Spiritual Snacks May Kill

My asparagus bed has been busy; sadly, so have I, but not with it.  In the past couple years, I have tilled and planted.  The bed is prepared to produce plenty of asparagus for our family.  This spring, though, the asparagus sprouted and seeded before I made time to cut it–or weed it.  The harvest was ready, and I was not paying attention.

Nevertheless, I made it out there today.  A few stalks could be saved, and I weeded the bed, so more is likely to come.  Since my garden serves as a recreational hobby and not nourishment, a morsel from it is fine with me.

A morsel in other areas of life can be disastrous.  This week as I read the passages of Scripture preceding the Crucifixion, I saw that Judas received a ‘sop from Jesus.’  Sop is defined as a morsel.  Not feasting with the Lord creates a shallow faith life that breeds betrayal and ultimately death.  Shallow Christianity is a big deal.

It can happen to anyone.  Judas had walked closely with the Lord for years before he allowed a preference for the earthly to crowd out his love for the Lord.  Whether it was disappointment over Christ’s way of reigning or pure greed, evil took root and crowded out the harvest in Judas’ life.  Does Jesus have priority in your life?

Our lives are gardens poised to produce a harvest.  The tilling and the planting of the past is never enough.  A snack at the table of the Lord does not produce life..  We must invest our heart, soul and mind in knowing Christ; we must feast of Him. Stewarding our faith life is of eternal importance.  Jim Forest Sieger Painting Footwashing (2)

Before the ‘sop,’ Jesus washed the feet of the one who would betray him.  That is Jesus–always calling, always serving.  Have you received from Him?  Are you making time for Him?  He is worthy.  Don’t miss the harvest intended from (and for) your life.

 

 

Confidence in the Battles of Life

Today, our journey through names of our Triune God provides us a glimpse from the angelic perspective.  Found in both the Old and New Testaments, Christ’s title of Captain opens new vistas for the believer!

We first encounter the name with Joshua.  As he prepared for the battle of Jericho, Joshua encountered the pre-incarnate Christ:

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.  Joshua 5:14-15

Earthly battles can cause us to wonder if God is for us or against us.   The Captain’s message to Joshua is important for us to hear:  our battles are actually the holy ground of eternal purposes.  Scripture continually reiterates that God is for us—there is no doubt of that.  Recognizing that Jesus is the Captain of the Angel Armies will not only bolster our courage for life’s battles, it places those battles back in their proper realm.  God’s purposes are the focus of the Captain.  Lining up under the authority of the Captain assures victory!

As we consider Christ’s role as Captain of the Angel Armies, our hearts will sing with the angels as we ‘look’ at the birth of Christ.  The incomprehensible truth of the leader of angels accepting the vulnerability and limitations of a helpless human infant awes my mind!  No wonder the angels ‘long to look into’ this matter of salvation—their holy, all-powerful leader submitting Himself to save fallen humanity is breathtaking, is it not?

With the New Testament context of the title of Captain, the picture of Christ as grows even richer:

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  Hebrews 2:10

The Captain of the Angel Armies is Captain of our Salvation!  The all-powerful leader of the angels, the Creator and Sustainer of all, submitted to sufferings that He would fulfill the purposes of God: bringing fallen humanity to glory.  The reality of the Captain’s humble submission to suffering to bring salvation to me reveals the love of God in a special way.  As Captain, Jesus commands the powers of heaven to assure the victorious completion of the perfect will of God.  May the Spirit of God illumine new facets of Christ’s beauty to each reader’s heart.

This is an excerpt from Fixing Our Eyes on God.  If you would like a free PDF list of names of God, visit this page and complete the form.

Guide and Guard

 

When we fix our eyes on God as our Guide and Guard, our life journeys fulfill His good purposes.  Throughout God’s Word, we find evidence of His desire to lead us out of the captivity of our sinful humanity to the freedom of living in Christ.  From eternity past to eternity future, God’s goal is close relationship with us. Seeking His guidance puts us on a pathway of fellowship with Him.  Surrounded by His presence, we enjoy Him as our Guide and our Guard.

God is a Guide and Guard who never sleeps.  Scriptures remind us that the eyes of the Lord are continually upon us.  The Psalmist says God guides us with His eye.  To know the direction He desires us to look, we must seek His face.  To remain in His presence and benefit from His guidance, we must give attention to His point of focus. God’s gaze always rests upon those things that hide His glory from others and us.  When we follow His eyes, we see ourselves as He sees us.   Even though the eyes of our Lord always overflow with love, seeing the truths about ourselves that He sees is most uncomfortable.  Only receiving His unconditional love allows us to accept that penetrating gaze from our Guide.  

God never forces us to accept His view; we can choose to focus our eyes as we wish.  His love will remain and His gaze stay fixed on the area of our soul that remains chained.  Rejecting Him as Guide puts us on a path that takes us away from His presence.  We become our own guide and guard.  Mark records the sad account of the rich, young man who sought Jesus, felt His loving gaze and chose to reject it. Christ desired for the young man to see the limits of his earthly treasures and choose to trust Him.  Preferring the comfort of his visible earthly treasures, the rich young man chose to be his own guide.  

The joyful truth we must never forget, though, is that when we choose to seek Him again as our Guide and Guard, He will be waiting to travel with us.  He will guide us into the transforming power of His truth and love!  He will guide us and guard us to the end.  Seeking God’s face and walking in His presence allows us to see more our awesome God more clearly.  When we accept Him as our Guide and Guard, our lives become a window for others to glimpse Him as well.  

Fighting for Freedom & Abundant Life

Everyone struggles in this life.  Jesus said it would be that way:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Scripture tells us that it was for freedom that Christ came (Galatians 5:1, Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18)…but freedom is not free.

  • Freedom cost the Father the pain of watching His Son suffer.
  • Freedom cost Jesus the pain of rejection by His own, physical suffering and he shame of death on the Cross.
  • Freedom costs us the discipline of surrender; it requires that we be willing to lay down our desires and do His will.  We call it dying to ourselves.  We can’t do it without the Holy Spirit–and we can’t do it alone.

Sometimes the cost feels too great; our trust is too small to get us through to surrender.  Other times the enemy of our souls, Satan, obscures and confounds the message of freedom.  Fear, blindness and hopelessness keep us from the life God desires for us.

The fight for freedom–the fight for the abundant life Christ came to give us–demands relationship with others.  We are designed for one another and grow best in the context of relationships. Pursuing discipleship with other believers is key to the health of the Body–corporately and individually.  It is not a sign of weakness or ill-health to seek help for struggles in life; it is a sign of a desire to live fully!

What things keep Christians from walking in freedom?

  • Hurts that breed resentment and unforgive-ness happen in every life.
  • Truths that get stuck in our head and can’t find their way to our heart (or our feet) are part of the human experience.
  • A lack of confident understanding about the authority of one who is in Christ and/or the skills to use that authority.

The life of faith—the life of freedom—is one of continual growth.  God created us to need one another.  Those who engage in mentoring relationships minister to those who mentor.  It is a mutually beneficial relationship.  It is a beautiful time of living faith and seeking to understand how the living Word applies to the life we are living.

Why would someone seek a mentor?

Those who are willing to face challenges and ask ‘why?’ seek to be discipled.  They are the individuals strong enough to believe that God has promised abundant life…individuals willing to seek the face of God.  Faith that demonstrates such courage inspires others.

In the Old Testament, most of God’s children told Moses—‘you talk to God and tell us what He says.’   God is not interested in second-hand conversations, but learning to hear His voice takes time.  Mentors help tune ears and fix eyes on the ways of God.  Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to approach the throne of grace with boldness to obtain mercy and receive grace.

Is a mentor just a friend?

A friend can be a mentor, but often friends do not want to ask the hard questions.  Mentors have to be willing to make you a bit uncomfortable.  We don’t grow best in our comfort zones.  Friends are important, but friends often find comfort in keeping us where we are at.  Mentors focusing on helping us grow.

How do I find a mentor or form a discipling relationship?

  • The place to begin is your church.  Ask God top reveal to you who would be a good person to help you grow spiritually.  Speak with your pastor or a member of the leadership team about your desire.  Then, simply share with that person your desire and see if a plan can be set up.  Discipling requires discipline and commitment.  If the first person you ask is unable to make the commitment, keep looking!
  •  Some churches (like my own) have ministry teams who schedule appointments for those interested in discipleship.  I would love to share information on how this began and ways to do the same in your community.
  • Use the internet.  There are many websites like this one, and many individuals like myself who offer discipleship coaching or classes for a fee as a way to continue ministering at large.
  • Begin a Bible Study with a friend and serve as accountability partners.  I have some favorites, I would be glad to recommend if you don’t know of one you’d like to do.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:29

God has great plans for us!  The Holy Spirit superintends our growth.   He guides us in the desire to grow in grace and knowledge  as Jesus did.  Enjoy the journey!

 

Growing through the Word

Below is an excerpt from JOY IN THE JOURNEY, a book aimed at growing spiritually by learning to see the touch of God in our days.  An online class and a one-day workshop will be held in the Spring of 2016.  Be sure you are subscribed to the Glory Glimpse to receive notice when registration begins!

The Scriptures are the only source of Truth. In fact, Jesus said that His Words are Spirit and Life. Sometimes, Scripture is looked at as something to study, facts to know. The Benedictine Monks used a beautiful phrase that helps us read the Bible ‘rightly.’

Lectio Divina or Divine Reading puts the emphasis on hearing the Word in the context of life. It is not as difficult as many think. There are three questions that frame that kind of ‘thinking:’

  • God is One who is driven to know us and be known by us.
  • We are ones who are known and wholly loved by Father God.
  • We are each empowered to see and share God as we walk in fellowship with Him.

Those three principles are important in looking over our lives as well. As you go forward, look through those lenses. Ask yourself:

  • What did I learn about God in this time period?
  • What did God reveal about me to myself?
  • How does His unconditional, amazing love become more real to me in light of what I see about me?
  • Who will be blessed as I share this glimpse?
  • How can I walk it out more faithfully?

This is just a taste of what you will find in Joy in the Journey.  It is chock full of tools aimed at nourishing your spiritual growth!  

Get your copy on Amazon (Kindle or Print)

Or get signed up for the 

Glory Glimpse

to join others in growing later this spring (in a class online or in Chester).

 

 

The Heart of God

One of my favorite song choruses leads us in these words:

“Just to know You and to make You known”

Being known in all of His fullness is the heart of God.  Jesus tells those who listen that knowing the Father and Himself is eternal life.  We cannot know God without the Holy Spirit.  Our natural minds are simply not able to grasp His greatness.  Humbly accepting that opens the door to the help of the Helper.  The Father, Son and Spirit always work together to give life to God’s favorite creation:  humanity!

The Word of God reveals the heart of God.  There is no way to know God without digging into it.  This morning I watched God seeking to reveal Himself to Moses, the people of Israel and Pharaoh.  All through the passages of the Exodus, God says “that you will know that I am God.”  It wasn’t that the Israelites didn’t know of God–they didn’t know Him in His fullness.  Pharaoh did not know God, but he saw God work in the lives of those God pulled into relationship with Himself.  The life of faith is about getting to know God intimately AND fully–and in so doing making Him known to others.

Abundant life is knowing God as He is revealed in the Word.  Jesus Christ ‘became the Word’ – meaning He walked the earth to reveal what God in human flesh looks like.  We can be changed into His likeness only by the work of God.  The Spirit dwells in us to teach us of God and strengthen us in our walk.  Together as believers, we reveal God to a world that does not know Him.  Just like Moses and the Israelites, that walk of faith involves doubts, deafness and amazing deliverance.  Jesus also said that believing His Words walks hand-in-hand with believing the words of the prophets (the Old Testament).

Don’t settle for a one-dimensional God…press in to know Him in His fullness.  

One way to do that is to search out the Names of God and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you more of who God is.  If you would like a list to get you started, click here.

For a beautiful look at Jesus Christ, visit the Desiring God site and enjoy their insights!

By the way, the picture you clicked to come to this page…it is a picture of a molecule within your own body.  The ‘cell adhesion molecule’ – the molecule that holds you us together.  God reveals Himself in the most amazing ways.  LOOK FOR HIM!