I love it when I find tidbits of truth in His word. And they jump off the page at me. Like it’s what God wants me to know right then and there. In Galatians chapter 5, it wasn’t the usual “the Fruit of the Spirit” lesson. It was something bigger and deeper yet smaller and more direct. It’s in the last half of verse 6,
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” The NIV Study bible states: Faith is not mere intellectual assent but a living trust in God’s Grace that expresses itself in acts of love.
I think that sums it up, it’s about acts of love. This word love translated in the Greek is agape. Brotherly love. Does that describe us? Does it describe me. Am I acting my faith out in acts of love.
I was having a conversation with a dear friend the other night about religion verse relationship or faith. And we discussed this very thing. It is NOT about wearing certain clothes to church, or acting in a pious manner that matters. It matters not if I spend my entire Sunday at a church service. Do you think that your unchurched neighbor cares if your skirt is below your knees or that you wore one on Sunday for that matter. Or that you never watch TV or listen to the radio unless it’s a godly program. None of that exterior stuff matters, what would matter to your neighbor is if you shovel out their walkway this winter, or bring over a plate of cookies just because. Maybe invite them over for dinner. Faith working it’s self out in acts of love. How about that family that sits in the same row as you in church. What kinds of acts of love can you bless them with. A bag or two of groceries to a needy family, a bit of compassion to a newly divorced man or woman. Understanding instead of criticism, a cup of cool waters not heaping coals. Faith working it’s self out in acts of love. Gods love for us is so deep, so wide, so consuming. If it’s in you it should be spilling out of you. Is it? Is it in you? If it is, is it spilling out in acts of love. And if it’s not… not in, I’d love to tell you how it can be. If you believe it is, but it’s not spilling out in acts of love, again I’d love to tell how it can be.
I love it when God gives me a deep morsel of truth for me to gnaw on.
I am not a big fan of running. I’m a good 50 yard dash person, but have never been an endurance runner. I think this also speaks loudly of my personality. I am very good at getting out there and giving it my all if I know the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen brilliantly. Endurance is just not on my list of traits. But it is one God is working out in me.
I always thought those 50 yards dashes were a flaw. Why couldn’t I run a mile, 5 miles, 26 miles (ugh) As Christians, our salvation experience is only good for 50 yard dashes. Training is what it takes to run a 26 mile marathon. No 30 minutes on a tread mill (ok, I can really only do 15 before I feel the need to quit) will ever get me to the place where I can run one. If all your doing is going to church on Sunday and not “training” everyday, in the word, at His feet, in prayer the race He wants to call you to can never be run.
About 4 years ago, God pointed out that I had a race to run. Galatians 2: 2b reminded me today that I don’t want to run in vain or run the wrong race. Gal 2 “I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing” Running in and of itself does nothing for me. Running with purpose or for a purpose does. I’m a big “give me a reason” kinda gal. And God gives me plenty of reasons in his word to Run for Him. I may still run a few 50 yard dashes now and again, (some of them have a purpose). But I am in this to run with endurance the Race he has mapped out for me. Will you join me? Run the race, train beside me, there’s definitely room at His feet for both of us.
I cry out to you today Oh God and ask for your protection over the ones I love. Today will start a very difficult journey for them. I ask that you hide them under your wings. That the enemy will not gain a foothold in this most difficult time of their lives. Lord I pray Psalms 62 over my family:
I wait quietly before God,
for their victory comes from you.
2 He alone is their rock and their salvation,
their fortress where they will never be shaken.
3 So many enemies against them—
all of them trying to kill them.
To them they are just a broken-down wall
or a tottering fence.
4 They plan to topple them from their high position.
They delight in telling lies about them.
They praise them to anothers face
but curse them in their hearts.
5 Let all that they are wait quietly before God,
for their hope is in him.
6 He alone is their rock and their salvation,
their fortress where they will not be shaken.
7 Their victory and honor come from God alone.
He is their refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach them.
8 O my dear family, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him, for God is your refuge.
Making a Psalm personal in my prayer of petition before God gives me the peace of knowing we Have a personal God who reaches down in his grace and mercy to protect, to hide and to lift up those He loves.
I love the Psalms, they are so full of rich emotion both in Praise to our God and in utter desperation for God to save us from ourselves and our enemies. I urge you to
Dig deep into His word and pray it over your life. Find His Peace that will come in praying His word back to Him. He delights in His children when they do.
A moment where we know we are free, free because of the cross, free because He came to take my place, free from sin, all sin. Free because of the Grace he so richly bestows on us.
We can confess with our mouths that Jesus is our Savior. “I’ve walked the aisle, I raise my hand, I said the prayer” But have we had that transforming moment, when we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has raised me/you from the dead.
Mine came literally years later. I asked Jesus into my heart as a young girl of 8. But it wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I knew. I knew He loved me. I knew He came to set me free, that He came to take my shame, my guilt, my heavy burden. All the confession of sin over the years had somehow become a heavy bag I drug around. I confessed it, but I never left it at the cross. I just stuffed it into the sack and carried it back down the hill.
I can remember that day like it was yesterday, in my kitchen, kneeling on the floor with my head bent as sobs of grief were exchanged for sobs of joy. As God in His tenderness lifted my head as His breath of Grace settled over me. Since that moment I have known I was free in Christ. That my cloak of shame was replaced with His cloak of Righteousness. That the bag of guilt I carried around, was removed from my hands and thrown behind the cross where I could never reach it again. The fear of my past was exchange for a new story in Christ, one where I can use my past to Glorify Him, by reaching out to someone else who struggles as I did. And because of that moment where God’s grace became real to me, I can point others to Him like never before.
I am so thankful for that moment.
Once again as I have been reading “You Were Made for Love” by Philip Carlson I have been impressed by the Holy Spirit as He has spoken directly to my heart on the issue of Love. Love is an act of tenderness. Please see the following section from the book:
“God’s love for us is infinitely greater than my love for my child. It is unfathomable. Right now, wherever you are, whatever your doing, whatever your feeling, God is looking at you, passionately concerned about you. You have his undivided attention. Your past choices, the condition of you heart, the degree of your brokenness are no longer obstacles to relationships with him. Every moment in the presence of God is an opportunity to have our eternal destiny shaped by what happens from this moment forward rather by anything in our past. His grace is always greater than our ability to mess things up. The slightest exertion of his power or anger over sin would consume us. With exquisite tenderness he reaches out his hand to save us and to touch our lives in a way that will heal us and make us whole.
The kingdom of God may be enhanced and even built in some small part on powerful words and actions but what will absolutely turn this world upside down- not by some irony but by design – is one word spoken in kindness, one tender touch offered in love, one cup of cold water given in the name of Jesus, one life, perhaps your life, made all over again by the gentleness of God”
As I think on what God has done in my own life through His gentleness, how after a time running away from Him, He gently and lovingly wooed me back to Himself. He used His word, most definitely in the shape of bible studies that cut right to my very heart. A heart that I was protecting, the sword of the spirit made it bleed, but in so doing brought about a healing that only God could have brought. His love also came in the form of humans. His love poured out on me through countless friends. Dear sweet sisters and brothers who loved me right where I was at. No finger pointing, no accusations, just love.
God is calling me to do likewise. To love as He would love. To see my sister or brother who is hurting and fill there cup with cool waters, to offer kindnesses and a tenderness that may turn their hearts to a God who will love them more then I ever could. I want to love like that. Do you?
II Corinthians 10:3-5 “for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, On the contrary they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”
The Corinthian ‘Christians’ tended to rely on human weapons for the Christian battle. Instead of the belt of truth, they fought with manipulation. Instead of the breastplate of righteousness, they fought with the image of their success. Instead of there feet shod with readiness(the gospel), they fought with smooth words. Instead of the shield of faith, they fought with the perception of power. Instead of the helmet of salvation, they fought with false authority. Instead of the sword of the Spirit, they fought with human schemes and alliances. They had traded truth for a lie. Replaced the gospel message with a word that was not from God at all.
How many times do we try to do this thing we call life in our own strength? And how many times do we use all our worldly wiles to get life on our terms before God? Do we hit our knees before we hit the phone? Are we in the word longing for the sword of the spirit to cut out what is sin and attitudes of self? Or are we lining up our friends who will tell us what we want to hear.
Take every thought captive. EVERY is an all consuming word. And if we were taking EVERY thought captive before the throne of God, we would have no time for gossip, backbiting, manipulation, self promotion. I don’t think I do this; taking every thought captive. Only if we are walking closely with our LORD could we ever begin to do this. Are we willing?
“God help me to take every thought captive, as I walk through this life I want to use your weapons, not mine own.”
II Corinthians 8:1-2 “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in His kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.”
Can I say WOW! This spoke right to my heart as I read it this morning. My church family has been struggling. We are being tested with trouble, there is no doubt in my spirit about this. And not only trouble but we are also financially poor. Verse one could clearly read “Churches in Middleboro”. Who says the bible is not relevant today? I’d like to have a talk with them!
What I want to focus on is the last sentence; “But they are also filled with abundant joy” Not just ‘joy’ But ABUNDANT JOY! Overflowing, spilling out in generosity, joy. Last week I saw JOY in the family as the Pastor confronted some hard issues. Then Joy as 3 men were baptized that afternoon. I’m praying on these two verses that God would bring ABUNDANT JOY to the church in Middleboro. Joy that is overflowing, spilling out in generosity. Because it would fix both problems we are having, the “troubles and the poor in finances”. God is so amazing and His word is relevant today!
And here it was in my reading this morning in II Corinthians 7: 6&7a
“6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. 7 His presence was a joy”
What an amazing statement, God encourages us when we are discouraged. And he does it by sending someone our way. Titus’ visit brought joy to Paul as he heard the report from the people of Corinth. Paul’s letter had been harsh and difficult for them to hear, they had to be rebuked for the mess they were causing. The letter brought repentance, but it also brought a bit of discouragement as they looked at their lives and realized just how sinful they had become. Titus had been sent to them and now comes back to Paul with a glowing report how they were turning their lives back to God.
God in his tender mercy brought Paul, Titus who encouraged him and filled him with joy.
I’ve had several times in my life when someone has come my way who has lifted my spirits. Who has given me encouragement. Sometimes it’s been a dear friend, one of my children and sometimes it’s just the sweet smile of one of my grandchildren. To think that this comes from God himself, that my LORD longs to send me encouragement when I am discouraged now give me a new perspective. I will trade my narrow view of this journey for His any day when He reveals precious nuggets like this to my soul.
Yesterday I seemed to have little to say in the afternoon. I had nothing profound on my mind, which is strange for me. Usually I have all kinds of thoughts processing at any given time. On my way home I ended up getting into a discussion with my husband. Yes your reading the word discussion right. We have this invisible thorn between us that every once in awhile rears it’s ugly head. The Thorn has a name and it’s soon to be twenty two years old. Some times we are able to brush the thorn aside with little incident. Most of the time we agree about the thorn, and can even laugh at the thorn. No so yesterday.
Our discussion about said thorn took a wrong turn. My afternoon of “not so many words” ended and the flood gates opened and the water was a bit mucky. The conversation ended when I ended it with a hang up of the cell phone (and there were no, goodbye, see ya when I get home honey bear) I just closed the phone. It rang and I picked it up and said ” I have nothing left to say” Too bad I hadn’t kept that theme from earlier in the day. (Remember I said I seemed to run out of words).
I went to the gym and worked out much harder then the last time I was there (and yes I’m suffering for that one). As I headed home, God ever so graciously planned a radio program on a local station that I listen to every once in awhile, as I started to listen I heard the local preacher ask “do you have anyone you need to ask forgiveness from. Don’t delay”, the segment ended. God is just so good at hitting us right between the eyes when we need it.
When I walked through the door, there was my beloved standing there in the kitchen with one of my favorite drinks in his hand. (he is just so good at the grace thing) I looked at those warm brown eyes and said… I’m sorry I did that, can you forgive me. And he kissed me, handed me my favorite drink and said “of course I do”.
The Thorn will always be there, I pray for less painful experiences with it, I’ve even prayed it would be removed. But I’m thankful for the Thorn and the lessons I learn from it when it tears at my flesh. Last night God taught me that I need to ask for forgiveness with out delay. No brooding, no pouting, no stomping my feet. With out delay. And He blessed me with a husband who forgives and loves. And says of course I forgive you. God thank you for the Thorn.
I love how God just keeps connecting a theme in my faith journey. Over and over again He has reminded me of His presence, His desire to dwell with me.
This morning as I was reading II Corinthians 6 there it was again. in vs 16b:
“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Which is Paul quoting Ezekiel 37:27
For in the very beginning this was God’s desire as He created the Garden of Eden and placed Adam and Eve there. He created man so He could walk among them. (man rebels and the garden is closed) Then His Glory was present as Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, again He walked among his people. (man rebels and the law is handed down) Again as He planned out the temple and His Spirit rested over the Ark of the Covenant, He was among His people. (man rebels and the Chariot of the Lord leaves the temple) Jesus, God in the flesh was born and walked among us for 33 years. (man doesn’t even recognize him) He is crucified, buried and risen not only from the dead, but rises to Glory and sends His Holy Spirit so once again He can walk among us (in us). And as Ezekiel 48:35 declares He will Dwell with us In the New City, the New Jerusalem. (Jehovah Shammah)
God, dwelling among us, walking with us. Over and over again in His word He proclaims His love for us proclaiming that He LONGS TO DWELL WITH US.
Are we letting Him? Do we want Him like He wants us?