The Kingdom of God – Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Why would Paul include righteousness, peace and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?

“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Romans 14:17,18

I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.

Righteousness

Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!

Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.

Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. In light of His holiness, we all end up far short.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

God solved the problem in Jesus. Through covenant relationship with Him, God counts us as righteous. Because of Jesus, righteousness now becomes the hallmark of all other relationships as well.

Peace

Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Isaiah 32:17

The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.

Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety and absolute security.

When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

Peace works its way outward spreading to others with enough fruit to share!

Joy

It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life . Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper

When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.

In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.

Paul prayed,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.

Kingdom of God

Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:

“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
Romans 14:17-18

The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all!  What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.

 

We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.

Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Righteousness, peace and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.

God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.

No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.

 

A Time to Dance – Lavish, Unrestrained Worship, Warfare and Praise

It’s time to dance!  The bible affirms dance, both individually and corporately, as a significant and powerful expression of worship, celebrating God’s presence. Many Christians around the world freely worship God through dance. North America perhaps lags a little behind, however.

Clinical studies have shown the positive effects of dance for both physical and mental health. One study using MRI scans showed that even people watching dance “activated the same neurons that would fire if they themselves were dancing.” Is that why dance mobilizes the Body of Christ to deeper levels of worship?

Even today, worship leaders echo Solomon’s words, “Everyone should dance!”

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
…a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Over twenty five years ago, I stood awestruck as I watched worship dance for the first time. I had danced before God in the privacy of my own basement many times, but to see it as a public form of worship stirred something deep within me to pursue worship in every dimension.

It’s Time

The first bible reference to corporate dance in worship involved over a million people. It was led by a woman over 85 years old!

“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister,
took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her,
with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the LORD; for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.’ ”
Exodus 15:20,21

This brother-sister dual of Moses and Miriam led the greatest worship service ever conducted. On the banks of the Red Sea, they watched their mortal enemy floating dead on the waves. Four hundred and thirty years of oppression broken! (Ex 12:40)

From slavery to freedom,
oppression to deliverance,
poverty to abundance,
captives no more!

When I remember what God has done in my life, separating my past from my present, I can’t help but break into worship. He released me from a inescapable pit, shattering the chains of addictions too strong for me to break. He softened my hardened heart. This mind clouded with depression, He renewed. He filled me with a passion to live sold-out for Him.

For me, it is time to dance!

Everyone Together

David was also lifted “out of the depths.”

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and
clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises
and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”
Psalm 30:11-12

Israel knew how to dance through oppression. Dancing as joyous praise weaves throughout the psalms.

“Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Jeremiah 31:13

Sometimes dance expresses joyous gratitude toward God. At other times, God himself inspires and motivates believers to dance. Either way, it is time to dance!

God of Movement

The very first verse in the bible describes the Holy Spirit actively moving over the void establishing rhythm.

“In the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth.
Now 
the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2

Hovering describes an eagle fluttering over her young, shaking and trembling, vibrating and moving. By divine strategy and in preparation for creation, Holy Spirit actively moved, fluttered and shook. Then God spoke the elements into existence.

In preparation to creative release, Holy Spirit knew it was time to dance!

Bringing in the Presence

Perhaps, David best illustrates another purpose for dance. He longed for the Ark of God’s Presence to return to Jerusalem. His first attempt failed with Uzzah losing his life, but David didn’t give up.

“Wearing a linen ephod,
David was dancing before the LORD
with all his might,
while he and all Israel
were bringing up the ark of the LORD
with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
2 Samuel 6:14-15

David danced “before the LORD with all his might.” He poured himself out in lavish praise with dance as an offering unto God. Dressed as a priest, the king led. All Israel followed.

Extravagant, vulnerable worship is risky. Some, like David’s wife, will misunderstand such devotion, rejecting what God calls pure and beautiful.

David remained unwavering,

“…I will celebrate before the LORD.
I will become even more undignified than this,
and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”
2 Samuel 6:21-22

For those desiring to usher in the Presence of God, the time to dance can be costly.

Collaborative Dance

Zephaniah reveals God in collaborative dance with His Bride, Israel. First, “Daughter Zion” celebrates in her God.

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!”
Zephaniah 3:14

Shouting aloud and other whole-hearted expressions of adoration and worship becomes contagious.  Expressions of utter joy radiate from faces turned God-ward. The word “rejoice” means jumping for joy, triumphant leaping forth.”

Worship includes quiet, solitary encounters with God. Instrumental, vocal and dance movement also create beautiful expressions of adoration to the Lord as a demonstrating of worship.

How does God respond to such extravagant worship?

“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

God, the Mighty Warrior, rises with great delight and absolute joy. He breaks into twirling and spinning “over you with singing.” Am I exaggerating? Not at all! “Rejoice” here means to be “bright, cheerful, having great joy, twirling and spinning.”

When God rises in collaboration to our frail but expressive worship, dancing breaks forth on earth and in heaven!

Warfare Dance

Dance also fights spiritual battles.

“Praise and worship is the highest form of warfare
that is possible against the enemy of our soul.
Worshiping God…is the best form of warfare —
refusing to give the enemy our time or attention!”
Called to Flag

The united activation of people in extravagant praise and adoration to God, ushers in God’s presence in powerful ways. Although biblical flags and banners were not used in the same context that dancers use them today, dancers often symbolically use flags and banners as instruments of worship movement.

When dancing and flagging is used as an expression of worship to God, it is a powerful, non-verbal declaration of love and adoration to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

David’s wife Michal misunderstood David’s worship and criticized him. As a result she remained barren all her life. (2 Sam. 6:23) God takes worship seriously. He honors and protects those who without reservation give Him all their worship.

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind.”
Luke 10:27

The dance of worship truly includes all these aspects. Perhaps for all of us, it is time to dance.

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(Special thanks to RAC Worship Dance Team for their inspiring movements through dance and breathing life into my worship. Photo credits Amanda Chernesky)

Show Me Your Glory – The Desire to Know God

Moses knew God like no other man. Yet, he still asked God, “Show me Your glory!” The intimate encounters Moses had in God’s presence only increased his desire to know God.

Time spent with those we love, whether family or friends, is sweet and refreshing. We constantly want to know what they are doing, how they are feeling, what is new in their lives, the struggles and successes they are experiencing. Time passes quickly in their presence. Often before one meeting has ended, we’re anticipating and planning our next get together.

Moses felt this way about God. God’s attributes, nature and character are beyond finding out. Though Moses glimpsed who He was, he wanted to know God fully and completely.

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

The desire to know God will always lead to asking, “Show us more of You.”

A Meeting Place

My husband enjoys meeting with other men at a coffee shop, sipping on steaming cups of hot coffee and savoring humongous fresh backed cinnamon buns. I like meeting in homes — ours or someone else’s. Weekly worship services and prayer gatherings connect us to our church family.

The place we meet isn’t as important as being intentional about meeting.

“Now Moses used to take a tent
and pitch it outside the camp some distance away,
calling it the “tent of meeting.””
Exodus 33:7

Moses’ meeting with God wasn’t happenstance. He established a place and time to meet with God. When Moses was purposeful to meet with God, God met him.

“As Moses went into the tent,
the pillar of cloud would come down
and stay at the entrance,
while the LORD spoke with Moses…
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.”
Exodus 33:9,11

Face to face! Friend to friend! What stirs within you as you think about meeting God face to face, Friend with friend? Wonder, curiosity, anticipation, longing, or maybe even fear?

Visitor’s Welcome

Wanting to know originates with God.

“I will give them a heart to know me,
that I am the LORD.
They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7

God gives us a heart “to know” Him. Then He meets us fulfilling that longing, which only causes us to hunger and know Him more. If earthly friendships are sweet, how much more precious our time with God, the Greatest most Faithful Friend?

I envy Moses’ encounters with God. I also envy young Joshua’s position of being able to eavesdrop in on those conversations. As Moses’ assistant, Joshua was able to enter the Tent of Meeting, even lingering long after Moses went to other duties.

If we think God shows Himself only to His mighty men, we are mistaken. God welcomes anyone and everyone who comes humble and hungry. No matter how many times Moses and Joshua entered the tent, no matter how long they stayed, it was never quite long enough. The desire to know God always increased.

Hunger and Thirst

No amount of “knowing” is enough!

“If you are pleased with me,
teach me your ways so I may know you
and continue to find favor with you…”
Exodus 33:13

Moses declares, “Thank you God for your presence, but I want to know you more!” God affirms their friendship — no arm twisting needed! He responds immediately,

“And the LORD said to Moses,
I will do the very thing you have asked
because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:17

There are over 100 names for God in the bible. Each name reveals something about His character and identity. Moses knew God by Yahweh or Jehovah. Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses his name. In Egyptian, “Moses” comes from the word for “son”, but in Hebrew it has the meaning to “deliver” or “drew out” because the Egyptian princess, “drew” Moses out of the Nile. His name reflected his destiny. God chose Moses to partner with Him to draw the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Names are significant. Calling someone by name shows them respect and value. Moses had a desire to know God even beyond His Name.

Show Me

Moses pushes the relationship to new levels and immediately asks God for more.

“Then Moses said, “now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

If you were confident of asking God for anything He could offer, what one thing would it be? When, like Moses,  you already know God’s unlimited power and unending capacity, what would you ask for?

“Show me!” Moses asked, “Show me more of You.”

Moses wasn’t enticed by power or position. He once lived in the house of the richest most powerful man in the world. What man possesses, another man can take away. But what God has, who He is, and what He gives can never be removed. “More of You,” Moses asks.

Jesus said

“Wherever your treasure is,
there the desires of your heart will be.”
Matthew 6:21

How intentional I am about creating a meeting place with God, will prove how hungry I am for His Presence. It will also reveal where my desire is.

Desire to Know God

Moses wasn’t alone!

To paraphrase David, he said, “There is only one thing I ask God. I want to live where You live. There is no one else I want to be with, look at, or hear from.” (Psalm 27:4) The Sons of Korah echoed David’s desire to know God more.

“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Psalm 84:2

They knew there was no place better! No other place held the indescribable joy of God’s presence praising Him.

Flip a few pages in the bible to the New Testament and we find Anna in the temple day and night worshiping, fasting and praying. (Luke 2:37) Without a husband or family, her time was exclusively devoted to God. Mary sat at Jesus feet intently listening, watching and learning more. (Luke 10:39)

Paul’s desire to know God came in monstrous proportions.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2

His knowing Jesus went beyond the ooey-gooey, make me feel good kind of knowing someone.

“I want to know Christ — yes,
to know the power of his resurrection
and participation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death.”
Philippians 3:10

To Know More Fully

The more these men and women knew God, the more they longed to know Him. The desire to know God out-measured the need for personal comfort, gain, or reputation. In the knowing, an unquenchable hunger for knowing more fully was awakened.

For each of these people, time devoted in His presence (speaking and listening, waiting and pressing in) nurtured the hunger for more. There were no shortcuts.

“Lord fill us with a hunger for more of You.
May we “pitch our tents,” setting aside a specific place to meet You.
Help us draw away from demands and responsibilities
to wait in Your presence,
even if that means stepping “some distance away.”
May we choose to reach for You,
to seek Your face,
to long more deeply for your presence.”.

The Power to Choose – For Better and For Worse

God has allowed each one of us the power to choose. In His sovereignty He refuses to deny us that ability. The unrestrained power to choose can ultimately lead to immeasurable good or irreversible harm. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, the choice is ours.

I have a long history full of both good and poor choices. Probably, so do you! If we are wise, we will learn from both our successes and failures. My life is colored by the effects of choices I’ve made regarding finances, health, relationships and a multitude of other areas.

It is often the little choices that lead to bigger decisions with even greater consequences. Little things form big habits of conduct that result for the better or for the worse.

“This day…I have set before you life and death,
blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
and that you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses is wanting the people to realize how serious the power to choose inevitably is.

Life or Death

If the consequences of our choices were instant, perhaps we would learn quicker and be wiser when it comes to decision making.

“A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:33-34

Do you notice how it is “a little” of this and “a little” of that, that leads to something seriously alarming? That little extra may not seem like much in the moment. Over time though, a pattern of behavior develops that leads either down a path of destruction or up to God.

Many people are bound by addiction. None of them sought such an ending. Usually it started with a little taste, a small whiff or a sneak peak. All too soon, an unbreakable habit leads to brokenness, regret and even torment.

My consistent prayer over our family has been, “Lord, don’t let us get away with anything. May we face the consequences of our sin quickly and soundly.” We can be lulled into apathy and indifference when we think, in even a small way, we are getting away with something contrary to God’s perfect will.

Blessings and Curses

When I flip back a couple chapters in Deuteronomy, I see the promises of blessing God has waiting for those who seek to obey Him with all their hearts. Blessings such as overcoming enemies, gaining prosperity, open heavens and receiving promotion.The extensive list invites us to revel in God’s goodness and grace.

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
the fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock
— the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be bless when you come in
and blessed when you go out.”
Deuteronomy 28:3-6

I have lived in the city and in the country, farmed land, raised livestock and enjoyed abundance. Yes, hard work was involved. All success was entirely the result of God’s blessing, however. Yet, there were also seasons, when my heart was equally fixed upon God and devastation seemed to loom everywhere.

Through the legitimate struggles God was working out a higher good, developing my character, strengthening my faith, humbling my heart and allowing me to lean totally on Him as my Source.

This same chapter that speaks of the blessings of obedience also contains the negative consequences of turning away from God. God warns that the power to choose goes both ways — blessings and curses, better and worse.

Choose Life

Moses presented the truth, honestly and sincerely. Now everyone who heard was released to weigh their own actions in the balance of God’s standard. God isn’t wanting to allow harm to come our way. He lovingly invites us to Himself.

“Now choose life, so that you and your children my life
The LORD is your life
and He will give you many years in the land…”
Deuteronomy 30:20

I wish I could have been there to hear the intonation in Moses’ voice and catch a glimpse of his expression. The gift of life, a life that would affect generations, was being extended freely and fully.

I can hear that same offer repeated by Jesus,

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

We see again the power to choose and the results of that choice.

Extra Benefits

When we wisely exercise the power to choose, “extra” benefits come along:

“Now choose life, so that …
you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:20

The road of life is littered with relational corpses of poor choices. That “thing” we mess with may not result in instant death, but every act of disobedience drains life from us in one way or another. God’s gift of choice affects not just us but everyone around us as well.

More than anything, our choices affect our relationship with God. I am foolish if I believe I can walk in disobedience to God and still maintain intimate relationship with Him. My power to choose will either open my heart to hear clearly from Him or cause dullness to cloud my perception. A little compromise here and a little more there is the outward evidence of how much or how little I am “hold(ing) fast” to Him.

Sadly others can see the outcome of my choices long before I do. Sometimes my willful blinding to God’s truths causes dullness in my mind. At other times, I have stepped off course in innocence or ignorance. The reasons my vary but the results are consistently damaging.

Power to Choose

God will never take away our power to choose. His heart rejoices when we exercise that gift of grace to turn to Him in wholehearted love and devotion. At other times, He grieves as we turn and go our own direction.

Love propels God to release us to our own destinies. His love invites us to choose wisely.

At the end of Joshua’s tenure as leader, he declares his stance:

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
but as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

The principle of the power to choose life or death flows through the pages of the bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Today, I simply add my little voice to the mighty voices of multiple others, “choose life.” For in choosing life we also make the choice to love, listen and hold fast to the things of God.

Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

As a mother of five sons, I have had some practice in “birthing the new.” Birthing can happen in many different ways, however. Have you birthed a business venture, a ministry, published a work or started a career? Each of these also contains processes similar to birthing.

I have had a new book, or should I say, a series of books, almost ready to reach full term. Pregnancy can present challenges, but pregnancy isn’t an end in itself. The goal or the new thing about to be released is the ultimate purpose. Every pregnancy is unique to itself, yet contains similarities to others. Each birth both predictable and unpredictable.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and
make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

Count them! Five times God says “I will!” I am the blind one; He is the “I will”. Are you pregnant with a new ministry, industry or purpose? Or are you in the birthing process right now?

Unfamiliar Paths

Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected and unplanned. I remember well, my mother coming home from town crying a torrent of tears. She was pregnant “again!” This was not her plan, desire or longing. Her present children were all in school and she was enjoying some independence. But this child to come would be the cream of the crop. He would become the adoration of her heart and fulfillment of voids she didn’t realize she possessed.

What unfamiliar paths does God have you walking down?

It seems every year God drags me into unfamiliar terrain. I both love it and dread it! It can be intimidating and daunting, to say the least. “Just own it” has become my new motto. One of my present “paths” is attempting to write and publish my next book. It is giant leap from anything I have ever done.

Talk about “unfamiliar paths”; every one of the processes involved contains new, even fearful elements of a journey I never asked to take or ever anticipated travelling.

Mine, it turns out, is an adventure of joy!  But like most unfamiliar places, this pathway

exposed deep insecurities,
revealed hidden fears,
demanded new levels of submission to God,
required more time than anticipated,
and has been a refiners fire of cleansing and healing
that I didn’t even know I needed.

Giving Birth

Five times God said “I will.” Five times in the natural I gave birth as I co-operated with His desire to bring forth something new in my life. Each birth embodied a promise fulfilled and a promise to be revealed.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish because of her joy
that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21

Birthing brings unavoidable pain; a pain that seems impossibly more than one can endure.  Unfortunately, there is no birthing without first going through the process of labor. “Labor” defines it well! In the final moments before delivery, a woman goes through what is called transition — where she expends every once of energy, endures beyond what she thought possible and draws from a deep well of fortitude she never knew existed.

There is no shrinking back, tagging out or throwing in the towel. Pain marks this life giving struggle. Selfless love propels her through the temporary transition phase to ultimate joy. With that indescribable joy, she finally sees what has been hidden, carried, nurtured and labored for.

Birthing the new cannot be fully explained, only experienced!

God Births

Just in case you male readers are getting a little squeamish with all this feminine birthing stuff, relax. God is into birthing too! He is birthing forth amazing things in the lives of all of us — corporate and individual.

A multitude of people have been pregnant and holding on to God dreams for many years. They have surrendered to the process of humility, struggled through training and development, fostered destinies and withstood the season of transition. Like a baby’s first cry, freedom shouts, “The new has arrived! Make way!” The umbilical cord has been cut; a new independent life begins to grow outside the protection of the “womb.”

In the previous stage, everything was provided. Not now! At least not in the same way. The Source always is and always will be God — never of our own efforts, ingenuity or skill.

I see God birthing in this season like never before. He is releasing spiritual gifts in unprecedented proportions. New ministries are springing up with maturity and vitality. Communities and cities are being changed.  Spiritual landscapes redefined!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles,
the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service, 

so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Birthing the New

Pride has no claim to either the gift or the work being birthed in this season. We receive God’s gifts as evidence of His unmerited blessing and favor. The Giver asks only that we use His gifts wisely for the encouragement and benefit of others.

Like any true gift, it is ours — freely given and freely received.  If we choose to misuse or neglect it, it is still ours! Luke 19 makes it clear that gifts come with responsibility, however.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
  Isaiah 43:19

Babies arrive without instruction manuals. As much as we plan and prepare, unexpected surprises accompany birthing the new. The “I Will” makes a way, providing all that is needed.

“Take courage,” Jesus told his disciples who were losing the stormy battle. (Matthew 14:27) Remember God is always the I WILL. He never leaves you nor forsakes you.

He says, “I WILL be
on the ground beside you while you crawl,
the hand lifting you up when you stumble,
the ONE at the finish line cheering you on,
the gentle arm of encouragement,
the whatever you need in the moment
…I WILL

You aren’t alone! God accompanies you every step of the way. No matter what the processes you are in or the pathways ahead, you are guaranteed to experience Him in ways you would never have known otherwise.

In birthing the new, with a sense of peace and joy, we both look back and gaze ahead. We are confident not in ourselves but in God alone. He is leading, empowering, directing and holding us fast.

Many more pains and joys of birthing the new are ahead for each of us. Hold to His sovereign hand.

 

Get A Hold of This! Philippians 3:12 – Apprehended by God

I am beginning to view Philippians 3 from a new perspective. To be apprehended by God should not be taken lightly or treated frivolously. Jesus Christ has “taken hold of” my life and determines my course of action.

I work part time as a guard for the local police force. In my job, I have the privilege of seeing mankind both at its worst and its best. Where darkness dwells, the Light shines all the more brightly. I only get called to work when someone has been “apprehended,”

arrested and brought into custody,
usually handcuffed and sometimes shackled,
locked behind bars,
removed from freedom 
and detained until further notice.

Apprehended

In the New International Bible Version, Philippians 3:12 states, “Christ Jesus took hold of me.” This week an acquaintance pointed out a different, more accurate, translation:

“Not as though I have already attained,
either were already perfect;
but I follow after, if indeed I may apprehend
that for which also I am
apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12

Somehow, to me, the word “apprehend” sounds much more forceful than “took hold.” It makes me sit up and take notice, almost like when my Dad wanted to get my attention about a serious matter. I think, that’s the point! That word “apprehend” means to “take with force, aggressively attaining, and seizing with eagerness.”

Paul compares it to pursuing the ultimate prize in public sports — the winner’s ribbon attained only through eager, strenuous exertion. It may define how God has “apprehended” me, but does it accurately represent how I am “apprehending” what God has called me to? 

“In Christ we can never say “can’t”
to what He called us to do.
We can say that we “will not” or “did not,”
but we can never say we “can not.”
He has given us His strength.”
– Rick Joyner

It is all too easy to get caught up in the daily swirl of activity. But that busyness can distract us from the main thing, the ultimate purpose, for our being apprehended by God.

Apprehend

Connie Inglis of Inscribe Christians Writers provided the inspiration for this blog. She encouraged us as writers to press into our call to blog, journal, publish and compose.

“Brothers and sisters,
I do not consider myself yet
to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,”
Philippians 3:13

I wholeheartedly agree with Paul. I have not yet “taken hold of it.” As a matter of fact, there are times when I am downright resistant to the process of “seizing, straining and taking by force.” At times I even prefer to run in the opposite direction from the call of God on my life. 

Only weeks ago, my Heavenly Father grabbed me again but the proverbial cuff of the neck and in no uncertain terms reminded me, “What I have called you to, is impossible for you. You CANNOT do it! But I CAN! Will you let me?” 

Somewhere in the process, I erroneously began to think the call of God was somehow mine — up to me to fulfill. I was cowering under the misplaced weight of responsibility. I needed the reminder that it was and is never about me. It is and always will be about Him. He alone can fulfill His destiny for my life.

He does ask for my willingness — my “Yes, Lord.” 

So before God set my feet on the ground again, I did just that. Honestly, I am grateful for the attitude adjustment. Thankfully, He loves enough to provide it. Now I can get back to the “one thing” He has called me to — share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Being apprehended by God cannot be taken lightly.

One Thing

It impossible to safely operate a vehicle while continuously looking in the rear view mirror. The distraction will ultimate lead to a collision in some way, shape or form. By looking ahead, one’s focus remains on the “one thing” that God has called us each to do. Know your destination. The destination will determine your route. 

“…But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,”
Philippians 3:13

Our goal is to “apprehend that for which also I am apprehended.” I am apprehended by God to share biblical truth in any way possible: writing, speaking, teaching; painting or illustrating.  What is your one thing? There is a God call upon your life, What is it? Finance, education, medicine, ministry, or whatever? What have you been apprehended by God to do?

Oswald Chambers wrote the following in “My Utmost For His Highest” (June 28). Wherever there is a blank, insert the one thing God has called you to.

“Never choose to be a _______;
but when once God has put His call on you,
woe be to you if you turn
to the right hand or to the left.
We are not here to ________ for God
because we have chosen to do so,
but because God has apprehended us.
There is never any thought of,
“Oh, well, I am not fitted for this.”
What you are to ________ is determined by God,
not by your own natural inclinations…
when it comes to the call to _______,
there must be the agonizing grip
of God’s hand on you,
your life is in the grip of God
for that one thing.”

Pressing On

Once we sense the seriousness of being apprehended by God and clearly see the purpose of His calling, we press into Him, toward that  goal. 

“I press on toward the goal
to win the prize for which
God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:14

For this one thing, we press forward  We reach toward the goal. We stretch to apprehend (violently taking and possessing) the call of God on our lives. Not for us, our glory or benefit, but for His.

God has no favorites. Every individual is precious to Him. But like in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30), some people have been given little responsibility while others have been given much. We don’t look over our shoulder at the portion of others. We simply honour God with what we have, using it to expand His Kingdom.

What God has for you is good! What He has for me is equally good! When you stand on the heavenly podium to receive your prize, I will applaud your accomplishments. So will multitudes of others. 

“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.”
Hebrews 12:1

Run, stretch, reach and pursue! Your prize awaits! You are an earth changer, a kingdom builder, apprehended by God. A paradox exists within the apprehending. Our agreement to God’s call ultimately sets us on a path of freedom. Here alone will we discover complete satisfaction and an exhilarating life more fulfilling than we could ever have imagined.

The call of God is the key to unlocking multiple doors of opportunity, advancement and adventure. But it also comes with a price — being apprehended by God.

To Be Forewarned is to be Forearmed – Be Prepared for the Trap

In any battle, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Knowing the strategies of the enemy gives us a fighting edge to be prepared for any traps ahead. Though I would rather focus on the victory Christ has already secured, wisdom is necessary to fully attain that position.

The enemy doesn’t have any new battle plans. He isn’t smart enough for that. However, his old tactics of ensnaring people continue to work as well as ever. Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to remember

“…we are not ignorant of the enemies schemes.”
2 Corinthians 2:11

Paul is referring to the trap of unforgiveness.

Solomon warned his son about certain life issues he might face. Within these warnings, we find the familiar but deadly pattern the enemy uses to entice us to sin.

Solomon’s downfall eventually separated him from God’s blessing. Perhaps, he speaks here to his son from his own negative experiences. During the course of my life, I too have followed a few paths of entrapment and gained wisdom through the experiences.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We all need wisdom to be prepared to overcome these traps of the enemy.

Boundaries

My dad often said, “Good fences make good neighbours.” This old motto reinforces the need for boundaries. Boundaries create a positive dividing or demarcation line — separating healthy from unhealthy, positive from negative.

“I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house”
Proverbs 7:7-8

Not only the young, but everyone, benefits from having healthy boundaries. “Simple” could mean naïve or someone who lacks understanding and experience. Failure to establish boundaries of protection usually starts innocently enough. But we have probably all heard someone say, “I can handle it! It won’t affect me!”

Pride still goes before a fall!

So on he walks. Straight into the enemies trap! “Going down…”

“at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.”
Proverbs 7:9

The cloak of darkness offers the illusion of secrecy. The wise walk in the light. Those with evil intention, however, attempt to hide their actions under cover of darkness. At least in the beginning.

False Promises

The devil promises big as he comes with “crafty intent.” ( vs 10)

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay,
and cost you more than you want to pay.”
R. Zaccharias

Solomon wanted his son to be prepared. Truly, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Sin’s path can be found “at every corner.” It is only one step away for any one of us.

“now in the street, now in the square,
at every corner she lurks.”
Proverbs 7:12

Honestly, we don’t need to look down “the street” or into “the square.” The sinful propensity lies much closer than that. It is within us. Within us all. Appealing to our human nature — our flesh.

“She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.”
Proverbs 7:13-14

The enemy promises a feast but delivers a famine. He promises pleasure but inflicts pain.

Prowling

No one needs to deliberately go looking for trouble to find it. Trouble watches and waits for us!

“So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you! ”
I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes and cinnamon.”
Proverbs 7:15-16

The devil perfectly prepares each trap — appealing to all our senses. He makes sure it looks and smells good. Too good!

Be prepared! And alert! Knowing the schemes of the enemy enables us to steer clear of his traps. Peter encourages,

“Be alert and of sober mind.
Your enemy the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Persuasion

Like he did in the garden with Adam and Eve, the enemy continues to entice us all with forbidden “fruit”. He offers sex and calls it love. He presents greed and calls it blessing. Or selfishness and calls it empowerment.  Satan lures us

outside the boundaries of godly authority,
over the threshold of desire,
to eat stolen food —
seductively poisonous —
into the place of death,
locked behind doors of secrecy
and evil intention.

The pathway of deception is predictable,

“With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.”
Proverbs 7:21

With words, many words, too many words, we attempt to rationalize the irrational.

Heart Issue

The enemies tactics appeal to every aspect of the flesh, but the real issue lies within our hearts.

“Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.”
Proverbs 7:25

My little grand-daughter recently reminded me, “What you say is what you are because what you say is what is in your heart.” She is short in years but long in wisdom. Words and actions flow from our hearts.

The heart turns before head. The heart strays before our feet. Since sin is actually a heart issue, how can we keep our hearts pure and steadfast?

“How can a young person
stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.”
Psalm 119:9

The psalmist asked the same question. Then answers it. “By living according to your word.” Living according to God’s word prepares us for any trap the enemy might have waiting “on the path of purity.”

The Word

The word of God isn’t an endless series of dos and don’ts. It gives practical advice and perfect wisdom for young and old, for male and female, and for every and any situation.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed — honestly! God’s warning isn’t to create hopelessly or fear. Rather He shines a light on the way to victory against our adversary.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith,
because you know that the family of believers
throughout the world is undergoing
the same kind of sufferings.”
1 Peter 5:9

God enables us to be prepared to fully “resist” the devil. He offers solid principles for “standing firm” against every deception or temptation.

We start by establishing boundaries of accountability with others. Avoiding secrecy and living truthfully before God and others moves us one step closer to overcoming. No one is immune to attack! When we sense temptation or hear the lies of false promises, stop and look around. The enemy lurks close. God establishes levels of authority for our protection, so whenever we feel tempted to circumvent authority, we can be certain the bait has been set!

God has clearly exposed the enemies strategies to give us the victor’s advantage.

But let’s go one step further. Let’s help others avoid entrapment, too. When we become honest about our own struggles it creates a door of opportunity. It gives them permission to seek the support and accountability they need to rise in strength and overcome.

Be prepared! Let’s guard the gates of our hearts and homes together!

Proverbs 3:5 – Trust In The Lord With All Your Heart

What does it mean to “trust in the Lord with all your heart?” These seven little words may take a life time to accomplish. Why? Because they require moment-by-moment, day-by-day, surrender — all encompassing surrender.

The problem started for us all in the Garden of Eden a long time ago. Self-reliance began the unceasing battle against surrender. Since that time, every individual has witnessed this relentless war. Even the youngest of us asserts, “I can do it myself.” 

Positive determination has produced amazing results. It has led mankind to explore, invent, engineer, create and break preconceived limitations. Through this compulsion we have

stood on mountains,
walked in space,
explored ocean depths,
developed cures,
conquered fears,
and challenged the impossible.

But such exploits have also created an over confidence in our own ability, ingenuity or intelligence. So how do we turn about face and kneel before the Lord God, Creator and Sustainer of all?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on
your own understanding.”
Proverbs 3:5

Jenna Loveridge Photography

Trust

As a mother, I find it uncomfortable to watch a young child being thrust into the air by its father. The child may scream in fear, while simultaneously delighting in the game of dangerous reliance of its father. The father trusts in his own strength to catch the child. However, the child trusts in the father’s loving character to not allow it to fall.

Sometimes, I honestly feel like that little child tossed skyward by my Heavenly Father — gasping for air and screaming. Not always in delight! Usually, I’m not wanting more!

Trust conveys a sense of security or calm assurance.

“May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow
with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Such explicit trust, of necessity, requires that we know the One we are trusting in. Do I trust Him as the God of all hope? Do I know Him to be trustworthy? Or do I question His character and His love for me?

How I perceive God’s character will ultimately determine my level of trust in Him.

The LORD

The name for God used here is “Yahweh” — “I AM.”

“God said to Moses,
I AM WHO I AM.’…”
Exodus 3:14

Perhaps it takes so long to trust God, because it takes time to understand who He is. Self reliance declares, “Trust only yourself.” However, history has shown how faulty that reasoning is!

By reading the bible, we begin to develop insight into God’s nature. Experience also teaches us that He is completely trustworthy. His character is constant and good — indescribably good.

God
eternal, self-existent,
omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient,
Alpha and Omega, without beginning or end,
independent and unchanging,
absolute truth, beauty and goodness.

Jenna Loveridge Photography

The more we come to accurately know God for who He truly is, the more we sense the security and calm assurance that comes with trusting Him.

“Those who know your name
trust in you, for you, LORD,
have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9:10

Can we trust God when our prayer seems to go unanswered? Can we trust Him when He appears distant even though we needed His Presence? How can we trust Him when His ways are so much different than ours?

These are honest questions. The only honest answer is, “Yes!” Yes, because His love never fails. Yes, because He is immeasurable good. Yahweh is redemptive in all He does. He remains trustworthy.

With All

If seven words present a problem, seven letters create an even bigger one — “with all.”  Perhaps, we can trust God “with a little”. We might even trust Him “with some.” But “with all?”  Now that’s different. And difficult!

Dare I trust Him with

my family and relationships,
finances and possession,
dreams and desires,
restoring my past or securing my future,
providing not just what is good,
but the absolute best?

It has been over 40 years since in hopelessness I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. With faltering prayer, I simply said, “Lord, I have nothing worth giving you. But if you want me, I am Yours. Take the broken pieces. I give them all to You.” With that, I gave Jesus “all.”

Amazingly enough He took me up on the offer. He still holds me to it!

Through the years, God has been persuading me about the inclusively of “all.” Some things I have clung too resistantly. Other things, I have gladly tossed His way. “With all” really does mean everything. God cannot be Lord, if He is only lord of some. Lordship encompasses “all.”

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfact,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD himself,
is the Rock eternal.”
Isaiah 26:3-4

Yet with such yielding comes peace — “perfect peace.”

Heart

The heart signifies the centre — the core of all feelings, will, and intellect. The heart makes me, me and you, you. It determines our values, how we perceive the world around us and  how we respond to others. The heart is the central part that makes every aspect of our lives “tick.”

The human heart is made up of many chambers. So is our heart of hearts. Trusting Him must flow through “all” the centre of our being.

“I will say of the LORD,
“He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalms 91:2

Do we foolishly think we can trust our feelings above His goodness? Are we in any way resistant to surrendering our will? In what ways do we believe we know better than God? Writing these question makes them sound unreasonable. Perhaps because they are.

Yet, in my littleness, I cling to them with childlike determination. God pulls at my small hand with persistence, wanting my little, so He can grant me His big more.

Trusting in oneself “with all your heart” proves futile. On the other hand, “trust(ing) the Lord with all your heart” brings his security and calm assurance.

Blessings

Many promises await fulfillment as we trust the Lord — in everything and with everything.

“But blessed is the one
who
trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree
planted by the w
ater
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trust and blessing co-exist — inseparably bound together. As fragile as our trust might seem, it powerfully links us to innumerable benefits. The security and calm confidence derived from trusting in the Lord replaces fear and worry. Trusting God demolishes the vulnerability of uncertainty.

So today, I trust again, afresh and more fully. Moment-by-moment, day-by-day, I choose totrust in the Lord with all (my) heart.”

God faithfully invites me closer, while creating new opportunities to trust. He also rewards my efforts to trust with confidence.

**********

5 Little Steps To Walking With Our Big God

Vibrant Christian faith includes a series of intentional little steps. How can these little feet walk in step with such a big God? Only with God’s help! God promises to walk beside us. He also welcomes us to walk with Him.

Today a family of three generations walked past our house. A preschooler recklessly led the entourage while riding his bicycle. The father pushed an empty stroller, while the mother kept the little biker from running over grandpa’s toes. Grandma held both hands of a toddler encouraging its every step.

In a similar way, God walks beside me

holding my hands,
guiding my steps,
providing protection,
and encouraging strength.

God joined Adam and Eve for a daily walk. I imagine happy chatter bounced between the three of them as they walked and talked — that is until the fall.

“Then the man and his wife
heard the sound of the LORD God
as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and they hid from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man,
“Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8,9

“Where are you?”

God still calls to us, “Where are you?” as he waits for us to walk with Him. The same intimate relationship Adam and Eve experienced with God before the fall has been restored to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ parting words to his disciples were,

“…Surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

Where am I? Too busy or preoccupied? Hiding like Adam or blaming like Eve? Feeling overwhelmed or discouraged?

Where are you? Have you struggled to develop a consistent faith walk?

Every journey, including our walk with God, contains a series of little steps. “S-T-E-P-S” form an acronym for reliable practices that have proved beneficial for generations of Christ followers:

Scriptures
Take away
Early
Prayer
Sacrifice

Scriptures

God’s Word creates a solid footing. Like that Grandmother holding the toddler’s hands, the bible establishes sure principles for us to walk in and live by. Its eternal truths endure through all seasons, for all generations.

God’s Word is perfect in every way;
how it revives our souls!
His laws lead us to truth,
and his ways change the simple into wise.
His teachings make us joyful
and radiate his light;

his precepts are so pure!
His commands, how they challenge us
to keep close to his heart!

The revelation-light of his word
makes my spirit shine radiant.
Every one of the Lord’s commands is right;
following them brings cheer.
Nothing he says ever needs to be changed.
The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.
That’s why I prize God’s word
like others prize the finest gold.

Nothing brings the soul such sweetness
as seeking his living words.
Psalm 19:7-10

This small passage illustrates just a few of the benefits God’s word provides. Reading, mediating and studying the bible deposits immeasurable “treasures” within us. God holds our hands as we read, protectively guiding our faltering childlike steps —little steps with big God.

If consistent bible reading is new to you, start small. Choose a “quiet” spot where you can keep a bible, a small notepad or journal, and a pen handy. Establishing even a modest goal of 15 minutes a day will reap benefits.

Take Away

As you read the bible seek Holy Spirit’s help for a practical “take away” — something you can begin to incorporate into your life. Ask yourself several questions as you read,

“What application can I pull from this passage?”
“How does this relate to my circumstance or relationships?”
“What can I learn about God’s character?”
“Is there a point of growth for me to pursue?”

The bible documents God’s journey with people from eternity past to eternity future. Though the bible was written by over 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years, its relevance never diminishes.

“Such things were written in Scriptures
long ago to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us
hope and encouragement
as we wait patiently
for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Romans 15:4

It’s helpful to record the daily “take away” in a journalGod’s voice to your heart for that day. He may reveal something new or affirm an old lesson in a new way. Recording the “take away” helps us retain His truths. It propels us, through little steps, as we consistently walk with our big God.

Early

A day quickly becomes cluttered with activity or clouded with responsibility. Taking time early in the morning gives God our priority. Jesus said overcoming the pressures of life becomes possible by putting God first.

“But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness
and all these things
will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

For some people, early in the morning may be the hardest but most important step. Jesus consistently patterned the example for us.

“Very early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
Jesus got up, left the house
and went off to a solitary place,
where he prayed.”
Mark 1:35

Prayer

That leads into the next “little step” — prayer. Reading the bible allows God to speak to us. Prayer is our response in this ongoing conversation.

After spending time reading the bible and considering a “take away”, prayer flows naturally from our full heart. Aspects of prayer may include:

  • coming into agreement with God’s word
  • committing oneself to follow Him
  • thanksgiving or praise for who He is and what He has done
  • presenting the needs of others
  • laying personal requests before Him
  • or silently waiting in His Presence.

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

Consider writing a prayer in your journal as you confirm this little step with God.

Sacrifice

Jesus called his followers to count the cost of discipleship. Walking with God means abandoning our way and desires. Little steps yield to God’s direction.

When you fast,
do not look somber
as the hypocrites do,
for they disfigure their faces
to show others they are fasting.”
Matthew 6:16

The word “when” implies followers of Christ would fast. Fasting goes beyond dietary restrictions. All the previous steps focused our attention toward God, fasting turns our hearts away from other attractions and distractions.

Food is the most basic need of humanity. The conscious decision of fasting professes God to be our highest essential requirement. Though few Christians in North America fast regularly, fasting acknowledges God as sufficient.

God out-measures any sacrifice we might make. With eternity in mind and joy on our faces, He empowers our little steps of sacrifice.

Five Little Steps

Anne Graham Lotz  writes about two basic rules needed for anyone to walk together:

“The first rule is that we must walk in the same direction.
The second rule is that we must walk at the same pace…
If we want to walk with (God),
we must walk in His direction…at His pace.”

Many generations of followers have incorporated these five little steps in their walk with God: reading of Scriptures, finding a “take away”, seeking God early in the day, prayer and sacrifice. God walks with us encouraging our every step. So let’s keep walking with him. Step by step we will reach the finish line!

*********

 

 

Your Promise is Waiting – Do Something!

Earth’s resources may be diminishing, but heaven’s never do. Your promise is waiting, but you may have to do something illogical to receive it. However, these God opportunities sometimes have expiration dates.

I read the other day that over $800 million remains in unclaimed bank accounts in Canada alone. A $60 million lottery ticket currently sits unclaimed in Alberta. That sounds ridiculous to me. Somebody do something!

How many even more valuable promises sit in God’s hand waiting for somebody — anybody — to do something? God’s prompting to motivate us may hit a road block in my over-rationalizing mind or carry a risk I’m unprepared to take. Possessing our promise may take courage.

“And without faith living within us,
it would be impossible to please God.
For we come to God in faith knowing
that he is real and that he rewards the faith
of those who give all their
passion and strength into seeking him.”
Hebrews 11:6 TPT

Courage requires faith. Faith demands courage.

Risky Faith

Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus, including his family, business and security. So when the tax collectors came knocking Peter’s pockets were empty. Jesus instructed,

“…go to the lake and throw out your line.
Take the first fish you catch;
open its mouth and you will find
a four-drachma coin.
Take it and give it to them for my tax and your.”
Matthew 17:27
 

Sounds little “fishy” to me! (That’s Canadian for unbelievable.) I like fishing, but the most unusal thing I have found in a fish’s mouth is another fish. Peter trusted Jesus’ words and took a risk. He did something perhaps no one else would have done. He obeyed.

You would think everyone who saw the day’s catch would go fishing. But they knew God gives a specific word to a seeking heart that is unique to that time and situation. 

What if Peter chose not to listen? What if he failed to respond? Frankly, I don’t know why God often relies on the obedience of people. 

It’s Absurd

Familiarity gives the absurd directives within bible stories almost a “normal” appearance. The way of us earth-walking humans and our infinitely minded God present distinct and contradictory opposites

God recruits Moses, Egypt’s most wanted criminal and fugitive. When an entire nation cries out in panic as a fierce army corners them against the Red Sea, God tells Moses to point a stick at the water. Seriously?

“Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to move on.
Raise your staff and stretch out your hand
over the sea to divide the water
so that the Israelites can go through
the sea on dry ground.”
Exodus 14:15-16

Who would you rather be? Moses or the first person stepping into the ominous depths? As absurd as the instructions appeared, victory came as everyone moved forward in obedience. Moses knew the voice of God. His confidence rested not in himself, but in the faithfulness of the One speaking.

A promise is waiting for all who will obey.

Hearing Well

Rebellion blocked Israel’s ability to hear God. Twisted attitudes and calloused hearts continue to affect our ability to hear clearly and respond fully to God’s leading.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
Isaiah 30:21

Responding bridges hearing with receiving:

  • Wash seven times in the dirty Jordan River and the leprosy will disappear. (2 Kings 5:10)
  • Step out of the boat and you will walk on water. (Matt 14:29)
  • After we make mud from spit and put it into blind eyes, go wash for healing. (John 9:6-7)
  • Feed the starving crowd of thousands with a boy’s bag lunch. (Luke 9:13)
  • Throw your nets on the other side. A great catch was waiting! (Luke 5:4)

If we ignore the prompting of the Lord, insisting on doing things like we have always done them, we will miss many miracles and divine encounters. Perhaps a promise is waiting today. Is anyone willing to move in a radical way to find out? Will we hold back looking for a risk-free formula to claim the blessing?

Obeying

Though the bible is filled with such illustrations, none of these men or women moved in presumption. A sure word from God preceded each miracle.

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”
Psalms 32:8

Biblical examples abound of those who “presumed” they heard God and missed the mark. Others hesitated and decided too late to respond, with disastrous results. 

Maintaining close relationship with God (through prayer and bible reading), while being in authentic relationships with mature Christians, creates a safe guard helping us discern God’s voice and respond appropriately. Having a mentor, coach or accountability partner will help us access God’s best for our lives.

But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust God and risk?

Trust in the Lord
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6
 

I have this verse etched on the wall at the foot of my bed. I need a constant reminder to resist the tendency to trust in my own strength, ability or wisdom. 

Promise

When my husband and I took over the family farm, my father responded, “What a relief! I never liked farmer.”

It was sobering to think that my father continued, for over 50 years, to do a job that he didn’t find fulfilling. As I questioned him further, I discovered that he kept doing what he always did because he lacked the confidence to risk change. His creative ingenuity remained largely untapped.

It can be the same with us. It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown. Fear held my father back. Fear paralyzes many.

The psalmist declared, 

“I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.”
Psalm 119:60

Those who accessed the promises and miracles of God hurried “without delay.”  Those who say “Yes!” to God, continually and radically create pathways for the supernatural. They may leave families, businesses, securities and predictable lives in their obedience. These aren’t absent minded decisions. They have

sought God with all their hearts,
listened intently to His voice,
tested and weighed the word against scripture,
and listened to the counsel of others,
before moving toward God in obedience,
knowing a promise is waiting.

Who Knows

God alone knows the result. Will we shake cultural norms? Will we allow His Kingdom to come to earth in surprising ways?

“But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
but he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:13

So if you ask me what I’m doing these days, don’t be surprised if I answer, “I’m walking with a stick.” “Going fishing.”  or “Making mud with spit.” God alone knows the outcome. I don’t intend on holding back. A promise is waiting! Hopefully, there will be no unclaimed balances left in any of my spiritual bank account.

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