His word of promise: believe that He can and will speak to “me” personally because He desire a relationship with “me” that is vital and growing; and know that His Spirit is with “me” to help me understand if I will only listen with faith to hear. Then we must realize that when He speaks to us, it is vital that we stop to seek understanding, for without understanding, the word will be snatched from us, prevented by God’s enemy from forming any good root into our lives, and thus from bearing any good fruit that would work God’s purpose for having given it to us.

An example comes to mind that, though this is already longer than intended, I feel led to share for greater emphasis of the need to understand.

When I was a child, my younger sister and I went to a church picnic at the park with my aunt. As we ran off to play, my aunt hollered to get my attention. Turning with “what?” intending to listen, she hollered back her instruction. I did not understand a word she said–park noise, road noise and wind hindering, and instead of getting closer to her to hear her words with understanding, in childish exuberance I yelled “OK” as if I heard. Grabbing the hand of my sister we were off and running.

Where did we go first? In this park was a huge slide, some 20 feet tall. We ran headlong to that slide. Long story short, without boring you with the details and blaming someone else with my ignorance, I watched from the top of that slide as my little sis fell over the side, landing face first on a large stone below. Now my sister lived, thank God; only having a slight concussion, she was sent home on bed rest. Only then, after the harm was done, did I hear with understanding as my aunt yelled, “I told you to stay off that slide!”

When we fail to stop and listen to God’s Spirit instructing us until we have understanding, we risk running headlong into trouble. But when we deliberate practice “stop, look, and listen” until we have understanding, we grow strong in our relationship with Him and learn to abide there.

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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