The Treasure Within

We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s not ours. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Picture a mason jar or a peanut butter, pickle or mayonnaise jar. Suddenly you see one of these filled with one-hundred-dollar bills or precious jewels. You know immediately that the contents make the value, not the container.

That’s what happens when we’re spending significant time with the Lord. Changed from our old lifestyle, we start manifesting different qualities listed in the Bible, such as:

You are always and dearly loved by God! [This fact must become a part of our very being; that’s our basis for receiving the qualities described.] So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness to all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others. 

 This fruit of the Spirit flows from us, without any effort on our part when we’re with others but comes from our time alone with our Father.  It remains a product of Him living within us, even though some aren’t listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (see below.) Without His working in us, we can’t exercise these qualities; they are only supplied by the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
            Joy that overflows,
            Peace that subdues,
            Patience that endures,
            Kindness in action,
            A life full of virtue,
            Faith that prevails,
           Gentleness of heart, and
           Strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.

 _________

 All verses taken from The Passion Translation.

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Lord, I Believe in You!

“Lord, I believe in You, truly believe in You.” We sang this song in church and after getting home, I wondered just how much I do believe in Him. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived on earth, died for our sin and rose again to sit at the right hand of Father God.

       For God so loved the world that He gave his only            begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not        perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 New Living              Bible)

I was a child when I first realized that I’d rebelled against God; in fact, it was on Resurrection Sunday when the pastor described how the two thieves, hanging beside Jesus, were guilty. I realized then that though I’d never stolen anything or broken any major commandments, I’d sometimes argued with my brother or not minded my parents. I’d heard about Jesus in church and at home, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. Even then, I understood that I didn’t really know Jesus or God the Father, not like I knew people. And I knew that had to change, as it did at that moment. Suddenly I knew Jesus lived in my heart as well as in heaven. Specifically, that’s what we say but what really happened is that the Holy Spirit sealed me so that I’d be able to talk with God and go to heaven when I died.

As we approach Resurrection Day or Easter and observe it, I think that song is even more appropriate. Do I really believe all the Bible says about Jesus? The completeness of what He did for us when He died and rose from the dead, lived on earth while many people saw Him, and then He ascended to heaven, where He constantly prays for us at the throne of God? A few scriptures remind me of a bit that Christ provided.

       But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our    sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was    whipped so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53.3)

            He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

Do I really believe God can forgive me, especially if I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life? Am I honestly confident that He will heal my back and my friend with cancer? Put another way, can I say confidently that I am healed? That my friend is healed, even before we see the results?

I started wondering just how much do I believe God for? Do I really believe He will provide the right job for me when I need one? Do I really believe He will help another friend’s troubled marriage? Do I believe God answers prayers when I pray for my country? In other words, am I confident about these things? Believe means to consider to be true or honest; to accept the word or evidence of. That reminds me of another verse.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1; the New King James uses evidence instead of conviction).

           And 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. (Hebrews 11:6)

If my boss tells me he will give me a raise at the end of the month, I believe what he says and begin to get excited about what I can do with the extra money. I have faith that my boss would not say that if it weren’t true. If I can believe a human, how much more should I believe the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and me! Why do I have so much trouble believing God for other things when I believed Him so easily for my salvation, that He totally forgave me for all the wrongs I’ve ever done, even rebelling against Him? I believe He will continue to forgive me for wrongs when I simply tell Him I’m sorry and stop doing those things.

Our American culture, and especially the last few years, has gone against faith in God, but does that mean I should? Will I believe that the God who created the universe can heal my friend with cancer? That He can provide a job for someone who needs it? That’s what it means to truly trust in God, to rely on Him to provide when no one else can, to believe that He can do what He says He can do. Yes, I trust God to be God! As my faith has grown over the years, I’ve even become more confident in myself because I know who He created me to be and that I am sitting with Christ at the right hand of God, just like the Bible says. If He can do that for me, certainly He can do everything else He says He can. “Lord, I believe in You, truly believe in You.”

           I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-20)

          For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)

Do I realize where I’m spiritually living? Not on this earth, though my body is here, but in heaven with Christ because I believe He is who He says He is; so therefore, I am who He says I am!

          “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

          Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26; also, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27 and Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.)

As the Bible clearly states, if nothing is impossible with God, then am I fully confident that He will do what He says He will do?

The Apple Tree

One morning recently as I sat at breakfast, I noticed our apple tree in full bloom. I always enjoy seeing it bloom but unfortunately, it produces very few if any apples. Why? Because it sits by itself with no other apple trees anywhere around it. Our son gave us the tree for my husband’s birthday about 20 years ago, and we didn’t realize it needed another one to produce apples. At first it did bear some fruit about the size of a plum, so I made applesauce. The next year the apples were more the size of cherries, so we let the birds and squirrels have them.

I realized when I looked at that apple tree and saw its potential and that unreached destiny, how many Christians are like that tree. They believe in Jesus as their Savior, but they aren’t in any church, so they don’t have the nourishment and cross-pollination of mixing with other believers. They don’t get to interact and be taught. They don’t see other people’s issues and how they handle them, so that if they have similar circumstances they’re better able to deal with them.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 New Living Translation)

I realize some people work on Sundays and others are homebound and can’t get out; but if you can, let me encourage you to attend a fellowship of believers. Not only will you be taught the Word of God, but others will encourage you through difficult times; they’ll care about you as you care about them. I watch my church on the internet if I’m sick and can’t attend, but there’s an atmosphere you don’t get from the internet or the TV. If you don’t know of a Bible-based church to attend, ask a Christian friend, then search until you know you’ve found the one that God shows you. You’ll be glad you did.

Do I Fit the Ephesian’s Pattern?

Paul stayed with the church in Ephesus for three years, teaching them all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, during a time when most believers only had an apostle or disciple come to teach the way of salvation for weeks or a few months at most. History says that John the beloved disciple stayed at Ephesus for an equally long time. What a privilege! To have two outstanding apostles teaching and preaching for several years, one would think that later the Ephesian church would be a shining example to all others.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. In Acts 20:29-30 (see verses 18-38 for context) Paul warns the leaders of this church about those who would come in to lead the believers away from God. We read in Revelation 2:1-7 the history of the Ephesian church, not that many years after John was there. Christ commends the church for their hard work, patient endurance and not tolerating those who are evil. Then He said, “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first” (verse 4, New Living Translation). Then Christ warns them to turn back and love Him wholeheartedly.

How many of us are in this same position? We’ve had good biblical teaching but suddenly we find ourselves too busy with matters of everyday life? Possibly soon after our salvation, we were excited to share the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness. Possibly we poured over the Bible, eager to learn more; joy filled our heart. Now all that has somehow leaked out and we still go to church, but it’s not as life-giving as it once was. If this fits our situation, be encouraged because our Father always gives us another opportunity to return to loving Him with our whole being. When we determine to turn back to our first love for Christ, we’ll find more blessings than we can imagine.

Order or Chaos?

As I stopped at an intersection of two highways on my way home from church one Sunday, I noticed that cars from two other directions were also stopped. This light took a long time to change because of its location, and we all sat, waiting. No one moved and I thought how senseless that was: that several cars sat stopped and no one could move. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of pictures I’d seen on TV of traffic in third world countries where everyone went all the time, cars bumper to bumper. How could you ever turn left, I’d thought? No one gave anyone else an opportunity to do anything, other than follow the car in front of them. What chaos!

Just as I thought of that chaos, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about what chaos occurs in our lives if we don’t allow God to guide us in all we do. He has a plan for our lives and will show us that plan if we give Him time. Often we’re so busy running from one thing to another, we’re exhausted and don’t even finish all we start or need to get done. Following God’s will for our lives brings clarity and order, just as people obeying traffic lights keeps accidents from happening because traffic flow is orderly.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:15-16 New Living Translation)

Sometimes since then the thought of order and chaos returns when I’m stopped at a light and waiting while no one moves because there’s no traffic the direction the light is green. Yet, I’d rather sit and enjoy the order traffic lights bring than to experience the chaos of everyone going all the time with no controls.

Am I in chaos or am I allowing the Holy Spirit to bring order to my life?

The Fog

As my car crawled along the road, I tried to keep up with the truck in front of me so I could continue following his lights. That way I could tell better how the road twisted and turned, praying anyone coming from the opposite direction drove carefully and stayed on their side of the highway. While I’ve driven in fog previously, this was thicker than any I’d ever encountered, so I breathed a sigh of relief when that truck pulled out in front of me, giving me guidance by his tail lights.

At times I’ve gone through periods of spiritual fog, hardly able to see the way ahead. The way continued dark for miles, it seemed. God’s voice looked like it had disappeared, and I couldn’t find which direction to go, so I kept doing those things I knew to do even though I wasn’t satisfied. Finally, the light of Jesus came to my rescue, and even though fog still surrounded me, I followed that bit of light to my destination where I could see clearly.

This fog also comes with our emotions. They appear to have become numb or to have died because of heart-break or harm someone has caused us. We simply can’t see our way out of the confusion and pain. “Why did this happen,” we ask. “What did I do wrong,” we continue the self-blame game. Certainly, we had a part to play, but sometimes that part is to get out of a situation that continually harms us. Then we wonder “Am I strong enough to do this? How will I manage by myself?” We feel surrounded by doubts and insufficiency on every side and don’t yet see those lights of Jesus pulling out in front of us to show us the road ahead. That’s when we bow down in surrender and simply tell Jesus we don’t know how to come out of this darkness and depend on His truth to guide us. We must stake our heart on knowing that God’s Word is true and that He loves us beyond measure, trusting Him to lead us back into the light.

Difficult decisions often bring this same foggy effect mentally. We weigh the pros and cons, but both seem to have unintended and unwanted consequences. We don’t know which way to go and again fog surrounds us. That’s when I’ve determined to set aside two or three hours that I’m going to stay in Father’s presence until I get an answer. I don’t do this feeling stubborn or hard-headed but rather surrender myself and agree to submit to God’s will. It takes uninterrupted time, but I’ve always received an answer to my issue of what decision to make.

I’ve learned that when I rush ahead and make my own decision at such times, I later regret it. But when mental, emotional or spiritual fog surrounds me and I surrender to God while waiting for His light to appear, He always shows me the way to a good destination.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:5-7 New Living Translation).

Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left” (Isaiah 30:21 NLT).

I AM!

As I praised God a few days ago, I named many of His attributes and then His names, such as Jehovah Jireh, meaning the God who provides (the ram in the bush for Abraham; see Genesis 22:13-14.) With force the name I Am came to my mind. At that instant, I saw the power and the glory in that name. When God told Moses to tell the Israelites who sent him to bring them out of bondage to the Egyptians, He said to tell them I AM has sent you.

We need names for God and His character attributes to help us understand just Who He is and what He is like. Words like Father, Lord God Almighty and characteristics like holy and loving, righteous and forgiving. But God himself doesn’t need any modifiers. He is Who He is. I AM, the same yesterday, today and forever. He was before anything created and called all things into being. God will be after everything on this earth is gone.

We say I am and give our name, perhaps our occupation or define ourselves as parent, daughter or son. I’ve had the experience of learning there are many people named Sandra Meyer in the world with over 100 I counted on Facebook. A few years ago, I found 17 named Sandra Meyer in Texas when I got doctor bills from two different doctors, whom I’d also seen. Even though I get tired of having to give my birth date at the doctor’s or pharmacy, I also am no longer getting another Sandra Meyer’s bills. While I’m an individual and possess unique qualities and weaknesses, just like everyone else, my name is certainly not unique.

God’s name of I AM is unique, however. No one else exists like God. God is all-powerful, always present, and all-knowing. No one else can begin to claim those characteristics. Most people groups choose their god, but the Jewish people were chosen by their God, and from there comes Christianity because of Jesus Christ. He also chose you and me, as John 15:16 states, “You have not chosen me; but I have chosen you.” Most other religions base their ideas on someone who has died, but Christianity bases on Jesus Christ, the Son of God Almighty, who rose from the dead. We rejoice in what Jesus has done and continues to do for us, knowing that our spirits will continue to live eternally with I AM, even after our bodies die.

Do you know I AM? If not, you’re missing so much. He gave His precious Son’s life so that you might know Him intimately. That’s His greatest desire! He can change your life and make it immensely better. After I’d been searching for a closer walk with God as a Christian, He put a song in my heart when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life as well as my Savior. I was baptized in the joy of the Holy Spirit and became much more aware of His guidance. I began to know my holy Father continually better until He became my Daddy-God, as I pictured myself being a little girl crawling up on His lap when I hurt and needed His soothing ways. Other times I see myself as Isaiah in the book of his name, chapter 6 or as gazing upon the I AM God in Revelation 4.

Wouldn’t you want to know the great I AM in a more intimate way? It’s so easy. Simply accept Jesus as the One who gave His life so all your wrong-doings can be forgiven and you’ll become a child of Holy God. Then study your Bible and pray whatever prayers the Holy Spirit gives you. Let God be your good, good Father with only love for you, no matter what!

The Captain

I am a soldier
Weary after a long and tiring battle
Battered, bruised, bleeding –
Needing healing for my wounds.

I am a soldier
But I am also a captain
Called to lead my men
To fend off enemy forces.

I am a soldier
But I was sorely wounded –
Neglected my duty to my men
Allowed enemy troops to overtake us.

I am a soldier
Fallen in body but fallen in leadership –
Asking forgiveness of my broken and harassed men,
Asking for another chance to lead to victory.

I am a soldier and also a captain –
Rallying from retreat
Repairing shattered defenses
Taking up our weapons to win this war.

I am a captain –
Leading my fighting men
Pushing back the enemy
Retrieving taken land.

I am my Lord’s captain –
Marching as He commands
Leading my men onward and upward
Proclaiming the Lord’s victory.

The Battle

Groveling about in the mud of despair
Rejection and pain cast me down
I want to get up – but how?
They hang about so close
Enveloping me
Surrounding and confusing all my thoughts.

Yet, I know a way out of this tunnel
I know I must take it
Or deeper I go.
But I’m so lost in the darkness
Almost giving up hope
Almost but not quite.

I know my hope rests in Jesus my Lord
So I call out His name in desperation.
“Here I am,” He answers me.
“Grab hold of my hand
I died to set you free –
Yes, your freedom rests in Me alone.”

Jesus pulls me from that muddy pit
He washes all the dirt from my face
Then He dresses me with clean white clothes
And tells me, “Next time, put on your armor;
Do not let those thoughts pull you down
But fight with all your might.”

“Fight with all your might
And stand, stand strong upon my Word
Store it up in your heart
For it is your defense;
When distress comes your way.
My Word conquers every foe.”

Satan knows he’s defeated already
But he figures you don’t know
So he attacks with all his might to overcome.
You need not fall, for you have armor
And the sword of my Word stands strong
You will surely win when you stand and fight.
___________

See Ephesians 6:10-18 for details about the spiritual armor of God.

Who Am I?

Do you have low self-esteem? Many of us do, and for most of my life I did. Circumstances work to make us feel this way, though our situations may be far different. What changed? I learned who I am as a child of God. I also learned that I need to reinforce the positives in my life and not the negatives because that gives them more power if I think about them most of the time. If you’re in this condition, you might every day look in the mirror and repeat the following:

 When I confess Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I am saved from sin and have eternal life with God. (Romans 6:23, 10:9; John 17:3)

 When I confess my sins, they are forgiven by God. (Hebrews 8:12, 10:17; 1 John 1:9)

 All my forgiven sins are far from God’s remembrance. (Psalm 103:12)

 I am a beloved daughter/son of the Lord God Almighty. (Romans 5:8; 1 John 6:10)

 I am worthy because Christ died for me. (Romans 8:32; 1 John 4:10)

 When I feel guilty for past sins after I earnestly confess them, Satan is lying to me because I am no longer condemned by God for them. (Romans 8:1)

 God is for me! (Romans 8:31)

 God has promised me good and not evil, and He works for my good. (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28)

 God will hear me when I pray to Him. (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 66:17-19)

 No one can take me away from God. (John 10:38; Romans 8:38 & 39)

 God knows me intimately. (Psalm 139:1-16)

 God chose me and has a purpose for my life. (Jeremiah 1:5; John 15:16)

 God gave me a spiritual gift to be used to glorify Him and help others. (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1 & 4-12, 14:1-6; Ephesians 4:11-12)

 I am not worse or below others, but I am not better than others either. (Romans 12:3)

An old saying tells us that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. This means that we are all equal because God has no favorites. He loves everyone the same, and that is what gives us our worth: that He loved us enough to send Jesus to pay the death penalty for our sins. Therefore, we rejoice because we are the beloved daughters and sons of the Lord Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth.

My New Year’s Prayer for You

Dear friend, I pray that all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit (3 John 2, New Living Translation.)

What an all-encompassing prayer! I wish it for each of you and for my own family as well. Let’s examine quickly just what the prayer does say. Merriam-Webster says that prosper means: To succeed in an enterprise or activity; to achieve economic success; to become strong and flourishing.

I’d also say that includes emotional satisfaction and fulfillment as well as our health. But if we can’t find contentment because that God-shaped hole grows deeper daily, then we can’t truly consider ourselves prospering either. So we need all of these to be completely prosperous.

I really like the fact that John, the beloved disciple and an apostle, prayed that his friend may prosper in every way. I’m glad I can repeat that prayer for others. I’m sure most of us want to prosper also.

When we think of prospering in every way, we often think of finances first. If we’re concerned about unpaid bills that we can’t meet, then we have no prosperity. And naturally we want our families to be happy within their families – for marriages to be good, children to behave in an appropriate manner, for all those relationships within the broader family to be harmonious. We think of prospering in our work as having a job we enjoy and can do competently, as well as being paid a reasonable amount for the skills involved in the job.

John prayed for his friend’s health, and I certainly wish for others, as well as myself to be well in the coming year. Being healthy is something we’d all like to experience. We probably never miss it so much until we don’t have our health and then realize how important it is in all we do. It is difficult to work when we hurt or feel unwell, whether we’re on the job or work at home. Life is simply more enjoyable when we’re healthy.

Then John says he prays Gaius is as healthy physically as he is spiritually. Evidently Gaius was walking the Lord for John to have said that. Oops! Would we want someone to say this to us? Is our spiritual life healthy enough that we’d want our body to be the same way?

That gives us something to think about, doesn’t it? Often people make a new year’s resolution to lose weight. Maybe this year, we need to make a resolution to help our spirits gain weight and to become and stay healthy spiritually. How does my physical health compare to my spiritual health? What do I need to do to become spiritually healthy?

A Christmas Present for Jesus

How much easier it is to talk the Christian talk than it is to walk the Christian walk. Even moral unbelievers can sometimes pass as Christians if we don’t really know them. Why? Because sometimes Christians don’t appear to live that much differently than the unbelievers.

My husband once worked for a Muslim man from Turkey, who outwardly lived as clean and good a life as any Christian. He was a good husband, father and boss; my husband and others who worked for him respected him for his ability and judgment. He didn’t smoke or drink, curse or talk badly about others. We knew his wife and children, and they all had a good family relationship. He believed in Allah instead of believing in Jesus Christ as his Savior.

How much easier it is to go to church,  give to the church and appear to be a faithful Christ-follower than it is to regularly check out hearts and see if Christ really has first place. Yes, we should and do love our families and care for them. We must give time to our jobs. But no matter what we do, is it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)?

Obviously we can’t stop every time before we do something and ask, “Am I doing this to glorify God?” But we can ask ourselves if our life purpose is to live for His honor. We can ask ourselves if anything we do would discredit the fact that we claim to follow Christ. Are we loving? That was Jesus’ most outstanding characteristic, for everything He did came from love for God and people.

The Bible tells us to examine ourselves before we partake of the Lord’s Supper or Communion (1 Corinthians 11:27 but see verses 23-32 for context.) Do we? Merriam Webster Dictionary defines communion as an act or instance of sharing or as intimate fellowship or rapport, besides the way Christians ordinarily mean the word. To me, the Lord’s Supper is all of these and needs to be taken very seriously but joyfully. Paul warns that it must be taken seriously. And why joyfully? Because of all God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son sacrificed for us so we can have intimacy with Them.

In Luke 46-49 Jesus compares a person who calls Him Lord but don’t obey His commands to a person who builds his house on sand, but a flood comes and washes away that house. James says someone who doesn’t obey the Word is like a person who looks in a mirror but then forgets what he looks like as soon as he turns away (1:22-25).

Both these Scriptures discuss how believers need to respond to God’s Word. Whether we’re personally reading the Bible or hearing it read, it should touch our hearts and gradually change us so that we more nearly display some of Christ’s characteristics.

Is there any greater present we can give our Lord this Christmas (or any other time!) than to make our life’s purpose to follow Him more closely?

And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him (Romans 12:1-2 New Living Translation).

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!

____________________
[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.)

 

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.