Month: February 2024

Keep Watch and Pray

It is not difficult to get burdened down by the barrage of frightening information we are privy to daily. One evening my husband and I were discussing such information to the point that our moods declined and nothing positive seemed to be within our grasp. The Holy Spirit impressed on me that I needed to let go of my focus on the work of the enemy; and instead, concentrate on who the Lord is, and the work He does.

I immediately turned my attention to the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations that describe the unstoppable and unassailable power of the Lord. These scriptures made plain that God is indeed in charge of everything, form beginning to end. Then I opened to Matthew 26: 31-54:

On the Mount of Olives—just before the crucifixion of Jesus—He revealed to the disciples that that they would all (not just Peter) desert Him that night. Furthermore, Peter vehemently denied that he would ever do this; yet later he did just that. Afterwards, when they all went to the Garden of Gethsemane for Jesus to pray, Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled, and He asked those closest to Him—Peter, James, and John—to watch with Him. After He had fervently prayed, Jesus found them sleeping. Now Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” Incredibly, after a second session of prayer, Jesus returned and found them sleeping again; He said nothing but returned for a third time to petition His Father. Following this intense time of prayer, Jesus said to them:

On the next post, we will examine how this experience with Jesus and His disciples applies to believers today.

The Lord Reigns Over All

Sometimes the world seems completely out of control, and we can’t do anything about it. Nevertheless, scripture assures us that although circumstances might frequently be beyond our control, the world and everything in it is never beyond the Lord’s attention and power. Take for example Isaiah 55: 8-9, which tells us with certainty that God knows what He is doing, even if we don’t.

Furthermore, Philippians 4:6-7 declares that when we pray with thanksgiving, God can provide us with supernatural peace—free of anxiety—that will safeguard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

After all, Jesus left to us the kind of peace unlike any peace the world can offer…His peace that calms troubled hearts and releases them from fear (John 14: 27). We can rely on and trust these assurances because the Lord will strengthen our hearts even when our fleshly hearts fail us (Psalms 73: 26); and, he will never leave us—this is assured both in the Old and New Testaments (see Deut. 31:8 & Hebrews 13:5).

Psalms 11:4- “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in the heaven.”

Psalm 45:6-“Your divine throne endures forever and ever.”

Lay Down and Take Up

Jesus laid down His life for us; we are to lay down our lives for others. We “lay down our lives” when we stop consistently giving first priority to our own selfish desires and emotions; and instead, become more sensitive to the needs of others. Jesus’ life illustrates perfectly how this can be done when we determine to follow His example by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Luke 9:23- And He was saying to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE(DENY OURSELVES)

Lay down seeking our own selfish interests at the expense of others

Stop focusing on ourselves

Refuse to be personally offended

Lay down judging others hypocritically

Do not become envious or jealous

Give up comfort and leave our comfort zone to serve others

Lay down our wealth and possessions for those in need

Give up self-pity

TAKE UP OUR CROSS EVERYDAY (FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE)

Look to the best interest of others; often, at the expense of our own

Focus on God and others instead of turning inward

Forgive and release people from debt or wrongdoing toward us

Pray for others continually from the heart

Obey God for the sake of other people even when we are fearful

Meet legitimate needs of others as much as possible, even sacrificially

Mourn with others

A cross is not easy to bear; it is not pleasant or comfortable; so we shouldn’t be surprised when our flesh resists taking it up—nevertheless, may we remain willing to suffer for the sake of others.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us continue to lay down our lives for others out of obedience to your Son until we can give freely from a truly unselfish heart of love. We love you and thank you for your empowerment. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.

Not Made With Hands

One might wonder what was the problem with using stones that were shaped with tools; but in fact, this verse says the alter stones made by man’s hands were a defilement (made them filthy and unfit for use). Natural stones—void of man’s effort—were made by God, and thus, acceptable for the purpose of worship.

This brings to mind the biblical view about circumcision: The circumcision made of the flesh by man’s hands described in Genesis 17 was to be a sign of the covenant made between Abraham and his descendants; however, in the New Testament, the true circumcision is now described as a supernatural occurrence by the Holy Spirit that takes place in the hearts of believers. This circumcision is not made by man’s hands, but by the Spirit and is therefore acceptable and undefiled:

and

Finally, we read in Acts 17: 24 that God does not dwell in temples made with hands (by men); but instead, true believers are the temple of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3: 16). The point is, it is not the works of mere human beings that can change the hearts of men and make their service and worship genuine and pleasing to the Lord, but the supernatural work of Jesus through His Holy Spirit.

Consider the Sparrows

My husband enjoys feeding birds. A few years ago, he placed two feeders just outside of our windows so that we could observe the interesting varieties and behaviors of the birds as they visited them. One morning, the light was so strong that I could barely see the dull brown little wrens as they fluttered around the seed dispenser, when suddenly, a bright red figure clearly caught my attention. As it perched on top of the pole where the feeder was hanging, all of my attention went to the Cardinal—he not only was in a place of highest visibility, but the other birds moved from feeding when he fluttered down to eat. Obviously, the Cardinal was “king of the roost”…beautiful to behold, and a stand-out among birds.

Almost immediately, God’s word came up into my heart in connection to what I was seeing:

The Heavenly Father tends to all of His creation with perfect care; and, His children are all valuable in His sight. Furthermore, each and every function and gifting in the body of Christ’s church are equally needed, respected, and valued—no part of God’s family is any less than another. Although some may serve brightly in the forefront while others seemingly serve in lesser positions, it is the sparrow that the Lord used as an example to give assurance to everyone of his divine and impartial attention and care.

A Matter of the Heart

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Recently, someone shared with me something they learned from their Sunday School teacher that profoundly resonated with me—he said, “We want to shepherd our children’s hearts, not just their behavior.” This simple statement immediately inspired in me a deeper understanding regarding a truly biblical view for raising children…one that would result in “train[ing] up a child in the way he should go, [so that] when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22: 6).

“Do not provoke your children to anger,

but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)

As in dealing with children, it is wise and God-honoring to approach others with the same regard and respect for their hearts, because out of our hearts flow all the issues of life.

…And if hearts have been properly nourished, cared for, and informed, issues of life can be victoriously addressed in a way that pleases the Lord.