Greetings to all of you, my sweet sisters in Jesus Christ. “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! All these new things are from God who brought us back to Himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into His favor and be reconciled to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 TLB
What an amazing gift we have in Jesus. This gift is beautiful wrapped with paper and ribbons, the paper and ribbons can be thought of as salvation, a guaranteed home with Jesus and our Heavenly Father. The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross confirmed our reservation in eternity when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Today, I want to talk about the contents of the gift. Deuteronomy 11:21TLB gives us a glimpse of what God has for those who believe in Him… it says, “so that as long as there is sky above the earth, you and your children will enjoy the good life awaiting you in the land the Lord has promised you.”
You see this gift is to be used here and now, embraced, pursued, practiced, and welcomed. As you embrace God and walk with Him Psalm 115:14NASB tells us “May the Lord increase you, you and your children.” This increase comes in the form of love, joy, peace, hope, grace, strength, mercy, and so much more. He will meet your needs and restore what the Locust has eaten. Now many might speak these scriptures and others spouting material riches however I caution you that while God tells us He will supply all our needs this does not necessarily mean prosperity as the world measures it. I would much rather cultivate and harvest the Fruits of the Spirit along with an intimate relationship with Jesus than financial gain.
Galatians 5:22-23 MSG, “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”
As the contents of the gift unfolds we find Jesus has given us…
“ For as you know him better, He will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: He even shares His own glory and His own goodness with us!” 2 Peter 1:3TLB
“yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in His kindness freely takes away our sins.” Romans 3:24TLB
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13NASB “Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
“For because of our faith, He has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.” Romans 5:2TLB
“who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” 2 Timothy 1:9NASB
“He disciplines us for our own good so that we may share in His Holiness.” Hebrews 12:1NASB
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39NASB
In Closing, I urge you my sisters to step into all God has for you, there are many believers who once they take off the ribbon and paper leave their gift untouched for one reason or another. This gift can only be fully experienced through daily pursuing Jesus with all our body, mind and spirit. Allowing God to refine us…transforming us into the very image of Himself, our Father. Ephesians 2:10AMPC confirms this… “For we are God’s own handiwork, His workmanship, recreated in Christ Jesus, born anew, that we may do those good works which God predestined, planned beforehand for us taking paths which He prepared ahead of time, that we should walk in them living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live.”
Greetings to all of you, my sisters in Jesus Christ. I’m reading a new book, well at least a new book for me entitled, “Blessed Beyond Measure”, by Gloria Copeland. In the first couple of pages, she got me thinking about God’s Word and how every circumstance, every word shows us just how much God loves us and wants absolutely the best for you and I. Gloria’s book speaks to God’s Goodness and how we miss out on receiving all He has for us by our own misunderstanding, wrong thinking and actions. God NEVER withholds, it is us who miss what He is offering. God’s Holy Word clearly tells us the outcome of our obedience to Him and the outcome of disobedience. In His Words God says “Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21 MSG God is telling you right here what to do in order to make way for His goodness to be manifested in your life.
Just like God’s children of the Old Testament, it is our life choices, our decisions and actions that put us into captivity. Many believers and non-believers get confused about the sovereignty (supreme power or authority) of God, they find themselves blaming God for the misfortunes, disasters, heartbreaks, sickness…saying this must be a curse put on us by God. The truth is it is our own curse, through man’s sinful nature and the influences of the devil. Now I must make something perfectly clear…illness in most cases is not the result of sin however sinful behavior can weaken our body making it vulnerable to sickness. An example of this would be drug addiction which damages God’s perfectly created body and makes it susceptible to health conditions, often leading to death.
The famous scripture which hangs in many homes today says, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB But most people stop right there believing all I have to do is believe and I will live in prosperity. We have a responsibility in receiving the “goodness” God is speaking of…read further, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:12-14 NASB
Now let me get to the entrée of what I wanted to share with you, we are sitting at God’s Table, and He wants to serve a full course meal including dessert, I believe one of the best scriptures that describes God’s Goodness is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I know your thinking that’s the “love” chapter and is not God telling us how to behave? How to love? Well, yes but how much better we can understand if we look at it as a description of God and know with confidence that we being made in His image have the ability within our spirit with the help of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the same goodness in our lives. We know that God is love and all true love flows from Him into us therefore let us look at these precious words exchanging the word “love” for God to gain a deeper understanding of the depth of God’s goodness. I have personalized these scriptures using several translations.
God is patient, enduring, understanding…God is kind,
God is not suspicious or bitter however He desires for us to keep our eyes on Him some might say He is jealous, but I say protective.
God has no need brag He is sovereign, God is not arrogant, boastful, proud or rude there is no need for there are no other Gods only those manmade with no power and influenced by Satan to distract us. If we look at nature and all of God’s creation we see there is no need for God to boast or demand His own way…He is a gentleman who never forces.
God never acts disgracefully, God does not seek his own benefit; God cannot be provoked, He is not irritable, God does not keep an account, no record of a wrong suffered, God exists in the light never in darkness, no good thing EVER comes from darkness. God is GOOD!
God does not rejoice in unrighteousness or wrongdoing; He never rejoices concerning injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. God’s heart breaks at man’s sinful nature, His Word was meant and remains our personal guide in life to experience God and all He has for us. God’s great sacrifice is the evidence of His love, that He Himself is Love…to suffer and die for each of us upon the cross.
God’s truth bears up under anything and everything that comes, God is always ever ready to believe the best all His children, God’s hopes are fadeless under every circumstance…
God will never fail you…He will never change, fade out or become obsolete…GOD IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY and TOMORROW!
In closing, I will leave you with this final truth. The goodness of God and the glory of God spoken in the Bible are practically synonymous meaning interchangeable, identical, equal or it might be said one in the same. In the Hebrew language the word “glory” means “to be heavy with everything good.” In today’s world and language, we might find words that seem superior to the word “good” such as best, better, or excellent, however, in Hebrew “good” is the superlative word meaning there is no higher word, nothing more grand or descriptive. In other words, the word “good” found in God’s Word speaks of the highest and greatest, everything that is positive and desirable. Ladies that is who God is…God is Good.
Greetings to all my sisters in Jesus Christ! As promised this is Part 2 of defeating strongholds and more.
Pastor Steve Berger put a clear perspective on who we are in God’s Kingdom, “A Christian’s identity as a sinner is a “before Christ” identity. A believer is a saint who sins, not a sinner who sometimes “saints”. Therefore, we cannot as believers let shame and condemnation have any foothold within us. Those are “before Christ” conditions with their roots in Satan; they have no standing in our position as daughters of the Most High King.
Once again before we begin I feel the need to pray as we embrace God’s Truth that the devil has no power over us…
Father, we come before You asking for all scales to be removed from us that would hinder our ability to receive Your Truth, Your Word and to walk in Your Ways. God, we proclaim Your Goodness and Mercy and ask now that You would instruct us in Your Truth which will destroy the enemies lies. Holy Spirit come and fill us with the courage and strength to discern darkness and cast it out! We speak now to any spirit of chaos or confusion and cast it out in the name of Jesus…we bind any manner of oppression right now in the name of Jesus…therefore we now fully receive all God has for us through His Word and the instruct of others who speak clearly of Your Truth God. AMEN
Part of our fight against the darkness happens within our churches and amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as with our ministry leadership. I want to address the thought pattern that takes hold, the enemy knows if he can get us to dishonor our brothers and sisters as well as our leadership, by twisting the perception of their motives in our hearts, then he has blocked our ability to break strongholds and defeat the strongman. In other words, we cannot be delivered from what is holding us captive.
The stronghold will manifest by speaking untruth in a number of ways, here are a few; Pride (you know better than the one giving Godly counsel); Offense (something a Godly believer did or says offends you or hurts you); dishonor (you hear and believe that the pastor or believer is all about money or raising themselves above this is an effort to discredit or “dishonor” that person); Justification (you seek out the yes man among your peers, looking for someone who will agree with your wrong thinking). When the enemy does this you and I are unable to receive God’s Truth through these men and women of God. Our deliverance from any existing stronghold is delayed or even becomes greater.
If your stronghold can stir you up in anyway, it has just stopped you from your source of freedom. And if you say, “Jesus is my source” and do not seek help from your sisters in Christ then he has gained ground by isolating you and that in itself becomes a stronghold. Spirit filled believers are the embodiment of your Savior, we need one another to defeat the darkness. Godly instruction, worship, and prayer for and by others are part of the process of freedom, this process also extends outside of ourselves and generously gives forward.
Who is this strongman?
Kimberly Synder, founder of Royal Girlz Ministry gives us some details about the strongman, “A strongman spirit is a high-ranking principality spirit. They sit on thrones in the spirit realm and rule over the evil demonic spirits that operate in the earth realm. These spirits can rule over certain geographical areas of the earth. Strongman spirits can operate in churches as a ruling spirit. They can be passed down through family generations and also dwell within an individual. These forces block our prayers, our deliverance and our freedom.”
Ephesians 6:1NKJV says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
In Matthew 12:28-29NJKV Jesus gives us some details of who the strongman is and how we must destroy his efforts. “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”
Furthermore, Kimberly gives us more details and the method by which he can be overcome, “God’s Word tells us that when the strongman Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings. We are the stronger, we have been given authority from Jesus to go into the enemy’s camp and bind him up and take away his goods. These goods include our marriages, our children, our businesses, our churches, and most important lost souls. Anything that the devil has stolen from us is ours to go in and take back. The Bible says that the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it ( Matthew 11:12). We have been given the strength and weapons to advance upon the enemy and take back the goods under the protection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus has given us the keys to bind and loose. Whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. We bind them from operating while we loose the gifts of Holy Spirit to come in and take over. We loose the gifts and workings of Holy Spirit to set captives free, bring light into darkness, remove the chains that have us bound and to proclaim freedom (Matthew 18:18).”
Let’s continue to look at ways we give evil spirits an opportunity to establish footholds and/or strongholds in our lives…there are numerous areas of sin through which the enemy gains ground in our lives so that he can bully and oppress.
Generational Sin: We can and are influenced by the idolatrous sins of past generations. Exodus 20:4-6 tells us, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them nor serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting the punishment of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing favor to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” When our ancestors set things of this world above their love of God the cycle of generational sin began. We learn from what has been modeled before us, we live in ways that our parents taught us, with each generation this darkness grows and consumes. Some easily seen examples are addiction, divorce, child abuse, and sexual sin. However, there are subtle sins that make our relationship with God and our power to defeat Satan difficult. We grow up watching our elders even believers…gossip, lie, and hate. Selfishness is a tool of the devil, and we are spoiled into thinking about self and rising our pleasure and comfort above God. What will I get if I….reward becomes more important than obedience. These all fall under idolatrous sin.
Rebellion: Rebellion is failing to submit to the authority of God and to the authorities that He has placed over us in our earthly lives. In the first half of 1 Samuel 15:23NLT we see, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” Saul had been given clear instruction to destroy everything in the battle against the nation of Amalek, the instruction was very clear and yet Saul decided he knew better. In his rebellion and stubbornness, he kept back some of the livestock for sacrifice. This simple seemingly “good” disobedience caused Saul to lose God’s favor. The Word gives us specific information about those to whom we are to submit…those not to rebel against.
Pride: When we elevate ourselves above others, behave arrogantly or harbor prideful attitudes, we are emulating Satan rather
than being who we have been created to reflect, the image of God. Satan was removed from God’s presence and cast down
because of his pride. God gives us all the strength we need to stand against such evil desires. James 4:6-8TPT personalized says,
“But He continues to pour out more and more grace upon us. For it says, “God resists you when you are proud but continually pours
Out grace which is the greater gift when you are humble.” So then, surrender to God. Stand up to the devil and resist him and he
will flee in agony because of the One who stands with you. Move your heart closer and closer to God, and so close He
will be touching you. But make sure you cleanse your life, you sinners, and keep your heart pure and stop doubting.”
Habitual Sin: The repeated habitual practice of a specific sin can lead to bondage to “the god of this age.” Ephesians 4:26-27 gives a clear example of habitual sin, “unforgiveness” left to fester it gives the devil a foothold leading to greater sin. This is the nature of sin…rebellion against God and this rebellion is the root is who Satan is. He was the first to rebel and he continues this today by influencing and deceiving God’s people. Addictions are all forms of habitual sin as well as being a habitual gossip, liar or thief. Habitual sin opens the door to be demonized (demonization) meaning that there is some measure of inner, at least partial, direct influence (or control) being exercised by the demonic realm. Wherever sin exists, the demonic realm also exists and is at work to negatively influence believers. This is done in an effort by the demonic realm to limit or negate the powerful effects of the person’s gifts and faith in Christ.
Deception: Jesus described Satan as a liar and the father of lies. In John 8, Jesus is speaking to some Jewish leaders he tells them their hearts are closed to God’s truth he then tells them “You are the offspring of your father, the devil, and you serve your father very well, passionately carrying out his desires. He’s been a murderer right from the start! He never stood with the truth, for he’s full of nothing but lies—lying is his native tongue. He is a master of deception and the father of lies!”
Paul also warned Timothy of deceiving spirits using men for the purpose of seducing them away from the truth, “The Holy Spirit has explicitly revealed: At the end of this age, many will depart from the true faith one after another, devoting themselves to spirits of deception and following demon-inspired revelations and theories. Hypocritical liars will deceive many, and their consciences won’t bother them at all!” 1 Timothy 4:1-2TPT
We can be easily deceived by cultural messages, behaviors and customs into false beliefs. We can also deceive ourselves, “So why fool yourself and live under an illusion? Make no mistake about it, if anyone thinks he is wise by the world’s standards, he will be made wiser by being a fool for God!” 1 Corinthians 3:18TPT
Clearly God is warning us about being self-deceived. Having a teachable heart and learning wisdom from above is the best way to guard from self-deception. Romans 12:1-2 speaks clearly that we are not to conform to this world but to renew ourselves in God’s truth continually. Often it is difficult to reveal the source of our wrong thinking, the lie but we know without a doubt that Satan is the father of lies.
The good news is…THE GRACE OF GOD CAN CHANGE ANY PATTERN WITH DIVINE POWER!
Here are the Symptoms of Oppression which indicate a stronghold, keep an eye out for them in yourself and others, be quick to rebuke and seek help from those you hold as spiritual warriors in God’s Kingdom.
Disinterest in or inability to read Scripture, comprehend the teaching of the Word, or participate in worship and prayer
Possession of items used in Pagan, New Age, Eastern, or Native American worship rituals or in Freemasonry ceremonies, these must be destroyed, thrown away.
Fearful, bizarre dreams and/or night experiences related to sexual perversion, occultic symbolism, or violence, evil presences, visitations, or impressions of demonic face
Conscious invitation extended to Satan and/or demons to become involved in one’s life
Systematic patterns of personal sinfulness, i.e., lying, dishonesty, and resentment toward others; sexual acting out; and racial hatred
Personality disturbance, i.e., paranoia, vengefulness, abuse of others (physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual), self-mutilation, suicide attempts, depression, rebellion, and bizarre, violent, blasphemous thoughts
Addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, work, food, exercise, internet, or television
Experiencing no relief from medical treatments (including prescribed drugs), personal prayer, or psychological counseling
A family history of demonic influence coming from witchcraft or satanic worship; Native American, New Age, or Eastern religious practices; Freemasonry
Sweet sisters, I know this writing has been difficult for some of you. BUT we have a Savior and a Father God who loves us and gives us HOPE in every situation. Stand on this truth…” So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that His love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken His love.” Romans 8:38TPT
If we are going to tear down strongholds through the Word of God’s Truth (John 17:17), then you need to know what God is saying about you and how he sees you. The Bible tells us that God does not see or think about us like our parents, friends, and others see or think about us. 1 Samuel 16:7NASB “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Since this is the case, we therefore should not see ourselves through the subjective thoughts of man (how are parents see us as well as how our friends, co-workers, and people we come in contact with see us.)
Many people are living their lives base on how people see them or who people say they are. People will not always know your worth; you need to know your worth. Your true identity is found in God who created you for His purpose alone. Your parents may be the one who gave birth to you and brought you up, but you did not come from your parents, you came from God, your parents are just vessels God used to bring you into the world. Remember “I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” Psalms 139:14
Closing Prayer for you…
Heavenly Father, let these words Your Words sink deep within my sisters, root out and expose anything that is not of you. Renew their mind and clean up their hearts, give discernment to their spirit, Holy Spirit speak to their spirit and strengthen them. Father I proclaim this truth…”For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Remove any spirit of fear or doubt within them let them know and experience supernaturally their value in Your Kingdom, let them walk in Your peace, make them battle ready warriors to help others to reveal and destroy any darkness. In Jesus’ name…AMEN
Blessings, Sister Laurie
Thank you to the following amazing men and women of God for their insight and inspiration.
Pastor Steve Berger, “Winning the Mind Wars, Tearing Down Strongholds Through Prayer”, Grace Chapel, Franklin TN
Pastor Gary Costella, Awesome Church, Sydney Australia
Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ! I was out working in my flower beds and my husband was moving the lawn we were sharing earpieces and listening to the same worship music. The song “Stay” by William McDowell was playing…God just started downloading and as He was my husband came up to me and put his arms around me, he began tearfully praying while I could not hear his prayer I could feel the Holy Spirit surrounding us.
The lyrics of the song go something like this…
I know what it’s like, To be in the presence of the Lord And not know what time it is, Because time stood still
And bodies were healed, Families restored Because we stayed here, In the presence of the Lord
No one had to say a word, Couldn’t even make a sound But I’d give up everything, For this treasure I’ve found
I never want it to end…
In that moment God was saying…stay focused on Me, Stay with Me, Hold My Truth Close…Now my daughter spread your wings and share My Truth…Send it out…BEYOND! I have you in My arms He said, I have your Children and Loved Ones in My arms those battles have been won NOW move out and pour out!
Isaiah 40:31 is what God was saying to me…”Yet those who wait for the Lord, Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”
So many people spend their Christian walk micromanaging instead of seeing God’s purpose. Solomon realized this to late, he lived a life of a blessed King, every comfort, the platitudes of victory rang in his life so much so that he lost sight of his purpose, the one God had given him. He thought I have rebuilt the temple, I have made the holy sacrifices, followed the law and yet it left him wanting. He realized this truth towards the end of his earthly life and penned the book of Ecclesiastes as a warning to us. God inspired him to write of how we can become caught up in meaningless living. Even our search for knowledge is as “striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18) What is wisdom without Kingdom Truth. Our prayers become no more than fleshy pleading for ourselves, our wayward children, dissatisfaction in our careers. Our desire to find happiness is what we pray and those empty prayers only leave us empty and hungry.
Do you find your prayers unanswered? The troubles seem unsurmountable, your relationships remain broken…your thinking “Why me?” May I offer these scriptures, “What is the cause of your conflicts and quarrels with each other? Doesn’t the battle begin inside of you as you fight to have your own way and fulfill your own desires? You jealously want what others have so you begin to see yourself as better than others. You scheme with envy and harm others to selfishly obtain what you crave—that’s why you quarrel and fight. And all the time you don’t obtain what you want because you won’t ask God for it! And if you ask, you won’t receive it for you’re asking with corrupt motives, seeking only to fulfill your own selfish desires.” James 4:1-3 NASB The believers in the early church had not learned how to set aside offense, their selfish desire to have it their way was affecting their relationship with God and those around them. Their prayers went unanswered because of their bitter, selfish, prideful attitude was like a great wall separating them from walking in God’s truth, satisfying their thirst and hunger.
James 5:17 TPT says this “Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another and then pray for one another to be instantly healed, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!”
I encourage you to spend time with God not asking for anything but giving Him your best praise! Pray scriptures of praise that speak of His goodness! Philippians 4:4-8 tells us in the passion translation “Be cheerful with celebration in every season of life. Let your joy overflow! And let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable, and admirable, beautiful, and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.”
Now embrace these words from your Father, “The moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28 MSG
Here is the boomerang, what we send out is what we get back…in our relationship with God and in this world… our ability to be “in His presence” is directly affected by our relationship with Him, time spent in His Word, at His feet and just worship Him for ALL He has done, All His is doing and What He is about to do!
Friendship is a precious part of life. Real joy comes from friendships established with Jesus Christ at the center. Much like marriage God has a plan for true friendship. God put it on Pau’s heart to l write to us in Philippians about the significance of God centered relationships. Our friendships should be a reflection of our relationship with Christ.
Today, social media has changed the face of relationships, instead of personal interaction…sharing a coffee or meal, watching a movie, taking a walk or just quietly sitting together enjoying someone company our relationships have been reduced to how many likes our post, tweet, photo receive. Social media is a platform to create a fantasy, a false you. How many of you have observed someone creating an untrue image, an exaggerated condition, even a totally made-up situation to gain attention. People are using social media to hide what’s really happening, they filter their photos so that people can’t see their true self. Suicide has risen because people have become isolated using social media to express some of what they are feeling yet those responding somehow are unable to decipher their true desperation, their feelings of hopelessness. We answer with an “I Care” emoji, or even “I’m praying for you” these empty responses are so swallow without any true cost. Texting is causing indifference and further isolation. There is a price in godly relationships…time, comfort, even financial at times. What if when that distressing tweet, post, text came to your attention you got in your car and showed up? It is in our nature to gather, have physical contact, true affection, pray together, share our sorrow…this is friendship.
Before we take a look at Paul’s opening words in his letter to the Philippians let me share a little background about this intimate letter of love and friendship. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was in prison, he had visited and established a church in Philippi among the gentiles which within itself is one of God’s miracles, Paul was a Pharisee before coming to Christ and the people in Philippi were gentiles so a relationship between these two was very unlikely in fact gentiles where seen as unclean. Yet God’s love and truth broke the social barrier creating a deep love for these people in Paul. True friendship and love between believers cannot been attached to a worldly perspective.
1-2 Paul and Timothy, both of us committed servants of Christ Jesus, write this letter to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi, pastors and ministers included. We greet you with the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does! Philippians 1:1-8MSG
Paul understands the value of friendship, he recognizes how the relationship he has with God and the tangible friendships…better said love and affection he shares for those dear friends in Philippi have sustained him during his imprisonment and trial. Our love for Jesus should be reflected in our friendships. This is why, it is so important to gather and fellowship with other believers only they can fill the need for friendship as God designed. When we have a friendship with someone which is like minded in their belief in Jesus, it deepens our relationship with God and allows our true beauty and purpose to emerge.
It saddens me greatly when I see bitterness and misunderstanding between believers, how can we possible say we love God and yet hold grudges, offense and jealousy in our hearts. The answer is we cannot. I urge you my sister to seek out broken friendships and mend them. Start praying that God might lead you and if a softening is needed that the Holy Spirit would work in both of you.
Sometimes guilt or shame is holding you back from forgiveness. These are two very different feelings; guilt is focused on something we have done, while shame focuses on the person…self. Shame says something is wrong with me. As women shame is fed by a misconception or confusion tied to our identity. It is a constant feeling that we are not good enough. This is bound to a worldly perspective, a lie of the enemy, an experience. Shame is an epidemic effecting everyone…it is everywhere, every nation, every culture it is related to addiction, depression, violence, homosexuality, bullying, aggression, eating disorders, suicide and more.
The righteousness we find through Jesus Christ is the antidote for shame. Shame is the opposite of righteousness. Look at what shame did for Adam and Eve, filled with shame they, hide from God, covered their bodies, they felt they had to protect themselves from God. This is Satan’s trap, a weapon shrewdly used. Shame has destroyed the beauty God intended for friendship, fellowship, intimacy with God and people. BUT God has given us the fruit of righteousness that is to be “right with God”. Isaiah 32:17-18 says “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful surrounding, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places.” This kind of life and friendship is available to us right now.
Now think of your relationship with God…If your relationship with Him is fractured how can you fully embrace and receive what He did for you on the cross? How can He help you mend and restore broken relationships? How can you love and sustain godly friendships? Right now, go before your Heavenly Father and ask Him to forgive you and reveal hidden shame that is affect your ability to love as He loves you. Speak with confidence and proclaim who you are in Jesus, immerse yourself in godly music, fellowship, study, and prayer. Give the enemy no room to corrupt who God says you are.
Dear Sisters…Paul prayed this prayer for his friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and now I pray it for you my dear sisters in Christ Jesus…”So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11MSG
Blessings, Sister Laurie
This writing came to me after watching a teaching on Real Friendship by Pastor Akshay Rajkumar the lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in New Delphi, India. It is available on RightNow Media.com
“To live like this is all the more urgent, for time is running out and you know it is a strategic hour in human history. It is time for us to wake up! For our full salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns. So, we must once and for all strip away what is done in the shadows of darkness, removing it like filthy clothes. And once and for all we clothe ourselves with the radiance of light as our weapon.” Romans 13:11-12 TPT
Today, I am continuing in Romans 13…there is so much to embrace! I don’t know about you but I don’t want to find my self saying “Oh Crap!” as our King comes to carry me home. How about you? There is no doubt that I will be take home either through my flesh dying or in the twinkling of as eye with others. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead who believed in Christ will be raised imperishable, and we will be completely changed wondrously transformed.” 1 Corinthian 15:52 AMP Will there be a moment when we say “But I…” “Just one more…” That’s where the “Oh Crap” comes in. I don’t know but if there is a possibility of that feeling or emotional I do not want it! I want to be able to say…”I AM READY!”
In Romans 13 it says “Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns.” What is this darkness? The darkness is unbelief…the darkness is lukewarmness…the darkness is persecution. The darkness is every kind of conflict, natural catastrophe, calamity, and war. Jesus speaks of these in Matthew 24, it is the darkness of the present hour. How do you receive these words? Does it put a sense of urgency in your spirit? This is truth…one way or another a new day for you and I is coming, it is about to burst forth…the long night of this earthly existence is almost over. When you think about eternity which you and I are currently living; let me explain…eternity started the moment God placed your spirit within your flesh growing in your mother. Psalm 139:13-14 That spirit…the true you was created by God and it continues now. When you except Christ as your Savior it like an electrical shock to that spirit, a rebirth, like heart surgery repairing your true self so that you might live as God intended. The main truth I want you to grasp here is the earthly life is so incredibly short, it is but a twinkle in the twinkling spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:52. Eternity has no earthly language to define, we try with words; infinite or unending time, endless life, sometimes defined as what exists outside time. We can put a beginning to eternity as spoke in Psalm 139…but we cannot fathom it’s unending.
So, I now get back to my original thought, my devotion to Jesus has been fueled by this truth…I do not want to be ashamed at His appearing if that is possible, no regret, nothing left undone…Today I just can not bear that thought! Heavenly Father…reveal those things that MUST GO in me, let me be fully ready, let me not miss an opportunity to speak life and truth…let me love where love is needed, give me compassion, let me see with your eyes and live with Kingdom values.
God gave us the sunrise to remember that Jesus, the Son has Risen. There is just something life giving and wonderful about a sunrise…clean crisp air…the pure light as it makes it way through the trees, over the mountains. It touches our emotions and now let it touch your spirit with hope and truth…igniting a fire within you that cannot be contained! Jeremiah 20:9 says, “If I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak His name anymore,” Then my heart becomes a burning fire Shut up in my bones. And I am weary of enduring and holding it in; I cannot endure it nor contain it any longer.”
The scripture says…And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new (khawdata) covenant, which is shed for many for the remission(forgiveness) of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28 NKJV, also found in Mark 14 and Luke 22
Bible Gateway footnotes make the significance of these precious words from Jesus’ lips even more intimate…translated from the Aramaic we now see the depth of these words…The word “khawdata” can be translated as “new,” but is even better defined as “renewed” covenant or “repaired” covenant. After each disciple took the cup and drank from it, they passed it to the next one. This was a love covenant between Jesus and each of his disciples, and it sealed the affection they had for one another. This remains today, when you and I take communion with our family, other believers it becomes an expression of our love and affection for them and for our loving Savior Jesus.
I recently read an article about each of the elements and how they not only fulfill prophecy but bring to life the events of the Old and New Testament. We know from scripture that the last supper was celebrated in remembrance of Passover. Passover found in Exodus 12 speaks about a time in history when the Israelites were slaves living in Egypt. God sent Moses to free the Israelites…Pharaoh didn’t listen or pay attention as God’s emissary Moses brought God’s wrath down upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, nine plagues later Pharaoh still would not relent and let God’s people go! The tenth plague would be one which would bring death to the first-born male of every household. God’s people were instructed to cover their doorways with the blood of a sacrificial lamb thus keeping death away from their household.
The shedding of sacrificial blood marked freedom for the Israelites and from that time forward Passover has been celebrated in remembrance of all God had done for His people.
Let us move forward in time…Passover had come, Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples, moments before they were sat down to share the Passover meal, Jesus spoke to His betrayer (let me leave that right there for another time) after which Jesus began by taking a piece of bread, blessing it carefully tearing a piece for each disciple He said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 AMP
Jesus was speaking to them about the coming events when He, the prefect Lamb of God, would be tortured, beaten, tormented, crucified, and buried. Jesus told us that His body would be broken for us. A prophecy fulfilled in Isaiah 53:5 that says, “…He was whipped so we could be healed.” This healing power achieved in the act of the One True God, Savior, God’s Only Son…holds the power to heal our physical and mental ailments no matter how severe or life threating. Peter reminds us in I Peter 2:24 “…by whose stripes you were healed.”
As you think and visualize what Christ endured for you…every lash of the whip, flesh torn, blood shed…all done willingly to heal you and me. This is the pure and simple truth of Christ and its power is available to all who believe.
Jesus then took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission(forgiveness) of sins.” Jesus drank along with the disciples; this established the FINAL and NEW COVENANT for all God’s children (believers) once and for all.
The word covenant in English traces its roots back to a Latin word that means “coming together”. The Old Testament Covenants clearly demonstrate that God’s plan of redemption was in motion soon after the fall (Adam and Eve’s sin). In fact, Hosea speaks of a covenant between God and Adam in verse 6:7 saying, “Like Adam, they (the Israelites) have broken the covenant…they were unfaithful to me.” In these covenants there are conditions to be met by the human parties involved. At other times, God declared what He was going to do no matter how the parties responded. Once God made a covenant, it was not to be altered or renegotiated.
I want to briefly establish each of the Old Testament Covenants so that as we look to God’s New and Final covenant marked by Holy Communion we can see how they each relate to God’s promise for His children both you and I as well.
Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 12 God established a covenant with Abram (who later name was changed the Abraham by God) when He said “I will make you into a great nation and will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,…and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Later God spoke more about this covenant saying, “your offspring will be like stars in the sky to numerous to count”. This covenant can be summed up as (1) a promised people, (2) a promised blessing, (3) a promised land.
Mosaic Covenant – Exodus 19-20 God has always had great plans for His people. After freeing the Israelites from Egypt. God shared his plan with Moses and from that encounter we God’s people were given the Ten Commandments. This covenant is conditional “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” Exodus 19:5 NKJV The Mosaic Covenant was based on faithfulness of both God and Israel. Of course, Israel failed, but God is faithful, even when we are not. The Laws (covenant conditions) found in the Ten Commandments were given as an opportunity to show our love for God through obedience, even as they stumbled… God still had blessings for all the peoples of the world. Israel was chosen as a servant to help bring that future “blessing” the gospel and Jesus Christ.
Davidic Covenant –
Is the prefect link between the Old Testament Covenants and the New Testament Covenant. Just as God gave Moses a message to deliver to Israel, God gave Nathan a message, a divine covenant, to deliver to King David found in
(2 Samuel 7:5-16) so important to God’s plan it is repeated twice…”Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Nathan was speaking Of Jesus who’s coming kingdom would be established forever through David’s lineage. There was no condition to this covenant, God would and has fulfilled this covenant through Jesus. Peter tied the two together in his Day of Pentecost Sermon found in
Acts 2:29-31TPT personalized, “Everyone, I can tell you there is no doubt that David has both died and been buried in his tomb, which remains to this day. So, you can see that he was not referring to himself with those words. But as a prophet, he knew God’s faithful promise, made with God’s unbreakable oath, that one of his descendants would take his throne. So, when peering into the future, David prophesied of the Messiah’s resurrection. And God revealed to him that the Messiah would not be abandoned to the realm of death, nor would his body experience decay.”
And so now here we are the New Covenant sealed with the blood of Christ at that first “Holy Communion” shared by Christ, Himself and His disciples. The new covenant is a spiritual relationship with out Creator. But we sisters in Christ need help in maintaining that divine fellowship. The Old Testament is a continuing story of failures of God’s chosen people. Yet God’s plan from the beginning included a solution for this need…Jesus is the mediator in our relationship with the Father see Hebrews 12:24. Jesus overcame the differences and restored a loving relationship between a sinless deity and sinful humans. To overcome required a painful sacrifice. Look again at the words Jesus as He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20 The Old Mosaic Covenant required the blood of a slaughtered animal as a sin offering. These regular offerings did not bring permanent obedience and relationship. The sin offering was a repeated bloody event that took the life of an animal. The animal could never be a mediator. But of Son of God could, and He willingly came to earth to be that needed permanent sacrifice. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.”
I have come a long way so that you might fully understand why the taking and sharing of Holy Communion is an intimate experience between Jesus our Personal Mediator and God our Forever Father. Listen closely to the voice of our Mediator the next time you partake in Holy Communion: “and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
One more scripture found in John 6:53-58 ESV, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. …”
In closing, the words communion, community, communication and common all have similar origin. The church of Jesus Christ is a community of believers that are not divided by denomination by are united by Christ. It also is an opportunity to have communion with God. It is an expression of God’s Glory poured out and into us through Christ’s Body and Blood.
“Older women similarly are to be respectful, loving reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor addicted to much wine, teaching what is right and good, so that they may encourage the young women to tenderly love their husbands and their children, to be sensible, pure, makers of a home [where God is honored], good-natured, being subject (respecting) to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Titus 2:3-5 AMP personalized
While waiting for my granddaughter to come out of Zoo Camp. God gave me this scripture; He began to speak to me about His design and how we His children have abandoned His Truth. As I sat in my car right in front of me another car parked. A gentleman (the father) and a young woman (the mother) got out of the SUV. The father opened the back, and the mother began organizing their wagon with all the snacks, water bottles and other necessities for a day at the zoo. The couple worked together in harmony, each keenly aware of what needed to be done. The father got their youngest out of his car seat. I was witnessing God’s design right before my eyes…God spoke clearly and said, “This has always been my design”. Keeping an observant eye, the dad and mom watched as more littles poured out of the SUV, there were 3 girls in pink shirts and 2 little boys in orange shirts all matching so dad and mom could quickly identify their children. As the father lovingly held one of the daughter’s hands and pulled the wagon with the youngest riding. Mom was walking alongside with the others. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of how we have corrupted and abandoned this beautiful design of one man and one woman teaching their daughters and sons how to be who God created them to be…
Children today have been abandoned by their parents. Fathers and mothers are consumed with their own lives, selfishly existing, electronic devices, social media has destroyed relationships, sadly the parents look to how many “likes” their TickTok, Instagram, Snap Chat pictures are receiving to find fulfillment. Broken families now Co-parent as if to say, having one Mom and one Dad together is no longer valued. They put their children in a variety of sports and activities that move everyone further away from God’s design for the family. Parents google how to handle everyday life raising children instead of going to their parents or other older adults for wisdom and answers who have already experienced raising a family. These same parents never consider that the answers to raising a family and having a loving, fulfilling marriage is found in God’s Word. The internet has taken the place of Godly instruction, subtly corrupting God’s design.
The principles of teaching our sons to be gentlemen and daughters to be ladies has been abandoned to girls wrestling and playing football. Likewise, boys are not being taught to be gentlemen, leaders, to love and respect girls. Scripture is clear…God knew this time would come, that people would dismiss the importance of training a child in the way that he or she should go, the Bible says…
“Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 AMP
The pressure is on for our children to fit in an ever changing and corrupted identity. The Barbie doll image for girls which put pressure on girls to be arm candy for men with no real depth has changed into girls dressing as boys and wanting to be identified as male. How wrong both are for females…God created each of us to be beautiful and unique, God is the “ beholder” and true beauty is through His eyes. The devil has twisted our sexual identity and made it something perverted. Instead of women feeling blessed to be female and cherishing our position as the ones who carry new life as mothers, women believe they are sexually and physically aggressive, one example is serving as combat soldiers in the military. The word “equal” has been twisted, we are not “equal” in this context and should not desire to be. Please don’t miss understand…we need women in the military to serve in many areas, but combat is not one of them. The devil has tried to destroy the distinction between men and woman however complete breakdown will never be achieved because every time we put a female in a position meant for a male we compromise the outcome. A clear example is young girls wrestling against young men. If our young men are being taught (as God planned) to be gentlemen (respect and protect) then grabbing a girl and pinning her on the ground is an uncomfortable task for the young man. Likewise, on the battlefield, if a woman is partnered with a male, in a critical situation the male soldier hesitates as God’s design says protect “her” the female soldier at all cost. I pray you see what I am trying to desperately to explain. Hollywood tries frantically to show women as aggressive and physically equal to men. Humanity and the devil attempt to destroy God’s design for us however since we are spiritual beings placed in our earthly bodies by God deep within us the Truth, God’s Truth is there. We are extremely strong and capable but not in the way world portrays us.
If we read and embrace the Proverbs Woman, our qualities are revealed, she is strong, gifted and capable. Each of us has all of these characteristics in us. God told us here in scripture and throughout the Bible who we are and what a wonderful position we hold in God’s design and kingdom.
So, what am I asking you? Go back to the Titus scripture…stop gossiping, speaking poorly of one another, don’t be corrupted by any substance that distorts your ability to hear God, communicate, think and walk in God’s ways. Love the women around you lifting them up and building confidence. Teaching one another the truth of God and how to be leaders and mothers to the future generations according to God’s design.
Galatians 3:3 says “Are you so foolish? Having embraced God’s truth and received the gift of the Spirit, are you now allowing the flesh to direct your journey? Have you forgotten some or all that God has done and promised?” personalized
Today these are the burning questions on my heart…not just for you my sisters in Christ Jesus but for myself as well. We must take a deeper look at what you and I believe…I am going to let God speak to us through His Living Word…
”But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in us sweet sisters. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 MSG personalized
There is a daily struggle…Paul says it best, “I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.” Romans 7:18-19 TLB
How are we living out our Salvation? Our faith in God? When our faith is built on God’s Truth it can withstand any storm. “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (God’s ways). And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand (man’s ways). And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.” Matthew 7:24-27 NASB
The Rock is God’s Truth…His Living Word…His Son, Jesus who came, suffered, died as your sin offering and then beat the sin death causes through His resurrection but that’s not all…God promises a supernatural helper for each of us the Holy Spirit. Eternal Life, Heaven, a New World…where we are no longer held captive to disease, pain, loss, emotional strive. All of this is the ROCK!
Ok cannot help it…a small aside here…Peter was not the rock, think about it and then read over the scripture…Matthew 16:13-28. Would God entrust His Church to just one man? NO! Jesus is saying “I just revealed to you who I am, the Messiah, Savior to the world and this is the Rock, the Truth I will build my church upon! Verse 23 confirms this when Jesus rebukes Peter for his limited understanding “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s.” We must read all the scriptures surrounding any given scripture in order to fully understand what God is saying to us.
What you believe put your faith in defines who you are…God tells us we are His creation, His personal workmanship…therefore we must have confidence that He would not just leave to our own devices. Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” You see because we have faith and a growing relationship with Jesus we are then compelled to live and do the work of the Kingdom.
Here is the truth, God is working in you and me… this causes a shift in us, a desire grows to do His work because it pleases Him. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 NASB
Now we come to not an end but a beginning…God tells us to be ready, “I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 MSG
You my faithful sisters, there is an urgency in the air…we know the last days are upon us so heed these final words found in Titus 2:11-14 MSG “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.”
Go back to the beginning…Answer the questions, ask God to reveal the areas of your life still clinging to the old you! Be quick to repent and embrace God’s Truth in a fresh and deeper way!
If you are anything like me, you do not like tests! I get nervous, palms sweaty, if it’s an oral test or having to answer a difficult question from a teacher or other person in authority I get really nervous. Even when I am confident of the answer, suddenly…I am speechless, and I cannot find the right words. For me, a test is confrontational, and I just do not do well. All that being said, the Bible speaks about God’s testing. As a believer and follower of Jesus…you will be tested…no two ways about it! So let us talk about testing and how in life we all will be tested, ALL meaning even the non-believer, new believer and what you might call the mature believer. I want to stop right there and clarify the new and mature believer…we are all in the same boat, sailing to our eternal destination. I know I have touched on this before and it is extremely important to not put labels on ourselves or others. We are all moving in the same direction, mature believers do not have all the answers. They, just like the new believer must study, look, ask for help, pray, and seek for answers in God’s Word. Once you have been born-again, became a believer…you have total access to your Heavenly Father, and He is the same for every believer. Mature believers struggle, face troubles and testing just as the less experienced believer. Now let us move on…
Tests are designed to demonstrate knowledge and point out areas for improvement. In math or history, a test will show a persons ability and help the student know what areas need further study. God tests His children in the same manner. Here is where many times you might find yourself confused. When ministering, I have heard more than once someone say God did this to me, caused this illness, tragedy, loss, situation, or circumstance. I want to make this perfectly clear…GOD DOES NOT CAUSE ILLNESS, TRAGEDY, LOSS, UNFAVORABLE SITUATIONS OR CIRCUMSTANCES. In His Word, God tells us there will be difficulties. Matthew 6:34 says “ So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Also “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” And then in John 16:33, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.” John 14:27 NASB Throughout the Bible God shares stories about His people and their troubles, always God also shows them the way out.
It is in these times that God reveals what you know and what you have developed within your heart. Every situation is a teaching moment…a process in your life. In fact, without His testing, there is no opportunity to grow and become who He created you to be. It is in those times that you are strengthen so that you might use this strength for His purpose. More is happening than the circumstances you find yourself experiencing, God is working behind the scenes. When you look with the right perspective, you will find God bringing out His character in us or revealing that you have a deeper need of His influence. James 1:13 reminds us, “No one is to say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” The more often you understand and respond to God’s priorities, the closer you will come to the fullness of all He has designed and purposed in your life.
Looking at the three types of tests…
The Test of Servanthood
As a believer you are all called to the life of a servant. You demonstrate your love for God by loving and serving others. This love is expressed when you put your personal desires aside for the benefit of others. Personal sacrifice is part of this servanthood, giving of your time and resources within healthy boundaries…this is not a part-time position but a lifelong pursuit as a believer. You must be ready when God calls on you. The most difficult test of servanthood is when you are treated like a servant, maybe you feel that you should have received recognition or possibly you are mistreated “persecuted” while serving. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 NASB Here you must check your motive…in today’s world you may find yourself having a selfish view, the world is focused on individual rights and rewards, pride clouds your ability to serve…God’s view is you serve without return. Knowing you serve a loving Father is more than enough.
There are many biblical examples; Ezekiel spoke to God’s people many times through embarrassing ways, Noah suffered under years of ridicule as he built the ark and warned people of what was coming, Hosea married and remarried a prostitute despite what those around him must have thought and in spite of her unrepentant heart. These and others demonstrate that the test of servanthood is designed to reveal the level of obedience a believer will offer.
Your servant heart is evidence of a believer willing to go and do as God has asked, leaving your personal comfort and desires to meet the needs of others.
The Test of Sacrificial Love
Love is a concept confused by its multiple uses. For you love might be a flood of emotions, warm feelings or possibly a decision of commitment despite your emotions. Perhaps love has lost all meaning, it seems unattainable or able to satisfy the cravings of your broken or troubled heart. The world may have confused your thoughts concerning love however here you see that the love required of a believer is sacrificial. God will develop this love in your heart if you allow Him through testing. The test of a sacrificial love comes when you are confronted with a command to action from your Savior. Love can mean many things, but love that has a price is clearly sacrificial love. In the life of a believer there will be many choices that oppose the world. There will be a cost in this love…a financial, deep emotional requirement, and hard-fought forgiveness are some of characteristics of sacrificial love. Paul speaks of denying himself, you will be called upon to deprive yourself of things others pursue happily. Other times you will be called to forgive and extend love to those who certainly do not deserve it.
There is a distinctive difference between sacrificial love and unconditional love, but they flow from the same heart. Unconditional love is love without strings attached, love offered freely and not base it on what someone does for you in return. Sacrificial love focuses on the one giving love and the length that person will go to maintain that love.
Abraham’s trip to Mount Moriah with his son Isaac found in Genesis 22 is a significant example of the test of sacrificial love. Abraham had to have been traumatized by the possible outcome of this journey. How could God ask such a thing? Abraham may have been thinking the price is to great or unfair! This raises the question how could he obey, how did he? While the Bible does not give details to his emotional struggle we know it was tremendous. You get a glimpse of how Abraham was able to obey in Genesis 22:12 with an angel’s observation, “now I know that you fear the God”. This fear is the ultimate form of love and trust in God. God was Abraham’s greatest focus and priority, and obedience to God’s commands…even the ones that did not make any sense. Like Abraham many times this test will come without the desired explanation or understanding. You may feel thoughts of overwhelming unfairness, defenses are raised, and rationalizing happens. We know the outcome, God stepped in and stopped Abraham’s act of obedience. Generations to come will and are continuing to be blessed because of it.
Do you remember in the Bible where Jesus asked the rich young man to sell everything he had to follow Jesus? Most likely that will never happen for you. Yet some of you who are reading this right now maybe experiencing that very thing. There maybe consequences that have put you in the position of losing everything and yet I am confident that if you respond with that same “fear” God will restore the loss…His way NOT yours. The truth is that what God has for you is much bigger when you take the step of faith in sacrificial love.
What you are unwilling to part with moves into the place of God and begins to control you. Yes, people, places and material things that become obsessions are idolatry in its clearest expression. Anytime you say no to God and choose something or someone else, you sow seed for future destruction, and you take a clear step away from the God who called you His. The more you cultivate a giving spirit, the more easily you can give what God requires. Now listen, I am not saying to give everything away…but if you have trouble responding with compassion and self-sacrifice in times you are confronted with an opportunity to meet a need, you will not be able to give sacrificially when God calls upon you.
It is important to avoid the attention of others when you give, only then will you shutout the pride that causes you to desire to hold on to what is yours. Be intentional in your giving, not careless. Knowing the price and choosing to give on purpose brings the experience to a place of worship. Remember I am not speaking of finances alone, there are many opportunities to give in serving others.
The Test of Faithfulness
Faithfulness is bound in constancy and dependability. It is the choice to remain steadfast regardless of the changing circumstances. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated in the constancy of His love regardless of your worthiness or actions. Simply…God still loves you and is extending His hand to you when you are right in the thick of sinful choices or behavior. Your faithfulness is demonstrated in the constancy of your obedience regardless of your understanding or comfort. It is remaining faithful despite your circumstance or situation, having the confidence that God is there right with you…the test of faithfulness is in your reaction. Your faithfulness is evident when you look to His promises no matter what the world says, believing God will provide a way. Joseph is an amazing example of faithfulness…more than thirteen years of near-death experiences, suffering and imprisonment and yet his faithfulness never faltered. In the end God restored his family, bought abundant provision for not only Joseph and his family but all of Egypt. Joseph did not know what God was doing yet he remained faithful.
How do you react, were does your mind go and in what does it dwell? How do your emotions and behavior reflect your faith in God? This is the test…where is your trust? Look at Simon Peter, he allowed the confusion and his emotions of Jesus’ arrest to test his faith and he failed three times…however later when he had the opportunity Peter jumped out of the boat to reach Jesus and ask forgiveness, this act was an opportunity for restoration. God uses your circumstances to teach you the hard lessons of faithfulness. The Israelites are a great example of God’s love and faithfulness, over and over again they separated themselves from God by complaining and seeking after selfish desires instead of trusting God. He will let you experience the consequences of your choices to help you discover how completely unsatisfying they are. God never gives up and He will never give up on you!
You will become consistently faithful by using the commonsense God gave you, having a biblical plan for daily living which includes finishing what you start, keeping your promises and giving of your resources when no one else sees. You must have a plan when faced with a challenge, start now by removing anything you sense that could get in your way. In other words, when objects that breed unfaithfulness are eliminated, you have limited your choice to faithfulness in times of crisis. Faithfulness starts with faith. You should aggressively build your faith…understand what it means to fear God and call upon the Holy Spirit to help you walk in a path of obedience. Faithfulness is tied to repentance…you are faithful when you are quick to turn from wrongdoing and ask God to forgive you…seeking His help in resisting sin.
In closing remember…passing the tests of servanthood, sacrificial love, and faithfulness begins by knowing who you are in Christ, committing to follow God and allowing Him to reign over every part of your life. Those who do not live to give God glory will not experience the lasting freedom and peace He is offering. Do not let pride stumble you in serving others…Paul would not allow people to worship him, he reacts strongly, pushing away the moment in no uncertain terms (read Acts 14:8-14). Be careful what you attach your heart to. Do not be afraid to love what you should love, and how you should love, but do not choose to love what is unworthy of eternal attention. When faithfulness is a priority in your life, it will be easier to respond faithfully in times of crisis. Finally, surround yourself with others who are on the same journey, cultivate your faith and relationship with God by surrendering daily to His Ways…from the place of surrender God can and will work in your life.
Romans 8:38-39 AMP tells you “For I am convinced and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt… that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the unlimited love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”