Sunsets and Strongholds

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Anger and rage are two of the things Paul teaches us to take off and get rid of in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3.   Extremes seem to be the way we humans look at life and the way we manage things.   We either deny being angry or we express our anger in disrespectful, hurtful or harmful behaviors.   Neither extreme is helpful. one harms our health and the other harms our relationships.

In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul teaches: ” In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

It seems to me that Paul assumes we will get angry.  First of all, we must be in touch with our own anger, rather than denying and repressing it.  Then we must confess our anger and quickly move to resolve its source and to let go of it.  Paul instructs us to do this before the day ends.

Sometimes we are unselfishly angry over an injustice.  Perhaps the Lord is calling us to do our part to make sure that injustice is righted.  This kind of anger presents the temptation to sin by omission, by failing to do the good we might do.

Most often, I think,  we experience the kind of anger which tempts us to sins of commission, Perhaps our pride is injured.  Perhaps we feel frustrated because our need to control has been thwarted.   Perhaps all we need is to ask the Lord Jesus to give us power to let go of these feelings and to wash us clean of our pride and our need to control.  Instead we express our anger in passive-aggressive behaviors that make the problem arousing our anger even worse.  Or we explode in an angry outburst, saying and doing things that are destructive, making the problem arousing the anger worse.  Nothing is resolved.  Situations escalate and relationships deteriorate.

Perhaps we are in a set of circumstances where issues truly need to be addressed and resolved.  We need to address these issues with calmness and respect, seeking solutions and understanding, rather than attacking and blaming others.  Yelling, swearing and name calling are never helpful, and are never justified for a child of God.

As I have aged as a woman and as a child of God,  I have begun to see how Paul is warning us about a very real and present danger to our souls.  I am not just preaching to the choir;  I am preaching to myself. Anger can become habitual;  it can become a way of life.  This kind of anger grieves the Holy Spirit who lives in a believer. (Ephesians 4:30)  When we are angry and sin because of that anger, we give the Devil a foothold and grieve the Holy Spirit.  Footholds can become strongholds.  We can be tied up by the enemy, while the Holy Spirit, who was meant to be our powerful ally, is instead grieving over our sin.

Oh, Lord God,  forgive me and forgive Your church for our extremes – for either repressing our anger or for using it as an excuse to sin.  Teach us to get serious about taking anger off and putting on compassion and forgiveness before the sun goes down each day.  Keep us from grieving the Holy Spirit.  Deliver us and keep us from the footholds and strongholds of Satan.   In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Serious Business

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I wore some old high heels and pretended to be Mommy.  I liked my dolls.  I liked playing dress up.   I loved my mother, and I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

Dressing up and acting like one’s parent or hero isn’t children’s play.  It is serious business.   It is the business of every serious Christ Follower.

Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1 and 2)  Earlier in chapter four of the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us to put off our old self and put on the new self which was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  He gives us a long list of behaviors to put off and get rid of: falsehood, stealing, anger, rage, bitterness, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. He tells us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving.

In the third chapter of Colossians, Paul instructs believers to put to death the “earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.”  Later in that same chapter beginning with verse 12, he says, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you  may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

As a Christ Follower, I am called to dress like Jesus and to act like him.  I am called to wear his virtues and to copy his behavior.  This would be mission impossible, but thank God, his Spirit came to live in me and conform me to the image of Christ.

Holy Spirit, I surrender to your work in me.  Help me to do my part, while you do your part.  I  want the world to look at me and say, “That’s God’s girl.  She looks so much like him and has his mannerisms. You’d know her right away, even if you didn’t know her name.”

 

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Blessed

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“Oh LORD ALMIGHTY, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”  Psalm 84:12

” “The Hebrew word for “ALMIGHTY” is Shaddai. Wrapped up in that word are the characteristics of strength, nourishment, satisfier of needs, and all sufficiency.   Some scholars believe the name is rooted in a word that means mountain and refers to .”THE ONE OF THE MOUNTAINS ”   Janet Kobobel Grant from Trusting That God Will Provide,  A Study on Ruth

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”  Psalm 125:1

How BLESSED I am for my trust is in THE LORD ALMIGHTY, THE ONE OF THE MOUNTAINS.

How BLESSED I am because my help comes from THE LORD, THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

How BLESSED I am because THE ALMIGHTY gives me everlasting life through HIS SON who died to cover my sins with His shed blood.  Like Mount Zion, I cannot be shaken.  I will endure forever, not by any merit of my own, but by His great mercy and everlasting love.

How BLESSED I am because THE ALMIGHTY  gives me strength and nourishment.  He satisfies my needs and is MY ALL SUFFICIENT ONE.

THE LORD ALMIGHTY longs to bless you.  He loves you.  COME.  TASTE AND SEE.  THE LORD IS GOOD!

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PEACE

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A friend of mine was doing her Bible Study preparation last week. She was asked to name a person she saw as filled with peace and to ask that person how she had effectively applied the peace of God to her life.  This friend named me and posed this thought provoking question to me.  What follows is my answer.

Peace is a gift and a fruit of the Spirit.  I can’t create or produce it.  How do I receive and unwrap this sweet satisfying fruit?

Jesus said in John 15 that He is the Vine and we are the branches.  He said that if we abide in Him and He in us, we will bear much fruit.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 14:17

Years ago I read Praying The Lord’s Prayer For Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer L. Towns.  I was deeply impressed by his words:  Before you become a Christian you sit on the throne of your life.  Like a king, you ruled your life and pleased yourself.  The issue of Salvation is, Who will sit on the throne of your life?  Will you sit on your heart’s throne, or will you let Christ be enthroned there?  When you become a believer, you let Christ take control of your life. You say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ…” (Phil 1:21)  … Then we must daily pray, “Thy will be done.”  When we make that prayer daily, it is a conscious decision to  let Christ direct our lives.  That means that the Christian life is one big YES at the beginning, followed by a smaller yes every day.

Mr. Towns’ counsel led to my morning habit of putting Jesus on the throne of my life, as my King.  This morning dedication has been followed by the confession that I cannot keep jesus on the throne for even a few minutes in the power of my flesh.  That confession has been followed by a plea to The Holy Spirit to fill me, empower me, and show me what it will look like when Jesus rules and reigns in me.

My husband and I are currently reading THINK, ACT, BE LIKE JESUS by Randy Frazee.   My morning prayer is reinforced by Mr. Frazee who says, “We stay off the throne of our lives, where God belongs, and live on the altar where we belong.”

This habitual morning prayer is my strategy to attempt to abide in Jesus and to live in His Kingdom. The days that I have known real peace have been the days that I didn’t cast Jesus off the throne and put me back on it. That hasn’t been easy because I am a control freak and like to believe the lie that I won’t feel anxious, if I can control everything.  Sweet peace isn’t secured by my control but by my surrender to The King. 

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

Over the years, as I have hidden more and more of God’s promises in my heart, my trust has grown.  As my trust has grown, so has my peace grown.  

In the New Testament Epistles (Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:20-32; and Colossians 3:1-17), there is a recurring theme.  We are called to put off the old self and put on the new.  We are called to put to death the flesh and to clothe ourselves with the virtues of Christ.

Two of the things that we are told to put off or put to death are anger and jealousy.  Those two sins have tripped me up more times than I care to recall or can count.  I think my peace has been in proportion to how successfully, with the Holy spirit”s power, I have said NO to anger and jealousy and YES to my King’s commands.  Peace has followed my obedience.

For me the way to peace has been to live everyday with Jesus on the throne, to trust the promises of God, and to be diligent in saying NO my old, sinful nature and saying YES to my King.

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My Father

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My Father said:  “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.  I will make an everlasting covenant with them; I will never stop doing good to them and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”  Jeremiah 32:39-41

This Father, my Father,  wants to be your father.   He wants to give you a heart to love and reverence Him.  He wants to make an everlasting covenant with you.  He wants to inspire you with such awe over the beauty and goodness of His character that you would never turn back from His Presence.  He wants to do you good;  in fact, doing you good makes Him happy!  He wants to plant you in His everlasting Kingdom.

He is pursuing you.  He is calling you home.  He is your destiny.   Your creator is your redeemer.

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Morning Reflection

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Morning comes and darkness flees when the sun rises above the horizon.  Light breaks into my darkness when the Son of God speaks my name.

One morning while it was still dark, long ago in Israel, a woman by the name of Mary Magdalene, who had been cured of seven demons, stood by a tomb crying. She was distressed because the body of her crucified teacher was no longer in the  grave where he had been buried.  She felt confused and frightened. Someone, she thought might be a gardner (remember it was still dark), asked her why she was crying. Between sobs, Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him.” After another brief exchange of words, He said, “Mary”, and she cried out, “Teacher”.  *

Mary knew her Lord’s voice.  She recognized it.  His voice had to power to send demons fleeing.  His voice had the power to heal and transform.  As He spoke her name, she knew HER LORD LIVED AGAIN!  In that moment everything had changed.  Nothing was impossible.  All the promises of God had become YES!

Of all the resurrection accounts of the Lord Jesus, the story of Mary Magdalene is my favorite.  I identify with her because my name is Mary and because I have been cured of demons, the figurative kind and, I believe, the literal kind.

The Lord speaks our names.  Sometimes He calls us to follow Him for first time.  Sometimes His tone is one of gentle comfort.  At other times it is a word of loving rebuke.  He speaks and light breaks into our darkness.  Confusion is replaced with amazing clarity.  Anger is washed away. Peace defeats fear.  Hope dawns like the morning.

May you hear Him call your name this Easter Morning.  May the Son in all His Glory dawn upon you, and may you reflect that Glory in our dark world.

*See the 20th chapter of The Gospel of John

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The Question Is

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Is he a good dog or a bad dog?   Is that the right question?

In his book, The Normal Christian Life,  Watchman Nee shared an experience he had while visiting a man he named as Mr. Wong (which was not his real name).  After learning Mr. Wong’s dog’s name was Fido, Mr. Nee asked if he could call the dog Fido Wong.  Mr. Wong emphatically replied no.  Mr. Nee teased him, asking, “Are your daughters not called Miss Wong?”  Mr. Wong laughed, and then Mr. Nee said: “Do you not see what I am getting at?  Your daughters were born into your family and they bear your name because you have communicated your life to them.  Your dog may be an intelligent dog, a well behaved dog, and altogether a most remarkable dog; but the question is not, is he a good dog or a bad dog  –  It is merely, is he a dog?  He does not need to be bad to be disqualified from being a member of your family; he only needs to be a dog.”  Mr. Nee then used this illustration regarding Fido to explain the New Testament doctrine of regeneration and mankind’s need for a rebirth.

Humans wonder if there is a heaven.  If there is a heaven, they wonder, am I good enough to go there. Asking the right question matters.  The question is not whether we are good enough but whether we have God’s life within us.

I John 5: 11-13  “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

John 1:12  “Yet to all who received Him,  to those who believed in His name,  He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

The question is:  Have you been born of God?

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His gift, My gift

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Last month I asked the Lord Jesus what gift I could give Him for His Birthday.  As I listened for His reply, I had the recurrent thought that He wanted me to honor Him by following the Apostle Paul’s example.  “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3: 13-14

This month I am intent on delivering this gift to Him, morning by morning, hour by hour.  I am, by nature, prone to second guessing myself, prone to ruminating over my sins, my mistakes, and my failures.  This rumination leaves me stuck in yesterday.  In my flesh I am unable to forget what lies behind and strain ahead.  To give my Lord His gift, I need to exercise His gift to me.  I need to grab hold of His life within me, His power, His grace.  As I do that, I am able to leave the past behind – to leave it at the foot of the cross of Christ, covered with His atoning blood.  I am able to live new, each new day, straining ahead and upward.

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

Lord, I praise You for your compassions which never fail and that are new every morning!  I thank You for giving me newness of  life each new day.

 

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Opening My Gift

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As I recall Christmas past, the memories evoke the wonder I felt as a child early on Christmas morning, racing from my bedroom, down the stairs and into our living room to find the Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped gifts that had not been there the night before.

I circled the gifts with awe, searching for those with my name on them.  Then I hurried to wake my mother to come and open gifts with me and my little sister.  It never entered my mind to leave my gifts unopened for even a short time.  In a a sense, the gifts, although pretty to look at, were of no value until I opened and used them.  That’s when joy flowed out of the awe and wonder of the morning, as I held my new dolly and lovingly touched the clothes Mom had sewn for her.

Christmas is the celebration each year of God’s Best Gift to us, His Son, the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins and give us salvation.  The gift cannot bless us, until we receive, open and use it.

In my last post, I spoke of the exchanged life.  That exchanged life is the Gift of Christmas.  I ponder how to open that gift and  unfurl the new Life, the life of Jesus Christ within me?

Paul said, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12-13

Salvation is God’s life within me, giving me the will and the power to act according to His good purpose.  I open that gift, unfurl that power by working out my salvation with fear and trembling.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, fear is to be in awe.  Awe is an emotion of mixed reverence, dread, and wonder.  To revere is to regard with awe,  great respect or devotion.  Wonder is awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration. To tremble is to shake involuntarily or to vibrate or oscillate, like a leaf trembling in the wind.

To revere this life of Christ in me, to be in awe of His presence, to respect and to be devoted to him, I think, must mean to yield to him, to let him have his way each day, moment by moment.  I think it means to wake up each morning and say, “I’m getting out of the way, moving over, and trusting you to go to work today, Lord Jesus”, and then with wonder to watch his power unleashed in me and through me.

How good is God; he gives us the work of letting him do the work.  What a wonderful Father he is.

Father God as I open your gift of salvation and put it to work each morning in the year ahead, let me be a leaf, clinging to Jesus, trembling in the wind of his power blowing within me to will and to do his good purposes.

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An Exchanged Life

One of my dear friends, who has long been in Christian ministry, told me that she and her husband have changed the way they present the gospel.  Their daughter had believed in Jesus as a child and had long called him Savior, but she has dated her salvation to the day when, as an adult, she surrendered the Lordship of her life to Jesus.

What is salvation?  Is it not forgiveness and the way into an everlasting relationship with the Lord of Heaven, the Savior God, through the redemptive work of his son, the Lord Jesus Christ?  What is it we need forgiveness for?  Is it not the breaking of the first commandment – you shall have no other Gods before me?  Do we not break that law every time, as rebellious children, we say to God, I am the boss of me?  Is that attitude not evidence self is God?

I am currently reading Watchman Nee’s book, The Normal Christian Life.  In it he writes, “How good it is to have the consciousness that we belong to the Lord and are not our own! There is nothing more precious in the world. It is that which brings the awareness of his continual presence, and the reason is obvious. I must first have the sense of God’s possession of me before I can have the sense of his presence with me. When once his ownership is established, then I dare do nothing in my own interests, for I am his exclusive property…The trouble with many Christians today is that they have an insufficient idea of what God is asking of them…Do you not know that God is asking of you your very life? …Not until we take the place of a servant can he take his place as Lord.”

Jesus said that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whosoever believed in him might have everlasting life.  (John 3;16)

Are we too familiar with the word believe?  Do we use it glibly?    If God is God, then I am not my own Lord. I can say I believe Jesus Christ is God, but I deny my own espoused belief every time I choose my way, instead of his.  I think the result of genuine belief is death, my own life nailed to the cross with Jesus, as I yield all rights to the One who gave his life for my salvation.

When Jesus said we must be born again to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), didn’t he mean this glorious exchange – my death for his resurrected life in me – my life for his?

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