Laying on Hands, Part 3 – Acts 8:14-24

The Laying On Of Hands Also Imparts The Holy Spirit

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

Delayed Delivery

There are several ways that the Holy Spirit comes upon people:

  1. Through the Holy Spirit’s action
  2. Through Jesus’ action
  3. Through the Father’s action
  4. The laying on of hands by disciples of Christ

There are interesting things about these cases.  When Jesus breathed on the disciples, they had received the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit did not come upon them IN POWER until Pentecost.  In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God came upon those whom He chose, and could leave when He desired.  That is most likely why David wrote in Psalm 51:11 :

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

But what is even more interesting in this passage is that these believers had believed on The Lord Jesus Christ, been baptized into The Lord Jesus Christ, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit!  It was by the laying on of hands that these New Testament believers received the Holy Spirit.  It should be noted that Cornelius and all who were present received the Holy Spirit in power without the laying on of hands when Peter came to visit them.  In the New Covenant that Jesus gave to us, the Holy Spirit is a down-deposit of our inheritance in Christ.  He cannot, and will not, ever leave us nor forsake us.

Immense Impact

In each case, it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came upon each person IN POWER that they were able to be fully utilized by God.  The church today appears to believe that we merely just “need to believe” upon The Lord Jesus Christ to receive the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).  This passage in Acts, however, indicates that this is not always the case.

Before even the disciples could do anything, they needed to wait until Pentecost, having already received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, BUT NOT IN POWER.  As a believer in Christ, who has had the Holy Spirit come upon you IN POWER, YOU also have the ability to impart the Holy Spirit upon believers if He has not come upon them, and they believe.

If you do not believe that the Holy Spirit has come upon you yet, and you have believed upon The Lord Jesus Christ, ask your church leadership to lay hands upon you so that you also can receive the Holy Spirit.  And pray that the Spirit of God who then indwells you would come on you IN POWER.

Elementary Education

Paul notes in Hebrews 6:1-3 that one of the elementary teachings of the faith is the laying on of hands.  As disciples of Christ, we should be familiar with this teaching, and as such, this should be taught to ALL disciples of Christ by the church.  It is difficult to move on to more advanced subjects without taking the time to learn the basics.  Trying to understand calculus without learning addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication is a fool’s errand.

When the church fails to properly disciple believers, believing that it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to properly educate each believer (which He does…), we open the door to generations of believers who are ill-prepared to take on the enemy and may become a hindrance rather than a help to the church (observe how many disciples of Christ are not walking in the gifts of the Spirit that He has provided to them!).  Paul went to great lengths to teach the believers about these things so that they would be empowered to do the work that God had chosen for them before the foundation of the world.

When we don’t take the time to disciple the church (not only the elementary spiritual truths of the Bible, but also the advanced ones as well) new believers (and even seasoned believers) may not be properly equipped to do what God has called them to do.  In the same way, you wouldn’t just give collegiate-level textbooks to a 13-year-old and tell them to read the books and come back to take their baccalaureate test.  You would provide them with the foundational education necessary, send them to classes with teachers who are able to teach the subjects, and then provide them with tutors if required.  If we do this for secular teaching (which has temporary rewards), why would we not do this for Spiritual teaching (which has eternal rewards)?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking to be discipled, and discipling where I am qualified?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word.  Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who leads me into all truth.  Thank You for the body of Christ who help me grow and keep me accountable.  Thank You for Your love, patience, mercy, and provision in all things.  Thank You for the wonderful Gifts Your Spirit has given to me to use for Your glory.  Please help me to understand the spiritual truths that I may not know, and to walk in Your gifts.  Help me to grow in knowing who You are, and exhibiting Your character to all that I encounter.  Grant me wisdom to seek out others who can fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and I pray that Your Spirit would energize the leadership of the body of Christ to grow closer to You, learn the elementary and deeper spiritual truths, and to be faithful to teach the body so that we would be a holy people empowered to do all that You desire us to do.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Maturing in Christ – Hebrews 6:1-3

Lay The Foundation Of The Basics Before You Move On To Maturity

1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Begin with Basics

Paul encourages us to move beyond the basics.  We are not to remain babes in Christ, but, like teenagers, move on to maturity.  However, we do need to start with the basics.  Paul lists several of the basic principles of the Christian faith:

  • foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God
  • instruction about cleansing rites (they are no longer needed, since Christ has cleansed us with His shed blood)
  • the laying on of hands
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • eternal judgment

Each of these is important, as they are part of the foundation upon which we build with Christ as our cornerstone.  Without the cornerstone and basic foundation, the rest of the structure that we build will not be sturdy, straight, and sufficiently load-bearing.  Paul used these analogies because the average person at the time of his writing would have understood them and their relation to the spiritual truths he was attempting to convey.

Apprehend your Authority

The next step in this process is to understand who we are in Christ.  One of the reasons disciples of Christ in the Western world seem impotent in their endeavors (not all, but many church bodies don’t seem to have the impact that they should) is that we do not understand our authority in Christ.

The average Christian either does not understand or believe all of the verses in the Bible.  If we truly believe something, we will act upon it.

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

This verse is to be tempered by remembering that Christ completely yielded Himself to the Holy Spirit, and only did what the Father was doing, and only said what He heard the Father say:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

We are to be submitted to God.  When we are submitted to God, listening to Him, and obeying His commands, whatever we ask will be given us.  And the reason it will be given us is that our focus will be upon the Father’s work, and what we ask will be to the Father’s glory:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Step in Subservience

The only way to successfully walk the walk of being a disciple is to walk in obedience to God.  We hear this over and over again.  Why?  Because it is FOUNDATIONAL to our victory over sin as well as maturing in Christ.

If we were to go out every night and drink ourselves into a stupor, sleep in until the afternoon, and basically do whatever makes us feel good in the moment, people would look at us as though we were children.  Only children don’t understand or take hold of responsibility.  Only children put up temper-tantrums when they don’t get their way, and refuse to do what they know they need to do because of petulance and self-righteous anger when they don’t get their way.

Until we get to the point where we fall on our knees and say,  “Lord Jesus, Thy will be done in my life”, and we truly mean it and seek His will in our life every second of every day, we will be less than optimally effective for Him in our service to Him.  Will we ever get there?  No.  We have a sin nature.  Even Paul said he wasn’t there yet:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Possess your Plot

God has assigned to each of us our work to do.  We need to seek God and get our marching orders.  In the case of the Israelites, they were told to possess the land of Canaan.  God went out before them and drove the wicked inhabitants out so that they could claim the land that God had given to them.

In the same way, we are to possess the land that we have been given.  We are to conquer the sins that so easily beset us.  We are to understand, use, and become proficient with the spiritual gifts that God has given us.  We are to plug in and yield ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are to grow in holiness and understanding of the Word of God.  We are to become fully mature, do our work, and mentor those who are not as far along as we are.  We are to seek others to mentor us.  And we are to walk with those who can act as accountability partners.

There is significantly more that we should do.  But just like the Israelites, we are to take a little land at a time, inhabit it, fully possess it, and move on to conquer more of the land that God is preparing for us.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Have I matured in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided victory of sin for me in Jesus.  You have made it possible to live in righteousness before You.  You have given me the opportunity to grow in You.  Help me to fully mature in Christ.  Help me to be a workman who is well-trained in how to use Your word.  Help me to overcome the sin that so easily besets me.  Give me victory over my flesh and the enemy of my soul.  Bind Satan and his minions that they would be unable to react as I plunder their dominion – to seek the lost and to tell them the Gospel.  Grant me victory today, and help me to be fully yielded to the Holy Spirit that I may honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Staying Babes in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

We Are To Mature, Not To Stay Babes In Christ!

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Spiritual Splendor

The word of God is full of the spiritual meat.  It provides guidance for every aspect of life, in every situation.  And while the word of God does not specifically say, “I want you, <Your Name Here>, to go to such and such a city and get such and such a job and do such and such a ministry…”, it does provide guidance for every area of our lives.

Psalm 119:105 says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  There is just enough light to see the cliff, or where to put our next foot.  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit through faithful and fervent prayer to God to get anything close to a longer-term indication of what we should be doing (further than our next footstep).

In the word of God, as we mature, we begin to understand the deeper truths of walking in step with God in our spiritual life.  God reveals wonderful nuggets of truth that help to transform our lives from merely adoring children into prepared adults, making mature decisions, walking confidently in His guidance and being resources to those who are still maturing in Christ.

Stop Shuffling

Everyone who has been walking with God for more than five years (and for many, perhaps even fewer years…) should begin to mature in Christ.  Paul says something very interesting here.  He gently scolds the Hebrews (and us!) for their passivity in failing to pursue a more complete understanding and comprehension of the spiritual truths of God, and even says, they are no longer even trying.

Many people believe simply that since they are saved, God will take care of their spiritual feeding through divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.  But God says to seek Him with ALL of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  God greatly desires that we mature, just as parents everywhere, wish that their teenagers WOULD JUST GROW UP ALREADY…

There is a great frustration among parents when they watch their 18, 19, 20, 30 year old children act exactly like that – CHILDREN.  There is an expectation that their children would mature, and then do something productive with their lives, not live in their parent’s basement until they are 50 only eating junk-food, watching TV, and playing video games all night with their friends.  In the same way, God desires that His children mature, stand strong, and do the works that He has prepared for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Fabulous Feast

The good news is that as we mature, we have a veritable feast available to us to feed upon.  As a child, we grow and develop feeding on the rich milk of our mothers.  But there comes a time when we need additional nourishment in order to grow our bodies.  ONLY drinking milk (or not eating or drinking anything else at all…) will eventually cause malnourishment in our bodies.

In the same way, by feeding upon the “meat of the word”, we become nourished, strong, and able to do the work that we need to do.  Those of God’s people who are not seriously seeking him through prayer, reading his word, and seeking out an understanding of his word (its meaning and application in our lives, as well as implementing it as part of our daily routines) are on the path to spiritual malnourishment, as well as being weakened for the enemy of our souls, to pounce upon us, overpower us, and devour us.

As we feed upon the word of God and pray, we grow strong.  There is an amazing cornucopia of delights as we delve deeper into the word, and our lives are transformed by its principles and guidance.  Cheetos and milk duds may taste good for a snack, but what is better than a ten course meal with all of the trimmings to satisfy your hunger?  The word of God is like a good Amish buffet – wholesome, tasty, satisfying food, always with new varieties, to fill us, tantalize us, and give us strength as it satisfies our hunger.

Delightful Discernment

Those who truly are babes in Christ should feed on milk until they begin to mature, being able to distinguish the difference between what is good and what is evil in the sight of the Lord.  Just as adults don’t exclusively drink milk, we don’t feed steak to a baby that has no teeth!  As we train ourselves, though the transforming and renewing of our minds in the word of God, we are better equipped to understand and implement the deeper truths of the word of God.

We should all seek to want to feed upon the meat of the word, so that God would be able to use us in a greater capacity.  God is able to use anyone in Him in any way that He chooses.  He, however, is more easily able to use those who are mature in greater ways than the infants.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I as mature as I should be for the length of time that I have spent as a child of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your patience, mercy and grace.  Give me a heart that constantly seeks after You, and greatly desires to grow and mature towards holiness.  Help me to get out of any spiritual ruts that I may be in, and to pursue You as the cheetah pursues its prey.  Provide me with strength, guidance, resources, and good mentors so that I can become who You desire me to be.  Help me to overcome any strongholds in my mind that may be keeping me from seeking to grow.  Help me to turn my eyes more fully upon Jesus, and look full in His wonder face so that the things of this world will grow strangely dim.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Responding to the Word of God – Nehemiah 8:9-12

Don’t Just Read The Word Of God – Respond To It

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Massive Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

As we read the word of God, our hearts should react.  The Israelites who were gathered before Ezra when Nehemiah was the governor over Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt in fifty-two days experienced great mourning when they heard the word of God read to them.  Jesus indicated that this was to be our state of heart as well when we hear the word of God and we realize that we are falling short of it.

The word of God is not merely words inspired by God and written by men for us to give historical records and inspirational thoughts; rather, the word of God is living and active:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The word of God is able to show us exactly who we are in our inward attitudes as well as our outer words and deeds.  Scripture is able to accurately pinpoint the weaknesses and failings in our character, thought processes, and beliefs.  It is able to do so because it is both alive and absolute truth:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When our hearts respond to the word of God, we are ready to be trained by it.

Supernatural Strength

Nehemiah records that the ordeal in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem was taxing on the people.  Anyone who has been under the threat of violence, where working with one hand and your other hand on your weapon is not a very peaceful ordeal.  The Israelites experience this even today on a near day-to-day basis with the threat of suicide bombers, shootings, beatings, and missiles being directed towards them.

The last thing that God’s people needed right now was to become overwhelmed with dread at the thought of just how far short they were from the glory of God.  Nehemiah commanded that the people not grieve on this day, for it was holy to them.  They were to embrace the joy of the Lord.  This is their strength, and our strength as well.  God has sovereignly paid for our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  Our natural response is to mourn over our sin.  But we should then embrace the joy of our salvation, for it is in that joy that we have strength.

Pain, suffering, misery, mourning, and many other physically and emotionally draining situations sap our strength from us.  When we have joy in hope (the certainty of outcome, not wishful thinking), we are able to look at these difficulties and put them in their proper perspective.  Until we are able to grasp the joy of the Lord, we will be subject to the storms of emotion.  Life is hard.  For many, life seems impossible.  When every breath is a challenge, and the situations of life threaten to rob every aspect of normalcy in life from you, only the joy of the Lord can lift you out of the pit of despair.

Stay Still

The Levites (the Levitical priests) had counseled the people to be still.  Elsewhere in the word of God, that phrase is used as well:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

But what does it mean to “be still”?  One of the best translations of this phrase is “cease striving”.  As humans, we have a desire and drive to do things our way.  We tend to rely upon the gifts and resources that God has provided to us rather than on the provider of the gifts and resources.  When we rely upon God, we will cease striving.  Our hearts will “be still”, for we will be expectantly waiting for God to act, rather than acting on our own.

Cheerfully Celebrate

God had done a mighty work in and through those who had rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  The Israelites were told to celebrate this great victory that God had given to them.  Do we take the time to celebrate what God has done in our lives?  Do we publicly acknowledge the victory God has given us over our enemies?  Do we embrace the joy of the Lord in such a way that it is winsome to others?  How we respond to what God has done and is doing in our lives is very important to God.

Embrace Erudition

All of this was very important because of one thing: the people had understood the meaning of the word of God.  We too should seek and embrace the word of God and its meaning in our lives.  Learning the word of God should be foremost in our minds:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

[Blessed is the one…] whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in the joy of the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your joy is made complete in me through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Thank You for this gift, and for Your joy.  Help me to know Your word and to embrace Your word in my heart and my mind.  May Your law be on my lips when I first wake in the morning until I go to sleep at night.  Help me to understand Your word better so that I can live it out in my life.  Help me to cease striving, and to fully receive Your Spirit without measure.  Give me the desire and ability to die to myself so that the Holy Spirit can display Your character through the life that You have provided to me.  Help me to rely upon You more each day and less upon myself.  Help my heart to be attuned to Your word and Your direction so that I might live in a way that pleases You more.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to have a heart that is sensitive to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Understanding God’s Word – Nehemiah 8:4-8

Seek Out God’s Pastor/Teachers To Better Understand God’s Word.

4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Reverential Respect

In an insightful view of ancient worship, Nehemiah records the gathering of ALL of the people who were able to understand the law of God in Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt.  After he opened the scroll (the book) of the law, the people stood up.

God is a holy God.  He desires, and deserves, our respect in all things.  In the same way that our Earthly fathers desire respect from their children, God desires (and more rightly deserves!) our respect.  Standing up when God’s law is about to be read is a way to show that respect.  It shows that we are attentive to it, and that it deserves our full and undivided attention.

Powerful Praise

Ezra next praised our great God, YHWH.  In response, the people raised their hands and responded with “Amen, Amen!”  This meant “truly, truly!”  It is a sign of acknowledgement and agreement with what is being said.  We hear it and we do it.  But how often do we think about it?  How often do we take the time to truly ponder how we respond to God and His word?

Wonderful Worship

The people then bowed down and worshiped God with their faces to the ground.  Do we show the same respect for our Father in Heaven?  Are we willing to bow down and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords?  Is our view of God so high that we bow down with our faces to the ground?  Do we give everything in worship to Almighty God, or do we merely acknowledge Him with words?

Concisely Convey

Due to the lack of modern convenience of sound systems and, in that location, a parabolic-shaped theater setting, the Levites (designated priests of God amongst the Israelites) were spread in the crowd of those gathered.  As they read the word of God to the people, they made sure that the people understood what was being read.

Reading without comprehension is filling time, or even giving lip service to the material being presented.  To honor the author, we should take the time to ponder and understand what the author intended for us to get out of their writing.  The Levitical priests, as they read God’s word, made certain that the people understood what was being read to them.  They took to the time to explain the full meaning of the law of God.

We need to understand what we are reading so that we can apply it in our lives.  When we read God’s word, and then don’t understand it, we may say “wow, that was interesting”, but what effect will it have on our lives?  How will it draw us closer to God and each other?  How will it penetrate our hearts to show us ourselves?  The word of God can only act as a mirror to our soul, properly reflecting what is there, when we can see what is in the mirror.

It is imperative that we seek out teachers of God’s holy word who have a clear and accurate understanding of it.  The selection of our teachers will greatly influence our understanding and application of the word of God.  And while God will certainly honor our attempts to live out what we know, He greatly desires that we understand His word more and more each day, so that we can participate in His character, and know Him more fully through living out His word in our lives.

Today, take the time to re-read the section of scripture that you read, and see if God reveals more about it to you, or more about you to yourself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to fully understand the meaning of scripture that I am reading?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have graciously recorded for us the history of Your people and how You have interacted with them.  Thank You for Your diligence in doing so.  Help me to better understand Your word so that my life can be transformed from what it was into what it should be.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to better understand the word of God.  Show me where in my life that I need to make changes so that I will better honor You, Lord God Almighty.  Help me to take more time, and do more research, so that I will have a fuller, richer, and accurate understanding of what I am reading.  Help me to put it into action, for Your word is living and active an is able to help me to recognize my innermost feelings and desires.  Help me to align my heart with Yours, Oh God!  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Holiness and God – Hebrews 12:14-17

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Pursue Peace

In a world where everyone is at odds with each other, it is not always easy to be at peace with people.  Although there is great evil in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  And as ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in this victory.  This is not to say that we will be able to be at peace with everyone.  This command is completely directed at us, not at the outcome.  Elsewhere, we are told:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This does not mean that you are to be a doormat.  Make every effort to live in peace with others.  They are responsible for their own reactions.  Otherwise, we would be their perpetual slaves, forced to do their bidding in an effort to bring peace at any cost to our relationships.

You can’t please all of the people all the time.  – Miranda Richardson

We have been set free, and should no longer be slaves to people’s desires or expectations from us or for us.  We are to instead be focused on the expectations that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us.

Seek Sanctification

We are to seek the Holiness of God in how we conduct our lives.  This is not works-based salvation, but rather a fulfillment of a Christ-proclaimed directive:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, that we might have the opportunity through the righteousness (holiness) of Christ to be in the presence of God forever.

Being a disciple is more than mere intellectual ascent to the creed of your master.  It is the moment-by-moment imitation of your master’s activities, thought processes, and character so that you can be as near a perfect imitation of your master.  If a person thinks their way is better than their master, why waste the time, money, and effort of trying to learn their ways?  Discipleship is the recognition that your master knows how to do whatever it is you desire to learn to do better than you are able to do it.  God knows our hearts, and doesn’t seek people looking for “fire insurance.”  God desires those who espouse a great conviction that He is holy; He is truth; He is perfect; He knows best how to do everything; and we don’t.

Assist Another

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The simple answer is, “YES!!!”  We are to look out for each other.  When we see someone else begin to falter, we are to render assistance to them, help them back up, and restore them once they have begun to walk right again.

We are to encourage one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  We are to greatly desire that each member of the body of Christ be built up in the Spirit, fully mature, and lacking nothing.  We are to agonize in prayer over this.  The world says, “Family First!”  The body of Christ needs to place this in its proper perspective:  God first, family second, everyone else third.  Let us begin to treat other believers in Christ in our local body (where we worship) as our family, just as if you were born and raised with them.  Then, after we have that down (how much less strife would be in the church if we did just that!), let us treat the OTHER bodies of disciples of Christ as though THEY were our family as well!  United we stand, divided we fall.  This is just as true today as the day it was pronounced.

Impale Immorality

Sexual immorality was just as prevalent two thousand years ago as it is today.  We are reminded that we are to put to death anything that impedes our walk with our Savior:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Sanctification is the process of the renewing of one’s mind in such a way that not only do we desire to be holy, we begin to walk in the holiness of God, accepting the consequences of our actions without regard to their difficulty.  God is character-driven.  We are to adopt and emulate His character in how we conduct the lives that He has given us.  Immorality of any type is to be rejected.  God is the one who decides what is moral and immoral, for our hearts (the root of our emotions, desires, and motivations) in their natural state are wicked, and unable to properly discern the truth even about themselves.

Rejoice for the Reward

Finally, we are admonished to greatly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven. Esau, for a meal, gave away his inheritance.  He desired the immediate gratification of the flesh over the (seemingly) far off reward of his inheritance.  Like Esau, we are impatient, self-gratifying, self-seeking, and unable to keep everything in its proper perspective.  We need to put these things to death in us.  We need to embrace the same mindset as Christ, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I not only long for, but ferociously seek the holiness of God in how I conduct my life every second of every day?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and You cannot abide sin in Your presence.  Thank You again for the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I might have the opportunity to be in Your presence.  Thank you for the very life and breath You give to me now.  Help me to actively seek and desire the character of holiness that shines forth from You and repels the darkness.  Help me to better understand Your holiness, and the principles of character that You desire to be perfected in my life.  Sanctify me so that I might draw even closer to You.  Help me to live in such a way that You are pleased with my conduct, my speech, and my every thought.  Test me during the day, and even at night, so that I will be prepared for the great and glorious day when Your Son returns in glory.  Help me to be like the virgins who brought oil with them as they awaited the bridegroom, for our bridegroom is coming, and is coming quickly.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Faithfulness of God – Micah 7:18-20

God ALWAYS Keeps His Word

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.

Perfect Pardon

Unlike men, God is perfect in all His ways.  When God pardon’s our sin, He pardons it completely.  It is as if it had never happened:

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

God no longer holds our sin against us.  We who are in Christ, who have believed upon the name of the One and Only Son of God, have been cleared of all charges – past, present, and future.  God greatly desires that as former criminals we be reformed and act as He would desire, just as man wants former criminals to be reintegrated into society in a lawful and peaceful way.  Sanctification is the tool that allows that to occur.

Faithful Forgiveness

God is not a liar.  He is incapable of lying, for God IS truth:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

God is completely faithful to forgive anything that we have done, anything we bring before Him.  We must, however, turn from our sin and turn towards God.  When we ask for forgiveness and then immediately (and WILLFULLY) go back to what we were doing, we are basically like the child who says to dad and mom “I’m sorry (that I got caught, please spare me the consequences of my actions, I’ll be more careful to hide what I am doing from you going forward).”

God greatly desires to see us walk in His ways.  His faithfulness to forgive frees us from the fear of punishment that the un-Godly will encounter.  God is faithful in all things, for His very nature – His character – allows Him no other course of action when we approach Him in good faith, no matter how many times we stumble and fall.  Will a loving parent reject a child who falls down and skins their knee when trying diligently to walk carefully and cautiously?  If we would not, why would God?

Abated Anger

We are created in the image of God.  God has emotions.  He gets angry.  But God’s anger only lasts a little while.  God will not turn His face away from us forever in His anger.  God will not turn His face away from those who are faithful to Him.  He delights in His children.  God tells us to be angry and do not sin.  He also tells us that we should not let the sun go down on our anger.  God is NOT a hypocrite like men.  If God tells us to do something, will He then not model it for us?

Moved to Mercy

God’s heart is a heart of mercy.  Knowing that we are unable to do what He commands us to do, He took it upon Himself to pay our debt.  In His great mercy and compassion, He sacrificed His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our iniquity and to receive our just and due punishment upon the cross.  He now has legal authority to show us mercy.  God greatly desires for all of us to come to Him.  But without His mercy, we are unable to do so.

God’s mercies renew every morning:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

We fail to remember the mercy and compassion of God because the enemy of our souls, when we transgress God’s law, tries to convince us that God will not forgive us.  It is that much more important that we seek out God and his mercy that we may be free from the bondage of sin – our guilt.

Fully Faithful

God is faithful in all that He does.  He cannot be unfaithful, for His very nature relies upon it.  Imagine that God’s faithfulness wavered.  Would not everything that He did be tainted by that?  Imagine if gravity only worked some of the time, and it was completely unreliable, working and not working randomly.  What would happen?

In the same way that we can trust that the Sun will rise every morning, that the Moon will rise every night, that the stars will cross the sky, that God is faithful in each and every thing He does, and in each and every promise that He makes.  God has made many promises to Jacob about his inheritance and descendants.  God will keep each and every one of these promises faithfully in just the right time and in just the right way so that God will be praised and glorified to the utmost degree.

Profound Pledge

God has pledged to Abraham millennia ago that He would love his offspring, care for them, and make them so numerous that they would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky:

17 “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

God does not lie, and He does not make promises that He cannot keep nor will not keep.  God keeps every pledge He makes, no matter how long He takes to fulfill it.  Since He has prophesied through His prophets about these things, He fulfills them at just the right time.  And the time has come when God is calling all men to Himself.  His angel has gone out into the world and proclaimed the Gospel to all nations. He is gathering His people as He promised to the land He gave to their ancestors, and He is bringing all things to a close.  Seek Him while you may find Him, for time as we know it is about to end.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I relying on the faithfulness of God through my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are completely faithful and trustworthy.  Nothing and no one can cause Your plans to fail.  You have carefully engineered through millennia the circumstances that have brought about each and every prophesy that You have given to us.  Your word will stand now and forevermore.  Help me to trust You completely in my pain through my trials.  It is very hard to do so because of the lies of the enemy.  Stand strong for me and with me as I overcome all things in Your strength.  Give me everything I need to grow through my trials, and comfort me as I fend off the stinging rebukes of my enemies.  Holy Spirit, plead my case before the Father, and pray for me, for I don’t know how to pray through these things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Developing Discernment – Proverbs 1:10-19

Don’t Gain The Whole World Just To Lose Your Soul

10 My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.
11 If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14 cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot”-
15 my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.

Wicked Works

Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the Earth (with the exception of Jesus Christ), penned these words to help his son, and us, to glean from the supernatural wisdom that God imparted to him.

While it may be obvious to many that aligning ourselves with wicked men (and women!) is to be avoided, the wicked acts of men are readily seen and understood.  It is the more subtle acts of men that do not seem on the surface to be wicked that we are to avoid as well.

Wicked Words

Men (and women!) have learned how to play on the fears of others to get them to do what they want them to do.  The modern term is social engineering.  Most people will respond to someone who speaks in an authoritative voice to them, because they have been taught by their parents to be respectful and obey authority.  Although that may no longer be the case with our youngest generation, we react this way naturally.  Other types of psychological manipulation are used by these people as well.

Men (and women!) will also try to lure us into doing evil things by making good sound evil, and evil sound good.  They will play on our desire to “get ahead”, or fulfill a need in a way that does not honor God.  Humans have a natural capacity to justify our actions when our consciences bother us.  We avoid pain as much as possible, and we are then placed in circumstances where we will have to make a (often life-altering painful) decision to honor God, or go another way.

Wondering Why?

There are many reasons why we should avoid the advice of wicked people.  Solomon lists several:

  • Their feet rush into evil.
    • Rather than seek God to honor him with their minds and hands, they rush headlong into evil, both ignorant of its eventual outcome, as well as the consequences here in the physical realm.
  • They are swift to shed blood.
    • These people care nothing about each other, nor others.  They are swift to shed blood, as long as it benefits them somehow.  They do not have any concept of the value of human life, and may even traffic in it so that they can gain wealth and power.
  • The consequences are that others will see our actions plainly.
    • These people think that they are operating in darkness, when their deeds are made plain to the world!  But the question becomes, does the world even care?
  • The outcome is that they figuratively (and sometimes literally) shed their own blood!
    • Rather than do harm to their intended victims, they harm the very people they are attempting to protect – themselves!  Like Esau, they spurn their inheritance and gladly trade it for a little physical comfort.
  • Their eventual end is that they have ambushed themselves towards a specific end.
    • Their eventual outcome is that when they die, they cannot take their ill-gotten gains with them.  They must then face Almighty God before the White Throne Seat of Judgment, and pay at that time the most steep price imaginable – their eternal soul – for what they have done in the flesh.

Death and Destruction

The eventual outcome of these people is that they face death and destruction of their souls.  Discernment is required to avoid the schemes that others use to try to entice us into doing what they want us to do:

The only way to avoid these schemes is to put on the full armor of God, spend time with God in His word and prayer, and learn to discern when to spurn that which will burn.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I rightly discerning good and evil?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You are pure, holy, without blemish or spot.  You greatly desire all people to walk in holiness and righteousness before You.  Help me to rightly discern when others are trying to do me harm.  Help me when I inadvertently find myself cornered by the deeds of wicked men intent on destroying me, my family, my career, or my character.  Father, protect me from the wickedness of others, and help me to see Your wisdom, will, and way so that I may keep myself and my family from harm’s way.  And when You do allow wicked men and women to place me in circumstances that I did not willingly choose, I pray, Father, that You would deliver me from them just as You delivered Peter from the jailers.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Blindness – 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

If Satan Had Understood The Purpose Of Christ, He Would NEVER Had Tried To Crucify Him

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”
the things God has prepared for those who love him-

6 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Worldly Wisdom

There is a worldly wisdom that pervades our culture.  It reveals part of the truth, but ignores the truth about the spiritual activity that goes on around us.  The world desires that the rest of us follow its lead, hoping that we will not be “duped” by the truth of the One who is all-wise who came among us.

Wonderful Wisdom

God’s wisdom has been and, for many, is still a mystery that they are unable to unfold and comprehend.  The world seeks God “in the box” – the known universe – but ignores the Spiritual realm as “something spooky filled with ghosts and other benign and malicious creatures”.  God instead greatly desires to reveal the mysteries of the Spiritual realm to us, but in His way.  His wisdom has been recorded in His word, but even now is ignored by many due to the strongholds that prohibit them from seeing the truth.

Reigning Rulers

The reigning rulers and wise people of this world are blinded by their inability to properly discern Spiritual truths.  Even Satan, who once was with God in Heaven, is unable to properly discern spiritual truth.  If he had understood the purpose of Christ coming to Earth in the flesh, Satan would NEVER had placed the hatred in the hearts of men to crucify our Savior.

If man had not crucified our Savior, Jesus would not have received the punishment that we were intended to receive.  Jesus would have had a wonderfully long ministry on Earth, but our sins would not have been atoned for by His blood, because it was necessary that man shed Jesus’ blood for the plan of God to succeed.

Particularly Prepared

God reveals His wisdom through His word and the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand the truth as it was, and is, being revealed.  We need to rely upon the Spirit of God for this revelation, because we simply cannot comprehend apart from Almighty God’s help the depth and beauty of His wisdom in all that He does.

Salvation was a mystery from the very beginning.  It is something that the angels of God sought out, but did not know either, until it was revealed.  This was done to glorify God, as well as to ensure that God’s plan would be fully fulfilled in its proper time and by the proper vessels.

Spirit Searches

The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of all reality, including the thoughts of God and men.  We cannot even begin to fathom what God is doing because His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways.  It only makes sense that He would need to reveal to us these things, for they cannot be ascertained apart from spiritual insight provided to us by Almighty God Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I listening to the revelation of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word reveals Your will and Your ways to me.  Help me to learn these lessons, and to keep my heart attuned to Yours.  Help me to listen to the Holy Spirit as He unveils the truth about life and Godliness, and reveals Jesus to me.  Help me to remember that spiritual blindness can occur if I am not seeking You with all of my heart, mind soul, and strength.  Guide me in the ways that I should go, and prepare me for what is to come.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Letting Go of the Past -Isaiah 43:18-19

In Order To Move Forward, You Need To Leave The Past Behind

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

Finally, Forget!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have selective amnesia?  To suddenly be able to forget something to the point you cannot even remember that it occurred? God, through the prophet Isaiah, is telling us that we have the ability to place the past behind us.  We are capable of utilizing our brains in such a way that we can forget the past and put it behind us.  It generally involves three steps:

  1. Dealing with the past (emotionally, spiritually, and relationally)
  2. Choosing not to dwell on the past
  3. Choosing to dwell on a more powerful passion – the future!

In order to move forwards, you need to first deal with the past.  This can involve several steps (the following is not an exhaustive list, but several broad starting points – let God direct the path YOU need take):

  • Repent of past sins
    • Approach God with an open and humble heart.  Allow God to show you where you need to forgive, what you need to rectify, and what you need to abandon.
  • Repair past relationships
    • Reconcile with anyone that may have anything against you.  Allow God to show you who they are.  There may be people who are just too dangerous to reconcile at this time (or ever), so be aware of God’s leading in this
  • Settle old debts
    • Do what you can to settle any debts you have with anyone.  Make a clean break  where possible.  Sometimes, this is not possible financially. Allow God to direct you in what you can do, and let Him do what He needs to do.
  • Stopping fruitless projects
    • Arborists will cut a diseased limb off of a tree to save the tree.  This is not an act of cruelty to the tree, but rather a life-saving act of mercy.  In the same way, allow God to show you where time and life stealing endeavors in your life are causing you too many problems, and let go of them.  The desires of the past will be replaced with a vision of the future…

Don’t Dwell

We are told to place our worries, problems, emotional distress, and everything that we have to deal with at the foot of the cross.  This is bringing it to Jesus in prayer, asking that He bear the burdens that are too difficult for us to bear, and walking away.  The problem with many disciples of Christ is that after we set down our baggage at the cross, we pick it right back up and walk away with it.

Practically, this is when we give something to God, then we keep remembering it in our minds.  God is able to move our sin as far as the East is from the West.  He is able to forgive and forget.  We need to do the same.  The problem is, many of us don’t want to forget.  We immediately begin thinking of how so-and-so did such-and-such to us.  When we do that, we have picked up our baggage and taken it with us as we leave the cross.  Additionally, the enemy of our souls, Satan, will remind us and hound us constantly when we are trying to let go of something.  He’ll place thoughts in our mind like, “How DARE that man in that car just careen in front of you and nearly cause you to crash!  Unbelievable!  What is the world coming to?  What is wrong with these people?!”  By getting us to rehash the past, we are unable to focus on the future…

The brain is very interesting.  It acts like a record.  After repeated thought patterns occur (dwelling on the past), it forms grooves in the brain to reinforce the pattern, thought, or behavior (we call this habits, attitudes, and character).  The brain can then more quickly access these pathways, and they slowly become ingrained in us.  And when we encounter a problem, it goes to these “thought highways” where we can”quickly resolve” the issue.  It is like a needle in a record’s groove – there is a path that is easy to take, and we can get into ruts where the needle just skips and goes in the same groove forever and ever…

However, the brain is dynamic and can change.  We need to forge new paths, or highways, in the brain.  And just as it is difficult to make a new groove on a record with a needle, so it is with our brains.  Eventually, when we no longer use the old highways, the brain will eventually allow them to dissipate.  Eventually, these old highways become distant echos of the past.  You truly can retrain the brain.

Different Development

God then reminds us that He is constantly doing new things!  Rather than watch movies in our minds about the past, we can look to the present and the future, where God is already causing new developments to occur.  He is constantly and actively at work in our lives, the lives of others around us, and in the world.

Because we are created in the image of God, we have curiosity.  In Revelations 21:5, God tells us He is making everything new.  The Greek word used for making, poiO, means continually making (new).  God recognizes that we become bored easily and can focus on the past.  Even in the far future, in eternity, God will be doing new things continually!

Embrace Eruptions

In order to embrace the present and the future, we need to pay attention to what is going on around us.  God is moving, and if we don’t carefully watch, He may go off in a direction while we are too busy smelling the dying roses.  We need to be open to what God is doing, and to watch carefully and eagerly to perceive what is about to come.

The skill of discernment is sadly lacking in many disciples of Christ.  This skill is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the continued growth and protection of the disciple.  We have been told that we can test and approve of God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.  How can we do that if we are not even attempting to discern what His will is in a particular matter?  Practice makes perfect.  Start today, and ask God to help you to develop the skill of discernment.

Forging Forward

God has said that He would go before us and prepare a way ahead of us.  Just as he drove out the people of Canaan for the Israelites so that they could inhabit the inheritance of the promised land, God is also preparing a path for us individually and corporately.  God is always looking ahead, making minor course adjustments here and there so that everything that He ever prophesied about through His people and recorded for us to know will come to pass.  God is not a liar, and He will not be made out to be a liar.  God will ensure that his plans will ALWAYS succeed, even if that means that He needs to move mountains or take people home.  We are to discern that path that God is making and walk alongside Him as He forges a new path forward.  By walking alongside Jesus, rather than camping out in the past, we are best prepared to grow and let the past go.

Royal Reclamation

When streams are created in the wasteland, the life-giving water begins to transform the area as plants find renewed ability to grow and flourish.  Physical water allows the land to flourish; spiritual water allows God’s people to flourish.  God is opening springs of living water in each of us through His Holy Spirit, and the living water that gushes out brings life and life abundantly to us.  And as the holy things are being watered, the dead, dying, decaying things of the flesh begin to rot and return to their proper place.  But just as rotting material stinks, so will our sin nature attempt to get our attention.  We must focus on the future, and in doing so, we can and will let go of the past.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I focusing on the future, or dwelling in the past?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is good, and it tells me that I am able to let go of the past.  Help me to process the emotional scars of the past so that I can move forward to the future.  Give me the ability to refute the accusations of the enemy of my soul, and to dwell on what You are doing rather than on what has already occurred.  Give me a renewed sense of Your plans and purposes so that I may see where the path lies that You have forged for me to move ahead.  Give me the strength to leave what is behind me at the foot of the cross, and to forge forward to what You are getting ready to do.  Help me to deal with the baggage of the past, and to approach the future with unhindered, open hands, raised in adoration and worship of You as You lead me forward.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Compromising in Fear – 1 Samuel 21:10-15

Fear Drives People To Do Crazy Things

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

Calamitous Compromise

Compromise has a tendency to lead to our ruination.  In David’s case, it saw him descend into such low depths that he went and camped out in enemy territory, even acting insane because he feared for his life.  It didn’t help that Saul was looking to kill him.  But it bears looking at the life of David to remember why compromise can ruin our lives.

Sometimes difficultly will find its way into our lives.  Saul had sent out the equivalent of the Airborne Rangers and the Navy Seals to go find and eliminate David.  When the best of the best is out to kill you, it can drive a person to fear.  And when we act in fear, we begin to compromise.

Embedded in the Enemy

In an effort to be free of the constant hounding by Saul, the king of Israel, David went to Gath.  The first sign that you are “off the rails” in compromise is when you believe that it is safer in enemy territory than where God has planted you (apart from direct revelation from God that it is time to flee).  Any time we begin to compromise, we set ourselves up to be placed in a situation that will require even GREATER compromise.  Upon hearing that he was recognized, and rightly so for his prowess in battle, David begins to act counter to his heroic nature.  Instead of hiding in caves, he does something worse – he hides in plain sight.

Distasteful Deceit

David begins to act insane.  He knows that he will most likely be left alone if he appears to be a non-threatening, drooling idiot.  Rather than inquire of God for what he should do, David takes it upon himself to try to provide his own protection through compromise.  And while it surely saddened God that David was acting this way, David looked to himself first and took matters into his own hands.

We compromise any and every time that we believe we have a better chance at success than God does.  And while most of us are certainly are in no position to criticize David, God was gracious enough to give us his example so that we could learn from it.  God had successfully hid other people from harm many times in the past:

Careful Consideration

Every time that we take a step in compromise, it leads us down a dark path.  As we walk farther away from the truth, it becomes more murky, and we find that it becomes easier to do things that, under normal circumstances, we would never even consider doing.  People in desperate times have eaten their own children during sieges to stay alive.

So what can we do when we are faced with compromise?

  • Turn our eyes upon Jesus.  He is the one who is our strength and shield.  Not every encounter with the enemy allowed the righteous to live (read the second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven), but they faced death with dignity and brought great glory and honor to God in how they handled themselves.
  • Pray to God for wisdom.  Oftentimes, we are blind-sided with great difficulty that demands swift and immediate action.  Sometimes, we are so emotionally overwhelmed, that our first instinct is to act and not to ask.  That is when it is most dangerous.  There is certainly a time to act before asking (YES, pull the little girl out of the burning car first…)
  • Pray to God, asking for strength to do what is right.  There will be times when our enemies have backed us into a corner.  They have maneuvered us into what appears to be a no-win situation.  But when we hold steadfast to God, and refuse to compromise, God may yet deliver us from our difficulties.  And when we refuse to compromise (do what is evil in the sight of The Lord God Almighty), no matter the consequences, God is greatly honored and glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with compromise, and possibly terrible consequences, what is my first reaction?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, there is no evil in You.  You do not compromise Your goodness in any way for any reason.  Give me strength as I face the consequences for doing what is right in Your eyes.  Uphold me before my enemies, and let them know that I fear and revere You more than I do anything that they can do to me.  Give me a steadfast heart that always seeks You, Lord God.  Help me to overcome any fear that the enemy is trying to place in my heart, and to boldly step out in faith.  I may not survive, Lord, but I know in my heart that You will be honored and glorified in this.  Help me to have great peace as I face difficulty, and I know, Father, that You will reward faithfulness to You, if not in this life, in the next.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Discernment and God – Philippians 1:9-11

Perfection In Love Provides Discernment For What Is Good

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Lengthening Love

Paul was given, as part of his gifting by the Holy Spirit, a heart to see the people of God grow in their knowledge and discernment. Paul recognized that since God is love, increasing in the very defining characteristic of Almighty God would provide the perfect place for the development of knowledge and insight into the wonderful character of our Creator.

As we grow in love, we grow in the understanding and capability to actively participate in the character of God, and therefore to know Him experentially. This gives us the opportunity to increase in our discernment of what is good and proper. Love fulfills the law, and love shows us the way to what is good. For of every good giving and every perfect gift, love is the most powerful and lasting of them all.

Increase Insight

Paul desires that we develop the insight into the character and experiential knowledge of God. It is not merely enough to learn about something. To truly understand it, you must embrace it and experience it. It them becomes real for you, and as you practice anything, its nuances and the depths of its virtues become apparent.

For instance, it may look wonderful to jump from an airplane, free-fall for a while, and then pull the cord to release the parachute to glide gently to the Earth. This all looks good, fun, and liberating, but until you actually do it, you won’t experience the thrill of free-fall, the wind against your face, the buffeting of the air against your body, the temporary feeling of liberation from gravity, and the majesty of seeing the land beneath you from a great height.

You won’t experience the nuance of controlling the parachute with your controls, moving left and right, leveling and directing your glide, working with and against the currents of the air, and the moment of truth as you try to gently end your flight without causing harm to your body as you either suddenly or slowly decelerate your fall with your feet and legs. It only becomes real to you when you do it. Words cannot truly describe what the body must experience. And words cannot truly describe what the spirit must experience as well.

Develop Discernment

As we exercise our spirit through the practical application of love, we will have the wonderful opportunity to increase our capacity to discern what is good. Exercising love provides the circumstances in which we can more fully understand and discern what is good and right. This gives us the perspective of wisdom – the practical application of knowledge – that helps us to grow spiritually wise.

Discernment is a vital tool in the life of a disciple of Christ. Discernment provides the filter through which paths can be assessed to end in good or evil. Discernment give the disciple insight to grow in love and the character of Almighty God. Without discernment, we will fall for every trick of the enemy, and find ourselves ruined, and possibly find our faith shipwrecked:

1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

4 “But let no one bring a charge,
let no one accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother-
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

Filled with Fruit

The fruit of righteousness comes from and through the experiential knowledge of following Jesus Christ – obeying His commands.  When we obey Jesus, we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit has He did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  And when the Holy Spirit of God indwells us, and we give Him permission to work in us and through us, we will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Producing Praise

When we are walking in the spirit – being filled with the fruit of the Spirit by the One who provides the fruit, we live a life that bring glory and praise to Almighty God.  As we bear fruit in accordance with the will of God, we develop discernment concerning both how to bear fruit, and what we should avoid in order to bear more fruit.  Just as an arborist prunes trees so that the dead wood no longer burdens the tree, and increases the available nutrients for the good branches, so does discernment help us to stop feeding the dead wood in our lives.  It is only when we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit that we are living a life that is correctly modeling our divine calling and nature as image-bearers of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I increasing in the insight and discernment by allowing the Holy Spirit of God to bear fruit through me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is the greatest honor to bear fruit for You.  You have given me life as a branch unnaturally attached to the vine, grafted in for Your pleasure.  You prune my dead wood, and help me to grow and bear even more fruit for You.  Help me to recognize the dead wood in my life, and to deny it any thought or energy.  Help me to let it die, and be pruned off, so that I would grow in grace, wisdom, and discernment of what is good, proper, and holy.  Help me to be sustained by Your nourishment, for You provide for all of my needs.  Guide me in the way I should go, and help me to do all that You have planned for me to do in Your will and Your way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Hebrews 12:1-3

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (To Sin)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Discard Detritus

The author of Hebrews reminds us to throw off anything that would hinder us in our spiritual pursuit of Almighty God.  Each  of us have issues that are both unique and common, in that we each have trouble spots in our lives that not everyone else has, but that others similarly face and have faced. These issues impede us from our spiritual growth.  For some, it may be the temptation of alcohol.  Others may be sucked in by sports.  Still others by lust.  The list goes on and on.  And while not everyone suffers from these, many do and have, and struggle even to this day with them.

We are reminded to throw these things off.  Is there something in your life that just won’t go away, something that gets you in trouble each and every time that you encounter it?   It is time to bring it to the body, so that others can pray for your deliverance from it:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Run the Race

The Olympic Games were very popular during the time when the author of Hebrews wrote this letter.  The imagery of the games would have been known and understood by all who had read it.  They had seen the training and effort that the participants who entered the games had endured in order to prepare for their opportunity to win their events.

We need to have in our minds the same mindset that the athletes of that day had – a complete and total focus on the goal.  They trained not only their bodies but also their minds for the sole purpose of doing the very best that they could in their field of endeavor.  The proper term is discipline.  They disciplined their bodies and minds.

In modern Western thought, discipline appears to be a pejorative, something that impedes a person from obtaining the desires of their hearts, and interfering with their pleasure and self-fulfillment.  But it is quite to the contrary; discipline helps us to eschew that which does not intentionally drive us towards our goal.  We cull the desires and behaviors that are at odds with our intentions and purposes and distract us from our pursuits so that we will be positioned to reap success from our endeavors.

We need to apply these same techniques and recognize their effectiveness as we learn spiritual discernment so that we can set aside the things that hinder us from completing our objectives.  When we are willing to do this, and allow the Spirit of God to provide us with the strength and endurance to overcome the emotional pain that this type of loss generates, we are able to fully embrace our freedom from sin and say “NO!” to it.  Every time we say “NO!” to sin, we grow a little stronger in our resistance to it.

Ask anyone who has quit smoking tobacco “cold turkey” how difficult it was.  The body rebels against the intentional withholding of the chemicals that brought pleasure and comfort and order with it.  The body rebels, and we may get irritable, the physical being greatly desiring what it is being deprived.  Withdrawal is never pretty, and it is the same way with spiritual withdrawal.  But such courses of action are necessary in order to grow and to regain control of that which we ceded to external stimuli and pressures.  And when we come in contact with other people who are doing what we used to do, the body cries out in a desperate attempt to ensnare the person again.  That is why it is sometimes so difficult for ex-smokers to be around smokers, and for recovering alcoholics to hang around drinkers.

Guide our Gaze

In this case, we have our goal in our sight – Jesus Christ is the one with whom we fix our gaze upon.  It is His example that we need to keep in sight as we move away from sin and move towards righteousness.  When we take our eyes off of the goal, it is easy to become sidetracked, blindsided, and fall back to old patterns of behavior.  It is hard enough trying to break a habit without having people constantly offer the very substance or circumstance that you are trying to avoid.

With spiritual habits, we are constantly bombarded by the devil and his minions to go back to life that we were living.  His calls to return are like daggers that zap our strength and feed the monster we are trying to starve to death.  And like anything else in this life, what you feed will grow, and what you starve will die (eventually).  Some things die long, slow, painful, soul-crushing, whining, loud deaths.  But die they must.  Remember to keep your eyes upon Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who shed His blood so that we could be free from our monsters.  Put the monsters in the dungeon where they belong, and make sure you don’t feed them – the enemies of our souls will try to do all that they can to feed and water them when we aren’t looking or ready for it.  Carefully planned ambushes that we don’t see coming are often the demise of the most well-intentioned Disciple.  Discernment keeps our spiritual eyes aware of our environment as we allow the word of God to light the path for our feet.

Wave off Weariness

Finally, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can remember the strength that He had through submission to the Holy Spirit to endure all that God had preordained Him to endure for our sake.  We must always keep heart, even when our flesh and emotions fail us.  For long after our physical strength is exhausted, it is only through determination of heart that we are able to hold on and endure, pressing forward to the goal.  Most of us have not resisted to the point of bloodshed.  Let us remember the price that was paid, and determine in our hearts that the One who endured all of our sins upon the cross is worthy of fighting until our very last breath leaves our body, and we go into glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I feeding or starving the monsters I am trying to slay?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ has shown me the way to victory.  Give me wisdom and discernment to avoid the circumstances that would overwhelm me and cause my spiritual demise.  Help me to starve the monsters of sin that seek to overcome my soul, and give me the strength to resist them with Your word and Your strength when I am faced with them.  Help me to avoid the pits and ambushes of the enemy so that I will be best positioned to grow in Your word and Your ways.  And when there is no apparent way out, help me to remember the option that Joseph took when faced with the overpowering strength of Potiphar’s wife – help me to flee the situation so that I may not become entangled in it.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Temptation of Christ – Hebrews 4:14-16

Then Jesus Was Led By The Spirit Into The Wilderness To Be Tempted By The Devil.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Firm Foundation

We have a wonderful faith, for our faith is in the One who spoke everything into existence, and who allowed Himself to be hung from a cross for our sins.  Jesus, the perfect, sinless lamb of God, was sacrificed for our sins, and is our great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek.  Unable to be our high priest through the lineage of Levi (and therefore Aaron), Jesus traces his ancestry from both mother and step-father to David of the line of Judah, where He claims the title “Lion of Judah“.  By Levitical law, Jesus could not have been our high priest by law – He didn’t qualify.  Instead, He became our high priest through an oath by God, becoming our eternal high priest, without beginning or end, just as Melchizedek, who was a type and shadow of Christ.

We know that Jesus suffered for us, and bore our sins on the cross.  But He did more than that.  He was tried and tested just as we are.  For although God cannot be tempted, because God is perfect, Jesus put on flesh to become like one of us, and therefore, He could be tempted (for although there is no sin in Him, He had a physical body that would be subject to the pain, suffering, and trials that we endure)…

Truly Tempted

What was the first thing that God did after Jesus began His earthly ministry (through the dedication of baptism)?  He was sent out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted/tested.  Before any of us enters ministry, we too must be tried and tested to prepare us for what is ahead.  This is a pattern seen throughout the Bible:

  • Joseph, son of Jacob, was tried and tested for 17 years in the affliction of slavery and incarceration for crimes he did not commit
  • Moses was tried and tested for 40 years in the time-honored profession of animal husbandry – shepherding – before God would use him to rescue His people from Pharaoh
  • David, another shepherd, having poured oil over his head by Samuel to be declared the next king of Israel, suffered as an outcast from his homeland and hunted down by the elite special forces of his day for more many years because of the jealousy of Saul

In the same way, Jesus was tried and tested in the same way that we are:

Jesus also was tested in the Garden of Gethsemane where He sweat blood when His physical body was reacting to what He knew was coming – the cross.  Three times Jesus asked God to remove the cup He was about to drink, and three times He submitted to the perfect will of God.  No one can say that Jesus doesn’t understand the difficulties we face.  He put on flesh, and suffered as we have suffered.

Granted Grace

And in that, Jesus was perfectly suited to be our high priest, for the high priest had to be able to have compassion on the ones that He would offering sacrifices.  Without compassion, there cannot be grace.  And Jesus, being God, has both compassion and grace as well as firsthand knowledge of what it is like to walk the Earth with flesh.

Morning Mercy

The Bible says that God’s mercies renew every morning.  And that is good news for us, for we are constantly in need of God’s mercy.  Jesus is able to sympathize with us for He has shared in our pain and suffering, and knows what it is like to live through our trials.  Many have claimed that God, being perfect and spirit, cannot possibly fathom what we go through every day.  God had foreseen that, and provided Jesus an Earthly body, in part, to ensure that we can make no such claim.

As we ponder our difficulties, and struggle in our trials, let us remember that Jesus, our perfect and eternal high priest, suffered as we have, and is able to sit at the right hand of God, praying for us in our afflictions, for mercy and grace.  For He and He alone is perfectly able to understand our travails and come alongside us in our difficulties, having been there Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I remembering that Jesus suffered as I have when I am going through trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in every way, and have provided the perfect sacrifice for my sins in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  He became flesh as one of us, perfectly able to sympathize with me as I suffer through the trials of this life.  Help me, Father, to remember that Jesus can indeed know what it is like to suffer in these bodies.  Help me to take courage and strength, knowing that He is at Your right hand, praying for each of us.  Help me to remember that neither Jesus nor You have ever lost anyone that was Yours.  Give me strength and comfort as I go throughout this day for the darkness of these times are threatening to overwhelm me.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Development with God – 1 John 2:12-14 (NASB)

Everyone Is In A Different Stage Of Spiritual Development

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Past and Present

John reaches out to three groups of believers in both the present tense (first part) and the past tense (latter part).  He is writing to remind them of their spiritual state and growth in Christ.  This may be due to the growth that has occurred in the church, and John wishes to remind those from where they came and where they are now.  He reminds them in both tenses of essentially the same thing for each stage of spiritual development.  He does this to encourage them in their spiritual growth.

Children in Christ

John first mentions the children – the babes in Christ.  He reminds them that their sins are forgiven.  As we throw off the grave-clothes of our old lives, and emerge freed from their restrictive effect upon our spiritual movement, we need to continually remember that we have been forgiven our sins.

The devil and his minions would continually remind us of the past, and try to get us focus on what was rather than on what is – that we are free in Christ.  Young babes in Christ must be reminded that God has forgiven them their sins for two reasons:

  1. We should no longer act in the way that we used to
  2. Now that we are free, we are capable of experentially knowing the Father through participating in His character as we walk with Him

Fine Fathers

John next addresses the more mature followers in Christ – the fathers.  In both tenses, he reminds them of their spiritual maturity in that they know the character of the living God.  Indeed, they have participated in His character and walk in it.  As they walk in God’s character, God reveals more of Himself to them so that they can walk even closer.

This is important to remember as we mature in Christ.  We are to be encouraged to seek out and experience God’s character more and more each day.  And we should remember that we have overcome the first two stages of spiritual development:

  • Childhood – learning to walk
  • Adolescence – overcoming obstacles through strength and discernment

Adolescent Achievers

John finally addresses those who spiritual development is in a state of great spiritual flux.  These are disciples who are learning to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.  They have successfully learned to resist the temptations placed before them, and are about to embark on the more difficult journey of greater spiritual maturity.

John reminds this group in both tenses that they have overcome the evil one.  That is no small thing.  The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to walk with God.  This group has been commended for yielding their lives in holy obedience to God’s word and development in discernment so that they can overcome the devil.  They are beginning to mature, but are not yet walking in full maturity.

Just as young men take on more responsibility and find out who they are as men, so these disciples are finding out who they are in Christ.  They are being proven as faithful and worthy, and will soon discover their place and purpose among the family of believers that they are attached to at present.  Sometimes, there is no substitute for experience that difficulty in life can present.  And once they are trained by it, they will bear much fruit in maturity.

 A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where am I in my spiritual growth development?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have graciously given me the opportunity to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ, in holiness and obedience.  Without His sacrificial blood, I would still be lost in my sins.  For this I am eternally grateful – that although You are completely just, You have shown me mercy and grace.  Please extend your mercy and grace to all who do not yet know You.  Woo them to You as You have done with me.  Strengthen me in my walk with You that I would mature and be complete, lacking in nothing.  Help me as I walk to further grow spiritually and to be dependent on You completely without reservation.  Help me to be fully obedient to Your Holy Spirit.  Help me to die to self, pick up my cross daily, and follow You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?