Growing in Faith

Learning Spiritual Insights

croc

At a church I attended some time ago there was one guy who would say things about me, and to me, that sounded like veiled criticisms. It had the same affect on me as fingernails on slate—it was really irritating. His words came out as feeble attempts at joking jibes, and this was a constant thing. But underneath it all, I could detect a hurt feeling, as if I made him feel a little “less-than.” I didn’t realize this in the beginning, but thankfully I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and He is super wise. Cutting me down, while making it sound as if he was only kidding was a way for the poor fellow to express what was going on inside, without anyone calling him on his badmouthing.

Lots of people suffer insecurities, and often those feelings will rise to the surface in both word and actions, often distinguished through facial expressions and body language. These feelings, though usually unfounded, do stem from legitimate needs that are not being met: such as the need for self-worth—healthy self-esteem. Sometimes there are deep rooted emotional injuries from childhood that have never been addressed, hence, have never healed.

At first, his words hurt my feelings and stirred a bit of anger. My knee jerk response was to let fly right back at him with a wittier slam than his, and being a writer I’m quite able in that respect. In fact, I actually did that, and later felt really bad about it. So I repented, and then told the man I was sorry for saying what I did.

A couple days later, while in prayer, God’s Spirit of wisdom showed me that there were underlying hurts and heartaches in that man—some past trauma at the root of the problem. This is something God teaches us to do—be discerning. The Lord has even given us His Holy Spirit so that we’ll have the power to know and understand things that are going on in the spirit world, in our own spirit, and in that of others, like my criticizer. God knows all things, even our most secret motives, and often He shares needed information with us, if we will remain open to receive it. God then affords us the power to respond in the right way, with discernment, discretion and healing love.

God has taught me to pray about everything, and this was one of those things I definitely needed to talk to the Lord about. For one thing, I had to be certain I wasn’t saying or doing things that would perpetuate this man’s feelings of some form of inferiority.

“Lord, why does he feel that way in response to me? Have I said or done something wrong to him?”

Well, as usual, God did not answer in the way I wanted or expected Him to. Perhaps I was hoping for something like, Oh no, you’re fine, Sheldon. It’s that man’s problem and he should not be talking like that.

But instead, I was simply given direction as to what I should do. I sensed God speaking inside me. You may be wondering, ‘How do I know it was God talking?’ Because it’s not what I myself would have thought of, or done in response to the situation. And, it was in keeping with God’s very nature of love and compassion. And, it was in harmony with other things that, as my educator, God has instructed me to do in the past. I’ve already told you what my own human response was, which came from the sin nature. Yes, I’m still growing, but so are all believers.

The Lord said something to the effect of “Ask him to do something for you—something that you don’t know how to do yourself.”

Hmm, that makes sense, I responded. Yes Lord, I will. It’ll make him feel better-than, instead of less-than, and I’ll get a lesson in humility.

“Now you’re thinking,” is what I believe the Lord was saying at that point.

As it turns out, the guy is a whiz with computers, and I owned a laptop that had crashed. Fixing it would require a set of skills that are completely out of my purview. Now I can fix a car and sell it too—I can write some pretty fancy words and even pitch some woo. But when it comes to computers: software, malware, Tupperware; all that jazz, I have to leave it to those nerdy types with skinny necks and pocket protectors who look as if they may take over the world some day.   Sorry about that, I got distracted by my funny bone.

He did a great job fixing my laptop, for free, and he even gave me a beefed up hard drive. That guy was tickled rosy to show me how smart he was, and I made sure to stoke that sensation in him. Ever since that day, he has stopped criticizing me and sometimes he even asks me questions about the bible. I think he and I are becoming friends outside of church too. Now, if I can get him to open up about his past, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to counsel him, and get him to seek the Lord’s help in addressing whatever the root of his dilemma may be. God sure does know what He’s doing. All I have to do is pray, then listen…and then do.

Blessings.

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Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Growing in Faith, LIstening to God, Uncategorized, Wisdom & Discernment | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Never Ending Journey

On this spiritual journey of faith in Christ Jesus, it is often difficult to locate mile markers to know how far we’ve come. But looking back over the past several years, it’s exciting to see the obstacles to our goals that have been overcome.

trail

For instance, on my journey of becoming more like Jesus, I can see myself forgiving others just a bit more easily than I did a couple years ago, and that’s very encouraging to me. This process of sanctification, or being made holy will not be complete for any of us until Jesus returns.

 

When others, who don’t want me to achieve anything at all, show their evil contempt by their actions and treatment of me, it doesn’t ruffle my feathers as easily it used to. Of course, I still have a very long way to go. But I cannot take any of the credit for my growth, not at all. Every good change that has taken place in my character has been done by God, simply because I asked Him to help me. He’s given us who are saved His Holy Spirit to help us along on this arduous trek —all the way home.

 

As I pondered the specific things that I’ve learned along the way, and things God has led me to do, so that I’d continue growing spiritually, several things became apparent. It became noteworthy that others just might be helped if I were to share some of what God has led me to do. That’s why I’ve put together some bullet points as an easy to use checklist each day—simple. though vital reminders that need to stay with us. It is my prayer that someone out there will be blessed by my sharing them.

 

 

Spiritual Health Tips

(A Bakers Dozen)

 

  1. Confront (face) the issues in your past that hurt you, with Christ as your Counselor—He is your healer, not time! If you don’t, your past can be very harmful to your future. 
  2. Ignore the naysayers and those who criticize you. Listen only to what God says about you. 
  3. Replace all negative thoughts that come into your mind with good, positive & constructive thoughts. (Philippians 4:8)
  4. Your happiness & satisfaction are found in Christ alone, so, don’t seek them anywhere else. Examples: finances, relationships, social status, etc. He will give you those too…when it’s time. (Luke 9:23)
  5. Don’t expect everyone to understand the mission God assigned to you, and, be on guard against those who don’t want you to succeed—avoid them when possible. Rarely, but sometimes, you must act in order to be vindicated. (John 21:22)
  6. It’s your journey, but not yours alone: Jesus walks it with you. (Hebrews 13:5) 
  7. Encourage others who are on their journey with Christ, help them, walk beside them for a while. Offering your hand will strengthen both their walk of faith and your journey—be kind. (1 Thes. 5:11)
  8. It’s okay to not know everything—wise people always seek counsel and they ask many questions. (proverbs 15:22)
  9. Acknowledge your flaws, while working to overcome them in the strength God provides. Everyone is flawed, everyone has weaknesses. Nobody’s perfect except God. (Proverbs 16:18)
  10. Live one day at a time. “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34) 
  11. Never compare yourself to anyone on earth. Compare and measure yourself only by Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:29) 
  12. Humility is difficult to maintain & requires supernatural assistance from the Holy Spirit, and yet it is a key to great spiritual power. Secretly performing kind acts of service is a good exercise for developing humility. (Matthew 6:1)
  13. Smile, and don’t be so critical of yourself, Jesus loved you long before you even knew His name. (Psalm 143:8)

 

You already know the Christian disciplines of daily prayer and bible study, fellowship often with other Christians, and all the rest of them. Say a prayer for me as I continue my journey, and I’d be pleased to pray for you as well. Blessings.

 

P.S. We love you too. crop graceme

 

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Growing in Faith, Sanctification, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hello 2018

image

It’s another year, already? Just the other day I saw this really old looking fellow and wondered how fast time was going by for him, and then I realized, Hey, I went to high school with that guy! It made me feel older than the Dead Sea.

 

Gone are the times I’d wake up New Year’s Day and recall wearing some woman’s bra as a headband while showing off my lack of dance skills the night before. It was no fun worrying over what other ways I may have played the fool while too drunk to remember.

 

Just like lots of folks, I used to jump on the band wagon with all of the New Year resolution stuff, and more often than not I failed to keep my resolutions. Some of the most common determinations people make are things like; lose weight, quit smoking, spend more time with family, or complete a long procrastinated project. I seemed to do okay for a month, maybe two, and then other things always usurped priority, leaving my resolutions to fizzle out like a dud firecracker. But since Jesus has become the focal point of my life, I have only one resolution which remains a constant every year: to be more like Him.

 

Experts say that making resolutions is a good thing. It causes us to take a good look at ourselves, and register an internal inventory. The worst jerk in town just may wake up to the fact he’s a numbskull and decide to do something about it. As evidenced by the huge self-help genre of books, I think all of us have things we’d like to change and that probably should be changed. The key is in staying motivated to make the improvements so that our commitments can maintain impetus. A good way to accomplish this is to mark one day every month on our calendars to revisit what it is we said we wanted to do. Perhaps a goal map would be in order to chart our progress, just as with any goal.

 

By definition a resolution is a determined course of action, or, the state of being resolute.

 

As followers of Jesus we must often renew our decision to die to the old sinful self; that we may live for God, following the leadership of His Holy Spirit. Even the Apostle Paul found it necessary to “die daily” (crucify his self will), so that Christ could be better formed in him. That fits nicely with another definition for the word: resolution; it’s the one used in photographyThe fineness of detail that can be distinguished in an image.

 

The Bible tells us that as Christians we are predestined by God to be conformed to the “image” of Jesus Christ, His holy Son. (Romans 8:29)

The onset of a new year is a great time to take a good hard look at how well we’ve been representing Jesus as His ambassadors here on earth.

How fine tuned is the image of Christ in us? Do the people we come into contact with see Jesus in the details of our lives?

As we look to our hearts, do we see a high definition image with good resolution of the holy Son of God?

 

Hopefully we will reflect on how well the image of Jesus was portrayed in our lives over the past year. Though we should do so every day, this is a good time to renew our resolve.

 

I hope you’ll pray this short prayer along with me.

“Lord Jesus, help me to become more like you over this next year. Please set Your Holy Spirit to work on me. Your word promises that God will continue the work of sanctifying me and maturing me in holiness, until you come to take me home and fully complete that work. Forgive me for times when I saw something else as more important than spending time studying my bible and praying. Father, help me to yield myself moment by moment to You, so that Christ may be seen through me with fineness of detail throughout the coming year, amen.”

 

One day the image of Jesus will be perfected in us when we shall be “Raised incorruptible.” (1 Cor. 15:51-58)

 

But until Jesus returns, let’s joyfully continue renewing our resolve to walk in the Spirit in close communication with our Lord, so that His image may shine forth, reflecting His light of truth and His love to the world.

 

May your resolve be strong. Happy New Year!

 

Categories: Christian Living, Current Event, Growing in Faith, Sanctification, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Broken To Become Whole

break

Brokenness in the Christian experience can refer to bad and harmful brokenness, but more often it refers to a necessary state of dependence upon the Lord. This is a very good type of brokenness.

In her book The Broken Way Ann Voskamp testifies about the benefits of becoming openly broken together—of being transparent with each other about our brokenness and our weaknesses. She says there’s winsomeness when we are vulnerable together. Another woman who is from a long line of farmers was conversing with Ann and proclaimed how she clearly comprehends this brokenness as being like a seed.

In John 12:24 Jesus teaches the following.

 “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat fall to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.”

 

When we can allow ourselves to become openly vulnerable with each other, the seed hull breaks open to germinate in the nutrient rich soil of God’s word as it is discussed in a group setting such as a bible study.

 

“A yielded life, surrendered to God yields the most.”—Ann Voskamp

 

If we hope to be glorified we must be crucified with Christ and die to the old self-life, as Paul so succinctly expounds.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

 

This is in perfect union with Jesus words in Luke 9:23 “…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…”

As excruciating as death sounds to human sensitivities, it is required. It is the secret to receiving great spiritual power for renewal and transformation, which, every soul of great faith has received from God’s Holy Spirit imparting the new life within.

 

This brokenness or death to the old self is clearly counter cultural. The world’s way is to avoid suffering, pain and brokenness. Here again, we see the upside down ways of God’s wisdom compared to the world’s perspective and beliefs.

 

How do I live my life surrendered to God, dead to self and alive in Christ? It is by my willingness to be broken by God. It is humbly accepting that I do not know, and God does know, so I must surrender my mind to Him. The world itself is broken, and yet, God is able to break the brokenness of the world and create a new wholeness, a new life which produces more of the same.

 

When a seed or kernel is planted in the ground it must break open, and then the embryo breaks through the earth to rise up and become a stalk of wheat with a full head of kernels. Because the seed yields to brokenness, the seed eventually produces many more seeds.

 

And so in our lives, as we prayerfully learn from the scriptures, humbly yielding every thought and each area of our lives to Christ, He brings to life in us ten times more than we have surrendered.

 

“…We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

 2 Corinthians 10:5b

 

If we could only see with His eyes how puny and haggardly the things our old lives cling to actually are, we’d drop them like glowing embers. During this maturing process, God does give us sight—light to see how destructive those things of the old life really are. We begin to lucidly perceive things from a spiritual perspective, and then wonder how we could have been so blinded by our old fleshly desires.

 

The Spirit will tell us to let go of that putrid practice, that immature way of thinking, that old disparaging habit, our pride. He will say, “Here, take these diamonds and emeralds instead.” Because, what God gives in return is worth exceedingly more than what we must surrender to Him. We could compare allowing ourselves to be broken with scrapping an old jalopy and exchanging it for a shiny new Rolls Royce. And to giving up a position as the janitor of a company in order to become the CEO of that company. And with trading the strength of a deathly sick Pee Wee for the strength of Sampson. And to trading ignorance for wisdom, knowledge and discernment. And to handing over our ticket to the lake of fire in exchange for a ticket to paradise. But without allowing ourselves to be broken and remade, we will not receive any of the good things God has to give us. We must become Broken Vessels.

Broken Vessels By Hillsong

 

If we hope to truly live we must put our old sinful nature to death, while nurturing the new life we have in Christ. We do so through prayerful study of God’s word, fellowship with Godly people, removing worldly stimulus, and all the rest of what the Spirit of God leads us to do. See you up yonder!

For more on Brokeness in relation to the Christian experience see this post and others from the site I received the opening image from: Sovereign Grace

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A Passion For Holiness

As time slips through my fingers, scorched by the hot irons of multitudinous responsibilities I juggle, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain three blogs. That’s why I am praying for guidance while rethinking which venue the Lord would have me focus upon. During the interim, as I seek the Lord’s direction, I decided to share here today my most recent Youtube video from my channel for extended friends and family, and that includes my church family. I call these little informal episodes of edifying  information, encouragement and bible teaching: “Coffee Talks”. That’s because I love discussing spiritual things over a good cup of coffee. If you believe becoming more like Jesus is important, this talk is for you.

Become Beautiful

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Creating Community

canal

During my bicycle commute to downtown Indianapolis I have time to reflect on the things God teaches us. The thoughts He brought to mind were of a good life and the importance of being good neighbors who care about making the place they live the safest, most vibrant and economically healthy Community possible. It always begins with a sense of camaraderie and working together. In a word it is unity. This was a lesson the Lord was teaching during that peaceful respite from my labors.

bike

White River State Park is about a mile from our Indianapolis home; I cross over the river itself, which is a tributary to the Wabash River, and stretches for 362 miles. I pause often on the bridge to bask in the beauty of its verdant waterway. The park, too, is a delight. Riding a bicycle enables me to experience the outdoors and the people as I pass through it on my way to do business downtown. Along the canal winding through the park, puppies frolic and excited dogs tug on their leashes, as children laugh. And even the joggers smile.  Ducks eye you closely for any sign of a bread bag while the squirrels display their acrobatic prowess in the surrounding trees. When people are there, they are at their friendliest. By your fifth greeting or so, you are caught up in the vortex of souls longing for community—community unity demanding to remain intact. It’s an assuring feeling to know your neighbors hope for the same kind of world that you do.

There are some things that every descent citizen hopes for: things such as world peace, old fashioned hospitality and charity, safety, prosperity, community mindedness. The need for togetherness is evident, in order to build such a home. How do we achieve the utopian lives we envision for ourselves?

museum

Nearly two thousand years ago God’s Son became a man. He taught and demonstrated the singular path to the kind of life for which every sane soul longs. His name is Jesus.

What is the first step towards the abundant life Jesus came to give us? If a soul is to manifest the dynamic of God’s Spirit indwelling them, where would they begin, and how? Assuming a person has placed their faith in Christ and is saved, they must possess particular knowledge if they are to learn God’s truths and mature in that faith. Most important is belief in who God is, and what He is like. This is the foundation of theology and of biblical Christianity.

Our worship leaders at West Park church in Indianapolis have made a habit of proclaiming one of God’s glorious attributes at the beginning of each service. We hear it often and in many congregations around the world. It began as “God is good!” And the congregation responds with “All the time!” That is the primary belief we must have if we are to trust Him with our lives. Is this simply a slogan, or a platitude to make us feel spiritual? Often I feel we do not dwell upon the depth of meaning those words carry. It’s a hazard any time we over use any statement. I like the fact that our congregation changes it up to include many of God’s other attributes. “God is faithful all the time,” or “God is love all the time.” God is all-knowing, almighty and holy all the time. The list goes on and on.

meerkats

It jolted me when the Lord brought the words, “God is good” to mind during a moment of my weakness. A decision was required of me to either speak out to vindicate myself against a false accusation, or heed the Spirit’s instruction to remain silent. My reputation and honor were at stake.

Thankfully, in this instance, I did the right thing and kept my flapper shut. But in order to do so, I had to trust that God is good and faithful. For obedience to occur it is absolutely essential that we are fully convinced of God’s goodness and His faithfulness. The Lord did vindicate me! And the truth came out in a way that had everyone involved hugging each other with joyful tears of Christian love and unity. It was a beautiful moment—one that is cherished.  God’s power was released into that situation because I believed and then acted upon that belief. I’m convinced that taking the matter into my own hands would have precipitated hard feelings on both sides, along with pain and deep regret.

Then, I realized that every temptation at its root was the same temptation. It’s what the enemy suggested to Eve in the garden. Satan tried to get her to doubt God’s goodness and His faithfulness. Will He act for my best interest? He will if He is faithful. The question is, can we trust God in every area of our lives and be obedient to Him all the time, especially when we don’t understand His reasoning? Is He good and faithful all the time as we say? Do we believe that he will satisfy us when we release the things He tells us to let go of? Will I be happy if I obey? Will all of my needs be met? If God is faithful the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The clearer God’s revelations of Himself become to us the greater our power will be to enter into that life of work that brings rest and peace. We find ourselves possessing joy and finding deep fulfillment. The hope received offers a view of holiness upon which to focus, as love permeates and motivates our works, our words, and our lives together. I pray that you too are a member of this heavenly community that is forming down here regardless of the dirtiness and ugliness in the world, and amidst hardship and pain. The kingdom of God is in you and me, and you and you and you who are in Christ.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.—Jesus    (John 13:35 NLT)

You and I have a great responsibility to reflect the righteousness of Christ to the world through the lives we live, and in the love we share. After all, our community is actually a kingdom. Soon, you and I shall reign with our glorious King, Christ Jesus, and we too shall shine with glory as priests and kings. This world is rough, but a Christian is tough. And it’s more than worth the short lived suffering we may face. Paul declares in Romans 8, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not even worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Come and be one of those who have overcome the world through faith in Christ and through the word of your testimony— and we’ll do it in love.  

Categories: Christian Living, Community, Growing in Faith, People, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reach Greater Heights

Ever notice how there always seems to be someone who is dead set on making you look bad? Are many criticisms spewed in your direction?

Nobody ever said that serving the Lord was going to be easy. Following Jesus is not for wimps. In fact, we are told that we will suffer and will be tested. As children of God’s soul garden He uses opposition to our cause in bringing about spiritual growth, enabling us to mature in faith, in knowledge, and in our obedience to truth.

Often I’ve talked about growing in grace and advancing in faith as climbing a spiritual mountain. That’s one of the reasons I named my devotional book: “Meet Him on the Mountain”. A few decades ago when I read Hannah Hurnard’s allegory “Hinds Feet on High Places,” it had a profound impact upon my own walk with Jesus. Perhaps that’s where I get the analogy from.

After you’ve been working at this arduous ascent for a goodly amount of time, it becomes easier to perceive God’s wisdom at work, and to see things from His point of view. Our spirits begin to make greater leaps. Our goals become more lucid. It’s exciting. And it is awesomely wondrous when we perceive ourselves morphing into a new kind of person as a result of God’s Spirit of power at work in us, using His written words. Without the Lord, we never would have been capable of becoming what we are at present. Neither do we cease to improve, nor arrive at perfection during this life below. The crux of this knowledge is that the Holy Spirit releases power into our lives as a direct result of our obedient faith.

The following is just one example of the many ways our responses to others undergo drastic and often surprising changes whenever we are actively growing in grace. Here is a fact that should be easy for all to agree upon.

A person of depth has no need to convince others of his or her significance.

Yes, that person who has been a thorn in your side feels as though he or she is not sufficiently significant.

But then, having a sense of significance is a legitimate need of the human phyche—everyone needs to be needed. When someone’s self-worth plummets, they tend to become hyper critical of others. They will usually target specific people who make the sufferer feel as if they are nearly worthless—an awful psychological pain. We don’t mean to make them feel that way, never-the-less, the Jesus in us outshines them, making them feel less than. So, before you dismiss that abrasive person who often may lash out at you and put you down, realize what it is they need. And then do your best to provide it. I think that’s what Jesus would do.

But you better get prayed up first. Put on the tenderness of compassion and remember to take your brain along too, because you’re going to need discernment. Don’t forget to suit up in the armor of God as you come alongside them and minister to that need.

Yes, it can seem like wasted effort. But what if it’s not? Actually, there is no such thing as wasted effort when that effort is exerted on behalf of Christ.

We have but one life and too soon it will pass—only what’s done for Christ will last.

May God’s favor rest upon you. Have a great day.

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Introducing God

It’s an astonishing, yet elating discovery: God in all His glory and holiness is intimately interested in having a relationship with every one of His children.

I was fortunate enough to know a fair bit about God before actually meeting Him. But I had a good deal of fallacious thinking about Him too. We all do.  God overlooks the invariable false understandings people have of Him, at first. Faithfully, He will bring us to a lucid enough understanding where we’ll confidently be able to proclaim, “I know God—I have a personal relationship with Him!”

Many people construe the personal aspect of a relationship with the Lord to delude themselves into thinking they have a special and unique means of connecting with Him. That’s simply not true. Often we hear people saying things like: “Me and Jesus, we’ve got our own thing going.” It’s even in a song that’s actually sung in worship services. The next clause proclaims, “Me-n-Jesus, we got it all worked out.” They will believe that lie, thinking that each of us has our own formula for coming into the presence of the Most High. God Himself, however, is the one who ordains how we are to approach and make contact with Him, as well as how to unite with Him.

It is only through faith and trust in Jesus, His Son, that we can meet the righteous requirement of entering into His glorious presence. Faith and our submissive dependence on Christ are unwaveringly requisite, that we may be with Him.

Granted, once we unite with God our relationship with Him becomes very personal and there will be very sweet things that only you and He share together. For example, I myself have a pact with God. On His part, I am irrevocably saved, and on my part, I will never surrender to defeat in attempting to be perfectly righteous and sinless in the life I live, as impossible as that may be. As individuals, we may have widely diverse assignments and various paths to walk. One may be ordained to suffer great pain and loss for the cause of Christ, while another may be held up before the world as a powerfully used vessel for propagating the gospel and leading many souls across the threshold of life. The way into that relationship, however, remains a stringently singular path.

Even when time ends and eternity is ushered in, I don’t think anyone will know ALL there is to know about God: He’s simply too big and complex. He does, however, reveal the most important aspects of His being, which are essential to know if we are to interact with Him and become like Him in character. Here’s a good place to start: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

In the stillness of an empty mind, my soul inhaled the merciful goodness of God, as He revealed Himself in response to faith. I was silent before Him. The first towering wave rushed from His throne and washed over me—I found myself imbued with an awareness of His sovereignty over all things, most importantly over me. He is to be exalted, worshipped and praised. And suddenly I was acutely aware that the Lord’s omniscience causes Him to know my thoughts even before I think them. King David noted the same thing: “Before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely.Psalm 139:4
The second wave came as what I call a thought-sensation, which this time communicated His pure holiness and righteousness. This, His glory, caused me to tremble in fright, because I am not perfectly holy. Yet within that same wave came the torrent of His love, expressing the merciful grace He had already lavished upon you and me. My quaking limbs were stilled. Fear was replaced with elation and praise! I had humbled myself, and so He lifted me up and gave me His joy and peace! (1 Peter 5:6)

God demands to be recognized as the awesome God He is. The bible indicates that we are to fear God in over one hundred and twenty five verses scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. This goes far beyond the greatest respect and honor that we would show to someone here on earth. With God we move into reverent worship and awe. Don’t fret, His mighty love casts out our fear, that we may have fellowship with Him, unafraid.

And yet, before we simply sashay up and talk to God, we’d best be aware of who and what we’re talking to. Our lives depend upon it. Often I’ve heard Christians speak of Jesus as if he were simply a bosom buddy, and that is reflected in the lives they live, as well as in their prayers. They don’t seem to realize who it is they are speaking with. I’ll be the first to admit that I was the same way in my Christian infancy. And God winked at my immature view of theology. But I don’t think any of the Apostles looked at their relationship with Christ that way. Sure, He is a friend who will never leave or forsake us. He demonstrated the tender compassion and mercy of God throughout His ministry, until He finally manifested the unrivaled love of the Father by willingly dying a horrible death on the cross, that we might again have a close relationship with our glorious God. But He is still God, and we are but children in His sight, and quite limited in our ability to wrap our heads around His majestic being. But one day we too shall receive glorified bodies.

Jesus is a friend who will never leave or forsake us. The Lord’s tenderness and compassion were clearly demonstrated until His ultimate display of God’s awesome love was manifested on the cross

To have a good relationship with God, and gain His favor and blessings upon our lives, there are some things we must first be aware of. We have to know how we are to approach Him. Let’s list a few facts.

  1. He is Omnipotent, meaning all powerful.
  2. God is Omniscient—He Knows all things, including all possibilities.
  3. Our Heavenly Father is Omnipresent: in all places at the same time.
  4. The Lord is infinite.
  5. God is eternal.
  6. He is Spirit
  7. The Most High is immutable: unchanging.
  8. Our Creator is not bound by the laws of physics, as He is the one who ordained them and did the math that is involved. He can operate outside of the laws He put into motion. If you need examples, do a study on all of Jesus’ miracles and see how each miracle He performed defies a particular law of science. Jesus was revealing that He is indeed the Creator of the cosmos, and: “The Great I Am”.
  9. God created time, and He is outside of the time He created, yet He often works with, and within time. He made it for a purpose.

And all that is just for starters.

Everything the Bible says about God is but half of what we learn once we actually come to know Him. That’s what I’ve been working at for the past forty years, and I still have a long ways to go. No, I’m not slow—He is just that vast and complex. We won’t know Him fully until eternity, and even then I’m not certain we will know ALL about Him. He’s a very big God!

Lately it’s gotten to the point that I even rejoice when God disciplines me. It reminds me of when my son was very young. Whenever he felt he was not getting enough attention, he’d do something to get my attention, like drinking Tabasco sauce from off of the refrigerator door, or pouring a cup of dirt onto the dining room table. It’s having the attention of our Fathers that feels so good. Even negative attention gives us the assurance that someone greater than ourselves loves us, and is in control.

But I’m talking about attention from a HOLY GOD. Many volumes cannot fully convey what holiness actually is, and what it looks like. My next book is on holiness and how it pertains to our sanctification, but about the time I believe I’ve grasped deep spiritual insight to pass along to others, I discover higher, more elevated planes of knowledge. The more I learn the more I discover that I have yet to learn. When we receive a solid vision in our minds of who God is, and what He is, it is simply amazing that He would stoop so low as to be intimate with you and me.

When we come to God’s character, His nature and His complex personality we do not have anything on earth to compare Him to. Let’s continue our previous list.

  1. God is pure holiness. The visible quality of His Shekinah Glory can actually be seen. But then you’d have no retinas left. The brightest, whitest light you’ve ever seen pales in comparison to God’s visual appearance—He dwarfs the sun’s lumens. In fact, the bible teaches that a man cannot see God and live. His holiness would automatically incinerate us—He’s that great.
  2. The Lord Most High sets the perfect standard for righteousness. He is flawless.
  3. God is LOVE!

While this is far from an exhaustive list, each of the above descriptions should be pondered individually if we hope to fully understand the importance of knowing these things about God, before we can actually come to know Him personally.

With that being the case, God reveals Himself to us incrementally. And the further we go with Him the more wondrous and amazing things about Himself He reveals to us.

God is so great that humbling ourselves before Him should be automatic. If we have properly meditated on His properties and virtues then our humility when approaching God should come quite naturally. Just listen to the Beloved Apostle John’s testimony about the time He envisioned our Savior, Christ Jesus in His glorified form. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:17) What does that speak to your heart about the greatness and the glory of our God?

God called Job a righteous man. But look at this righteous man’s response when our Holy God spoke to Him. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4 Then, Job found the boldness to speak just a bit more, which is a good eye opener for us. He said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  By the way, the eyes Job was talking about were the eyes of faith. Hebrews talks about this kind of faith in chapter eleven. I like the part where it reports that Moses “Saw Him who is invisible”. The only way to see the invisible is through the eyes of faith. Believe me when I say, “Along with great faith comes spiritual eyes which demand that we conform to the new didactic and divergent sights. They are highly illuminating vistas. The information the Lord offers us is gained only through a close personal relationship with Christ Jesus. (Yes, He is also our friend, but let’s not forget His exalted position.)

I garnered a good rule of thumb from a High Priest in Israel’s history. Even though Eli failed to restrain his son’s from doing wickedness and desecrating a rite God had established, and was punished for it, He had some words of wisdom to pass along.

When young Samuel heard the Lord calling to Him twice, Eli gave great advice.

 

“So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9

When we come before the throne of God we need to allow Him to be in charge. God will hear our petitions or whatever is on our hearts. He wants to help us with that, but first things first. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That is complete submission to God, recognizing who He is. Allow the Lord to set the conversation, and when it comes time to speak what you have to say to Him, or questions you hope to ask, you will know.

Okay, my coffee is worn off—time for a fresh pot. Blessings!

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Growing in Faith, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Profitable Troubles

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One year at an outdoor revival held by our congregation a young couple came to the prayer tent where I was stationed. They found themselves in difficult circumstances and indicated they would like me to pray with them. Struggling financially, they were living in a rundown RV with no electricity. Their marital relationship was under a great strain, being battered about by hardships. In the book of Hosea God refers to life struggles like theirs as being in the valley of Achor, which means “trouble”.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” Hosea 2:14-15

Revealing the tender compassion which drives God’s heart, the book of Hosea is a story of God’s boundless love for His children. It exemplifies the closeness He desires in our relationship with Him. After God allows us to suffer in the valley of troubles, we must respond in faith, repenting where needed and learning how to trust Him more completely. That’s when His work inside us begins to profoundly take shape, and His purposes are moved forward.

God is preparing each one of us for the final culmination of His plan, which is found in the 19 & 20th verses of the same chapter.

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. (Hosea 2:19-20 NAS)

 God loves us so much He wants to marry us! After experiencing His provision of peace and strength and comfort through the valleys of life’s difficulties, we are more prepared for the completion of our union with Him. On the other side of hardship and suffering, when we’ve grown to trust God’s love for us and yearn with every fiber of our being to please Him, He begins fitting us for our white bridal gown.

A year later in downtown Indianapolis I saw that same couple I had prayed with. Both have grown tremendously in their faith. They said, “We are more in love with each other now than ever before.” Then they added, “God is good.”

If you find yourself in the valley today, know that God is working in your life to draw you nearer to Him. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

Prayer

Lord, I know you have a reason for everything you allow. Please give me strength and patience to endure what I must. Thank you for teaching me about your faithfulness and what is involved with trusting you. In your Son’s holy name, amen. 

Please note that the above image is not the same couple that is referred to in this post. They are simply good friends, “Bill & Bonnie” holding one of my devotional books. Blessings.

Categories: Christian Living, Growing in Faith, Romantic Love, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ascending Holiness Mountain

 

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A little wooden cross glued to a magnet kept wise old adages posted on my refrigerator door where I’d be sure to see them often. Both the words that were written there and the cross which secured them were mementos of things I needed to remember. The symbol was of who I am in Christ, since He’s paid the penalty for me by His death. But since He rose to life on the third day, I am guaranteed to one day rise as well. I must rise to walk in a new life today, since my old one has passed away.

The pinned words were admonitions I should heed. Wise people never forget these words once they ponder their truth.

Sow a thought and reap and act

Sow an act and reap a habit

Sow a habit and reap a character

Sow a character and reap your destiny.

Though Jesus has paid the entire penalty for my sin debt once and for all time, it is still my responsibility to cooperate with the sanctification process. I am being conformed to the holy image of Christ. I must submit to God, and obey His word and His Spirit who was given to me upon my rebirth into eternal life.

My character will be shaped by the thoughts that are allowed to occupy space in my mind. There are many things in the world that will stimulate thoughts, good and bad. This dictates that I must place a guard over what I see and hear. Whether we admit it or not, everything in life has an effect upon us. Another posted adage read as follows.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

The places I go have much to do with what I will see and hear. I must choose carefully where I go. The entertainment and recreation I select has a tremendous impact upon the sights and sounds I will experience, so those must also be carefully scrutinized.

Thoughts come from out of my heart, but there’s also thoughts that are suggested to me, both good and bad. Some are from God, and some from the world, and also some from the enemy of my soul. I must discern and distinguish the source of each thought, and choose to dwell upon those from God, and from the goodness He is growing in my heart. I must immediately reject all other suggestions.

My eternity is at stake

So there’s grave choices I must make

Selfishly, I could just live for today

Ignoring the coming judgment day

But life in Jesus grows sweeter with time

So joyfully I work, holiness mountain to climb.

Categories: Faith, Growing in Faith, Salvation, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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