Much of this post is taken from a message I heard several months ago by Kevin Farr at First Baptist Church (my mom’s church) here in Steelville. It was so meaningful to me I asked for the notes at that time and had planned to include them in a post long before now. I still find the words both challenging and encouraging and worth sharing here.
Whether it’s spiritual family or earthly family, the bonds are made from rich and inexpungible meaning. According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary “inexpungible” is incabaple of being obliterated. Since Gal. 6:10 tells us to do good especially to those in the household of faith, we can be certain that God wants us to look kindly on our brothers and sisters in the faith and view them as if they were our own flesh and blood family, not thinking of them lastly with our kindness, but thinking especially of them.
In his first point, he outlined some guidelines to living as family. They included not putting our family members under condemnation (while fully supposing those who are truly in Christ would be cooperating with the Spirit’s work within). Thankfully, the Christian is no longer a slave to sin. We are no longer powerless against the sinful tendencies and desires that rise up within our own hearts. “(thus the person dealing with an attraction for porn has the privilege and power to turn from it; the person with a same-sex attraction has the privilege and power to turn from it, the kleptomaniac has the privilege and power to turn from stealing, and on and on it goes.) Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 Note well Paul’s warning to those who do live obligated to the flesh – ‘ you are about to die’ – if you live according to the flesh – i.e. as an ongoing practice…Paul is warning against the eternal ‘death’ which all who are without Christ will suffer…Notice that Paul didn’t say we are obligated to the spirit or to God; rather, we are to live ‘by the Spirit’ – it is a desire of the will…How you live matters, and is a display of what you truly believe….Our sanctification is not a once-and-done activity, nor is it a matter of ‘cleaning up our lives by our own willpower. It is the Spirit of God leading, empowering, and transforming. For those truly saved, the spirit of the person loves what the Spirit is doing and wants more of it. The Christian (man) says…I don’t want to be lusting after female images or gawking and lusting after other women, I want to love my wife; The Christian doesn’t want to be dependent on the drugs of the world to try and supply peace, happiness, joy, and contentment, but wants to be dependent on and trust in God, etc.”
The second portion of the message was on how to know we’re in the family. We have an assurance and a confidence when we are in Christ. We are given this spirit upon adoption as His very own children, and this spirit of adoption leads and guides. Our new Father is jealous over us and our adoption so that He may present us, the church, as a pure bride to Christ. How important to tap into the privilege and power we have been given to turn from that which would draw us away from our adoption.
“Adoption (much more common in Roman culture than Jewish, Paul was surely referring to the Roman practice, writing to the church at Rome) – ‘natural-born’ children in Paul’s day could be disinherited, but an adopted child could not! According to Roman law – once the child had been released by his biological father, it took 7 witnesses to confirm the adoption’s legality before a Roman magistrate. When adopted, the child severed all ties with the old family. The new father had full authority over the new son. The son became an heir to the new father’s estate. Any old debts the son may have had were wiped out. The son now had all the privileges and responsibilities of his new family’s natural children.”
So many rich parallels lie within the Roman adoption laws to our relationship with God. God seeks us and we turn away from our “old” life. Our sin “debts” are covered by Christ’s sacrifice. We are joint heirs with Christ to all that is God’s, particularly eternal life and a sweet relationship with God. We embrace all that goes with our new “family” and God.
In the third and last portion of the message, he reiterated and expounded on the benefits of being in the family. We are heirs to all God has and have Christ as our brother. We share in the burdens and sufferings of others and of the lost.
We are family with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and just like in the picture of Roman adoption, it is not by the blood in our veins but by that of a spirit of adoption; i.e. the one to our inexpungible bond with our Heavenly Father and the other to the inexpungible bonds of earthly families.
Sitting in church Sunday, I glanced at my husband and was dismayed to notice that his shirt was inside out. Surprised, but not too ruffled, he exited out the side door right by him and made the switch. That was actually the second time my dear husband has been an inside out shirt trend setter at church. The first time I noticed it after we returned to our seats from the alter where we had stood, back to congregation, and prayed for our youngest son on Graduation Sunday, while sporting “Faded Glory” washing instructions across his back for anyone with a keen eye. While laughing at work the next day about our mishap, a sweet boss told me that it is the sign of a lucky man to find his shirt on inside out. I don’t know, but I was thinking about the inside out business of being a Christian.
When life seems overwhelming, I run to the Rock that is higher then I, and (sometimes after kicking and screaming inside first), I usually find this inside out truth – that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I make it my goal to…” take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10 HCSB) When I forgive others with the same grace I’ve received, knowing the ground is equal at the foot of the cross, and when I trust God to turn a situation around for the good, He is then willing to go to work on my behalf.
He picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Most everybody knows worry is a bad thing even in the most upsetting of circumstances. It might take me a little while to get to a place of peace. But the most inside out thing of all is to give thanks for my upsets and tragedies. Not that I am glad for tragedies, but that God can be glorified through them. For that I can give thanks with His help.
Here’s another inside out principle….storing up and coveting more and better without thought for the poor (and that is not necessarily defined by government) can make a selfish and hardened heart, yet generous sharing enriches a soul. God warns not to live in selfish luxury and indulgence. Giving, especially sacrificial giving, definitely softens the heart and just plain feels good. In another inside out twist, God has actually chosen the poor who love Him to be rich in faith.
I have been on both ends of rudeness and mistreatment before, (whether intentional or not) as likely anyone whose honest has. It happens, though the persecutions spoken of here are more serious and horrific around the globe, and on the increase even in our country. But the inside out perspective is this. There’s a reward waiting when I leave it in God’s hands and refuse bitterness.
The cool thing about being a child of God is the enemy can’t win. He’s already lost. Even when I’m down. God rushes to rescue (soul first and foremost) and uses it all. When I rally in my own strength this promise does not apply.
With God, the way up is down...bowed down in prayer that is. Praying His promises, believing He will fulfill them because I have died to self and live for Him. Just as a flower dies to drop it’s seed before renewal, so I have to leave my vision in His hands to fulfill or not, according to His best plan.
Here’s a great inside out truth. I look at what can’t be seen. But actually, in my faith, it can be seen and I hold onto it through His promises. Because of this I can let go and worship while still in the storm. I can “see” with my faith vision, and because of His love for me that I know so well, I know that I know that He is at work.
In my prayers, I go to war with the most powerful weapons not generally known to man. They are mighty weapons that demolish “invisible”, but very real, strongholds. They are the weapons of the name of Jesus, my faith in Him, and the Scripture promises that I stand on! There is nothing on this earth so effective as a devoted child of God praying with “clean hands” and a pure heart (because of Christ) and childlike trust. It’s here that often dismal circumstances turn with God’s miraculous touch, but whether or not, I definitely abide in His presence and know His love. No matter how my life is going here, where I am just a stranger, I long for the day I am with Him in eternity and these present sufferings behind me. I know it’s just ahead and I keep my eye on the prize.
That seems to be the ultimate inside out deal. Faithful unto death, gets the crown of life. Whether it’s death to a thousand little selfish things, or choosing death over denying Christ for eternity’s sake, this is the ultimate call. So next time you find your shirt on inside out, consider yourself “lucky” to be reminded that we live inside out. What have you worn inside out or turned around? Please tell me it’s not just at our house. What “lucky” application fits?
I am so thankful Jesus gets to the heart of every matter. When I let His Words be driven deep into my heart, the burden will be personal and, in the end light, as I respond to Him in obedience. (Matt. 11:30) When I keep my eyes focused on Him, and my heart tuned to His, then I am eager to carry out His mission, which is tailored for me and also interested to hear the unique mission He has given you. We then can celebrate His glory in unison, even if He displayed it quite differently in each of us.
The Pharisees of Jesus day were forever trying to appear one up on their Jewish counterparts and even on Jesus. Even the disciples fell into the temptation to one up their performance above others on occasion. Jesus told them the folks they were concerned about would surely be changed by His own powerful name, which they were proclaiming. He went around their argument to the heart of the matter. He made it clear that His divine Words to the heart of each matter were superior to anything they had ever heard before.
To really allow God to get to my heart is a far different matter then tritely saying He does, and He certainly knows the difference. To allow His Holy Spirit to soften my heart means allowing His hands, in effect, to take a hardened portion and squeeze it back to mold-ability and usefulness. It may mean a layer is pulled back to expose something starkly in need of correction. It means I will be willing to accept His challenge to do more for Him. It means I will be thinking on what He is trying to say to me, and praying for further revelation. It means I will be open to wise counsel that embraces God’s creativity in accomplishing His purposes in myriads of ways, and that I will not feel peer pressure to compare with anyone else, nor impatience to run ahead of Him. Peer pressure can be a good thing, if it wakes us up to what we’re to be doing and inspires us to get on with it, while giving us support. Yet, as long as we are truly seeking God’s will and striving to perform it and support others as they do they same in whatever way they are inspired, there really is something to the strange saying, “There’s more then one way to skin a cat.”
Responding to God’s heart work means I will be putting into practice His mission in me that “fits” with my unique circumstances that I am in, unless He sees fit to change them. When God gets to the heart of my matters, it changes me. I am restless to hear more from Him. What about you? How does it change you when He softens an area of your heart? Do you find it hard to press in to His will that is tailor made for you? Do you feel the excitement of His personal revelation to you? Is waiting for further direction hard for you, as it is for me?
When hope lingers slow and the mountain stays the same
words mean little minus public acclaim
When hypocrisies loom bold
and love waxes cold
When you live too many days
under friendly fire haze
And what was real
is denied by hearts of steel.
When friends join the throng
of the popular traitor’s song
it may hurt
but you learn – don’t dessert.
When vision is blurred
And your cries obscurred
Steps grow weak
and hands work meek
Fears grow strong
and doubts come along
God is there, rising up
to fill your cup.
When the promise is broke
and love wears a cloak.
Hate wins a round yet
angels rush to surround.
When the swords come clanging
Radicals at the door banging
or to your children say goodbye!
But you’ve taught them well
They won’t choose hell.
They close their eyes
and wait to meet you in the skies.
Storms may gather
but God would rather
we look to Him, not the storm..
Jesus is worth every trial
there’s no room for denial
His love grows more dear
with every year.
Regardless our circumstances
and the uninformed glances
He won’t waste our affairs.
He sees, He hears, He cares.
I recently “liked” a blog post on facebook that talked about the grace God gives us when we need to step back momentarily from a church body and heal.. It sometimes appears God does give more grace in those situations then we give each other, even if we are partially or completely at fault. Like the blogger, I have felt God’s comfort and healing in short “time out” seasons, have experienced God deeply in private worship and devotions, have felt His presence in the “mundane”, have felt His love and healing in the sweetness of my family members, family events, and a few friends who are willing to fellowship on an intimate level, found deep fulfillment in seeking my husband’s approval in our home and family as his helpmate, and felt God’s guidance as I move back into corporate fellowship refilled with grace received and grace to extend.
So my “like” was definitely one of acknowledgment and understanding that sometimes God leads us to a change. But the deepest spiritual blessings in my own life have so far come about by trusting Him within the hard places, knowing we’re all just a bunch of messed up folks in equal need of grace. As a dear friend and mentor said, ‘Why add the problems of others into the mix we each already have going on inside us?’ Because I serve Christ, I am not free to do anything but follow Him. I am His bondslave trying to follow where He is leading me. It is sometimes through fiery trials which He uses to refine. It is often in places where I have absolutely no choice but to trust in Him and His promises. It might be in places of loneliness, humility or misunderstanding, especially if my focus is on myself. It is often in places where He would have me be bold for Him without knowing the response. It definitely includes places that are tender and broken. Where He leads me is never just about me!
Oswald Chambers said in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, July 12 devotional, “Am I building up the Body of Christ or am I looking for my own personal development only?…To fulfill God’s design means entire abandonment to Him….My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, Not even blessing, but Himself, my God” and in the July 15 devotional, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only….Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others as the bondslave of Jesus. That is the meaning of being made broken bread and poured-out wine in reality.”
What a revival we would have if we really lived like this. A portion of Matt Redman’s, “We Could Change the World” lyrics say it well, ‘Could we live like Your grace is stronger Than all our faults and failures?… Could we live like Your ways Are wiser than our understanding? Could we live like this? Could we live like this?…..We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”…What else could we say, what else could we say?’
We are all debtors to something. What are you a debtor to? I want to hold onto God’s Word and the promises He has confirmed in my heart. My feelings and others’ opinions may or may not align with those Truths, but I am a debtor to God and His truths!
As a believer in Christ for many years, I have covered a wide range of life’s “terrains”, including lush pastures, gentle streams, raging waters, wilderness and desert. During some seasons I walked a fairly easy trail, other than typical ups and downs. God lets the young see His splendor, even more than the seasoned ones. As newlyweds, my husband and I saw it often, especially in the young marrieds class we were heavily involved in at church. So many stories of “God in Action” with exciting outcomes for both our friends and for us as a couple, as we birthed six beautiful, healthy babies over the years and added an adopted child, too. A house full of kids and a little farm with extended family nearby had to be somewhat like heaven on earth. There were also a few times I may have subconsciously stolen a little of God’s glory, too. It’s so easy to do that when everything is fairly simple, going well and seemingly in my control. As Oswald says in the May 7 devotional, “Is God going to detect in His searching fire that we have built on the foundation of Jesus some enterprise of our own?”
I wasn’t alone in the young Christian trap of taking notice of the scriptures that seemed to fit into the “God is about me or what I can do for Him” paradigm. In her book “Extravagant Grace”, Barbara Duguid says “the baby Christian gravitates toward those Scriptures that tell him what to do, and there are many…the baby Christian is experienced primarily in the realm of feelings…his faith is weak, but his heart is warm. He tends to mistake the nature of these gifts from God and think they are his…that he will always have them. He believes he is right and strong because he has them, and he is prone to feeling superior to believers that don’t…He thinks that there is nothing left now but to walk through life with the victorious hand of God on his side, and then to enter heaven forever. He doesn’t yet know that, like Israel, there is a huge desert to cross before entering the Promised Land. The desert he has yet to see and grapple with properly is the wilderness of his own sinful heart.” At the parting of the Red Sea, and the subsequent praise dance, the Israelites could not have seen the 40 year trek in the desert just ahead, where many of them died off before entering the Promised Land.
Maturity in Christ, for me, has meant some desert or wilderness times, in which I am stretched beyond what I ever dreamed. In order to get a drink of the Living Water in these seasons, it is critical that I deepen my roots even more into Christ, my Savior, sometimes for even the next thought and breath. “My” thinking and “good works” is something to despise more than to purport. Difficult “terrain” requires much time in the Word, in worship, in prayer, in meditation and in seeking good Christian counsel, which God is faithful to supply. It is also an important season to be consistent in a journal in order to remember His answers, see the desert or wilderness experience from His perspective and to record this and any particularly encouraging words offered by friends and acquaintances along with scripture promises to stand on in faith. God’s perspective on my experiences often doesn’t look anything like how others may see it; nor how I see theirs. That’s because, unless we are interceding and seeking God’s perspective for others, it’s not our business.
The unbeliever may or may not experience overwhelming hardships in life. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Matt. 5:45) As believers, however, we can count on them, but by our loving God and for glorious purposes.
If I can only hang onto the “invisible” perspective of God during stretching experiences, then I can walk above heartbreaks and disappointments while in the wilderness, and so can you. In Him I live and move and have my being. My clay feet sometimes step down into the waves of the storm, or get tired in the wilderness and my vision can get obscured there; however this is usually not an issue of backsliding, but a need for encouragement. We question Peter’s faith (as Christ, rightfully did) when he struggled, but Peter was the only one who even tried to walk on the waves!
Duguid again offers that, “the greatest heroes of Scripture are deeply flawed throughout their lives.” And speaking of her women’s Bible study ministry she says, “It is a common occurrence to have someone confess their struggle and weakness in a certain area, only to be rebuked and censured by a younger sister in Christ, who eagerly shares the three easy ways they can overcome the problem….Simplistic answers to complex problems can be discouraging to weary strugglers….We should, therefore, practice great caution in evaluating the spiritual maturity of people around us.”
I’ve been guilty of judging (at least silently) with my idea of God’s standards, rather then just watching for fruit, praying, encouraging and leaving the rest to God no matter how different the progress may be in someone else. Anyone honest would have to admit this also, at some time or another. After all, it’s too easy to default and compare to each other, but it’s a tendency to kick out, not adopt. God will carry His work to completion in each of us in His time and through whatever means He chooses, and in the end, there will be fruit in those who are His. I hope to be an encourager to those along the path near me, especially those who are going through a trial of some sort, and I am blessed more than I can say by those He uses to give me manna in my wilderness journeys.
What kind of terrain are you on right now in your life? It will likely not be the same in a few years. Have you found encouragement if your path is rough? Have you purposed to encourage someone else? If you’re in “lush pastures” right now, write down all that God has favored you with and remember it for dryer seasons. No matter the terrain, the “God actions” are there, even if the wilderness obscures your view of them.
Everyone has times when their “hallelujahs” are broken; i.e. they grieve, yet still worship. For some, their worship may look and sound the same while their heart is broken. For others, the words, music and energy won’t come for a spell. They are worshiping in silence as they process their grief. They may be soaking in the worship they are hearing. A lump in the throat may prevent the escape of words even if they tried. A groan might be the only sound for them. For still others, the worship of grief may start slow and crescendo. There are many biblical characters who grieved and worshiped. Job lost all of his children in one day, he stood up, tore his robe, shaved his head and fell to the ground and worshiped, saying in effect, ‘I came into this world with nothing, it’s not mine to hold onto. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ I’m betting those words were poured out in heaving sobs as he lay on the ground. Jacob mourned for Joseph many days and refused to be comforted. Hannah accompanied her husband to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice, but because she was barren her “worship” came out in a torrent of silent bitter brokenhearted prayers, which God heard and answered. David mourned as he prayed for his child Bathsheba bore him, but worshiped after he knew the child had died and, therefore, his mourning would not induce God to relent. This probably was not the jubilant and expressive worship that had characterized David on the day the arc was returned, not that we all, at least consistently, have such expressive personalities in worship. But we are told he worshiped. David also mourned when Saul and Jonathon died in battle, and several other occasions. The instance of David seeming the most broken was when Absalom was killed, in which he sobbed for him and publicly grieved. In fact Joab had to sternly counsel David to snap out of it and encourage his men. Rachel had great difficulty giving birth to Benjamin and mourned for her children in a lament (which is a song and likely a sort of mournful worship). She died in childbirth. In this prophesy given by Jeremiah, God heard and promised that her reward would come. She represents all the mothers in Bethlehem who lost their baby boys because of jealous and wicked Herod’s edict, and every mother who has ever suffered for her children. Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched in grief and terror as the crucifixion of her son unfolded before her eyes. John (19:25) tells us that there were three other women there with her united in grief. (Yay, for sisterhood!) Mary had pondered the things God had told her in her heart. She had significant insight into what was unfolding. But this was her son. There were no words or songs recorded from her position of grief, loss and agony that day. Yet, she knew. She worshiped in silence as she grieved.
God expects us to grieve. Jesus grieved for Lazarus. But we are to grieve with hope, because He wants us to see things from His perspective. (1 Thes. 4:13) Ps. 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” When your hallelujah is broken, do you find a way to worship anyway? Your grief is not the final say.
A dear friend and mentor just recently said to me, “Drink lots of water…from the living supply”. Water consumption nowadays has become extremely specialized. We use purifiers, filters, flavors, sweeteners of all sorts and carbonation. We package with bottles, cans, and jugs of all sizes and designed for a variety of specific purposes and ventures. We have streamlined our tastes because, after all what and when we drink is important and we know it.
How much more so what we “drink” into our thoughts and soak into our “hearts” and how often. Hence the advice to drink much from the living supply. Jesus said in John 4:14, “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life“, and in John 7:38: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” There is absolutely nothing like soaking in the scriptures and taking refuge in the shadow of His wings. There is no other source that can quench every soul malady no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.
God warned his people through his prophet Jeremiah (2:13), that they had sinned in two ways: first by abandoning Him, the fountain of living water; and second, by digging cisterns for themselves that were cracked. If they could hold water at all, it was stagnant. Stagnant water holds disease, decay, toxins, harbors mosquitoes and is foul. Leaking cisterns presents the idea of falsehood. They gave the appearance of holding water but didn’t. Our “leaky cisterns” can be pride, materialism, teachings and traditions of men, false sense of spiritual security, false religions, excessive entertainment, and depravity. I want to drink deeply from the Well that never runs dry and satisfies my thirsts. I want the living water that flows out in service and doesn’t stay pooled up in a leaky, misleading cistern. What is your source of soul “water”? Is it deeply satisfying and flowing?
When I think about the grace that has been given me at the cross, I am humbled and deeply inspired to respond in devotion. I know that I share with human kind the desperately wicked heart malady that birthed sin back in the Garden of Eden, and I am forever grateful for a Savior who chose excruciating affliction in my place. He vacated His throne to be humbly born and live among us, suffered every kind of trial known to man, was tortured leading up to the cross, carried the tribulation to completion, paying every debt while hanging for all to see on a cross. There, pride was nailed in place by the King of Kings, who knew its insidious evil. He refused to indulge in it.
I am amazed that during those hours of extreme pain, He spurned relief because of His great love for the likes of you and me. He could’ve called ten thousand angels. But He didn’t. He had us on His mind. And that’s a claim no one can make undergoing that kind of suffering. Not one of us would languish in agony until death for our enemies, when we had a choice to end it with one word. Amazing grace.
I wholeheartedly concur with Carl Boberg, “And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”
That grace that saved me inspires a response. It calls me to devotion, obedience and action. If I were to go on about my life like nothing ever happened and change is not vital, I would need to take another look at whether I had ever truly repented. At the very “least” (really not so “least” at all), pride would be replaced with humility and gratefulness. If I continuously and knowingly take advantage of the grace I received as a result of Christ’s suffering and victory over sin, something is very wrong. In regard to this very subject God uses Paul to say in Romans 6, “By no means!”
To quote another hymn writer, George Bennard, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.” Do you cherish the salvation that is offered you because of the cross? How does it inspire you to respond?