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Friday, September 28, 2012

Joy of the Purest Kind

“Consider it pure joy,” James 1:3-4 imparts, “Whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance! Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete, not lacking anything.”

    Why am I tested?  Why do I suffer? These are questions each believer asks.  Spiritual maturity can only be achieved through perseverance.  It is a goal, a promise, and constantly a journey.  This work must be finished in order for us to handle life’s unexpected circumstances.  What a riveting image!  There is a work going on in each believer, and it can only be completed through a willingness to endure!  The Lord’s perfect will is for faith to spring up in the midst of heartache. It is my decision whether I learn the lesson or not.  I should reach for spiritual awareness that is ripe and full of the grace of Christ to meet each insufficiency in my life.

     The end result of hardship should be patience. We are to consider suffering as beneficial, because trials can inspire spiritual growth. I Peter 1:7 reads, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Christ.” The trying of your faith, of what you believe, should develop the ability to persevere. 

    Our faith in Jesus Christ is more precious than this world’s most precious metal, so it should be our most valued possession!  When Jesus calls us home to test the value of its worth---after years of refinement through hardship and battle—what will He discover?  We shall either have failed and remained a child, or endured and matured.  My attitudes, thoughts, and desires should be those of an adult, and represent the majority of my life.  They should be prime, and the first to arise in difficult circumstance.  Most of all, they should spur me on toward the perfection found only in Christ.  What I have within must be tested to see if it is any good.  If untried, it becomes stagnant.  Tried, it is refined by the fire of the Holy Spirit.  “Consider it pure joy,” James writes. To face trials with joy?  Do I really believe that the testing of my faith produces the ability to persevere?  God wants me to understand that it is the joy of the purest kind.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Prayer

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

No prayer goes unanswered.  Always remember that when things aren't right, or someone does something wrong, it is at that moment that you are to pray.  Don't run and set that person straight, but pray for things that are wrong to be made right, and for the heart of the person to be changed.

Don't hide from your responsibility to pray. What is wrong in the world, in your country, with its leadership, and with its people?  Make these concerns the cry of your heart. What is it you see in another person's life that is destroying him?  Make it the cry of your heart. Make all the matters that break your heart, the very things that drive you to your knees.

There in your prayer closest you shall find one-on-one spirit communion with the Lord that brings down walls, and changes the lives of those for whom you plead mercy. There on your knees you can discover the humble service of prayer that changes the world. You will see the hand of God touch lives, realize miracles happen, and know lives have been changed. Every time that you bow on your knees in prayer, heaven rejoices, and hell shakes. There is great power in the prayer of one who surrenders his heart to the Lord in prayer. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Monday, September 24, 2012

He Is I'm Not

His love must direct all my actions. I choose to fear nothing, and stand strong through the storms of life. I find complete joy in following His will instead of my own. I surrender all of myself to Him....my time, my work, my priorities, my thoughts, my ideas, my preconceptions, my life, my all upon His altar. I choose to believe Him only and not my thoughts. He is Truth. I am not. He is Life. I am not. He is Peace. I have none. He is Joy. I can't manufacture it. He is All, and I am just me. Each day I will lay myself upon His altar, and make an offering of me. It is in the giving away that I shall receive. I shall receive His All instead of the little that I am.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

No More Doubt



            Last week a friend asked me why she doubted God. She struggled to believe a promise which the Lord had confirmed through prayer and Scripture. She couldn't grasp it, because she doubted her own ability to hear from Him. Despair settled upon her, and there was little chance that faith might take root.

            The relationship between doubt, despair, hope and faith is explored by Edmund Spenser in his allegorical poem, The Faerie Queen (Middlesex, England,: Penguin Books, 1978). Faith goes for a walk in a forest named Doubt. Faith becomes lost, and meets a person named Despair. Despair assures Faith that he can lead her out of the forest of Doubt. Despair leads Faith to a river called Suicide and tells her to jump in. Just as Faith is about to jump into the river, Hope comes along, takes Faith by the hand, and leads her away from Despair and out of Doubt.

            How many of us wander through a forest of doubt everyday, and grabbing hold of despair, follow him instead of hope? Despair's mission is to destroy hope, and bring spiritual death to your faith. At this point the stage is set for hope's entrance, but somehow hope is stuck in the wings. Perhaps we wait for hope to gallop on to our stage as a knight on a white horse. Most often, though, hope enters as a tiny spark which, when fanned into a flame, has the potential to grow into great faith.

            Doubt is a state of mind, but disbelief is a state of your spirit. Disbelief is the result of spiritual death. Doubt hears Jesus knocking at the door, and longs to open it. Disbelief doesn't even hear His knock (Revelation 3:21).When despair pulls you down to the point of spiritual death, and disbelief has overwhelmed your spirit, you forget that there is any hope.

            However, there is great news! Jesus Christ died so that you might have hope! Consider Jesus Christ as Hope in Spenser's poem. He is the Savior that comes as a still small voice and speaks to our despairencouraging us not to sink into the depths of disbelief. If we allow He guides us away from spiritual death toward a life of faith.

            “Isn't this stupid?” my friend asked. “To doubt what I have heard from God?” She didn't want to change God's will into her own, but she was so terrified of doing just that very thing, despair was ready to claim her. 

            Following the resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples. “Why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. Touch me and see” (Luke 24:37-39). David Seamands writes of Christ as our wounded healer. “If he merely understood the fact of our infirmities, that would be good enough. But I've got better news for you. He understood the feelings of our infirmitiesnot just the crippling, not just the weaknesses, not just the emotional hang-ups and inner conflict, but the pain that comes from them” (Healing for Damaged Emotions, [Colorado: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1991], 43). Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and for our feelings of despair-not just with His mind, but with His body and His spirit (Hebrews 4:15). 

            Oswald Chambers describes a spiritual plane where doubt can not intrude as one of “sublime intimacy”. “Believe steadfastly on Him, and all you come up against will develop your faith” (My Utmost for His Highest [Michigan: Discovery House Publishers, 1963], 177). “Faith,” Chambers concludes, “is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams that He will not stand by us” (page 177). Sublime intimacy with the Savior is where faith has been tested and has become our personal possession.  It has become pure joy because it has overcome our deepest suffering (James 1:2-3).

My friend has a great longing in her heart to reach this higher spiritual plane. She realizes that this can only be found in Jesus. She has discovered that if she concentrates on what she has been promised instead of the One who gave her the promise, she loses the faith not only to believe the promise, but also faith in the One who gave her the promise.  

Don’t follow Despair around in your forest of Doubt. Despair will lead you to the river and tell you to end it all. But Faith will build a bridge and speak hope to your promise. 

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" Jesus asked Martha after raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:40). Hope takes Faith by the hand, and leads her away from Despair and out of Doubt. Jesus waits for you to place your hand into His wounded one and believe. Reach up and grasp His wounded hand and you grasp His promise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Not About Me

The love of God reaches farther than pen can ever tell, the song states. There are not enough words to describe His love. A scroll might span the heavens, but could never contain the whole of His love in words. So why do I even attempt to write about His love? Because it helps me remember that nothing is about me. It is all about Him.

God's love is the only constant reality. It says, “I love you you even though you have decided you don't love me. I love you even though you have cheapened my grace, and turned away from my love which died for you. I forgive you even though you can not forgive another. I love you in your sin. I died for that sin which separates you from my love. I died so you might be set free. I gave everything for you to know my love-for you to discover faith in the midst of fear-for you to discover joy in the midst of pain. For you to know that even though your love should not be about you, my love was all about you.”

His love was all about me. My love should be all about others. He gave everything for me. My love should honor His sacrifice, and be about the needs, hurts, and pain of others. It is not about what I might want or think I need. It is not about my hurt feelings, but about forgiveness. It is not about my pain, but it is about the pain of someone else. It is not about what I want, but about the needs of another. It is in giving His love away that I discover the depth of His love for me. If I honor the depth of His sacrifice and love for me, I will be His hands. I will reach out to others and share His love.

 One day I will stand before the Lord who gave everything for me. In that one moment the love I gave on earth will face the love of God in its revealing clarity. It will no longer be just a reflection. I will, in that moment, know if it was enough.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Don't Be Decevied


Life is not easy. It is especially not easy when I allow the enemy to distort what is true. His distortion might certainly appear to be truth, but it never is. We must pray and look beneath his lies to see God’s truth in each matter. Appearance does not always reveal what is true. My perception is where his lies can take root. Prayer and Bible study are essential to understand the enemy's distortions. Just as he used Scripture to tempt Christ, he will certainly use it to tempt me to believe his lies.

I must seek God’s truth in all matters. I must realize that the parables Jesus’ spoke teach that appearances are not always true. There is always more beneath the surface. He explained this to his disciples in Matthew 13: 13-15. “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”

I do not want to have a calloused heart and mind that listens to the enemy’s lies, and never perceives what Christ really imparts. I want to perceive with an open heart, ears, eyes, and mind. How I long for Him to see in me the quality He saw in His disciples! “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17).

Help, me, Lord, to be one of these who hear, see, and understand your truth with my heart and mind. Your word says that then I will be healed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Saved from Myself

Two years ago I was asked to consider what the greatest thing God has done in my life. It was easy. God has saved me from myself. I can escape others, but I can't escape who I am. Where I go, I go with me. He is my place of refuge from my own failures, my weakness, my limitations, my defeat, and my inward struggles. He saves me from myself. He is my sanctuary.

I run to Him until in His omnipotence I forget my limitations and my smallness. I remain in His presence until feelings of safety blossom into the joy of of a faithfully gained promise. I have taken in His wholeness. He has become more, and I have become less. I have gained His strength to conquer my sin. He has become my power and victory over my own defeat. 

I have been saved from myself.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Counting the Cost

I have turned over "another new leaf".  If I am committed to growing spiritually. It will mean Bible study and prayer, fighting discouragement, reasonable expectations, being honest with myself and others, and commitment to grow. It is nice to read about spiritual growth, but applying it is something else. Application needs commitment or it won't last very long. This is where the rubber meets the road. Danger exists in humanly counting the cost of commitment. Being obsessed about the cost may cause me to focus on the "how" instead of the "why", and make me retreat from the depth of inward commitment necessary. With too little human commitment, my desire for growth fades away. However, there is safety is spiritually calculating the cost. When the price of growth is spiritually counted and the cost is absolute surrender to Jesus Christ, then biblical paradoxes take on new spiritual depth! Servitude brings greatness. Weakness brings strength. To live is to die, and to die is to live. If I give whatever is necessary spiritually, I will receive the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, and what is so important, maybe I will inspire commitment in others. Spiritual growth within will be a reality!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Great Peace

Be still and quiet. Quit all striving. Seek my peace which surpasses your human understanding. No man–no person–no stress–no hardship–no problem has the power to destroy this peace. But you can destroy it by allowing worry to claim and distractions to rob you. You can open your heart to despair and your mind to the enemy who wishes to destroy your peace.

Make it your mindset to allow nothing to destroy your peace. Rest your mind and your heart. Retreat from work, and speaking with others, and seek me until peace is restored. Never let others rob you of your peace of heart and mind. Recognize each problem as a step towards acquiring my peace. It is real and it lasts in the face of all opposition. Each obstacle brings you closer to its promise. Love my Word and you will discover the faith that offers this peace.

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165, NIV).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Clarity of HIs Love

The love of God clears away the fog of misunderstanding. It explains everything, and makes everything crystal clear. I can't understand God unless I love Him. I can't understand His will for my life unless I love Him. His love for me more than fulfilled the law. It changes my heart so I can understand the reason for it. His sacrifice offers the greatest love so that His word becomes the height and breath my soul can reach. The one who loves is born of God, because he is born into a new life in Christ who is the greatest love. It is my choice to live in that love. And as I live in His love, He prepares my heart and mind to receive the truth of His message. That message softens the hardest of hearts, causes indifference to flee, and opens my heart to desire all of His best in my life.

Monday, September 3, 2012

This is a new day!

Does the thought of a new day bring discouragement to your heart? Do you forget I died for your agony, for your tragedy, and for your pain? Each day is not meant to discourage, but to inspire and lift you above what clouds your day. A new day is my gift to you. It is able to give you a new perspective and new hope. Whatever you face my love and power overcome discouragement and despair. Whatever the world tells you is only what the world tells you. It is not what I know and try to impart to your mind and heart. Rise in each new day, and rejoice in my gift of another opportunity. Trust me, and trust that this day can be the best when you allow me to carry you through it. Daily things done in my strength are able to give you greater faith in my promises. It is a new day! Expect my peace. Expect my love, and expect my promise.

"This is the day which the Lord hath made; and we will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Be Still and Know

Be still and know I am God. I speak very softly. Listen to my voice only. Never allow the voices of the world to deter. Listen and you will never be disappointed. Listen, and anxious thoughts and tired nerves will become rested. I speak rest in tenderness to your turmoil and strife.

My tenderness and the restfulness will heal your scars and make you strong, but it is you who must let me be your
strength and your power. You are the greatest concern of my heart. Never fear. I will keep you and guard you always.......

...... if you will never shut me out. Allow me to love you and carry you. I know your pain, and I am the answer. You do not have the answer. Only I have the answer. But until you let it go, and surrender it, there is nothing I can do.

Give it all to me today, and rest in me. Seek me until you find my peace. Allow me to flow through your heart and mind.... and heal all that which would tell you that you are unworthy. Never feel at the  mercy of the world. You are not. You belong to me.

KNOWING JESUS

  Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing...