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Archive for the ‘Exhortation’ Category

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses teaches the strategy for overcoming the enemies in your life.  I believe this strategy can be applied to enemies of any kind including enemies from within.  Essentially, if you read Deuteronomy 31, you will immediately notice one important element of the strategy – God.

Deut. 31:3-6 “The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said.  And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them.  The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you.  Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Almost all of the doing is being done by God:
  • He goes first
  • He does the work of rooting out the enemy
  • We just walk into the land He has already made ready for us to possess

This is a strategy I can live with.  All the heavy lifting is done by God.  He destroys all the enemies and gives me what they had.  He promises to always be with me.  I need only do what He has commanded – walk in the paths He has laid for me.

Remember, “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!  Then Israel shall dwell in safety, The fountain of Jacob alone, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew.  Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places.”  Deut. 33:27-29

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You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 2 Corinthian 3:2-3

1.  As believers, our lives are letters (epistles).

  • Maybe you have heard it said, “You may be the only Bible those close to you ever read.”   If that is so, let your life reflect the gospel as clearly as possible – no mixed messages.
  • God’s plan to share the gospel is through people ministering to people. He desires that our lives be so changed by our relationship with Him that others will wonder, question, and follow.
  • Is the message in the letter written on your heart communicating the message of God’s love to the lost and condemned world around you?

2.  God is the author.

  • Pages don’t write themselves; they have an author
  • God will write your story if you allow Him.  God wrote Esther from captive to queen.  God wrote David from Shepherd boy to mighty warrior to King.  God wrote Joseph from slave to Pharaoh’s second.  God wrote Saul from assassin to Apostle.  God wrote Peter from fisherman to great church leader.  God can write my story to be a great epoch tale of victory over evil if I let Him.
  • God desires to leave His imprint on our lives, marking us as His forever.

3.  He authored us by His Spirit.

  • Give up striving.  This is not about what you do:  how many times you go to church, how much money you give.  This is about surrendering control of your life to Jesus, so He can fully communicate His message to the dying world through you.  To do that, you must first receive the message yourself and let it transform you.   Only then can it hope to transform others.
  • Start soaking up the Word.  Sit with Jesus daily.  Read, study and meditate on the scriptures.  Let them permeate your life.  Let them write your story.
  • Remove barriers to the working of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Confess your sins, allow God to cleanse you by His Spirit.  Pray always and without ceasing, so that you might always be in communion with the author.

May the richness of living for Christ become abundantly clear to you as you draw closer and closer to Jesus.  It was Jesus who promised that sitting at His feet was the “good part” which would not be taken away.  May you settle there and find rest for your soul while you wait.

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One of the best books that I have read in the past several years is Let Go by Fenelon.  You may ask, “What kind of name is Fenelon?”  Fenelon is actually Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France.  He lived during the 17th century.  He was a spiritual advisor to some believers in the Court of Louis the 14th.  Let Go is a collection of Fenelon’s letters.  He is very honest and straightforward to those to whom he is writing.  He speaks with a firmness that is actually quite refreshing and needful in this age of those who fail to speak the truth that will set us free because they fear they will offend.  I read Let Go like a devotional, taking only a letter or so a day and mediating on it.  I have read and re-read it all year and given copies to many of the woman that I know who are hungry for a closer walk with God.  The isbn. # is 0-88368-010-6.

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I re-read a journal entry that I had written about an extended trial I was going through.  In the entry, I was crying out to God asking how I would ever be able to go forward.  I was tired and out of strength.  The path was totally hidden from view by the fog of uncertainty.  The LORD showed me Psalm 20:1-6.  The message was that He would minister to me out of my existing relationship with Him.

I think the message for all of us is to always (whether in trials or in times of peace) be in close relationship with God.  Is God your BFF (Best Friend Forever)?  He should be.

Psalm 20:1 says, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you.”  To answer you, the LORD must hear you.  For God’s name to defend you, you must be associated with or be called by God’s name.  To be called by God’s name is to be in close relationship with God, even as close as a child.

Psalm 20:2 provides, “May He send you help from the sanctuary, And strengthen you out of Zion.”  To send you help, He must know what you need and where to deliver it.  The Sanctuary was the Old Testament place where God was (c.f. the New Testament where God’s spirit dwells in the believer).  This statement can best be understood as a promise that God will send you help from where He dwells.  He will send believers to be your help, your brothers and sisters in Christ will be ministers of God to you.  Also God will minister directly to you by His spirit dwelling within you as a believer.

Psalm 20:3 goes on to say, “May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice.”  The offerings were part of the worship of God in the Old Testament.  It would be like saying today, “May God remember all the sincere worship in which you engaged.”  The burnt sacrifice was the sacrifice to deal with sin.  It is described in the Old Testament as “a sweet aroma to the LORD.”  God is pleased by the sweet smell of our offerings.  As we lay our lives down for others in obedience, as we practice gentleness, self-control, patience, long-suffering and love, we sacrifice up our flesh and what it wants.  That sacrifice is pleasing to God.  He promises to remember that.

In the next 3 verses, Psalm 20:4-6, we read the following:  “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, And fulfill all your purpose.  We will rejoice in your salvation, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.  Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.”   From the relationship with God, comes fulfillment.  This is not just the idea of getting what you want, but rather of having the one who hears, answers, claims, defends, helps, strengthens and remembers you bring to you the best things – things that will satisfy your deepest longing and fulfill your very reason for being.  That is what God does daily for those who are called according to His purposes and called according to His name.

May the God of all creation be your BFF!

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Why is the Gospel Important?

The gospel is important because it confronts us, shows us our sin, our moral helplessness, our intellectual blindness, God’s wrath against us.

The gospel assures us that God has a deep and committed love for sinners, that He desires fellowship with us, that He even went so far as to provide a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin, payment in blood, the blood of His son.

The gospel is a call.  We are summoned by God to turn from our sin and to trust in God, to give ourselves over wholly to His plan and provision – the Lamb’s way.

We respond to the gospel.  We go with God, agree with God about our sin.  We repent and are saved.

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Are there workers of iniquity in your life?  The LORD has a strategy to deal with them.  This strategy is laid out in verses 1-7 of Psalm 37.

1.  Do not fret (worry) or be envious of the workers of iniquity aka “the bad guys” Don’t worry over them and their doings. Don’t envy them.  Their prosperity and success is short-lived and shallow.  This message is so important that it is repeated in this psalm at least 4 more times in verses 7b-10, 12-15, 17 and 20.  Psalm 73 walks us through the near calamity that befalls the man of God when he becomes envious of the wicked.  Taking my eyes off of the sovereign God can cause me to lose perspective on my true position and provision in Christ.  (See Ephesians 1, 2; 2 Peter 1:3-4)

2.  Trust in the LORD and do good. His Word is full of promises; read, study and know them.  Then trust them.   If He is LORD (and He is), then trusting Him is like trusting my heart to keep beating.  It requires no effort.  It is a fundamental truth of my existence.  I trust that the God who went to all the trouble to communicate with me, save me and provide an eternal life for me, will keep His promises.  Trusting God’s promises means living as if they are true. Do good means I should obey what God says to do in His word.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  John 14:15.

3.  Delight yourself also in the LORD. As I get to know Him, I enjoy the love He lavishes on me and the time I spend with Him.  He is good!  He is so much more than dead letters on a page.  In order to delight in Him, I must think on Him, study Him, listen to Him, sit with Him, seek His face and be open to His guidance and correction.

4.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in Him. Decide to go His way.  Surrender your life, your path, your future to the LORD.  Remember this is a progression.  Only after you stop fretting, learn to trust, obey and delight yourself in God, will it come easily and naturally to surrender to His hand, His yoke.  Jesus was clear in Matthew 11:29-30 when He said, “[t]ake My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  This is, however, best understood through personal experience with God.

5.  Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him. Ugh!  This is the hardest phase of the progression for me.  I find it hard to wait.  I am like a filly at the gate waiting for the race to begin, anxious for the gate to open and to leap out . . . . but God knows when it is best for me to stay and when it is best to go.  He hedges me in to keep me safe.  I always want to move.  When my circumstances are difficult, I want them changed to be easier, happier, different.  But God, in His wisdom, knows there is benefit for me in the waiting.  In the waiting, I must focus on God and listen for His voice.  In the waiting, I must look at me, and consider my heart and my conduct.  In the waiting, I am left with plenty of time to move through the Psalm 37 progression again and again.  I must give up worrying (again).  I must trust in the LORD and do good (again).  I must delight myself also in the LORD (again).  I must commit my way to the LORD (again).  I can find much to do while I wait.  The LORD will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on Him because I trust in Him.  (Isa. 26:3 paraphrased)

Don’t let the workers of iniquity in your life (we all have them), keep you down.  Study and apply Psalm 37.  Work the program; see the results.  The Psalm goes on to speak in greater detail about the concepts laid out in the first 7 verses in the later verses.
Delight in the LORD!  What could be better?

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A Father’s Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.   John 3:16

It would seem God gave us the picture of a father and his son, so we could better understand his love. For who is it that God would call to be saved who wouldn’t have a parent, even if that parent were absent, abusive or neglectful. We all are someone’s child, and many of us have our own children. We all understand, even if not from personal experience, that the parent- child relationship is intended to be a life-long bond that withstands all attacks, a bond of the heart.

I lost my father at the age of three. Despite having a step-father for most of my life, the loss of my father colored my life. Every major life step or accomplishment, I thought of him and wondered what he would say. His absence was noticeable. Every Father’s Day, I am reminded of what I lost.

The point is that God wanted us to understand the depth of his love for us, the love of a parent, a loving father who considers what is best for us, who wants to protect and nurture us. It is also this father who will sacrifice the most important thing for us – his son. We understand the depth of the sacrifice as reflected in the relationship lost, father losing son. We can only begin to understand this love of God for us by looking at the sacrifice.

Consider the story of Abraham and Issac, a Biblical illustration of a father’s call by God to sacrifice his son. It can be found in Genesis 22 starting in verse 1. Abraham is a type of God the Father and Issac, a type of Jesus. Abraham loved Issac. He had waited many years for God to fulfill his promise to give him a son. Sarah was Abraham’s wife whom he loved very much. This was the only child of their union, received some 60 plus years into their marriage. He was a treasure to his father in his old age.

Issac was likely a grown man at the time that these events took place. He followed his father’s instructions to go up with him to the mountain. Issac would have known that a sacrifice was needed when he set off on the journey with his father. Scripture tells us that once up on the mountain, Abraham bound Issac. We know that Issac would have had to have gone along with it since he was a grown man and Abraham was well over 100 years old at the time. After binding him, Abraham laid him upon the altar of wood. Imagine that act. Put yourself in Abraham’s place. Picture yourself building an altar, binding up your grown child and taking out a knife and preparing to slay your child, the love of your life. I have trouble walking myself through it even in my mind’s eye when I see the face of my child peering at me from the pile of wood, asking me with her eyes what I am intending. In the end, God stops Abraham short of the sacrifice and accounts Abraham’s faith and obedience as righteousness. Abraham does not need to sacrifice his son to show his love for God; however, God did have to sacrifice His Son to show His love to a lost world and to pay the price for their sin.

The relationship between father and son is used to show us about our relationship with God, e.g. the intimacy, the reverence, the provision, protection and other attributes of God; however, it is also used to evidence for us the depth of the sacrifice that God made in securing our salvation, and the obedience of the son to the father in walking out that plan.

The death of Jesus on the cross some 2000+ years ago was no accident, no unforeseen consequence, rather He willingly gave up His life, became the sacrifice for me and for you. Matthew 20:28 says, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Paul confirms this in his first letter to Timothy, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Tim. 2:5.

Meditate on the sacrificial love described in John 3:16 and the other scriptures discussed here, and ask the Lord to reveal to you what He would have you to understand about His great love for you.

Write down 3 ways God has manifest his great love for you in your life. This could include ways he has protected you, opened the way for you, comforted you in time of trial or pain, restored you, etc.)

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