WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the category “Transformation/Sanctification/Refine”

A Godly Perspective

A person’s perspective is an attitude and viewpoint. It can be positive or negative. A positive perspective sees the good in even the most painful and darkest of circumstances. A negative perspective will eventually lead to a hard heart, a root of bitterness, and a stagnant spiritual walk.

Perspective is an understanding that events, people, and circumstances are interrelated, and a positive perspective means we have the ability to see things from a larger frame of reference. A positive perspective means we are looking through the eyes of Jesus.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

With the eyes of Christ we see the good in all people, even when confronted by rude, abusive, and angry people. With a Christ-like vision, we are less apt to judge and more likely to adopt a compassionate attitude. We will consider why actions and behaviors play out and hold our tongues and judgments for later.

When we consider the life of Jesus, we see he was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He was able to look past their mistakes or employment choices and see into the heart of the person. His love looked past all rebellion, greed, and lust and saw the desperation and need for acceptance and love in man’s heart.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”       Luke 7:34 (NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 (NIV)

As sinners, at some point we will act out, saying or thinking things that cause our Savior grief. One of these things occurs when we doubt the love of God. During difficult trials, our flesh cries out under the pressure and pain. Too often a man thinks, “If God loves me why must I suffer?” It is because of our sin and our need to be sanctified. The pressure of difficult times will bring the dross of our sin to the surface, enabling the Holy Spirit to remove it for our benefit. We are called to be like Christ.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

Sometimes we feel like mishandled clay in the hands of The Potter. Under intense pressure, we cry out and protest at every squeeze and pinch He makes. Then, when The Potter places us on His spinning wheel, life seems to spin out of control. No longer can we see clearly, for the world has become a blur. When the turning slows and comes to a stop, we feel the Creator’s hands lift us from the wheel. In fear, we tremble. Why? Because the heat of the kiln awaits us and we can not look past the future discomfort.

With the eyes of Christ, we see how The Potter has carefully placed us in just the right spot on his spinning wheel. As it whirls us around, we take note of how The Potter places both of His loving hands about us, molding us into a vessel of beauty and usefulness. We understand that our life is under His control, so we worry and fret not. When our Creator lifts us from the wheel and places us in the kiln, we welcome the heat. For it is in the fire that our beauty is enhanced, free of imperfections and strong.

Perspective helps when we are faced with adversity. Perspective was one reason Jesus was able to endure the cross. Without perspective, we follow our own natural inclinations. May God grant us eyes to see the good in every person and in every circumstance.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)

Valley of Detours: Trusting God

*7

Have you ever read the wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet In High Places? If not, I highly recommend that you do. The main character, Much Afraid, decides to trust the Good Shepherd and travel to His kingdom, which are on the high places. He appoints two companions to assist her along the way, but they lead her up and down paths that often seem like detours.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

In reality, every twist and turn, valley and rough patch Much Afraid journeyed were necessary for her equipment. Each apparent detour trained her for the challenging ascent. As the book unfolds, Much Afraid learns that she must cooperate with God while in the valley of detours. When she lays down her self will and accepts the Shepherd’s path for her life, she finds peace and joy.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, which stirred the jealousy of his other brothers. Not only did their father present him with a special coat of many colors, but Joseph also had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. The dream implied he would reign over them some future day.

“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:5-9 (NKJV)

Joseph’s life story did not play out as he would have expected. No, the hateful plan his brother’s scheme landed Joseph in Egypt, far from family and Canaan. Into slavery, he was sold and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh was his master. But God did not forget Joseph.

And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.Genesis 39:3-5 (NKJV)

By this time Joseph had endured several detours in his valley of sorrow. The betrayal of his brothers and the passing from the favored son of a rich patriarch to a mere slave are two examples. Another detour sent Joseph to prison, simply because he maintained his morality by rebuffing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Gen.39:6-8) God was watching over Joseph the entire time.

Our heavenly Father cheers us on while we run our spiritual race. But the enemy is bent on harming us. The Devil does not want to see a sinful man transformed into the image of his victor, Jesus Christ. Nor does he want us to reach our eternal home. One of the fastest ways he can disrupt God’s plan for us is to tempt our morality.

Once he was in prison, God again showed Joseph favor and mercy.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.Genesis 39:21-23 (NKJV)

 Who would have thought that time as a slave, and years in prison necessary training for Pharaoh’s right-hand man? But then, who of us can understand the mind of God? Joseph remained steadfast in his faith. He was in an awful state, but he did not sit on his laurels and give up. He did not moan in self-pity and grow bitter.

There were many other valley detours in the life of Joseph. They made him stronger and wiser. They equipped Joseph for the jobs God had designed for him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Haphazard Plans?

_God In Control

God’s way will turn a man’s thoughts inside out and upside down. We can’t forecast the way God works. The wisdom of the world would argue that God is haphazard, but He is not calculable in His providence. He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.

’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

God’s sovereignty is a reality. His love for us is undeniable. There is no other Father who has sacrificed His only son for the redemption of mankind. So, when life seems to be out of control, even hopeless, we must remember God is behind the scenes working things out according to His perfect will.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Matthew 18:2-4 and Mark 10:15 both mention children. Their innocence and faith should be our example. By taking on a cloak of humility, we can submit to the Father’s will and trust where He has placed us, even if it is within a turbulent storm. Why? Because He loves us!

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV)

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NKJV)

The ‘whys’ in life can plague a person’s heart. The proper place for our questions is at the feet of Jesus. But, when we lay them down, we can’t assume He owes us an answer. He owes us nothing. He might not reveal His reasons for our discomfort. But with the innocence of a child, we can trust our Savior and believe that our present circumstances are for our benefit.

God does not punish His children. However, because He is a loving Father, He will discipline us. Rooting out sin, character flaws, and transforming weaknesses into strengths will not occur overnight. And the time it takes a believer to lay aside self-will, surrendering everything to God, is different for everyone.

The more obedient we are to His leading, the faster He will mold us into the perfect vessel He envisioned. But, the transformation from sinful man to that of one reflecting Jesus Christ in every way requires time. A potter molds clay and reshapes his medium over and over until it stands out, unique and worthy of his initials. Uncomfortable pressure, painful twisting, and a dizzying spin on His wheel will eventually get us the kiln. Then, agonizing heat will purify the last of our impurities. Oh, how precious it is to share in the sufferings of Christ! We can take comfort in knowing He records each one of our painful tears. They are in His record. They are valued.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

God will send the perfect circumstances our way to get this job done. We won’t understand our entire journey, but we don’t have to, right? We simply need to trust in the love of God. He is our hope, and hope will never disappoint.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:5 (NKJV)

Hope in Christ! He has a plan for you and it is not a haphazard one. The ups and downs of your life were designed long before you were knit within your mother’s womb. God sees you, as you will be perfected, and purified. Eventually, when you look in a mirror, you will only see Jesus. Your reflection will glorify God and honor Him. Praise Jehovah!

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

“If you try to forecast the way God will work you will get in a muddle; live the life of a child and you will find that every haphazard occasion fits into God’s order.” ~ Oswald Chambers

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

“While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.” ~ A.W. Tozer

Lessons From An Olive Tree

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The Hebrew word for olive tree is es shemen, which literally means “tree of oil.” It is from a primitive root meaning “to shine.” It is related to the word shemesh, “to be brilliant,” which is also the Hebrew word for the “sun.”

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NKJV)

Jesus commands us to shine our light before mankind in hopes of glorifying the Father and leading the lost to His saving grace. The light within us is the Holy Spirit and He enables us to live righteously within a crooked and perverse world.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

The first mention of an Olive tree is found in Genesis 8:11 (NKJV) “Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.” Olive trees and olive oil is regarded as a symbol of honor, joy, and favor. Many scriptures speak of using the oil from the olive tree as an anointing.

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Psalm 45:7).  

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV) 

Says the Encyclopedia Judaica, “There are trees in Israel estimated to be 1,000 years old that still produce fruit. In old age the tree becomes hollow but the trunk continues to grow thicker, at times achieving a circumference of 20 feet” (“Olive,” vol.12, Page 1361).

Have we become hollow within, like ancient olive trees? Hollow and empty of self-will and selfish desires? If so, we are in a place of spiritual maturity where the Holy Spirit can fill us beyond capacity. Have we developed strong trunks, trunks thickened by a resolve to live righteously for God, even through times of drought and suffering? Have we been filled with God’s love, wisdom, and truth or has bitterness and hate pushed aside the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Olive wood is very hard and beautifully grained. The olive was one of the most valuable trees to the ancient Hebrews. It was used by King Solomon to carve cherubim for the inner sanctuary of the first Temple.  Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.” 1 Kings 6:23 (NKJV) Our strength and beauty should call out to those who are blind, to those who no longer see beauty. Although we live in a fallen world, beauty remains everywhere; we just need to look a bit harder.

And like ancient olive trees, let us strive to bear fruit for our entire lifetime. This means producing a crop that is pressed into oil, which will hopefully heal, feed, and light the way for many. Each of is has been given a set number of days. Commit to using every moment of every year to glorify God.

Make us Olive trees, Lord! Grant us thick trunks, fruitful crops, and new shoots when we are weary from the pressing.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:8-9 (NKJV)

Plant A Seed In My Heart, Lord

Ancient Olive Tree:Garden Gethsamene

Plant a seed in my heart, Lord                                                                                        WATER it, so I thirst no longer

Make the seed that of an Olive Tree                                                                            Steady in its growth                                                                                                        Fruitful, feeding many who hunger

Roots deep                                                                                                               Supported by the words Jesus spoke                                                                         While in the Garden of Gethsemane

Make me an ancient tree                                                                                               With a substantial trunk                                                                                         Patiently waiting for the Lord’s return                                                                                A quiet witness of Your noble worth

Plant a seed in my heart                                                                                                   TEND it with Your loving hand

Make the seed a mustard seed                                                                                      Small and humble but eager to grow                                                                             Quickly sprouting to an amazing height

Faith resounding                                                                                                             No doubt present                                                                                                          Mature in the assurances of God’s Word

Make me like Joshua                                                                                                 Who called upon Your power                                                                                          To hold the sun and moon still                                                                                            Trusting Your faithfulness

Plant a seed in my heart                                                                                                  GAZE upon it, a flower of infinite beauty

Crush the buds, enjoy my fragrance                                                                         Transform me into perfume and oil                                                                            Wear my love, blessed Savior

Make me a seed                                                                                                               Sow where You desire                                                                                                             I know I’ll grow… No matter the soil.

Creator of all beauty                                                                                                  Sower of every seed in my heart                                                                                                                        I praise You!

*Inspired by my recent trip to Israel and the Garden of Gethsemane              https://www.facebook.com/cherylzelenkaauthor

Fear Hinders Our Labor For Christ

*8

God does not turn a deaf ear to any righteous person crying out for help. The Lord hears their cry. Every believer should embrace this promise. And although God is spirit, and we are spirit encased within flesh, He hears our petitions from His realm on high.

Furthermore, God delivers the righteous out of all their troubles. This deliverance can occur in many different ways. God may simply remove our adversary or obstacle. He is able to do what we deem impossible. But, more often then an immediate or supernatural intervention, He will enable us to face and overcome our obstacle through His amazing grace. He equips us to subdue the enemy, who schemes to deceive us into thinking we have lost a battle that has already been won.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:17-19 (NKJV)

Fear is often the root of our trouble, and it is an obstacle that hinders the work of Christ. It is bondage, yet we have been set free! When we ought to love the unlovable, fears of the unknown often rush at us instead. When an opportunity to share the grace and love of God stands open before us, we cower at the possible pain a wretched and lost soul might inflict, forgetting to walk in victory our risen Lord and provided.

They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you.
For I am with you,” says the Lord, “to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:19 (NKJV)

A time of testing, where a loved one is placed in the way of danger or adversity, can be especially difficult. But God understands this pain. He watched His beloved son, our Lord Jesus, suffer and endure the very cross that set us free. His crucifixion and resurrection brought about such remarkable good, the redemption of mankind and a restored relationship with God! Jesus’ fearless trust in His Father’s will and provision enabled Him to overcome all His trepidation while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew pain was in His future, but He embraced it, trusting His Father’s plan.

Suffering is found in the Refiner’s fire, and our refinement is a blessing. While in the throngs of great suffering, we might not understand the value or beauty it instills within us. But in time, it will be revealed. Understanding will come. But faith…FAITH in God’s character and goodness will propel us ahead to embrace the difficult task set before us. Grace… The GRACE of God will carry us through our test. Love…The LOVE of God that lives within us will soften our hard hearts and fearing nature to love the hateful that mock and persecute. With the eyes of Christ….Eyes that see us as we will one day be will be our own eyes, so long as we cry out to Him in righteousness.

Oh Lord, hear my cry. Make my eyes Your eyes! Let me see what You see when gazing upon the lost and spiritually dead. Help me to love them as You do and to love them as You love me.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  James 5:16 (NKJV)

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (NKJV)

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

FEARS

Mastering Our Tongue

*7

The book of James warns us about the power behind each man’s tongue. This body part may be small, but it is capable of inflicting great damage if we do not learn to harness it. In fact, man cannot tame his tongue on his own. It requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and constant attention to self-control. Even then, there will be moments when a misspoken word causes us to sin. However, there is a reward for bringing our tongue into submission, so strive to train it! For if we master our tongues we also bridle our entire body!

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.James 3:2-4 (NKJV)

Just as a bridle is used to master a horse’s direction, a rudder is used to steer a ship. Winds may blow a sailing vessel off course, but a small rudder can get it back on track and direct it to its intended port. Likewise, our tongue needs to be bridled by the grace of God so that He, our pilot, can then direct us along our earthly path.

Sadly, blessings AND curses do proceed from our mouths. Opposites birthed within our hearts, which then flow up and out of our lips. Again, James reminds us that a spring of water is not both sweet and bitter. It is filled with one or the other. This analogy reminds us to be careful with our words, keeping them sweet and full of God’s life-giving grace and love.

“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it, we curse men who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth freshwater and bitter from the same opening?” James 3:9-11 (NKJV)

In 1831, Professor Touery drank a lethal dose of strychnine in front of his distinguished colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine. Fortunately, he had combined the deadly poison with activated charcoal and lived to tell the tale.

Here is our hope! Sinful words may live within our hearts and spew recklessly from our lips, but the poison found within such words can be neutralized. This means that if we apply an opposite force, the damage should become ineffective (although it might take a good measure of time to see results). But this requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within both the offender and the wounded target.

What is the neutralizing agent? God’s love! Hateful words are powerful and damaging. But God’s love can restore relationships and bring them back to health.

Poisons also have antidotes! It is a medicine taken or given to counteract a particular poison. Antidotes either prevent the poison from working or reverse the effects. The love of Christ is a powerful antidote. It counteracts the poison spewed through gossip and slander. With it, we are given new vision. It enables us to view situations and people through eyes of love. By it, forgiveness is possible because the antidote brings to mind all the sins Christ has forgiven in us.

Ultimately, our goal should be to eliminate any poison resting our tongues before it has a chance to do any damage. This is possible, but we must,“Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NKJV) Reading the Word of God will help with this goal. While feeding upon the Word of God and consider, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV). Fill your soul with sweet reflections so that there is no room left in your heart for any bitter or hateful thoughts.

 *Read the following scriptures and ask yourself if you are harboring any feelings of unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart? Are the words of your lips overflowing with sweet spring water, bitter water, or both?

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.Proverbs 21:23 (NKJV)

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8 (NKJV)

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19 (NASB)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)

Seeking God: ALL Are Called To Pray

*Prayers

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!”   1 Chronicles 16:11 (NKJV)

Spiritual work is HARD work. Prayer is often arduous. It requires time, concentrated focus, and humility. Prayer is more than mere meditation. Rather, it is the means by which every saint cultivates intimacy with God. To commune is to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity and intimacy. Often there is an interchange of thoughts or feelings. (http://dictionary.reference.com/)

“Spiritual work is taxing work, and men are loath to do it. Praying, true praying, costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish.” ~ E.M. Bounds

 Oswald Chambers suggests in his book Daily Thoughts For Disciples, that prayer develops and nourishes the life of God within us. It advances and feeds us while we move towards spiritual maturity. How? Continual contact with the Father sharpens our spirit and teaches us to focus on matters that concern God. It develops spiritual discernment, increases our love and compassion for the lost, and aides in transforming our minds.

 For ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NKJV)

 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind” Ephesians 4:23 (NKJV)

 “Choose to view life through God’s eyes. This will not be easy because it doesn’t come naturally to us. We cannot do this on our own. We have to allow God to elevate our vantage point. Start by reading His Word, the Bible…Pray and ask God to transform your thinking. Let Him do what you cannot. Ask Him to give you an eternal, divine perspective.” ~ Charles Swindoll

 We are called to abide in Christ. This means to remain inseparably linked to Christ in all areas of our life. When the Word of God abides in us, and we have asked God to lead us in prayer according to His will, powerful things will happen in the heavenlies.

 Practice entering the throne room of God with praise but also enter into prayer with a motive and intent to listen. If we cannot silence our own thoughts, how will we ever manage to hear HIS voice? While quietly waiting on the Holy Spirit, God will make know His will and purpose and effectively lead us through our time of intercession.

Since prayer brings us into the very presence of God, we can be certain a spiritual battle will ensue. Do not let this discourage you! The enemy would not fight so hard to distract, discourage, or exhaust us if God’s leading was not effective and powerful.

We are to “fight the good fight” and prayer is something we are ALL called to do. It is not just a select few who are “raised up” or gifted to pray. It is every Christian’s privilege! All believers should strive to become prayer warriors. We ought not to put the burdens of the world on only a few shoulders. We must unite and draw close to God as a nation. The sacrifice of time and the energy exerted during intercession will develop our spiritual muscles. Thanks to prayer, we can call upon God’s power and tear down devilish strongholds and the evil schemes of the enemy. We ALL benefit from prayer.   It is my hope that prayer fills your day and blesses many, through the power and leading of Jesus Christ.

Read the quotes and scriptures below and then consider your prayer life. Do you need to make any changes?

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NKJV)

“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” ~ Samuel Chadwick

“The Christian should work as if all depended upon him, and pray as if it all depended upon God.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Spiritual Gates

*7

Gates serve several purposes in the physical world. They keep the good in and the bad out. They are a means for entrance or departure. Gates provide protection. There are also arrival and departure gates. Since Jesus spoke in parables, and analogies are seen within parables, let us consider how gates tie into the spiritual matters of our heart.

The first mention of a city gate is found in Genesis 19:1. At the gate of Sodom, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, greeted angelic visitors into the city. Gates were places of central activity, business transactions, and the place where court was convened. Public announcements were also proclaimed and publicized in this location. A gate was where rulers met and counsel was given.

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. Genesis 19:1 (NKJV)

 Gates were a big part of a city’s protection against invaders. Babylon had at least eight gates, which were a part of the walls surrounding the city. The gate of Ishtar was a double gate and a real showpiece with dragons and lions. The entrance into a city and the Processional Way were artistically built to boast of the ruler’s power and strength. When nations warred against each other, the city gate(s) was a prime focus for possession. To control the gates of one’s enemies was to conquer their city.

“Blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Genesis 22:17 (NKJV)

For a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and for strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.Isaiah 28:6 (NKJV)

In this world, our walk with Christ will be filled with spiritual battles. We are aliens in this world so; our thoughts and actions are not usually in agreement with the “politically correct” view of our friends and family, neighbors and co-workers. Furthermore, if we are vocal in our objections referencing abortion and gay marriage (and other issues), we will quickly find ourselves under attack.

It is likely that we will be labeled prejudiced and judgmental, even ignorant. Some believers have already undergone vicious attacks that have caused unjust imprisonment, along with threats to job security and future employment. Yet, God prevails. His purpose and will are accomplished through His chosen ones whom He has equipped to do His work. We are to be “bold and stouthearted” for His glory.

God’s thoughts and ways are above our own, but we should strive to be imitators of Christ. Our thoughts and actions should be above the ways of this world. There is a gate to the wisdom, understanding, and the knowledge of God, but it only opens through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we accept Christ as our Savior, the gates to our mind, heart, and spirit open and the scales of deceit fall from our eyes. Indeed, the eyes of our heart become enlightened when we submit to God’s sovereignty.

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV)

 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” Ephesians 1:18 (NKJV)

Proverbs 4:23 provides us with a warning…. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Diligence calls for a concentrated effort that is meticulous, rigorous, and thorough. Blue Letter Bible speaks of diligence as a guardhouse.

In the Bible, the word “heart” is usually a reference to everything that makes you…. YOU! This includes thoughts, feelings, understanding, personality, and passions. It is the total sum of our character. Therefore, it is something we must actively guard and defend, if we care about the kind of person we want to be. We should be very aware of what and who we are allowing access to our heart. We must play an active role as the “gatekeeper” of our own heart.

And I said to them, “Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house.” Nehemiah 7:3 (NKJV)

If we leave our heart-gate wide open and unattended, all kinds of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, and past-times will enter in and THEY WILL influence us. There will be a reshaping and transforming of our character. Some of the things that enter in will be good, but the bad things will have an effect on our character and taint all within us that is good.

 Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’”    1 Corinthians 15:33 (NASB)

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.Proverbs 21:2 (NKJV)

Remember to keep watch over your heart today. May it be open to the goodness and blessings of the Lord, but discerning and wary of anything the enemy may try to slip past your heart-gate. Strive to be holy… for HE is holy. Imitate Christ in all things and remember to resist the devil …. For then he must flee. May the gate to your heart be well oiled with prayer and thanksgiving.

Hunger Pains

*Empty? Grace

Feeling Empty?
Hunger pains are not pleasant. They occur when the stomach empties and its walls come into contact, rubbing against each other. Eating food, which once again separates the walls of the stomach, relieves the gnawing sensation.

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16 (NASB)

When we have an overall sense of emptiness, it is likely that we are suffering from spiritual “hunger pains.” The living Word of God is our spiritual food. There are several scriptures that speak about feeding upon His word. Ezekiel equates the eating of God’s Word to the sweetness of honey, and Jeremiah tells how eating scripture echoed the joy and rejoicing found in his heart.

“And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.” Ezekiel 3:3 (NKJV)

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV)

Our body needs food for energy and it is essential for good health. Our spirit requires the wisdom, encouragement, and instruction found in the Bible to maintain spiritual health. As we move through our day, food fuels our physical body and helps us to think clearly. Without sufficient nourishment, accomplishing tasks become harder. Again, in the spiritual realm, without the Word freshly consumed daily, we will stumble and find ourselves less effective in our witness. Meditating on the truths and promises of God aids us in facing adversity and overcoming snares set by the evil one.

Our Lord does not encourage a “feast and famine” attitude when it comes to nourishing our spirit. Just as we eat food several times a day, we are encouraged to read the Bible daily. The Israelites were instructed to collect manna daily. (Exodus 16) This bread from heaven would rot if it were left for the next day. Additionally, it was collected in the morning, as it would melt under the heat of the sun.

Viewed as an analogy, this scripture suggests we consume the Word in the morning before our day begins. It is so easy to put God on the back burner and get caught up in the cares of the day. We need to put Him first! The instruction and encouragement we glean in our quiet time will carry us throughout the day.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10 (NKJV)

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

If we feel unsatisfied with life and empty, reflection is necessary. Why are we feeling empty when we know the Holy Spirit is alive within us? Has the enemy succeeded in stealing our hope? Have we set aside God’s will and turned our focus to fleshly desires and ambitions? Is the sovereignty of God and His position as our Creator now questioned or even disrespected? Have we forgotten the abundance of His love?

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Or, has God asked us to move in a new direction, and the fear of leaving behind that which is familiar, upsetting our peace of mind? Maybe the emptiness we feel is because God has more for us. Do we have a vice grip on the past and present? If we cannot open our hands to hold God’s hand, how can He lead us into new territory and new blessings? Trusting God to fill us with understanding, knowledge, and necessary skills is a test. He WILL test our faith!

“And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze” Exodus 35:31-32 (NKJV)

“He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” Ephesians 4:10 (NKJV)

The Lord will add many to His kingdom through believers who walk in the fullness of Christ Jesus. Grace will abound to those who walk in obedience. Joy will fill their hearts while they sow the seeds of His love and share the promise of eternal life.

“For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” Acts 11:24 (NKJV)

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16 (NASB)

When emptiness fills our spirit we ought to look towards service and opportunities to help others in need. By turning our focus upwards and outwards, God will fill us with new joy. This joy comes from having been found worthy to serve the King of Kings. Our pleasure brings contentment since pleasing God, through our service and love, has now become our delight. Brand new and astounding desires will begin to formulate in our weary hearts that are aligned to His will.

With God, nothing is impossible. When we put Him in the driver’s seat, He will take us on an incredible journey. Expect the unexpected! Detours are not really detours after all. They are an important part of our journey, full of lessons and life applications.

When God’s will for us has become our all-consuming desire, we will not suffer true emptiness. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are indeed filled. Any emptiness that comes from unfulfilled desires or sorrows will be refined in the Refiner’s fire. This takes time and the heat of the furnace is painful. Count your trial as a blessing. Our joy is not the trial itself, but the fruit that is born out of our adversity.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Arriving at utter submission, and a state of unquestioned commitment is difficult to say the least. For we wrestle not our flesh alone but also powers of darkness. When an absolute yielding of self has been achieved, emptiness will no longer prevail. For He is the only One who can completely satisfy every need. He alone makes us whole.

If we continue to feel empty, our sorrow or desire has not been completely restored by God’s healing love. Possibly, our hearts have yet to lay all the disappointment and pain at His feet. An “If Only” may remain, interfering with an utterly yielded faith and hope in Christ. An absolute faith that God has permitted what is best for us, and for those we love, is still working itself out.

Our focus on “self” is what gets in the way of complete joy and peace. When HE is our all-in- all, we are filled to overflowing. But everything, EVERYTHING else must be placed behind Him. God alone and HIS good pleasure is all we should want and hope for in life.
Easy to accomplish? NO!
But deserved? Yes, YES INDEED!

“To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19 (NKJV)

“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11 (NKJV)

“And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52 (NASB)

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