Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Brick Building - Section Five - Prayer

Let's take a look at prayer as a way to mature in our walk with God.

Prayer is simply a two-way conversation with God. Maybe that is too simplistic, but it is the way I approach it. Too often, we feel inadequate to pray but just think who wins if we believe that. We may feel we do not have the flowery words to say or speak eloquently, but that leaves us in good company with the likes of Moses. However, all of us can pray. If we have anything at all to say, we can say it to our Father in heaven.

We are not bothering Him...  He is longing for us to talk to Him, and He has much to say to us if we will listen.

Honestly, if we want to grow up into our salvation, we need to be conversing regularly with the Father. We need to seek His will for our lives, our direction and our correction. We need to be in open dialogue with God.

I believe we were created to be in a relationship with our creator. I believe when we accept by faith the very idea that Jesus paid the penalty for our sinfulness which kept us from being in connection with God, the Holy Spirit comes alive within us. That is where we meet with God.

I believe prayer is a time of us talking with Him about our cares, concerns, excitements, basically sharing our thoughts with Him. In our earthly relationships, we get to know one another by spending time together. We connect with one another when we share our lives through conversation, and we connect with God in the same manner.

Remember also that prayer is a two-way conversation as well. I believe we all will benefit from allowing God time to speak back to us. We can listen as we sit still and know that He is God. As we read scripture, we can allow Him to communicate to us. It is always a good idea to find scripture to pray to Him as well. For example, I pray the Lord's Prayer piece by piece, and it helps me focus my prayer. Or take a look at the following scriptures:

Psalms 26:2 Test me, Oh Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.
Psalms 193:23 Search me, Oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.

Just as we have different types of conversations with one another, there are many types of prayers; petitions, thanksgiving, praise, requests, intersession...

Regarding my prayers of praise and thankfulness; when I praise Him or thank Him my perspective changes, my view point alters and it always helps me set my eyes on Him. In Psalms, we are told that we enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. I find that I enjoy His presence when I thank Him and praise Him. I believe it is a key component to being in relationship with Him.

When I spend time talking with God, it allows me to see myself as I am and see Him as He is.

Brick Building Section One-Maturity
Brick Building Section Two-Immaturity
Brick Building Section Three
Brick Building Section Four - Cooperating with the Holy Spirit

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brick Building - Section Four - Cooperating with the Holy Spirit

So are you starting to wonder where the brick wall fits into all of this?  Or are you thinking I had forgotten about it?  Well I haven’t forgotten, we are just working toward it. Let’s just say that Jesus has us in the process of being formed into bricks. 

Today let’s consider what it might look like to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. As I noted over the last several weeks, the goal of a Christian is to mature or to pursue maturity instead of going back to the initial basic elementary rules of Christianity. We are being formed into individual bricks in the process

In Jesus' last words to the disciples, He said He had to go so another would come. In John 16: "It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment".  See Act 2: After Jesus' departure from this earth, the disciples, apostles, were filled with the Holy Spirit. 

After we accept Jesus Christ as our savior, I believe we begin a journey with Him by the Holy Spirit. (Consider it a journey of learning to allow Him to be the Lord of our lives.) We begin to learn to listen and be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. This process I am breaking down into 3 phases in order to simplify this discussion.

Phase 1:  Infant Stage of Cooperating with the Holy Spirit: Initially, similar to an infant learning to walk, our walk with God may look awkard. We are not sure how to fully cooperate with the Spirit. We may even be a little resistant, but we are trying to learn. We may fall a lot during this time just as a baby falls a good bit when they are learning to walk. We let go of His hand and grab back on a good bit, but that is part of learning just as a toddler does. Which leads us to the "I do it myself" time. Each one of these represents growth, but also these represent our desire to be independent from God. -- On a side note, as others begin their journey from infancy, let's walk beside them with encouragement.  Just as a mother would not scold their child as they fall while learning to walk, let's give that same grace and freedom to newer believers. Let's remind one another that God is not calling us to "do it myself", but He is equipping us, enabling us, leading us and maturing us; but we have to be willing to be dependent on Him and obey His leading -- we will talk about this later.

Phase 2:  Teen Stage of Cooperating with the Holy Spirit: This phase is a place where the independence is worked through, and we begin to test our boundaries. We have a bit more of a defiance and perhaps a bit of rebellion during this phase, but this phase helps us understand we cannot do it on our own. It teaches us we were not called to do it on our own. Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves during this phase, "doing for God". It is a time of failure and testing. It is a time for us to see where our dependence lies, and it is not with ourselves, but it is with God by the indwelling Spirit. This is where we begin to discover God is reliable. (Just as not every teen rebels or is defiant, nor does ever believer... I am just demonstrating a time of hashing out our boundaries of where we end and He begins. Similar to a teen discovering their independence from their parents.)

Phase 3:  Mature Adult Stage of Cooperating with the Holy Spirit: This is a lifelong process as is the majority of our physical life is spent as an adult. This is where we have become convinced of the sufficiency of God and our own insufficiency. This is a place where we surrender to Him and learn to allow Him to lead us. This is the phase of our walk where we learn to abide with Him. In this phase, I believe the believer becomes an ambassador for Christ. -- I believe God uses us during all of the phases, and God can be glorified in us during each stage. But I believe we will see the kingdom expand exponentially when the body as a whole cooperates with the Holy Spirit, let's Him complete His refining process and become mature in the faith. This is where the individual brick is formed and ready to be set in place in the wall figuratively speaking.

Ponder these phases. Each of us may find that although we are mature in one area, we are indeed still an infant in another area of our life. We may find this to be true with our fellow co-workers in Christ as well. So let's offer grace to ourselves and to one another as we move through these phases of growth. We need to understand that we all can use some encouragement seasoned lightly with correction in love.  Let's come to an understanding that we too are not fully mature in all areas. This is a process of sanctification. Thankfully God doesn't sanctify us all at once. I wonder if He did, would we be able to stand it... I say it would simply destroy us. Thankfully He takes us from glory to glory in this refining process. Just as a silversmith would heat up the metal only enough to melt it so the impurities would rise to the top and be removed but not so hot to destroy the metal, circumstances in our lives become the heat to allow our impurities to come to the top to be removed. The cool thing about refining silver, the silversmith watched the silver and knew the silver was ready when he could see his reflection in the metal. Hmmm. That is Jesus' goal for us. He watches over us and takes us through each stage until we reach adulthood where He continues to develop us. He is taking us from glory to glory until He sees His reflection in us. (forming us into usable bricks.)

Are you READY!

To see more about Abiding see also: Abiding in the Temple

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Brick Building - Section Three - Growing Up!

Last week we in looked at spiritual immaturity which was the 2nd in this series of posts that go together. This week let's see ways we can grow up in our faith. As I noted last week, the goal of a Christian is to mature or to pursue maturity instead of going back to the initial basic elementary rules of Christianity. The next few weeks we will begin to look at each of the following and see how each component will help us grow up:
1.   Cooperate with the Holy Spirit
2.   Prayer
3.   Believe / Faith
4.   Steady Diet of the Word
5.   Focus, Immerse and Obey the Word
6.   Learning to Dress Ourselves
7.   UNITY - Become God and Others – centered

So on the contrary, let's consider things that may be hindrances to us growing in Christ:
·        There may be STUFF we have held onto in our past.
·        There may be unconfessed Sin / ours or unforgiven sin of others
·        Trauma, tragedy, abuse, victimization
We need to deal with these things before the Lord so that we can move on and grow up. We need to begin to reflect the character of God in our actions and responses. I do not believe that any of us want to discredit the gospel of hope that is in Christ.
Regarding hurts done to us that we have not forgiven, I have heard it said many times that holding on to offenses toward others is like taking poison to punish the other person, but we are the only ones that gets hurt. Hanging on to offenses and refusing to forgive over time develops into bitterness – bitterness is the poison. Remember there are counselors, pastors, crisis centers and even other fellow believers who can walk with us and help us through the stuff that is holding us back.
However, once we have dealt with our past, let’s do as Paul said, “Forgetting the past and pressing on toward what lies ahead.” Let’s free up some space in our head and heart so we can begin to GROW up in the faith.
If we do not deal with our past, we will be stuck there, and many others will be hurt by us.  Why, because hurt people will hurt people. This is part of what discredits the good news of the gospel and the church. Many of us have been hurt by a “well intended” Christian. How many of us have hurt another person because of your past injuries that haven’t been healed? There are many people hurt by the church and by fellow believers. (I have heard it said that a church is like a hospital for believers.) But let’s not stay sick. Let’s allow God to heal us by His Spirit. If we are to be effective ambassadors for Christ, we need to be healed.
But if we are to be Christ’s ambassadors, we need to prepare. We need to train, and we need to focus. It is time to GROW UP IN OUR FAITH!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Filled Up to Pour Out!!!!!!!! (reposted)

Why is it we become so convinced of our own sufficiency.  I believe we are in the most danger when we become convinced of our own supply.  We need to cling to the truth that we are NOTHING without the work of Christ on the cross and the filling of the Holy Spirit.  We need to be convinced of our deficit.  As we come to this conclusion, we fall hopelessly at the feet of Jesus and say fill me once again.  Then in an act of obedience to the leading of the Spirit, we pour out in service to those around us those the Spirit places on our heart.  So it is a continuous FLOW and reliance on HIM!!!! He fills us, we pour out, He fills us, we pour out...  You get the picture.

The truth is that we need Jesus for our salvation.  We cannot save ourselves.  But also, we cannot fill ourselves.  We must be an empty vessel in order to be useful to the kingdom of God.  If you look at II Kings 4:3-4

Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."

Notice that the jar that is filled is "put aside".  But what happens as we are filled daily and then pour out in service to all around us by the leading of the Spirit of God.  If we walk in obedience to that leading daily, and He is filling us daily, WE remain useful.  It is not by our talents, gifting or abilities, but by our willingness to see our condition that we have nothing to offer except our EMPTY JAR.  To whatever degree we are willing to admit we are NOTHING without Him, that is the degree we are THEN useful to Him.  This TRUTH will set us free. (free from performance, free from needing to have the right answer, free from needing to know what to do)  Knowing the truth about yourself will set you free to truly be used by God as you surrender to both the fact of your emptiness and surrender to His filling.  But as you become satisfied, it is possible that you are not pouring out.  I believe we can get settled in the FATNESS of the Word and the Spirit and say I am fine Lord, I have no need to be filled.  That should scare us to death.  Because if you notice what Elisha says regarding the jars that are full;  SET THEM ASIDE!    YIKES!

I pray today to be made fully aware of my own insufficiency.  I pray that I am NOT like the church in Laodicea mentioned in Revelations 3:14 - 22

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Meditate today on your condition, ask the Lord to fill you and to use you today.  Ask Him to open your eyes to see what and where He would like to pour you out today.  And repeat again tomorrow, and the next and the next.  (REPEAT)  This will set you on fire with the FRESH oil of the Holy Spirit flowing through you.  This is where we can have true fellowship with the Lord.  Why else would you fill a jar except to pour it out.  THAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE JAR.

We are jars of clay, created to be an empty vessel for the use of our Lord!!!! 

And by His use of us, we become instruments of righteousness.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Brick Building - Section Two - Immaturity

Last week, I began a series of posts that go together, and this post is the second one in that series.

Last week, I asked you if a brick wall resembled Jesus and the body of Christ. I discussed being born again as the beginning of a spiritual journey of growing up in your faith. 

Let's take a look at how scripture defines spiritual immaturity.

• 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
(Remember from section one, we looked at 1 Peter 2:2 that encouraged us to "crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" - but I believe this scripture in 1 Corinthians indicates that we are to grow up and begin to consume the deeper truths of God which is solid food.)  We expect a new born baby to only be able to drink milk, but we never anticipate a child to remain there. We know that a child must start eating solid food to grow up and be healthy.

So if we are going to grow up into a mature Christian, we must take a look at what things will nourish us.

When I was little, I walked like a child, I talked like a child, but as I grew up, I put away childish ways. My mom didn’t allow me to continue to do the things that were cute as a toddler. Believe it or not, she stopped thinking it was cute.  WHY? 

Let's consider some signs of immaturity:
Selfish and self-centered (its all about ME, MINE)
NO or limited walking & talking
Whines A LOT
Can’t dress themselves
Doesn’t see the dangers ahead
Easily distracted
Pretends to be grown up
Consider how children throw rocks at each other on the playground

Many in the body are throwing stones as well, and the are not on the playground. Take a look at John 8 where the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus knowing that the penalty for this according to the law from Moses was to stone her. They were doing it to trap Jesus. He told them in verse 7: “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Now look at what happens in verse 9: When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center.
Isn't it interesting that the older among them dropped the stones first. I was watching a video last week from SSMT - Living Proof where Beth Moore references this very verse. She notes that those with the spiritual wrinkles on their hands tend to not hold stones because they know how much they are in need of mercy. 

So what does it look like when we throw stones in the body? We may be critical and throw stones at others when we observe their sins and talk about it to others, point it out to the sinner in a non-restorative manner (not in love), and we may throw stones by withdrawal, disapproving looks or coolness toward them. However, by our critical spirit toward others we become guilty and in need of stones being thrown at ourselves due to the internal sins within us as a result (our critical spirit becomes our sin.)  So as we become aware of our own sinfulness, we tend to drop our stones toward others.

It is funny that in as much as we have sinned, that is how much we tend to give mercy to others and no more. That was a point made in the video as well. Beth described it as a measuring tape. We will extend grace to cover other's sin only as far as we have been in need of forgiveness ourselves. I know that to be true because I am found guilty of doing this very thing.  

Take a look at the list below:  Possible reasons we throw stones

External Sins (we observe in others)
       Uncontrolled appetite of anything
       Lust, Greed and laziness

Internal Sins (we may not observe in ourselves)
       Pride (remember -- Pride goes before a fall and God opposes the proud)

What if instead of throwing stones at one another, we only pick up stones for the purpose of marking spiritual progress (maturity) in our own lives. Those are called stones of remembrance. Let's start remembering what God is doing and has done in our lives and get rid of those stones that we hurl at the sin in others. Let's use those stones of remembrance to note when God helped us recognize and deal with the plank stuck  in our own eye, and cast away the stones we would have used to throw at our brothers and sisters in Christ who have splinters in their eyes. 

Look at a few more scripture verses that deal with immaturity.
  • Heb 5: 11- 13 We have much to say about this*, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. (*See Heb 4:14-5:8 regarding Jesus as High Priest, His reverent submission and obedience, and the source of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.)
  • Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. 
Note that the goal of a Christian is to mature or to pursue maturity instead of going back to the initial basic elementary rules of Christianity. Take some time to think through this material, especially the scriptures, and I hope to see you back next week when we begin to look at ways we can grow up in our faith.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brick Building - Section One - Maturity

Maturity-Growing up in Christ

I am working on a series of posts that will go together, and this post is the first one in that series.

Have you ever looked at a brick wall and thought of it as beautiful? Does it remind you of Jesus, or the body of Christ? Perhaps not. After we go through this series, I hope that you will begin to see it differently. Maybe you will even be able to see how the brick wall is a good representation of the material that will follow in this series.

Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our savior, according to scripture, we are born again.(this is the beginning of our spiritual story) At this point, by God's grace, we are right with God (righteous). It is accomplished by God's gift (grace) and our believing it (faith.) So we are reconciled with God based on our believing Him. Philippians 3:9 tells us our righteousness doesn't come from us keeping the law, but it comes through faith in Christ. Romans 6:1 asks us "should we sin more so that grace may increase?" Since we are right with God by our faith, shall we live contrary to His word? Why should we live in keeping with the law if it doesn't produce righteousness? I hope to address some of these questions through this series. I hope to establish that although we are right and reconciled, we must begin to grow up into what we were "born again" to become.

For today, let's start by looking at some scripture regarding maturity, purity and obedience.

  • 1 Peter 1:22-23 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, … through the living and enduring word of God. 
  • 1 Peter 2:1-2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation
  • John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
  • Ps 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
  • Phil 3:13-15 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it (to know Christ - see also Phil 3:7-12). But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize … 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things

We are cleansed and purified by obeying the truth. God's word is truth, and we will remain pure if we live according to it. It will produce sincere love of your brothers and sister deeply. Pure spiritual milk will cause you to grow up spiritually.  

I believe based on these verses that we will grow and mature in our faith by living up to whatever truth we attain, and by being doers of the word/truth as we become aware of it. We know that an infant doesn't stay satisfied by only milk for very long. Eventually the infant must start eating solid food to grow up and be healthy physically.  Likewise in spirit, if we are going to grow up into a mature Christian, we must take a look at what things will nourish us. Let's consider it to be a steady diet of the truth, the word of God so we may live according to it. (please do not forget that it is by the Holy Spirit that dwells in us that we are enabled to partake of this diet -- the pursuit of the Word of God is intended to be part of our conversation that takes place in our relationship with God our Father.)  Let's not pursue the Word of God just for the sake of study, head knowledge or a list of things we can do to be better. Let's agree to allow this pursuit to lead us into a vibrant relationship with our Creator so we may know Him more, so we may believe Him and what He says, so we may glorify Him to the world, so that we will be satisfied, peace-filled and so we may enjoy His Presence.

This wraps up the introduction. Go munch on the scriptures and take time to digest. There will be more probing into this as we progress through the material.

See you back soon!