How to respond to the soul-chilling effects of unbelief?

I sang that familiar verse, “That saved a wretch like me,” long before I had any idea what a wretch I was. Though there is a great deal which God’s Word lists as being an impassable obstacle to entering the Kingdom of Heaven, the top 2 mentioned in Rev.21:8 remain the “cowardly and unbelieving.”

Yesterday I shrunk back from the sight of a gecko which had wedged itself in the doorjam of our car. Now these little creatures are important, they seem to be everywhere, I know they are harmless, but they surprise me whenever I find one close enough to scurry fast near me in ways I do not want to experience.

Yet the kind of “cowardly”, or “fear-driven” Revelation 21:8 speaks of I am intimately acquainted with.

There remains a kind of brave strength needed to follow the Lord into places where human ability is unable to. I’ve found it to be the kind of strength-of-heart which I lack apart from where the Lord provides, methods my human nature would naturally not use.

God’s unconventional methods of waging war against His enemy weaves itself throughout Scripture. As I read about David’s question to God in 1 Samuel 23:1 as he is facing not only Saul, but now those Philistines who seem relentless in their fight against God’s people, I am left wondering if unbelief is more dangerous to our soul than we may realize?

“Shall I go and fight them?”

God did say, “Go,” and David’s men did fear, understandably as they must have considered the size of their army with the fact they already were busy defending themselves against Saul. But why would God ever want anyone to provoke more enemies? How does any child of God stand brave-in-heart without fainting-in-heart when the enemy is determined their cause is also God’s cause?

“Saul easily believed what he greedily desired.” (Poole, 1 Samuel 23-24)

If David had such trust in God his Protector for guidance and direction, confident that the Lord would direct him in ways he was at a loss to, can I also be as Divinely persuaded so that my response to whatever I may encounter honors and pleases my Father?

God did not “make it all better” for David, instead He let his son know: ‘Yes, these people really are going to do this, as is Saul.’ David and his men had to leave the city they saved. Instead of thanking David they turned on David. David was left, in obedience to God’s instructions, ‘not knowing where they should go, having no particular place in view; but went where they thought they could be safest.’ (Gill)

David kept God’s way, waited God’s time, and was content to secure himself in woods and wildernesses. This world often gives bad treatment to its best men: let it make us long for that kingdom where goodness shall for ever be in glory, and holiness in honour…’Fear not’ that universal message, even though Saul comes at David with a vengeance.” (Matthew Henry)

He spared the man who so ruthlessly and often had sought his life, trying to kill him; David the outlaw bent over the sleeping king who hated him with so deep a hate…” (Ellicott)

“They put a religious varnish on their advice as if it would be almost immoral not to kill Saul! How disgusted they must have been when the blade was not buried in Saul’s back. David is left to defend himself to his men by insisting on the sacredness which still surrounded Saul as ‘the Lord’s anointed.’ David will not take the law into his own hands. He sets the example of leaving God to carry out His purposes at His own time, and patiently waiting till that time comes.” (MacLaren)

Father, Your Word says that the end of any matter is better than its beginning, and that patience of spirit is better than hautiness of spirit. (Ecc.7:8) You also know how seemingly impossible it is for Your child to respond in ways which Your Son Jesus did when He faced “the frosty air of unbelief and rejection.” (MacLaren, Matthew 9:14-29) We are in desperate need of Your power and strength in order to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, forgiving as the Lord as forgiven us, putting on love which miraculously binds everything together. (Col.3:12-14)

Nothing chills the soul than when love is rejected or defeated because there is no heart to receive it.

Jesus, You know it is possible to weep in temporary grief or sorrow, yet have a heart left unchanged by the impact and influence of Your Word and Holy Spirit. Any emotion which does not lead to the action of repentance will only harden the heart. It seems the only remedy and cure for hatred or the overcoming of evil is the power and forbearing influence of Your love, grace, and merciful forbearance revealed in the Gospel.

Jesus Yours is a strength of grace that some see only as a meek and mild gentleness, yet are unawares of the piercing Sword of the Spirit which can take the heart of stone and miraculously transform it to a heart maleable in Your hands, responsive to Your love, receptive to the truths of Your Word and prompting of Your Holy Spirit.

Jesus, may we be a people, Your people, who are known by the fruits of Your Spirit, fruit that lasts even when face to face against that which fiercely opposes You, Your Word and Holy Spirit. The unity of the Spirit You call us to preserve is not a truce or some kind of compromise to Your Word, but one in which we all share in the same grace, the same faith, are cleansed in the same blood, filled and focused on the same hopes aiming at the same eternal inheritance. (Eph.4) In this Your Name I pray Jesus, amen.

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Revive our hearts Lord so that we, Your Body and Bride, are responsive and receptive to Your love.

There may be nothing as predictable, yet well-crafted, as the form of “trickery” that results in the enslavement the heart, the same heart our Lord Jesus came to set free. The heart may serve many purposes, but as the birthplace of desires, will, and intentions, I understand why the heart needs to be guarded above all else. Yet with anything which is in a war zone, I wonder if it is just as important to know what the heart is being guarded with to ensure its protection?

“But their intentions are good.”

I’m not sure my intentions are always that pure, Self being what it is, I am relieved knowing when Christ rules my heart and my will is governed by His Word and Spirit, I can trust He will complete the good works He has begun. However humbling it may be to discover where my will, desires or intentions still need His sanctifying work, ultimately to be holy and blameless when He returns remains my desire.

I attended a CPR class earlier this week. Though the information has changed somewhat over the years, someone asked a question I had never heard before. Sadly, my first thought was more mocking in nature than merciful. God in His patient love was quick to remind me where my heart intentions are not that different from my fellow classmate’s. The instructor, seasoned both in experience and training, was explaining the updated method of 30 chest compressions to 2 breaths. My classmate asked if the 2 breaths were for us to take for ourself, the rescuer doing the hard work.

The instructor paused ,holding back the grin which was starting to form at the corners of his mouth.

“No, the 2 breaths are meant for the person who is not breathing. But if you are so tired that you need to take those 2 breaths for yourself, go ahead, just keep up with the chest compressions.”

Not all life and death situations appear just a breath away when it comes to the eternal life of the soul.

“Sin always puts self in the center,” believing “I alone am important. What I feel and what is happening to me is what really matters.”

What happens to the Body of Christ, each member a vital part to the “harmony of the whole,” if part of the Body is somehow dis-connected or dis-located from the rest in such a way that when one grieves not all grieve, or when when one is honored not all glory in this? What happens to the Body of Christ if not all heart’s are convicted of their own sin that humble in a “unity in failure, unity in sin, unity in shame, unity in utter helplessness and hopelessness”? Is it possible for the individual members of the Body to be “quickened. regenerated and ‘born again’” without God’s Divine persuasion which convinces the soul of its true state without Christ? (M. Lloyd-Jones)

Something I’ve hit hard and stubborn against for years, a dear friend has recently reminded me of. It was the image of a dam, waters gently and patiently overflowing its man-made edifice to aide in the dam’s removal as life regenerates and is restored as God originally intended.

When lived in WA State when the Elwa Dam was midway through a 2 year process of its removal. Not until our return in 2015 were we able to marvel in the awesome wonder of this unique area of the Olympic Peninsula. To my understanding only one other ecological restoration project of this magnitude in the nation is that of the Everglades in Florida.

Before the Elwa dam was built the river had over 390,000 salmon spawn annually. After its creation less than 3000 salmon migrated. Why we continue to think human reason, logic and intellectual ability can improve the pure, natural and original design of God’s creation, I have no answer for.

Maybe we all captives or captivated by something until the Lord begins His work of restoration and regeneration. I have not known anything capable of removing the mighty walls I have placed about my heart than the Word of God and His Holy Spirit’s work.

“We all live downstream,” may be truer than I ever realized.

Behind all dams are varying amounts of sediment, a big deal when a dam is being removed. Sometimes sediment can be toxic, sometimes so great it can bury infrastructure and scour the landscape, sometimes it can clog the nearby hydroelectric generating facilities causing more harm than good.

Whenever the Lord has opened my eyes to that which hinders God’s Word and Holy Spirit from “flowing freely” within me, my initial reponse is for a quick removal. Sometimes He does this, other times He does not. Sometimes there has been much more “sediment” behind the walls of defense than I ever realized. There may be 4 ways to remove a dam, but when I encounter any heart that is “dammed up,” God usually has a different timetable than mine.

The Elwa dam was removed by a method call “notch and release”, the gentlest on the ecosystem allowing a fixed rate of flow so that all life downstream could adjust to the changes. I have learned much about God’s patient love with this process, reminding me God is the Workman and I am His workmanship. These times sift through any unbelief I have had in my trust or confidence in the Lord working in both my life and the lives of others.

Some times these works of renewal have been more a “rapid release.” Though faster, because of what is “massively released”, all in my life at that time seemed powerfully washed away. “Let the rivers flow” can have a fury and force which necessitate a letting go of long-standing supportive structures which have hindered me from clinging to Christ.

Other times the Lord has seemed to use the “dig and dewater” method. Though slow, when “sediment” contains toxins such as bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, unbelief, doubt, fear or pride, a different method is required to prevent contamination of others. I have found this form of regeneration painfully slow. The entire resevoir must be emptied, the sediment dried before being transferred to a safe location. There is no safer place than before Jesus. No matter how “toxic” the contents of any heart may be, once nailed to the Cross, His blood washes clean, His Sword of the Spirit effectively cuts free from any remaining attachments so that His Holy Spirit and Word can freely bring new life in.

The final method in which the sediment is allowed to remain, simply reroutes waters around the damsite. God’s necessary ways may not always mine, but I do trust His ways are always best.

Father, thank You for Your patient love which ultimately desires to unite all things in Christ to You. You have blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Open the eyes of our heart to comprehend what it means that each son or daughter has been chosen by You before the foundation of the world. (Eph.1:4)

Only a power such as Yours could take the heart enslaved by desires of the body and mind, the schemes of the devil, the rulers, authorities, powers and spiritual forces of evil in this world, and revive a soul dead in trespasses and sins. Revival has never been something any person can make happen, but something You alone possess the power to do.

There remains nothing more damaging to the soul, heart and mind than when those in positions of authority abuse their position. As excruciating it is when any joint is dis-located, so to the Body of Christ when any may be vulnerable for this kind of injury. Alert us Jesus to these in desperate need of Your healing work in their lives. (Heb.12:12-13)

Its takes a conscious decision to follow Your lead Jesus and obey Your Word. It takes an active will to trust You are capable of getting the slave mentality out of us so we can live a life holy and blameless before You, in full realization what it means to be adopted into Your family, belonging to an everlasting love which redeems and forgives, heals and makes whole. No longer the separated child, but the child made alive together with Christ, hearts strengthened by grace, Your workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. (Eph.1-2)

Thank You Father that regardless of our outward environment, in Christ we are liberated in the power of Your Holy Spirit and the fulness of God, with all humility, gentleness and patience. Grant us Your wisdom and discernment how we are to bear with one another in the same patient love we ourselves have received. (Eph.4:1-3)

Father, Yours is a miraculous restoration project in the building up of the Body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. As Head of Your Church, enable us grow up in every way into You, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, each part working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph.4:1-16) This is my heart’s desire Jesus, thank You for the merciful manner in which You are completing this great and holy work. In Your precious Name I pray, amen.

“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God: All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood…I pour contempt on all my pride.” (Isaac Watts)

From the inside out or outside in?

“For His good pleasure.” This was not the message I initially understood as the heart motive of Christianity when I became a follower of Jesus.

“Everything I wanted I took. I never said no to myself,” (Ecc.2:9-11) was more the manner of living I was accustomed to. It took several years to begin to understand the implications of this new life at work within me as new desires were being created that meant what had once provided comfort or satisfaction of purpose in living, no longer would.

Despite what psychology teaches about “impulse control,” God’s Word seems to say there is an “either or” kind of rule and reign upon the heart from which desires come forth from. I have found nothing more humbling than to realize how fruitless it is for the soul “dead in trespasses and sin” to try and “quicken” itself to life, especially the kind of life that no longer “follows the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is at work in the sons of disobedience…the passions of our flesh…the desires of our body and mind.” (Eph.2:1-3)

If Jesus had not stooped as low as He did and obeyed His Father’s will in all the ways He did, I would have no hope of ever becoming holy and blameless before Him, especially in love. (Eph.1)

I’m not sure why adversity or affliction seems to be the environment most conducive to the growth and development of the child of God, yet I do know that a superficial faith cannot bear up under the weight of adversity and produce the kind of fruit which honors the Lord. Somehow it is a work which begins inside before it can manifest itself outwardly.

‘Unlike the animals who seem quite content to simply be themselves, we humans are always looking for ways to be more than or other than what we find ourselves to be….searching for excitement, search our souls for meaning, shop the world for pleasure. Everything seems promising at 1st, yet nothing ever seems to amount to much as we lack the capacity to find the meaning & completion of our lives on our own.’ –The Message (Ecclesiates)

Father, Yours in a longsuffering kind of love so unlike any human love which makes it difficult to find anything to compare Your love to. You are well aware of the messages our world exhorts which encourage forms of self-esteem, self-assertion and self-advertisement which result in the very opposite of what Your Word says is essential for us, as the Body of Christ, as belonging to the family of God, to live our lives with all lowliness and humility of mind, meekness and gentleness that You Jesus exemplified. Guard us from any attitude of heart or mind that would have us talk back to You with an irreverence or ingratitude to what You have already done for us in this miraculous gift of salvation. You have every right to form us in whatever way You chose to make us, for whatever use, as long as You are glorified in and through our lives, conduct and behaviour. (Rom.9:20-21)

Father we confess that as Your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, sin not only disrupts Your work, it also divides and separates Your child from You, but also Your children from one another. Your great gift of salvation You planned before the foundation of the world. (Eph.1-3) This unity is produced and created only by the work of Your Holy Spirit, there is nothing we possess that can do this. You have called us to preserve this unityof the Spirit which begins in the unseen realm within our heart. There is nothing man-made or mechanical about it. It is not an consolidation of parts but one organic whole that starts within and from there works itself outward in our conduct and behaviour. When the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is present, it is evident to all in whom Your Spirit dwells.

Father, it is impossible for us to guard our own reputation or status among men while still seeking first Your reputation, glory and praise. The meekness You demonstrated Lord has a strength, firmness and power to it that is essential if we are to be able to follow Your lead and serve You in a manner pleasing in Your sight. You are meek and lowly in heart. (Matt.11:28-20, 12:19-20) The Apostle Paul who spoke some very strong words, was firm when he needed to be, also understood what it was to “beseech” by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. (2 Corin.10:1) I confess Lord this does not come naturally to me, but as Paul counselled Timothy, we trust that as Your servant, You will enable each son or daughter to ge gentle with all, patient in meekness, particularly those that may oppose so that our heart’s aim be that You give these repentance to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim.2:23-24)

Thank You Jesus that You showed us what it is to gird ourselves with the servant’s apron. To be clothed with humility is our safeguard against giving way to those passions or desires which may hinder another’s opportunity to encounter the truth of who You are and what the Gospel really is. Father, if You were not long-suffering, none would be Christians. Jesus, You had every right to plainly state, “I am right and you are wrong,” yet You stooped lower than we may ever know and came to earth in a manner most did not expect a just and holy God to do. Though Your mouth is like a sharp sword, Your aim remains to gather to You all in heaven and on earth. It is never too light a thing that we should be called Your servant, especially if this attitude of heart and mind is what brings back those You came to save. (Is.49) Jesus, You were deeply despised, abhored by the nations, yet remained faithful. You are the Lord our Saviour, our Redeemer, the Mighty One, King of kings and Lord of lords, the One in whom we trust. In Your precious and holy Name I pray Jesus, amen.

“There will be people who will not agree with you, put the truth before them in such a way which will appeal to them…wean them from error, win them to truth…try to understand them in love.” (Lloyd-Jones)

Voluntary actions and purpose of heart: what does it take to cleave to Christ?

“There’s so much negativity going on these days.” I agree. It’s overwhelming at times. Yet, as a child of God, I give thanks in the learning that every day can be a “day of grace.”

Some of the greatest days of grace are those which appear to be anything but that. Grace requires an object to be gracious to, often the undeserving recepient. There is nothing that stirs my heart in thanksgiving more than remembering I am that undeserving recipient of God’s grace.

God Eternal, God who cannot change, God Omnipresent, God Omniscience who knows everything, God Omnipotent whose power has no limit and whose glory and majesty, splendor and perfection took a soul such as mine, spiritually dead yet in perfect harmony with the world and the flucating desires of flesh and mind, and made me alive together with Christ. Nothing but Divine grace do this. (Eph.1-3)

What if the days we have before us contain more opportunities for repentance and grace than appear to be there?

There are a lot of things I have done that in the moment seemed they would be “worth it.” Desires or reasonings which convinced my mind and heart had discerned more the needs of the present than discern the eternal future. It is grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved, yet grace also revealed in God’s Word each “therefore” attached to each teaching and truth contained within it.

God’s “therefore” takes doctrine and faith and unites so that I can “walk in a manner worthy of….put into practice…apply this to my daily life…hear and obey…comprehend and apply.” It is impossible to do this, I have found, especially in the midst of greatest opportunities of grace, unless I am clinging to Christ.

“Cleaving could only be done with purpose of heart and must be a voluntary action. Jehovah could not make His people cleave to Him. In them He was to be praised and glorified.” (D. Young)

“…as the girdle sticks to the loins of a man, so I have caused to stick to Me…that they might be for Me a people…” (Jer.13)

Genuine grace in the heart cannot be faked. Convincing myself because I know I should is not the same as grace dwelling within the heart, supplying what is necessary for God to be glorified in and through whatever opportunity He has allowed me to be in.

“Tell us something we don’t know…” can mean different things depending on the heart these words rise up from. (Jer.13:16, Luke 11:1, Psalm 39:4, 90:12, 119:33) God does not desire any to remain in ignorance what His grace is all about.

The Word of God despises what men most esteem. The Word of God tells him he is utterly dependent on God for all things. It esteems what men most despise: meekness, forgiveness of injuries, humility, indifference to the world, great regard to the unseen and the spiritual persons who have nothing but moral excellence be they poor, obscure and despicable in the world’s esteem…It is a course of life which may involve the ‘loss of all things’ so only as we may be accepted of Him…can lead men to deadly peril, and cause deep distress to those who care for their souls.” (S. Conway, Jeremiah 13)

Lord, anything in us that is antogistic towards You or Your Word is something we need Your mercy and grace to illuminate. We may never know how much we do not know, yet in You, we know that You do accomplish all things as You decide according to You will. (Eph.1)

Though our sanctification is a process, thank You for all You grant us that promotes, encourages and motivates us to work out our sanctification with fear and trembling. Though the love of Christ is an incredible motivation for working out our sanctification, it is not sanctification. Though the sealing of the Spirit and our experience of it is an incredible motivation to work out our sanctification, it is not sanctification. (Phil.2:12-13) Thank You Father for the new desires You create within us so that we can desire holiness and that which is pleasing in Your sight. In Your most gracious Name I pray Jesus, amen.

The experiences and knowledge stimulate, promote and encourage, but sanctification itself is not an experience, it is the result of the life I have received and the knowledge I have and now must put in practice.” (M. Lloyd-Jones)

After the flood…

The most vulnerable times in this journey of faith seem to follow “spiritual success”: when the soul is snatched from the flames, the enslaved is liberated, the “babe in Christ” developes an appetite for spiritual nourishment that will encourage further growth and maturity, or when the eyes of the heart are enlightened to the love which is well beyond human comprehension. (Eph.2) That long-term enemy of God is an expert of strategic and tactical skill powered with a force far beyond human cability.

What is the child of God to do when long-term threats seem to regroup instead of disband?

The “correction of false subjectivism” is messy business. I am more familiar with the kind of “false mysticim” that places more trust in spiritual experiences than it does the knowledge of doctrinal truths, that “strong meat” which enable the child of God to thrive, grow and mature into adulthood. For years I was “tossed about by every wind of doctrine” having no idea many of what I believed were deep spiritual experiences were, though vivid and inspiring, not much more than “vain-imaginings.”

My husband, “having gone to Church since before he was born, while still in his mother’s womb,” is more inclined to be suspicious of those “mystical experiences” which he has seen throughout his life as being more emotionally charged than divinely inspired, forms of introspection that centered more on self than selflessness. His natural inclination is to trust more objective Biblical truths that more subjective, though genuine, “mystical experiences”.

I know as a people we are prone to extremes, and that there is always a danger of “rejecting a true teaching because we dislike a false presentation of it,” but can we know the love of Christ if we do know intimately know Christ and the height, breadth, depth and length of His love? (Eph.3, Lloyd-Jones)

I wonder if the ever changing acid/alkaline conditions of soil are not that different from the changing conditions of our hearts. Florida’s sandy “soil” always needs supplementing, but when severe rains cause floods that furiously cleanse the land, they also wash away the nutrients or minerals, depleting the plants from what they needs to thrive. After the rains, the soil must be tested to know what is to be added in order to replenish it.

This nation has been crying out in prayer for years, “Open the floodgates of heaven! Let the rivers flow…” Has the condition of our hearts changed in the process so that what may have been effective in previous seasons of faith no longer is?

The enemy of our souls may not be able to prevent the soul that is seeking a Saviour from being rescued, but his strategies and tactics to keep that soul from feeding on the pure milk of the Word can be quite effective. The enemy may not be able to stand long against the Sword of the Spirit, but he will do all he can to draw the mind and heart away from the Word into experiences or doctrinal beliefs that leave the child of God believing, “ I am powerful and mighty!” blinding them the need of being strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in their inner being. (Eph. 1-3)

The enemy of our souls has his own “end-of-days strategic vision.” He knows full well if he can allure the child of God to become satisfied with themself, or believe the foundational basics are more than enough, any desire to “know the unsearchable riches of Christ” can be utterly unappealing.

“I am His and He is mine, unlike fickle infatuation or passing lusts, the one and only way to get rid of self is to look at Christ. There is only one way to lose self, and that is to love Another. The more we seek the Lord’s face and knowledge of His love, we must pray we will be strengthened withe might by His Spirit…when the enemy brings out all the reserves against you, you will become aware of the depths of satan in a manner you have never imagined. He has no need to deal in this manner with the babes; but the moment you begin to grow and become strong, know Christ and His love increasingly, you can expect temptation, as if hell were let loose all around you. We wrestle not against flesh and blood…” (M. Lloyd-Jones)

What if the axe is nearer the roots than we realize? (Luke 3:8-9)

What if what is perceived as “not very loving” is actually far more loving than we may humanly understand? God the Father’s long-suffering nature has never changed, sadly nor has ours.The heart is always turned away from something in order to turn towards whatever it believes will give it life.

What is it in us that causes us to misunderstand God’s heart of love? Would not the Father have chosen an easier way for the heart of pride to be broken down so that is could be made new?

“Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9)

When Jesus revealed Himself to Saul the Pharisee, it transformed him to Paul the Apostle in such a way that his: “aim is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and to share in His sufferings, submitting myself to a death like His…” (Phil.3:10)

Can we know the love of Christ if we do not intimately know Christ?

Are some of the greatest impacts on the eternal state of a soul those that appear the most useless?

In one hour more grace is drawn by weeping from God the lover of life, who allows Himself to be implored, and who hearkens to the voice of His servants; and hearts, which feel the tears of their lover, are thus brought nearer to their object in a quarter of an hour, than could be accomplished by three sermons … ‘Everything is born in pain.’ … When ye can do no more, ye witnesses, go and weep and moisten your seed, then you will come again with joy bringing your sheaves with you.”(Zindendorf, Jer.13:17)

Father, to boldly utter Your Name, be considered Your child and rightful heir is a miracle so easy to misunderstand or take far too lightly. How is it ever possible to thank You for what You have done in sacrificing Your Son for this to be possible. If there were any other way for You to reconcile us to You, I am sure You would have done so. Thank You Jesus for obeying the will of Your Father!

Provoke us to intercede in lamenting prayer for every pastor called of God who is in the “wilderness of the heathen”, following through obediently in the declaration of their Father’s will, having gone where they were sent, speaking what He has commanded them to speak, “rooting out, pulling out, building and planting” ? (Zindendorf)

May we take each desire and place it in Your most trustworthy hands as we continue to seek You first Jesus so that our hearts are guarded from seeking any self-satisfaction or self-righteousness that harms both our intimate relationship with You as well as loving our neighbor as You desire us to.

Admitedly it takes much more effort and discipline, mind and heart, to read Your Word with expectant hope of meeting You. May Your Holy Spirit illuminate and inspire us as we do this, not out of obligation but genuine heart desire to meet with You Lord. We are in desperate need of the discernment to know if Your love is to stoop low and humble itself selflessly, or rise up and stand firm in steadfast love in order to protect and preserve, heal and make whole.

As Your Church is an organism so unlike the sterile, life-less organization some say it has become, help us to examine our own hearts so that through Your Word and Holy Spirit we will be treated with is needs most in whatever state it is in. May it be Your good pleasure we seek first.

Thank You Father that You know full well what is the “everything” each son or daughter is facing; therefore, by prayer and supplication and thanksgiving, we present our petitions before You. Thank You for the blessing of Your peace which surpasses all understanding and the manner in which it guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. In Your Sovereign Name I pray Jesus, amen.

Non-conforming signs and the relentless pursuit of the surpassing greatness of the love of God.

Nonconforming signs” has been an issue in our neighborhood these past few weeks. It all started when a homeowner decided to beautify a cement retaining wall which about 10,000 people drive by each day. The off-white wall, which looked the same as when we lived here 5 years ago, is paint chipped and stained. This homeowner decided to jazz it up, but as can happen when the familiar is changed, her solution proved to be too much for the majority. Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” which she had painted on the wall, later deciding to continue onto one side of her house, was demanded it must be covered up. Covering up the ugly and unattractive I am well acquainted with, but somehow watching both this mural’s growth and the communiy’s response is interesting.

It isn’t graffiti — but still must go. That means paint it in a solid color, no graphics, no design, nothing that is going to end up attracting attention of the public,” said Magistrate David Tegeler, who ruled it wasn’t a permitted sign under city code.” (Orlando Sentinal)

Defining any of Van Gogh’s art as graffiti or risk attracting attention seemed ironic as the city is known for being an arts community. I’m not into that type of artwork…it’s a distraction (to) people driving…that’s the complaints that I get —how horrendous it looked…” sounds well meaning, but I am left wondering if we may need the presence of “nonconforming” signs more than we realize?

Jesus Himself, including the disciples and Apostles, must have appeared as “non-conforming signs” as their truth and teaching appeared unlike anything else, something and some One possibly best to white-wash over so they could be like all the others. But “saint” meant and still means “set apart from” as in unlike, not of this world, stranger and alien kind of different. Now I realize Van Gogh appears to have had his own struggles about the reality of the eternal, and what happens after this life on earth, but there was something he could not let go of, something unknown, unseen and unrelenting.

Driving by the colbalt blue and swirling expressions of whatever was a whirlwind within Mr. Van Gogh’s mind or heart as he painted and pondered with that asylum, I find the knowledge of the love of Christ at times just as elusive. Iys a pursuit which leaves me realizing the need for both knowledge and love, and the danger that follows when the two are separated. It’s Paul’s teaching to the Ephesian Christians that has locked me in for weeks.

Ever since hurricane Irma I drive by uprooted live Oak trees, giants some of them. Surprisingly many are completely hollow inside, yet massive. How they survived all the other storm systems year after year and not this one is quite a marvel. Uprooted anything generally is not all that attractive, but at times I wonder if it is essential.

Rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints…” (Eph.3:17-18)

Does the heart always root into something? If roots represent that which helps keep alive and brings stability, vitality and growth, what is my heart “rooted into”? What am I “growing up into”? What are my foundational beliefs about the Gospel? Jesus? God the Father and the Holy Spirit? What happens to the rest of the “building up of my most holy faith” if its foundation is rushed or not properly laid out?

If Christ dwells in our hearts the result will be we are ‘rooted and grounded in love.’ Knowledge is to lead us to love. Knowledge without love turns us into authorities, it introduces a censoriousness and hardness which is positively harmful. Love edifies and builds up,knowledge puffs up. (1 Corin.8:1) Yet without knowledge there can be no growth, but without love there will be division, schism, ruin. Heads packed full of knowledge and doctrine but hearts cold and hard as stones.” (M. Lloyd-Jones)

Father, You have taken the first step to reconcile us to You in that merciful act by sending us Your Son Jesus to pay the price for our sin. Your love, eternal and glorious, also has a weight to it, a power and majesty that is unlike what we are familiar with in the form of human love. Your love comes only from You, and is not altered or changed in the same way our love generally is when people or circumstances change. Your love is not easily provoked, bears all things, even malice, spite, bitterness and hatred. Your love never fails whereas human love does not possess this kind of durability, power or strength. Your love stands firm where human love is easily uprooted. (1 Corin.13)

Lord, we are utterly dependent upon both a knowledge and experience of this love of Yours which surpasses human knowledge or intellect. Belief alone is not enough. We need to not just “know about” or “know of” Your love, we need to know this love ourselves.

Biblical truth is a living Truth about a living Person. There is no greater snare than to forget the Person Himself and to live simply on truths concering Him.” (m. Lloyd-Jones)

Thank You Lord for Your Word which states that all the saints, all those who have bowed the knee to You Jesus and You are their Lord and Saviour, set apart for You alone, can trust You will strengthen each one to be able to comprehend this love of Yours and receive it in greater and greater weight and glory. We understand this will not be possible for those who do not believe in You Jesus, for Your Spirit of truth the world cannot receive because it cannot see You nor know You. (John 14:16-17)

Your love Lord is far beyond something sentimental or weak. It has a dynamic power and might that forever changes those whom You have revealed this love to. Evan Roberts in Wales (1904-06) experienced this. Just as those who appreciate and understand art, music or science are those who are “wired that way”, so it is with Your love. We must first be rooted and grounded in Your love before we can understand or recognize it. You alone make us capable of receiving the love that is in You. Thank You Jesus for this most merciful work I pray You will encourage us all to persevere in whatever season of faith Your saints may find themselves in. In Your Name Jesus I pray, amen.

Does my heart need preparation before Christ may dwell there?

“O the bitter shame and sorrow,

That a time could ever be,

When I let the Saviour’s pity

Plead in vain, and proudly answered:

‘All of self, and none of Thee!’

Yet He found me: I beheld Him

Bleeding on the accursed tree,

Heard Him pray: ‘Forgive them, Father!’

And my wistful heart said faintly:

‘Some of self, and some of Thee!’

Day by day, His tender mercy,

Healing, helping, full and free,

Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,

Brought me lower, while I whispered:

‘Less of self, and more of Thee!’

Higher than the highest heaven,

Deeper than the deepest sea,

Lord Thy love at last hast conquered;

Grant me now my supplication:

‘None of self, and all of Thee!’” (Theodore Monod)

Though at one time I believed it was “a simple thing” to work out one’s salvation with free and trembling, I have found it to be anything but that. “All you have to do is…” I have not found to be what I thought I was to do. Tersteegen said it best:

“Is there a thing beneath the sun that strives with Thee my heart to share? Ah, tear it thence, and reign alone, the Lord of every motion there! Then shall my heart from earth be free, when it hath found repose in Thee.

O Love, Thy sovereign aid impart to save me from low-thoughted care; chase this self-will through all my heart, through all its latent mazes there: make me Thy duteous child, that I ceaseless may ‘Abba, Father’ cry!”

Jesus, You know full well the condition and state of each heart You came to save, heal and reconcile to our Father in heaven. You know when our questions really want Your answer, and therefore You also know, as Your life on earth continually demonstrated, when the best answer is in the form of humble action, or prayer, or by stooping low if that is what will heal the heart You long to heal so that it can fully receive You by faith. (Eph.3:17)

Father, may You strengthen and prepare us through Your Word and Holy Spirit so that “Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith,” in that way that this truth is not some “auto-suggestion or self-persuasion”, but “concrete reality.” Not some “intellectual possibility” but a “spiritual reality.” (Lloyd-Jones) In Your mercy Lord, prepare our hearts to make room to receive You in all the fulness so that You are our “all-sufficient”. In this Your merciful Name I pray Jesus, amen.

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish, but their rescue consists in being put on the right road…Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. If we accept Heaven, we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenir of Hell.” (C.S. Lewis)

Scientific method or objective theory: what does the testing of my faith prove?

It’s fun to watch someone else’s theories experience that time of testing which either prove if what has been concluded is true or not. Yesterday I was making strawberry jello with one of our students in a classroom whose students are far more verbally expressive than ours. As blessings can come in the most surprising ways, this morning I realized those few minutes in the presence of one of the more lively-than-life teachers and her more-lively-than-life students, continued to bless me. It was the words from a song she played for my student and myself as we waiting for the hot water to boil:

“The Scientific Method: make an observation, take notes and record the world around you, then you ask a question, you form an hypothesis to explain what you observed, then you make a prediction about how its going to go, to test with a control and a var-i-able, then you analyze the data and draw a conclusion to the scientific method to avoid all confusion…”

There remains nothing more confusing than when all that has been observed and made note of, all the questions formed and carefully fashioned into one hypothesis after another, as one by one each prediction is afforded the opportunity to be tested.

“Is this real or not? Can this really happen? Will this work? Is this how it works?”

The journey of faith sure can seem like this at times. Reading and observing from a safe distance the world around us, trying to form some type of theory as to why, how come so much of what is stated in Scripture seems more impossible than plausibe. But there is nothing more confusing that to discover that every prediction, every theory, every conclusion arrived at is proven incorrect.

There are many things which leave me feeling confused, theories whose carefully drawn conclusions proved incorrect, hypothesis’ whose step by step process ended with more questions than clearly defined answers, but there remains one which has not, and that is that when Christ is at the center, and my heart has Christ dwelling within it, when He is what I cling and cleave to regardless of whatever has “tested” me.

“Let it rip!” can sometimes be the greatest of all opportunities to test the reins of heart, body and mind and strength, to prove Jesus Himself is the anchor. It makes whatever the results may be of much less concern than He who goes through the whirlwind of all life experiences with me.

One test which has validated His Word, is that I cannot stand in the presence of those powers and principalties of the enemy, or even against the desires of my flesh which war against His Spirit. Time after time whatever human ability I possess is inadequate. If I am not clinging to Jesus, I will cling to something or someone else whose chief interests are not those of my Father’s. If my heart is not reconciled to my Father in heaven through His Son Jesus, if Christ is not dwelling in my heart through faith, if my inner woman is not strengthened with the power that is in His Holy Spirit, and granted the ability to intimately know the love of Christ that surpasses knowlege, and is filled with all the fulness of God, God’s severe mercy has proven to me there remains a terrible risk of being blown away far away from the One who gave me the life I undeservedly now have. (Eph.3:14-21)

God’s great love has proven at times to present itself in the form of a severe mercy, yet proves to enable me to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) God’s great love has proven itself that sometimes His mercy is severe so that I have not remained as a child in risk of being carried away with “every wind of doctrine.” God’s great love has tested each theory I have formed about Him, His Word and Holy Spirit, nature and character so that what is genuine is proven just that.

Just as deprivation reveals what desires secretly lurk in the heart, sometimes God’s great love allows various forms of deprivation so that we, His child, can prove to ourselves whether Christ is in our hearts or not. Deprive people of electric power, cell phone reception, the kind of food and material comforts are assumed will always be available, medical care or medicine, clean running to water to drink, wash and bath in, and it does not take long to see what the heart really desires, and to whom it goes to first for help. But what would happen if we, the Body of Christ with all the Christian resources, Bibles, conferences and online anything we were suddenly deprived access to? How would that affect us?

Sometimes God’s great love must “let it rip” in the form of a severe mercy so that each theory of objective truth can come to experiencial subjective conclusions that Christ is or is not dwelling in the heart by faith.

“The difference between knowing Christ “for” you and knowing Christ “in” you.” (J. Eadie, Ephesians 1)

“For you are yet carnal” has always had deeper roots that I ever realized.

Weaning off anything is no fun, less so an sudden experience which takes away of what has always been expected to always “be there” for comfort, reassurance, provision or help.

“Put some iron into” was the conclusion my Norwegian heritage left me, yet what if our Father means our “inner man” needs to be strengthened and undergirded in mind and will so that we are capable of apprehending those truths of His Word that will equip us to face whatever may otherwise cause the strongest to faint?

“Don’t be deceived” seems a repetitive message of our Lord about “the last days.”

Lord, Your Word and countless lives have proven the center spot of the heart and mind is what that the devil makes a special target of. Even the mightiest human can be quickly disabled and brought to utter collapse once the heart faints and the will has the life snuffed out of it. Jesus, we need You to renew our “inner man” day by day” for our own strength only gets us so far before it ultimately reaches an end. (2 Corin.4:16) If the joy of the Lord is not my strength, my own strength will eventually fail. (Neh.8:10) If I spend all the strength on defending everything but my heart, I will eventually miss what I should have guarded most, and when the seige happens, I will not be able to stand as I should. (Prov.4:23)

There is nothing more essential than to have Christ dwell in my heart by faith and know intimately, both heart and mind, the love of God and be filled with all the fulnes of God so that in times of desperation or deprivation I will not seek to be filled with that which cannot help me as You can Lord.

The Apostle Paul understood those the Christians in Ephesus needed the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened” so that they may “know what is the hope to which He has called them to, the riches of His glorious inheritence in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead…” (Eph.1:15-21)

Jesus, as Head of Your Church, You gave the apostles, prophets, evangalists, shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Thank You for each opportunity You offer that may reveal where we need to preserve that unity which is endangered, or anywhere You are not the center, Source and Saviour of Your Church. (Eph.4-5)

Father, the truths contained in Your Word are suited to the differing capacities and levels of maturity the Body of Christ is in. Sanctification is a process that requires us to read, learn, pray, read and inquire in ways that center on You Jesus and Your Word to us as Your Holy Spirit “transforms us from one degree of conviction to another.” (Starke)

“God’s children often have gross and unacknowledged faults which linger in them until they have waked in faith and grown strong to overcome. Since with the majority growth is slow and difficult, we must often continue longer to deal out them the ‘sincere milk of the Word.’” (Hed)

Father, strengthen us with the grace and patience needed especially those You have called to teach and preach Your Gospel, so that all can reach maturity and fulness, and live out Your plans and purposes for them to be used for Your glory and Kingdom.

It is so easy to mistake the peripheral issues as being the essential issues, and so easy for our Self to deceive itself in ways that bring about the kind of divisions which not only war against our soul, but are in opposition to the kind of brotherly love that Your Word speaks of. If Peter and the Apostle Paul, who were marytered in Rome, and our Lord Jesus Himself who was “crucifed by the power of Rome, but yet they preached submission to Rome (1 Peter 2), we acknowledge “honoring all men” may be something we need further training in. Living in Rome under the leadership of a man such as Nero was, such a cruel tyrant, to “walk in love” required a supernatural strengthening.

“Nero falsely charged with guilt and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated…Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontious Pilate…but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only throughout Judea, where the mischief originated, but throughout the city of Rome…A vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city as of hating the human race, and in their deaths were made the subjects of sport…they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, nailed to crosses, set fire to and when the day declined, burned to serve for noctural lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle.” (Tacitus)