Friday, August 1, 2014

Progress Not Perfection

Progress Not Perfection:

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." (James 1:2-3)

If I could add one more word to this phrase, it'd be patience. Progress and patience, instead of perfection. Now, coming from a perfectionist herself, I have to admit that it's very difficult to enforce this way of thinking.

Performance and perfection have migrated into the centre of our focus over time, and all they want to do is drive us into the ground with labour and work. Too many people have allowed achievements and accomplishments to morph into the basis of their hope.

We can't live anchored off of our own efforts and strength. It's impossible for our own frail flesh to carry us through the roaring waters of this unpredictable life. Circumstances are capricious, and the foundations built upon worldly matters are faulty.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Jesus has spoken, and this is the great news He has promised for us. He's given us everything we need to overcome the world - Himself. He is truly all we need. Jesus didn't say, "In the world you will have tribulation, so you'd best get your act together and work, work, work your way to a better life." Of course not! Jesus said, " of good cheer, I have overcome the world." He has overcome the grave, and obliterated sin's power!

Your next inquiry may be, "How do I know if I've overcome this world? I know Jesus has overcome, but what does this mean for me?" This question is best answered with Scripture.

"For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5)

See now, it's not about how well we can do. No amount of doing or earning can save us. It all boils down to Jesus. Only He can save, redeem, and provide perfect peace and overflowing joy.

I realise the verse above says that our faith is what has overcome the world. However, this doesn't mean that we ought to start believing that we must have copious quantities of faith in order to be saved or earn God's love. Far from it! Remember what Jesus tells us, that's really the best thing to do in any and every situation.

"If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you." (Luke 17:6)

The Lord's divine power is not dependant upon our strength. The Holy Spirit doesn't rely on our faith-tank to minister the hope and peace we so desperately need. When we hold up to the Lord even the most minuscule sized faith grain held in marred and crippled hands, He sees that, and He blesses that.

Do you know why the size of our faith doesn't make a difference? It's because when we focus on how much faith we can muster up, it takes our eyes off of the Faithful One and onto the fallible self.

Remember, we're not the ones who can save, redeem, and set free. When faith is focused inward it brings fear, because no matter how far we dig, we can't build up enough "self confidence" to transform the miry pit in which we have fallen.

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

We must believe that HE IS, not we are! Faith that is God-seeking instead of self-searching brings blessings, hope, and peace. Faith isn't something to be used only in the most detrimental situations. Faith is a relational quality that is to be revered and cherished day in and day out, because it's simply so amazing that the Lord of the whole universe takes the time to touch our outstretched hands and out poured hearts.

Trials and tribulations need not invoke fear in your life, but rather give you a sense of closeness to God. Through every battle and rough patch, we're given the divine opportunity to press into God, hear His heart for us, and experience His restorative power. He will use anything that the enemy intends to use for your destruction, and flip it around to work in your favour. Amazing!

"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." (James 1:4-6 ESV)

Today, let's be completely honest with ourselves and with God. All on our own, we don't have what it takes to live on the path of peace. The good news is, because Jesus has given us His Holy Spirit, we now have everything we need to live a life of constant companionship with Christ.

He provides peace, He fills our cup to overflowing, and He restores the broken hearts. Trust Him.

Trusting is a hard thing to do when the idol of control is blaring for your devotion. Remember however, the Lord longs to give your soul rest.

God desires your undivided heart, and He won't mistreat it either. He only desires to fill you with all that is good, pure, and holy. In Him there flows a river of abundance and joy. Trust, my dear friends. Let's fall back into His arms today.

-The Introverted Evangelist

Photograph Taken By: Raphael

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel

I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’" (Romans 1:16-17)

The gospel reveals the wondrous POWER of God! This word is just so dynamic! Which makes sense considering the original Greek word used here for power is the word δύναμις (dynamis). This is the word for power, capability, accomplishing force, and even miracle!

"...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38)

In Acts 10:38, the word δύναμις depicts the fact that the Lord Himself constantly poured out His divine and miraculous power into Jesus, Emmanuel (’Εμμανουήλ - meaning God with us). This dynamic and potent power of God was deposited into the very hands of Christ the Messiah. Those are the hands that heal and set free!

This word δύναμις is also used to refer to those in authority, that is, mighty and powerful figures. These powers can refer to heavenly bodies as well as earthly authorities. However, we must remember that it is written that all authority has been given to our Lord Jesus Christ seated at the Right Hand of God Himself.

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12)

Our Lord is worthy to receive all praise. He is full of glory and miraculous, authoritative power! He has also given us His Holy Spirit, therefore implementing His wondrous power into our very own hearts.

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

The power that we receive with the Holy Spirit is the same δύναμις power with which God has raised up the Son. He will raise us up with this rich and glorious power as well.

"By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also." (1 Corinthians 6:14)

He is resurrecting our cold, dead hearts. The moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour is the very moment that He begins cultivating our soul soil. He is planting His almighty love and power into our hearts, and each day we spend time with Him, these crops begin to multiply and overcome darkness, loneliness, and sadness. Through the Lord's gardening in our hearts, we're made radiant, peaceable, and joyful. His merciful might is transforming and bright!

I want to touch on one more aspect of the word δύναμις. This is such a multilayered, prismatic word that there's simply too much to overlook. The word can also depict an abundance or plenitude.

"For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power." (1 Corinthians 4:20)

God's Kingdom is filled to the brim with this abundantly dynamic power. His supernatural saving sovereignty sweeps us away.

"Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if nothing happened." (Hebrews 6:4-8 MSG)

God's sheer goodness and electrifying magnificence changes hearts - for the good. One cannot experience the marvellous magnitudes of His might and leave still hardened in heart.

This is why we, God's chosen ones, can't simply stay silent. We cannot contain the dynamic δύναμις power that the Holy Spirit has planted in our hearts.

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:7-8)

We are not ashamed! We are not ashamed of the astounding authority of God. We are not afraid to tell the world of all His healing power. We're exuberantly declaring His glorious goodness everywhere we go. We are not ashamed! We are redeemed, set free, and forever transformed within our hearts. Let it be known wherever you go, God is full of glory and dynamic power!

-The Introverted Evangelist

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Be Still

Be Still:

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." (Psalms 37:7)

Many people rush in life. They rush to get to the next event, the next exciting thing. However, in all their rushing, how much of their day is spent simply soaking in God's goodness? How much spare time does rushing leave you? And if you're negating God to "spare time" then what does that communicate to Him? God wants to be your delight, your safe refuge, and your everyday companion.

We are not meant to live alone, apart from Him, buzzing around place to place attempting to satisfy everyone's requests. We're not made to be people pleasing machines, we're created to be God's very own.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

I've never seen a rose bud reject its bush, and try to bloom apart from its life source. Neither have I ever witnessed a mulberry fall off the tree and yet continue to ripen.

All these plants require a source of life and nourishment which can be found in only one place. The rose bud must abide in the rose bush in order for it to fully blossom, and the mulberry must remain on the mulberry tree in order for it to fully ripen.

In the same way, we must abide in Christ our Lord in order to reach our destinies. In order to produce the wonderfully sweet fruits of the spirit, we must become saturated by the Holy Spirit. How do we do that? We root ourselves in Him. We neither neglect our time with Him, nor shove it into a place of unenjoyable routine.

"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15)

When we deliberately plant ourselves in Him, He is faithful to live within our hearts. When God sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, an inner transformation occurs. Our once cold and hardened hearts turn into warm, tender, and merciful vessels filled with the gentle, forgiving love of God.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)

How? How can we free our hearts from the weeds that grow wildly? How can be liberated from the vicious cycle of sin and shame? How can our hearts be transformed to be more like His?

It's often said that you become more like the people with which you spend your time. Because this is the case, wouldn't it make sense to you that the more time we spend in the Presence of the Lord, the more like Him we become?

"that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)

It takes is stillness in His Presence to feel Him move in your spirit. Quietness, so that you might hear His loving whispers. Openness, to become filled with His goodness. Willingness, so that you may be used to deliver His love to others. God is searching for those patient, obedient, and eager souls.

"Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance." (1 Peter 1:13-14)

Stillness, readiness, and obedience. It all seems so difficult, because the flesh will revolt. Our flesh will attempt to utterly and deliberately reject the attributes that the Holy Spirit imparts in us. This is why it's imperative to come to the Lord in humble repentance with your heart wide open, because He will uproot any unrighteousness for you. Trust Him, it's for your good.

"Obey me. Do what I say and I will be your God and you will be my people. Live the way I tell you. Do what I command so that your lives will go well. (Jeremiah 7:21-23 MSG)

It's hard, I know, but all things are possible with God on our side. So, let's come into His Presence this morning, and let Him take care of our heart-gardens. Let's set aside any pride, and simply be still in the rejuvenating realm of His Presence.

He is good, and He works for our good. He won't leave us batter and betrayed. He won't forsake us, nor will He manipulate us in our weaknesses. Be still soul, for the Lord God is on your side. Be still soul, for in Him you shall abide.

-The Introverted Evangelist