Trials and hard times…who wants them? But as Susie Hawkins asks “what makes you think you’re going to escape it and the rest of us have to go through it” In other words what makes you so special that you do not have to experience trials but it is fine if I have to? That is how many of us see trials…why me God? The crux of the issue is really this: Do we trust God enough to walk through a trial with Him at our side or do we vacillate day to day just because it doesn’t fit in with our schedule of the day/week/month/year?
It is when I am in this frame of mind that I turn back to James 1 and Psalm 91 and it is there I find the answer if I am really willing to look and listen. Listen first to James as he asks: Do you want to be perfect? Do you want to have your faith strong? Do you want to be complete or remain deficient? Do you want to be single minded or are you only faithful today but tomorrow you are not? What is our answer to those questions?
Secondly, If I am really ready to get God involved with me in this trial do I see myself like the ocean which recedes and returns with mixed waves? Do I really and truly want to know Him and His character? Am I only faithful when not facing a trial or faithful also in the trial? Do I truly believe Him and His words? It is then that I need to return to Psalm 91 and see what is there for me: God alone is my refuge, my shelter in this storm of life. I can but will I trust Him? He can cover me with his loving arms and wings. The enemy sends his darts and arrows but will I rest knowing that under this protection he can only send them but they will not reach me. In addition, God has placed his angelic bodyguards around me.. Are my eyes like the servant of Elisha that could not see but when Elisha prayed he saw an entire army surrounding them protecting them? How often do I not see because my eyes are on the circumstances not on Him. Open my eyes Lord to see! Not only that but when I cling to Him and let Him guide me in this trial He will set me upon that pinncacle so I can see what truly was happening and where I have come from. There is not a better view than sitting on the rock higher than I to see the valley below where the battle is raging.
Thankful to Susie: https://bible.org/seriespage/3-being-doer-word-james-1 and Peggy Joyce Ruth/Angelia Ruth Schum “Psalm 91: God’s Shield of Protection” for their views on how to face the trials of life.
Over the past few weeks we have been inundated with photos, news articles and then the shooting in Charleston. The latter showed us truly: One can only face a tragedy like this when you know this principle: It is ALL ABOUT JESUS! And that has been whole purpose of the letter titled simply: Hebrews.
The author has spent 13 chapters exhorting the believers to stand strong and firm in their faith. It is choosing to abandon the world’s standards to live and walk by faith. Part of that is knowing how to forgive when the unforgivable happens, when your loved ones are no longer with you and you cannot touch them, speak to them, and hear their responses. The heartache is deep and only through the forgiving power of Jesus can one get through it.
The author exhorts them to remember this: It is all about Jesus and that He alone be glorified. Our external works, what we say and what we do are mere pictures of our love for Him; for His sacrifice; for His work of grace; for His example. But, all that we do is mere rubbish if we do it for our glory and not for His. The whole reason that God prepared a body for him was so that he might be the perfect Lamb of God. He is superior to angels, Moses and anyone else and it is because of His sacrifice that we can draw near to the throne of God. His sacrifice cleanses our consciences because He endured the cross. And this is the reason we can cling to this promise: as our Good Shepherd He will never leave us nor abandon us. And this is the point of the entire letter to the Hebrews: it is all about Jesus and His glory.
John Piper sums up Hebrews this way: “Christ has revealed himself to us again and again for our encouragement and our hope and our perseverance, so that we might have strength and love to meet together and stir each other up to live well and to die well by faith, which is the assurance of things hoped for.”
I don’t know about you but my heart aches for those 9 families in Charleston and their church. But, I am also trusting that Romans 8 is also true: we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, That young man had listened so long to hate speech that he thought he had the last word but God alone has the last word. The world is watching …are we forgiving enough to let God perform His good work?
Today as we watch the news our hearts are filled with much sadness by the many atrocities around our world. But God wants us to see that it is at times like this that we must be bold in our prayers for those who are blinded by the enemy and do NOT know the truth so that they may come to the knowledge of who Jesus really is and who God is.
TRUTH: The Holy Word presents the case of the righteous vs the wicked (the ungodly) from Genesis to Revelation that we may be discerning of the ways of Satan.
TRUTH: But there is also another reason and it is so that we may confidently approach God with weeping and praying for their lost souls. We know from history that the words of Paul have come true in more than one century: “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” The why is clear: “the one who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” [Jn 16] because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.” [2Co 4:4]
TRUTH: We must bow before the Father and pray that their eyes of their heart be enlightened so that they may know the hope that is true and everlasting; that they may come to the knowledge of the true God; that the blindness that Satan has passed over their eyes may be removed and they see with their eyes and understand with their heart and turn to God and be healed. [John 12].
TRUTH: Beloved we are blessed to know the truth. Be bold before the Father and pray with boldness for the lost.
The Holy Spirit is speaking and I am listening. Sometimes I listen really well and other times I put on the headphones to listen but in reality I am in another world. In my reading today I was in Matthew and heard the religious leaders taunt Jesus for not following the traditions but Jesus countered with why are you not obeying the Commandments of God. How often do we “do” but not “listen” because we have our own agenda.
Give me a soft heart, ears to hear, and a mind to discern. Then I can be open to the Spirit’s nudging and His direction. But more often than not it is because as I said I have my own agenda. The chorus repeats in my head “open the eyes of my heart Lord.” That is what I need. This is one of my favorite verses…maybe I need to change the latter quesion: am I listening.
Have you ever been hit between the eyes with hard questions that stir you to move beyond where you are? You know the facts but you are failing to implement them in real life. The Holy Spirit comes and use the Word to wake you up. This is what the author of Hebrews 5 hopes to achieve. He lovingly has drawn a picture for the reader of the supremacy of Christ in all facets. Now in Heb 5 he adds that is Jesus alone is the eternal priest who was appointed by God to be the perfect Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. He is an eternal high priest after the order of Melchizekek. Thus Jesus is superior to angels, superior to Moses and now superior to Aaron. And yet in his humanity he suffered, prayed deeply, was tempted yet without sin. This is why he could “[become] the source of [our] eternal salvation.”
Why then does the author digress? It is because he had warned the listeners of drifting, of neglecting their salvation. But, there is a greater problem–they were still infants in their understanding of the basic principles of the gospel. They knew Jn 3:16 but not the greater implication.[In fact that is all they have in their arsenal of weapons when they should have memorized and used more against the wiles of the evil one.] They were like the disciples who over and over asked “what does he mean?” They should be teachers but just want their ears tickled. These readers were not hungering, thirsting or being trained to discern truth from error. Truly Beloved these are some hard questions we need to answer also for ourselves.
Do we hunger for the solid food of the Word? Can we discern truth from error? Are we going and making disciples?
Living in the war zone is tough and only the strong prevail for the enemy does not lay down his arms even after a defeat as we saw in the life of our Lord. “so when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time.” [Luke 4] Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews admonished the readers that “solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.” [Heb 5] The letter to the Ephesians reveals where their armor had a weak point.
Beloved the devil knows the right opportunity, the right method and more importantly which piece of armor is weak. There we must “stay alert” to his ways and be discerning. The Ephesians had started strong but the devil saw a weakness in their armor and it was this: They had lost their first love! They could quote the Bible; they attended the church but it was all dead orthodoxy because their love was waning. Jesus not only rebuked them but called them to repent. And then his scary pronouncement: if they do not return to their first love he will come and snuff out their light. Today the church is under attack and why it is vital that our love for Christ and the church is renewed daily. God has given us the Holy Spirit within us and the church around us. What part of the Ephesian letter applies to us? Are we checking our armor for weak points? Is our love being renewed daily?
Nope, war is ugly and there are more victims than victors. but, spiritual wars are even uglier. Let me explain:
Here’s what it looked like.
Before I began this post I experienced an onslaught of the powers of darkness overshadowing me. It was more powerful than I have experienced in a long time. That is what happens when you come against these strongholds of the “enemy” Satan. But, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians I began to pray: Strengthen me Holy Spirit in my inner man for Satan is my enemy and he does not want me to write this nor to share it. Just as quickly as the forces of darkness began to diminish. How often do we not utilize the tool of prayer in such strong words. But, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were interceding for me and I must believe that this is why Satan’s or his demon’s powers were thwarted. And now precious ones to the post!
This is War and It Ain’t Pretty!
This is the truth regarding a believer’s battle! This is real war Beloved lest we think otherwise!
Paul was all too familiar with walking in the flesh as well as walking in the Spirit and what lay ahead for the Ephesians. Recall what he told the Ephesian elders: “after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Jesus said “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves.” Who better than Peter to remind us that Satan himself roams about seeking whom he may devour and audaciously demands that we be sifted as wheat for he experienced it in real life. BUT, just as Christ prayed for Peter that his faith not fail, he sits at the right hand of God interceding for us. In addition, the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.”
Take heart Beloved and prepare for the spiritual battle you will face daily moment by moment. Pray boldly that God would “grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person” because the real battle begins in the mind.[See above for my real life experience today!] Our real enemy is not flesh and blood but spiritual forces that are invisible to the naked eye. Yet, Satan cannot vanquish: truth, righteousness, the good news of peace, faith, salvation and the word of God. Be conscious that a spiritual battle is raging; be knowledgeable of Satan’s schemes of deception and untruths. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Imitate Christ, put on your armor!
Until we come to grips who we were before we were touched by the Bread of Life through His pouring out of the Living Water upon our dead souls, we are incapable of understanding the power of the rejuvenating work of the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the blind man reveals the wonder given to a man born in blindness which is how we were. “I do know one thing – that although I was blind, now I can see.”[Jn 9] In addition we were a slave to our master the Devil, and as a lover of darkness we did his bidding. Jesus told the Pharisees; you do what your father desires, murdering and plotting murder. We were in this “slough of despond” of the very things God hates! (see Prov 6:16-19)
It was into this Jesus came to rescue us pouring out upon us His unblemished blood to wash our scarlet sins to become white like wool that God Himself may get the praise and glory. Thus we who were dead in our sins and trespasses have been “saved through faith—not of works for they are as filthy rags in His sight. [Is 64] But, rather God lavished his gift upon us awakening us from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit. And now as alive we are to perform what He predestined us to do: good works as a testimony to His work in us.
 Quote from Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan’
Paul put pen to parchment and crafted a beautiful a snail mail letter to his beloved Ephesians to encourage them to not lose their first love. Take time today to hover over each sentence anticipating what God also wants you to know through his servant Paul. It is because of your faith in the Lord Jesus you have been blessed with the blessings from eternity past. The eyes of your heart have been enlightened to the truth and you have been blessed with an inheritance that will not fade away. You are an adopted child of God with all of the rights and privileges of a natural born child. Your adoption document is irrevocable—signed, sealed and delivered with the power of the Holy Spirit. You are a child of the King and the recipient of God’s lavished love. And all of this came with a price lest you should forget and lose sight of this blessing. It came when you were redeemed with the blood sacrifice of the firstborn Son so that your trespasses might be forgiven; all accomplished by the incomparable greatness of God’s power. Beloved this was not some happenstance occurrence but God kindly intended for it in eternity past to the praise of his glory.
Cling to these words: “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” And just think, God planned this in eternity past!
This can also be found here: https://www.facebook.com/bible.org where we are doing the NT, Ps and Prov each day. You would be right on schedule to begin Ephesians with us today.