Daily Discovering the Blessing

Posts tagged ‘Life in the Spirit’

How Well Do You Know Him?

I often think of a quote from Smith Wigglesworth when I am in conversation with the Lord, seeking wisdom and understanding on a certain subject – “God wants to answer even more than you want to ask!” One of the most encouraging and productive aspects of our spiritual life is a true understanding of our Father’s heart. He is for our success (Joshua 1:8). He is the Blesser (Proverbs 10:22) – He wants to provide for us abundantly (John 10:10). He loves us with a great and wonderful and intense love. (Ephesians 2:4) And it is that loving relationship that we are meant to share with the lost, dead ones in the world. They are meant to observe, in our daily lives, what God in a life looks like; what our loving God is all about on behalf of the children of men! Our Lord Jesus made this a very simple equation:

I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]. (John 13:34-35)

And, Jesus Christ, we know, is the direct representation of God the Father:

He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)

And as “the perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature” He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s influence (Acts 10:38). He brought light into the devil’s darkness. In love He paid the penalty we deserved and restored us to all of the benefits and blessings of life in our Father’s kingdom. As His disciples, as the believing Church, that is our calling as well. We are to deeply and correctly know God so that our lives reflect His goodness and so that all may look and see that God is good!

...For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, (Ephesians 1:17) (Emphasis mine)

We are to “spread and make evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). The only way we can correctly reveal the character of God to the lost ones is to know and understand Him correctly and intimately ourselves. Is that possible? God’s Word says that it is.

And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent. (John 17:3) (Emphasis mine)

And he said, The God of our forefathers has destined and appointed you to come progressively to know His will [to perceive, to recognize more strongly and clearly, and to become better and more intimately acquainted with His will], and to see the Righteous One (Jesus Christ, the Messiah), and to hear a voice from His [own] mouth and a message from His [own] lips; (Acts 22:14) (Emphasis mine)

That is what we have to offer the lost world – not judgment, harsh criticism, or self-righteous condemnation. Just love. We are safe within the care of our Father. It is a care-free place, this realm of knowing God; of understanding our Father’s heart. Safe and secure in the care of the Lord, guided and taught daily by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, we understand that in Jesus we are worthy of the Father’s intimacy and love:

But if one loves God truly [with affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of His blessing], he is known by God [recognized as worthy of His intimacy and love, and he is owned by Him]. (1 Corinthians 8:3)

So the fundamental question for each born-again child of God is “How well do you know Him?” Are you growing daily in “the full, personal, precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord?” (2 Peter 1:2) Does Scripture – God’s holy, unchanging, uncompromising Truth – inform your expectations in life. Trust and unwavering reliance on God’s Word relies upon your relationship with your Creator. In the book of Romans Paul speaks to the compromised faith walk of many:

I bear them witness that they have a [certain] zeal and enthusiasm for God, but it is not enlightened and according to [correct and vital] knowledge. (Romans 10:2)

Look at this wonderful promise from God:

[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)

Allow the Truth of God’s Word to give you a hunger to daily become more intimately acquainted with your Father. There are wonders to understand about what being a child of God means. There are privileges and blessings that God extends to His own. And it pleases His heart when His children take Him at His Word (Hebrews 10:38).

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We Hold These Treasures

Kenneth Hagin often told a wonderful, amusing, and informative story about his interactions with old friends after his born-again experience. Although he had been raised in the church all of his life, it was only after many years of serious illness which weakened him to the point of being bedridden, that he grabbed onto the Truth of the Gospel and the authority of the Word of God and was miraculously healed and gloriously born-again.

Quite often after that he would be in conversation with friends who would try to reminisce with him about boyhood pranks and trouble they had gotten into in earlier years. “No, I don’t recall that,” he would say. “I’m a new creature!” Throughout his years of powerful ministry to the Body of Christ, teaching us how to live by faith, the hallmark of his message was always how God’s Word must define us and transform us. We must allow it to instruct us about our true identity. His response of, “No, I don’t recall, I’m a new creature” was directly informed by 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if any person is {ingrafted} in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old {previously moral and spiritual condition} has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come. (Emphasis mine)

That was what the Word taught him and that was what he determined would be!

God has extended to us something wondrous and life-transforming through the ministry, death and resurrection of His Son, and through the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). Jesus bought back Kingdom living for us – a continuous Year of Jubilee; residence in the Promised Land! He offers priceless treasure for us to receive and to pass on to others. Like our brother-in-Christ Kenneth Hagin all we have to do is honor Him by taking Him at His Word. How often we overlook, underestimate, or misinterpret the gifts our Father freely gives.

Extraordinary, really, that God would entrust us with such treasure:

However, we possess this precious treasure {the divine light of the Gospel} in {frail, human} vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:7) {Emphasis mine}

The Gift of His Son, the gift of His covenant with us, the gift of His alive and active Word (Hebrews 4:12), the Gift of the Holy Spirit are the treasures we hold. God Himself has chosen to live in us, and even more bewildering, He waits for us to invite Him in (John 1:12, Romans 10:9)! He gives us free will and a choice in the matter of whether or not to permit Him entrance into our lives. To stand on the Truth of God’s Word for every area of your life, to determine that the Word of God defines and shapes your thoughts, your actions, your outlook on the day – this is freedom. This generates moment-by-moment peace and joy (Romans 14:17). And yet so many opt out of the blessing.

Andrew Wommack writes:

“If we continually thought upon this with all of its implications, how could we ever be lonely or discouraged. We couldn’t! Depression and self-pity would cease! What would it matter what others think of us if we truly understand what Jesus thinks of us? Our attitudes and fears reveal that this revelation of “Christ in us” is not a well-established fact in most Christians. {Colossians 1:27-28} makes it clear that our Father wants to make “the riches of the glory of this mystery” known unto us. We should all be seeking a greater revelation of this truth.” {Emphasis mine}

How often do Christians accommodate less than when all the while our loving Father – the Creator of all we see, Almighty God – is living in them, seeing to the fulfillment of His Word in them (Jeremiah 1:12, Isaiah 55:11), directing their steps (Psalm 37:23, Proverbs 16:9)?

We hold these treasures, received and acted upon by faith. This is rich, rich, life-giving treasure that teaches us who we are and Whose we are as we look into the mirror of the Word of God. Meditate on these truths:

And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear. (Mark 4:24)

Take great care with this God-given treasure that is within you. Attend to it. Let God’s Word only be the determiner of what can and cannot be permissible in your life. In this world there is the curse and there is the blessing (Deuteronomy 28). Where there is less than, sickness, poverty, confusion, depression, and every other woeful condition, the curse is in play. But because our Lord Jesus removed the penalty of sin and redeemed us from those obstacles to God’s blessings, we have every right to refuse them entrance. The abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10)  is thoroughly laid open for us throughout God’s Word.

 It is the Spirit Who gives life [He is the Life-giver]; the flesh conveys no benefit whatever [there is no profit in it]. The words (truths) that I have been speaking to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

To honor our Father by believing His Word is truly owning these treasures, and allows others to see what God in a life looks like.

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The Salve of Heaven

…salve to put on your eyes that you may see. (Revelation 3:18)

{Salve – an ointment used to promote healing.}

In Proverbs 4:22-24 God tells us that His Word is medicine for all of our flesh. He then commands us to:

…keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flows the springs of life.

How do we keep and guard our hearts? By letting peace rule as umpire!

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always]. (Colossians 3:15)

Maintaining and cultivating peace is a healing salve that will profoundly alter a life. When we look out on the world, and our own lives, from the vantage point of peace, that is the faith stand our Lord expects from His children. Seeing the world from that peaceful place profoundly alters the reality of the moment; it thwarts the enemy’s attempts to compromise the Word of God; it colors the day with the confidence and the beauty and the successful overcoming that characterize God’s highest and best for our lives. The Hebrew word for peace is “Shalom” which means “nothing missing, nothing broken”. Peace is a fruit if the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and a direct result of unbroken connection to the vine. It is also a choice to be obedient and improves and strengthens through practice. Our Lord Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). In Christ we have nothing missing, nothing broken, and that understanding should color our words, our thoughts, and our expectations. In John 14:27 He encourages and admonishes us:

Peace I leave with you. My {own} peace I now give and bequeath to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. {Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled}.

That peace in Jesus, that peace of Jesus, is ours as we resolve to remain firmly connected to the Vine (John 15:1). Notice that while He has assured us that His peace is ours, that He has given it to us, it is our responsibility to believe it and maintain it. We must always apply that salve of peace to our eyes so that we can see and expect correctly. All of our Father’s Word comes with the proviso that it is ours according to our faith. We are not to allow negative feelings to weaken our connection to Him. In fact, knowing us so well, our Creator instructs us in successful living by showing us where to look and what to see:

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

We know the Word, we believe the Word, and we assume always that the alive and active Word (Hebrews 4:12) is life and Truth to us. It is faith in the powerful Word of God that runs interference with fear and the associated feelings it dredges up. Imagine a branch on a healthy tree, a tree abounding with life and flourishing. But that particular branch is very concerned that, unlike all of the other firmly connected branches, it will not be taken care of by the life-giving sap coursing through the tree. It is fearful and unsettled, agitated and disturbed that it will not remain safely and firmly connected to the tree’s strength; it does not trust in the tree’s care and is concerned for its very life. Yet the life of the tree is there in the branch, and continues to offer all of its goodness to the branch. What a foolish waste of energy and emotion! For all the branch needs to do is rest in its placement on the tree, assured of the tree’s care and commitment to its branches.

We can sense when disharmony in any form attempts to interrupt our peace. That continuous peace (harmony, undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions and moral conflicts -1 Peter 3:11) that is meant to be a defining characteristic and a nurturing force as we grow daily in this walk in the Spirit. We are admonished to search for peace, to seek it eagerly, to pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Truly, all that means is that we are to  take God at His Word and walk in the peace that He has already given to us through the Person of His Son and our Lord.

Peace in our hearts, in our daily lives, in our interactions with others is an informed choice based on the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word (Matthew 5:9). And that informed choice is under girded through practice and experience. For once we have tasted the heart benefit of the peaceful response in any and every situation we might encounter, once we choose peace rather than agitating passions, once we step out on the authority and absolute reliability of God’s Word and surrender to trusting in Him unconditionally, we have placed ourselves on the path of eagerly pursuing that continuous state of peace that will nurture us, sustain us, define us, and utterly defeat any attempt by the world, the flesh, and the devil to shatter that heart calm.

If faith is the currency of the kingdom peace is its Amen – so be it. Peace in our hearts is the acknowledgement that in everything we encounter as believers, as citizens of the Kingdom, God is totally in charge and He wants to do us only good (Psalm 86:5; Psalm 145:9). We choose to think peaceful thoughts and to take part in peaceful interactions. We choose to respond with peace to any temporary (brief, fleeting, and passing away) storm, for within that unflustered state we are nurtured, and with our eyes gazing intently on our Abba – His love and His promises – we are teachers to all who witness our joy in the midst of the storm (Isaiah 26:3).

When any negative disruptive influence tries to infect your days, apply the healing salve of Heaven; the life coursing through the vine. From the vantage point of a peace-filled heart, every moment is not only do-able, it is a stunning success and an opportunity to apply the beauty of Heaven’s standards to worldly affairs.

{After all} the kingdom of God is not a matter of {getting the} food and drink {one likes} , but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and {heart} peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17

Mornings in the Garden – The Vine Life

Nature shows us the result of a branch whose connection to its tree has been compromised in some way. It hangs lifelessly, its leaves withered or dead; the life force of the tree no longer feeds it. Garden flowers whose stalks have been bent or severed in some way exhibit comparable results. Similarly, lives unconnected or loosely connected to the Vine (John 15:1) exhibit troubling symptoms. Those not connected at all are dead – in the world without God (Ephesians 2:12). Those loosely connected – filled with misconceptions about God and His Word, or permitting the weeds we spoke of previously to remain in their garden – reveal diminished and often bankrupt lives; the promises of God unable to make the difference in their days that He desires for His children. Vine life has some amazing repercussions in a life; the stipulation being that we must make ourselves aware – or be made aware – of all that is ours in Christ.

Recently a friend told me of her brother, a believer, facing a very serious, life-threatening diagnosis. I immediately suggested the book Christ the Healer by F.F. Bosworth as an effective tool, a life preserver really. My friend ordered the book that day and sent it to her brother. She later shared with me that upon hearing my suggestion she knew she had to act on this information – in her spirit she recognized this was not to be put off. She reported that he could not put the book down – that he was “flying high” with the wonderful Gospel message of God’s will for our health and healing. He was, in fact, joy-filled with what he was learning about this aspect of Vine life.

I often reflect on how frustrated and saddened our Father must be at half-lived Kingdom lives. This man, my friend’s brother, had been a believer, a Christian, a Christ follower,  for many years and yet the Gospel message in Christ the Healer was completely new to him – it redirected his spirit, overcame misconceptions, and led him out into joy; the joy about Jesus and all that He accomplished on our behalf that we are all meant to daily experience and share.

When we accommodate depression, illness, anger, resentment, poverty, or any sort of brokenness, to the extent that we accommodate those woes we compromise God’s Word and our connection to the Vine – our oneness with Jesus.

When she told me of her brother’s joyful reaction to the book I smiled in remembrance of my similar reaction in discovering Bosworth and the glorious message of Christ the Healer. I too had a negative diagnosis spoken over me long ago. I too was once filled with fear until God’s Word miraculously and forever changed my understanding regarding healing and health. Darkness and fear are transformed into light and joy upon the entrance of God’s Word, His eternal promises, into any situation that life and the enemy of God can throw our way. These Genesis moments are a direct result of honoring and believing God’s Word.

As His children we honor Him, glorify Him, and represent Him well when every day we:

“…exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) joy.” (1 Peter 1:8)

And that life transforming joy is the direct result of daily being purposefully plugged in to the Vine.

We are responsible for maintaining our connection to the Vine (John 15:2-8). As we live in Jesus, as we attend faithfully to His Word, as we allow no compromise with the world to alter our placement in Him, and as we live daily in the faith in God that we are called to, life attached to the Vine becomes a flourishing, vital force that transforms our daily reality, blesses us and those who observe us, and ushers in the promises of God.

Mornings in the Garden – The Weed of Dishonor

As we continue to carefully weed out “interlopers” in our life’s garden , applying the organic standards of the Lord to those heart attitudes that diminish or derail our faith walk, we come across the weed of dishonor.

Consistently honoring God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and honoring each other roots out his weed. The weed of dishonor in your garden powerfully repels God’s blessings. It is hugely important to our walk in the Spirit that we obey His commands in this area. Our Father is the “Rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him out” (Hebrews 11:6). Consistent obedience to His directives reveals  our earnest and diligent seeking out of God.

When we understand the Lord’s expectations along these lines, the practice and the principle of honor will usher in great rewards. Conversely, not attending to this principle, not committing our hearts to purposefully seeing to its implementation, severely curtails our connection to the Vine, our success in the Spirit, and the manifestation of Gods purposes and promises in a life. The promise of Psalm 57:2:

I will cry to God Most High, Who performs on my behalf and rewards me {Who brings to pass His purposes for me and surely completes them}.

is profoundly affected when we allow dishonor to infiltrate our faith walk.
Honor begins with the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 29:13); true honor comes from the spirit that fears and reverences God. He deserves (and commands) our honor and our praise.

For those who honor Me, I will honor. And those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.(1 Samuel 2:30)

…whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, Who has sent Him. (John 5:23)

But this requirement to extend honor encompasses our interrelationships with others as well, and we live in an age when honoring men is in short supply. In his book Honor’s Reward, John Bevere speaks of ministers of the Gospel whose work in Africa produced miraculous results in the area of healing and multitudes receiving salvation, while their meetings in America resulted in no mighty works – no miracles. The difference? Unlike many American congregations, the people in Africa highly esteemed their ministry and their message.. They were greatly honored for the position they held as ministers of the Gospel. Believing that these evangelists were called by God and given His authority to act, the people received blessing upon blessing because they recognized and honored that authority, thereby honoring God. Carrying that same message to American churches, there was a noticeable difference. The esteem and honor due these servants of God was missing. A similar situation is found in Mark 6:1-6 when our Lord was dishonored in His own home town (“Is not this the carpenter … and they took offense at Him…and they were caused to stumble and fall”).Unlike the effects of His ministry elsewhere, He was unable to do any mighty works there. In Luke 5:17-21, we are told that the power of the Lord was there to heal, yet the scribes and the Pharisees, in dishonoring Jesus, were not touched by the power of Heaven . So throughout Gods Word and in the world we live in today we see clearly the Scriptural results of dishonor.

By truly extending heart-felt honor to the men and women who cross our path, we are treating our Father and His authority to the honor He deserves. In James 3: 8-10 we again find the honor principle and our Abba’s requirement for people to people contact:

But the human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord, and with it we curse men who are made in Gods likeness! Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.

Gossip, speaking ill of someone, mocking someone’s behavior or speech or actions, rolled eyes demonstrating disdain all fall under the heading of dishonor and that does not please God:

…in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the other as better than and superior to himself {thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not {merely} his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

When offended by someone, pray! When the enemy encourages you to mock, pray! When others gossip, pray! When you are tempted to step away from honor into dishonor, pray and obey! Our work is to honor all those He sends our way for that represents our Father well. The enemy is very attentive to creating situations in our lives that might tempt us to act, or even think, towards others dishonorably. Determine now that you are resolved to obey God and not respond to Satan’s devices. God will attend to the end result.

…When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him and put him to flight.(Isaiah 59:19)

God’s standard against the work of the enemy is love extended to all. When we operate within the parameters of that principle we are correctly guarding our hearts and pleasing our Father. Let’s root this weed of dishonor permanently out of our life’s garden.

The Weed of Unforgiveness – Part Three

This weed of unforgiveness deserves more attention as we oversee our life’s garden before the Lord. Because it is a tactic of the enemy to attempt to keep us from the blessed life God intends for His children, this weed of unforgiveness creates serious repercussions that can usher in aspects of the curse that Jesus defeated for us on the cross. Two actual life stories will illustrate this Truth. The first is an excerpt from my devotional, God’s Beloved Daughters:

“Mark Brazee is a traveling evangelist and minister of the Gospel worldwide. He tells of experiencing some very troubling symptoms of illness that persisted despite his prayers of faith. He knew and believed and taught God’s Word regarding healing without reservation, and yet those symptoms were not responding as they should to a son of God speaking forth against them in faith. He felt that there was some deep-seated spiritual problem that needed to be addressed. He went to the Lord concerning this dilemma and was reminded by the Holy Spirit of a group of people he had preached to weeks before, who did not receive his message of faith. “All right for them,” he had said in his heart at the time with some disdain, “let them stay in their ignorance.”

“That can’t be,” he thought after hearing from the Holy Spirit. “That’s too simple.” (How often do we go to the Holy Spirit for help, receive our answer and then disregard it?) He knew, however, that this wisdom was from God and what he needed to do. He forgave those people fully and completely from his heart, and prayed that the Lord would bless them with the wonderful truth of His Word – and the symptoms of illness left his body. He had restored peace to others (forgiveness), received peace in his body (healing), and experienced peace with God (obedience).”

The second example was shared by a brother in Christ concerning two women of his acquaintance. Both women were Christians, both married, and both had late stage cancer. The similarities did not end there. Both women had husbands who had committed adultery, both women were harboring unforgiveness toward their husbands, and both women were asking for prayer for healing. The pastor who went to pray with each of them said that he would seek the Lord on their behalf and asked that if he received specific direction for them, would they heed it? Desperately desiring healing, both agreed. In each instance the direction from the Holy Spirit was the same – they were each walking in unforgiveness toward their husband’s unfaithfulness and needed to forgive unreservedly and completely. One woman said that she could not forgive her husband. She was not healed. The second woman forgave her husband absolutely and obediently. She received her full healing.

Our Father’s admonition in Deuteronomy 30:19 to choose life in Him extends to this weed of unforgiveness:

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.

The Word of God is our standard against any tactic the enemy might employ to derail our faith walk:

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)

There is no wiggle room here.  There are not degrees of unforgiveness.  Apparently there is not one offense that is weightier than another in the Lord’s eyes. The Lord’s directives here are very clear.  Weed your garden obediently.  Forgive all as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you (1 Peter 4:8).

The Weed of Unforgiveness – Part Two

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.

Mornings in the Garden: The Weed of Unforgiveness

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)

Mornings in the Garden – The Weed of Disobedience

 

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.

Mornings in the Garden – Those Pesky Weeds

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!