Posts Tagged “2 Corinthians”

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Get to know God better by reading through the Bible a little bit every day. Pray, ask God to reveal Himself to you, then read. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The main readings schedule readings that allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in the schedule put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. He always does. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Join us as we read, then email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today?

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for May is below.

Resting at the River's Edge May 2013 Reading Schedule

 

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Check Your Motives and Actions

1Faith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

When we face discouragement, one of the areas in which we’re hit is our faith. If our faith was strong, we would have confidence that God’s promises are “yes and amen!” (2 Corinthians 1:20). When our faith sags, we struggle to see our hope and future in Christ. In this series we’re looking at how to build our faith so we can naturally move further and further away from discouragement.

Faith Building Action 3 – Check Your Motives & Actions
After starting to build your strong foundation of faith with praise (Faith Building Action #1) and building your courage by remembering who you are in Christ (Faith Building Action #2), you’re ready for a bit of self-reflection. In this step we’re going to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our own attitudes and motivations to us. Begin your time with the Lord with praise and build your confidence in Him by reminding yourself who you are in Christ, then begin the exercise of looking at the things you do for the Lord.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer these two questions:

  • What’ your motivation – are you acting out of duty or love? Of course you love the Lord, but sometimes we take on things that He doesn’t really want us to do and they become drudgery. That drudgery becomes duty and we are no longer serving out of love. Or perhaps we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do but our own heart has grown cold and service has become duty instead of passion and love.
  • Are your actions done in your own strength or God’s?Working in our own strength instead of God’s can be the result of many different circumstances, but here are three common examples:
    • Sometimes we’re faced with serving in a way we’ve served many times before. When that’s the case, it’s easy to rely on our own abilities, personality or strategies – after all, they’ve worked so well in the past. Before we know it, we’ve moved ahead without asking God what His plans and strategies are.
    • We might be faced with a new opportunity that we’re so excited about – perhaps it’s an opportunity we’ve prayed for. We’re full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. In those times it’s easy to jump right in making plans and motivating others to help us…again moving ahead without asking God what His plans and strategies are.
    • Still other times we find ourselves creating our own opportunities – pushing ahead of God’s timing to accomplish what we believe He’s told us to do. And perhaps He has told us but we are either out of sync with His timing or his approach. When we’re pushing to bring about God’s plans (or our plans for God) we find our selves moving ahead without asking God what His plans and strategies are…or perhaps we’ve asked but haven’t waited long enough to hear His answer.

Be honest with yourself and God as you reflect on these two questions. Don’t be afraid of it. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ. There is conviction when we’ve sinned – and both of these actions can be sin. But the purpose of conviction is to give us the opportunity to change – to repent – and return wholeheartedly to the Lord. Ask forgiveness if you’ve begun to serve out of duty instead of love and ask God to restore your love for Him. (It’s a prayer He loves to answer.) Ask forgiveness if you’ve served in your own strength instead of God’s and ask Him what your next action should be.

After asking the Holy Spirit to help you check your actions and motivations, encourage yourself by reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re doing it because you love Him – because He has done so much for you. King David put it this way:

1I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.

4Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. 5O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
Psalm 40:1-5 (NLT)

Whitney Houston put it like this in the movie The Preacher’s Wife (and let it be your first taste of Christmas):

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Remember Who You Are In Christ

Faith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith is confidence…but sometimes our confidence lags a bit. My husband occasionally says that he’s shocked at how insecure I am. I usually project an air of confidence, but there are some common (that is, every day) situations that send my insecurity meter off the charts. The key to being confident (that is, faith-filled) is the object of our confidence – the object of our faith. My confidence lags when my focus changes from God to myself. How will I look to others? How will I be perceived? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I forget something important?

Our first faith building action refocused our attention off ourselves and onto God through praise. When we look at the One who created the universe, knowing that He is on our side, our confidence soars. Our second faith building action brings the focus back to ourselves, but in a way that allows us to see ourselves through God’s eyes.

Faith Building Action 2 – Remind Yourself of Who You Are in Christ
Here are a just few of the ways that God sees you. Meditate on these elements of your identity in Christ to build your faith.

Forgiven – Being forgiven means there is no longer any condemnation or shame associated with your past (or present or future) life. It means all penalties or payments required to make up for your wrong actions have already been paid. Welcome to freedom! Your life sentence of being a slave to sin has been commuted.

1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)

No condemnation, friends – and freedom from the power of sin.

Child of God – Of course that forgiveness also makes you a child of God – someone who is born not only of flesh and blood but of the spirit. Someone who has the promise of spending eternity with Him. Someone dearly loved by the Father.

3Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…5I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
John 3:3, 5-6 (NLT)

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 (NIV)

That hope gives us confidence in today and tomorrow. What love the Father has lavished upon us!

Child of Abba-Father – There are many ways to view being a child of God. One picture that often escapes us is the intimate picture of a child reaching up his or her arms to be lifted up by their Papa. That is the image portrayed in this verse:

14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:14-15 (NASB)

We’re not given a spirit of fear – rather, when we are tempted to fear we are reminded that we have been adopted as a child of God and we can cry out for His help – “Abba! Father!” My parents were divorced when I was in my teens and I felt disconnected from my father. It was only after I grew older that I began to understand that if I needed anything and called out “Daddy!” he would do his best to move heaven and earth if necessary to come to my aid. And he was an earthly father – quite imperfect when compared with my heavenly Father. My heavenly Father actually has the power to move heaven and earth to come to my aid. My heavenly Father invites me to cry out “Daddy!” Matthew Henry writes that this verse “denotes an affectionate endearing importunity” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.) He’s my father with whom I can be affectionate, who finds me endearing, and who encourages me to seek Him and His help.

Joint heir with Christ – When God made us His children – or perhaps I should say when God set in motion the plan for Christ to pay the penalty for our sins and when Christ agreed to leave the glories of heaven for the pain and suffering of earth and when we accepted Christ’s gift as payment for our sins – we also became joint-heirs with Christ. In the breath that Christ said “forgive them,” He said “I’ll share all that is mine with them.”

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NLT)

16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
Romans 8:16-17a (NASB)

All that the Father has belongs to the Son. We have become fellow heirs, joint heirs, co-heirs with Christ.

Beloved Bride of Christ – We are not only a friend of God and co-heir with Christ, but Paul told the Corinthians that he had “promised [them] as a pure bride to one husband – Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NLT). Revelation 19 describes the wedding:

7Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:7-9 (NLT)

We will be the bride who has made herself ready. We are the bride who is making herself ready. We have been invited to the wedding feast not as a guest but as the beloved bride. Christ is our husband and He longs for the day when we will become His bride.

There is a passage that puts all these relationships together:

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

We have gone from slave to son. We have gone from deserving death to being an heir. Our confidence – our faith – grows as we understand who we are in Christ. This powerful video with Jason Gray’s song Remind Me Who I Am illustrates the point.

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This has not been an exhaustive list of who we are in Christ. There’s much more! Scripture also says that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), created in God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). And more, and more.

Move beyond discouragement to faith – meditate on who you are in Christ.

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The topic of the first part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is suffering, and I was so blessed to spend a little time in it recently. The Corinthians had been suffering and Paul wrote to bring encouragement and a bit of teaching about suffering. And that’s a lesson we all need some times.

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)

God has chosen us – some to be apostles, some to be evangelists, some to be teachers – but all to be His sons and daughters and joint heirs with Christ. And although He has chosen us, He also gives us the opportunity to choose Him. He doesn’t force His will upon us, but allows us to choose. Scripture is clear that it is not God’s desire that anyone die without first choosing to make Jesus their Savior, but He allows it. Because love doesn’t force one’s will on another. Love is giving, not controlling. John 3:16 tells us how much God gave –

16For God so loved the world , that he gave his only begotten Son , that whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:16-17 (KJV)

We have all been chosen by God’s will. Paul says he was chosen to be an apostle. You may not be an apostle, but you have been chosen by God’s will to have a relationship with Him and you’ve been chosen to serve Him.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)

In verse 3 we begin to get to the meat of Paul’s letter and although he is going to address suffering, He begins with praise, setting the example to us. When we face suffering of any kind, making praise our starting place changes our focus and enables us to see the goodness of God. It also opens the door for God’s presence to walk with us through the suffering.

Paul quickly gets to the point, though and tells the Corinthians that God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. Do you need comforting? Go to God – because He is the source. When we are comforting a friend, the best thing we can do for them is help them turn to God – the best thing we can do is take them to the source of all comfort. Because any comfort you or I can offer is a pale comparison to God’s comfort.

I love verse 4 – it tells us that our suffering has purpose – that it isn’t useless and we’re not useless when we suffer….

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

First, notice the word “all” – He comforts us in all our troubles. Not just some of them. I can take all my troubles to Him and He will comfort me.

He doesn’t just comfort me for my benefit – although that’s wonderful. He comforts me so that I can comfort others. That tells me that my suffering has purpose. When we’re suffering, it can be very tempting to ask “Why me?” Paul gives the answer to that question. My suffering and receiving God’s comfort will enable me to comfort others who suffer.

Don’t waste your suffering, friends. Don’t waste your sorrows – use them as an opportunity to receive comfort from God and then pray for opportunities to share that comfort with others. People around us need to hear about the comfort God can give when they are suffering.

For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5 (NLT)

Paul turns to encouragement here. Having just said that our suffering has purpose – that is, so we can comfort others, it’s almost as if he takes a step back and remembers how hard it is to suffer, so he encourages the Corinthians – the more we suffer, the more God showers us with His comfort. What word is used? Showered – the more we suffer, the more God will shower us with His comfort.

When I was a kid and we’d have a bad storm, mom would say it’s raining cats and dogs. In the Kingdom of God, when we suffer, we can say it’s raining God’s comfort, and the more we suffer, the harder it rains God’s comfort.

Paul then makes his writings more personal. He writes about his own troubles:

6Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
2 Corinthians 1:6-7 (NLT)

Paul shares that even when he and his missionary team were weighed down with troubles, it was for the Corinthians – so that they could comfort the Corinthians and bring salvation to them.

Then he encourages them that again, telling them again that he is confident – confident – that word is important – Paul is confident that the Corinthians will also share in the comfort God was giving him and his team.

The word translated “confident” here is translated “steadfast hope” in the King James Version. I love that translation. Paul had a steadfast hope – a steady, secure hope in Christ that just as God was comforting him, He would comfort those who were suffering with him.

What a wonderful example to us of how to comfort others. God comforts us when we are struggling so that we can say to them “I have a steadfast confidence that just as God comforted me, He will comfort you.”

Hallelujah!

But Paul seems to think they should know a bit more about the suffering he experienced. Sometimes it helps others to understand our suffering because it reinforces to them that God can meet their needs. If He met my needs when I was in this desperate situation – if He came to my rescue – He will come to yours. So let’s read about Paul’s situation:

8We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT)

Wow! Paul again is giving a purpose to our suffering. What an important lesson is in these verses. Paul is saying that sometimes God allows our suffering to continue beyond what we think we can endure…so that we stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely only on God.

That’s the way God wants us to live – relying on Him, trusting Him for each breath we take. And the truth is that when things are going well…it’s easy to believe that we have everything under control and pretty soon we begin to rely on our own abilities or our own money or our own position in life. God wants us to rely on Him. And when we stray too far from that, in His mercy, He allows us to suffer so that we return to Him.

Paul doesn’t dwell on the point because he ends the passage the way he started it – with a focus on praising God, not on his troubles:

And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.
2 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)

Paul says “God came through!” God did rescue us! And not only that! He will rescue us again! We have placed our confidence in Him and He will rescue us!

That is the best place to be, friends – placing our confidence in Him, knowing that He will rescue us. Trusting God, relying on Him not only for our daily needs, but for our eternal need – for salvation. Trust Christ, put your confidence in Him and He will rescue you. In this life and for eternity.

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Firm Foundation Brick wallby guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

Yesterday’s blog looked at some of the things we might be tempted to build our lives on…things that we soon find don’t stand up to the storms of life.

Now let’s look at some pillars we can use to build a firm foundation. Let’s travel in the Scriptures to Ephesians chapter 6 and what is commonly called “the armor of God”. Verses 10-13 say this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

Let’s look more closely at our armor:

Belt of Truth
It’s been said if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. Since “the devil is the father of lies” and “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44), if our lives are filled with anything less than the truth, essentially they are built on him (the devil). However, if we are bound by God’s truth, John’s gospel says that will set us free (vs. 32). I don’t know about you, but when I don’t physically wear a belt with my jeans, they tend to want to fall down. I would say the same about our lives and the “belt of God’s truth”. It truly will help to hold us together!

Breastplate of Righteousness
If we were to imagine a real suit of armor we would see that, along with other body parts, the breastplate covers the heart. Proverbs instructs us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23). A life of righteousness, or “rightness,” according to God and his will, protects our heart from the ravages and disappointments of sin. Just as weeds choke out the good plants in the garden, sinfulness chokes the life out of the goodness God wants us to have in our hearts. As David prayed may we too “hide his Word in our hearts, so that we would not sin against him” (Psalm 119:11).

Shield of Faith
Our cars are equipped with windshields, an umbrella shields us from the rain, and our deodorant shields us (and others) from odor. In other words, a shield is a protector. Scripture affirms that with a shield of faith, we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. When we live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we disarm two of Satan’s greatest weapons; doubt and discouragement. In Genesis, God saw Abraham’s faith (belief) “and credited it to him as righteousness” (15:6). He will do the same for us.

Helmet of Salvation
The helmet, obviously, is a covering for the head. Far too often, we allow Satan to trick our minds into questioning or doubting our salvation, resulting in the loss of the joy that should be present in all those who are the redeemed of the Lord. The Scripture says that if we “believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31), “believe and are baptized” (Mark 16:16), “confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), we will be saved. If we truly know and believe we are saved, it will change how we live.

Sword of the Spirit (Word of God)
Satan has no defense against the power of God’s Word. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, every time Satan opened his mouth with a temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture. He didn’t yell or threaten or call down fire from heaven. He simply said, “It is written” and quoted God’s truth from the Scripture. If it worked for Jesus, it will work for us. Satan doesn’t have to obey us no matter how loud or sincere or threatening we try to be. But he does have to obey God.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7, NIV

Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

God provides all we need to develop a strong, firm foundation – one that doesn’t crack, crumble or fall. But unless we cling to those pillars, unless we build upon them, there is nothing that can make our foundation firm.

Yesterday’s questions bear repeating: How is my foundation? On what or who have I built? Is my life staked upon The Rock, who is Jesus, or am I trusting in one or more false pillars?

Build your foundation on Jesus and practice putting on and using the full Armor of God every day. It will make the difference between losing and winning the battles you face.

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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 July/August 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 July/August 2012 Bookmark Here

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

Here’s July’s reading plan:

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Tuesday’s blog was all about God’s desire to transform our minds – to rearrange the way we think so that the way we live is ultimately rearranged.

 “Faith is not idleness, it’s an action word,” my pastor said recently. He went on to say “God wants to entrust this world to us.”

Isn’t that exciting? It is for me:

  • First, I’m excited that faith isn’t just sitting piously in my prayer room. (I’m not dissing praying! Prayer can be pretty exciting, too…Hmmm…I should blog about that soon!) Faith is an action word! Read the New Testament and you won’t find much idleness.
  • Second, I’m excited that God wants to entrust this world to us! It is our responsibility to bring His Kingdom to earth. We learn about that Kingdom through His Word and our obedience. As we obey – that is, as we take actions to do what His Word teaches, not simply give mental assent to it, He responds by giving us the keys to the Kingdom, by entrusting this world to us.

There’s a degree to which, we have to mature into that trust. You don’t give the keys to your best car to your teenager the moment he or she turns 16. No, you watch to see that they have developed the maturity required to handle the car you give him the keys to. Likewise, God is going to give us keys to the Kingdom, but He’s going to do it progressively as we mature. That means not only rearranging our thoughts, but also rearranging our actions. Because God doesn’t only want us to think differently, He also wants us to act differently.

Faith is an action word! It is a way of living.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

The Kingdom of God is not in the rearrangement of words, either on paper or in our minds – it is living by God’s power. God first rearranges our thoughts – causing us to think differently, but in the process we are transformed…so that we act differently and can transform our world. We are renewed so that we can live by God’s power.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

When God highlighted that verse to me this week, the thought that immediately followed it was “we settle for too little…” and “we expect too little from God!”

Scripture uses strong language –

  • Be transformed, renewed (Romans 12:2a)
  • By Scripture that is alive and powerfulRemember, the word that was translated as “power” is the word “energace” from which we get energy – active power, effective power (Hebrews 4:12)
  • By that is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • So that you are living by God’s power (1 Corinthians 4:20)– the word translated “power” here is “dunamis,” from which we get dynamite  – miraculous power, explosive power!

We settle for too little. The Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk – it is living by God’s power. That’s not the power to get through the day. That’s not the power to overcome the things of everyday life that those who don’t know Christ overcome by simply getting on with life. It’s power to live differently – power to change – transform the world. It’s the power to think differently. I said in our small group last week that I’m tired of negativity in my life – tired of expecting bad things to result. When I face challenges, I want to anticipate God’s energace and dunamis power – His effective, active, explosive power.

I have a magnet on my task board at work that says “Only those who attempt the ridiculous can expect the miraculous.” I’m not suggesting that we all go out and attempt ridiculous things. There’s a difference between presuming upon God – that is, simply stepping out into whatever we want to do and expecting Him to “rescue” us. There’s a difference between that and stepping out in faith into what God has called us. Yet often, God calls each one of us – not just the “professional” Christians, not just missionaries, not just extraordinarily gifted people – each one of us, to things that are bigger than we are. And it’s not until we attempt those “ridiculous” things that we’ll see God’s energace, dunamis power.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 (KJV)

energace…dunamis

I expect too little from God. And I don’t believe it honors Him. I look at what I have to do and I can’t get it done and I hope He’ll help me meet my deadlines. He will and He has, but He has bigger things He wants me to do. I want to pray for and believe for those bigger things and live my life accordingly.

I have a two-fold assignment for you this week. (Yes, I’m giving you an assignment.)

  • First, read Scripture every day! Challenge yourself to pray, ask God to open your spirit, then read. God’s transforming power comes first and foremost through His Word. Read Scripture every day with the attitude “Lord, teach me from your Word.”
  • Second, trust God for one thing that is bigger than you’ve ever trusted Him for before. If you know what that thing is, if something has already come to mind, write it down and carry it with you. If you don’t know, maybe your one thing needs to be asking Him to show you a bigger thing to trust Him for.

A few weeks ago I wrote a series titled “Living…Like Someone Left the Gate Open.” My key passage for the series was 2 Corinthians 3:12 and 17. Let’s expand that passage by one verse:

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. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Cor 3:12, 17-18 (NIV)

 

God’s power – energace and dunamis power – at work in and through us transforms us so that when we boldly live like someone left the gate open, we reflect the Lord’s glory to the world. Hallelujah! Look in the mirror – are you beginning to see a new you that is reflecting the glory of the Lord? It’s often difficult to see it in ourselves, but if you are pursuing God diligently, if you are asking Him to transform you and reading His Word regularly, He will do it. And the world will see Christ in you – you will reflect His glory! I’ll take that. I’m willing to sacrifice for that. How about you? Let’s pursue transformation together. Let’s rearrange our lives around Christ and His purposes.

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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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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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