Giving Thanks – Sustaining an Attitude of Gratitude

Sustaining an attitude of gratitude may seem difficult for many people. However, it is an attribute that we can develop no matter what our circumstances.

In my limited travels to developing nations ministering to the very poor, I have noticed thankfulness in the midst of great lack. Here is North America, we often struggle with being thankful while accumulating “more”, “better than we had before”, or “different than what someone else has.”

Consumerism pervades not just closets but hearts. If we aren’t careful, a sense of entitlement creeps in. “I’ve earned it!” or “I deserve better!” becomes the unspoken but underlying thought pattern.

Paul encourages us,

Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Passion translation says, “in the midst of everything be always giving thanks.” It is impossible to sustain an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances” if we haven’t developed a prayerful lifestyle of giving thanks.

People

An assignment recently required me to write a few notes to those who have inspired, motivated or encouraged me along my spiritual or occupational journey. I had no trouble thinking of multiple people who

taught me new skills,
created opportunity for growth,
advocated for promotion,
allowed me to be vulnerable and authentic,
or picked me up after a major setback.

I am blessed! Does that mean life has been easy or people always treat me fairly, with honour and respect? Absolutely not!

“Healthy cultures embrace people where they are
but they also nudge them
and sometimes even push them to get better.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

I am thankful for those who have “nudged” and “pushed” me “to get better” even if it wasn’t comfortable at the time.

Paul wrote to a very unhealthy congregation at Corinth, yet he said,

“I always thank my God for you
because of his grace given you
in Christ Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 1:4

As I mentor women living under high-pressure, dysfunctional and even abusive situations, I exhort them to search for the “straws of good” in others. I’m not expecting them to ignore the reality, but rather inspire an attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude includes displaying thankfulness through words and actions. It isn’t long before these women come up with several things they can genuinely give thanks for.

Circumstances

It is unreasonable to give thanks “for” everything that is thrown our way, but completely possible to maintain an attitude of gratitude “in” everything we are facing.

I have never experienced extreme persecution for my faith, like millions of others. Paul did. He gives a brief summary: “hard pressed, crushed, perplexed, in despair, persecuted and struck down” (2 Cor 4:7-9). Add to that, in prison, flogged, exposed to death, lashed, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, and constantly in danger (2 Cor 11:23-28)

My life looks easy in comparison. Yours probably does too. Yet, listen to his perspective.

“All this is for your benefit,
so that the grace that is reaching
more and more people may cause thanksgiving
to overflow to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:15

God’s grace works through every circumstance for His glory. That alone is reason enough for overflowing thankfulness.

I have enough years behind me to view life’s hazards through the lens of grace and thanksgiving. The tough times exposed ungodly attitudes and tendencies in me that otherwise would have continued to cloud my character. God uses the pressures of life to reveal and then refine. For that I am thankful.

God

A true attitude of gratitude rests in thankfulness toward God. The writer’s of scripture continually penned their recognition and appreciation for God and His great mercy and kindness.

“Praise the LORD.
Give thank to the LORD,
for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Psalm 106:1

Thankfulness naturally flows out of relationship with God. Yet, even though God gives us ample reason to sustain an attitude of gratitude, David knew thankfulness comes from a decision of the will.

I will give thanks to you, LORD,
with all my heart;
and tell of all your wonderful deed.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name,
O Most High.”
Psalm 9:1-2

The people of Israel experienced God’s blessing yet they adopted an “entitlement” culture as well. Paul encouraged the Colossians to remember it is all about Christ.

“… Be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you
richly as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom and through
psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

Sowing and Reaping

Sowing and reaping works in every dimension of our lives — natural and spiritual. If I want to reap thankfulness, I must plant seeds of gratitude in the ordinary activities of my day. Here are a few examples:

  • Speak – Tell people how thankful you are for them and the impact they are having on your life. Don’t assume they know.
  • Journal – Challenge yourself to journal one thing you appreciate every day for a hundred days.
  • Pray – Like David, make the decision to praise and thank God for His goodness and grace. Don’t let your prayer time slip into a list of selfish wants. Recognize God’s presence and His grace in your life.
  • Memorize – Search out key verses of scripture about thankfulness and “hide them in your heart” through memorization.
  • Rethink – It only takes 3 seconds to change a negative thought into a positive one. So lighten the gloom by re-programing your mind toward appreciation.
  • Accountability – Ask two or three friends to hold you accountable as you reshape your character into one of gratitude.

Even small steps go a long way in creating an attitude of gratitude. The reward will be a new perspective on how you view people, circumstances and even God. As you plant the seeds of gratitude in your own life, don’t be surprised if you hear those around you express their appreciation more freely as well.

“…Express your thankfulness regularly.
If you pray, offer prayers of gratitude.
Second fall more in love with the Giver
than you ever do with his gifts.
Third, never claim full credit for your story.
Acknowledge the role of grace and providence
publicly when you talk.”
– Carey Nieuwhof

Thankful

My paternal grandmother died of cancer leaving her young children behind. My grandfather was a rough man who found it difficult to express kindness. Yet my father and all his siblings developed a contagious sense of humour and an ease in conveying appreciation. Living with a mean-spirited father in the absence of a nurturing mother did not hinder them from creating and sustaining an attitude of gratitude.

My father generously passed on the heritage of thanksgiving to his children, of which I am a beneficiary. Though giving “thanks in all circumstances” is not always easy, I am thankful for the example he established.

Those seeds of thankfulness my father planted in me, I now want to invest in my children, grandchildren, and those I influence. Let’s pass it forward!

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Two Options! Win or Lose, Which One Will You Choose?

In a world packed with almost unlimited opportunities, at the basest level we are left with two options, win or lose. Which one will you choose? Whether we realize it or not, the multitude of choices we make each day determines the final outcome.

What one thing will you give your life for? What one thing will you expend you energies, your time, and your resources to pursue? That one thing will dominate, dictate, and determine the course of your life both now and for eternity?

My sons enjoyed drag racing. Wins and losses were often determined in milliseconds. Warming tires, response time to the light tree, multiple smooth shifts, conscious and subconscious adjustments through the short course, all played a huge role in wins or losses. Literally thousands of decisions preceded a single race.

Competitors don’t go through training and preparation to lose. They prepare to win.

Dominate

The thrill of a win, bragging rights and a bit of cash, propels many to the short term glory of drag racing and a multitude of other endeavors. As a Christian, the target we aim for is much smaller but far more critical.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”
I Corinthians 9:24-26

Corinth, an extremely wealthy city, consistently hosted a huge international athletic festival called the Isthmus Games. It ranked second only to the Olympics. The Corinthians clearly understood Paul’s illustration of running and competing.

Though running to improve one’s health is beneficial, Paul wanted Christian’s to know faith is no casual run. “Isn’t it obvious that runners run to win? Run that kind of race.” Paul says, “I don’t run just for exercise. I train like a champion athlete.” Paul’s goal was to dominate.

Serious competitors know you either win or lose. Rather than seeing two options, however, winning dominates their focus. Champions set their target to win. Losses become learning mechanisms to gain traction for the next win.

To train and compete for a loreal wreath that would soon fade was applauded in Corinth. Yet a frail endeavour in comparison to the rewards of living all in for Christ.

Dictate

Hebrews Chapter 11 lists the alumni of great men and women of faith. Few if any compare to the high standard of their legacy.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12;1-3

The athletes in Corinth were willing to press themselves beyond normal human capacity for something temporal and fleeting. That propensity to excel resides in us all to some degree.

There is a “race marked out for us” bearing more significance than any Olympic gold medal, a president’s chair, or celebrity status. The choices we make will dictate the outcome.

Those who have gone ahead of us into eternity watch our “race.” If only we could see and hear that great throng standing in joyous anticipation — applauding, fist pumping, cheering, and urging us on to the finish line.

Determine

Unfortunately, we too often wander aimlessly, unaware of the choices — the two options — that stand before us. Rather than regarding the Christian life as a strategic and high stakes athletic event, we sloth through days with ambivalence.

Just as in a race, milliseconds matter, so in our lives. Today holds a whopping 86,400 seconds. Seems like a lot right? But what if this was our last day? Then milliseconds matter!

I, and probably you with the same awareness, would treasure those milliseconds determining what matters most.

The applause of multitudes,
or the company of loved ones;
selfish indulgence or legacy building;
accumulating more or giving what I have;
reaching for the top or sharing success;
checking investments or talking with God;
temporal or eternal;
death or life.

A drag race from start to finish occurs in less than 10 seconds.The Christian race also passes far quicker than we realize. Compared to eternity, time here is short. Everything we see and know today will soon be gone. All will pass away.

Two Options

Short and long term goals may or may not be fulfilled. The planned meetings, events, and family celebrations that fill our calendars may or may not occur. Each are minute choices in a much larger canvas of time — a canvas too broad and high for narrow human view.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming…”
2 Peter 3:11-12

I hope you are not discouraged thinking our feeble efforts are futile. Quite the contrary! Even little moments potentially carry eternal significance. The way we spend our milliseconds determines eternity, both for us and many others we have the opportunity to influence.

For which of the two options, the temporal or the eternal, are we in strict training for? Focusing on eternity, with Jesus Christ as Lord, is the one thing worth giving our lives for. Expending energy, time and resources for that pursuit will gain eternal reward. 

When the one thing that dominates, dictates and determines the course of our lives is Jesus Christ, the disciplines of running the Christian race will fall into rhythm. Winners keep eternity in focus.

Only Two

I wish there were more than two options and that there wasn’t so much to lose. Eternity is just that — eternal! The stakes are high. The consequences broad.  The little choices, those millisecond decisions, carry serious repercussions.

There is eternal heaven and eternal hell. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. He said that eternal life is to know Him. (John 17:3)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way
and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.”
John 14:6

Strict rules and regulations govern the parameters of any race. The spiritual race we have entered is much the same. We all run. But how will we run? We all compete. But are we competing by God’s parameters or are we attempting to run this race by our own faulty set of rules.

The choices we make in our milliseconds reveal the eternity we are presently living in and aiming for. They are critical not just for the “by-and-by” when we die, but for the now in which we live.

Champions weigh both options and choose wisely!

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Pentecost, The Outpouring of Holy Spirit and The Feast of Harvest

Pentecost and the outpouring of Holy Spirit, that occurred during the Feast of the Harvest, is a subject I am continually seeking to understand. God’s Word holds a rich reservoir of significance and truth worth searching out and discovering.

Jesus “gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)  

“… he appeared to Cephas,
and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than
five hundred of the brothers and sisters
at the same time…”
1 Corinthians 15:5-6

 

Jesus showed Himself

Ascension

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus visited His disciples for the last time. He instructed them to wait for “the gift” from the Father.

“… Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:4,5

I’ve never been good at waiting, especially when I know something good is about to happen. Waiting creates room for God.  

The disciples waited. They returned to Jerusalem together, “to the room where they were staying.” (Acts 1:13) “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Anticipation grew as they waited together in unity.

Pentecost

Ten days later, they continued to press in together in prayer waiting for the promise  the outpouring of Holy Spirit.

“When the day of Pentecost came,
they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing
of a violent wind came from heaven
and filled the whole house
where they were sitting.
They saw what seemed to be
tongues of fire that separated
and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled
with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other tongues
as the Spirit enabled them.”
Acts 2:1-4

The Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest, was rooted in Moses’ receiving the Law. Many similarities mark the Presence of God both here in Jerusalem and on Mt. Sinai.

Gods Presence in the fire and cloud

  • God’s appeared with fire, smoke and thunder on Mt. Sinai. Wind, fire and the loud noise of speaking in other tongues confirmed God’s presence at Pentecost.
  • The Law taught the people how to live. Holy Spirit now became the Teacher and Counselor.
  • While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were worshipping the golden calf. As a result, 3,000 people died. At Pentecost 3,000 people received new life by believing in Jesus.

“… for the letter kills,
but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:6

God’s presence covered Mt. Sinai. His presence filled the Tabernacle of Moses, and then later Solomon’s temple. With the outpouring of Holy Spirit, God came to dwell “in” His people with power.

Joel

At Pentecost, people were “amazed and perplexed” to hear their own language spoken by foreigners. They were convinced something significant was occurring. Others laughed and mocked, calling them drunk!

Peter rose up with boldness and authority pointing everyone to Joel’s prophecy,

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
 your young men will see visions,
 … old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.”
Acts 2:17-18

Pentecost, the Outpouring of Holy Spirit

Every Jew recognized these words as a small portion of a much larger text. The preceding verses in Joel speak of abundant harvest — relevant to both the Feast of Harvest and Pentecost.

“Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you
the autumn rains of righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers
both autumn and spring rains, as before.”
Joel 2:23

The autumn rains in righteousness can also be translatedteacher of righteousness.” The religious sect of Qumran, which produced most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, claimed that its most revered teacher of the law … the “Teacher of Righteousness” was the fulfillment of this prophecy.”

Jesus Christ, Teacher of Righteousness, fulfilled all He promised, including the outpouring of Holy Spirit.

The Harvest

As important as timely rains are, one shower never produces a bumper crop. Joel declares the evidence of the outpouring of Holy Spirit is overflowing harvest,

“The threshing floor
will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow
with new wine and oil.”
Joel 2:24

Joel’s prophesy included both physical and spiritual overflow. Worship and praise of the Lord accompanied the feasting of the harvest. Joyous celebration and thanksgiving accompanied the festivities. 

Twice Joel repeats, 

never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:26,27

Peter, who once bore the shame of denying Jesus, stood strong, now filled with Holy Spirit. “Never again” would shame make his life! “Never again” would lack fill his soul. The harvest would “never again” fail. From this moment on, the new wine and oil of Holy Spirit poured through his life in overflowing measure.

Pentecost, Holy Spirit

Christ may have left, but the outpouring of Holy Spirit had come!

In

Peter used the historical record of Israel to prove Christ’s validity. Without mincing words, he boldly talked about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to explain this visible work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit evidenced among them.

Exalted to the right hand of God,
he (Jesus) has received from the Father
the promised Holy Spirit
and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
Acts 2:33

Joel spoke of God dwelling in the midst of His people.

“Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:27

That little phrase “I am in” means “in the midst, present in the center or middle.” Though Joel may not have comprehended the meaning of his words, the imagery of the outpouring of Holy Spirit living “in the center” of believers is clear.

God, not wine, made the people stagger with His Presence. He came to live “in the center” of their beings. “Never again” would shame (disappointment, delay, or the pale of death) oppress them.

Respond

Peter challenged his listeners to respond to the outpouring of Holy Spirit,

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized,
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:38

Fire of Holy Spirit

The only prerequisite to receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Repenting means confessing and turning from sin, accepting Jesus’ death as the all-sufficient sacrifice as payment before God. Then believing Jesus destroyed death through His resurrection and confessing Him as Lord. 

Peter calls them to publicly demonstrate their death to sin and life in Christ through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

“Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand were added
to their number that day.”
Acts 2:41

What joy in the harvest of souls!

For Today

The outpouring of Holy Spirit began at Pentecost, but it didn’t end there. A few days later, we see it continued.

“After they prayed,
the place where they were meeting was shaken.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly.”
Acts 4:31

Oil of Holy Spirit

Paul told believers to “not get drunk on wine…instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) He encourages them tokeep being filled, to cram in more, to level up the supply.”

God intends the outpouring of Holy Spirit to be a continuous action in every Christian.

Just like an oil lamp needs a constant supply of oil to produce light, believers require constant filling of Holy Spirit to bring light to the world. Pentecost was the initiation into an unending supply available to all

Joel said, “In the last days“, making it clear he wasn’t referring to a single one-time activity. In Acts, they “all” received. Even now, Holy Spirit continues to be poured out on those hungry and ready to welcome Him.

Perhaps, today will be the beginning of your personal Pentecost, as you receive Holy Spirit. 

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The Sovereign LORD is My Strength – Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk anchored his life in Yahweh, the Sovereign LORD. God forms the solid foundation upon which he stands firm in strength and walks in power.

I’m not sure what it is like in other parts of the world, but in North America people of all ages spend countless hours and dollars at the gym in the effort to increase their strength. At one time, I was physically strong. Age has faded youthful vigor somewhat.

Yahweh never fades. Habakkuk teaches us that any authority, power or strength we possess comes from God alone. He illustrates this reminder for us in a single sentence.

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

Yahweh

Yahweh is a proper name for God, like Susan or Michael. This Hebrew word emphatically declares “I AM”. His name presents to us a consistent reminder God is. He always was and He always will be!

God first identified Himself as Yahweh when He commissioned Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Suddenly and unexpectedly, God interrupted Moses’ quiet shepherding career. He introduced Himself as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Ex 3:6)

God’s Voice trumpeted from a burning bush giving Moses seemingly impossible directive. Moses questioned God’s identity,

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.”
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:14

“I AM” the infinite God, without beginning and end. Yahweh, unchangeable God, self-existent and independent of all others God. “I AM”, absolute God — absolute truth, purity, beauty, power, wisdom and so much more.

Habakkuk acknowledged, “I AM” is all I need. The Sovereign LORD is more than enough.” Through multiple interviews I have conducted with people, who are powerful and effective in prayer, this constant theme is voiced, “God is enough!” He is sufficient!

My Strength

Listen to the Amplified Bible translation,

“The LORD God is my strength,
my personal bravery,
and my invincible army.”
Habakkuk 3:19

The Hebrew word Habakkuk uses is a “first person singular” noun  —my strength.” It is one thing to know that God is the “I AM.” It is completely another thing to know the “I AM” personally — to understand that all He is, He is for me.

This kind of assurance and faith flows within secure, confident hearts. The “I AM” is mine! I am His! Divinely orchestrated relationship, fellowship and communion!

The Sovereign LORD is “my strength” and more. That word represents not just personal strength and force, but also personal wealth, virtue and valor. The “I AM”, Yahweh, provides.

My Feet

I don’t typically draw attention to my twisted, dusty, calloused feet. Yet, God uses a beautiful analogy to describe feet yielded to His leading

“…he makes my feet
like the feet of a deer…”
Habakkuk 3:19

I have always enjoyed viewing wildlife. So from very young, I would walk alone through the prairie bluffs and woods surrounding my home. Once, I came across a large herd of white-tail deer in rutting season. Even though I knew it was quite dangerous to be so close, I hid downwind hiding behind a clump of willows. I hoped to watch them without being noticed.

A large buck, sensing danger, approached my location snorting and flinging dust in the air with his sharp hooves. He shook his broad antlers aggressively challenging my presence. Mesmerized by his strength and beauty, I held my breath, sure he could hear the pounding of my heart.

Suddenly, with the slightest flick of his tail, he gave the warning signal. The entire herd turned, leaping over fences with ease. The lightness with which they carried themselves in great smooth strides captivated my heart. Their speed and agility stunning!

Though I have had many encounters with white-tail deer since that time, this memory has been seared into my mind forever.

Habakkuk’s heart and mind were imprinted with many memories of God’s working in his life. “He makes my feet like the deer” paraphrased says, “God has made me, put within me, and positioned me with agility, strength, ease to maneuver the times and seasons I am walking in.”

He unashamedly gave all credit and glory to God.

Enables Me

There are many opportunities before me that I feel competent, equipped and able to accomplish. Others feel overwhelming!

“…he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

Let’s back up a bit to get a clearer picture of the ground Habakkuk was treading on. Among the long list, we find violence, injustice, destruction, strife, and conflict.

“Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.”
Habakkuk 1:4

The situation surrounding Habakkuk caused him to cry out for God’s intervention, raising the trumpet sound of warning to the nation. The conditions within Israel appeared hopelessly impossible.

But God! The presence of Yahweh, the “I AM”, enabled Habakkuk to rise, “up, over and against” any opposition, any “height”, or high thing, that might stand in his way.

Tread on the Heights

Read in the Amplified Version again,

“He…will make me walk
(not to stand in terror, but to walk)
and make (spiritual) progress,
upon my high places
(of trouble, suffering or responsibility).”
Habakkuk 3:19

Honestly, some days just getting out of bed and choosing joy, feels like a great accomplishment. Leaping like deer and mountain climbing are unfathomable. But when the Sovereign LORD is present, nothing — absolutely nothing — can stop or impede our progress.

Habakkuk says,
“When conflict and strife raise their ugly head,
when destruction seems inevitable,
or violence and injustice overwhelm,
the Sovereign LORD
‘makes me walk’!”

The mountains of trouble, suffering and overwhelming responsibility become the training ground for “height” walkers. This is perfect ground for spiritual progress.

As I look back over my life, I see that it was in the darkest moments, the most difficult circumstances, that God was the closest and doing His greatest work in my life.

Sovereign LORD

Yahweh, the “I AM”, remains true to His character and faithful to His Word. What He has done for others, He is present to do for each of us.

Joshua declared at the end of his life, “The Sovereign LORD, Yahweh, kept every one of the promises He made.” (Josh 21:45) I could certainly echo both these and David’s words,

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble,
they will never fall,
for the LORD holds them by the hand.
Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.”
Psalm 37:23-25

In a single sentence Habakkuk articulates the strength and agility God provides for us to be able to move from under-dog to overcomer. No matter what we are facing, God is enough. The “I AM” is present in every situation equipping us with power to prevail.

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

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Responsiveness! God Responds to Us. How Will We Respond to God?

Being responsive may be easy for some people, but it is difficult for me. Responsiveness forms the foundation for any thriving relationship. God responds as we look toward Him. But how will we respond to God’s invitation to come into a mutual relationship with Him?

The dictionary meaning of “responsive” is “to react quickly and positively, to respond readily and with enthusiasm.”

Here is my present reality. I want God to respond “quickly and positively” to my cries for help, yet expect His grace allowing me to hesitate, to evaluate, or even procrastinate in my response to Him.

“Do two walk together
unless they agreed to do so?”
Amos 3:3

Responsiveness gives agreement to each other.

Difficulty Responding

Disappointment, betrayal, rejection or brokenness form wounds within relationships, Wounds create callouses, a hardness of heart, that often makes responding difficult.

God gave Hosea the overwhelming task of marrying a prostitute, knowing she would be unfaithful. He had to overcome personal pain to woo her back.

God asked this humble prophet to live in a way that visibly demonstrated Israel’s betrayal of their God — the Bride’s betrayal of the Bridegroom.

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

Broken bruised hearts struggle to respond to love. But God leads — even in “the wilderness”, in “the Valley of Achor” (Valley of Trouble). God turns this dry place of trouble into “a door of hope.” Even when hope vanishes, God leads the way!

Here beyond hope, “she will respond.”

Rebellion Blocks

Hosea speaks of Israel’s stubborn refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God.

Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim,
stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.”
Hosea 5:5

The phrase “testifies against” translates from the same word for “respond.” Refusal to respond epitomizes defiance against our Redeemer and Lord.

Even our faintest response to God’s open “door of hope” releases a transformational change.

“‘In that day I will respond,’
declares the LORD —
I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.'”
Hosea 2:21-22

Envision it! Our little response to God releases a supernatural reproduction. Creation breaks forth on the wings of human responsiveness to God!

Love Initiates

Jezreel means “God plants.” The seeds of responsiveness bloom and grow, producing a love that initiates — fully and continuously responding.

“I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called
‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called
‘Not my people,’
You are my people‘;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.‘”
Hosea 2:23

This same word “respond” weaves through the Song of Songs, veiling the responsiveness between the Lover and His Beloved

“My beloved spoke and said to me,
arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
come with me.'”
Songs 2:10

Singing and Shouting Erupts

Some versions translate Hosea 2:15 as she will sing there” in “Valley of Trouble.” The Psalms often express this way of responding.

“May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.”
Psalm 119:172

Such joyous response of singing or triumphant shouts over our enemies, represent quick, positive response. Listen to God’s decree over Babylon.

“The LORD Almighty has sworn by himself;
I will surely fill you with troops,
as with a swarm of locust,
and they will shout in triumph over you.”
Jeremiah 51:14

Here “shout in triumph” is translated from the Hebrew word for respond.

Covenant Facilitates

Responsiveness refers mainly within the context of covenant relationship. Perhaps that is why I appreciate Hosea so much. He experienced the deepest breach of covenant — the pain of adultery.

The Valley of Trouble leaves enduring scars — visible remnants of broken trust. Everyone faces the sting of betrayal to some degree. Recovery cannot be forced. How does a bruised and wounded heart respond again?

By God’s grace alone! David’s says, “I call out to the LORD, and he answers me.” (Ps 3:4) He assures us, “God will respond to your need.”

“May the LORD answer you
when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help
and grant you support.
Psalm 20:1-2

The word “respond” is hidden within Psalm 20 multiple times — responsiveness between God and His children in need. “Help” and “support” are essential to restoring trust. The decision to respond, not just to God, but to those around us, rests upon our security in the Lord’s Presence rather than trusting people to show value and dignity.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:4-5

God delivers and covers the bruised one from fear and the betrayed one from shame within the responsiveness of covenant love.

Responding

Jonah avoided responding by running and hiding.

“But Jonah ran away from the LORD…
he went down to Joppa…
After paying the fare, he went aboard…
to flee from the LORD…
Jonah had gone below deck,
where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”
Jonah 1:3-4

Refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God’s voice carries a heavy price. The journey leads ever downward into deepening disengagement from God, others and even ourselves. “The fare” costs far more than any realize.

Though Jonah eventually did what God asked, his heart never turned fully to God. He remained hard within the crusty shell of self-sufficiency (4:5), self-pity (4:8), and self-righteousness (4:9). Nineveh repented. Jonah refused.

There is only one man known for his responsiveness to God’s voice.

“Because your heart was responsive
and you humbled yourself before the LORD
when you heard what I have spoken…
and because you tore your robes
and wept in my presence,
I also have heard you, declares the LORD.”
2 Kings 22:19

Josiah was the man! Though imperfect, Josiah responded to God’s voice with humility and repentance.

Positive Outcome

The bible is filled with examples of those who responded well and those who didn’t. They either received a blessing or ended life as a faint shadow of their potential.

God responds to our slightest movement in His direction. How will we respond to His leading, timing and call? Any slowness in our responsiveness delays

God’s presence and power,
intimacy and communion,
and the supernatural results of living
in fellowship with Him.

God waits patiently, but hopes intensely, for us to “quickly and positively” respond to the whisper of His voice. As difficult as responding often is for me, my heart truly wants to leave hesitation, evaluation and procrastination behind. I’m sure you do too.

I want the grace of responsiveness to permeate my life, both with God and with those around me. Every day requires choice. Will I shrink back or move into responsiveness?

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The Lord Who Heals – Is Jesus Still the Healer?

Is Jesus still the Healer? Is He the Lord who heals, or is healing coincidence? Many people believe that divine healing ended with the Acts of the Apostles. Personal belief is often based on personal experience.

Moses led the people of Israel through the Red Sea and into the “Desert of Shur.” After three sweltering days without water, they came to Marah. Here they found water enough to satisfy everyone’s thirst, but it was “bitter.”

God’s Name, God’s Nature

Bitter water formed the perfect backdrop for God to demonstrate His character,

“He said, “If you listen carefully
to the LORD your God
and do what is right in his eyes,
if you pay attention to his commands
and keep all his decrees,
I will not bring on you
any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians,
for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
Exodus 15:26

Bitter water healed

Under God’s instruction, Moses threw a piece of wood into the water. The water instantly became pure and life-giving, complements of the “Lord who heals” — Jehovah Rapha. God’s nature is to not just to heal, but to keep us from disease.

Healing in The Cross

Jesus displayed the perfect image of the Father (Heb 1:3). Healing was and is part of the ministry of Christ,

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
and healing every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 9:36

The word “every” leaves no room for exclusion or doubt. Peter refers to Isaiah’s prophecy (Is 53:5) being fulfilled through Jesus when he says, 

“‘He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.'”
1 Peter 2:24

Peter witnessed Jesus heal multitudes before His crucifixion. God later used Peter powerfully as an instrument of healing.

Jesus didn’t have to be brutally beaten to save us from our sins. Such cruel treatment, “his wounds”, made healing available for every condition, however.

Confident

How can I be so confident Jesus still heals? Though my faith rests in God’s Word, not in experience, my experience validates that Word. God has taught me aspects of healing using my body as an example.

The first healing I experienced occurred shortly after I became a Christian. Even though the bible was relatively new to me, I approached it with childlike faith believing every word to be true — including healing.

Believe bible childlike faith

I had suffered from ulcers since my early teens. It wasn’t uncommon for me to vomit blood during painful flare ups. As a young twenty-three year old, I was bent over the toilet vomiting when a verse of Scripture came to mind:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
the new creation has come:
The old has gone,
the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Though this verse doesn’t refer to healing, Holy Spirit amplified the word enough for my faith to grab. I stood up declaring, “Wait a minute! That means I have a brand new stomach.” You may laugh but I walked away, never to have any further trouble with my stomach. Ever!

In that instant, God became my Lord who heals! Not all healings are instant, however.

Slow Road

Some healings are more like a slow road to recovery. At fifteen years old, I was admitted to a psychiatric centre for treatment as a suicidal alcoholic. The journey out of that dark valley took decades, as God replaced truth for lies.

“Then you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

I have witnessed many others escape mental illness through Jesus Christ, The Truth.

Set free from pain

 

Lung disease plagued my father’s family resulting in many deaths. When I was diagnosed with emphysema, the doctor proclaimed it a life long condition.

A word of knowledge led me to “cut off” the generational “curse” over myself and my family by renouncing the spirit of abandonment. In prayer, I agreed that I have been adopted by God into His family. Any sickness entering through natural genetic lines was eradicated through my new “bloodline” in Jesus Christ.

Was it a coincidence, or the Lord who heals, that further investigation revealed clear lungs?

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us…”
Galatians 3:13

The cross is enough!

Not Done Yet

God’s healing continued:

  • the connection between severe allergies and a broken heart was revealed through another word of knowledge. I claimed healing for my heart and renounced the side effects of allergies as I watched them disappear
  • painful arthritic hip was healed by the laying on of hands
  • ovarian cysts dissolved through forgiving of offenses
  • severely deformed hands were brought into alignment by speaking blessing over them in Jesus Name
  • restoration of movement and feeling to legs after an accident causing a 75% displacement of the spine, healed through active worship and much prayer
  • migraine headaches instantly left never to return through speaking the Name of Jesus
  • torn ligaments and a frozen shoulder instantaneously healed by rebuking the spirit of infirmity and commanding it to go.

Free from sickness and disease

 

These were all medically diagnosed. After the healing, specialists responded, “astounding”, “a miracle” and “unbelievable”. Even without God’s redemptive healing power, I believe Jesus remains the Lord who heals. These testimonies continue to elevate hope in the lives of others to also believe.

“Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

God never changes. He remains the same. What He has done for me He continues to do for multitudes.

Faith

Some people came to Jesus with unquestionable faith. While others came with wavering faith. Some, perhaps, lived “worthy” of such healing grace. Others became social outcasts, despised and rejected, yet bravely approached Jesus for healing.

Healing draws us to The Healer, filling us with awe for Jesus Christ.

“The apostles performed many
signs and wonders among the people…
Nevertheless, more and more men and women
believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”
Acts 12:12-14

Faith and healing

Healing demonstrates Christ’s presence and power among us.

“As a result people brought the sick into the streets
and laid them on beds and mats
so that at least Peter’s shadow
might fall on some of them as he passed by.
Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem,
bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits,
and all of them were healed.”
Acts 12:15-16

As you read this, may faith increase in your heart. God loves you! He is still the Lord who heals.

Receive

I seize every opportunity to pray for people. Many have also experienced healing — some instantaneous, others progressively still others have not been healed. Honestly, I don’t understand healing, but I know the more I pray for healing, the more I see healing happen.

I have faith to pursue healing for those who dare not hope themselves. Whatever the outcome, I trust God and want Jesus to get the full benefit of what He paid for on the cross.

“Therefore God exalted him (Jesus)
to the highest place and
gave him the name
that is above every name.”
Philippians 2:8

The Lord who heals

Whatever your diagnosis, may I agree with you today for healing? Would you trust to receive healing today from the Lord who heals? 

Lord Jesus, I thank You. You are the Lord who heals.
I bring this precious reader to you today.
In Jesus Name, I command all sickness and infirmity to go
from this person’s whole body, mind and soul.
I command every part to come
into complete alignment —
restored, healed and delivered.
In The Name above the name of every disease,
I declare, “Today is a new beginning!”
May the blood of Jesus
cleans and make every part new.
I thank You Lord Jesus for Your healing power,
in Your precious Name.

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Invincible Warriors With Supernatural Weapons – No More Excuses

Do you know that we are invincible warriors with supernatural weapons — strategic members of a great and mighty army? So what holds us back? There is no reason for excuses. What keeps us from marching in unison — powerful, and focused?

Common elements necessary for military success and the advancing of God’s kingdom include discipline, humility and ownership. They are supernatural weapons.

The bible often uses two Greek words together: “egnokamen” and “pepisteukemen”. They mean “to know (understand, recognize, are conscious of by observation and experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on). When our knowledge, experience, and faith unite a powerful synergy erupts.

We must recognize and gain knowledge of our weapons, using them through faith, to become invincible warriors.

Valleys

There are two valleys in the bible that warriors avoid.

“Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.”
Joel 3:14

Warrior weapons

Procrastination dominates the Valley of Decision, “I can’t because ______.” “There is no one to help me.” “What if I fail?” “I don’t know how.” Excuses defeat an army’s opportunity of success before they even enter the battle.

Valley dwellers are a peculiar breed. I should know, I am one! Valley dwellers don’t like risk. They prefer security and safety. Lingering too long, however, and this valley turns into another dreaded location.

“The hand of the LORD was on me,
and he brought me out
by the Spirit of the LORD
and set me in the middle of a valley;
it was full of bones.
He led me back and forth among them,
and I saw a great many bones
on the floor of the valley,
bones that were very dry.”
Ezekiel 37:1-2

The common denominator appears to be “many” and “multitudes”. Multitudes of fossilized dead — undecided, disconnected, lifeless, “very dry”.

Prophecy

How long had these bones, picked clean by vultures, lay disassembled on the valley floor? What life once formed their existence?

“So faith comes from hearing,
and hearing through the Word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

God tells Ezekiel to Prophesy to these bones and say to them,Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!…'” (Ezek. 37:4) The Word of God fused knowing and believing, experience and faith.

Invincible warriors with supernatural weapons

Prophecy speaks God’s present word. Alignment with the conversation of heaven makes anything possible — then and now. Ezekiel obeyed.

“So I prophesied as he commanded me,
and breath entered them;
they came to life and stood up on their feet
— a vast army.”
Ezekiel 37:10

Only God resurrects “dry bones” into a vast army of invincible warriors. No longer full of excuses, paralyzed by fear, or dead, an army rises from the valley floor — the lowest place.

You may become slightly confused looking at me: once solid muscles sag; a small frame fluffed with excess weight; femininity wrinkled and faded. Not your image of invincible warrior? But look again!

Knowing and believing,
experience and faith,
working deep in co-existing momentum
creating internal change.

Valley dwelling becomes increasingly uncomfortable and no longer optional. I’ve been in training! Secret service training!

Disciplined

The first essential discipline of invincible warriors is the study of God’s Word.

“For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes
of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

Paul tells Timothy, “the Holy Scriptures…make you wise…is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2Tim.3:15-16) A necessity to prepare and equip every soldier for the task ahead!

Archer ready for battle

The second and equally important discipline is prayer. Jesus patterned the need to pray: early in the morning, at the end of a busy day, even all night long.

“But Jesus often withdrew
to lonely places and prayed.”
Luke 5:16

The third, taking thoughts captive, becomes possible after the first two disciplines.

“For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power
to demolish strongholds.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Every battle is first won in our minds. The wise never battle without the supernatural weapon of discipline.

Humility of Invincible Warriors

Do you ever feel you’ve joined the enemy ranks? I have! Pride forfeits the use of our most powerful weapon — humility. It also puts us in direct opposition to God.

“…God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6

Humility

Every biblical leader who chose to humbly submit to God experienced remarkable military exploits. They lead armies victoriously into battle against overwhelming odds:

  • Abraham’s 318 defeated the armies of Babylon
  • Judge Deborah and Barak went against the Canaanites with a vast army and 900 iron chariots
  • Gideon with 300 defeated the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people, “thick as locust. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.” (Judges 7:12)
  • Elisha blinded, trapped, and fed the entire Syrian army, before sending them home.

Often when Israel clothed herself in humility before God, He threw the enemy into such disarray she only had to gather the plunder. Invincible warriors submit to their Commander.

“In order for the Church
to accomplish her last-day mandate…
we need the grace and anointing of God.
Because God gives grace to the humble,
we must learn to take every opportunity
we get to humble ourselves.”
Rick Joyner

Taking Ownership

God’s highest ranking warriors are disguised changing diapers, sweeping streets, driving trucks, mowing grass, and working fields. Common people with the supernatural weapon of humility. Quietly doing whatever God asks — unnoticed, unpraised, unrecognized — powerful instruments in the Kingdom of God. Invincible warriors own responsibility!

A common denominator among God’s history makers is the willingness to take ownership of themselves and their “world”. When cultural perspectives shift and become warped, they stand and say, “Not here! Not on my watch!”

Ownership - It's up to you!

A Philistine giant, Goliath, taunted Israel day after day, until the whole army was “dismayed and terrified”. (1 Samuel 17:11) A young shepherd boy came along! David took ownership of the situation. He didn’t blame the army for being frightened. He didn’t talk the fowl-mouthed enemy down peacefully. David stepped forward.

That difference impacted everyone who witnessed the supernatural work of God through one young, invincible warrior. David raised up 30 more fearless leaders and a vast army who delivered Israel from her enemies..

“Don’t let anyone look down on you
because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech,
in conduct, in love, in faith, and impurity.”
1 Timothy 4:12

As one experienced in battle, Paul commanded young Timothy, “Don’t make excuses! Do what you are called to do! Own your leadership!” Paul’s last words to Timothy describe a true warrior,

“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
and I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

No More Excuses

Blaming, finger pointing and giving excuses abound in Christian circles. Changing that error starts with me!

When I am willing to adopt the disciplines of a warrior, humbly serving wherever God calls, and taking ownership of my sphere of influence, I become one of His “invincible warriors”.

Joshua clearly put the decision to the Israelites,

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve…
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14-15

May the combination of knowing and believing, experience and faith, lead us out of the Valley of Decision and past the Valley of Dry Bones, raising us up to become a mighty army. The supernatural weapons we carry are the practical tools of discipline, humility and taking ownership in battle as we serve God.

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Qualified for God’s Service: The Grace of Serving God

What qualifies a person for God’s service?  Confidently stepping into opportunities within our gifts and calling is a work of God’s grace. Many tools are available to help us identify our spiritual gifts, but how can we know for sure the specific calling God has placed over our lives?

Christ has established us in His kingdom and “freed us” as “priests to serve” God, the Father. Priests fulfilled the highest level of God’s service.

To him who loves us and has freed us
from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom
and priests to serve his God and Father —
to him be glory and power
for ever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation 1:5-6

Satan, our accuser, relentlessly heaps guilt and shame upon us for past failures. With expertise, he convinces us we neither fit, belong nor quality.

Equipped and ready

Only the descendants of Levi could serve in the temple. However, any “defect” nullified that opportunity and disqualified many from God’s service.

Blemishes

The term “blemish” refers to physical “defects” and “defects” of conduct resulting from sin.

“No man who has any defect may come near:
no man who is blind or lame,
disfigured or deformed;
no man with a crippled foot or hand,
or who is a hunchback or a dwarf,
or who has any eye defect or
who has festering or running sores
or damaged testicles.
Leviticus 21:18-20

Let’s examine these disqualifying factors more closely:

  • Blindness, either total or partial, also figuratively referred to the blinding of officials eyes to injustice through bribes.
  • Being lame, resulted from injury to the leg or foot, causing hindrance to the priest’s walk. Metaphorically, it refers to anything that quenches a person’s faithful devotion to God.
  • Disfigured literally means “blunt nose” — one rebelling against God, doomed to complete destruction or severe judgment of God.
  • Deformed referred to an overextension or “stretched out” part or purposeone member stretched out of proportion, overdeveloped, or a sixth finger or toe.
  • Broken-handed or broken-footed was a badly cured fracture — also crushing, ruin, affliction, or breach. It implied an ability to “grasp” the word of God or walk in obedience to it.
  • Hunched back also means “eyebrows descending over one’s eyes.” Unable to face forward, vision was obscured by a person’s own eyebrows while bent over.

Pencils - defects and blemishes

  • A dwarf represents failure to grow to mature stature. It also indicates weakness, malnourishment, gauntness or leanness.
  • Eye defects were cataracts or fusions of the white and black of the eye, symbolizing confusion or obscurity.
  • Running sores include scabs, festering wounds, and eruptions of the skin, representing unhealed wounds of the past.
  • Finally, damaged testicles refers to unfruitfulness, or inability to reproduce, because of crushing or breaking.

Jesus Christ

Such defects did not limit a person from the provision and blessing of the priestly office, but restricted their ability to approach the Presence of God.

“…he must not come near
to offer the good of his God.
He may eat the most holy food
of His God,
as well as the holy food.”
Leviticus 21:21-22

When I am honest, I clearly see spiritual parallels in my own life. I identify with each “defect” in one way or another.

So how do we get from disqualified to qualified? How do we move from the select few in the Old Covenant to an entire “kingdom and priests” in the New Covenant?

In modern day terms, under these restrictions worship and prayer would be off limits. It is difficult to imagine such an isolated spiritual experience watching others participate in an intimacy with the Father, while being banned from entry yourself.

Broken pencils

Our hope is Jesus! He miraculously heals and delivers people completely from these same ailments — then and now.

“Great crowds came to him,
bringing the lame, the blind,
the crippled, the mute and many others,
and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”
Matthew 15:30

There was the woman bend over for eighteen years (Luke 13:10-17), the man with shriveled hand, (Matt12:9-14), and those with leprosy (Mark 1:40). Whether a result of birth, accident or sin, He approached each with mercy and grace. He also forgave their sins (Mark2:5).  He forgives ours, too!

Forgiveness is part of God’s complete benefit package.

“Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases.”
Psalm 103:2-3

Every disqualification removed! Through Christ, we become qualified for God’s service.

Qualified

Paul prayed that the new believers in Colosse would fully grasp this amazing truth.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Colossians 1:9-12

The “Father…has qualified you!” By grace we are saved. By grace we are qualified. God made a way over every barrier, past every offence, through every hindrance.

Qualified for service

“Qualified” means to be “sufficient, able and competent.” Every dis-“able”-ity reversed through Christ’s death and ressurrection. Qualified to now enter freely into His Presence and into God’s service!

Grace

Believing God for salvation is the first “grace” step. The second “grace” step recognizes He also qualifies us.

  “For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained
that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10

By God’s grace, we experience the privilege of His Presence and the equal privilege of “good works.”

Colour the world

But there is one more point we don’t want to miss. The final qualification comes by the Holy Spirit. We dare not yield to pride or presumption like Aaron and Miriam did,

“Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked.
“Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”
Numbers 12:2

Holy Spirit

Though Aaron and Miriam were called, anointed and set apart for high levels of leadership, there were not qualified to serve like Moses. Wisdom and humility help us to recognize God-ordained boundaries.

Jesus commanded the disciples,

“Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:4-5

Jesus Himself trained, equipped, and commissioned these men to lead His church. However, even they could not proceed without the seal of the Holy Spirit.

Set apart for God's service

After their first missionary thrust, Barnabas and Saul returned to the teachers and prophets at Antioch.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,
the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 13:2

These first century labourers for Christ constantly surrendered to the will of God through Holy Spirit, even though they were already powerful, active servants.

The seal of qualification comes through the entire Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are all called to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15) By God’s grace, He equips and sends us into this vast mission field. God alone chooses the capacity. He also chooses the timing.

Let’s face it! Most of us feel “blemished” in some area of our lives. But the truth stands — by grace alone we are qualified for God’s service.

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Hidden, Awaiting God’s Perfect Time

One of my greatest struggles has been the element of hiddenness. I’m beginning to understand that it is by divine grace I am hidden from public view, awaiting God’s perfect time. God alone knows when that time is. Then He will bring me from hiding.

Have you ever felt like a butterfly trapped in a chrysalis? Or a chick concealed beneath a hardened shell?

Perhaps, those in the public forum wish they possessed such covering. For the majority of Christians, they work for the kingdom like secret service agents. Though their names and faces go unrecognized by the masses, they have profound impact.

Butterfly in chrysalis - waiting for God's perfect time

I am like a mustard seed in this vast field!

Hidden Ones

Hiddenness performs godly purpose. Is God’s hiding of His servants part of a more excellent plan?

God refined Joseph in the darkness of a foreign prison for “the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:21). Moses’ parents hid their new baby in a basket; forty years later God removed him to a desert no-man’s-land (Ex. 2:1-2). Here he “incubated” in obscurity for another 40 years awaiting God’s perfect time. After being anointed as the next king, David spent 15 years inhabiting caves to allude his demon-possessed tormentor (1 Sam. 21-23).

All hidden for godly purposes!

Hidden in a cave

This is only a snippet of the long list of concealed ones — hidden, awaiting God’s perfect time of exposure. Although frustrating by human perspective, God often orchestrates these seasons to bring out the best in us. God is good — immeasurably good. Everything He does flows out His goodness.

Jesus, Himself, spent 30 years in relative obscurity before three short years of ministry.

Protection

Often God establishes secret places for protection, guarding His servants from harm.

“For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 27:5

Here “hiding” illustrates the concealing of something of great value — keeping it secret and hidden. David recognized the dual function of this secret place — safe from man while tucked into God’s “sacred” presence.

Alone in the wilderness

Safe from harm and preparing for greatness sounds good, doesn’t it? At least for awhile! Hidden in God’s Presence precedes “high upon a rock” positioning. The cocoon of His “sacred tent” shapes the wings of unrestricted flight.

Permanent Deliverance

There is another interesting aspect of hiddenness to consider:

“You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me
with songs of deliverance.”
Psalm 32:7

The Passion Translation says, “your joyous shouts of rescue release my breakthrough.” These words convey the idea of an escaped refugee.

Breakthrough

Could it be that while we are far from the public eye, God is releasing breakthrough after breakthrough over us? Perhaps while in His Presence we are becoming more like Him and less like the world?

“The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Never alone! We are always with The One that matters most! Rather than fighting our way out of hiding, let’s experience God’s great pleasure resting over and surrounding us.

Envision it! God literally twirling, spinning in great joy, and breaking off things that have long held us captive.

Patient Trust

People pursue secluded vacations to escape persistent pressures and relentless responsibilities. Perhaps our perspective needs a slight shift. What if we began to see hiddenness as a luxurious retreat?

“You are my place of quiet retreat,
and your wrap-around presence
becomes my shield
as I wrap myself in your word.”
Psalm 119:114

Most versions call this “quiet retreat” a “hiding place.” It is here we “wrap” ourselves and “hope in” God’s word, trusting His promises. All other voices diminish in the cavern of His Presence.

Tree house hideaway

We see this aspect more clearly when Jonathan advised David to “go into hiding and stay there” (1 Sam. 19:2). The word for “hiding” also means “to hush or be silent when referring to voices of certain persons.” (Word Study Dictionary)

The perfect place to eliminate excessive noise pollution is where God hides us. Here we develop an unshakeable trust in Him and His Word. Secretly hidden, awaiting God’s perfect time of both concealing and revealing us.

Perpetual Growth

This passage always makes me smile:

“He told them still another parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed
into about sixty pounds of flour
until it worked all through the dough.”
Matthew 13:33

Are there any bread makers reading this? “Sixty pounds of flour” would feed a good sized crowd! “Yeast”, the secret ingredient, expands the volume and makes the finished product palatable.

Bread and yeast

What makes me smile? Visualizing this strong armed woman. Mixing together twenty-five pounds of flour was enough to break a sweat on my forehead. I can’t imagine sixty pounds! The combination of this woman’s strength and the living momentum within the tiny granulars of yeast created abundance for others.

Jesus illustrates the positive, “hidden permeation and growth of the kingdom of heaven within an unsuspecting world.” Perhaps hiddenness has the same effect when we are released in God’s perfect time.

Perfect Time

The big question and greatest challenge remains. Will I trust God for HIs timing?

In God’s perfect time, He ordained for each of us to enter the world. He knew us long before we came to be. He created us with uniquely designed sets of abilities and inabilities, gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together
in the depths of the earth.”
Psalm 139:15

Yet until His perfect time, we remain hidden — sometimes protecting, always providing, often purifying.

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.”
Isaiah 49:2

Arrows hidden in quiver

To prepare Isaiah as God’s voice to ongoing generations, he remained double hidden. Hidden beneath the protective hand of God and hidden within the quiver of preparation.

Preparation

Preparation develops in hiddenness. Paul encourages those hidden to “set your hearts” and “minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

“For you died, and your life is
now hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

Resting in the process enables the seclusion of hiding to reap its full effect. The greater the mission, the greater the preparation. The broader the influence, the deeper the roots of focused devotion must reach.

You are the light of the world.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Matthew 5:14

Though, at times, we may feel unnoticed, unimportant, or undervalued, our light still shines! Light cannot be hidden. The full impact of our lives will be revealed only in eternity.

Though hidden for a season, let’s wait patiently for God’s perfect time to reveal what has been concealed. “Wait patiently” are perhaps two of my least favourite words. But let’s trust Him for the right moment to reveal His finished work in us. And when you are perhaps feeling a bit lonely, remember, I am there in hiding right beside you.

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The Posture of Peace – Peace The Most Powerful Weapon

The posture of peace outperforms any other ammunition we possess for combating the enemy. Peace perhaps is the most powerful weapon God gives us. When Paul describes God’s power to crush Satan, He doesn’t call Him “the Lord of mighty armies.”

“…I want you to be wise
about what is good,
and innocent about what is evil.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan
under your feet.”
Romans 16:19-20

It is “the God of peace” who crushes Satan.

The Dream

God sometimes uses dreams to capture my attention. Such was the case the other night. I was being driven down a fairly steep embankment. We weren’t following any kind of marked trail. It was obvious few people travelled here.

Suddenly, before me was a peninsula jutting out into a lake. On the east side sheltered in a peaceful cove, a little cottage nestled among trees. On the west, a similar cottage stood stoically. Fierce waves, dangerously peaked a full ten feet above the shoreline. An invisible shield was restraining the waves from obliterating everything in their path.

Towering waves

Both cottages were offered to me — the peaceful and the dangerous. A woman stood tall and strong on the peninsula, facing the angry tide.  With a camera equipped with a telephoto lens, she captured images — first of a flowering vine bridging two outbuildings, then of clouds framed in golden beams above the storm. She produced multiple images of beauty found within the ominous storm.

I stood on this little piece of land dividing the fierce from the calm, the frightful from peaceful shores — opposites of each other, yet part of the same property.

Then God gave me understanding of the posture of peace. While unpredictable onslaughts threaten my security, stability or livelihood, simultaneously, peace co-exists, undisturbed by violent circumstance.

Examples of Peace

Three perfect examples come to my mind: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men determined from youth to settle into the perfect haven of peace with God without compromise. They experienced both peace with God and the peace of God!

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
Isaiah 26:3 

How do I know? You cannot prove a person’s character by what they say, but you can accurately evaluate them by what they do!

Fire and flames

Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps the most powerful king that every lived, ordered everyone to bow down and worship a magnificent statue he made of himself. These godly men refused! Talk about facing a storm!

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…
if you do not worship it,
you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace.
Then what god will be able to rescue you
from my hand?”
Daniel 3:13-15

Nebuchadnezzar knew only little “g” gods! These three knew big “G” God! The posture of peace filled them with strength as they faced the king’s unreasonable fury.

Peace of God

The King threatened with the clenched first of an unpraised hand; these servants of God trusted a hand much stronger!

“… we do not need to defend ourselves
before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to deliver us from it,
and he will deliver us
from Your Majesty’s hand.
But even if he does not,
we want you to know, Your Majesty,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18

Political correctness collapsed before truth! The king’s rage intensified as he ordered the furnace heated “seven times hotter.” (3:19) The king’s strongest men cast these brave ones into the blaze.

The other day while standing over a small bonfire, I managed to singe my hair, scorch one eyebrow, and come away cloaked in the aroma of smoke. Not these fellows!

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar
leaped to his feet in amazement...
‘Weren’t there three men that
we tied up and threw into the fire?…
‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire,
unbound and unharmed, and the fourth
looks like a son of the gods.”
Daniel 3:24-25 

Lightning Storm

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s posture of peace before the storm, equipped them to walk serenely in the storm. When we choose to walk with God in times of testing, He will walk with us in that testing.

“When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies
to be at peace with him.”
Proverbs 16:7

Posture of Peace

The posture of peace unravels the enemy’s power over any situation. No wonder our adversary attacks our peace!

“The peace of God is an impregnable fortress.
Never ever, lose your peace, and you will always know victory.”
Rick Joyner

Paul prays for believers,

“May God himself, the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body
be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will do it.”
I Thessalonians 5:23-24

The victory of and through “the God of peace” goes beyond external appearance to the depth of heart and soul — purifying and preserving completely.

Prepared in Advance

In my dream, the menacing waves were invisibly held back from crashing down upon the shore.

“And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

This word “guard” comes from a compound word meaning “to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel, post spies at the gate, of figuratively to hem in, protect, or garrison.” Peace prepares us beforehand — protecting from present and future harm.

Mount a garrison

No matter how difficult the circumstances God provides His peace in advance!

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Honestly, the storms of real-life create waves more threatening than any dream. Challenges, at times, seem insurmountable. Ask Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo! These three men were prepared in advance by God. God was with them in the fire, protecting, preserving and sanctifying them. The same God is with us too.

Be Still

Sometimes, like a boatful of worried disciples, we cry out for help and the storms are hushed.

“And he (Jesus) awoke and rebuked the wind
and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”
And the wind ceased
and there was a great calm.”
Mark 4:39

Peace be still!

But not always. I associate with David’s honest psalm: “my thoughts trouble me…because of the threats…my heart is in anguish…terrors of death...fear and trembling.” (Ps 55:2-6) David wished he possessed wings to fly away from his personal storm. When his closest friends stood against him, David turned to his only option, calling for God’s help.

“He will redeem my soul in peace
from the battle which is against me,
For they are many who strive with me.”
Psalm 55:18

I have no idea what you are facing today — what waves threaten your “little cottage” home.  May I encourage you to maintain the posture of peace? Peace is the most powerful weapon you possess.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with all of you.”
2 Thessalonians 3:18

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