Sunday, October 19, 2014

Worshiping the Only Great Worker of Miracles


"Only God works great miracles.
God’s love never fails. With wisdom He made the sky.
God’s love never fails. The Lord stretched the earth over the ocean.
God’s love never fails. He made the bright lights in the sky.
God’s love never fails. He lets the sun rule each day.
God’s love never fails. He lets the moon and the stars rule each night.
God’s love never fails!"
Psalm 136:4-9 CEV


“When all else is changing within and around,
In God and His mercy no change can be found.”

“Jehovah is the great Miracle Maker, the unrivaled Wonder worker. None can be likened unto Him, He is alone in wonderland, the Creator and Worker of true marvels, compared with which all other remarkable things are as child's play.”

"All the works of His unrivaled skill are wrought by Him alone and 
unaided, and to Him, therefore, must be undivided honor.”

"Even when the Lord uses men as His instruments, yet the wonder of the work is His alone; therefore let us not trust in men, or idolize them, or tremble before them.”
The last four quotes were penned by
Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David
(Written in weekly installments in London from 1865-1885)

                               “There are three things here declared of God;
1.    That He doeth wonders,
2.   That the wonders He doeth are great;
3.   That He only doeth them.” 
    Augustine on Psalm 136, in Neale and Littledale

“Whatsoever instruments the Lord is pleased to use in any of
His wonderful works, He alone is the worker, and will not
share the glory of the work with any creature.” 
    David Dickson, 1583-1663, Scottish Theologian

“When you ask great things, you ask such as it becomes God to give,
‘whose mercy is great above the heavens!’ Nothing under heaven
can be too great for Him to give. The greater things He
bestows, the greater glory redounds to his Name.” 
    David Clarkson, 1622-1686, British Theologian

Lord Jesus, would You reveal a recent miracle:
  •  You accomplished in my life so I can give You the glory?
  •  You wrought through my life so I can give You the praise?

Or, Jesus - would You work a miracle in this area of my life? 

Leave your comment below or at L2G.Forum@gmail.com

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Blessedness of Affliction & Suffering


“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth” — let Israel now say — “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me Psalm 129:1-2 ESV.

As I read Psalm 129 this morning, I was perplexed and disappointed. Within myself I thought, I was looking for a word from God that would bless and encourage me. A Psalm about affliction was not meeting my expectations.

As I was trying to come up with a title for this Psalm I decided to turn to the free internet edition of the Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon. I was blown away by what I discovered.

“As it is only in affliction God is sought, so by many it is only in affliction God is known. When Manasseh was brought to affliction, then he knew that the Lord he was God: 2 Chronicles 33:12-13.”

This caused me to realize afresh how painful and unwanted times of affliction and suffering have been principle instruments God has used to force me to go deeper and deeper in my pursuit of Him.

Spurgeon's exposé of Psalm 129:1-2 continues:
“But, further, it is only by affliction we ourselves are known. It is only when they (people) are crushed as the worm they are made to feel that the dust is their source; only when earthly props are withdrawn will they take hold of that arm of omnipotence which Jesus offers, and which He has offered so long in vain.”

Tears came to my eyes as I read and recognized that it has only been as God has allowed my earthly props and fortunes to be stripped away that I have been enticed to go deeper and deeper into the loving arms of my Jesus.

“God's children, who had forgotten him, arise and go to their Father when thus smitten by the scourge of sorrow; and no sooner is the penitent ‘Father, I have sinned’ spoken, than they are clasped in his arms, and safe and happy in his love. 

It is, further, by affliction that the world is known to God's children. God's great rival is the world. The lust of the flesh, pleasure; the lust of the eye, desire; the pride of life, the longing to be deemed superior to those about us, —comprise everything man naturally covets. Give us ease, honor, distinction, and all life's good will seem obtained. But what wilt thou do, when he shall judge thee? This is a question fitted to alarm the happiest of the children of prosperity.

What so frequently and effectually shows the necessity of piety as the sharp teachings of affliction? They show what moralists and preachers never could, that riches profit not in the day of death, that pleasures most fully enjoyed bring no soothing to the terrors which nearness to eternity presents, and that friends, however affectionate, cannot plead for and save us at the bar of God. ‘Miserable comforters are they all,’ and it is for the very purpose of inspiring this conviction, along with a belief that it is Jesus alone who can comfort in the hour of need, that affliction is sent to God's children. — Robert Nisbet.

I was overwhelmed with gratefulness and a tangible sense of the nearness of God ...  From the bottom of my heart I give You thanks, my Three-in-One, for drawing me ever closer and deeper in love with You through the disappointments and loses You have allowed me to experience. I affirm the Truth that it has been because of Your great faithfulness that You have afflicted me (Psalm 199:75). 

Would love to hear your thoughts about this devotional.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Maturing Laboring Disciple – Part 1 of 3


Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”
Peter Scazzero, Emotional Healthy Spirituality

What does spiritual maturity look like for the person who is following Christ while seeking to minister to others?  This post is the first of three dichotomies that the Apostle Paul experienced as a mature laboring apostle in 2 Corinthians 6:10.

As sorrowful yet always rejoicing 

In early 700 B.C. the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah described the life of the coming Messiah as accurately as if he'd seen Him face-to-face:

He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Jesus, the only perfect man, clearly saw the incredible lostness and brokenness of the people of His day. One of His disciples, Matthew wrote,

As He (Jesus) looked at the vast crowds He was deeply moved with pity for them, for they were as bewildered and miserable as a flock of sheep with no shepherd.

As we walk with Jesus and mature in Him, it’s not unusual to become increasingly saddened by the brokenness of the world we live in. This is especially true when we experience the shatteredness of our dreams in our own the lives, in the lives of our children, or with close friends.

Around 50 AD Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi about an aspect of the Christian life that is neglected by many:

And now, you have been given the privilege of not only believing in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, but being chosen to suffer for Him as well.

The pain we experience in the midst of our distresses can enable us to forge a deep connection with the sorrow, grief and rejection of the Savior. There is a knowing of Christ in the midst of suffering that can be more profound and transformative than power of the resurrection experiences.

At the same time there are victories, celebrations, and occasions for deep connection with others that cause us to delight and experience great gladness. John explained his reason for writing his epistle to the early church:

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John1:4

I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in him. Then you will have more and more hope, and it will flow out of you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Love, joy, and peace are meant to be a fruit of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  These three by-products of our union our Triune God are very different from their worldly expression.

·        Love: As Jesus was fond of saying, what benefit is there if you only love those who love you in return?
·        Joy: The joy of the world is best illustrated in the winning of the lottery. The joy God promises us often wells up inside of us in the midst of difficult circumstances.
·        Peace: The peace Jesus promised was not the absence of turmoil that the carnal yearn for, but a deep inner peace in the midst of difficulty.
 
Where are you in your journey?

1.     Are you habitually sorrowful yet always rejoicing or characterized primarily by murmuring and complaining?

2.     The core of grumbling and complaining is often a demanding spirit (see demandingness).

3.     If God reveals that you have a demanding, grumbling spirit, are you willing to confess it as sin and repent?

4.     Lord Jesus, what do You have to communicate to me about sorrow and rejoicing?

       Would love to know your response to this devotional. Drop a comment below or @ L2G.Forum@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Intimacy with God - It's a journey

From a letter I wrote over 14 years ago:

"Learning to listen to God is a process that starts awkwardly and grows slowly but develops and matures until it is hard to see how you could ever have lived without it."  A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer 

We are on a journey. "And all who receive Me will experience everlasting life, a new intimate relationship with You (the one True God) and Jesus the Anointed (the One You have sent)" John 17:3 Voice. 

If you are a believer the Three-in-One resides in your innermost being. His indwelling presence makes deep intimacy with Your Creator a real possibility.
"I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now ... when that One I have spoken to you about comes—the Spirit of truth—He will guide you into everything that is true. For He will not be speaking of His own accord but exactly as He hears ... He will bring glory to Me for He will draw on My truth and reveal it to you. Whatever the Father possesses is also Mine; that is why I tell you that He will draw on My truth and will show it to you." John 16:12-15 J.B. Philipps
We'd love to hear about your journey. Please leave a comment, question, or insight below or drop an email to L2G.Forum@gmail.com Click on this link to pick up your copy of "God Guides."
 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Laboring to enter His rest

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Hebrews 4:10 NASB
True inner freedom arises when a man or woman doesn’t have anything to prove, when what he or she does isn’t an attempt to earn something missing or to impress others. When service isn’t motivated to make up for personal deficits and an individual moves towards others motivated by a sincere interest in their welfare, this person is entering into His rest (Philippians 1:15-16) (Philippians 2:20) (Philippians 3:19)

Rest is a by-product of not being on a desperate search to meet my yearning for security, significance and self-worth by who I know or what I do. It comes from the experience of having my longings met by in an ever-increasing intimacy with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Rest frees a person to be able to do what he or she does by faith that expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). It liberates a person to genuinely care about what is best for others as in Philippians 2:3-4.

Entering the rest permits me to draw near to God because of who He is rather than for what I can get. Rest is freedom from the tyranny of the self-oriented focus that deficit motivation creates, and the birth of a focus on sincerely loving God and others from the heart (1 Peter 1:22). It has to do with recanting unwise vows and giving up my self-protective strategies (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). It is related to His magnificent power being revealed in my paralyzing weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It means taking my place as a sheep and giving over the reigns to the Shepherd. Rest is Christ being formed more and more fully, and completely deep within me (Galatians 4:19).
        
Rest is not being completely free from struggle and difficulty. It is not a vaccination against misfortune. It does not mean things will turn out just as I had hoped in every situation. Rest does not guarantee that I will not fail or be hurt by others. It carries no warranty against disappointment, nor does it mean that what I do will not require personal sacrifice and discipline. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

From God’s perspective, the desired by-product of the trials and crisis we go through is to draw us closer and closer to the realization of the utter foolishness of trying to satisfy our deep innermost longings with our good works (Philippians 3:8-9), productivity, and polluted well-drilling (Jeremiah 2:13). It represents a unique opportunity in our lives to see the futility of our carnally motivated pursuits and come to a much greater and purer dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:20-21). It's an invitation to resolve unfinished business from the past (Psalm 147:3-5) that we somehow never got around to, face hidden pain, feel it, examine it, dialogue with God about so He can heal it (Isaiah 61:1), and triumph over it by faith through the grace revealed at the Cross (Romans 8:37).

At first, the idea of laboring to enter rest doesn't quite compute for most of us. Rest somehow doesn’t seem compatible with living and laboring among the lost (Matthew 11:28-30). However, when we consider the deep day-to-day struggles most of us go through, we see that without diligent work, devoting ourselves to time alone with God, getting help where we need it, and dealing with the past; we will never come to the point of entry. We may make external readjustments, change jobs, replace one strategy for another, change life-styles or other external things … but unless we uncover and deal with root issues (Hebrews 12:14-15) we will not enter the rest.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:8-10

Listening Prayer Exercise

     The satisfaction of our spiritual thirst is an extremely powerful and driving force behind most of what we do.
  • When we say that people thirst for security, we mean that we yearn to be loved and accepted completely for who we are.
  • The yearning for self-worth carries with it the idea that in the core of our being we desire to experience ourselves as valued and having real worth.
  • We also hunger to have our lives count for something that we consider to be important: we thirst for significance. 
Thirst is not at first recognized in most people (John 4:13-15). We may have chosen to deny it, disguise it, satisfy it illegitimately, reduce it, or minimize it in some other way.   

After praying through the Listening to God Guidelines, dedicate 15 to 30 minutes listening to God over the following questions.

 
1.   What is my deepest longing (security, significance or self-worth)?
 __________________________________________________________________ 

2.   What do I usually look to satisfy my yearnings? (i.e. other people, people pleasing, my performance, perfectionism, my work, my spouse, my family, my intimate relationship with God, etc.) ___________________________________________________________________

3.   Lord Jesus, what do you have to say to me about quenching my thirst? ___________________________________________________________________

Monday, September 15, 2014

Growing in the Grace of Loving & Accepting Myself


“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity. People who do not experience self-love have little or no capacity to love others.” Nathaniel Brandon
“Love others in the same way you love yourself.” - Mark 12:31

The idea of accepting myself has been subjected to a broad variety of interpretations, some of which conflict with the concepts of absolute morality and human responsibility. A philosophy of self-acceptance that attempts to tranquilize the guilty conscience at the expense of moral truth is both ineffective and unwise. It will not motivate a person to deal with deep roots that motivate human behavior and discover true inner healing.

Self-acceptance has to do with the idea of bringing behaviors, wounds from the past, personal characteristics, and defective relational styles into the light in order to come to grips with them. We don’t have to like an aspect of our life nor condone it to accept it. However, it's not really possible to come to peace with our past and grow in Christlikeness without fully recognizing our inner reality.

A spiritual base that’s firmly rooted in salvation by faith through grace will make this type of inner honesty a lot easier. Without truth in the innermost being, the possibilities of true self-development or of overcoming deficits in our past are impossible. I cannot change an attitude, emotion or behavior that I refuse to recognize or accept as being true of me.

For most of us, the defective ways we’ve dealt with past hurts and wounds come to a head somewhere between our mid 20’s and 50. More often than not we’ve stuffed and become oblivious to the hurts that deeply imprinted and wounded us via some form of denial or self-protection. Unresolved, they undermine our ability to relate deeply, sincerely and fervently. The added responsibilities, changing roles and relational challenges of adulthood urge us to do whatever is necessary to bring these faulty adaptation patterns to the surface.

It’s important to emphasize that the issue of self-acceptance, imprinting, unhealed wounds and defense mechanisms are problematic for all normal people. These are not merely issues that are reserved for those with deep emotional conflicts or deep psychological problems.

Let’s look at Bill’s story. “Five years ago, when my wife would point out where I was failing as a young father, my typical response was to criticize an area of weakness in her life, or point that I was doing better than many others. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was not accepting myself in this area and hiding behind my defense mechanisms. In the last year, I've got in touch with many negative imprinting events from my childhood. The end result is that I’m more able to see the ways in which I fail my own children as a father. Today, I’m more inclined to accept observations my wife makes about how I’m doing as a father and work at changing.” This is an example of the benefits of growing in self-acceptance.

In many people, a strong idealism as to what ought to be may be our greatest hindrance to growth in self-acceptance and leads to living in denial and being unwilling to explore how past wounds are impacting us in the present.

The acceptance of the true self is the foundational step that can break the strangle hold that previously hidden agendas of adaptation have exercised over us. Just a car can not be repaired until the faulty performance is recognized and damaged parts clearly identified and replaced, so we can not overcome our relational tendencies, phobias and fears until we fully recognize and accept where our performance is defective. Then we can take the time to explore how these patterns came into being and seek God’s help to heal them.

Nathaniel Branden designed an exercise to help a person in the area of self-acceptance that I’ve adapted for this post. His technique consists of rapidly completing phases without allowing too much time to micromanage our answers.

·  Six things about myself that are difficult for me to accept are:
(1). _________________________________.
(2). _________________________________.
(3). _________________________________.
(4). _________________________________.
(5). _________________________________.
(6). _________________________________.

For each of the six areas, complete the following phrases with six to ten endings.
·  The reason I find it difficult to accept ________ is (answer with 3 to 5 endings).
·  If I were to accept ______ completely then (answer with 3 to 5 endings).
·  If the reality is that the truth is the truth whether I accept it or not, then (answer with 3 to 5 endings).
·  I am beginning to realize (answer with 3 to 5 endings).

Where are you in your journey of the grace of loving and accepting yourself and spiritual transformation? L2G.Forum@gmail.com


Source: Nathaniel Brandon, Como Meiorar Su Autoestima [How to Raise Your Self-Esteem] (Barcelona: Paidés, 1987, 48.

BIBLICAL MASCULINITY & FEMININITY

Click on Picture to View 4 Minute Meditational Video  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAdWSBqFFW0