New Series: Tidbits & Thoughts- Refreshing

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all asked the Lord, “Why are the people who don’t even love you prospering and I’m breaking my back worrying about holiness? Can I get an amen somebody?”

Crickets in the heavenly courts.

Cue my brother Asaph. Asaph was a priest in the temple of the Lord, and was frustrated in a low moment of weariness and spiritual fatigue. He penned the seventy third psalm, dripping with displeasure, stating

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (verse 13).

Translation: “I’ve been pure for NO REASON, GOD!”

He¬†had convinced himself that all his hard work for the kingdom of God was for nothing, since OBVIOUSLY blessings were flying out of the throne room and missing him. WRONG. By the grace of God he¬†saw his error¬†in verse sixteen, saying “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, UNTIL I went into the sanctuary of God.”

Saints, we need not ever get to that place where we need an “until” moment. The Lord is¬†the “strength of [our] heart and [our] portion forever” (verse 26). Rest in Him! It is possible to LIVE in His consistent refreshing. Yet¬†Asaph stated early on that “as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked“. But¬†he started the Psalm saying “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart“. Asaph had a moment of confusion. Why be envious of anyone when God is good to you?

Who’s report do you believe? Do you really believe that the Lord is good to his pure ones? Do you take your eyes off of the goodness of the Lord, an intangible wealth, and become bewitched by fool’s gold?

If you have, it’s okay. Dust yourself off, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and turn your attention back to the Lord. Be intentional about getting back into His presence where your spiritual eyesight can be restored to see the truth of the matter; the wicked do have their end, and the Lord exacts justice as He sees fit.

And guess what? Psalm 145 verse 9 says “The Lord is good to all”. Don’t worry about who’s getting blessed when, where, and how. Look for YOUR blessings. Though He is good to all, He doesn’t have a relationship with all. Your wealth, Saints,¬†is incomparable.

The psalmist’s eyes and understanding was opened in the Lord’s presence to realize that

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory…but for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (verse 24, verse 28)¬†

Enter in, and be refreshed. Be rejuvenated. Be restored in the Lord’s presence.

To better promises,

Rishona

 

 

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Hide or Seek?

Ask yourself this: Am I honest with God?

“But who can discern their own errors?¬†Forgive my hidden faults.”-Psalm 19:12

Like the genius I am, I asked the Lord earlier this year to show me the hidden faults in my heart so that I could deal with them. Not five minutes later, a girlfriend I hadn’t heard from in months sent me a text, asking forgiveness for going MIA and asking to speak with me later that day. My eyes rolled so far back in my head I shocked myself! Immediately I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit…I wasn’t as forgiving as I prided myself in being. There were wounds there that weren’t quite so healed. I wanted to give her a piece of my mind and tell her to stay gone.

If we’re really honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that when we ask the Lord for help, we don’t always want it.

We like our escape mechanisms.

We like being angry.

We’d rather be in pain than forgive someone and let them back in.

We’d rather ask God to give us what we want that trust what HE wants.

Are you honest with God? Are you willing to have your insides churned up and allow God to bring all the settled garbage to the top?

Scripture says in Matthew 6:14-15¬†For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. ¬†But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I had to first submit to that command to forgive, and in that process, I began to grow in my appreciation of how quickly the Lord forgives me. Yet there’s ¬†major difference between forgiveness and the restoration of trust. You can forgive someone, but not have to restore them to the level of trust and closeness until they’ve earned it. The Lord forgives us of our sin, and sometimes it takes renewed consistency pushing into His presence and seeking His face before we reach the level we were once living in. I was learning lesson upon lesson upon lesson in the course of three days.

One prayer led to a personal discovery of my own shortcomings through the Holy Spirit, and to this day the list continues. It’s only by the grace of God that we can stand and say “I’m not there yet, but I’m not where I was. I’m better.”

Be courageous enough to take a step further and ask for the hidden things to be revealed so that you can grow.

Stop hiding, start seeking.

To better promises,

R.

 

 

Just Speak.

Let’s remember the first time we truly gave our lives to Christ.

As a new or newly recommitted believer, you were probably brimming over with excitement. The joy of the Lord was leaking out of your pores. Every friend, family, and foe just HAD to know about your experience hearing the word of God, and that you had decided to serve Christ. You may have been…

  • Telling them that they were going to hell if they didn’t do X,Y,Z
  • Slipping bible verses into your Facebook/Myspace statuses
  • Praying all the time for the most outrageous things (I prayed for Gabriel to bring me messages, as if he didn’t have other things to do with his time)
  • Reading your bible religiously

Whatever you did, it was with the utmost innocence, sincerity, and longing for others to know about the Gospel. If, like me, you’ve become discouraged or afraid in the process, turn your attention¬†to Acts 18.

Paul the apostle was in Corinth, and had “…devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah” (Acts 18:5). Those people became angry with him to the point where they became abusive, and Paul decided to turn his attention to the gentiles (i.e. anyone not a Jew. Them heathens.) Paul preached to a gentile man and his household, and they all believed. The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision one night after, saying:

“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (verse 9).

1.DO NOT FEAR. KEEP SPEAKING. DO NOT BE SILENT.

We may face “smart” or “learned” individuals with doctorates in religion, and feel inadequate when all we know are the simple details of the resurrection and what God has done in our lives. Like Apollos who “taught about Jesus accurately, though he only knew the baptism of John” ( verse 24-26), we have to start somewhere. And just like in Apollos’ case, God will teach us and send people to give us further wisdom and understanding. But it doesn’t happen overnight, and you must not give up.

Acts 18:27 “When [Apollos] arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.” He eventually rose to such prominence in the early church, that people were quoting him! (1 Corinthians 1:12) Apollos is dead and gone but I’m proud of him!

2.I HAVE MANY PEOPLE IN THIS CITY:

Paul, like all followers of Christ and carriers of the Holy Spirit,had to spread the gospel to all- to those who the Father knows will not answer the call, and to the predestined: those he knows WILL answer the call and must hear to first believe. God ALREADY KNOWS who will answer the call. Do not take on the burden of “saving” people. Only the Father can save. We are merely vessels of mercy, carrying His good news to all that will hear, and so none will be without the opportunity for repentance.

Now, this all isn’t to say that you should just stand on the corner of the busiest street in your city without having done some homework. You tried it!

Paul and Apollos both had knowledge of the Old Testament, but needed the Holy Spirit to reveal to them how Jesus was involved and what He had accomplished as Messiah. We have a responsibility as believers to know our history and our Gospel. ¬†We are also admonished in 2nd Timothy 2:15 to “study to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth.”

I pray the the Holy Spirit will equip you with understanding, wisdom, and courage to enter the New Year proclaiming the Gospel to all far and wide! Just Speak!

To better promises,

R.

Holier than thou…

We all had that one friend in high school or college that we considered “holier than thou.”

Every time a party or get together was being discussed, their very presence produced an inner unanimous groan. They were never invited. They may have had the habit of reading their bible at lunchtime, or quoting scripture, or wearing their shirts neatly tucked into their jeans with a ridiculously bulky belt. Let’s face it, some Christians are weird that way. Okay maybe that was just me, but you catch my drift.

Holiness by Hebraic definition (qadosh) means sacred, the opposite of common or profane. Often used to refer to God as being sacred and set apart and free from attributes of fallen humanity.

The very topic of holiness is not innately a comfortable object of discourse. Why should something so highly esteemed by God be such a pariah to man? Why is holiness such a far off unreachable standard for us to live by?

There are 613 laws in the Old Testament given to the people of Israel, dictating how they were to live, from dietary laws to holidays to be celebrated and high holy days to observe. Deuteronomy 23:12 states, “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself dig a hole and cover up your excrement 14. For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away form you.” Talk about holier than thou.

The CAMP, where the Lord would dwell, had to be holy because the Lord himself would be merely present. As believers in the New Covenant, mediated by Christ Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, we know that the Holy Spirit lives inside of our temples. The same spirit of the Lord present with the Israelites in the wilderness lives inside of our earthen temples, so how much more must we be holy? The Israelites were¬†continually reminded to “consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”

“Israel was to be totally consecrated to God. Her holiness was to be expressed in every aspect of her life, to the extent that all life had certain ceremonial quality,” (Zondervan, NIV Study Bible).

We are called to holiness as servants of the living God, and carriers of His presence.The Lord’s standard is high. We find ourselves often content to blame human nature for our failure to meet these standards, yet holiness requires action and sober minds (1 Peter 1:13).

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance (1 peter 1:14).

Apart from the holiness imparted to us by receiving the free gift of Christ and his forgiveness of sins, holiness requires us to make holy decisions. It is not an object of abstract thought. We were made holy by Christ’s sacrifice, being made holy daily through the process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit, and will be made holy when we receive our glorified bodies at the second coming of Christ.

We participate in this process by daily life choices.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may GROW UP in your salvation… 1 Peter 2:1-3

Craving PURE spiritual milk, pure meaning without guile or deceit, is key. Many today are drawn away by feel good sermons and inspiration quotes, telling you how wonderful you are and ignoring completely the fact that the Lord requires, no, demands, holiness from His people.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2nd Timothy 4:3

We must, brothers and sisters, crave with the very fiber of our souls the pure, genuine, unadulterated doctrine of the gospel, and adjust our lives accordingly so that our Father in heaven may be glorified and exalted. And as we lift Him up, He promises to draw men unto Himself. Numbers will be added to the body of Christ because He gives the increase, not because we have tons of fun days, movie nights, family BBQs and conferences. Being set apart for the Lord’s use is how we are light in darkness.

…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

To better promises,

R.

Temptation…

Now that I have your attention…

I can remember vividly every single time up to this point where God has answered an earnest prayer of mine with something that blew my mind- some scripture that meant something new, or a prayer answered that I’d completely forgotten about. And I allowed those experiences to govern much of my relationship with God. If I didn’t feel a special breeze, see the sky open up and turn pink, or hear His still small voice, I immediately thought something was wrong.

1) If your faith in Jesus is founded on emotion or experiences, you’re in a dangerous place.

2) If you don’t believe in Jesus period, you’re in a dangerous place.

James, Jesus’ brother (Yes,Jesus had siblings y’all, Mary got her life after that virgin birth) rose to prominent leadership after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. At this time, the church was composed predominantly of Jews who’d come to accept Jesus as the prophesied savior they’d been waiting on, and started calling themselves Christians after some time. Naturally, there were some issues to address in his letter addressed to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”, or the Jews.

TEMPTATION is an issue common to the human experience, and James pointed out that GOD DOES NOT TEMPT US, but as verse 14 of Chapter 1 says, “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Think of how that something that slips you up knows just how to sing sweet songs to you, and you follow…and you end up staying longer than you ever imagined, and then you’re being dragged when you start to fight back…So how does Jesus fit into this?

You must be born again to defeat the innate sin nature so that you are able to deny sinful desires. My friend Nicodemus looked at Jesus like he lost his mind when he told him so, but its really simple guys. On Mount Sinai, God made a deal with Moses, and the Israelites whom we know as Jews. The deal, or covenant relationship, was based on the keeping of laws. You keep these laws, because ya’ll like to act crazy, and I’ll be your God, you’ll be my people. But what was the purpose of the law?

The purpose of the law was to REVEAL the fact that we are sinful in the first place. If God didn’t command “thou shalt not steal”, you wouldn’t know that stealing was a sin. And to be frank, you don’t have to teach a toddler to be selfish, you have to teach him/her to share. But Romans 7:5 says that when we’re governed by what our bodies want, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The law not only points out that we have sin, but even arouses sin because of our love for forbidden things. Sin now springs to life and we’re basically dead in our decisions. We let it run the show.

The law holds power over someone when they are alive, like Paul the apostle says in Romans 7. You’re bound to your husband in faithfulness until he dies, then you can marry another freely. Your agreement is over. But if you only step out on him while he’s still alive, you need to hide madam.

In the same way we’re bound to the law until death, UNLESS someone dies in your stead. And that’s what Jesus did. The law was meant to produce holiness in the lives of the Jews, so that God could be with them. God is holy, and he WILL NOT dwell with unholiness. Because he loved us, he needed to find a way to make us holy so that we could be together. The law showed them that they were sinful, and we needed God to help us be holy -meaning set apart and for sacred use. So Jesus came to live the law perfectly. Romans 8:3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh (when he was crucified and died), in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live anymore according to the flesh!

Jesus fulfilled the law’s requirements for you! Where the law was supposed to make you holy but only really pointed out how unholy you were, Jesus did it for you. Now you can accept His holiness, and the consequences of sin no longer are yours.

When you accept Jesus for who He is, God’s son and your savior from the wrath that rightfully belonged to you for being a (Insert sin here), His Holy Spirit can now dwell in you, and teach you to live a life that pleases God. Cleansed from sin, human nature is irrelevant because you have God’s nature, which overrides sin. You don’t have to sin! Excuse me while I praise dance.

In Jesus, you’ve automatically met the righteous requirements of the law, by no longer allowing the flesh to hold sway, but yielding in faith to the Spirit of God’s leadership.

Jeremiah 31:31 “The days are coming”, declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant, with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah…because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” “…I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.”

To better promises,

R.