Letting the World Define You?

Psalm 139 artFeeling like you don’t have it all together—-like you don’t measure up?
According to whom?
Sadly most of us continue to measure and compare ourselves by the world’s standard and other people (and most of the time merely by the outward appearance of things).
No matter the outer façade of ‘perfection’ (via social media posts or otherwise), the reality is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23, Ps. 14:3, 53:2-3). We live in a world that’s becoming increasingly filled with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (those quick to point out the flaws of others while harboring hatred in their own hearts) (Matt. 23:27-28).
It’s actually wise (and freeing) when one realizes that their own fallen heart (inborn sinful nature) is deceitful (crooked) above all things and desperately wicked (naturally bent on deception) (Jer. 17:9). It’s incurable and can’t just be made ‘better’ through good works and deeds (Rom. 8:7).

Thankfully God, our Creator, knows our substance, thoughts… ‘warts and all’ and still chose to die for us (while we were still sinners) (Psalm 139, Rom. 5:8). Ephesians 2:4-5 says this, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  Salvation is a gift received through faith. It’s not based on anything we can do or work for. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:8-10). These good works are not from our own ideas generated from a mind that’s bent on doing things to glorify oneself in front of man. Rather these works have already been prepared by God beforehand and are only able to emanate from a mind that’s been transformed and renewed in knowledge according to the image of the Creator (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:9-16, Eph. 4:23-24, Col 3:10). God’s in the business of substituting something new rather than mending what man has messed up. Some examples of this from God’s Word are: a new man/creation (2 Cor. 5:17-18, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10); a new heart & covenant for Israel (Ezek. 36:24-29); a new spiritual body (John 3:6-8, 1 Cor. 15:45-49); and a new heaven & earth (2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1,5).

What’s unseen is essential. God looks beyond appearances in His all-knowing, wise-beyond-our-comprehension, infinite-in-all-capacities nature (2 Cor. 4:18, 1 Sam. 16:7). He’s not looking for flawless robots but rather those with broken, contrite and obedient hearts (1 Sam. 16:7, Psalm 51:17, Phil. 2:3-8, Eph. 4:1-2). His light truly does shine brightest through this type of humble vessel, where the power is clearly of Him, not of man (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). Such examples from the Bible are: Rahab (Josh. 6:25, Matt. 11:5); Gideon (Judges 6:15); David (1 Sam. 16:7, 11-12); the disciples (Matt. 18-22); Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), as well as the list in Hebrews 11.

IT’S A GRAVE MISTAKE TO LET THE WORLD DEFINE US. Competing and comparing ourselves with others is a great distraction from the devil to divert us away from God’s divine purpose.
I’m amazed at how many deceptive thoughts continue to circulate around in my own mind—trying to trick me into believing things contrary to God’s truth (Eph. 4:22). I find when I allow God to search my heart & try me (because He knows all my anxieties & dark thoughts), I’m able to bring them into captivity where they can be cast down and put to death (Psalm 139:23-24, 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

It’s a waste of time and energy to keep striving to conform to the world’s deceptive way of thinking. Rather than trying to gauge our status and performance to fallen man’s vain, hollow and finite measuring stick, our thoughts should turn toward the One Who created us uniquely for His purposes (Col. 2:8, 3:1-3). His ways are perfect and it’s not in His nature to lie (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 18:30, Titus 1:2). It’s key for one to grasp how much God loves them apart from anything they can do and understand that they’re “complete in Him” through Christ’s great sacrifice and finished work on the cross (Col. 2:9-14, 1:10-12). To know that nothing can separate a believer from Christ’s love is the needed catalyst to compel him or her to walk in a worthy manner (2 Cor. 5:14-15, Eph. 3:18-19, 4:1-3, Rom. 8:35-39, 11:33-36, 2 Tim. 1:9).

Sara Groves in her song, “The Journey is My Own”, with verses like: “When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone, this journey is my own”, and “Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one”, encourages us to look to the One we live and move and have our being in (Acts 17:28).

Allow God to be your director, audience and gentle critic. Trust in the role He’s uniquely cast you in, along with the script that He’s written for you alone. As you do you’ll find your time spent focusing on His cues and direction rather than being misdirected by the world (Phil. 2:12-13, 3:20). So press on—you’re a work in progress! (Phil. 1:6, 3:12-14)
Laura

 

CONTENTMENT IN EVERY STATE

In whatever state be content us map

Are you satisfied or do you yearn for more?

As I get older and sift through ‘stuff’ I’ve purchased and slowly collected through the years (trying to decide whether to discard, give-a-way or repurpose) & also tend to the upkeep and needs of our aging 20 year old home, the thought of time spent on ‘stuff’ that doesn’t last permeates my mind (Matt. 6:19-20, 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Col. 3:1-3).
I truly desire to minimize managing my ‘stuff’ as I believe that this is one of the enemy’s most deceptive tactics to keep us derailed away from the purpose God has for our lives. The worldly mindset of staying current with the ever changing modern technology & social media—trending home décor—the latest fashions—beauty, health, exercise and diets to keep the illusion of youth & looking outwardly like we ‘have it all together’ can be time consuming and exhausting!
I aspire to be more like the apostle Paul who could truly testify to the statement that, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am…to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He, after all, was imprisoned numerous times, often brought near death with countless beatings. He was lashed 39 times, beaten with rods 3 times, even stoned once. He was shipwrecked 3 times including a night & day adrift at sea. On frequent journeys, in the city, wilderness and sea, he experienced danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, and Gentiles. Paul toiled in hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food and in cold and exposure. And if that wasn’t enough to bear, there was the daily pressure and anxiety on him for all the churches he was ministering to (2 Cor. 11:23-29). He had good reason to be discontent but instead boasted of things that showed his weakness and of those things that he was allowed to suffer with that kept him from becoming conceited. He truly knew and understood through experience that God’s grace was sufficient for him and contrary to the world’s ways, God’s power was made perfect in weakness, for when he was weak, then he was strong (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
King Solomon, on the other hand, although he’d been blessed with great wisdom, ‘played the fool’ as he amassed riches, property, treasures, wives (700), and concubines (300). He had the most & best of everything (1 Kings 10:23, 11:3, Eccl. 2:10). The 3 steps of his downfall were wealth, weapons, and women (1 Kings 10:14-29, 16-21, 11:1-40). If he’d only heeded the Lord’s instruction he would not have been led astray and turn toward idolatry (Deut. 17:16-17, 1 Kings 3:14, 9:4-9, 11:4-8). Thankfully at his life’s end he came to his senses, realizing that all of it was vanity and that only through “fearing God” and heeding God’s Word can one truly be satisfied (Eccl. 12:8, 13-14).
All of us, as well, when we veer from the Lord’s Word that instructs and guides us in the best way to live in our fallen world, slip out of contentment too (2 Timothy 3:16). Time after time, with example after example, from Adam & Eve to Abraham, David, Solomon, … whenever one leaned on his own (fallible) understanding and the world’s bent ways, the path that they veered on led to heartache and woe (Prov. 3:5-7).

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that “…godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it’s certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:6-10). Note he doesn’t say money in itself is bad, but the desire for it. It’s the ‘love of money’—always looking toward it to fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Paul goes on to write for those who are rich to not be high-minded or trust in uncertain riches but instead in the living God, Who gives richly all things to enjoy. They should be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19). When our conduct is without covetousness (the love of money), we can be content with what we presently have (Heb. 13:5).


So as you can see, contentment isn’t a ‘stop on the way’, it’s our gauge of where we are in relation to our trust in the Lord—at all times—in hardships, periods of struggle, grief, or pain to times of joy, bounty, and rest. Our aim should be to stay on an ‘even keel’ with life’s ups and downs and realize that when we’re feeling like we’re being ‘rocked out of the boat’; we most likely allowed fear of something to creep in.

As Paul encouraged the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” and the result of this will be, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

I know that when I feel like I’m heading toward ’going overboard’ or ’capsizing’ in my life, I pause to think about what I didn’t give over to the Lord in prayer and in what way I’m not trusting in Him, but leaning on my own understanding. I also remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). The power that God gives is so mighty that it can pull down any stronghold, as we cast down any thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, Eph. 6:10). If we meditate on God’s Word and the areas that He instructs us to focus on—the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), we’ll have less time to look to the things that are temporary and perishing– as all men and women’s lives end in death—returning to dust and the spirit to God the Giver (2 Cor. 4:16-18, Eccl. 3:18-20, 7:2, 12:7-8, Col. 3:1-3).
We can rejoice and be content as God supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus as we await our blessed hope and His appearing (Titus 2:13, Col. 3:4, Phil. 4:19, 2 Cor. 12:9)!
    Laura

God's Grace is Sufficient

ATTAINING THE PRIZE

Bird of Pray

BUCKLE UP it’s going to be a rough ride as you press toward the mark
There’s a prize to be won & a crown to be gained, but no man is crowned, unless he strives lawfully (Phil. 3:14, 2 Tim. 2:5, 1 Tim. 1:8).
Attaining the Prize of the High Calling is not for the faint of heart.
If you’re more familiar with the ways of the world & the words of men than the words & will of God, you may find yourself distracted, deceived & disqualified.
The entry fee (salvation) has already been paid by another & it can’t be revoked (It’s a gift that rests solely upon the finished work of Christ) (Eph. 1:13-14, 2:8-9, Col. 1:13-14, 22, 3:3-4). While eternal life is assured, the question of the added reward, the prize of a crown for faithful service is not. There is an inheritance for all believers that cannot be lost (Eph. 1:11-14, Col. 1:12-13, 22). There is also a reward that’s attached to that inheritance which is associated with the high calling of God which is in Christ Jesus for individual faithfulness & ‘perfecting’ (Phil. 3:12-14, Col. 1:28, 3:23-24, 4:12).
THE ARENA OF THE CONTEST
Many Christians have been deceived into thinking that the earth, not heaven is where the sphere of blessing is today. Our citizenship (seat of government) is not on the earth but in heaven, (Col. 1:13, Phil. 3:20, Col. 1:18, 2:19, Eph. 1:22-23). Sadly those who don’t act in accordance with their heavenly citizenship, minding earthly things, will be beguiled of their reward. They’re unaware that their warfare is not in the earthly realm (against flesh & blood) either, but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age—against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the arena of heavenly places (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:3). The irony is that our spiritual foe’s greatest scheme is to redirect focus toward the arena of the terrestrial (earthly things—flesh & blood—things of the world). It’s through these things that don’t last that disqualify the believer from receiving his reward (Col. 2:16-23, 2 Cor. 4:18, 1 John 2:15-17). Sadly, it was the Apostle Paul’s fellow worker, Demas that forsook him, because he “loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10, Phil. 1:24, Col. 4:14).
This winning strategy of the enemy becomes more easily understood when one grasps the meaning of Satan’s current titles: (1) ‘The Prince (ruler) of this World’: Christ (while on earth) called him this (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) & yet when tested, rejected & rebuked Satan & his offer of the “kingdoms of this world” (Matt. 4:8-10); (2) Another title he presently holds is ‘The Prince of the Power of Air’ (Eph. 2:2): the ruling spirit over “the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:3); and (3) ‘The god of this Present (evil) Age’ (2 Cor. 4:4). He’s the master mind controller over the world systems that are dominated by earthly passions through the corrupt, depraved nature of the flesh—enmity against God (Gal. 5:19-21, Rom. 8:7-8, James 4:4).
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT & HIS TACTICS
Satan is not only crafty & calculating; he most certainly doesn’t play by the rules. To learn more: Gen. 3:1, John 8:44, 2 Cor. 2:11, 11:3, 14, Eph. 6:11, 1 Tim. 3:7, 6:9, 2 Tim. 2:26, 1 Peter 5:8.
It’s in the area of the believer’s new nature, with its preordained walk & works (Eph. 2:10), that need to be ever guarded, as the old (corrupt) nature is still in residence and if not ‘put off’, will allow access & opportunity for Satan to operate & deceive. The enemy’s strategy is to redirect thinking from ‘things above’ (Col. 3:1-3, 2:7-8) & away from the fullness of Christ toward other ways & means that have no place in this present dispensation, such as: false humility & works, unscriptural mediators & false teachers, food & drink, rules & ordinances… (Col. 2:16-23, 3:5-10, Eph. 4:17-27, 2 Cor. 10:3-6).
ATTITUDE
Attitude is everything. The winning attitude for the race set before us would appear to worldly eyes as though the last man wins the prize, not the first. The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “walk worthy” with “all humility of mind” (Eph. 4:1-2). He instructed the Philippians with this same mindset in Phil. 2:3-4, referring to the ultimate example being Christ Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (vs. 5-8). Only in the realm of grace can the believer have this mindset, as this thinking is so contrary to worldly ways, where the nature of the race is to win at all costs—jostling for position, elbowing out the other competitors to get the upper hand and win. Fellow believers should ‘strive together’ for the faith, not with one another as we are members of the Church of the One Body (Phil. 1:27, 2:3 Eph. 4:3-6, 15-16).

GEAR UP
Since game day is already here (Eph. 5:16, Gal. 1:4) there’s no time to waste. The Christian must be ‘suited up’ in the gear God’s provided in Christ, the Armor of God, to protect against the wiles of his opponent & keep him standing on his feet (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). He is “complete in Him” & so lacks nothing (Col. 2:10).
STUDY THE TRAINING MANUAL
In order to be thoroughly equipped for every good work and to stay ‘in the game’, one needs to diligently study the Training Manual (The Holy Scriptures) & rightly divide it so there’s no err in doctrine and practice (as some who fell out of contention for the prize) (2 Tim. 3:16, 2:15-19). The one who is an ‘approved vessel’, that’s useful for the Master, pursues righteousness, faith, love, & peace with like-minded believers. They shun profane & idle talk, depart from iniquity, flee youthful lusts, avoid foolish & ignorant disputes (knowing that they generate strife). They don’t quarrel, but are gentle to all & able to teach patiently, with humility, correcting those who are in opposition (as they once walked in their shoes) (Col. 1:21, Eph. 2:1-3, 2 Tim. 2: 14-26).
WORK OUT/TRAIN:
Exercise yourself toward godliness so you can be strong in the grace that’s in Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 4:8, 2 Tim. 2:1).
To work out (Eph. 2:10) what God has already worked in (Phil. 2:12-13) one needs to be willing to be trained (taught) by grace. The same grace that was active when one is saved & became a ’new creation’ (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10) doesn’t depart from the believer, but continues to teach, as well as correct. The old nature must be considered ‘evicted from the game’, so grace can fully train the believer to be zealous for good works as they “live soberly in this present world—denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Tit. 2:11).
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: LIVE LOOKING
Grace also teaches us that we should live looking (Titus 2:11-13). Looking isn’t so much a reference to ‘sight’ as it is to an expectation. “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God & Savior Jesus Christ” is a powerful incentive to walk worthy and so be in contention for the prize (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:1-3, 10, Phil. 3:14-16, Tit. 2:13-14). So lay aside every weight (the things that come between you & the goal i.e.: James 3:15, 1 Cor. 15:40, Phil. 3:19) & run with endurance the race set before you (Heb. 12:1, Phil. 3:13). The paradox of faith can be seen in the faithful listed in Heb. 11 who died without receiving the fulfillment of the promises that were made to them, but as Moses did, looked to the reward, enduring as seeing Him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).
FINISH STRONG
It’s the good soldier that endures hardness (suffers evil) and the hardworking farmer that gets first dibs on the fruits of his labor (2 Tim. 2:3, 6). As we allow grace to teach & correct us we can keep our eyes on the heavenly goal line, looking for the appearing of our great God and Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, living godly in the present age, so we as the apostle Paul can say, “…I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
SO PRESS ON!

Laura

STRONG IN THE LORD

He Can Do It Be strong in the LordWhen I was growing up in the 70’s/80’s, the “Women’s Lib” movement, which started in the late 60’s, was gaining momentum & starting to become enmeshed in our lives. Most kids don’t think too much or question their culture & environment, but it’s funny how certain things get imbedded in one’s mind without even realizing it at the time. I remember a commercial for the perfume Enjoli getting stuck in my head. In this ad a beautiful woman sauntered around and sang, “I can bring home the bacon—fry it up in a pan—and never, never, never let you forget you’re a man because I’m a woman—Enjoli.” The tag line for Enjoli was: “The new 8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman”. I grew up with 3 brothers (& a sister too) in a highly competitive family where ‘sports ruled’, being that my Dad was head of the Phys. Ed. Dept. & head football coach at our high school so naturally I was drawn to scenarios where females getting the upper hand (in any form) was appealing. With these commercials and TV shows like Charlie’s Angels being popular as well, I bought into the lie that women could do anything men could do (& look great doing it)!
If we go back to the beginning, in the garden, it was the woman who was deceived by Satan’s 3 lies, not Adam (Gen. 3:1-7, 13, 1 Tim. 2:14, 2 Cor. 11:3). Adam knowingly disobeyed God by going along with Eve without objecting as he should have (Gen. 3:6, 12, 17, Rom. 5:12). This demonstrates that even being the weaker vessel, a wife has the power to influence her husband (and not always for good) (1 Pet. 3:7). A horrible example of this can be found in Jezebel and her evil influence on her husband Ahab (1 Kings 21:25). The pattern that’s needed for women to emulate is the one found in Proverbs 31:10-31, the Ideal Woman or “Virtuous Wife” (virtuous meaning “strong in moral qualities”). This ‘homemaker’ was no slacker. She took care of herself so that she was able to take care of what she was entrusted (vs. 17, 22, 30): tending to her husband (as a helpmate the way God originally designed) (vs. 10-12, 23, Gen. 2:18, 20-24); willingly working tirelessly with her hands to manage her household efficiently (vs. 13-21, 24-25, 27-28); and giving to others outside her household (vs. 20). Her outward appearance of strength & honor (vs. 25) emanated from her inner dependence on the Lord, knowing that the strength to accomplish all she did came from Him (vs. 30, Prov. 14:26, 1 Pet. 3:2-4).
As important as it is to take care of ourselves (by getting enough of the right exercise) so that we’ll be up to the physical tasks that we’re entrusted with in this life, it’s the spiritual life of the inner man/woman that’s most vital (1 Tim. 4:8). The apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would be strengthened in this area (Eph. 3:16). Thankfully we’re not left to live the Christian life in our own strength, just as salvation is not through our own efforts; rather a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-10). Our duty then is to reckon our flesh (the old sinful nature) as dead—much like a baseball that’s ‘out of play’ and instead alive unto God, through Christ. Only then can God’s resurrection power operate mightily through us to fulfil the good works He’s prepared in advance for us to walk in (Rom.6:6-11, Eph. 2:10). Daily feeding upon God’s Word continually along with diligently rightly dividing it, will renew our mind with His truth which will enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil and not get entangled with the affairs of this life (Rom. 12:2, 2 Tim. 2:15, 4, Eph. 6:10-11).
God’s ways are contrary to the world’s ways. It’s the humble who are lifted up (not the prideful) and the weak who are given strength (not the powerful) (1 Cor. 25, 27-31, James 4:6-7, 10, 1 Pet. 5:5-9, Phil. 2:5-11). It’s through the weak, earthen vessel that places their faith in God (not in self or man) where God’s mighty power is best displayed (2 Cor. 4:7). Those listed as faithful and commended in the book of Hebrews “out of weakness were made strong” (Heb. 11:30-34). Unique to the Christian life is a risen Savior Who can sympathize with our weaknesses, as he too was tempted according to all things, like we are, yet did not sin (Heb. 4:15, Phil. 2:5-11). The apostle Paul had no confidence in his flesh (Phil. 3:4). He knew that the Lord’s strength was made perfect only in weakness & that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was able to fight a good fight, finish the course God had entrusted him with, and keep his faith due to the strength he received through Christ (2 Tim. 4:7, Phil. 4:13, 2 Tim. 4:17). We can as well when we’re mindful of putting off the old nature, renewing the spirit of our mind, and putting on the new nature that’s equipped with the armor and strength of God (Eph. 4:22-24, 6:10-17).
So outsource your strength from One Who is Almighty and be strong in the power of His might (Ps. 24:10, Isa. 40:26, Eph. 6:10).

Laura

Live Risen!

Risen Birdcage“Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers: The snare is broken, & we are delivered” (Ps. 124:7).

God made us alive in Christ even when we were dead & encaged in our sins. We were raised with Christ through faith in the working of God (who raised Him from the dead) & made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Col. 2:12-15, Eph. 2:4-6). “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

So why do many of us choose to live with a mindset captive & encaged to the world instead?

It may have something to with a spiritual foe that’s a master of camouflage (disguise, concealment, blending in w/the surrounding). I remember watching a chilling scene in the Viet Nam war era film “Platoon” years ago. In the scene an American infantry platoon was walking though the dense jungle and unbeknownst to them were unseen assailants & booby traps. The enemy was so camouflaged as part of the jungle that only their eyes could be seen. It reminded me of the verse in 2 Cor. 11:14 that Satan himself transforms as an angel of light. The same disguise he donned in the garden as “the serpent” (Hebrew for Nachash, a shining one) when he beguiled Eve and Paul feared for the Corinthian believers that their minds could be corrupted in the same way from the simplicity in Christ to the crafty duplicity of those preaching another Jesus, with a different spirit, & a different gospel (Gen. 3:1, 2 Cor. 11:3-4).
The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19).
We, as believers, should not be ignorant of our enemy’s schemes & devices (2 Cor. 2:11). “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:6, 8). Satan’s expert use of subtlety (defined as: hard to notice or see; not obvious; clever & indirect; not showing one’s real purpose) should put all believers on alert.

Satan wants us to become distracted away from God, His Word & ways and focus instead on the ‘things of the world’ —the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life—that are not of the Father & that pass away (1 John 2:15-17). These were the same 3 areas that he used to tempt Eve in the garden with as well as Jesus in the wilderness after Jesus had been fasting 40 days & nights. The difference being, Eve succumbed where Jesus withstood by using the Word of God (“It is written…) which caused the devil to leave (Gen. 3:6, Matt. 4:1-11).
Some of the devil’s other snares include: the fear of man (rather than of God) & a desire to be rich (Prov. 29:25, 1 Tim. 3:9-10). That’s why the mandate in Col. 3:1, “IF THEN YOU WERE RAISED WITH CHRIST, SEEK THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE ABOVE, WHERE CHRIST IS, SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” is crucial to living the risen life along with daily transforming & renewing the mind with God’s truth and way of thinking (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23, 1 Cor. 2:13-14).
We did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we received the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15, Eph. 1:5).
Satan is a counterfeiter & substitutes God’s original purpose & intentions with his own corrupt, perverted version. He’s a liar at the core (father of lies) & a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Due to the coexistence of the 2 natures in the child of God, the old nature (which all are born with -Rom. 5:12) that leads to captivity & death and the new nature (which is a gift of God to be received-Eph. 2:8) that leads to life & peace, there is an opportunity for the devil to get a foothold if he can appeal and entice the flesh (the old fallen nature). If he’s effective he can keep them captive to sin & away from the victory & purpose they already have in Christ (Rom. 7:14-25, 8:7, Eph.2:10, 4:17-27, Col. 2:10).
Although the devil may be compared to a roaring lion, seeking about whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8), it’s far more likely that he’ll come under the guise of an angel of light, an as his other titles indicate, “Prince of this world” and “god of this age” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Cor. 4:4), it shouldn’t be surprising that his most potent sphere of activity will be most present in the realm of politics, world government and in the church with its doctrines and ministry. This is why Paul warned Timothy to not become entangled in the affairs in this life (2 Tim. 2:4).

God has provided the believer with everything needed to live a risen, victorious life. We can have faith, not fear as we stand against the wiles of the devil, with the mighty weapons of warfare in God (Eph. 6:13-17, 2 Tim. 1:7, 3:16-17). They are effective for pulling down strongholds, casting down imaginations and all the thoughts & lies that try to exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, as we bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ (Eph. 6:11, 2 Cor. 10:4-5). For the word of God is living & powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul & spirit, joints & marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
When we know, believe & act on God’s truth, in His strength, it sets us free and allows us to live the victorious, risen life in Him (John 8:32, 1 Cor. 15:57, 1 John 5:4, 2 Cor. 1:9-10, 2 Tim. 1:10).
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, & do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1).

Live Risen! Laura

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BULLDOG

Buster with Birds art“…ask the beasts, and they will teach you:
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you…” (Job 12:7)
“The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them”
(Psa. 111:2)
Through God’s creation we can be taught. We miss out on much that God has clearly put on display for our benefit through the works of His hand—exhibiting His eternal power & Godhead (Rom. 1:19-20). Just look at 4 things that are little on earth but exceedingly wise: the ant, the rock badger, the locust and the spider (Prov. 30:24-28). The ant is used again as an illustration of being industrious instead of being a sluggard (Prov. 6:6-8). Who better to illustrate the lessons we can learn from God’s creation than from the Creator Himself (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17)? When Jesus graced the earth he incorporated many visual examples of creation to teach spiritual truths such as: studying the birds of the air and the lilies of the field to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of worry (Matt. 6:25-31); sheep and things related to them to demonstrate that He’s the good Shepherd and what that means (John 10:1-17); and the grape vine to illustrate the benefits of dependence on Him versus self-sufficiency (John 15:1-8).
A personal illustration of this is through our beloved old ( 13+ year) English bulldog, Buster, who recently passed away. One of the first lessons of owning a bulldog is to have patience. They aren’t like other dogs. After previously owning a Labrador retriever we weren’t quite sure of what we had on our hands after bringing Buster home. When we took him outside he would just sit on the sidewalk for a while before he decided to ‘take care of his business’. The same applied for taking him on a walk or when my husband took him to the lumber yard where he works. It was clear he wanted to go as he’d slowly make his way to the door but he wasn’t in any hurry. It seemed like much of the time I was and so this also gave me pause as to why? I learned to allow for “Buster time” and started to understand better the patience (and long suffering) of the Lord with me and mankind in general (Ps. 86:15, 2 Pet. 3:9). Buster also gave us, as well as others who knew him, joy just by his presence—his lovable frumpy face, his unusual snorts & the other funny noises he’d make. It was no surprise that he was coined the ‘morale booster’ at my husband’s work place and the request was often made by many of Buster’s (aka Mr. B’s) lady friends there to bring him in on a regular basis. In God’s design for our fallen world there is a season & time to every purpose and work under heaven—even a time to laugh & weep (Eccl. 3:1, 7, 4). Life is but a vapor—death is a reminder of the temporalness of life in this world and the truth to keep our sight on ‘things above’ & meditate on the good, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy & things that bring a good report—rejoicing in the Lord always, being content no matter the state of our circumstances good or bad as it’s Christ whose grace is sufficient—whose strength is enough & whose provisions supply all our needs (James 4:14; Col. 3:1-3, Phil. 4:8, 4, 11-13, 19; 2 Cor. 12:9). Take some time this spring to examine some of the Lord’s great handiwork & the life lessons they reveal.
“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You; I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, plans formed of old faithful and sure” (Isa. 25:1).

The Lord speaking, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10-11).

Laura

buster on lumber pile

DESIRING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS?

Trust in th e Lord heartTo cultivate healthy relationships there are 2 areas you may wish to consider.
The first being THE INHERENT CORRUPT NATURE OF MAN–The second being the INCORRUPTIBLE, SUPERIOR NATURE OF GOD.
Whether we like it or not, each & every one of us became card-carrying members of a fallen nature the day we were born (Rom. 3:23, 5:12, Gen. 3). This is important to understand and acknowledge before any true health can be realized in one’s relationships. So here are some basic facts explaining this inherited nature:
• IT GOES BY THESE NAMES: The Flesh, The Natural Man, The Old Man, The Outward Man, The (natural) Heart, The Carnal Mind, and SIN (John 3:6, 1 Cor. 2:14, Eph. 4:22, 2 Cor. 4:16, Jer. 17:9, Rom. 8:7, 5:12-8:39).
• IT CAN’T BE TRUSTED. This is how the (natural) heart is described in Jeremiah 17:9, “…deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked.” So deceitful that it constantly tricks and betrays—so deceitful that only God can truly know it (1 John 3:20).
• THERE’S NOTHING GOOD IN IT (Rom. 7:18, John 6:63). All of its various works can be found in Galatians 5:19-21. Out of it proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, & blasphemies (Matt. 15:19).
• IT CAN’T BE IMPROVED OR CHANGED—ITS END IS DEATH (1 Cor. 15:22, Rom. 8:6). Any & all of man’s codes, creeds and concepts can’t change it and collapse with its use as Colossians 2:23 says, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
Ceasing to know God results in a deluded & perverted heart that minds the things of the flesh, & relies on impotent idols (whether made of wood, stone, or ‘smart’ phone… See Rom. 1:18-32, 8:5, Isa. 44:6-20, 46, 41:29, 2 Cor. 7:1, Eph. 4:19). So if the carnal mind is the source of thoughts & thoughts are the source of action, it’s really no wonder that when man trusts & relies on it rather than God corruption is sown & toxicity enters into relationships (James 1:14-16, Gal. 6:8).
That brings us to the other area to be considered–The Superior Nature of God (Isa. 55:8-9). To get an idea of some of God’s attributes, including omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, transcendence, immutability, self-sufficiency, self-existence etc., take a look at these verses: Gen. 21:33, Deut. 7:9, Ps. 90:2, 91:1, 1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16, 2 Tim. 2:13, Heb. 6:17, 13:8, 10:23, Rev. 1:8, 19:11.
IF ANYTHING GOOD IS TO BE FOUND IN MAN, IT MUST FIRST BE PUT IN BY GOD. Thankfully God has given man an alternative to his inherent corrupt state with an option to receive the gift of a new nature, one that is “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6). Here are some basic facts re: this new Spirit nature:
• IT’S DIVINE IN ITS ORIGIN, PERFECT IN ITS NATURE & LIFE-GIVING (John 3:16, 6:63, 1 John 3:9, 5:18).
• IT GOES BY THESE NAMES: “Spirit”, Divine Nature, The New Man, The Inward Man, The Mind, Son-ship spirit (Christ’s spirit), and Divine spirit (John 3:6, 2 Pet. 1:4, Col. 3:10, Rom. 7:22-23, 25, 8:9, 14, 2 Cor. 4:16, Eph. 3:16, 4:24).
• IT CANNOT BE CHANGED (John 3:6, Eph. 1:13, Rom. 11:29).
This new alternative gives life & peace to those who receive it as well as supplying all that’s needed to contend with a fallen world (including the relationships in it) (Rom. 8:6, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Col. 2:10). Still there are PRECAUTIONS TO BE MINDFUL OF:
THERE IS AN ADVERSARY (enemy) of the new nature, the Devil, who is real and who wages warfare in the spiritual realm (1 John 15:19, Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:3, Gal. 5:17). He’s a thief who comes only to steal, kill & destroy (John 10:10); a roaring lion that seeks whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He’s the ultimate liar, imposter, tempter, accuser & deceiver (Matt. 13:39, John 8:44, 2 Cor. 11:14, Matt. 4:3, Rev. 12:10). Be mindful that his goal is to divert the believer’s attention from God in Christ and place it back on the corrupt fleshly self (Col. 2:4, 8, 1 Tim. 2:14, James 1:14-16, Eph. 5:6, 2 Thess. 2:3, Rom. 16:17-19, 1 Cor. 15:33, 2 John 1:7).
The New Nature has weapons that are not of a carnal nature, but mighty in God for the pulling down of strong holds (2 Cor. 10:4, Eph. 6:11-17, Rom. 13:12, 1 Cor. 15:57, 1 John 5:4). A believer must utilize them.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23).
• Neglect, starve & make no accommodations for the flesh. Cast off its works (Phil. 3:3, Eph. 4:17-32, Rom. 6:11, 8:14, 13:12-14, Gal. 5:19-21). Don’t let the earthly things: money, material possessions & things that perish clutter up the mind (Col. 3:2, Luke 12:15-21, Matt. 6:21, 24, Prov. 15:16-17 1 Tim. 6:10, 1 John 2:16-17).
• Properly feed & take care of the new nature. This is accomplished by renewing the mind with the Word of God on a daily basis and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Just as one wouldn’t reap the benefits if someone physically exercised for them, the same applies spiritually. The end is better discernment & direction to move in truth via the power of God’s love (2 Tim. 2:15, 3:17, Acts 17:11, Deut. 8:3, Jer. 15:16, Col. 3:16, Rom. 12:2, 2 Cor. 10:5, Eph. 4:23-24, Heb. 4:12).
God’s love, in Christ, is unfailing & secure–the believer is complete in Him—so why not trust in Him with all your heart rather than lean on your own way of thinking to guide you in your life & relationships? (1 Cor. 13:4-7, Rom. 8:38-39, Col. 2:10, Phil. 4:6-7, Prov. 3:5-7).
Laura

For the Love of God
by Laura Kestly

The lesser gods we worship
as we fall upon our knees
are manufactured lies of love
as a deluded heart deceives

Material treasures we amass
and love with all our might
dematerialize to naught
when our final breath takes flight

The One who loved us first
is the One we first should love
and trust with our full hearts and minds
in His wisdom from above

Spiritual sonship is a gift
by grace through Christ alone
and a hope of life eternal
in a loving, heavenly home

Missing the Mystery?

Hid in Christ

Our world set in the bounds of time moves on toward another year—
How will you choose to move through it?
You may miss the sound of the Divine’s low whisper and wooing ways if you’re intent on striving in your own strength instead of surrendering to the security of the Savior.

Missing the Mystery
By Laura Kestly

Fixated on facades
Fooled into the fake
Focused on false frills
Succumb with social media
Motivated by material
Beguiled by bogus beauty
Over occupied to observe
Wonder left wanting
Earthly evaporates
Rather
Modify your mind
Transform with Truth
Consider the Creator
Behold His beauty
Glimpse the glory
Welcome His Word
Savor the Savior
Take in the transcendent
Spiritual sustains

 

The eye of faith sees Him Who is invisible.

“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” –Acts 17:28–

1 Kings 19:12; Rom. 1:19-23, 8:5-7, 10:17, 11:33-36, 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:14,16; 2 Cor. 4:18, 10:3-5; Ps. 8:3-4, 18, 29:2; Prov. 3:5-7; Eph. 1:9, 3:1-9, 5:32; Col. 1:26-27, 2:2, 3:2-3, 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9; Isa. 55:8-9, 40:21-3, Heb. 11:1

Ordinary Extraordinary

Mary: Expecting the SaviorOrdinary Extraordinary
By Laura Kestly

The Extraordinary came in an ordinary way—
in human flesh to redeem and restore.
In an ordinary woman, an Extraordinary birth
would fulfill the prophecies of yore.

Through Divine intervention
and human conception
the Savior came into the world.
Wrapped in swaddling cloth
and laid in a trough
ancient prophecy was unfurled.

The shepherds were told
by an angel on high
while they were watching
their flock by night
where the Savior would be
so they hastened to see
the newborn King—what a wonderful sight.

Wise men came from a far
being led by His star
much later to praise and behold
They fell to their knees
presenting Him with these
gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold.

The Extraordinary came in an ordinary way—
in human flesh to redeem and restore
When ordinary believe
and His gift they receive
they’ll have extraordinary life evermore.

Isaiah 7:14, Matt. 1:18, 23, Luke 1:26-38, 46-56.
The hour came when the Seed of the woman entered the world
(Gen. 3:15, Rom. 1:3, John 1:14, 2 Tim. 2:8, Gal. 3:16).
Luke 1:31, 2:11-20, Matt. 2:1-2, 9-11;, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:7, John 3:16.

CONTENT OR CONTENTIOUS?

Content Heart
Content Heart by Laura Kestly

More, newer, bigger, faster, younger—now—’on demand’! Need a quick fix? There’s a pill for that and another pill for the side effects. We’ve gotten to a point in society where even the Joneses can’t keep up.
It’s not God who causes discontentment. God has made man upright (Eccl. 7:29). The fall of man is entirely due to disobedience to the will and word of God. James 1:13-16 states that the cause of man’s temptation with evil is within himself and his own lust that entices him to err, setting up the never ending cycle of satisfying the insatiable lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). It’s envy that makes the bones rot and a desire to be rich that snare many into traps of temptation and foolish and harmful lusts that drown them in destruction and perdition (Prov. 14:30, 1 Tim. 6:9-10).
God’s words and ways direct man’s path in righteousness and bring health to his bones (Prov. 3:5-8). A wholesome fear of God compensates and calms one in the midst of the fallen inequities and strife of this life. Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it’s certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
The new man looks beyond the present life that’s filled with inequalities and is wise to remember that this world is out of joint by reason of sin, and any attempt to straighten crooked things apart from Redemption is the worst vexation of all (Eccl. 1:14-15, 7:13).
It’s a challenge to be content when one suffers evil and experiences illness, loss, loneliness, etc. Just listening to the news and state of affairs in this world gives cause for discontentment.
Instead of allowing the limited horizon of this life to dictate one’s actions, arouse one’s anger and lead one in the vain pursuit of improving the old nature– how much better to remember that life in Christ is enough. For a believer it’s more than enough—they are complete in Him, where all the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwells, the head of all principality and power (Col. 2:9-10)! All things through Him & His strength can be done, including the ability to be patient in spirit, be even tempered and content in whatever condition one is presently in. As the mind meditates on the praiseworthy & virtuous–whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, there is always a cause to rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4-8, 11-13).
Contentment can be found with a view that is occupied with life beyond the grave even though presently wickedness is sitting in the place of judgment (Eccl. 3:16). All have to deal with time and chance as the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong (Eccl. 9:11). Life can still be unfair with mysteries of providence that are perplexing (Eccl. 6:12, 8:14, 17). God alone holds all things in His hands and works all things according to His purposes. The day will come when all will be set straight/right (Eccl. 3:17). Until then trust in Him, abound in thanksgiving and hold fast to hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful (Col. 2:6-7, Heb. 10:23). In this crazy fallen world filled with random terror attacks, greed, corruption and misplaced power, true peace and contentment can only be found from above.
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for you Lord only, make me dwell in safety”

Laura