I went out of my way to help. I rearranged things in my day to be there, and God brought things to mind that may have been overlooked. It’s always more fun to offer to do things before you’re asked! Yet, in all of this, the response I received was less than desirable! The one I wanted to serve met me with ungratefulness, unkind words, a harsh tone, and a whole lot of self.
“You give glory to My Father when you produce a lot of fruit; in this way, you become My disciples.”John 15:8 GNT
The LORD has had this verse in front of me for a couple of weeks, now. He clearly wanted me to write about the fruits of the Spirit, yet He was also very clear about His timing. As the time for this post drew nearer, the above situation raised its beautiful, yet hideous, head. Yup. Satan wanted to blur the attraction of the Spirit’s fruit and show how I was mistreated…how I would be right in any negative reaction; after all, that’s what was done to me, right? My insides were in knots. I had so many conflicting emotions. I went to the only place I know to find stability–at the feet of my God, Who reminded me of the above verse…In the situation with this individual, how did I show that I was a follower of Jesus? Did I let God’s Spirit work through me and give glory to My Father?
A few years back, my husband and I were doing some work outside, in front of our house. We have this bush (pictured above in its glory…lovely, growing, and full of life). Unfortunately, over the years, we saw more and more empty branches, and the more dead branches there were made the entire bush look super unhealthy! It was time to prune! I grabbed my hedge sheers and pruner and “went to town,” cutting off all the dead branches. At one point, my husband looked over at the measly little bush that remained and said, “We should just pull it out; there’s not going to be anything left.” I remember being so excited, though, in that moment, with the anticipation of what the pruning would do and discussing the spiritual visual God gave us in that bush. Not too long after, the bush was alive with new growth and was flourishing!
Lord, please use this situation to grow me, and flourish within me! Remove the roots of sin that need removing and enable me to truly live, so others can see You in me!
Luhansk, Ukraine; March 2001
Eighteen hours aboard the Ukrainian Railway brought us to the far eastern border of Ukraine. The next important part of our journey was to find a driver we could trust and a place to stay. Our facilitator explained that we were not in a safe situation. She actually said to us, “Do not make eye contact with anyone, and do not speak a word to each other or anyone; you cannot let anyone know you are American. Stay here! I need to go find a driver.” With that, she left us outside the train station…alone. Lord, please provide.
In 1 Kings 17, we see two incredible examples of God being Elijah’s provision in the most unlikely ways, in what looked like impossibility.
“Leave here, turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Brook of Cherith, East of the Jordan. You are to drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”1 Kings 17:3-4, 6 ESV
Ravens? I read these birds are famous for their voracious appetite and insatiable greed, often stealing food from other birds or animals. Only God could arrange for these birds to provide for Elijah to bring him meals for what could have been a year. Reflect on that; God provided a miracle in a way that only He could arrange.
“Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon, and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.'”
“‘As surely as the LORD your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’”1 Kings 17:8-9, 12 NIV
A widow, in the time of a severe drought? She would have been the least likely to have extra provisions. In fact, did you catch that last part? She is so lacking; she is preparing to die.
“For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”1 Kings 17:14 NIV
After what felt like an hour, our facilitator returned in a car driven by, what we learned later, a former member of the military, who was built like a defensive lineman. Our facilitator quickly exited the passenger side of the car, and in her best ventriloquist impersonation told us, “Do not speak, and get in the car.” Minds racing, my husband and I, huddled in the back seat, tried to make sense of the intense conversation transpiring between our driver and our facilitator. Knowing very, very little Russian we failed to understand what was happening, as the driver pulled the car off the side of the road and put the car in park. That was the moment I noticed a small note, located on the stick shift knob, that said, “In God I trust.” My eyes went from those words to the driver’s eyes; they were filled with tears. This man was pledging his complete service to us for anything we needed. God’s provision for us, in our time of need, was a good man, a Godly man, who had a heart for orphans and deeply desired to help us find our child(ren).
God’s provision through him and his wife exceeded our imagination for the next 10 days. After searching for hours for a place to stay and finding nothing available, he opened his home to us. He and his family insisted we stay in their only bedroom, while they huddled into their small Living Room. His wife went to the market and cooked for us daily. He was our faithful driver every day and, some days, was at our service for over 10 hours. In a way only God could have arranged, they were our provision, and we became theirs, helping them overcome the financial drought they were in. In fact, before we could continue our drive that day we met him, we had to find gas…our driver…on his last gallon of gas. God allowed us to make sure his tank did not run out of gas and their kitchen didn’t run out of food. God, the ultimate Provider!
“Welcome!” We see it everywhere we enter, from front door mats and entrances to shops…to emails we open after we’ve signed up for something. We talked last post about peace being near. You may be saying, “I don’t feel at peace.” So, let’s dig into why…and how we can welcome and experience this peace.
“And the peace of God, Who is greater than every mind, will keep your hearts and your minds by Yeshua The Messiah.”Philippians 4:7 ABPE
This verse says that Jesus, the Messiah, is not only near, but He guards (or keeps) our hearts (the main location for what we think and what drives us) and our minds (including all that transpires from what we think). We have the peace of God, assuring us of His protection. If you have accepted Jesus as the payment for your sins, His sacrifice makes you at peace with God the Father. Once you’ve done this, He’s with you! “Check.” You’ve done this? So, why, then, does peace still feel so far away or non-existent?
When was the last time you welcomed this peace to rule your thought life…to drive you? If you’ve already invited Him into your heart, He IS near! Think of it like inviting someone into your home. He’s in there, but have you welcomed Him into the areas you may be a bit more reluctant for Him to see…the dirty areas, the unkept areas, the hoarding piles, the things you “need to do, but just haven’t.”
Let’s back up in Philippians 4, where we were a bit in the last post; it holds the prescription for wholeness and welcoming peace.
“Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad.”Philippians 4:4 CEV
“Let your reasonableness be known to all men; the LORD [is] near;”Philippians 4:5 ISV
“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your requests known to God.“Philippians 4:6 AB
These responses welcome the character of Christ to infuse us…to spread through us (even those deep, dark areas of us, where we would rather keep the door shut and not permit entrance); these ways also allow Him to be seen in every part of us. Jesus IS the Prince of Peace! If you have accepted His gift of salvation, He IS your helmet to protect your mind (your thoughts and the results of them)! He IS your breastplate to protect your heart (your emotions and what drives you)!
I have much welcoming to do! How about you? Ah, but the reward of protection and peace is great!
In a world that can feel filled with hate, self-absorption, and fear, does peace seem far out of reach? In a society of constant change, do you feel uncertain, maybe even anxious? You may be asking, “How can I feel at peace, when everything around me feels like it’s suspended in the air?” or saying, “My life, even those in it, seem so out of control!” Something the LORD kept bringing before me last week was “Peace is near.” Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true! Think about when someone says something to you that hurts…someone you love very much, and you know they love you; it may not feel like they love you, but you know they do! Just because peace may not feel near, doesn’t mean it isn’t.
Peace isn’t something we can muster up ourselves, though; it’s only possible through the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22), and the Spirit of God is accessible to us through the person of Jesus Christ.
“Because the Child is born to us, and the Son is given to us, and His authority was on His shoulder, and His Name was called The Wonder and The Counselor, God, the Mighty Man of Eternity, the Prince of Peace [and The Father of Eternity]. To increase His dominion and His peace, there is no end, on the throne of David and upon His kingdom, that He shall establish it, and He shall sustain it in judgment and in righteousness from now and unto eternity. The zeal of LORD JEHOVAH of Hosts does this.”Isaiah 9:6-7 ABPE
I know this is a passage we hear a lot at Christmas, but it’s SO applicable now!! Christ Jesus, the Messiah, is on His throne! He has the responsibility of ruling and IS the Ruler Who brings Peace from War, which is, actually, His title as the Messiah. A lot of times, “peace from war” is read as wars between nations, but I’m convinced this includes the wars in the spiritual realm, which impact souls and are displayed through various wars and times of peace with each other.
The abundance of Christ’s control and peace has no end, and neither does His kingdom. These verses above tell us that He’s the King of His kingdom, and He supports that with judgment and righteousness. Since Christ IS the Judge (James 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:10) and IS righteous (1 Corinthians 1:30), He upholds His kingdom with all that He IS…with WHO He is! In fact, what gets lost in the translation, at the end of Verse 7, is the LORD does all this through “Ithiel,” which translates “With me is God” (Jesus)!!
“’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”Matthew 1:23 ESV
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10 ESV
“The LORD your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.“Zephaniah 3:17 AB
I don’t know about you, but focusing on the truth that the King, Christ the Messiah, warrior, Ruler, Judge, our Righteousness, is near…with me…strengthens me greatly, and any circumstance shrinks to its appropriate size next to Him. He can conquer anything He chooses or use it for what He purposes in His kingdom!
“For God shows no partiality.”Romans 2:11 ESV
“Let your reasonableness be known to all men; the LORD [is] near;”Philippians 4:5 LSV
If God is near us…within us (which He is, if you’re a believer in Christ Jesus), then He shows Himself through us when we show His character to others. Fairness and impartiality, which is what Philippians 4:5 translates as “reasonableness” or “gentleness,” is part of God’s character, and He wants us to show it to all mankind. For me, it hits home a bit more when I hear “fairness” and “impartiality.” These are words that are talked about these days, but not really lived out well (the Spirit is telling me myself is included!). Think about how many wars between people could be defeated through peace, shown through fairness and impartiality.
“The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.”Philippians 4:9 AB
What Paul was getting at, here, is that we’re able to show the God of peace to others in everything (what we teach, give, say, and do). It’s up to others to take the strong initiative to receive it, Paul says, but we can surely recognize His presence within us, allow His character to infuse us and our responses, and, therefore, show Him to all mankind through how we live.
This God of peace is the God Who joins; that’s what “peace” means here. He ties pieces and parts together into a whole! Is that like salve on your soul today?
His peace is near; the God Who joins and makes things whole is with you! Rest there with me!
This morning looked a LOT different than I’d envisioned!! What I thought would be restful and peaceful turned into a morning of interruptions, attitude, and conflict. Been there? In the quiet of the bathroom (while not the most glamorous of spots, the LORD talks to me a LOT in there, where I’m alone), I was confronted with the truth that others were not the only ones in the wrong; I had returned evil for evil. Yup! A sock to the gut! Before much time had passed, I was apologizing (both to the LORD and another) for the way I’d reacted. It wasn’t a purposeful reply or response, but was exactly that–a reaction.
Then comes another attack…Does the devil ever put thoughts in your head…the ones about your faults or mess-ups; wondering how you can lead anyone, given the state of your heart…or home…on any given day? Well, contrary to what he wants us to focus on (our inabilities or infractions), God reminded me this morning that He works through those who follow Him. Sometimes, following Him well is us in the bathroom, having a heart to heart with Him, listening to Truth when He reveals it to us, and acting on it with repentance. Apologizing for behaviors that oppose the way God wants us to live IS leading, because it’s choosing to make an about face from our way to following hard after Him, and it doesn’t take long for others to see this.
When we choose to follow Christ well, we’ll find ourselves leading well, despite whatever the devil tries to get us to buy. Following is really what being a disciple of Christ is:
Although “disciple” is a noun, it requires ACTION!
So, if you thought being a disciple was a stagnant position, you’re sorely mistaken. Get your walking shoes on!! You’re in for a journey!
“Direct my footsteps according to Your word; let no sin rule over me.”Psalm 119:133 NIV
“Go after LORD JEHOVAH your God and stand in awe of Him. Keep His commandments and listen to Him. Serve Him and cling to Him.”Deuteronomy 13:4 ABPE
‘”So Jesus was saying to the Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word [continually obeying My teachings and living in accordance with them, then] you are truly My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”John 8:31 AB and 32 GNT
“Jesus called the crowd together with His disciples and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].'”Mark 8:34 AB
“For you are called to this, for even The Messiah died for our sake and left us this example, that you would walk in His steps.”1 Peter 2:21 ABPE
“I’ll place My Spirit within you, empowering you to live according to My regulations and to keep My just decrees.”Ezekiel 36:27 ISV
God has given us, as believers in Christ, His Spirit inside of us as the seat of thought and emotion. He resides in that part of us to guide and support our feelings and thinking. Will we let Him?…I didn’t yield, at first, this morning when I reacted. I drove right into “traffic” without looking, which is a “great” way to cause an “accident!”
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”John 8:12 NIV
How is your “driving” today…so far this week? Are you yielding, being careful to follow where He is moving you…to follow His prescription for life (His Son, Who IS Life!), or are you following your own path and pushing yourself out into traffic without much of a look or thought?
Let the Spirit of God guide your thinking in this…By yielding to and following Christ, we lead others to do so, as well…no matter what lies Satan says to hold you back.
“Jesus said to them, “Come, follow Me! I will teach you how to catch people, instead of fish.”Matthew 4:19 GWT
“It’s time to go!”
“My meeting is at that time.”
“It’s time to eat!”
“What time is it?”
Time: It’s what we measure our days by. In ancient days, people took that literally; the light of the day was how they measured and “told time.” Have you ever noticed, in different Scriptures, time was referred to as “the third hour, the seventh hour,” etc., and wondered, “What time is that?” Wonder no more! Their days were measured by the sunrise (6 a.m., with the first hour being 6-7 a.m.). The time the sun rose obviously changed, depending on the time of the year, but this gives us an idea of relatively what time it was in “our time.” Let’s look at some times we see in the texts about the crucifixion of Christ.
These three, specific times were referred to in both the Old and New Testaments as “hours of prayer” and would be accompanied by whole burnt offerings and sacrifices (Isaiah 56:7). These whole burnt offerings would restore their communion and intimacy with the LORD, publicly approaching God and sharing with Him through prayer. Daniel, in the Old Testament, didn’t just pray before meals. When he prayed three times a day, he was observing these special hours of prayer. Since the Jews were in exile, they would face Jerusalem (the land the LORD gave their ancestors/the city the LORD chose for His temple to be built) at these times and pray to the LORD, admitting their sin, repenting, and begging for His favor and grace (1 Kings 8:46-48). It was a time to return to Him with all their heart…and with all their soul.
Here’s where we see these time frames:
“Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him.”Mark 15:25 NASB
“And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”Mark 15:33 ERV
* You can read more about this in the last post, “Into Your Hands”…Christ’s Purpose Fulfilled.” *
“And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?’—which is translated, ‘MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?’”Mark 15:34 AB
“Then [at the ninth hour], Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died.”Mark 15:37 GWT (see Luke 23:46 for what He cried out)
“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father! In Your hands I place My spirit!’ He said this and died.”Luke 23:46 GNT
I have written so many times about the LORD being so purposeful, but I never stop getting excited about it!!! These times of offering whole burnt offerings, sacrifices, and prayer ultimately were fulfilled and revealed even in the time of the day in which Christ, the ultimate sacrifice and whole burnt offering, approached God and died for us! Praise Him!
I hope this takes your mind somewhere different, when you look at a clock. Maybe you’ll decide to set aside time within those hours to interact with God (this may include confessing sin and repenting). Because of Christ, we’re able to approach the Throne at any time; these specific hours of prayer aren’t required. They just can be good reminders to faithfully present ourselves to the LORD as living sacrifices.
“So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us, I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer.”Romans 12:1 GNT