“But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence” (Jonah 3:8).
Heavenly Father, we approach the throne of mercy with confidence and thanksgiving. We seek your grace to help us in our time of need, and renew, in us, steadfast hearts on fire for you. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). We ask Holy Spirit to overflow from each of us, and to see your outflowing in one another. May your church be known as a people who display you and your amazing works unto each other and the whole world. We come before you Father in the name of your one and only son Jesus.
God lead me to keep a journal, of my spiritual journey in the Lord, for about two years prior to beginning Amazing Tangled Grace; in fact, many of my first blog posts were nearly verbatim of what I had written. Fast forward, I think, about two years later, and I find myself having been given the opportunity to share the night I met Jesus with my church family, as part of a two days prayer and fasting event. (See: The Night I Met Jesus (24-Hour Fasting and Prayer Event Message, November 2, 2018)). Since that night, I haven’t been moved to write. To be honest, at the present moment, I don’t know what’s next. There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when I would have given into doubt and fear, at least for a time, but God has since shown me better. Instead, it feels a lot like a time to rest, reflect, and prepare, by prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving. Perhaps, one job has been completed, and anther has yet to be revealed. In the meantime, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back. Although they’re all near and dear to me, I have settled on twenty posts to share this evening.
I’ve wanted to record my spiritual journey in the Lord for some time, and now my heart delights in the undertaking ahead; a labor of love. Jesus has opened my eyes and my heart. What a strange and wonderful feeling. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). God has called me to bear witness to his unfathomable love by sharing my walk with Christ, not from the perspective of a righteous man, but from that of a sinner who has found redemption.
When I read 1 Corinthians 3, I see the culmination of the promise of Romans 8:28; that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to his purpose. I see the confidence we have in Christ before God, while standing before Christ’s judgement seat. I see the emergence of our treasure in jars of clay; our great power that is from God and not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4, 5). I see the convergence of election and free will. I see faith revealed by deeds, and deeds revealed by faith. I see consequence, reward as well as loss; I see passing through the narrow gate spoken of by Jesus. I see the completion of a good work already well underway in this life; a new creation perfected for God’s kingdom. It is but a glimpse into the mystery of salvation; God’s righteous plan of redemption and change through Jesus Christ alone.
“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” Romans 5:18-19). If God finds fault with nothing, and accepts everything, then Jesus is irrelevant, because there is no need for a savior where there is no trespass. On the other hand, if God condemns as the result of any single trespass, then, again, Christ is irrelevant, because there is no need for a savior where grace does not abound. Finally, a god that finds fault with nothing, except for acts reserved as especially grievous by a society, is nothing more than an idol created out of collective norms. The human incarnation of God, Christ Jesus, demonstrates the true manifestation of the character and love of God.
From False Apostles:
People of God, be on your guard not to confuse prophesy with fortune telling or works of the Spirit with spiritualism. Pray for discernment, and remain in the Word, because the evil one isn’t going to make distinguishing easy. “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). I am less concerned about the secular than I am the deception from within our ranks much like a pervasive cancer, or a little yeast working through a whole batch of dough (Galatians 5).
From A Counterfeit Promise:
I can’t help thinking about what Paul said about the man caught in an affair with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians 5, to ‘hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord’ (5). In other words, turn the man back into the world, so that he may reap the consequences of his rebellion, along with estrangement from a loving association with the church. Under such distressing circumstances, if there remains a remnant of conscience, the rogue brother might be brought to repentance; a story not unlike that of the Prodigal Son. And like the Prodigal Son, when the offender came to his senses, and repented, Paul urged the church to forgive and comfort him lest he be swallowed up with excessive sorrow and Satan gain an advantage. Grace admonishes; grace restores.
From My Heart’s Desire:
Jesus has fulfilled the longings of my aching heart; he has wiped away my tears. His design for me all along was an unmarried man concerned about work of God. “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
From Depression Revisited:
Depression Revisited is a continuation of an earlier post Depression. Depression wasn’t the greatest heartache of my life, but let’s just say that mental illness gave number one a run for its money. Depression is an oppressive and oftentimes debilitating condition; a selfish and jealous spirit leaving little room for anything else. There were times I felt as though I was living a nightmare from which I couldn’t wake (excuse the cliché). Reaching out to God amidst the darkness was, perhaps, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. But Jesus was there with me, and the darkness didn’t hang around forever. Different infirmities call for different treatments, and reach different outcomes—good and bad, but no matter the treatment prescribed, or the outcome reached, complete and lasting wellness begins and ends with God.
From God, How Can I Change?:
The sinful woman with the alabaster jar showed humility. Jesus demonstrated humility in his prayer to the Father in Garden of Gethsemane. Paul reiterated humility when he wrote to the Philippians to present their requests, no matter the situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to God. Humility goes against our natural inclinations to be right, to be in charge, and to come first. Humility can even challenge our sense of justice. But humility is not a sign of weakness; instead, humility is the source of our power in Christ. “God, how can I change?”, is a precursor to: “Thy will be done.” No wonder the devil dislikes it so. The Law and the Prophets rests on love, and there’s no place for pride in love. Pride seeks how others can change; pride seeks to be a victim, but humility seeks how can I change. So, I find God speaking to my heart. Come before him, in humility, with my prayers and petitions.
From When a Prophet Speaks:
Originally named Simon, Cephas is more popularly known to us as Peter. I wonder how we might react to Paul’s opposition to Peter today. Would we not recognize the Holy Spirit working through Paul to restore Peter, or would we accuse Paul of judging or being intolerant? I wonder how we might react to Paul’s directions about immorality, among believers, in 1 Corinthians 5. Again, would we fail to recognize the Holy Spirit working to bring restoration and repentance to the man as well as to the Body of Christ at Corinth? Or would we knowingly, or even unknowingly, circle our wagons to conceal our own guilty consciences?
The opportune situation, heart wrenching and desperate, always presents itself, an extreme scenario, a point from which to inspire a rallying cry that seizes our emotions. Yes, Satan knows exactly what he’s doing; the enemy isn’t opposed to exploiting our desperation, guilt, and fear to lead us astray. With the decisions we make today, seeds are planted, and the fruits that spring forth go on to influence tomorrow. We like to play the bystander; neither granting our approval nor disapproval, thus maintaining our moral purity; what fools we mortals be! In our indifference, we create fertile ground for darkness to cultivate its terrible fruit. We take it upon ourselves to fill the gap that God either cannot or will not bridge, at least that’s the arrogance and pride to which our actions bear witness. And we suffer the consequences; our own self-inflicted wounds.
From Keep Watch:
Beware of those who stumble and cause people to fall; beware of those who explain away righteousness. Their arrogance disgusts me; their tongues never stop wagging; they always seem to have the answer, but what of their fruit? Are their good intentions not misplaced? Deviate from the pack, and they will turn on you. Swim against the current, and they will crush you. Guilt is a choice weapon they wield; the enemy has taught them well. They proclaim to come in the name of Christ, yet have they learned nothing from Israel’s past? “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15).
We should become all things to all people for the mission of evangelism, but what does that mean exactly? The Apostle Paul adapted his teaching to reach people. For example, when preaching in Athens, Paul [referring to Jesus] said: “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:29-31). Here we have a sermon to Gentiles whose culture was steeped in the worship of false gods. If you take a closer look at this section of Acts, you’ll find that to them, the scope of discourse differed from what the apostle preached to the Jews. Paul adapted his speech for his audience without compromising his witness or massaging his message. To have done otherwise, would have been acts incompatible with the gospel of love.
From The Sower Revisited:
Jesus ends his parable by describing those who produce a crop as yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. I find it interesting, and by no coincidence, that Jesus enumerated various levels of abundance produced by those representing seeds falling on good soil. In fact, Jesus reiterates the point in his explanation of the parable to the disciples. Together with other parables, such as the Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-48), Jesus reveals a similar truth about the kingdom of heaven, but in this explanation, Jesus describes degrees of admonishment for his servants, while the evil servant is cut to pieces and put with the hypocrites, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Both lessons reveal that my actions do not shape my heart, but rather, my heart is revealed by my actions. Jesus expressed this principle again when he said that it is what comes out of a person that defiles them, not what goes into them (Mark 7:15): Jesus did much more than declare all food clean!
From Kingdom Come:
A church that commands an army; a church that wields political power, doesn’t much resemble Jesus’ witness, nor does it resemble the early church; the early church that experienced so many conversions and miracles and other gifts of the Spirit routinely. I suspect the day state sponsored persecutions ended, and the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion, was more a victory for Satan than it was for Christ. Persecution scares us, and human nature is to resist and flee its clutches, but nothing seems to move Holy Spirit, and energize the Body of Christ, quite like persecution. Maybe we should see struggle as an opportunity, instead of something to simply survive.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). By no means am I suggesting not to go to God for healing, or for money, even, or about any other need, but I caution people to examine their hearts, before entangling expectations with faith, because the situation we frequently find ourselves isn’t all that different from the one James was referring to back in the first century. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Therefore, with the faith of a mustard seed, mountains will, indeed, move (Matthew 17:20), and yes, I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13), because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). But whatever we accomplish, or receive, in his name, only by thy will be done, Lord.
From A Love Shortsighted:
I am glad Jesus spoke up, that Peter and Paul spoke up, that Stephen spoke up, among many others. They caused civil unrest, were thrown in prison and even killed, and most undoubtedly, offended people; lots of people. Moved by love, theirs was an urgent mission of mercy, an eternal rescue operation, and for that the world hated them. So why do we think we should be any different? I’m going to close tonight with something I wrote in a post earlier this evening Jeremiah Revisited: “A gentle rebuke can be a tremendous act of love, as well as a catalyst for repentance. Pacification, on the other hand, so as to avoid causing offense, can be an ugly act of hate, as well as quite a stumbling block.”
From Unintentional Apostasy:
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:39-40). Disorder is the embodiment of the evil one; this disorder we see happening, in many churches today, may be the work of a spirit, but sadly, not the Spirit of God. Even when the Holy Spirit filled the believers gathered on Pentecost, the Apostle Peter addressed the confused onlookers about what they were witnessing. If we infer entire traditions and doctrines and styles of worship from some scripture, while disregarding, or twisting, other truths, put plainly, in others, what are we really doing? Shall we destroy the work of God, instead of doing “what leads to peace and mutual edification”? I have absolutely been convinced, by the Spirit, that we must heed Paul’s warning to the Ephesians to “be alert”; otherwise, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we risk giving way to apostasy.
From Stumbling Over Grace:
We need a total paradigm shift in our thinking, our attitudes, and our hearts; the grace of God isn’t meant to be a stumbling block. We compartmentalize the Word; we ponder whether an Old Testament law was ceremonial or cultural or moral, and in our quest to make sense of God’s grace, we stumble headfirst into legalism. Yet God placed the answer right in front of our faces. Again, it’s not about how much we give, as much as it is about how much we keep; that’s the shift needed in our thinking; that’s fulfillment! In fact, the Law and the Prophets hang on how much we keep, and once the scales fall from your eyes, go back and read the parables for the first time. When Holy Spirit began revealing this mystery to me, I was searching, and I suspect the same will be the case for everyone else. Perhaps, the words God has given me are intended not to persuade hearts but rather to convict them.
Worship given over to pandemonium is carnal. Worship in which the Holy Spirit is squelched is carnal. Be careful that you don’t confuse your emotions for the Spirit. Be careful that you don’t frustrate the Spirit by denying your emotions. I don’t care what anyone says, God isn’t in the fringes; that’s where Satan lurks and the flesh stumbles the proud. Be careful that you don’t think too highly of yourself. Be careful not to put any stumbling block in the way of a brother or sister. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:3-5). Moreover, I read a book, a while back, that more or less tied my salvation to whether or not I have spoken in tongues. By no means am I minimizing the gift of tongues, but read your Bible, the gift being over emphasized and abused today just as it was in the Paul’s day. “Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Corinthians 14:4). Interestingly enough, I’ve never spoken in tongues, at least not that I am aware, yet God continues to gift me with prophesy. Praise God that I am more mature in my faith now, because there was a time when a book like that would have really hurt me.
From When Was I Saved?:
When was I saved? I know it wasn’t when my parents had me baptized. It wasn’t when I celebrated my first communion. It wasn’t even when I was confirmed and publicly acknowledged Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was saved before time began; I was saved by the Father’s righteous decree, and everything else, which has happened in my life, has been me living out that salvation. Remember what Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” (John 6:44-47). And what Jesus went on to say a little later in John, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (10:27-29). If my redemption had come by any other means, then I could boast in myself, in my own effort and actions taken, at least a little bit; that’s the shortsightedness of other interpretations, and the credit, the pat on the back, the flesh craves.
When Jonah carried God’s warning of impending judgment to Nineveh, their king declared a fast. “But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence” (Jonah 3:8). The people began to mourn over their sins, and their fasting and repentance pleased God’s merciful heart. We see God’s hand of deliverance upon Israel while the nation was in exile in Persia. A wicked man named Haman had risen to great political power and had persuaded the king to destroy all the Jewish people. Unknown to the king, his wife-Queen Esther-was a Jew, and Esther “set an example which became a pattern for all subsequent generations of the power of prayer and fasting” to change history. Yes, not only can fasting and prayer transform an individual or a church, fasting and prayer can change the course of an entire nation, even the world!
Moses fasted to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law of God, and to see God’s glory and goodness (Exodus 34:28). Elijah needed to fast 40 days before he heard God’s voice again (1 Kings 19:8). Ezra fasted for God’s protection while carrying valuable items for God’s temple (Ezra 8:21-23). Esther fasted for the safety of the Jews (Esther 4:16). Daniel fasted for the fulfilment of God’s promises, and received mighty revelations from God. (Daniel 10:3). Jesus fasted and spoke the Word of God to overcome Satan (Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13). Jesus fasted to begin his public ministry (Luke 4:14). The elders, prophets and teachers in Antioch fasted, which resulted in the launching of Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2-3). Fasting and prayer are the weapons of choice in a Christian’s arsenal; these are the weapons of spiritual warfare; these are the weapons that take our battle into the heavenly realm; these are the weapons of God. And regretfully and admittedly, this is a reality God has to remind me of all too often.
Let us not merely pursue God as an intellectual pursuit, although God is the Creator of human intellect, giving us the ability to comprehend, think, reason, and remember. Let us seek God as a spiritual pursuit, and by the Holy Spirit, let our minds, our understanding, be renewed. The apostle James tells us that if any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault (1:5). The apostle Paul wrote that we can even have a faith, which can move mountains, but without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). Therefore, let us seek God’s wisdom; let us seek God’s love. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Praise God who qualifies those he calls, for I am a most unlikely vessel.
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