Here’s a more penetrating question for each of us. To what degree are our lives and relationship with Him a great contradiction as well? In how many areas and ways do we call Him Lord, yet disregard, disobey, and even defy His will and direction for our lives? Where has He spoken His purpose to us, and we, for whatever reason or justification, told Him, “Never Lord?” Where are we doing so now?
I think we are most prone to this sin, and yes, it is sin, when Christ leads us to a place far outside our comfort zone. He requires of us something out of our ordinary experience. Something we were sure He never would. I have lost track of all the times I have heard believers say, “I don’t think the Lord would do that.” I’ve said it myself. Surely that mindset was upon Peter. The Jews had very strict dietary regulations and boundaries. He could not envision the Father ever taking him outside of them. Yet He did. Where are the self-made boundaries that we’ve set up in our lives that put a limit to just how deep our obedience to Him will go?
Where are we living “the great contradiction?”
Christ meets us where we are, and where we are is filled with contradictions. Growth in grace is a process of those contradictions being removed, one contradiction at a time. Do you welcome that? Or, do you go on living “the great contradiction?”
“I am so thankful for the many “trees” that have stood with me and supported me throughout the years. And I am grateful to be walking this journey of life-
with my husband
and my family in Christ…
and you!” ~Julie Harris
stepping in time we walk in stride thankful you are by my side… with no one else I’d rather be- all is right when you’re walking with me I came home the other day to BOTH tv…
Source: walking with me
Who are the “trees” in your life and mine, the ones we need to reach out to and simply say thank you for being a part of my life? Great or small, each has gifted us with a portion of themselves and contributed to who we are and will become.
For those of us in Christ Jesus, God uses everything in our life to work His out the transformation in us into the likeness of Jesus! Paul told us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind,…” Romans 12:2. As God uses His word to work this renewal, He also uses brothers and sisters in Christ in this process. In Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Blessing and Peace Always,
“…that we would be in a place where He is able to “hit” all the spots in our hearts and spirits that He longs to minister to, and bring healing and wholeness” (Pastor O).
What follows here is a message given to a dear Pastor friend who being guided by the Holy Spirit shares with us today. My prayer is that as you read the message, that the sweet Holy Spirit will guide you into a deeper walk as you meditate on these words. You will not happen upon these words by accident or happenstance, you are here by the appointment of God and have a choice before you… Read and accept or push aside as not relevant… Having read this far, I pray your heart and mind will remain open and eager to receive!
“For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.” Hebrews 4:12………”I like to open my Bible and pray, ‘Lord God, let the words leap off the page into my soul, make them vivid, powerful, and fresh to my heart.’ ” Charles Spurgeon
Moving targets are hard to hit. Our flesh is expert in being just that when it comes to the probing, cleansing, freeing word of the Father. It finds endless ways to avoid Him. Pursuits of pleasure. Accumulation of goods. Unending forms of escapism. Busyness, and yes, even “ministry” pursuits done in His name. Anything that can keep us from being perfectly still before Him, allowing Him to search us and “see if there be any hurtful (wicked) way within us.” David asked the Father to do just that. When did we last do so?
Have you ever tried to hold a cat that didn’t want to be held? Near impossible is it not? This is exactly how we can be with Him. When His Holy Spirit starts closing in on us, and what is the truth about us, our squirming, like the cats, grows more and more frantic. There are areas of our lives where we don’t wish to know the truth, where we prefer the lie, the delusion. That’s far more comfortable…..and much safer for our flesh. We don’t want our true motives exposed. Motives that seem so noble on the surface, but at root are centered on ourselves. We can see that in so many of our prayers. Yet how many of them will have ourselves as the main beneficiary if He should answer as we want? How many people’s lives and life situations do we intercede for that in being answered will in the end make our lives better. Difficult mates, children, congregants coming to Christ, surrendering all, being delivered, will result in our lives being made less difficult, and a lot more content, and in ministry, successful. We can pray and seek for many wonderful things with so many impure motives. Yet we can go on deceiving ourselves about it all so long as we keep moving….squirming….avoiding.
We won’t be doing this forever though. Sooner or later, He will pin us down on it all. For all of our sake, I hope its sooner….on this side of eternity, rather than later, when we stand before Him, and everything becomes known. Everything exposed………May His word never cease to “hit the spot” in you and me. Giving life to us, and crushing death within us. Exposed but whole. Exposed but free.
Chris Tiegreen writes, “Do we take the time to ponder which of our own wineskins have attempted to accommodate Jesus and failed?….On what points are we rigid? Where do our expectations lie? Do we insist that Jesus bring about our own vision for the future? Do we try to constrain Him to our church structures? Do we rely on methodology in our ministry? (They)….may be good, but Jesus will not fit. He defies constraint. The Lion of Judah cannot be tamed.”
Jesus said in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.” We cannot control the wind. Why do we seek to control He who is the Source of the wind? Joubert’s quote is powerful. The less we seek to define Almighty God, the more we may know Him. And the desire of His heart, His greatest desire, is that we know Him. He is a mystery. He says so Himself. But He invites us to enter into His mystery, and behold Him to reveal Himself in its midst. To do that, we have to let go of all of our presumptions about Him. I had a very great friend who has since gone home to Him. One of the favorite things he used to say was that he had an “Oops theology.” As in, “Oops, I guess I was wrong.” Old wineskins can never live in such a theology. Only new ones can. He will never violate the truth and authority of His Word, but we must know that our limited minds cannot begin to understand how deep, high, and wide His truth really is.
I continue to grow older, and my natural skin is losing the soft, flexible feel it once had. Yet it is my fervent hope that the “skin” of my heart remain as tender and pliable as that of a child. How about you? In the spiritual realm, we’re all wineskins. Are we old ones…..or new?
The “angel” the Spirit of Christ speaks to is the pastor of the body of believers found in Sardis. What pierces my heart here is the use of the word “reputation.” For most of us, our reputations mean everything. How we are viewed by those around us carries tremendous weight. What the Lord is saying to the fellowship at Sardis is that in the eyes of the culture around them and even in the sight of other believers, they have the reputation of being centers of His Life. It would also seem to be the opinion of those in that church as well. What should shake us to our very foundation is that it was not the view of Christ. He saw a tremendous amount of activity for Him, but He did not see a body of believers rooted and grounded in Him. Think on that for a moment.
What do we generally see as being a church filled with life? Top of the line worship with high quality skills in musicianship and voice. Skilled communicators in the pulpit. Many and varied ministries that care for children, youth, singles, as well as home and care groups geared towards those with special needs. A ministry pointed toward reaching out to the community and drawing them into the fellowship. An atmosphere where there is a sense of excitement, of something “happening.” I think that these are just a few of the things we’d define as a church with a reputation for life. I think that much if not all of these were found in the congregation at Sardis. All of them are good things. Very good. Yet none of them seemed to enter into Christ’s assessment of them as to their being a true Life giving fellowship. How could this be? What could be missing?
It’s human to desire that all that is listed above be found in a church. They should be. But I think what Jesus saw in the midst of it was that they were doing all of it with hearts that had drifted far from Him. The church was a well oiled machine, but machines are not alive. They move and are active, but they have no soul. Without realizing it, a living body can become the same. Sardis had crowds. Sardis had ministries. Sardis had a name. Sardis did not have life. His Life.
The question we have to ask ourselves, whether we are the “angel” of our fellowship, a leader in it, or a member of it, is, are we, in the midst of all we do, really producing Spirit filled followers of Jesus Christ? Are we overcoming the world both within and without by the power of His resurrected life? Is real transformation taking place in the lives of the people, and are those lives marked by maturity, victory, and wholeness? Are we trying to take flesh, and by our efforts, make it better flesh, or are fallen, lost lives being laid hold of by the power of His Life and made new? Completely new. Have we drifted from the “first things” into just doing church things? Have we become so enamored with our reputation among men that we no longer really know, or care what our reputation with Him really is? Can He even speak to us about it? It starts with the “angel” but the speaking goes on throughout the entire body. He’s speaking. Are we hearing?
Can we make the move from living in the natural, to moving in the supernatural, and know that this doesn’t make us “weird?” Can we dare to live in a realm that depends upon really having the eyes, mind, and heart of Christ? ~Pastor O
A devotional by Pastor O, shared by permission.
I am becoming more and more disturbed by comments and statements made by well meaning, and perhaps some not so well meaning brothers and sisters. Statements that are so dogmatic in their content that they will tolerate no disagreement from any quarter. As someone said, it is imperative that we belong to the “right club” within the church. We in that club are right, and everyone else is wrong. My sense of it all is we are depending far more upon our own intellectual understanding of His Word and teaching than we do upon the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. We must have correct doctrine and theology on the essentials of the faith, and especially the final authority of scripture, but most of our conflict, even warfare, is a result of arguing about non-essentials. And we can be extremely unloving in our disagreements, resulting in labeling, and even name calling. All the while, I believe Jesus weeps, and, I think, feels no small amount of anger. I think it is time, past time, for the Church, you and me, to hear Him speak a new “nevertheless” to us.
When Jesus spoke the above scripture to His disciples, He was telling them that He was leaving them. They didn’t understand any of His reasoning and were brokenhearted. They saw and sensed only the appearance of it all. He would be gone….they thought. They could not see or understand what He was following that statement with; that He would be sending them the Comforter, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would not only be with them, but in them. He was promising them an even greater companion than His physical presence, but they couldn’t see it. They lacked discernment and understanding. That would not come until they were baptized in the fullness of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It will not come to us until we experience it as well. When we do, we will no longer live by appearances and our own understanding. We will not live by the power of our intellect, but by the power of His Spirit. We will not live with information about Him, but revelation from Him. We’ll discover that truth and reality are not based upon what appears to be, but on what He has spoken and revealed…..and continues to speak and reveal. We discover that His Word is alive and not static. Growing and unfolding within us in ever deeper ways. Never making itself void, but always taking us beyond our intellectual limits. It’s a mystical and supernatural experience, and our staid, western intellects struggle with that. So we live by our senses and our natural reasoning. Knowing what He has said, in our minds if not our hearts, but not what He is saying now. We’re leaning upon our own understanding, but we never seem to realize it.
Can it become less important for us to be “right” in all these debates, and most important that we know and hear Him? Can we believe that there may be areas of life, doctrine and theology, where we may be at least in part, wrong? Can we make the move from living in the natural, to moving in the supernatural, and know that this doesn’t make us “weird?” Can we dare to live in a realm that depends upon really having the eyes, mind, and heart of Christ? This is frightening to the flesh, but very welcoming to Christ. Will we live in the place where our flesh is most at home, or where His Holy Spirit is? What’s our answer as concerns our lives, homes, and fellowships? Do we live by appearances, or by His appearing and speaking to us through them?
“How long O Lord?” This is the cry from millions of hearts. Likely from our heart as well, and often. We spend so much of our life energy setting, focusing on, and striving to reach goals, accomplish agendas, and bring to pass the deep desires of our hearts, but all we have in the end is exhaustion. And more often than not, disappointment and frustration as well. We do seek Him in it all, but mostly as a means of reaching our desired end. He said He’d give us the desires of our hearts, and we mean to hold Him to His word. Even if we do get what we want, we miss what we truly need, Him. We can do this in every facet of life, and may well be most guilty of it in the area of ministry. We have good ends that we want to reach, and we’re in a very great hurry to reach them. Jesus said that He “must be about the Father’s business.” Well, so are we. The problem is, we don’t understand what His business is really all about. We have allowed working for Him to take the place of knowing and loving Him. We can have lives dedicated to Him, but I’m not so sure the same can be said of our hearts. This may be best seen when we’re forced to deal with the delays that can come along in getting to the place we want to be. Achieving the end that we’ve been aiming for. Jesus didn’t live this way. We ask what would Jesus do? Will we ask as to how Jesus really walked….thought…..lived?
Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity. In that time He had an ever growing picture of what He had been sent for, particularly by the age of 12. Yet He didn’t deal with the delay with impatience or frustration. He knew what He was here for, but He was at total rest as to how and when the Father would bring it all about. Chole speaks beautiful words as to how He walked in this time. He did not just have His eyes on where He was going. He had His eyes on the One He was going with. He had zeal, but that zeal was first and foremost in His walk with and in the Father. All the energy of His ministry flowed out of that relationship. He didn’t come to show us how to “do.” He showed us what to be. What we can become in Him. That’s why His Life, amidst all the delays, difficulties, trials and tears, was marked by the total rest and contentment He had in His Father. The One He trusted to bring about all things for Him in the fullness of HIS time. Can we?
Laura Story, a singer and author of the book “When God Doesn’t Fix It,” tells the story of her 10 year walk with the Father through the brain tumor that afflicts her husband. This tumor has not only robbed him of the sight in one eye, it has also caused him many mental and emotional problems as well. Much prayer has gone up for his healing. Yet he is not healed. At least in the manner that most of us understand healing. We expect when we pray that the Lord will answer and fix everything. But as Story writes, what happens when He doesn’t? What happens when the thorn remains? What happens when He either doesn’t remove the problem, or remove us from the problem? What happens then? What are we left with then? If someone tells us that we are left with Him, all that is Him, and nothing else; no change, no healing, no deliverance, can we accept that? Is He really enough?