God’s Overabundance

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy.  Then they said among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord had done great things for us; we were joyful. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like watercourses in the Negev.  Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.  Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he will surely come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves.    Psalm 126

Grace and Peace to you fellow sojourners.  As a sojourner, do you know that you are only a temporary resident (1 Peter 2:11) during your time under the sun?  That knowledge should significantly influence how you view and handle all of your days.

Perhaps we all have had seasons of on-going earnest prayer. During those times it seems difficult to imagine laughing out loud again with pure joy.  When you consider the ‘impossible’ things that only God can do, does it seem like a dream to you when you experience His reality?  You know the promises of restoration, but when the experience comes, it can overwhelm your senses.  When the ‘impossible’ is orchestrated, our mouth erupts with laughter and shouts of joy!

The watercourses in the Negev refer to season streams or wadis, which occasionally blessed the land with a sudden overabundance of water (Holman).  A sudden overabundance…wow.  When the Lord blesses, don’t you know it comes as an overabundance and not just a few drops!

Prayer:

Lord, may You unleash the abundance of your blessings upon my life as only you can do.    I desire for my days to remain humble before You.   Lord, I know when you bring your restoration it will always be so significant that it will fill my mouth with shouts of joy.  I will proclaim your greatness to all who have an ear to hear!   Come, Lord Jesus.

In His grace,

Amanda

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Peace, be Still

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  Mark 4:39

Grace and peace to you fellow sojourners!

We are not told much about how this fierce storm broke forth, but we are told that the journey across the sea came at the close of a busy teaching day and Jesus was most likely weary.  In my own life, I seem to be hit by the fiercest ‘winds’ when I am tired.  What about you?

I find it interesting that the word translated ‘peace’ in this verse is also translated ‘silence’ in other versions of the Bible.  It is a word that means things like, to muzzle, to be speechless, and to be kept in check.  Can you imagine peace muzzling your speech so that it is held in check?

In our life experience, we can verify that the good and the bad both have the power to arise.  In this verse, the word ‘wind’ indicates ‘a violent attack of wind, not a squall or a single gust nor a steady blowing wind, however violent, but a storm breaking forth from black thunder clouds in furious gusts, with floods of rain, and throwing everything topsy-turvy’ (Strongs).  Without a doubt, this arising force would be bad if you happen to be in a boat on the sea.  The marvelous love of Jesus arises even in the midst of the unwelcome and forbids it to continue while bringing everything to peace; causing everything to be still and calm.

When your circumstances tempt you to veer off into a ‘furious gust,’ which causes your vision to blur and your insides to turn chaotic, call for the Teacher.  In the disciple’s distress, they did not call him by his name Jesus, but by “Teacher!”  I suppose they needed some teaching just as you or I need when we view our circumstances to be bigger than our God.

I want the peace that surpasses every thought to guard my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7).  I am praying this exact prayer for someone very dear to me and to behold with my very eyes the storm dissipating in their heart and bringing a wave of peace that only God Himself can bring is an absolute joy.   Sojourners, let’s be so immersed in the peace of the Lord that when the storms arise, they can’t rock our boat.

In His grace,

Amanda

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Bone Up for the Clean Cup

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.  2 Corinthians 7:10

Grace and peace to you fellow sojourners!

I enjoy warm drinks, especially on chilly days.  I have discovered the coffee to be especially good when my friend prepares it and presents it to me; delicious!  Tea in the early morning is also extraordinarily good because my husband makes it and brings it to me as I study.  And of course it goes without saying, the cuter the cup, the better!

I am sure you have a favorite beverage and wonderful memories associated not only with the taste but also with the aroma.  Imagine the anticipation of sipping your favorite refreshment just to notice it will be poured into a repulsively filthy cup.   Would you permit someone to pour anyway and muster up your most polite southern manners to drink it or at least pour it out when no one was noticing?  Or in your disgust would you immediately halt the pouring and insist on a clean cup because regardless of how cute the cup might be on the outside the inside is indeed the priority.  Well, Jesus has something to say about this dirty cup business (Luke 11:39).

Sometimes the Lord illuminates me by permitting me to visualize ideas, and this was one of those occasions.  I was preparing to go somewhere, so I was busying myself with my outward appearance while pondering my reading that morning regarding the vain offerings spoken about in Isaiah 1:11, 13.  (The meaning of the word ‘vain’ in this verse is the Hebrew word ‘shav’ and means things like uselessness, deceptive, in vain, falsely, lying, and vanity.)

The Lord brought to my understanding how He values repentance (1 John 1:9), but it must be because we realize it is God we have sinned against (2 Corinthians 7:10) for it to produce renewing repentance.  Vain, worldly repentance is when we say we are sorry only to avoid the uncomfortableness of a situation, but it conclusively proves useless because it deceives ourselves and others, is lying and is, therefore, done in vain.  The result is a “cup” that might still look cute on the outside, but the inside is now dirty.  The longer we continue in this behavior, the filthier the cup becomes.  God is the only one that can cleanse our “cup” from all unrighteousness.

Israel was required to sacrifice certain prescribed animals to atone for their sins.  The aroma which resulted from these atoning sacrifices wasn’t what pleased God as much as what it represented:  repentance, clean souls, and changed lives (Leviticus 1:9, 13, 2:2, 23:18).  If the heart was right, these sacrifices were a pleasing aroma to the Lord (Numbers 15:3).  However, over time Israel left the condition of the heart out of the sacrifice, and it became just ‘a work,’ and God had this to say about it, “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams…Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me” (Isaiah 1:11, 13).

Have you considered your ‘vain’ confessions to be an abomination?  The pleasing aroma wafts from a sacrifice of genuine repentance motivated by a truly humble and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).  Fellow sojourners, ask the Lord to give you the heartfelt desire to keep your inward ‘cup’ free from filth and debris that would disrupt the complete work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Returning to the Luke 11:39 verse, why else would you suppose Jesus would be concerned about the condition of the inside of your “cup?”   Because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who was given to us (Romans 5:5).  Since the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts wouldn’t it be wise to make sure our ‘cup’ stays clean through repentance and the subsequent cleansing the Lord does in us on our behalf?  Martin Luther famously wrote in the first of his ninety-five theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” Repentance is not peripheral to a life of worship. It’s at the very heart, which is why God sees repentance as especially fragrant.

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for pouring Your Holy Spirit into my heart.  May you impress on me, even more, the importance of true repentance which will result in your cleansing me of all unrighteousness.  I desire for my “cup” (heart) to be clean.  When You prompt me to repent, I desire to do so immediately.  Open my eyes and ears and soften my heart to your promptings.  Your servant is listening.  In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray, amen.

In His grace,

Amanda

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My Word! What’s with All the Profanity?

“No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”   Ephesians 4:29

Greetings fellow sojourners!

As the guard over our mouth, we should always be asking, “Does that speech minister grace?”  “Does it build up?”  “Does it demonstrate the loveliness of Christ in someone else’s eyes?”

To me, profanity has become rampant these days.  I read something recently that said profanity is often the result of idolatry, injustice, or irreverence.   The statement made me pause and put it to the test.  Let’s consider these points, and you can put them to the test for yourself.

Idolatry.  One thing we can proficiently do is idolize self.  1 Corinthians 13:5 says love is not rude.  If someone admires self they say things like, “I can do this, I have the right to talk like this.”  Pride is beneath a lot of this profane language.  But love seeks to honor because it is humble and not self-asserting.  “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).   There are some dialogs which are inappropriate, dishonorable, disgraceful and indecent but love can masterfully rise above a dialog of sludge and instead ascend to God as a pleasing aroma.

Injustice.  If you consider injustice, a word that might come to your mind is corrupt.  Peter warned that we should “be saved from this corrupt generation”  (Acts 2:40).  It seems to me this generation is quick to release the floodgates on any language they see fit and the greater the shock value to make their point, the better.  Is it a just way to behave?  Have we really become that immune?

Irreverance.  Possibly all we need to consider here are some synonyms for this word to rev our thoughts.  Blasphemy.  Flippant.  Insult.  Rudeness.  Sinfulness.  Mockery.

“Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks”  (Ephesians 5:4).  Taking significant, weighty, and glorious things and trivializing them or speaking as if they weren’t important is inappropriate.  When you consider the word ‘crude’ is something simple and primitive, we must know we are capable of much more than ‘simple’ and ‘primitive.’  This verse says we instead ought to be giving thanks.

If our heart is thankful, we will not be speaking harsh, obscene, and foul talk.  If we are speaking this way in an attempt to fit in, Scripture has already shown us we are not to fit in, but instead we are to be saved from this corrupt generation (Acts 2:40).  Perhaps we are using the offensive and questionable language because our heart is not content.  We are not happy in Jesus.  When we imitate the way of Jesus, we demonstrate His beauty to others.  When we follow after the pattern of the world we show the vandalizing effects of Satan.

As the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), we should be instructing others with our words and guarding Truth.  If we attempt to lead others with language peppered with profanity, we must know it indicates our approval of obscene, foolish, and crude talk in the life of the Christian which most likely will create a stumbling block for others.

Friends, we are to live to cherish Christ and the gospel above all. That should mean that grace is abounding in our hearts. Therefore, most of the language that is offensive and questionable is merely contrary to ministering grace and living out of grace.

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for granting me a sound mind and bestowing Your Spirit that counsels me in the truth.  Therefore, I am well able to distinguish between words that can vandalize and words that can edify. I desire to guard my words.   It is by Your power that I am victoriously anointed to be a righteous saint of the Living God.  I am grateful.  Amen.

In His grace,

Amanda

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