FROM THE HEART
Relevant blogs about living as a Christian in the world today.
What do we do when the answer to our prayer, does not come the way we asked or wanted? Do we give up? Do we get mad at God? Do we toss our faith in the Lord, out with the garbage? How do we still believe for the rest of our prayers?
These are serious questions that every Christian must deal with. We must first ask, do we really expect God to answer according to our wisdom, or His? We know all too well, that we can only see in part and that the Lord sees all and in past, present and future tense. We also know His ways (agenda) are not our ways. We know He loves us and wants us to bring our cares unto Him. But we must trust that His agenda and wisdom are better than ours.
Maybe the answer is not, “no.” Just because the answer does not come exactly as we ask, does not mean His answer is no. For example, most of us pray for healing for ourselves and loved ones many times in our lives. We know God wants the best for us. We also know accidents happen in traffic, yards, sports, homes, work and everywhere else. We know genetics and diet can open the door for issues. Life happens. And we call on our Lord for healing and help. There is no doubt most of us prefer instant miracles. And there is no doubt many of us have received them. But most of the time, healing comes in time. If healing does not come that fast, then we can know there is a reason. Sometimes, the ailment is the one that will be the final one.
Do you remember this verse?
Many times in life, we believe our actions, or our parents actions, are the cause of an illness. And maybe, sometimes, it is true. But consider the answer of Jesus, about the man who was born blind. Sometimes, God allows these types of things, because God wants to work through the circumstances for His reasons.
The Amplified version says, “… he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated) in him.” This helped and taught the former blind man, and many others of that day. For those who had hearts to believe, it increased their faith. For those who had “hard hearts” toward God, their hearts grew even harder. And for all of us who have read this testimony with the leading of the Holy Spirit, have had our faith touched also. It spoke to all who saw and heard about it. It spoke to the religious leaders who where against Jesus. And their hearts and actions were displayed, for all who saw how ugly they treated the healed man and his parents.
We can rest assured that the following verses are true.
Many of us are glad to know, stand on and quote that last part of this section of verses, that all things are working for good for us, who love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). But consider what precedes that part. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us in our weaknesses. He has come to help us pray and intercede for us “according to the will of God.” This is important!
So how does it happen? It happens when we pray according to the Lord’s direction or leave the answer to our issue, completely up to Him. For those baptized in the Holy Spirit, with the gift of tongues, we trust the Holy Spirit is supernaturally directing our words and prayers. At other times, for us and for others, our humble cries from our hearts are heard before God, via the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and He is in and with us. He relates our prayers to the Father.
Perhaps the following verse is not often viewed pertaining to prayer, but it certainly can and does apply.
We need to approach the Lord with respect and humility. At times, over the years I have heard people pray rudely to God. Demanding things of Him like a toddler would to a parent. If you were God, how would you answer such prayers?
If you are a child of the Lord, His ears are open to you. But we can know, our Father is not raising brats! When a person is disrespectful to God, he should not expect anything but correction. In the Lord’s mercy, He looks past a lot of our error, but in time, He certainly expects us to mature.
Naturally, there is another simple reason our prayers would not be answered in the way we asked. Sometimes we ask “amiss.” Asking God to bring vengeance on someone we should be forgiving and praying for their mercy or salvation could be a big one. But there are many other ways we can ask amiss. Unforgiveness of others can impede our relationship with God and even cost us eternally, if not dealt with.
Not only is it important to forgive others, but the Lord says we need to get their forgiveness too.
The measure of mercy we give to others, determines the measure of mercy we receive from God.
God will not be mocked, we will reap what we sow. If we are willing to receive the Lord’s mercy, we must be willing to give mercy also. If we do not forgive another human being for something they did once, twice or even a thousand times, why should God forgive us of our multitude of sins? God does not allow us to receive His pardon and then not be willing to forgive others. The result is that if we err in such manner, we are asking for justice of others (some of us even demand it of God), so that if that is the way we want it, then justice is what we have to receive also. This asking or demanding of justice about someone else, means mercy is no longer available and voids the pardon of Jesus for the one showing no mercy.
Jesus has shown us the way to pray with what is popularly called, “the Lord’s prayer,” but many of His personal prayers are recorded in the Gospels. He always prayed according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and kept the Father’s heart and will in mind. Even on the cross, Jesus prayed “Father forgive them for they no not what they do.”
Jesus Himself, never had to ask the Father for forgiveness, but we certainly need to. Salvation means picking up our cross and following Him daily. This means heeding the correction and conviction of the Holy Spirit at all times. We must not let sin come between us and God. We need to keep humble and clean hearts.
Anyone that believes and says a person only needs to repent at the moment of salvation, has been blinded by the devil. The whole problem with sin, is that it separates us from God. To be close to God, means keeping sin out as much as possible and when we err, to repent of it as fast as possible.
There is another hindrance I know of to our prayers and that involves how we treat our spouses. In the following verse, it pertains to how a husband treats His wife, but we can rest assured, that a wife is also accountable to the Lord on how she treats her husband.
Sometimes we have to go on blind faith, rejecting the circumstances and pressing on for the answers we need. The Lord is the very one who taught us about the persistent widow who kept coming before an evil judge with a petition. The judge ultimately wearied from her persistence and granted her the petition she sought (Luke 18:1-8). Sometimes also, we have to speak directly to the mountains in front of us ourselves (Matthew 21:21).
When it comes to prayer, the bottom line is that it is up to us to pray. And it is up to God, how He answers. There is no doubt that if we pray godly prayers with the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will see the best results. If we are in one accord with the Lord, we will be living right and praying right. And as such, we can pray and let it go. The answer is up to the Lord. In His time and according to His ways, He will answer. Praise the Lord, that He is all-wisdom, all-knowing and loves us with a pure heart. We can trust in Him, with all our cares because of who He is.
Have you ever felt like you were on top of it spiritually, and then before you knew it, blew it completely? Have you ever been driving to or from work, maybe even listening to praise music or Christian radio, and then someone aggravated you in traffic and you completely lost your cool? Have you ever been having a great day, to come home and have a child or spouse push your button the wrong way, and perhaps they had no idea they were even doing it? So many times in life, I thought I was winning in my daily walk and then, in one or two little conflicts, I quickly found myself in sin or distress!
It is easy not to sin when things are going our way. The question is, how much of things not going our way, does it take for the ugly to come out? Most people can be easygoing and happy when things are going their way. The challenge is, can we keep our composure and joy, when things go awry?
King Solomon, in Proverbs, recorded much great wisdom. Here is a great proverb.
Some of the people that I have looked up to, the most in life, are the ones who could keep their peace in the storms, their composure and joy when things went wrong and good attitudes, even in the midst of adversity and trauma. But if we look to the ultimate example, Jesus, we can see how He kept it all together, no matter how the devil tried to tempt, test or befall Him.
Can you imagine, how the devil wanted Jesus to fail in His mission or how bad he wanted Jesus dead? From the time, the prophecy came from the Lord to the devil about conflict that would come from the seed of Eve, the devil was on guard about it.
Have you ever wondered what really happened with Cain and Abel? Cain was the first seed that Eve gave birth to. Don’t you think the devil was after Cain to befall him? A seed that would come from her, would be part of devil’s demise. The devil worked hard to bring the fall of man and next he worked hard to wreck their family, especially with their offspring. I believe he worked hard on Cain to keep him from being on the right path. And perhaps he saw that Abel was good seed and was a serious threat too. By getting Cain to kill Abel, he eliminated “two birds with one stone.”
Eventually the devil realized, that they were not the seed to worry about. But at the time of Christ’s birth, the serpent of old, was waiting for the Messiah. How many children died in Bethlehem, because the devil was directing Herod?
How long do you think it took, for the devil to figure out that Jesus, came through Mary and was being raised by she and Joseph? Can you imagine the opposition and friction, he used to try to frustrate Jesus and get Him to sin?
After Jesus was baptized in water and Spirit, He spent forty days in the wilderness, fasting and praying.
Jesus had brothers who did not believe in Him, He had a religious establishment that opposed change. It had fallen far from the pure relationship God wanted with the Jews. I believe the enemy worked overtime, to try to frustrate Jesus and get Him to sin. I also believe the devil worked overtime, to get people to turn on Jesus, as individuals and in groups, that when he could, the devil would try to turn them into mobs against Jesus. Such as the time in Nazareth, when the people in the synagogue turned on Jesus and wanted to throw Him over the side of a nearby cliff (Luke 4:28-30). The Lord handled all these situations victoriously.
Jesus is the greatest example for us to follow. He has shown us how to keep our peace in betrayal, in being falsely accused, in being turned on by our families, our churches (in His case, synagogues/Temple) and so much more. His strength was not short-lived. He did not faint in the day of adversity.
I think we can all see why if we look. Jesus stayed in one accord with the Father. He never broke that union. He constantly sought the will of the Father and told us, that, that was what He was doing. Every time we sin, we break the union we have with the Lord. His grace helps us get back to where we should be, but when we choose our own will over God’s, then we are choosing to break that union. Doing so hurts God being able to abide in us and us in Him. Jesus never did that. Maybe we cannot be Jesus, but we all can do better!
We can all see that Jesus took time out to replenish. Ministering to others is draining. Going to work is draining. Solving problems is draining. Taking care of children is draining. Hearing the hurts and problems of others, is draining. The only way to overcome being drained, is to be replenished. If this world had its way, it would have us working and staying busy, 7 days a week. The Lord made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. That day off is for replenishment. Restoration. We need it daily also, but especially the one day set aside. Anytime we get drained and exhausted, we need to be replenished and restored. And we all know, that when we are in an exhausted state, this is when getting the victory is the hardest.
The world may know about positive thinking and getting rest, but one will never learn in secular schools that we are spirit beings. And these beings inside us, direct the rest of us. Our human bodies must eat, drink and stay fit, but the world will not teach us about the inner man, eating, drinking and staying fit. This spiritual person, needs the Lord. He needs the Holy Spirit and to be able to hear Him. If we are to abide in Jesus and He in us as in John 15, this is spiritual. The trials and challenges of this world are not for weaklings. And choosing the Lord at a single moment in life is not enough. We have to daily follow Him and His leading. We must grow in His Word and direction. If we do not want to faint in the day of adversity or let the enemy trip us up in traffic or heated situations, then we need to be internally strong. Like Jesus. In one accord with the Father, asking for direction from above and then obeying that direction. We must eat, drink and even work-out spiritually unless we want to be weak in our spirits and fail. Our pastors or parents cannot do it for us, our spouses or even the Lord. The choice is always up to us. Let’s stay replenished. Lets’ stay and grow in union with the Lord. Let’s follow Jesus and the examples He set for us.
Is anyone accountable for their actions in this day and age? If not, most of us do not usually mind helping in letting them know, or everyone else know, what they did wrong and what should be done about it. Why is it so easy for us to see the wrongs and faults of others, rather than our own, and not see the wrongs of the ones we love or think highly of? An old saying, says “love is blind.” It seems our love for others, and own self-love, can surely be at the root. Self-righteousness also can truly be an integral part of this type of mess.
What is a critical spirit? Is it one that is merely critical of others or is it that attitude, coupled with self-righteousness? As humans, we seem to have two modes, true humility or self-righteousness. Another old saying says that when we have one finger pointing out, we have three pointing back toward ourselves. Why are we so willing to receive God’s grace, but at times, not willing to give grace to others? Could we ever do each other more wrong, than what we each have done to God? I cannot imagine all the sins of my life compiled and then added to Jesus’ suffering. And He forgave me before I ever repented and even while I was so hard-hearted toward Him.
Every born-again Christian has a huge choice to constantly make. To walk according to the carnal nature or according to the new, born-again, godly nature. Only when the born-again spirit rules over the fallen carnal nature, are we walking correctly. That carnal nature, is the nature of the devil. Many people, including within the church, believe we are still born in the godly image of God. I do not believe that at all. I believe Adam and Eve were created in the godly image of the Lord, but when they chose to sin, their good and pure nature died and they took upon the fallen nature of the enemy. As their offspring, we have all been born with a fallen nature. When we believe upon and yield to Christ, repent and turn from our wicked ways, we become born-again and the Lord takes us from darkness into the light. We no longer want to be slaves of sin, but sons of righteousness. Our spirits become born-again with the godly nature, but we still live in bodies with the fallen nature.
It is the fallen nature, that desires to be impatient and self-righteous while criticizing others. The nature of Christ is the opposite, it deals with the wrongs of others, but from a place of love, grace and humility.
When we choose the way of Christ, we are helping the kingdom of God. When we choose the way of the flesh, we are helping the kingdom of darkness. When I catch myself, “playing the blame game,” I stop and say to myself, do I really want to be part of the devil’s team?
The Lord said to the woman that He helped keep from being stoned, that He did not condemn her and to go and sin no more.
Jesus said He did not come to condemn us. If the Lord Himself did not, then who are we to do it to each other?
The Lord said we were condemned already. Only when we come to Him, do we escape eternal condemnation.
Who is the condemner? Who is the blamer of all of us? Our own actions condemn us and the devil is our great accuser.
Once again, we all have that ugly side of us within the carnal nature. And when we succumb to it, we are aiding and abetting the enemy. We can do better. We can be the ambassadors of Christ. We can build others up instead of tear them down.
1 Peter 4:8, is taken from an Old Testament verse found in Proverbs which says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12). If we take a closer look at the verse in Proverbs and consider the verse before it, we can glean more. For study sake, here it is in the BBE version.
The “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians has much to say about “agape love” which is true love. This is the kind of love God is and has for us. It is the kind of love He wants us to have for each other.
As Christ is the head of His body, we as His church, are to follow the Head. That is what a body does. The Lord has shown us the way by how He lived, taught us with the truth of His Word and sent His Holy Spirit to live within us, to empower us to be able to accomplish His commands and directions.
One day, I was judging someone’s salvation in which I was saying that I believed that there was no way they were a Christian, and I believed they were hell-bound. Merciful sakes, I was quiet just enough to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. I felt like the Lord asked me who I was to make that determination. A whole download of conviction and humility came with that admonishment/correction from the Holy Spirit. We must be careful how we believe in our hearts and speak with our mouths about such matters. We are not God and we do not even know for sure what He will do with us. Where in the Bible does it give us the right to make eternal judgments about each other? It does not. We can carefully make judgments about situations we face in life, without judging each other like we are God. This is terribly important. The measure we judge by, is the measure we will receive.
Not only are we exhorted to speak in ways that build up instead of tear down, but we are to forgive each other. We are to share grace, as we have been given grace from the Lord.
We are even supposed to at times, confess our sins one to another. How can we do so, if we have to be in fear of the reproach of others?
As Christians, we all tend to drift off the right path sometimes. Sometimes we even go too far. But the important thing is to get back on the path. The Lord is closer than our breath. When we repent, He is quick to forgive. Thank You Lord that You never leave or forsake us. May we always be faithful to You and never forsake You either.
Life seems to be getting more complicated and we seem to be hearing more and more bad news. There are so many things that could cause us to fear, that we must increase our efforts to rejoice and stay faithful. But the Lord knows best about whatever we are going through, and that is why there is so much encouragement in His Word, that is applicable, regardless of the historical period in which anyone lives. The verses below are timeless in such manner.
If we study God’s Word, we learn that God is love and He wants what is best for us, even more than we do. If we choose to live in obedience to the Lord, we can have the most beautiful life, because we can fulfill the plan that God created and equipped us for.
Because we are the Lord’s children and have His light, we can be sober and know what is happening not only around us, but also in our hearts and minds. In the first verses of 1 Thessalonians 5, we are warned that the Lord Jesus will come as unexpectedly and suddenly, “as a thief in the night,” the comparison referring to the element of surprise. Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming,” in Matthew 25:13, as well as in Matthew 24:32 and Mark 13:32. Based on the signs of the Lord's coming, which we read about in the books of Isaiah, Joel, and in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we can know when the coming of the Lord is near, but no man will know the exact day, much less the hour when Jesus will appear on the clouds.
That is why we should be spiritually awake, always seeking to put on “the breastplate of faith and love," and to protect our minds with the "hope of salvation," as a helmet. Faith in God is the only shield that can stop the arrows of doubt and the lies of the devil. We are also the ones who choose to love God and people, and to receive the love that the Lord has for us. If we want to understand the love of our heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us. A good way to get to know more about the dimensions and depths of God's love, is to pray as the apostle Paul prayed, in Ephesians 3:14-21.
Because our mind is a battlefield, in which the enemy can slip thoughts of doubt, discouragement, temptation, and more, trying to get us to fail and forsake the Lord, we need to continuously have “the hope of salvation" as a helmet to guard our minds. The helmet is meant to protect what we think. If Jesus is our true Lord and we are convinced that His sacrifice is enough for our salvation, then we are saved. The Lord will never leave or forsake us, as He has promised us in so many Bible verses. But, we can forsake the Lord, because He does not force us to become or stay His. Therefore, we must persevere and endure to the end.
The light exposes everything that is hidden and can harm us. We do not solve any of our problems when we try to "hide them under a rug" or ignore them, on the contrary, whatever we do not take care of will cost us later. We are the ones who must choose to take and protect ourselves with the “breastplate of faith.”
We know that that God's purpose for us is to succeed, and always remain His. Jesus chose to die for our sins so that we may be with Him forever. This truth is the most wonderful and powerful encouragement for every Christian. Let us not forget that God created man so that he will have a people to be with Him forever!
Therefore, let us not be afraid and never doubt the love of our heavenly Father and that He will always take the best care of us. Jesus chose to die for our sins, to redeem and reconcile us with God and He lives in the sincere hearts of those who made Him Lord and live to please God. We are never alone and no matter how hard the circumstances are at certain times; Jesus is always with us and will always see us through. If we can say like Paul, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21), we have nothing to fear. Physical death means instantly entering into the presence of the One for whom we have lived, and for Christians, the One is Christ.
Let us not forget that,
Whatever the Lord taught the disciples, is still very useful for us too, no matter what age we live in. Jesus did not give the same instructions to the disciples, every time He sent them to minister, because the factors involved, differed from situation to situation. In Luke 9, we read about Jesus sending out of the twelve disciples to preach about the kingdom of God and to heal the sick, after they received “power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases" (v.1). At the beginning of chapter 10, we read that after a while, “the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two, into every city and place where He was about to go” (v.1). At this time, the Lord reconfirmed to them that He would take care of their needs and then He continued with another important teaching that was beneficial for them, and it is still beneficial for us today.
Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, as born-again believers, we have the real peace of the Lord, which is, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” This peace is not just a feeling of peace or a greeting. According to the “Thayer’s Greek Lexicon”, the original word for “peace,” from Luke 10:5 means “security, safety, prosperity, felicity (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous).” So, the greeting actually means: “Let peace and blessedness, come to this household.” But only those who are “of peace,” who have a good heart can receive and enjoy this spiritual peace. That is why the Lord said that His peace will remain where we enter, if there is “anyone of peace,” who is sweet-spirited and hospitable. We all know that God is omnipresent, meaning that He is present everywhere, but this form of His presence, only manifests where His children are.
It is wonderful to know that our presence, as temples of the Holy Spirit can change the spiritual atmosphere when we go places. You may ask why this statement is not always true. Whenever we have a pure heart and we desire for the Holy Spirit to manifest His presence in and through us, those around us will notice, even if they do not understand what is different about us.
We are called to bear the presence of the Lord and the fruit, that the Holy Spirit produces in us, wherever we go. The more we are aware of this truth, the greater our impact will be on the lives of those around us. Also, our lives can be so much easier and peaceful, if we realize that because of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, we can change the spiritual atmosphere wherever we go. I think we can all say that there are places where we go happily, where we feel good and things go smoothly; and also the opposite, there are other places which we prefer to avoid, because we feel pressure, sadness and where nothing there seems to go right. From the following verse, we learn the cause of darkness and oppression in certain places:
That is why it is so important to keep our hearts pure (to ask for forgiveness as soon as we sin) and to equip ourselves with God's armor (Ephesians 6:13-17) to win the spiritual battles, as bearers of the peace, love and joy of the Holy Spirit.
Then Jesus said something else very important:
No matter how spiritually mature we are, if we continue to enjoy close relationships and spend a lot of time in dark places with those who are not God's children, it may cost us dearly. There might be times when we have no other choice, but to be in such places, but if we trust God and pray for a way out, the Lord will help us. Jesus has said that we should cut off all ties with those who continue to reject Him, so that we will not be drawn back into darkness. It seems a drastic measure, but it is necessary. We cannot afford to flirt with sin, if we want to have the peace of Jesus. The more we love Jesus, the less we like the things that we used to like and do with the worldly friends we used to have. If we continue to long after the sinful way of living, we have a problem and we need to come before the Lord and ask Him to show us what we have not given up to and what we need to change. The Lord is faithful and will help us, because His desire for us is to succeed and be His forever. Thank You Lord!
Let us not forget that the peace of the Lord is in us wherever we go and we can enjoy its presence as we let the Holy Spirit to lead us and ignore the thoughts and emotions of our carnal nature.
Has anything good ever come from worrying? Have you ever solved any problems when you focused on the negative aspects and could not see the way out? The Bible teaches us the opposite approach, which is the most effective way for solving all situations.
These verses are easy to say, but not so easy to do, aren’t they? Let’s consider the previous verses:
To be able to always rejoice, we must continuously choose joy over sadness, discouragement or any negative emotions. "Rejoice" is a verb, which implies our action. We are able to rejoice more as we make the choice to smile even in difficult circumstances. It also helps to realize that it is valuable wisdom to resist thoughts and thought patterns that make us sad. We can also avoid conversations and situations that rob us of our peace.
Gentleness is the opposite of harshness, anger and a companion of joy. Jesus is the perfect model of gentleness and meekness. He always had the right heart and attitude, without sinning, no matter what His circumstances were. The Bible shows that people came boldly to Him knowing that He would to treat them kindly.
Most of us realize that there is no point in worrying and suffering over things we cannot change. It is true that it is important to realize and consider our mistakes, so that we do not repeat them, but we only hurt and torment ourselves with thoughts like: "if I would have only done this or only that..." or "if they would have only done this or that...". If we pay close attention and guard what we think, we can reject negative, and destructive thoughts, that bring no good, and instead, choose to meditate on what is constructive, beneficial, and true, according to Scripture, we can be so much more happier.
The apostle Peter tells us to cast all our concerns upon the Lord, because He cares for us in all areas of life:
God loves us unconditionally and always wants what is best for us, even more than we do. The Lord wants us to give Him all our worries. We know that there is no problem that He cannot solve for us. The Lord wants us to give Him our worries, to trust that He will solve them, and to be obedient to His directions and ways in handling things, so that He can work in our behalf. The child who has a loving and devoted father, does not doubt his protection, help and care. If an earthly father inspires his child to have so much confidence, how much more should we trust in the care of our heavenly Father, who is Almighty and for whom nothing is impossible or too difficult? When we love God, we seek to please Him, and we can be sure that He takes care of everything we need, because through. faith, the promises from His Word become real in our lives.
The apostle Paul shows us what we should meditate on, so that we may enjoy our daily lives.
When we respond to circumstances in our flesh and not lead by the Holy Spirit, the result will be stress, confusion and worry. As we choose to focus on what is good and right, we can resist the negative emotions, because the key to peace is not in what we feel, but in what we think.
How can we be free of the fear that comes from focusing on the problem that worries us? The most effective way is to find the Bible verses that solve the problem or show the truth of Scripture on the subject. What we think produces the emotions we feel. If we want to have peace and joy, it is up to us, to make the effort to stop negative, destructive thoughts and choose to think about what Philippians 4:8 says to think about, or to do as the following verses tell us to do:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
There is no doubt, that these verses are very personal to anyone who reads them. Recently, they have taken a deeper meaning to me.
Could it be that the Lord is not just asking us to take His yoke, but is asking us to “switch yokes”? The yoke that comes from the bondage of sin is a heavy yoke, a very, heavy yoke. And whether one is lost and yoked up with sin and the devil, or a Christian that a pitfall sin has found its way in (especially if it is a secret sin), the load is heavy!
We are all born into sin, meaning we are all born with a fallen nature. Only when we become born-again, do we go from darkness into the light. We go from “sin lordship” to “Jesus lordship.” When we go from the darkness into the light, we literally become new beings in Christ. Now, inside us, is the nature of Christ and the residence of the Holy Spirit. I remember, that before I became a Christian, I thought I would die if I became a believer, not being able to cuss, or in having to turn the other cheek. But an amazing thing happened when I gave my heart and life to the Lord, I no longer wanted to cuss or return evil for evil. A clean heart that exudes clean conversation, that glorifies the Lord, became my desire, and it is a privilege, to turn the other cheek. It is the least I can do for the One who not only took it on both cheeks, but His whole body for me.
The wonderful thing about being yoked with the Lord, is that He is strong and good-hearted. He wants to keep us from being overwhelmed. He is forever with us, to help us. When we were lost, we did not seek the Lord’s help, but faced our troubles with any other resources we could find. And the enemy (the devil and his host) were always there to help us fail, trip us up, feel miserable, etc. Any benefits the devil ever offers anyone, are short-lived and damaging. And just for the record, anyone who ever thinks the devil is their friend, is sadly mistaken. For every soul hurt and destroyed, to enemy, it is a strike against God.
The freedom we have, that comes from being forgiven, and staying that way, is the greatest relief and joy I believe anyone can ever have. When we fall into a habitual sin, or a pit resulting from a sin or trauma, we find ourselves being heavy laden again. Only when we take the Lord’s offer, on the way up and out, can we truly get “unyoked” from it, and back to where we belong, with the Lord leading the way. When we are yoked with Jesus Christ, it is a happy yoke, a yoke of relief. Real life is found in the purity of the relationship with our loving Lord. A dreadful life is found in rebellion to Him.
To “those who labor and are heavy laden,” the Lord offers “rest for our souls.” The Amplified Bible says, “all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened.” I looked up the words “labor and heavy laden” in the original language, and it seems to mean those who are fatigued and weary from carrying a heavy load. If a person has already given up self (sin) lordship to Jesus, they know well what this means. If not, a person really needs to get to the point where they realize the truth of this. Any yoke we share with anything or anyone besides the Lord, is not going to go well, even if it glitters like gold at first. Sooner or later, any other yoke besides the Lord, will fail us. Once we shuck that yoke and take the yoke the Lord offers, we begin true life! We find the “rest for our souls.” The meaning of “souls” ranges from heart, spirit, to mind. I think that without the Lord, we get weary mentally, spiritually and even physically, in looking for our own solutions and with the results we get ourselves into. But, with the Lord’s yoke, and Him leading us, we can rest in knowing that His love and goodness will always see us through.
The Lord says He is “gentle and lowly in heart” and to “learn from Him.” If the One who has it all and owns it all, is gentle and humble… how much more do we need to learn from Him. The Lord has given us His Word, sent us His Spirit and is closer to us than our own breath. He offers to teach us His ways and even help us to follow Him.
Does this mean we never get into trouble? Perhaps we struggle with forgiving someone in a horrible wrong-doing or struggle with our weaknesses, such as alcohol, drugs, other bad habits, sexual temptations, temper issues, etc. I guarantee you, that if you live long enough, you will be tempted in all areas that you might be weak in! But I also guarantee you, that the Lord makes a way for those who call upon Him and to resist temptation. If we seek His help, He is faithful to help us. He truly is a good, good Father. As long as we keep “getting back up,” we are not defeated! But we must not do it, in our own strength. We have to stay yoked with the Lord’s help and leadership. We have to listen and learn from Him, about how to overcome life’s issues.
The choice is to carry our burdens or take Him up on His offer. Praise the Lord, for the reward is rest for our souls! Praise the Lord, for we do not deserve His grace and goodness and yet He blesses us. Hallelujah, His call goes out to all, to “whosoever will,” just as His love does.
Are you a thankful person? How much do you grumble and complain? For me, this is a serious situation, as my carnal nature is a real grumbler and complainer! My born-again nature is extremely thankful. And whichever one is ruling me, wins the prize.
Having an “attitude of gratitude” is quite popular, even in the secular world, as being a better way to live. For a Christian, it is fundamental to our faith. It is part of the godly way we live. A positive attitude is wisdom, and spoken of in the books of Psalms and Proverbs many times. It is seen there in black and white, as well as, in underlying ways.
The opposite attitude, ungratefulness, is a true fruit of a godless nature.
All a person has to do to be carnal, is follow the fallen nature we are all born with. People can try to harness or overcome it, for being immoral or not smart, but the only real way to overcome it, is by being born-again. Once our spirit is re-birthed into the light, we receive the nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, as living temples of the Lord, this is when real change happens.
As Christians, we always have the option to grumble and complain, just as we have the option to commit any sin, but the new nature in Christ is thankful. And we are thankful to be born-again and saved from the wrath we deserve! We are thankful God is merciful, loving and kind. The Creator of everything, has given us a beautiful earth to live on. We are thankful that Jesus came and paid the price for our sins, and overcame the devil, so that we can have a true relationship with God. We are thankful that a holy God, can come and live in the hearts of ones such as us. There is so much to be thankful for.
It is utterly amazing, that the Lord makes all things work together for good, for His true people, as told in the verse above. Even hard circumstances and actions are turned for good, as we see in the next verses.
It is interesting that “being thankful” and “being merciful” are intrinsic to each other. A heart that is truly thankful for God’s mercy, knowing that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” shows mercy to others. And their respective opposites are intrinsic to each other too. Most people who are unthankful are unmerciful too. By unmerciful, I mean harsh, resulting in being critical of others. Once, when I was going through a bad season, I heard someone say that “fault finding is the devil’s job.” He is the accuser of the brethren. And when we are critical of others, we are actually helping the devil do what he does. This stung me like a bee. When I catch myself being critical, I often ask myself, who am I helping?
While this is the time of the year for Thanksgiving, as Christians, we need to be thankful every day. We also need to be gracious to others. We must maintain a thankful, gracious attitude internally and also share it. If we catch ourselves becoming unthankful or ungracious, we need to stop, repent and get back on the right path. Even while God was blessing the children of Israel with daily manna, they still fell into the pitfall of grumbling and complaining in the wilderness, and it is still an easy sin for us today.
Through His Word, the Lord teaches us His ways. Consider these next verses, as part of the direction, for a great life in Christ.
Let’s look again at our first Scripture in this blog, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is the will of the Lord for us. No one desires the best for us, more than Jesus Christ, and His will for us, is to give thanks in all circumstances. And the Lord set a great example for us to follow. Even while on the cross, He considered all the good that would come from His sacrifice and it was worth it to Him.
We can always find the silver lining, when we are the children of the Lord. His Word is true and amen. Let us follow the Lord and the example He set for us. In so doing, we have the best life possible!
When I was young, I thought I was so smart. Does anyone else know what I mean? One of the first “articles” I ever wrote was “Life is what you make it.” I was about 14 years old. I listened to my elders and looked at older people and realized that for certain, we get out of life, what we put into it. And that if I wanted to be successful at anything, that I better do my best at it. I thought of what career I would choose and how I would work to attain those goals. I considered negative factors too such as not “hanging around with people” going “wrong directions,” so that I would not be deterred. Not that I would snub others, but they would not be part of my inner circle.
I finished school and was ready to pursue those dreams and goals. But I had met the man I would marry and life would take me in other directions. It has been a great life. Only it really would seem that the life I thought I would make, turned into the life that made me. I am today, the result of right turns and wrong turns, opportunities and shut doors. That man that became my husband, can make a great argument that “you are what life makes you.” You rise to occasions, you go through mountains or around them. Sometimes you retreat or get the wind taken out of your sails. But through those pressures and circumstances, you are forged.
To the secular world, they might say that we are both right or a combination of both ideas, is somehow true. But to a person with godly wisdom, they know that the most important element is missing. God is our Creator and He is the center of everything for all of us, whether we realize it or not. Each of us are uniquely created for, and by the Lord. We are not accidents, and we are not our own. God gives us a measure of free will, but it is not unlimited. God does not just start us off in life, to then abandon us. King Solomon through his book of Proverbs, has said much about us as people, and God as God.
We can make all the plans we desire, but someone above, has plans for us too. Many people have made the most determined plans for things, and were allowed by God, only to be redirected in various ways or with serious readjustments. In reality, every step of the way, God is keenly aware of what is best for us and is working within the system He set up, to help us, and He constantly considers how all the circumstances involved, will not only affect us, but others too.
Even if one never read or heard, Proverbs 3:33, one would know in their heart that it is true. Sometimes it looks the opposite, like the evil ones are getting ahead and we are not. But wisdom still rings true.
If we never read or heard the following verse either, we still know in our hearts that God is aware of us and our motives, and the resulting actions.
We are purposed. And the Lord considers our purposes, corporately and individually.
The Lord said of His people, pertaining to the remnant that was taken away to Babylon, that the season there would pass and that He would deliver them once again. And I believe His heart is that way for all of us. For all who will yield to Him and put their lives in His hands, can truly have a purposeful and blessed life. The Lord works with every individual during their lifetime, working to help them. Only He knows when it is best to intervene or not. The Lord is not just good, He is goodness. The Lord is not just wise. He is wisdom. The Lord is not just loving, He is love. “He is” every attribute of the Holy Spirit. And just as good and evil cannot truly mix, only Jesus and the pardon He offers, can bridge that gap. Only by repenting, seeking the Lord and His ways, do we find the best in life and that life eternally in Him.
Life is what we allow God to make it and life is what God shapes and fashions of us. Even for those who reject Him and His best for them, in so doing, it is still true.
God wants to give His power to those who spend time in His presence and have soft hearts. Jesus’ disciples were with their Lord day and night, they did everything together, they spent many nights listening to Him and telling Him what was in their hearts and they were the ones who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and started His church. But before the power came, they had intimacy with Jesus. This truth has never changed, power can come only after intimacy.
While being in God’s presence we start to understand ourselves better, as He shows us how we truly are, what is good and what needs correction in our character, heart, mind, speech and actions. Oftentimes the image we have about ourselves, is distorted, as we perceive ourselves based on our past, experiences, emotions and the circumstances we face. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to be changed. It is not easy to sit at Jesus’ feet, as Mary did and do nothing. You might think that you need to do things for the Lord to please Him, but Jesus put things in a different perspective when Martha asked Him to make her sister help her serve:
Can you “hear” Martha’s possible thoughts? “Lord, what are You saying? You encourage laziness? She does nothing! I already worked so hard and you say my sister made the right choice? And she will even get to keep it? If I would sit there with her, there will never be any food on the table!” It is good to be like Martha and there are good results for our labor, but the more we learn to rest in God’s presence and receive from Him, the more productive we become while we do our work and the more we will enjoy our walk with Christ.
But how do we enter in His presence? The first step is to find a quiet place, where no one will disturb us. Then we need to quiet our minds and focus on the Lord. It is not easy to stop thinking about stuff, or even worrying and planning what we should do next. For many of us this can be done best by listening to worship or “soaking” music inspired by the Holy Spirit. We need to choose to open our hearts and receive what the Holy Spirit has for us and what He wants to do in us. As we start to praise God and thank Him for what He has done for us, His presence will start to manifest. The more often we do this, the sooner we get to sense His presence. Once we change our lifestyle to where we do our best to spend quality time with our Lord on a daily basis, the more we grow and mature spiritually and we can become more effective in God’s Kingdom. To learn to hear God’s voice, we can read the Bible asking the Holy Spirit to reveal its truth to us and to continue do it until what we read becomes real and speaks to our hearts.
You might say that God is omnipresent and that is true. He is everywhere all the time, but it takes effort and determination for us to be able to step out of our flesh and reach to Him in the spiritual realm. We need to get to where we silence our physical minds and senses, to allow to our born-again spirits to take control and the Holy Spirit to manifest. The more time we spend in God’s glory, the more we learn to live led by the Holy Spirit and not by our flesh.
To get to know someone takes time and effort. A strong relationship develops in time, as the two persons involved in it are sincere, devoted and love each other. We need to be the same in our relationship with God, as He is perfect in every way and already did all it takes for us to be His beloved.
The Lord is calling us all: “Come up here! All is much better, more beautiful and you will find perfect rest for your souls.” This is what getting in His presence does for us, we get to taste God’s love and goodness at the highest level, we get rest and strengthen our faith. And as we spend more and more time with Jesus, loving on Him and He loving on us, we become more and more like Him: more loving, kind, patient and merciful towards others. So much so, that others will delight to be in our presence and will start to desire what we have. This is the best evangelism method! As soon as we choose to turn our attention to the Lord, we start to think about the spiritual things and realize they matter more than the physical world around us. The spiritual world becomes more real and that helps us to tune our spiritual senses into seeing and hearing what God wants us to receive. In Colossians 3:2, we are urged to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” and in Ephesians 2:6, it says that God “… made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This means we are already in the spiritual realm, but we need to turn off the physical senses and turn on our spiritual ones to perceive it! Hardships, sadness, hurt and losses cannot overcome God’s presence and peace, as long as we truly love and seek God. Whenever we are hungry and thirsty for God, He will show up to infill us! When we choose to surrender it all unto the Lord, He can work for us, fix our problems, heal and restore us, take care of our needs, give us favor and even set a table for us in front of our enemies (Psalm 23:5).
When we enter in God’s glory, we are in His shelter. The more we enter into it, the more protected we are and the more we can live led by the Holy Spirit and not by our flesh. Thank You Lord for this wonderful gift!