Archive for July, 2013

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion.”

– Isaiah 61:1-3a NIV

I see the ‘antithesis of me’ as a context of life. I see salvation as the opportunity to experience another context beyond what we are familiar with that allows us to experience the reality of God in a way that inspires us to share the ‘good news’ of His existence with others that they may experience Him too. Jesus affirms this in His dialogue with the disciples in John 14.

One of the disciples inquires as to why Jesus would not just reveal Himself to the whole world and this was Jesus’ reply, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” – John 14:23 NIV There is an essential truth in being a Christian that personifies having a faith walk with Jesus Christ. The essential truth is the understanding that whatever context of life I was in before I accepted Christ, my ‘new life in Christ’ should personify the character and attributes of Christ’s power that benefits and blesses others. That power is highlighted in Isaiah 61:1-3.

Beyond salvation, how does my faith walk personify the character and attributes of Christ’s person and His power in affecting change in the lives of people around me? The ‘antithesis of me’ would seek to deter, dissuade and discourage me from engaging in a sincere and genuine faith walk with God beyond salvation due to the cost and sacrifice it requires of me. My ability to encounter a lifestyle that consistently personifies being ‘conformed into the image of Jesus Christ,’ involves the act of consecration, sanctification, and glorification. This is a spiritual process that is initiated when we actively seek to pursue God to develop an intimate, personal faith walk, just as He pursues us. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” – John 14:21 NIV According to what Jesus said, I should encounter God and experience something intimate and personal with Christ before I get to heaven. Is it possible that the ‘fullness of life’ involves, or includes, what is mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-3? Is it possible that the ‘fullness of life’ involves experiencing Christ’s power in a way that benefits and blesses others in a manner we could not experience it apart from Him?

May God bless you and help you to encounter Him and experience something intimate and personal in your faith walk with jesus Christ that allows you to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.'”

– Ruth 1:20-21 NIV

In the book of Ruth, Naomi knew all too well the concept of ‘feeling subjected to frustration.’ Due to famine that occurred in her homeland of Bethlehem, in Judah, Naomi, along with her husband and two sons had to relocate to a place called Moab. it was in Moab where Naomi experienced a greater level of grief with the death of her husband and two sons. The grief of having to be uprooted from her homeland, due to the famine, was complicated by the loss of her family, leaving her uncertain about the future, uncomfortable in her current environment and unprotected as a widow.

The challenge of being in such circumstances is the natural inclination of trying to make sense of, or reason how something good can come out of the condition of our current circumstances that oftentimes facilitates despair. Upon hearing God was bringing relief to His people in Bethlehem, Naomi was prompted to return to Judah with her two daughters-in-law. In the book of Isaiah, God spoke to His people about having the ability to see, perceive, the new things He was doing that would inspire hope in Him to fulfill what He promised and perform what He had spoken regarding the restoration of His people. Though she was encouraged by the report of God’s activity in Bethlehem, Naomi struggled internally about what had already transpired, because she sought to discourage her daughter-in-law from traveling with her back to Bethlehem. In the direction she was heading, Naomi could not see any good coming out of what had already transpired. Fortunately for Naomi, God did not leave her alone in the face of famine, death, misfortune, grief and bitterness.

God used Ruth (accountability partner) to motivate and move Naomi from a place of great loss, grief and bitterness towards a place of restoration and blessing. Like Naomi, we may have encountered being uprooted, displaced, surrounded by what is unfamiliar, isolated in a place of lack/famine, grieving the loss of loved ones due to death and/or wrestling with God, bitterness and anger, but what would God say to us to get us moving towards something greater, better and new? “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 NIV As we encounter the troubles of this life that Jesus said we would have, God desires to show us His salvation that strengthens us and deepens our faith walk with Him to inspire others to embrace salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

May God bless you and help you to overcome and prevail against the antithesis of what would allow you to encounter the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

– Romans 7:15, 18 NIV

Have I recognized the ‘part of me’ that gets in the way of where I desire to go in my pursuit of experiencing something greater, better and new?

Can I detect within me the thoughts and emotions that originate from my heart and mind that inhibit and prohibit progress, success and prosperity?

Once I’ve made up my mind in identifying the direction I strive to go towards something greater, better and new in my faith walk with God and what needs to be done to benefit myself and/or others spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, professionally, or relational, what thoughts and feelings begin to invade the desires and aspirations of my heart to dissuade my mind and prevent me from following through? You know those thoughts that counter one’s desire to pray, to give, to forgive, to serve, to go to church, to sacrifice, to witness to others about Jesus Christ. You know that ‘tired feeling’ that comes over you like a pile of bricks when you make up your mind you will devote time to reading the bible.

Antithesis is defined as something, or someone who is opposite of a person, or thing; or an opposing thought or view of something else. Am I conscious consistently of the ‘part of me’ that actively seeks to get in the way of me making progress, succeeding and experiencing the greater prosperity God seeks to bring me into as I walk by faith? Do I create a strategic plan for overcoming the ‘part of me’ that would keep me living on a lower level of life apart from the fullness of life Christ came for me to have? Does that plan include: 1) Prayer, 2) Reading the bible and Meditation on the word of God, 3) Application of the scripture, 4) Accountability Partner?

As long as I am alive I am in position to experience something greater, better and new in my faith walk with God. How many possibilities and opportunities have I allowed the ‘antithesis of me’ to distract, dissuade and deter me from pursuing, or lead me astray from where God wants to lead me into? Where in my life, currently, do I desire to experience something greater, better and new?

What am I willing to do to put myself in position and display the proper posture to allow God to bring me into the fullness of what Christ came for me to have?

May God bless you and help you to fight against the antithesis of what would prevent you from experiencing the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.’ Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”

-Lamentations 3:17-18, 21-22 NIV

One thing I enjoy about reading God’s word is when I come across a passage of scripture that I immediately connect with that gives me that sense that God is speaking to me and understands how I feel. In Exodus 33 the bible reveals that Moses shared an intimate face to face relationship with God like one has with a friend. “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” – Exodus 33:11 NIV 

Those who believe in Jesus Christ and spend quality, quiet time with God’s word experience the privileged face to face friendship relationship described in Exodus 33 that Moses shared with God. Jesus affirmed this relationship in his dialogue with His disciples in the New Testament. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15 NIV

God’s response to our frustration is initiated by our deliberate, determined initiative to connect with Him and cast our cares upon Him to receive from Him the joy, peace and strength we need to endure and persevere. Lamentations 3:21 suggests that an effort to ‘shift’ focus from the reality of the condition of one’s current circumstances to what one remembers about God invites God’s presence to encounter His love, compassion and faithfulness to protect, preserve and provide in times of duress and distress. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” – John 14:27; 15:13 NIV God is our constant companion who invites us to share in a face to face friendship relationship with Him to help us in our times of trouble.

May God bless you and help you to experience the face to face friendship relationship He invites us to share with Him, through faith in Christ, so we may encounter the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

– Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

The One who subjects me to frustration invites me to come to Him to allow Him to alleviate and relieve me of my troubles. You may ask, ‘How does frustration lead to freedom?‘ Jesus sheds light on this question in this invitation written in Matthew’s gospel. All of the obstacles and oppositions to faith we face in this world are not all external (around us; outside of us). Frustration is an emotion that can be an internal opposition to our faith and obstacle to experiencing the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

God is not going to spare me from all of the external forces, obstacles and opposition that I face in this world, but He invites me to come to Jesus so I may experience relief from my distress and the weight of the duress that creates the distress. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” – John 17 :15, 17 NIV Though I am subjected to frustration, God promises to provide for me, preserve my life and protect me. The invitation Jesus speaks in Matthew’s gospel is an opportunity to encounter something intimate, personal and redemptive with the Creator that reveals the value of being a child of God.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NIV There are things Jesus wants to speak to me so that in Him I will have a peace that enables me to overcome the troubles of this world as He overcame them. There is a strength and power that comes from that ‘peace in Christ’ that can only be obtained from coming to Jesus. This is how frustration leads to freedom.

May God bless you and help you to come to Jesus and cast all your cares upon Him so you may receive rest for your soul, peace from His word, and experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

 

“That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

– Romans 8:21 NIV

Have you encountered the freedom that comes from experiencing frustration?

Have you ever witnessed someone in the midst of frustrating circumstances that ultimately brought about for them a redemptive, miraculous transformation?

How do you experience frustration in a way that leads to freedom? Freedom from what?

You definitely would not have to go looking for frustration in order to encounter the freedom that can come from learning how to deal with it in a way that puts you in position for a redemptive, miraculous transformation. Clearly Romans 8 suggests that it would not be something we would ask for, or volunteer for, ‘For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.’ – Romans 8:19a NIV

What I learn from this passage in Romans 8:18-27 reminds me that God has a purpose for the ‘frustration’ I am subjected to in this life. The purpose of that ‘frustration’ is to drive me towards experiencing a more intimate, personal encounter with Him that reveals within me, and to others, the value of being a child of God. Embracing the reality that all hardship, misfortune, grief and injustice is but a ‘tool’ in the hand of my Creator as a means to help me experience Him more will go a long way in helping me learn to allow my ‘frustrations in life’ to lead me to the ‘freedom in Christ’ God intended for me when He chose me to become a child of God. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” – Hebrews 12:7, 10 NIV

I would say that learning to allow my ‘frustrations to lead to freedom’ begins with: 1) accepting my frustrations that exist, 2) embracing them as reality, but 3) seeing them as God’s way of helping me grow spiritually in how I respond to them so I may become more like Christ (sharing in His holiness) in how I live despite my ‘frustrations.’ The truth and reality is that this is more often easier said than done, but it is also liberating when it is accomplished! “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1 NIV

May God bless you and help you to ascend above and transcend the reality of frustrations you have been subjected to in this life so you may experience the freedom in Christ and the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

– Romans 8:20-21 NIV

Though I struggle with the discipline of maintaining consistent intimate time spent with reading the word of God, time spent has revealed truths, insights and wisdom that has been essential and beneficial as I have sought to walk by faith. During the most difficult, challenging and adverse points of this current season of my life, over the past 5 years, Romans 8:20-21 serves as a reminder to me about the full scope of the will of God to help me remain balanced in my understanding of who He is and not just how I desire Him to be for me.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God proclaims the vast difference of who He is to how men would perceive Him, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” Never is this more true than the means by which God would use suffering, misfortune, injustice and grief to lead to something miraculous, glorious and wondrous.

When you read Romans 8:20-21 carefully, this is the thought that comes to my mind about the subject of being ‘subjected to frustration.’ Not by our own choice, but by the will of God, we have been subjected to frustration in hope that each man would be liberated from the decay of sin, death and the grave and embrace salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, and eternal life. I do not believe this verse is saying God is responsible for all of my misfortune, because every man has his own will to make choices independent of what God desires for us. Every choice has its own consequences, good or bad, but God is not responsible for the choices we make. What I do believe the verse is saying is that when God allows disappointments, discouraging moments and difficulties to occur in our lives, it is with the desire that we would respond in a way that leads to a more intimate, personal encounter with Him that leads to the fullness of life Christ came for us to have that reveals the value of faith in Christ.

May God bless you and help you to persevere and endure the reality of being subjected to frustration so you may experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.