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June 2007
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Armor of Light

The night is far spent, the day is at hand.  Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  (Romans 13:12 NKJV)

Each day when we awake from our slumber, we are given a new day to live our lives for God.  A new day of choices.  A new day of promises.  A new day to be alive for God's glory.  I love how Paul encourages us to put on the armor of light, Jesus Christ (Ro 13:14) so that we can overcome our sinful nature and live for God.

I'm thankful that I am a Christian who has been given the power to change from the inside through God's Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me.   How could I live for God otherwise? How else would I have the power to change my heart so that my actions result not from disciplined behavior but from true change that will endure even through the stress of life? 

I love God's promise in Galatians regarding the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  Gal 5:22 NKJV

We will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit though, only if we allow God's Holy Spirit to have access to our hearts and minds.  In other words, it is most likely that if we never or even just occasionally pray and read our Bibles, we will not have very much of this "fruit" in our lives.  Think about it.  If we don't spend time with God, how can He, or why would He, for that matter, give us those blessings? 

I want to live my life in a consistent walk with the Holy Spirit.  I want to let people see God in me and through me before they see me because I've so filled my mind and heart with God's thoughts that the armor of light shields them from my darkness.  That's where the power truly exists -when we can remove ourselves from the picture so that God can be seen.   Then we are fully armed.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  (Romans 13:14 NIV)

What armor are you wearing?  Your own, someone else's, or that of Jesus?

1) How much time have you spent directly with God through His Word today, this week, this month?

2) How does your time compare reading the Bible versus time spent reading what someone else says about the Bible (i.e. in a devotional such as this?)

3) What can you say "no" to so you can say "yes" to spending more time with God and getting to know Him so you can put on the "armor of light"?

Sober Judgment

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 measure of faith God has given you. - Romans 12:3 NIV

The monster reared its ugly head in the local Bible college library last Thursday afternoon.  It wasn't the first time I'd seen its face, but it was the most prominent sighting of late and the most attention grabbing.  And wouldn't you know, the monster was also witnessed by a friend of mine.  Go figure.  This monster was pride ... mine.  But people should be quiet in libraries, right?  Especially the librarians of such libraries.  Therefore you would think that meetings - with people talking - should not be held in the middle of library quiet areas ...especially if I was present, working on what I thought was a noble cause.  I hope you can grasp the scene.  Because of my entitlement to the perfect environment and the fact that I wasn't receiving the peace and quiet that I deserved, I made a comment to my friend, packed up my stuff in a huff and left ... madder than a hornet.

To make a long story short, this incident, along with some kind words (in that they were the painful truth) from a friend, caused me to dig deep inside and realize that my reaction stemmed from pride.  Ouch.  As I looked back on the past several months of my life, I realized that this wasn't just a one time thing.  All of the little irritations I feel on a daily basis also stemmed from pride.  Why pride?  Because most of my frustrations in life result from interruptions of my time and my agenda.  I'll say it again...pride...because after all, my time is too valuable to be interrupted by a barking dog, a slow person in traffic, etc.  God revealed to me again the painful truth that no matter how many things I do for Him, if I'm not being who He wants me to be, I cannot please Him for Romans 8:8 says

Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (NIV)

And for good measure, scripture further describes some acts of the sinful nature (my emphasis added):

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 4:19-21)

Another ouch.  I want to please God.  I want to hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant" from God someday as they pertain to me.  But I cannot please God if am walking around with the sin of a prideful spirit, no matter how subtle it is.  Now, I've got to take action with some scripture memory (Ro 8:8 will be my choice) and a lot of prayer of Psalm 139:23-24.  I've got some work to do.

Be your judge:

1) What subtle sin would a sober judgment of your spirit reveal?

2) When was the last time you asked God to reveal sin in your life to you so that you could change it?

Dear Father, I thank you that you take the time to chastise your children, even me, for those things that you do not approve of.  Forgive me for my pride.  Continue to mold me into the woman you want me to be, even if it hurts sometimes.  Reveal to me the areas you wish me to change.  I know that you want what is best of me and for me.  Amen.

Equipped to Stand

Christians, are you aware that just because you are who you are, being children of God, that Satan has it out for you?  What are you going to do about it?  The good news is that God has given us all of the tools to defeat our wily adversary, Satan.  Come find out more as I'm over at LWG today in my post "Equipped to Stand" at LWG today. 

I hope to see you there!  :)

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Nonconformity...God's Way

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

I've heard all of my life from a variety of people how they refused to "conform" to various fashion trends or social norms.  In fact, while I've usually been one who tries to do what society expects of me and typically have no problem submitting to authority, I have on occasion been determined not to get swept up by the latest fad or craze.

People who say they are nonconformists, are typically viewed as rebels, aren't they?  What would you say then, if I told you that according to the Bible, God wants us to be such?  Of course, as usual, God's definition is quite different than man's definition.  Here is the difference:  Our definition of nonconformity is "me"-focused, God's definition is God-focused.  In other words, when God says not to conform, He really means to conform ... to His way, forsaking all else.  We and the "me" are left out of the equation.

Why should we forsake the world's thinking and conform to God's ways?  First of all, as Christians, we do owe God for the price He paid for our sins in order to allow us to attain eternal life in heaven with Him.  The previous chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans attests to this debt.  Secondly, if we seek God rather than the things of this world, we will eventually figure out just what exactly God put us here for.  Each of us was created with our own unique talents and abilities for a specific role to be carried out on this earth for God's Kingdom.  If we don't transform our minds to God's way of thinking, we will miss out on the very purpose of our lives. 

How can we transform our minds to learn God's will? Maintaining a daily relationship with God through prayer, Bible reading, and attempt to apply God's word to our lives is the only way.  All of these things combined with attending a church and being connected to a group of like-minded believers is the only way.  Singing praise songs won't do it.  Attending church once a week won't cut it.  Prayer and "sensing" God's presence can't do it.  Bible reading cannot be left out.  Unfortunately, I believe that statistics say most Christians do neglect this most important part of their relationship with God.

So now, what do you say?  Are you up for the challenge to be a nonconformist to this world but be a conformer to God's ways, as the Bible asks us to do as a mere "reasonable"  service (Romans 12:1 KVJ) for God? 

  1. To what are you conforming your life to?  Be honest in your evaluation.
  2. How is your prayer life? your bible study?  Are you renewing your mind daily?
  3. What are you doing in your local church to accomplish God's plan in your life?
  4. What would that good, acceptable and perfect will of God look like for your specific passions and skillset?
  5. What step are you going to take today?

Ultimate Control

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

I have pondered this verse many times over the last several weeks as I've been studying Romans and have concluded that while it is a comforting and faith giving verse, it is rarely considered within the whole context of scripture.  Because of this, the verse is robbed of much of its power. 

Do you know to what this verse is referring?  It is referring to the "bigness" of God's almighty sovereignty within the context of all of human history.  Yes, I love it too when I think of how God works all things - even those things I don't like - in my life for good, because yes, I do love God.  However, we must remember that God can take care of so much more than just our personal households, marriages, finances, relationships, health, etc.  God has got everything from eternity past to eternity present all under control. 

Let's explore together how big this verse really is.

Remember to think big, okay?  The apostle Paul wrote the words of this verse after he had been explaining the following in Romans 1-8:

1.  The sin of mankind.
2.  The wrath of God against sin.
3.  Jews and Gentiles are equally sinful.
4.  The universal need for a Savior from God's wrath.
5.  God's solution to our need - Jesus as a sacrifice.

Now, when you consider the verse of Romans 8:28, what do you see?  God knew that mankind would be sinners through their free will even though He hated sin and could not be in the presence of it. God's chosen people, the Jews betrayed Him time and time again, however God used the betrayal of His chosen race of people to give the rest of us (the gentiles) a chance at eternal life.  Are you starting to see the bigger picture of God's sovereignty yet?    And not only did the Jews' downfall pave the way for us, but we (the gentiles) will be used to ultimately win the Jews back to Jesus.  Paul states so in Romans 11:14.

God's plan or solution to save us from His inevitable but righteous judgment for our sins.  - His Son Jesus' death on a cross -was an incredible sacrifice on His part that pales in comparison to any mixture of things I could ask God to work in my life for good.  What I've written here cannot even begin to explain how vast God's greatness is or explain the workings of all of human history for the good of God's plan.  My hope is that it might have expanded a way of thinking so that we all can start realizing how big our God and His sacrifices for us really are.

Think big:

1) How big is God to you?

2) How can knowing that God is in control of the universe and all created things help you in your faith?

3) Challenge: Read through the book of Romans in one sitting sometime this week.  Get lost in its richness.  Consider the majesty and power of God.  Know His ultimate control. 

Unsearchable Depth

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and His ways past finding out!

For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His counselor?

Or who has first given to Him, and it shall  be repaid to him?

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.  Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

Today, let's just think about the passage above, shall we?  I heard a pastor say one time that comparing our wisdom to God's is like comparing a candle to the sun.  What are your thoughts?  What does this passage mean to you?

Sword vs. Pocket Knife

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  1 Cor 1:25 NKJV

If you were in a battle and given a choice of weapon with which to fight, would you choose a pocket knife or a sword to slay your enemy?  While I think the answer to this question is obvious, I am shocked to see that a lot of Christians and even those in leadership are choosing to "fight" with a pocket knife.  I'm saddened by preachers and "bible" teachers who teach their congregations and students more from what they've learned through other men's writings than from their own study of God's word.  I don't understand how the riches of what God has to say can be replaced by watered down explanations of the Bible from other men, quoted to the "flock" as if their words were just as important as God's Word.  Please don't misunderstand.  I am not against all use of scholarly quotations.  A good quote from time to time is an effective tool.  However, I still hold on to the belief that the most powerful and life-changing quotes will come from the pages of The Book, God's Word, not just any book.

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  1 Cor 1:20 NKJV

Knowing this, I would rather have God's foolishness any day than man's wisdom.  I would rather learn through the God-breathed/inspired writings of Paul of how God intertwined all of human history so that I as a non-Jew (gentile) could also partake in the rich inheritance of eternal life, than hear through a contemporary author why all of this is so.  I want the undiluted, untainted, get-right-to-the-point words of God to fill my ears, heart and mind.  The depth of God's wisdom is unending, but we can unearth it directly for ourselves if we work hard at searching for truth.  I want to fight in this battle for the souls of men with a double-edged sword, not a pocket knife.

Basic Training...

1.  What weapon are you taking into the battle each day? 

2.  How adept are you at wielding the double-edged sword of God's Word?

3.  What steps can you take today to get skilled in the use of your "weapon", the Bible?

NOTE:  I will gladly point anyone in the direction to getting to know God's Word better if they sincerely want to learn.  Please don't hesitate to contact me regarding your next steps in applying God's word to your life.

Tug of War

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. - Ro 7:19 NASB

We can all relate to the apostle Paul's statement above, can't we?  How often do you find yourself slipping back into old habits or attitudes that you thought you had slain for good?  How often do you fight yourself with that current habit or thought pattern you are trying to break?  Yes, the good that we want to do, we don't do, but the bad we want not to do, that we do.  It is a tug of war, indeed, caused by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit of God inside of us.  The Holy Spirit is what causes us to be "torn" on the inside by the battle between our old and new selves. 

Yes, we are new creations (2 Cor 5:17) at the time of salvation, but we don't get spiritually strong overnight.  We must purposefully access the power of the Holy Spirit through reading of God's Word, prayer, scripture memorization, and fellowship with other mature believers.  We must renew our minds to God's way of thinking and not our own.  This process takes time, but it is possible because the same power that raised Christ from the dead to everlasting life and reign at God's right hand is ours for the taking.  God wants to empower us to do all that He has asked us to do.   Here is what the Holy Spirit can help us accomplish 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. - Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

The fruit - those good character qualities described above - is ours for plucking off of the tree.  God can help us to do the things we couldn't before and be the person we weren't before.  The tug of war inside of us may rage on, but our good nature will get stronger and eventually win out as we grow in our faith day by day.  We can win the game.  We can get the fruit.

To tug at your heart:

How is your tug of war game going?  If you feel that you are losing the battle, how often are you in God's Word to gather strength and nourishment?  What are you going to do today about your lack of strength?


Inside Out Change

What do you "look" like on the inside? Does your thought life match your outward persona or do you merely fake good behavior and attitudes day after day?   Come join me over at Laced with Grace for a look at how God gives us the power to change from the inside out.

I hope to see you there! :)

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Living Through Faith

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2 NKJV

I could have titled this post "Living Through Jesus" just as well as anything because it is through Jesus that we have the ability to live.  It is pleasantly ironic that I am reading through the book of Romans now as I'm getting into the heart of my speaking schedule for Stonecroft ministries.  Ironic, it is, because my talk is about how my faith and applying God's Word to my life changed my life.  Believing in Jesus Christ as your personal savior will change your life.  I guarantee it.  It enables us not only to avoid an eternity in a fiery hell made for Satan and his angels, but provides us with peace and joyful hope in this life on earth.  Let's take a look at this powerful passage.   Through faith in Jesus we live as we have:

JUSTIFICATION through faith...

Faith in Jesus as the only way to heaven is the bedrock of faith.  Through faith in God's son Jesus who paid the price for our sins, God doesn't look upon us with eyes of anger because of our sin.  Because we are metaphorically covered with Jesus' blood after we personally (as opposed to saying we believe just because we go to church) pray to God and ask Him for forgiveness of our sins and accept Jesus in to our hearts and lives, God will accept us as righteous into heaven.  Jesus bought our justification - our reason to be allowed into God's presence - with his death and resurrection.

FAITH QUESTION #1: How well do you know my Jesus?  What change has knowing Him sparked in you?

PEACE through faith...

Faith has its place both in the past and the present with respect to peace.   With respect to the past, through justification we Christians have escaped the wrath of God and the unsettling lack of peace that results in not knowing our eternal destiny.  Knowing we will be in heaven definitely elicits feelings of peace.  However peace also comes in our daily lives as we give our trials and worries over to God in prayer so He can deal with them or help us to deal with them.  (Phi 4:6-7)

FAITH QUESTION #2: How is your inner peace?

JOY through faith...

Joy.  If we have nothing else in this world but our faith in Jesus we have both more than we deserve and a more glorious future in store for us then we can even imagine.  Though troubles may come into our lives, we can keep smiling through them because we can know beyond all doubt that someday - even if it is after our earthly life is over - we will see a better day.  We can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

FAITH QUESTION #3: How thankful are you for the things God has done for you? 

This passage is so rich with truth that I think I could write and write and write about it.  If I did, I would never do it justice anyway, so I will sign off for the time being with this prayer for you, dear reader, from scripture:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Ro 15:13)