Monday, October 26, 2009

Neither Give Place to the Devil

Ephesians 4:27 says, "Neither give place to the devil". Isn't it amazing that after reading in Ephesians 1 and 2 that we are seated together with Christ in heavenly places, far above all principality, power, might and dominion; that just 2 short chapters later, we must be exhorted not to give the devil place in our lives.

This week I got steaming mad at a family member; and for 'good reason'. This person has been acting inappropriately for some time, and it has had a negative effect upon other members of the family. I felt that I had tolerated just about enough of their nonsense. So I blew my top. I did not confront the offensive person, but rather spent the whole day ranting to my husband about the issue. The next morning I felt like I had a 'rage' hangover. I knew exactly where the problem was; it wasn't with the other person...but with me. You see, I have to walk the love walk no matter what others say or do. And for me, a big part of this is curbing my mouth. As I went to prayer and asked the Lord to forgive me, Ephesians 4:27 came to me. At the same time I could see myself sitting at the top of a high cliff with a sheer rock wall below me. The devil was trying to scale the rock wall to get to me, but there was nowhere for him to get a foothold. Then I began to speak. I was saying negative, faithless things. And every time I spoke in this manner, a little rock would appear on that cliff wall, and the devil would grab it or put his foot on it and climb a little higher toward me. My words were giving place to the devil! So I repented and turned that person over to Him. I don't ever want to give the enemy a way to get to me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Calling, Our Inheritance, and The Power of God in Us

Ephesians 1:15-2:7
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;[THE FOLLOWING TEXT IN RED IS PAUL'S PRAYER] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what it the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, [THE FOLLOWING TEXT IN GREEN DESCRIBES THE FULL EXTENT OF THE POWER GOD DEMONSTRATED IN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST]according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. [THE FOLLWING TEXT IN BLUE IS THE DESCRIPTION OF HOW THE BELIEVER IS INEXTRICABLY LINKED TO THE RESURRECTED JESUS CHRIST] And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins...But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he lived us, even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; [THE FOLLOWING TEXT IN BURGANDY DESCRIBES THE PURPOSE OF GOD]that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Paul prayed that we might have wisdom and revelation so that we might understand three things:
1. Our calling
2. Our inheritance
3. The power of that God extends to us
Paul addresses these 3 issues in reverse order, beginning in verses 19-21 with a description of the exceeding greatness of God's power as exhibited in the resurrection of Christ. This power raised Jesus from the dead. Now there have been other accounts of resurrections in both the Old and New Testaments. Elijah raised the widow's son, and Elisha the Shunamite's son. Jesus raised Lazarus, the widow's son, and a ruler of the synagogue's daughter. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ exceeds other resurrection accounts. For not only was Jesus resurrected; he was lifted into heaven and given a place of Supreme Authority in heaven, earth, and hell. Not only does this authority cover all spheres, it is eternal. It is immutable and unchangeable.
Verse 22 and 23 of chapter one lead into the issue of our inheritance. It is here that we begin to see the link between ourselves and Christ. We are described as His body. Reading on in Chapter 2, verse one, we hear: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Paul could have easily inserted this passage in verse 20 of chapter 1 without changing his intent. The reason that this works is that verses 21-23 are simply descriptions of where the heavenly places extend to; and what is below this arena. Given this, we could infer the following...(vs 20) WHICH HE WROUGHT IN CHRIST WHEN HE RAISED HIM [AND YOU] FROM THE DEAD...
This is an excellent place to pause and ask a question...Why was Jesus resurrected from the dead; and why was he lifted into this exalted position after his resurrection? After all; before he came to earth, as the third person of the trinity, Jesus had absolute power. What did he gain in coming to earth, dying, and being resurrected? Yes, he carried our sins to the cross and delivered us from the power of sin. But that was accomplished at Calvary. Was Jesus resurrected simply so that he could return to his former glorious state? NO! According to Ephesians 2, verses 1 and 4-7, Jesus' resurrection lifted the believer to the same position as Christ. THIS IS THE EXCEEDING GREATNESS OF HIS POWER; BRINGING US INTO OUR INHERITANCE WITH CHRIST! WE ARE JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST BY VIRTUE OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST! (See Romans 8) For those who would cringe at this truth, saying that it puts us on equal footing with Christ, the answer is yes; and, no. He is the head over all things to the Church. He is our head. The brains. We are the body. We act out the impulses of the brain as does the natural body. Nonetheless, positionally, we sit with Christ in heavenly places. And we have been given power over all the power of the devil. This is our inheritance. We do not deserve it. But we enjoy it. The psalmist said; Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits! We benefit from our inheritance in the same way that the child of a billionaire does. It is a birth right. Certainly as a child matures he learns his father's business. So do we. There is much more to be said about this, but we will address it at a later time.
Finally, Paul addresses our calling. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are his workmanship (Greek translated as poem ), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Note in verse 9 that it is not our works, lest we should boast.) No, the works that we have been forordained to walk in are GOOD! God has a different definition of 'good' than we do. Jesus told the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:17) that there is none good but God. Therefore, we could say that the works we are to do are GOD WORKS. In Acts 10:38 Peter described Jesus this way: ...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
To summarize:
  • The same power that Jesus had is extended to us.
  • By inheritance we have been given authority
  • We are to use this power to do good (God) works, which, can be described as healing all who are oppressed by the devil.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Christian Hospitality: It's Not Martha Stewart Living (with apologies to Martha)

This week I was called by my church to help with a picnic. I regretfully declined. My husband and I are painting the outside of our home. As my husband has been working many Saturdays, and sunny, paintable days are limited to summer in the Northwest, we have had to skip church and do some of the work on Sundays. I felt like a heel when I said no. You see, I keep asking people to call me when they need something; and when they do, I'm busy. Sound familiar? I started thinking about the parable of the wedding supper; you know the one. The Master sent invitations to his friends to attend his wedding, and one by one they declined. They all had 'legitimate' excuses, but the Bible says they were unworthy to attend. Yikes! Is that me? I fell to my knees and asked the Lord to help me be more social. I specifically asked for the gift of hospitality. I didn't realize what I was asking for. You see, I thought hospitality meant inviting folks over after church for dinner on Sundays. What the Lord revealed to me is that hospitality is a lot more than cooking spaghetti for the church folk and greeting people in the foyer. Here's what I learned...
1. I am commanded to practice hospitality, whether I have 'the gift'or not. Romans 12:13 says;
Contribute to the needs of the saints; PURSUE THE PRACTICE OF HOSPITALITY. I Peter 4:9 affirms this by saying; Use hospitality one to another without grudging, as every man has received the gift, even so minister the same [gift] one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. So hospitality is meeting the practical needs of others, whatever they may be. I may have a home, a car, a bank account, an ability to write, to speak, to listen; but regardless of what gift I have, God has told me to use it for others. So often we imagine, "if I just had a million dollars, I would really help some people", or "If I didn't have to work for a living, I'd go help orphans in Africa." Well guess what! You don't. And God hasn't called you to share what you don't have. He's interested in using what you DO have. My nicely painted and tidied home is of little value to God unless I offer it to Him.
2. Hospitality is not Marth Steward Living. It's not about the showcase home with perfect furnishings and dainty delicacies served on the perfect china. It is ministering to the needs of others. Jesus said in Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me meat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me... Eastern culture takes hospitality to another level. Remember how Abraham treated the strangers who later turned out to be angels. And how Rebecca treated David and his mighty army? Hebrews 13:2 counsels us: Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers (in the brotherhood-being friendly, cordial, gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously), for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. After reading this I was driving down the road and passed a hitchhiker. He was pretty scary looking. I prayed, "Father, do you want us to start picking up strangers and so forth?" He replied, "No daughter. I don't want you ever to put yourself in danger. But for example, if someone you know calls and says, 'a missionary is in town and needs a place to stay', you need to do everything in your power to help them." I believe in this economic downturn, it is going to be an ever-increasing responsibility of the Church to take care of believers and their needs.
3. Hospitality can take place anywhere, because it is giving of yourself. It may be a simple smile, sending a check to an orphanage, helping at a mission, or just making someone feel at home with you. Isn't that what our Father has done for us? He took us in when we were a pretty scurrilous lot. He provided for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. Read the story of the Good Samaritan again. It's all about hospitality.
4. Hospitality defines believers. In I Timothy 3:2 it says, A bishop must be...hospitable-showing love for and being a friend to the believers, especially strangers and foreigners. And again Paul tells Timothy, She (a widow) must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has PRACTICED HOSPITALITY to strangers [of the brotherhood], washed the feet of saints, helped relieve the distressed, and devoted herself to diligently doing good in every way. Well, if the Lord tarries and my husband goes to be with Jesus before me, I will be a widow. I wonder if I will have such a reputation. Guess I'd better get busy.

One of my favorite blogs to read is Like Merchants Ships (
It is about frugal living. In it, she often says, "use what you have." This has become somewhat of a mantra for me. (Thank you Meredith!) The same applies in hospitable living. Use what you have. If you have flowers, cut some and give them away. If you have time, visit people. If you have little time but more money, give some of it away. Think of the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17. Elijah, the prophet was sent to her to be sustained during the famine. Why didn't God send Elijah to a rich widow? I think God wanted to meet this poor woman's need as much as he wanted to help Elijah. So the story goes that Elijah asked for water and bread. The widow claimed that she had only a handful of meal. Enough to make a little loaf for she and her son, and then they would starve. But Elijah told her to make him a little loaf first, then for herself and her son. She followed his instructions; and the result was that she and her son, and Elijah had plenty to eat for many days.
Oh Jesus, help me get this concept through my selfish head! Help me to understand that when I seek first the kingdom (Your way of thinking and doing things) that all of my needs will be met. You promised it Lord!
This past week a high-school friend of my husband was tragically killed in a biking accident. His memorial is on Saturday at two pm. We had planned to paint all day. Our plans have changed. We will come down from our ladders, shower and dress, and go to this funeral. I will try to find a way to offer hospitality to the bereaved family. The painting can wait a few hours.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dismembered Members; the Amputated Toe

I Corinthians 12: 14-26 NIV

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say,"Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say,"Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,"it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?... But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

This week I was pretty sick. I went to the ER to be tested for swine flu. I rejoice to say that the flu was not the problem. Then I went to my MD to be checked out. He treated me for bronchitis. Then I returned to the MD and was prescribed medication for inflammation of the bronchial tubes. A few days into this trial I prayed..."Lord, why is this persisting?" My own words (recently spoken to a Christian friend) came back to slap me in the face. We had been discussing God's will to heal. I proposed that it is always God's will to heal, but that we seldom follow his prescription. I commented, "In James it says if any of us are sick to call for the elders of the church. The prayer of faith will save the sick... but how many of us actually do that when we are ill?"
And here I was, lying in bed, having visited the ER and the doctor, with nary a call to my church.
So I got out the church bulletin and called. The message system said to press #8 if I wanted to leave my personal prayer request. So I did. But this hardly seemed like calling for the elders of the church. Kinda IMpersonal if you ask me. I hmpffed and pouted a bit. Then I got to thinking. Well Debora, just how personal have YOU been in church? YOU haven't exactly been johnny-on-the-spot in meeting the needs of others in the body of Christ. I started thinking about the body of Christ. I envisioned myself as a toe. But honestly, if I were a toe in the body, it might look a little black and crusty, sort of dangling on the foot by a thread. The truth is, I've kept a safe distance between myself and other members of the body. Don't get me wrong...I love my church and my pastor. He's a gifted speaker. And I've volunteered for a few odd jobs here and there. But I definitely have not put myself out there to befriend many people. Oh sure, I'll greet those sitting next to me with a smile and a "Hello", but getting to know them takes time. I've got a job and a huge family; a house to renovate and a big yard to tend. I'm busy. Well, I was busy. Before I got sick. I have time now, don't I? So guess what! I stopped by the church on the way home from the doctor and made an appointment to meet with a pastor for prayer. It's time to get some blood circulating through this little toe!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Abundance in Famine

Here's some good news for you and me...

The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither, in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. Psalms 37: 19

Believe it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Leaving Egypt: Step by Step

This week I said to Jesus, "Lord, I just can't seem to get out of this problem. You are going to have to show me what to do. I feel like the Children of Israel when they were in captivity in Egypt." Deep in my heart I heard His answer, " I will lead you out, but you have to follow; step by step."

I love the story of Caleb. In Numbers 13 and 14, Caleb and Joshua were sent out with 10 other spys to survey the promised land of Canaan. When they returned, the spys all reported about how fabulous the land was. They brought back one cluster of grapes so heavy that two men had to carry it between poles. It was a beautiful place...BUT...there were giants. (The proverbial fly in the ointment.) Ten spys advised Moses and the children of Israel to forget it. They're too strong for big. Not Caleb. Caleb stilled the people and said, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:30) Well, you know the rest of the story. The people whined, Moses got mad, God was angry, and nobody went in for 40 years. Well, almost nobody. Caleb and Joshua outlived their peers and were the only 2 men who lived to go into Canaan. Numbers 14:24 says "But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it."

"So Debora," you say..."What does this have to do with step by step?" Stay with me.

God told Joshua, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses." (Joshua 1:3)
Would it be fair then, to say that if you don't tread upon a place, it won't be given you? I think so.
Now listen to Caleb at 85 years of age...

"Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt; but I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses sware on that day saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's forever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God. And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, lo I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me; as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there and that the cities were great and fenced; if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said." (Joshua 14: 7-12)

If you keep reading you'll see that Caleb was given that land (Hebron), and it continues to be his inheritance because HE WHOLLY FOLLOWED THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL.

Here's the point...Jesus has promised me an inheritance. I know it's wonderful. I've seen the fruit of it, like the cluster of grapes from Eschol. But just as the spys discovered; there will be opposition to my obtaining it. Spiritual giants. Paul calls them principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world. (Eph. 6:12) Like Caleb, the soles of my spiritual feet have to walk on the land of my inheritance in order for me to receive it. I will have to face the enemy and drive him out in Jesus name. And like Caleb, I will have to listen to my heart rather than the voices of those who would discourage me.

I don't want to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. I don't want to die in the wilderness. So there really is no choice.

Yes Jesus, I will follow you... step by step.


Friday, March 27, 2009

The Power of "Be"

Genesis 1: 3, according to some Hebrew scholars, may be more closely translated this way; And God said, "Light be!" And light was.

You see, God doesn't have to say a lot to get a lot done. We see this same trait in Jesus. He spoke a few words to the storm and it subsided. He commanded sickness to leave and it left. He told dead people to arise and they rose. He cursed a tree and it died.

That simple.

With people, it isn't always that simple. People talk and talk; often with little result. Haven't we accused people of being 'all talk and no action?' Not true with God. His talk is always accompanied by action. He states in Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

So this morning, as I prepared for my day, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, "If God says Light Be, and Light Is; why do you not respond accordingly when He says Debora, Be?"

Immediately, all of the scriptures that commanded me to be sprang to life in my heart...

BE OF GOOD CHEER (Jn. 16:33)


BE NOT AFRAID (Mark 5:36)


BE HEALED (3 John 1:2)

BE FRUITFUL (Col. 1:10)

BE BLESSED (Deut. 7:14)

BE ONE (Jn. 17:21)



BE THANKFUL (Col. 3:15)



Notice that none of these commands tell us to pray to be those things. They don't say to try to do those things. As Nike would say, "Just Do It." And how can we not? Given the fact that the Words of God inherently contains the power for the corresponding action-why not? Why not be courageous rather than fearful? Why not be healed rather than sick? Why not be thankful rather than ungrateful. Why not be blessed rather than cursed? I guess what I am saying in a nutshell is this: If God said it. you can BE it. You ARE it. So DO it.

If you haven't already guessed it, I am a bookworm. Some might say a nerd. It's libraries and bookstores all the way for me! I want to know stuff. All kinds of stuff. Stuff that bores the daylights out of my friends and family. It's what I am. The moment I got into elementary school I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Correction: I knew I was a teacher. I just didn't have all of the knowledge I needed and the formal accredation to work as a teacher. Well, life happened. I married and started a family. I still wasn't an official teacher. (Mother's please forgive this statement; for every mother is indeed a teacher.) Let's say I wasn't being paid to teach. Years went by. I couldn't afford college, but still had this desire to teach. (Because in God's eyes, I was a teacher. Remember, He calls the things that are not as though they are. Romans 4:17) I took one job after another to supplement the family income. Retail sales, purchasing, materials management, insurance sales... you name it. The closest I got to teaching was training employees. Finally, one day I challenged God and said, "God, I know you are the God of my future. And I know you are the God of my present. Can you also be the God of my past? Can you restore to me what I should have had in my past?" He heard. He answered. A few months later the economy took a downturn and I was laid off from my job. Because my job had been adversely affected by foreign trade, I was able to access federal funds to be retrained. Can you guess the field I chose? At the age of 47 I enrolled in college and at 50 obtained my AA in Paraeducation and another AA in Science. With honors. One paper I wrote in school was entitled "Let me Be what I already Am: Let me Teach." For the past 3 years I have worked as a para-educator in the special education department at a local elementary school. My job allows me to work with low income minority children: a group very close to my heart (and to God's heart). After all these years I am finally being paid to do what I have always been...a teacher.

When God placed the stars in the heavens and called them by name; they didn't argue. They didn't say, "I'm afraid of heights, I can't do this." No, they just settled into their spot in the universe and did what they do best: Shine.

What ARE you? I mean, really, what ARE you in your heart of hearts? What does the Word say you are?

I am still learning about what I am. I am a child of a King. A Princess. A member of a holy Priesthood. Blessed. Delivered. Cheerful. Unafraid. Courageous. Fruitful. Healed. Filled with the Spirit. Full of Faith.

Thankful, very Thankful.

He says so. So I can be. So can you.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Cure for Spiritual Schizophrenia

If the definition of insanity is continually doing the same things and expecting different results; for the Christian; the definition of spiritual insanity might be continually doing things in the flesh; and expecting spiritual results.
Have you ever wondered why things aren't working for you spiritually? I have. But finally, after decades of failure I am starting to get it. It's all about flesh and spirit.
Here's what I've learned:
"But how?" you ask.
The answer is elegantly simple and lethal. You have to kill the flesh. Crucify it. Nail it to the cross.
"Well, I go to church every Sunday. I give offerings. I support missions. I take my elderly mom to the doctor once a week. I speak in tongues. I listen to Christian music. I write a Christian blog..."
Nonetheless, Your flesh has to die.
Submit everything to Christ. EVERYTHING. Not just Sundays. Your desires. Your plans. Your pride. Your time. Your money. Your career. Your hobbies. Your relationships. In short, your life. When everything is on the altar and your flesh is dead; the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead will resurrect you. When the Spirit takes control of your life, spiritual things will begin to emerge. It's really quite simple.
"Well, that's really hard. What if God tells me to go to Africa."
You'll go.
"What if He tells me to give away my money?"
You'll give it away.
"What if, what if, what if?"
Psychologists say that we will often stay in the same dysfunctional relationships until the pain of the relationship exceeds our comfort level. The question then becomes,
"Is the pain of your unsuccessful Christian walk exceeding your comfort level?"
For me, the answer was a resounding Yes. My ineffective Christian walk finally drove me to the cross. There were things in my life I had been unwilling to surrender. I was afraid. But I finally was able to give it all to Christ. I've now learned what Paul meant when he said "I die daily". (I Cor 15:31) I have always been a very willful person, so for me this means not having the final say. Letting someone else get the credit for something I have done. Refraining from saying that bit of gossip. Spending my day off helping someone else. Spending time in the Word instead of watching so much television.
Read Romans 8 again:
1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Abundant Life is Not Religion

"The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

Jesus Christ

Instead of citing the chapter and verse of this statement, I put the name of the person who said it. So often we get so caught up in where a verse is located, we forget who said it. A few weeks ago this verse came to mind; followed by this thought: Jesus did not come so that we might have religion; and that more abundantly. Yet this is what so many Christians have. He didn't come so that we could spend hours reading our Bibles, quoting scriptures, praying for the lost, though there is merit to those things. But friends, it will all be useless if we don't actually live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Think about Eden. God created the beautiful garden and put man in it. He didn't say to Adam "Well now Adam, you'll need to pray 3 times a day. Now cut down some trees and build a big church. Get everybody to come there once a week and talk about me." No!! God came down in the cool of the day to talk with Adam and Eve every day. It was a relationship...fellowship...friendship between man and his Maker. Oh how lovely would it be to let our friendship with Jesus dictate our days. Religion will never satisfy either God or man. We were made to be his friends; his children.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Making a Decision while Standing in the Ashes

This morning I watched a couple on a popular Christian broadcast telling about how God provided for them after a devastating house fire. This couple's home was completely destroyed by a fire; there was nothing left standing. I was so taken by what the wife said about it. She said that as she stood there looking at the rubble and the ashes of her home, it took all of the faith within her to decide not to question why it happened and to continue to confess that God was her supplier. Instead of complaining she chose to continue to believe and to say that she was blessed by God.
Isn't this the simple essence of faith? Standing in the ashes and deciding to proclaim that God will provide? Isn't this what Abraham did when he 'considered not his own body', but believed that God would give him a son, though he and Sarah were past child bearing years.
So often we want to have a special feeling or sign before we speak by faith. And sometimes we think that because we doubt in our mind, that we cannot have faith. BUT FAITH IS IN SPITE OF!! It's a decision to believe in what we cannot see. In spite of the ashes, the fire, the doubts, the naysayers, the doctor's report, and every other evidence to the contrary, I must say "I believe God's word is true and will prevail, even in my situation." Oh, it's so easy to believe that God will prevail in someone elses situation. But we must learn to do what Jesus told us to do when faced with our own mountain...SPEAK TO IT.
This is faith. Speaking the impossible as we stand in the ashes.
By the way...the couple I mentioned now have a lovely home with twice the acreage as before...more room, a tennis court and huge pool. I don't think she saw these things when she was standing in the ashes proclaiming God's goodness- but HE did.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Can Do All Things....My P.S.

Please note that the scripture says I can do ALL things; not EVERYTHING. For those of us who would like to try to do everything, never say no, and please everyone; take heed! There is a big difference between All things and Every thing. All implies all that Christ asks of us. Everything implies doing everything we want to do. Example: Not too long ago, while I was contemplating a new exercise regime; the Lord spoke to my heart and said "I have not created you to be an athlete." This isn't news to anyone who knows me. Therefore, I will embark on a sound program to keep my body fit, including a good diet and moderate, regular exercise. I will not, however, begin to train for a marathon; in spite of the fact that some friends and family members are doing so, and might encourage me to try. I will not ask Christ to make me a marathoner and then become disillusioned when I fail. I will though, believe God to strengthen my teaching and writing skills, as I believe this is where my giftings are located.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me

How often has someone quoted Philippians 4:13 to you? "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." In the past, when I have heard or read this verse, I have not really understood the context of the message. Certainly we all want to be able to do great things for God like the Apostle Paul did. A careful re-reading of Chapter 3 will shed some light on how this can happen. In chapter 3, verses 4-8, Paul gives a short history of his spiritual background. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, righteous in the sight of the law! The next line, however, delivers the death blow to his boasting. Read verse 7 and 8. "But what things were gain to me, those things I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Well, what had Paul lost? Simply put; ALL THINGS. That's what he said. He lost everything to follow Christ. What are all things? Here's what we know. He lost his prominence in the Jewish Church. Even if they had been open to the message of Christ for the Jews; the idea of preaching to Gentiles would be absolutely repugnant to them. Eating, drinking and fellowshiping with Gentiles alone would have made Paul and outcast to the Jews. Perhaps he lost close friendships and relationships with family members. He lost his freedom. Looking back and chapter one, we will remember that Paul was writing this letter from a prison cell in Rome. Not only could he no longer fellowship with the Jews; he had lost the freedom to personally fellowship with believers, except through letters. How many lonely days did he spend in prison? How often did he suffer physically from the rigors of prison. (Many Christian historians claim that a sewer ran through the cell that Paul stayed in; and that sometimes he could have been standing knee deep in raw sewage.) How's that for losing everything!
Now fast forward to Philippians 4:9-23. Here Paul describes his ability to be content in any state he finds himself; whether full or hungry. It is in this context that we read; I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. He's telling the Philippian church that God will supply the strength to deal with any situation that one finds oneself in.
Is it true than, that the believer can do anything through Christ. Indeed. And the first and best thing that the believer may do is to abandon himself to the will of God. Herein is the strength found. How many miserable Christians are trying to use this verse to get God to strengthen them in pursuits to which they were never called. Would to God that we would be strengthened to pare our ambitions down to one do-able goal: Philippians 3:13 ...this ONE THING I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Do we really think that Paul was telling us that we can dream up anything we want to do; and then call upon God to make it work out? Or in looking at the context of the whole book of Philippians, is it more likely that he was telling us that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, the power of God is available to us to make us more than a conqueror?
Earlier this week the Holy Spirit brought this verse to my remembrance. I was going through some difficulty and was wondering what to do. Now in the past, when I would think of this verse; I would imaging Paul, standing on a mountain, preaching his heart out and winning countless souls to the kingdom. I couldn't relate. But what the Holy Spirit showed me was, that in my everyday life I can do what I need to do through Christ's strength and not mine. When I am sick, I can be healed through Christ's strength. When I'm at work and need to have patience with my students, I can do it through Christ's strength. When I am lonely; I can lean upon Christ's strength to get me by. When I am grappling with my flesh, and need to put His will above my own; only through Christ strength can I succeed.
So whether on the mountain or in the valley; in the prison or free; doing the mundane or the spectacular; it's all done through Christ.
The challenge then, is to do whatever is facing you through Christ's strength. Right now. Today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Problem of Becoming Static and Regression

Hebrews 5:11-14

Concerning this we have much to say which is hard to explain since you have become dull in your (spiritual) hearing and sluggish [even slothful in achieving spiritual insight]. For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God's Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]! But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary to ether divine or human law.

As a special education paraeducator, one of the major hurdles we deal with is regression. We may pour ourselves tirelessly into a student; offering him/her the best teaching practices available on a given subject, only to find that after a two week break for the holidays; the student has forgotten all or most of what was taught them. We call this regression. The reason for regression is really quite simple; the student has ceased to practice the skills that they have recently learned. For example; I may have worked with a student for a few weeks on the difference between long and short vowel sounds; practicing the difference between the words 'hat' and 'hate'. But the student goes on spring break. He gives no attention to reading, nor do his parents require this of him. He spends his whole break playing video games, staying up until midnight every night and rising at noon. The first week back to school he arrives in my classroom at 9 am. He's yawning and his hair is disheveled. He lays his head on the desk and is cranky when I tell him to sit up and pay attention. He has regressed physically from lack of sleep. He has regressed mentally from lack of educational stimulation. It can take a month or more to reteach what has been lost.
Look the text once more and ask yourself if this is a picture of your spiritual state. Have you become too lazy to feed yourself, requiring bottle feeding from the pastor? What are you eating every day, spiritually speaking. If it amounts to only a verse randomly pulled from a promise box or a once a week feeding on the pastor's message; face it; you are in regression.
According to verse 14, YOU are responsible to right the ship (having your senses and mental faculties trained by practice. )
Imagine how concerned, as a parent, you would be if your young child, having passed babyhood, refused to eat solid food. The child would lose weight, his strength would diminish and all sorts of terrible physical problems would begin cropping up. In the absence of vital minerals and vitamins found in 'grown up' foods, the child would begin to fail mentally as well. Lethargy would set in; with the child refusing to exercise and play; even communication would become limited.
Is this not the condition of many of God's children? How tragic. How unnecessary.
Our Father is not an unfit parent. He has set a table before us; and our cup runneth over. But He does not force us to eat.
This New Year, as many are making resolutions to eat better and exercise to gain physical strength; I challenge you and myself as well; to resolve to get into spiritual shape. To eat better and to exercise ourselves in the Word by practicing it daily. Let's start reading the Word like it means something to us; take it seriously. Let's move on from babyhood in 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hebrews 4: The Rest of God

Hebrews 4 opens with a stern warning. We are exhorted to fear that we may come short of the 'rest of God', as did the children of Israel. (v. 1)

Verse 2 gives us the key to our ultimate success (or defeat) in our effort to receive the promises of God: Faith. The Word of God was not mixed with faith in them that heard it. And so it is today. How many of our friends or loved ones have sat in a service or across the table from a Christian friend and rejected the Word spoken to them? And the simple reason was; they did not believe what they heard. Dear friends, our entire existence, both here and eternally is based upon what we believe. People seldom accomplish anything unless they believe that they can do so; for they will be overcome by doubts and fear at the first sign of resistance. It has taken me many years to come to understand that every thought that comes into my mind is not true. I must be vigilant in comparing my beliefs with the only flawless source of Truth; the Word.

Verses 4 through 9 have been a source of perplexity to me for years; the King James wording seems confusing and almost contradictive. However, the thought that the author is trying to convey here is really quite simple; the true Rest of God is not, as the Hebrews believed, the 7th day (Sabbath), or the entering into the promised land of Canaan. This is proved by reference to the scriptures that in several places and times refer to a rest; which apparently had not yet been experienced by God's people. (And if your margins don't clarify it, please note that in verse 8, the name 'Jesus' is actually referring to Joshua, the Hebrew equivalent name for Jesus. So even though Joshua led the Children of Israel into Canaan, he did not lead them into the promised Rest of God.)
Verse 10 gives us a clue to the spiritual nature of this rest; telling us that as God rested from his own works on the 7th day; we must cease from our works to in order to find rest. This becomes a bit of a problem for those who depend upon their religious efforts or good works. And the following verse is an absolute conundrum, an oxymoron, if you will; for it admonishes us to labour to enter into that rest; while one sentence earlier it said to cease from our own works! Oh Dear! It almost seems that you can't get there from here! This passage used to so frustrate me that I would finish reading the chapter in a rather cursory way; all the time feeling that I would never find this promised Rest of God. My best advice at this point is to finish reading Hebrews 4; taking special note of verses 14 through 18. Once completed; turn to Leviticus chapter 16 and read the entire chapter.
Leviticus 16 starts out on a sober note. Aaron the High Priest's two sons had just dropped dead. They had tried to act in a priestly capacity and offer an offering to God that was not as he commanded. Big mistake. So was God being hyper-sensitive or just plain 'picky' in killing Aaron's sons? No, actually it's not so much that God killed them, as that sin killed them. God is Holy, and nothing sinful can stand in his presence. We read time and again of patriarch's who found themselves in the presence of God and felt that they were going to die. God is a consuming fire, says the scripture. Remember the reason for the explicit instructions regarding the office of the Priests was to allow them to come before God's presence.(This is a privilege that man lost in the Fall.)Aaron's sons presumed to appear before God without having properly dealt with their sin. As a side note; how many people today are doing that same thing; attempting to come before God under their own terms? God straightened Moses and Aaron out; instructing Aaron to wash and anoint himself, clothe himself in fine linen garments and have sacrifices prepared before trying to tread His courts. Having been properly prepared , on the 7th month and the 10th day he was authorized to go in. Leviticus 16:30-31 states FOR ON THAT DAY SHALL THE PRIEST MAKE AN ATONEMENT FOR YOU, TO CLEANSE YOU, THAT YE MAY BE CLEAN FROM ALL YOUR SINS BEFORE THE LORD. IT SHALL BE A SABBATH OF REST UNTO YOU AND YE SHALL AFFLICT YOUR SOULS BY A STATUTE FOREVER.
It then becomes clear that the rest of God is freedom from sin, and peace in His presence.
Now returning to Hebrews 4, we understand that Jesus, our High Priest has (unlike Aaron's sons) effectively satisfied the Holiness of God and offered a perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Note that in the old sacrificial system (Exodus 28: 34-35) bells were sewn into the hem of the priestly garment for an indication to those without that the Priest was still alive. Some theologians say that a rope was tied onto the priests foot so that he could be pulled out of the Holy of Holies if he died there. (This is not confirmed by scripture.)
In any case, consider this fearful approach toward God and compare it to Hebrews 4:16 - Let us come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Why can we do this? Because our sins have been purged. Not by any great efforts of our own, by by the spotless sacrifice of Jesus.
This is why Jesus said, "come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Think back to Eden and the fall. The curse of sin brought labour, and a neverending striving to overcome the effects of sin in our life. God desired to return us to our pre-Fall condition. Jesus achieved it for us. He is our rest. We may now bask in God's presence without fear of recrimination or reproach (or as in Levitical times, dropping dead!)
The sin issue is dealt with and all that is left to us is mercy and grace! The sacrifices we are now to offer are praise and thanksgiving.
Now, when we read about the Throne of God in Revelation 22:1 we see the water of life flowing from it, instead of death and destruction. For the believer it is indeed a Throne of Grace.
So with the Hebrews writer I urge you to hold fast your profession of faith. Your High Priest has offered the perfect sacrifice for you, and for you; this is the Rest of God.