What a HUGE concept and what a comforting yet also at times disconcerting realization.
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the first things of old, that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.[I] tell the end from the beginning, and from before, what was not done; [I] say, ‘My counsel shall stand, and all My desire I will do.’ [I] call from the east a swift bird, from a distant land the man of My counsel; yea I spoke, I will also bring it; I formed it, I will also do it.
Another translation says:
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
Comforting because there is something, someone, who is in full control of every single aspect of every single little thing, even when from my human perspective, the world, or people or my situations feel out of control. What that really is saying is out of “my control.” And that is absolutely so. I do not possess the control. But someone does.
God declares how things turn out long before they ever happen.
God declares not just natural events but human events; happenings, things that are not yet done.
When God “declares” ahead of time what will be, God says that He will accomplish all of His purpose. God possesses that authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to bring about everything that He intends to happen. And therefore, everything He intends to come about does come about. God plans and governs all things.
We are called to pray. For healing and about every situation we are brought to. And while we may pray in accordance of God’s perfect will, not every prayer we pray will be answered in the way we hope. Not every person in need of a healing will be healed here on earth. Not every situation will turn around to be what would be the best result to the best of our knowledge. The list goes on. Does that mean we do not pray? Oh no. We pray because God tells us to pray. But we do not and can not make God do something, even when our prayers line up with what His word says. Psalm 5:3 Hearken to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for I will pray to You. 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
And this is where the disconcerting realization comes in.
The sovereign will of God can be divided into His efficacious will (producing His desired result) and His permissive will. Important to make the distinction because while God is sovereign and He does permit all events that occur, God does not directly cause every single thing to happen. Permitting it also does not put a stamp of approval on it. There are many things God allows to happen that He takes absolutely no pleasure in. And yet, God is allowing it to happen. That on it’s own, can be a disconcerting realization.
All the horrific things that go on in life, our lives, the world, and God is allowing it? Yes. Some may question what kind of God would allow such atrocities. Some may say if that is your God, well, I don’t want anything to do with Him. Well, first of all, none of us have a choice. God is God. We are not. We can “disown” Him but that is simply our foot stomping. He still remains our Creator and He still remains in charge, whether or not a person wants to believe it or accept it.
So, we have this God who is in full control of every aspect of everything and who allows things to go on that are horrific, why?
His efficacious will (producing His desired result.) Some of what occurs is efficacious (it directly contributes to the fulfillment of God’s desire); other things are permissive (allowing for an indirect fulfillment of God’s desire yet not His perfect will, meaning not what He approves of but allowing for the reality of people’s sinful nature.)
God’s sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, and sometimes even then as we may not see the big picture, there is one aspect of His will that is completely clear, His preceptive will. What He desires us to do and behave as is found in Scripture. We do not have the authority to violate it however we definitely have the ability to disobey. That is called sin. It may be God’s sovereign will that we be allowed to sin as He brings His purposes to pass even through the means of the sinful acts of people. However, it makes the sin no less evil, God does not take pleasure in seeing the sin manifest in people, and yet He allows it. The true mark of a level of spiritual maturity in a person is seen in those drawn to know the will of God that is revealed in His preceptive will. Salvation, what it is, what it means, how to receive it, and then how we walk it out in our lives.
So is God this sadistic being deriving some perverse pleasure in watching destruction. No. So how to reconcile God and His purposes allowing horrific events and situations for what?
Genesis 50:20 Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I realize that realizing and accepting God’s absolute sovereignty over all things is hard to fathom. However I am not helped at all by removing God from the equation, by making him a spectator watching the tragedy unfold.
God holds complete sovereignty over all of our actions, while also preserving our genuine freedom. Our actions are as free as they can be. We form our intentions and carry them out. God does not act on our will from the outside, manipulating us to get his way. He actually has created us as beings that possess will. If he had not done this, there would be no “us” to will at all. Evil exists so that Good can triumph.
God could have created a world without evil. If God had not created anything, there would be no evil. If God created a world where people could not choose, God could force everyone to stop before they were able to carry out evil behavior. But is such a world where freedom does not exist good?
If you do not grasp the infinite holiness of God then you may think that somehow the suffering in this world is out of proportion to what is deserved. Meanwhile, the point of our sufferings, pain, miseries, corruption is to teach us the horror of sin and alongside of it, the beauty and preciousness of redemption and hope.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, in order that I learn Your statutes. Psalm 119:71
Suffering in it’s all encompassing, simplest definition is receiving something that we do not want or not receiving something that we do want. And yet, the psalmist says that it is good. Romans 5:3-4 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Rejoice? Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Glory?
Isaiah 35:10 And the redeemed of Zion shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, with joy of days of yore shall be upon their heads; they shall achieve gladness and joy, and sadness and sighing shall flee. Isaiah 51:11 And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, and [with] everlasting joy on their heads; gladness and joy shall overtake them; sorrow and sighing shall flee. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Salvation means that after we die here on earth, we go to live with God in eternity, full healed, fully whole, complete, lacking nothing. We get a taste of this here on earth, but nothing compares to the fullness of what we receive after. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 Our inheritance.
When you pass through water, I am with you, and in rivers, they shall not overflow you; when you go amidst fire, you shall not be burnt, neither shall a flame burn amongst you. Isaiah 43:2
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
I pray this day that God renews and deepens our thinking, quiets our hearts, and deepens our worship and understanding of who He is. May the truth of God’s gospel of Jesus become bigger and deeper in us expanding our trust and faith in Him.
When we feel wronged by someone (whether or not they actually did do something wrong but we “feel” wronged), our human nature would love to see the person learn from their mistakes, come to realize that they were wrong, have it come back at them in some way. We hope for a realization from them just how wrong they were and an apology to be forthcoming. Basically, if we are honest, we would like to see the person suffer just a little bit for the way they were wrong. It is a self-focused, self-righteous indignation we may feel. It is anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.
Some people refer to it as Karma, the what comes around goes around theory. Karma means action, work or deed. It also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect.) Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering.
The philosophy of karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth in many schools of Indian religions (particularly Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) as well as Taoism.
Now while it is human nature to want to somehow see justice done, here is the truth of the matter. It is not our place, nor our responsibility, nor our privilege, nor our burden. No person will ever know the absolute everything about a particular situation. It is not possible. There is only ONE who knows the complete story, every side of it, the actual truth, and that is God. “Remember the first things of old, that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me. [I] tell the end from the beginning, and from before, what was not done; [I] say, ‘My counsel shall stand, and all My desire I will do.'”Isaiah 46:9-10.
“You have searched me out and You know. You know my sitting and my rising; You understand how to attach me from afar. My going about and my lying down You encompassed, and You are accustomed to all my ways. For there is no word on my tongue; behold, O Lord, You know it all.” Psalm 139 “Can anyone teach knowledge for God? But He judges high-handedly.” Job 21:22 “Do you know about the revelations of the clouds, of the wonders of Him Who is perfect in knowledge?” Job 37:16. “Our Lord is great and has much strength; His understanding cannot be calculated.” Psalm 147:5.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” Romans 11:33; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20.
In light of that reality, guess who is in charge of vengeance and justice? Yes. God. We may perhaps see the justice occur, in a limited earthly way. However to fantasize about the perfect ending to a situation where another person “gets what they deserve” (according to our mindset) and the other person apologizes to us, and to stand on that self- righteousness any time we think about or mention the situation, that is unfortunately a delusion, a product of our own fantasy life. It also keeps us in bondage, trapped in that thinking, which keeps the situation alive in our head. We may say, oh, the situation does not bother me, or I have forgiven that person, but how we speak always indicates just where our heart is.
God says numerous times, vengeance is His. “You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18.
“Vengeance is poised with Me, and it will pay at the time their foot stumbles. For the appointed day of their reckoning is near, and what is destined for them hastens.” Deuteronomy 32:35
“Do not say, “I will repay evil.” Hope to the Lord, and He will save you.” Proverbs 20:22
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ That no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’” Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Hebrews 10:30.
For someone who has received God’s salvation, the vengeance has already been paid for, by that salvation, by Jesus. For someone who has not yet received God’s salvation, they will incur God’s wrath unless of course that person receives salvation before dying here on earth. Let us be clear however, we very often will suffer the natural consequences for our actions here on earth. However there are times that we do not see the other person suffering those consequences. And there are the times that the other person actually does not, they appear in our self focused eyes to be “getting away with it”, whatever the “it” may be.
Freedom. Your freedom, my freedom, is to own our own sin and our own behaviors and let God be God in everyone else’s life. “And I shall walk in widely accepted ways, for I sought Your precepts.” Psalm 119:45.
“The spirit of the Lord God was upon me, since the Lord anointed me to bring tidings to the humble, He sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to declare freedom for the captives, and for the prisoners to free from captivity.” Isaiah 61:1.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.'” 1 Peter 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 6:12.
Praying that you and I, we, are strengthened in the Lord this day.
Is God enough? It is a question that life constantly brings me back to. If I lost EVERYTHING that I deem of value to me, immense value, top value, the tangible stuff like my husband, my adult children, my home, even my health, money…if all that was gone, what would be left? God. And despite the evidence that may to some minds point to the contrary, a God who loves me more fully and completely than any one else ever could and a God who if I have lost everything, has allowed it to be so.
Through different circumstances in my life I have learned that not only is God enough, but He has to be. If He is not, than I clearly am putting something in front of Him in importance and value (also known as an idol.)
It takes effort, a conscious choice, to stay in that truth. Do I get the intensity of what God did for me in salvation? What did He do? What was I given? Who am I?
I was designed for more than pursuing things or pleasure. We can keep pursuing, we can have more and more, but yet, we will never find relief or full satisfaction through people, through possessions, through activities. We may think we are, but it still does not satisfy that hole deep within. Our behaviors show that to be true. Take a close look, an honest look, at yourself and your habits and behaviors.
So, back to God. God has given me an inheritance, that I possess right now, in a down payment form of sorts. The fullness will be mine in completion when the time comes. It is huge, it is of more value than anything else. And if I choose to focus on it, all else fades away. That doesn’t mean that these other things are not important, God gave them to me, to enjoy. They are gifts from Him. BUT, should they go, one thing will always remain. THIS!
I have God’s unbreakable promise that I will receive my full inheritance. This inheritance and as the meaning of it as my understanding, knowledge, heart, mind comes to know it more and more, deeper and deeper, is an energizer, as the entire purpose for my existence here on earth takes on a new meaning and purpose. And it is in this focus that more and more I grasp that God is and will always be, enough no matter WHAT happens in my natural life. Let’s take a look.
- My destination when I die here on earth, is now to everlasting life with God. Heaven (Colossians 1:10-14).
- The flesh (my sin nature) is crucified through the cross of Christ (Galatians 5:24).
- I am dead in the sense that my old unbelieving self (soul) has died (Romans 7:1-6, Romans 8:2,4).
- My old stony heart has been removed and has been replaced with a new heart of flesh (soft, pliable) with God’s laws written on it (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 3:3).
- I have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
- I am a new creation, a new soul (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- My source of strength is “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is why the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)!
- I have an incredibly beautiful new identity, for here and for eternity. My inheritance!
I, Diane, am strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued me from the domain of darkness, and transferred me to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. And although I was formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled me in His fleshly body through death, in order to present me before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach if indeed I continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that I have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven. I was washed, I was sanctified, I was justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Therefore as I have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so I walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in my faith, just as I was instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. In Christ I have been made complete. When I was dead in my transgressions and the uncircumcision of my flesh, He made me alive together with Him, having forgiven me all my transgressions. God has given me a new heart, and put a new spirit within me: His Spirit. My life now is walking out (experientially here on earth) what has already been credited to my account (positional identity in Jesus); empowered, energized, enabled, excited by that new heart and God’s Spirit put in me! Therefore, my beloved (God says to me) as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Romans 3:21-26; Colossians 1:10-14; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Colossians 2:6-15; Colossians 2:6-15; Romans 8; Ezekiel 36:26-29; Philippians 2:12-13)Is God enough for me? Absolutely! No matter what happens to me in this life. Scary sentiment on the one hand. And yet, even in the Tanakh (Old Testament) there is a powerful illustration of that through Job.
I pray for you, and I, to be brought deeper and deeper in understanding and immersion in God’s gospel. Jesus is truly our all in all, for those who believe.
How many times have you heard it said “he doesn’t really have a choice, does he?” or “I don’t have a choice, I have to do this.” or “You have no choice, go do…”
The reality is, you always have a choice in what you think, say, and do. Yes, always. Our choices are influenced by what we perceive to be the consequences of our decision. Yes, perceive because our reasoning is often faulty. Sometimes, you may not recognize that you have a choice because the circumstances are huge, overwhelming and overpowering. And yet, the reality is, you absolutely do.
Something is always influencing you leading you to make a choice. The choices you make will show the foundation you are standing on and your value system. Yes, it is a healthful choice, a biblical choice, to submit to our authority, for instance our boss on the job. God is the one who raises up our bosses, or those in authority. “And He changes the times and the seasons, He removes kings and sets up kings; He grants wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who know understanding.” Daniel 2:21 “My son, fear the Lord and the king; do not mingle with dualists (another word is rebellious) Proverbs 24:21
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:1
However what if this authority is doing things that are illegal, or immoral and there is the expectation that you are to remain silent or show your support in some way? Some examples might be cutting corners that could result in a dangerous situation, fabricating stories, manufacturing evidence, cooking the books. Do you cozy up to your boss and look the other way because you value your perceived job security or image more than you do honesty? Another way to look at it is, and this is harsh way to word it but an honest one. Do you have a backbone when it comes to standing up for what is right? Or are you a wimp, bending with every shifting wind regardless of what the wind is carrying, clinging on to your job, perceived job security and concerned what the consequences of upsetting the status quo might be?
“If you have become lax, on a day of trouble your strength will be weak indeed.” (Another translation reads “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.“) Proverbs 24:10
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:1-3
It can feel extremely uncomfortable, painful, scary if you feel that your job may be at risk if you don’t go along with the status quo, regardless of whether or not it is honorable. You may very well be taking a risk with your job. Or you may not. However if you are, does that mean that you should look the other way when something is way off base in what your boss is doing and expecting you to follow along with? For many, there is the belief that it is you alone out there in this world. For those who have received salvation, hopefully you know there is someone higher and outside of ourselves. Of course we may suffer the natural consequences for our actions, but behaving out of fear is forgetting that it is God who gave us the talents that enabled us to do this job, God who provided this job, God who is allowing the situation we are enduring, and God who will make the way, one way or another. God will provide for you what you need.
“Who prepares for the raven his prey, when his young cry out to God, they wander for lack of food?” Job 38:41
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the fied, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34
So, it is a choice, in all things in life, to serve God, with all the rewards and yes, at times hardships that it brings, or to serve oneself in an attempt to make our life easier, or “save ourselves.”
“And if it displeases you to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell, but as for me and my household, we shall serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Praying that you will be strengthened this day!
This morning while walking I was listening to a message Order From Chaos by Sinclair Ferguson. Some points were so powerful and graphic to me that it influenced my blog post for today.
How are your spirits? In our everyday vernacular someone is asking how is your mood, how are your emotions, how are you feeling? When someone is in good spirits, it seems to influence their outward countenance along with their speech and behavior. The same is when someone is in poor spirits or sad, dejected, depressed, frustrated. In general our spirits show the character of how we are at that moment, our insides, and that tends to spur our thoughts, words and outward behaviors, restrained or curtailed somewhat depending on circumstances, but still there.
Genesis 1:1-2 “In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.” The spirit of God. His character. His insides.
Genesis 1:26 “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.”
Proverbs 8 “Will not wisdom call out, and understanding give forth its voice? What is wisdom? It is found in the Word of God. So back to Genesis 1:2 and 1:26, let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Who is our? God, Genesis 1:2 mentions His spirit. And Proverbs 8, wisdom, the Word of God. God, His spirit, the Word of God.
“At the top of the heights upon the road; at the crossroads she stands. Beside the gates, at the entrance of the roof, at the entrance of the portals she cries “To you, O men, I call, and my voice [is] to the children of man. O simpletons, understand cunning, and you fools, give understanding to your heart. Hearken for I will speak noble things, and the opening of my lips shall be right things. All the sayings of my lips are with righteousness; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all true to the understanding one, and straight to those who find knowledge.” Who is “she”? A harlot, a tempter yet here, clearly one who has been turned from her ways to something bigger, better, different and she is imploring people to please listen to what she has to say, what has happened to her, her testimony.
And here is what happened to her. Or perhaps we should say who happened to her. “I am wisdom; I dwelt [beside] cunning, and the knowledge of devices I will find. Fear of the Lord is to hate evil, haughtiness, pride, the way of evil, and a perverse mouth; [these] I hate. I have counsel and sound wisdom; I am understanding; I have might. Kings reign with me, and rulers legislate righteousness. Through me princes govern, and nobles, yea, all judges of righteousness. I will love those who love me, and those who seek me eagerly will find me. In the way of righteousness I will go, in the midst of the paths of justice. There is substance to give inheritance to those who love me, and I will fill their treasuries. The Lord acquired me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From the distant past I was enthroned, from the beginning, of those that preceded the earth. I was created when there were yet no deeps, when there were no fountains replete with water. I was created before the mountains were sunk, before the hills; when He had not yet made the land and the outsides and the beginning of the dust of the earth. When He established the heavens, there I was, when He drew a circle over the face of the deep; And now, my children, hearken to me, and fortunate are those who observe my ways. For he who has found me has found life, and he has obtained favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me robs his soul; all who hate me, love death.”
However, what an interesting description of the Word of God. The Lord acquired me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From the distant past I was enthroned, from the beginning, of those that preceded the earth. Certainly sounds like a person is being described. John 1:1-5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Back to discussing the spirit. Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man that He should lie, nor is He a mortal that He should relent. Would He say and not do, speak and not fulfill? Malachi 3:6 “For I, the Lord, have not changed” So, while our human spirits change, being in good spirits, being in poor spirits, and with it our thoughts, words, outward behaviors often reflect our spirits, God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. So, with that, God’s Spirit does not change. How do we know about God’s Spirit, His inner workings, His personality? Through His Word, which interestingly is expressed as being a person. Who do you think it is? How about Jesus?
So, when I or others talk about focusing on God, not on ourselves, and that it is a supernatural natural maturation and growth, evolving in thoughts and behaviors that results after receiving salvation, well, what happens at salvation? Ezekiel 36:26-27. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you and bring it about that you will walk in My statutes and you will keep My ordinances and do [them]” Wow! This is how it happens!!! With God’s spirit in us, His inner workings, His personality have been placed in us. And what is in us, when we focus on it, it flows out! And how do we know what God desires, His statutes, His ordinances? Through God’s Word. That is how it is through Jesus motivated and powered by the Holy Spirit, we walk in God’s ways!
I pray for you to be brought to deeper revelations wherever you are at on this journey called life!
I love to walk/hike. Prior to the flu, I was walking 5 miles/3-4 times a week. In flu recovery, with stamina not quite there yet, since this past Monday I have walked around my block, adding one time around each day. 3 1/2 times around is one mile. Today I was on day 7, so 7 times around. Two miles and I was exhausted yet what a sense of accomplishment.
Locally where I live it is basically walking as the terrain is fairly flat in addition to city sidewalk walking. With a bit of travel, the terrain becomes hilly/mountainous and hiking offers more of a physical challenge along with awesome views and fun.
Walking/hiking is exercise but beyond that it is a time of fellowship and fantastic conversation when I have my husband or a friend walking with me. Alone, I sometimes plug in my earbuds attached to my smartphone and listen to a message Ligonier.org is one of my main go tos, and they also have an app that I have on my phone. Sometimes I walk with nothing other than the act of walking, focused even more fully on what I am seeing. Unless the weather is completely prohibitive, I walk outside, for so many reasons, the main one is how wonderful it feels feeling outdoor air on my face, even when it is cold (I can bundle up) and even when it is hot (I walk early mornings then before the heat becomes oppressive.)
In advance I mentally create a route so I know where I am going, what I am doing, and sometimes even a hint of what I will see. So many directions I can go in, but I am looking for one consistent path. A safe one, yet sometimes a challenging one. When I get tired, shortcuts are tempting. I stay the course because there is a reward for me in walking a certain amount, physically and also emotionally. It is also exciting, in the movement, in what I see, feeling the outside air on my face, and in the awesome sense of accomplishment. Perfect, no. I cannot profess to have the ideal posture and pace every moment of every single walk I take.
I walk because I love it and I walk even more so because of how it enriches my life. However if I focus on the act of walking, I get tired, bored, every step becomes drudgery. The temptation to take shortcuts or stray from the path or becomes more tempting.
Spiritual parallel? Of course. Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying “This is the way you should go, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. In salvation, God sets us on a path as we walk through life, ways in which the different areas of our life will honor Him, glorify Him and while it may not always feel like it, it will also enrich our life. His goal for us is for us to walk out experientially the new identity that became ours positionally the moment of our salvation.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
God has a plan for me. He has a purpose for me. He has a path for me to walk on. It is so exciting! And God has the same for you!
However, just like my walking hobby, if I focus on what I have to do, basically if I focus on myself and my own stuff, my journey in life with God becomes drudgery, legalistic, rule based, tiring, crushing. When I focus on the Creator of my path, whether the path I am physically walking on, or the path my life is on in every facet, it becomes so doable, rewarding, sometimes tiring, sometimes difficult, sometimes painful, never perfect, but always miraculous, incredible, beautiful and exciting. To God be the glory!
On June 18, 2017, my husband’s blood work which historically showed elevated cholesterol levels and which he was on medication to control, showed LDL of 128 (optimal is less than 100), HDL 50 (greater than 60 lowers CHD risk [cardiac heart disease]) and a total cholesterol of 205 which is borderline high (below 200 is the goal, the lower the better down to 125.)
On August 17, 2017 a blood test to check for inherited cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia) came back very high positive (2008 and greater than 2000 is in the very high positive category.)
At the same time, I needed to change my own eating as I was experiencing some gall bladder inflammation that I was told could be controlled by dietary adjustments. If I did that, I most likely would not need surgery.
Overnight we became Pescatarians (Vegetarians with a seafood twist.) We eat baked salmon 2-3 dinners a week (with honey mustard dressing as the coating has become our favorite), baked catfish, flounder or haddock one other night, occasionally shrimp, mussels and clams is cooked into recipes. We removed all animal meats from our diet (beef, pork, chicken, turkey), switched to egg whites/limited whole eggs to 2-3 a week (whether eggs alone or incorporated into recipes), all cheese is part skim/low fat/non fat (we were already using skim milk and unsweetened almond milk) and limited the packaged cookies and crackers as they contain hydrogenated oil that is an unhealthful trans fat used to increase a product’s shelf life. (Craving sweets or crackers, homemade cookies/muffins can be baked, and crackers can as well [although I have not yet tried the recipe I have.] I also picked up two vegetarian cookbooks. For the first time in my life, I found that I enjoyed experimenting with the different recipes. There was a challenge, there was a test, there was a goal.
And what an amazing, miraculous, exciting result!
On December 3, 2017, just 6 months later, my husband’s LDL was 100. HDL 51. Total cholesterol 179. On March 3, 2018, 9 months later, my husband’s LDL was 99. HDL 50. Total cholesterol 164. And he has basically maintained this ever since, we just a few slight fluctuations.
Kicking off this new year I treated myself to 3 more cookbooks including a Pescatarian one and I am excited!
Spiritual parallel? Huge! Isaiah 49:10 “They shall neither hunger nor thirst, nor shall the heat and the sun smite them, for He Who has mercy on them shall lead them, and by the springs of water He shall guide them.” John 6:35 “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Deuteronomy 8:3 “And He afflicted you and let you go hungry, and then fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, so that He would make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live.” Matthew 4:4 “But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
Psalm 78:24 “He had rained upon them manna to eat, and He had given them corn of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 “and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians discusses even more, warning against idolatry. And what is idolatry? Far more intense than statues, idolatry is anything at all, or any one at all, that takes our focus off of God, that we place ahead of God, that we give more importance or time to than God.
In life, physically, we need to eat. Food is our fuel. We can eat with a focus on physical health and well being, or we can simply eat to eat. Eat and overeat. Eat paying no mind to our health. Regardless, we are eating something.
Our day is filled with “stuff”, whatever it is we do whether work or family or friends or hobbies. We don’t simply sit in one place all day every day and do nothing with an empty brain/empty mind. So in that, the “stuff” is our food. Food is our fuel.
We can walk out this life focused on God, reading the Bible, attending corporate worship services, studying the bible alone and with others, making God our priority even through the things we do during the day. Or we can put God to the side, focus on a tidbit of scripture one day a week in corporate service if at all, and put everything else in front of taking time with God. Salvation is never a question because none of this is required for salvation nor do we have to do this to maintain salvation (just as we cannot physically be unborn once we are born, we cannot spiritually be unborn once God has birthed us in salvation [also known as being born again.])
So in these two scenarios, regardless we are eating something. So, which of the two scenarios presented do you think will lead to spiritual health?
I pray for God to strengthen you right now as you walk out your physical and spiritual lives.
In economics, the cycle of poverty is the “set of factors or events by which poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention.” I am filled with compassion and anguish for someone caught up in the cycle of economic poverty because I can only imagine what a difficult, painful, frightening situation it is. I will relate it further down in this post to spiritual poverty, as it relates to me in my life. But first, let’s discuss the economic.
Families or individuals trapped in the cycle of poverty, have either limited or no resources. There are many disadvantages that collectively work in a circular process making it extremely difficult for individuals to break the cycle. One of these disadvantages is behavioral. This I have seen firsthand in those I have tried to help.
The poverty cycle often comes with a different set of values and beliefs that helps keep people trapped. One is in regards to employment. While genuine disability of course exists, there are ways that disability is used as an excuse to not work, regardless of training, qualifications or job openings. Excuses can be numerous.
Another is the concept of time. Living in the moment is something we all need to do, but planning for the future is equally important. The moment any money comes in, in the cycle of poverty, it is spent, on necessary bills and and on things that give pleasure in the moment. Money is often spent before it is even possessed, on the hope or belief that it will soon arrive or believing that some program is going to fund something and not realizing the financial impact that still will be felt by the individual/family. There is little concept of delayed gratification or saving because life is rough and treating oneself becomes a right not a privilege, because it eases the pain somewhat.
Blaming is another situation that helps to keep the cycle of poverty going. There is little owning up to one’s role in things.
Break the cycle! Now discussing spiritually. Have you ever felt as if you have reached a dead-end spiritually? Either you don’t feel that God is for you or helping you, you feel like no matter what you do, you cannot please God, or you don’t hear from God, or you don’t believe God cares or even exists. I have.
Each and every factor listed above can be applied to that spiritual dead-end. Excuses, disability (“I can’t” or “This is how God made me so this is how I am.”), living in the moment for a pleasure in the moment, unwilling to delay gratification, blaming others or navel gazing (the moment our gaze is on ourselves and our own performance, self focused behavior modification, we begin to sink, often becoming comparative and competitive with others, prideful, sowing seeds of discord, slipping and sliding, falling. It has been coined “navel gazing” by some theologians, and it is not pretty.)
The more I tried to make myself obey what I thought the standard was in each and every area in my life and situation, the more I failed. This happened pre salvation, and it happened early in my post salvation walk. It becomes a crushing cycle and there really is no escape, as God actually intends it to be. The law is the tutor, meant to break us, and bring us to the end of ourselves, no matter what law we are imposing upon ourselves in behavior (Galatians 3:24 “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.“)
And THAT is the point in which either we cave to the pressure in an unhealthful way, or it is the beginning of the end of ourselves as we are brought to a new realization.
“And all these My hand made, and all these have become,” says the Lord. “But to this one will I look, to one poor and of crushed spirit, who hastens to do My bidding.” Isaiah 66:2 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 Poor in spirit, what does that mean? And why the opposite of what we would expect? Shouldn’t we expect to be rich in spirit? That logically would translate into something wonderful.
To be poor in spirit is to recognize that we on our own are devoid, empty, of anything spiritual. Empty of any way to truly live up to expectations. Ours, those that we believe other’s are imposing on us, pleasing God (if we even believe there is a God.)
We may put on the appearance of spiritual, for example through using the word “blessing” or being “blessed” in conversations, we may say “thank God” or “God bless you” or do things that look good spiritually, but these are empty words and actions coming from an empty spirituality before we arrive in the condition of being poor in spirit.
Psalm 53 “The fool said in his heart “There is no God”; they have dealt corruptly; they have committed abominable injustice; no one does good. God looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see whether there is a man of understanding who seeks God. They are all dross; together they have spoiled; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:11-18 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Being poor in spirit is admitting that there is absolutely nothing I can do to deliver myself, to free myself from the bondage I am in. No more blaming. I own my errant ways, my sin. No matter one’s status in life, the recognition of one’s spiritual poverty is the precursor to coming to God in faith and receiving His salvation. It is a complete humility, a bottoming out point of sorts. And it is beautiful. At the bottom, there is no where to go but up.
Once we reach this point, will everything in our life suddenly change? Well, yes, and no. Our perspective will gradually begin to change, we will begin to realize the difference between joy (is deep, is from God, and is present despite the circumstances, the result of truly grasping what the complete, full gospel is [and it is far more than a moment in time where we become saved from hell and bound for heaven]) and happiness (happiness is simply an emotion based on a happening.) But the rest of our lives, we may very well begin to see changes because where we are looking, our focus is changing and our actions will begin to as well. We behave what we believe we are. We walk out what we believe our identity is. The new identity is a complete life changer. However we are still in this world and have to deal with the reality of it.
So about that new identity. There is more to the gospel than our final destination as we still have a life we are living here on earth. There is such beauty and power and love in one’s new identity in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26; Ezekiel 36:26-29; Colossians 1:10-14; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Colossians 2:6-15; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 8; Philippians 2:12-13.)
Once God saves us, He continues to bring us deeper and deeper into His gospel, for it is the power and the motivator for our life. We walk out here on earth what God has credited to us, that new identity. That inheritance is ours positionally, and our life is God working it out through us, experientially, as we live our life here. It is the life changer.
Of course we have choices to make but it is not about us focusing on ourselves. Just like when Peter tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:28-33), he was fine and able to do so when his eyes were on Jesus. The moment Peter moved his gaze from Jesus onto the wind and his own ability, Peter began to sink. It is no different with us! Navel gazing and rendering God’s gospel limited are the outputs of that.
With our focus on Jesus, the finished work on the cross, and that identity that has been given to us at the moment of salvation (the word salvation comes from the Greek, Sozo. Sozo means save or saved, whole, healed, preserved, well), our sanctification progressively flows out of that. It becomes a supernatural, natural maturation; growth.
Regardless of what life has in store, the wonderful times and the rough, there is a healthful way to walk. It is well with my soul and I am well. I pray the same for you.
Routine can feel wonderful, giving us a sense of life rhythm and pattern, a time for every thing we need to do. Routine also can become a vise choking out our life when we are not seeing a purpose in it. Any job we do, any routine we possess, no matter what it is, no matter even how “Godly” can become a rut such as that.
Today, January 2, most people who have outside jobs went back to work. Most students (except for college students) who go out to school, returned to school today. I am in a stage of life where I do not have an outside job, but do ministry work from home as well as out and about meeting with people. Still recovering from the flu/bronchitis so today was not a full/heavy duty return to my work, but it was a start.
Purpose. To glorify God. Okay. What if someone is tired of what they are doing, or has a very long commute to and from work, or faces intense stresses on the job, and can’t simply shake things up and change the situation, at least not right now. What then? Yes, purpose is to glorify God. But what about those moments when we know that but we as humans still struggle.
In my own life, I pray that God would bless my plans, my routine, how I go about that routine. But what if I prayed “Your will be done in my life” (Proverbs 19:21; Matthew 6:10.) How about God, please turn my eyes away from worthless pursuits, things that are wastes of time, energy, and do not glorify You (Psalm 119:37 [I like the wording in the Old Testament (ESV translation) but here Psalm 119:37 is also in the Tanakh]
When we shift the focus of our prayers from our will to His, things change because our perspective has changed. Our eyes start to open to new possibilities, even within the same routines or life. One of the expressions I am well known for is saying “Look Up!” That is a refocusing reminder to get my gaze off of myself, or off of my feet as they move, and up on to God.
Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
One of the first things a person learns when riding a bike or driving a car, where you look is where the vehicle will begin to go. Even when you know you firmly have both hands on the handlebars or steering wheel, sure of the direction you plan to go.
Isaiah 43:18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”
The past is done. Many times we get stuck in it, either rehashing old wounds or mistakes or reminiscing about “the good, old days.” Neither is healthful or helpful. The present is where we are at and it is a conscious decision to remain focused on it and to allow ourselves to be navigated in that direction.
Every single day is a fresh start and is a thing of beauty. Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Behold. See or observe especially something remarkable or impressive one.
When our children were young we would put them to bed with us saying with them “Thank you God for a beautiful day. I am grateful for…”
It is a challenge to not repeat the same grateful for thing each time or more than once. But that is a challenge rich in reward, helping me to see and recognize the beauty in each day.