Abba, I Belong to You

As my church sang the song Abba[1], I thought in a way I hadn’t previously – yes, I do belong to my Father. That thought struck deep in my heart. I “BELONG” to my Daddy-God. He sacrificed so very much by sending Jesus to die so I could become His child. They both paid with all they had for my eternal life with them and so that here on earth I can have an intimate relationship with my Father God, Jesus Christ my Savior and the Holy Spirit. I am a daughter loving my Father because He first loved me.

First John 4:18-19 (The Message Bible) reminds us: There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life — fear of death, fear of judgment — is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love — love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I like to call my heavenly Father Daddy-God. The word Abba means an intimate relationship, as a child might say Daddy today or as an adult might say Father. My earthly dad and I had a very good relationship, so I don’t have the major roadblocks some people do who didn’t know their earthly fathers or had abusive ones. I appreciate the freedom this gives me to relate more easily to God than some can.

Someone might ask who a small child belongs to, meaning their parents. That parent has responsibility to take care of and protect that child; he educates and trains the child, as well as providing food, shelter and clothes for her. In the same way, our heavenly Father takes care me, His child, so I do belong to Him, not including the tremendous price He paid for me.

As I thought more about belonging to my Father, I realized that makes it easier for me to resist any temptation that comes my way. I don’t belong to the devil, so I can stand against him and not give in to whatever he puts in front of me. I count on the blessings of my inheritance as a child of God and don’t need anything that will lead me away from those blessings.

Satan may approach me with wrong thoughts or actions, trying to lure me that way. Some of these God emphasized No to – There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Other times my enemy surprises me with those little nagging inclinations that aren’t wrong in themselves but are still activities where I know I need to limit the time I spend with them.

I thought of this verse, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a NASU.)

I walk along the beach, paying attention to the gulls and other shorebirds. Further down children build sand castles and grab my attention. Suddenly I realize I’ve stepped into a cast net left carelessly behind and my sandals become tangled in it. I almost fall because I wasn’t paying attention.

That’s what the Hebrews verse warns me of – not paying attention when a temptation comes, or I’ll stumble into it without realizing it’s even there. One of those little things that isn’t bad itself but that I have to control is watching too much TV at night instead of studying my Bible or reading godly books. Nothing is wrong with the shows themselves, I just must not let them dominate all my time when I have instructive books to read or a Bible study I didn’t have time for during the day. I like to start my day with Bible reading and prayer, but often don’t have time before breakfast for real study.

Because I belong to Father God, I put on the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18[2]). This armor covers me from head to toe in front, but safety only comes when I’m fighting. God gives me no protection if I’m running away. Watchful prayer guards me from Satan’s snares so I don’t step into that cast net. I pray with and for others to give and receive mutual support as the body of Christ on earth.

Fortunately, when I do get caught up in temptation, there’s a way back to the loving relationship with my Daddy-God. First John 1:9 (Message) encourages us:  If we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. My Father doesn’t hold a grudge! He wants our rapport flowing full of love more than I do, so as soon as I honestly turn away from the wrong I’ve done, He’s quick to forgive me and take up where we left off in our relationship.

Abba, I belong to You – now and forever!

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[1] Abba (Arms of a Father)
>Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

You’re more real than the ground I’m standing on
You’re more real than the wind in my lungs
Your thoughts define me
You’re inside me
You’re my reality

Abba, I belong to You 

You’re closer than the skin on my bones
You’re closer than the song on my tongue
You came running down my prodigal road
You came running with a ring and a robe
Grace is the collision on the way back home
With the arms of a Father who won’t let go

Songwriters: Ed Cash / Jonathan David Helser
Abba (Arms of a Father) lyrics © Bethel Music Publishing

 

 

[2] Ephesians 6:10-18: And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

 

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God’s Word in My Heart

Father, I pray that you open my eyes to see your Word in new and fresh ways; help me understand exactly what You’d have me apply to my life today. Give me wisdom as I read this precious gift carefully and thoughtfully. I know I have much to learn from You, but I don’t always take the time to dwell on what I read and fully apply it to my life. Sometimes I read and appreciate what the Bible says; but then my busy day starts, and I never get back to thinking more about it. My mind always finds other things, even TV or other trivial matters to consider, forgetting what You said to me that morning.

Lord, I know that Psalm 19:11 (NASB*) says, “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Therefore, I must consider the Bible as precious and not read it quickly, just to get the job done. That’s no way to consider what You say to me; no, I must treat it as a very special message.

Other versions say, “I have hidden your word” or “I have stored up your word.” I learned the KJV* of “Thy word have I hid in my heart,” and through the years I have hidden much of it there. But the NASB* says, “I have treasured your word,” which makes me more fully realize the importance of not only reading, or even understanding, God’s Word but seeking it as a rich treasure and then putting it in a vault in my heart so no one can steal it. I also like the “stored up” version. That makes me think of what I meditate on one day I add to what I’ve processed in the past. I don’t simply read the Bible one day and forget it before the next reading; I add to my knowledge and love of God’s Word each time I hear or read it.

That’s the importance I need to give your Word as I read it daily. Father, how wonderful, to be able to access this great gift wherever I am, even on my phone or computer! Different translations help me better understand what the original languages meant to people long ago, so I can apply them today. Although customs are far different, love is still love, and our greatest two commandments still say to love God and love others. Cruel treatment of another remains wrong, even though the types of cruelty differ. Putting someone or something above You qualifies as idolatry, even though we don’t make gold or silver images.

Teach me, Lord God, to treasure to a new depth your holy Word. Though it, You instruct me to apply your principles today so I live a more fulfilled life, no matter what age I am. Thank you, heavenly Father, for the precious gift of the Bible.
_______

* KJV: King James Version; NASB: New American Standard Bible.

Who Is Jesus to Me?

Recently in church we sang songs talking about who Jesus is: our way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper. You wipe away our tears, mend broken hearts, touch every life, heal our diseases, meet every need. Jesus is the Light in the darkness; his blood transforms my life, brings the dead to life, is sufficient for me. He is the highest power so that I am no longer bound to sin and am free!

The Bible assures us Jesus and now the Holy Spirit working in us, fulfills all these vital roles. But do we really trust Him to do these things? To meet our needs, to heal our diseases, to mend our broken hearts?

In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus tells Simon (later called Peter) to put his fishing net on the other side of the boat. Even though these professional fishermen had fished all night and caught nothing, Simon said he would, and he caught so many fish that his nets almost broke, so he called his partners to help catch all the fish. Am I  as willing to do what Jesus tells me to do, even if it doesn’t make sense to me?

Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18-19 (NASB): The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

Are we not financially poor but spiritually poverty-stricken because we haven’t heard of the rescue from eternal death that Jesus came to give us, as well as abundancy in this life? Are we bound in captivity to style, pride or insecurity? Do we have physical infirmities? Are we oppressed by addiction, co-dependency or other issues? This is the year of redemption from all that! Jesus wants to set us free from the dominion these conditions have in our lives so that we have heart-peace and joy in our spirits.

We sing songs with joy about Jesus providing all we need and read the Bible with all His miracles, claiming we believe it. But when the test comes, do I really? Do I depend on my Father God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit to keep promises to me? Have I checked first to see if conditions exist to gain those promises? Do I really understand who Jesus wants to be for me? Am I willing to let Him change my life dramatically, so He can be?

We must question ourselves and ask repeatedly, “Who is Jesus to me?” Am I letting Him be all He wants to be? What is holding me back? Investigate this!

The Tumbleweed

Tumbleweeds. Perhaps you’ve never seen a real one. My father liked to watch westerns on TV, and quite often a tumbleweed would blow across the street. I saw my first ones when we drove through the Texas panhandle going to Colorado or Wyoming during December. When we made that trip in June, I didn’t know which plants were tumbleweeds because they have flowers and don’t show their characteristic tumbling. Only in late fall do they die, the roots separate from the plant and wind blows them wherever it wants. Why do tumbleweeds tumble? Because they broadcast their seeds over acres of land that way.

A few days ago I saw on Facebook the life of a tumbleweed. When it said at the end that when the plant dies, the wind can blow to spread its seeds, suddenly Galatians 2:20 popped into my mind. What? I’m looking at the story of a tumbleweed on Facebook fondly remembering the times we saw them and scripture interrupts my thoughts? Yes, the Holy Spirit immediately awakened me to the context of this plant dying and becoming fruitful.

 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives (John 12:24.)

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 New Living Translation.)

 The more our old inner nature of sin dies, the greater Christ through the Holy Spirit will live in us. Then we’ll bear a good harvest of fruit for the Lord.

Abba, I Belong to You; My Chains Are Gone!

“Abba, I belong to You.” This new-to-me song spoke to my heart, and those words kept going through my mind as I drove home after church today. Words from a second song, which I know, blended with those precious other words. “Break every chain; break every chain.” I sang those two phrases together several times as I drove by myself.

Then the Light came on, and I saw the relationship. And that’s the crux of the whole thing! Relationship! If we’re a child of God, we belong to our heavenly Father, which Abba means. Then Jesus has already broken all those chains off us! He did that at the cross long ago. All we need do is to step out of them.

Maybe we don’t see ourselves in chains. But do you have issues that keep the overflowing peace and joy of the Lord from showing in your life? They may be family relationship, financial, illness, job. Whatever they are, Jesus death on the cross broke those chains off you. So just step out of them.

Now I know that’s far easier said than done. I struggle with the doing myself. But I’m beginning to see myself without certain chains I’ve carried, and that’s a large part of getting rid of them. When we see ourselves as Father sees us, then our hope is built; our confidence in his Word grows until we walk out of those chains. We say we believe the Bible is true, and we do, but often we lack confidence in it. We don’t know that we know that we know!

Good relationships don’t form just because the mind says that would benefit me. Good relationships come from the heart. And we must get God’s promises into our heart and mind so that we know without doubting that they’re true. When we do that, then we begin seeing chains breaking because we know Father’s love does not leave us bound in any kind of bondage. Father’s love, when we really grasp it, sets us free. We’re free but we must recognize it and stand in it. When our enemy tries to make us think otherwise, we must fight for our victory and stand firm that whatever chain has been broken will stay broken. God’s kids aren’t meant to be slaves.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand first against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. (1 Peter 5:7-9 New Living Translation.)

No one escapes trouble in this life, even if we’re believers in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Just look at all the people in the New Testament. But sometimes our chains may come about through generational issues that come down the family line, and Christ sets us free from these. He also frees us from addictions of any kind. In an early blog post, I wrote how I was addicted to soap operas because of moving much and not having good friends. That was 40 years ago when TV wasn’t nearly as explicit as it is now, but I didn’t want my children to see what I watched. The Holy Spirit filled my heart and took away the loneliness that drove me to those shows, and I’ve never been interested in them since.

Often we limit God by not anticipating Him being able to do all He says He can. Then we will not find release from our chains. Hebrews 11:6 states, It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23, 10:27, and 14:36 all tell us that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD. We must believe that to see miracles.

If we’re seeking answers from our loving Father, then we must believe that He will answer us. Otherwise, we might as well not ask. Go to your Father in faith and receive what He very much wants to give you. Tell Him, “Abba, I belong to You.” Then acknowledge that your chains were broken and step out of them!

My Prayer

Father, I love You, but it’s such a small insignificant amount compared to how You love me. Teach me how to love You more. Give me a fiery, burning love for You that will never lessen or be quenched.

You are so almighty, all-powerful, mountainous, marvelous, without any kind of defect or lessening. You are all-in-all! Nothing and no one compares to You. You were before all and will endure for everlasting. All-powerful Creator of all that exists. You always were; You always will be.

In spite of all your marvelous might, You love me. You cherish me. You forgive me! Even when I miss opportunities to worship You or to magnify your name, your love never fails. You are merciful to me and compassionate. You see my broken heart and bring me peace and joy. You give me strength when I am weak. You direct my steps with your eye. You protect me from the evil one and show me how to stand strong against him. You teach my hands to war against him. You surround me with your love and sing over me.

And Father, what You do for me, You will surely do for another. You have no favorites. You gave your Son to die for each person in the world, so surely You would love them as well. You teach me how to love others as You have loved me. Indeed, without knowing your love for me, it’s difficult to fully love others unselfishly, without an agenda, even when we don’t recognize it.

Father, You amaze me and I thank You. I’m eternally grateful to You. I bow down and worship You and sing your praises. You are my God. Teach me to love You more. Amen.

Independence Day 2018

Picnics, fireworks, family gatherings, friends meeting each other – all these form a part of our usual July 4th activities; yet, they’re only one side. We must always remember the blood of countless men and women from the revolutionary war all through the years. Those lives cost far too great a price to only consider the fun side of this great day. I still believe we live in the greatest country on earth, originally founded primarily on Judeo-Christian principles. The obvious general moral decline of our precious country concerns many of us, but the US still brings many blessings to her people. Therefore, we celebrate and enjoy this wonderful day.

Living in a democracy where we’re free to live as we please makes life abundant. We can live where we want, go where we want, do what we want within reason, and eat what we want. We dress as we please to suit the weather and what we are doing. I see some women covered head to foot, even on scorching hot days.  I realize that is their religion and their right, but I’m thankful for short sleeves in the heat and humidity of my area.

Yes, living independently in our great country provides many huge blessings. But in another way, being dependent brings even greater provisions – if we’re dependent on God as our Father. Learning that takes time but returns wonderful rewards. When we’re dependent on His Holy Spirit guiding us, assurance gives us security in our decisions. He speaks to us throughout the day if we merely stay tuned in. Yes, not in an audible voice but in one we soon learn to recognize as the voice of Truth.

Long ago I discovered this principle when I bought groceries. Since my friend’s husband was out of work at the time, I planned to buy some extra things to give her. Although I hadn’t planned to buy her any coffee, that idea popped into my mind strongly, so I got some. A couple of hours later when I delivered the groceries, the coffee delighted her above all. She usually enjoyed it all day long; and they’d been without coffee for a couple of days because she didn’t have the money to buy anything that wasn’t a necessity.

Another experience in that same era came as I thought a couple of times a day about someone who wasn’t that often in my thoughts, though we did know each other. I’d usually pray for her and her family but not contact her. After this happened several times with the same person, I called her a couple of times when she came to mind so much. Each time she needed prayer. I learned that whenever I’m thinking of someone who usually isn’t on my daily radar to stop and pray for them. That’s the Holy Spirit putting me on alert. At other times, I’ve had someone tell me they prayed for me during a certain period, and I’d needed the prayers then.

I learned that when we depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us, life works better. We don’t have the confusion that can occur otherwise; we become intercessors for others and can offer an encouraging word when someone desperately needs it. Of course, our Father God speaks to us in different ways: the Holy Spirit brings thoughts to our minds that don’t originate with us; the Bible quickens our hearts as we read certain verses or chapters; songs bring messages, as well as our spiritual leaders. We do well to heed these and other ways our Lord guides us.

The first part of Psalm 46:10 says in several translations, “Be still and know that I am God.” We need often stillness to hear God speak to us, though He can speak at other times. We do, however, need to that stillness to know God in the fullness it’s possible for us to know Him. When clutter fills our minds with all the need-to-do things on a particular day, difficulty arises in hearing through all the cacophony of confusion. I like the New American Standard Bible in that case, for it tells us to “Cease striving and know I am God.”

Sometimes we think God may say something to us and we don’t want to hear it. That verse rings true here too. Perhaps our loving Father isn’t saying what we think, but we won’t know until we’re quiet enough to hear that gentle voice whisper in our heart. If He does speak a word that turns against our natural inclination, then He will give us grace to follow whatever His direction is, if we quit fighting.

Even as we celebrate our independence as a country, let’s learn dependence on our loving Father God.

Stir up Your Spiritual Gift!

God gives all His children spiritual gifts, and if we don’t know what they are, we need to ask Him. Someone who knows us well can help also because often they see the gifts before we’re aware of them. Father gives these gifts to bless others so that all the body of Christ grows and matures, but in using them, we’re blessed as well.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly noticed that for a while I didn’t post very often. While doing lots of other things, I had some ideas but simply didn’t spend the time before Father to receive what He wanted me to write. While I didn’t deny time with Him, at that point I needed more and didn’t give it. I didn’t stir up my gifting.

A couple of weeks ago my pastor preached on 2 Timothy 1:6. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, his disciple who was serving the Lord but perhaps not with his whole heart. Paul recalls how Timothy’s mother and grandmother had great faith and now Timothy lives that same faith, but Paul sees a problem. The New Living Translation writes it this way: This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

God gives spiritual gifts and often does that when someone prays for us. He doesn’t require it, however. Our Father doesn’t have specific rules and regulations about how he does things so that we won’t say “this must happen for that to occur.” He works as He pleases, but we all do receive gifts.

Sometimes we allow our circumstances to interfere with using our gifts, and that’s what I let happen for a little while. I’d read a couple of meditations about using our gifts, and when my pastor spoke about this topic, I knew God meant me! Perhaps more people needed to hear that sermon, but I knew it hit it’s mark in me.

Notice that Paul tells Timothy to fan into flames the gift. I’d let my gift sit and smolder for a time, just like a fire has coals but needs to be stirred to really do its job. In the same way, Timothy and I had to stop being lazy about what Father gave us and get to work using it.

I don’t call myself a writer, as a precious internet friend told me. She sees herself as a scribe, one who writes what they are given. I’m that same way. I don’t sit at the computer and think about what to write. The Holy Spirit puts an idea in my heart, and I sit and the words flow. Sometimes I think I’m led to write about a subject, and I get part of it done but can’t finish it. I save the draft in case I come back to it in the future; often I don’t. But when I’m writing what the Spirit guides me to write, words flow to the computer. I do edit it, sometimes several times to get it correct, but know this will bless someone the day they read it. That’s using my spiritual gift as Father intends. That what He wants us all to do.

Understanding the Spiritual Armor

When I first put on the spiritual armor, I had trouble remembering the order, so I learned the pieces from head down and used that way for a while. Then one day I wondered why it was listed in such a seemingly disconnected way. That’s when my Father whispered in my mind that He has a reason for that process. As I thought about this, I began to understand that reasoning and have put it on correctly ever since.

God led Paul to write about the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:10-18 after telling these believers in Jesus Christ how to live a life pleasing to Him. Paul, being a prisoner in Rome, knew he’d never see them again and so wanted to help them as much as possible. Most likely, Paul intended this letter to circulate to all the churches in the area. This and Philippians are my favorite letters of all those Paul wrote. Ephesians tells us in chapter one where our spiritual standing lives and how blessed we are. Stuffed full of golden nuggets, we do well to study this book repeatedly. Chapter six gives us final instructions for living a genuine Christian life and at the end tells us how to fight all Satan throws against us.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (New Living Translation* – NLT)  Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 Here Paul tells us that our troubles aren’t caused by people but by the spirits and powers ruling those people. When one becomes a Christ-follower, Satan realizes that person is a threat to him and his kingdom, so he starts to attack that one in various ways. That doesn’t mean non-believers don’t have problems also because Satan’s whole aim is to “steal, kill and destroy.” Jesus calls our enemy the thief in John 10:10 and uses these words to describe him. But Jesus goes on to say that He came to give us a satisfying and rich life [not necessarily rich in money or material possessions, though some Christ-followers are] (NLT). That’s what makes following Jesus such a wonderful blessing. Next Paul describes the spiritual armor that protects us from the assaults of Satan. Then, we’re to stand strong even through the assaults. Christians become stronger through the warfare we endure, but our aim centers on standing for Jesus, no matter what. Without this armor, we cannot stand.

 Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT):   Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (The Message Bible** – MSG):   Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. I really like this version because it’s so succinct, telling us exactly what’s what.

How do we wear the spiritual armor?

We’re to wrap ourselves in the truth of God’s word, which is the first piece of armor we must wear. Why? Because if we don’t know the truth, the other pieces can’t help us. When the Holy Spirit breaks through to our spirit that Jesus really is the Son of God and that His blood shed so long ago will forgive our sins, then we confess them and turn away from them and start on the path as a child of God. (Please note, salvation only begins with this first step; our full salvation continues as we grow closer to the Lord in this life and finds fulfillment when we arrive in heaven.)

The breastplate of righteousness comes in and gives us that right standing before God, so we can enter His presence and talk with Him. This piece goes over our heart and gives us encouragement to live a godly life daily.

We need these and the other pieces of spiritual armor all the way through our lives because the devil will always try to turn us from the truth of God’s Word. That’s not meant at all to be discouraging but simply states the fact that we do have an enemy who doesn’t want us to follow our Lord.

Next we put on the shoes of the peace that comes from knowing and acting on the Word of God. When we become a believer in Jesus Christ, we receive peace from God because all our sins are forgiven. Afterwards, we’ll find that peace disappears if we stray from God’s way, so we must go back and confess that wrong against God and others; then we’ll regain that peace. This peace also helps us be at peace with other people because once we learn of our Father’s great forgiveness towards us, then we’re enabled to forgive others. For more on God’s peace, please read Philippians 4:6-8 below. I think describing this peace with shoes is important because it indicates that this special inward peace goes with us, no matter what circumstances we face. Paul was in prison when he wrote about this wonderful peace and contentment from God that remains always with us (see also Philippians 4:11, 13 and 19.)

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT):  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Graham Cooke, a godly author and speaker, calls negative thinking “the worship language of the devil” because that’s what he wants us to do. Negative thinking gets us depressed and almost giving up on God. That’s why Paul tells us to keep on thinking about all the goodness of our heavenly Father. Not that we deny earthly problems, but  we realize our circumstances are governed by a God who loves us so much that He gave His own Son to die for us. Unless they were fighting in a war for our country, I seriously doubt I’d ever let one of my sons sacrifice his life for someone who didn’t even like us; yet, that’s exactly what God did! Romans 5:8 (NLT):  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

We take up the shield of faith, which grows larger the more we involve ourselves in Bible study and prayer. Our faith is only enough to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior when we first become a Christian but as we follow our Lord, it grows. We’ll never not need that faith because Satan will always try to discourage it, as the Word says, by throwing those flaming darts of doubt, confusion and lies. That shield is stronger than he is, though, so we can stand faithful as long as we remember that fact. 1 John 4:4 reminds us that the Holy Spirit who lives within us is greater than the devil who rules the world. The Bible goes on to tell us that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith starts at the beginning of our Christian life and goes through till the end. In Luke 18:8 Jesus asks when He returns, will He find faith on the earth?

The helmet of salvation operates best with all the rest of the armor. We cover our heads (indicating our minds, wills and emotions) guarding them against all doubts and lies Satan and the world in general try to throw at us, but we must know the truth to effectively protect ourselves or others when we’re talking with them. When we’re believers in Jesus Christ, we experience a relationship with Him. Being a good person, joining a church or following a certain religious doctrine doesn’t make us a believer. Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship with our Lord.

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. This sword only works if we have an experiential knowledge of the Bible. That means we’ve walked with God and can put His Word into practice. We don’t simply read the Bible as we would another book. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit to defeat Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and we’re to do the same thing.

Why is the last piece of the spiritual armor the Word of God? Because everything we think, say or do must be checked by the Bible. It’s the controller of what is and isn’t good for us under God’s leadership. Yes, there are gray areas that aren’t mentioned, things that weren’t even possible during Bible times. For example, television and the internet supplies both spiritual food and spiritual death. Some things remain neutral. When we wear the rest of the armor, we can easily tell which is which. Does what we see build us up spiritually or tear us down? Does it meet the test of Philippians 4:8? If we want to discern the difference, we can. Jesus defeated Satan by using the Word of God and so can we.

James 4:7-10 (MSG):  So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. 8 Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. 9 Hit bottom and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. 10 Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

The Final Act

 Ephesians 6:18-20 (NLT)  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Why do we put on and keep on this armor? To protect us from all that the enemy of our souls throws at us. And even more than that, it prepares us to pray as the Holy Spirit leads us to pray not only for ourselves but for other believers – those we know and those around the world. We also pray for those who do not yet know our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

We must support ourselves and keep our hopes high in the Lord. Likewise, we must support each other because all of us experience days that discourage us and need a special word of encouragement at that time. Long ago, I learned that when someone’s name came to mind, to pray for that person. This happened several times with the same lady, so I started calling her then to see how things were going. Each time, she needed prayer about something. I learned then to always pray, no matter where I was, when I suddenly thought of someone, especially if they weren’t usually on my mind’s radar.

If we keep up with Christian news, we know many believers in numerous countries are persecuted, jailed or killed for being Christians and spreading the gospel.  It’s our responsibility as free people to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who miss this freedom. We pray for their safety but also their courage and strength to stand strong during persecution. We also pray for the persecutors because they don’t know Jesus as their Savior. We can pray that either by their captive’s witness, through dreams or other ways that they too will accept Christ. Jesus always cared for those who don’t know Him and still does.

Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT   He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Thus, it’s our job as believers to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks and to pray for other believers, whether we know them or not. As well, our duty and privilege call us to pray for those who don’t know Him that they will accept Christ as their Savior. One way Paul mentions he needs prayer is that he will be bold to say exactly what needs to be said. He doesn’t suggest they pray for his quick release, as I probably would, but I’m not sure I’d pray for boldness to witness when it would likely cost me more persecution. Responsibilities come with being a Christian – to others and especially to our Father who loves and gives us so very much. Will we continually wear our spiritual armor and pray for ourselves, for others and for those who don’t yet know our Savior and Lord?

____________

*   Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

**  THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. l rights reserved.

***  I use these modern Bible translations because they are easier to understand for people whose first language may not be English because this goes on my blog, with many readers whom I don’t know.

Come, My Child

Imagine you’re the parent of a child you’ve always been close to; you could talk about anything and did. Slowly that child drifted away from that intimacy, talking only about school as a whole and not staying as close by as previously. He put you on the back burner. How would you feel? What would you do to regain that previous relationship? This child still wasn’t doing anything particularly wrong; he was keeping curfew, his grades were still high, but you missed the way he’d share what his day had been like, what his friends were doing. Something changed and you didn’t like it.

Now suppose you were standing before God and you’re the child who’s not as intimate as you used to be. Yes, you pray and read the Bible but you don’t have that time of just being with your Father. You’re not a nominal Christian but you notice the difference in the way things are. You may even wonder what’s happened. At church you think it would be great to be as close to God as some others seem to be; but when you leave, nothing changes. One day you’re praying and hear your Father quietly whisper this to your heart:

“Come to Me, my child. Come and feast at my table, for you are lacking in nourishment. You are anemic because you’re not partaking enough of my blood. It is life-sustaining, but you are totally weak and feeble. You need Me, much more of Me than you’ve been getting.

“Come now and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow; though they are red like crimson they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land.” (Isaiah 1:18-19 New American Standard Bible.)

“Come and buy food without price. Money can’t buy my food, only love and devotion can (see Isaiah 55:1-4).  How can you buy without money or price? You can buy with love, devotion and time – a time of withdrawal from the world. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near’” (verse 6).

Jesus’ blood paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins – all of them. Not just the biggies, but the simple things like saying something unpleasant to your family or friend, having a wrong attitude, neglect of Bible study, little time in prayer. Jesus’ blood covers all these and all the other wrongs we do. His blood protects us from the enemy of our souls. It does so much more than we give it credit for, but that’s not our focus now.

Are you willing to set aside more time to spend with your heavenly Father? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to have His way? How much time out of the day do you actually spend thinking about God? Is it enough for the relationship with Him that you desire? I’ve been in this place and asked myself these same questions and find I need more time with my Daddy-God to be satisfied, for He can fill voids nothing else can. We were created in His image and when we let go of that deeper relationship, our hearts yearn for it; we notice the void. Let’s listen to those words again, and go feast at the Father’s table and find the life-sustaining nourishment we need.

“Come to Me, my child. Come and feast at my table, for you are lacking in nourishment. You are anemic because you’re not partaking enough of my blood. It is life-sustaining, but you are totally weak and feeble. You need Me, much more of Me than you’ve been getting.”

What will I do? What will you do? Our soul’s prosperity hinges on the answer.

 

What I Do or Who I Am?

If I’m a Christian, claiming to become more like Jesus, is my Christianity what I do or who I am? We get very closely identified with our jobs and when people ask, we say I’m a teacher, a lawyer, secretary, whatever. But is that really who you are or what you do? Naturally, it’s what you do to make a living. But it’s not the essential of you as a person; hopefully you’re the same type person when you’re not in that role.

In the same way, we as believers in Jesus Christ must aim to be Christians from the inside out, not simply to act like we’re one. Are we the same type person when we’re not in church as we are in it? If we’re kind and friendly in church, are we when at home or work? If we love Jesus in church, do we outside in the world?

Let’s ponder these questions and discover who we really are. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 New King James Bible.)

 

Almost Unbelievable Blessings – But Believe Them!

Let me introduce you to two amazing verses that probably most believers read over without paying proper attention to the real meaning of them; I know I did. These are Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6. Only more recently have I given them real thought, though I’ve read the Bible most of my life, and even wrote a simple study of this book long ago. This meditation covers the first verse and soon a second will cover Ephesians 2:6 because they contain too much material to discuss at one time. Continue reading

Merry Christmas as We Celebrate Our King

Merry Christmas! What a wonderful day to celebrate Jesus’ birth as a human baby so He could grow and be tempted just like you and I are[1]. Then one day He died on the cross to pay for our sins[2] and all the many ways we’ve turned from God – total good and truth. Not only did Jesus die, but He rose from that grave and 40 days later went back to heaven[3], where He now sits at God’s right hand praying for you and me[4]. What a marvelous thought! Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

You ask why I’m saying “Happy Thanksgiving” when you’re super busy getting ready for Christmas. We passed that holiday a few weeks ago. Yes, I was Christmas shopping this morning and have been very busy getting ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m going caroling to a nursing home in a few days, got Christmas cards in the mail today from friends and haven’t yet gotten around to addressing and mailing theirs. I fully know what you mean about being in the middle of a busy season. Continue reading

I Don’t Need to Understand

Last night in church as we sang about how worthy God is, I considered his holiness, righteousness and majesty and realized I’d never be able to imagine it. Lord God Almighty remains far beyond anything or anyone we can possibly comprehend. Only when we’re in heaven will we grasp His significance and imperial majesty.

Then I realized that I don’t need to understand this while on earth. The fact is settled in my heart that God remains above all gods, all kings, all world leaders, anyone anywhere. My spirit realizes God’s greatness and I worship Him coming from that point. I continued in my worship of the One who fills my heart with joy. No understanding required.

My Daddy-God and Lord God Almighty

I’m so thankful God gives us permission to see and understand Him in two ways; not that we’ll ever fully understand Him in either way but that we grasp a little of His character in those aspects. Daddy-God shows me His individual love for me, like a little child goes to his earthly father when he has a problem, expecting all the time for that father to solve whatever troubles the child. The father wraps the child in his arms and holds them tight against whatever bothers the little one. When I hurt, I feel God’s arms wrapped tightly around me, soothing my pain, comforting my heart. I remember the feeling I had as I sat in my daddy’s lap when trouble or problems came. Continue reading

Hang on to God’s Love

My heart leaks. When I’m in the middle of worshipping God, it often overflows into and out of my eyes. Not the way I’d wish to show my heart, but that’s what happens, whether alone or with others. However, seeing my heart overflow in gratitude tells me that I’m learning to truly appreciate God’s tremendous love for me. That love resides so deep within me that it’s as real as knowing my name. Continue reading

The Fight of Faith

I’m not a fighter. I want peace and sometimes give in when I shouldn’t, but I’ve had to learn to fight until I win the battle. That’s not easy for me and I don’t enjoy it, but when it’s necessary I will. God has richly blessed me in my physical life with loving parents and then a loving husband and children, so my battles don’t come in those areas. What a wonderful life! Of course, we’ve had our ups and downs but no major battles. My battle comes from the enemy of my soul, Satan. For years I didn’t realize I had to fight him, but the last few years I’m aware that he comes only to kill, steal and destroy. (See John 10:10.)

But how do we fight someone we can’t see? Something that’s bigger than we are and far more powerful? First, we get God’s will or promise for our situation. That means we need to spend time with God and with the Bible so we know what His will is and what promises He gives us. Then we ask the Holy Spirit to help us comprehend that so it’s perfectly clear to us and becomes a part of us. If we have head knowledge only of what our Father wants, then we can’t stand well because our whole self isn’t involved. A challenging verse says, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13). We do everything we can and then we continue to stand against our oppressor. We do NOT let him overcome us.

Most of us learn about this kind of faith as we mature in the Lord; it’s not given when we’re baby believers. We find out Who God is and then who we are in Him. Because we’re in Jesus Christ, we have authority but we must learn that as we grow in living lives pleasing to our Father. With that authority, we can tell the devil to leave us alone as James 4:7 tells us: Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Notice though that first we must be submitted to God. Satan won’t listen to us when we’re not in right relationship with our Father, because He holds all authority. Obedience cannot be overstated in the Christ-follower’s life.

With obedience, we put on our spiritual armor, which protects us from all attacks of our enemy, as Ephesians 6:10-18 says (in the Amplified Version):

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]. 11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. 14 Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God, 15 And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.  [Isaiah 52:7.]

16 Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one]. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God. 18 Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).

Sometimes our battles continue for days, months or years, but we must learn to endure. James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us about endurance in James 1:2-4 (New Living Translation): Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect [mature] and complete, needing nothing.

What promise keeps me going during this battle? That depends on what the fight concerns, but I study the Word of God until in my spirit I know for sure that He has given me a particular verse on which to stand. Then I daily, and often more regularly, repeat that verse to myself so that I’m positive of where I’m headed. When I see clearly my goal ahead, then no confusion comes in about my destination.

Probably few of us like any kind of battle, but when we know our God, then we can stand, fight and win because He is incomparably stronger than the one who fights against us, as 1 John 4:4 reminds us. I’m encouraged to continue to stand and fight the fight of faith!

Freedom in Christ

Occasionally I like to include posts from friends of mine, and this comes from Laura Shaffer who writes Daily Bible Prayer.  When I read it this morning, I wanted all my readers to see it too. Thank you, Laura.

“When my first son was small, I remember wanting to avoid having a child who yelled ‘no’ all the time, so I tried to avoid saying ‘no’ to him if I could. Eventually, I did end up having to say ‘no’ much more than I wanted. It was such a convenient way to help him understand what was allowable and what was not. Continue reading

The River

At church this morning we sang, “Flow to You, flow to You; Let the river of my worship flow to You.” As we sang, I saw *the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb to us who were worshiping God with all our hearts as our praise flowed up to the throne of God. The river of our praise and the one flowing from the throne of God came together and flowed into each other. Our hearts and Father God’s were in sync as we stood praising Him.  Beside this single river, from the two joining together, stood the tree of life on each side of the river, bearing fruit that healed all issues we had – whether relationship, financial, health, work. Whatever our need was, God used that tree to supply it. Continue reading