Genesis 11:1-9 – “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.” NASB
This desire on the part of man was not new to Nimrod and the people in Babel. It actually began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, as far as humans are concerned. However, Isaiah identified that it went much farther back when Lucifer was one of God’s Archangels and rebelled against THE MOST HIGH! He decided to rebel and convinced one-third of the angelic creation to go along with him in attempting to dethrone God.
He convinced Adam and Eve that God was hiding something good from them and that if they ‘voted God out of office’ and became the center of their universes all would be wonderful. It cost them the Garden and introduced death to the race. Here in Babel the attempt to virtually ‘dethrone’ God and elevate man to a place that God will never allow brought about the inability to communicate, the various languages, and ethnicities that were scattered across the globe. It has been the source of incredible confrontations and complications in man’s ability to live with man on planet earth.
Sadly, many do the same thing in their personal lives by ignoring the clear directives of both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We refuse to forgive and thereby close the door to forgiveness for ourselves, alienate another human being who could be useful in our journey, and bring injury to them and our bitterness that results in others being defiled and their spirits marred. God’s directive is for us to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’ as we seek to bring the Good News to everyone so that none be lost. Sadly, we have difficulty communicating not just because of differences in spoken languages or dialects but in differences of beliefs we do not all speak the same language either naturally or spiritually.
I have found in my opportunities to minister around this nation and world that when I carefully seek to make sure that God is supreme in my heart, mind, life, and thinking He has used some unique ways to help me communicate to others. God’s Love is a language that is universally understood even when our words are not. The Spirit’s drawing power is universally felt even when our words fall short of an explanation. It is when we allow something to dethrone God in our lives that we find the confusion sets in and, in that state, we are unable to communicate and cooperate with our fellow human travelers through this thing we call life.
Psalm 51:10-11 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” NKJV
I have had people challenge me when I say that David was a man after God’s own heart with all the kinks in his armor, the flaws in his character, and some of the incredibly wrong courses he took in life. I always remind them that God did not say David was perfect but focused on David’s heart and this prayer is a window into the soul of David and his prayer is one that each of us should make our own daily.
David committed wrong and often paid for it dearly. I have often told congregations that considering the lives of some of the notable biblical characters we should take heart that if God could and would accept them when they came in repentance therefore, we have hope. I always hesitate in making that statement fearing some will begin to ‘compare’ themselves to others and come to a ‘false justification’ for their lives, actions, and attitudes. That is not what I’m saying only that God is incredibly merciful while at the same time incredibly holy and just.
But back to the prayer here and the incredible depth and importance, it holds for our lives. Consider it in a multi-step process with me if you will:
Create in me a CLEAN HEART. If the heart is not cleansed by the Blood of Jesus and our spiritual transformation does not take place where we are transferred from darkness into God’s marvelous light, we have nothing to build on. The first place to begin our spiritual journey is The Heart. He cries to God for the transformation of the heart to become a heart acceptable to God that would allow interaction and communion with the divine.
RENEW in me a steadfast (right) spirit. If my heart is right then my mind, attitude, and spirit can be conducive to fellowship with God. I will find that conditions and circumstances do not dictate my standing for I am Steadfast. I am not ‘double-minded’ and driven by changing circumstances, attitudes, opinions, or events for my Heart is rooted in the foundation of truth and my spirit is Steadfast anchored in that truth.
Do not cast me away from Your PRESENCE and do not take your HOLY SPIRIT from me. He recognized that only with a clean heart and a steadfast spirit could he be in a place where the presence of the Holy One would dwell and the Holy Spirit would come alongside teach and guide. This is recognition not only of the need for grace and the power of perseverance but the importance of God’s personal presence and the invaluable ministry of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual walk.
How we need to guard our hearts in our troubled world. The Bible says that ‘if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.’ But if He creates in us Clean Hearts and renews in us Right and Steadfast Spirits while communing with us personally and extending to us the ministry and person of the Holy Spirit we will stand and having done all to stand we will stand!
2 Timothy 2:3-4 – “You, therefore, must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” NKJV
My experience in life and ministry has taught me that Endurance is a grossly misunderstood topic but one that needs to be fully comprehended by the Body of Christ if we are to become all God has designed and desired of us. When you face a crisis, are on the front lines in a war zone, and are stressed out not knowing if you can survive another minute much less another day you have just become a candidate for Endurance. Once in this race (Christianity), you must finish the course, and once in this fight (Christianity), you must continue. You cannot quit for to quit is to lose all.
There is a crisis in the Body of Christ with regard to our ‘wounded warriors’ of faith. Sadly they are sometimes wounded by other members of the Body. Some are filled with the infection of bitterness, walking under the dominion of rejection and abandonment, and filled with fear to the point they cannot trust God or man. They feel betrayed, let down, failed, disappointed, and are Deeply Wounded and as a result have become hard, skeptical, sarcastic, and cynical.
If you were to accidentally run your arm through a plate glass window it would, in all likelihood, hurt. If you saw that it was cut badly, you’d rush to the emergency room for help, right? They would treat you cleaning out the wound, giving you things to help keep down infection, and put in stitches to close the wound. Just because they’ve done that and released you do not mean you are ready to use that arm again. However, when someone is wounded in a relationship or some situation in life, they need an emergency room to treat them they do not need Thirty Years of recovery time. What am I saying? Stop pandering to the problem, holding grudges, hurts, and resentments. Release it to the Lord so healing can begin. It is quite likely you will be hurt again but this is not a sprint it is a marathon and you must Endure!
Endure hardness as a good soldier. We have little comprehension of this in most of our western world. Hardness for many would be driving an older car not a new one, having the same carpet 5-6 years, not getting new wardrobes annually, and having to mow our own lawns. Some would expand that to being not enough money to pay the bills, not enough food, personal attacks, family divisions, and delays in God’s promises. Those may be difficult but are not hardness as in the life of a soldier.
We do not like hardness and frankly we don’t care much for those who preach about it. I don’t like hardness or difficulty. I like blessing! The early church was a people more committed to the cause of Christ than the opposition was to their cause. They Knew their mission and King and defied ten Roman emperors who had them slaughtered and outlasted them all. This thing we are in is War, spiritual war!
Hardness – (sun-kako-pa-theo): Three different words are compounded to form this word. (Sun Kakos Pathos). There are three ideas I want you to see. SUN means connection or partnership it is a connection to someone or something as in 1 Corinthians 6:1 where we learn we are ‘workers together with Him.’ KAKOS conveys the idea of something wicked or evil and if we only had the first two words it would seem that we were in partnership with evil but we have PATHOS and this normally describes suffering but has more to do with mental suffering than physical so Paul is telling Timothy that he must become disciplined and tough mentally.
Just because you suffer does not mean you are spiritual so do not look for ways to suffer. Hebrews 12:11 tells us that chastening is not joyous in the present but the fruit of it is powerful. The soldier was disciplined, committed, trained, and skillful in the use of his weapons.
Matthew 24:13 – “…he who endures to the end, the same shall be saved…”
We have a commission and a promise and need to become committed to run the race that is set before us unwilling to quit. He promises that He is with us, will not forsake us, and will be with us to the end.
Revelation 12:11 – “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” NKJV
1 Samuel 17:45-47 – “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” NKJV
In Proverbs 18:21 we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” That has been taken many directions by some in the Body of Christ. My objective is to focus on the ‘faith-filled words’ that were uttered in this encounter of David and Goliath and hopefully link that to our daily lives in Christ. There is a difference between calling those things that are not as though they were and calling those things that are as though they are not. But lest I get into hair-splitting let us move on.
In this account, we have the Philistine army on one mountain and the army of Israel on the other with a valley between. Every morning for 40 days the Philistine champion Goliath would come out and taunt Israel, “Send out a man so we can fight. If he wins, we will be your servants but if I win you will be ours.” We know how it was affecting Israel for in verse 11 –“When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”
Fear was on the throne in the hearts of Saul and the army of Israel because of the imposing intimidating figure standing before them and had dismantled their Faith. Now instead of the Joy of the Lord, they were filled with Gloom for they believed they were defeated and saw the problem as an impossible obstacle. Sadly, too frequently that is how we face many situations in life. Some seem to view the devil as co-equal with God. He is not, he is a created being. There are reports that Goliath was over 9’ tall with a coat of armor that weighed over 150 pounds and a spear that was about 20 pounds. In the natural that would cause great trepidation of heart. It was not just one occurrence but Daily for 40 days, he had taunted these men of the Most High God.
Saul’s response was that if anyone would volunteer and defeat the enemy that man would gain riches, the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage, and his family would be set free. No Takers Stepped Forward! What good is a promise of reward if there is no hope of living to claim it? Then we find David coming on the scene and upsetting the status quo.
Then along comes this kid, David, and he asks, “Why aren’t you men doing something about this?” His brothers were irritated and I’m quite sure so were the others standing around trembling in fear. Quickly word got to Saul that someone was willing to fight and Saul observed, “Why you are not even a man yet!” David reminded Saul of his previous encounters with danger and fear will always allow someone else to take the risk for it. Saul attempted to equip David with his armor, but Faith said no, I’ll go with what brought me thus far. Saul (the system/flesh) said here, you take what I equip you with and you will be qualified but David (the Spirit) said no God will qualify me.
He picked up five smooth stones from the brook and while there are many possibilities as to the significance of ‘five stones’ I will leave it for speculation. Some have suggested it was one for Goliath and each of his brothers. Others insist it is representative of the ‘five-fold ministry’. They were ‘smooth stones’ and I suggest that speaks of being fully developed with the rough edges polished off by being in the stream of what God is doing.
Goliath was livid that Israel would insult him sending out a boy to do a man’s job, but David declared his faith. “You come with a sword and spear, but I come in the Name of the Lord.” Then he charged the giant! David proclaimed God’s promise and declared his commitment and with Goliath’s own sword David removed his head and the problem facing Israel.
In God, we have sure promises, and we can stand and declare WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED confident that God will honor His word! It just might be time to take God at His word and boldly say to our mountain BE REMOVED!
Jeremiah 33:3 – “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ NASB
In this life all of us are faced with ‘limitations’ and sometimes they are incredibly trying. The strides of science, medicine, and technology in the past few decades, are nothing short of phenomenal but limited. Children of today observe things with such a passive nonchalance that would have sent our forefathers into hiding.
Think about it! We have pierced the invisible wall of outer space, landed on the moon, sent machines to faraway places, and shrunk the world so that any destination is hours away. We have created gadgets that almost rule our lives and the computer has revolutionized how many operate, communicate, and lives. The future is even more promising as technology is outdated by the time it is marketed and knowledge is expanding exponentially at an almost alarming rate but LIMITED!
Someone said, “We have become whales in machinery and technology and minnows in morality” and that often appears to be the truth. We are ‘better off’ but not always ‘better’. We seem to have an unlimited ability to communicate and often nothing to say. In a reals sense, we are observing the ‘failure’ of ‘success.”
LIMITED is a term that aptly describes mankind. Scientists tell us that man uses only a minuscule portion of his brain and when we consider what he has accomplished using such a small portion, what are the possibilities? He is still LIMITED! There is one activity that man has been invited to that moves beyond the limitations of our humanness and into the infiniteness of God’s eternalness. God has given man something LIMITLESS!
PRAYER is without limitation. Time and space do not affect it. Prayer touches three worlds (heaven, earth, hell) simultaneously and instantaneously. It influences and touches like no other activity and concerns hell more than most anything we can do as humans. It can be launched in an instant and hit its target at the speed of thought and is never confined to the laws of time or space. IT IS LIMITLESS!
The only question is why we do not practice it more! God extended to us the ‘invitation’ to pray. It is a simple invitation where He says, “Call to Me…” Everyone can do it. There is no special education or training required to participate. Even those who cannot speak can pray for the directive is YOU call. It is personal as well as corporate. It is audacious in that the King of Kings has instructed us to CALL upon Him.
Imagine that! It is immense as there are no conditions or limitations placed on it. We can pray about anything! It is dynamic for He says, “And I will answer you…” Can you fathom that God is listening? He said YOU call, and I WILL answer you. That is a promise of the highest order He not only said He would ANSWER but that He would SHOW us things we did not know. So, it is not only a time of petition but instruction! The magnitude of that is mind-boggling!
Prayer is an invitation to experience the Boundlessness and Limitlessness of God. If that does not cock your pistol your hammer is broken. Prayer breaks across the borders of time and stands firmly in eternity. Prayers have outlasted nations and dynasties and no king, president, or potentate can nullify prayer. They may make it illegal to pray publicly but they cannot cancel the efficacy of prayer!
Someone said: “If Grace is the river, Prayer is the riverbed through which it flows. If Grace is the water of life, Prayer is the pipeline through which the water comes. If Grace is the content, Prayer is the container from which it is poured.” The LIVING GOD of all Creation has invited you and me to PRAY! He has invited us to engage in the LIMITELESSNESS of Him!
Shall we pray? God be with you as you go through this day!
James 1:27 –“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” NASB
I want to express my appreciation to David Barton and Wall Builders for some of the information that I will use in this devotional. As I read what David Barton wrote I was convicted and inspired. I hope it elicits must the same response in your heart. If so, then it is worth my time in writing and yours in reading.
The declaration of James in this passage could not be clearer or simpler. It distills the Christian religion and walk to its very essence and provides a clear target, objective, and goal for each of us. Pure religion includes genuine care about other people, especially those who are unable to take care of themselves. It includes a refusal to be captured and enslaved by the enticements of lesser things due to an uncompromising passion for the One who truly matters – Jesus!
The first part, genuine concern, and care for others is at the heart of the message and ministry of Jesus. His message always contrasted that of the Pharisees. His words to the guests at one of the Sabbath meals hosted by one of the leading Pharisees of that day are powerful.
Luke 14:12-14 – “And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment comes to you. 13 “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” NASB
I love the simplicity Jesus managed to use in addressing issues. Basically, He says, “When you throw a party, invite people who could never reciprocate. Celebrate and honor those who can offer you nothing in return – no quid pro quo.” Imagine that, in a day and world where prestige and status. The Kingdom of God is not about earthly status or quid pro quo, it is about Love, Commitment, and Surrender to God.
When I study American history, I am often amazed as I discover individuals and acts that I did not know. The more I study those of bygone eras especially in the time of our founding I realize that America and Christian leaders understood and taught the simplicity of the message of Christ.
One such figure was the Reverend Frederick Douglas (a leading civil rights leader, before, during, and after the Civil War). The aforementioned characteristic of Christianity was one of the key things that excited him the most. He said, “I love the religion of our blessed Savior! I love that religion that comes from above! I love that religion that sends its votaries to bind up the wounds of him that have fallen among thieves! I love that religion that makes it the duty of its disciples to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction! I love that religion that is based upon the glorious principle of love to God and love to man [Matthew 22:38-39] – which makes its followers do unto others as they themselves would be done by [Matthew 7:12]!” That is powerful.
Benjamin Banneker, a black American hired by Thomas Jefferson to help lay out the original city of Washington, D.C., affirmed a similar sentiment regarding true Christianity. He said, “It is the indispensable duty of those who profess the obligation of Christianity to extend their powers and influence to the relief of every part of the human race from whatever burden or oppression they may unjustly labor under.”
I would suggest that we carefully consider the words “duty” and “obligation” in considering the sentiments mentioned. Those words often carry a negative connotation in today’s world as does the idea of religion. That was not the case in the era of our founding. Those were celebrated as noble ideals fueled by a sense of passion and gratitude. The Founders were keenly aware of the remarkable society they were building. They clearly understood where our true liberty and inalienable rights came from. Everything they sought to establish was with that clear understanding and acknowledgment of God and our responsibility to Him.
The Reverend Richard Allen, the founder of America’s first black denomination and a wagon driver during the American revolution emphasized that message in his generation. He said, “Our Savior’s first and great work was that of the salvation of men’s souls; yet we find that of the multitudes who came or were brought to Him laboring under sickness and disorders, He never omitted one opportunity to do good to their bodies, or sent away one that applied to Him. Christian charity is pure and disinterested, remote from all hopes of worldly recompense from the persons we relieve. We are to do good and lend, hoping for nothing again [Luke 6:35]. In its extent, it is unlimited and universal… [it] is confined to no persons, countries, or places but takes in all mankind, strangers as well as relations or acquaintances, enemies as well as friends, the evil and unthankful as well as the good and grateful. It has no other measure than the love of God to us. The absolute necessity of practicing this duty is the very same as that of being Christians. By doing acts of mercy and charity, we acknowledge our dependence upon God, and His absolute right to whatever we possess through His bounty and goodness.”
The emphasis of Richard Allen was the Love of God, first to us, then genuinely through us to a needy and hurting world. America, as seen by our founders and the Christian leaders of history was to be “a city set on a hill.” It was to be a light to the nations. If we want to see that light shining brightly, we need to reconsider the promise of God through Isaiah.
The nation of Israel sought God, humbling themselves in daily fasting and prayer. They wondered why they were not seeing an answer to their prayers. God responded saying, “Is this not the fast which I choose…to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” [Isaiah 58:6-7]. God promised that if they would do that, He would make their “light break out like the dawn, and their recovery would speedily spring forth. The Glory of Heaven would be their rear guard. They would call upon the LORD and He would answer them. They would cry out to God and He would say, “Here I Am.” [Isaiah 58:8-10]. Hallelujah!
On the Day of Reckoning, God will take note of every act of kindness and every cup of cold water that is given in His name. He waits with an excited longing to repay us in kind. Jesus promised, saying that if we would do that, “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
You cannot buy your way to heaven, but your reward is tied to what you do not just what you believe. I am not, nor were those mean suggesting that we reward laziness and feed a sense of entitlement. They were and I am suggesting that we show the Love of God in allowing the Love, Mercy, Care, Concern, and Compassion of Jesus to be demonstrated in us.
God bless you as you muse upon this thought. God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!
Mark 6:38 – “And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” NASB
I do not know what comes to your mind when you read that or if you paused long enough to consider it. Jesus had been teaching a massive crowd of people and had kept them a long time. Wow! Jesus was sometimes a long-winded preacher. That gives me a sense of comfort and security in my style of preaching. But that is not the topic I want to discuss or the style I want to defend.
The day was winding down, the crowd was large, and hungry. The disciple came to Jesus and said, “Lord, this place is desolate, there are no What-a-burgers near, and it is getting late. Why don’t you send them into the surrounding villages so they can find a McDonald’s and get something to eat?” Jesus was undaunted by their plea and said, “I have a better idea, why don’t you give them something to eat?” Actually, He said emphatically, “You give them something to eat!”
I laugh at their protest and realize that I would have probably done the same as they. They said, “But LORD, are we going to take a couple of hundred dollars and buy something for this massive crowd? Even if there was a place to buy food that would not be enough.” Jesus probably smiled and said, “How many loaves do you have?” Before they could respond He said, “Go Look!”
I can only imagine the stress they were feeling when they checked with everyone and discovered that they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. How would you like to be in a situation where you had several thousand people to feed and had five loaves of bread and two fish? I don’t care what size the loaves or the fish were, they won’t do it, in the natural.
It is interesting to me that Jesus told them to “Go Look!” They were already in a condition of weak faith. They were already viewing things in the natural. They were already in a state of mind that the best approach was to transfer responsibility from themselves to the crowd. Now, Jesus says, “Go Look!” He knew that when they did, they would be even more pessimistic and doubtful. The Bible says in John’s reporting of this that Jesus said this to Philip to test him because He (Jesus) already knew what He was going to do.
This was an opportunity for the disciples to see beyond what they could see in the natural. This was an opportunity for them to resist allowing what they could see in the natural to destroy their faith. This was an opportunity for them to participate in what He had been teaching and demonstrating regarding the Power and Provision of the Father. This was their opportunity to participate in seeing the Kingdom demonstrate on this earth.
How many times do we see something in the natural and no matter what God has said, we trust what we see more than what God has said? How many times do we allow what we can see and the smallness of our resources, in the natural, to prevent us from receiving God’s miracle? How often do we allow the natural to override the supernatural? Jesus was allowing them to move beyond what they could see in the natural to looking into the supernatural realm and seeing its Limitlessness.
As I write, I recall the directive of Elijah as he prayed for rain, “Go look!” He sent his servant to see if there was any sign of rain. Each time he came back with the report that there was no change. Finally, the servant came back and said, “I see a cloud the size of a man’s hand.” The prophet jumped up and said, “I hear the sound of abundance of rain – Run Before the Flood overtakes you.” All he needed was a wisp of a cloud to believe the Promise. Sounds like ‘a mustard seed.’
We must become people who believe that God is the God of the impossible and that nothing is impossible with God. If we will just ‘Go Look!’ and refuse to allow what we see in the natural shipwreck our confidence in His Promises, we will see the Miracle!
Someone asked me, “If you were to preach a sermon right now what would the topic be?” Without hesitation, I said, “Relationships – Investing In and Cultivating Life.” I am more convinced today than ever that Relationships are not just vital but essential if we are to enjoy the fullness of life and become what God desires.
As many of you know, my angel, my earthly treasure, my wife Bonnie went home to glory 40 days ago. It has been a heart-wrenching journey for me and our family. Some have suggested that because she and we are Christians we should be happy, not sad that she is in heaven. We are happy that she is experiencing the wonders of heaven and the fullness of joy that God has for all who enter those gates. However, to ignore the pain and hurt that is left in our hearts when a loved one departs, and in my case, part of me would be to deny reality.
I appreciate the many efforts to shock me, correct me, help me, or whatever the purpose was in telling me the many things that I should feel, think, or do. Some of them, although well-intentioned opened the door for guilt and brought more pain than comfort. The devil needs no help making us feel ashamed that we are weeping when a saint, such as my wife, received her promotion to glory. My response has been to lay it all before the LORD and follow His directive to CAST ALL MY CARE upon Him and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to my heart. If I am wrong in my sorrow and processing my grief, I trust He will correct me. I do not need religious cliches or formulas, I need the 4th man in the Fire. I need God! He and only He can fill the hole in our hearts!
But, back to what I feel directed to address – RELATIONSHIPS. In the Book of Beginnings, Genesis we read in 2:24 – “Therefore shall a man LEAVE his father and his mother, and shall CLEAVE unto his wife: and they shall become ONE FLESH.” Paul addressed that again in Ephesians 5:31 as he compared the relationship of husband and wife to that of Jesus and the Church. It is a joining that is beyond what most mortals can comprehend or are willing to invest to attain.
Many people get the LEAVING and sometimes never stop leaving things and people. But the second part of that directive CLEAVING is not so easily acquired or attained. The Cleaving is the part that enables the husband and wife to become ONE. They always remain two separate people but, in their hearts, and spirits, they become ONE. That does not happen by osmosis. It does not happen automatically when the wedding vows are recited. It is a process that requires commitment and covenant.
Covenantal Relationships are largely unknown to much of today’s world. We call marriage a Covenant but like much of society, most operate on a Contract mentality rather than a Covenant one. A Contract mentality says, “As long as things are good for me, and do not require me to invest too much, I will maintain the contract.” A Covenant mentality says, “UNTIL DEATH DO US PART.” It commits all of itself to the fulfillment of the Covenant Vows and never views the investment too much or too difficult. That is what Bonnie and I had, A Covenant Relationship. We were 100% committed to each other and our relationship and as we grew into oneness, we enjoyed a marriage beyond anything I could have hoped for.
A person does not become adept at sports without commitment, investment, and work. A person does not become skilled at their occupation without commitment, investment, and work. Few things in life, Just Happen, they require investment and cultivation to produce fruit. Marriage is no different.
When Bonnie and I realized the depth of our love and the willingness of each to commit fully to the relationship we began to work at cultivating something special. She showed me love that I had never experienced and love that I did not think humanly possible. She drew out of me the best and inspired me to press on when it would have been easy to throw in the towel and quit. I hope I did the same for her, I tried.
Before anyone assume that I am saying we never disagreed, we did. However, in disagreement, we remained totally committed to our relationship and the depth of love in our union. During the last year of her battle with cancer, there would be times I would awaken in the night and raise up on one elbow and watch her for long periods of time. My heart overflowing with love and I prayed as I watched her facial movements and breathing. She would awaken and see me and say, “Honey, what are you doing? I’m okay and I’m going to be okay, you can go back to sleep.” I would usually say, “I know, but I love loving you so much, I just enjoy watching you.” We would kiss and often hold hands as we drifted back to sleep.
Relationships, good relationships, covenant relationships, do not just happen! If your marriage is not what I have described, and you are not one in spirit and heart you can be. Love is developed not something you fall into. There was a kinship and drawing the first time we met but we grew to love each other more each year and each day. We viewed the other as ourselves. We shared times that no one knows nor will they ever because of the personal treasure of those moments.
She was an answer to prayer and because God told me she was my angel that I had been praying for, I was determined to make her happy and demonstrate the depth of my love to her. The kisses we shared in the last months were special because we both knew they were from the depth of our hearts. We knew they were the fruit of our years together becoming one.
I fear that I am beginning to ramble and have not adequately addressed Relationships other than to identify their importance. Covenant Relationships are more important than everything else in life. Everything, but God for He is the most important but in earthly relationships, NOTHING is more important, and NOTHING should come close in the investment or cultivation given it.
You do not grow in grace by osmosis, you have to work at it. You make a commitment of heart, study God’s Word, and walk according to the directives of that Word. In marriage, you do not have a marriage made in heaven by living for yourselves and failing to invest all of you in making them the best they can be. If you refer to your wife as your Old Lady or make marriage sound like a war zone you do not understand The Leaving and Cleaving of Genesis. It is as you cleave to so as to become one with that person, you will discover the marriage God designed and desired and it can become like the relationship of Jesus and the Church.
Today, Kalene and I took breakfast to the Oncologist and her staff. We know it was something Bonnie would have desired us do and it was meaningful to us and hopefully to them. It was a small token of our appreciation for the love and care they showed her an us. I miss my Bonnie more than words can express and I rejoice in the memories of our years together. However, sometimes those memories also bring incredible pain to my heart because I know they are not to be experienced again in this life. She was and is the love of my life. She was and is my angel. She was and is me in a very real sense. If you focus on politics but fail to invest in your marriage, you err. If you focus on success in life but fail to invest in your marriage, you err. If you make marriage a war zone, I wonder what you married for? I wonder what you thought marriage was all about. You may consider my remarks unrealistic, but I consider them God’s Norm for Marriage. I had in my marriage with Bonnie something I could not have understood without walking through the development of it. TODAY MORE THAN EVER, I KNOW WHAT Genesis and Ephesians were talking about because I had a Covenant Relationship with a Proverbs 31 woman.
God bless you and hopefully, my words are not so disjointed they are without impact or meaning to you. I pray you experience what we did and that this day and every day will be a fulfilling journey for you!
Matthew 7:24-27 – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.” NASB
I heard the Holy Spirit ask, “Are you wise or foolish?” When I hear a question from the Spirit of God in my heart and mind, I am always cautious about how I answer. I never want to be rash or presumptive. I do not want to think more highly of myself than I ought to think. I never want to answer a question wrongly that I know He knows the correct answer.
Frequently, when I sense the LORD is asking me a probing question, I will answer the question with a question. It is not meant to be a question to counter His question but for clarity. It is usually a question that reveals my willingness to comply with whatever directive He is about to issue. I desire, more than anything, to be pleasing to Him. I want to do His will in all things and at all times. Do I fail? Yes, I’m human. I don’t offer that as a justification but a reality that as Paul said, “I’m pressing toward the mark.” I have not fully attained but am pressing forward.
After the question, I was led to this passage of Scripture and the beautiful analogy that Jesus offered. He took a natural event to convey a powerful spiritual truth. His message was clear. I was not just to ‘hear’ what God says but to ‘do’ what He said. In a measure that is descriptive of the issue of faith and works. It should be a reminder that even the demons in hell believe His words but do not act upon or obey them. The devil knows the Bible, but he is still a devil.
The foolishness of living in a flood-prone area and erecting a dwelling on an unstable foundation such as shifting sand is clear. The wise man would consider the warnings, the history, the evidence, and after reviewing the information erect his house on a solid foundation. That would be wisdom. Therefore, if we HEAR what God says, through the Holy Spirit in prayer or in reading the Bible and fail to follow the directives, heed the warnings, and allow that Word and Spirit to transform us we are anything but wise.
I find in myself and other believers that there are times when we HEAR the directive of Scripture and the urging of the Holy Spirit but fail to obey. The matter is trust. It is trust in the sense that we are trusting what we see more than what God has said. We are trusting our known abilities more than the supernatural power of God. We are, in that sense trusting and relying on the ‘arm of flesh’ rather than the ‘power of the Spirit of God.’ That is not Wisdom it is Foolishness!
There are numerous examples in Scripture of people hearing what God said, and although His instruction was beyond the realm of human understanding, they acted upon what He said rather than what they could see. That is Faith!That is Confidence! That is Trust! That is Obedience! Abraham was instructed to offer Isaac the son of his old age and it made no sense to the natural senses, but He obeyed, and God worked a miracle that advanced the cause of the Kingdom of God mightily.
David took a slingshot and 5 smooth stones to face a seasoned war veteran who was a very imposing figure. It made no sense, but His confidence was in the Name of the LORD and His remembrance of the Promises of God. Goliath came with a sword and a spear (the arm of flesh) but David went in the Name of the LORD (The power of the Spirit of God). We know which prevailed. I will not take the time to list the exploits of Gideon, the Three Hebrew Children, Daniel, and scores of others. But they Heard and Heeded what God said and demonstrated true Wisdom.
The Holy Spirit was challenging me and I challenge you to consider the words of Jesus in Luke 8:18 – “Therefore take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him shall more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” NASB
God’s Word never fails, and God never fails, therefore we can trust Him and He desires obedience more than sacrifice. It is in acting upon the Word that we demonstrate Faith in that Word and the God of the Word. Faith without works is dead but faith with corresponding obedience moves mountains. Let’s move some mountains!
God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!
Psalm 127:1-2 – “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early,To sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.” NKJV
Through my years of Christian ministry and service I have heard the statement, “doing a work for God” used and even “growing a church for Jesus” as though we were the ones building the church or doing the work independently of God. I know that was not the heart of what was being said but in a very real way, it detracts from the reality of the roles of man and God in the Kingdom Purposes.
If you remember in Matthew 16 when Jesus questioned the disciples as to who the people thought He (Jesus) was and Peter’s response when He asked, “Who do you say I am?” you find a powerful truth. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responded to that revelation saying, “…upon this rock (truth) I will build My church; and the gates (powers) of hell will not overpower it.” The thing we must always keep in mind is it is HIS CHURCH and HE IS THE BUILDER!
That makes the statement of the Psalmist even more powerful when He declares that UNLESS the Lord builds the house it is an exercise in futility to attempt to do so. That UNLESS the Lord guards the city the watchmen waste their time watching and warning of danger. It is futile to worry and fret over life’s problems and obstacles because UNLESS God is on the Throne of our lives, we can change nothing. But, when we know He is building, watching, guarding, and guiding we can sleep the sleep of peace.
Many have become frustrated over the lack of growth in a local congregation and pastors have resigned or been shown the door thinking that if they just had the right program or personality, they would have the dynamic growth equated with success. Could it be that they were not allowing God to build the house in His way and time? Could it be that the purpose of God was not or is not to make every local church a mega-church? Could it be that our definition of success, often defined in numbers and dollars is not God’s definition?
I truly believe that God has called me to be a “Watchman on the Walls.” I believe that I am to speak spiritually to and for our nation. However, I am wasting my time if that conviction is not coupled with the confidence that God is the one truly watching. If I am not echoing what He is saying and seeing I am nothing more than a clanging noise and without value.
I truly believe that God calls people to lead congregations and far too often that individual departs that local community before the time of God’s choosing. One of the most significant reasons, I believe, is because of a conceptual failure. That failure is the failure to truly understand and believe that building the church is not man’s responsibility but is the work of Christ Jesus our Lord through the Holy Spirit. Yes, He inspires men and women, programs, pathways, and endeavors but at the end of the day IT IS HIS CHURCH and He is the BUILDER!
Our nation is experiencing dark days and will likely experience even darker days in the months to come and we can lament over the problems, conditions, attitudes, and direction and we should be grieved and pray. But, unless we couple our lamentations with confidence that God is the one truly guarding the city or nation we err and become troubled in heart, mind, and soul needlessly.
Without God, we can do nothing but with God, we can do all things! There is no mountain too high, no river too wide no problem too great, or an enemy too powerful that He cannot handle. Therefore, if we can come to grips with our role as messengers, representatives, and manifestations of Him and His purposes and His as the Builder and Guard we will find the peace that passes understanding and enjoy the success He has purposed. Never deem success in number, noses, or dollars but look for the depth of spiritual commitment in lives being impacted for God’s Kingdom. I am not making an excuse for times of little or no progress, but suggesting that we look to the source rather than trying to be the source.