Walk of Faith

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                I was listening to a lecture from a professor of theological studies and he made a point that resonated with me. It’s always amusing when a side note gets your attention. He was talking about the faithful characters in the Bible and how even in their failures God was pleased with their faithfulness. He reminded the audience that salvation comes through faith, not through success or results. We can thank Jeremiah for that example. Poor guy professed God for a lifetime and was repaid with rejection and failure, if you measure through results. The professors example was of two Christ following people who disagreed about the meaning of a piece of scripture. He explained that their faith in what the derived from the scripture was pleasing to God. This is a good example of the failure of Christian legalism in growing spiritual maturity and a stronger relationship with Jesus.

                I thought of an analogy that made me smile so I wanted to share. God gives us direction through His Word and even an example in His Son, but we fail continuously. Many people get discouraged, but that should not be the case. Imagine as a parent you tell your child to get dressed. They run off and come back mismatched, different shoes and buttons done out of order. Are you angry at the lack of perfection or happy that they followed your direction the best they could? It’s probably a proud moment that they put so much effort into following your instruction and trying to make you happy. I feel God has a similar mindset for His children at times. He doesn’t give exact direction for all situations but allows you to honor Him in your actions and decisions. Then just like the parent of the mismatched child, He is more than willing to help add correctness and completeness to your faithfulness. Your Heavenly Father will rebutton the shirt and find the other shoe. Follow His Word and stay in communication with Him. God never asks for perfection, He only ask for your heart.

               David made many mistakes and the Lord still blessed Him and allowed his line to bring about the Savior of the world. He was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. We can also look at Joseph who was amazing in his faith because he was guided by a God honoring heart as opposed to directions from God. He trusted in God and honored him with his actions and the Lord prospered him and his family. A follower’s walk in faith is more loved by God than a perfection we can never achieve.

                God has already given victory and completeness to His children through their faith. He sent Jesus to make a way for us to reach Him. We should never count on our ability to do everything right. We should be thankful that the grace and mercy of God are ours as His children through our faith in His Son.

Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy doesn’t give us what we do.

Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

See God’s Enemy

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I was listening to a sermon about spiritual warfare and had a thought about what kind of motive and opportunity the deceiver has to try and derail the walk of God’s children as they sojourn in a world where they are not made to walk. Our dependence on God, to lead us in this foreign place, leaves us vulnerable and leaves the enemy salivating as he prowls looking to devour. As believers we can accept that our Father loves us. He made that clear through His son, our savior, on the cross. He makes it clear again with His grace and mercy. I see the patience of my Heavenly Father as I stumble through this journey. At the same time, we have to recognize that the enemy opposes God in all things. He hates us because we are loved by our Creator. When God blesses us, the deceiver grows frustrated. When we turn our voice and heart to God in prayer, the deceiver is angry in his helplessness against the name of Jesus. A name that will force the devil to flee as we resist his attacks on us because of who we are in Christ.
        

          Have you ever met a person that opposes instruction or advice just because of who said it? They want to cause trouble and make the person giving instruction seem ignorant or wrong. We can benefit when we see this motive in the deceiver, God’s adversary. We have to remember that he is our adversary too, because we are children of God. He doesn’t want to see God’s plan prosper in this family, His kingdom. The devil wants to steal God’s word when He gives it to us. If it can’t be stolen, he wants to manipulate it in order to make us struggle. If the word finds its place, the deceiver will manipulate the things around us to reduce the effectiveness of the word in us. When the Lord is working in us and through us, we will get the attention of the opposition. Count your alliance with God as joy along with the trials that will come in the process.
        

         When we see the method and intent of satan, we can become more effective at receiving God’s word through the bible and through His Spirit. We can develop discernment and become tuned to God’s voice over the deceiver and even over our own. Not only do we need to get better at receiving the word but also more effective at walking in that word. We have to walk in trust with God, growing our faith. We have to rely on God as our refuge and strength. Walking with God creates opposition in our lives. If the deceiver is not against us, we haven’t gotten his attention with our walk and its effectiveness in the kingdom. When we wake each morning with new mercy to face the battle with the devil, find comfort in your certain victory in Christ and in the alliance that brings the adversary of your Father against you His child, His prized possession.

Humble Fellowship with God

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Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:4)
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
       

          Look at the scriptures above. Read the first slowly and let it take you to that silent place where God calls you to receive Him. Then use the second scripture to bring deeper meaning to the underlined portion of the first scripture. Now sit with the first passage again.
          When God allows us to struggle through trials we have two options: run to the comforts of this world or run to everlasting comfort in Him. God is our firm foundation and our refuge. Difficult moments are times when He calls us into deeper relationship with our Father, our Creator. Turning to God is described in detail in the passage above. It doesn’t have to be taken literally but let’s look at what it describes.
          Tremble (in your anger) do not sin (turn toward things other than God (idolatry)). Trembling could be in fear or anger, both draw us out of comfort. We then have a choice of where we can find peace in the storm. We can choose between the Creator and His creation. The eternal or the temporal. God desires a relationship that grows deeper as our spirits mature. The best way to grow in relationship is through the difficult times where we have to rely on God’s provision and comfort to carry us through.
         When you are on your bed (alone and away from distraction) search your heart (for what God is looking to teach you in this turmoil) and be silent (so that you may hear the still small voice of God). The world and its business look to captivate our attention and draw us away from the stillness we need with God. Seek the quietness and seclusion you require to draw close to God and avoid distraction. Search your heart, in openness and honesty to see where the Lord is missing in your life or situation. Where do you need in insert His power and rely less on your own? Look for the lesson God has for you. He loves you too much to let you remain idle. Seek and find what the Lord has for you. Then the most difficult part, be silent so that His voice can be heard, and the presence of His Spirit can work in your heart. Ask for understanding and be still to receive what God chooses to reveal to you.
          Offer the sacrifices of the righteous (humble spirit of thanksgiving) and trust in the LORD. Our sacrifice to God is submission, and a willingness to follow God’s will over our own as they become the same. Give thanks that God loves you enough to correct and lead you. Be thankful that as His chosen you are able to hear His calling and turn to the shelter of His love and faithfulness. Then trust that God is fighting battles that you cannot fight. We can rest assured that battles fought by God are fought to completeness. He will bring about His will which far surpasses our dreams. Turn to God and seek the fellowship described in Psalm 4:4. See the loving relationship and guidance the Father has for you.

Worthless Wonders

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They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved…. When the Lord heard them, he was furious; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance. (Psalm 78:18,21-22)

In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe. (Psalm 78:32)

 

       When events happen in our life that are contrary to our plans or painful for us, we seek God to deliver us from that circumstance. We ask for a miracle that will make the problems and pain go away. We want immediate relief and resolution so that we don’t have to suffer. There are times when God will bring miracles to His children but there are many times when the trouble is the beginning of a process.

       God in His infinite wisdom allows these troubles to draw us into relationship with Him as our faith in Him grows. Faith in His love, protection, provision, and plan for our life. The Bible shows us what society verifies everyday: Wonders do no good. We draw to God in trouble as our faith is genuinely grown. Our short attention span draws us to the situations that are immediate in our life. We easily forget what God has done for us both in big ways and in the things we take for granted. It’s a miracle that you have the opportunity to have a relationship with God. Of all the lost souls on this earth God has chosen you to walk with Him in adoption as His child.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:4-5)

       The Old Testament is filled with examples of God performing miracles and the people immediately returning to idols instead of God. Then God allows troubles to come upon His chosen, they seek Him in these times, He delivers them, and they turn again to worldly idols. Even if a devout follower of Jesus were given their requests immediately as miracles each time they asked, the relationship with God would suffer. The faith He desires to be at the center of that relationship would fade over time, and He would assume the role of a genie who grants wishes, no faith, trust, or relationship required.

     Our perfect and all wise God knows what His children need to grow. His greatest desire is to be glorified as we grow in deeper relationship to Him. The depth comes from faith, trust and dependence through submission to His will. Focus your eyes in Him and watch Him guide your steps. It is then that you will discover the life He has for you. A life full of peace and joy that not only passes all understanding but also your wildest dreams.

Prayer to Align Our Hearts to God

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Dear Heavenly Father,

          How mighty, infinite and holy is Your name. I humble myself in the idea that You are above all things and beyond what I could ever comprehend. Never let me put You in a box. Allow me to see You at work in all things. Please reveal more of You to me every day. Let me rest in this thirst that can only be quenched by You. May it never be quenched until the day I join You in eternity.  Please give me the wisdom to see things from Your vantage, the discernment to see Your work and determine Your will from anything else. Guide my steps as I hold Your right hand. Make me strong in my weakness, wise in my ignorance, joyful in my struggles, and faithful in my doubt. Be the only provision I need and the foundation on which I stand. Let me seek You first always so that it is always You that I fall upon. Allow me to be closer to You every day as I sit at Your feet, growing in faith and righteousness. Draw close to me as I draw close to You so that I may be filled with Your love and grace. Let Your praise always be the first on my lips. I submit to your will and ask that you shape me like clay so that I may be fit for the purpose I was created for. Thank You for calling me out of the darkness and choosing me to be a child of the living God as I walk in the salvation and sanctification available only through my Savior Jesus Christ. It’s in His precious and holy name I pray.

Amen, Amen and Amen

The steps of Walking with Christ (4 of 7)

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4) Shedding of Self
As the believer learns what it looks like to walk with Christ they see that the process involves a new heart. This new heart is made new by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit functions at full capacity in a heart made pure as sinfulness is pushed out. The darkness is replaced by the light of God. We see this in the power exercised by the only sinless heart to ever walk the earth: Jesus. He was perfectly connected to the Father and the full power of the Spirit healed and raised the dead. The same Spirit indwells in believer when they accept Christ as a sacrifice for their sin and allows that Spirit to enter their heart. It is at this point that that we have to shed ourselves, let go of our flesh and allow our spirits to grow. We have to decrease so that God’s power in us can increase. We are called to a purpose that exceeds our expectations and a joy that surpasses the best this world has to offer. The process of shedding requires humility and a trust that God must give us the strength to accomplish. Ask God to give you a new strength and ability to walk with Him. Your Heavenly Father seeks to guide you into rightly walking with Him. He sent His only Son to die so that you could be reconciled to Him, of course He’s willing to show you your purpose in your new family. Let go of what you hold on to for comfort and step into the embrace that fits you perfectly and last for eternity.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you (Ezekiel 36:26a)
Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31)
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:9)