Tuesday, March 29, 2016

1 Peter 5:6 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you."

One thing that stands out to me in this verse is the hand of God. The presence of His mighty hand is at work. His hand is creating, shaping, changing, ordering, preparing, directing. His fingerprints may be invisible but the results of his work are obvious. The hand of God is relentlessly at work.

The hand of God is working on each of us now. It is not our job to be the hand of God. We must have faith that his hand is at work even though it is invisible and we must take our position in humility underneath of his hand being moldable to all of His work.

I find in this verse the call to submit, to stop fighting. For me to humble myself under the hand of God means to accept that his hand is at work, that He for sure knows what He is doing. And because of that I need to step down, hand over the process to him, and rest. Striving and performance and unrest often result from feelings of abandonment. For me to humble myself under the hand of God means gratefulness. It means acknowledging that that God has put me in places and seasons and circumstances on purpose and I need to submit to each one in thankfulness.

For me to humble myself under the hand of God means that i need to be okay with where I am at spiritually. This doesnt imply settling for less or becoming stagnant, but it means not allowing shame from incapabilities that i see in myself drive me to perfectionistic standards and stunt my growth. He tenderly asks me simply to keep "casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." It is his work to do, not mine, he only asks that I am moldable to his hand.

He does it all in his timing, for "He has made everything beautiful in its time..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

There is abundant grace for those who humble themselves before God, who are willing to admit nothingness and put aside fighting his work. "...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (1 Peter 5:5)

My application is to make a list of some things I feel shame or condemnation in and also a list of some places, circumstances, and seasons that I need to submit to in gratefulness and bring them before God in prayer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2 Kings 6:15-17 "When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?' He said, 'Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them,' Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.' So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

The Syrian army was looking for this man of God who had been hindering their attempts to harm the nation of Israel. When they found out what city Elisha was living in, a great army and horses and chariots were sent to seize him by night. Suddenly, Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded on all sides by enemies.

The servant looked out and saw horses and chariots and a great army. He saw overpowerment, he saw capture, he saw no escape and no hope. The servant dispaired. "Alas my master! What shall we do?" He cried out to Elisha. His perception filled his heart with fear. What would he have done but hide or run away?

But Elisha looked out and saw a differant picture. I'm sure he noticed the Syrian army and their horses and chariots. He realized that he was surrounded and powerless. But what the gaze of his heart was fixed on was not the Syrian army but the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire, from God, ready to fight for and protect him. And because of what he saw, he remained steadfast for he knew that the Syrian army was great but "those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

The same is with us, for our reactions are based on our perception. How we see things determines our attitude. For sure we are powerless against the attacks of the enemy. I can chose to focus on this hopeless fact and let his tactics overwhelm me. Or I can set my eyes unwaveringly on the chariots of fire that are ready to do battle for me. Problems are overwhelming until we open our eyes and fix them on the Savior who is looking on us with mercy and loving kindness.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." (Psalm 34:7)

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)

To practically apply this verse, tomorrow at the beginning of my day I will make a journal entry of praise to Jesus, helping to focus my eyes on him.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Matthew 16:13-16 "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Phillipi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Maybe Elijah. May be John the Baptist. Maybe Jeremiah or another prophet. It seemed like most people were willing to give Jesus a little credit, he must be somebody great. But their credit wasn't enough, it wasn't good enough. Jesus was so much more than the prophets like Jeremiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist. No, he was the very object those prophets were foretelling, he was the purpose of many of their prophecies. He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. And while calling him as one of the prophets may have been a high title, it wasn't enough.

"But who do you say that I am?" He probes us with the same question today. Because there are many people who are willing to give us their opinion of God. Not only that, but there are subtle voices that speak to our minds to try to tell us who God is. Most of them are lies, they diminish the character of God and make him out to be a lot less than he says he is. Those lies tempt with discouragement and try to drag us down into doubt.

But what do i say? I say that Jesus is the Messiah, the God full of grace and love. I say that he is compassionate and full of mercy, I say that he is near. I say that he is the healer and deliverer.

I have been challenged by a missionary lady here who told me, "What you beleive about God will affect EVERY area of you life. The truth will set you free." I see how worship is warfare. Because disbelief in the character of God is a constant threat to our minds. Worship battles those lies by speaking the truth and setting out minds to faith in Christ, the Son of the living God. Engaging in worship gets our minds out of the gutter of disbelief as truth is spoken and hearts reminded of our God.

During church last night, the speaker said, "You cannot defeat a thought with another thought. You have to speak the truth aloud."

Many people can tell me about God. Many voices try to get my attention. I am tempted to let their lies drag me down. But I must engage in this warfare by redirecting my mind to, even speaking out, truth.
Exodus 14:14-15 "'The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.' The LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Life up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.'"

The Israelites had just experienced amazing deliverance from the land of Egypt where they had been slaves for years. They had seen the Lord do miracles on their behalf until finally, Pharaoh was humbled before the Lord and agreed to let them go. But it wasn't long before Pharaoh regretted his decision and pursued the Israelites travelling in the wilderness, with swift chariots and a mighty army. As they saw their captors approaching, the Israelites found themselves trapped, with the Egyptians closing in on one side and the Red Sea on the other.

In desperation they complained to Moses. "Is it because their are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?... it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."

"The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." "Tell the people of Isreal to go forward." God did provide a way of deliverance when it looked as if there would be none. A path through the sea. But it took faith to walk in it. It took faith to trust God in holding up the walls of water until they passed. It took faith to move forward when an army was at their heels.

I have been contemplating what it looks like to move forward in faith. I think that it is acting and living in beleif that God is already working on my behalf. The Isrealites couldve kept their gaze behind them with longing and regret for the old land of Egypt. They could've turned around and tried to fight their enemies, although surely they would've been overpowered.The Israelites could've doubted that deliverance would ever come, they could've sat down in the dust in despair, accepting recapture or death. But instead they moved forward. Maybe their hearts were trembling, but their feet were moving forward in the God-sent path of deliverance.

As the Lord revels to my heart areas that his light and love have yet to cleanse, I often find myself in that place between the sea and the army, wondering where the deliverance lies. And the path of deliverance is often so obscure, it never looks like I imagined and often has walls of water on either side with an army behind. Its so hard to rest in confidence when my first reactions are to look back at Egypt, fight the army on my own, or sit down in the dust and despair.

But he is calling me to be still and move forward in faith. Just taking the next step forward that i see and trust that he is working on my behalf.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Exodus 3:7-8 "Then the LORD said, " I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, and land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of thr Cannanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites."

He sees. He hears. He knows. Why do I allow myself to think that I struggle, alone. So many times the unrest of my soul results from failing to recognize that God does indeed see what is happening.  He hears every cry of my heart. And he sympathizes with my weaknesses and struggles. But when God doesn't seem to have anything to say, doesn't seem to be acting, when the taskmasters are hard and cruel and overbearing, I often dispair by thinking that I am fighting alone.

But I am not alone. And He desires to deleiver. "...I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10). He does not desire that we remain in that land of Egypt, that land of bondage. He does not want us to remain under the cruel bondage to masters of sin. The desire of his heart, the reason for his death is to lead us out. The land he has in store is good and broad, full of richness and abundance.

What would I do differently if I truly beleived that we sees me, hears me, knows me, and desires to deliver me into an abundant land? I would rest. Even if I can really comprehend that he sees, hears, and knows me, still my heart questions, 'Does he really desire to deleiver?' That's when I get anxious and impatient. It's often when I get up from his presence and strive to do the delivering myself.

The thing about his abundant land that he desired to bring the Israelites into is that it was full of other people. It was full of the Cannanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. These nations were probably more powerful than the nation of Israel and they had already established their home in this land and weren't about to surrender it.

I am reminded again that God did deliver Israel out of their slavery in Egypt but it was many years of discontented wandering in the wilderness before they finally entered this land of abundance. The reason for this was not because the other nations that lived in the land were more powerful than Israel, even though they were. The reason for this was simply unbeleif. Because God definatly had the power to come on their behalf against their strong enemies, it was just a matter of whether or not they decided to look to him for it.

Even in Exodus 3, when God tells Moses of his great plan to deliver Israel, all Moses has to say are pitiful excuses of how all of his inadequacies and incapabilities aren't good enough for God to use.

Sometimes I too grow discouraged and weary when I don't rest in the fact that God sees, hears, knows, and desires to deleiver. I see the towering enemy that threatens to take control and I wander how that abundant and victorious land could ever be mine. But just like the Israelites, that land is mine when I choose by faith to look to God for it.

And it can be yours to. Let us put away our unbeleif and our excuses. Let us beleive that God has something much better for us than the bondage or wandering we become so accustomed to. It is by faith that we enter. Because we are powerless against the enemy, but our God is not.

"But the Good Shephard has supplies green pastures for those who care to move in onto the  and there find peace and plenty." ("A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" W. Phillip Keller)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

John 15:4 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."

Good works without power. Activity with no purpose. Dried up. Becoming like the withered branch that has been cast away from the life giving sap of the vine. This is why being connected to the Vine is absolutly vital. Without it we dry up, loose power and effectiveness. We forget why we are doing what we are doing.

But sometimes when I feel dry inside I get frustrated by lack of results. I'm hard on myself. I feel guilty. "WHERE'S THE FRUIT?" I ask myself in desperation. It is then my temptation to frantically begin looking for fruit to tape and glue onto my tree because 'Christians shouldn't be acting like you are.'

But all he asks me to do is abide. I'm skipping the most necassary and vital of all the steps. Because he just wants me to abide with him. And when I stop every other thing and abide with him, the result is not some fabricated fruit that I can make myself. It is instaed beautiful fruit that is not forced and is real and is life-giving to all who partake.

He only asks that I abide. And abiding looks a lot like resting and remaining and waiting. It's allowing his Word to permeate my mind and listening to his voice speak. Its sitting in his presence and dwelling. And it is to beccome this natural input output system, He gives life and I give it away, and he gives again.

"Abide in his love..." I must open the doors and windows of my heart to his love. I must allow the eyes of my heart be opened to the awesome and beautiful character of my God who steadfastly loves. I must open my ears to hear what his gentle voice says to my heart.

This is abiding. It is allowing God to change. Not forcing the change myself.

"The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect one. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working within him to will and to do." (A.W. Tozer "The Pursuit of God")

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken." (Psalms 62:8-9)

Friday, February 12, 2016

1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."

Some people struggle with depression because they live in the past, but what I struggle with is anxiety because I live in the future. The future easily becomes something that i fear. And when this fear of the future creeps up, it paralyzes me from living in freedom in today.

This fear ultimately comes from not trusting God. Fear comes from worshipping a God of punishment who withholds grace, conditonally loves, and is quick to become angry. Fear is doubting that God cares enough for us to provide for our every need. Fear says that God is not enough. Fear is living in unbeleif, that God is the God of love.

It is like I am standing in an ocean, and the waters are my experience of God. I stand knee deep in them, farther then I've ever been before and I see that every step behind me was worth it. But as I look ahead to the deeper waters, and the waves that are taller than I am, I am afraid to take another step. "Are you worth it God, are you worth going deeper with?" This is the inward reserve of my heart as I hesitate to go one step farther.

But what he speaks to me in his gentle voice is that I am worth it. I am worth it to him. I am worth more than the blood of Jesus and he does not desire to leave me as I am. And as I understand more in my heart who this God of love is, the fear is being cast out. It's being evicted and forced to leave as it is replaced by the truth of who God is. And the waves become less scary and more inviting because the truth about God makes me hungry for more.

He is not the God of punishment who I have worshipped for long but he is tender and gentle and steadfast in his love. The blood of Jesus is enough and he lavishes his grace on his children.

His perfect love is what casts out fear and I desire to be perfected in that love. I want to know it, beleive it, abide in it, and rest in it. Take me deeper in your love God.

I'm standing knee deep but I'm out where I've never been.
And I feel you coming and I hear your voice on the wind.
Won't you come and tear down the boxes that i have tried to put you in,
Let love come teach me who you are again.

-Bethel "In over my head"