Praying God’s Will; 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1

Happy Monday, Friends!  I’m so glad you can join me!  As we’ve been learning in our series on experiencing More Power in Prayer, one of the keys to effective prayer is praying according to God’s will.  So starting today, I’m going to be spending Mondays reading to see, “What is God’s Will?” and then pray it!  I’m beginning in the book of 1 Thessalonians, chapter one.

Gods will 1 Thessalonians

I’m sitting here with my cup of hot herbal tea and my own notebook, with “1 Thessalonians” written across the top of the page.  My husband is finishing a remodel on the sunroom off my kitchen and diningroom.  He just finished installing the flooring, and I can’t wait for the trim to be completed so we can clean up the construction mess.  I’m looking forward to being able to sit in front of the windows and take in God’s creation while I study.

When I study a new book, I like to look at the what historians know about the background so I have a better understanding of where the author is coming from.  Then I group verses with similar ideas together and summarize them for myself, and finally I go back and look at how they may apply today.  I may learn something new each time I go over a passage, so this devotional will in no way be comprehensive!  I am not a Bible scholar or professor.  I am just a daughter of God who loves His Word and am seeking His wisdom in living for Him.  Lets ask God to show us what He wants to teach us in this chapter and get to work!  Shall we compare notes?!?  Please share your insights and musings in the comments so we can all learn from one another!

The book of 1 Thessalonians is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica.  Thessalonica was a busy seaport, an important communication and trade center, the largest city in Macedonia, and the capitol of its province.  Paul was able to spend only a short time discipling the new believers there before he was forced to leave, suddenly, leaving them without outside support during a time of persecution.  Paul wrote to encourage them, teach them Godly living, and give them assurance about their future.  This book is 5 short chapters.

vs. 1–an introduction

vs. 2–Paul prayed thanks for the Thessalonian Church

vs. 3–specific thanks: work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope

vs. 4–Paul knew God chose them

vs. 5–the church didn’t receive the gospel by word only, but in power, in the Holy Spirit with FULL conviction!

vs. 6&7–they became imitators of Christ & Paul, AND they became an example for other believers.  (1 Cor. 11:1)

vs. 8–they shared the gospel–everywhere they went, their faith sounded forth

vs. 9&10–other believers were talking about their faith (they had turned from idols, were serving a living & true God, and waiting for Jesus’s return).

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As I read this chapter, I wondered if perhaps it was written like we write an English essay, with verse 3 being like an introductory sentence that the following verses unpack?

*Whether or not this was Paul’s intention, I can imagine that the work of faith Paul gives thanks for in verse 3 points forward to the Thessalonian Church receiving the gospel in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction” (vs.5).  We know (vs. 4) that all Christians are chosen by God first, and that we need the Holy Spirit to give us faith to believe the gospel.  Once we are saved, this faith grows and results in lives full of spiritual fruit.

*I can imagine that when Paul gave thanks in verse 3 for their “labor of love,” that he could be referring to the way they became an example for other believers, and shared the gospel everywhere, sounding forth their faith (vs. 6-8)

*I can imagine that when Paul gave thanks for their steadfastness of hope, that he could be referring to the way they turned from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for Jesus’s return (vs.9&10)

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How can I use these observations to pray according to God’s will?

  • Give thanks for my church, being mindful that God has chosen them, and look for ways that God is specifically producing a work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope…  For example: My home church enjoys meeting together, truth is taught, we pray together, discipleship happens, hospitality is practiced, etc…  When my church ladies met to discuss this, they pointed out that Paul is not only praying thanks for the fruit He sees in the church in Thessalonica, He’s writing to tell them about it!  He is encouraging them in the process.  Hebrews 10:24 tells us to consider how we can spur each other on to good works—Imitating Paul’s action here is one of those ways!
  • Pray for myself, my family, and the Church, that God’s word will always penetrate our hearts and minds in Power, in the Holy Spirit, and in full conviction (renew our minds and sanctify our hearts.)
  • Pray that we will be imitators of Christ and live lives worthy of being imitated by others–an example for other believers.  Godly examples help us learn what God’s word looks like in real time, and lets face it, some of us learn best by watching and doing.
  • Pray that we will be thankful and enthusiastic–sharing with others what God has done and is doing in our lives.  Our testimony is more than just sharing how we were saved.  God is constantly working.  Sound forth our faith!!
  • Pray that we will have steadfastness of hope, remembering daily that we serve a living Savior who we are waiting to return!
  • For the Lost: pray verse 5 (that they will become saved by receiving the gospel in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction… that they may also become verses 6 and following.  Who in your life is in need of Jesus?  Make a list, and mention them by name.

What did you learn from this chapter?  I can’t wait to hear how God is moving in your life.  And I can’t wait to see how God uses our prayers this week!

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  1 John 5:14-15

Meet you next Monday to explore 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2! 😉

More Power in Prayer; Prerequisite #3 for Effective Prayer

Hello friends!  Thank you for joining me for this series on prayer.

So far, we’ve learned that in order for our prayers to be effective there must be no un-confessed sin between us and God, and we must forgive others.  The 3rd prerequisite, shared by Evelyn Christenson in her book, “What Happens When Women Pray”, is that we pray according to God’s will.

More Power in Prayer #3

Martin Scott, author of “Gaining Ground, Prayer Strategies for Transforming Your Community,” taught that to make a difference within our sphere of influence one has to make a sound that attracts heaven.  With all my heart, I believe that sound is comprised of the voices of God’s people praying for His will to be done.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  There is nothing in heaven that is contrary to God’s will.

1 John 5:14-15 gives us this promise concerning our prayers to God:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

How truly awesome is that?  We can have confidence in approaching God in prayer, because we know that if what we want from God is what God wants to do, He will give us the requests that we ask of him.  

So many times we hear individuals ask in prayer, either for themselves or for others, and they have a play list.  They say, “Pray for this outcome (specifically); and pray against this outcome.” And even when we say please, our prayers often sound more like demands than requests.

Well, how do we know what God’s will is?   And when we don’t know what God wants, how do we pray His will?

While it’s true that many times we don’t know God’s specific intention concerning the details of our lives, scripture gives us an overview of God’s will.  We know that:

  • God does not wish any to perish, 2 Peter 3:9
  • It is His will that we love Him first and not allow any desire to to become an idol in our lives, Colossians 5:1-5
  • It is His priority that we understand His will and grow in Spiritual maturity, Colossians 1:9,10
  • It’s God’s desire that we walk by the Spirit and be filled with His character, Galations 5:13-26
  • God will complete the work He has begun in each of His children (sanctification–producing the fruit of righteousness in our lives), Philippians 1:3-11
  • and SO much more, if we dig into the scriptures with open eyes.

We can always ask for God’s will in our lives when we pray.  We can ask specifically, citing scriptures like these examples, or broadly, trusting God to do what is best in our lives, in the Church, and for those He brings into our sphere of influence.

But what if God’s choice of methods to bring His will about in our lives is something we don’t want?  So often, it is fear that keeps us from welcoming God’s will.  And, it’s our reluctance that can clue us in to what we are keeping as idols in our hearts… our health, our possessions, our comfort in our present situation, our loved ones…

As long as we hold anything closer than God’s will, we will be controlled by fear and anxious about the future.  Only by trusting God completely can we experience His peace and joy in any circumstance.

And when uncertainty does pressure us?

Jesus left us a powerful example of how to make requests while being submitting to what God wants.  In the garden, while he prayed before his arrest and eventual crucifixion, he battled his humanity, knowing the suffering that lay before him and not wanting to have to walk the road that was prepared.  He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Luke 22:42

Don’t you love how he said, “If you are willing?”  Even in stating his request, he acknowledged his Father’s Lordship in his circumstances, but then he followed his request in humble submission, offering, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Many times we lay our play list out there for God to follow, and then we tack a “if it’s your will,” onto the end.  But I’ve come to realize that unless we approach God in submission, truly seeking His will while we lay our requests at His feet, our last minute “if it’s your will,” is nothing more than a dutiful disclaimer.

What else happens when we are praying for God’s will?

While we do this, we know (Romans 8:26-27) that the Holy Spirit knows God’s mind, and He helps us in our weakness by interceding for us, as He prays God’s specific will on our behalf.

What a compassionate God we have.

Putting out the Fleece

Sometimes, while we are asking for God’s will, we are trying to discern how He would have us to make a particular decision.  In this case, Gideon sets an example for us in Judges 6:36-40. Gideon asked God, “if your will be “this” then please give me this sign,” and God was faithful to do so.  Sometimes it’s simply asking God to open and close doors as He sees fit while we patiently stand ready to take on the opportunities He presents.

AcknowledgeHim

Last summer I had the privilege of leading a small group through “What Happens When Women Pray” while we prayed for Camp JIM, the salvation of campers, and each other.  As the summer progressed, and we learned more of the prerequisites for effective prayer, I noticed changes in the way the women approached God with their requests.  Their thanks multiplied and they frequently pointed out God’s will in scripture.  They stopped telling God what they wanted and started asking for His will, even when it meant opening their hands and saying, “Whatever it takes, Lord, for your will to be done in this person’s life” (to bring them to you; to heal their hurts; etc…)… “whatever it takes.”

It was truly beautiful to see this transformation, for it wasn’t just their prayers that were changing, but they themselves.  The way they prayed simply mirrored what God was doing in their hearts.  Evelyn Christenson shared that according to Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words, the word “effectual,” found in James 5:16, means “the effect produced in the praying person, bringing him into line with the will of God.”

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” 

We want our prayers to be effectual, but “The effectual pray-er, then, is a person who is completely committed to God’s will for answers, and not to his own will.” ~E. Christenson

So, what happened in the midst of all that praying this summer?  Statistically, there were more salvation decisions than any other summer in the 14 years our family has had the privilege of serving at Camp JIM.  Praise God!!

As children of God, when we pray according to HIS will, rather than our will, we can have confidence because we know He hears us and gives us what we ask for!  We can also have confidence knowing that wherever He leads us, something good is in the making, and for this we can rejoice! Romans 8:28

Whatever God’s will holds, it is a comfort to know He NEVER makes a mistake, and that is what we will discuss in the next post in this series.

But until then, I invite you to join me on Mondays, as we read from God’s Word and look for God’s will.  We’ll highlight what we see and then use it to actually pray for ourselves, our family and friends, the Church body, and the world.  Meet me here on Monday, February 19th to begin praying God’s will from 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1.  I’ll be studying in the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version in preparation.

You can read the previous posts from this series by posting on their links at the end of This Post.

Praying God’s will for you,

~Linda

Growing in the Fruit of Peace

Several years ago, I read Elizabeth George’s book, “Loving God with all Your Mind.”  It was the first time I had read her work, and I was intrigued with the title.  It wasn’t the easiest read.  I had to take it in small bites, and it took me several months, but it was so worth the effort.

Growing in the Fruit of Peace

I had no idea how God was going to use that little book in my life in a very short while.  Ms. George shared about a period of time during which she had struggled with depression, and how loving God with her mind pulled her out of darkness and into precious hope.  Unknown to me, our own young daughter was developing serious anxiety, and it was this knowledge of how to love God with abandon, giving up our rights to worry, that provided a life line to pull our daughter back.

It is still fresh to me.  I cannot hold back the tears as I share this with you, but they are tears of thankfulness as I can tell you with full confidence that even in times of struggle, because struggle we all must, God is so very very good.

As Elizabeth George shared in her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit,”   Peace is the sacrifice of trust.

Ms. George points out that Peace is:

  • not a result of our worldly circumstances, but in the assurance that we have a right relationship with God.
  • not affected by daily challenges, but remains in the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands.
  • is not dependent on the conditions of our life, but upon knowing that God is all-sufficient.  He will supply our every need, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19
  • It is “an inward repose and serenity of soul that indicates a heart at rest–regardless of our circumstances–as we place complete confidence in God minute by minute.”  He is continuously with us.  Psalm 139:7-12

Trusting God

Several years ago I met a Christian woman and song writer when she and her husband answered a Craig’s List ad and came to see the van we had for sale.  She and I ended up spending quite a bit of time visiting, and we stayed in touch through email for a long time after.  She asked me to be praying for their family, as her daughter was making what they felt were foolish choices, so I prayed.

Some months later she sent me an update.  “I had a dream,” she told me.  She and her husband were rowing frantically in a small boat with their daughter, as a storm blew and crashed upon them.  “But then,” she said, “it was like a camera in a movie panned back, and I could see that we were actually rowing inside a fish bowl.”  The bowl was being carried by the hands of God himself, and it was this very act–being carried–that caused the waves that they were struggling to row against.  Just knowing that God was in it brought her peace.

If God is carrying your boat, He is taking you to a better place.

You have to believe that.

You have to have confidence that He will not waste an iota of your struggle.  He will use it to draw you deeper with Him, to grow your faith, and open eyes to His glory.

If God is carrying your boat

Hes taking you to a better place

The word God uses for peace also means rest and tranquility~”of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”`

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Just like joy, and all 9 of the fruit of the Spirit, our peace is positional.  Because of Jesus’s work on the cross we have peace with God.  We are no longer enemies of God.  We are His beloved children.  Because of this, we can rely on all God’s promises, and we can be content in any and every circumstance.

The Secret to Experiencing Peace

In Philippians chapter 4, Paul tells us the secret to experiencing God’s peace.  We also continue to see how all 9 of the Fruit of the Spirit are to be present in a believer’s life, and are interdependent.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” verses 4-7

Did you catch that?  Loving God with all our hearts involves making the conscious choice not to wallow in unfavorable circumstances, but rather, to rejoice in the Lord.  Choose not to be anxious, but instead pray and tell God what you need, trusting in His ability and His desire to meet those needs.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” verse 8

Loving God with all our minds involves meditating on the right things.  How often does anxiety overtake us because we allow ourselves to dwell on the “what if’s”?  My daughter will tell you it is a slippery slope, once you allow yourself to visit there.  What about the “if only’s”?  How often do we lose our focus and take a ride on an emotional roller coaster because, like Lots wife, we look back longingly on the the past that is behind us, or allow the present opportunities to slip through our fingers because we’re dwelling on unrealistic hopes for the future?

All these things: the what if’s, the if only’s, the past, and the future are not “whatever is true.”  The past was true in it’s time, and the future is unknown to us.  Dwelling on them will not provide peace, but is likely to steal it away.

What we do know is that God has plans for us right now today.  He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.  And He wants us to trust Him with all our hearts, leaning on His understanding, acknowledging Him (rejoicing in Him and trusting Him!) and He promises to make our paths straight… Proverbs 3:5,6

He has your back, no matter what storm you encounter.  He is the one carrying your boat.

 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” verse 9

Paul is always saying that, isn’t he?  Follow my example because I’m following God, and God will be with you!

…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” verses 11-13

We quote that last part a lot, don’t we?  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Many times, we take it out of context.

Paul said he knew how to be content in ANY circumstance.  He knew how to get along with little, and he knew how to live with much.  The secret of being filled and going hungry… having an abundance and suffering in need!

How did he do it?  How did he go on through poverty, being stoned, being the recipient of hate talk, being ship wrecked, living under house arrest for many years, and eventually losing his life for the sake of Christ?  All the while, he remained content.  He knew God’s peace.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Paul didn’t have to experience anxiety or worry, doubt or discouragement.  Jesus would empower him to stand firm through anything while experiencing contentment, and we can have this same confidence, because as verse 19 tells us,

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes we experience wonderful peace in our own storms, but watching our loved ones struggle, that can be harder.  Giving them to God can be a greater exercise in trust, and we need to hold our loved ones with open hands.  God loves them more than we do, and His plans for them are every bit as wonderful and good as the plans we know He has for us.

When our daughter was struggling the most, we did some practical things to help her.  I was able to provide her with Bach Flowers that were helpful for her emotional state.

We used accupressure to help remove the strain that the anxiety placed on her body, and in return, her anxiety was lessened.

But more than anything else, she memorized scripture, taped it up all around her bed, and recited it whenever she felt the temptation to allow her thoughts to go where she knew they shouldn’t.  Instead she reminded herself to love God with her mind and meditate on His truth.    

She continued to rejoice in the Lord, recording the good gifts He has placed in her life in her special notebook… 3 things she’s thankful for each day, and the record is well into the thousands today.

We talked about what God says is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise!

And we prayed, often, asking God to give her His peace.

Our daughter still sometimes experiences worry, but it is temporary because she knows where to go, and instead of being paralyzed by anxiety, she is freed by trust.  It was hard to understand, when we were in that difficult place with her, why she was going through that storm, but when I hear her talk about it today I believe God will someday use her to lead others to peace.  She is uniquely equipped to show true understanding and compassion to others.  God won’t waste her pain, and He won’t waste yours… He will bring it to good.

Praise God for giving us so many reasons to trust in Him, and for making contentment in any circumstance possible!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not leave (fail) you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

“For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’”  Jeremiah 29:11   God had just caused His people to be carried into Babylon for 70 of exile.  They were looking for deliverance and He told them to build houses and have families and make a life there—they were being disciplined for their good.

God is good.  His love for us endures forever.  He is faithful.  And not a single thing that will ever happen to us isn’t filtered through His loving hands first.  And everything that he allows, even the tough love, is for our ultimate good and for God’s glory.

Psalm 136 is the all about Giving Thanks to God.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For his lovingkindness is everlasting.  {His love endures forever.}

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

 

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #2 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite 2

When I was in charge of coordinating the Women’s Events at Camp JIM, I once booked a speaker to share at a retreat on the subject of Forgiving.  The speaker had several talks she had prepared for events and she told me, in all the years she had been traveling, I was the first to ask her to use this seminar.

Wow.

When the topic is the heart warming reminder of our own forgiveness, we’re all over it; but, no one wanted to trudge through a weekend of emotional sludge to let go of their own grievances.  Ouch.

However, we can’t afford not to.  Forgiveness is a prerequisite to to more powerful, effective prayer.

There are several occasions in the New Testament when God promises to hold us to our own standards.  In Matthew 6:12, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray,

“And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” TLB

The King James Version says, “forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”  We all know a debt is something we owe, but did you know that debt, offence and sin can be used interchangeably?  It changes our perspective, doesn’t it?

Do we want to be forgiven “as” (in the same way) we have forgiven others?

Mark 11:24-25 says it even more clearly:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

God wants us to pray for one another in intercessory prayer.

And we’ve learned that if we want God to hear our prayers, we have to confess all known sins, and seek His forgiveness.  But these verses take that even further by saying that we also need to forgive anyone against whom we are holding a grievance.

Isn’t it easy to hold a grievance?  Without even realizing it, we can nurse it along, holding onto it like an old friend.  It becomes a part of who we are and we may not even realize we’ve developed a critical spirit toward that person who hurt us.

God says forgive.

It is a required of us in order for God to listen to our prayers.

Many years ago, on a Good Friday, tragedy snuck into our family unannounced.  On Saturday my husband took me to see “Passion of the Christ” in the dollar theater in his home town.  Ugh.  I have never been so torn by a movie.  Christ’s suffering was so large on that screen, I know I was swollen and blotchy and pathetic when we came out of the theater and into the light.  I was burdened afresh with the opportunity to meditate on the message of Easter, that Christ’s passion was to save me. It was my sin that brought Him all that pain, but I could rejoice because He is risen and I am forgiven.

The testing came Easter Sunday, when the silent offence came screaming into the light and tore the cover right off my heart.  You know those movies that show a person in shock, experiencing the moment in slow motion, and every sense is cranked up to high?  Too many individuals were affected for me to share the details.  Suffice it to say, no grievance against oneself ever comes close to the pain you enter into when the grievance is against your child.

When the weekend had ended, my heart finally quieted, and my eyes ran dry.  I’m sure God orchestrated our weekend so that I would watch that movie at that exact time.  I knew the choice I faced was no choice at all.

No matter how grieved I was by this offence, a perfect God was more offended, and yet Jesus died to forgive that person who grieved our family.  He died once and for all, for all people, just as much as He died to forgive me.  He loves us all the same.  So how could I refuse to forgive?

How dare I refuse to forgive?

Isn’t that what it boils down to?  The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 depicts it perfectly.

So we make the choice to forgive.

We don’t wait until we feel like it.  Emotions are fickle, and we could wait an eternity without ever “feeling like forgiving”.  Make the choice, even if it means choosing daily.  Healing is a process.

But now comes the awkward, and how do we act when we encounter this person again?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

In her book, “What Happens When Women Pray?” Evelyn Christenson shares that once we commit to forgive, God expects us to illustrate follow through.

Now if anyone has caused pain…  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”  2 Cor. 2:5,7,8

Paul is writing to the Corinthian church regarding a brother who has grieved the congregation, most likely received church discipline, and has repented.  Paul tells the church to not only forgive him, but to comfort him… and reaffirm their love for him.  What this person has been through has been hard, and feeling ostracized by the church could overwhelm him with grief.

Don’t we do this, as parents?  When our kids have a quarrel, and we mediate, we make sure they reaffirm their love for each other.  “Now give each other a hug!”  I have just about cracked up when scowly faced children say, “I forgive you,” but can barely bring themselves to touch each other.  And yet, once embraced, the tension drains from their bodies, is replaced by a genuine smile, a REAL hug, and fast friends return to play.

confirm forgiveness

It’s easy to say we forgive, but the proof is in the follow through.

Maybe it’s time for a heart to heart, a hug, and tears all around.

Maybe the proof is in doing something to serve this person who has grieved  you.

Perhaps, like our family and the church in Corinth, it is bringing him or her back into your fellowship.

What if they’re not sorry?

The grief and subsequent bitterness will eat you alive if you choose not to forgive.  In Evelyn’s words, your prayer life will become “like straw”.  And as Paul warned the Corinthians, forgive, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

For Christ’s sake, and for yours, you still need to forgive.  Lay it at the foot of the cross.  Pray how God wants you to confirm your love. Perhaps it is as simple as sending a ‘Thinking of You’.  Or, perhaps God has another opportunity prepared for such a time as this.

What if they don’t want anything to do with you?  Then honoring their wishes in keeping your distance may be the best way to confirm your love.  Even if they never know, God will know, and He will give you His peace.

That your prayers may not be hindered: (page 40-41 of “What Happens When Women Pray):

*  Ask God to remind you of anyone whom you need to forgive.

*  Ask forgiveness for the sin of not forgiving that person.

*  Forgive that person, even if you need to ask God to enable you to do so.  He will provide you with the strength and ability.

*  Ask God for as much love as He wants you to have for the person who grieved you.

*  Ask God how He would have you to confirm your love for them.

*  Wait in silence for His answer.

*  Pray, promising God that you will do whatever He has told you.

*  Go do it!

“Lord, forgive me for holding onto grievances.  I forgive ______________ for _____________________.  Give me the heart you want me to have toward him/her.  Show me how you desire for me to confirm my love for them, and give me the strength to follow through.”

You can find the rest of the posts in this series at the end of this post.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

More Power in Prayer; Prerequisite #1 for Effective Prayer

Information on the small give-away I am doing in conjuction with this post is available toward the end (in bold print).  

Did you know that while God always hears our prayers, there are things we may be doing or not doing that influence how attentive He is to our prayers?

Psalm 66:18 says,

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

In Evelyn Christenson’s book, “What Happens When Women Pray,” she shares about how her small prayer group began intercessory prayer one January, and it was April before they began seeing answers.

Then, they took Psalm 66:18 to heart.  Not wanting anything to hinder their prayers, they began their weekly meeting by asking God to reveal any sin for which they needed to repent.  One by one, God began bringing sins to their mind.  The first meeting they did this, they spent the whole meeting in individual prayer of repentance, and the meeting after that, and for several more meetings.  It took 6 weeks of repentance before they were released to pray for others.

Suddenly, they found that the answers didn’t take so long; not long at all.

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite 1

One of the “big” things that damages our relationship with God, and hinders us from receiving answers we long for, is the matter of known un-confessed sin.

We all sin every day.  There are many times we are not aware, and those are not the sins to which I am referring.  If we all knew every sin we committed, we may be too overcome with sorrow.  The Holy Spirit knows this, and God is gracious to tackle our issues as He sees fit.

No, it’s the sneaky sin we know is wrong and allow ourselves to fall into anyway.  Or even the accidental sin that we recognize and find easier to ignore.  Perhaps it is a sin we enjoy and don’t want to give up.

Whether or not anyone else knows what we’ve done, whether or not anyone else is harmed, God knows, and our sins come between us and Him.

If you’ve never called on the name of the Lord to be saved, please be assured that nothing could ever prevent God from hearing you call.  It is His heart’s desire to remove your sin from you (as far as the east is from the west) if you will only repent and confess your sin, trusting Jesus to be your Savior.  He died in your place.  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9,10  

Once you are saved into a right relationship with God, he hears your intercessory prayers.  However, those intentional, or tolerated sins come between us and Him.

Lets be honest.  I love my kids, and I always take care of their needs, but if they are intentionally disobeying, exhibiting a poor attitude, leaving responsibilities undone, and the like. . . and then they come to me, asking for favors or special privileges that are not needs, I hear them, but am I likely to desire to give them what they’re asking for?  Uh, no.  I might shut them down mid-sentence.  Fix your attitude.  Apologize.  Go do the thing you were supposed to do.  Show me you are trustworthy.  THEN, we’ll talk.

It’s the same with us and with God.  He cares more about teaching us to have holy hearts, which will give us joy forever, than He cares for making us happy in the moment.

It takes humility, to be sure.   Pride is one sin that will spiral into all others, but. . .

Isn’t intimacy with our God what we should desire to pursue?

Ask God to reveal to your heart any sin that is coming between you and Him.  Ask Him what He wants you to repent of.  He is SO faithful.  One at a time, he will bring all to mind.

No known un-confessed sins.  It’s the first prerequisite for an effective, powerful prayer life. Lay it all out there.  “God, I confess that I ________.  I repent of this sin, and renounce it.  Please forgive me, and enable me to __________ (whatever it is that you need to do to live holy for HIM).  If you are a child of God, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives within you.  That’s power. . . certainly enough power to enable you to conquer whatever sin issue you have been dealing with.  Praise God, He is faithful and just, when we confess our sin, to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

Seeing prayers answered doesn’t mean that God gives us everything we ask for.  He gives us those things that compliment His plans, those things that He knows are good (and not bad) for us.  Sometimes His answer is “wait”.  We have to trust His timing is perfect.  He is for us, and as we learn more how to pray (because there are more prerequisites for effective prayer), we will see more and more answers.  It is so awesome to have the privilege.

Revive our Hearts sells a book mark which complements Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book, “Brokenness: The Heart God Revives.” (a wonderful book)  Front and back, the book mark lists characteristics of prideful people verses broken, or humble people.  Our ladies group found the list to be useful to pray over, as God can use it to point out areas of sin.  Confession is so healing.  I have 5 of these book marks to give away.  If you would like one, please tell me so in the comments.  The first 5 commenters to ask, will receive!  😉

If there are any Pointway Church ladies who have not received a copy, and would like to, please let me know via facebook or text and I will get one to you.

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The Fruit of Love

 

love fruit of the spirit photo

When our women’s group went through Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit,   LOVE is the one fruit about which I did not teach.  I was away at a class.  I heard all about h

ow our speaker that week is a gifted teacher!  What a blessing that we have such women as part of our fellowship!

Well, because I didn’t teach on this subject, I have really had to pray about what God would have me share here, not wanting to fail to address any of the Fruit of the Spirit in this online account.  The Bible has so much to say about Love.  Where in the world to begin?

Considering I wrote this post, lost it, and had to re-write it, it may be a miracle that I have anything to share at all! 😉  But seriously, to read more posts from the Fruit of the Spirit series, you can visit the devotional index here.

These are the notes I took while reading Elizabeth George’s book:

  1. To live out the Fruit of the Spirit requires a decision; love is an act of the will.  It’s during the most difficult seasons of our lives that we ourselves feel the need for love, and yet, it can be the most challenging time to show love toward others.  Only God can fill us with this kind of love and enable us to give it away!
  2. Love is action, not just words.  We are to back up our words with action.  “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  (1 John 3:18).  Consider the people God has placed in your life for you to love.
  3. Love reaches out to the lovely and the unlovely alike.  While God’s love is never deserved, it is for all of us.  As such, God’s Spirit enables Believers to do what Jesus commands: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Luke 6:27.  He enables us to extend grace and love, unconditionally.
  4. We need God to help us love.  Loving the unlovely bears witness to what God can do with a person’s life, and it brings Him glory.  When we depend on God to love those who have hurt us, we bear His mark.  Those who are hardest to love are often the ones who need it most.
  5. Love Expects Nothing in Return.  In Luke 6:35-36, “ But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”.

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The nutshell version?  If you want to know how to love, spend time with the expert.

God is love.  It’s one of the first things we teach our children about God, and they quickly memorize those three little words.

If I wanted to share with you about the character of God, I might tell you that He is Good, Righteous, Just, Faithful, Merciful… and I could tell you that God is Loving (because He is), but again, that is His character.

To say that God is love carries an entirely different meaning.  It’s not just his character.  It’s who He is, and without Him there would be no love.  It’s pretty mind blowing.

1 John 4, verses 9 & 10, tells us that God showed us what true love was when He sent His son to be the atonement for our sin. The love of God was made “manifest” among us—Jesus, Emmanuel with us, so that we might have eternal life through Him.  By reaching out and meeting our need for a Savior, God set the example for how we should love one another.

1 John 4:16 tell us: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”.

Verses 12-15 laid the ground work, by explaining that when we believe in this love God has for us because of the example He set, and put our trust in Jesus, we receive his Spirit.  This is how abiding happens.  This is how his love is made perfect in us; because His Spirit lives in us He fills us, and we can behave as He does.

I have a plaque that says, “Children learn what they live,”  and it is so true.  Children who grow up seeing kindness modeled, show kindness.  Those who experience generosity are eager to give.  When adults model patience with their children, those children show patience toward their younger siblings.  Those who experience comfort when they are hurt know how to give comfort. Unfortunately, the flip is true.  Studies show that when children are not shown comfort, they do not know how to show comfort, and can be uncomfortable with it later in life.

I have 8 children, from almost 2 all the way up to 19.  I learned early on, sometimes to my humor and sometimes to my embarrassment, how well my small children mirror my attitudes and behaviors.  If anyone was curious how I handled a 2 year old who misbehaved in the store, all they would have had to do is watch my first born little girl play with her doll and shopping cart.  There it was–in perfect replay. :/

Children mirror what they see. 2

There are times like today when the littlest one asked me for some chaga tea, and as I poured it into her cup she said, “Good job, good job,” in her almost two year old dialect.

Children mirror the experiences we give them, and we as believers are Children of God.  If we intentionally spend quality time with him, we’ll begin to mirror his character. The deeper we experience God’s love toward us, the more able we are to show the same love and compassion to others.

There is such a thing, Tozer wrote, as having a right opinion about God, but lacking the heart and attitude that He wants us to have toward Him.

Tozer believed that too many people have been misled to believe that if they’ve found God, they no longer need to seek Him.  As I read about how the churches in his day had replaced the simplicity of Christ with programs and activities that take up time and attention but don’t satisfy the longing of the heart for more of God, it’s hard to believe this book was written in the 50’s.  It sounds like he’s describing churches today: too much busy and not enough relationship.

God is always here with us, no matter where in the world HERE is to you and to me.  He is everywhere.  Yet He is still MANIFEST, Tozer taught, when we are aware of his presence, and when we surrender and cooperate with his will in our lives.  Spiritual responsiveness is the uncommon road.  It is increased by exercise and decreased by neglect. 

It’s when we neglect to pursue God that we fall off the path.  It happens far too easily.

Our passion for God can never be any greater than the fire He kindles in our spirit.  His Spirit has to draw us and enlighten us about who He is.  However, it’s our decision to reciprocate God’s desire for us to pursue Him that fans the flames of that fire.  We have to make the decision to follow after Him.

Have you heard the expression, “To know me is to love me”?

Ask Him to draw you; ask Him to kindle an ever greater passion for Him in your spirit.

Ask Him to sit with you and enlighten you about who He is.

Deliberately pursue Him.  The more you come to know Him, the more you will grow to love Him.  His character, His fruit of the Spirit will flower in your life, and you will grow to love what He loves more each day.

There’s not a one of us who has arrived.  In our humanity we fall down.  Sometimes we take a step backward, but lets get up and move forward again.  Someday we’ll be face to face with our Savior, and we will be completely and perfectly transformed into His likeness, truly!  It’s called glorification.  Until then, our help is in Him, and the glory is, really~one day at a time~ in the becoming.

Angel Eyes 2

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12,13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

George calls her chapter on Faithfulness, “Following Through in Faithfulness”.  She has built this picture of how love, joy and peace change hearts. As a result, patience, kindness and goodness desire the best for everyone. Then, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control bring us victory in life’s “more challenging moments,” giving us follow-through by conquering self.

In Galations, the word for faithfulness is the Greek word, “pistis,” which refers to the character of one who can be relied on.

George teaches that a woman of faithfulness:

  • always comes through, no matter what
  • shows up for others, “whether a message or a meal”
  • keeps her word,”her yes means yes, and her no means no” (James 5:12)
  • doesn’t cancel out of commitments or appointments, and “successfully transacts business—carrying out any instructions given to her,”
  • “discharges her official duties in the church”–and is still committed to worship,
  • and is devoted to duty just as Jesus was in His example here on earth.

Elizabeth George also pointed out the struggle involved in being faithful… feeling tired or lazy ever get the best of you?

Or how about feeling discouraged?

Procrastination?  I might be looking forward to the devotional on self-control.

Rationalizing?

What about apathy… sometimes we just don’t care, even when we really do.  Life can get hard.  Some may drift from God.  Sometimes we just plain ole’ rebel, and we can develop a spiritual numbness.

As a Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is something God is responsible for cultivating in our lives. Charles Stanley, in his book, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, says that when we’re living life led by the Spirit, that these characteristics come about with little effort.   Yet reading over this list left me feeling overwhelmed and a little discouraged.

But wait. . .

This word pistis, which is used in Galations 5:22, can also be interpreted as faith; that’s how the King James Version interprets it.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galations 5:22,23 KJV

Faith is:

1.) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.

2.)  a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

3.)  belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same

Faith, like faithfulness, is provided to us by the Holy Spirit, and isn’t possible for us to experience in our own power.

“. . .  no one can say, “Jesus is [my] Lord,” except by [the power and influence of] the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 Amplified Version

By the grace of faith, God grows the character of faithfulness, or reliability, in our character.  He helps us be faithful to Him, and faithful to our calling.

 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3 NIV

That list of “works” that Elizabeth George explained personifies a woman of faithfulness… it’s possible, if our work is produced by faith in Christ Jesus.  Obedience becomes a labor of love for our Savior, and we can persevere even when we feel tired, discouraged, unmotivated or apathetic because of the hope we have in Christ.  That hope, Hebrews tells us, is anchored to the Throne of Grace in heaven; it pulls us onward.

Hands And Leaf Purpose

If you are a believing child of God, then you have been given Spiritual Gifts to use in whatever way that He has determined you should serve; God also gives each of us the faith to use those gifts.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

Do you know how God has wired you to serve?  If you’ve never given thought to this, you can visit www.spiritualgiftstest.com to learn more about the different Spiritual Gifts.  Your results will be based on your current experience, and can help you identify your areas of strength so that you can pray about how God wants you to use the gifts He has given you.  Don’t be surprised if different strengths rise to the top of the list in different stages of your life, depending on how your experience changes and on how God wants to use you at in different seasons.  He will gift you appropriately for your purpose.

God also wired you with personality, learning style, love languages, skills and talents, ministry style, resources and experiences to compliment your service within the Body of Christ.  They make you unique.  I would love to give you resources to explore each of these areas in a future post.  Don’t compare yourself to others!  Each individual is equally important to the function of the Church, and God’s plans.  Comparison is a trap that can discourage you, or it can lead to an inflated ego. . .  but, humility is what God requires.

If you struggle with following through on your commitments, it may be wise to prayerfully re-evaluate the tasks you have undertaken and ask God if what you are trying to do is suited to your gifts.

I’m not talking about the marriage covenant, responsibilities as a parent, or promises made–if you have made them, God will give you the strength to keep them.  What I do mean is, for example: that someone with a gift of helps, who likes working in the background, may not be cut out to be an up front teacher! The areas we choose to serve within need to compliment our Spiritual Gifts.  They also need to compliment the season of life we are currently in.  The Proverbs 31 woman did a LOT of good things, but I often think she probably didn’t do them all at once!

Be intentional about doing good.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

When you feel discouraged, remember that your help is always with you.  God poured His Holy Spirit out on you, generously!  And He will never leave you.  Being faithful does not have to be tedious.

Choose your commitments carefully, and don’t try to do more than is truly possible.  When we leave others in the lurch, we damage our testimony.  When we follow through, we are blessed too. (James 1:25)

 

Work produced by faith in a faithful God.

Labor prompted by love for a loving Savior.

Endurance, inspired by hope in Savior who gave what He had for the hope that was set before Him–securing your eternity. 

 

What Happens When Women Pray

What happens when women pray photo

Every year or so, there is a theme that God chooses to teach me.  One year it was Biblical Womanhood, another it was Gratitude, yet another was Being Established.  The past 2 years have been on the topic of Prayer.

Have you ever shopped for books written about prayer??  Oh, my goodness, there are SO MANY!!  I have not actually gone looking, but when God picks a topic, it pops up everywhere.  Before I know it, I’ve accumulated a shelf full of resources without even trying.  I’ve read a little in this one and a little in that, however, my all time favorites are

1) simply reading what God says about prayer and the examples we’re given in God’s Word, and

2) Evelyn Christenson’s book, “What Happens When Women Pray”.  I found this little book at a garage sale, full of notes (so it must be good, right?).  I’ve read it 4 times, and I learn something new every time.

The Christian Missionary Alliance Church also chooses a theme every year, and their women’s ministry piggybacks on that.  This year the Alliance Women’s theme is “MORE”.

In my home church, our own Alliance Women are specifically studying how we can experience “MORE” power in prayer.  I’m so blessed to be able to do this study with my own church family, and I am over the moon to see how God is going to use these women and their prayers in the life of our church.

Prayer Is:

*A privilege*  ~My husband’s grandpa taught me that.  He called me monthly, until the day he died, to catch up and find out how he could be praying for us.  I was so blessed by this man who was not a blood relative, but who loved me so strongly in word and in deed.

*A responsibility*  ~Did you know that it is designed by God as part of our relationship with Him, and the health of our prayer life is an indication of the health of our Spiritual lives?

*A gift*  ~Imagine if we could not go to God.  Or imagine if we still, like the Israelites of old, had to go through a priest as a mediator, offering sacrifices, in order to maintain our relationship with God?  When Jesus died for us, and conquered sin and death by rising again, HE became our mediator and now we can go directly to God in Jesus’ name.

What a precious gift, and yet, it is one of the most neglected privileges and responsibilities within the Church Body today.  The truth is that too often we do not give enough thought to how and when we talk to God.  What’s more, many of us are not aware of the stumbling blocks that prevent God from inclining His ear to answer.

As my Jesus Sisters and I go through this study together, I’ll be sharing what God is teaching me in a series of posts entitled, “More Power in Prayer.”

I hope you’ll join me!

The next posts in this series are:

More Power in Prayer; Prerequisite #1 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #2 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #3 for Effective Prayer

Who is the Holy Spirit?

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.  To find more devotionals on the Fruit of the Spirit, visit this page.~

As we’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, we’ve been acknowledging that it is only available through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Only those who have accepted Jesus’s gift of forgiveness and salvation have access to the Spirit.  This Fruit, or Godly Character, is the evidence of salvation and an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

There is absolutely no way we can live the Christian life on our own.  It’s impossible!!  God knows it’s impossible.  That is why Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that he go away.  He explained to them, as they grieved the idea of his leaving, that if he didn’t go away, the Helper would not come to them.  “but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Holy Spirit dove photo

Jesus did return to heaven, after His death and resurrection.  Today, we as Believers are privileged to have this Helper, the Holy Spirit, in our lives.

I don’t remember the Holy Spirit being discussed much when I was growing up.  As an adult, I developed a hunger to understand who he is, and have intentionally studied to learn more about him.  Since scripture teaches that he is part of God, and a gift to all Believers, we really should want to be able to recognize Him and his handiwork.

There are several books out there that talk about the Holy Spirit.  However, the book that I have enjoyed the most is Charles Stanley’s, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life.  He basically pools the scripture that speaks about the Holy Spirit, and when taken in all together, it paints a clear picture about His personality and purpose, and Stanley focuses in on what it looks like to live out our faith with the Spirit’s help.

Charles Stanley uses this illustration to explain the Holy Spirit’s role:

Jesus said He is the vine, and we are the branches.  The Holy Spirit, then, is like the sap that runs from the vine into the branches, carrying the power of God into our lives to will and to work for His glory.  It is HE who is responsible for producing fruit in our lives, not us.  We simply bear fruit through ABIDING, and in yielding to His will.  

In other words, God bears the burden of responsibility for producing fruit in our lives.  We just aren’t capable on our own. Our responsibility is to remain in Him and submit to what HE wants to do in our lives.  A seed doesn’t bear a crop unless the gardener plants and tends it.  When the seed does germinate, it doesn’t choose what to bear.  Its fruit reflects the identity of what the plant is meant to be… it is what it is, and completely dependent on the gardener to weed, feed, and prune it to yield a harvest.

We are children of God, and we’re meant to reflect God’s character for the world to know HIM.

If the pressures and temptations in our life push us into reaction mode, it’s a sign that we’re trying to produce righteousness on our own.  If we’re trying to do the producing  instead of just being the vessels that do the bearing, we’re going to be frustrated by failure, and we won’t experience the Peace that God means for us to have.

So who is the Holy Spirit?

  • He was present when God created the world. “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2-3
  • He is part of the Trinty of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, in whose image mankind was created. Genesis 1:26
  • He is God’s official mark on us, as believers, when we are saved.  “After listening to the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…Ephesians 1:13-14

What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit?  Being sealed is a sign that Believers belong to God.  It is a sign of the security and protection and inheritance (eternity with God in paradise) that we have in Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees the Holy Spirit.  So do all the other spirits out there.

What are some aspects of the Holy Spirit’s personality?

He is knowledgeable.  1 Corinthians 2:11,12 states, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit… The Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God and imparts knowledge to believers.  He gives us the “mind of Christ”.

He has a mind and a will of His own.  In 1 Corinthians 2:11, the apostle Paul is teaching the believers at the church in Corinth about Spiritual gifts (this is different than the Fruit of the Spirit).  “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”  emphasis mine.

The Holy Spirit has emotion. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul tells the believers in Ephesus not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  And in Romans 15:30, Paul mentions the “love of the Spirit, or love given by the Spirit.”  Grief and love are emotions.

What are the roles of the Holy Spirit?

He Convicts. ~  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.”  John 16:8-11

He illuminates. ~ “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:12-15

He searches the mysteries of God and reveals them to the saints.  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.1 Corinthians 2:10

He teaches and reminds.  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  John 16:12-15 AND John 14:26

He guides.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.“emphasis mine  Romans 8:14

He asssures.  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

He intercedes and prays.  He helps us and does the will of God.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 16:26-27

He directs and He warns.  The Holy Spirit directed Paul, testifying to him daily, and warns him of the suffering that he was going to endure.  Acts 20:22

He communicates with us“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Acts 13:2

How the Holy Spirit communicates with us today can vary according to the person and the circumstances, but He very much still does speak to individuals.

He produces Godly character in our lives.   “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galations 5:22-23

He apportions Spiritual Gifts to individual Believers, to be used in the building up of the Church.4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-12

As we can see from scripture, the Holy Spirit is a thinking, feeling, and active person of God, working together with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ) to bring about their collective will in our lives.

What a wonderful gift God has given us in the person of the Holy Spirit!

Growing in the Fruit of Joy

joy bubble

 

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8,9

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

 

Of all the Fruit of the Spirit, I find at times, joy is the one most difficult to be deceived by a counterfeit.  When hard times come, and heart break is inevitable, joy cannot be pretended.

1~ Joy is Supernatural.

Joy is only available to the Believer who is living a life in step with God.  None of the Fruit of the Spirit are available without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, leaning in close to the Savior, walking in His will.

In John 15, versus 8-11, Jesus tells His disciples that when we bear fruit (lives oozing with Godly character) we glorify God and prove to be Christ’s disciples.  He explains how He loves us as God the Father loves Him.

He has been explaining our relationship with Him, using the analogy of a vine and its branches.  Can you picture Him, walking the disciples through a vineyard as He talks and points out the familiar vines, and paints for them a word picture they can understand and keep close to their hearts?

“Abide in my love.” He tells them.  “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

And then Jesus explains why it is so important that we abide (remain, tarry, be held).

 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  John 15:8-11

This word, full, also means full to the brim, so that nothing shall be wanting.  It means to render complete; perfect.

Just picture your heart, so full of joy that it can’t contain anymore.  It is complete.  It is perfect; but only if we are abiding. Obeying. Tarrying for Christ and his desire for us.

2~ Our joy is Positional, not Circumstantial.

Happiness the counterfeit we most often mistake for joy, but happiness is circumstantial.  The very word tells us it is so.  “HAP” means chance.  It is the root of happen, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), happenstance (a chance circumstance), and the word “happy”.

Happiness is an emotion that changes with our circumstances, but our emotions are not a reliable reflection of the truth of our position; our situation.

Before we believe in Jesus and what he did, trusting in Him, and relying on his death, burial and resurrection as payment for our sin–before that, we were enemies of God.  That was our position.

Praise the Lord, we don’t stay there, because when we place our trust in Him and accept the beautiful gift of sacrifice he gave on our behalf, our position changes.  He removes us from the position of enemy and places us in the position of friend of God.  And now our position allows us to experience the full life and full joy that Jesus wills us to have.

But only in Christ!

The New Testament word for Joy, or Gladness, is Chara.

  • the joy received from you
  • the cause or occasion of joy
  • of persons who are one’s joy

Jesus is our salvation, and we (Believers) are the recipients of the surpassing riches of His grace (that which affords joy! 🙂  )  Ephesians 2:4-8

Our joy doesn’t disappear, diminish, or change when hard times come calling.  It stays, because He stays.  Our joy is positional, not circumstantial.

3~ “Joy looks out and up, not inward.”

God doesn’t want us to dwell on our circumstances.  He wants us to look to Him, trusting His goodness and His faithfulness, and to stay mindful of our position and His promises.  When we focus on those things, a wonderful thing happens.  Gratitude.

The natural result of Grace is Praise.

Gratitude is an essential ingredient for joy.  And, it is a commandment.

1 Thesselonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Emphasis Mine

Psalm 50:23 tells us that the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies God.

How?  To borrow from Charles Stanley:

  • Giving Thanks strengthens our witness to unbelievers,
  • gives us eternal perspective,
  • motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstances,
  • keeps us continually aware that God is close by,
  • brings us our will into submission to God,
  • and it reminds us of our dependence upon HIM.

What about Sorrow?  What place does it have for a people of joy?

Godly Sorrow is Okay.

According to Isaiah 53:3, Jesus was “… a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Jesus felt sorrow over our sin, and grief over what He was to suffer on our behalf.  And yet, Hebrews 12:2 explains that “for the joy that was set before Him, he endured the cross.”

How should we treat sorrow?

In the book of Lamentations, chapter 3, Jeremiah sets an example for us.  He spends the first 19 verses acknowledging his terrible circumstances, like this:

verses 17-19,

“I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.”

But then, in verse 21 he begins to turn it around and he praises God.

“Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

And Jeremiah goes on praising the Lord.

It is okay to acknowledge our sorrow, just do not go on about it until it becomes toxic.  Turn it around and praise God.

“Although I am going through this _____________, the Lord___________________.”

When I was going through this last miscarriage, I was grieving.  I was sad… confused…helpless…frustrated.  I didn’t understand why God was allowing me to go through such loss, yet again.  But smack dab in the middle of the grief there was joy in knowing I was not alone.  God was right there in the middle of the grief with me, and he was holding me, giving me strength, and reassuring me.  At the end of the day I could say, “Although my heart is hurting, the Lord is good.  Although I don’t understand, the Lord is trustworthy.  Although I am helpless, God is my Helper.”

We will have bad days.  Some of us will have a bad decade,  but “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed”.  Because of his love, compassion, and faithfulness our hope is anchored to the throne of heaven, and we take joy, even in times of sorrow.

The Lord is our portion… our “possession, reward”;

therefore we will wait for him.

This word “wait”, it’s a different word than Jesus used for “abide” in John 15, but it carries a similar meaning… to expect, hope in, tarry.

Isn’t that beautiful?  So many years before Jesus walked in the garden with his disciples, Jeremiah vowed to do exactly what Jesus would command them to do.

Tarry for the Lord… abide, and he will give you His joy, and your joy will be over the top, greater than all you could ask or imagine, FULL.