Archive for May, 2012

NASA calls this image Chaos in the Heart of Orion. I call it beautiful.
To learn more about this image, visit NASAs Image of the Day Gallery.

 

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the May/June bookmark.

Share with others what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the June Reading Plan Here

Here’s June’s reading plan:

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1On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)

Is Easter a distant memory? For most evangelicals, I suspect it is. In the more liturgical churches, however, today marks the end of the Easter season. And here you thought it ended with Easter when anything you gave up for lent was now fair game!

Pentecost represents the day the Church was born. The Holy Spirit fell, as flames or tongues of fire settling on each person, filling them with the Holy Spirit and empowering them to witness for Christ in a way that would have been unimaginable just a few moments before.

Pentecost is a day in which the presence of God became a part of believers’ lives in a new and dynamic way.

May it be so, today, Lord. Let Your fire fall upon Your Church. As your Church was born on this day more than two thousand years ago, let it be reborn today to greater reflect Your love to our dying world. Break down walls of division. Ignite passion for You and for the lost. Embolden us to live – live – in radical obedience to the only One worthy of our full allegiance.

Because that’s what it’s all about.

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My recent blog series titled Live…Like Someone Left the Gate Open! started as two sermons. (If you haven’t read the series, you’ll find the first blog here.) From those sermons, God birthed a small group that has been meeting weekly for about a month. We are breathing life into one anothers’ dreams through prayer, encouragement, study and love. We are looking forward to God opening doors as we pursue the dreams He’s put into our hearts. The excitement is growing as our hearts are turned to live like God has left the gate open.

A friend from the group concluded an email to me today with these words:

I sense that God has the “horses” saddled, fed, and watered, and ready to take us on the quest. All we have to do is hop on and ride!

My response was half prayer to the Lord and half response to my friend:

Lord, we’re ready to ride! If the horses are saddled, fed and watered, I think what’s left is for us to get into the saddle! Lord, I’m not very good with horses – they kinda scare me and the worst part is getting from the ground into the saddle – help me get in the saddle! Because I, too, want to ride!

I want to ride on whatever adventures the Lord puts before me, don’t you? I mean, deep in your heart, don’t you want to follow the Lord with all you’ve got? I bet you do. Yet taking that first step can be pretty scary.

It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of “first step” I am taking, my internal response is very likely to be more related to fear than enthusiasm. Yes, I’m incredibly excited at the thought of the Lord using me to accomplish His eternal purposes…but sometimes my motivation lags a bit – I mean…

Do I really have to get from the ground into the saddle? Couldn’t I just ____________ (fill in the blank with any easy, enjoyable thing)?

Well, yes, I could just do that – and I might well be accomplishing one of God’s purposes for my life. But everything I read in Scripture, whether Old Testament or New, tells me that God calls us to increasingly bigger tasks. Stepping up to those tasks means embracing a lifestyle of “firsts.”

Everything you and I have ever done we had to do a first time. You know what? We lived through all of them! And in most cases, our lives are better for it! Sure, there may have been some degree of discomfort involved, but we did it! There may have been some white knuckles and bruised knees (from prayer, I hope), but we did it! And now we have a track record of success. Did you get that – you and the Lord have a track record of success. I am confident that He wants to build on record.

I’m a part of a secular mastermind group – five women who meet together monthly to share accomplishments, goals, and encouragements. I realized as I prepared for our meeting this month that the things I have not yet accomplished stare me in the face every day – they stay on my to do list being moved from day to day then week to week. They represent a degree of failure, even though I know that in most cases I made conscious decisions to move the tasks forward so that I could accomplish something of greater priority that day. The light bulb that went on as I prepared for the meeting was that those few tasks that are not getting done were overshadowing the sense of accomplishment for the many more tasks that I had completed. Oh, Lord, how many times must I learn the lesson of focusing on the right things?

I suspect that our degree of fear over first steps relates a lot to whether we’re looking at our past failures or sustained successes. Am I afraid to jump into the saddle because I overshot the saddle once and landed unceremoniously on the ground a bit bruised and greatly embarrassed? Perhaps if I remember all the times I’ve successfully gotten from ground to saddle and accomplished the task God put before me, I’ll look at the upcoming adventure with God with enthusiasm instead of fear. I can name many successes, ranging from as simple as developing the habit of regular Bible reading (yes, that’s a success) to ministering to a friend (often a very difficult thing – yes, it’s a success) to preaching my first sermon (even when we are certain of our calling, fear can take hold of us). You can name many successes – go ahead, name a few. I’ll wait!

Now, take a deep breath. Say a thankful and faith filled prayer, and take that first step!

Remember, the Lord has said:

5b “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5b-6 (NRSV)

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Wonders of God - Blue Straggler Stars in Globular Cluster M53Welcome to the first “Wonders of God Wednesday”! On Wednesdays, I will provide images of the amazing, awe-inspiring world God has created. Let them sweep you away in wonder at the glorious Creator of the Universe who reaches down and loves you with an everlasting love.

He counts the stars and calls them all by name.
Psalm 147:4 (NLT)

I bet God’s names for these stars are way better than man’s name! Globular Cluster M53 has more than 250,000 stars! How immense is our God? There is no one like our God!

This is a NASA photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. For more about this image, click here.

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1 Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. 2 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. 3 Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the LORD. 4 Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him. 5 Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, 6 you children of his servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.
Psalm 105:1-6 (NLT)

We can never be reminded enough to give thanks to the Lord, proclaim His greatness, tell of His wonderful deeds, and seek Him. The world bombards me with information to process and issues to deal with. It holds innumerable bright shiny objects that catch my attention. It is so easy to go for hours without giving thanks, proclaiming God’s greatness, telling of His wonderful deeds or seeking Him. I don’t think it’s meant to be that way!

Lord, let all that comes into my life be a catalyst for turning to You!

I want to turn to Him when I’m frustrated. I want to turn to Him when I’m rejoicing. I want to turn to Him when I experience sadness. I want to turn to Him when I experience love.

How do you do it? What prompts you to turn to the Lord? I’ve found two mainstays that keep me returning to Him: habit and triggers.

Habits are not bad things – when the habits are good ones. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I want to be in the habit of turning to God in all circumstances. To develop and strengthen the habit, I must repeat it regularly. That’s where triggers come in.

My computer hasn’t been acting quite like as peppy as it should lately. Today I growled at it as I took the monitor in both hands and mimicked shaking it! Just about that time, one of my very favorite worship songs played in my Pandora playlist. (Thank You, Lord.) I immediately went from frustration to worship. As I type the previous sentence, I first typed “I immediately transitioned from frustration to worship.” Nope. There was no transition. I simply let go of my monitor and raised my arms in praise (while in the back of my mind wondering what my employee must be thinking of such inconsistent behavior). Needless to say, worship music is a trigger that causes me to praise God.

What makes you turn to praise? It might be a picture, a person, a piece of jewelry, a sound, a knickknack, a sensation – anything that breaks you free from focusing on the world’s agenda to focusing on God’s.

Let’s brainstorm some unlikely triggers. It might take a little work for you to develop these circumstances into triggers that cause you to praise God, but I know it can be done.

  • Your child – especially when he or she is coming to you with the hundredth challenge of the day. Can you learn to thank God for your child – and the wonderful things God’s done in your life through that child – each time he or she comes to you throughout the day? What kind of difference would that make in your life? Even more important, what kind of difference would that make in your child’s life?
  • Pain – I shattered my elbow about twenty years ago. God did a miraculous work putting it back together. Yet after working on a computer an average of ten hours a day since the accident, I’ve begun to have pain more regularly than I’d like. Can I learn to remember God’s tremendous goodness to me each time my elbow twinges? I believe I can. I just need a little reminding from time to time.
  • Frustration – I am guessing that your weeks are filled with regular frustration – situations that repeat themselves daily or weekly that cause you frustration. Can you find the good in the situation and praise God for it? As I age, there are a number of things that frustrate me that never hit my radar when I was younger. Either they didn’t exist or they were so minor they didn’t bother me (or dare I say that my tolerance of some things seems to diminish as I grown older). I try to turn those things around. My husband and I frequently look at each other and say “we’re achieving our lifelong goal!” What we’re referring to is that when we were young we regularly told one another that we wanted to grow old together. Lord – You have done great things in my life. Thank you for allowing me to grow old with my husband. (OK, let me set the record straight…I’m not old yet…but I sure seem to be getting there faster than I used to!)
  • BillsThank You Lord, that you have provided in my life so faithfully. Business has had its ups and downs, but You have been faithful. The various bills we have are a direct result of God providing abundantly. My mortgage payment comes from owning a home (OK, buying a home – I don’t own it yet). Having electric bills means I have electricity. My telephone bills are the result of living in a time when I can immediately contact loved ones and friends.
  • Taxes – While we don’t enjoy paying taxes, Phil and I have always said that paying more in taxes means we made more money last year. Thank You, Lord. And thank You for the protection and services that are provided to me by my government.
  • Interruptions – Are you convinced the Lord is in control of your day? He has allowed the interruption – what do you think His purpose for it is? I can’t answer that question, but I do know it isn’t to cause us to grumble and complain!

These may be unlikely triggers, but when we learn to use them as reminders to praise God – to tell ourselves and others about His wonderful deeds, to sing His praises and exult His Name – our lives will be transformed and our God will be honored. A Psalm comes to mind:

 Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise.
Psalm 90:12 (NCV)

Our lives are too short to let the frustrations of life pull us from the goodness of God and the life He’s given us. What negative triggers are you going to turn into praise this week?

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Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Romans 13:14 (NLT)

This verse caught my attention last week during my Resting at the River’s Edge reading. As I meditated on it, several questions came to mind. Come with me as I explore the topic of clothing ourselves in the presence of Jesus.

What does the presence of Jesus feel like?
I’ve quoted this verse many, many times in recent weeks, but I can’t think of a better one to answer this question:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:17 (NIV)

The presence of Jesus feels like freedom – no condemnation, but overflowing love – deeper, wider, longer and higher than we can imagine:

18 And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. 19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (NCV)

The presence of Jesus is peace. Christ came to earth, reconciled us with God and brings peace where chaos and fear want to dominate. Paul wrote to the Colossians that they should “let the peace that comes from Christ rule [their] hearts (Colossians 3:15a, NLT).

The presence of Jesus holds freedom, love and peace. When we are conflicted, anxious, bound by anything in this world, or lacking in love, the presence of Jesus is not ruling in our lives.

What does the presence of Jesus look like?
The presence of Jesus has the look of compassion, contentment and joy. It is not stern-faced or angry. It is not hassled or frenzied. The presence of Jesus is also modest. Holiness is embodied in the presence of Jesus leaving no room for many of the fashions of today.

How do I put on the presence of Jesus each morning?
Before we talk about the “how” notice the language in the verse – “clothe yourself.” Some translations say “put on.” These are action words action – they form a command telling us to prepare ourselves to meet the world by wrapping ourselves in the presence of the Christ. Living the verse requires purpose, intent and will. We decide each day what to wear – and those decisions, in part, define the impact we have on the world. People decide whether or not they’ll trust us and how much they’ll tell us about themselves initially by how we present ourselves – and that has a lot to do with what we decided to wear that day. Scripture tells us to “clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s something we must be intentional about; it doesn’t just happen, even if we’ve known the Lord for many years. (Actually, it might be less likely to happen if we’ve known the Lord for many years. It’s easy to become lazy in our faith if we’re not purposeful and intentional about it.)

There’s another thing about the language of the verse. The word translated as “clothe yourself” is a Greek word that carries the “sense of sinking into a garment” (Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). We’re not to simply put on the presence of God like we might thrown on a sweater, but we’re to sink into it – so that it fully wraps around us. There is so much imagery in this phrase. I get the picture of sinking into something wonderfully comfortable. That carries to an image of being fully wrapped in the protection of Christ – nothing can get through the heavy, yet comfortable weave of His presence. (Remember, Scripture wouldn’t tell us to do it if it wasn’t possible!)

So how do we put on the presence of Jesus each morning? I was at a prayer meeting recently and during prophetic ministry a friend of mine was praying for a woman she didn’t know. She rather hesitantly said “I feel like God is saying that He appreciates the way you include Him in everything you do.” The woman smiled and said “every morning before I leave for work I say, ‘OK, Lord, let’s go to work!’” I loved her attitude. She was intentional about inviting Jesus to join her at work that day. One of the ways we clothe ourselves in His presence is by inviting Him to be a part of what we’re doing.

It’s a little hard to clothe ourselves with the Lord’s presence if we don’t enter His presence each morning. We are each created uniquely, so there is no one way to enter the Lord’s presence. Most people will find the Lord’s presence each morning through some combination of Bible reading, worship and prayer. Find what works best for you and develop the habit of meeting with the Lord each morning. Sure, there will be those mornings when your time with the Lord will be shortchanged, but even on those days, you can develop the habit of talking with the Lord as you get ready to face the day. Don’t arrive at your first destination for the day (even if that destination is your own kitchen to make breakfast for your family) without greeting the Lord and settling into Him.

How does the presence of Jesus impact the world?
I hope all of you have had the experience of knowing that what you had just done wasn’t really done by you at all, but by the Lord. Maybe you responded kindly in the face of cruelty. Maybe you exhibited uncharacteristic patience that blessed someone who needed it. Maybe you spoke Truth into someone’s life at just the right moment. When we clothe ourselves in the presence of Jesus, we take Him into the world with us and His love, His compassion, His wisdom, His power and all His other characteristics impact those around us as we walk through our day.

The alternative, of course, is that we face the world dressed in our own “clothes.” I don’t want to think that the impact I’m having on the world is limited to my own abilities – because however good I might be, even on my very best days I still have inadequacies, insecurities, anxieties and general “ouchiness.” Clothing myself in the presence of Christ smooths those things out – I’ve found over the years that Christ has graciously softened my hard, sharp edges. I’m so glad, because those edges could be pretty cutting at times – intentionally or unintentionally.

When you got dressed this morning, did you take time to clothe yourself with the presence of Jesus? Did you take time to sink into the garment of His presence before facing the world? I hope so, but if not, give it a try tomorrow.

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12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

Dog Running Through Field with AbandonIn my previous blog, we looked at Numbers chapters 13 and 14 – the story of the Israelites seeing the giants in the Promised Land instead of God’s Promise – that He had already given the land to them and that their enemies were already “helpless prey.” Oh Lord, help us to see Your promises in our lives and not the giants that might temporarily be inhabiting our land.

Let’s read the end of the story. When we last left the Israelites, Joshua and Caleb were begging the Israelites to take God at His Word and enter the Promised Land. The Israelites would have none of it. Here’s just a sample of their whining:

“Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Numbers 14:3-4 (NLT)

A few verses later we read God’s perspective on the situation:

11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?
Numbers 14:11 (NLT)

We use softer words than God does. We might say that the people didn’t believe God or didn’t trust Him. God said “How long will these people treat me with contempt?” Other translations say “How long will the people despise me?” or “How long will the people reject me.” Those are serious charges. It gives us a greater understanding of how our lack of faith impacts God. God says “I’ve done all these things for you and you take my gifts, spit on them and then turn your back on me.”

I’m guessing that most of us have had experiences like that. There are people that we’ve poured our lives into and then at some point those people reject us. It is incredibly hurtful. It can be devastating! That’s how God “feels” when we don’t trust Him. At least that’s how He describes it!

Lord, forgive me! Lord, forgive me.

Moses took up the case of the Israelites and pled with God to spare them. God relented, bringing us to one of the saddest passages in the Bible:

20Then the LORD said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 
(Numbers 14:20)

The Lord forgives! Hallelujah! I’m so thankful that He is a forgiving God. But sin has consequences. Continuing with verse 21…

21But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’S glory, 22not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they tested me by refusing to listen. 23They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will enter it. 24But my servant Caleb is different from the others. He has remained loyal to me, and I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will receive their full share of that land. 25Now turn around and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”
Numbers 14:21-25

Sin has consequences. We would all agree with that. Yet we don’t like to think of our sin as having consequences…especially the consequence of losing the opportunity to receive all the promises God has given us. I see that clearly here. The promises God has given us are obtained through faith. When we choose to walk outside of faith, we are walking in unbelief and we disqualify ourselves from receiving those promises. Now God is gracious and He will still give us eternal life…He’ll even bless us in this life…but if we continually respond to God’s open gate by backing away from it, we risk receiving discipline instead of promises.

“Now turn around and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”
Numbers 14:25 (NLT)

I find this to be two of the saddest sentences in the Bible. The Israelites have just been told that their dreams of entering the Promised Land will never be realized. Those sentences break thousands of dreams and bring thousands of heartaches. What caused the death of that dream? Their own fear – their own lack of faith.

Lord, keep me from myself! Help me keep my eyes on You and Your great love and power – because I don’t want to have the experience of the Israelites. I want to live out the purposes God has for my life. I don’t want to hear Him say “OK. Turn around…head into the wilderness…”

There are lots of consequences to living in the wilderness. There are also blessings – their clothes and shoes didn’t wear out for 40 years, they had food they needed…but they missed out on living in the land flowing with milk and honey. They missed out on the grape clusters that were so large they required two men to carry them. They missed out on accomplishing the eternal purposes God prepared in advance for them to do.

I’ve said it over and over again – I want to live like God has left the gate open. I want to embrace the challenges looking at God’s outcome not the obstacles in the way. The obstacles are there just waiting to be conquered! I’m guessing that you do too. Maybe that dream has been buried for awhile, but I trust it’s still there.

Don’t take my message the wrong way. Being in the wilderness isn’t always a result of sin. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to fast and be tempted by satan. I am not saying that if you’re in wilderness it’s because you’ve sinned. I am saying that it could be because you stepped back from something God asked you to do.

Messed Up Hair and AllSo let’s examine ourselves. Is there something that has come to your mind as you’ve read the blogs in this series? Is there some area of ministry, some area of stepping out in faith, that you’ve been struggling to say “Yes” to God in? Don’t risk hearing God say “OK, turn around.” Boldly step through that gate. Run through it! Trust God to meet you, to have gone before you, to have already marked the giants as helpless prey. Take the first step and let Him show you that He’s laid out the plan and set things in motion.

The blogs in this series have come out of a sermon series I preached at my home church. Out of that sermon series we’ve started a new small group. It’s a group in which we share our God dreams and encourage one another to step into them. More than anything, I want to help you walk into the dreams God has placed in your heart…not get you excited about the possibility of walking into them and then having that passion die a slow death. If you’d like to be a part of a virtual group email me – Sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com. We’ll get one going. Because living like God has left the gate open is worth it!

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12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

Dog Running Through Field with AbandonWhy aren’t we living life like Someone (God) has left the gate open? The reason at the top of my list remains the same – fear. My two previous blogs on the topic were about how the fear of condemnation keeps us from the freedom God has for us. The antidote to that fear is applying faith to the full gospel message – that not only are we given eternal life, but we are free from condemnation. It’s all right there in John 3:16, 3:17 and 3:18. Don’t stop reading at the end of 3:16. Eternal life is found in 3:16. Freedom from condemnation comes in the verses that follow. You can read the first blog in the series here, and the second here.

Today, I want to look at how fear keeps us from living boldly in the plan God has for our life. We’ll find that the antidote to that fear is the same faith we applied to God’s Word for our salvation. In this case, however, we’ll apply that faith to God’s ability to keep His other promises.

Turn with me to Numbers 13. Let me set the stage. The Israelites were about ready to go into the Promised Land – a land that God has promised them is flowing with milk and honey. A land that would be their own. One in which they would no longer be slaves. They had been slaves for 400 years in Egypt. Then God miraculously delivered them and He provided for them again and again as they made their way to this point of their journey. In preparation for the next phase of their journey, God said this to Moses:

“Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.”
Numbers 13:2 (NLT)

Notice that the Lord described the land as “The land I am giving to the Israelites.” It was already a settled matter. God was going to give them the land. Send some men out to explore it! So Moses’ proceeded to do just that. He gave the scouting party instructions to check out the land and the people, and to try to bring back some samples of the crops.

The spies went out and indeed found the land as God had described it – a fertile where a single cluster of grapes was so large that it took two men to carry it back to the Israelites. They also gathered samples of the pomegranates and figs. Let’s pick up the story as the men return with their bounty and report their findings:

25 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned 26 to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. 27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.”

28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

30 But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” 32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. 33 We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
Numbers 13:25-33 (NLT)

That last phrase caught my attention – “And that’s what they thought, too?” That’s the only verse we have that gives us any indication that the spies actually interacted with the residents of the land. Apparently these giants didn’t seem to have a problem with the twelve men stealing their grapes and pomegranates. There’s no indication that they paid for them. I’m thinking it would only have taken two of the giants to conquer the twelve spies, what with two of them loaded down with grapes and a couple of others carrying pomegranates and figs.

Do these men not realize that they just walked through the enemy’s camp unharmed? Apparently not.

Let’s just set that aside for now because there’s a more significant question:

What’s wrong with this whole discussion? What was the focus of it? Their whole focus is on what they thought they could do. They’ve looked at the circumstances and they’re no longer asking “What did God say?” or “What does God want us to do?”

How did the story start? The Lord said “send men out to explore the land I am giving them.”

We’re back to our issue of faith. The Israelites didn’t run into the land that God had opened the gate for them to enter because they were looking at the obstacles instead of at their miracle working, lavishly providing God.

Moses and Aaron and Joshua and Caleb begged the people to trust God. Read Joshua and Caleb’s plea recorded in Numbers 14, starting in verse 7:

7They [Joshua and Caleb] said to the community of Israel, “The land we explored is a wonderful land! 8And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey, and he will give it to us! 9Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
Numbers 14:7-9

“They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

I can’t get past that statement – “they are only helpless prey!” Other translations say “Their protection is gone.”

Yes, they have fortified cities…yes, they are big and strong…but they are still helpless prey. They have already lost their protection. They are ready to be conquered. God has opened the gate, let’s run through it!

Do you believe that God will provide all that you need when you run through gates He has opened?

Today’s application of faith is to believe in God’s ability to do what He’s promised – to believe in His power. The Israelites failed in that faith and because of that the failed to enter the Promised Land. Instead of trusting God’s promise, they looked at the circumstances, and chose not to believe that their enemies were already helpless prey, that they had already lost their protection. If they had believed God, that faith would have brought boldness into our lives. Do you hear the boldness in Joshua and Caleb’s words?

Keeping our eyes on the Lord and trusting in His promises brings boldness into our lives that gives us the freedom to live like someone left the gate open. It’s what Joshua and Caleb were urging the Israelites to do – “let’s go get ’em” was their message.

What gate has God opened for you? If you believe that God loves you unconditionally, have you run through the open gate? If not, is it because you’re looking at what’s on the other side with natural eyes instead of supernatural eyes. What is on the other side of that gate? The fulfillment of God’s eternal purposes in your life…and the impact God wants to have through you on the lives of others. Is that what you’re seeing? Or are you seeing the giants between you and that fulfillment? Don’t look at the giants, look at the promises of God. Those giants are inhabiting the land that God has already given to you. They are helpless prey – if you boldly trust God. If you boldly go into the land He will deliver them into your hands.

What kind of giants are they in your land?

  • Is it the giant of not having enough time?
  • Is it the giant of not having enough money?
  • Is it the giant of not having enough energy?
  • Is it the giant of not having the wisdom or knowledge?
  • Are they giants of long-established patterns that are hard to break?
  • Is it the giant of complacency – being quite comfortable where you are, thank you very much?
  • What have I missed? Whatever your giants are…

Messed Up Hair and All“They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

Let’s engage our faith – to take the promised land! That’s a big goal – a God-sized goal. Let’s engage our faith to pursue God goals that are bigger than we are. Let’s engage our faith to live like God has left the gate open for us!

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12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

Dog Running Through Field with AbandonIn Part 1 of this series, I posed these questions: Are you bold? Do you live in freedom? After confessing that my answer wasn’t always affirmative, I introduced what I consider to be the top reason I don’t live in freedom: fear. I went on to say that an issue of fear is really an issue of faith. Fear takes many shapes, that is, we can be afraid of many things, but the shape that keeps us in more bondage than anything is the fear that we will disappoint or be rejected by God. And that, my friend, is an issue of not believing – not applying faith to John John 3:17 and 18 to the same degree that we apply it to John 3:16. When we apply faith to all three verses, a tremendous freedom comes into our lives because we know – we know – that we are not condemned by our Father, the Creator of the Universe.

Read my earlier post for the whole picture.

Today I want to delve into the subject a bit further jumping off the passage we ended with last week.

15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,…
Romans 8:15-17a (NIV)

God has made us co-heirs with Christ. He didn’t do this because He was required to – no one was forcing Him. He didn’t do it reluctantly, He did it because He wanted to! God’s heart is to bless His children. The story of the prodigal son is perfect for illustrating the Father’s love. Jesus is the narrator of the story that is recorded in the gospel of Luke. Remember that as you read through the story. This is not Luke’s story – it is Luke’s account of the story that Jesus told.

First, a little background – a rich man had two sons. The younger son became impudent and asked for his inheritance. You have to understand that in the culture of Jesus’ time, such a request was a tremendous humiliation for the father. Despite his humiliation, the father loved his son and gave him his share of the inheritance. The son immediately left and squandered his inheritance on wine, women and song. After losing all his money, he hired himself out as a farm worker to an employer who fed his pigs better than he fed his hired hands. Scripture says that the son “came to his senses,” realized that his father’s workers had it better than he did and thought “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” Luke 15:18-19 (NLT)

So the son began his journey home. His father saw him “from afar off” Scripture says (Luke 15:20) and he ran and welcomed his son home. He threw him a lavish party to celebrate that his lost son was found. It’s a beautiful picture of how very much God loves us – He watches for us from afar. Then, when we turn toward Him, He runs toward us, throws His arms around us, puts His robe on us and His ring on our finger and throws a party. And God throws a lavish party – even the angels join in rejoicing when the lost are found.

But the story goes on. The older brother had been out in the field working and when he returned home and learned that his father was throwing a party for the younger son, he became quite angry. That’s where we pick up in Luke 15:28

28“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,29but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.
Luke 15:28-31 (NLT)

What a powerful paragraph. First, notice the word the older son uses – he said that he had “slaved” for his father. He had the mindset of being in bondage or servitude to his father. Yet what was the father’s response? “Everything I have is yours.” The oldest son had access to all the father had, but he was living like a slave – not because the father required, but because the son didn’t “own” it. He didn’t live it.

Remember, Romans 8 said “we are co-heirs with Christ.” We share “ownership” of everything that is the Father’s with Christ. God has given us everything…but sometimes we live like slaves. We live in fear that our Master will disapprove of what we do…or who we are. We don’t throw a party because what will He think? We don’t run through the open door because…we might have it wrong…

We still have this fear because we haven’t gotten it into our spirit that  “Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” (John 3:18) and “there is now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1) – there is no judgment against us!

God has given us everything – it’s a loving Father who does that. It’s not a father that’s holding back, waiting for us to make a mistake. It’s not a father that doesn’t trust us.

Scripture says He loves us with an everlasting love. The word means perpetual – ongoing, non-stop, throughout all eternity.

It says He loves us with a perfect love, a complete love.

When we get that into our spirit, there is no fear of condemnation. There is no fear of a guilty sentence. Fear is replaced by rejoicing. Better yet, fear is replaced by boldness and that boldness is demonstrated in the freedom with which we live our lives.

12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

So, friends, what will it take for us to live our lives with abandon – as if someone has left the gate open? Because God has. He’s put before each of us open doors – we can ignore them, shy away from them, walk through them with trepidation and fear, or run through them excited to see what’s on the other side – excited to be apart of the adventure called walking with Christ, excited to be living the purposes for which God created us.

One thing it takes is knowing that we know that we know that He loves us. He loves me. He loves you.

  • He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He doesn’t condemn you.
  • He has already seated you in heavenly places.
  • Christ is eagerly waiting to introduce you to His Father as His bride. He is proud of you.
  • He is on your side.
  • He loves you with a perpetual love.

Messed Up Hair and AllBelieve it. Say it out loud. In the morning, remind yourself “I am loved by the Most High God with a love that is eternal, perpetual and radical.” “He has adopted me as His child.” “I am a co-heir with Christ.” When the voice in your head begins to whisper anything negative about you or your life, repeat “I am not condemned – I am not found guilty. I am a child of the King. I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.”

Let faith rise up in you in a way that it never has before – then live like someone left the gate open. Because that someone is God and He has open doors before you just waiting for you to explore! They are doors that lead to His purposes for your life!

Let faith arise!

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