O’God, You Are My God

Anything in our lives can become our God. An object, a person, a pastime, a campaign, even a ministry, all have the potential to consume the affections of our hearts.
The Bible says…”Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. When the affections of our hearts are captured by anything other than God, our hope is in that thing and in that, our hope is deferred and our hearts get sick.
This is very different from enjoyment. ‘All good things come from God’ and ‘Our Heavenly Father knows how to give his children good gifts’. All that I am given, I am given to enjoy…and enjoy I shall. But, I must remain on guard about what consumes the affections of my heart and what I place my hope in!
Today, I ask the Lord as the psalmist did…

“God, search me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and show me if there be any grievous way in me.”
And then, I rely on HIM, to…

“Lead me in the way everlasting”
We are told that “we cannot serve two masters” because naturally, “we will hate the one and love the other.” This tells us something important – of course on earth, I can work for two masters quite happily, but here God is not talking about the practical, He is talking about the HEART, and God’s call, His first commandment to us, is to love Him, our Lord God, “with all our heart, soul, mind and strength”. Whilst we can ‘love’ and enjoy in an earthly sense, the things of this earth, when it comes to our hearts, we are called to love with all consuming affection, one thing and one thing only…
Him!
May we be able to say today, and may it be wondrously true, of all of us who know Him, that…
“O’God…you ARE my God!”
X x x

Ignorance is NOT bliss…its bondage!!!

I’m a woman who walks in victory.  I’m born-again, saved and definitely a new creation.  I march onwards every day, taking Kingdom territory in God’s strength.  I put on my armour, resist the devil and I hope in what is unseen.  I do my best to keep my mind on what is good, noble and just.  I think on heavenly things and keep my mind stayed on Him.  I learn what it is to be content in all circumstances and I’m not surprised when trials come upon me.  I don’t live in the pain of my past anymore and have received massive transformation of my heart.  I’m gentler, softer and more loving than I ever knew was possible.  I’m conscientious, caring, kind and count others more significant.
And, I really believe in the fact that I have been given right standing with God through Christ.  I mean I believe it!  I will not be convinced any other way.  His blood has covered me.  His grace over my life is indeed an ocean and I am overwhelmingly, thankfully, drowning in it.

I am all of those things and I am also…

Incredibly broken, full of weakness and beset with failures.  I fall short every day.  I muck up as soon as I get out of bed and I often let people down.  I sometimes inadvertedly watch the wrong thing and stumble. I often say the wrong thing at the wrong time, in the wrong way.  I stupidly sometimes allow my flesh to get the better of me, I still have areas of sins that I’m struggling with and I can be totally selfish instead of loving.  I sometimes judge instead of being merciful, I can condemn instead of being gracious, I get irritated instead of being patient and I can definitely think I have the answer instead of simply loving by listening till the end.
And, no matter how much God has transformed my heart I can still suddenly have a ‘hard moment’.  No matter how much I believe in who I am in Christ, I can still forget.  No matter how much I trust God, I can still have moments of fear and doubt.  Oh yes, there are days indeed, when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!

This is the reality of who I am.

As a receiver of grace, a beautiful bride, a precious daughter and a committed disciple of Christ, I am not one or the other…I am BOTH!!

I am all of the things mentioned in the former paragraph because of my utter awareness of all that is mentioned in the latter!  I have come to know, that ignorance is not bliss, as the world would have us believe…but that it is bondage!

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin”.
Roms 7:17-25

Three times Paul mentions the ‘sin that dwells within’.  Paul did not shy away from that fact and neither should we.  He did not hide it or deny it and I think you will agree, it definitely did not diminish his faith!

In fact, Paul boasted in it!…

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out”. v.18

“… Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. 2 Cor 12:9&10

To look at what dwells within us, is not a sin.  To acknowledge the full complexity of our brokenness, weakness and failures is not a sin and it is not a lack of faith either.  It is a gift from God!  The world is in denial of these facts and the cover up is devastatingly leading them to hell.

Ignorance is not bliss…it is BONDAGE!!

To see clearly is the blessed gift of truth and it is only the truth which sets us free.  It is a merciful gift to be able to lay our all before God and cry out… “Search me, and show me if there be any grievous way in me”.  Of course, it is is true that we are new creations in Christ, that the old has passed away, that we’re dead to sin (the power and penalty of sin) but, along with that, like the mighty apostle Paul, we are beset with weaknesses and there is a sin that dwells within that cannot be ignored.

But, as one young lady in our community group said… “We just feel we can’t talk about that”.

How often are we rejected, scorned, or crushed by others because we dare to be honest about what we are contending with whilst being a lover of God?  How often are we made to feel like we have no faith because we shared the fear and doubt which is having its way with us today?  How pathetic are we made to feel when we go to someone, asking for help because that wound from the past – you know, the one you thought was dealt with – is haunting you all over again…and your sister or brother just tells you ‘in love’ to get over it?!!  How often, have we not had our pain or our struggles, our doubts or our fears listened to and acknowledged, but instead had them brushed over with a quick fix ‘spiritual’ answer?

How often has that happened to you and sadly, how often have you been that person to another?  I know I have experienced and been both.

We have grown afraid to be victory and weakness; faith and failure, mistakenly believing that we can’t be both.  We are afraid to be real in the face of criticism or lack of sympathy.  Christianity is often played out too harshly.  We fail to see, when reading Gods word, the depth of brokenness of the characters which He used to bring the Good News in the first place.  They were not perfect people.  They did not live struggle free perfect lives.  They dealt with sin and weakness all the time.  Peter denied Christ.  Paul said he ‘does what he does not want to do’ and was given a thorn in the flesh to prevent him from becoming conceited (which must have been lurking round the corner!) And as for doubting Thomas…well…it took Jesus to shove His wounds in the brothers face for him to believe.  They were not a group of perfect people, they were a group of forgiven people.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”. Hebrews 4:15

Jesus came and took on the form of a servant, He was tempted in every way, so that when He stood in the gap for us, He would understand all that we were going through.  He isn’t a lofty God, abstract and detached from reality.  He doesn’t look at us and go “Oh my gosh, you’re dealing with that!!”  Let His way, be our way!…towards ourselves and towards each other.

Walking in victory is not the absence of our weakness, our frailty or the sin that dwells within…it is in fact those very things that escort us into total dependency on God. They are the blessed vehicles that draw us into deeper humility and the vessels used to display the Glory of God!!

Paul’s story doesn’t end at the acknowledgement of what lied within, and neither does ours.  It always concludes with a “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ!”  Paul was not condemned by the sin that dwelt within or the weakness of his flesh…

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” Roms 8:1

But it starts with us first not shying away from all that we are or from all that your neighbour is.  Contrary to what you may have believed, ignorance (the lack of knowledge) of what lies within, will only ever keep you from walking in full victory.  You will never understand the fullness of what Christ has done for you, unless you know the fullness of what He has, and is, saving you from.

So hide no longer dear friend and don’t encourage another to either!  Our Father knows everything.  He knows exactly when we fluff up, He knows the motive of our heart and He knows the word we’re going to speak the very next time we open our mouths.  He knows what you struggle with and what wound causes you your greatest distress. Though He is doing a work on your heart to bring them it line with His love, He loves and accepts you just as you are right now.  You cannot separate who you are, God doesn’t and He doesn’t expects you to either.

He accepts you fully and His power is made perfect in your weakness, so let it be so.  Stop trying to hide it and stop listening to those who are perhaps encouraging you to hide it, or, who are brushing over your pain…Perhaps you have a thing or two to bless them with, in your honesty?
Be real, be honest, be boastful…of what it is you truly contend with in your walk with God, so that He can be given ALL the glory. 
Allow God to crawl down and be with you in the darkest places of your soul, character and actions and see just how quickly He will turn your greatest failure into His greatest success!

It takes real bravery to ask God to show you.  It takes courage.  It’s also uncomfortable, sometimes painful and mostly just darn ugly but…you get freedom no other way. 

At the end of Psalm 139, being shown if any grievous way be in you, is unfortunately the prerequisite to being led on the way everlasting!  Awareness of the sin that dwells within only ever frees you, it does not condemn you!
Our loving Father spent so much time in Psalm 139 laying a foundation of verses to tell us that He knows everything about us so that when it came to us taking a good look at ourselves, we could do it with confidence.  His eyes saw our unformed substance.  He doesn’t condemn us for who we are…so let’s not condemn ourselves or another.

It’s not a coincidence that in this earthly life, the ultimate gesture of feeling free in oneself, is to run naked, arms wailing in the air, squeals of delight pouring forth.  A bit like this…

credit to the Guardian.com

So run…run naked! 
(Spiritually people….SPIRITUALLY!!!!!!!)

Yes…run naked before your God, before yourself and before others.  Hide no more, but embrace all that you are, so that you can accept all that He has done for you on the Cross.  Run naked and embrace your ‘wobbly bits’/‘ugly bits’/‘broken bits’, knowing that those same things that others scorn you for, are the very things that will glorify Him when He empowers you to overcome what is humanly impossible.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”. 2 Cor 5:3

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed”. Gen 2:25

My “God LOVES Ugly” Moment

Today I have ceased from resisting your love.  I don’t want to fight it anymore…indeed, I cannot.  I can no longer whisper ‘I love You‘ with one breath and resist You in another.  Your love is the highest form of love.  Above it, lies no other.  Today I accept that you did for it me.  You did it for them, but today, you showed me that you did it for me.  Today you showed me my worth to you, my infinite value.  That caused you to die in my place.  Today you showed me my ugliness and made me utterly grateful for Your grace…how deep, how wide.  Today I accept the fullness of the beauty of the Cross, knowing that in it You have made me beautiful.

“I praise You…for I AM wonderfully and fearfully made.  So wonderful are Your works, my soul knows it very well” Psalm 139

Thank you Christa…you wrote the words which speak out the history and future of my heart today.

http://christablack.com/

‘Applying The Word’ – Romans 12:1&2

In our community group we are launching into a new season where God is leading us into making His two commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind and all your strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself“, a greater reality in our lives and not just words that we speak.  These scriptures are the foundation of our group.  The fuel that He has given us, to propel us towards lives actually living out these commands, is Romans 12:1&2.

Every fire needs three things: Fuel, Heat and Oxygen.

In our case, Romans 12 is our fuel, the Holy Spirit is our heat and Love is our oxygen. Without these three components, this fire that we desire, will not burn.  Without these, we won’t even set off a spark!  To love God needs God.  To love my neighbour as myself needs God.  It cannot be done in our own strength.  All we can do is make the choice…to present ourselves.

Firstly, Paul says “therefore“.  I love the “therefores” of the Bible. Whenever I see a therefore it gives me a clear instruction to read what has come before.  In this case Paul adds to this “in view of God’s mercies”. (Amplified: all God’s mercies!”).  For us to even have a chance at wanting to make the decisions that are necessary in the following verses, we have to first stop and meditate on God’s mercies in our individual lives.
How we have received the mercies of God seems to be a controversial subject within Christianity, predestination or not predestination and all that. (I’ll leave that for another day!!).  As I told the group though, we are not going to get distracted by endlessly debating that topic, what we can all say as believers in Christ, is that we have all received of His mercy.  We have all received His grace over our lives and have been made righteous by the blood of Christ and Christ alone.  So, therefore, in view of all the mercies of God…….

Present yourselves as a living sacrifice‘.  This is not a command, but is rather a call.  It is Paul urging us, in view of all God’s mercies, to take it this far, to make this kind of sacrifice.  The Amplified Bible says, ‘make a decisive dedication‘.  This is a move from obedience because ‘God said so‘ into voluntary obedience, a voluntary sacrifice. This is a totally different thing. It is a decision God is placing in our hands.  Are we willing, as the message Bible says, to take our everyday life and place it before God as an offering? We often quote to each other that God wants voluntary lovers and not robots, well, this call through Paul, is that quote coming to life!

As a group, the first thing we have been challenged to do, is simply to think on just that.  To look at ‘Are we willing?’  As we journey through the fuel of our fire, empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love, we will be challenged in our thinking, our ways, our speech, our motives, our everything, our lives.  Are we really willing for that to happen?  Are we willing to move towards, in ever increasing amounts, whatever that may look like to each individual?  To move from singing about surrender to actually being truly surrendered?  May God lead us to that place, is my cry as group leader.  There is nothing I can do but to pray for us all, depending on God to work and will in us for His good pleasure.

There is just a little something else to add here about voluntary sacrifice.  There is a purpose to it.  Errrrr…of course, I hear you cry!  But for those who may not be as knowledgeable (yet!) as you Bible scholars out there, turn to 2 Tim 2:20 & 21 with me.  It says here that there are vessels for honorable use and vessels for dishonorable use, as in, there are some plates and utensils in your kitchen that you keep for special occasions and some you use everyday.  Well, it’s the same principle in God’s kingdom regarding us.  God says here though, that ‘if anyone cleanses himself‘, he will be useful to the Master, set apart for every good work.  In choosing to lay our lives before God, we are choosing to cleanse ourselves, via the Romans fueled fire, and in doing it, it shall lead us to be set apart, useful to God and ready for Him to work through us in a world that so desperately needs His love.

This is your spiritual worship“.  Our worship to God is not just a song session on a Sunday morning or at the beginning of a group meeting to get us ‘in the mood!’ Our worshiping God is something that involves lifting Him up, exalting His name, in every single thing that we do, with every breath that we take, with all that we are.  It was never meant to be a compartmentalized thing.  The Bible never promotes that concept.  It says in the Word, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” and “In everything you do, do it as unto the Lord”.  Song worship is great, necessary, an absolute joy and is utterly commanded of and encouraged by God.  Sing, sing, sing to your hearts content, all day long…I do!  Just don’t let in the lie that ‘you’ve done your quota for the day‘.  Your quota is your life!
Also…take a look at John 4:24, it says that those who worship God (that’s me and you), must worship Him in spirit and in truth. I’ll get to the truth part in a moment, but for now, see that Paul is saying here, this becoming spiritual sacrifices, is our spiritual worship.  In living out the call to present ourselves as living sacrifices, we are fulfilling the spiritual aspect of our worship to God.

We then move into what seems to me, the more practical section of these verses. The amplified version of John 4 describes truth as ‘reality‘.  I have heard many times over my few Christian years that people will ‘get it‘ or ‘live it out’ once they have had the revelation.  A common spiritually sounding statement is (said with appropriate wistful look and glazy eyes) ‘they just need to get a revelation of God’s love and then they’ll be transformed‘.
Whilst it is true indeed that revelation leads to transformation and God desires that we would know the height, the length and the depth of His love etc, we cannot separate the spiritual from the reality.
Our knowledge of God is an experiential one.  Revelation doesn’t just come via His voice in our head or our heart, revelation of Him comes through experiencing Him as He unfolds His truth in our daily lives.
One of the main things God showed me in my time seeking His heart on this scripture is that, the revelation and the practical go absolutely hand in hand!  I had been asking God, as you do with the human way of thinking, whether there was a ‘structure’ to living out these verses.  If we chose to sacrifice, would that lead us to conform less?  Did we first have to seek hard after the revelation before we would even be in the place to not want to conform?  Is it a domino effect?
The answer was a clear no!  There is no set system with our transformation in God.  Revelation leads to a practical outworking; practical outworking (even when taken logically, obediently and in blind faith), leads to revelation.  The spirit and the reality are intricately entwined in a Holy Spirit tapestry that only He has the pattern for, and each area cannot be isolated or neglected.
As Christ is revealed to us, the desire to lay down more, increases; the desire to conform less, increases; the hunger to be transformed, increases.  And, so it is in reverse…  As we make choices to line up with love and not the world, we get increased wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.

Now, before we look at ‘conforming’ and ‘transforming’, we must lay a firm, firm foundation of what this is all about.

It is about LOVE!

We are not setting out on a journey to better ourselves…we can’t…only Christ betters us!  We are not going to be laying our lives before God so we can wrongly thing it will earn us more righteousness…it won’t…only Christ can clothe us in righteousness!  We are not going to be challenging ourselves to take a truthful look at our motives, behaviours and characters because we believe it will earn us a place with the Father.  It can’t…It’s impossible!  Grace is a free gift we can never earn.  For all those that have received of the sacrifice of Jesus, our place is secure by His work alone.  I will never be advocating or encouraging anyone, in trying to add to the finished work of the Cross by their own supposed ‘good’ works.

We are called to conform less, in response for what God has already done for us!…Period! It is a ‘reality’ response to our love for Him.  When we are saved, we are then led by the Spirit in us, to practically outwork that love by a desire to come in line with…love!  That is what not conforming to the world, but being transformed by the renewal of our mind is all about.  Love longing for love, and more of it, in increasing measure.  It is you being hidden in Christ and Him growing in you.  Christ’s character is love and it will always lead you towards love…for love!

It is imperative that we go into ‘conforming’ and ‘transforming’ knowing that the purpose of it is so that we can simply come out of line with what is not love and move towards that which is love!
Love brings life.  Absence of love (evil), brings only death!  We need to be hungering after love, for His sake, our sake and the sake of overflowing that on to every single person and environment we encounter.

Do not be conformed to this world‘.  Conformed means to be in accordance/agreement/harmony with..a standard, practice or attitude.  Therefore, simply, we are being instructed by Paul to not live lives that are in agreement or in harmony with this world – it’s standards, practices or attitudes.  As a group we will be looking into what those are and challenging ourselves to not be conformed with them.  And as the weeks progress, I will endeavor to share that with you here.

But be transformed by the renewal of your mind“.   A few verses down in Romans 12, the heading reads ‘Marks of a true Christian‘.  There are many many instructions, commands and examples within the Word of God for our protection and our training into godliness.  These instructions/commands…to flee sin; to abstain from the passions of the flesh etc are there precisely for the purpose of aiding the renewal of our minds.  They must not be overlooked because of our own arrogance, ignorance or apathy, or, because we fear condemnation in seeing that we so often fall short of them.

Complacency kills passion!  You want passion and fire for God?  Then pursue righteousness!  You want to know God’s love?  Then choose to become in accordance and acquainted with love and, you will soon know love!

The instructions/commands must be viewed through the perspective that it is a love choice, there is no condemnation and that we shall be depending on the Holy Spirit to empower us to live them out.

And finally… “So that…“.  Just as there is a purpose to voluntary sacrifice, there is an overall purpose to taking hold of, and living out, these two power packed verses in Romans.  I love how the Amplified puts it… “so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]“.

First thing which I love love LOVE about this and I feel greatly excited about for the group, is that, God has promised them (you, me, everyone), that they will be able to prove…for themselves…what is the will of God!!!  As someone with a total heart to make disciples of nations, it just doesn’t get any better than that!!!  Seriously, it is the joy of my heart that a person would come to know the will of God for themselves.  We cannot live off someone else’s faith!  Yes, there is a modelling that does, and indeed needs to take place, Paul said imitate me, as I imitate Christ, but please dear God, I desire that a person have their own walk with their very own God.

Next thing is, the whole purpose of God leading us on this journey…so that…we may know the will of God.  Knowing the will of God is not using God as some kind of fortune telling machine to merely let you know what is going to happen in your future all the time. Of course we operate in the prophetic and of course some prophecy is about the future will of God but I would hate that we would limit ‘knowing the will of God’ to that.  Prophecy is about speaking the word of God NOW!  I want to know the will of God in my everyday, present life!
And I believe that is what this is about.   To know His heart, His character, His ways in all that I do, in all that I say and in all I even believe about Him and His love for me and my neighbour…that is knowing the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect.

So…how this all happens and plays out in the weeks and months ahead is up to the Holy Spirit!  As leader of this group, I’m on a need to know basis, week by week.  That’s nerve racking most of the time but deep down I’m very glad of it.  I would hate to think I had all the answers.  I’d hate to put God in a box and say we’re gonna do this, this and this.  “Many are the plans of a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail“.  I can think I know what we’re doing and then He leads me anew.  It is totally Him orchestrating it all.  It is my job to listen real closely and follow where He leads.

I look forward to sharing more ‘Applying The Word‘ posts with you, as the journey towards us loving the Lord our God, with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength, and loving our neighbours as ourselves, becomes a greater reality in our lives.

God Bless
Sharon x

Imagine…

Imagine you were lost, and someone found you…
Imagine you were broken, and someone restored you…
Imagine you were uncared for, and someone nurtured you…
Imagine you were ill, and someone healed you…
Imagine you were upset, and someone comforted you…
Imagine you didn’t understand, and someone taught you…
Imagine you were dirty, and someone cleaned you…

Imagine you were bullied, and someone defended you…
Imagine you were lonely, and someone came to be with you…

Imagine you were weak, and someone carried you…
Imagine you were angry, and someone calmed you…
Imagine you needed to talk, and someone listened…

Imagine you were hopeless, and someone encouraged you…
Imagine you were crying, and someone cried with you…
Imagine you were orphaned, and someone adopted you…
Imagine you felt unworthy, and someone valued you…
Imagine you were hated, and someone delighted in you…
Imagine you were a slave, and someone redeemed you…
Imagine you were imprisoned, and someone freed you…
Imagine you were unloved, and someone loved you…
Imagine you were due to die, and someone died for you…

Stop Imagining….Someone did
Jesus Christ!

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16