Daily Discovering the Blessing

We see in Matthew 18:21-35 the definitive parable on forgiveness. The attendant whose debt was forgiven by the king did not offer the same blessing of forgiveness to another attendant who owed him money.

Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to. And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you? And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed.  (Matthew 18:32-34)

When we fully come to realize the great debt that God has forgiven; when we truly see the full picture of our redemption – from lost to found and from rejected by God to accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6) – the act of unforgiveness towards others is seen in its true light. It is a foundational principle of the kingdom of God; of life in the Spirit. It is the way His children are to represent Him to the world. It is a required heart attitude in pleasing our Father and walking in the peace that characterizes our heavenly citizenship and the love that identifies our discipleship.  Unforgiveness is discordant. There is no heart harmony when unforgiveness is present; the peace of the Lord is far from us, and the promises of the Lord hindered.

Unforgiveness can be harsh and hard and blatantly obvious – it can manifest in anger and shunning and severed relationships. As such, it can clearly be seen by all. It can also be subtle – quietly disguised as a reasonable reaction to a perceived wrong. Recently, in fact while writing this section on unforgiveness, I recalled having identified just such an attitude I had harbored in my own heart. My devotional, God’s Beloved Daughters, had just been published and I was asked if I was going to send copies to certain women in my life. Their apparent lack of interest in my writings caused me to say that I would not. “They have never indicated that my writing was of any interest to them,” I said. I had been holding on to a negative feeling in this area which was clearly the weed of unforgiveness. It seemed to make sense didn’t it? They showed no interest in my work so I should reciprocate  that lack of interest by neglecting to send them off a copy. And yet the entire purpose of the devotional was to bless, inform, encourage and edify God’s daughters. My negative feelings were taking precedence over my ministry before the Lord. It was the selfish tending to an emotional wound that did not honor God and the work He had given me to do. I sent off the copies to them with a prayer that it would mightily bless them!

Unforgiveness is directly related to judgment. Judgment is, in fact, the first step in falling into unforgiveness. We judge others as unworthy to receive forgiveness from us. We judge their behavior as a direct affront to our sense of right and wrong. It takes daily care not to fall prey to this emotional trap of the enemy.  The world we live in is divided and contentious with opposing sides “dug in” and unyielding. {This seems especially true in the world of political thinking. And yet God’s instructions to us on this front are very clear (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and unalterably opposed to “what comes naturally”.} It is so easy, when allowing our flesh to prevail over our spirit, to give place to unforgiveness and judgment. God’s Word tells us that we act in error when at one and the same time we:

...bless the Lord and Father, and…we curse men who were made in God’s image. Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so. (James 3:9-10)

As with unforgiveness, the disobedient act of judging others has unfortunate consequences.

Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. (Matthew 7:1)

As you attend to your life’s garden, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, quickly and purposefully root out the weed of unforgiveness. Do not hesitate to clear it out completely. It is a blessing killer, and the Master Gardener wants you to recognize its power to diminish your faith walk.

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To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover the prisoner was you – Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiveness is another powerful weed killer.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].
(1 Peter 4:8)

Unforgiveness hardens the heart that God wants soft and uncompromising towards Him and our fellow men. Left untended, our hearts are hindered by a “settled state of hardness” (Mark 8:17 Amplified). Each of us has experienced this weed in our garden. We cannot have walked the earth among men and not have fallen into this heart attitude. It is often, in human terms, the predictable and understandable response to the inevitable daily conflicts among fallen men and women. It is the natural, fleshly response to a perceived wrong – a defense mechanism, the assertion of personal rights, the establishment of a protective perimeter, and a weapon for self-preservation. It is the personal determination not to grant blessings to the one who has wounded us.
The love walk, however, necessitates forgiveness.

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. (Colossians 3:12-13)

We are to forgive each other readily and freely as God forgave us. We are to be imitators of our Heavenly Father, following His example in all things (Ephesians 5:1). As with all of our Abba’s* directives, His life-giving instructions are for our benefit and blessing as well as for the blessing and edification of others. God’s directives are always overflowing with abundant life for all! They bless the giver and they bless the receiver. His desire is only to bless and do us all good. So let’s look at both sides of the forgiveness interaction.

Scripture teaches that forgiveness keeps Satan from gaining an advantage over us ( see 2 Corinthians 2:10-11). Clearly the choice not to forgive is an act of disobedience, and as such constitutes obedience to the enemy of God. It is a choice to accept Satan’s ways and tactics rather than God’s highest and best. The extended outcome of such a choice is seen in Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive people their trespasses {their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment}, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses… neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.

If we hold on to unforgiveness we do not walk in the blessing of God’s forgiveness towards us. If, as an act of our own will, we do not obey and imitate our Father in this, then we forego that same blessing from Him. In that area of our life, with those choices, we are subject to the kingdom of darkness; unforgiveness honors Satan and misrepresents God. Because, as born again children of a loving God, our main purpose is to represent Him, we are allowing this weed in our garden to diminish our effectiveness as ambassadors to the world of the lost (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). The choice not to forgive is a decision to step away from our very identity and purpose. As all weeds do, unforgiveness depletes the nutrients in our life’s garden; God’s life in us is compromised and rendered ineffective as this weed prevails. As we purpose to send our life’s roots deeply into the life of God but allow this weed to remain it will rise up and choke out blessing upon blessing.

But what of the person toward whom our forgiveness is withheld? Are they as adversely affected? One might surmise that it is the one holding on to unforgiveness, rather than the one toward whom it is directed, that is the most injured. For the ones who are unforgiving hold on to this dark emotion; they are the ones who made the choice to take on Satan’s tactics. Yet Scripture tells us that if we do not forgive them, they are not forgiven by Heaven!

{Now having received the Holy Spirit, and being led and directed by Him} if you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained. (John 20:23)

Jesus is our example in this, extending forgiveness in a prayer to the Father on the cross to those who were responsible for His death (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Gospel living. Jesus’ very purpose in coming to us, in facing the cross, was to enable God’s forgiveness to extend to all who believe (Matthew 26:28). Forgiveness is love in action. It says, “I determine that my life and actions will be a clear representation to you of God and of Heaven’s principles. I resolve that your salvation and relationship with God is far more important than my own needs. For God is in charge of my needs and I want only His highest and best for you.” Forgiveness sets aside personal inclinations for the benefit of others – for their eternal well-being.

The interrelationship of our behavioral choices is so clearly seen with this dynamic of forgiveness. Through the saving work of Jesus, God forgives us. He then instructs us that we are to unreservedly forgive others, as imitators of Him and representatives of His kingdom. As others witness firsthand this forgiveness, they see standards quite unlike their worldly experience and come face to face with God’s ways of doing and being right (Matthew 6:33 Amplified Bible) They see God in us. We get it right before God and they get a glimpse of Heaven.

*- “Abba” can best be translated “Daddy” or “Papa”. It expresses the close intimate relationship of a father to his child, and the child-like trust children have for their “Daddy”. (See Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6)

 

Yesterday, I spoke of attending to the spiritual weeds in our “garden” with the help of the Holy Spirit and ended the entry with the following words:

“To trust His ways and not the world’s ways is to shun anything else that would attempt to pour its artificial sustenance into your life’s garden. The “organic” weed killers which we will be addressing in future posts, used through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, honor the life and the beauty of God’s most beloved creation – you!”

Obedience is one such organic weed killer! Obedience to the expectations of the Word and to the gentle admonitions of the Spirit seeks out and roots out our spiritual weeds. Of all the potentially effective admonitions to believers to help them:

[…work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the Name of Christ).] (Philippians 2:12),

“obey God” is one of the significant foundational pillars!

There have been many moments throughout my 40 years of walking with the Lord when obedience was the challenge and the specific path direction I needed to follow. Early on in my faith walk, I was clearly instructed by the Holy Spirit to throw all of my very extensive and expensive collection of Beatle albums into the trash. Prior to my salvation experience, the place in my heart inhabited by this music group, like many in the world at that time, was clearly idolatry. This unhealthy, and disobedient (1 Corinthians 10:14, 1 John 5:21) life choice followed me into my born-again life up until the day when the Holy Spirit pointed to it and clearly expected me to discard the idol! Many, upon hearing this story, have expressed wonder that I didn’t simply sell all of the albums and turn a profit! The clear answer for them is because that is not what I was instructed to do. My idolatry belonged in the trash, for before the beauty and holiness and love that were due my Father it clearly was trash! Others have heard the story and voiced the opinion that they must do the same with whatever items they perceive as potentially troubling to their walk before God. My answer to them is that this walk in the Spirit is not a one size fits all. The Holy Spirit knows our hearts and can clearly see the weeds in each of our gardens. Getting practiced listening to the Spirit and responding in obedience will spruce up your garden! The work of the Holy Spirit is to present us before the Lord with a heart that is pure and uncluttered – idol free! And He will do it if we carefully listen and quickly obey!

Another area of obedience for me concerned the act of stepping away from a job which was clearly given to me by Heaven. Through a series of events which, in retrospect were without question the leading of the Lord, I had stepped into the position of Headmaster at the Christian school where I had worked as a teacher for about a decade. In the summer prior to my second year as Headmaster, the Holy Spirit began preparing me to leave the post at the end of the school year. It seemed counter-intuitive. I was serving in Christian ministry and had achieved this position by His hand. But throughout that second year, the leading to step away grew ever stronger. Had I argued and reasoned against what I was strongly sensing, had I let my intellect and feelings rule and reign, had I rationalized that this was an important ministry and one which the Lord had given to me, I might still be in that position and entirely out of the will of God, pursuing my “ministry for the Lord” in complete disobedience. The gentleman who stepped into that position has, through much prior experience and spiritual giftings,  taken that school into a new season of growth and academic development that I would never have accomplished as well. And the Holy Spirit has led me into this season of writing and sharing with others the goodness and the blessings of God. Our definition of “weeds” as anything that hinders our spiritual growth and pleasing walk before God certainly pertains to this experience. Disobedience is a huge weed that will adversely affect subsequent life choices. It then becomes the source of other poor choices for you are making those choices from an incorrect vantage point.

Remember the weeds we spoke of which send their root systems under ground and pop up throughout the garden? They become not just one irritating interloper but many – all related but discovered in many different places. Such is the weed of disobedience; once settled in, it affects many life decisions. Root it out immediately.

Matthew 13:3 – Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them out.

Anyone who seriously tends a garden recognizes the absolute imperative to seek out and destroy weeds! Weeds are aggravating invaders into what otherwise would be a pleasing and gratifying sight – your well-planned, carefully cultivated, and visually soothing creation. Weeds are insidious in their encroachment upon our best laid plans. For serious gardeners, weeding can be a very cathartic experience if they will let it be. If your gardens are extensive, then the weeding aspect of the gardening experience is on your daily to-do list during the growing season.

Chemical solutions – sprays, powder applications, liquid weed killers in a can – offend many gardeners who desire a kinder and gentler approach to their gardens. Pouring, spraying, and sprinkling their way to a weed free existence seems to many, and to me, a harsh and mistaken approach to nature’s challenges. Pouring poison onto your creation to eradicate unwanted visitors somehow alters your relationship with your gardens, otherwise lovingly tended. Bullying your way to beauty somehow reinterprets your garden’s purpose and compromises the effectiveness of your stewardship. The use of these “quick fixes” may seem an easy way to alleviate the problem of weeds and pests, but the potential side effects are a cause for concern in the same way that worldly solutions to life issues which ignore God’s ways of doing and being right (Matthew 6:33) are counterfeit remedies.

Some weeds relinquish their position in the garden easily while others maintain a hold that indicates their intended permanent placement within the floral landscape. Some send their root structure underground and pop up here and there throughout the flower beds, establishing a tunneling system that appears to set up squatter’s rights among the rightful inhabitants of your garden – the plants you chose for that particular plot. Left unaddressed, the presence of weeds in your garden will eventually reduce an otherwise lovely landscape to the appearance of a long neglected and discarded property – uncared for and abandoned.

Left to their own devices they flourish and “choke” the life out of your garden’s vision – they grow out and grab for themselves the benefit of sunshine – they usurp the soil’s nutrients for themselves, robbing the rightful occupants of the garden space, which must now cope with less sun and less goodness from the soil. They “deplete the soil, intercept the sun and take up room” (Luke 13:7). And where once beauty was expected, there is now the dismal and disheartening look of neglect.

It is the garden well-tended, diligently weeded, purposefully, thoughtfully and honorably cultivated that honors the gardener and shows forth the beauty and intended purpose of careful stewardship. For with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we oversee the careful weeding of our own personal plot of land – our walk before the Lord.

It is not only easy, but also instructive to draw parallels between the careful tending of our physical gardens with the careful tending of our spiritual garden. Weeds within our own lives can fall under so many categories – bad habits which have become firmly established, negative worldly attitudes which color our days and our interactions with God and others, generational dysfunction, misconceptions concerning spiritual Truths, and just plain old sin (missing the mark in terms of God’s ways of doing and being right) are but a few. For our purposes of understanding the identification and removal of spiritual weeds, we will define these weeds as anything that hinders our spiritual growth and pleasing walk before God.

The Holy Spirit is there to shine a light upon the weeds in our life’s garden. When we get purposeful about our relationship with Him we can be assured that with His help our walk before God can take on a well-manicured appearance – honoring to Him and a powerful witness to others. He will help rid our garden of the weeds that would hinder spiritual growth.  The ways of the world – the methods and philosophies that promise self-improvement, the programs listing steps to take to achieve various goals, the gurus, teachers, and groups offering the way to enlightenment and success in any area – are poor substitutes for the work of the Holy Spirit and are the spiritual equivalent of the chemical solutions we spoke of earlier! God’s ways and solutions to the weed problem are, if you will allow the extended metaphor, the organic solution. He Who knows us intimately, Who knows our end from our beginning, Who knows our correct path, our giftings and our outcome – is our Master Gardener. To trust His ways and not the world’s ways is to shun anything else that would attempt to pour its artificial sustenance into your life’s garden. The “organic” weed killers which we will be addressing in future posts,  used through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, honor the life and the beauty of God’s most beloved creation – you!

What does it mean to you to be a steward? Do you daily have a sense of determination to set your course in life correctly by recognizing the life call to be a caretaker in your assigned area? God gives us a glimpse of the garden he prepared for His creation in Genesis 1 and 2:

And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28). [Emphasis mine]

When I was the headmaster of a Christian school, and prior to that as a teacher in the classroom, quite often I felt the Lord indicate to me that this was my garden to tend. This was my area of stewardship before Him. The lives of the students and teachers in my charge were truly His garden. How I attended to this task was daily informed by that sense of responsibility to the Master Gardener. We all have an area of stewardship, a garden if you will, which we are to till “in the service of God and man” (Genesis 1:28). The manner in which we approach this Truth, the manner in which we set out about our day, either embracing that God-given task or ignoring its call upon our lives, is directly related to our impact upon eternity for many.

Because the Lord introduced this concept of garden tending as an effective metaphor for what it is we are to set our hearts to daily; because He continues, throughout the Word, to equate work in the Kingdom with gardening principles and activities:

Isaiah 58:10 – …you shall be like a watered garden…

Matthew 13:38 – The field is the world, and the good seed means the children of the Kingdom…

Luke 8:11 – …the seed is the Word of God

John 15:1, 5 – I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser…I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit…

the parallel between spiritual and physical realities is hard to miss. As His children, His representatives, His ambassadors, we are laborers together in this “field”.

Matthew 9:37 – …The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest to force out and thrust laborers into His harvest.

There are so many spiritual lessons to be gleaned through the process of gardening. Indeed, you may not be a gardener; you may not be at all interested in farming or gardening. However, in point of fact, you are called to it in spiritual terms. You are called to be a harvester, you are called to spread the seed of the Word, and it is through and because of that calling, therefore, that our Father’s garden metaphors can be very instructive.

Not only are we to see our ministry before the Lord as a garden to be tended, a harvest to be anticipated, but we are to also tend the gardens of our own lives. We tend His garden (the world and those in our immediate surroundings) and we are His garden (through obedience to the ministry of the Holy Spirit we tend to our own spiritual maturity and soul well-being). We are called to stewardship; we are co-workers together in God’s garden. Most have heard the phrase, “Grow where you are planted”. God leads us and establishes us in a personal place of ministry according to the giftings that He has placed within each of us, and we are to tend carefully the garden in which we are placed.

It can be a place of great peace, this garden tending. For once you settle into your very reason for being, once your heart acknowledges that here is your reality and all other potential paths are simply noisy distractions, you are in Kingdom rhythm.

Matthew 11:29 – Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good – not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant) and My burden is light and easy to be borne. [Emphasis mine]

Kingdom rhythm acknowledges that the work is the Lord’s (Philippians 2:13). We are entirely enabled in our heavenly assignment through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit Who guides, instructs, counsels, helps, intercedes, and strengthens us (John 16:7) .
Not only did our Father, our Abba (see Romans 8:15), give us our Kingdom assignment, He sent us His Spirit to work through us and accomplish the task! It is the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit Who accomplishes the work. He completes and perfects and makes us what we ought to be and He equips us with everything that we need to carry out God’s will. He works in us to accomplish all of this (Hebrews 13:21). The job of listening and obeying is ours – the work is His. We simply follow where the Master is leading, absolutely trusting that He wants to always do us only good. Kingdom rhythm is unforced and restful. It is, if we will understand and allow it to be, Freedom!

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
(Matthew 11:30 –Message Bible)

So let’s draw some parallels.  The world that we see, that our Abba created for us, teaches great spiritual lessons if we will allow it to.  Early mornings in the garden is how our Lord began each day (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42, 5:16), taking quiet time aside to pray and to listen to His voice; our Father’s voice. Early mornings in our life’s garden will establish that peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and the undeniable sense that here is where our life’s purpose lies. The gardens that we tend in the physical have much to say to the gardens that we tend in the Spirit. Let’s let them speak!

Continue…

As we set out upon this New Year in the Lord it would certainly be beneficial to establish our focus and resolve – a spiritual counterpart to the age-old practice of New Year’s resolutions.  I offer here an appropriate excerpt on the subject from my devotional God’s Beloved Daughters – Daily Discovering the Blessings. It is the epilogue of the work as it seeks to tie together a year’s worth of daily teachings and encouragements.

If  you live in Me {abide vitally united to Me} and My words remain in you and continue to remain in your hearts, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.  When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified and you show yourselves to be true followers of Mine. I have loved you {just} as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love {continue in His love with Me}.  If you keep My commandments {if you continue to obey My instructions} you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love.  (John 15:7-10)

   Rising again to His feet from an attitude of prayer He sets out into the new day. Early morning hours spent with His Father establish His path and purpose for the day. He walks on followed closely by those He has chosen. On the dusty road, in the heat of the late morning hours, they walk through the center of a small village. The people of that place see their approach and recognize Who is in their midst. Throughout the afternoon they send word into all the surrounding country and bring to Him all who are sick.

And begged Him to let the sick just touch the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed.  (Matthew 14:36 NIV)

And He looks up and out over the centuries and says, “Continue”.

He strides with purpose into the Galilean countryside, into cities and villages:

teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  (Matthew 4:23 NIV)

The reports of His ministry spread throughout the land. Many sick are brought to Him and He heals them all.  And He looks up from His work – up and out over time – and says, “Continue”.

Continue in this good work – God’s work – and in My Name.  Continue making inroads into the enemy’s territory; destroying his intentions in the lives of men and women and demolishing his strongholds (1 John 3:8).  Continue operating out of the very same love that sent Me to the cross.  Continue in close alliance with the Holy Spirit. Continue to operate in the mountain-moving, blessing-producing faith that pleases our Father.

Continue, My dearest child, to see the reality of life through the eyes of your spirit.  Do not step away from what you know.  Do not compromise what you have already learned.  Joyfully praise…quickly obey…eagerly pursue…correctly represent…promptly forgive…Continue!”

As the Lord, through His Holy Spirit, directs you through each day of this New Year, expect the fulfillment of His promises, the miraculous, and divinely orchestrated opportunities to impact the world in His Name.

I recently attended a holiday event advertised as a Christmas market.  Hundreds of people were in attendance – visiting tents offering wide varieties of handmade goods, standing in long lines to order food or pay a visit to Santa Claus.  I thought, as I sat observing the many people wandering around, “Lord, You love all of these people so very much.  They’re here at an event only being held because it’s Christmas, but how many of these wandering ones are open to You at all?”

Each one of us encounters this truth everyday as we interact with people of the world – in supermarkets, malls, airports, or the workplace.  There is a truth that will set them free; that will restore and revive and refresh.  Its quiet and calm message powerfully overcomes the noise and bluster, the cacophony, of the world.

In her book of prophetic encouragement, entitled Dare to Declare, Dr. Mary Frances Varallo writes:

“So many voices can be heard in the earth today, but His sound ascends above them all… no matter how the world tries to silence the sound of the Son of God, Christmas is the one time where mankind is brought face to face with the reality of Jesus Christ and what He means personally, individually, to each and every heart… even now, I believe the Holy Spirit is preparing for you divine encounters, and opening up doors of opportunity for you to walk through, providing places for you to speak His Name, and orchestrating occasions for you to bring eternal hope to hurting hearts.”

We position ourselves to be their answer by daily attending to the voice of the Holy Spirit growing us up, guiding us out, showing us where to look and what to see.  We honor God in this, taking those moments to get quiet and listen. Worldly noise is a distracting, misleading hindrance that so easily and purposefully redirects our attention away from the quiet leading of the Spirit.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.  And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire {a sound of gentle stillness and} a still, small voice.”  (I Kings 19:11, 12)

A still, small voice.  A gentle stillness.  A verse from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” so beautifully describes the otherworldliness of our Father’s leading:

“How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heaven…
Where meek souls will receive Him, still
The dear Christ enters in.”

God’s gift to us is quiet peace, gentle leading, the assurance of grace.  All of this comes out of times of refreshing in His presence, learning to recognize and obey His sure and quiet leading.  May His peace define your days in this season of celebration in the birth of our Savior.

The Wonders of Salvation

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:15-16)

We come to the closing verses of this wonderful Psalm of protection and God’s promises of sheltering and preservation. Over and over throughout His Letter of Love to us it is His stated intention to care for and protect His people (Psalm 15:9. 97:11, Jeremiah 31:3, Luke 19:42, 1 Peter 5:7). The opening phrase, “He shall call upon Me”, is in reference to the ones who have set their love upon Him (verses 9 and 14), those who:

…seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and is righteousness (His ways of doing and being right)… (Matthew 6:33) {Emphasis mine}

We have His assurance that when we are in that position of trust in Him, when our love is set upon our Father, we can rely on and expect His answer when we call out to Him. James 1:5 confirms this promise:

If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God {Who gives} to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.  {Emphasis mine}

It is our absolute faith in this Word from our Father that receives His answers. His covenant promises to us.  Our God has given His Word, He has established this Truth for us to rely on. And our faith in His reliability, His faithfulness to His Word, is the key.

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting).  For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and is tossed by the wind.  For truly, let not such a person believe that he will receive anything {he asks for} from the Lord. (James 1:6-7)

God’s Word carries us through troubles safely to the other side. It’s not that born again believers, children of God, won’t experience troubles n this life – challenges, obstacles, the attempts of the enemy to disprove God’s Word.  Jesus said:

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have {perfect} peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration, but be of good cheer {take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted}! For I have overcome the world. {I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.} (John 16:33) {Emphasis mine}

Our faith walk sees those obstacles and challenges as an opportunity for God to show Himself strong on our behalf. Our mindset, our spirit’s rallying cry, must be, “If it doesn’t line up with the Word it may not stand.”  Faith considers Jesus and all He accomplished on our behalf, never the problem confronting us (Romans 4:19-21). For the promise is , “I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him“. {Emphasis mine}

God’s pleasure in the faith of His children (Hebrews 10:38), our absolute trust in His power, wisdom, goodness. and His Word,  is revealed here in verse 16.  He will “honor” you.  In other words, He esteems you, He dignifies you, He treats you as precious and holds you in high regard! Jesus said:

…If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.  (John 12:26)

We are to honor the Father (Psalm 86:11). We are to honor each other (Romans 12:10). We are to treat ourselves with honor ((1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and “live and conduct ourselves honorably” (Romans 13:13). When we walk in that Truth, that awareness, when we reflect our Father in those actions, He tells us that He honors us.

“But wait, there’s more!” Along with all of the blessings and protections of Psalm 91, God will satisfy us with long life and show us His salvation.  The word “salvation” is extraordinarily weighty.  With great wonder and awe, we need to take in its full impact and make it our own.  We need to walk in this knowing every day.

Jesus is our salvation (Romans 1:16).  The original Greek word for salvation in the New Testament is the word “sozo,” which in its full complete definition means heal, preserve, save, make whole, rescue, deliver, protect, make prosperous!  In the Old Testament, salvation in the Hebrew is the word “Yeshuwah” (Jesus!), and means aid, victory, prosperity, health, and welfare.

Being saved through Jesus, experiencing God’s salvation, is not only meant to be the comfort that Heaven is your destination.  It is the assurance of all that the original Greek and Hebrew words signify.  When we truly understand all of the aspects of His salvation covenant, which God desires for each of us, it will powerfully and profoundly affect our daily expectations.

I began this in-depth look at Psalm 91 by sharing that I speak it out daily over every member of my extended family.  It is such revelation about our Father’s heart and character.  I encourage you to stand on these promises and speak them forth over your family every day.

The Name of the Lord

Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My Name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness—trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never].  – Psalm 91:14

All throughout Psalm 91 we are assured of God’s care and protection. Here at the beginning of verse 14 it is summed up very effectively: because we set our love on Him He delivers us. All of the previous verses are very specific about what that care and deliverance looks like. Here in verse 14 our covenant relationship with our Father is simply put  – “if you…then I”.  If we, through faith in His Word to us and His loving-kindness, purposefully place ourselves in His care, then He accomplishes all that He has promised on our behalf.

And our faith and trust in Him is entirely informed by our understanding of His character; His great desire for a loving, intimate relationship with us (Ephesians 2:4), and how He has revealed Himself throughout His Word. Our Father leaves us in no doubt as to His intentions in the lives of men. He expects, in fact delights in, His children taking Him at His Word; He requires that of us (Hebrews 10:38). When He reveals Himself to us through the names He calls Himself, we are to know and understand Him in the light of that revelation.  We are to daily rely on Him to fulfill those roles in our lives, for they reveal His very nature, His desire to be known and understood in those ways.

We are told concerning the Name of God:

…Your Name is near and they who invoke Your Name rehearse Your wonders. (Psalm 75:1){Emphasis mine}

And they who know Your Name {who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy} will lean on and confidently put their trust in You… (Psalm 9:10) {Emphasis mine}

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the {consistently} righteous man {upright and in right standing with God} runs into it and is safe, high {above evil} and strong. (Proverbs 18:10)

As our Father lovingly reveals Himself to us through His Names, our firm expectation is that He will indeed be Who He says He is and be faithful to that revelation. That is the faith that receives each and every one of these promises.

He is Jehovah, meaning the Lord Who reveals Himself. Each compound Name of Jehovah is the rock we securely stand on, the tower of safety we daily inhabit.

Jehovah-Jirah – The Lord Who reveals Himself as our Provider (Genesis 22:14)

Jehovah-Rapha – The Lord Who reveals Himself as our Healer (Exodus 15:26)

Jehovah-Nissi – The Lord Who reveals Himself as our banner, our protection, our deliverance, the One Who causes us to win (Exodus 17:5)

Jehovah-Shammah – The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35)

Jehovah-Raah – The Lord Who reveals Himself as my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)

Jehovah-Tsidkenu – The Lord is my Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Romans 3:22)

Jehovah-M’Kaddesh – The Lord Who sanctifies you (Leviticus 20:7-8; 1 Peter 1:15-16)

 

  So, because you are in Christ, because you trust in God’s Word to you, you are a winner – provided for, healed, protected and delivered from harm, shepherded through life by the loving hand of the Lord, sanctified and made righteous because the Lord is there for you in every area of your walk before Him. Now that is worthy of praise!

Here is where your personal knowledge of His mercy, love, and kindness begins. By taking Him at His Word and by expecting that He is Who He says He is.

[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! (Ephesians 3:19)

 And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him. (1 John 4:16)

 

 

 

A Better Covenant

Plumbing the depth of any verse of Scripture is the process of allowing the Word of God to transform us into His image; to re-create our perception of what it TRULY means to be a child of God – protected, loved, and knowledgeably handling the Truth and authority of the keys of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19).

God’s Word is “alive, active, energizing, and effective” (Hebrews 4:12).  It changes situations, attitudes, misconceptions, and the purposeful, evil intent of the enemy. There is a self-fulfilling power in the Word spoken forth in faith (Isaiah 61:11- AMP). The faithful application of God’s Word into this physical realm is the altering force for good (Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 55:11, Jeremiah 1:12).

Taking our Father at His Word “makes tremendous power available {dynamic in its working} (James 5:16).  And so, as we continue to look at Psalm 91:13 we embark on another opportunity to adjust perceived reality in favor of Kingdom Truth.

 You shall tread upon the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent shall you trample underfoot. (Psalm 91:13) 

Throughout the Old Testament our Father’s promises to His people, His covenant with Israel, involved loving provision, protection, and prosperity:

…no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper… this {peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition} is the heritage of the servant of the Lord {those in whom the Ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced}… (Isaiah 54:17)

And throughout the history of their rebellion and disobedience against His rightful place as Creator and Lord (Isaiah 31:6), His response was always forgiveness and the re-establishment of covenant (Isaiah 30:15). Our Father’s desire has always been to extend mercy and “satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).

So we “own” the promise of Psalm 91:13 and add to it the praise-worthy, supernatural work of the cross. In the Old Testament covenant a man’s faith in God’s promises, His Word, enabled Heaven’s response of protection from harmful forces. Trust and reliance on God’s ability, and obedience to the covenant’s expectations, received the promise of protection from harm.  Through our new and better covenant (Hebrews 7:22) a believer’s faith in all that Jesus accomplished on our behalf demonstrates the recognition that evil, and all of its accompanying woes, has been utterly defeated. Satan has no ability to, in any way, harm us. Trust and reliance on the sacrificial work of Jesus establishes that reality.

{God} disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in it {the cross} (Colossians 2:15)

…by {going through} death He might bring to nought and make of no effect him who had the power of death – that is, the devil- (Hebrews 2:14)

Jesus has given us absolute authority in this:

Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and {physical and mental strength and ability} over all the power that the enemy {possesses}; and nothing shall in any way harm you. (Luke 10:19)

Think how life changing and perception altering this truly is. Trusting and relying on God through the old covenant meant they were enabled to trample on and defeat the enemy. Within the new and better covenant he is already defeated and our faith and trust in that truth seals the deal! The enemy may harm and hinder, “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) the lost, but his ability to harm God’s children – those who trust in the saving work of Jesus – is forever undone.

We know {absolutely} that anyone born of God does not {deliberately and knowingly} practice committing sin, but the One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him {Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil}, and the wicked one does not lay hold (get a grip) on him or touch {him}.  We know positively that we are of God, and the whole world {around us} is under the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:18-19)