Context

Context

The trees in the photograph below are at least 20 feet high but against the expanse of the sky, appear much shorter. Context makes a difference.

David and Goliath. In this well-known Bible story, the two opponents used starkly different contexts to assess each other. Goliath viewed David from his over 9 feet frame, donned with a bronze helmet, a bronze coat of mail that weighed 125 pounds, and bronze leg armor. On his shoulder he held a bronze javelin and in his hand a spear with a shaft as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds (1 Samuel 17:4-7, NLT). I imagine that in Goliath’s mind were memories of his many victories that earned him the title, “champion.” He looked at David and was insulted. As he walked toward David, he sneered in contempt and roared, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick?” Then “he cursed David by the names of his gods” and yelled, “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:41-44, NLT). Context.

David looked at Goliath and saw “a pagan Philistine” who was allowed to “defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26). He looked at him and recalled that the LORD had rescued him from the claws of the lions and the bears that attempted to steal lambs from his flock. David looked at Goliath and believed that the LORD would also rescue him from Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-37). In response to Goliath’s taunts, David replied, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:45-47, NLT). Context.

The context Goliath used to assess David was himself but God was the context David used to assess Goliath. We know how that storied fight ended. What context are you using to assess the challenges in your life?

 

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Five Minute Friday: Why?

Why_

“Come,” Jesus said to Peter. It was not the first time that He, the Word made flesh, spoke this word while walking on the earth He sustains by the power of His word. He had spoken it to Peter and Andrew, his brother, while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee. He told them, “Come and follow me, and I will transform you into men who catch people for God”  (Matthew 4:18-20, TPT).

He spoke it also as part of an invitation to a crowd of people. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).

But in this instance when He said to Peter, “Come,” it was in response to Peter’s request, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And at His command, Peter did what no man had ever done, he began to walk on water. He walked on water, that is, until he saw the wind was boisterous. Then he became afraid and began to sink. Fear changes things, does it not? But then so does crying out to God, and that is what Peter did. And Jesus responded. (End of 5 minutes). Immediately, we are told, Jesus “stretched out his hand and caught him, and said, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:25-31, NKJV). Or as another translation states, “What little faith you have! Why would you let doubt win?” (Matthew 14:31, TPT, emphasis added).

We know that when God asks us a question, He is not looking for information. He is omniscient. I believe that one reason He asks us questions such as, “Why did (or do) you doubt Me?’ is to prompt reflection on our part. The reason Peter began to sink is one of the same reasons that we all are overcome, are derailed by our circumstances, good and bad – We are overcome, are derailed when we take our eyes off of Him and focus on our circumstances. There are other reasons each of us has but none that are uncommon to man. Each of us must answer this and other questions for ourselves. I am thankful that our God is so gracious and so merciful and so full of compassion. He never asks these questions to embarrass or condemn us, only to bring us face to face with ourselves so that He can deliver and heal us. He is committed to transforming us into the image of His Son.

FMFI am participating in a weekly writing adventure with the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s prompt is, “Why.” Links to Scripture verses were added after the allotted five minutes had expired. 

Beloved. You.

You are beloved (1)

Whatever the name on your birth certificate. Whatever names others have called you. Your truest name is, “Beloved.”

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either” (1 John 3:1, VOICE).

“This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10, VOICE).

The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, testified, “We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy because he loves us and we love him too” (1 John 4:16-17, TLB).

May we believe God when He tells us that He loves us dearly. Remember, He is not a man that he should lie. Let His word stabilize your emotions and banish all doubt suggested by your circumstances. As stated in this note in the VOICE translation related to 1 John 3:1-2,

“When we feel like we are not good enough to be loved by God, we should remember that God’s love is greater than our doubts. We must silence the sounds of condemnation so we can hear the voice of God’s loving assurance and remember that He has selected us to be part of His family.”

My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2) 

Beloved. That is who you are.

Five Minute Friday: Privilege

privilege

Giving to our brothers and sisters who are poor. Do we see doing so as a privilege? The Corinthian church did. Paul testified of them, “For I can verify that they spontaneously gave, not only according to their means but far beyond what they could afford. They actually begged us for the privilege of sharing in this ministry of giving to God’s holy people who are living in poverty. They exceeded our expectations by first dedicating themselves fully to the Lord and then to us, according to God’s pleasure” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5, TPT). “They actually begged for the privilege of sharing in this ministry of giving to God’s holy people who are living in poverty.” “They actually begged for the privilege of sharing in this ministry of giving to God’s holy people who are living in poverty.” How incredible is that.

I think the key to their incredible generosity lies in the fact that before they give of their substance, they first dedicated themselves fully to the Lord. Before they give of their substance, they first dedicated themselves fully to the Lord. (End of 5 minutes). When we have fully surrendered and continue to live lives of full surrender to God, I believe it is easy to see giving as a privilege. A surrendered life is a life of stewardship. Persons who are fully surrendered to the Lord and continue to live lives of full surrender understand that they are stewards, not owners. They understand the truth of 1 Chronicles 29:14 (VOICE), “All our offerings come from You, so we can give You nothing that isn’t already Yours.” When we habitually struggle internally with an opportunity to give, especially sacrificially, could it be an indication that we have slipped from the mindset of a steward to that of an owner and that a fresh surrender to God is needed?  Father, may we be cheerful givers, people who see giving to those in need as a privilege.

FMF

I am participating in a weekly writing adventure (on a Sunday) with the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s prompt is, “Privilege.” 

Look full

Look Full

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” Helen H. Lemmel instructs, in the refrain of her classic hymn with the same name.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face.” “Look full in His wonderful face.” I understand that to turn my eyes on Jesus requires me to turn my eyes away from something or someone else that had my focus, instead of Him. And, perhaps too often, I need this reminder in all seasons of life, especially those characterized by difficulties. During challenging seasons, like Peter, I focus on  adverse circumstances around me and quickly learn that such focus can lead to near drowning experiences.

But what does it mean to, “Look full in His wonderful face”? Let us consider the definitions of look and full. “Look,” the verb, is to direct one’s gaze toward someone or something or in a specified direction. “Look,” the noun, is an act of directing one’s gaze in order to see someone or something. Definitions of “Full” include complete especially in detail, number, or duration; lacking restraint, check, or qualification; and not lacking in any essential: perfect.” Based on these definitions, to “look full in His wonderful face” is to direct our gaze toward Jesus intentionally, completely, without reservation or qualification. This is not a casual or accidental act . There is no distracted engagement here.

When was the last time we directed our gaze toward Jesus, intentionally, completely, without reservation or qualification and in a sustained manner? And how do we do so? I think the process begins with the recognition that we are not focused on Him. What are some of the signs that we are not focused on Him? They include complaining, worrying, and being anxious, self-centered, and/or confused.

The process of directing our gaze toward Jesus intentionally, completely, and without reservation or qualification also requires us to know what things distract our attention from Him and those that help us focus (and refocus) our attention on Him. The latter includes consistently reading and meditating on His Word, praying, praising and worshipping Him, recognizing His goodness and giving Him thanks.  With each passing day, the turmoil in our world increases and our need to consistently “Turn our eyes on Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,” grows.

Prayer: God, help us keep our eyes on You. Increase our ability to recognize the things that distract us and help us daily to prioritize our relationship with You. Amen

 

Five Minute Friday: Agree

Agree.png“Amen,” defined as to express agreement, most often during worship.  “Agreement” – the act or of fact of agreeing. “Worship,” not just what I do on Sunday morning or during my quiet time. “Worship” – a lifestyle, as highlighted in the story of Hannah and Samuel.

“After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always …  After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, ‘Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.’ And he worshiped the Lord there” (1 Samuel 1:22-28, NIV; emphasis added).

“Amen,” defined as, to express agreement, most often during worship.  “Agreement” – the act of fact of agreeing. “Worship,” not just what I do on Sunday morning or during my quiet time. “Worship” – a lifestyle, as highlighted in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (TPT), “Whether you eat or drink, live your life in a way that glorifies and honors God.”

When others look at my worship, my lifestyle, can they tell that I agree with the following? God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do. I am who God says I am. I can do what God says I can do. (End of 5 minutes)

Are we living a consistent “Amen,” an expressed agreement to what He has spoken, regardless of what we feel or what our circumstances suggest? For example, are our lives an “Amen” to Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”? Or are we living like persons who are unloved or loved inconsistently? Are our lives an “Amen” to Hebrews 13:5-6 (AMP), “Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed — be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, ‘I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in an degree leave you helpless], not will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]! So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, ‘The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” Or are we living like persons who have been forsaken and have to be self-dependent?

Father, show us the areas where our lives are not a consistent “Amen” to who You are and to Your word, and help us to make the needed changes.

FMF

I am participating in a weekly writing adventure (on a Sunday evening) with the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s prompt is, “Agree.” The definition for “Amen” is from www.yourdictionary.com. The definition for “Agreement” is from  http://www.merriam-webster.com.

Five Minute Friday: Surrender

Surrender

“Resist” – to exert oneself so as to counteract or defeat. “Resist” – to withstand the force or effect of.

“Resist.” It has been described as “a battle cry” for many who oppose the current administration and the hashtag #resist has been trending on social media for more than 12 months.

Children of the Most High are to resist unjust laws and stand up for those who are powerless and lack our privileges. We must remember however, that our first place of resistance must always be in the spiritual realm. We are told in Ephesians 6:11-13 that, “We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.” We are also given instructions for battle including this, “Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power…” (End of 5 minutes)

Our ability to resist “the unseen power that controls this dark world,” beings with surrender. Total, ongoing surrender to our Father.

“Sin is a dethroned monarch; so you must no longer give it an opportunity to rule over your life, controlling how you live and compelling you to obey its desires and cravings. So then, refuse to answer its call to surrender your body as a tool for wickedness. Instead, passionately answer God’s call to keep yielding your body to him as one who has now experienced resurrection life! You live now for his pleasure, ready to be used for his noble purpose. Remember this: sin will not conquer you, for God already has! You are not governed by law but governed by the reign of the grace of God” (Romans 6:12-14, TPT).

“But he continues to pour out more and more grace upon us. For it says,
God resists you when you are proud
but continually pours out grace when you are humble.’
So then, surrender to God. Stand up to the devil and resist him and he will turn and run away from you” (James 4:6-7, TPT).

In the Stark Trek franchise, the Borg told those they intended to assimilate, “Resistance is futile.” Sometimes, as we are bombarded by news of recurring atrocities in the world, the forces of evil can seem insurmountable. In addition, sometimes in our personal lives, after repeated failures in a specific area, we can be tempted by the evil one to believe, “Resistance is futile.” That is a lie. Resisting evil is never futile. Think of the concept of resistance training. Also referred to as “strength training or weight training,” resistance training, is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger.”

The last sentence is worth repeating, “When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger.” Restated in spiritual terms, “When you engage in spiritual resistance repeatedly and consistently, your spiritual muscles will become stronger.” Let us repeatedly and consistently surrender to our Father, and repeatedly and consistently resist the evil one. And let us resist from the place of victory won for us by the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the One who led captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8, AMP). And the knowledge that, even when we are at our weakest, our God, “always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Corinthians 2:14, AMP). Surrender and resist!

FMF

I am participating in a weekly writing adventure with the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s prompt is, “Surrender.” Links were added after the five minute window closed. The definitions for “Resist” are from http://www.merriam-webster.com. The definition of “Resistance Training” is from www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.