Repairing Contentions

At the end of 2 Timothy, Paul requested to have Mark. Why is that significant? Let’s go back to some history in Acts. Do you remember when Peter was freed from prison? Acts 12:5 says, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.”

They were gathered at Mary’s house, the mother of John. Verse 12 says, “…whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.” John Mark was Barnabas’ cousin. Verse 25 says that he traveled with Paul and Barnabas. 

Acts 15:37-38 says that Barnabas was determined to take Mark on their next journey. Paul strongly opposed the idea. Verse 38 reveals why. It says that he departed, “…from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.” Verse 39 seems surprising. However, we have to remember that we are all humans who still sin. It says, “Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another…”

The enemy of our soul is determined to destroy relationships. He seeks to undermine our faith and the ministry the Lord calls us to. Beware of contentions. Titus 3:9 says, “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.” Proverbs 13:10 says, “By pride comes nothing but strife…” 

Proverbs 18:19 Amplified says, “A brother offended is harder to be won over than a strong city, and (their) contentions separate them like the bars of a castle.” Do you remember what was said of Joseph’s brothers? Genesis 37:4 says, “…they could not speak peaceably to him.” That is a huge clue of an offended heart. The heart is not at peace because it is carrying an offense. It is an unresolved issue. Harsh words, and tense body language is a tell tale sign of hidden sin.

Titus 3:3 is our mandate at all times in our interpersonal relationships. It says, “To speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” Here is another good one. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

If there is a breach in a relationship, then we need to mend it through humility and forgiveness. Psalm 15:2-3 is a great guideline. It says, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.”

Paul is an example we can follow. Though Scripture does not fill in all the blanks, his last words reveal a changed heart towards Mark. 2 Timothy 4:11 says, “…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” The Greek word for useful is very profitable. 

We are all members of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:25 says, “That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” Schism means division. We must remain united to collectively oppose and resist the enemy’s advances. He is defeated, but he captures his victims through deceit.

2 Timothy 2:24-25 says, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” 

Verse 26 continued the thought, “and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” Shun satan’s will! Bring truth into your heart. Make it your own experience that will keep you free.

Who Observes Your Life?

I was really struck with Paul’s statement to Timothy. It sent me back to two verses about Paul. 1 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

2 Timothy 4:10 Amplified says, “Now you have closely observed and diligently followed my teaching, conduct, purpose in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness.” Who observes your life this closely?

Paul used the Lord as His model, pattern, and example. We influence others through who or what we imitate. Think of 1 Corinthians 15:33. It is in the negative sense. It says, “Do not be deceived: Evil communication corrupts good habits.”

We need to choose wise friends, those whose lives are a living example of Jesus. I want to surround myself with those who are striving through their fleshly reactions, to press into Jesus. That is why I read biographies and autobiographies. I want to see how they handled their adversities.

Paul said in Philippians 3:13 that he was choosing to forget the things from his past. I love this verse. Our empowerment comes through forgetting by letting go. Watch the progression of Paul’s words. They remind me of a trapeze artist.

Verses 13-14 say, “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” These two verses are the enactment of our progressive sanctification. We never arrive. Our faith is always being stretched and tested. As well it is constantly opposed through myriad ways the enemy of our soul implements.

The Lord uses our trials to prove that our faith is genuine. We may say that we have fellowship with the Lord. 1 John 2:6 is our mandate. It says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

That is a tall order that is impossible to fill in our flesh. Remembering that our flesh profits nothing, we need to shun all its overtures. They are satan’s lure-suggestions. We died to sin! Romans 6:1-2 is a great declaration that we can live and breathe in.

It says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Verse 12 says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Think of the word ‘lust’ as suggestive sinful overtures. They are fiery darts that are lobbed to destroy our faith.

We forget by letting go, and at the same time we are constantly reaching forward through all opposition. The trapeze artist keeps their eyes on the goal. They have to let go of the first bar in order to have the momentum they need for the oncoming bar. They cannot hold on or it would be disastrous.

Let us follow Paul’s example. Others are watching. They want to know how you are processing your trials. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Jesus is our Excellent Example. Let us keep our eyes on Him.

Guilty As Charged

James 2:10 says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Note the word ‘all’ again. It is impossible for anyone to keep the whole law.

James 3:2 says, “For we stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” James wrote to his readers about bits in horses’ mouths, and the small rudder on huge ships. Yet, verse 8 says, “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

The tongue is so situated in the body that it can defile the whole body. Have you ever spoken death words, pronouncements, or bitter root judgements against another or yourself? Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” We will eat the fruit of the words that come out of our mouth.

Have you ever been guilty of James 3:10? It says, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” It all starts in our heart’s thoughts.

When we entertain thoughts against anyone or circumstance, we enter into the realm of cursing. It is not talking about using swear words, but rather wounding words. Verse 9 says that we are all made in the similitude of God.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth…”

Let me give you an illustration of corrupt. Isaiah 64:6 says that our fleshly righteousness is as filthy rags. Years ago my dad had a rental. The lady didn’t pay for rent so he used his key to get in. As he opened the door, he was hit with corrupt smells.

She had thrown down the clothes she wore onto the bottom of the closet. The cats (plural) had used it for their dumping ground. My dad had to hire a man to pitch fork the clothes out the window into his pickup. They were corrupt, filthy, and absolutely unfit.

Here are Peter’s words of admonishment. 1 Peter 3:9 says, “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

Ephesians 4:29 ended with these words about our words, “…what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” This applies to ourselves, as well as to those we are speaking to. 

Liberty: Pure Conscience

Paul made a great statement about his conscience. It was referenced back to his declaration that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. Let his words be true for each of us. Acts 24:16 says, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”

A pure conscience comes from a pure heart. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The Greek word for ‘pure’ means undefiled. What defiles a man? Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…”

I thought about what causes a guilty conscience. I want to make something really clear. I’ve heard this erroneous belief so many time in my counseling over the years. An abused child, or an abused spouse should never feel guilty. It is false guilt that comes through lying fiery darts.

False guilt suppresses truth. When we are sinned against, it is because the sinner was acting out in their flesh. We are not responsible for their actions. No one ever causes another to act out in violence. All actions come from thoughts. Evil thoughts result in evil actions.

As redeemed ones, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. He will use our conscience to convict us before we act out in sin. Have you ever started to do something and you felt His Presence stopping you?

All people have a conscience. Many have seared theirs. 1 Timothy 4:2 says, “Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” Each time, we as believers, have a thought that is contrary to being holy, the Holy Spirit will resist us.

Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…” That is exactly what He is doing ~ resisting our fleshly nature. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not heed His warnings.

Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Though we may sin, we are eternally sealed. The more we resist the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the less we will be sensitive to His leading.

Galatians 5:16 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling…” 1 Peter 1:15 says, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…”

We grow in our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading by being attentive. He will always lead us in the truth. We need to take time with Him just sitting still. Not coming with an agenda, but a heart that is open to being led.

Goodness Upon Goodness

Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and the longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” The Holy Spirit brought this verse to my mind, and connected it with the whole subject of forgiveness.

How much have we been forgiven? Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” God’s grace never runs out. It overflows with abundance.

Ephesians 2:7-8 says, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Note the words, ‘according to’ in the above two verses. It is not ‘out of’ but according to. Think of a bottomless well. Every time you draw water, you draw according to the totality of provision.

Isaiah 12:3 says, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Our well cannot run dry. Salvation is eternal. We will continue to draw from it throughout eternity. I don’t know about you, but this causes the sides of my brain to stretch.

Let me go from bottomless to unsearchable. The first verse that pops out of my heart is Romans 11:33. It says, “Oh, the depth of His riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”

Jeremiah 31:14 says, “I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.” Are you satiated? It means to be filled to the full. 

The only thing that stops this flow is unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is sin. Sin in our heart blocks the outpouring of God’s riches over our lives. Yet. When we consider how much we have been forgiven, that truth washes out the sludge that stopped our well.

Colossians 3:13 is a command. Forgiving one who has hurt us is not an option. It is essential for our spiritual growth. It says, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Note ‘must do’ is a command. The church, the united body of Christ, is designed to be a testimony to those around us of the riches of His goodness.

Always Room To Grow

(I’m at the library so I finally have internet connection. Thank the Lord! Sorry for all the missed days. May this encourage you today)

On September 22, 2011 I had a dream. The words at the end really impacted me. I have them written in the front of my Bible. “Without forgiveness our spiritual growth is stunted, like the butterfly who remains swollen.” 

The life of a caterpillar’s journey has always fascinated me. When I was a child I would put the caterpillar in a shoe box. I was able to watch the whole process. First it devoured the leaves I gave it. 

One day it climbed up on the branch and began to spin its chrysalis. Many years ago I read something in a child’s magazine called “Ranger Rick.” The caterpillar melts inside the cocoon. 

It is from the liquid that the Lord creates the butterfly. The caterpillar dies to bring new life. When the butterfly emerges, it hangs by a thread. Its body is swollen with fluid. It has to struggle to get all that fluid pumped into its wings. If someone would cut the tread? The butterfly would fall to the ground, unable to fulfill God’s design to fly.

The butterfly’s strength is in the struggle. Have you ever struggled to forgive someone who hurt you? Are there circumstances in your life that are like grit in your throat? My chickens used to get things stuck in their craws. 

The good news is that your sins, and the sins of the one who hurt you, are forgiven through Jesus death. I love this verse. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The east and west never meet. Forgiving those who hurt us requires our appropriation of the truth.

Unforgiveness blocks God’s design for our relationship with Himself as well as others. Unforgiveness is darkness. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Forgiving from the heart takes the gripping pain away. When we allow the whole experience to circle the wagon in our mind, God Himself will send tormentors. They can be in myriad forms. Matthew 18:21-35 is an account that needs to be fresh in our minds.

Verse 35 says, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” It referenced the tormentors from verse 34.

God’s love is unconditional. He doesn’t take His love away if we refuse to forgive. However, fellowship with Him is blocked, and spiritual growth is stunted. We grow in grace and in our knowledge of the Lord by letting things from the past go. Our past is passed. It only exists in our mind. Let us gaze upon Him with an unveiled face, that has been freed. We are called to endure the struggles which He has allowed to draw us closer to Him.

All: Without Exception

(Sorry this is late. Cannot find a WIFI access as there is none inside my hostess’ house) 

Last night I started reading the book of 1 Timothy. What a treasure trove of truths. I want to focus on one. Paul’s instruction for his young son in the faith is applicable for us right now. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For bodily exercise profits a little but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

As I read this verse the Holy Spirit glued me to ‘all things’ which immediately brought the definition of ‘all’ to my mind. It means without exception. Then my mind took off racing from one verse to another.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I thought of some other words that also mean no exception. Praise the Lord for this one! Romans 10:13 says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

I want to go back to this truth: godliness is profitable for all things. Contrast that to John 6:63 that says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing…” All versus nothing. Each thought, action, habit, and attitude hinge on whether we walk in the Spirit or we walk in our flesh.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” At salvation we are equipped with all that we need for our entire life’s journey. 

Yet, using and implementing what we have is predicated on getting to know the Lord. Our depth of relationship with Him grows as He takes us through our progressive sanctification. It is His engrafted word, swelling with buds of truth, that brings radical transformation. There is no spiritual growth by osmosis.

Here is another verse. It helps us understand that our Masterful Orchestrator is in control of every and all aspects of our lives. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”

He brings us to where He wants, connects us with the folks that are instrumental to challenge our faith to stand, and He redeems all the things that we have and will go through. Nothing is in vain. Everything He does is absolutely and inequitably  profitable for our good.

Nothing Is Impossible

Well

My temporary hostess has no internet. I am going to have to find a place to connect to the internet early in the mornings. Today my home internet will be disconnected so if I don’t have a post you will understand why.

Here is a new song that will encourage you as you wait. It has been one of my theme songs 

Nothing Is Impossible

You can move the mountains. You can calm the sea. You can split the skies and rescue me. Nothing is impossible, no nothing at all. You created everything before man’s fall. Though it seems impossible to me. I must remember Who You are as my Savior and King.

You rule in my heart through Your word supreme. I just have to believe-trust for You will faithful be. Nothing is too hard for You, no nothing at all. You delight to strengthen me through trials that reveal Yourself to me.

Your character is forged in me. Your anvil strong and true. You bring me through the fiery trials—my faith refined-secured. Your will is accomplished as I yield to Your hand. My thoughts are united with Your purpose and plans. As I walk in the path You choose You establish my heart. I serve You with thanksgiving and praise. You alone are worthy, O my Lord.

Waiting Invites Abundant Grace

Waiting tests our faith in myriad ways. Think of the facets in a diamond. As the light shines on the stone, it radiates myriad colors that can’t be adequately described. When the Lord shines His light on our trial of waiting, only He can describe what He sees in our hearts.

I want to attempt to describe something from my life. The Lord had me sell my mobile that I have lived in since December 2016. It was listed on February 1. A buyer eventually came with my escrow ending May 2. However during that whole waiting time, the Lord never opened a door for a place for me to live. He kept me hemmed into Himself, and totally undergirded with many praying for me.

I live in a senior mobile park. As each neighbor saw my for sale sign, the conversation usually went like this: “Where are you moving to?” I would say, “I don’t know yet, but God will open a place for me in His timing.” Each time one would see me out walking they would ask if I had a place yet. My answer was always the same.

On February 10 He told me to not look with my eyes, but to look with my heart’s belief in Him. Also to look through the eyes of irrefutable truth. Here are a few: He cannot lie, His arm is not short, nothing is impossible, and He cannot deny Himself. (Titus 1:2, Isaiah 59:1, Luke 1:37, 2 Timothy 2:13)

On April 6 I took my original mobile registration documents into the title company. As I walked out I felt like I was heading into a trap. The next morning the Lord told me to memorize Psalm 71:1. Within minutes it was glued in my heart. I sang it, spoke it, and made it my prayer. It became my breath.

He gave me three verses to memorize that literally met the need I was facing at the time. I did one a week so that I had time to meditate on them and savor and unpack the truths in each. Psalm 71:1 says, “In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame.”

That afternoon I was clearing out a drawer. On the bottom was a little card with Deuteronomy 20:3-4. It was dated October 31, 2016. It says, “Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint. Do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” What an embracing verse!

On Thursday the 14th I memorized Psalm 71:2. It says, “Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me, and save me. Saturday morning I woke up at 1:30 and knew the Lord had sprung the trap. New songs just kept bubbling up. I was so free!

My next was verse 3. It says, “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” The three verses became my breath. They carried me through each strategic step as the Lord prepared me for His answer.

The Lord kept every door closed until yesterday. My church friend texted me to say that she might have a place. It is a believer couple that I know. I called and Mary only had a window of a half hour before an appointment. I went over to see it. It is a perfect 600 square foot studio. I can stay there until the Lord opens up my permanent place.

As I was driving home, I had no words. I was speechless because I was being flooded with such an outpouring of abundant grace. I hope that this encourages you in your time of waiting. It is the Lord’s invitation to His grace. Isaiah 30:18 says that He waits so He can be gracious to us.

Processing Obstacles

The children of Israel had many things that seemed like obstacles. Perhaps the Red Sea is a great illustration for us. They were hemmed in. The Egyptian army was behind them, and the Red Sea was before them. 

Can you imagine what thoughts would be going through your mind if it were you? Moses instructed them with words we need to heed also. Exodus 14:13 says, “…Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…”

I’m in a circumstance right now that has me hemmed in. Psalm 139:5 helps me continually realize that I am hemmed in by the Lord. He is my rear guard, and He is my forerunner. It says, “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.”

Being hemmed in by the Lord can be seen in several ways. One way is in Numbers 22 which was about Balaam. He disobeyed the Lord, and verse 22 says, “…and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him…”

Verse 26 says, “Then the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.” Have you ever felt like you were in a situation where there was no way to move forward?

Here is another way. I often visit this passage. Acts 16:6-10. Paul and his team sought to go to this one place. Verse 6 says, “…they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit…” What were they going to do? They wanted to preach the gospel.

Verse 7 says that they tried to go into Bithynia, “…but the Spirit did not permit them.” Do you find it odd since they were doing what the Lord has called us all to do? The Lord had a specific ministry that He had purposed. He led them by resistance.

Verse 9 recorded that Paul had a vision. It says, “…A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us.” God’s resistance to what may seem good to us, is Him manifesting Himself to us for clear direction.

What do you do when you feel frustrated? Here is a definition the Holy Spirit gave me years ago: God redirecting my way into His way. Our way may seem right, yet Proverbs 14:12 Amplified says, “There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him…” Our way is always directed by our flesh. 

John 6:63 says that our flesh profits nothing. 1 Samuel 12:21 says, “And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.”

For several years, Psalm 5:8 has been one of my morning prayers for myself. It says, “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.” I don’t want to miss anything that the Lord wants to accomplish in my life. I’m sure you feel the same way. We need His clear direction moment by moment.