More Lessons To Be Learned In Genesis… Jacob Returns to Bethel

Altar

(FreeImages.com/DianeJabi)

During this school year, I have been doing an in-depth Bible study on the book of Genesis with my CBS group.  Though I have read it many times throughout my life, I never cease to learn new things with each additional reading.  Once again, I was not disappointed.

In Genesis 35, we find the account of Jacob returning back to Bethel.  Returning to Bethel is significant because this is the location where Jacob first encountered God. 

Before Jacob and his family returned to Bethel, he first gave several very specific commands to his family.  Each of these directives has a significant correlating spiritual analogy.

1. First, Jacob tells his children to “Put away the strange gods from among you.”

Surrender your idols.

What “idols” or lies (anything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God) do I need to surrender to God in order to move into a place of greater intimacy and encounter with God? 

Idols are anything that agitate my trust in God and divert my devotion from God.  They can be a relationship, a circumstance, a diagnosis, a conflict, a trial, a tragedy, a loss, a goal, an occupation, a comfort, something or someone that I love more than God, etc…

2. Second, Jacob tells his household to purify themselves.

Purify yourselves.

This is speaking of repentance and cleansing.  The Word cleanses us.  Repentance is required though for the cleansing to occur.  Without repentance, it’s like standing next to a shower but not actually getting in and using the soap and shampoo.  Holy Spirit is like the water, and the Word is like the soap and shampoo.  Not perfect analogies, but you get the point.

Ephesians 5:26

26 that He might [a]sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,

Hebrews 10:22

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 3:19

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

3. Third, Jacob tells his family to change their clothes.

Change your “garments.”

There is so much significance to this!!!  The old garments of sinful behavior, shame, guilt, and condemnation need to be cast aside so you can put on the garments of His righteousness.  

You cannot wear His righteousness when you are trying to wear your own faux imitations.

Isaiah 61:10

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Zechariah 3:4

Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”

Ephesians 6:14

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

 

After Jacob’s household had followed his instructions, they proceeded to Bethel.  Bethel is the place where Jacob had previously encountered God.  See the following passage that speaks of this first encounter:

Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob’s Vow at Bethel

10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep[a] you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place [b]Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a [c]tenth to You.”

Genesis 31:13

13 am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”

Before returning to see his father, Jacob traveled to the place of his initial encounter with God.  He moved/positioned himself where God would appear.  Bethel means “House of God.”

The spiritual application is, Are you positioned (do you intentionally put yourself) where God’s Presence is?  Do you regularly spend time in the “house of God”?  Does this “house” have the tangible Presence of God that is welcomed?  Does it reveal Him, and lead you into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God?

Not all houses “house” the Presence of God.  Some are empty tombs, enshrining the past but not bringing His life into your present experience.  Jesus lived thousands of years ago, but He still is very much alive today!

As soon as they arrived in Bethel, Jacob and his family did something very symbolic.  They built an altar.

Altars speak of sacrifice, yielding, and worship.

The following verses highlight the concept of sacrifice:

Titus 2:14

14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Romans 6:13

13 And do not present your members as[a]instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Jonah 2:9

But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”

Hebrews 9:14

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without [a]spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Luke 9:23 Take Up the Cross and Follow Him

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross[a]daily, and follow Me.

(Note: This passage is not talking about a literal cross, typically, but it is referring to the daily ways we must choose to die to our wills and our flesh in order to serve God and others.)

Philippians 3:8

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

John 12:24

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much[a]grain.

(Note: This is again referring to “dying” to our flesh.)

Matthew 16:24

Take Up the Cross and Follow Him

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

1 John 3:16

The Outworking of Love

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Philippians 2:17

17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Philippians 2:5

The Humbled and Exalted Christ

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

The implication is that yieldedness is the place where God loves to meet us.

He met His people at the altar.  He still does today, except we are called His “temples.”  We are the dwelling place where “altars” or sacrifices to Him are to be made.  This does not mean empty rituals of religious repetition out of obligation.  This is referring to heart-felt yieldedness to God, knowing Who He is and knowing how much He loves us.

Sincere and passionate devotion is what should inspire us rather than religious obligation. 

The question is, “Are our temples merely empty tombs, enshrining the past, or are they a place where God’s Presence is welcomed and where daily sacrifices are being made — sacrifices of yieldedness and allowing Him to purify us?”

 

The place of sacrifice was on the altar within the temple.  We are God’s “temples,” and the altar is the inner “sanctuary” of our hearts.  Our hearts are the place where we yield a pleasing “sacrifice” to God.  This is where we choose to yield to God, to sacrifice our fleshly/sinful desires, and where we pour out our devotion before God.  True, authentic devotion always starts within the heart of a person.

In the Biblical account, we find that as soon as Jacob and his family make their offerings, God’s Presence appears.

As soon as God appears, He does the following actions:

  • He blesses Jacob.
  • He calls Jacob by his new name, Israel, which means “Prince.”
  • He confirms the promises that He had given to Jacob/Israel in the past and to his forefathers.

As we see throughout Genesis, God is always faithful to keep His promises.  He is faithful because He is faithful.  

God’s encounter with Jacob is not fearful, hateful, or condemning.  Instead, it is a time of restoration, blessing, calling Jacob into his true identity, and confirmation of God’s character and His faithfulness to oversee the fulfillment of His promises to His people.

God calling Jacob by his new name is significant.  Names represented a person’s identity and purpose.

What names has God called you in the Bible and personally?  Those names are to reveal your true identity and true calling.  They are your prophetic destiny.

Jacob’s new name means “Prince.”  God also tells us that we shall reign with Him as co-heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:17

17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

1 Peter 1:4

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

Revelation 2:26

26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Revelation 3:21

21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

It is so interesting to note that God calls Jacob/Israel by His prophetic name and into his destiny after Jacob seeks and then encounters God.

If you are needing greater clarity concerning a situation or relationship, there is encouragement in this lesson to seek God, to put aside “idols” and lies in your life, to remove off the old works of the flesh or your own attempts at “righteousness” apart from God, to enter into his House, to yield yourself to God, and to wait on Him.  God responds to those who seek Him and yield to Him.

God then gave Jacob renewed confirmation that clarified Jacob’s identity and purpose and then poured out blessings to provide and protect Jacob on his journey.  Remember, that what God speaks actually begins to happen.  His Words are creative in nature.  God’s blessings were actually speaking the blessings into existence.

In Genesis 1, God spoke, and it happened.  We see this same occurrence throughout Scripture.  When God says something, it isn’t just a “maybe” or “if then…”  It’s a promise that has creative power attached to it.  When the Creator speaks, matter and energy respond to His voice.

 

Advertisements

Are Your Preparations Big Enough For The Provision?

Camels in Wadi Rum

(FreeImages.com/ChrisS)

I have been reading in Genesis 24, and today’s reading once again provided a deep truth.

In Genesis 24, we have the account of when Abraham requested that his servant Eleazar would find a wife for his son, Isaac. (You might need to study the culture of the times back then to understand some of the actions taken.)

What drew my attention as I read was the faith and preparations that Eleazar made to fulfill Abraham’s request.  (Eleazar was like Abraham’s Administrative Assistant, and it is obvious that Abraham fully trusted Eleazar and Eleazar likewise.) Eleazar was to travel to the land of Abraham’s kin and to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s son, and to bring this wife back. Eleazar departs, leaving with ten camels.

The significance here is that he is prepared to either look the fool or to receive the answer to his faith/mission. Ten camels was an act of faith.  Eleazar left fully prepared to return with a bride for Isaac, her personal servants, and her possessions.  Eleazar’s preparations demonstrate that he is fully expecting to fulfill his master’s request.

What struck me is the following:

Sometimes we don’t believe big so we don’t prepare big. Eleazar either went looking the fool or the believer, depending on your own perspective/faith. He was willing to look the fool in order to receive what God had prepared.

Sometimes, our faith requires us to look the fool in order to receive the results of our belief.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you had to step out, prepare big, and dream big, in order to receive big?

A 10-camel caravan represented Eleazar’s faith in action. He was prepared to return with Isaac’s future bride, her servants, and her personal possessions.

I needed this reminder:

If I want to receive the abundance of God’s supply, my actions and preparations need to be in proportion to what I receive. My actions and preparations need to be in accordance with my request.

There are many events in Scripture where God asked for obedient action before He provided the answers.

It’s impossible though to obey if you don’t believe. It’s impossible to trust if you don’t believe God is a good Father.

The first step today might be to receive the outpouring of His love for you and me.

 

No Neutral!

roller coaster

(FreeImages.com/JamesWilliams)

We often think we can live in neutral.  Neutral sounds safe.  It sounds free of risk and rejection.

The problem with neutral is that neutral isn’t neutral.

Neutral is coasting either uphill or downhill.  We can debate the mechanics of this and argue that if the grade is even then there is no movement.  The problem with this is that life isn’t even.

Ambivalence is my escape or pretend stance when I don’t want to make a choice — when the choices facing me are uncomfortable, and I feel trapped.  Ambivalence is a paltry excuse, but it really isn’t a legitimate explanation.  It’s the coward way.

We take the neutral stance when we want to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable decisions.

I grew up as a “people-pleaser.”  I majorly dislike confrontation.  I would rather avoid people and conversations that are going to go in an unpleasant direction.  Sometimes, that’s the wise thing to do.  If someone is contentious, there is no profit to arguing with them.

Sometimes being a “people-pleaser” means I avoid confrontation so much that I am avoiding myself — that I am avoiding being the person God wants me to be and not doing the things He wants me to do because they require risk and potential rejection. 

People-pleasers really aren’t about pleasing others; they are really about avoiding rejection.  They will avoid rejection — even if it means they avert erecting necessary boundaries in their lives.

I grew up among a group of people that stressed obedience and submission for children and women.  It was stressed so much that to assert our voices was assumed to be rebellion and an unsubmissive heart.  The truth is that view is suppression!

As a parent of five children, I am trying to find balance.  I want my kids to feel heard and valued.  I also want my kids to learn respect and honor.  It can be tough to find that middle ground.  …But I want my kids to feel valued and heard and at the same time be respectful and obedient.

Note: As a woman and wife, my opinions do matter, and my voice should be heard.  It’s a foolish husband who silences his wife and doesn’t listen to her wise cautions and insights.

In finding our voices, it is easy to fall into the trap of demanding we are heard, and that doesn’t produce positive results. 

I want to be a woman of dignity who knows when to establish healthy boundaries, who knows when to speak up and when to stay silent, who knows which battles/hills are worth “dying on,” and who is willing stand for truth, regardless of who is for or against her.

There is never a neutral though.  If you choose silence, it shouldn’t be out of intimidation or fear.  If you choose to walk from a conflict, it should be because you are establishing healthy boundaries and avoiding unhealthy interactions — not because you are being a coward.

It’s hard to be honest and truthfully evaluate why we avoid or engage in conflict. 

I have been doing a study on the book of Mark in the Bible.  It struck me powerfully that Jesus approaches people in such a manner that you can’t remain neutral about Him.

So often, we think we can be neutral about God too.  We don’t understand or don’t like the things we don’t understand about Him so we either avoid Him or try to change Him to fit our ideals.  We pretend He doesn’t exist, or we take the coward way and think we don’t need to make any decision about Him until He performs according to our demands (jumps through our hoops).

The problem is you can’t be neutral about God.

You are either for or against Him.

To not make a decision concerning God isn’t remaining neutral, it’s making the decision to not accept Him.  You can make that decision, but do you want to live with the full ramifications of that decision?  Is that a “hill you want to die on”?

In Mark 3, we see how various people and characters interacted with Jesus.  They were either pursuing Him, running from Him, or accusing Him.

I read the following quote in my CBS study guide:

Consider each of the groups who interact with Jesus in this lesson.  The crowds of people who converge upon Jesus and His disciples are not neutral; they identify, hate, and fear the Son of God.  The 12 men who are appointed by Jesus to be apostles are not neutral; they have given up everything to respond to His call.  Those who are close to Him in a familial way are not neutral; they doubt His sanity and attempt to halt His ministry.  The religious leaders are not neutral; they accuse Him of being possessed and empowered by Satan and seek to destroy His credibility.

As you observe Jesus Christ through Mark’s narrative, personal neutrality is not an option.  …“Whoever is not with Me is against Me.”  (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23)

We might think we are being neutral when it comes to life, but we aren’t.  Your decisions and the way you live your life is either with/for God or against God.  To not move with God is to slow down and prevent His work in your life and in the lives of others that you influence. 

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…”

Joshua 24:15

15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Save

Your Ministry Is Where Your Heart Is…

beach love

(FreeImages.com/sunshizzle)

This past Sunday was one of those “light-bulb” moments.

I was sitting in a gathering with many people, listening to a powerful testimony and under the truth-piercing Word of God.  My heart was being convicted — not in a shameful way but in a way that caused me to repent in order to receive from God.  I was being convicted of selfishness, pride, and self-seeking within my heart.

God had placed within my heart a calling to reach out to people and to share with them how God changes hearts and what it means to have an authentic and personal relationship with God.  The problem is that my calling had turned into self-seeking.  I was looking for a ministry out there, when the ministry was in front of my face.

On Sunday, it was a powerful moment when I recognized my pride, selfishness, and lack of faith.  Because of these soul issues, I was often unwilling to do the “scary” thing, to step out of my comfort zone, and reach out to others.

As soon as I repented of this, the “light-bulb”moment appeared.  I, all of a sudden, realized that God had placed His love in my heart for several strangers surrounding me, and those were my ministry.  I suddenly realized, that when I follow the love, my ministry will be found.  I know this may sound “cheesy,” but it’s the profound truth.

So often, we follow after a ministry, but instead, God wants us to follow after Him and to be so filled with His love for others that “ministry” is the natural by-product.

Ministry is where the love is.

Loving God through others is the ministry

God doesn’t call us to be in full-time ministry.  God calls us to love Him and to love Him by loving His people.

When you follow the heart of God, you will find the “ministry” He has in store for you.

This past Sunday that happened in a huge way for me, I began to reach out to strangers with whom I had fallen in love.  God led me to pray over a couple, their sick child, a young woman in a wheelchair, and other hurting people.  Why did I do this?  Because He gave me His heart for them.

So often, we get it so wrong!  We want the glory or this sense of purpose by doing things when God just calls us to give His heart to others.  Suddenly, the self-glory and the fear that holds us captive are no longer snares, and we are able to step out in joyful abandon, following Him.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Luke 4:18

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

“Do You Trust Me With Your Dreams?”

dreaming of

(FreeImages.com/EvgeniaPronina)

I was struggling…  Life was pulling me in many directions, but my real struggle was with something greater — the root of my struggle.  I was trying, pushing myself, and oh so stressed!  I was trying to force something.  That something is my dreams.

Then, God and I had a talk.  Well, it was more like He spoke conviction into my heart, and I knew it was truth.  It was this penetrating question, “Do you trust me with your dreams?”

I knew then that was the struggle.  I was trying to force my dreams in my strength, my time, and my way.

God was asking me if I trusted Him enough with my dreams.  I then realized that was the issue.

That question helped me to recognize again that all of life comes down to one penetrating question, “Do you trust God?”  And the answer is almost always a definitive “no” if you don’t really know He loves you.

God then flooded my heart with so many reminders of His love, but the greatest one was the cross.  This is what He spoke to my heart, when I asked myself, “Do I trust Him/believe He loves me enough?”:

He spoke this to my heart: “Because I was willing to give my life for you.”  If He was willing to sacrifice everything, including His relationship with His perfect Abba Father and suffer the ultimate of all suffering for me, then I know.  I know He loves me enough.  He loves me enough for anything life might send my way.

The point is, dear ones, the problem is not with our faith — our faith in His power.  The problem is with our awareness of His love.  The truth is we often don’t really believe or comprehend His love for us.  We are still measuring it by the tragedies of our life, by the false earthly representations, and by the twisted thinking of those who claim to represent God.

What God spoke to my heart this morning was this:

As the parable of the father in the Prodigal Son, so He will always pursue me — no matter what I’ve done, always desiring to bring me back to Himself.  And with that, I whisper, “God, don’t ever stop pursuing me and bringing me back within the security and fullness of your Love.”

Wrote this to friends this morning:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk — And then I finally found Love — Love so perfect, so infinite, and I am reduced to an unashamed curtain of tears … to this overflowing, overwhelming awareness that I am “found,” “seen,” “heard,” and complete within Love. We all yearn for perfect, infinite Love… we want someone or something to truly know us and to truly love us within that vulnerability and transparency, allowing us to blossom within the security of unfathomable, immeasurable Love! Within the embrace of lavish love, my heart unfurls, and the fragrance, vibrancy, and life blooms!

My heart is coming unfurled.

I may be accused of being more emotional, but the truth is my heart is learning that it can be more vulnerable.  My heart is being allowed to feel more because I have found a “Safe Haven.”  I can “risk” my heart when I know there is truly no risk with God. 

How about you?

Do you trust God with your dreams? 

Do you trust Him with your heart?

This. Is. It!

Ray Of Light

(FreeImages.com/CarterPerrier)

I love it when God removes the “blinders” and reveals truth to me!  The interesting thing is that often it’s truth I have known in my head but somehow didn’t really understand and/or believe it, meaning live it.

Remember, what you believe is what you live.

It’s interesting how “old truth” suddenly becomes “new truth” when you finally really “see” it!

That’s how it was for me when I realized anew the truth of the following insights God was revealing to me — truths I had “known” before but not really knew.

For example, I blogged previously how God showed me that faith isn’t something God quantifies; it’s something we simply need to have, and that it’s the Object of our faith — God Himself — that is the Source of our faith.  We can’t produce authentic, powerful faith through our own ability to muster up faith.  We have faith as a result of knowing our God — Who He is.

Secondly, I have come to treasure prayer and to view it as the amazing privilege it is — the opportunity to partner with God in His work in another person’s life and the incredible privilege it is to communicate with God.

I used to think prayer was me, naming off a bunch of requests to God and hoping He would choose to answer some of them the way I wanted or thought they should be answered.

I grew to understand that prayer involved some worship of God.  I remember trying to “tack on” a few worshipful-sounding words in order to meet a higher level of spirituality, or so I hoped.  Sounds really shallow, doesn’t it?!!  To be honest though, my prayer life was often exactly that — shallow.

My prayer life was shallow though because my understanding and therefore relationship with God was more shallow. 

It’s hard to pray to One that you don’t know that intimately, don’t really grasp that His love is unconditional and not affected by performance, and don’t really trust. 

The power of prayer is the One to Whom we are praying.

The problem is we so often don’t really understand God, or our thoughts about Him are based upon misconceptions, twisted truths, and harmful misrepresentations.

I recently read the following quote in the book, Wonder Struck:

The wonder of prayer is rediscovered in Who we are speaking to.

— Margeret Feinberg

Reminds me what God showed me about faith.  Once again, it’s the recipient of our prayers and His interaction with me because of Who He is that makes prayer so vital and so incredible!  It’s not the words, in themselves, that make prayer so powerful.

Prayer is so incredible because it is the opportunity to speak to God or as the following quote says:

“Prayer is the opportunity to bend the ear of God.” — Margaret Feinberg

It’s a big deal because of Who God is!  He isn’t some conniving, selfish, evil, uncaring God.  He is a God who longs to hear our voices, especially when they are lifted in awareness of Him.

Have you ever sat with someone and experienced their inattention or complacency?  It’s not exactly pleasant or satisfying.

A lot of prayer life consists of mumbled phrases thrown out to appease a false view of a vindictive God.

A prayer life is transformed though when we begin to see the amazing and incredible gift it is — an opportunity to commune with an ever-present, ever-loving, ever-powerful God!!!  It is an opportunity to be heard by God but also to hear from God.

This brings me to a third truth.  I read the following quote recently and loved it:

“Hope is confident expectation.”  (Not sure in which devotional I read it.)

Do you see that?!!!  Hope is confident expectation in Who?  The power of hope is in Who the expectation is!  Hope isn’t lasting or “powerful” because it’s something we just randomly possess or stir up in ourselves.  Hope is a powerful emotion that comes from a powerful Source. 

It’s the Source of the hope — what we are expecting or looking to — that determines the resilience and strength of our hope.

As I was pondering the above truths, I was thinking how all kinds of other emotions I can think of owe their power and passion to their source.  If it’s a good source, it can be a good emotion.  If it’s a negative source — a reaction, fear, or bitterness — it can be an emotion that wreaks great destruction.

I couldn’t help but ponder that the authentic reality of truth, love, peace, joy, grace, wisdom, life, hope, faith, and prayer all owe their power to the object or source of their existence: God Himself.

It really is that simple!

This is why I have experienced the pure, authentic fullness of these characteristics only in the Presence of God Himself.

You can pursue peace, purpose, and joy outside of God, but I can personally tell you, it won’t last, and it is only a shallow representation of the authentic reality of knowing the Divine Source!

The secret therefore to the full life is knowing the God of life.  The secret to the above three characteristics is knowing God — truly knowing God.  In order to do that, it may mean laying aside all the false ideas and harmful representations of God so you can finally meet the reality of God Himself.

Additional Notes: 

As I was contemplating these truths further while washing my dishes, it “struck me.”  We often think that people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in God because they are lacking faith or because they are rebellious.  What shattered that pre-conceived idea for me is that just as I need to understand God is my Source of the abundant life so it is with the “unbeliever.”  Perhaps, the person who doesn’t believe in God isn’t about his/her lack of faith at all but more about his/her lack of understanding or false understanding of God.

In other words, how can you believe in One that you think is angry, harsh, uncaring, vindictive, and selfish?  It’s easier to pretend He doesn’t exist than that He does but could be those things.

It is a wrong view of God that is the biggest hindrance to a person’s ability to trust in God.  How can you trust in One you don’t believe loves you unconditionally, perfectly, and eternally?

Rather than telling people they need to have faith, maybe we need to be telling them and showing them more what our God is truly like — not a man-made version of a god but God Himself.  That may mean, we first need to get to know Him more intimately ourselves.

Save

Save

Faith… I Am Finally Getting It!

Leap of faith

(FreeImages.com/DaveShields)

This year, the prevailing theme God has been teaching me is that of faith.  I often see how understanding (“sight”) seems to come in “layers.”  God shows me something; then, He shows me another “layer” to the truth of that thing.

God had showed me some profound truths in regards to faith a few months ago.  I wrote about it in these blog posts: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/what-we-view-as-faith-in-god-is-often-not-about-god-at-all/ and https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/.

Each of those blog posts was another “layer” to what God was showing me concerning faith.  He was showing me that faith was resting in God.  He was also showing me that God doesn’t quantify our faith; because it’s not about how much faith we have but that we have faith, period.

In my devotionals, I was reading that faith is confidence. In fact, I recently heard that the root for confidence is confideo, which means in faith.  They are directly related to each other.  Makes perfect sense when we think about the usages of both.

Yet, this amazing and profound truth just “nailed” me this morning!  It is this:

Faith is confidence in God.

So simple, right?  Yet so profound and life-changing!

I used to view faith as something that I had to do or stir up in myself.  I always wondered if I would have enough faith to get me through certain types of trials.

Now that I am finally getting it, the profound truth about faith is completely “revolutionary” to me!

Faith is confidence in God!

It’s not about me.  It’s about Him — the Object of my faith.  It’s because of Who He is that I can have complete confidence in Him — no matter my circumstances.

Wow!  Doesn’t that take the pressure off!

God has been leading me into a much deeper walk with Him, and as He does, my love for Him and personal understanding of Him has grown.  That is also why at the same time, my faith is also growing.

Faith grows parallel with a personal and accurate understanding of God.

As I am growing in my love and an accurate understanding of God personally, my faith is also growing.

How incredibly encouraging it is to know that I don’t have to worry about my ability to trust in God.  I need to look at my God and why He is so worthy of all my confidence/trust!

I just need to have confidence in Him.

That, I can do, because I know my God!

A Full Life

Sailing

(FreeImages.com/StanleyLeung)

SKI

(FreeImages.com/SheldonPickering)

I sense this restlessness, this hunger for something more…  I am seeing this among Christians too…  This hunger for something more — a recognition that something is lacking in their spiritual walk, and they aren’t quite sure what it is.  They know a lot about God, are doing all the right things, but so many times, it feels as if they are going through the motions.  They go to church.  They come home.  Life goes on…  Predictable to an extent, somewhat “safe,” fairly comfortable, but there is this sense of “shallowness.”

Then they meet someone — someone that has a “fire” in them.  There’s this undeniable passion and fervency in this person or people.  Their eyes and countenance have a glow, and when they talk about the Lord, their entire countenance “lights up.”  Suddenly, they sense that they are lacking a fervency and love for the Lord.  They feel like they have to force a feeling of love.  They know in their heads they should love God. “Afterall, Jesus died on the cross for their sins.”  Yet, the feelings of true adoration and heart-felt love seem missing.  They may attempt to “stir” up in themselves this feeling of love, but it feels forced because it is.

How do we as Christians/people experience the fullness of life?  What does “fullness” of life look like?  What does it mean to really “live” life?

When I was reading through the names of God, the name Jehovah stood out to me.  It is taken from the Hebrew word chavah, which means life.  This name of God literally means the All-existing One.  In other words, He is the Source, Essence, and Continuation of life.

As Genesis 1 tells us, God created life.  Life came from Him.  Every atom, every molecule, every means of energy and matter came from God.  Because God “breathes” life into the very structure of life, He is also its very means of continuation.

It also makes sense that because God created life and sustains life, He also defines life for us.  Within Him is the very essence of life itself.

I have lived life for 30+ years, and I have experienced what we normally define as living life: eating, breathing, working, enjoying some pleasures, doing, learning, growing, developing, procreating, and becoming a mother, etc..

I have also experienced the difference of what it means to truly live life.  Within true life is a sense of absolute wholeness, completeness, fullness.  Until you experience it, it cannot be totally understood.  This kind of fullness of life does not require any thing, any circumstance, or any emotion to sustain it.

I have experienced this kind of life when I am in close fellowship with the Lord.  This fellowship is not produced by more programs, more preaching, more acts of service, more doing, more knowledge.  It is a result of simply being in the Presence of God.  Sure, attending church services and spending time in God’s Word are some of the very things that can bring us into direct fellowship with the Lord, and they are “needful.”

BUT…!  Nothing can substitute for actual time spent, listening, worshiping, and abiding in His Presence.  Words that come to mind are: observe, absorb, reflect, and ponder.

The problem is so much of the time, as Christians, we think that knowing about God or doing for God is the same as knowing God, and it isn’t!  You can know a lot about God, without really knowing God personally and intimately.

Don’t tell us what you know about God.  Tell us Who He is to you?  What does it mean that God is loving and loves you?  How does that change who you are?

This morning as I was reflecting on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I wrote the following notes:

We try to keep everything “safe” and predictable and then wonder why life sometimes seems so “shallow.”  Why?  Because faith requires taking risks.  It involves personal involvement, which means vulnerability, humility, and sacrifice.

If we want to experience the fullness of the life God has for us, we have to be willing to be “all in” for Him — that means surrendering ourselves, laying down our fears, our pride, our goals, and letting God use us in ways that will challenge us, grow us, and cause us to “risk” (take a risk).  What we risk is far surpassed by what we gain: His fullness — the fullness of the All Existing-One!

In a devotional I am reading, Wonder Struck, it says the following:

Sometimes we have to take risks, …to be wonder-struck by the love of God.

If we are honest, one of the main reasons why we hesitate to surrender or give ourselves fully to the will and “life purpose” God has for us is because of fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of death, and fear of suffering will cause us to erect barriers around our hearts, souls, and very lives.  We think we are protecting ourselves by not fully investing ourselves or being willing to be “raw” and vulnerable, but the reality is we are hurting ourselves by not.  Our “barriers” keep people at a distance, and then we wonder why we don’t have close friends or no one wants to include us.  We will miss out on the blessings God intends for us.  We will miss out on experiencing the full life God has planned for us.

If you want to experience the fullness of life — the life God has planned for you — you need to be “all in.”  You need to trust God fully with your life, and that may mean facing some lies you have believed about God.  You need to be willing to be transparent, vulnerable, “sacrificial,” and humble.

I recently heard it said, “Humility is trusting in God.”  I wrote a past blog about the connection between pride and fear, and I must fully agree with the quote I just mentioned.  Humility requires letting go of our own desire to control the people and circumstances around us, to keep everything predictable.  It requires surrendering our wills, our lives, our futures to God.  How do we do this?

We do this by knowing Who God is.  When I finally experienced God’s love personally for me, I was able to surrender myself to God.

God has been working on my heart to surrender more to Him.  He is calling me into a deeper walk with Him.  He has stirred up a “hunger” to know Him more personally, to be more aware of His Presence, and yes, to be “wonder struck” with the reality of Who God is.  I want every second of my day to be lived in the fullest measure of life — this incredible abundant, overflowing awareness of God and His goodness!  I have never known life to be sweeter than it is when lived within this full “awakening” or awareness of God!

Yes, Lord!  I want You!

What Is Your Identity?

crocuses

What is identity, and why is it so important?

Your identity is what defines you.

Our identity does not just represent us, but it is the “substance” of who we are.

We will live out who we believe we are.

If you want to know where you find your identity, look no further than the things that give you purpose and where you find “fulfillment.”  That’s what you believe is your identity.  Note: this can be a false identity, but this is the identity you have taken as your own and are living as.

When asked about yourself, what is your regular explanation?  How do you introduce yourself?  What is the summary of your life?  How do you spend your time — the majority of it?  The answers to each of these questions will tell you a lot about the identity you are living as.

Examine that identity next to the identity that God gives to you.  Is your identity truthful?

 

Sufficiency

nature 1

I awoke this morning and began my day my favorite way: a Bible in my lap, my journal, two devotional books, a pen, and a study book.

I kept it simple this morning: read from the two devotional books, glanced at the study book and closed it back up, read a chapter in II Corinthians, prayed, listened for what God wanted to teach me, and then journaled some thoughts.

These are the simple but profound truths, I believe, He wanted me to hear from Him today  (Journal Entry):

I prayed to surrender myself to God for the start of the day.  Felt the Lord challenging me, “Are you surrendering yourself to me?  Then why are you holding onto your cares?”  (I was stressing over some concerns for my day — wondering how I was going to accomplish everything I need to do today.)

The theme of my life in 2015 seemed to be surrender — learning the profound and beautiful truths of surrendering to God — what that looks like and how it happens.

I try to start my days with a simple prayer, telling God that I surrender myself to Him, to be used by Him, and to be empowered by His Presence as I go about my day.

God, though, this morning was challenging me that when I am worrying, stressing, fearing, I am not surrendered.

To surrender is to let go.

How do I let go of those things that worry me?  The question is, “Why do you feel you need to hold onto those things?”  If you are holding onto something, you are in essence believing that you have to protect that thing, that you can’t trust those things with anyone else — even more importantly, with God.

To surrender is to trust in the all-sufficiency of Christ.

A thought that stood out to me in my one devotional this morning was the idea of contentment and how that relates to trusting in Christ’s sufficiency.

Here’s what I journaled:

At the heart of a lack of contentment [and fear] is not understanding or believing in the sufficiency of God — His provision, protection, presence, power, and peace.

That’s it, isn’t it?!!

Contentment comes from a personal belief in the sufficiency of God — that He is the Great “I Am”!  He revealed Himself to the Israelites as the “I Am,” meaning, “Everything they needed, He is and will provide.”

God directed me to read from the following passage in Scripture:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I feel this was God’s personal encouragement to me, following a heart cry for Him to deliver us from some present trials.  I knew the lie was coming that God wasn’t powerful enough, didn’t care enough, or my faith wasn’t enough.

Instead, God led me to the truth in this Scripture.  God spoke the following thoughts to my heart:

As I was reading II Cor. 12:9-10, I felt God was showing me that in the areas He answered my requests with a “no” — in regards to my own weaknesses and some personal challenges we are facing — that He was telling me it’s so that in our weaknesses we come to rely on His sufficiency, and we experience the intimacy of the personal reality of it.

Let me restate that…

In our weaknesses, we come to rely on His sufficiency, and we experience the intimacy of the personal reality of it.

Doesn’t that change the entire way we view our struggles, weaknesses, and trials?  It doesn’t minimize our challenges, sorrows, and suffering, but it does give us the hope — that as our bodies grow weaker, our spiritual lives can grow stronger; as our circumstances grow more challenging, our spiritual lives can find greater vitality and fullness; and as earthly sorrows threaten to crush us, the immeasurable glories of the reality of the eternal can produce within us the peace and joy that passes all understanding.

The immeasurable glories of the reality of the eternal God can produce within us the peace and joy that passes all understanding!