THE POWER OF THE CROSS

cross

THE POWER OF THE CROSS

 

(I actually wrote this in my journal this past summer, but I’m sharing it now as a praise.  God answers prayer, and we know from His Word that He always gives us what we ask when we ask for something that is in His will such as to know Him more intimately, and to have a deeper understanding of His love for us.  I thank God for hearing me and for being faithful to answer.  His answers have been life changing and I can’t wait to hear what He has to say next.)

 

I sat down this morning to do my Bible study, but first I wanted to read a handout from the Exchanged Life program called, The Key To The Victorious Christian Life by Mike Quarles.   I didn’t pray first as I normally would before starting my reading.   I just ran on into the garden ahead of my Heavenly Father, anxious to read what Mr. Quarles had to say.  I usually start with prayer, but this wasn’t the Bible so I figured I could handle it all by myself.   I hadn’t yet invited the Lord to come with me, to guide me into a better understanding of what He would have me to learn.  I just ran ahead on my own, but my Father is so patient and full of lovingkindness.  He just came to find me in the garden and faithfully touched my heart and I was moved to tears because of His loving presence.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, for the last several years my fervent prayer has been that the Lord would give me a deeper understanding of Christ’s death on the cross and how it relates to me specifically.   Slowly, God is bringing me little by little into a mind-altering, life-changing understanding that Christ’s death was for me, personally, just as it is for each person that accepts Him.   I’ve struggled for a long time over my self-centeredness, my inconsistency when it comes to following Christ in thought, word and deed, and my inability to “die to self”.   I ask myself why I can’t seem to maintain Christ-centeredness.  I recognize and confess my self-centeredness.   I repeatedly pray for the power to surrender my own will and to yeild always to the Holy Spirit, but It’s never very long before I impatiently take back the controls of my life. 

 

Today, in the article by Quarles, I read that to think that I can “die to self” is not only unbiblical but a cruel deception, because the emphasis is on what I must do (again, self-centered).  God has provided the way of deliverance, freedom and victory.  My death has already been accomplished – it’s a biblical fact.

 

Romans 6:6

“For we know that our old self was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

 

The key to my struggle may be that I don’t really know this in my heart.

 

Quarles uses the term co-crucifixion.  Our death with Christ frees us from sin’s power over our life.  Sin has been the controlling force in humankind since Adam chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden because all humankind comes from his bloodline.  Jesus’ death is God’s solution, the blood sacrifice required to restore mankind, to pay the penalty for sin. Okay, I’ve heard and read this before.  (new life, freed from sin, alive to God, etc.)  Then why do I continue to live as one who is not free?  It’s because I’ve never really known and believed to my very core that the (my) old self is dead.  Fini’! Kaput!  It seems I’ve misunderstood this key concept because I’ve continued to act as if my  old self is still alive and well although perhaps pushed aside at times.   I’ve been deceived into thinking that I’m fighting a battle to keep my old self stuffed down to allow my new self to be in control, but this too is misguided and inaccurate.  God’s provision for me was not a partial solution to my sin, nor was it faulty in any way.   It’s perfect and complete.  My old self was crucified with Christ, dead and gone.   It’s no longer there, and sin has no power over me. 

We are “co-crucified” as Quarles says.  We died to sin, to the law and to the world.  We no longer have to look to the world to get our needs met or to find our identity.  We died to the law.  The law will be fullfilled, not as we seek to obey it but as we allow Christ to live His life in us. (Romans 8:4)

 

But, if I’ve died to sin (Romans 6:2), then why don’t I live a life where my every thought and action glorifies God?  Quite the contrary, sometimes I’m shocked that I can spend time alone with the Lord first thing in the morning and no more have I shut the door behind me than I can become totally self-absorbed once again.  Sometimes I think I’m two people.  It reminds me of when James says in James 1:23,24, “like a man who looks at his natural face in the mirror, and once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was”.     Quarles quotes John Murray who says we are not two people, an old man and a new man, neither are we the same person plugged into Christ.  We are new creations.  He points out that until we KNOW, really know that our old self has been crucified and until we have appropriated our death with Christ, to attempt to reckon, yeild and obey is futile. 

 

God has given me everything I need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)  The problem is my lack of faith (unbelief).  The Israelites did not enter into God’s rest because of their unbelief.  (Heb 3:19)  Lord, help my unbelief!

 

Quarles also says we cannot obey God until we realize the old self is dead and the imperatives in Scripture are directed to the new self- that is, Christ in us.

 

Father God, help me to take You at Your Word that I have died to sin, my old self has been crucified with Christ, and I am freed from sin whether I know it or not.   Help me Father to trust, believe, and receive that this truth is done, already accomplished, and finished.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

My faithful, loving Father is opening my eyes to this new way of seeing His truth.   I’m overwhelmed by His lovingkindness and faithfulness.  I’m beginning to see that I am in Christ and He is in God, therefore I am in God seated in the Heavenly realm.  My new self is in God.  It is done.  I am perfect and perfectly free in Christ, and because I am free, I can choose to walk on earth as it is in the Heavenly realm where I sit at the right hand of God in Christ.  He’s helping me to understand what it means to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.  By the power of the Holy Spirit in my new self, I’m free to choose to surrender to His will.  He will work it out in me to be able to accept my freedom.    Quarles quotes Watchman Nee who clarifies the distinction:

 

 “It is for this reason that we can live a life of holiness, for it is not our old life that has been changed, but the life of God that has been imparted to us.”

 

I think I’ve been like a dog who has lived a long time within the confines of an invisible, electric fence.  Even though it’s been turned off and he would be free to go beyond the boundary, he remains captive because of his false belief.

 

Father, thank You for this mind boggling gift, the sacrifice of Your Son for my freedom.  Help me to see that I am free indeed.  Englarge my territory and let Christ live through me for Your glory.  Thank you for opening my eyes to this life altering truth.  Keep me from doing harm to Your name.  In Jesus’ precious and powerful name, Amen and amen.

Posted in Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Relationship

BBChand holding

Stand secure in your relationship with Him…..

 A friend said something to me the other day that quickened my spirit.  She was concerned that praying off handedly, or falling asleep while praying was not showing the proper reverence toward God.  As I thought about the ways God had commanded Moses and others to relate to Him in the Old Testament I began to have a sinking feeling so I ran straight to my Abba!  I asked Him for forgiveness for all the times I’d ever offended Him or not shown enough respect, and I asked for a greater understanding of His holiness.  Then, feeling like He lovingly gave me a pat on the head and a sucker, I trotted on into our morning Bible time.

 The great I Am, the God of creation is my Abba!  I’m His beloved child….who has a lot of growing to do.   He is the ultimate parent.  He knows exactly what I need and has actually already given me everything I need for the life He created me to live.    He already gave His Son for me, the greatest gift ever given.  Then He gave me the Holy Spirit who, not meaning to be irreverent but following this line of thinking, is the ultimate Super Nanny to guide, comfort, protect, and grow me into the image of His first born Son.  He……loves me……that much!  He cares about every detail.  I am His beloved.  He looks at me with an absolute love so is there any reason I shouldn’t run adoringly into His throne room?  My heart just tightened in my chest as He tells me, “No, there is NO reason.”!

 Why didn’t I know this earlier?  Why have I spent so much of my life not seeing God as He really is, and not understanding how He sees me?  I’m precious in His sight.  I hate to think of the areas of my life that I tried to keep separate, to hide from my relationship with God because I thought they had something to offer….independence, pleasure, self-fulfillment.  It would be devastating to recall all the time wasted in such self-centeredness if it weren’t for the joy and anticipation I have with these recent revelations, most importantly discovering my true identity in Christ. Now that I know, all the way to my core, that Abba knows me even more intimately that I know my own children, and that He gave up His Son for me personally, not just for me as one of His creation in general, I can actually have a real, living, current, vibrant, love relationship with a Father that I can’t see but I know is as real as anyone I CAN see. 

 If I have questions, I just ask Him directly.  If I want to know anything at all about Him, or want to love Him more, or have a deeper understanding of what and why Christ suffered on the cross and how it pertains to me, all I have to do is ask Him.  That’s it!  It’s that easy, not simple, just easy.  The answers may not be instantaneous, but He promises they will come, and He’s building my faith with each answer.  That’s why I write them down in a journal.  It is amazing to look back and see the interaction between my Father and me.  I ask, He answers.  I stumble, He holds my hand to keep me from falling on my face. 

                                                                   

The relationship has been there the entire time, ever since I accepted Christ at age 8, but I’ve taken it for granted and not really understood it at all.  It’s similar to the relationship I’ve had with my mom.  I took my mother’s love for granted until I had my own children.  Then, for the first time, I understood how I had broken her heart and grieved her on so many occasions with a careless word or thoughtless action, or even worse, when it was intentional.  I’m embarrassed to admit that for this self-centered individual, it took having children for me to understand a love so complete for which you’d give up your own life. 

 I thank God for giving me a better understanding of His love for me, and I thank Him for being real and powerful and full of lovingkindness and faithfulness.  I hope you have an intimate relationship with Him, but if you don’t and you would like to, just ask Him. 

 He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. (Psalm 127:2b)

 

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Your are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

 

 

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.

When He falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his

Hand. (Psalm 37:23, 24)

 

(Luke 12:32)

Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has gladly chosen to give you the Kingdom.

 

 (Gal 4:6)

Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!’”

 (Rom 8:15-16)

“You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”

Posted in Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WIND

wind in trees

During my quiet time this morning Frances Chan in his study, Forgotten God, was asking why we don’t feel closer to the Holy Spirit if He indeed lives inside every believer?  He thinks one reason is that our lives are too noisy and asks when was the last time you sat with no distractions of any kind, in total quiet?

When I sit quietly God makes Himself known to me so perfectly in the wind.  This morning I could hear at one moment, His power in the rustling leaves of the trees outside my door and in the next moment, the soft sound of chimes.  The breeze is a gentle and comforting caress on my skin making me so aware of His presence that I inhale deeply and realize that His loving presence is also His life giving presence.  He fills me up.  He’s all around me.  He’s the very air inside my lungs.  He gives me life and sustains me with every breath I take.  He’s always with me and always in me.  I can’t see Him, but I can hear Him and feel Him……if…… I pause a moment and tune out the noise.

I think Frances Chan is right when he says most of us take our closest relationships for granted.  Most of us probably take breathing for granted.  We just breathe without ever giving thought to it. 

I recently held the hand of my brother-in-law as he struggled to take his last breaths in this life.  The cancer that started in his colon had spread and was also in his lungs causing him great distress.  It was so hard to watch and not be able to offer any relief.  The remembrance of it causes me to take a deep breath even now.  After a few heart wrenching moments, my brother-in-law took two very peaceful breaths and left this world and his next breath was in the presence of God in paradise!   This man did not walk closely with the Lord for most of his life and it was reflected in his personal relationships.   In the end though, he made it clear that he was going home to be with His Savior. 

I don’t want to live my short time on this earth not knowing the Holy Spirit.   I want to know the truths of God so that I don’t put up obstacles that keep me from loving Him and receiving the love He freely gives to me.  The great thing is that God wants the same things for me and for you.   He longs to be the deepest, most personal relationship of our life. 

Abba! Father!  Please help us to be aware of your presence with every breath we take.  Let us be aware of your power with every gust of wind, and help us to feel your comfort in every gentle breeze.  Help us to tune out the noise that keeps us from hearing You every moment.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TRUST

penny

 Trust is not an easy thing really.  It seems most of us trust what we think we can control.  There are probably a few people in our lives that we truly feel we could trust no matter the circumstances; a parent, a child, a friend, a pastor…..our pharmacist!  One recent poll of the 100 most trusted professions listed the Pharmacist as THE #1 most trusted profession over Pastor #26 which is below Mechanic #24 and just above Lawyer at #29.  Of course my profession, Realtor, comes in at #36, just above Car Salesman, Telemarketer and Politician.  Ouch, that hurts!

How many of us REALLY trust God?  He’s our heavenly Father.  Some have had great examples of a trustworthy father and others not so much.  If not, perhaps that’s a stumbling block when it comes to wholeheartedly trusting God.   Growing up, my dad wasn’t always the best example of trustworthiness, so I find trusting men isn’t always easy for me.  But God is so good and today my dad has a beautiful, loving relationship with our heavenly Father.  However, he too had stumbling blocks from his childhood to overcome, so our trustworthy God put a loving church family late in Daddy’s life story to love him in the perfect way so that he could understand, believe, and trust in the Lord’s love for him.  It was life changing…for both of us!

How many of us truly trust the Lord for all things all the time??

Look at Abraham in the Old Testament who scripture says, “trusted God to make him the father of many nation”s.

The text says in Romans 4:19-21:

Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet with respect to the promise of God he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God promised, He was able to perform.

 I love that he “contemplated his own body”!  I don’t doubt that at 100  he “contemplated” his body’s ability to be a dad to a newborn, but with respect to the promise of God HE DID NOT WAVER.  He trusted that God could and would do what He promised.   I can only imagine how much stronger his faith grew when Sarah’s old, dead womb produced a beautiful, perfect, healthy baby boy with strong lungs proclaiming the glory and trustworthiness of a God who keeps His promises!!

Then there’s the story of Moses in which the two Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah were commanded by Pharoah to kill all newborn males, but the text says in Exodus 1:17:

“they feared God and did not do as the King commanded so God was good to the midwives and because they feared God He established households for them and the people multiplied and became very mighty.”

The midwives, Shiprah and Puah, after acting in faith were given households established by God!  I wonder why the Lord gave us the names of the two midwives in this story?  Maybe it’s because their trust in God is remarkable.  They chose to trust Him, and can you imagine how their faith must have been strengthened when instead of being punished or killed by Pharoah for disobeying a royal command they were divinely protected?

Do we trust God like that?  I can’t tell you the last time that stepping out and trusting God could have resulted in my being killed or imprisoned…..because it never has.

Do I even trust that my children will get the right teacher or will get on the right soccer team or do I try to pull the strings myself?

Do I trust that the Lord is my Provision or do I fret over my retirement account and reduce my tithe?

Do I trust the Lord to put me in the right small group at Bible study so that I open my eyes and my heart to the blessings He has in store for me, or do I just think I’ll stay home where I’m more comfortable?

Maybe I’m only speaking for myself and no one else has these thoughts, but if I’m not alone perhaps we can use them as holy opportunities/teachable moments.  Like Abraham, let’s look at ourselves, our flesh, and recognize that in our flesh we are weak.  Then also, like Abraham, let us “not waver in unbelief” but grow strong in faith.

Father God will NEVER leave us or forsake us.  He says so.  He’s never let us down and He never will.  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb 13:8)  We can trust Him.

Even our U.S. coins say it:  “In God We Trust”  So, how about this?  Every time we see a penny, whether in the extra penny dish at the cash register or on the ground in the parking lot, let’s take one second to pause and thank our glorious Heavenly Father for being trustworthy.  After all, He put that penny in just that spot as a timely reminder that He is our God and Father in whom we can trust!

Picking up pennies,

Sandy

Posted in Spiritual Growth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GRATITUDE

My walk in the garden….

teresa

GRATITUDE

Am I grateful?  Does gratitude ooze out of my pores?  Can you see it all over me before I even say one word?  Does my life reflect it?  Do I ever seem defeated, fretful, or complaining?  I know the answer to this last question is a resounding YES!

What is the matter with me?  A visit to the spiritual doctor would quickly diagnose me with a case of spiritual deafness.  I obviously didn’t hear Paul when he said in Romans 6:4-6,

My old sinful self was crucified, dead and buried!  It was done away with (v.6).

GONE!  FREED FROM SIN!

If I was able to hear, really and  truly comprehend, all the way to my core what he is saying, wouldn’t I be living out my gratitude with each new breath I’ve been granted by the grace of God?

I have been given LIFE?  Today, I have been given another day on earth to LIVE to God in Christ Jesus.  Will I live it today as someone brought back to life from the dead?  I am so beloved that Jesus died for me!  Shouldn’t that radically change my response to Him?   Part of the reason that my life may not have reflected this miracle in the past is because really these were just great, mind boggling words that I believed but not really…deep down.  Maybe it’s partly because I wasn’t even born when this miracle happened, so perhaps I doubt how it could really apply to me?  This is one of those revelations that most people probably get right away and I thought I did too, but my life and actions often times were not very reassuring.

In Acts 2:28 we’re reminded that David said,

“You have made known to me the ways of life.  You will make me full of gladness with your presence.” 

Gladness…with your….presence!

  Acts 2:38?  Repent and be baptized in the name of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 43:  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe and many signs and wonders were taking place. 

Kept feeling awe”….wow!  They remained in a state of awe which shouldn’t be surprising.  Maybe what’s more surprising is that I don’t always.  God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The same awe-inspiring God in Acts gave me the same awe-inspiring gift of the powerful Holy Spirit when I accepted Christ as my Savior.

What’s the difference, what was their focus?  Verse 42 says they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  It seems they were very determined in their desire to follow Christ in community and it was their daily focus.  Today, we live in a fast paced world where other things can take our focus off God if we don’t make a purposeful effort to give Him our attention before anything else.   Perhaps if our focus goes beyond today, we actually run ahead of God and that’s when fear and doubt creep in.  I don’t have the answer, but Acts 2:46 says they went day by day, daily in the temple, and verse 45: doing good (sharing with anyone who might have need), and verse 47:  Praising God.  I don’t think we can underestimate the power of praising God!

I think we get a glimpse of the fellowship described in Acts and the power of the Holy Spirit every Tuesday morning when we come together for the ladies Bible study at Bannockburn.  The fellowship, the teaching, and the passion of the women for Christ fill me to the brim with gratitude and a sense of awe and gladness to be in God’s presence in such a tangible way because He’s in each one of us.  When we come together I just get giddy!  I love it and want every day to be Tuesday.

Acts 1:8 says, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.

We have received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  He’s in each one of us who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, and we are promised power.   I want that!  I want to live that way every moment of every day!  I know you do to and that’s why we’ve been brought together to study about the Holy Spirit.

I’m loving this Forgotten God study about living by the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, and the same power that caused 3000 people to get baptized in one day!  The same power that Jesus said could move mountains.  Hallelujah!

Let me ask a favor of everyone, seriously.  If you hear me grumbling, or complaining or fretting, would you please bless me by putting your hand up to my ear and asking me if I’ve had my hearing checked lately?

Grateful for one more day, and grateful for your sisterhood,

Sandy

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Contentment

Alone

CONTENTMENT

This is a recipe for contentment written by a woman named Ella, a missionary who lived  in Africa in very primitive conditions:

-Never allow yourself to complain about anything-not even the weather.

-Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.

-Never compare your lot with another’s.

-Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.

-Never dwell on tomorrow.  Remember that tomorrow is God’s, not ours.

1 Thessalonians 5:18-“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

Posted in Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LOVE

LOVE

 

I walked in the garden (of my mind) this morning and I asked my Heavenly Father to come with me because I know that He’s never too busy for me and He loves to spend time with me.    Then I asked Him to tell me things I need to know, because again I know there are things He wants me to know.  I love these talks.  This is what I came away with:  I must love others through their hurts and pain, regardless of their response, just keep on loving on them and loving them.  I can’t let them turn away my love, but just keep pouring it out on them.  That’s what the Lord does with us.  He loves us first…pours out His love on us even if we push Him away.  He just keeps pouring out His love until we trust it and Him.

 

Be Relentless!

 

Do you ever feel neglected, unappreciated? Have you ever felt taken for granted?  Have you ever thought to yourself, “I do so much, is it too much to ask to be taken out to dinner once in a

while?” , or “Do you think a phone call or a little thank you note is too difficult?”, or  “If they don’t appreciate me any more than this, it’s the last time I’ll step up and volunteer for….”, or, “I went through 46 hours of hard labor to bring that child into the world, don’t I deserve….!!” (oops, maybe that’s just me!!)

 

I wonder how many times my precious heavenly Father has been grieved by my lack of attention or my lack of gratitude for His enormous sacrifice.  I wonder if He ever just thinks, “Sandy, do you know what I’ve done for you, how I’ve saved you, protected you, provided for you, every second of every day?”  But what I don’t question is His love for me regardless of my lack of response.  He just keeps pouring out His love on me.  He doesn’t withhold it, ever, not even if I don’t respond the way He wants me to, or if I’m not grateful enough, or if I don’t reciprocate.  He just keeps pouring out His love on me.  He’s soooo patient and gentle.  He’s just waiting until I trust His love, until I can see that He’s not going anywhere.  He’s my Rock, my Shield, the lover of my soul.  His lovingkindness toward me is as high as the heavens are above the earth.

 

Today, for the next 24 hours, I want to give my Father a little gift.  It’s really all I have to give Him (what do you give the Guy who has EVERYTHING!?).  It doesn’t seem like much and it doesn’t cost me a penny, but one thing I know about my heavenly Daddy is that He loves it when I sit at His feet and watch what He does.  And, He gets so tickled when I turn around and try to imitate Him!

 

Today, I’m going to pour out love on others.  Some may respond, some may act as if I’ve done nothing, and some may actually reject it and push me away, but I’m going to “do like my Daddy”, and I’m just going to keep on pouring.  I’m resolved not to look at the response because I’m not going to do it for a response, I’m doing it for Him.  I want to make Him smile:)

 

Loving you all day,

 

Sandy

 

Posted in Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments