Arming Myself

In spiritual conflict I’ve been thinking the sword of the spirit is the only offensive weapon I have. It’s indeed an awesome piece, but is it my only option?

Evidently, I’ve another awesome weapon in the armory that’s intrinsic to me, one that makes me fierce in combat. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” (1Pe 4:1) Willingness to suffer for Christ makes me truly formidable in the spirit; it positions me to take out the enemy … it’s a whole new level of holiness. 

Fear of suffering, that I won’t be faithful, that I will dishonor God, may keep me from trusting that God is good, that He’s faithful, and rob me of faith and joy. In this state I’m easily intimidated in battle, not much threat to the evil one, even with sword in hand.

The reality is that it’s an honor and a privilege to suffer for God. (Php 1:29)For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2Co 4:17) If He allows it, He will have a glorious purpose in it. Getting hold of this equips us to fearlessness.

God arm me with a willingness to suffer for You; help me trust that You will work in me to glorify Your name through any suffering You allow. (1Pe 1:7) Teach me how to take up this weapon in the right way, and to wield it skilfully for Your name’s sake.

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Increase Our Faith

When we can’t see clearly and feel bewildered and uncertain, we can pray like the Twelve: “The apostles said unto the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.'” (Lk 17:5) What a great first step in growing our faith: ask God for more! But how will we know He’s answering? What are we asking for?

Faith is knowing what God will do, based on His nature and promises. (He 11:1)

So after asking for faith, seek to know God better. (Mt 7:7) Watch Him, study Him like the apostles did. (1Jn 1:1-2) Every day they followed Him, thought about what He was doing, trying to understand, and they invite us to do the same. (1Jn 1:3)

Study God until we’re seeing His mercy everywhere (Ps 119:64) and it’s filling us with hope (Ps 147:11), until His judgments comfort us. (Ps 119:52) Ask Him to make us understand the way of His precepts so we can talk of His wondrous works (Ps 119:27) and delight ourselves in His commands(Ps 119:47)

As we walk in the light we have fellowship with God (1Jn 1:6-7); as we behold His beauty (Ps 27:4) He transforms into His likeness (2Co 3:18), revealing Himself from faith to faith. (Ro 1:17) At first, we look through a glass darkly, but in time it will be face to face (1Co 13:12); the more we behold Him, the clearer He becomes, until we’re like Him, seeing Him as He is. (1Jn 3:2)

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Take Heed

How do we build up ourselves in our faith (Jud 1:20), cleansing our lives of sin and increasing in holiness? By taking heed to our ways according to God’s Word. (Ps 119:9)

This means being present in our own lives, aware of what we’re thinking and feeling, paying attention to what we’re doing and why we’re dong it, and then comparing this with God’s Law and continually adjusting our behavior to align more and more with God’s standard. (Ps 119:59)

In order to do this effectively we need to be intimately familiar with God’s ways: we should be hiding God’s Word in our heart (Ps 119:11) and meditating on His laws all the time. (Ps 119:97)

But Christians are commonly taught that we grow by praying, studying the Bible and getting involved in church. While these things are necessary for spiritual growth, they aren’t sufficient: it’s possible to do them without moving closer to God and coming to the knowledge of the truth. (2Ti 3:7) Maybe it’s time we tried God’s way!

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My Portion

If all I ever find in life is God, is He enough? Have I chosen Him as my portion(Ps 119:57) Is He my lot in life? And am I content with Him? (Heb 13:5)

Do I need anything more than to behold the beauty of the living God? To know Him (Php 3:10)walking in light, in fellowship with Him? (1Jn 1:7) Do I need more approval than His? (Mt 25:21) Do I need more significance than having a name which only God and I will ever know? (Re 2:17) Do I need to be loved any more, by anyone else, when He loves me so? (1Jn 3:1)

To have everything else and not God, what of it? (Mt 16:26) To know all else but Him, who cares? (Je 9:24) To be accepted by all but God, so what? (Jn 5:44)

To have the infinite, timeless, omnipotent God is to have all that’s worth having. (Mt 13:45-46) To love this world is to miss Him (1Jn 2:15-17) … to miss everything. (Ps 73:25)

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Fear Not

“Worry is the practice of the unfaithfulness of God.” The saying intrigues and challenges me; it helps me understand the nature of unhealthy fear. (Lk_12:32)

Hope is faith resting peacefully in God’s goodness (Ps 125:1); anxiety is doubt accusing God of unfaithfulness before the fact (Php 4:6); it’s expecting to look back on life displeased with God’s care for us. (1Pe 5:7) It’s attacking God’s character (1Jn 5:10b), and so it’s sin. (Rev 21:8)

Instinctive fear of physical danger is good, God’s gift to help us escape when we’re threatened. Concern, caring for others, desiring the best for them in difficulty, is love moving us to good. (2Co 7:12) But living in worry, anxiety, dread … this is not of God (2Ti 1:7); it’s bondage on a spectrum of distrust in God’s faithfulness. Yeshua never felt any of these things. (Ps 23:4)

When we become aware of anxiety we should repent, asking God to increase our faith (Lk_17:5) and help us trust that He is good. (Na 1:7) The fact that He’s always with us (He 13:5-6) means everything He allows in our lives is for a good reason, and ultimately for our good. (Ro 8:28)

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False Brothers

There are thousands of Christian denominations, replete with falsehood and error. This isn’t unreasonable, it’s inevitable: God isn’t easily found or understood, yet He holds each of us accountable to seek and find Him for ourselves. (Ac 17:27) We may neither delegate this responsibility, nor force our beliefs on others. In seeking God independently, we’re all at various stages of our journey, with unique levels of understanding. We all have some truth, and we all have some error.

Our goal in spiritual community, where we find all social classes and cultures, is simply stated: to edify one another, helping each other in our journey after God. (Ep 4:11-13) Being diverse in our ways, gifts, dispositions and wounds, we must defer to one another in matters of preference. (Ro 14:4-5) Yet our goal implies that in matters of truth we are to be seeking unity through thoughtful like-mindedness: [1] encouraging each other where we agree, [2] humbly and prayerfully challenging each other where we differ, and [3] seeking wisdom in each other as we’re searching and growing. (Ro 15:5)

Yet many walk among us who are not on this journey (Php 3:18-19), not seeking God, not seeking truth (2Th 2:10-12), false brothers who exploit the power of religion, enslaving themselves and others. (Ga 2:4) They company with us, enjoying the benefits of community, and appear so much like the rest of us (2Co 11:13-15) that we cannot always tell one from another with certainty; it’s not even our place … only God can do this perfectly.  (Mt 13:28-30)

Even so, in pursuing the goal of spiritual community, God calls us to mark out and avoid those who either [1] express willful contempt for God’s laws (Mt 18:15-17,  1Co 5:12-13) or [2] offend and divide through false doctrine. (Ro 16:17) This must be done kindly but firmly, with wisdom, not as individuals but as a body indwelt by God. (2Co 6:16)

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Prayer Abomination

I’ve often pondered the saying, “It never hurts to ask!” Sometimes I think it does hurt to ask; we shouldn’t lightly impose on others, taking their time and energy for granted. When we ask for something, we should ensure that our hearts are in the right place; selfish, inconsiderate requests are never good.

But how about God? How does He react when people pray, asking Him for things? Is He always delighted when people share their desires with Him?

As in human relationships, it depends on the heart; when the upright seek His help He’s delighted (Pr 15:8), but the prayers of those willfully ignoring His commands are disgusting to Him, an abomination. (Pr 28:9)

We should pray about everything (Php 4:6), ensuring as well as we can that our hearts are always right with God, seeking to walk in the light, in obedience and truth, not presuming we’re in a good place with God simply because we pray. If we’re justifying sin in our life, we’re wasting our time. (Ps 66:18)

God’s love moves Him to be angry with all who persist in willfully ignoring His commands (Ps 7:11), sinning against Himself and others. God’s children don’t do this as a manner of life; they’re elect unto obedience.

God is kind, and often answers the prayers of His enemies, but let’s not kid ourselves or deceive others: there’s no prayer, ritual or religious expression of any kind that covers the stench of rebellion. (De 25:16)

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Behold the Beauty

How do we describe beauty? What makes something beautiful or ugly? Atheists try and explain it by associating it with food or safety … I don’t think so. There’s something spiritual about beauty that defies philosophical naturalism. It’s designed into us for one reason: it’s our radar, enabling us to enjoy God.

The Psalmist desires one thing of God and pursues it: to walk in constant communion with Him, like we did in the Garden, beholding His beauty and seeking to know more and more about Him. (Ps 27:4) It’s why we’re here, what we’re made for; this must become our focus. (Php 3:10)

The beauty of the natural world is a reflection and expression of God, a shadow picture of His glory and majesty. It reminds us of the infinite beauty of God, both physical and spiritual. As our hearts drink in the natural beauty He’s made, our souls can be feeding in the majesty of the infinitude of God, worshiping Him in spirit and truth. (Jn 4:23) To enjoy the shadow and not the reality is to abuse the shadow; it’s to miss everything.

The wisdom in continually seeking a closer relationship with God is really just common sense. (Re 15:4) Just think about it: knowing there’s an infinitely powerful God who designed the entire universe … Who loves us enough to give up His Son to die in our place (Jn 3:16) … and not seeking Him out? Not wanting to know Him and walk with Him and enjoy Him? Can the Creator of beauty itself not be infinitely beautiful? If anything or anyone is worthy of being pursued and known … isn’t God?

Ask and receive; seek and find; knock and the door will open. (Mt 7:7) God wants to be found, to be enjoyed; everything about our design points to this. He’s everything we’ve ever needed or longed for, satisfying beyond comprehension. We can’t possibly imagine how fantastic He is! (1Co 2:9)

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Cleaving to Dust

It’s dry, lifeless, our ultimate decomposition. (Ge 3:19) Who would cling to dust, grasping for it, hanging on to it? What does this mean? Why would anyone do it?

The Psalmist, aware that he’s cleaving to the dust, cries out to God for help, for life. (Ps 119:25) He evidently finds himself in distress, in an unpleasant way, admitting, or perhaps even desiring, a type of death.

Perhaps it’s a longing to escape cruelty, injustice and suffering (Job 3:20-22); perhaps it reflects a numbness, a disorientation, a lostness, an inability to relish God’s power, wisdom, beauty and life (Eph 2:1-3), a desire for this shallow, empty world, a fawning over its trinkets, illusions and titillations. (1Jn 2:15-16)

As ugly as it is, whatever it is, he’s declaring his ways and state before us all exactly as he finds himself to be (Ps 119:26); in knowing God hears the honest, vulerable cry of humility there’s hope. As God enables his understanding he knows he’ll be renewed and restored to bubble over with wonder in the workings of God. (Ps 119:27)

When I find myself unable to delight in God, whether disrupted and overwhelmed by the insanity, cruelty and injustice of this world, or drawn to its emptiness and enticed by its vanity, I sense the stench of death, an old dark way from which I’m now free. I look to God to work in me (Php 2:13), waiting on Him to turn my eyes upward, to focus beyond this pale, temporal horizon, giving me His life to walk in His way(Ps 119:37)

There’s no life without longing, and no good longing for which God Himself is not the ultimate satisfaction. (Ps 16:11)

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The Way

God speaks often of His “way,” (Pr 10:29) contrasting it with other ways. (Ps 1:6). He speaks to our orientation, our leaning, our inclinations and motivation. Pursuing Him isn’t paint by the numbers; it’s not about following rules, rituals and traditions; He calls us to a path, a direction.

Kyoto, Japan

We ask Him to bring us to life in His way (Ps 119:37) and show us the way of His Laws (Ps 119:33), to open our eyes so we can see, to gaze on His beauty and wisdom. (Ps 119:18) We ask Him to take the way of lying out of us (Ps 119:29), to make us understand the way of his precepts (Ps 119:27), and to go in the path of His commandments (Ps 119:35) since we’ve chosen the way of truth. (Ps 119:30)

And mysteriously, the Way is more than just a path: this one is alive! (He 10:19-20) The Way of God is a Being, a divine Person (Jn 14:6) permeating, imbued within, and embodied throughout His Law. This Way dwells in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Php 2:13), living out the way in us, giving us the life we need to obey Him from the heart. (Ps 119:32) Yeshua is who we follow, yet He is also how we follow. As we behold Him, He is the very light that enables us to see Him, and the very Life that perceives His light. (Jn 1:4)

The choices we make over time form a pattern, a way. Ponder the path; motives become choices, tiles in a mosaic displaying our nature to the universe. Ask God Himself to live out His way in us. In aligning ourselves more and more with God’s Way, Torah, Yeshua, the more our lives reflect His light and life.

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