Category Archives: Spiritual Maturity

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 2

How did you do on your spiritual fitness assessment?  Are you spiritually flabby?  Do you need to add a few more exercises to help build up your spiritual muscles?  Like physical fitness, if you want to grow stronger, spiritually, you’ll need to be intentional in your “workouts”.  But why?

 Why should believers care about being spiritually fit? 

Because we live in a postmodern world.  Postmodern or post modernism is a philosophy that says there are no absolutes (no rules / no truth) and that all viewpoints are equally valid.  Such thinking reduces all religion to the level of opinion.  With that thinking, the basic tenets of the Christian faith are dismissed and rejected including the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.  And what is left to guide the human soul?  Truth is determined by the individual’s viewpoint or “spiritual bentness”—the degree to which one ascribes to the worldview on how life is to be lived  and away from God’s instructions for holy living.  It’s a matter of personal belief and personal choice.  But remember Jeremiah’s warning:   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

 Why do believers need to be spiritually fit?

First, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outlook on life.  The cry of believers living in a postmodern world dominated by materialism, sexual immorality, and wickedness is “how are we to live?” (2 Pet. 3:11)  The Apostle Peter describes us as “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9).  That means we don’t look like the world.  Our worldview is shaped by “who we are” and “whose we are”.  Believers live according to the authoritative Word of God—every “jot and tittle” and we know that by no other name, under heaven or earth, can one be saved but by Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12).  Bottom-line, the believer’s outlook is shaped by God, from whom we derive our meaning and our reality.

Secondly, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s output in life.  As believers we know that our lives were purchased for a price and we live as the redeemed of God (Ps. 107:2).  We no longer live for ourselves, existing only to gratify our fleshly needs like the world.  Our purpose and all our efforts are directed by the Holy Spirit.  It is in Him that we live and move and have our meaning (Act 17:28).  We know that the things of this life are fading away.  Therefore believers focus their energies on those things that have eternal value and benefit (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Matt. 7:24-29).

Finally, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outcome after life.   Whether people believe in God or not does not dismiss the reality of existence beyond our life on planet earth.  It is called eternity. The choices made in this life will result in where one will spend eternity.  As believers become more spiritually fit and mature, they realize that the time in which they currently live is set in the framework of eternity.  As we become daily transformed by the Word of God and conformed to the image of Christ, our priorities and desires shift from this passing world to things above where Christ dwells (Col. 3:1-2). We proclaim like Paul, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Join us next week as we answer the question, “What does spiritual fitness look like?”

Thank You from the Hamilton’s

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father,

who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,

comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NKJ)

Dear Friends and Family of In the Word Ministries,

Words cannot express Ron and my gratitude for your prayers and comforting words as our son Rhone experienced his second stroke.  It was your prayers that consoled our hearts and God’s grace that sustained us during this difficult period.  On Monday, June 11th, our prayers for total healing were answered as Rhone transitioned to heaven to be  forever with the Lord.   Yes, I said “total healing” for Rhone is no longer dependent on machines and medical knowledge for restoration and is now transformed to the beautiful and awesome man God created him to be.  He is totally and completely healed!

Although our hearts are truly broken, Ron and I hold fast to God’s hand, “full persuaded” that we will see Rhone again and that the Healer of Broken Hearts holds our family in His bosom.  God knows our pain.  Rhone’s passing did not catch God by surprise.  Rhone had successfully  completed his 47-year assignment.  He has completed his race!

As we finalize plans for Rhone’s Celebration of Life in July (Praise the Lord, Rhone will not be joining us), God has left me a Word (four to be exact) to share with you.  As I read Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica, the word “consolation” stood out:  “everlasting consolation, good hope by grace, and comfort for our hearts.”  I asked Jesus, “how do You comfort my heart especially at this moment when it is breaking?”  The Holy Spirit answered!

By Release.   Through my tears, I fall forward into the arms of God.  I cannot busy myself forever but must now face the void left in my heart when Rhone took his last breathe.  My expressions of sorrow–lack of appetite, periods of sadness, and difficulty in rising some mornings, are all signs of my need to depend on God during this time of loss.  I now “cast my burdens on the Lord because (I know) He cares for me.” (Ps. 55:22)

In Rest. I must be intentional in getting physical rest–a mid-day nap is the answer for the emotional exhaustion I feel as I restart my life after my time in Denver.   God has blessed both Ron and I with nightly sleep so that we can continue the journey God has set forth for our lives.  We cannot stay in the valley.  “He leads me besides the still water.  He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23: 2-3)

Through Remembrance.  Remembering the special times Ron and I shared with our son gives me the opportunity to “re-experience” the joy of that moment.  Exploration of shared memories and experiences helps me “return to joy”.   “I thank God in my remembrance of you.” (Phil. 1:3)  Thanks Kimmie for teaching me this priceless spiritual practice.

In all these, God is present.  We never walk alone–God carries us! God allows all our emotions (which He has given us) to surface as we freely grieve with our family, connect with our community, and receive the love of our friends.    Lastly, God comforts me…

Through a Reminder.  The reminder of my future.  The future which I draw closer to with each passing day.  My future home in glory.  I am reminded that “if this earthly temple is destroyed, I have a building of God, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).  I am reminded that “I have an inheritance reserved for me in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4).   I am reminded that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6).  What wonderful reminders God has left in His Word.

Again thank you, my family in Christ, for your love and prayers.  Keep them coming.  To God be the glory!

Eileen

In But Not of this World

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23 (KJV)

It’s not easy to live in this world as a Christian.  By world, I don’t mean the landmass represented by the globe of the earth but to its people, perspectives, and practices.  When we say that God loves the world, we mean all people.  While God loves the people, He does not love the principles and practices that belong to the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) who is Satan.  That’s why believers are told not to love the world (1 John 2:15-17).  How then are believers to live in the world yet not be of the world? Do they segregate themselves from the world and from nonbelievers?  The answer can be found in God’s Word.

By renewing of the mind.  Roman 12:2 exhorts believers to be “transformed by the renewing of the mind.”  We renew our minds by reading God’s Word and listening to His Holy Spirit within.  The outcome of a renewed mind is knowledge of “the good, acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  Renewing of the mind also requires careful monitoring of what we see and hear.  The “eye gate” is a key portal to the soul (Matt. 6:22-23).   What we allow to flow through our physical senses becomes part of our essence (our memory) the moment we encounter it.  Therefore, believers may want to exercise greater caution in their media selections (2 Cor. 10: 3-5). 

By exercising spiritual discernment.  Peter warned the early church to “be sober and vigilant because the devil wants to devour you” (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan destroys people by offering sinful choices that lead to spiritual and sometimes, physical death (James 1:14-15).  Our world has become “desensitized” to sin. Those who challenge immoral behavior and practices are often ridiculed and viewed as small-minded and intolerant.  The pursuit of personal satisfaction and instant gratification has blurred the line between right and wrong.  “Be careful!  Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT). 

By witnessing to God’s truth.   Hebrews 10:23 reminds us to “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.”  We “hold fast” by boldly witnessing to God’s truth—His love, His power, and His purpose for those who believe.  Because we live in a world (people, perspectives and practices) that is controlled by the Father of Lies, Satan (John 8:44), it is incumbent upon believers to counter Satan’s   distortions, and deceptions with God’s truth.  The source of God’s truth is His Word (John 17:17) and the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).  It is only through God’s truth that the world can experience true freedom (John 8:31-32).

While it may not be easy to live in this world as a Christian, it is possible.  Christ has shown us the way.  Let us trustingly follow His lead.      

SELAH:  Are you in the world or in God’s kingdom?  During your quiet time, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal those areas of your life that do not reflect the purpose and priority of God’s Kingdom.

If you need help beginning this exercise, take a look at your calendar, your checkbook, and your immediate goals.  These areas are an indicator of where you may be today.

In God We Trust-2018

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:3, 4 (NKJ)

As I prepared to write this week’s WordBytes, I searched the web for topics that were trending in the news—items that would give me a hint of the “heartbeat of the country”.  What I discovered was amazing yet not surprising; the trends included “life, conspiracy, hip hop culture, marijuana, motherhood,” and yes, I even found Jesus Christ in the trend.  This wasn’t the total list but what my spirit was drawn to was an earlier WordBytes I had written that seemed to offer a response for the current trending topics.  Interestingly, this particular WordBytes ranks as the most read in the history of WordBytes. With that, I present the most viable and fail proof option for whatever your concern today—trust in God.

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As Election Day 2016 draws near, I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time reaffirming the true source of our confidence—God.  Campaign advertisements continually bombard us via social media, telephone, and television; each candidate promising to serve faithfully and with integrity.  How ironic that our discussion on trust should follow our recent series, “In Search of Truth” as we listen to “half-truths” and “outright lies” presented by all political parties on the ballot.  Who is one to trust?  Our text for today summarizes the best place to put our trust—in God.

The background for today’s Psalm can be found in 1 Samuel 21:8-15, where we are told of David’s escape to Gath, the stronghold of the Philistines, arch enemies of Israel.   The Philistines were well acquainted with David for he had killed their champion, Goliath, when he was only a young shepherd boy (1 Sam. 17).   Now because of King Saul’s jealousy, this young man runs for fear of his life to a place of even greater peril and sure death.  He now stands captured by his worst enemy, the king of the Philistines.

Psalm 56 is identified as a song for the distressed.  We would agree that David was in distress.  We sometimes describe it as being “between a rock and a hard place.”   Like David, we sometimes find ourselves wedged between many rocks and brutal hard places.  Sometimes this happens as a result of others, like Saul, and other times it is the result of our own disobedience and waywardness.  In those times of distress and fear, we are to call out like David—“In God, I have put my trust.”

Trust (batach) in Hebrew means “bold and confident”.  The description means to literally “throw oneself down, extended on the ground, upon his face.”  Can you imagine that picture?  David, literally throwing himself on the mercy of God, fully confident and bold; defiantly proclaiming, “What can flesh do to me?”  Did he recall the many times God intervened on his behalf as King Saul sought to capture and kill him?  His eye was not on the source of his fear but on the Deliverer of his soul. David’s spirit was humbled, cast down in full confidence and trust in Almighty God for his life—not the Philistine king.

As you face the many challenges of life that tend to shake the very foundation of your faith:

  • Put your trust in the One who is able to deliver us from all harm. (Ps. 46:1)
  • Remember those times that God stepped in to deliver you and brought you to a point of safety. (Ps. 91:1,2)
  • Exchange your fear for bold confidence. (Ps. 20:7)

Stretch out on “mature” faith, like David, and expect miracles, signs, and wonders.   Although we flippantly have inscribed on our coins, “In God we trust”, it’s now time to write upon our hearts the Psalmist’s words, “I have put my trust in God.”

SELAH:  Is there something I your life that is causing you great distress? Perhaps your stress is being generated by things you have no control over—the state of the economy, unending political wrangling or social injustices that are currently in news headlines.  Maybe it’s your health or the changing needs of your immediate family.  Perhaps your anxiety is as a result of your own poor decisions or relational conflicts you must deal with.   Regardless of the source, go to God.  He cares for you.  Declare the following prayer and know in God you can always trust.

God of creation and God of salvation, I put my trust in You.  Though the earth may tremble and the mountain be carried into the sea, I put my trust in You.  Though life may be hard and the challenges daunting, I put my trust in You.  I trust in You and You alone because You are MY GOD and MY FATHER. I am Your child.  These things I ask in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

Things I Learned in 2017

“But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9:24 (NKJ)

 

Who’d a thunk it?  (Yes, that’s what I said.)  We are rapidly approaching two decades into the 21st century.  My, how time flies!   When people ask what I’ve been doing, it’s hard to respond:  “Just taking it one day at a time.” or “Putting one foot in front of the other.”  It’s hard to find words.

So it is with writing this year’s “Things I Learned”.  What have I gleaned from my faith walk this past year?  As I “examine myself, am I still of the faith”? (2 Cor. 13:5)  “Have I studied to show myself approved?” (2 Tim. 2:15)  Have I sought the “kingdom of God first” (Matt. 6:33) and am at “peace with all men”? (Heb. 12:14)

“Things I Learned” is written to share my major “ah ha’s” this year with regard to what I learned about God, about myself, and my faith. No judging or regretting. No New Year’s resolutions or personal improvement plans, only silent contemplation about how God has revealed Himself to me from eternity to time we called 2017.  What are the things I learned in 2017?

  • God is faithful and will do everything He can to aid in my success (Jer. 29:11-13). It is, however, my responsibility to insure I am aligned to receive His grace and power. I must exercise caution and be aware of those things in my “human nature” that can impede my “spiritual progress”—fear, doubt, pride and envy.  In my daily walk, I must recognize and “set aside the weight and the sin that so easily seeks to ensnare me” (Heb. 12:1):  the busyness of the day, the distractions of the urgent versus the important, or the spirit of unforgiveness I may harbor.  Lastly, to be successful in accomplishing God’s purpose, it is critical to understand the will of God.  While God’s will can be found throughout Scripture, the time I spend in prayer and meditation are key in understanding both His way and His will (Ps. 103:7).
  • God is in control regardless of what I see happening around me (Ps. 46:1-3).  Nothing catches God by surprise whether it is political wrangling, social disparity, or an ecological disaster.   Scripture teaches us three truths to sustain us in times of uncertainty and confusion:  God is completely sovereign, God is infinite in wisdom, and God is perfect in love.  Jerry Bridges writes in his book, Is God Really in Control:  “In His love, God wills what is best for us, in His wisdom He always knows what’s best for us, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”  God has a plan for mankind which was created before the foundation of the world (Ep. 1:4, 10) and each day we are moving to the culmination of that plan.  There is no one or nothing that can thwart God’s plan.
  • God’s Word is critical for victorious living and spiritual transformation (Ps. 19:7-8). Why?  Because the Scriptures expresses the very mind of God.  It is God speaking directly to us.  How?  The “word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. God’s Word exposes us for what we really are” (Heb. 4:12, NLT).   God’s Word also renews our mind so that we begin to think like Christ (Phil. 2:5) leading us to be conformed to His image–the image God had originally designed for us in the Garden of Eden.  Through this process of “exposing and renewing”, or sanctification, we become true children of God (Phil. 2:15).  Investing time in God’s Word—devotional reading and systematic study—yield returns that are priceless, in this world and in the world to come (Ps. 19:10-11).
  • In 2017, I rediscovered the special blessing that can be found in Scripture memorization or as I prefer calling it, “writing God’s Word on my heart.” Oh, the things God has revealed to me about His goodness and His greatness as I’ve “planted” large passages of scripture in my spirit such as Psalms 19 and Ephesians 1.  As I memorized each line, I prayed that it would “take root and bear much fruit (Matt. 13:23).  This spiritual discipline is not about speed or quantity (how many verses I can learn) but in experiencing the “depth of the riches of His grace” God reveals to me.

What are the things I learned in 2017?  I learned that God is God and I’m not, and I’m more than okay with that.  However, the Prophet Jeremiah did a much better job in describing what is really important for us to learn in order to live victorious, successful lives:

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;  But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.  (Jer. 9:23-24)

SELAH:  What are three (3) things you learned in 2017—about God, yourself, or your faith walk?

Redeeming the Time

 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”   Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJ)

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.”  Colossians 4:5 (NKJ)

 As a child, I remember going with my parents to shop for groceries. Upon paying the bill, my mother would be given “redemption stamps” (equal to the grocery receipt) that could be later exchanged for household items, i.e., dishes, flatware, or cookware. After saving enough stamps, we’d go to a local redemption center and trade in our stamps for our special selection. My mother felt this was a great way to get the “most bang for her bucks”–groceries AND household items. While stamp redemption worked well for my mother’s budget, there’s a different kind of redemption believers should pursue as they endeavor to accomplish God’s purpose for their life. It’s redeeming the time.  We close this series, Redeeming the Time, by examining the Apostle Paul’s urgent call to New Testament churches in Asia Minor to redeem the time.

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible translates “redeeming the time” to mean making the most of every opportunity. The meaning is further illuminated by Bible interpreters to mean “to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good so that zeal and well-doing are as if it were the ‘purchase money’ by which we make the time our own.” (Thayer Lexicon)  The Apostle Paul uses this phrase in letters to two (2) new churches established in Christ to prepare them for the challenges they would face living in a hostile, pagan society.

To the church at Ephesus, Paul reminded believers that they were no longer agents of darkness but were to redeem the time by being “light in the Lord” (Ep. 5:8).  Their new identity was to be evidenced by their fruit–goodness, righteousness and truth. They were to walk “circumspectly, not as fools”.  There is urgency in Paul’s message to this church because the “days were evil” meaning there was a general disregard for what was right while embracing that which was profoundly immoral, wicked, and depraved. The days continued to be evil into the 21st century.

To the church at Colossae, Paul advised believers to redeem the time by walking in “wisdom” (sophia). This wisdom was very special in that it described a skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth.  It required “devout and prudence communication with men who were not disciples of Christ.” The NIV rending of Colossians 4:5 states it more clearly, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” In other words, Paul was speaking about “life witnessing” where the believer became the “living testimony” as to the life changing power available to individuals who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Titus 3:4-6).

Also Read:  Can You Handle the Truth?

 

Today Paul’s use of “redeeming the time” draws attention to believer’s solemn responsibility to proclaim and practice Christ-centered principles in their home and in their community. While society exchanges moral absolutes for what seems “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6), believers must be “committed to God’s truth in every element of our lives as the separation between light and dark become apparent in the world and in our society.” We are to redeem the time by renouncing world system standards and boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. By redeeming the time, believers will become viable change agents” for Christ until He returns (2 Peter 3:11-12).

SELAH:  Is there “an opportunity” God has shown you that you might be ignoring or rejecting?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the root or source of your hesitation, i.e. fear of failure or rejection.  Then find Scripture that will support you in moving forward to “redeem the time”, i.e., Philippians 4:13.

The Wisdom of God

But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

1 Cor. 1:23, 24 (NKJV)

After reading 1 Corinthians 1-2, I wanted to get out of my seat, stand tall, and stick out my chest, and figuratively, “drop the mike.”  This teaching by Paul to the Corinthians was, for me the capstone, the finale, the ultimate answer for those who are desperately seeking wisdom.   “Christ crucified” or the Gospel message is not only the power of God but also the wisdom of God.  While time and space does not permit me to fully teach on this passage, I would invite you to include it in your future Bible study devotion.  Today, however, I’ll attempt to contain myself as we conclude this series, “Desperately Seeking God” by exploring the wisdom of the God.

What is the Wisdom of God?

For believers in Christ, the wisdom of God is the truth set forth in His Word and through His Holy Spirit.  This wisdom becomes accessible to us through belief in Jesus Christ and His saving work to lost humanity (Matt. 1:21).   This wisdom shapes our beliefs and the reality in which we daily live.

Although 1 Corinthians is not part of wisdom literature, it does illuminate the fact that the Gospel and acceptance of its truth will result in “true wisdom from above” (1 Cor. 1:30).   So why was it considered “foolishness” in Paul’s day (and today)?  This requires we take a look at the context of Paul’s letter—the city of Corinth and the beliefs at that time.

Corinth was a key city in ancient Greece until it was destroyed by the Romans.  The city was filled with shrines and temples leading to idolatry and corrupt living.  The diversity of the population produced many philosophers with Greek philosophy being the dominant thinking.  These men filled their days with study and in espousing their beliefs as to the existence of divine beings, the nature of life, and how life was to be lived.  When Paul spoke of the wisdom and power of the Gospel, the Jews demanded “signs” while the Greek demanded “worldly wisdom”.   Both groups appearing as wise “became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22).

You might find some parallels with activities and beliefs we find in the 21st century.  Technology, information, and knowledge are being touted as the “crown jewels of wisdom” for this age.  Explosion of the Internet and microchip development, robotics and artificial intelligence, and genetic re-engineering have become but a few of man’s self-proclaimed proofs of his superiority to any professed god.  Such progress has created a sense of “deity” within man, leaving God and His wisdom behind as mere relics of a past civilization.  The result of such thinking puts future generations in jeopardy of forgetting God and His mighty works (Judges 2:10).   Such thinking has become nuevo wisdom.

So why does the wisdom of God seem like “foolishness”?  Paul answers this question in 1 Corinthians 2:7-15:   #1.  The wisdom of God cannot be understood using human wisdom, #2. The Holy Spirit (being God Himself) is the revealer of the wisdom of God, and #3. The Holy Spirit does not dwell within unbelievers therefore they cannot receive the revealed wisdom of God.

This being the case, God’s methods in sharing His wisdom, through His Word and through His Spirit are “spiritually incompatible”  with the “natural”, unregenerate man.  To them, it appears as foolishness.   The wisdom of God, however, is available through Jesus’ work of salvation, providing “whomsoever will” with access to the wisdom of God the Creator, God the Deliverer, and God the Sustainer.   He is all wisdom. 

 

SELAH:  Click here and read “Wisdom Bytes for Those Desperately Seeking Wisdom.  Then Meditate on the “Wisdom Bytes” and ask God what is His personal invitation to you about wisdom.

How to Untangle a Knot

When He was alone with His Disciples, Jesus went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.  Mark 4:34 (The Message)

The crowds and the Disciples were amazed as Jesus taught (Matt. 7:29; 13:54).  He was “never without a story” and used them to help His audience gain a greater understanding of God and to resolve real-life problems.  Mark describes this as “sorting out tangles” and “untying knots.” We conclude this month’s series, “Returning to our First Love”, with an examination of the benefit of listening to God’s voice through His Word to sort out the tangles and knots in our life.

Learning to Sort out My Tangles

Have you ever been faced with a knotted shoe lace or tangled necklace?  It can be frustrating trying to find the biggest knot that will results in the ultimate resolution to your problem.  Knots can impede the full use and benefit of a person’s possession or ability i.e., knots in a tie or tangled chords of a wind chime.

How did you learn to untangle and untie knots?  While I can’t remember my “first knot” or most “frustrating tangle”, I do recall that if I had problems with either of these, my mother was always available to help me based on two things:  First, I had to realize my limitations—I was unable to resolve this challenge on my own and secondly, trust that she was both available and able to help me with my problem.

Life is Full of Knots and Tangles

Our world is full of knots and tangles—the challenges of life that appear to us as “insurmountable messes” we seem unable to resolve.  Life cycle knots—work, family, and relationships.  Personal tangles—financial challenges, health problems, dying and death.  Societal snarls—turmoil, instability, and uncertainty.  Some knots and tangles are the natural result of living in a fallen world; others may be of our own creation. What is the answer to these kinks and twists of living?  How are we to manage these real situations in our lives?  It’s all in the Word.

It’s In the Word  

There’s an old gospel song entitled, It’s All in the Word that retorts:  “The answer to your problems, if you haven’t heard…it’s all in the Word.”  The Psalmist put it more eloquently in saying that God’s Word is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path”—in close proximity to keep us from stumbling yet broad and sufficient to protect us from potential danger and pitfalls (Ps. 119:105).  Psalm 19:7-11 speaks to the great worth of God’s Word.  “Warning and reward” are key benefits in embracing God’s Word.

The world offers futile solutions to life’s knots and tangles.  It suggests resolution through substances (alcohol, drugs, and food), through systems (affiliations, power, and influence) and through stuff (materialism and riches) (1 John 2:15-17).  These answers are temporary and subject to change (2 Cor. 4:18). However, God’s Word is eternal and provides needed insight into His nature and the realities of life, inviting believers to trust, peace, and contentment (Ps. 37:1-6, 23-27).

For those who are willing to listen to Jesus’ voice, there are many promises and privileges (John 10:27).  As believers stay connected to God through His Word and the Holy Spirit, we have access to wisdom and knowledge so desperately needed to navigate these perilous times (Eph. 1: 8).  God may not choose to always remove the knots and tangles in the believer’s life.  They may be needed to mature and strengthen those who chooses to be “trained” by them (Hebrews 12:11).  However, believers can depend on God to always be available and ready to help us “find the big loops” (John 16:33).

Also read:   In God We Trust

SELAH:    Jesus is ready to help you with the tangles and knots of your life.  What are the things that you’ve been unable to resolve?  Draw near to Him is willing and able to help you.

God’s Gift of Rest

“For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’

“although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”

Hebrews 4:11 (NKJV)

While on vacation this month, I had the opportunity to purchase my second Fitbit device after successfully killing my original one.  After a year of consistent use, I found that it really does promote personal movement, healthy eating and rest.  Yes, rest.  One of the features on my Fitbit is a sleep function that tells me how many hours a day (yes, it tracks naps) I rest as I pursue my “sleep goal”.  It faithfully sends a nightly text to tell me to cease from my activities and “begin to prepare for bed” (it really does).

Health experts and social scientists agree that the need for rest is critical to not only our physical well-being but also our emotional health and our cognitive performance.  The writer of Hebrews also recognized the value of rest especially the rest God gives, as a gift, to His believers.  Today I’d like to share my thoughts on rest in the context of intimacy with God and returning to our First Love.

Rest defined

Webster defines rest not only as sleep but also as “freedom from worry or trouble”.   Most uses of the word rest in the Bible are nontheological; they take on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people—the recipients of the both the Old and New Covenant.

Also read:  “Seeking and Finding God

God introduces Rest

In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest was introduced in Genesis as God ceased from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3).  Sabbath rest was later commanded as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15) as evidence of God’s love and recognition that all living creatures, man and animal, needed physical renewal and respite.  Canaan rest finds its beginning with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. It included not only deliverance from Egyptian slavery but also establishment of protection and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15).  The tribes of Israel also enjoyed God’s gifts of rest when they settled in the land, which flowed with milk and honey (Josh. 1:13-15). In following God’s commandments, they would ultimately acquire rest experienced by “peace in the land”—no longer threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).

Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement presented believers with the opportunity to enter into God’s Eternal rest.  This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises available on this side of heaven (2 Pet. 1:4), His presence manifested through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26) and will culminate with the blessed reward of eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”

Accessing God’s Rest

Accessing God’s gift of rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him.  Rest is not cessation from work but in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His plans and purpose for our lives.  This exercise of faith provides peace and release from anxiety and fear.

On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:

The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest (Heb. 4:11).  That is, they are to be responsive to the Lord and let His Word and Spirit guide then to the solutions he has already provided for their problems.

God has provided us with the Holy Spirit, who acts as our spiritual Fitbit to tell us when we need God’s rest.  When we have been negligent in our personal time with Him, we become spiritually restless and ill-tempered.  We can’t seem to concentrate on the things of God because we lack the rest we need to keep us emotionally and spiritually healthy (Col. 3:1-4).

We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice.  Such trust can only be ascribed to the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.  Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, protect, and give use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37).  He knows the end from the beginning, and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10).  It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest.  He invites us to draw near and enter into His rest.

SELAH:   Are you in need of God’s rest?  Is it time for you to recommit, refocus, and reprioritize your relationship with the Lord?

Returning to Our First Love, Part 2

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4   (NKJ)

Last week we explored the need to return to our first love, Jesus Christ.  This return is characterized by our deep devotion and love for Him.  This week we will continue this discussion by examining ways to journey back to Him.  This process begins with an awareness of our current position and ends with specific strategies to return to our first love.

Awareness of our current position

We begin by acknowledging that we have left our first love.  How do you know that?  By “examining yourself to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor.13:5).  This does not infer a loss of salvation but recommends an evaluation of your progress toward spiritual maturity.   Spiritual maturity not only includes “what you know” but also “how you live out what you know”—your profession of faith (1 Tim. 6:12).  Are you being conformed to the image of Christ or do you resemble the world? (Rom. 12: 2)   Are you intentional in your relationship with Christ?  Do you seek “His Face” (presence) or only “His Hand” (favor)?   In God’s presence, you take on “the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5); His thoughts become your thoughts, resulting in changed behavior.  Spiritual maturity is the visible evidence of Christ’s presence in your life.  What is your current position?

Strategies to return to our first love

Once aware of your current position, it is time to develop specific approaches to move you back into fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:3).

Recommit yourself to Him Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)  If after examination you find that you have left your first love, repent and return to Him.  Nothing you can do will ever separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:39) and He stands faithful to forgive you (1 John 1: 9).  Recommitment involves renewing your loyalty to Christ and His lordship over your life.  This includes directing your time, talents, and treasures to the service of the Lord.

 Renew your love for HimI will love You, O LORD, my strength (Psalm 18:1).  Tell the Lord how much you love Him.  Although He is all-knowing, He still wants to hear you tell Him how much you love Him.    Let Him know you desire Him with all your heart and soul (Ps. 42:1-2).  Show your love for Him through your praise and worship.  You are never closer to Him than when you “love on Him” (Ps. 22:3).

Reprioritize your life around Him.   Christ set the standard for priority when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt.  6: 33).  However, to make God the center of your life is counterculture.  Everything in modern society encourages and rewards people who place themselves “at the head of the line”.  But when we place Christ first in our life, we are assured that we have chosen the “Good Part” (Luke 10:38).

Now is the time to return to your first love.  He is waiting with open arms.

SELAH:  The gospel group, The Winans, recorded a song entitled, Prone to Wander, which best describes the believer’s tendency to leave their first love.   Read these lyrics “thoughtfully” and reflect on those times when you were “prone to wander”.  Afterwards write your version of prone to wander including the “happy ending” when you promise, “Never to wander again”.

Prone to wander, exploring the unknown
Prone to wander, seeing if we’ve grown
Destined to blunder, hope that I’ll recover
Never to wander again

I never should have left your side
It took deep waters to make me realize
Not within your borders, void of any order
Never to wander again

I have been mixed with deep experience
Both good and bad, yes, good and bad
But it has caused me Lord
To love you more than I ever have, ever have

Prone to wander, no more my refrain
Cause I’ll never leave your side no more again
Destined to blunder and hope that I’ll recover
Never to wander, said I’ll never leave your side
Never to wander, said I’ll never leave your side
Never to wander again.