Learning The Best Conduct During Trials

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power, is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul spoke to the Corinthians (v2-5) about the person (most likely himself) who ascended into the third heaven (the hidden paradise) and what he had heard (and seen?), admitting that human words were inadequate to fully convey the experience. The New Testament gives glimpses of the coming Glory for the purposes of strengthening our faith and developing our holiness (2 Peter 3:10-14, 1 John 3:2, 3). Most likely, Paul was given the glorious revelation (v3) to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Acts 9:16, Romans 8:18). Revelation the New Testament gives is not aimed at satisfying our curiosity (Expositors Bible Commentary) but for strengthening our resolve.

Paul was embarrassed at having to boast of his experience (v1) to the Corinthians because his boasting would not have contributed to the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) and because he desired to avoid the suggestion that he was in any way a special Christian; as he said, he was “a man in Christ.” Even though the revelation Paul received was an honor (v5), it did not add to his importance; it only served to equip him for service.

How can we learn the best conduct during trials? Paul’s behavior in 2 Corinthians illustrates the following:

1) He asked the Lord for help. His “thorn” was so troubling to him that he “pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away.” We should pray and ask the Lord for all of our needs.

2) Paul received a revelation of God’s majesty which fortified him for service in ministry as well as in suffering. Any revelation you receive whether it is from the Lord or from the Word, consider it essential equipping for ministry and for suffering and not merely as answers to questions or for boasting.

3) The answer to Paul’s prayer did not take the form he expected. The thorn remained, but so did his memory of the divine reply, “He said to me.” Even though the thorn produced distressing weakness at various times in Paul’s life, he would never lack sufficient grace to be a conqueror (Romans 8:35-37). By God’s grace, our acknowledged weaknesses will meet God’s full scope and strength (Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13) so that the power of Christ will rest on us.

4) Paul learned that he would not escape all hardships. Therefore, he resolved to gladly boast about anything that would expose his weakness; enabling Christ’s strength, through him, to be made evident to all. When we come to the same conclusion as Paul and resolve to boast in our weaknesses instead of our strengths, we should most certainly expect Christ’s enabling strength to be made evident through us for God’s glory.

Paul found comfort and delight in the awareness of his weakness because it was balanced by the sense that the might of Christ would dwell in him and around him. The word for “rest” in 2 Corinthians 12 is like the word in John 1:14to dwell as in a tent, and suggests the thought that the strength of Christ was to Paul as the Shechinah cloud of glory encompassing him and protecting him. (Ellicott’s Commentary) Glory to God. Let’s boast in our weaknesses sweet things and expect the strength of God to aid us.

In His grace,

Amanda

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True Believers are Luminaries

Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine before men. In other words, let the brilliant light of Jesus’ resurrection break forth through the very pores of your skin so that all may know that because of Jesus’ transforming effect on your heart you are fully equipped for His good works. Glory to God.

There are two ways you can consider the meaning of the word ‘shine.’ One is to manifest a bright light, especially by rays. This brings the sun to my mind. Since the sun provides our primary source of energy, life on earth would not exist if it were not for the sun. This bright star our earth revolves around shines with brilliance, and its rays reach down to earth, touching everything. Oh yes, the sun created by God holds a tiny resemblance to the Son of the Father. Eighty percent of the sun’s rays penetrate through clouds and fog. Expect the brilliant manifestation of God’s light in you to penetrate through the gloomiest, cloudy and foggy mind.

The relationship between the sun and earth also reminds me of our relationship with Jesus. We revolve around the Son; the Son does not revolve around us. We would not exist without Him. Just as we need the sun for energy, the energy for our strength to do good things comes from the Son (Ephesians 1:19, 6:10, Colossians 1:29, Hebrews 11:34, 1 Peter 4:11). Glory to God.

A second meaning for the word ‘shine’ is to perform very well. When we accomplish God’s good works, the brilliant light of God shines through us, and man can’t help but give glory to God.

Don’t grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13) sweet things because it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good (1 Peter 2:15). True believers are God’s luminaries, so go forth and SHINE! I enthusiastically say in advance, glory to God!

In His grace,

Amanda

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Wisdom’s Beauty

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your words and about your wisdom is true. But I didn’t believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, I was not even told half. Your wisdom and prosperity far exceed the report I heard. How happy are your men. How happy are these servants of yours, who always stand in your presence hearing your wisdom. May Yahweh your God be praised! 1 Kings 10:6-9a

The Queen of Sheba is to be commended. She too possessed the riches of this world but desired what she lacked ~ wisdom. The reports of Solomon’s wisdom awakened her heart, and she desired to know more. She was not content with sending an ambassador to inquire on her behalf because that would not satisfy her. She decided to make the difficult journey so that she could stand in his presence and hear his wisdom with her own ears. What she did not realize was the joy that would accompany such wisdom.

The queen had great riches but loved the wisdom of God more. She knew what she possessed was not enough to solve the complexities that faced her people. She needed more than she had to give. A storehouse of possessions will not satisfy when the true need is the wisdom of God to provide answers to the toughest problems, the light to shine on the darkest places, and the strength the untie the tightest knots. Lord, I too have heard reports about your wisdom but I am not satisfied with reports. I desire to experience it for myself.

We do not need to travel long distances to stand in the presence of Wisdom. But a sacrifice will need to be made. Do you desire His wisdom enough to lay down your own intellect, stomp it to the ground if need be and see it as folly? That will be a great sacrifice, indeed. He promised that if we desire wisdom, all we need to do is ask for it, and it will be given generously (James 1:5). Take the faith that God has given and cry out to the Lord for His wisdom. We need it desperately.

God’s wisdom blows away the clouds of this age’s uncertainty and ushers in the light of joy. Ask for it. Wisdom is a beautiful thing.

In His grace,

Amanda

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The Baptism of the Spirit

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11

Praise God for HIS good works! Stand in awe that His good works never cease operating (Ecclesiastes 3:14)! Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire is a miraculous event that continues to this day and we are blessed that we can behold it!

Two baptisms are presented here in this Matthew verse. The water baptism for repentance is done when a person is old enough to repent of their sins and they are motivated to do this by their new heart and right spirit. Have you turned from your sins and now follow Christ and His ways? This requires a daily walk of faith. This robust faith makes your life holy and your speech devout.

John then baptized the repentant believer by immersing them in water. John did not add any efficacy to the baptism itself as it was the repentant believer’s character and intention that was the defining element of the baptism. The same is true today.

The baptism with fire is the more important of the two baptisms, for the servant is the one who baptizes with water, but the mighty Master performs the other and not only that but the Holy Spirit. This Spirit-fire baptism purifies and refines. We can view the Old Testament to see how fire often has a purifying connotation (Isaiah 1:25, Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:2-3).

I love the conversation between the disciples who were walking toward Emmaus and unknowingly met and spoke to Jesus along the way. As they realized they had been speaking to Jesus, the evidence they presented to each other was, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-32)

Acts 1:5 and 11:16 uses the term “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and it implies an immersion in the life of the Spirit.  Acts 1:8 indicates that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience of power, boldness, confidence, and victory over sin. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is a real, life-changing experience. Christianity is not merely the performance of rituals and sacraments. It is the life-changing experience of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.

Repent, trust Christ, open yourself to the power of his Spirit, be baptized in his name, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda

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If Only You Would

If only You would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence — as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil — to make Your name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your presence! Isaiah 64:1-2

Is there anything worse than the absence of God? Sin drove Israel away, and now in their captivity and distress, there remains nothing but bitter sorrow as they desire for God to return. They want His appearing even if that means His tremendous power will accompany it. This mighty prayer is spoken by people desiring God to no longer be absent from them. It is a passionate outburst, “If only You would tear the heavens and come down!” May we have the same passion when we cry out to God for renewal in our own lives because we cannot tolerate lacking His magnificent presence for one-minute longer! What if that means He intends to level our prideful places as a raging fire races through dry and dead trees and brush cleaning out what should not remain.

God is an absent God to many of us. Our sins, our ingratitude, our unbelief, and carnal security have driven him away and now we mourn him. (Spurgeon). Yes, it may all appear peaceful now, but just as the heavens seem peaceful before the dark clouds of a storm blow in, the appearance of peace is not authentic peace unless the Lord’s peace is present. When the Lord is near, the mountains of pride and sin are leveled. The fire of God’s love kindles our heart ablaze so that no frigidity remains, not even a hint of lukewarmness. Our heart is kindled to repentance, prayer, and love. This response makes the enemy less influential, and the opponents of Christianity are able to witness the presence of the Lord. Come, Lord Jesus.

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda


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Happy Days

Take delight in the Lord. Psalm 37:4

Greetings fellow sojourners!

Even though God gave over 600 rules to the Israelites, he did not want them to merely do his bidding. He wanted them to enjoy him ~ like family. So God set up festivals for his people; a break from routine in order to reflect on all he had done for them. These were happy, holy days.

Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was so serious that everyone fasted in preparation for it (Leviticus 16:1). On this Day, the high priest sacrificed a bull for his and his family’s sin before sacrificing a goat for the sins of God’s people. The Day of Atonement showed both the holiness of God and the mercy of God. All people need to have their sin forgiven. Jesus, the ultimate high priest, “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

Feast of Booths. Five days after the Day of Atonement, God wanted his people to celebrate for seven days (Exodus 23:16, 17; 34:22). During these days, the Israelites camped out in huts made from tree branches (Leviticus 23:33-44). The Feast of Booths was a time to recall how God had taken care of his people for the forty years they had lived in tents in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:43). Eventually, this celebration included a water-pouring ceremony, which pictured how God had provided water for his people in the wilderness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus stood up on the seventh day of the Feasts of Booths and announced that God has again provided life-giving water for his people. He says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Now, this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.” (John 7:37-39

Passover. The Passover celebrated the time when God rescued his people from Egypt. For this feast, families sacrificed a perfect lamb (Leviticus 23:5) and painted its blood on the top and sides of the doorway to their house (Exodus 12:22). During the week following Passover, Israel celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast reminded them of the kind of bread God’s people ate on the night they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ sacrificed his life as the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). By giving his life, he rescued his people from eternal death.

Pentecost. This feast occurred seven weeks after Passover and celebrated the crops harvested at the end of the barley harvest (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16). The focus of this feast was thanking God for generously providing a bountiful harvest. God’s people also expressed their thanksgiving by providing for those in need (Deuteronomy 16:9-12). The New Testatment teaches that at Pentacost, fifty days after Jesus’s resurrection, God once again provided for his people. He didn’t provide just a harvest of grain to gather into barns, but a harvest of men and women gathered into his kingdom by his Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-11, 41).

May we all remember the wonderful works of the Lord and His amazing provision in our lives. When my natural eyes refuse to see, help me visualize the bountiful harvest You indeed have allotted me. Your provision always meets my every need.

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda

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The Great Exchange

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Fellow pilgrims, let’s stop playing around and start living seriously like Bible-believing, children of Almighty God. This will require a real understanding of who our enemy actually is (Ephesians 6:12) and that God is the wonderfully Sovereign, giver of life (1 Timothy 6:13, 15). We have one shot in this skin, so let’s live as authentic as our bold proclamation of faith.

The thief (our enemy here) prowls around only to steal the promises of God from us, sacrifice (kill) us for his unholy purposes, and render us useless (destroy) to the Kingdom of God. We are told these things so that we may be on our guard. Don’t think we are talking about mere earthly treasures that are being stolen, or that our earthly adventures are being sacrificed, or our fun is what is being destroyed here. The world is the idol of this age, and as a distraction, the enemy would have us think God is the thief. Jesus says quite the opposite of what the enemy would have you believe. Jesus says He is the giver of life and not only that but gives life in abundance.

The enemy steals what is legally yours by being in a covenant relationship with God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The Cross of Christ is the place where an extraordinary exchange takes place. Through the Cross of Christ, you are continually invited to give Jesus your lack, rejection, shame, sin, and your old ways. By faith, when you release these burdens over to Him, He exchanges them for His abundant life. As a child of God, you are invited to exchange:

your lack for His abundance

your rejection for His acceptance

your curse for His blessing

your alienation for His forgiveness

your shame for His glory

your iniquities for His healing

your death for His life

your old self for His newness

your sin for His righteousness

Thank you, Lord, for your abundant provision.

Lord, I want to believe Your promises with all of my heart, my soul, and my mind, so when the enemy attempts to steal them from me, he will fail. Help me be on guard for the enemy’s attempts to deceive me regarding the provision in the Cros of Christ for my life. I desire to yield to Your Spirit, so I am alerted when deception is at work. Thank you, Lord, that even though the enemy lurks around seeking prey, the prey is not always caught! Help me to be self-controlled and alert by the power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth at work in me!

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda


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“Whatever is” and “If there is any”

Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Philippians 4:6-8

Grace and peace to you fellow sojourners! If you notice from the opening line of this verse it says, do not. It is an imperative and not to be taken as trivial. As any parent tells a child, “Do not __________,” it is meant to be listened to, adhered to, and remembered. It is not the start of a negotiation, it is a command to be followed. The same goes for this statement. It continues with, and let your request be made known to God. When we stop worrying, and instead pray and petition God with thanksgiving, the peace of God will guard our heart and mind through the power of Jesus Christ. Amen.

So what are we to do while waiting on the peace of God to surpass our every thought? We dwell on the “whatever is” and the “if there is any.” Not only is this an act of faith and obedience, but it paves the way for a solid foundation of thankfulness, which is the command we are given as we pray and submit our petitions before God.

Worry envelops our thinking to such an extent that it becomes a hindrance to faith. Choosing fear over trust indicates we have elevated our concerns to a choking position of power, and it controls our thinking, emotions, and behaviors.

When we become distressed regarding circumstances or people, nervousness and uneasiness typically creep into our soul due to the uncertainty of the situation.   In other words, we want the outcome to work in our favor, but when there appear to be obstacles that could swing the result out of our favor, it causes agitation, angst, nervousness, concern, fear, and tension to arise within us.  Perhaps you have experienced this in your life. Begin practicing now as you recall current conflict in your life and identify, confirm, and dwell on the “whatever is” and the “if there is any.”

When anxious thoughts threaten to weary you with their burden,  direct your thankful heart to the Lord and bring your worship and request straight to Him.  Joyfully thank God for the “whatever is” and the “if there is any.” Even if the only thing you can identify right now is a tiny “whatever is” that hardly seems worth mentioning….mention it to God with thanksgiving. When you do this, you will receive a peace you never knew was possible. If we dwell on this and even encourage ourselves to identify more, God will equip us with His peace which has the power to rise above every petty concern our human thoughts can concoct, and His peace will protect our entire mind and heart.  Stunning.

We do not need to withhold any part of our intellect and separate it from Him for worldly endeavors. Nor do we need to retain a portion because we believe He couldn’t possibly understand the depth of our emotions and the history surrounding them.  We are deceived if we muse the only choice we have is to maintain our mind and heart ourselves.  Help me Lord to trust You with my entire mind and every one of my musings. I welcome your peace as I pray, and as I identify, confirm, and dwell on the “whatever is” and “if there is any.”

In His grace,

Amanda

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The Power of God’s Peace

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Greetings fellow sojourners!

This exhortation starts off running. Don’t worry about anything. Not one… single… thing. In everything you do, ask God to help you.

One thing we frequently partake of from this world’s banqueting table is its anxieties. There never seems to be a lack of tempting things to worry about (finances, spouse, kids, elderly parents, health, jobs, friends, future, etc.).  Just a thought, but when was the last time you heard someone say, “If only I had more to worry about!”  I bet never. Our plates are full. The Lord is providing an alternative, a better way of life when He says His obligations are easy, and His burdens are light (Matthew 11:30)!  When we rebelliously decide to go it alone and store up anxious concerns within us, the result will be a mind that is in agony every day (Psalm 13:2).  Anxiety is a scheme the enemy uses to dominate, confuse, and derail us.  Worry’s endless ability to distract and our personal desire to find our own solution results in us taking our eyes off God and putting them squarely on worldly remedies.  When we seek God and wait on him, he gives us his powerful wisdom and understanding.

In contrast, the enemy says, “Look around you, the answer to all your problems lies here in this world’s remedy.”   Resist the enemy and decide to give God your whole mind; frailties and all.  He will help you.

Don’t leave any portion of your mind inaccessible to the Lord.  Allow Him complete access to your questions, concerns, thoughts, hang-ups, doubts, fears, and insecurities.  Leave nothing hidden from Him.  This path will be the heavenly highway to the healing of your mind and heart. Ask the Lord to set you free from the shackles of slavery you have knowingly or unknowingly wed yourself to by believing the lies of the enemy.  Allow the Lord’s wisdom to enter your mind, and His understanding to delight your heart (Proverbs 2:19). He is faithful.

Thank you, Lord, for your priceless gift of grace offered me through the Cross of Christ. Through Christ, I am redeemed out of the clutches of the adversary and lovingly welcomed into the Kingdom of your Son in which I have freedom, acceptance, and provision made available to me so that I may possess your peace which continually guards my heart and mind. I am grateful. Amen.

In His grace,

Amanda

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Our Thoughts Are Not The Product Of An Out-of-Control Thinking Machine With No Navigator.

Grace and peace to you fellow sojourners!

We are instructed to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  When a thought presents itself in our mind, we take it captive by holding it in our mind and immersing it in the richness of the Word.  Does the thought line up with what the Word says is true or is the thought out of agreement with the Word?  Does the thought edify your soul and spirit in truth, or does it tear down?  If the thought, whether it was ours or someone else’s is true, we allow the thought permission to pass through to our heart.  If it is a lie because it does not line up with the truth of the Word of God, we cast the thought down and never return to it. Pay close attention to not being bitter when the thought is cast down. We simply sort our thoughts as truths or lies according to the Word and deal with them accordingly.

When we are deeply rooted in Christ, and our hope is in Him, it will be much more difficult to be caught in the snare of preoccupation with a person to the extent that we crave their approval above the approval of God (Galatians 1:10).  We are setting ourselves up for a colossal disappointment when we think a person can fill the lack, patch the hole, or light the darkness.  This exalted role can only be wholly accomplished by God.

“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”  (James 1:13-15) Let’s take a look at this verse.  We are tempted by our own desires.  Thoughts are in our head.  Desires are in our heart.  When we allow an evil desire permission to proceed, it becomes a sin which if left unchecked brings death.

When we allow thoughts that are out of line with God’s instructions for our healthy lives permission to proceed, we are in effect telling ourselves it is okay to allow carnal thoughts to exist alongside godly thoughts.  James calls this being ‘double-minded” or divided in interest (James 4:8).  James’ remedy for this is that we should be humbly cleansed and purified.   We can also see this in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God.” Considering patterns of thoughts we allow ourselves to entertain and not fleeting thoughts, examine the thoughts that are in direct opposition with the Word as an impurity of the flesh and ask the Lord to help align you with His truth.

We must keep a vigilant guard on what thoughts we allow ourselves to entertain.   If the Word says God loves you (John 3:16), do you consider thoughts that suggest He does not?  If the Word says Jesus came to give you abundant life (John 10:10), do you entertain thoughts that indicate following Him means a life of restrictions?   If the Word says, humble yourself (James 4:10), do you consider thoughts that suggest the humbling will mean having a marginal existence?  If the Word says to crucify your passions and desires (Galatians 5:24), do you entertain thoughts that suggest you will surely lose your individuality and the right to your emotions?  If the Word says our battle is not with each other but against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12), do you entertain thoughts in opposition to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?   If the Word says not to be prideful in your lifestyle (1 John 2:15-16), do you entertain thoughts that your situation can be the exception?  

The life Jesus came to give is abundant spiritual life, and it is what we have right now in Him.   Take control of your thoughts and stop believing untruths about the abundant life and start fueling your mind with His efficaciously captivating truths.

Because our mind is immensely powerful, we can choose to think truthful and edifying thoughts.  We indeed have the power and ability to direct our thoughts.  Yes, we have random, even ill-conceived thoughts at times.  But we have the powerful ability to stop these thoughts and re-direct our thinking.  We must direct our mind to work for us and not against us.  It is not an out-of-control thinking machine with no navigator.  We can choose to have godly thoughts and therefore, godly actions. When we direct our powerful mind to the things of God, our askew emotions will also begin to change. Thank you, Lord.

In His grace,

Amanda

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