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Will You Receive?

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Stephen, who was full of grace and power, performed great signs and wonders among the people who would receive. Acts 6:8

Greetings fellow sojourners! May you know the height and depth of God’s love for you today and every day. May the truth of your value in the Kingdom of Heaven be made transparent to you so that you step boldly into your rightful place as a warrior and worshiper during your tenure in time.

Even today, fellow sojourners, the ones who will receive are always the ones who first recognize they have a need. Do you ever take a bite of food or drink before first acknowledging in your mind that you would like the bite or drink? Oh, Lord, that we may know the great need we have for Your moment-by-moment presence in our life.

Some people have failed to recognize that HE is what will truly satisfy our longings and have mistakenly rationalized it to be something else they are craving. Therefore, the drive is not to discover The Truth but, instead to meet the persistent need with an inferior substitute.

Those who had heard Stephen speak had not recognized their soul’s genuine need and became at odds with Stephen’s message and their sin then became the fuel that ignited strife in their heart. Because of their uncomfortableness with the Truth bearing witness against their soul, they immediately desired to alleviate the uncomfortableness by turning the fire of Truth into a heated debate with Stephen.

Since their intellect was unable to stand up against Stephen’s wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking, they brought the coldness of their heart in line with Satan by attempting to ‘kill’ the words he had spoken, ‘steal’ the impact of the Spirit, and ‘destroy’ the work Jesus came to do by appealing to the same coldness of heart in others by inciting fear. What we see happening next is the manifestation of the marvelous peace of God which transcends every thought (Philippians 4:7) come and rest upon Stephen. As the Sanhedrin looked intently at him, most likely hoping to see the reaction of someone who had met their match, they instead noticed his face was like that of an angel (Acts 6:15).

Perhaps this is why they allowed him to present a sermon to them on the Patriarchs in Egypt (Acts 7:9-16), Moses as a rejected savior (Acts 7:17-36), Israel’s rebellion against God (Acts 7:37-43), and God’s real tabernacle (Acts 7:44-50) before they submitted to their enraged hearts and stoned him to death (Acts 7:58-60). It seems as long as Stephen spoke about historical facts they were willing to listen. But when the exposition shifted and pointed out personal sin, Stephen the accused now became Stephen the accuser and the guilty could stand it no longer.

Just as the Accuser has great fury (Revelation 12:12), so can those who are under his sway. Have you ever spoken to someone who demonstrated such things as rage, anger, wrath, and resentment, and had a hot temper over something that did not match the conflict? The question then should always be, “What spirit is involved here?”

There is hope to all who are willing to receive. God knew us before He knitted us together (Psalm 139:19). Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ (Ephesians 1:4). God, in His love, reveals Himself to us through nature (Psalms 8:3-4, Romans 1:20), through our conscience (Romans 2:14-15), through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) and through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). The god of this age has blinded these revelations from the eyes of people so that the Truth is hidden. Because their vision of life is through the lens of strongholds, they are blinded to the Truth. We must know this and bring ourselves under scrutiny whenever conflict arises within us. God’s love is the remedy for all things and is available to anyone willing to receive.

In His grace

Amanda

Is it Really a Difficult Song?

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“Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.”

  Isaiah 5:1-2

Greetings fellow sojourners.

For me, loving the lovable is enjoyable. Showing kindness to someone kind to me is straightforward. Being nice to the friendly requires minimal effort. Forgiving someone who has marginally hurt me is not a great challenge. Helping someone when I have the time is simple. And singing when I am happy comes naturally. The conflict arises when I must see beyond myself because a person has been unlovable, mean, or has hurt me deeply. And when it comes to singing when I am hurting? Well, how do I do that? How can I bring myself to sing when all my heart seems to want to do is wallow or stand frozen by the sting of broken-heartedness?

This song in Isaiah is directed toward God, and the vineyard represents His people. God created ideal conditions so that we would flourish. He broke up the soil and cleared away the stones. When we stub our toe on a stone that has turned up in our surroundings, we often curse the offending stone with clenched teeth and fists as if we are shocked that we should have to suffer. It may take a while (if we do it at all) for our thoughts to come around to see the need to investigate how the offending rock made its way back into our orchard or what we need to do to learn from it by submitting ourselves to the Teacher.

Even though the situation is not pleasant, the writer chooses to begin this disappointing poem with the words, “I will sing about the one I love.” What motivates him to sing? Because he knows God is good. God is good even when life does not produce the fruit we were hoping; so we sing to our Beloved. God is good even when our circumstances reveal ‘stones’ at every turn; we sing to our Beloved. God is good even when we think we have produced sweet fruit, but the ones around us only seem to produce sour fruit; we still sing to our Beloved. God is good even when the weeds grow so tall we can’t see around them; we sing to our Beloved. We can sing because GOD IS GOOD.

The Lord asked, “What more could I have done for My vineyard than I did?”  (verse 4, 6) In His judgment, among other things, He determined it would no longer be pruned or weeded.  Do you recall from John 15:2 that He “prunes” the branches remaining in Him so that they will produce more fruit?  Submitting our ‘branches’ to the Lord for pruning is a blessing even though the discipline seems painful. We are promised, however, that later on, it will yield the fruit of peace and righteousness if we allow ourselves to be trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11). Praise God.

Therefore, sweet things, we can sing with loud, confident voices even when times are most undoubtedly difficult because God is good; so we are good. Now that, my friend, is indeed something to sing about.

In His grace,

Amanda

Shine

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“Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15

Greetings fellow sojourners!

This instructive passage was influenced by Deuteronomy 32:5, “His people have acted corruptly toward Him; this is their defect — they are not His children but a devious and crooked generation.” Verse six goes on to say, “Is this how you repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Isn’t He your Father and Creator? Didn’t He make you and sustain you?”

As children of God, we are to ‘shine’ in this generation. What will cause us to be luminous is when the brilliant quality of God is manifested through us. If we are not willing to make our desires line up with God’s will, there will be occasions when we do not illuminate God at all. We can’t expect to be luminous if we behave like the unsaved; as if we were unaware of what pleases God. One of the qualities of Biblical ‘light’ is the spiritual purity that exists in its truth and knowledge. If you notice in the Philippians verse, one of the ways to achieve purity in our life is to not “grumble and argue.” Therefore, if we desire to be blameless and pure, we must live up to the truth we know and stay away from grumbling and arguing. We can do this.

A way of looking at the idea of “shinning” is to ‘shed light’ on something. God sheds light on the human mind to enable us to understand the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). We must first receive the truth of this appeal and see the purity that resides in it. ”Grumbling” is the outward wranglings of discontent which proceeds not so much from our mind as it does from our heart so we must make certain it is God’s love in our heart and not discontent. “Arguing” is concerned mostly when we voice petty or unnecessary objections so we must cease our trivial nitpicking. When we abstain from this behavior, God can shine through us in order to shed His light of righteousness on this generation.

Most Christians can do many things without complaining. The tension arises within us when we know we are to do “all things” with a joyful spirit in accordance with the Word but bombard ourselves instead with reasons not to submit. Since the bottom-line problem relates to the condition of our heart, we must resolve to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. If we choose not to do this, most of our thoughts and behaviors will be inconsistent with the Christian walk.

Have you ever considered grumbling and arguing to be an idolatrous response to your circumstance? 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 reminds us of some of the behavior the people in the wilderness had which consisted of sexual immorality, testing Christ, and complaining. As a result, God judged and destroyed them for their sins. When we turn from idolatrous behavior to serve the living and true God and wait for his Son from heaven, Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

When we idolize something, we crave, want, enjoy, and are more satisfied with it than we are with God. We have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve something created instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). We idolize our own opinions when it drives us to grumble and argue with someone else to protect our point of view. Help us, Lord, to be pure and blameless. I desire to not grumble and argue but see that Your ways are higher than ways. I choose You even when my circumstances do not seem fair or make sense to me. Thank you Jesus for Your purity that resides in me.

In His grace,

Amanda

Be Holy

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“But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

Grace and peace to you fellow sojourners! I found this statement made by John Owen not long ago, and I frequently reflect on his wisdom. I pray it blesses you and stirs you to absorb the Word with a greater fervor.

Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time.” J.I Packer 

John Owen:

“One great hindrance to holiness in the ministry of the word is that we are prone to preach and write without pressing into the things we say and making them real to our own souls. Over the years words begin to come easy, and we find we can speak of mysteries without standing in awe; we can speak of purity without feeling pure; we can speak of zeal without spiritual passion; we can speak of God’s holiness without trembling; we can speak of sin without sorrow; we can speak of heaven without eagerness. And the result is an increasing hardening of the spiritual life.

A man preaches that sermon only well unto others which preachers itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savory unto them.

If the word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.”

Thank you, Lord, for Your Word which brings life to my mind, strength to my body, and sets my heart ablaze with awe and zeal for You. I desire to press into Your word so that my entire being is nourished with the Bread of Life. Lord, my your Word dwell with POWER in me so that it may pass with power from me whenever I testify of Your greatness. Amen.

In His grace,

Amanda