Thanks for committing time to seek the Lord. Please find a place that inspires you and plan to spend time in solitude. Just you, the Holy Spirit, a Bible, and a journal. If you take your computer commit yourself to no surfing and no work. The goal is to hear from God.
Please read Matthew 16:13-20.
Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” And then He said to Simon, “You are…” and He described what kind of person Peter would be and how he would function in the Kingdom.
Jesus cares about who we think He is. And He cares about who we think we are. He also wants us to have direction, guidance, and a clear sense of calling. We are the church, the called out. Who we are and what He calls us to transcends the circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s also important we keep the boundaries in the right place.
As you spend time with Him please start a saved document entitled “Listening.Yr.Mo.Da.Location”. Please ask Him these questions and then listen… just a Bible, a journal, and quiet…
- Who are You, Lord? -Mt 16:15-17
- Which of Your attributes are important to me currently?
- Who am I, Lord? -Mt 16:18
- Who have You created me to be?
- What kind of son or daughter do YOU intend me to be? Our understanding of who He is will determine much of who He wants us to be as His sons and daugthers.
- What kind of spouse do You want me to be?
- What kind of parent do you want me to be?
- What kind of professional do you want me to be?
- What am I to do, Lord? Where are we going? Mt 16:19
- What are the boundaries, Lord? -Mt 16:20
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3
In the United States, Christians are often stereotyped as being critical, condescending, and unreasonable. Is this what God intended for His disciples? Often times among churchgoers, we watch resentments and unforgiveness grow into estrangements. Is this what Jesus wants for His body?
I want to invite you to crave pure, spiritual milk. The pure milk refers to the Word, that by it we are nourished to grow up in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His grace (2 Peter 3:18). This word “spiritual” is fascinating to me. It means literally that we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable. Craving pure spiritual milk means we apply God’s logic to our everyday lives and in so doing become divinely reasonable.
First, pure, spiritual milk helps us to apply God’s logic. As we grow in our faith we move from understanding the gospel literally to understanding it logically. When I became a Christ follower in 1979, I understood literally that the wages of my sin was death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord, and I wanted that. I understood it literally. But over the years, as I apply God’s logic to my life and I study through the principles of the gospel, I’ve moved from understanding that I need a Savior to understanding that I am the chief of sinners. My sin caused Christ to experience the pain of God’s wrath. My sin caused Christ to experience more pain than anyone’s sin on earth has ever caused anyone else. And so like Paul, I can agree with him in 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.” When we apply God’s logic, we understand what our sin has cost Christ. It creates a humility in us that as we’ve been forgiven much, we can love much.
Secondly, pure, spiritual milk creates a divine reasonableness in us. To be reasonable is the ability to think through things and see across to the other side of a matter. The Grand Canyon is up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters). The rim to rim, top to bottom to top again hike is 23 miles long and takes most hikers two to three days to complete. The Grand Canyon is a huge chasm.
To paint a picture of the reasonableness of God, I would point to Romans 5. It says while we were sinners, living in darkness, while we were God enemies, while we were defiant toward Him, God was living in unapproachable light, perfect in holiness and sinlessness, and He was able to see across the chasm that separated us. He, in unapproachable light, saw us in the darkness. He, in perfect holiness and sinlessness saw me in my rebellion and sin. He was able to see across to the other side – that’s what it is to be reasonable. And He made a plan even while I was separated from Him to draw me back to Him through the death of His Son. In Genesis it says we were created in the image of the Trinity. Of the many ways we reflect His image, one of the things that we reflect is the ability to reason. We are the only creation of God with the ability to reason. However, when sin came into the world, in our sinful nature, our reasonableness was broken. In my sinful nature I see everything through my own selfishness and my own pride. I’m not willing to see beyond myself. When I’m able to see God’s perspective, which is different from my sinful nature, my ability to reason is reawakened. Our reasonableness grows as we crave the pure spiritual milk, applying God’s logic to think through things. As we consider how great a work it was to reconcile the separation that was between us and God, we begin to consider how we can participate in reconciling others separated by a great distance.
Revelation 7:9 says heaven will be filled with people from every nation, tribe, people and language. These are people different than me! May we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable. May we come to understand that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
May we have the divine reasonableness to participate in His reconciliation.
I love rollercoasters. Raging Bull at Six Flags is one of my favorites. Being 202 feet in the air in a side less train is incredible, and the 20 story drop into the underground tunnel at 73 miles an hour is exhilarating.
When my emotions are on a rollercoaster I don’t find it as fun. Recently I was flying high with excitement and gratitude for how good life was that day. And then in less than 5 minutes, after one conversation, I was in an emotional free fall into darkness of fear and insecurity, being tempted with reproach and despair. How does that happen? And how should we respond?
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments, and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” We need to grow in assessing what thoughts we should allow and what thoughts we need to get a hold of and get out of our minds! I’m learning anytime I have thoughts of anxiety, insecurity, fear of rejection, or resentment, amongst others, it’s a thought I need to take captive. It’s a lie. It’s positioning itself to set up against what God would have for me. My litmus test is the fruit of the Spirit. If our minds are not full of the fruit of the Spirit, we should regularly ask ourselves, “What thoughts do I need to take captive?” Then pray, “Father, I take captive thoughts of insecurity or anxiety, please empower me to be obedient to the mind of Christ for me.”
James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you willing to confess “stinkin thinkin” as your own sin? Or do you prefer to blame someone else for the thoughts in your mind? We can be enmeshed victims, or we can be differentiated overcomers. When we are willing to confess our sinful thoughts and attitudes and emotions, we differentiate from people and circumstances and God can heal our emotions so we can be full of the fruit of the Spirit. What do I need to confess? And then pray, “Father I confess thoughts of insecurity, I know these are not what you have for me. Or “Father I confess thoughts of anxiety and fear. Please forgive me, I know you’ll never reject me!”
Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” In a military sense, we understand that someone has to stand up for liberty. But do we understand what it takes to stand up for psychological and emotional freedom? Ephesians 6:12-13 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” For many of us, our interpersonal relationships or daily circumstances seem to be at war against our emotions. However the scriptures teach it’s not our fleshly relationships or our bodily circumstances that we at war with. We are war with cosmic powers, or demons of darkness. You are not at war with your spouse, kids, coworkers, finances, or that person at church. The demonic world is full of rejection, reproach, fear, anxiety, despair, adultery, rebellion, idolatry, pride, etc. The Bible says in James 4:7, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” What am I standing against? Then pray, “Father I stand against and resist demons of dark thoughts and dark emotions in the name of Jesus. Help me stand firm in the freedom you have provided for me.”
Matthew 18:18 says, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” What needs to be bound? Let’s cut to the chase. The “demons of darkness” from Ephesians 6:12 need to be bound in the name of Jesus from whispering all their depravity into our minds. Matthew 8:31 says, “And the demons said, if you cast us out, send us away into the pigs…” You would do those around you a big favor if you didn’t stop at just taking the thoughts captive and binding it up. If that demon of darkness is whispering to you, you can be pretty sure he and his “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12) are whispering to those around you too. You’re not alone in temptation. Where does this need to be cast to? Why not bind it all up in Jesus name and cast it back to hell where it belongs?!!! Then pray, “Heavenly Father, I bind demons of insecurity and anxiety in Jesus name and cast them to hell. They have no place here Lord, may you fill me with your Spirit and may His fruit control my life.”
But be prepared, if you pray these kinds of cleansing prayers, it may get worse before it gets better. Luke 11:24-26 says, 24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Jokingly, demons must be like cats because they hate the water!! I can remember times of standing against something in prayer for our church, and then having it come back seven times more violent. But just keep standing. Plead the blood of Jesus over yourself. And having done all, stand firm.
If this resonates with you, please spend time in prayer. Use the song links below and spend time in quietness asking God to help you understand what you need to stand against. Answer the bold questions above. And then pray the prayers in italics for yourselves, your loved ones, and your churches!
Child, You’re Forgiven – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI9npdwLATc
So the next time the rollercoaster of your emotions is on a free fall to darkness, please take time to reconsider what you need to stand against. Pull back from arguing and wrestling with people and circumstances, and stand firm for the spiritual freedom of your mind and heart. Then you can celebrate, “I AM FREE!”
“What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.:” –Haddaway
I’ve heart a lot of opinions about love in my lifetime and I would sum up our world’s definition of love as relationships void of pain. But is a relationship void of pain really full of love?
After a difficult ministry season my wife and I went on a quiet retreat. I had experienced great conflicts, unfair accusations, and was held in resentment by people close to me. While normally pretty resilient, I was beginning to crumble inside. I spent time in prayer asking God to immerse me in His love and give me the courage to continue in these difficulties. It was then I found myself singing an old hymn.
The Love of God is greater far than any pen or tongue can tell.
It goes beyond the highest height and reaches to the lowest hell…
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky…
The love of God so rich and pure, so measureless and strong,
it shall forever more endure, the saints and angel’s song.
He reminded me that responding to the love of God would guarantee that people would hate us (1 Jn 3:13), and that to continue in this loving relationships with Him by faith I might feel abandoned by Him from time to time (Job 13:15). His loving plan for my life might even involve painful experiences (2 Co 12:8). Dr. Henry Cloud points out in Boundaries in Marriage that “ just because someone is in pain doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad is happening…. (Is it) pain that leads to injury? (Or is it) pain leads to growth?” I realized the pain I was experiencing was not leading to permanent injury, even the fact that it led me to cry out to God was indicating it was pain that was leading to my spiritual and relational growth!
I prayed that He would cast me so far into the oceans of His love that I couldn’t swim back to my flesh even if I tried. I prayed that He would plunge me into the depths of His love so far I couldn’t swim back up to the surface of earthly resentments even if I was tempted to.
In “The Lego Batman Movie” the Joker is trying to convince Batman that he is the villain Batman hates the most. Batman says to Joker: “I see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to entrap me into a relationship.” Joker says to Batman, “Do you realize, [in all these years], you’ve never once said, ‘I hate you, Joker.’? Listen to this, ‘I hate you, Batman.’ Now your turn.” And Batman replies, “Me too.” To which Joker replied, “I am not going to be part of a one-sided relationship any longer!” I sat there considering whether you can hate without acknowledging love? Can you be an atheist without acknowledging there is something not to believe in?
The Bible doesn’t define love as the absence of pain. Infact, Jesus willingness to experience a painful crucifixion is His demonstration of love for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life.” Sounds painful to me! The Bible defines love as the absence of fear (1 John 4:18). So while love may involves pain, we don’t have to be afraid of the pain. Love covers a multitude of pains!
for more articles by this author see http://www.choosemercy.org
I think these past two weekends we have received more snow than all last winter. Unfortunately I’m also responsible for two driveways as we’re in between houses. I have a snow blower at one and was shoveling the other when a dear friend offered me a second snowblower. When the high was -2 degrees I had trouble starting both. I pulled and pulled on the start cord until a bad word formed in the back of my head. You know you’re having a hard time when you break a sweat trying to start in -15 wind chill. I was tempted to take a few swings with a shovel to the snowblower but used better judgement. Why? Because that snowblower is worth alot to me so I don’t have to shovel! The showblower’s value to me determined how I would treat it.
When I get together with an accountability friend we both agree we get angry with closest to us the most. It would be easy for us to blame and think it’s just because they’re annoying, but is that really what’s going on? But why are the people we’re closest too that ones that make us the most angry?
One explanation may be because they are so close to us they hurt us the most. Another may be because they know us so well we can’t hide how we really feel from them. Another may be because we have so much history we get irritated quicker. I have thought all these. But then the snowblower pushed me too far and I was aware of how much I value it.
When was the last time I valued my wife and kids? How about my coworkers? Those I serve with at church? The Bible says we should, “Honor one another above ourselves.” -Ro 12:10. I realize I treat people at restaurants well because I don’t want them to spit in my food! How much more should I value my family, my coworkers, and those I worship with? Jesus death and resurrection places great value on every person, whether a believer or not. I guess the stuff I get mad about shows me I have my values a little mixed up from time to time. Hopefully you’re not like me! http://www.choosemercy.org
“I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need.
I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas Tree.
I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know,
make my wish come true, oh all I want for Christmas is you.” -Mariah Carey
In Ephesians 5 the Bible says the relationship between a husband and a wife is a direct representation of the gospel relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church. Recently my wife and I have asked, “what does Jesus desire for our marriage?”
In Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31 the Bible uses the action word “cleave” as the verb for marriage. What does it mean for couples to cleave? The word cleave means to cling to, join closely or glue one thing to another, focusing on interfacing, reciprocal relations. And how are they to cleave? The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we are made up of three parts, a spirit, a soul, and a body. I believe in the marriage relationship we need to cleave spiritually (spirit), cleave relationally (soul), and cleave physically (body).
Cleaving to our spouse’s spirit may be the hardest hurdle. We need to pray together daily and sit in church together regularly. In a 1997 Gallup poll by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, less than 1% of couples that pray together daily experience divorce. Cleaving to your spouse may look like praying out loud together once a day. And if it is hard for you and your spouse, you’re not alone, I’ve read that 92% of couples that call themselves Christians don’t pray together (FamilyLife Survey, USA)! The old adage is true, a couple that prays together stays together. Ed Stetzer suggests also that couples who attend church together only have a 10-15% divorce rate. For those of us in church leadership positions, it’s especially important we’re praying together with our spouse at home and being intentional to sit together in church regularly. How are we doing cleaving spiritually?
Cleaving to our spouse’s soul, their mind and emotions, may be the first one we notice needs attention. Spending time enjoying one another is important, and we can alternate doing one another’s favorite things. Healthy communication is essential. Carve out time every day to connect together relationally. This can be asking, “How are you doing today? Schedule a date once a week to sit across a table from one another and reconnect. One lost art of soul cleaving in Scripture is to “bless them” verbally, exhort, or give a benediction. The Bible says to encourage one another daily. If you would like ideas to encourage your spouse, see www.choosemercy.org and search “Encourage Daily.” Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, and Satan the accuser. In order to cleave to one another’s soul’s our communication needs to include blessing, encouraging, and yielding. We will have a hard time cleaving to accusing, resentment, and contention. Finally if one of you always has to be right or in control, cleaving to one another relationally will be especially hard. This is why the Bible asks all of us in Ephesians 5:12 to Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. How are we doing cleaving relationally?
Cleaving to our spouse’s body only protects our marriage from Satan’s attacks. 1 Corinthians 7:5, says to married couples, “Do not deprive one another (physically), except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” That begs the question how long is a limited time? In Exodus 19:15 Moses asked the people to obey God and consecrate themselves for three days with no marital relations. In 1 Samuel 21:4-5 David asks the priest for bread for his men to eat and the priest says they can have the consecrated bread if they have kept themselves from women. And David replies, “Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy.” While three days may be a biblical suggestion, whatever you and your spouse agree is a “limited time,” please be intentional about cleaving together physically, holding hands, hugging, kissing, and pursuing intimacy. How are we doing cleaving physically?
Some years ago when my wife and I were in a difficult time of unemployment, a dear mentor couple gave us great advice. They told us that in the dark seasons of life when you have no money and you don’t know what God’s plan is, you can still cleave to one another. It’s free. And it’s biblical. May we be intentional about obeying God’s call for married couples to cleave together. Let’s Cleave this Christmas!
for more articles from this author see http://www.choosemercy.org
- Your desire to lead means a lot to me. -1 Ti 3:1 If a man desires the position of elder, he desires a good work.
- I really appreciate that you want to do the right thing. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be blameless
- You are such a loyal man -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be the husband of one wife
- I like how self controlled and kind you are. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be temperate
- You do a good job of being rational -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be sober minded
- I’m so glad I married a man with the fruit of the Spirit -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be a good behavior
- It means a lot that you help me have a home to have friends over. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be hospitable
- I think you’re really wise. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be able to teach
- I admire your discipline to get up every morning -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be given to much wine
- I like to be close to you when you’re gentle -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must be gentle
- I notice how well you get along with your friends. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be quarrelsome
- Our marriage is the best when we’re content. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be covetous
- You manage (this) well -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must manage his own house well
- Your love means so much to our kids -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must have his children in submission with all reverence
- You are a blessing to our church. -1 Ti 3:5 An elder must be able to take care of the church
- Its so cool that you’ve been a Christian for ___ years! -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be a novice
- Your humility brings God’s grace for our family. -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be puffed up with pride lest he fall
- Thank you for having a good testimony with your work friends. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must have good testimony with outsiders
- I really respect how hard you try to overcome temptations. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must overcome temptation
- Thank you for trying to understand -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give understanding to their wives
- I have felt so special since the day you proposed. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give honor to their wives
- I’m so thankful you know God’s grace for each of us. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands see wives as coequals in the grace of life
- Thank you for praying for me. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must be men of prayer
- I’m glad we are like minded about Christ. -1 Pe 3:8 be likeminded
- I’m blessed by your compassion -1 Pe 3:8 be compassionate
- Your love makes me feel special -1 Pe 3:8 be loving
- For such a strong man you are tenderhearted. -1 Pe 3:8 be tenderhearted
- I noticed how courteous you were. -1 Pe 3:8 be courteous
- Thank you for not being insulting or overpowering. -1 Pe 3:8 not reviling
- You are such a blessing to me. -1 Pe 3:8 blessing one another
- We are blessed because you are such a nice guy. -1 Pe 3:8 inherit a blessing
(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 5, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 3)
- You have a powerful influence of moral excellence on the people around you –Pr 31:10 Virtuous (powerful influence of moral excellence)
- I hold you in high esteem, you are the most important person in my life –Pr 31:10 worth (held in high esteem)
- I trust you, you’re the most competent person I know –Pr 31:11 her husband trusts her
- You bring so much good into my days –Pr 31:12 you do me good all my days
- I appreciate how hard you work –Pr 31:13 work hard with hands
- I noticed how far out of your way you have to go to take care of all of us. –Pr 31:14 goes far to provide
- Thanks for getting up to care of us –Pr 31:15 rises early to provide for family and others
- I wish you didn’t have to make mony, but I’m impressed with how you do it. –Pr 31:16 earns private profits
- You are the strongest most steadfast woman I know –Pr 31:17 strength
- It makes me feel good when you perceive all is good, we’re going to be fine. –Pr 31:18 perceives all is good
- You strengthen me when I know hard times don’t destroy your confidence –Pr 31:18 lamp does not go out in darkness
- I love how you extend your hands to give to others –Pr 31:19 hold out her hands to give
- Your confidence is beautiful –Pr 31:21 confident
- I appreciate how fearless you are –Pr 31:21 not fear
- You look really nice today –Pr 31:22 well clothed
- I want to be the kind of man you respect and admire –Pr 31:23 respected husband
- You are so good at making ______________. –Pr 31:24 sells what she makes
- I just wanted to honor you by _______________. –Pr 31:25 strength and honor
- I love it when we rejoice together. –Pr 31:25 rejoicing
- I think you’re really wise and I appreciate your input. –Pr 31:26 wise
- I think you’re a really kind person. –Pr 31:26 kind
- Thank you for making our household run so smoothly. –Pr 31:27 watches over household
- I appreciate how hard you’re working –Pr 31:26 not idle
- You are leaving an incredible legacy. –Pr 31:28 children appreciate
- I believe in you and I’m excited about _________ (This part of our future) –Pr 31:28 husband affirms
- You are at the head of your class, there’s no one as gifted as you are. –Pr 31:29 excel in them all
- Your fear of the Lord is your most valuable quality. –Pr 31:30 fears the Lord
- You should praised for ____________. –Pr 31:30 to be praised
- I wish everyone knew how good you are at _____________. –Pr 31:31 show off your works
- Your gentle and quiet spirit is so beautiful –1 Pe 3:4
- Your love for the Lord inspires me to love Him more. -1 Pe 3:1
(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 3)
As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas. I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like broken marriages and church disagreements. I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.
In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him. In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken. David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David. And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind. Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.
And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all. Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it. And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families. May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.
Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.