Isaiah 55:6-9

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

7Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.

Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

When God Doesn’t Seem to Come Through

 

Most all of us that have been believers for some time have experienced times when we prayed or believed for things that ended with a “no” from God.  We were under the impression that if we just prayed in faith everything would go our way.  Many have given up on their faith and turned away because they felt God disappointed them and let them down.  They may have succumb to a sickness or disease, lost a romance or marriage, lost a loved one or experienced financial ruin.  No matter what the tragedy was to you, you felt God let you down.  Isn’t God faithful?

We need to be clear that God’s faithfulness doesn’t hinge on our circumstances and perception of answered prayer.  We see through the tunnel vision of such finite understanding.  We see only our perspective and we feel that should be God’s perspective as well.  Like the scripture says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God is not a puppet or celestial Santa Claus.  It doesn’t mean that every time we ask or pray we get what we want.  He is the Creator and operates out of His wisdom and not ours.  Do we love and trust God for who He is and who we believe Him to be or is our faith and love conditional upon God’s performance to us?  Is God’s love and faithfulness to you conditional upon your goodness and faithfulness or does He love you unconditionally?  Why are we so conditional of our love and commitment to God when His is unconditional towards us?  Usually, it is because we are reacting out of the emotional pain of a loss or disappointment.  “God’s in charge, let’s blame Him.”  Many times we don’t stop to even consider if our lives were lining up with all of God’s principles and ways.  Even if they were let’s look for a moment at the example of Job.

Job was a righteous man in God’s eyes.  He was abundantly and supernaturally blessed.  That coincided with the belief of the day that if you walked upright and in favor with God you would experience good things in your life.  Then God steps out of Job and his friend’s paradigm box and does something totally contrary to their way of thinking.  He allows satan to come in and lets everything to go south for Job.  His friends were convinced Job must have some sin in his life because that is what their perspective had taught them.  In the end when God reveals His ways and grandeur to Job, Job is undone and sees even his righteousness in the light of such a majestic God is but filthy rags.  God took away all that Job had to put something greater back in His hand.  Sometimes, even in our lives, God has to destroy our old box of thinking so that He can increase and expand us into His.

Let me give you a “Reader’s Digest” version of a personal story that illustrates this.  I took Sharon, my wife, out house shopping one day and it must have been under the unction of the Holy Spirit, because it is certainly not in my nature to house shop.  I took her across town and we went through this newly custom built home that was beautiful in a lovely area of town at the base of the mountains.  It was only five hundred thousand, which in our budget might as well have been five million, but you know, we began to believe, that what we couldn’t do, God could.  God seemed to be adding fuel to the fire of our faith by providing outside encouragement and confirmation from various sources until we became fully confident that this was the house that God wanted to give us.  We continued standing in faith until one day the house sold.  The rug just go pulled out from under our faith.  Sharon even had us to go up to the new owners and ask how long they intended on being there, because she was still seeing it as hers.  Needless to say my enthusiasm for house hunting was gone.  Had God let us down?

Over the next year or two the Lord directed Sharon to plant a seed and she did it totally in obedience to what she felt God was directing her to do not because she didn’t necessarily believed in the way it was being done.  Some months later we were gifted with thirty thousand dollars that allowed us to pay off our current house and have no debts.   A little more time goes by and we’re driving home from a delivery when Sharon spots a house that again seems way out of our league and I am not even wanting to go there.  So she arranges to go look at it and I won’t even go with her.  Perhaps I am still nursing that disappointment.  She is so impressed that she gets me to go and look.

Now before all of this house hunting I had told Sharon to write a list of everything she would want in a house.  She did, and this house had everyone of those things.  It was perfect for my photography business and was really better suited to our needs and wants than the original house we had believed for.  We put a bid on it and two other parties were also interested, but we got the house and it is where we live today.  We have loved it and have not ceased to thank God for His goodness since.  You see, God said no to the lesser to give us the better.  He truly is able to give us abundantly more than we can ask or think.  Our perspective and earthly understanding didn’t allow us to see God’s highest for us at the time, but that faith we had for the first house positioned us for the better.

1 Peter 1:3-9 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

It is not the blessings and all the “yes” answers to prayer that builds our faith.  It is what our faith is made of through the fires of trials and testing that make it much more precious than gold.  Does our faith stand the fire of trials, disappointments, losses, persecution and failed expectations?  Are we going to still trust God when He doesn’t fit in the box of our understanding and reasoning?  Like Job, God is bringing us up into something higher that far supersedes any loss in the earthly realm.  If we are only naturally minded then we won’t comprehend that.  We will only see our immediate circumstances and judge God based on that.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  I always remember the verse to a song that says, “when you don’t understand His hand, trust His heart.”  God is love and you are the object of that love.  If your faith has been shaken, then know that it is to grow you stronger and even more faithful.  Even through every trial Father remains with you, for you and will only allow it to burn up the things that hinder you from coming up higher into Him.  Like Andre Crouch used to sing, “Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God.  Through it all, through it all I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”  Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep your faith, and continue to trust in Him!

 

Blessings,

#kent

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My Destiny is the Pits

June 22, 2017

Genesis 37:13-24

[One day] Israel said to Joseph, Do not your brothers shepherd my flock at Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them. And he said, Here I am. 14And [Jacob] said to him, Go, I pray you, see whether everything is all right with your brothers and with the flock; then come back and bring me word. So he sent him out of the Hebron Valley, and he came to Shechem. 15And a certain man found him, and behold, he had lost his way and was wandering in the open country. The man asked him, What are you trying to find? 16And he said, I am looking for my brothers. Tell me, I pray you, where they are pasturing our flocks.

17But the man said, [They were here, but] they have gone. I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. 18And when they saw him far off, even before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19And they said one to another, See, here comes this dreamer and master of dreams. 20So come on now, let us kill him and throw his body into some pit; then we will say [to our father], Some wild and ferocious animal has devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams! 21Now Reuben heard it and he delivered him out of their hands by saying, Let us not kill him. 22And Reuben said to them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit or well that is out here in the wilderness and lay no hand on him. He was trying to get Joseph out of their hands in order to rescue him and deliver him again to his father. 23When Joseph had come to his brothers, they stripped him of his [distinctive] long garment which he was wearing; 24Then they took him and cast him into the [well-like] pit which was empty; there was no water in it.

My Destiny is the Pits

Most of us know the story of Joseph who was the favored son of Jacob, but despised by his brothers.  God had his hand on Joseph in a special way and even gave Joseph some dreams that were glimpses into his destiny and calling.

Remember how great it was when we first came to know Christ and experienced the joy of salvation.  Then, as we grew we learned of His exceeding great and precious promises to us in Christ Jesus.  What perhaps wasn’t so real to us at the time was the truth that “if we suffer with Him we shall also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17)”.  Many of us walking this journey of faith and trust in Christ have found and are still finding ourselves in some very difficult places.  Maybe we have even pondered whether God really loves or cares about us.  I believe, like Joseph, the pit we often find ourselves in was really an appointment with destiny.  It may be satan’s attempt to destroy us, but then that was his attempt when he succeeded in crucifying Jesus.  The paradox of our faith is that often the way up is the way down and we often walk through hell in our journey to heaven. 

Joseph, just happened to run into a man that was in the fields where his brothers were suppose to be as he was searching for them and this man just happened to have overheard his brothers saying where they were going.  Joseph’s whole journey that day was the road that would lead him to rule and reign, but between here and there existed a dark and hard path to follow.  It was the road of preparation, the trying of his faith.  When Joseph did come to where his brother’s were camped they plotted against him and even planned to kill him.  Remember the scripture that says, ‘your enemies will be those of your own household?’  Many of us have experienced betrayal, hurt, rebellion and have been forsaken by those of our own family.  They seized Joseph and threw him into a dry well or pit.  Have we ever found ourselves in dry and waterless places, faced with adversity, trials and tribulations and it seems as if God and the Holy Spirit are no where around?  We may not think that we are even going to make it.  Surely this is the end of us; what hope is left? 

Imagine how Joseph felt and the thoughts that went through his head as his brothers spoke of killing him and refused to take him out of the pit?  The fear, the sorrow, the betrayal and the separation he felt not only from his brothers, but more importantly from his father who he may never see again.  His bright future is suddenly turned to darkness and despair. 

If you are finding yourself in the pit today, don’t be discouraged and don’t despair, you may just be finding your destiny.  If we learn one thing from Joseph’s life it is that matter how dark it gets and how far away from God it seems, don’t give up, don’t give in and don’t forsake your faith and trust in God.  God has not forsaken you, but He is there with you every step of the way.  James 1:3-4 exhorts us, “Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Patiently trust God even in the pits of your life because He is active in you performing the will and do of His good pleasure to bring you into your inheritance.  1 Peter 1:3-9 sums all of this up quite well, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

 

Blessings,

#kent

Love that Binds

June 16, 2017

Ephesians 4:1-6

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Love that Binds

Unity in a family, a marriage or in the body of Christ is found when we are all operating out of a communication of love.  People are unique and we will always have our differences from one another.  That is the way our good Lord created us to be.  In our differences He poured into us the bonding and the glue of His love so that we are able to patiently bear the irregularities of all those people that God didn’t make just like me.  Love is never really exercised and grown unless it is stretched and challenged.  People will certainly do that to you.  I personally found that just keeping to yourself and doing your own thing makes it easier to love people, but that is a long distance love.  God’s love is most often up close and personal.  It is often a decision rather than a feeling.  Whatever our relationships with people God knows we are going to have our differences.  Obviously, outside of Christ, we are much different than God.  In fact, He says before we were saved we were His enemies.  Romans 8:7 says, “Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”  What reconciled us to God was first His love for us, not our love for Him.  This is a key example that we forget in so many of our relationships.  We are most often reactionary, returning kind for kind and love for love or even hate for hate.  God does not just react to our rejection of His love.  If He did the human race would have been extinct long ago.  His love is deliberate and it has purpose.  His love is to gather you in His arms and impart Himself into you. 

That bring us to where God is bringing each of us in our expression of love.  If we are loving out of our human condition and our feelings of love, then our love will always be conditional and full of limitations.  God has called us to live out of His love which is unconditional and loves the unlovely as much as the lovely.   Living a life worthy of the calling is living life out of the foundation of love.  Who is love?  We know that God is love so if we are to love as He loved we can only do that as we submit to His love to reign in our hearts and find expression through our hands. 

The apostle Paul exhorts us here to be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  He is not saying it is always easy, but in order to do it you have to lose your importance and your impatience.  Humility has been defined as “strength under control”.  That strength and humility of love learns to prefer others above itself.  It becomes more aware, concerned and active in meeting another’s needs than it does its own.  Love makes every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  We soon learn through life’s experiences that even among other Christian not all are willing or wanting to reciprocate your love for them.  Most of us are aware that even in our own selves we often are acting out of our flesh or giving place to an ungodly spiritual influence or spirit.  When that is present we can be quite confrontational, unfriendly and irreconcilable.  When we encounter that reaction towards us from others, even if they are our brothers or sisters, we have to see it with spiritual eyes of love and discernment, not getting caught up in the spirit of division that is at work.  Often times we end up taking some punches we don’t deserve and in love we learn to turn the other check.  It is not about us being right or winning an argument.  It is about the love of God triumphing even in an ugly situation.  Many of us get caught up in our emotions and feelings and if that soulish part of us is not being tempered by the Spirit we will get off into the flesh and certainly will not be known by our love in those moments. 

The stream of God Spirit takes a lot of rough jagged rocks in the river bed and rubs them together until over time they become smooth stones.  That is what we are becoming those smooth stones, but the process is brought about by agitation, irritations, irregularities and confrontations.   It is  the Love of God that is the fluid that heals, blends, forgives and ultimately loves through us in the unity of one Spirit. Perfection takes a good deal of practice.  God has put us with one another to learn to practice His love.  God’s love should be what binds us together until we work out our differences and that may just be loving and accepting the other for where they are at.  God has us all on different rows and we at different places in our walk with Him.  Above all let the love of Christ prevail in our relationships.  If the world is ever to know us by our love, then they first have to see it in action in though our lives and behavior towards one another.

 

Blessings,

#kent

Returning to Our First Love

Revelations 2:4-5

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

Love is a many splendored thing, but it can also be a place of vulnerability, heartache and disappointment.  So much depends on the care, attentiveness and tenderness with which we handle the most precious of gifts, one another’s hearts and their love. 

That first found love between two lovers those years back, it seemed so rich.  You loved one another’s presence and you didn’t want to be apart.  Your desire for one another was so strong and you bathed in the love that you had for one another.  Oh, that first love, how rich and full and sweet it was. 

Little by little small offenses began to enter in.  Sometimes unkind remarks were made that wounded your spouse’s soul, neglect, lack of communication, demands of life; so many things can tear at the foundations of your love. 

We begin to take for granted that first love, as we become more familiar with the other.  Those little things that we didn’t notice or didn’t seem to bother us now become a source of irritation and conflict.  Our hearts that were so warm and open begin to close as we often, without even knowing why, transform from that loving unity, to opponents and foes.  Little by little we can shut down in our emotions and our love to the point we forgot why we even liked this person, let alone loved them. 

We can often wander and drift away from our first love for Christ the same way.  Instead of being continually awed and thankful for all that Christ has done and continues to do for us, He becomes common, just another element of our lives and not the substance of them.  How blind we all can become to the hardness that can come over our hearts with regards to the ones we love and what we have held so dear.  Many of us have lost that which we once cherished more than life itself.

What has changed?  Is it them or is it us?  Maybe it is like our environment.  We love the beauty of the water and streams, the woods and forest, the mountains, oceans and wildlife, but if we have them before us every day we may take them for granted and lessen in our once great appreciation of them.  Somewhere in there our motives for gain, for what benefits us and for what we think will better our lives out weighs our appreciation for the other.  At the environment’s expense, we begin to deplete our forest, tear up our mountains, pollute our waters and destroy what we once held so dear.  It is the same thing that we do to our marriages and our relationships. 

We lose sight that our spouse is our teammate that we are dependent upon one another to make life easier and sweeter.  Yet we are so blind at how the enemy of our soul comes into to kill, steal and destroy what was the most precious thing in our lives.  Our unity is destroyed and our marriages turn from bliss to ashes.  Isn’t it because we have bought into the lie?  When one of us in our marriage loses we both lose.  There are no winners and losers, because we are a team. A house divided against itself cannot stand. 

The older my wife and I grow together, the more dependent we are on each other to remember things, to help each other, and to be the strength in the other’s weakness.  On the other hand there is the temptation to find more fault with the other’s shortcomings, especially when they have chided you for yours.  We have to realize that we are a team. We need each other more than ever.  Love cannot become a selfish thing that only looks out for itself. If it has and is becoming that then it has left the boundaries and definition of love.  The nature of love is to serve, to give and bless another.  Love always exalts the other above itself.

Perhaps it is time for many of us to remember and to return to our first love both in our physical and spiritual relationships.  It is time to give the precious gifts of our humility, our forgiveness and our first love.  It is time to make a safe place where we can come together, not to find fault or blame, but to find reconciliation and healing for our hearts and our relationships.  Isn’t this what God wants for us?  I believe He will help in this endeavor if we call upon Him and His love to fill our hearts.  Let us cherish and once again hold with such tenderness and sanctity the gift of one another’s heart and love.  In the same way let us recommit to our first love for Christ and find the first passion that so consumed our soul.

Blessings,

#kent

Jeremiah 23:1-7

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2  Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

5 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,

       “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,

       a King who will reign wisely

       and do what is just and right in the land.

6 In his days Judah will be saved

       and Israel will live in safety.

       This is the name by which he will be called:

       The LORD Our Righteousness.

7 “So then, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 8 but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”

A Call to the Scattered

What we are reading in Jeremiah is a prophetic word that is coming to pass in this day.  Many of us may see this applying to natural Israel, but as things are seen in the natural so are they in  the spirit.  Spiritual Israel and her descendants are being gathered are being gathered out of captivity and displacement and put back into their place in Christ Jesus. 

Roman 2:28-29 says, ” A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”  Just as God speaks to the natural Jew, He speaks to the spiritual Jew.  Many of God’s Jews of the Spirit have been displaced by wicked and unscrupulous men who have sought their own gain at the expense of the God’s precious flock.  As a result these shepherds have destroyed and scattered God’s people throughout the land.  They have driven them away from the Lord because they have represented the Righteous One in their wickedness and selfishness.  Many are out in the fields of the world, wandering, lost, separated, wounded and hurt.  They have become fearful and avoid fellowship with the people of God because of the wounds and hurts that they bare. 

This is what the Lord would say to this people; these lost, wounded and scattered ones.  “I am raising up a Righteous Branch out of Zion who will rule and gather my people and my  flock.  I have never cast you off, nor have I abandoned you.  You are still the precious apple of my eye.  I send forth My love to capture your heart again, to dress your wounds and apply My healing salve.  You have been rejected, but not of Me.  You have been wounded, but only that I may bring forth your healing.  Now I would gather you and bring you back to My heart and My throne.  Be not fearful, but listen to the Spirit of My voice within you.  You are still My beloved and My redeemed.  My heart is for you and not against you.  Return unto me for I am bringing you back to the true Israel over which the King of Righteousness rules.  Come unto me and I will give you rest.  I will lead you beside the still waters and make you to lie down in green pastures.”

As surely as the Lord is bringing natural Israelites back to their land, so He is bringing the spiritual Israelites back to their place in Christ Jesus.    This is a day of restoration and healing for the people of God who have been wounded and hurt by those in the church.  Your true Shepherd is calling you back home.  He will heal you and restore you in righteousness and love for His namesake.  Come back now and dwell in the land of the righteous.

Blessings,

#kent

The Hard Places

January 23, 2017

The Hard Places

Genesis 18:14

Is any thing too hard for the LORD?…

Are you in a hard place today?  Does an answer and a solution seem almost impossible?  Then we must pose the same question that the Lord posed to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who laughed when the Lord told Abraham that she would have a son in her old age.  Sarah, being around ninety years old and her husband being older had a hard time believing even the Lord when He spoke this word to Abraham.  “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  

There are times in our lives when we are in those hard places where the only place we have to look is up.  Unfortunately, so many of us leave God as our last resource rather than our first.  This is often why our situations go from bad to worse.   The Lord wants our hearts to be submitted wholly to His will and purpose.  It is often the hard places in our lives that bring us back to a place of humility and desperation for Him.   There is no where else to turn, so we turn to Him.  Sarah laughed because she didn’t see how even God could give her a child in her state of life and yet He did just as He said He would do.  We have a bad habit of pretty much shutting God out of our lives when things are going well, but here we come running when things go south.  While the Lord is so often gracious to help us in these times of need, it isn’t always, as we would expect it to be.  The Lord is interested in something more eternal than our immediate crisis.  Sometimes we don’t get the answers we think we want, because there are times God allows things to be torn down, so that He can do a new thing that could never happen if we continued on as we have been.  “Nothing is too hard for God,”but then “His ways are not our ways,” so the results and answers to our cries in these hard places may be different than we had anticipated.  We can never put God in a box and say He will do things a certain way, even if He did do them that way last time.  

The hard places are the places we stand upon the Word of God and His promises.  It is also a place where we must say, “not my will, but thy will be done.”   The promises of God are for a purpose.  They are not there to meet our every whim and desire; they are given that we may be partakers of the divine nature.  “Hereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4).”  Sometimes our hard places are the result of the corruption that is in the world and in us.  God’s promises are to bring us out of that place and not to pacify and accept it.  If God doesn’t seem to be meeting our cries for His help in those hard places maybe we need to step back and see why we might be there and what we need to do correct areas of our life that may have brought us to that place.  

We are speaking in general terms, but that Holy Spirit wants to talk to some of us today.  He wants us to know that nothing is too hard for Him, but what we see as deliverance may only result in our further destruction.  How many times have we seen kids get themselves into dire straits, which were really the consequences of their actions?  If we as parents always bailed them out, then the consequences never worked there intended purpose which was to bring correction and discipline to turn that person away from making more bad choices.  That is why God doesn’t always rescue us.  There may be lessons we need to learn first, there may be areas we need to seek the Lord about and areas we need to repent and ask forgiveness.  

God is there for us in those hard places, but those hard places are there to do a greater work of grace in us.  1 Peter 4:12-19 puts our trials in perspective to what the will of the Lord is: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.  If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God?  And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?  Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”  Through your hard places allow the Lord to have His perfect work in you.  Hold fast to Him no matter how he chooses to answer.  Job waited a long time to see His answer, but he never lost his confidence toward the Lord and we mustn’t either.  God is faithful in His time and His way not ours.  “Nothing is too hard for Him.”

Blessings,

#kent

The Hard Place

January 5, 2017

Lamentations 3:17-25

I cannot find peace or remember happiness. 18I tell myself, “I am finished! I can’t count on the LORD 

to do anything for me.” 19Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. 

20That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. 21Then I remember something that fills me with hope. 22The LORD’s kindness never fails! If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. 23The LORD can always be trusted to show mercy each morning. 24Deep in my heart I say, “The LORD is all I need; I can depend on him!” 25The LORD is kind to everyone who trusts and obeys him. 26It is good for the LORD to save us. 

The Hard Place

As I was waiting upon the Lord for what to write this morning, He brought this song to my mind.  “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  He is new every morning, new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness oh Lord, great is your faithfulness.”  This led me to this scripture in Lamentations, where the prophet Jeremiah is being sorely afflicted.  He feels cast down, abandoned and like the Lord Himself has even turned against him.  In the midst of his discouragement, he does like David; He sets his mind on the goodness of God and His faithfulness.  He remembers that though the Lord may allow affliction and hard times to come upon us, He will never forsake us or leave us.  His mercies are new every morning.  

There are those of us that are standing in the furnace of afflictions today.  There are those of us that will be there tomorrow and there are those of us that have recently come out of that place.  It is a difficult place and a hard place.  It is a place that tries and stretches our faith and questions the goodness and the love of God.  Isn’t it wonderful that as we look back through God’s word we see so many examples of God’s people who were in this place?  They felt the same things you have.  They cried out to God, and many times it may have seemed liked the Lord had become deaf to their cries.  Yet, there was something down in their spirit that wouldn’t let go, they just couldn’t curse and forsake the Lord.  Even Jesus came into the midst of those that mocked Him, cursed Him, spit upon Him, beat, wounded and bruised Him.  Ultimately they crucified Him.  As He hung on the cross, He cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”  Have we ever felt that, like you were all alone and God had turned His back on you?  

Paul tells us in Colossians 1:21-24, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”  In this place of affliction I believe God is tempering the steel of your godly character and faithfulness.  In this place God’s purpose is not to destroy you, but only your flesh which hinders you.  In this place you truly grasp the meaning of what it is to be crucified with Christ, yet nevertheless you live, yet not you, but Christ in you.  It forces you to reach down for something greater than yourself and to find a strength that is not your own.  This is when you begin to lay hold of the resurrection life of Christ that is more powerful than the death and pain that surrounds you.  This is the place where you are pressed into Him and a dimension of life you could have never discovered when everything was going well.  It is in that place of death that you find life and faith that sustains you and keeps you in the midst of the fiery furnace.  That is where you look over and find that other person standing with you in the furnace of affliction, like unto the Son of man, that won’t allow the fire to singe your faithfulness, but only consume from you the natural ropes that had bound you.  It is in this hard place that God is raising you up into a life not your own.  What the enemy had determined for evil, God will use for good.  What the enemy thought would discourage and separate from the Lord has only caused you to enter in and experience a greater dimension of His life and grace.  

If you are in this place, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up.  God loves you and He hasn’t forsaken you.  He is simply perfecting in you the pure gold of His nature and character.  You are precious in His sight and whom the Lord loves He chastens and purifies.  Remember, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and His mercies are new every morning.

Blessings, 

#kent

Called unto Good Works

December 28, 2016

Acts 10:38

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

Called unto Good Works

Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”  If that same Spirit that raised up Christ dwells in us then haven’t we, like Him, been called to go about doing good?  You know what is the most disturbing thing about me?  It’s me.  Life becomes so much about my agenda, my desires, my wants, my needs, my comfort, and my appetite.  When you stop to think about it, a whole lot of life is just about me.  Is God anointing us to go about doing ourselves good or others?  

Some might say, “Well, that’s just a works thing.  I live by faith.”  James says faith expresses itself through works and our works are the fruit of our faith.  Some of the basic steps of walking deeper into Christ and to be the greater expression of Him is to be less and less an expression of me.  Some of us want to take that to an extreme “that we are just martyrs for Jesus” type of attitude and really all that is, is just another expression of look and feel sorry for me.  “Me” is a pretty central part of our lives, but if I want to be a central part of God’s life, “me” is not found in the center of that world.  In that world me is the servant that is more concerned about the well being of another than it is itself.  

“Me” isn’t real big on good works unless there is something in it for me, but the Christ in me is the servant of all.  The Christ in me is not there to be served, but to serve.  The Christ in me continually maintains an attitude of bended knee, eyes looking to heaven, hands reached out to serve and feet that carry us to do the good works we were called too.  

If we believe that we, like Jesus, are called unto good works, then the one person we have to leave out of the equation is “me”.  It doesn’t mean we don’t respect and care for the body that God gave us, or that we can never have fun and relaxation, it just means that we are no longer the center of our world; He is and it is all about what is pleasing unto Him.  When we are centered on living out of the Christ in us and that is the One with whom we are identifying day by day, then we can be assured that God will be with us.  We will see His works manifested through us by His power and grace working in us.  It is not about how much I can do or how good I can be; again that is dependent upon me.  As our hearts are fixed and focused on Christ then all that He is begins to find expression through our lives and actions.  God’s life and nature are finding expressions through us and He is the expression of good works. 

Blessings,
#kent

The Root of Bitterness

December 21, 2016

The Root of Bitterness

Hebrews 12:15

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled; 

The “root of bitterness” is something I always felt came from emotional or spiritual wounds that through unforgiveness and unmended hurt became a source of spiritual infection that would turn into a bitterness, a hatred and a wickedness that would defile and poison all around it.  While I still think this can and does happen to some who have experienced traumatic experiences in their lives that they have never been able to release, forgive or heal from.  Their experience, instead of compelling them to draw deeper into God’s love and grace, has instead caused them to reject, turn aside from God, perhaps not outwardly, but inwardly.  Now they have let bitterness of soul not only corrupt and rob their faith and hope, but it’s spirit is like a poison that touches all around them, bringing defilement and unrighteousness. 

While a life experience or emotional trauma can bring us into this state, it is also a spirit of wickedness that can present itself through idolatry and turning away from the faith of God.  Deuteronomy 29:15-21 gives us some insight to this bitterness and God’s viewpoint on it.  “16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison

19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.  20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 The LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.”  We see here that the spirit of idolatry that can cause our hearts to turn away from the Lord and go and worship what the nations worship.  If we give it place it also is like a poison that not only shipwrecks our faith, but can bring down and corrupt those around us.  It seeks to move us away from God’s foundational truths.

The Greek word used here in our passage of Hebrews 12:15 denotes “bitter gall, extreme wickedness, a bitter root, and so producing a bitter fruit or bitter hatred.”   A root is what supports and nourishes a plant, here it is something that can get into our spirits and poison our faith and the faith of those around us.  

We see another example of a man that possesses this quality in Acts 8:18-22, “18When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 

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

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

We see this man’s attributes exemplified with covetousness, power and self-gain.  His heart was not for Christ to be glorified, but self.  

James 3:13-16 also warns about this spirit entering into the body of Christ and defines its origin.  “Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.  But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish.  For where envying and strife [is], there [is] confusion and every evil work.”  If we are seeing envying and strife in our midst, then it may be a good indication that the root of bitterness is springing up.  How many churches, personal relationships and people’s faith have been shipwrecked due to a root bitterness whose wickedness has manifested through a person harboring that gall of bitterness?  Watch for this deceitful sin that may come in the guise of righteousness, but whose fruit are division, envying and strife.   

Blessings,

#kent

Philippians 3:12-21

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 

17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Are You Looking for a Welfare God?

God’s kingdom is not a welfare state.  It is a state of well being.  It is a state that even in the midst of trials, tribulations, temptations and persecution we find His peace that passes understanding.  We can have a state of well being, because His being inhabits us and is present with us in all that we endure.  

Often we don’t quite understand why God doesn’t release all of the resources of His kingdom upon us, after all we are God’s kids and joint heirs with Christ, so why does God often seem to make it so hard for us?  

One thing we can observe from the structure and paradigm that has been developed from our own welfare system and it recipients is this.  Instead of a system that temporarily assists people to get them back into being productive in society, in so many cases it becomes the end in itself.  People draw from it on a permanent basis with a feeling of entitlement that the government owes this to them.  That paradigm is then passed on to the children who grow up with that same sense dependence and entitlement.  If God gave us everything at our whim, we would soon adapt this same attitude of entitlement, as if God really owes us anything.  It is us who owes Him everything.  God gives many blessings and gifts out of His great goodness and generosity, but truly He owes us nothing.  It is His very nature of love that compels Him to love us and provide for us not only the way of salvation, but also His exceeding great and wonderful promises.  If God operated from our every will and desire, it would be us who would the gods and He would simply be our servant.  We can readily see that this is a child mentality.  The child wants to rule the parent and in some cases they do, but that is not God’s design.  The parents will provide for the child what they think is best, not only for the short term, but also for the long term and there won’t always be a meeting of the minds between the child and the parent.  

In Hebrews 5:7-10 we learn something about Jesus as the son of man.  “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”  When Jesus went to the cross it wasn’t the will of His flesh that Jesus followed and obeyed, it was the will of the Father.  He was made perfect through what He suffered.  He is our pattern.  Are we above the master?  Perfection wasn’t an acquisition given by right because he was a Son; it is what He entered into through obedience to the way of suffering and sacrifice.  We are being made perfect, not simply because Christ indwells us, but because of His grace and presence in us, we also are learning the walk of obedience often through the things that we suffer.  It is this reverent submission on our parts that is bringing us into the spiritual maturity as fathers and instructing us in the ways of perfection.  In Matthew 5:48 where Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  He is instructing us to come into maturity of the spirit by reverent obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit.  We are not children gathered around God’s Christmas tree, we are His sons and daughters being trained up to possess the divine nature and to walk in the love and servant nature of our Most High Father.  Because He loves us so, He trains us through His discipline that may not seem pleasant for the moment, but will work in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness.  

Our lives are not always going to be easy and without trials and adversities, but it is in the hard places that we learn to excel in our faith and dependence in the Lord.  It is there that He proves our hearts and perfects us in His righteousness. 

If you are in the hard place then rejoice, because God is preparing you for greater things.  In the days to come many will be totally unprepared for what will come, but those who have been trained and exercised in their faith will know their God and His faithfulness.  They won’t be offended when everything doesn’t go according to their will or thinking.  They will know how to trust and depend upon Him to lead them and provide for them in the days of desolation.  Thank God that He loves you so much, that He does discipline you, correct you and teach you His highest ways.  Be willing to learn obedience through the things that you suffer.  James 1:4 exhorts us, “But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  Christ in us is our perfection and completion, but it is a work in progress even as it was in Jesus. 

Blessings,

#kent

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