The Knowledge that Leads to Mature Faith

summer_landscape_with_forest_lane_path_pathway_way_going_cg1p52762453c_thA favorite passage of mine is found in John 6. To give a little background, the chapter begins with Jesus feeding 5,000 people with fish and bread. Afterwards, His disciples are crossing the lake, a storm comes and Jesus comes to them walking on the water. Later, He discusses with the crowd who He is as the Bread of Heaven, and the Bread of Life. Many doubt and question Him, and He then speaks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Many of His listeners became offended and because of that, many turned away from following Him. At this point, Jesus turns to the twelve. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (verses 67-69)

Peter and the others undoubtedly did not understand what Jesus meant in speaking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Yet they did not become offended like the others. Why is that? He answers this question by saying, “We have come to believe and to know…”  The Greek word translated “believe” literally means, “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit; to place confidence in.” It can also mean “mere acknowledgement of some fact or event; intellectual faith.”

The word translated “know” means “get a knowledge of, perceive; feel; to know, understand; to become acquainted with.” “It is a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.” In other words, it speaks of experiential knowledge. Peter is, in essence, saying, “We have thought you are truly who You say You are; we have even been confident in what we believe, but more than that, we have come to know You personally. We have been in relationship with You, and we now know without a doubt, that You are the Messiah.”  

Many say they believe in God, in Jesus, yet they get offended with Him when He doesn’t do things the way they think He should, or the way they would like Him to. Deep down, they still believe they know what is right, they are capable of determining what is best in their situations. Rather than searching their own hearts, they decide to turn away from following Him. At some point in our lives, we’ve all done this. Some people will turn back while others will not.

If we are going to grow into a place of mature faith, however, we must truly come to know Him, just as we would get to know someone face to face. Spending time with Him, in worship, prayer, meditating on His Word and entering into His presence enable us to really know His heart. Then, like Peter and the other disciples, we may encounter situations that we do not understand, but knowing His heart will enable us to remain steadfast. Others will doubt and question Him, but we will say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? There is no one besides You. You alone are life, abundant, eternal life.” 

 

Advertisements

3 Keys to Finding Contentment

Peaceful-WomanIt seems to me that finding contentment is one of the greatest challenges of the human race. I know it often is a huge challenge for me, and I see the effects of discontentment all around me every day. Some days I feel more content than others; what about you? On those days when everything seems to be going well; I’m not struggling with some major crisis; I have what I need, and even many things that I want – those are the times I feel the most content. But is that true contentment? I’m not sure if I can honestly say that it is.

According to the dictionary, the word means, the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.” One synonym that comes to mind is peace. To be at peace is to be content, and to be content is to be at peace. A familiar passage of Scripture that speaks of this is Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”  Paul had learned that being content had nothing to do with his external circumstances. 

For me, finding contentment when circumstances are not in my favor does not come naturally. I would guess that most of us are the same way. After all, we are human and we still have a body of flesh to contend with. Flesh wants what it wants, when it wants it, much like a small child. It is self, therefore it is selfish and greedy. Our flesh is never satisfied, never content, never at peace. And it never will be. Paul had learned this after facing many trials and troubles along his journey. In the verses above the ones quoted here, we see how he arrived at this place of contentment no matter what. Beginning in verse 4, he outlines it for us.

First, we must rejoice in the Lord – always. This means to be glad, to take delight, and make joyful. We do this as we focus upon Him and His goodness and nature, which leads us to worship, thank, and praise Him for who He is.

Second, we must display gentleness, or patience, and be fair and mild tempered with everyone. This is not something you can fake, at least not for long. This is the nature of Christ who was meek and humble. His nature must be displayed in and through us. We are to be peacemakers, just as He was.

Third, instead of worrying and being anxious, we are to pray, give our cares to God and thank Him for answering and taking care of us and our needs.

The result of these three activities will be that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. We will have peace that doesn’t make sense to the world, or even to us at times. Paul then goes on to say that we must think about, or meditate upon, those things that are good. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Train your mind to look for the good in everything and everyone. I have been learning this for the past year or so, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude! You can do it too, just try it and see!

This was Paul’s secret to finding contentment no matter what. He also acknowledged that it was God’s grace that enabled him to do this. Elsewhere, he spoke of crucifying his flesh daily. This is something we all have to do if we want to be at peace. Our flesh and spirit are constantly at war, but the spirit, in union with God’s Spirit, must rule and subdue the flesh. Everyone wants to be content and at peace in the depths of their being. God created us that way, and His all-sufficient grace that enabled Paul to do this, can, and will, enable us as well!

Are God’s Dreams Your Dreams?

Door-to-Better-WorldThe topic of this article has come to my mind on several occasions over the years, and again recently. For some time, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of the emotions of God. Many in the Church have believed for far too long that the main emotion God feels is anger – mostly toward us when we fail. Thankfully, that has been and is changing in recent years and this is good news. God is very much an emotional being, just as we are, for we are made in His image. He feels joy, sorrow, sadness, anger, happiness, and other typical emotions. But have you ever considered that God also has dreams? Not the kind of dreams we have when we sleep, for He never slumbers. Dreams for us, for His bride, for His kingdom, for what He intends to accomplish on the earth. He has given us dreams as well; desires that we long to experience and accomplish.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a familiar verse, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The word “plans” used there literally means, “purpose, invention, imaginations, and thoughts.”  Those words are mostly synonymous with dreams. What parent doesn’t have dreams for their children? They want to see them prosper, succeed, and become mature, healthy adults. As broken humans, we sometimes project our unfulfilled dreams on our children, but God isn’t like that. He knows and wants what is best for every one of us.

Religion has lied to us and told us that our dreams are selfish and ungodly. Many believers feel guilty when they experience the desires of their heart being fulfilled. But God said, ‘Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) It is not wrong to desire or dream, as long as those desires don’t replace Him. I believe this verse is also saying that the dreams and desires that are in our hearts are not our own, but His, especially when we are following Him, by His grace. He loves to bless His children, even more so when we are living for Him. As a parent, I always loved my kids when they were young, and wanted to give them whatever they wanted (within reason, of course!) Yet when they went out of their way to do something special for me, it made me want to do so even more. This is just a small example of how God feels toward us.

I believe it pleases Him greatly when we acknowledge and passionately pursue the dreams He has put in our hearts. With no fear of failure, no guilt, shame, or condemnation from religious people who try to tell us we are being selfish or greedy, or living for ourselves. One of a parent’s greatest pleasures is when the dreams they have for their kids are embraced and pursued with joy by their kids. If we feel that way, how much more does God? Of course, we still love them even if they choose to go a different way, and so does He. We should at least consider the possibility that those desires and dreams in our heart may actually be His. Ask Him for a new perspective and pray for the courage to follow those dreams, trusting His grace to lead and empower you. What dreams has God put in your heart? Are you pursuing them? If not, why not? Talk to Him about it.

Truth is a Refuge

He will rescue you from the trap of the hunter and from the plague of calamities; He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge: His truth is a shield and protection. – Psalm 91:3-4

Psalm 91 is a favorite psalm of many believers. In it, God has given us a powerful picture oftruth the protection that is ours when we take refuge in Him. This doesn’t mean we are exempt from suffering, however. More important than just physical safety, God is able to keep our soul from eternal destruction. Nothing can snatch us from His hand. Nothing can separate us from His love. He will deliver us from the schemes of the enemy when we put our trust in Him.

The enemy, who prowls around hunting for his next victim, cannot find me when I am hidden in the secret place of the Most High. I am also safe from the plague of calamities – circumstances that test, hinder, and try to defeat me; that steal my peace and joy. I am oblivious to them when I am hidden in Him, for He is all I see and am aware of. When trials come, keeping my eyes fixed on Him instead of my problems will enable me to stay at peace.

He will rescue me though it may often appear as if I will be overtaken. He will come and snatch me out before I am overcome. He is my God, in whom I trust. I must trust Him no matter what is going on around me or how things may appear. He will rescue me, for that is His promise and He cannot lie.

Pinion is another word for wing or feather. His wings and feathers cover me. His truth is a shield and protection; a covering and refuge. His truth is His Word, His name, His nature, and His character, for He is the truth. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus. Truth is my covering, my shield and protection; it is my refuge where I am safe. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are kept safe.

When I live, walk, and speak truth I have nothing to fear from God or from man, for the truth sets me free. The enemy has no place in me when I walk in agreement with God, so I don’t fear what he could do to me either. Truth is the belt that holds all the other parts of the armor of God in place. To live in truth is to live in Him, and to live in Him is to live in truth. There is no darkness or deception in Him.

 

God’s Process in Reformation

images“See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  (Jeremiah 1:10)

A word the Lord has been speaking to me over the past few months is reformation. I kept hearing this in my spirit before I read that October 31st, this year, will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. To reform, in it’s most basic sense, means to form again. This brings to mind God’s words to His chosen people, Israel, as given through Jeremiah, the prophet. “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you My message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, Israel.” (Jer. 18:2-6)

Our God is in the reformation business. The point of His reforms is to restore that which is fallen to its original state. However, He goes above and beyond even that, promising that the latter state will be more glorious than the former. (See Job 42:12; Hag. 2:9; Is. 65:17; Ezek. 36:11, etc.) The new heavens and earth will be far more glorious than the Garden of Eden. The last Adam, Christ, was far above the first one. The New Testament far exceeded the Old, in terms of the revelation of God. He restores, reforms, and remakes, not because the first was a mistake or incorrect, but because the first one had fulfilled its purpose. The first served His plan in its season, but the new season required something higher and greater.

God’s commission to His servant Jeremiah was to bring reformation to nations and kingdoms. His instructions give us much needed insight into the process required for such a God-sized task. The first step required four forms of destruction: to uproot, as in pulling something up by the roots; to pluck out, and expel; to root out. To tear down, as in to be pulled or broken down, cast down, and to be broken. To destroy, meaning, to die, to perish, do away with, and to blot out. And to overthrow, which means, to throw down, to break through, to break down, to be destroyed. After this process was complete, it was time to rebuild. This was a two-step process: first, to build, meaning, to rebuild, establish, cause to continue, with the idea of permanence. And finally, to plant, such as in a garden; to fix, to establish and fasten. It is interesting and worth noting that the destruction took twice as long, and was twice as hard, as the rebuilding.

I believe this is what God is doing in our nation, and in the American Church. Events are rapidly taking place that many believe to be destructive, not realizing, perhaps, that this is just the beginning of the process of reformation. We still have a long way to go before the rebuilding can begin. In the meantime, we must keep our eyes fixed on the One who loves to make things better than they were to begin with. We must trust that He sees and knows all; nothing is hidden from Him. He always knows what is best. He knows exactly what He is doing. We must pray for our leaders, and continue to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done in our nation, in the Church, and throughout this world, as it is in heaven. This is all a part of His plan, as He has said, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Freedom from the Fear of Man

imagesProverbs 29:25 says, Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”  The word “fear” literally means, fear; extreme anxiety; anxious care; quaking or trembling. The fear of man is also known as the fear of what people think. When we fear man, we fear what others think, say or believe about us. We fear their judgment and rejection. We fear upsetting or offending them. The fear of man is basically a spirit of control that we empower by believing its lies.

The above verse confirms this by saying this fear “will prove to be a snare.” The word “snare” means a noose or snare used for trapping animals; a hook for the nose; a trap. When we give place to the fear of man, we become ensnared, trapped and in bondage to this controlling spirit. It manifests itself through insecurity, intimidation, manipulation, cowardice, rejection, and potentially paralyzing fear when dealing with others. We give other people the power to control what we say, do, feel, think and believe. When we fear people, we become people pleasers. But we cannot please people and God at the same time. Paul made this clear in Galations 1:10, Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 

The good news is, that like every other form of bondage, God has made it possible to get free from people pleasing and the fear of man. It isn’t by rebuking these spirits or doing deliverance, though those may be of some benefit. Freedom will come when we receive the revelation of our true identity in Christ. When we become confident and secure in His love and affirmation, we no longer look to people to meet those needs. The truth of God’s love and passion for us as His beloved sons and daughters will set us free from the enemy’s lies. As Solomon so wisely put it, our trust in the Lord will keep us safe from the fear of man.

Our trust, or faith, in His goodness and grace toward us will give us the assurance we need, and cause us to rejoice in what He says is true of us. His word, His love, His desire, and His many promises, instill the confidence in our hearts that we all need and long for. Truthfully, no matter what we do, or don’t do, say, or don’t say, people are going to believe what they want, whether it is true or not. We cannot control that, nor should we let them control us by giving them power over us. God, who is Truth, knows the ultimate, perfect truth about us. He has seen us at our very worst, and still, He chose us anyway! Unlike people who are fickle and may love us one minute and hate us the next, His opinion of us never changes. He is always with us and for us and really, in light of that, nothing else matters!

 

Thoughts On A Life of Fruitfulness

Charlene S Hughes

“I am the real vine and My Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of Me but fails to bear fruit, He cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned.” – John 15:1-3

Jesus is the vine we have been joined to by the Father. Our Father is the gardener who takes care of all the plants in the garden. The vine is planted in the soil, and gets its nutrients from the soil. Life flows into it from the soil, through every part, and into the fruit. There is no life apart from the vine. Though there are nutrients in the soil, the soil cannot produce fruit on its own; only the vine can produce fruit. Jesus said He is the real

View original post 607 more words