Category: Growth and Faith

Obedience

Obedience Precedes Understanding

Obedience to Christ’s commands always brings fulfillment. When the Lord gives you instructions, obey immediately. Don’t wait until you have figured it all out and everything makes perfect sense to you.

Sometimes God will lead you to do things that you will not fully understand until after you have done them. He does not usually reveal all the details of His will when He first speaks to you. Instead, He tells you enough so you can implement what He has said, but He withholds enough information so that you must continue to rely upon His guidance.

Your response will affect what God does next in your life. Your obedience may affect how others around you experience Christ as well. If there is any directive God has given you that you have not obeyed, obey that word immediately and watch God’s perfect plan unfold in your life.

Experiencing God Day by Day: A Devotional and Journal.

God does not tell us all we want to know about anything, but He will tell us all we need to know.
Vance Havner – All the Days.

Yet will I Rejoice

“Yet” – A Powerful Word

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (KJV)

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

The times in Vs 17 were common occurrences in Habakkuk’s day. They happened to everybody.

Today’s parallels might be more like: When my roof is leaking and my car won’t start, and I’ve run out of money before the end of the month and my kids are sick and my dog bit my neighbor and my boss yelled at me and my husband or wife is mad at me ….

Or, the worse times like, I’ve lost my job, or I’ve lost a loved one or, my spouse has left me, I’ve got to move because I no longer can afford my house payments, or I’m facing a jail sentence…

The passage doesn’t say “if” bad things happen but “when” they happen. Trouble is going to come. Life is not like the song from Oklahoma, ” I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.”

Your reactions on the day that trouble comes will depend upon the decisions you make today about what will affect your JOY.

Verse 19 is the result of verse 17. When you will “yet” rejoice in the face of trouble, You then release God to open up the windows of Heaven and bless you beyond measure.

Abundant Life

01/03

“Clouds and darkness are round about Him. ”Psalm 97:2

http://utmost.org/

 God’s Silence “this kind comes only by prayer and fasting”  Matt 17:21

It is amazing how God speaks at times so clearly. A concept, a scripture, a sermon, no matter how familiar, will suddenly come to light in a way that is so personal it has to be supernatural.

Then, sometimes, He is totally silent. I search, I listen, I pray, I seek.

Is it sin? I search my heart, I confess anything the Spirit recalls for me.

It might be for days.

Then He comes and I feel His presence. And, it’s like He says “I was here all along but you were not ready to receive what I have for you”.

The joy of fresh revelation is exciting. But, Jesus says, “this kind comes only by prayer and fasting”.

Prayer: That I be patient to hear God’s will.

(These notes are by John Griffin. To more fully understand these comments, read the daily devotion for the day dated the same as this in “My Utmost For His Highest”).

A Little bit more

Like prayer, fasting is one of those things of spiritual worth most of us do not fully understand.

Fasting is not necessarily about going around hungry. Fasting is foregoing something in your life that often seems necessary and without it, your life is incomplete. And, that is the very essence of fasting.

Most people think about fasting as going without food and usually that’s the form it takes. But there are other ways to fast. If you identify something in your life that is important to you, say like watching TV, going to movies, or (yes), even exercise for those to whom it is very important. To commit to going without that substance or activity for a dedicated period of time is fasting.

So, what’s the secret? The secret is when that urge comes, it is also a signal to dedicate that time to prayer. Prayer can be a very refreshing activity when it (even temporarily), becomes a time of sincerely seeking the Lord.

When the urge to eat or indulge in the activity, we go into a time of prayer and earnestly seeking God, we will find we are able to focus better in real God seeking prayer.

Sometimes we need a word from God about something we are planning or making a change in our life. To then stop, however briefly, to lift it up to God, seeking His will and guidance, is the purpose of that special time.

Fasting is biblical but is it necessary? I believe one can live a nominal Christian life without it. But, I believe it is essential to those dedicated and committed disciples who wish to grow in their faith as they seek to please God and enjoy His extra blessings.

Are you a Practical Atheist?

Are you a practical atheist?

What is that?

A practical atheist is one who believes God can perform miracles, but does not believe He will do it in your life.

There is something missing in the life of the Christian who never seems to be able to grasp the impractical side of the Christian life. That means, he is so set in his logic that he cannot accept the fact that God is able to transcend that which just doesn’t make sense. He is bound mentally to accept only that which can be explained.

He admires people who can give a testimony of praise of something miraculous that has happened to them.  He may even at times pray that God will show Himself real and mighty in some way. But, he has never felt the spiritual unction to ask God in the faith that is necessary.

It is no sin to be practical minded. In many ways it is admirable, but until a person is able to fully acknowledge the capability of God’s ability to transcend the natural and do the supernatural it will not happen. Too often we acknowledge our belief that God can do whatever He wants, then we add a safety clause: “But I just don’t think God will do that with me!” We become practical atheists, believing that God can perform miracles but never expecting a miracle in our own lives.
(Experiencing God Day by Day: A Devotional and Journal).  It is truly a sad state to be in.

What is the answer? The answer lies in our ability to set aside that practical thinking and accept that God can and will do that which should not be possible.

When the Apostles were unable to cast out devils. (Mark 9:29), Jesus said, “This can come only by prayer and fasting”. That’s new territory to many Christians because they do not have the faith a person needs to believe that God will do it for them.

They believe there needs to be a certain sense of the desperate. God doesn’t require that we be desperate. He requires only that we care enough and can muster enough faith to follow though in our desire to have God perform a miracle in our life.

God says, “Try me, prove me… see if I will not pour out unmeasured blessing upon you” (Mal. 3:10) That is true in giving and it is true in asking in faith.

Most Christians are afraid to ask the impossible of God because they are afraid He will not answer that which is a real burden on our heart. Then we are afraid it will weaken our faith. God is a loving and giving God and He wants you to enter into the kind of relationship with Him that you can ask and expect His answer to come.

He will answer. It may not be immediate or He may know that what we are asking would not be best for us, but He will answer.

Try Him!

 

Perfecting Holiness

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV)
… let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

As I read this verse of scripture, I began to ponder the difference in “Pursuing” and “Perfecting”.

I Timothy 6:11 tells us to “pursue Righteousness and Godliness

2 Cor. 7:1 says to “perfect Holiness”

If we try to stick to these words as I understand them, we pursue something we need and want but we perfect that which we already have.

It is probably only a matter of semantics. Or, something in the translation.

I have always held to the idea that we receive Holiness as part of our salvation and the word “perfect” would agree with that.

How do we perfect Holiness?

The beginning words of that statement tell us. “…cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit”. That’s scripture talk for, “get the sin out of your life”. That’s a tall order but, we are not alone. Obedience is our response to the Holy Spirit when He “blows the whistle” on us when we stray from His will. That’s His job. Our job is to hear Him with a willingness to correct those things that He calls sin.

For Righteousness, we also receive the righteousness of Jesus as God lets His righteousness count as our righteousness (I Cor. 1:30). To me, my righteousness needs to be perfected just as Holiness needs to be perfected.

“Godliness” however is different from righteousness in that (with the Sanctifying process), we are made more and more “Godly” as we grow in our Christ-likeness. It is a “more and more” growing process. We will never achieve perfect Godliness.

So, just what is Godliness? My definition of Godliness is “becoming more and more like God”. Our pattern of perfect Godliness is the image of Jesus Christ. We look at Jesus and let the Holy Spirit teach us how to be like Jesus because He said, “To see me is to see the Father” (John 14:9).

Sometimes we can get hung up on wording and let it confuse us. I believe that what we read in God’s word must be consistent with itself. Therefore when I read something that seems inconsistent, I can usually clear it up by reading similar passages. (A good commentary helps).

The real message in all of this is to continuously seek to learn and understand, (and apply) the word of God and not let “semantics” be a stumbling block.

What are you after?

11 …pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (I Tim. 6:11)

What are you after?

I dare say most of us would say, “a good life”, “love”, “security”. There is certainly nothing wrong with these things. They are worthy of our longing for joy and peace.

What does God’s word say should be our pursuits?

  1. Righteousness – the birthright of every true Christian. It is an extension of the Righteousness of Jesus Himself. (Phlp. 3:9)
  2. Godliness – a deep passion to grow in Christ-likeness (in grace, mercy, love, joy, forgiveness, peace, contentment etc.) (I Peter 6:6-7)
  3. Faith – without faith it impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6)
  4. Love – God commands that we love one another. (Jn. 15:12)
  5. Patience – grows out of tribulation and trials. (James 1:3)
  6. Gentleness – strength under restraint. (Eph. 4:2)

Are not these just an expansion of a good life, love, and security? Of all the things included in God’s word pointing to how to have a good life are expressed in these 6 words.

The opposite are found in Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)
19  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
20  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Few “Christians” would admit to most of these characteristics. But, even one of them characterizes one who is living on the border of ungodliness. Any one of them would call to question the claim of desiring to live a life of holiness and godliness.

Can you identify an area in your life that is lacking in that which defines the sincerity of the born again Christian?

What are you after? Comfort, pleasure and things, or a life that is acceptable and pleasing to God?

Obedience

 

It is never a minor thing to know God’s will and not do it. God calls this sin. We can make excuses for our lack of obedience: “I’m just not ready yet” or “I’ll do it later!” or “I don’t think it will make a difference” or “I can’t afford to!” We rationalize, we procrastinate; yet, in God’s eyes, rationalization and procrastination are nothing more than disobedience. At times we deceive ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal obedient actions. They do not. A good intention without corresponding activity is disobedience. When we encounter God and He gives us a direction, it is not enough to write down the date in our spiritual journal, or even to tell our friends and church of our “decision.” God’s call is not to “make a decision” but to obey! Deciding to obey is not equal to obeying! (Matt. 21:28–31). Loudly affirming the necessity of obedience is not the same as obeying (Luke 6:46). Making commitments, even publicly, is not the same as obeying our Lord. Substituting our own good works is not the same as obeying.

Experiencing God Day by Day: A Devotional and Journal.

The Bitter Cup

THE BITTER CUP

One of the biggest mistakes we as committed disciples can make is to try to sweeten the bitter cup God has given a fellow Christian. Our first impulse is to “make it better”. We grieve to see a friend or family member go through a difficult circumstance. We may even take measures to help the person out of that circumstance.

Seldom do we stop to consider that God may be doing a work through that circumstance that is His will for that person. We are quick to credit bad things to Satan’s attack. There are things that are Satan’s doing but we must remember, Satan is as much under God’s power and will as we are.

The Christian that is undergoing a difficult time is often being subjected to the refining fire that is designed to strengthen him spiritually.  When the Christian friend tries to do the “Christian” thing and tries to remove that person from that circumstance he may be thwarting God’s working in his life.

I can look back over my own life and think about the worst things that happened to me and now I can consider many of them to be the best things that ever happened to me. I can see now how those things helped mold me into the person I am today under the Holy Spirit. There were some bad things and I regret some of my actions during those times but, even those were growth periods in my life.

If we could only understand that for those of us who “love God and called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28), there really are no bad things. Uncomfortable? yes!, bad? perhaps at the time, but still, under God’s permissive will, they were things that have brought me into a greater understanding of who God is and what He has been trying to do in my life. I can’t say I was always glad for them but I can still say they were good for me.

And, yes, there were those who would have rescued me during those times (if they could), and I appreciated their sentiment and caring. They did help my feelings but I still know that it was not God’s will that I be rescued.

There is still much that God wants to teach us. It is up to us, whether we would be the rescued, or the (would be), rescuer, that we can learn about God’s purpose for those bitter times that seem to overwhelm us.

So, what are we to do when we see a brother suffer?

  1. First, understand that God may be trying to teach him something and we may never know what that may be.
  2. Second, be sympathetic without trying to fix it.
  3. Third, do not try to sweeten the bitter cup. He just may need to endure it.
  4. Fourth, Let him know you care.

These are the things that God will use to make him malleable into the image of Jesus Christ.

Discipleship

What is a Disciple?

 Do you consider yourself a Disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you really understand what Discipleship means?

Of course, it involves developing a strong prayer life, a disciplined pattern of Scripture memory, and being a faithful witness to the lost? But, true discipleship is so much more than that.

There are three fundamental areas involved in true discipleship. (1 Corinthians 13:13):

FAITH

Is your faith such that you are willing to lay it on the line when the chips are down, even to the point of climbing into the fiery furnace (so to speak), as did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? (Daniel 3)

Are you able to authenticate your faith by demonstrating congruency of life between the secular and the spiritual? (Psalm 24:3, 4)

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek himThe work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Hebrews 11:6; John 6:29)

HOPE  

Is your primary focus on the temporal or on the eternal? Do you, by your life demonstrate the fact that you understand the transitory nature of our earthly existence, and the importance of investing in the eternal?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earthlooking for a country of their ownlonging for a better country—a heavenly one… ” (Hebrews 11:13-16-nkjv)

LOVE

Do you live a life of selfless sacrifice? Have you been so impacted by Christ’s love that you are compelled to live a life of loving service rather than selfish indulgence?

For Christs love compels usthat those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15)

These are the fundamental characteristics of Discipleship. If you were unable to say an unqualified YES to these questions, don’t despair.

Few of us are able to be so adamant in our answers. In fact, we know that Jesus’ disciples were often fickle and shallow in their understanding of the basics of discipleship. But, they were willing to hang in there by determination and focus on what Jesus required of His Disciples. They also believed so deeply in their cause that many were killed for their belief.

But, they were also able to change the world and leave a legacy of discipleship that we are able to follow.

Adapted from “Facts of the Matter” Daily Devotionals”

Strongholds

“You are not to make a covenant with the people who are living in this land, and you are to tear down their altars.But you have not obeyed Me. What is this you have done? Therefore, I now say: I will not drive out these people before you. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a trap to you.”—Judges 2:2–3

God gave the Israelites specific instructions: Drive the Canaanites out of every corner of the land, and obliterate any vestige of their abominable idol worship. This assignment was challenging! Their enemies had formidable chariots. The Canaanites had seemingly impregnable fortresses that were dangerous and difficult to overcome. The Israelites failed to drive all the Canaanites from the land. Much about the Canaanite lifestyle and religion appealed to the Israelites’ sinful nature. Rather than destroying them and their idolatry, Israel compromised. The Canaanites would prove to be a troublesome distraction to the Israelites. Their idol worship would present a constant temptation.

When you became a Christian, God declared war on sin’s strongholds in your life. Sinful behaviors and attitudes were firmly entrenched in your character, but God commanded you to tear them down. The Holy Spirit pointed out areas of your life that were resistant to God’s will. Were you tempted to merely establish a truce rather than obliterating every sin?

Is anger one of sin’s strongholds? If so, it will rise up against you in moments of weakness. Is there a stronghold of lust in your life? If so, you will succumb to it when caught off guard. In careless moments, these strongholds will still tempt you to continue your past sinful behaviors.

Do not underestimate the destructive power of sin. If there are strongholds in your life that you have never defeated, the Holy Spirit is still prepared to bring you complete victory.
Experiencing God Day by Day