“My desire”

Desires. We all have them. Some healthy, some rational, some well…aren’t. Desire drives us; they move us forward or in some cases backwards. They push us to our goals or they can push us to our destruction. Desires are complicated, in the makeup of our person our desires have the capacity to overtake our wills and our resolve in a matter of seconds.

Desire is inherently for our good. We, being fashioned in the image of God, have a Divinely established portion of our souls where desires are produced. God desires. He desires for all to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus desired to gather Jerusalem under His wings, but they refused. So, from the standpoint of scripture, desires are not bad in themselves. Now understandably, God desires out of sheer delight. While we as fallen humans, desire out of a need we feel. That “need” is the source of the fountain of desires. We all need something. Being the sovereign Creator He is, God knew exactly what would fill that cavernous need deep within, and it is found solely on the person of Christ Jesus. Desire is what God placed in the soul of man to drive us to the foot of the cross.

What’s your desire?

Paul was a man eaten up with desire. A desire so strong and secure that it would even drive him to martyrdom. What was it? He tells us plainly in Philipians 1:23.”…my desire is to depart and be with Christ…”. To be with Christ, to know Him intimately (Philip 3:10), to share fellowship with Him…even if it meant losing his head. Paul wanted to be where Christ was.  Every other desire he had was founded upon this one; to know Christ. The extremities of Paul’s desire aren’t easily duplicated or forged. Simply put: you can’t fake this kind of desire. It’s the kind that overtakes you like a wildfire, it consumes everything it touches. Why would someone seek so hard after Someone they had never seen? Why would they risk comfort and worldy pleasure? It was simple for Paul. God had desired him, by seeking him out and saving him on that dusty road to Damascus. Paul started that journey with one desire in mind, to kill or imprision all who belonged to The Way. (Acts 9) Yet masterfully done Christ showed him what he needed, what he was after. He showed Paul Himself. The unfolding of revelation blinded the Apostle from anything other than Christ.  From that point on Paul was ate up with a new desire-Christ Himself. You see Paul had been desired, sought out and now his heart throb was to seek the One who sought him.

Im not a writer. I’m not eloquent in speech. I’m a terrible speller. I have more insecurities than you can shake a stick at. But deep within is something that pushed me beyond those insecurities to start this blog: a desire. A desire that wouldn’t quit. A desire that would deflate the giant in front of me. A desire that engrafted courage into my weakness. A desire that has taken over my heart. What is it? Christ. I don’t desire to have a lot of followers, or for people to be in awe of my posts. My desire is to finish my race, fulfill my ministry, bring forth a harvest for the Kingdom, and fundamentally “for Christ to be honored through my body.” (Phillipians 1:20). I want my life to be a fragrant offering before my Lord. Im just an average woman, seeking out an extroidanary Savior. Am I there yet? Not hardly. I make myself sick by the lack of  fervor I sometimes display. But “I press on to make it my own because Christ has made me His own.” (Philip 3:12). Christs own relentless desire for me catapults me into a wildfire like desire for Him. He has placed an upward call on each of lives. ( to know Him more intimately, to glorify His name and to advance the gospel) Desire pushes us there. Some will make it, some will not. It’ll depend upon who/what sits on the throne of your desires. Don’t settle for spiraling downward when you were made to soar upward! Take what’s been given to you- Christ Himself, the fulfillment of every desire. His desire is for you beloved.

“I am my beloveds and his desire is for me” SOS 7:10

 

 

Burden of Providence

 

 

The anxiety of our mission causes us to act out in a million different ways. The burden of responsibility, that our lots place on us, causes us to feel like we are balancing the weight of the world on a toothpick. Ecclesiastes 6:18-20 says “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with one toils under the sun the few days of his life, that God has given for him , for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil- this is a gift from God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”

The word for lot here, is the same Hebrew word for inheritance and reward. Lot seems to stifle the majesty of it all, we think of a small piece of the pie, a corner section, a sliver or morsel but that’s too small of a perception. We are given a wealth, an “entire pie”. You have not been short changed by God…and neither have I. Yet, the weight of discontentment morphs our reward into toil. Instead of accepting the grace given, we contemplate it. Deciphering and weighing every ounce we have. We compare contributions. We marry value and accomplishments, comparing our “lots” with others, thus divorcing joy from responsibility. Could it be that instead of being weighed down with joy over our “lot”, we are burdened by it? That perhaps the weight of responsibility has crushed joy like a coke can?

 

Our lot is the perimeters God has set around our lives, where we would be given authority and responsibility. Here in these sacred spots, we live life. We finish school, hang with friends, get a job, get a husband, have babies, clean the house, buy a car, go to church, serve in the church, plant a garden and march to the beat of the clock. With each passing tick, the opportunity to bring God’s kingdom to earth passes. We scoot and scat, trying to keep things in line. Yet, in the process, the responsibility given to us grows heavy as duty crushes our dreams. The gifts showered on us from on high to bring the kingdom into the present, is wasted.

Enjoyment comes with acceptance; acceptance of the current. Yet, many of us are slaves to the future. We are mesmerized by it, caught under its spell, we bow to its demands and bend to accommodate its desires, even if it costs us the present. Occupied with what is to come instead of what is, the weight of the future is strapped to our hearts like a overloaded cargo wagon. The future can be heavy, we strain and stumble over what might be. For the future rests in the governmental care of providence. Yet, when we bring the future into the moment, we become occupied with it, taking responsibility for it. The weight of responsibility the future brings, drags joy under the current of pursuit and drowns it under the waves of discontentment. 

Providence can be a heavy thing for humans to bear. And that’s exactly what we are doing when we pose as God, directing and dictating the ways of the future, thinking and believing that our ways are better. We plot and plan but to no avail. We chase after something that alludes us. We sacrifice the joy of the moment for the promise of the future. We figure and fidget, trying to fix the future before it ever arrives. We can’t bear that responsibility.

 

The future was meant to stay where it is. Yet, we insist on bringing it into the present, with its troubles and pains. It outweighs our ability to withstand. What do we do when providential purpose turns into a burden? when the future grows too heavy?

 

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you…” Providence is much to heavy for us to carry, we must cast it onto the shoulders of the One from who it comes. We were never meant to wrestle with what is to come, but to trust in the One who is and was and is to come. The great I AM encompasses both future and present, He precedes our past and sees the mystery of the future. Many times we take up a burden that we were never meant to bear. How many hours do we spend contemplating and dissecting the future? Only to no avail. Toiling after wind causes us to miss the gift of the present, the wonder in the moment.

A marvelous things happens when we no longer try and be the boss of our own destinies; provision. Providence always brings provision. Provision that transcends the moment and meets the future need before we arrive, He catapults grace so it will be there when the future collides with the moment.  Creating fertile ground for joy to grow in our hearts. 

 

 

Mercy in the Madness 

The clock methodically marches on. The days start the same with every sunrise, the sly glow of the mornings seems to creep over the horizon quicker and quicker. The alarm clock gets louder and louder, you don’t need it, you have been in and out of consciousness all night; feeding hungry babies, turning out bedroom lights, kissing foreheads, adjusting the air so no one gets to hot or cold. You hear a squeak as the upstairs floors give way to tiny feet trying to make their way to the bathroom, you count the steps back to the bed and scurry upstairs to make sure everything is well. You lay back down and release a sigh; your body screams for rest while your mind plays bumper cars with the day. You wonder how the day looked in the eyes of that child. The one you were harsh with, the one who seemed to fall under the radar, the one who you excused away for sake of responsibilities. Your mind bumps together with all the mistakes made throughout that day. The moments that you weren’t your best and maybe even some where you were. “Is it enough?” you wonder under your breath as you try to shut your eyes once more.

Is it enough?

Are the scattered pieces of mercy enough to teach them to be merciful? I come to the conclusion it’s not enough—“I need to show more mercy…” I agree with myself as I made a solemn declaration that the next day will be filled with more mercy. Mercy in the madness; that’s what we need I sigh.

But what if that’s not enough? what if I slip…allowing my emotion to highlight the moment? What if I react out of the shame and guilt I feel for being home while my husband dredges into work? (All the while knowing I would feel guilt if I had to leave them too- the battle of motherhood is a catch 22). What if I snap under the weight of so many demands? What if in the moment of distraction I choose the lesser and push away the most pressing need that camouflages in horseback rides, tea parties, one on one and playing games? What if mercy is swept up into the bin of duty?

What happens when our emotions highjack the day and we are left with the toxic fumes of our instability?

Mercy.

Mercy happens….even for us. Even for those who overacted over the spilt soda and crushed pop tarts. Even for those whose tongue is much to loose and for those who cling to tightly to control.

We expect to much of ourselves. We label ourselves as “failures” and “useless” as the tide of emotions pulls us in headfirst. . Its a dangerous place to be; pulled by emotions relentless tide. It sucks us in and swallows us up. But maybe you need to know, like I did today, there is a Life Saver who can pull us from the cyclone of emotion; Jesus.

“Let us then, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Maybe like me, you have drew near alright…drew closer and closer to the tyrant of emotion; feeding the beast. We pet those out of control emotions, feeding them what they crave, all the while they grow stronger and stronger, until one day they turn on us-devouring not only us…but those around us as well. Our emotions have attacked us, but they didn’t stop there they lashed out on those closest to us.

When emotions rule devastation follows.

The throne represents God’s presence, His power and His potency. It is secured on His omnipresence and exerted by His love. When we draw to the throne of grace instead of the throne of emotions, we will find mercy. God is much more forgiving than our emotions are. They hold us prisoner to their whims, giving an inch and taking a mile. The undercover rule of emotion can erupt at any moment, the slightest upheaval of convenience sends the monster into a maddened rage, condemning all who are in the way. Not so with God, instead of the tsunami of guilt the throne brings one of grace.

 The throne is also an illustration to the mercy seat.In the the Old Testament, sacrifices had to be made for the appeasement of righteousness. In the tent of meeting, deep within, the Glory of God dwelled on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat. Here the high priest would make atonement for Israel once a year by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice between the cherubs outstretched wings. Here is where sacrifice collided with mercy: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of good things, then through the greater more perfect tent (not made of hands, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by the means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11-12, and as a result “we have mercy and find grace in our time of need.”.

The throne of grace transfers the grace and mercy of Christ to those moments when our strength is zapped and our hearts are cold. When we “draw near” we find mercy in the madness.

Jehovah Nissi

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

 

The Amplified version translates the above verse this way “be strong in the Lord, be empowered through your union with Him, draw your strength from Him, that strength which His boundless might provides…”

 

The union we have with Christ does more than define who we are, it sets the course for where we are going by conferring His very strength to our weak frames. You see not only are we identified by His person, we are also strengthened by His might. The unification with this boundless might not only enables us, it establishes our direction. Without His strength, we cannot carry the load assigned to us. The battle will be too much for us to withstand. We will retreat and retire without fulfilling our ministry. Many have lost direction because their direction has lost Christ. A Christ-less direction will be void of power and purpose. We discussed the spiritual oppression we all face in our time together, this plot to depress and divert us off course is the age old scheme of the enemy. This battle is fierce, let’s not kid ourselves, it takes a strength that we do not inherently have. We need a kind of strength that has dynamite power. Look up John 1 John 4:4 and again at Ephesians 1:19. We may have a lot coming at us, but we have more brewing within in than any force that may rise against us and all these resources have been shown to us in chapters 1-3 pf Ephesians. What we have been learning that is now ours through our union with Christ is the resources we must draw from in order to be strengthened to be victorious in the battle. What are some things we have learned over the past few weeks that would infuse you with strength against the enemy’s attacks?

 

Look with me at Exodus 17:9-16. Here in this narrative Joshua makes his very first appearance on the stage of scripture. What characteristics do you think of when you think about Joshua?

 

Words like warrior, mighty, strong-leader, courageous, valiant, faithful….swirl around this prominent figure. But what if Joshua wasn’t courageous? What if this mighty leader was shaking in his sandals at the thought of battle? God’s command for Joshua to “be strong and courageous” leads us to believe just that; that he lacked strength and courage to face the battle ahead. Yet, even though the task was bigger than he was, he rested in the fact that it was not bigger than his God. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s when fear is brought face to face with God. Courage has little to do with us and everything to do with our God.

The Amalekites were sworn enemies of God, being the descendants of Esau (who represents the nature of the flesh), they were nomads who survived by plundering the outskirts of over populated groups. The attack and plunder of the Israelites represent spiritual warfare; our enemy sneaks in through the backdoor of sedulity and plunders our inheritance as well. As the enemy closes in on them, Joshua is delegated to go out and fight while Moses will ascend to the top of the hill with staff in hand. That’s their strategy? Sending an un-experienced boy into warfare, while sending the leader to the top of a hill with a staff? What exactly happened when Moses held up the staff?

 

Victory. The staff represents God’s power and provision. This “rod” was used in the Exodus for the deliverance of the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh. The raising of this staff was the symbol of Israel (Moses being their spokesman) yielding personal weakness for divine empowerment. “Self-sufficiency in spiritual battles is spiritual suicide”. As Moses climbed the hill with staff in hand, he was leaving the “plains” of self-sufficiency” and ascending to the “hill” of sovereign encounter. Throughout the scriptures mountains or hills represent the place where the mortal is overcome by the Immortal.

 

“The Lord is my banner”

A banner in ancient military terms, wasn’t what we would picture today. Instead of cloth, the banner of a country would be a rod that would be held up high above the heads of the soldiers. This rod would have some sort of emblem attached to it, like a charm. There would be one man assigned to hold this banner, this “banner-bearer” would hold the staff up high as a rallying point for the army. If the banner carrier moved forward, so did the troops. It was the marker of identity and unity. The men would regroup and reconnect as the banner was lifted high above them as a call to arms. As Moses lifted the staff on the hilltop, Joshua saw the banner of Israel, that staff was more than a mere shepherds staff- it was the marker of their identity; they were fighting for Jehovah. As Joshua looked up at the banner standing proud over the heads of the enemy, he knew that the Lord would fight for them, the banner said so. Look up the following verses:

Psalm 20:5                                  Song of Solomon 2:4

 

The word “strengthened” in Ephesians 6:10 is the Greek word endunamoo, and is the compound word of en=in and dunamis= which is the root word for “dynamis” that we have looked at in Ephesians 1 regarding the resurrection power. This word means to be put into power. As the “staff” of God hangs over our lives we are infused with the power it represents. There is a banner over your life, one that the enemy sees and knows all too well. The banner of love, the name of the Lord your God is engraved over your head. This banner is our strength, the emblem of the cross hangs above our lives as we fight the evil opponent of flesh. As you advance into battle, rally under the solemn emblem of victory, the cross is no longer the symbol of scorn and shame but of victory and honor-rally under it, follow the advancements of the divine “Banner- Barrier”.

The most beautiful part of this entire story is verse 16 “ a hand upon the throne of the Lord.”. The Lord is our Banner, Jehovah NIssi, meaning that as we ascend to the heights of submission by confessing our spiritual lack, lifting our hands up, relinquishing all power and authority to the Lord, as the staff is lifted high-it is as if our hands are now touching the throne of God. Yielding to His power, by realizing our lack, connects our hands to the throne of God. All that the throne represents: power, authority, might, and victory are now transferred through the conduit of our empty hands to the battle, infusing the weak with strength and ability. Don’t let go, don’t withdraw your hand from the throne-keep it lifted high in submission.

Submission can grow weary, that’s why we need each other-to hold our arms up to the throne when we grow tired of the fight. Let this be our vow to each other: I’ll hold yours and you hold mine. We do not fight alone; the Lord will fight for us-but we also do not have to submit alone-we are here to prop the weary arms of our sisters up as they reach out to the throne of grace.

 

The union of carnal with holy, simple with deep, labored and freed, restricted with timeless, weakness and might….the union of man with God; the embarkment of this journey for direction and definition started there, with our union in Christ and it will end there, for this reality encases what we are looking for. In Him is both direction and definition; the yoking of man to God empowers us for the battle our direction will call for and gives us the assurance that is needed of our definition. Blessed assurance Jesus is ours…..

 

He is our strength.

He is our song.

He is our story, it starts with Him and it will end with Him. He is the identifying mark and the compass throughout our journey. He has proven to be enough for us….and will prove that He will always be. Our personal purpose is lodged into the scars in His side; close by His heart. So that if we listen close, we can hear the cadence of His love for us keeping time with our walk, shouting above the noise “this is the walk in it…”.

 

But to receive this strength, the strength that comes from the thud of a holy heart, we must be in tune to it…listening for it…expecting it. The rush from the throne only comes to those who have their hands lifted high in surrender, hands open, representing the open door to our hearts that create a hallway to our lives.

 

Strength comes from living in this union, abiding in Him and His word abiding in us, (John 15) that all the resources that are His as resurrected Lord are now ours. At the beginning of our study we confirmed the radical truth that as believers our resources and our identities come from a higher plane, to embrace those means our arms must reach upward by acting upon what is now known. Nothing reaches higher than a life that acts like what is believed.

 

Blessed assurance Jesus is ours…..and all that He has has been transferred to our open hands. A foretaste of glory divine, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, now its up to us….will we eat from His banquet of divine inheritance or settle for the wafers of complacency? Will this taste of the heavenlies be enough to catapult us to soar or will we keep stumbling drunk on indifference?

 

Dreamers and Reapers 

Coveting? Is that what all these desires within mount up to? Is this ache for more the stab of the dull knife of discontentment? Surely so. After all, we are called to lay down our desires, our dreams, on the alter of Gods will…aren’t we? We bury all hope, and step into the cycle of cold religiosity. There’s no room for dreams in the Kingdom of God” that’s what we reason. God doesn’t need dreamers He needs reapers…right? But what if it turns out that those dreamers are the reapers? What if our dreams are the outline of His will? What if the dream that was planted deep within the secret depths of our souls isn’t “self-produced” at all? What if it was planted there by the hand of our sovereign creator? Who saw the need before the dream ever grew, and so dropped the kernel of hope into our bare hearts so that we could reap the harvest of divine provision? What if dreams aren’t temporal at all—what if within that hull something was growing, maturing, creeping to the surface that was other worldly-eternal in fact? What if that nagging heat within proved to be the fuel for furthering the kingdom? What if the ache for growth…the desperation for more…isn’t discontentment at all? What if it’s purpose calling our names? What if God uses those seemingly secret desires, to call us to meaning? What if the scream of our soul wasn’t meant to be silenced but amplified? What if the meter of our spirituality didn’t level out-what if we refused to cruise? Acceleration happens when pressure is added to the gas pedal, the engine revs up as the gauge climbs high and higher- pressure produces performance. What if the pressure from within was meant to accelerate the gospel?

What is pushing me? What pressure is this that consumes my mind and plumps up my heart? I know what I want Lord-but why do I want it? Maybe that’s the most potent question on the table.

Comparison and competition strangely creates complacency. When we get tired of the constant back and forth of achievements and praise, when the coldness of compromise stifles our heat-complacency sneaks in the back door and settles down into the bed of our beliefs. We limit God in our hearts by who we are-all the while praising Him with our lips for who He claims to be. It seems nice, we like the idea…but like a fairy tell story we fold up the breath of God and place it back on the bookshelf of fantasy and the ache within is hushed a little while longer while it circles around our minds like a hula hoop. What if in the process of recreation-our dreams aren’t crushed but transformed? Infused with holiness and righteousness for ultimate meaning. What if instead of smothering our desires the word breathes freshness into the lungs of our longings? What if scripture wasn’t meant to smash our dreams to pieces but to piece together the fragments of our callings to establish those dreams?

What if the outcome of our unification with Christ is that our desires are yoked with His. That what was drab and dreary with the fog of the flesh is now renovated and recharged with Light? What if desire pulls us to the eternal, into the Light? What if dreams are the dredging station for preparing us for our directions?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of you heart.” Psalms 37:4

What if those unfulfilled dreams aren’t unfulfilled at all but are in fact recreated, recharged and reformed after the heart of God?

Maybe your dreams have fell through, maybe things haven’t turned out at all like you had hoped…if this is you then maybe your dream isn’t dead, perhaps God is breathing fresh life into it-shaping it in the mold of His heart so you can reap what He has sown.
After all, dreamers do make the best reapers. (Joseph shows us that!)

Ephesians Bible Study recap week 4

4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”

 

Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would experience the fullness of Christ, that HE would come and dwell in their hearts through faith in chapter 3. This prayer has pounded on my own heart-as I go about my daily life; washing dishes, folding clothes, driving to ball games…. I utter those simple words “Come Lord Jesus dwell in my heart…”. I love the word dwell, there is something sacred about it. it carries the idea of fellowship, sensitivity, intimacy, and most of all a sense of home, a sense of belonging and acceptance. Paul was praying this prayer about believers, these people had already accepted Christs atoning work om the cross, so in a sense they already “had Christ”(He was not implying that one may lose Christ but that one may lose fellowship) but Paul was never one to stop at salvation. No, he wouldn’t allow us room to settle into a comfort zone; he charged the frontlines of complacency with bold prayer. This prayer, that Christ may dwell in our heart, is a plea for the believers to realize that Christ is not merely “in” believer’s hearts but that He would come and make Himself at home there and in doing so consume our desirers, minds and wills. This prayer melts a cold heart and ignites it with zeal. This prayer threatens our status quo and asks the question: is Christ at home in your heart or is He a visitor?

 

Paul goes on in chapter 4:17-19 to insist that we who are now in Christ no longer operate as the gentiles do. Their lives are a testament of their alienation from God…..could our lives be a testament that Christ is a visitor? They can’t hide the fact that they are out of fellowship with their creator and like them we will not be able to hid the fact that Christ only “visits” our hearts. Verse 18 tells us plain out that the reason why these people are alienated from God, isn’t because God isn’t searching them out, it’s because their hard hearts have calloused over and they no longer know what they know, they know the truth but they ignore it and in doing so ignore Christ. We can’t ignore the truth of the word and expect to experience Christ to the fullness for He is the Truth, the Word made flesh, to ignore it would be to ignore Him.

 

In the old testament, God came and dwelled among His people first in the Tabernacle and then in the temple. These dwelling places where divided into two different compartments: The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The first held all the temple objects such as the table of showbread and such, this is where the Priest would perform various rituals. As a repentant sinner would enter the courtyard of the Tabernacle or temple, they drew closer to the presence of God. Yet, they could only go so far and then the priests would represent them before God. Yet, only one time a year would the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies because this is where the Presence of God actually dwelled, in between the Cherubs on top of the mercy seat, the Shekinah glory of God would shine in brilliance and majesty. Now, as New Testament believers we are the temple of the living God, now Christ Himself dwells within us through His Spirit. It is even told to us in Hebrews 10 that Christ sprinkles blood on our hearts now! (Just like the mercy seat in the Old Testament)

Now, it’s a common thought that in the Old Testament time period the Jews believed that the inner being of man, the soul, was divided into two categories: the heart and the mind.

Since the heart is where the Spirit dwells It makes sense that our heart is now the Holy of Holies it is that sacred dwelling spot, while the mind is the gateway to it (meaning it is the Holy place).

 

Ezekiel chapter 8 is so interesting to me. In this vision of the prophet, God tells him to go to the temple. Everything looks ok from the outside, everything seems to be in order but then God said peel back the wall and go in. what Ezekiel saw, hiding within the walls of the temple, was disturbing. There was every kind of idolatry and abomination possible. In verse 8 describes these things as being “engraved on the wall of the temple”.

What have you engraved on the walls of your heart? it could be any number of things; bitterness, loneliness, heaviness, uselessness, unforgiveness, a specific sin, pride….what is the testimony of your heart? In class, we all drew a heart and then wrote whatever it is that we have “engraved” on our heart. it was so interesting to me to that the word “engraved” also meant “limited”. You see anything that we have engraved on our heart, that defies the truth, limits the effect Christ has on us and through us. whatever is engraved on the walls of your heart has the compacity to limit Christs influence on your life.

 

These people did this in the dark. They hid behind the walls of the temple so everything would look like it was normal, so that the perception from the outside would be, that very thing was well and good. Its no coincidence that as Paul talked about the gentiles being alienated from God, that he starts with their darkened minds. We hide within the darkness of our own minds. It’s easy to hide our tattooed hearts there, our minds justify the marks and encourage the treatment for our sin sick hearts. Our minds take our hearts captive. Many of us do sincerely have a heart that is devoted to God, yet we can’t figure out why we keep returning to the same mess.

2 Corinthians 11:3 says “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

Our hearts are wishy washy and our minds can talk them into believing just about anything. (For example, we can truly forgive someone but then our minds replay the betrayal over and over and then before we know it unforgiveness has engraved our hearts again.)

To experience the fullness of God that Paul prays for in Chapter 3, our emotions, our wills and our minds must be surrendered to the Lordship of the Spirit.

It’s so interesting to me that after this account in Ezekiel, in chapter 9, God appointments a marksman to go throughout the city and stamp the forehead of all who are repentive or sorrowful about the engravings that desecrated the temple of God. As God calls for this man to “mark” them, the word for mark here is “taw” in the Hebrew and it is a letter in the alphabet that is the closest thing they would have had to a cross! God was marking the forehead of man with a cross!

 

Again, in Exodus 29 when God is telling Moses how the Priest are to dress, He tells them in chapter 28 that they were to have a golden plaque on the forehead with “HOLY TO THE LORD” engraved on it! 1 peter 1:13 says for us to “prepare our minds for action” in regard to being holy as the Lord is holy. This is a reference back to the Exodus, when they were commanded to eat the Passover “in haste”. They would take their long tunics and tuck them into their belt so that they would not trip when the Lord delivered them. In order to be holy as the Lord is holy, there are certain things we will have to “gird up” to pull out of the way so that we will not trip over them mentally!!

 

I think this is significant, it is as if the Lord is saying “ If you want to come into my presence, to experience this dwelling, then your mind is going to have to be submissive to the cross!! Our minds must come under the submission of the Word of Truth, nothing else will work. We have got to learn to retrain our minds to think differently by submerging them in the word.

This kind of thing is so big to me, I wish I had the words to describe it accurately, because this has been my story. My mind has been my worst enemy and now looking back I see what a darkened mind initiated in my life. so much rebellion that was motivated by mental strongholds. I say this as honestly as I know how, every single mistake, every single pit I fell in was a reflex to the war that was waging in my mind. A calloused heart is a sign that something is gone haywire in our minds.

 

If you would like more study information on the 4th chapter of Ephesians here is a link to the study guide!ephesians 4 study guide

EPHESIANS 3 RECAP

 

“Now, to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask and think, according to the power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

 

 

This verse is pregnant with expectation and promise. It lifts the mightiness of God above the close refines of our finite minds. It threatens our doubt and encourages our faith. This is a statement that can profoundly grow not only our faith but our perception as well. Answer this question:

 

What are you expecting from God?

 

The answer to that question directly gauges our faith as well as our perception. For many of us we do not expect very much from God, our prayers are safely tucked within the comfort of “simple”. Yet, as we have been studding Ephesians we have learned that we have been given a vast inheritance in Christ. But for most of us there is a gap between our reality and that inheritance. The bridge between the two is prayer. Now, let me ask you this:

 

When was the last time you were disappointed with God?

 

If we are honest we all have been at one time or another, when what we begged God for didn’t come, when what we thought was such a clear “yes” turns out to be a stark “no”. Our past disappointments have the opportunity to kill our expectation. Sometimes our greatest hurdle in our walk is our last unanswered prayer. This verse tells us that God is able, so if He’s able to answer our prayer but doesn’t does that mean that He just doesn’t want to? Many times, this is where we get hung up, because humanity as a whole, if we are able and we also want to then we do it, sometimes without any consideration of the repercussions that follow. Its human nature to do what we want if we have the ability. So, to us it makes no sense that a God who is able and willing doesn’t.

God’s ability never outweighs His willingness; He is both able and willing. He wants to give us the desires of our hearts. Psalms tells us that He catches our tears in a bottle, those times when our hearts melt and flow out of our eyes, He cares….He’s even moved. John 11 tells the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus who were very close to the Lord. So, when Lazarus got sick the sisters immediately sent for Him. The trio had witnessed their Lord heal the lame, give sight to the blind, and restore what leprosy had taken. They never doubted He could and until Lazarus breathed his last, they never questioned that HE was willing. But the days rolled by and so did the sisters hope. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had been in the grave four days. As Jesus entered the small town, Martha went running to Him, but Mary she stayed behind, it wasn’t until He called for her that she went to Him. Why is that? For up to this point Mary has been the devoted one, the one who hung on His every word….sitting at His feet in the ultimate bible study. I think she was disappointed, it had seemed like the Messiah had let her down. She had thought that He loved them, now she felt pushed aside and forgotten. But what she didn’t know is that was the exact reason why He waited….”Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was ill, he stayed where he was two more days.”. Mary had asked for a healing but Jesus wasn’t willing to do that, He had a resurrection in mind. You see many times we are asking for a healing but Jesus has something much more glorious in mind, even if it’s painful for a moment-in order to have a resurrection there must be a death. But often times we question the hand that crafted our inner beings and breathed the stars into existence. As the caravan of mourners followed Jesus to the tomb, He commanded the tomb to be rolled away, scripture says “ Jesus, once again moved, came to the tomb….and said take away the stone.” The heart of Christ moves the stone away, not only in our circumstances but also in our hearts. Martha immediately responded “BY this time there will be an odor for he has been in the tomb four days.” He responded “didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”…..then after praying for the will of the Father, He shouted “Lazarus come forth!”. What represented disappointment just a few moments earlier now was a living emblem of the love and ability of Christ.

 

Gods ability goes beyond the limits of our minds. That means that any dream, any aspiration, any plan and any prayer that we can come up with is limited. Luke 9:10-17 tells the story of Jesus multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5,000. When faced with the dilemma the disciples responded, “We have no more than 5 loaves and 2 fish-unless we are to go and buy food for all these people?” Do you see the limitations? One is small, the other is larger yet they both limit God. The reason we get disappointment with God is that we pull Him down and try to compress Him into the boundaries of our own minds so when He exceeds those boundaries we get frustrated. Every disappointment with God is because our expectancy is motivated by our own fleshly wills instead of the Spirits revealed will. Here’s the difference: anytime our expectation is focused on our comfort, acceptance, preference or our own names then that’s our flesh’s desire. The Spirits will on the other hand is concerned with our freedom, Christs glory & fame, the body of Christ as well as the lost. While the flesh disappoints, the Spirit strengthens. We can be infused and amped up with the resurrection power by four simple words: your-will-be-done.

 

Just like the feeding of the 5,000, it’s not always the blessing for us that is the greatest work but the blessing in us. the greatest miracle wasn’t necessarily the multiplying of the loaves and fish but the satisfaction of over 5,000 hungry souls. You see in the context this verse is the praise Paul is giving to a God who gives spiritual strength to the weak through knowledge of His love and the dwelling of Christ in our hearts. This verse is saying to us “I (God) can do far more abundantly IN and THROUGH you than you can ever imagine!

 

Think how shallow our lives will be if we are only the recipients of blessing instead of the vessel. This promises that abundance in our lives isn’t limited to the tangible realm but is also multiplied within.

Our God isn’t limited by our expectations. He is able to surpass them not only in quality but in quantity. To answer the question we started with: what are you expecting from God? For God to be God; big, capable, willing, and limitless.

 

Join us in our study of Ephesians!! Here is the link for the study guide

Ephesians 3 study guide

So long 

The farmer looked up into the grey skies, from the view from the farmhouse window it looked as if the farmer was evaluating the chance for rain, yet the wife knew better. She didn’t see a man evaluating the weather, she saw a man evaluating the harvest. A barefoot little boy with mud smeared on his jeans pulled on her apron and asked “mama, why does papa walk around the field looking at the clouds?” She smirked the way mothers do and bent down so his eyes met hers. He’s not looking at the clouds, he’s looking past them.” The child looked confused. “How?” She gently wiped the dirt off his face with a wet clothe and stroked his blonde hair out of his eyes as she pulled the answer from the vault of her heart. “Your father is praying over the harvest my child because he knows that every seed grows from the grace of God.” Content with the answer the child scurried away. She was drawn back to the farmhouse window. He was still out there, hands lifted toward the heavens. His tanned weather worn face shone with faith and patience. It had been so long since rain had bathed the corn. It all was drying up before their eyes. They couldn’t do anything but throw their hands toward the heavenlies. All the other farmers had given up on the harvest for that year. “It’s a lost cause…” the preacher whispered Sunday after church as he wagged his head back and forth. But the farmer wasn’t so easily deterred. His faith bubbled out of his mouth in response to the poison of discouragement “I merely planted the seed it’s not my job to make the harvest grow..” “But it’s been so long…” the preacher responded “God won’t reject the seed we’ve sown in faith.” The farmer shakes his hand and walked off with his family in tow. “Papa, how do you know for sure?” The inquisitive boy asked. “I don’t son-but faith doesn’t require us to know in advance.” Her heart fluttered as she thought of that; faith is believing even when we can’t see in advance. “But it’s been so long Lord…” she whispered as she washed potatoes off in the sink. As she washed the dirt off of the potato, she heard a gentle whisper from heaven “your holding proof of my faithfulness.”. Her heart sank as she remembered last years bumper crop. The farmer walked the fields, hands uplifted, eyes turned heavenward, just like he is today. “they trusted and were not put to shame…” the words of Psalms 22 bled out of her heart.

(The word shame in the Hebrew language is “bosh” and means: dried up, embarrassed, disappointed, delayed, and so long. Is used when farmers experience distress over no harvest.)

She looked out at a man whose entire life echoed the heartbeat of faith. He trusted God in the bumper crop and in the drought; even though everything was drying up all around them he trusted the heart of God. As she mixed up the pie filling she glanced back out the window; he was on his knees now, face still uplifted and hands reaching high. She heard herself repeat the words “it’s been so long…too long Lord” as she laid the final plate on the old plank table she paused,she heard a strange sound…a melody she hadn’t heard in so long. She ran to the window, and gasp at what she saw; the window of heaven had been thrown wide open. The bottom was falling out of there sky, instead of the bottom falling out of their harvest. The farmer was still there, on bended knee, eyes turned heavenward, hands lifted high. She ran to him and threw her arms around him. He looked her in the eyes,his hat brim dripping with the blessings of God and said “we trusted in Him and we will not be put to shame.”.

“It’s been so long…” I don’t know if you’ve ever uttered those words.. If you’ve ever had something that seemed like an illusion etched in the front of your mind. The distant memory of a better time is vague and hazy now. Time seems to elapse the faithfulness of God after awhile. We can get caught up in the tick of the clock, with every passing minute that we wait our faith is being attacked by the subtle enemy of time. We have a plan and a time table laid out before the throne of God but He’s never been good at reading time tables.

Time begs us to throw in the towel but faith tells us to wipe our brow with it and keep trudging onward. So, whatever it is you have planted, keep looking upward. Looking past the circumstances into the heart of God. He will not reject the seed you’ve sowed in faith.

He’s got a plan-trust His heart when you can’t see His hand.