Daily Discovering the Blessing

Posts tagged ‘Released into His Care’

Our Father – The Indwelling and Controlling Factor of Life

Loving God. What does that look like? What does that mean? There are many who reverentially acknowledge His existence, many who receive in faith the saving work of Jesus the Christ, and many who step further into receiving His grace through the baptism of the Holy Spirit – so that God the Father and Jesus the Son actually “dwell, settle down abide” and make their permanent home in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17). There are many who try to honor the truth of His existence by attending to the careful application of His Word in their daily lives, correctly understanding its worth, and that obedience to his Lordship is the necessary first step to pleasing Him (Hebrews 10:28).

But there is a life-changing, spirit-maturing dimension of our relationship with God the Father when we understand His wanting “to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loves us.” (Ephesians 2:4), and to love Him in the same way.

Because of Who He is, growing in this love for Him is a never-ending story. There is so much there to discover and to love! I was once taken aback by a statement made during a Bible study when the woman sitting next to me said, “People always talk about a God of love, but He is also a God of wrath.” Not for me! And not for those who determine to give Him first place in their lives. Anyone aware enough of the Word of God understands that the wrath of God, His withholding of the blessings of His covenant with men and the reality of the curse, will be manifested in many lives. {That’s where the concept of the fear of God comes in (2 Corinthians 7:1). But that’s for another entry!}. Those who honor and love Him dwell in His care and in His love.

Our Father is “the Living One Who sees me” (Genesis 16:14). “I have been fully and clearly known and understood {by God}” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It will always:

be well with those who {reverently} fear God, who revere and worship Him, realizing His continual Presence. (Ecclesiastes 8:12) {Emphasis mine}

He is our Nourisher, our Shepherd, and He carries us forever. (Psalm 28:9). And with His children, born again into His care, He earnestly remembers us and imprints and fixes us indelibly on His mind. (Genesis 19:29).

Look at the stark difference between the following two heart attitudes:

The Lord is my Strength and my {impenetrable} Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him. (Psalm 28:7)

compared with:

...for some of you have not the knowledge of God {you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God’s Presence and all true knowledge of Him.} I say this to your shame. ( 1 Corinthians 15:34) {Emphasis mine}

In each life God is meant to be:

…all in all {be everything to everyone, supreme, the indwelling and controlling factor of life} (1 Corinthians 15:28)

He is meant to be our first thought, our first cause, our first love. Everything else takes second place to our love for our Father. He “cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully (1 Peter 5:7).  We are to return that love in kind.

The sixteenth chapter of Matthew offers us a powerful lesson in what is important to God, and how our love for Him can be so easily derailed through fleshly concerns. At first Peter is praised for His spiritual insight and understanding. Jesus asked the disciples if they knew who He was. Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” received the Lord’s great approval. Further, Jesus said that this inspired confession of faith in Him was the rock upon which His church would be built. However, when Peter then attempted to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem and to His death, he was abruptly rebuked:

Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way {an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me}; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men. (Matthew 16:23)

We are always to know and attend to what partakes of the nature and the quality of God. That knowing is our safe place, our peaceful place. It propels us forward into the life God has for each of us to live. Love for our Father is our firm foundation, and, ultimately, that love defines us and makes us the best we can be in Jesus.

Advertisements

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)

Moment by Moment

We often overlook, or leave unpondered, the beauty of our moments. In truth, every second of our life holds the opportunity to reflect God, honor Him with our choices and our thoughts, and determine that His love will guide our outlook. In contrast, every moment that is colored by the world’s ways and the enemy’s attempts to diminish or redirect or disfigure and compromise the life the Lord has given us robs us, to a degree, of our heavenly identity.

But God—so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us, Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation). And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

      “In order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loves us“! Now that’s an understanding to carry into and to inform our moments. In Christ, you are loved by your Father with a great and wonderful and intense love. Before any other understanding in our relationship with God, this is paramount. It is defining. This colors our moments. It settles our hearts into peace when we fully embrace and own this Truth.

The first thing [is] wisdom — get wisdom, And with all thy getting get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7) {Young’s Literal Translation}

The heart that understands this Truth operates in the peace and joy which define God in a life (Romans 14:17). “Get understanding” about who the Word tells you you are. And let that understanding about what a life hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) looks like fuel your moments. The Word is filled with God’s covenant promises with His people. We are to search God’s Word for that wisdom (Proverbs 2:4). And we are to stand uncompromisingly on those promises. But even before gathering to ourselves and owning the wonderful promises that are ours through Jesus, we are to know the Person and the love of our Father. He not only tells us Who He is through His Word, He graciously lives in us to allow that knowing to grow and flourish (2 Timothy 1:14, 1 John 3:24). Knowing God and desiring to please Him with our moments is the calling of every child of His. This takes resolved practice. Thoughts will come, issues will arise, opportunities to fall away from peace and joy will attempt to color your moments with the dreary “less-than” often experienced by those “In the world without God”  (Ephesians 2:12). But our Father’s Word says that, safe in His care, those issues will not hinder us.

A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only a spectator shall you be [yourself inaccessible in the secret place of the Most High] as you witness the reward of the wicked. (Psalm 91:7-8)

And these moments build upon one another. Once you’ve settled the matter and have insisted that as far as you’re concerned this moment will honor God and receive the peace and joy that is yours in His care, the very next moment will follow in the same manner. For when peace rules as umpire in your heart (Colossians 3:15), you will recognize when you fall away from that secure place. As I said, it takes concerted, purposeful practice to both recognize who you are in Christ and to also recognize when that identity is being compromised.

[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), (2 Corinthians 10:5)

When our moments honor God and His Word to us we are pleasing our Father (Hebrews 10:38). When moment-by-moment we determine that the Word defines us and not the world, we reflect Heaven’s standards (Luke 12:32). Safe in our Father’s care (Psalm 91:14-16), we are a powerful witness to those around us of what God in a life looks like (Joel 2:27).

The Process of Receiving

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Power, ability, efficiency, and might“. How many of us would recognize themselves in that description? Receiving anything from the Lord is a faith proposition and our faith walk is entirely informed by our knowledge of what the Word says and our understanding of Who our Father is. Look at this wonderful picture of Who the Lord wants to be in our lives:

And I thought how [gloriously and honorably] I would set you among My children and give you a pleasant land, a goodly heritage, the most beautiful and best [inheritance] among all nations! And I thought you would call Me My Father and would not turn away from following Me. (Jeremiah 3:19) 

What a beautiful expression of our Father’s heart toward us; His desire for each of His children to occupy the Promised Land. For so many of His children, though, their vision of what the Promised Land looks like is misinformed or diminished through lack of understanding, incorrect teaching, or an unwillingness to fully accept the wonder of it all! When we daily operate from the vantage point of, the safe place of, our Father’s love for us, we are at the receiving post of every promise that is ours through Jesus:

But God—so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us, (Ephesians 2:4)

How good is our Father! How much goodness from God will your faith accommodate today? Let the Word redirect your outlook today. Let it transform you through the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2); let it establish new and correct attitudes concerning what this walk of faith is all about. When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are loved by God with a wonderful, great and intense love. When we receive that Truth in our hearts and let it direct and inform our daily outlook and expectation, our faith in His goodness and faithfulness receives the promises.

How does His loving-kindness manifest in our lives? He came Himself to die on our behalf, to fulfill the demands of justice, to satisfy His expectation that sin would not overcome His creation. But there was an inability in His creation to overcome the sin nature – only He could do that on our behalf. Jesus won back our redemption, our restored placement within the relationship God desires with men. And then, still knowing that even with all that Jesus accomplished we would fall short of the glory He desires for us, He equipped us with His Holy Spirit. He calls us to excellence and holiness and then provides us with the ability to accomplish that expectation by coming to live within each believer.

For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). (2 Peter 1:3)

We are responsible for how much we receive from the unending supply of our Father’s love and goodness. Faith receives God’s favor, His grace (Romans 5:2). Faith in His Word, belief that what He says He also means, is how His blessings are received in a life. Faith grows. It’s a spiritual muscle to be flexed and strengthened. As born again believers we are all given “the measure of faith”(Romans 12:3 – KJV) What we do with that measure of faith determines our outcome. How we grow our faith determines our ability to accept and receive the great plans and purposes of God for each of our lives:

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams] (Ephesians 3:20)

That superlative description of life in the Spirit seems beyond the reach of so many, and yet it is God’s will for all of His children. Continuous faith in God’s Word is a powerful force that most believers seldom tap into. According to the Word of God, mustard seed sized faith moves mountains (Matthew 17:20). Jesus spoke of Peter’s inability to continue walking on water as having “little faith”(Matthew 14:31).

How good is our Father? What are you expecting and excited about today? Is He a “just-enough-to-get-by God or a God of abundant overflowing life (John 10:10)? How big is God in your life today? Is He a help-me-get-through-this-illness-with-grace God or your Healer? Taking the faith step to believe God’s Word uncompromisingly is the path to “infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams”.

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 Weed of Fear

Here is a weed that burrows underground and pops up in many areas of your life’s garden. In the area of your finances, your health, your peace, your confidence and your attitude concerning the future, fear so often influences our thoughts, words, and emotions.

When Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue heard of the death of his daughter, Jesus immediately said to him:

Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear; only keep on believing. (Mark 5 36)

In fact, we are told in that same verse that Jesus was “Overhearing but ignoring what  they said.”   Hearing, but ignoring. There is the formula to cast out fear in whatever form it may take in your life. The key here is to be well-versed in what the Word says on any and every subject. Faith in God and the Truth of His Word kills this weed of fear every time

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:7)

We are told in 1 John 4 that “God is love” and that “there is no fear in love” (verses 16 and 18). In fact, God instructs us that:

…love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! … he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love. (1 John 4:18)

As one of Satan’s primary tactics, fear severely compromises our faith walk for it puts into question the veracity of God’s Word. Fear takes the beauty of the life in the Spirit that God extends to us and casts a shadow of concern over the garden. It is a virulent weed for it has the ability to reduce God’s Word and His promises to us to the realm of “hope so” instead of “know so”! It also stands in direct opposition to our Father’s loving directive to us:

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. (1 Peter 5:7)

Interestingly, immediately before we are directed to cast all of our anxieties, worries and cares onto Him, we are told in verse six to humble ourselves:

…lower yourselves in your own estimation} under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you. (v. 6)

In other words, take yourself  out of your own keeping (See Acts 16:31 Amplified Bible). Be humble enough and wise enough to recognize that we cannot do this life without Him. He is our Strength, our Refuge, and our Answer. How then, with God in charge, can fear of anything trouble us? Then, immediately after we are directed to cast all of our cares on Him we are warned of the devil’s tactics:

that enemy of yours, the devil, roams about like a lion roaring {in fierce hunger}, seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith… (v.8)

So here is God’s remedy for the eradication of fear from your garden. Humble yourself, hand Him every one of your cares and concerns, and in faith defeat this fear tactic of the enemy.

That God’s Word is forever settled (Isaiah 40:8) and that His covenant promises can be utterly relied upon (1 Corinthians 10:13) is mocked by a spirit of fear. So make a close inspection of your garden. This is a gardener’s daily duty. Among the beautiful flowers that you and the Holy Spirit are tending, does the weed of fear ever crop up? Do you verbalize fearful thoughts hidden in your heart? Remember, our words indicate the state of our spirit and the condition of our hearts before God. Our enemy knows this. He wants your words to compromise God’s Truth and hinder God’s ability to bless you. Do you speak out words that may correctly characterize an issue that you are currently facing but that incorrectly represent God’s promises to you? Do you report on the immediately seen rather than on the unseen – in other words are you speaking of the problem you are presently facing rather than the promise of God that you have been given? To allow the weed of fear in your life’s garden is tantamount to attributing to God the ability to lie and deceive His children. Be vigilant about this weed. Recognize it quickly and root it out.

When God says that He is love and that perfect love casts out all fear, that is your rallying cry. Upon that Truth the weed of fear can no longer disfigure your garden! For to trust and love your heavenly Father is to accept His Word as absolutely true and to recognize where the fear comes from. It is a tactic of the enemy whose singular purpose in your life is to diminish or disprove God and His Word.

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!

How Silently the Wondrous Gift is Given

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.

Renewed Thinking

 

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

Surprisingly, this is the one verse in Psalm 91 that I seemed to have some difficulty writing about. Procrastination in approaching and addressing its message was a clear indicator of the problem.  Either it was too simple and straight-forward to expound upon, or I might not be able to effectively plumb its scriptural depth.

All of God’s Word, every verse, has life-changing, spirit-maturing potential.  All of the Word of God, every verse, is Jesus (John 1:14) teaching us, training us, in kingdom living (2 Timothy 3:16). The Word, every verse, is meant to alter our thinking (Romans 12:2), our outlook on “everyday life”, our heart attitude and our spoken word.  What we see and experience every day, what we permit or prohibit, must be with the eyes of the Spirit and the counsel of the Word. It teaches us who we truly are; it teaches us how to rule and reign.

So clearly, Psalm 91:13 continues the affirmation, the comforting, confident expectation that having placed ourselves in God’s keeping, nothing can, by any means, harm us.  Psalm 91 in its entirety speaks to that safe keeping. We will overcome any danger that confronts us.  Notice that the confrontation does occur.  The lion, the adder, the serpent, they will try to overtake us.  Jesus told us:

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)

Notice that the evil that will try to confront is of the world.  As His born again followers we are no longer in that category.  In her devotional Dare to Declare, Dr. Mary Frances Varallo writes:

“That may not negate the storm or the hard thing you may walk through, for this planet is cursed.  Though you are redeemed from the curse you are not immune from it.  When the curse gets on you, speak to it.  The Word of God has told you that legally you are free from the curse.  Therefore, it has no right to you or your household.”

And God’s Word – throughout both Old and New Testaments – reaffirms that extraordinary promise. Psalm 91:13 is one verse of many that reconfigure “reality” for us. The first example that came to mind as I prayerfully approached this verse and its message to us was David and Goliath.  It’s a familiar lesson first taught to many as children in Sunday school.  The Philistine Goliath intimidated every soldier in the Israeli army. It took a young shepherd boy with a sling shot to defeat this enemy.  What truly defeated Goliath and the Philistines was David’s faith in God’s protection. Speaking faith and acting on that faith is the overcoming force.

The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:37)

   Faith sees and then acts progressively. Faith says, “This is how God showed Himself strong and true on my behalf before, I can and will expect it again.”  God is constant and He is “faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on). (1 Corinthians 1:9)

When we allow the Word to create our true identity, when we confront each encounter with the enemy as over-comers (1 John 4:4) and more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), our witness speaks loudly along with David’s:

…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel…for the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Samuel 17:46-47)

So whether it’s a physical attack, an emotional attack, a financial attack, a lion, an adder, or a serpent (!) – the Word encourages and exhorts us to tread and trample on the interloper. When we see ourselves, in our hearts, as the Word of God defines us, we act, think, and speak differently.  Faith says:

The Lord is good, a strength and stronghold in the day of trouble.  He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7)