Back to the Basics — Humility

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To reach our full potential, we return to the basics — applying and mastering the foundational principles to our pursuits. No matter our field of study or area of expertise, we strive to understand the essential facts or concepts of a subject or skill.

In school, I excelled in mathematics and sciences. I knew that once the basic principles were established, every future aspect would securely be positioned upon it. I never achieved much success in other more vague and subjective studies.

Acclaimed UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, began every new coaching season by teaching his players how to put on their socks. Doesn’t that sound foolish? Wouldn’t these accomplished athletes already know how to put on their socks? Had all their mothers neglected to teach them this basic skill? Coach Wooden knew that if his players put on their socks improperly, they would develop blisters, which would impede their speed and maneuverability. So, he took them back to the basics, teaching his college players how to put on their socks.

Basics are important!

Back to the Basics

People may generally be divided into two distinct groups:

  • The first group proudly wears their credentials, denying any need for instruction or correction and ensuring their superficial masks remain in tack behind busy lives. They consistently avoid situations which may expose personal weakness..
  • The second group humbly receives correction and acknowledges deficiencies. They take personal responsibility for change. With humility, they return to the basics, again and again, seeking authentic transformation — even when it becomes obvious they need to relearn how “to put on their socks.”
Back to the Basics

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 29:23

To go back to the basics of humility, I present three case studies: Peter, Moses, and Jesus. Each walked a similar, yet unique, path of humility. Each learned that by willingly going “low,” God brought them great honor. Of course, there are many other men and women we could add to this list.

Peter

Of all the disciples, I relate to Peter the most. Words like overconfident, proud, or presumptuous accurately describe this zealous leader. Often in the same breath, we find Peter speaking with divine understanding and with grotesque error. His encounter with the Holy Spirit we read about in Acts 2 changes Peter forever.

I believe a prior turning point proved equally significant for Peter, however. His failure to stand faithfully with Jesus when it mattered most caused Peter to question everything about being a disciple. His life’s direction stood in jeopardy. Confused and discouraged, he went back to what he knew — fishing.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out . . .”
John 21:3

Of course, their fishing expedition proved unsuccessful. After Jesus fed them from His own catch, He confronted the heart of Peter’s dilemma.

” . . . Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me . . .”
John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked Peter the same question. Twice Peter responded, “You know that I love you.” But the third time, we see Peter adjusting “his socks,” as he surrenders in complete humility. Deeply saddened and distressed, he acknowledges that he doesn’t even know his own capacity to love fully.

” . . . He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
John 21:17

Because Peter humbly lowering himself, Jesus granted him the honor of launching the infant church into the first century. Jesus brought Peter back to the basics of humility so that pride would never impede his spiritual growth or the effectiveness of his calling.

Moses

We find a capsulized version of Moses’ biography in Hebrews.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses abandoned the reputation and privilege of a king’s palace to becoming a foreigner and shepherd in the back side of the wilderness.

“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”
Acts 7:22

Yet when God called him to lead His people out of slavery, Moses claimed no such credentials. In his younger years, Moses, like many of us, acted with pride and presumption. We see no evidence of either in his later years. In fact, this is written of him,

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3

What an amazing declaration. In the wilderness, Moses learned how to “put on his socks” and walk with complete humility. Because Moses willingly turned back to the basics, God used him powerfully.

Jesus

No other person humbled themself to the degree that Jesus did. Leaving the throne room of Heaven, He chose the way of the cross — to be despised and rejected. He didn’t just learn the basics; He became the basics, taking on the form of humanity.

For man to humble himself before God is one thing; for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to humble himself to such a level is beyond comprehension.

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:6-8

And because of such great obedience,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .”
Philippians 2:9

Perfect Examples

What examples these men are for us all! The greater the level of humility, in receiving instruction and correction, the greater the level of honor bestowed.

To know their example and follow it are two different things. Often, the process for them and for us is painful. It is uncomfortable to discover we might have to relearn the right way to “put on our socks” — to do the very things we once thought we excelled at.

Like Peter, we might be asked to get out of the boat of familiarity and risk failing again. Like Moses, we might to called to speak up, face our greatest nemesis, and give God our radical “Yes!” Or in lesser ways, like Jesus, we might be asked to lay aside every privilege with a willingness to give even our lives for the sake of God and others.

One thing is assured. God calls us all to

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

This is a new season. The greatest Coach ever, Jesus Christ again teaches us the basics. Whether His instruction comes direct through the Bible, the Holy Spirit revelation, or if He chooses to speak through others, it’s time to go back to the basics. Let’s learn to “put on our socks.”

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Boxing Week — That’s a Wrap!

In North American, Boxing Week inspires shopping sprees as people seek post-Christmas discounts. For others, it’s a time to give to the poor. For many, it represents time to wrap up gifts that don’t quite fit or don’t serve them well to exchange for something more appropriate.

This may be an opportune time to perform a deeper, internal clean. Before we leap into a new year with hopeful resolutions and lofty goals, let’s take a look at the year that was.

Maintaining Christ as the focus, let’s bravely and boldly assess these past few months.

What Worked

First, let’s consider what worked well. I know from previous farming experience that often crops do better when they have undergone stress. Was there unexpected pressure this past season that served to refine or teach you? What efforts and investments of time and devotion proved successful? Let’s take a few moments to thank God for our successes and celebrate each one.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Yes, celebrate the successes despite difficulties. Rejoice in the harvest of God’s grace and goodness which you have received, recognizing that everything good ultimately comes from God. He gives us the wisdom and ability to accomplish everything we do.

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:6

What Didn’t Work

As an artist of sorts, I prefer the medium of watercolor. The paint soaks deep into the fibres of the paper. Often, errors are irreversible. Oil and acrylic paints are far more easily repaired. Mistakes can be hidden under new colorful and glossy layers.

Life resembles painting. Sometimes the things that didn’t bring the outcome we expected can be easily remedied. Others are not as forgiving.

“It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”
– Peter Marshall

Failure is only final when we stop trying. Honestly, I invested a considerable amount into some areas that have reaped little or no benefit. I can relate to the old prophet’s assessment.

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away . . .”
Haggai 1:9

This boxing week, let’s carefully consider these areas. What can we learn? What can we redeem from our effort? Are there some aspects we need to “box up,” refusing to expend further resources or energy? Let’s not let any past failure linger, marring the blank canvas of the approaching new year.

What Can be Improved

Most of our efforts land in the “long haul” category. Tangible results won’t be achieved in the short term. Perseverance (not my favorite word) and continuous effort will pay off if we don’t quit. Try again, test the results, and tweak where necessary!

Farmers don’t plant seed one day and then continually turn the soil checking for growth. They know the viability lies anchored within the seed.

Jesus told a simple parable in one of my favorite passages of Scripture.

“Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!”
Mark 4:26-29

Jesus makes it clear that success didn’t result from the man’s careful planting, faithful watering, and application of the right amount of weeding and fertilizer. He threw the seed out there and went to bed. Huh! I could take a lesson from this one on how to stress less and trust more!

This boxing week let’s examine which seeds of effort we need to leave to germinate a little longer, confident God will bring the growth in some future time. Which seeds should I water with a little more effort or investment? How can I improve or improvise to produce the greatest potential?

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
Francis Chan

What Has to Go

Some things will never serve a truly useful purpose. Allowing shame to cloud our perspective, blaming others for things we need to be responsible for, unforgiveness toward those who have wronged us, and casting shadows of judgment all lead us to bitterness rather than to betterment.

Let’s be honest! We all face things the enemy desires to use to disrupt our progress and stall us into ineffectiveness. This past year held painful disappointments, misunderstandings, and points of rejection. But God made a way for us to overcome.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect . . .”
1 Corinthians 15:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Be confident that God’s grace works powerfully in and through us. He works at changing and transforming us into all He intends for us. Let’s honor God’s process in our lives and in the lives of others. As we repent for whatever part we play in negative circumstances, no residue of shame or regret remains.

Obey the Call

Perhaps the most important aspect of looking back over the past year, considers the question, “Am I obeying God’s call?” God calls each one of us for His purpose and His glory.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

Time remains our most precious commodity. Are we living it to full potential? Whatever the “good works” includes — as a husband or wife, father or mother, servant or leader — let’s do it well! Let’s continue to obey the call. Whether we feel like we are succeeding or utterly failing, stay the course! God will remain faithful.

“When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey! The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.”
David Wilkerson

Obedience remains far more important to God than any measure of worldly success. Let’s not fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others but stay true to the call of God over our lives. To love God with every part of our being and love others sincerely and deeply stands as the greatest and perhaps most difficult call — although, one worthy of all our effort.

Boxing Week

This boxing week, let’s “box up” every ill-fitting, purposeless thing to prepare for what awaits. Let’s not allow our perceived successes or failures to hinder us from stepping into what God has ahead.

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

Past successes may lead to inflated egos and pride. Failures easily lead to feelings of defeat. God instructs us for “forget the former things.” The word for “forget” doesn’t mean to not remember, but rather to no longer respond or react to them. After examining this past year, let’s box them both up and move forward.

“See, I am doing a new thing!” God promises.

Lord, grant us eyes to see and a heart to perceive the new thing awaiting us. Give us the strength and courage to walk into this new year with a confident assurance that You are with us. You know every twist and turn ahead, and You are making a way for us. There will be moments of refreshing awaiting, even in the “wasteland” — in those places we thought were hopeless. We box up what was. We put our hands in Your hands and our rest our feet upon Your feet as we move into what is ahead. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness as You teach us to love more and well.

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The 5 Purposes for God’s Blessing

Blessing

Blessing is a frequently used but seldom understood word. Today, we explore five purposes for God’s blessing. What does it mean to be blessed and what is the significance of blessing? We may sing hymns reminding us to count our blessings, or pray, asking God to bless and meet the needs of our family and friends.

In North America, we naturally acquaint blessing with the “extra” things in life: a beautiful home, a flourishing career, a new car (or at least one that gets you from point A to point B), or increased finances. Although being blessed may include these things it encompasses so much more than material possession.

Lately, God has slowed my pace, giving me opportunity to count my blessings and weigh the impact of blessing on me and others. I easily remember not-so-distant times of tight budgets and seasons of waiting for God’s provision or protection. Recently, however, I’m overwhelmed by His blessings — a peaceful and warm home, loving family, a thriving church community, authentic friendships, enjoyable work, good health, and so much more. What money could never buy, God’s blessing provides.

Food

“Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me?”
Psalm 103:2 TPT

Whether God’s blessing measures in mini or maxi “miracles of kindness,” celebration forms the only fitting response. There is purpose in all God’s blessing.

1. To Provide

The Hebrew word barak means “to bless, cause to kneel, or greet,” suggesting the bending of the knee to receive a blessing. We find a similar Greek word eulogeo in the New Testament meaning “to bless or speak well of.”

The Abrahamic blessing says,

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 12:2-3

Stone House

The pictographic translation of bless portrays the prince who comes out of the house.

Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, fulfilled this picture of bless in the completest sense of the word. The Son of God, the Holy Prince of Heaven, came from His “house” to pay for the sin that kept us from the Father, bestowing ultimate blessing on humanity. Jesus became a curse so that we might receive God’s blessing now and forever.

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
Romans 4:7-8

2. To Reach Generations

When Abraham’s son Isaac blessed Jacob, his son, we discover the generational aspect of blessing. God intends for His blessing to result in prosperity and success to be transferred to future generations. The word prosper literally means “to help along the road or to succeed in reaching.” Isn’t that what we all want for our children and our children’s children?

“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.”
Genesis 28:3

In Deuteronomy 28, we see clearly how God’s blessing produces promotion, fruitfulness, triumph over enemies, holiness, and “abundant prosperity.” (vs 1-14) Those aren’t my words, they’re His. Blessing and helping people along the road to succeed go hand in hand.

Child walking

To receive these blessings requires obedience to God, however. Salvation is freely given through Jesus Christ, but the blessing of God spills over only through obedience.

The extended meaning of barak, to bless, implies the giving of something of value to another who kneels out of respect. As we “kneel” in obedient submission to God, He provides for our needs in every dimension of life. In the Bible, the greater blesses the lesser. He is Master. We are to be His obedient servants.

3. To Achieve God’s Design

Scholars point to the importance of the first occurrence of a word found in the Bible. On the fifth day of creation, God blesses the fish and birds to be fruitful and increase. (Gen1:22)

On the sixth day, after creating Adam and Eve, God blesses them as well.

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the seas, and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ “
Genesis 1:28

Through blessing, God releases divine purpose over humanity to produce and have dominion — increasing and managing creation well. Through God’s blessing, we achieve His full purposes for us.

Relax with Coffee

The blessing of God attracts other people, causing them to wonder in amazement. God’s grace convinces people of how wonderful He is, leading them to acknowledge and believe in Him. (Rom 2:4)

“God blesses us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him [with awe-inspired reverence and submissive wonder].”
Psalm 67:7

Awe, reverence, and wonder follow God’s blessing.

4. To Cover

God commanded the priests, Aaron and his descendants, to speak this familiar blessing over the people:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

Though many Christians might easily recite this portion, the following verse appears unfamiliar. Today, it caused me to pause and consider.

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:27

What a powerful statement! Invoking a blessing in the name of the LORD releases everything His name represents, like a divine covering over those being blessed. The LORD, Yahweh, identifies God as One who loves righteousness and hates sin. All those under His blessing and bearing His name also love what He loves and hate what He hates. The LORD, our God, loves to bless!

Country Church

Though this specifically speaks of Israelites, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that all who believe in Jesus and receive Him are of Israel. (Rom 9:6-8)

A blessing spoken in His name both covers and imparts.

5. To Share

God’s blessing comes both in earthly and heavenly form, with both earthly and heavenly function. Not everyone experiences the tangible blessings of God here and now, but with certainty, we everyone will throughout eternity.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Ephesians 1:3

As wonderful and appreciative as we may be with our earthly blessings, nothing compares to those that await every believer. Whether we see it or not, “Jesus Christ . . . has blessed us!” Past tense! He has already made every spiritual blessings ours.

As Christians, Jesus calls us to be a source of His blessing to the world, especially to those who treat us unfairly or cruelly. No one merits God’s favor and grace, yet He pours it upon us. As freely as we have received, God asks us to give to others — even the most undeserving.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6:27-28

Family

God blesses so that we will be His hand of blessing to others. Whether we feel like there is overflow in our lives or not, God calls us to look with grace and mercy on others, blessing through words, actions, and material possessions.

Count Your Blessings

As we bless others, God entrusts us with greater and greater blessings ourselves. He knows who the clear channels of His blessing are and desires to use us to extend blessing to others.

I find that when I begin to count my blessings, my attitude toward God and others begins to shift and soften. Gratitude opens my heart and hand to count those whom God longs for me to bless as part of His blessing.

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Overcoming Deception: What Makes Deception so Treacherous?

Overcoming Deception

The great difficulty we face in exposing and overcoming deception, both personally and corporately, makes deception so treacherous? One of the chief ploys of the enemy is to deceive believers. Not only are we all capable of being deceived; we have already being deceived in a multitude of ways.

Yesterday, three times the topic of deception arose in three different settings, with three separate groups of people. Since my conversations rarely bend in that direction, I knew I had better pay attention.

Should we say of our world like Jeremiah did of his,

” ‘Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declare the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:4-6

Mask

We find solid ground only in the truth of God’s Word. Truth becomes hard to find in a culture negligent of God, however. Without truth, overcoming deception becomes impossible.

Satan the Deceiver

We find satan as the original deceiver in the Garden of Eden, coming in the form of a snake, twisting God’s words and motivation. He first convinces Eve, then Adam, to outright disobedience to God’s command. He made it appear that he knew better than God and guaranteed them benefits presently hidden from them.

Deception always promises good, but delivers harm.

Adam and Eve knew God, Elohim, as their Creator, in covenant relationship with all He made — fully committed to them. But God had also introduced Himself as LORD God, Jehovah (Yahweh) Elohim — righteous and just. Loving commitment required Him to judge all wrong.

Trap

Yet when the serpent spoke, he refused to acknowledge God as LORD. “Did God really say?” He enticed Eve closer.

Eve grabbed his hook like a hungry fish, “God did say, . . .” she responded.

Only after the failure of both Adam and Eve did they remember God’s fullness. Frail efforts and ridiculous coverups at overcoming deception and hiding sin have been repeated throughout the ages — by me and others. Too late we remember He is both LORD and God!

“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

All Deceived

As “children” of Adam and Eve, we possess the same failures and disobedient nature to go beyond or around God to gain something we perceive He is withholding from us.

I’m convinced that every sin and addiction is rooted in our failure to fully acknowledge God as Lord over every aspect of our lives, marriages, finances, futures, gifts, and ministries. We may have surrendered ninety percent, but there will be that one place, that one thing, we tend to grab with tight fists, denying God access.

Cage

Deception is a heart issue!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9

God alone can bring the cure we so desperately need in overcoming deception. Yet, in our hiding, we avoid the healing balm found only in the finished work of the cross.

Warning

The very nature of deception grows out of ignorance of the hidden enticement. I need others who will ask me the tough questions, challenge my motivations, and test my faithfulness to God and His Word. The deceived consistently fail to recognize the deception others see so clearly. It requires someone outside looking into our lives.

James pinpoints a key area of deception.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
James 1:22

Only Jesus walked out obedience perfectly. The rest of us struggle to do the good we know we ought to do. Paul, concerned for the Corinthian believers, warned them that what happened to Eve happens to us all!

Serpent

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:3

It’s dangerous to underestimate the enemy’s craftiness. The phrase “be led astray” means “to destroy, ruin, shrivel, wither, corrupt and spoil” any “sincerity, simplicity, purity and graciousness.”

For good reason, every writer in the New Testament warns how treacherous deception is.

Winning the Battle

Just as warnings abound in the Word of God, so does encouragement and winning tactics. Paul says to the Ephesian church,

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Everything Adam and Eve lost in the garden with the serpent’s deception, Jesus secured back through the cross. By realigning ourselves to that reality, we regain the ability to live in the image of God in “true righteousness and holiness.” Paul instructs us to resist deceitful desires, twisted serpentine thinking and lies. “Be made new in the attitude of your minds,”

Deception is a battle first for the mind, then for our devotion! Thankfully, God has equipped us with the spiritual weapons necessary in overcoming deception.

Obedience

Jesus paid a heavy price for humanity’s disobedience. Every believer, through the cross, now possesses the capacity to make the devil pay for his deceptive tactics.

“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. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

What disobedience lost, obedience gained back. However, we cannot do it alone! We need Jesus Christ and other Christians in the body of Christ.

Spider web

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”
Colossians 2:8-10

Just like satan used a snake as a cover for his true identity, he often disguises himself behind smooth talk of others we trust. Christ is our shield. In Him is all the fullness. Wherever we lack, He is sufficient.

Test It!

I will close with this solid advice from John, the Beloved:

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1

I wonder how different the scenario would have been if Eve would have sought Adam’s advice or if Adam would have spoken up, when he heard satan lie.

Together

We walk on dangerous ground when we choose to walk alone. I have learned, though slowly, how invaluable walking in community with others is. Together we protect each other from deception by encouraging each other in the Word of God, supporting each other in prayer, and when necessary, challenging each other to walk faithful.

Though we are prone to fall, overcoming deception becomes possible through Jesus Christ. He has exposed the enemy’s tactics and given us everything we need to overcome. As we trust His Word, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we know we will stand firm, withstanding every temptation.

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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Firstfruits – The Most Important When it Comes to Giving

Firstfruits - You Only Get One Chance to Give

You only get one chance to enjoy the blessing of firstfruits, after that it isn’t first fruit any more. That is why firstfruits are the most important when it comes to giving.

An Avid Gardener

Spring is the season of anticipation! The first signs of tulips and blossoms after the cold darkness of winter revives something in me. Anticipation of the taste of fresh veggies and fruit lifts as bedding plants are placed out to harden and soil is worked. Earth under finger nails and between toes is a familiar comfort to every gardener.

One of the pleasure of gardening is sharing with others. Whether the beauty of a well landscaped yard, the abundance of fresh tasting eats, or homemade pies, gardeners labour to share! Giving is part of the joy – the natural overflow of abundance.

Every gardener also knows that though they may plant the seed, weed carefully and water faithfully, he is not the one that produces anything!

Garden Sprouting

A man scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up,
the seed sprouts and grows,
though he does not know how.
All by itself the soil produces grain –
first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.
As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it,
because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26 – 29

Thankfulness

Giving God the first part joyfully recognizes He is the Giver of all good things; He is the Supplier of all I possess.

Giving

“And this same God who takes care of me
will supply all your needs from his glorious riches,
which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19

Though I enjoy the hard work involved, my hard work produces nothing but sweat and fatigue unless God blesses! Giving Him the firstfruits is simply setting my little basket of thankfulness before Him.

Others Reap

When we give, only God knows how many others will benefit. II Kings 4 :42-44 talks of a man bringing his firstfruits. Elisha takes his little loaves and uses them to feed over 100 hungry men, with leftovers to spare! I’m sure the giver had no idea what would come of his simple gift! Little did he know that generations later some other little giver would be encouraged by his act of obedience.

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”
John 6:9

Fish

Yes! I know that giving is also a command. The people told Nehemiah,

“We also assume responsibility
for bringing to the house of the LORD each year the firstfruits…”
Nehemiah 10:35

 

Responsibility is a weighty word.

“It is the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something…of being accountable
the opportunity or ability to act independently…
the thing required to do as part of a job, role..”
(Websters)

Blessing of Firstfruits

But don’t let the weight fool you, the benefits far out-measure anything. God makes it clear that with the giving comes a blessing for your whole household. Who doesn’t want that?

Listen to a snippet from the book of wisdom

Honour the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3: 9-10

Bread & Wine

The barns speak of everyday needs; the vats of new wine refer to spiritual blessing – fresh filling and anointing. In both, there is promise of overflow! It is a picture communion – of bread and wine.

I can’t help but think of the greatest gift of Firstfruit, Jesus Christ, in the implications of bread and wine. I am so thankful for His overflowing gift of life to us all. His disciples were his firstfruits perpetuating faith in other, right down to you and me.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.
He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”
I Corinthians 15:20

The cycle of life continues in and through Christ like the passing seasons of my garden. We have many opportunities to share from our little or much.

Here’s another related article

Thankfulness – Painting On a Canvas of Gratitude

When Life Begins is Up to You – Today you Choose!