Intimacy Before Activity (Holy Spirit Series Part 4)

20140222-100726.jpg

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,~Acts 1:8.

I told you last post that I would talk about how the gifts operate. I realized this part of the equation is so vital; intimacy with God. So many people want to get up and run with the ball without cultivating intimacy with God or being empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Oswald Chambers explains it well.

Many people today are pouring their lives out and working for Jesus Christ, but are not really walking with Him. One thing God constantly requires of us is a oneness with Jesus Christ. After being set apart through sanctification, we should discipline our lives spiritually to maintain this intimate oneness. When God gives you a clear determination of His will for you, all your striving to maintain that relationship by some particular method is completely unnecessary. All that is required is to live a natural life of absolute dependence on Jesus Christ. Never try to live your life with God in any other way than His way. And His way means absolute devotion to Him. Showing no concern for the uncertainties that lie ahead is the secret of walking with Jesus.

Do you ever wonder why Jesus’s ministry did not start until He was 30. What was He doing during that time? He was living, working, being obedient and honoring to His earthly parents and His Heavenly Father. Jesus models for us something we try to bypass, He grew in favor with God and man. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,”~Luke 2:52.

We don’t know what the Father was developing in Jesus all those years. Yes, Jesus is and was fully God. He was also fully human. Jesus knew the importance of intimacy (oneness, closeness, relationship) with the Father.

God longs to establish our identity in Him, develop intimacy with Him, and then send us out. Our greatest strength lies in our intimacy with God. He is our source!

The gifts of God are gifts. You can operate in the gifts without cultivating deeper intimacy with God. The problem is if we don’t know God, we are bound to misrepresent Him. If we are not cultivating relationship with God, we are going to be prey to pride, self promotion, self reliance, jealousy of others God uses, and self destruction.

The gifts of the Spirit aren’t primarily for us, they are for others and the building up of the Body of Christ. If we have an intimate relationship with God, those gifts are fueled by love. God is love. We will co labor with God to bless other people and help them become all God calls them to be.

So how do we cultivate intimacy with God?

I am a make lists type of person, but I am against legalism. It looks different for every person. These are just some ways God and I engage. Your relationship with God is so unique. He’s so beautiful in the sense He knows what each child needs. He speaks your love language.

So here’s my list…

1. Prayer (talking and listening to God). It all started with prayer, that is after salvation. If you haven’t given your life to Jesus, that’s where to start.

2. Reading God’s Word. I like what Joyce Meyer says, she eats until she’s full. There’s no formula for how much to read. His Word is life giving. So, being in His Word helps to know Him. It’s God’s story written down for us. It reveals Him. It does not contain Him. Meaning the Bible is designed to lead us into an encounter with the author. It’s written in such a way that we need His Holy Spirit to bring revelation and insight.

3. Worship. It’s more than singing songs. It’s a life centered around glorifying God.

4. Giving thanks. Yes giving God continual thanks is a way to cultivate relationship.

5. Soaking. This is time set aside to just be with God. It’s inviting Him into the time to do as He pleases. It can be anywhere from 15 minutes to hours. It can involve worship music, journaling, prayer, or just lying prostrate before Him.

6. Listening to sound teaching. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher. He’s also working through other people. Feeding our spirits good things keeps our focus on God.

7. Serving others. Our relationship with God should benefit everyone around us,~Kris Vallotton. One of the ways I’ve seen God deepen my understanding of His love is through serving other people, especially the poor, sick, broken, and truly messed up people of society. When I was and am in desperation, God steps right into my brokenness. He brings Himself low to lift me up.

As I stated, your relationship with God is unique. These were just on my list and I don’t follow a formula to be with God. I wake up and tell Him how much I love Him and offer Him my day and my entire life.

Father, I pray we would cultivate intimacy with You. Help us to know You. May we be empowered by Your Holy Spirit and yield to Your relentless pursuit of our hearts. In Jesus powerful name, amen.

For the Ladies (Killing Insecurity)

b0ab1621c2a1175784a55bb686887ba2

Today’s post is dedicated to the ladies! You are beautiful, chosen, loved, adored, pursued, cared for, and the apple of God’s eye.

This post is about insecurity. Insecurity is a poison that contaminates relationships and destroys it’s host. It seeps into every area of the heart seeking to place the focus on self instead of on God. Insecurity is the root that produces the fruits of fear, jealousy, bitterness, envy, control, manipulation, rejection, competition, paranoia, and more. Insecurity is not from God. Insecurity says, “God doesn’t have enough. God doesn’t love me enough. God is not able or faithful. I am not enough. Everyone else is better than me. I must have or do ______ in order to be okay.

The truth is: You are made in the image of God. You are His workmanship created for His glory. You are a Princess because your Father is the King of the Universe.

The world works diligently to make people insecure. The media is filled with images of people who are elevated to look perfect and be perfect. If you do not fit the mold, then you are less than. The news is filled with bad news: the world is ending, everything is bad, be afraid, be worried, save your money…you can’t  trust anything or anyone. Even the church can be a place where we are made to feel we must be something other than who we are in order to be loved and accepted. A place that is supposed to be welcoming, accepting, and filled with love can often be a place of judgment, criticism, comparisons, and competition as well. The message is not, “Be like Christ,” it’s “Be like me.” In the world we are loved if we behave a certain way or fit into a certain mold. In God’s eyes, we are loved despite who we are, and He works to change us into who He wants us to be.

One of the diseases that’s killing us is insecurity. Insecurity causes us to look down on others to lift ourselves up. It’s insecurity that causes us to gossip about people. Insecurity causes us to be highly critical of others instead of dealing with ourselves. It is insecurity that causes us to not stand up for what we believe. Insecurity causes us to be filled with jealousy, envy, strife, offense, prejudice, fear, and hatred. When we don’t know our own value and worth, we cannot value, celebrate, or honor anyone else. 

So, what’s the cure:

  • Jesus! A relationship with God. He is the One who created everything and everyone. The value of something is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it. God sent His only Son to die for all of mankind. The price for each person was paid with the highest price, the life of Jesus. We become like the One we worship. If we worship God, spend time with Him, allow Him to speak into our lives, then we have a more secure foundation. Jesus was not insecure. He knew who He was and who His Daddy was. He was confident.
  • Repentance. I know it seems radical to repent for being insecure. The repentance is going to God and saying, “I repent for saying Your assessment of me was not valid. I repent for making the opinions of other people more valuable than Yours. I repent for allowing the world to define who I am instead of allowing You to define who I am. Help me to see myself through your eyes.
  • Identity in Christ. Nothing we try to find our identity in other than God is stable: not money, not relationships, not marriage, not work, not achievements, not ministry, not serving, not the opinions of people, not looks or beauty, not the stock market, not our political beliefs, not ourselves, not children or our roles as mothers. There is nothing and no one who provides a stable, solid foundation outside of Jesus. All other ground is sinking sand.

It’s not about self-help or pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. The Gospel is about abiding in Christ and allowing Him to do the hard work. He creates lasting change. Relationship with God will always trump doing for Him. It is out of being that we begin to do. For what moves His heart begins to move ours. His thoughts invade ours. Fears melt away in the presence of unfailing love.

Final Notes/Testimony:

A good portion of my life I felt as though something bad was about to happen because for a good portion of my life bad things continually happened. I watched my best friend and mum die from cancer. I helped another close family member for 7 years through sickness, surgeries, pain, and losing everything. While other young people were having fun, I was sitting in hospitals. The promises of God were in my mind, but it took a long time for them to navigate to my heart. My circumstances did not line up with God’s promises.

Faith is not about our feelings, and it isn’t a fake it until you make it either. Experience with God builds our security in Him, hence Him inviting us into relationship.

Even today I feel more secure with God than I do with people. For experiences with people have left devastation and pain. It took time for God to remove labels people had placed on me and for me to accept His voice above all the mockers. It takes an effort for me to engage with some people, but God lovingly draws me out and says, “Love again.” It’s another situation where positive things are in my head, but they are slowly navigating to the heart. There are some really good people in the world! There are some really encouraging people in the world. It’s a journey and process.

It is a process to allow the love of God to flow in and out. It takes time to get to know God. We will not trust someone we don’t know. We will not be secure in a relationship with someone we don’t know. So the ever-increasing desire is to know God more! I pray the same for you too! You are deeply loved, today and always.

c4b331dd948e6d1cfe60ae1d23471c29

Follow the Leader (Identity in Christ Part 14)

d33b84a573f3a723a4e5a1ca156e3ed9

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does, John 5:19.

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me, John 5:30.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me, John 6:38.

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it, John 12:29.

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me, John 12:26.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me, Matthew 16:24.

Following Jesus

There are quite a few verses above. Tonight, I wanted to talk about following Jesus. We are co-heirs with Christ, which means we are linked to Him. Not only are we linked to Him, considered family, we are called to follow Him. We live in a world that is obsessed with independence and doing things our own way. The world says, “Get yours. Do your thing. Think about yourself. It’s your world.” God has a completely different plan and purpose for our lives. Jesus modeled for us what our lives could be if we abide in Him. He said, “Follow Me.”

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It seems like a simple question. It’s more than doing what we are told. Obedience to God is important, but God is looking for more than our checking the box. God is looking at the heart. God knows why we do what we do. God doesn’t say, “Try harder.” He does repeatedly say, “Come to Me. Abide in Me. Rely on Me.” If we could do it on our own, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

I believe following Jesus starts with  relationship. Jesus died for us to be in relationship with Him. It’s not easy to follow a stranger. Following God begins with getting to know Him. Think about it. If a stranger showed up and said, “Do what I say or do as I do,” your response would most likely be, “No way. I don’t know you.” Many times we struggle because we don’t know Jesus. We know of Him. We’ve read the His Word. We go to church. However, we don’t know Jesus personally. He’s a figure, someone we hear about and read about. We obey out of obligation not love. Now think about the person you know loves you the most, would do anything for you, the one you trust the most. If they said, “Follow me,” you’d be more inclined to go.

We can spend years going to church and miss Jesus. Why? Because relationship with God is supposed to be a personal thing. Corporate worship equips us, points us to  Him, and enable us to engage in fellowship with other believers. It does not replace or substitute a relationship with God.

The Building of a Relationship

It starts with Jesus. In order to have a relationship with the Father, we start by a relationship with Son. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him,” John 14:6-7.

Submission to the Holy Spirit. God is with us everywhere. We are the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity. He works in us to teach us, lead us, guide us, and enable us to become more like Jesus. If we yield our lives to Him, we will see tremendous fruit and a flourishing relationship. He is often that still small voice that says, “This is not a good idea.” Or the nudge in your spirit to apologize, make something right, to flee from sin, to confess your sins, or to spend time with God.

We are blessed to listen to the Holy Spirit. We are told not to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, 1 Thess 5:19. Everything He leads us to do is right.

Time. We have heard the words “quiet time with God” and it makes some people cringe. It seems like an obligation. “I must spend time with God today for X amount of time.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like spending time with people who feel forced to. It’s awkward and not fun. I would much rather spend time with those who want to know me, be with me, and enjoy my  company. They don’t come to study me, they come to simply be with me.

What does it look like to be with God? Well, there are endless possibilities. I’ve found sweet encounters with God while gardening, painting, walking in the park, listening to the Bible, resting, worshiping, journaling, etc…I believe we need to read the word of God and study it. However, if we limit our only time with God as reading the word for a certain amount of time we will grow bored. Some people come alive and can read the word for hours and they are satisfied. Others can not. God knows how to interact with each and every child.

Final Notes

Spending time with God, getting to know Him, enables us to trust Him. The more we get to know Him, the easier it is to follow Him. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” John 10:27. When we know Him, following Him is not a burden but a privilege. It’s an honor to follow someone who was willing to die for you. Jesus died for us while we were guilty. I don’t know of anyone who would give their life for the guilty. Not only did He die for us, He cannot lie. God is completely trustworthy, kind, generous, compassionate, and good. We can rest assured that God will not hurt or harm us. So, when He says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me,” we can trust that where He is going, we want to go. We want to follow Jesus. We want the path that leads to life.

457802d6329c8dc6304e8618650ea949

The Order of Love

The Order of Love
By Erin Lamb

Jesus replied:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” Matthew 22: 39-40.

The context of these verses are that the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus by asking what is the greatest commandment. He had just put their questions to rest about the resurrection. Jesus always has the perfect answer, see verses from Matthew 22 above. Fast forward to us, modern day Christians. We are no longer under the law, but under grace. We don’t serve God to win His approval or love others to win His approval. Everything needed was already given in Christ. Through relationship with Him we are made righteous, not by works or living under the law, but by faith and relationship with Jesus. That’s good news, that we are invited into a deep love relationship with God Himself. 

There is however a principle to this verse (something we can learn from it). God is a God of order. He is perfect in His ways. The engineer in me loves this about Him. He does things in order. He is not messy, sloppy, nor does He half do anything. The order of love was designed by Him. It goes as follows.

The Order of Love:

1.      Receive love from God. If we do not first receive His love for us, we have nothing to give Him back. We have nothing to give ourselves or others. The first step is always receiving His love by faith and trusting in His unfailing love for us. If we refuse to believe that God loves us, there is a breakdown in the flow of love. We will not be able to love Him, ourselves, or anyone else the way He intended. If we have not received His mercy, grace, acceptance, and love, it will not flow out of us.

2.      Love God. If we put anything ahead of God it will destroy us. Money, relationships, ministry, image, spouse, significant other, work…anything we place ahead of devotion to Him becomes an idol. We are called to love Him back with the love He gives us. As the vertical (God) relationship is worked out, the horizontal (others) relationship get better and better.

3.      Love Yourself. I have heard way too many people say that humility is hating yourself, picking yourself apart, and debasing yourself. That is not scriptural and is a false form of pride. Jesus didn’t do it, therefore it is not humility. He was perfect in humility, yet He loved Himself and was confident in who God made Him to be. If we do not love and accept ourselves we cannot love others. You cannot give away what you do not have. The way you judge yourself, is how you will judge others.

4.      Love Others. Many times we try to love people first without going in the order of love. It fails. It fails because God’s ways are perfect. We cannot love people the way He wants them loved in our strength, in our own power, and with our human love. It will fail. His love however, never fails. It is perfect. If we love in the order He planned for it go, then there will be fruit. It will be love that is patient, kind, long suffering, gentle, forgiving, truthful, humble, not envious or jealous, giving, serving, filled with compassion, and self controlled. 

Lastly, one of the things that popped into my head this week was that we say, “I love you,” all the time to people. But what does that mean? Sometimes I want to ask people, “What does that mean to you?” We attribute love to kindness, spending time, and superficial things. However, love is more than that. Here are my definitions of love. Love means I will correct you in love if you are wrong. Love means I will suffer with you. Love means I will pray for you. Love means I will sacrifice for you. Love means I will put your best interests, and God’s best interests for you at the forefront of my mind. Love means I will feed you if you’re hungry, clothe you if you are naked, encourage you, be there to help you, be a good steward of your heart, time, and anything connected to you. Love means I will treat all things connected to you with love and respect. Love means I will give you the benefit of the doubt until you prove otherwise. Love means I will forgive you and seek to give you the very best of me. Love means I will be honest, transparent, hopeful, merciful, and seek God for the source of love for you. Love means I will be kind to you to the best of my ability and seek God for more of His love for you.

Sometimes people love us with all that they have, but if God is not the source of that love, then it will fall short. If you encounter someone who doesn’t love you well, pray that the order of love come into alignment into their lives. Also check your heart and see if your expectations are reasonable, people were never intended to replace God. Only God can give a love that does not fail. However, by praying for the person, there is hope for change. Only God can change a person from the inside out, we cannot. We can love them, but only He can change the person so they can receive love and grow in love.
 

My prayer this year is that the order of love in lives comes into alignment. We are in this together, all learning from an awesome God!

“Abba, thank You for Your mercy, love, forgiveness, grace, and all that You have done for us. Fill us to overflow with Your love. Help us to receive Your love, Your mercy, Your grace, Your acceptance. Help us to love and accept ourselves and then love others. Fill the gaps. Heal anything that hinders us from receiving Your love. Teach us your ways. Thank You! Thank You for Jesus. May He increase in us and may we be beacons of light for all the world to see. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.”