“Are We Cain, or Are We Abel?”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright December 2016, All rights reserved)
I was pondering the scope of human relationships before God recently.
I do this a lot.
I think we can all agree that by and large females do not lack in the area of communication. We will write, speak, and sing our thoughts and feelings to those who willingly listen…. and even to those who, perhaps, unwillingly listen. Women tend to wear their heart on their sleeve easier than men.
Who does this remind you of?
It reminds me of God.
Has He not since time began taken all types of measure to communicate with mankind?
Be it mankind be willing or unwilling to listen?
To wear His heart upon His sleeve without regard to the pain He knows will come?
What should our response be to Him as He communicates with us?
Should it be a reply of defense? Of countering? Of posturing?
Or should it be a reply of confession? Of humility? Of obedience?
I think about Cain; a man determined, even AFTER God communicated a clear path back to Him, to do things HIS WAY.
What did that path bring him?
There is one thing recorded in the Scriptures that God opposes.
Opposes…..Let that word sit upon you a moment.
Did you feel His weight?
I did…. just as I do every time I read those words.
Recorded in James 4 and again in I Peter 5; “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”
God’s character never changes. He opposes the proud. He opposed Cain in the beginning and every other proud soul who came after him.
Interesting to ponder: do you think Cain saw his pride?
I don’t. I think there are many people just like Cain. They want their way to be acceptable just as they are; just as they choose to give. I mean, after all….. he meant well, right? He worked for those vegetables… it was all he had to give. Or was it? (Sarcasm intended to emphasize our own lack of vision when we act out as Cain did.)
There is not a person living who has not played the “Cain card”……where we want those around us, and God Himself, to “take us as we are”…. to “accept us as we are.”
And yes, while it is true, God does – and hopefully those around you do – accept you as you are….. in NO WAY is the plan to simply accept. NO; the plan is as it has always been; to TRANSFORM us into the likeness of Christ.
When I see a husband/wife determined to communicate and do according to what makes sense to them, I see a person who is proud…..and lost.
When pride is allowed to be in an area where there is also a presence of righteousness, there will always be two wills in opposition.
It won’t be pretty.
But, the prayer should always be that the eyes of the one operating in pride be opened….. and opened wide.
Jesus didn’t merely do as He thought…. or as He wanted. Jesus laid aside HIS COMPLETE will…. and did the will of the Father…EXACTLY as God required.
Why then do we vigorously resist the clearly laid out path (to Him, to our spouse, to our children, to every relationship we hope to have); the antithesis of pride? Humility.
A bowing of the knee to what we want, how we want it, and when we want it.
When then will we cry out to have our eyes and ears opened to hear the heart’s cry of those closest to us? And greater still, move to minister to those hearts’ cries? God Himself? The parent-less child? The forsaken spouse? The abandoned friend?
Are we then each at a crossroads with God and those around us of “take me as I am; accept what I give you” OR “take me, change me; show me how to be as You are”?
There are and always have been two dividing paths.
Man’s way / God’s way.
Pride / Humility.
They have not nor will they ever occupy the same space.
The question for each of us is, “Are we Cain, or are we Abel?”
When we meet God’s opposition to pride in our lives – either internally in the spirit or externally in the flesh with those we love, do we stiffen or do we bow the knee in the presence of His grandeur? Just as with Cain and Abel, the position of the heart will have an external witness to which force is allowed to have dominion.
Both acknowledged God. Understand this point most clear.
But only one demonstrates the understanding of His supremacy.
This day, choose.
“The Dying Roses”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright November 2010, All rights reserved)
(Amended and Reprinted January 2016, All rights reserved)
My heart is broken for marital relationships gone south; for what could have been between husbands and wives, but isn’t.
We live in a time where so many women’s hearts are just barely beating because they have been forsaken by those they believed would handle their hearts with great care.
I was studying recently various Scriptures that discuss varying forms of sowing.
There is the tried-and-true Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man sows that will he also reap.”
There is Galatians 6:8a, “He that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.”
There is Job 4:8, “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.”
There is Hosea 8:7, “They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”
But then, there is Proverbs 11:18, “To him who sows righteousness will be a sure reward.”
A harvest of any kind requires attention, hard work, and the purposed sowing of good seed in one’s field. Sadly though, too often, attention and time are drawn to distractions and temptations. When ill-fated distractions are given place, the weed seeds sprout with a vengeance. But equally tragic is when a person knowingly sows “the flesh” and wickedness, for they are then promised a reaping of the same. One cannot subvert the effects of unwise sowing and neglect.
To sow good seed, takes effort, time, and attention as the rows need plowing and the seeds proper planting and care. In contrast, weed seeds require nothing. All they have to do is land in the field and sprout while the caretaker’s attentions have been drawn off elsewhere. Weed seeds are hardy and robust…. and deadly.
I am starkly reminded that a plant grows with care and attention, but dies under neglect.
A husband looks at his wife and wonders why she looks wilted, why the light has gone out in her eyes, and why she struggles to stay lit within her soul. More times than not I have seen and heard married men blame external influences from work to the kids to even the wife, herself, but resist looking at what they have or have not done.
To the point, God gave Eve to Adam…not the other way around. And as such, God gives each husband their wife….. their plant, if you will. Think of her as a “transplant” into the man’s field. If you know anything about a transplant, they need a degree of extra care in the beginning, and the correct amounts of water, root boost, and food from the moment they are placed in the soil. As the husband, he is responsible for her well-being from that moment on.
(Hint: the first year’s marriage focus for the husband should be studying her needs and supplying them. Thereafter, as the plant grows and changes, her needs will also change. A husband should never stop studying her needs and setting out to provide them as the seasons of life change. The yield that comes from her being well taken care of cannot be quantified, but if she is nurtured and encouraged to grow tall and strong, she will most certainly bring forth beautiful blooms in the spring, needed shade in the summer, gorgeous color in the fall, and unshakable roots in the winter…… not to mention the bringing forth of “saplings” (ie: children) in due season. )
Visit the truth found in Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This being before Eve was created! This is symbolic to me in many ways. For one, wisdom would have the man be diligent in his field BEFORE the addition of a wife. But we all know while this is the BEST scenario, it is rarely the most common scenario. Nevertheless, regardless of varying scenarios — the “whens, hows, whats, and wheres” — the variables do not negate God’s charge to men to both work the field and take care of it!
Too often I see men focusing the majority of their attention on other plants in their field — be it the work plant (aka: workaholic), the child plant (aka: father-extraordinaire), the house plant (aka: honey-do), the hobby plant, or the self plant. All the while, he is found buffering his looming conscience to the best of his ability, thinking, “I’m doing a good job!,” but his nagging conscience (otherwise known as the Holy Spirit) won’t be silenced as it waves a yellow flag of warning, hoping to avert the pending red flag of destruction.
I know life brings with it a plethora of demands and challenges to both husband and wife, but I hold to the belief that if we keep God first and our spouse second, we will withstand all the other elements life brings us. I grow weary of a thought that has infected the Body of Christ and given husbands an out for their lack of diligence in caring for their wife-plant. Too often I witness husbands either knowingly or unknowingly deflecting the care of the wife-plant back to God. While God certainly is the husband to the widow, He fully expects the man to be the husband to the wife while here on earth and to take care of her as He would. God gave the plant to you, my brothers. Many husbands are going to find themselves in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain to God why they neglected their wife-plant and left her to die, or why they left their wife-plant by the wayside to find another one elsewhere. Life’s circumstances and challenges won’t be valid excuses when face to face with the One who set the bar as having “gave Himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25) Don’t let His high bar, however, discourage you because the good news is His Spirit resides in you to assist and direct just how exactly you are to love your beloved as He does. She is yours…. treat her with care. Proverbs 11:24 says, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Cause and effect, siblings; cause and effect. It really isn’t complicated. The husbands provide the care…or neglect. The wives, in turn, respond to what is or is not given.
The condition of a martial relationship goes back to the basics. At a wedding the question is asked, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” Who is given and who is receiving? The one who receives is ultimately saying, “I take responsibility for her from now on.” What does it mean to be responsible? It means “the trait of being answerable to someone for something, worthy of or requiring responsibility or trust.”
I have sat with sister after sister whose husband never took responsibility for the condition of her heart, whose husband allowed the weed seeds to root and grow, whose husband knowingly sowed unrighteous, wicked seed … and yet were quick to point out what she didn’t do. Tragic… utterly tragic… the degrees of brokenness I have seen because responsibility was forsaken and hollow excuses offered. The “dying roses” as I call them. I see the gray in my sisters’ eyes. I hear the brokenness in their voices. I feel the pain in their hearts.
If you don’t get anything else, brothers, get this:
Women are the responders to care….. and to neglect.
Don’t feed everything else in your life and then wonder why your wife-plant doesn’t yield the desired fruit, wilts, and then dies. Don’t blame her for her own death when she was given to you to be cared for!
If death has not yet come, count yourself fortunate, weed your field… your life… of unrighteous distractions and toxic weeds you have permitted to overtake her, and then steadfastly begin to feed her. With God’s help, prayerfully, she will regain strength and find new life.
Be a man that “gives freely, and gains more.” I tell you most sincerely your wife was created to bloom on your watch. The question remains, “Will you give her what she requires to thrive as God desires, or will she be denied and counted among the dying roses?”
“To him who sows righteousness will be a sure reward.” Proverbs 11:18
For those interested, tying my earlier tree imagery with “dying roses,” there is a Rose of Sharon tree that grows to 12 feet in height and 10 feet in width.
“Open Our Hearts, Lord.dBy: Deborah Kirby
Now understand before I delve into this further, in reality we are all a mix of both, but without a doubt, each of us has been fashioned together with one or the other attribute being more dominant, and within that dominance, more dominate degrees. Some may identify themselves as 40% warrior, 60% friend. Some may identify themselves as 30/70 or 70/30 or 80/20 or 20/80. The further one moves towards the extremes – regardless if it be divinely put together as such or flesh-driven – the harder the challenge it is to relate to the other side. Not impossible, mind you, just increasingly more challenging.
I am predominantly a warrior. I know all about the warrior temperament. I know how to fight, spiritually speaking. I’ve lived most of my days on the battlefield. Because I am a seasoned warrior, people tend to come to me during their own personal times of trouble. I have fought side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with a number of my siblings-in-Christ. And the victories, by God’s grace, strength, and provision, have been numerous.
Now the other people group – the friends – they are the preferred lovers of all things peaceful. They really don’t like battle and will avoid it if at all possible. They love harmony; thrive off of it, in fact. They prefer green grassy meadows and a serene babbling brook to the sounds of grenades and machine gun fire.
Now the crucial point – the imperative point – to grasp here is that God made BOTH people groups (and all the infinite ratio mixes) for His purposes in due season. They BOTH have significant purpose and value, but often times one of two things is observed. First observation, like often fellowships exclusively with like. They are like magnets, draw to one another. Second observation, if ‘unlike’ is encountered, like often is seen attempting to make unlike like. In short, we interpret the differences as ‘alarming’ to us and fail many times to see the intrinsic value in the group unlike our own.
Warriors are similar in that they tend to interact with their own kind. Underneath that tendency, they do at times sense a particular draw towards the friend group, though it may not always be as imperative or evident as the draw of “friend to warrior.”
We, civilians, go about our day to day affairs enjoying peace because we know that for every day we enjoy peace, there are active soldiers training, protecting, and guarding that peace. They are on-call, equipped, and ever-ready should the call come that their service “above and beyond” is required.
One reason has to do with the soldier’s core makeup. A soldier once trained is always a soldier. It is often said that once a soldier takes the life of another on the battlefield they are permanently changed forever. There is no undoing battle. The same can be said in the spiritual realm.
The other reason has to do with how easy or how difficult the culture …. the civilians, the friends, if you will… make it for the soldier coming off the battlefield. Do we accept them for the whole package they are? Or do we give in to temptation by accepting the parts that serve us best while inadvertently rejecting the parts we perhaps don’t understand or don’t serve us best? Again, parallels do exist between the physical and the spiritual realms that demand our inspection.
I was blessed to personally know William Henderson for a number of years before God called him home. My life is the richer for having known him. He was a warrior’s warrior, both in the physical and the spiritual spheres of life. I’ll never forget his shared feelings when the mission of Iwo Jima ended, and he was on his way home, (a bit paraphrased) “On the one hand, we were elated. Victory was ours! On the other hand, we were not. I mean, we were soldiers, trained to fight. It’s what we did.”
I “got” Bill. I understood his makeup. I think that is why he valued me as I valued him. Warriors understand warriors, just as friends understand friends. We understand the call, the training, the risks. I heard him say a number of times, and what was eventually captured on tape, “My main concern was doing my duty.” It is at the core of every warrior, be it on the battlefield or off. Duty first. It’s what we admire in our national soldiers. And in truth, it’s what we admire in the King’s warriors.
This is what I deeply desire for the friend-group to understand about the predominate warrior-group, which is inclusive of those who in all likelihood see that they fall into the 75 to 99% warrior range. You may not understand us – what makes us tick, what makes up our core. You may not always like us. We are as Bill would often say “rough around the edges.” But we are placed here by God for His purposes. We are the “die-hard enlisted” of the Family, the ones who sign up for multiple tours of duty. We are formidably equipped. We understand the risks. Daily we rise up early and go through intense training. When the King’s call comes, we step on the battlefield with Him for those in His Kingdom, ready to lay down our life for the sake of another, for the sake of the King, or for the sake of the Kingdom. It’s in our divine-woven makeup. Our core is our duty; our duty is our core. Hear my heart on this, dear ones, don’t take aim and shoot at the warriors on the front line from behind. In truth, it happens too often.
I love the “Bill’s” in my life. We can almost sit in the same room and sense the other’s thoughts, assess the other’s skills, know what position the other holds. We are “birds of a feather.” It takes a far greater leap and stretch for me to do in kind when in the company of friends, but listen to me, dear ones! There is much – SO MUCH – to be said for stretching our eyesight beyond that which we always see, beyond that which we know well, in order to grasp a greater understanding for the larger picture – that which God fashions together for His purposes.
If you be a friend, may I challenge you to look around, find the warriors who you know are there in your life. They may be on the outer edge, but you know they are there. Draw them in closer. Befriend them. Thank them for their service. Love on them as Christ does. Guaranteed your life is the better because of them!
If you be a warrior, may I challenge you to look around, find the friends who you know are there in your life. They may be on the outer edge, but you know they are there. Draw them in closer. Befriend them. Thank them for their peaceful attributes. Love on them as Christ does. Guaranteed your life is the better because of them!
Do you remember this post? http://jitmblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/tonights-exhale.html
For those of you who frequent JITM’s blog, you know that I have been doing a lot of exhaling since writing those words in April. A lot.
This has been a very different season for me. A season of rest and refreshing.
Crazy, perhaps, given all the darkness in the world, but yet so welcomed at the same time.
Life is, in general, heavy, is it not?
Even as I write this, I am keenly aware of some heavy, heartbreaking situations in the lives of others.
Recently, I was in conversation concerning John 16:33, specific to the topic of spiritual atmospheric pressure:
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Even if you perceive that all your t’s are crossed and all you i’s are dotted, there is not one of us living who is exempt from the spiritual atmospheric conditions of this world, but to what measure that pressure is individually felt is entirely up to us as individuals.
Allow me to dissect a part of John 16:33 a bit and bring an analogy to bear on it that I pray will be beneifical to you.
Here is the original Greek, along with the literal English translation, of John 16:33:
“ταῦτα (“To-the-ones-these”) λελάληκα (“I-had-come-to-speak-unto”) ὑμῖν (“unto-ye”) ἵνα (“so”) ἐν (“in”) ἐμοὶ (“unto-ME”) εἰρήνην (“to-a-peace”) ἔχητε: (“ye-might-hold”). ἐν (“in”) τῷ (“unto-the-one”) κόσμῳ (“unto-a-configuration”) θλίψιν (“to-a-pressure”) ἔχετε, (“ye-hold”) ἀλλὰ (“other”) θαρσεῖτε, (“ye-should-brave-unto”) ἐγὼ (“I”) νενίκηκα (“I-had-come-to-conquer-unto”) τὸν ( “to-the-one”) κόσμον. (“to-a-configuration.”)
The word κόσμῳ (as read in English as “world” — “In this world, you will have trouble.”), in the Greek form used, refers to “the inhabitants of the world.”
The word κόσμον (as read in English as “world” — ” I have overcome the world.”), in the Greek form used, refers to “the space/universe.”
Both words come from the root word “Kosmo” where we get our word “cosmo-” – which as defined in English is “of or relating to the world or the universe.”
Where the Greek word brings precision, the English word brings generalization.
Be sure you understand this difference. If you read it only in English where the same word (ie: world) is used for both meanings, you will miss what Jesus conveyed here.
I haven’t found an adequate translation that brings home in “full color” what Jesus was conveying in Greek, but the end of John 16:33 in the Amplified gives it a good shot, “For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”
You, like me, were not created to live in water, correct? (Stay with me — this will make sense in a moment.) It has the power to harm us, and if not conquered, it will take us down into its depths.
This side of Glory, bluntly put, we live in a sea of sin. Satan and his cronies freely roam the water, making it overtly toxic. I’ll add here too that many a human being adds to the toxic nature by choice if not wholly surrendered to God.
IF we fail to put on our “Jesus suit” before diving in to the day and all it contains, we will find the environment truly not suitable for living. Without Jesus, we are left with a toxic environment that presses in against us, suffocates us, cuts off our oxygen, and leaves us feeling lifeless and zapped.
BUT when we put on our Jesus suit (I like to think of Him, in this situation, like a scuba diver’s suit), we are then able to not only survive, but thrive. Thus no longer breathing in the “air” (or better stated, “non-air”) created by the troubled inhabitants and their father (ie: satan) and his cronies.
Taking it further, have you ever seen a movie scene where a scuba diver comes upon a lifeless, passed out person under water or floating on top of the water? What did they do?
In almost every scene, you’ll see the scuba diver share his regulator (the gadget that dispenses oxygen to the diver).
That, to me, is what Christianity is all about — the sharing of our regulator with those who are lifeless and without. Lord willing, once those who were previously without get an inhale of the life-giving Oxygen we possess, they’ll seek Him out as their direct source. But it doesn’t stop there. We are commanded to swim along side them for a time, teaching them the ropes, so they, in turn, will be equipped to do for others as we did for them.
What I witness as I swim about in the ‘ocean’ is one of two things:
1) Many Christians diving in and fighting the world’s currents in their own strength without their gear on. Soon, they pass out and sink.
2) Many Christians, on a calm day, “happily” swimming without their gear on right along with everyone else….. until a storm catches them unaware and they have nothing to sustain them.
In either case, the net result is the same; they get drug to the bottom, and if they are not intersected by a “geared-up” sibling who is ready and willing to share their regulator, they do not survive.
Have you ever seen the movie, “Finding Nemo”? (As an FYI, I am not an advocate for Disney movies, but just stay with me here.) If you have, you know at the beginning of the movie Nemo’s fearful father warns him to not swim out into “open water” — to stay in the coral reef.
Well, dear siblings, while there is a time for taking in the pleasures and the respite of the coral reef, we are called to the “open water.” But understand, in order to utilize both spaces and everything in between to the max, your “Jesus suit” is not optional…. it is required! Jesus, alone, overcame. If you leave Him at home, you’ll suffer the consequences; at the very least, damage from the toxic environment all around us….. at the worst, your life.
So let me ask you:
Do you make it your daily habit to put Jesus on before diving in?
Or is your habit to dive in and just see how things go?
The former is wisdom; the latter is folly.
See ya in the ocean! And remember, if you cross someone in need, SHARE your regulator!
“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2013, All rights reserved)
I have three different pictures of trees that I am to share with you. As you look at them, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, ask yourself the three questions below, BUT listen for His reply. Not your thoughts or opinions, but HIS reply.
(For most, this will take effort and patience to enter in, to fully enter in. Have patience with yourself. His answers will be worth the disciplined effort, I assure you!)
Again, as a reminder, you are asking these questions of yourself:
1) Which picture best depicts my habitual thought patterns and behavior?
2) Does my picture line up with God’s design concerning the Body of Christ and its function?
3) Am I willing to actively follow the Holy Spirit in making the necessary changes, if needs be, to bring myself into proper alignment with HIS design?
Certainly each of us matter individually before God. There is no denying that He sees and values us individually right down to the smallest of the details. Aren’t you thankful for His attentiveness? I know I am! So the point of these pictures is not to downplay individuality, but rather give us opportunity in His presence to inspect, and if needs be, to adjust, how that individuality functions and benefits the Body of Christ. (Please note, I did not say “functions and benefits church.” This is not an inspection of “if” or “how” you fit within the local church, but rather how you are currently functioning at large within the Body of Christ. )
I am not to go line by line and share all that God taught me through these pictures, but I am to edify you to diligently seek what He desires to teach you concerning them. After hearing from Him, may you willing submit to His words.
It’s not easy to bring our thought patterns (that do ultimately dictate our behavior) to God’s altar, but if we don’t, the wayward alternative is to have our thought patterns rooted in our ever-shifting life experiences, self opinions, man’s opinions, and fleshy feelings. An altar is a place of death, but the Word is reassuringly clear: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24
God is not a negotiator. Change is both required and inevitable to His disciple. Note, I did not use the words “His child” – for a child can decide to behave in a manner so as to stunt their growth, but a disciple is one who is wholly dedicated to Him, which invokes divine transformation, especially to the point of personal death, but the good news — the promise — is that death will produce many seeds! Hallelujah!
I leave you with this:
“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“Walking with God”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2013, All rights reserved)
I am asked frequently, “What is ‘walking with God’ exactly?”
I find there are a good number of people who can relate to examples… real life examples. So, perhaps it will be beneficial to a number of you if I share a seemingly small experience to depict this “mode of being.”
Make no mistake, dear ones. God desires to be with you EVERY step along the way. No experience is too small or insignificant to Him.
On a particular day, I heard the Lord drop one word into my ear – that of the name of a class for my child to take next school year. So, I stopped immediately (lest I forget!), sat at the computer, did some quick research, found the contact name, and fired off a quick email of interest. Less than two days later, the reply came. “We have AN opening.”
I remind myself frequently that every day is a new and wonderful day in which I am gifted with a sense… a washing sense, if you will… of His divine care.
To bathe in His care; now that’s a fine thought indeed!
When our ears are open and we are positioned to obey, we discover “walking with Him” covers it all. There is no void or overlooked item. It’s covered; it’s bathed!
Note the steps above:
Step 1) I heard Him. What I did NOT do was to sit down and formulate my agenda or my plan for next school year or assume I knew what He wanted based on the past year. So many misstep right out of the starting gate of the day because they neglect to wholly lay down their agendas and their assumptions.
Man’s agendas and assumptions are like radio static. They make hearing God difficult…. very difficult.
Think for a moment how you interact with your child, if you have one. (Imagine how you would if you don’t.) I know my child has few to no clues when they wake up how our day is going to roll. Oh, there is a vague “skeleton” of sorts. They know they will have opportunity to eat, but they do not know what will be offered to them to eat. They know they will have opportunity to learn, but they do not know what they will be learning. I direct much of their day. It goes well for them if they inquire to me in the morning with open ears, listen, and then obey.
It’s no more complicated with God, but it takes practice. It takes consistency.
What if my child only consulted me once or twice in a thirty day period of time? For one, I would be very displeased. We, as Christians, tend to by our actions say to God through the misuse of the “grace filter” day in and day out, “Oh well, He loves me as I am.” “His grace covers.” “Tomorrow is another day.”
And while those things are true, there are heavy consequences to such patterned thoughts and behaviors if they do not shift from such childishness. For one, loss of time. For two, loss of purpose.
It’s like a child who stubbornly refuses to embrace scholastic discipline and learn simple addition. It’s not the parent’s desire for their child to fail, but the child will fail by their own lack of action. The parent will still love the child, for love should never be based upon performance, but will grieve the loss of all the missed opportunities that could have been IF the child had embraced his opportunity of learning addition.
When we, as children of God, fail to learn our “addition,” we miss out on advancing because we have failed to be faithful, obedient students.
The simple fact is one cannot go on to Algebra, and further still to Calculus, if they have failed to learn the rudimentary disciplines. The same is true for the Christian walk. Grace is not some divine “pass” that disavows growth.
As my children have grown, they have learned “my ways.” They know what brings me pleasure, and I know what brings them pleasure. Together, as we both regard one another, we have sweet fellowship and union. They — as ever maturing children (two of them, now teens, and one preteen) — do not need constant instruction. Far from it! But they always are to have their ear open to me so that when I call or command them to do something, they hear and obey. So too should our walk be with God.
Step 2) I immediately obeyed. The lack of “immediate” in so many lives today leads to many things never being achieved. They get lost in the shuffle. Forgotten.
I cannot emphasize enough to you that when it is His voice that drops a word into your ear….an action word … ACT immediately!
Again, going back to the parent/child spectrum, my child knows the difference when I say, for example, “Lunch!” verses “We’ll get lunch.” One is imminent (as in “Come, it’s on the table!”); the other is not. One demands immediate action. One demands further instruction. The “further instruction” requires waiting.
Even as I write this, God has just given me a visual picture of the latter. For often when He says, “We’ll get lunch,” His experience is that many a child rushes to get their shoes on and flies out the door before He has opportunity to give that ‘further instruction.’ Again, be on guard against assuming you know the direction God is going in or what He intends to do based on the “skeleton framing” of yesterdays gone by. Just because “We’ll get lunch” meant “lunch out” last Tuesday does not mean that is what those words mean today! (Do understand my terms of “lunch” is but a very general use meant to explain human patterns of thought and behavior.)
Back to my example. In hearing and obeying, a timely need was filled. One space available. Would that space have been there if I had delayed? I’ll never know, but I do know that when I read that confirming email of one space available, I saw His smile.
That’s what walking with God is about. An ease, from the smallest to the larger experiences. A daily, deliberate slipping of my hand into God’s most capable hand, listening to His firm and able voice as we go along, and doing what He says… when He says.
I trust this example will aid many of you as you seek to improve your walk with Him, even as I seek to improve my own! We improve one step at a time. Every step, once inspected and practiced, becomes a bit more habit forming…. and as those habits mature … we learn “addition” just wasn’t as difficult as our flesh made it out to be!
Happy walking, dear ones!
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2012, All rights reserved)
I have a question for you. Now before I ask it, please know there is not an ounce of condemnation in it. My heart’s desire is to encourage a tighter walk with God. Too often the temptation is to go through one’s day with a nonchalant attitude. Sometimes such an attitude is on purpose with the mindset of gaining rest. That’s not what I am talking about here.
I’m talking about the HABIT of nonchalant living. Whether we want to admit it or not, such an attitude is a directional attitude. It DOES lead…. just not to a productive future. No, that kind of living leads us to the type of “Groundhog Day” living… where every day doesn’t just seem like a repeat of the day before, but IS a repeat of the day before. It just sort of creeps over our minutes, and before we know it, it has robbed us of any significant purpose, for that day… and the next day… and the one after that…
So my question for you today is: “What deliberate steps have you taken TODAY to change, to grow, to produce what you desire in your tomorrow and the tomorrow of those in your sphere of influence?”
Did you get up this morning and eat a deliberate breakfast that would build up your body?
Did you take time to greet God and see what HE had to say about the day?
At any point through the day, did you take some time to go for a walk, a run, a hop on a bike to keep your muscles built up, your mind clear, and your body limber?
I could go on, but I have a feeling you are getting the picture.
And for all the parents reading this, please know it doesn’t stop with you, but STARTS with you, particularly with the fathers.
My husband and I not only are responsible to steward our individual lives well, but those of our children. And to be frank, the feeding, clothing, and sheltering of them, though important and required, would rank LOW on the list of stewarding responsibilities.
Daily, my husband takes deliberate steps to align himself under God. Daily, I take deliberate steps to align myself under my husband. And daily we jointly lead our children to align themselves under us.
One of the ways we have learned to keep this alignment deliberate is to actively prioritize our day.
Before continuing, let me be clear: I do not share the following as a “map” to follow for YOUR family, only God can give you that. But simply to challenge you to inspect the habits of your family, submitting them to God for change if change is required.
My husband and I rise early in the morning and seek God individually. Then after gathering together for a hearty and healthy breakfast, we come together in our family room for a time of reading. With the ages of our children being that of eleven to sixteen, my husband and I select impacting books to share out loud and talk about with them. We often have three books going at a time. One generally has to do with age appropriate spiritual growth. One has to do with the characteristics of God. And one has to do with what is commonly referred to as “real life application.” While the chapters are often too long to read a chapter in each book each morning, we will read the next section in each of the books, continuing until each of the books has been read cover to cover. While “devotions” with our children have been a mainstay of our parenting, God continues to refine our parental steps to even greater degrees of deliberation as they age and mature. Through us, He is “stocking their pond,” a pond they will abundantly draw off of as they press on into their adult years. My husband and I, most nights, close out our day with my husband reading out loud to me a book he selects (said book has been known to end up being a book we read to our children once we have digested it).
Can I just take a moment to be really candid with the husbands and wives struggling a bit with their own family alignment issues? Meet me just one time and that will be sufficient for you to know my strength. That’s not a statement of bragging. That’s actually a statement of humility because to know one’s strength, one has to have wrestled with one Greater and come out of the wrestling with a mark. I have my mark. But blessedly, the wrestling not only produces humility, but confidence in the one Greater. God, in demonstrating His authority and ability to RULE my life, gained my absolute trust. That is exactly why I am able to do what He says do. I am confident that He not only says what to do, but supplies to me everything I need – both internally and externally — to get it done. Now having said that, I am a source to be reckoned with. I am not easily led. I never compromise beliefs He has revealed and instilled within me, even at the cost of relationships. So, it goes without saying, it takes a strong man to lead me and our children. My husband did not take to his role at the beginning of our marriage. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to be led. In truth, I longed for that, having had that as my example growing up. But over the years, God and my husband had their own wrestling match, as is required for all God’s children. Such wrestling brings about several essential elements to His child’s life.
One, it is purifying. In being “pinned to the mat,” it causes us to either surrender and let go of impurities in our lives or storm off out of the ring, to be continued at a later date because there will always be a later date if one truly belongs to Him!
Two, it reveals our strength; God-given strength, mind you. Have you ever watched a movie (such as “Karate Kid”) where the student goes up against his master? What is such a match meant to do? Pummel the student? NO! It is meant to reveal what the student has gained from the master! We gain EVERYTHING from the Master, but it takes wrestling with Him for us to fully comprehend that fact!
Third, it humbles us because God always wins! There is none greater than He, and we leave the wrestling ring with His mark upon us. That mark serves as a constant reminder of who He is to be in our lives.
Alpha and Omega
Prince of Peace
Give Him your praise! He alone is WORTHY!
For my benefit and our children’s benefit, my husband had to wrestle with God, such that he left the match with His mark upon him. Only then did he know (as in fully comprehend in an active state that which would impact his every day function) that God had FULLY equipped him in every area of his life — including being my head.
As strong of a woman as I am, I love knowing two things now without a shadow of a doubt: 1) My husband is aligned under and surrendered to God and 2) he deliberately leads his family. Every day I witness him take deliberate steps to seek, know, and hear God, and to steward his life in a manner honoring to God.
All that said, if your family is struggling, check the alignment. Wives, if your husband isn’t aligned actively (not just in words, but deeds) under God, you, as the wife, can’t replace his role long term in the family. You may cover it temporarily, but if you possessively take it for a long period of time, you will find that you’ll collapse under the weight of his mantle. Dear sisters, please hear me. You were not meant to carry a man’s mantle. It’s not a “lesser” issue. It’s a functional issue. Remember the dog in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”? The Grinch stuck artificial antlers on the dog and demanded the dog behave like a reindeer, but the dog was still a dog and could not contend with the weight of the packed sleigh. Don’t be duped into taking on the artificial antlers, dear sisters! You’ll end up being mowed down by the weight of the sleigh (mantle). Whereas, a man is functionally built, spiritually speaking, to contend with the weight of the “sleigh” – the leadership mantle. When aligned under God, the sleigh is controlled and purposed and able to carry out a multitude of functions.
(Note: I recognize this short article does not cover all the possible situations within a family, such as the death of a spouse or cases of divorce. Regardless of the past though, I do believe redemptive elements come about when, in the absence of one mate, the other aligns themselves under God.)
So pray for some wrestling matches if the alignment is off in your family! It’ll make you cringe going through the match or witnessing the match, but I cannot begin to adequately convey the blessings that will overtake your life and your family when husband and wife properly, functionally, and deliberately align themselves under God.
Deliberate steps, dear ones; deliberate steps.
What steps can YOU take today that will benefit your tomorrow and the tomorrow of those in your care? What steps MUST you take today? Whatever they are, take them!
Blessings to you and yours!
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2012, All rights reserved)
Have you ever taken the time to lie in the floor as worship music washes over your soul?
For me, refreshing benefits come when I lie out on the floor, my eyes closed, my spirit quiet.
I used to resort to this activity when I was “tapped out,” seeking a touch from God to refill my energy and peace.
But the revelation came to me one day, “Why wait till you’re tapped out?”
My husband used to joke with me about the gas tank in my car. Up until a few months ago (actually I can tell you exactly when — August, when school begin), it was not entirely uncommon for me to run around habitually with the gas light on.
I just didn’t like to be bothered with having to stop (dare I say, waste my time) at the gas station. Underneath the initial layer of annoyance at the “bother” or waste of time was the equal annoyance of the cost. It irritated me how much a tank of gas cost, so I would find myself, when I took the time to stop, only putting a little in the tank.
I had this skewed perception that my method was “adequate” (after all, I just needed a little gas to get me here and there) and justified, saving both time (at least in the moment) and my bank account.
You know where I am heading with this, don’t you?
Too many of us see just how long we can go in between “refills,” don’t we?
By God’s grace, I never ran entirely out of gas. Spiritually speaking, by God’s grace, WE never run entirely out of gas either. Oh, I can hear a few of you saying, “I don’t know about that!” But the fact that you are reading this indicates you are still breathing…. and so, by God’s grace, still living… maybe an inch at a time, if you have allowed yourself to get down to fumes, but I’m confident you are still with us – so your breath proves my assertion!
I’m not sure why we are compelled to self-torment ourselves, trying to see how far we can go before we refill in His presence. In our rushed lives, do we see it as a waste of time — somewhat of a “nuisance need” — much like I viewed taking my precious time to have to stop at the gas station? Are we filled with trepidation at what it’s going to cost us?
For many, they rush in to His presence for a “few dollars worth,” just enough to get the light off, before they rush off to whatever clamors loudest for their time and attention.
I learned long ago that regardless if I have “need” to lie in the floor or not … I lie in the floor. I don’t get up until the Indicator signals “F”….FULL! The benefits of staying on “F” are life changing. Instead of my old mindset from years (thankfully) long gone of “just get me through my day,” I go through my days now with a mindset of “With our full tank, where can we go, God?!”
So, how about your habit? Do you see just how far you can go before taking the time to lie in the floor and fill up? Or is your habit one of rush in, get a few dollars worth, and rush out?
If it be any other habit besides the one of keeping your tank on FULL, I encourage you to take decisive steps in His presence to break the old habit and embrace the “full tank only” habit! It will change your life!
PS: Perhaps you’ll be interested to know that my spiritual habit has overflowed to become a joyful habit with regard to my car. The gas indicator in my car stays on or near the “F” these days! And instead of rushing and begrudging the gas station, I have learned to be thankful there too, as it serves to be a wonderful reminder of what He does for me every day!
“Where the Rubber Meets the Road”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2012, All rights reserved)
Have you ever had someone consistently treat you in a manner you felt was unjust or unkind?
I dare say everyone would answer such a question in the affirmative.
I recall a time when I was wrestling with ill feelings towards another. I wanted to put the past in the past and move forward, but my memory and my flesh seemed to be like Velcro against my spirit.
Try as hard as I could to release the ill feelings, I could not.
Clearly I recall sitting on my couch, wrestling my feelings one night in God’s presence, when I physically just allowed myself to topple over. As I laid there, I recall saying verbally out loud to God, “I feel depleted.” I heard Him say tenderly, “I know.” Then He gave me a strong impression of a sizable credit card balance. Along with the impression He said, “It’s as though they have taken out many withdrawals and made no deposits, isn’t it?” “Yes, Lord, that’s exactly how it feels,” I said. He went on, “And because they made no payments against their withdrawals, the late fees have also mounted.” “Exactly,” I said. “You know they can’t pay their debt,” He said. “I know, Lord; I know, “ I said in a whisper. In an equally tender whisper, He said, “But you know, I can pay it…if you let Me. Will you let Me?” “Yes, Lord; yes,” I said. And literally, I recall, within seconds, I felt an incredible release….. a supernatural transaction.
The fact is Jesus already paid the cost for every offense and for every ill-treatment you and I will ever experience.
Do you feel burdened by the “users” in your life? Or by ill-treatment?
Don’t despair. I bring you a word of truth.
God has called us to love others unconditionally. A tall order, is it not? And as I will point out in a moment, apart from Christ, we are not capable of extending such a love.
Certainly we are not guaranteed to be given opportunity to love only those with smooth edges or those who see and value our heart. No, as a matter of fact, you can be absolutely sure you will encounter far more “users” in life than “givers.” To love as God loves means you will be challenged to give not just your time and efforts, but your heart, your compassion, your grace, and your mercy to the point of near death, if not death itself, at times. But what I have discovered to be absolute truth is that when we truly take on the mind, heart, and identity of Christ — counting not the cost — we also partake in His power, His resurrection, and His restoration.
Let’s face it; it is easy to self-protect, to withdraw from habitual takers or those that make us uncomfortable for whatever reason. But it is not so easy to continue giving in a “long suffering” manner indicative of Christ.
Do you know what the definition of “long suffering” is? It is “to endure pain, unhappiness, etc., without complaint, to patiently endure wrongs.” Oh boy! Did that put a check in your spirit when weighed against your perceived right to self-protect, justify actions, or put limits on love?
Psalm 86:15 says, “Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” If we truly want to be transformed into the image of Christ, it means living a life that rubs shoulders with those with rough edges… and their behavior… however we do not rub shoulders in a hopeless state, but in the faith and in the knowledge our God possesses transformational power.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” With how much long suffering? All.
Are we to reside in silence? Absolutely not. We are to “preach the Word … reprove, rebuke, (and) exhort.”
Please hear me. I truly know intimately how tall this command is. (And please do note that it is a command — not optional to those who wholly desire to walk as He walks.) If you sit in silence while others around you seek to wallow in the “gutters of life,” you sin against them and against God. If you close your “love bank” – offended or short on grace and mercy – you sin against those souls and against God. Harsh realities, I know, but realities nevertheless.
But I testify wholly that with Christ it is more than possible to walk such a walk, dear ones. Obedience is paramount. Taking on the mind of Christ while forsaking our emotional tantrums that seek justification or validation is paramount. I have found that when we hold to obedience, yielding our ways and our thoughts to His ways and His thoughts, holding the course regardless of personal cost or drainage of our “bank account,” He shows up to pay the whole balance and restores us in ways that truly boggle the mind and are without rational explanation. What we perhaps would struggle a lifetime to cope with or forgive, He is able to do within mere seconds…. if we allow Him.
That, dear ones, is when we know the rubber is meeting the road, and we are going in God’s empowerment and character, but it requires that we hand over to Him any ledgers we are keeping against others…. or ourselves, for that matter.
King David wrote, “You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.”
Have you given all in a particular situation? Do you feel your ‘bank’ has had too many withdrawals and not enough deposits from a particular person, a particular situation, or perhaps just life itself?
I challenge you – if this be you – do not close your ‘bank.’ But instead, determine in your being to topple into the arms of the Almighty whose bank is unlimited, who longs to pay all the debts others have amassed against you, so you can continue loving people as He loves people.
The former will also not extend Christ’s love, but instead extend Eros or human love, which is not only full of short-comings, but is toxic. The latter absolutely will extend Christ’s love – pure Agape love – which will challenge people to rise out of their state while healing their wounds as He pays their debts; debts – like yours and mine – that we “once upon time” could not pay either.
I believe if we stop and ponder – each of us who claims Christ as Lord – will be able to recall someone(s) in our past who showed us love and mercy when we did not deserve them. Do you recall how such an occasion felt? I do. I felt God…. and it beckoned me closer to Him.
If so, then what is required is Agape love running through our veins that forsakes self-protection, accounts of offense, validation, justification, and chooses to embrace a close walk with the rough edges. Such a requirement demands both a will and a determination that wrestles the flesh into submission ….. where we hold others in higher regard than we hold ourselves, believing that God Himself will replenish our giving, sustain our foundation, and restore any deficit we sense in our own souls, so we can continue to love as He loves and take part in seeing souls saved and transformed.
Emotions are not to rule your days. You are meant to rule and lead your emotions through Christ, taking every thought – every thought – captive. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
Does this mean God doesn’t care about our emotions or our state of being? Not at all. He cares more for His children, His ambassadors, in totality than we will ever possess the ability to comprehend. But He knows full well that He possesses what we lack, and IF we will take our emotional deficits to Him, He will do far more than balance our scale!
It is in such a place that the rubber meets the road, and our beliefs become our actions…. actions that glorify and testify to the reality of God Himself. Anything less is self-based, corrupt, short lived…. and will fold.
Go with and in what is eternal. God already paid your debt and the debt of others against you. To hold others in contempt against your person is to sin against God because such actions declare His Cross as insufficient. No transgression against your person by another can surpass the power of the Cross to release, to love, to resurrect, to restore, to move forward.
Corrie Ten Boom said it best when she stated, “Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?” May we never think so highly of ourselves such that our thoughts lead us to actions that dare to understate the significance of the Cross!
I was out recently running errands with my youngest son. This article had been submitted for final editorial review. As I returned to my car, just before shutting my door, I glanced down and saw a tiny piece of paper on the pavement of the parking lot. My door closed, but I heard the Spirit say, “Open the door and get that paper.” I did so and was stuck in awe at what it said. I could not help but smile. It is so like my God to confirm His heart on the matter….
After reading the following article, please follow this LINK for a few follow-up comments.
Recently someone forwarded me a video of people lined up outside a welfare office, vocally unwilling to work, yet they were there to get whatever they could get. One stated, “I’m here to get my obamabucks!” Really? 2 Thess.3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
The second camp sees the garbage in their own life, but they just don’t care. They let their “garbage” blow all over the place — into every neighbor’s yard — into the street — everywhere…… with a clear message, “I don’t care. Deal with it.”
The third camp is notably smaller than the other two. They want the world to be a better place. They do not live with delusion nor do they pass the buck. They do “business” with God, grow, and move on. As I Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
Recently I watched the 1941 movie, “Sergeant York.” In one scene, his precious mother speaks to the pastor of their local church, “A little religion would help, don’t you think?” Of course, we know “religion” is not the goal, but a relationship with God through Jesus, God’s Son. Later in the movie, York has to wrestle out his values. He states in several places, “It’s against The Book, isn’t it?” Just imagine a society where that value — that question — dominated our conscious awareness!
By and large, people strove to be sober… both day and night… alone or at gatherings; ergo the term “town drunk” wasn’t a positive aspiration. Now days, drunk is “cool” so long as nothing bad happens while under the influence. Sometime ago a boy bragged that one father got so drunk at a party, he was able to push him over. Just this week, I heard on the news where kids are showing up at hospitals drunk from having intentionally ingested hand sanitizer. Certainly this falls into the realm of insanity!
By and large, people strove to be faithful to their marital partner. Now, online porn and strip clubs make it easy for roots of unfaithfulness to go deep and render their scars permanently upon the hearts of those once held dear. Too often I see those claiming to be Christian on social media posting soft porn pictures and talking about body parts as if they were play toys or food. Matthew 5: 28 says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
I see Christian young people having sex outside of marriage, and often becoming pregnant as a result. But even more shocking to me are the numbers of Christians who celebrate their situation. Leaves me wondering, “Have they lost their minds?” The last I read fornication and the possible outcome was nothing to celebrate. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves God took King David’s illegitimate son as a consequence to his sin. Oh, I know, I know… we live in the age of grace, but be very careful that you do not abuse His grace with an “anything goes” mentality. Consequences do still come home to roost.
Please understand me, I wholly support we need to surround the sinner, but not for the purpose of congratulations! No, for the sole purpose getting to the root of what took them to that transgression in the first place. I Corinthians 6:9 says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.” Clearly by our actions at large, His Word has been forgotten, or perhaps we just don’t give a rip and live in a state of delusion that God really doesn’t mean what He says.
By and large, people took pride in working and supplying a family’s needs. Shoot – they actually aspired to have a family! Now days, we have an entire generation that has been raised in a “me, myself, and I” bubble. They don’t care about marriage or the idea of family, much less working hard, saving, and sowing into the next generation. No, it’s all about what “I” can get, where “I” can travel to, and what can entertain “me” next. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” A large percentage of this generation has decided to be a dam, using up resources on themselves and forsaking the command to marry, reproduce, and think AND act beyond themselves. All the while, John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
When push came to shove we chose to be silent out of fear or so that we would be liked. When I look and see and hear large numbers of Christians sounding and acting as the world, I don’t have to guess — I know that the infection has taken root and is now systemic. The Word warned about letting even a little leaven “slip in.” By the prevailing evidence before me of what now is, we must have chosen to not believe He really meant what He said. And the price is high. Very high. And getting higher with each passing day.
I will not lie. There are many days I crave a remote island, an escape from all the insanity. The Word says this is not my home… and I sure feel Its truth! But then I ponder men like George Washington, Martin Luther, Smith Wigglesworth, and other greats who stood in their day and countered their popular culture.
An elder sister who has been in my life for nearly two decades recently wrote to me, “I love your thankful, joyous, indomitable, generous and surrendered spirit.” The word “indomitable” stood out to me — defined as “impossible to subdue or defeat.” That comes from God alone.
It is that Spirit that smacks the rear-ends of the “ostriches” with their heads stuck in the ground, and says to them, “Get your heads out of the sand and deal with your stuff! Do you have any idea what is on the line? What is at stake here!?”
“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in his body, according to what he has done,whether good OR bad.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. ” (2 Corinthians 5: 9-17)
Recently I was sharing some personal observations with a friend. My observations are linked to polar places that collide at the “equator,” so to speak. The poles are 1) my passion to share knowledge and see people grow and experience spiritual and physical health, and 2) the growing apathy I witness in people who know their habits should change, but have little to no interest in changing.
I coined the term “human inertia” in my article, “Exposition on Grace and Favor,” that describes one of the largest challenges I run into doing what I do in ministry. Simply, “human inertia” is man’s tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
Say I invited people to supper. I took my time to shop carefully for the best food items. I took the resources God gave me and purchased those items. I arrived home and begin careful preparations; cutting, slicing, blending, cooking. The preparation takes a lot of time to ensure a delicious, nutritious meal. It must be the best that I can give because I value both the quality of the meal and those who will eat it. I set the table and prepare to receive my company…. but then…. oh, but then….
Some showed up, being new to the invitation, and discovered it wasn’t going to be a quick meal. All they could think about was what they could be doing or ‘needed’ to be doing, so they ate a few appetizers and bowed out before the meal began.
Some did stay and eat the meal. However, they bought into the thought “few people take the time to eat like this anymore,” so even though they were encouraged to spread the word about the meal and invitation to others, they did not do so. They made the choice FOR the other people by reasoning in their own minds “those people probably wouldn’t come anyway.”
Many people these days exist spiritually malnourished. Much like our substandard American diet, many exist on spiritual food that is stale and nutritionally empty. Many go to church on Sunday, and at best they walk out, by and large, having only eaten an appetizer or two. But you know, beyond that stunning fact, is the fact that people have been hungry for SO long, the hunger sensation has died off, and they have no awareness that they are spiritually starving themselves into a death. (Read that again and let it sink in.)
As a passionate teacher, the unhealthy chronic state of the Body greatly concerns me. The Word says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ” (2 Tim 2: 15) There is no qualifier on that command. It is not isolated to pastors and teachers. It says, “(YOU), Study to show yourself approved unto God.” (I know that stung more than a few of you, but let the sting do a work in you.)
I am like a cousin of mine in one particular way. My cousin is passionate about healthy eating. Coupled to this interest is the fact they are also single; and while they could eat out, they choose not to. They much prefer to take the time to gather ingredients and eat a healthy meal. Should they have company that joins them, great! But if not, they’ll still be found dining alone to a great meal they took the time to prepare. I am like them in the fact that I study the Word because I love to do so. I write because I love to do so. I have journals full of conversations between God and myself concerning Biblical discoveries. So preparation of the “meal” would and does occur regardless if anyone shows up to “eat” it or not, but it is gratifying when people make the choice to show up, slow down, and digest the meal with me.
Being a parent, I know parents can appreciate my heart. When a parent takes the time to put food on the table (prayerfully nutritious food), the last thing they want to hear is grumblings. “That will take too long!” “I don’t want that!” “It’s too salty!” “It’s too hot!” Yes, I have heard it all… spiritually speaking, that is… and yet, I am called to be a spiritual mother who says, “That’s the food that’s been prepared, and you need to eat it!”
So last week, I posted the first article to our “Straight Talk” series, titled “An Exposition on Grace and Favor.” I know it was highly educational to those who took the time to sit at the table and digest the meal because I heard from a number of them. A number of them reported that they printed it off so they could really chew on it. Praise God!
Have you been barely surviving on “fast food” and “snacks” here and there? Or perhaps you haven’t eaten anything of real substance in so long you can’t feel the hunger sensation anymore and apathy has rushed in like a flood.
People all across this great land of ours are sickly because of the food choices they have made through the years. But today I ask you, “Are you spiritually sick because of the spiritual ‘food’ choices you have made?”
I am a double degree scientist who, in addition to speaking at conferences on spiritual matters, also speak on the topic of health. God has me on a parallel path of ministering both physically and spiritually to people, but with that path often comes double frustration. To witness people turn away from spiritual food, as well as, life-giving health information is painful, truly painful, because I have lived long enough to witness what eventually happens to those people.
Every time it happens it boggles my mind because really – ask yourself right now – How good do you feel spiritually speaking? Physically speaking? But greater still ask yourself – “Am I willing to do what I need to do to correct the deficiencies?” I can guarantee your flesh is going to be the first to answer with a loud, solid “NO!” But is that where the answer that really counts lies? No. The real answer is in your spirit, but depending on how weak you have caused it to be based on your dietary spiritual choices – you may have to get extremely quiet to hear it whisper its answer of “Dear God, YES! Please, anything but this starvation!”
You and I are hard wired with a deep abiding will that embraces life. But daily, we deceive ourselves into thinking we are invincible. Somewhere along the way we bought the lie that says we can throw at both our spirit and our physical body anything we decide and they’ll keep on ticking “good as new.”
I had a friend who lost her husband over ten years ago now, but I still recall her words as if it were just yesterday. “Deborah, you know it is sad that it takes a terminal diagnosis before we wake up and embrace changing.” Indeed it is…. indeed it is.
Several years ago, someone from my past was suffering terribly with a malady. I contacted them to offer them help. They closed the door on me, insinuating I had some ulterior motive. It grieved me because I don’t have any motive except to help. I sell nothing and charge nothing. (When I serve a meal up, it doesn’t come with a “cover charge.”) I just wanted to see them better, and with over a ten year history of helping people…. well, that speaks for itself… or it should to those with sight to see. To this day, that individual still suffers. But their physical condition is no different than many people’s spiritual condition, it’s just not as evident because the pain and side effects are internal, but they are there. And sadly too, they close the door, ignoring the invite to sit down to a good nutritious “meal.”
Understand this life is just a blip, but what you do here – how you steward the life that has been granted to you, determines how you live in eternity. We all will ANSWER to God for the choices we have made. As I said in the grace and favor article, God’s grace is NOT a free pass to do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want; especially when you understand the real meaning of grace is God’s empowerment for you to make righteous decisions!
So you ate this “meal.” Excellent! Chew on it. Digest it. Go back to the other articles posted here on JITM and chew on some of them. If you haven’t “eaten” in a while, you may just find your appetite returning after a few good “meals.” For goodness sakes — they are FREE!
Someone recently shared a study with me that said a person has to read something on average about seven times – SEVEN times – before they truly start to absorb it such that it makes a difference in their thinking. I hope you determine to be one that takes the time! I also hope you determine to be one who says “I’m going to share this meal with others and strongly encourage them to eat!” At least give people the opportunity to decide for themselves if they will “eat” or not by passing the invitation on to others.
I know for some it was a horse pill to swallow, but please understand the depth of love I have for those who Jesus’ loves. He gives me His heart for you… and it is not one of apathy… but of passion to serve up the finest meal with the finest ingredients for the best nutrition possible….
“Sugar or Salt?”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2012, All rights reserved)
Recently I was reading some comments someone had written to another person on a public forum. I confess I thought, “Is this person for real?” The syrup that dripped off their words was… well… nauseating.
As for me, I am a “salt-gal.” I don’t dress things up or sugar coat them. It’s been said I cause people to think and squirm a bit. One thing I hear repeatedly is that people never have to guess where I am standing or why I am standing where they find me.
“Sugar” people bother me. I always wonder what they are covering up, like icing on a cake…. but it’s rarely cake underneath, if you know what I’m sayin’.
The Word says in Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world…”
What does salt have to do with light?
A lot… if you know history.
It was common practice to take dry dung patties and burn them as a source of fuel. It was also well known that they burned far better if they were salted and placed on a block of salt in an earth oven. But “bad” salt — salt that had lost its taste — was not good for taste or fires alike.
I love what Jesus said in Luke, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”
Jesus had much to do while here on earth, now didn’t he? When He came, He found way too much “sugar,” and nare-a-bit of “salt.”
Then we find a promise in Mark, “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? “
“Everyone will be salted with fire.” As someone who appreciates salt, spiritually speaking, I love that! As a matter of fact, my spirit leaps and says, “Yes, Lord, please!”
In the day in which we live, we truly don’t need ANY more sugar. Not health-wise. Not politically-wise. Not spiritually-wise. Not personality-wise.
No, what we so desperately need is spiritual salt — the kind that lights fires!
So my question to you today is: Are you too sugary for any one’s good…including yourself?
People squirm in the presence of salt. Routinely sugar people try to change salt people to sugar to appease their own flesh. But we have got to have a reckoning with what God decreed. “Everyone will be salted with fire.”
Say this with me, “We are salt, NOT sugar!” And then petition God to salt you with His fire. May He at least find you kindled and ready to be set a blaze for Him and His Kingdom!
I pray people DO squirm in your presence.
I pray people DO feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
It’ll be a clear indicator that you have not lost your saltiness!
Of course the bigger horse pill to swallow is the knowledge that if people just love being around you and say things like “you’re just so sweet” — you’re probably on the fast track to loosing your saltiness!
I do not desire for you to be trampled under foot by men as so many believers are today, but unless you shift gears away from being “people-pleasing sugar” to “life-changing salt” — underfoot is where you will wind up!
Wake up, dear ones, and pursue realness, transparency, backbone, and fire! The Kingdom demands it!
I absolutely love what one commentary said about Jesus:
“Throughout the gospels, Jesus is ever in conflict, a ‘salty,’ that is, fire stoking character.”
Question: Can the same be said about YOU?
“To Fully and Rightly Function as a Believer”
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2011, All rights reserved)
Few verses get pitched faster than this verse these days, specifically the first part of this verse. So I would like to take a moment and expound on this verse properly placed in context and in the scope of God’s Word.
There is a pivotal element we, as believers, now possess that was not available to the Jewish people when Jesus addressed His listeners in Luke 6:37 as part of the Sermon on the Mount (pre-ascension), but was present in Paul’s writings (post-ascension). That element is the gift of “God in us,” His Holy Spirit, who “reveals all truth” to believers. Prior to this in-dwelling of God, judging and condemning were admonished. However, Paul actually insisted upon judging by believers UPON believers where warranted.
One has to keep in mind that until Jesus released His disciples to preach the Good News to the Gentile — being done only after the Jewish people denounced Him as their King — the Gentile was not on the radar, so to speak. In other words, Jesus’ words in Luke were addressed to the Jewish people.
But for those who claim salvation and an association with the Body of Christ, Paul writes, “As for my attitude, though I am absent from you in body, I am present in spirit, and I have already decided and passed judgment, as if actually present… Do you not know that just a little leaven will ferment the whole lump of dough? ….Purge (clean out) the old leaven that you may be fresh (new) dough, still uncontaminated, for Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed….But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister, but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.”
But he did not leave it at that either. In another passage, Paul says pointedly, “Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” Now, this Scripture in context is admonishing believers from going the route of taking “in house” issues to the world’s system of governance (ie: secular court). Paul is saying through Christ we should be able to rightly judge issues that arise between our brothers and sisters in Christ without having to resort to taking our siblings to secular court.
The key is if a person lays claim to Christ. If they do, then fellow believers are within the correct boundaries to judge when judging is warranted, as in known unrepentant sin. The second scope of judging that is acceptable is when deciding associations. We are warned against ongoing fellowship — long term, intimate “rubbing of the shoulders” — with those who have no intentions of entertaining Christ and His principles.
Where we as Christians step out of line is when we attempt to enforce Christian principles on to the lost in the hopes of altering their behavior. They do not possess the ability to alter their behavior apart of God, so to attempt to mix “oil and water” is a foul ball and misrepresents God to the lost because God is not unjust, meaning He does not expect the lost to act any other way than lost…. and neither should we!
So, in part, when someone of the world uses The Word, “Judge not” against a believer, they are correct if the believer is attempting to alter the lost’s behavior. However the lost is incorrect if the believer uses the lost’s behavior to determined future association.
Now to balance what I have shared, allow me to share a quote from James with my fellow believers, applicable when dealing with other believers, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (Notably this is written in the context of favoritism.) We should walk with high regard for our fellow believers, BUT when judgment is called for, we should NOT shrink back nor abdicate.
Taking on the whole counsel of the Word to rightly and passionately walk brings liberty to fully and rightly function as a believer, without stomping upon the lost. If we do not do so, it is like trying to walk only with one leg — utterly futile — and damaging.
I awoke this morning extra parched, thinking I couldn’t wait to get downstairs for my tall glass of water. Another one of my perhaps odd habits is to drink a tall glass of water first thing in the morning. This morning I craved it!
As I sat down with my glass of water, with my Father’s Word upon my lap, I could not help but think of the spiritual parallels. John 7:38 reads “He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But then we find that it is possible to neglect or forsake the Fountain of Living Waters, as found in Jeremiah 2:13 — “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Just recently I was talking to a dear friend of mine. She shared that she had begun drinking lots of water, instead of the usual substitutes such as juices, teas, and sodas. She said that the more she drank the water initially, the more her body seemed to crave it. She had become dehydrated on the substitutes.
This is an excellent visual of what we, as Christians, can find ourselves doing. Many of His people are “hewning” themselves into vessels that can hold no water. We are attempting to satisfy our thirst elsewhere. We are not looking to Him to do the thing. We are captivated by the things of the world and distracted by all things “popular”. The Lord called the neglect of Him and the hewning themselves broken cisterns evil.
We wonder to ourselves why we are tapped out, frustrated, and fighting worry and doubt in the days we live. Perhaps we have forsaken the Fountain of Living Water and we don’t even realize just how spiritually parched we are.
I encourage you today to return to His fountain and drink deeply of His Word and His presence. His Word promises, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37.
Friend, if you find yourself tapped out, frustrated, or fighting worry and doubt, recognize these are symptoms of spiritual thirst and run to His fountain!
As I close this post, I want to strongly encourage you to sit and read Jeremiah 2. Read the entire chapter and let Father speak to you. It is addressed to Israel, but it’s application to us in America is astonishing and will no doubt provoke an internal check within the reader. Verse 19 is for America in this present hour. The chapter is a powerful Scripture as Father shares His heart.
Take the time! It will profit you!
Have a blessed day with Him,
If you have read my writings for any length of time, you know I speak often about the “whole counsel of God’s Word.” I cannot emphasize the importance of this, but I’m not sure many understand what this exactly means. So today I thought I would share with you what typically happens when I sit down with God to explore His Word.
God leads me on “Word-walk-abouts.” Follow me, and I think it will become clear what I mean.
In this chosen example, our path began in I Kings.
“Keep the charge of the Lord your God, walk in His ways, keep His statutes, His commandments, His precepts, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may do wisely and prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” I Kings 2:3
When we read a verse like this, our human nature is to gloss over the commands and focus on the promise(s). Why do we tend to do that? Because to our fallen core, we know following “His statutes, His commandments, His precepts, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses” is going to be 1) impossible and 2) take a whole lot of effort we are not sure we want to put forth only to fail. (You have to admit this is generally our path of thought!) But oh, we like the sound of the promises regardless if we properly sow into our life or not. (Come on, let’s be honest with ourselves for growth’s sake!)
With great significance, allow me to point out this verse is from the OLD Testament. You’ll see why that is significant in a moment. It is so important to not discount or diminish the Old Testament, while satisfying our thirst and hunger for GRACE.
NEWS FLASH: God did not amputate His righteousness and His holiness when He gifted to us His grace! (Read that again. Let it soak in.)
You will live WAY off center if you fail to keep His righteousness and His holiness in BALANCE with His grace.
Next He led me to Romans.
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh….. I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin (anything that exalts and sets itself up against God) which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! WHO will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:18- 24
So, our flesh is our internal bully, always seeking to stumble us into a pit of trouble and making it absolutely impossible to fully and wholly abide by the Law of Moses, therefore causing us to lose out on countless promises. WRONG! Wrong! Wrong.
Jesus sets us free from our impossibilities. Let me say that again…..
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5: 4-5
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4
Which ties us back to I Kings 2…. and as Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
SO we, being in Him, receive His fulfillment of the Law, and His power that conquers our internal flesh-bully, thus setting us free, empowering us to live according to His righteousness, and leaving us without excuse to do anything less! (If you weren’t shouting earlier, I surely hope you are now!)
Romans 7:22 says, “For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self with my new nature.”
QUESTION: Do you endorse and delight in the Law of God, OR do you roll your spiritual eyes at such a thought while waving the white flag in surrender?
The key to how we live each day is directly linked to the measure of faith we activate in Jesus based on our knowledge of the Word.
Do you believe He really has overcome the world as the Word says?
Do your actions back your answer?
Do you believe that He really has set YOU free, utterly and completely as the Word says?
Do your actions back your answer?
Do you believe that those who are in Him really have the power to overcome any and all obstacles as the Word says?
Do your actions back your answer?
And taking it one step further — do you lead your thoughts and emotions, as taught in the Word, OR are you led by them? As in this case, for example, do you see God’s Law as confining and difficult, OR do you see it as the path to wisdom, growth, and liberty? The answer to the latter question will be key in answering the former question!
Those who lead their thoughts and emotions understand the GIFT of God’s Law.
Those who are led by their thoughts and emotions are BURDENED by God’s Law.
I hope you have learned something as I shared an example of a “Word-walk-about” with you today. I love them! I truly do! They are filled with treasured truths!
I also trust that if you do not regularly experience such times with God as this that you will ask Him to take YOU on “Word-walk-abouts,” teaching you the synergy of His Word, linking the Old Testament to the New Testament — and often back around to the Old Testament!
Truly God’s Word is miraculous living art. It wraps around in precepts, principles, and promise to give an incredible picture of wholeness that led to utter brokenness that led back around to wholeness through JESUS. It is a synergistic message by God to those willing to hear that empowers transformation by His Spirit to the degree one applies its precepts! If I study it until I die, I am convinced I will not have uncovered but the smallest percentage of what it contains!
May you chew on what has been shared here, and may God take the fibers and weave their truths into YOUR being!
For the word of God is living and active
and sharper than any two-edged sword,
and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit,
of both joints and marrow,
and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Apply God’s Word generously to your own life
I want you to think for a moment about actions in our every day behavior. For instance, do you find when you are thirsty you go for a glass of water or do you go for soda, tea, or coffee? How about when you are hungry? Do you go for an apple or do you go for nabs or a cookie?
While we convince ourselves the little actions matter very little, actually, it is the little actions in life that tell us a lot about ourselves. We can easily say we believe God, that His way is best, that we are submitted to walking the way He would have us walk; but when we look to the small actions in life, do those actions confirm our words?
In the two questions I posed to you earlier, the core difference is who made what. The water and the apple are creations of God. The latter substances in both questions are man made. Who knows best about what we need? Obviously God does, but do our selections line up with that belief, or have we convinced ourselves that we can independently select, regardless if our selection be that of impulse or willful choice, something counter to what God has provided for us and still thrive and mature in Him?
I encourage you now to begin taking a hard look at each action you make every day, and ask yourself, “Do my actions confirm what I say I believe about God, His authority, and His wisdom; or do they ultimately confirm a belief that I can do what I want and somehow skirt the consequences?”
As hard as it may be, take the hard look today…. and tomorrow… and the next day. If our desire is truly to be perfected into His likeness, we have to lay down the “toddler I wants” and flesh impulses and begin making choices (actions made with cognitive thought), and yes, especially the smaller choices, that line up with His desire for us.
I Corinthians 4:2 says “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” We, as believers, are stewards of many things, from ‘the mysteries of God’ as stated within the text of I Corinthians 4, to our body, to our resources, to our family, to our obedience, to the Gospel, and on and on.
The definition of faithful is “steadfast following.” Meditate on that for a minute.
Question: Who is the “who” your actions testify you are following? Self or God? Are you steadfast following Him, even in the least of your actions? Or do you find you ping pong back and forth between His ways and your wants?
Surely we are all going to slip and miss some times, but “choice” implies a cognitive decision, meaning real thought – not impulse – was put behind the choice before action followed. The goal is for our choices to be Godly choices. So let’s commit to being diligent in thinking through our daily choices, and with the diligence of thought, let us determine to do our best to truly line our actions up with God.
“Nobody trips over mountains.
It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble.
Pass all the pebbles in your path,
and you will find you have crossed the mountain.”
I was tiring. The hills on this particular route the Lord had selected were showing themselves to be brutal. The course included three “laps” over the same roads, which made my mind rebel even that much more because after the first time, “we” knew we still had to do it two more times.
No, I never have, and I am wholly confident that I never will. Total obedience captured my heart a long time ago because of one reason — I love to see Him smile. I know when He asks me to do a thing there is a reason, and I need not know the reason to compel me to action. His pleasure at my obedience is enough.
As I climbed the fourth hill from the last, I disciplined my eyes down, focusing on my feet. I knew better than to look up ahead at the long incline before me. Talk about a quick path to letting the wind out of one’s sail!
As I ran down one of the last hills, I said out-loud, “I get it, Lord! I get it! I’m going to run my life course exactly how You lay it out… no short cuts…. no easy routes…. You’ve shown me once again this morning I have it in me to do this thing … hills and all… because of You. Let’s do it, Lord…. You and me all the way!”
I don’t know my entire life path that is before me, but that’s okay. Just as He tells me each day what physical course I am to run, He, too, faithfully lays out for me my daily course. All I have to do is complete today’s course. Today’s course is purposed such that it weaves into me what I will need on the next course. Life builds on itself. It is not on “auto-pilot.” To grow, we must be willing to run our daily course without compromise, without short-cuts… hills and all!
One cannot go on to other courses of life until today’s has been mastered because God is a loving God who is not interested in us just checking off a day’s course half-done. No, He desires us to master it because in mastering it we prove to both ourselves and to the world, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
As I crested the last hill, with home in sight, I beamed. I had completed my course exactly how He had laid it out. You know how race spectators line up along the finish line to cheer the runners home? Well, God was there at my finish line this morning. He was smiling, and He was clapping. And all I could think at that moment was “God, that’s how I want to see You when I cross my life’s finish line. I want to have run the course well, holding nothing back, resisting all short-cuts, and courageously taking on the hills without compromise.”
In the 80’s, there sprung up a whole social iconic people group from the California San Fernando area. They were called “valley people.” They had their own appearance, aura, and speech…. “Like, you know.” (I couldn’t resist!)
So many in the youthful generation of the 80’s sought to pick up their language. From the west coast to the east coast, “valley air” gave speed to “valley fire” that burned across America at lighting pace.
How ironic it is that when valleys are spoken of in the Christian life the connotation is anything but esteemed, sought after, or desired to be mimicked. No, we attempt to run as fast as we can in a vain attempt to escape the valleys of life and anything having to do with them.
No doubt people who have lived in a valley for a season, or who are currently living in a valley, know the power of God’s floods to deposit “new soil” upon the valley’s landscape. His grace, His power, His presence, and so much more rush in like a flood during our passage through the valleys of life.
Is it not true that so much of His very essence floods our life during the moments we most need Him, during stints in the valleys? And these divine floods leave behind new soil…. fertile soil… that imparts to us the amazing ability to bring forth some of the richest “life fruit” possible ifwe are faithful to diligently keep planting, yes, even in the valley seasons of life!
Too many sit down in the valley seasons, giving way to depression or lack of vision. A valley by definition is “an elongate depression of the earth’s surface usually between ranges of hills or mountains.” I can already hear some of you shouting an “Amen!” to the words “elongate(d) depression.” Let’s face it; valleys are not known for their views or provision of vision, now are they?
Sight of the spiritual variety is often drastically impaired in the valleys of life. As if the mountains that surround our valley do not block our vision sufficiently, it does not take too long to discover that fog settles in the valley. Do I hear an “amen”?
But I implore you not to let these facts cloud and blind you to the blessings found in the valleys. God’s flooding presence, the new soil, the rich fruit that comes if we continue to sow are all blessings found in the valleys of life.
Back in April, I was completing a study of Nehemiah, fascinating book chalked full of spiritual lessons for the careful reader. Chapter three gives a somewhat detailed account of who did what, including who completed and repaired certain gates and certain sections in the rebuild of Jerusalem’s wall. Near the end of the chapter, in verse twenty-two, there is a profound clause the quick reader will skim right over, but the careful reader will pause for deep reflection and meditation. “After him the priests, the men of the valley, carried out repairs.” Wow! Did you catch that?
People of the valley know what life in the valley is all about as the days turn to weeks and the weeks often turn to months… and for some, to years. People of the valley are keenly equipped with a rich understanding of the “low places.” But don’t miss this: “…priests, the men of the valley, carried out repairs.” Glory to God!
We know God uses the inter-connectivity of His people to bring compassion, understanding, strength, and much more to those who find themselves in the valleys of life. But often times we find the most value – the most wisdom – in priests from the valley. Why? Because it is God’s hope that His people will have embraced, learned, and sowed well during their valley season(s) so that they will then be able to help aid others sitting down, stuck, dismayed, or depressed in the valleys of life. It is vital to others that we share our valley insight – the insight of the importance of seeing “God-floods,” the value of new soil deposits that God leaves behind as He powerfully occupies the valleys of life, and the fruit that is possible to take with us when we are led out of the valley! Praise Him! As a life traveler, how I pray you see the wisdom of sowing in the valley so that you will have fruit of substance and fruit to share as He leads you out of the valley region!
I pray you remember this perspective the next time you find yourself in a life valley. Don’t try to escape the valleys. If you are there and a child of the King, there is a purpose for your journey to the “low area.” Embrace it and determine to learn while there. I have found such a Godly perspective gives strength, hope, and purpose in the valley seasons of life and thereafter! They are by far some of the richest seasons of life if we embrace the vision God does grant to us while there, instead of focusing on what we cannot see!
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”
Have you ever smelled death? It isn’t something you can ignore or cover up. It is wretched. It has the extreme ability to turn one’s stomach in lighting fast measure. It is not containable nor ignorable.
Those who are “in Christ,” those who have wholly accepted His salvation and His Lordship, have within them a “mirror” called the Holy Spirit. Wherever they go, in every place, they manifest through Him an indicator of walking death or walking life in those around them.
If you are one who is in Christ, you may not have had this awareness identified until now. But if you truly stand for what God stands for, you most likely have been subjected to less than rational behavior that the Holy Spirit provokes and reveals in others, as well as in our selves! A mirror is defined as something “that reflects a clear image” or reflects an image as it is. The Holy Spirit certainly reveals just how people are without cover up or concealer for the express purpose of freedom in Him, but the act to bring freedom is rarely pretty. Look at war. Look at Christ’s death. Look at the struggle against the self-nature that people go through when Christ calls them out of their personal bondage.
Recently, it was conveyed to me that after a very well known Christian spoke to a huge group of people, they were confronted by an outraged gentleman. The gentleman, in a very loud voice, came up to them saying, “You offended me!” The speaker remained composed and quiet, being rather perplexed by what the man meant. The gentleman said two more times, “You offended me!” without getting a satisfactory response from the speaker. The speaker continued to remain composed and at peace. Later, the gentleman was recorded by the press as saying, “I felt like (they were) trying to terrorize us into heaven instead of loving us into heaven.” God’s presence had revealed something in the gentleman that was far from pretty!
Mankind is relatively open to the concept of “God is love,” but vehemently resists and downright stands in opposition to the holiness of God, to the judgment of God. The mercy of God is quick to be spoken of and hoped for even by the lost – especially in times of trouble and trials, yet the reality of God’s judgment is pushed as far as it can be pushed into the most outer recesses of our existence.
I richly enjoy Franklin Graham’s summation, “Jesus is gentle, but He is not weak. He loves the sinner but is absolutely intolerant of sin. He is not a negotiator. He is Lord. It is this bristling truth that invites intolerance toward Christians. Jesus did not say, ‘Do your own thing; all roads lead to God.’ That would have made Jesus ‘politically correct,’ but Jesus is not politically correct. He is Lord.” (Boldness and italics added.)
Oh, how mankind just hates being told what is right and what is wrong! Man will entertain the concept of being his own captain – “in charge of his own destiny” – all day long before he will sit comfortably for a few moments in the reality of God as Lord.
All manner of people today want truth to be subjective. Ravi Zacharias wrote in Jesus Among Other Gods, “All religions, plainly and simply, cannot be true… It does no good to put a halo on the notion of tolerance as if everything could be equally true.”
Truth – absolute truth – is not rooted in man. It is rooted in God. It is objective, wholly rooted in the ‘object,’ or better stated, the ‘being’ of the unchanging, eternal God. And while God is most certainly loving, we must never lose sight of His holiness. The Word speaks of the balance between mercy and judgment. God is not wholly either, but a divine, perfect combination of the two. Again, it cannot be overstated enough that in our time mankind is quick to embrace His mercy, all the while craning the head as far as it will go so as to not acknowledge His judgment, His holiness.
“Tolerance” is the buzz word in society now; it is also insidious, all the way to the core. The original “rebellious seed” that was planted into the human race through Adam and Eve is still very much alive and active today. We see it every time a person is told “no,” from the tiny tot to the rebellious adult. Every day we see both child and adult take the stand, “You won’t tell me what to do!” They may be saying it to another person’s face, but the reality is they are actually daring to confront God Himself. The child in the class who is told to be quiet, yet continues to talk. The adult who parks in a no parking zone, only to stand and argue with the ticketing officer. And on and on it goes every single day in so many different situations. Rebellion; rebellion that dares to exalt itself as lord of one’s life.
The Spirit of God within His children exposes the dark places within the soul, often times without a word spoken, to those His children encounter. It is seen when offense or anger is stirred up in people. Regardless of what comes against you, commit to grow in all things… and that includes our willingness to be persecuted and hated for His name’s sake as He uses us to expose the condition of those who surround us.
If you find your presence does not stir up anger or offense, you may want to ask yourself if you are compromising your way of life to appease men or attempting to “fly under the enemy’s radar.” I am not saying you should seek to stir up difficulty, but what I am saying is I have found if you live a life that does not live quietly for God, compromising objective truth for subjective truth, you will find yourself living Luke 6:22 out large.
Romans 8:7 reminds us “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
While God is love, He is also holy… and He is Lord. We may live in a world that likes to think truth is subjective, but it is far from it. We may live in a world that likes to think there are many ways to God, but there are not. He is Lord, and we are all bound to live by His rules or pay the consequence. Make no mistake, there is a consequence to be paid. Temporally speaking, if a child talks in class when they are told not to, they are going to be met with a consequence from the teacher or the principal for their willfulness — or they should be! If an adult parks in a no parking zone, they are going to receive a ticket. But beyond the temporal consequences, there is an eternal consequence that must be paid for our wrongs. You can either acknowledge Jesus’ payment, laying down your ideals of right and wrong and self-justification in exchange for His salvation and Lordship – or you can foolishly attempt to pay your own consequence. (Just consider yourself duly noted – you will come up very very short. Remember, the price was Jesus’ life, and in your refusal to acknowledge that, you will lose yours…. eternally.) To believe that there is not or will not be a consequence to our sin nature and rebellious choices is to throw Christ’s death in to God the Father’s face as pointless and unnecessary. Sobering thought, is it not? It sure should be. And it should be just as noted, one cannot receive Jesus’ salvation, yet reject His Lordship. His Lordship stands valid regardless of salvation, even over the realm of darkness.
“Therefore [because He (Jesus) stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2: 9-11)
Jesus said to His followers: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lamp stand; and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
Are you letting your Light that is within you shine before men, or are you attempting to live quietly — perhaps a little too quietly – so as to not be wholly identified as His and face man’s hatred that comes from living for absolute Truth? Guaranteed you will know the answer to this by the behavior of those around you. Make no mistake – He is often found exposing and bringing out the worst in people!
Embrace Him for who He is and live life courageously for Him. Allow Him, through your life, to expose “the knowledge of Him in every place!” And remember – the qualifier is not that we are perfect, but as the Word says, “our adequacy is from God!” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
In the coming weeks, I am going to begin posting a series of articles called “Straight Talk.” It is with caution that I undertake this task. Most importantly, God’s Word is to be our standard, not our own subjective opinions nor popular opinion; and therefore it will be His Word that is presented in each of the pending articles. Given the climate and the culture we live in, I dare say even the most sound Christian will be challenged to inspect their own creed. We must be ever vigilant to measure our beliefs and our actions, not by what is common and acceptable in man’s eye, but God’s and God’s alone.
With that said, I want to launch this series with an exposition on the difference between grace and favor. At the end, I pray you are motivated to accept perhaps a higher bar than you are currently subscribed.
First, it must be understood that one of the great difficulties in studying God’s nature as presented in His Word is the “translation hiccups.” The English language, with all its variety, stills habitually fails to capture the quintessential meanings of the Greek and Hebrew for various reasons. One reason is that the English language is full of “blanket words,” general words we use to cover many different Greek and Hebrew words. Secondly, there is the depth of the Hebrew language itself that I’ll touch on in just a moment. And then there is the difficulty that English is a composite language of Scandinavian, Celtic, Greek and Latin. It’s a wonder we can grasp even the tiniest understanding of the original Hebrew meanings with the many language hurdles that have come to be since the time of Moses! And that’s not even accounting for the vast cultural hurdles! Goodness.
We get into a bit of a disparagement when we attempt to take English and define Greek or Hebrew by it. I know we like to think “our” language is all that and then some, but it isn’t, especially in the study of God’s Word. English will always be at least third fiddle to Greek and Hebrew.
“Khanan” is the Hebrew verb meaning “be gracious” in English. (At least “be gracious” is the closest meaning we can get to what the Hebrew meant when he wrote or said “khanan.” Are you beginning to focus on the difficulty?) There is the adverb derivative, “khinnam,”meaning “without payment, free” in English. There is the noun derivative, “khen ,” meaning “grace, elegance” in English.There is the adjective derivative, “khannun,” which means “gracious”… again, in English. (Keep in mind these English words are as close to the translations as we can get using our foreign language of English to describe Hebrew.)
The Hebrew individual knew his language. He didn’t need nor lean on another language to define his own. But that’s what we do when we try to get the “full” meaning of God’s Word only reading it in English. To define a word without a known reference point is useless, but that’s exactly what the English language attempts to do when replacing the Greek and Hebrew.
[Am I suggesting you become a Greek and Hebrew linguistics expert? No. I am light-years away from being one myself! But I will tell you I have been amazed at what I have learned by doing even a little digging into the Greek and Hebrew languages. In truth, the little digging I started some time ago gave me a hunger to dig more. Perhaps that would be the case for you as well.]
We have to first understand the Hebrew defined himself IN relationship to God. Apart from God there was no meaning to life, language, or anything else. Nada. So it is vital to understand the meaning of their words is inseparable from the being of God Himself.
[Taking it one step further, often when we read the English word “grace” in the Word, the conversion has most likely come from the Greek words oiktirmos, meaning “pity, compassion,”and eleeo, meaning “have pity on, show mercy to.” Recall the Word was written first in Hebrew, then translated to Greek…. then to other dialects such as Aramaic… and way down the line, to English. To say we get the meaning of “grace” as God intended by just reading the English version is profoundly short sighted of us. Another disparagement that might help you grasp our language handicap is just how difficult it is for us (Americans who fought a war to grant us independence) to wholly and utterly wrap our minds correctly around the concepts of “Lord” and “Kingdom.” So, be patient with yourself, and understand you are at a disadvantage because of your heritage – an American English speaking individual trained to think one way while God and His Word is angularly situated very differently. It isn’t impossible to hurdle these difficulties, but it does take time, study, and meditation; three components many are unwilling to invest! Don’t be one of the ones who defaults to what they think they know is correct, but instead take the time to study and meditate on the details. God is found in the details!]
This is why the Hebrew was able to take, for example, names and know the immediate and distinct meanings to those names. “Yokhanan” for example means “Yah (or Yahweh) is gracious.” The meaning of Hebrew words is understood in relationship of the noun to the verb. The word is not independent in its meaning, but interdependent not only on the context, but the subject.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to default – much to my grimace – to our English reference points. But before I do, I hope I have left you hungry to explore on your own what exactly is “grace” as defined by the Hebrew language in the context of various passages in the Word. I assure you there are differences, and keep in mind — if differences were of no importance, God would not have put them there!
So what is grace as defined by our English language, keeping in mind there is a deficit in our “blanket words”? (I dare say most people haven’t even explored this basic step before declaring they already know what it is.)
As a noun, grace is defined in English as “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” Re-read that slowly and think about each word of the definition. Though a blanket word – this definition is pleasingly detailed.
We generally don’t like to think that we might actually have a part to play in attracting God’s favor. It’s been programmed into many that “It’s God’s choice,” implying our actions have little to nothing to do with it. But you will soon seen nothing could be further from the truth. More on favor in a moment… let’s continue with grace….
Many church leaders talk endlessly about the grace of God (not entirely correctly either, for that matter, as you will soon see). And while God’s grace is something to certainly be acknowledged and taught, it cannot be further apprehended beyond accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Grace does not come from any other source than God Himself, at least how God’s Word uses “grace” to mean. It does not come from you or I or “Mother Earth” or any other New Age “source.” “Grace” – in its purest most correct form – comes from God as an element of His being that He shares with His own… and no, it cannot be earned… and you cannot receive “more” of it than you did the day of your salvation. Stay with me, and this will all become clear.
The moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord you wholly and fully obtained God’s grace, His “unmerited divine assistance given (to) humans for their regeneration or sanctification” that “confers dignity” to the believer. (That’s a mouth full, but every word is vital!)
Do you think of the words “divine assistance/power/equipping” when you hear the word “grace”? You should. However – and unfortunately – most Christians think it is “just” God’s covering that primarily encompasses His compassion which keeps Him from killing us every time we make a mistake.
I heard a wonderful story about this from another Bible teacher I’d like to share. It begins in Africa where a tribal chief and his clan have to walk miles to get water. The reality is they have to walk miles for everything. So, a mission hears about their plight and gifts to them a vehicle. Now, instead of it taking hours – sometimes days – to go where needed, they now have the ability to drastically – and effortlessly – quicken their tasks. Well, the mission takes the car to the chief and shows him all the bells and whistles… the power windows, the AC, the adjustable seats, etc. Leaving, the mission director feels so excited to have gifted the chief with such a gift. A few years pass. The mission director returns to the remote village, only to discover the vehicle unmoved and totally overrun with vegetation. He inquires about why the chief had not used it. Turns out, no one told them how to start the vehicle. The most BASIC detail was left out. That’s exactly what most churches and teachings have done with the subject of grace. They forgot to teach the most basic, YET vital point to God’s grace!
What ever it is that He asks you to put your hand to on any given day you already have within you His grace — His unmerited divine assistance — that will successfully bring you through with greater easy and less time IF you tap into (turn the key!) what He has already given you! Glory! That’s God’s grace!
What it is NOT – yet sadly what too many people think – is Him holding back His wrath on “poor miserable me because I fail miserably over and over again at this thing called life.” The consequence of people not understanding what grace really is is truly grievous to me! Such incorrect understanding keeps people in a place of lack, failure, and misery – much like the chief and his clan continuing to walk (ho-hum) every where when they were given a vehicle that would carry them! (Is your vehicle in the same spot it was placed on the day of your salvation? Is it overgrown with “vegetation”? Are you still “walking” every where?)
How many times have you heard “Sister-so-and-so” say, “I sure am thankful for God’s grace,” but it is in the context of “I sure am glad He covered my screw-up!” Instead, think how wonderful it would be to hear “Sister-so-and-so” say, “I sure am thankful for God’s grace,” and she means it in the context of VICTORY; it’s intend context.
So, are you squared away on grace now? Meditate on these things – dig into the Word. Read the passages on grace with the revelation of it being God’s divine assistance. (But I wouldn’t be me if I did not exhort you to begin, also, diving into the Greek and Hebrew!) Just to get you going, read through and substitute “divine assistance” for “grace” in the following verses, and see if light bulbs don’t come on for you. Better yet, read them as they are, with your “old” understanding of grace, and see if you don’t ask yourself, “What was I thinking?! And why did I think that way to begin with?!”
“The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:40 (Question: If you take the commonly accepted idea of God’s grace by most people today (God’s covering of our mess-ups and failures), does this verse make any sense at all to you? Jesus? Failures? Mess-ups? Jesus was not in need of God’s grace as it is commonly thought of today, but He sure did need and have God’s divine assistance to do what He did!)
Okay – so let’s take a quick look at favor. (By the way, thank you for staying with me through this long article. If I didn’t know it to be important, I would not take the time to write it!) First, let’s review the definitions for favor.
Favor, as distinct from grace, is based on the choices one makes through life. Oh boy! There are at least two erroneous thoughts in churches today. 1) The word “favor” is interchangeable with “grace.” 2) Favor is a given at the moment of salvation and adoption into His family.
Now this is where it could get really deep if I had the time and space. The Hebrew and Greek have varying words for “grace” and “favor” and some of them ARE interchangeable and some are not. However, let’s agree to agree they are not interchangeable for our purposes here. As an example, you – I hope – would agree with me that Mary, mother of Jesus, did not just experience God’s grace, but something additional as read here: “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. ‘” (Luke 1:30) Or Noah: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Or Moses? Or David? I could go on, but we see in the Word examples of people who attracted God’s attention more than others.
God’s Word says, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) BAM! That’s FAVOR! It did not say “everyone.” It did not say “all believers.” It said “those whose heart is completely His.”
God’s Word says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” (Psm 34:15) Bam! FAVOR! To whom does He open His ears? The righteous! Definition of “righteous” is “acting in accord with divine law.” Christ came to fulfill the Law; not to do away with it. Please hear me! Grace does not cancel out the Law. Grace does NOT give you a pass to do any thing you want, any time you want, any which way you please without consequences!
Recall grace is God’s unmerited divine assistance for the purpose of sanctification. If you actually USE His divine assistance, you’ll do as the Word says – GROW in sanctification – and thus attract His favor – His “approving attention.” No longer will you take another trip around your mountain because you’ll be utilizing His grace (His divine assistance) to conquer the mountain and move on! How many Christians spend their whole lives going in circles – sadly passing by God’s vehicle of grace with every trip around – watching the vines grow in and around the very thing they should be using? (If you identify here as “that’s me,” may I gently ask, “Aren’t your legs tired yet?”)
But rarely are grace and favor witnessed together in the day in which we live because we have erroneously defined grace as only a cover for our mess-ups, the results of our “fallen nature.” Pish-posh. Move past that, dear ones! The Word says you HAVE BEEN redeemed. It’s time to use God’s grace (His unmerited divine assistance) to rewire your thinking as you determine to meditate on what the Word actually says – not what you have thought it says! Are you experiencing victories in your life? Do you go along with ease and joy? If not, you are not using grace in the manner God meant for you to use it – and most likely that is directly linked to what you have thought grace is! “My people perish for lack of knowledge,” and in my opinion, incorrect knowledge is just as detrimental as the lack of it!
This week we celebrate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice… and YES, it is vital to never forget, but to dwell on that point is like standing at the vehicle that that very event provided to us Gentiles, and yet never getting in to it to motivate where He wants to take you! I recall when the “Passion of Christ” movie came out asking Jesus, “Do you want me to see that movie?” Clearly He said to me, “No, why would I? You understand what I did for you, and more to the point, I’m not there now!” Glory! He is the RISEN KING OF KINGS, victoriously seated at the Father’s right hand!
Hear me – sometimes a person chooses “circular motion” (as in around the mountain…again), instead of linear motion, because of the emotional “trip” it yields. Let’s be honest. All of humanity suffers “human inertia.” (The tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.) Can I just tell you true victory through His grace (what grace wholly means) will give you a greater “trip” by far than the emotional trip your “fallen nature” gives you when you revisit and revisit and revisit His “covering.” (Re-read that.)
We can become addicted to grace as a covering instead of rightly using it as EMPOWERMENT to move on, growing in sanctification. I know these are strong words, but I see it all the time. I hear it all the time. And it grieves me. If it grieves me, how does it impact God Himself? Be careful, dear ones, how you think of grace and how you use it! He died for our VICTORY, not just our covering. Step into it (backseat, of course!) and let Him motivate you linearly down life’s road. Stop walking around in circles!
Again, grace (God’s divine assistance) is a given upon the moment of salvation because the receiver makes the choice to apprehend God’s conveyance of dignity to us through His redemptive sacrifice – JESUS!
But His favor (friendly regard shown toward another especially by a superior; approving attention) is granted to those who have given their entire being over completely to Him, those who abide by His law. (Yes, kingdoms have laws; HIS Kingdom has laws!) You want the friendly regard, the approving attention, of the King? Regard His laws while regarding Him. You can’t say you regard Him while disobeying Him. It doesn’t work that way.
Does this help you? I pray it does, especially as I embark on writing the articles in the coming days. I’ll be referring to “grace” and “favor” in them, so it was very important that I take the time and teach on them.
Like it or not, there are Kingdom laws that have significant consequences to our lives. While it is absolutely true that we have liberty in Christ, what we do with that liberty is vitally crucial to the well-being of both ourselves, our impact on God’s Kingdom, and the world at large!
As the saying /(Bible verse) goes, “As a man thinks (in his heart), so is he.” Is your thinking correct on grace and favor? I pray you will take the time to weigh these words against your thoughts as they currently are, asking God to point out any changes that need to occur!