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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

The third foundational lie that satan told Eve may be the most insidious. It’s definitely the one that has caused the most havoc down through history. After telling her that God couldn’t be trusted, and that she wasn’t worthy, the serpent told her that she held the solution in her own hand – eating the fruit would solve those ‘problems’.

And so begins humankind’s fascination with DIY religion.

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The Bible clearly tells us that God had a plan even before He began creating this universe.

Before satan ever showed up in the Garden, before there even was a planet for the Garden to grow on, God had our salvation all figured out.

He had it covered. Jesus had already accepted the task of dying sinless to redeem us all. Of becoming sin so that we became His righteousness. Of conquering death and hell, so we have eternal life.

We are saved ‘by grace, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it’s the gift of God’. What are we supposed to do in that? Where’s the DIY here?

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So why do we cling to “do it myself” as Christians?

Could be because we don’t know any better.

Could be because we’ve been taught that’s what He wants.

Or it could be that we still believe the third great lie satan told Eve, “The solution is to eat the apple – to do something yourself – without waiting for God.”

Liar! Such a liar! Nowhere, at no time, did God plan for us to be or do anything alone! We were created to be with Him. Period.

Yet this one lie has caused more heartache, more hardship – in the church, and in the world – than any other. Even when people understand and know that God is good; even when they know that they are a new creation in Christ; this lie trips them up – ruining lives, ministries, families and churches.

The truth is that whenever we depend on our own strength, we will ultimately fail. And we do not please God.

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Jesus said His yoke was easy, and His burden light, and we can quote that verse, but most of us believe that His burdens are really heavy, and very few of us even think about the yoke part.

A closer look at the burdens we carry might just show us, though, that they are not His burdens – we took them up ourselves. Whether out of love or duty or fear, we allow others (or our own self) to persuade us that we must do more than we are already doing, in order to ‘be a good Christian’.

Like the Galatians, we start in grace, but think we have to maintain our spiritual lives by works, instead of resting in His work.

How many of us think we have to read our Bibles and pray every day?

How many think we have to tithe?

How many think we must witness to the lost?

How many of us think we must … teach Sunday School … give to missions … dress or talk or act a certain way … run our family according to specific rules … avoid movies or cards or …

The list of ‘musts’ can be endless – all with the intent of pleasing God, or keeping our salvation, or proving we are good enough to be Christians, or …

What is your lie? Which particular variation has got you bound?

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The second part of Matthew 11:30 says that His yoke is light.

A yoke … how many of us have even seen one? The closest we’ve come is in a museum, or an illustration in a dictionary or encyclopedia.

The key point of a yoke is that it is designed for two animals pulling together. If only one animal is pulling the plow or wagon, it wears a harness, not a yoke. And together is key! One animal does not lead the other. They walk side-by-side.

Together!

So we are hooked into a yoke with Christ. What does that mean, exactly? Pulling together, keeping step with each other. God doesn’t race ahead of us, and we shouldn’t try to race ahead of Him.

It means we are working together, side by side with God. Letting Him direct our paths, carrying only our own share of the task, and allowing Him to carry His share.

It means that we don’t feel the need to improve on what He has already completed – our salvation, healing, freedom, destiny (more on this next time).

It means learning that we can do nothing without Him; that the kingdom of God is within each of us; that we are in Him and He is in us.

It means going with Him, in His direction, regarding our Bible reading/praying/tithing/serving/dressing/acting/etc.

His rules, not mine, or yours, or even a church’s.

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And the really cool thing is that when you stop trying to do it yourself, and just go with Him, none of these things are burdens any more!

Your life just flows from one minute to the next, from one scripture or prayer or act to the next, all in His perfect timing and His strength.

No work!

No worries!

No burdens!

No striving for something we already have!

Just peace and joy, and being together with Him! Very cool!

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May you find His truth in your inward man regarding your work and place in Him, in His body, and in the world.

May He break in you every lie of the enemy, and every habit and pattern of behavior, that is counter to His truth.

And may His church rise up and take her place at His side, with the full knowledge that God is good, that we are a new creation, and that we do nothing alone.

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Recently, I was reading several books on prayer that were written during the Middle Ages – Madame Guyon, some German mystics – and more modern works, like Calvin and Hannah Whitall Smith (both 19th century) and Watchman Nee (early 20th century). And then I ran across a 21st century work – When God Walked The Earth, by Rick Joiner (amazing book!)

Interestingly, they all had in common the same concept, expressed in different ways: that without Him, we can do nothing. That the essence of the Christian life is becoming totally dependent on God!

I shouldn’t be surprised to read the same idea from many centuries. God’s nature doesn’t change, no matter how much His methods do. And Scripture tells us that His ways are above our ways; that He chose the foolish things to confound the wise; that the Gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe.

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But I have been a believer for almost 45 years, and I am just now getting to the point where I trust Him enough to be this foolish – to rest in and on Him instead of myself.

Much of that time, I was bound in lies, struggling to even believe God loved me. His revelation of Himself to me as loving Father, Creator, beloved bridegroom, has been a gradual one, based on my ability and willingness to see His truth.

Being raised in church didn’t help. Even though I was taught that we are ‘saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves’, I was just as clearly taught that the rest of my life was up to me; that it was my job to become holy, to do good works for Him, to stop sinning, to pray and read the Bible.

Nowhere in the doctrines of my youth was there anything about the indwelling power of Holy Spirit, about becoming a new creation, about abiding in the Vine. It was all about our responsibility to meet His standards (as expressed in the denomination’s doctrines, of course).

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Sadly, I am not alone in this experience. Even in churches that teach truth, I have often encountered a buried thread of thought that says, “I have a responsibility to do . . . “.

Yet, what I read in the writings of His children down thru the ages concurs with Scripture: the essence of the Christian life is being, not doing. It is abiding in Him (John15:4. which certainly cannot be described as work, although it can be difficult to do), being one in Him (John 17:21, 22).

In his book, Joiner points out that “Self-righteousness is what caused Satan to fall from grace.” “When Lucifer began to think that the light and power that he had came from himself, he turned from God to serve himself. Men who follow in his ways feel the same. This was the first transgression – the first turning away from God.”

Self-righteousness – believing that they had the ability in themselves to do good – is what Jesus repeatedly condemned in the Pharisees! Yet how many of us, His children, still live in it?

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Oh, maybe not consciously – I don’t know many people who will admit that they believe they are working their way to heaven, or to big rewards there. Few of us will admit that we really, at heart, believe that what we do for God is crucially important to Him and His plan for this world. No, we’re too busy portraying humility. And most of us probably really believe we are being humble; believe that we are doing God’s will. (The paradox of this is that what we do really is important to His plan. But only if we do it in Him. If we do it in our own strength or wisdom, it’s wasted.)

Yet, if He asked me (or you) to stay at home – never witness to anyone, teach no more classes or Bible studies, do no more volunteering at church or our favorite charity – to be with Him alone, would we do it? In other words, if He called us away to live only in Him, spending all our time in His Presence, ignoring the demands and needs of others, could we be satisfied with that, or would some part of us chafe at the lack of work to do? Would we be indignant that we were being asked to do something so unimportant?

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And yet, this is the heart of the Gospel – being with Him, not working for Him.

Foolishness, indeed!

How will anyone get saved, then? How will children be fed, the unborn saved from annihilation, the sick healed or at least tended to? How will we fulfill our part, if we just sit around praising Him? (And yet, that’s what heaven was portrayed as when I was a child!)

Please, understand that I am NOT advocating that we stop doing things to reach and help the world! NO!!! Never!!! While God clearly calls us to abide in Him, He also clearly tells us to go.

BUT . . . when we do it by ourselves, we have done nothing (John 15:5). If we are in Him, though, His life flows in us and then through us to others. (That’s the nature of life – it moves. Jesus spoke of a river of life in our bellies/hearts, not a lake.) We need to be in Him, though, so that it’s His life that is flowing, not our own. Then what we do bears fruit that lasts, and we don’t get burned out.

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So this is the foolishness I am learning to live in – not doing anything in my own strength or wisdom or anything else.

Yes, God gave me a really good mind, capable of learning and analyzing and organizing things well. What I have been through in my life has developed great internal strength. I’ve lived long enough, and benefited from other’s words enough, to be fairly wise. And, being a first-born, I’m a natural leader.

Those are traits He can use greatly! And I’m thankful for them. But He must be the one to employ my gifts and abilities, not me. When I do it by myself, I make a mess! And how subtle, how fine the line is, between doing things in Him, and doing them in myself! It’s not okay to get direction from Father God, then head off in my own strength to do what He’s asked. ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.’ We need to take each step in Him, not just the first one.

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Actually, what I’m learning is not so much that He does it, but that we do it. He and I together. To say that ‘He does it’ can imply passivity on my part. Been there, done that, and nothing was accomplished like that, either.

What He is teaching me now is complete dependence on Him, which seems like a return to spiritual babyhood. Yet . . . it is more than that. It’s not blind dependence: it’s a partnership, a union, where we do things together. We agree on the goal (His, not mine), make a plan (also His), and do our individual parts. Yet I am not doing my part alone. He is with me, in me – teaching, helping, encouraging.

Some might find the thought of this extremely repugnant, as if God thought they had no strength or intelligence or wisdom. I don’t know what to say to that. Maybe you need to seek Father God’s face about this. Indeed, you should be seeking Him about everything you read here (or anywhere else).

This foolishness – this being in Him and Him working through me – feels, oddly enough, like what I was born to do. To be with Him. Not under Him, as a servant or slave, but beside Him, like husband and wife. Each with different roles, but moving together toward their goal. Each using their mind, strength, wisdom to fulfill the plan, because each one’s individual talents are needed to make it happen. And doing it all together, not independently.

Is that foolishness?

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May you draw close enough to our Father and His Son to know His heart and mind for you and your relationship with Him.

May Holy Spirit teach you what is needed to abide in Him, to be and do in Him.

May you know the true joy of living in intimate communion with Him, and having His life flow out from you to others.

“In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.”

Jonathan Edwards

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If you live in an urban area, you might not be too familiar with milestones, but if you live in the country, or have ever taken a road trip, you know that highways are marked every mile. This tells you how far you’ve come, how far you’ve still to go, and where the next exit/gas station/town is.

Every life has milestones, too: the start and end of school, college graduation, getting married, the birth of a child, etc.

And the Christian life has milestones – the day you ‘get saved’, get baptized, the first time you take communion are the obvious ones. But as you look back at your journey farther into God, you’ll find milestones marking other points. These mark times when a truth was illuminated for you in a way that set you free, changed your life.

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Here are a few of mine, in mostly chronological order –

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence – I read this one in high school, and it forever changed my ideas about the Christian life. I saw that we could and should be aware of Him beside us at all times.

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Sometime during high school, too, someone said to me “God is a gentleman. He won’t push Himself on us; He waits for us to ask. Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit.” This was the beginning of my trust in God to not hurt me.

Also during high school, I discovered that we can be honest with God about our feelings! I was reading Psalms, and David was whining, crying, bellyaching, even! He took all his emotions straight to God, whether they were nice ones or not. And if David could, I can! And so can you! (Is that why he was ‘a man after God’s own heart’?)

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Sometime in adulthood, I read Hind’s Feet On High Places, by Hannah Hurnard. That opened up to me the concept that Father God cares about my emotions, especially when they control me, like fear does for the heroine. That was amazing! God really cares? God really cares!

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John 17:3 – not only can we be aware of Him, but eternal life consists of knowing Him! Knowing Him and Jesus, not a bunch of scriptures, or a bunch of rules, or the right things to say and do. Knowing Him in a relationship, not just knowing about Him. Life changing! God actually wants to be known by us, to have a relationship with us!!

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Phillipians 2:13 – lots of people quote verse 12, especially when they are trying to control you through fear. But there is no period between v. 12 and v. 13. They are two parts of the same sentence! When I realized this, I stopped stressing about whether I would ever be able to do His will. In fact, I stopped worrying about whether I’d even want to do His will. This verse says He will work in me to bring me to that place. Gently, patiently, lovingly. Really ‘getting’ this verse set me free to trust Him to work in me what needs to be worked; to teach me what I need to learn; to love me not just in spite of my weaknesses, but maybe even because of them (they are, after all, part of what makes me a unique person).

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Another verse along these lines, but I’m not sure where it belongs in the timeline, is Hebrews 12:2 —  Jesus endured the cross for the ‘joy set before Him’. Okay, I memorized this verse eons ago in Sunday school. So?? So one day He showed me what was the joy set before Him. It was me!! Being able to have a relationship with me (and you, too!) was the joy that enabled Him to endure the cross!!! It wasn’t the joy of beating Satan; it wasn’t the joy of being able to get back to heaven where He belonged; it was the joy of having us as part of the family! What a milestone that was!

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I John 3:9 – this one is a little hard to explain, but was the most freeing of any of my ‘milestones’.

It says that the children of God do not sin, because His seed remains in them. What Father showed me through this verse was that we are no longer sinners after we become His children!! So all that stuff I was taught as a child, about how we are always ‘sinners, saved by grace’, and never worthy to be looked at by God without the ‘filter’ of Christ and His blood, was hogwash!!

While we were yet sinners’ He loved us so much He died for us! Died so we could become the children of God, become a new creation, become His righteousness!! We are not sinners any more!!

Sure, we sin now and then. We mess up. We may even have addictions or bondages in our lives that He hasn’t dealt with yet, which make us look like sinners to everyone around us. But if you are God’s child, His seed remains in you, and you are no longer a sinner!!!! (And you can ‘take it to the bank’ that He will not leave you bound by that addiction, that sin forever. Just be aware that before dealing with a habitual sin, Father God usually deals with the underlying wrong beliefs/feelings of unworthiness/lies of the enemy that have trapped His child in that sin. When those are dealt with, and His child is free to know and love God and him/herself, the addiction/sin is so easy to deal with that it’s sometimes already gone! God always looks at the heart, not the outer actions! And when He heals the heart, the rest of the person gets healed. Neat, huh? God is so GOOD!)

Wow! The guilt and condemnation and shame that set me free from! To know that I am not bound to/by/in my ‘flesh’!! For the first time in my life, I not only could easily study the Bible and pray, but I could do it without guilt! Before this revelation, prayer and study had been huge battles, because the guilt that I wasn’t doing them often enough/long enough prevented me from even trying to do it.

And now, listening to His voice was easier, because I was no longer afraid He would tell me how awful I was. So my prayer life changed dramatically, and then He started the healing process that got me where I am today. Still not perfect, still not completely whole, but His child, His new creation who is more than a conqueror!

I emphasize this because a lot of us, believing that we are ‘sinners saved by grace’, are constantly defeated by the enemy. Why? Because we believe that our nature is not changed, so we are still subject to sin. We live in a war zone of our own making; one where we lose again and again, simply because we don’t understand how completely He defeated satan and how that victory is ours because His righteousness is ours.  But once we understand that we are not sinners anymore, but a new creation, we are free to live the righteousness of Christ! Free to be victorious!

This doesn’t mean we won’t sin. It doesn’t mean we are perfect. In I John 1 is the famous verse that says that if we sin, He is faithful to forgive us when we ask Him. So in I John 3, John seems to be contradicting himself. But he’s not!

We are God’s children. His seed does remain in us. Those are unchangeable facts! We sin because we are unable or unwilling to believe this about ourselves. Unable to believe it because of lies we believe about ourselves or God; unwilling to believe because we don’t want to give up that sin. But neither changes God’s immutable truth – I am His child, therefore I do not sin. And because I am His child, He will work in me to reveal the truth that destroys the lies, and to change my desire for that sin (see Phil. above).

‘Reckon yourselves dead to sin’, Paul says in Romans 6:11. When you grasp this concept with your heart and mind and spirit, not just your brain, it becomes easier to live without sin. If you are dead, then your ‘sin nature’ is dead, too. You no longer feel chained to or by it, so you sin less and less. And as you sin less and less, and fight the phantom battle with your ‘sin nature’ less and less, you will have so much more freedom and strength and power for the real battles of life, for the work Father God created you for, and to reach out to help others.

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Every once in a while, it’s good to stop and look back over the road you’ve traveled. You really don’t know how much farther you have to go, but look how far you’ve come!! And if you take note of those milestones that helped you, you can tell others about them, and help them along their journey.

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S. Lewis

May Father God show you the significant milestones along your road, and give you new ones on the road ahead. May you be able to share those important events and revelations with someone else to help them along their journey. And may you find that even what seemed like rabbit trails away from the road, that you feel were failures or sins, were actually milestones where Father God taught you something important.

Vaya con Dios!


P.S. ‘Vaya’ is the command form of the verb ‘to go’. So this is actually a command for you to go with God – you go with Him, not Him go with you. If we obey this command – going with Him, as He directs, not expecting Him to go with us where we want – our lives are so much easier! So that’s my prayer for you as you continue your journey. Vaya con Dios!

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Life is a journey.

Some parts lie in pleasant valleys,

Some in fearful caves.


Others lead us to glorious heights,

Through dangerous swamps,

Or to the depths of the sea.


Each place we pass is full of beauty,

Of hardship, of growth.

Each is an opportunity to learn.


But the hardest part of each one

Is not what we encounter there.

It’s not our failures, trials, or tears.


The hardest part of all the journey is leaving.

In order to continue,

We must leave one place for the next.


Whether it was a place of triumph or defeat,

Of joy or despair,

Still, the time comes to leave.


And suddenly, we find this place is dear,

It’s familiar, so comfortable.

And we are reluctant to go.


But in leaving this,

I start toward that.

Each departure prepares for an arrival.


All of life is a journey,

Always coming from,

Going to.


Each stop along the way

Has things to teach,

Joys or sorrows to share.


No one escapes the journey,

The hard and the easy,

The high and the low.


No one stops traveling.

The real question is –

Where are you going?


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Okay, that’s not entirely true. We actually can stop our journey. We can love the place we’re in so much that we refuse to leave it. We can decide that the path to the next place looks too scary, too dangerous, too hard, and refuse to go on. We can refuse to learn, to grow, to become who Father God created us to be.

We have that choice. Always.

But our Father loves us, and wants the best for us, so He never stops trying to lead us on to the next leg of the journey. Holy Spirit continues whispering in our ears, encouraging us to pick up our knapsack, and hit the road again. And sometimes, in order to set us free of bondages we often don’t even see, He will cause the place we decided to stop in to become so uncomfortable that the dangers we fear ahead become less hurtful than where we are now.

Thank God for that! Which of us could stand to watch our child or other loved one become tangled in a net and hauled off to be eaten by cannibals? Even if they kept saying, “no, leave me alone! I like the food” – would you? Or would you do everything you could to cut them free, help them escape? Our Heavenly Father loves us more than we love our children, and desires our freedom more than we can imagine. (Something to think about if you’ve taken up residence somewhere, but it’s now getting uncomfortable to stay.)

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The journey’s destination is determined by whether or not you are His child. Once you have accepted His salvation, are adopted in, nothing you do or don’t do will change your ‘final destination’ of eternal life. The only thing you will change is how far you get on the journey into knowing Him. In John 17:3, Jesus says that eternal life is knowing Father God and Jesus Christ. And following Him from place to place along the journey is how we learn to know Him more and better. It would be sad to get to heaven and only know Him well enough to recognize Him on the street.

So don’t be afraid of the road ahead. It might look dark and dreary, but somewhere at the end, He is waiting to welcome you with open arms of love. And He is walking by your side, showing you His heart and mind and self. And He is in you, drawing you to Himself, leading and guiding and teaching you.

Bon Voyage!

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As you continue your journey through this life, may Father God lead you in all ways. And may your trust in Him grow with each step you take, knowing that He is leading you to Himself, and life and peace and grace and goodness, not to destruction and death.


“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”

Oswald Chambers


“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jer. 29:11

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