God continues to provide opportunities for our character growth. One such opportunity for me was the involved care of my elderly parents these last 3 years. Each day provided joys, challenges, education, and the stretching of the fruit of the Spirit.
Mom has full-time care now, and Dad is rejoicing in his final transition into the loving arms of Jesus. His steady and difficult physical decline gave me opportunities to grow in understanding, patience, and advocacy. Each day, I prayed that God would give me what I needed to provide the best service and love to one who had served and loved all his life.
God gave me viable, practical, spiritual food for the greatest of challenges. Proverbs 31:8-9 guided me in moments of discouragement or weariness: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” I learned that in some cases, if I hadn’t noticed, spoken, asked, and persevered, very important issues would have been missed.
How we speak is as important as what we speak. Proverbs 31: 25-26 provides guidance by saying, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Wow, did that stretch me. To strike the balance of communicating with urgency, kindness, and wisdom is priceless. Good caretaking relationships were birthed through this mindset and through the associated actions.
If you are a caretaker, I’m praying for you. You are doing a valuable and sometimes difficult job. Psalm 81:10b documents where God says to His people, “I the Lord, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” I encourage you to ask God to fill your mouth with wisdom, balance, and kindness. He never fails, and He teaches us as we go.
If you are in transition of any sort, I’m also praying for you. God’s grace will strengthen you and help you. Hebrews 4:16 encourages all of us: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As always, you are welcome to respond to this post. Feel free to explore the devotional book on this site. Let it help you connect with God and hear from Him with increasing clarity. Love and blessings to you.
The Power of Abigail
You could say Abigail was an influencer in her day. She had a lot of power behind the scenes. When she needed it, she had power in the face of uncertainty, danger, and difficult circumstances. In fact, her difficult circumstances most likely led her to seek God for that power and influence.
We find Abigail’s entrance in 1 Samuel 25. Actually, she’s the focal point of that chapter along with the heir apparent, David. David and his men requested food from land-owner Nabal, (whose name means foolish), and he rudely rejected. David and his men had protected Nabal’s people and property, and had asked nothing for themselves, except this food. David became enraged, and planned to wipe out all the men in the household. A servant caught wind of the plan and warned Abigail, who quickly came up with a plan to quickly provide much food, apologies, and words of peace. David received her gifts, apologies, humility, and wise counsel. Tragedy was averted, and David responded with grateful words and actions.
We can look at Abigail’s words and actions today and still learn from the influence in the following ways:
Abigail, in the face of danger and offense, falls on her face before David, and refers to herself as a maidservant. She rode to meet David riding a lowly donkey. She was, in fact, a woman of substance, both in character and material wealth. She apologizes for her husband’s poor behavior, and lets David know that she had been unaware of their request. She, in essence, takes the blame for things that were not her fault.
If she had met offense with her own offense, the outcome would have surely been different. Her humility was like the sun breaking through the storm clouds of David’s anger. She was a breath of fresh air in the face of deep offense.
Wisdom, by its purest definition, is “navigating life well.” In this case, Abigail saw the situation for what it was, and used wise words and actions to bring about peace.
She quickly prepared a feast for David and his men, more food than was asked for initially. She sent a messenger ahead of her, letting David know the feast was on its way. When she arrives, not only is she humble, but she reminds David that he serves God, and that he has a noble calling on his life. She speaks to him as the next ruler, and that he has the choice to keep his soul and conscience unstained from unnecessary bloodshed.
She speaks wisdom and future blessings over David’s life in a positive foretelling, which can be seen as prophetic words and wisdom from God Himself. David responds with praise to God, praise to Abigail and her wisdom and discernment. He realizes Abigail has rescued him from a disaster that he would regret.
The household servant knew they were in grave danger, and chose to tell Abigail rather than Nabal, who was intoxicated in the midst of his own party. The servant knew she was trustworthy, and would take decisive, positive action to quickly address the situation. All the servants immediately obey her direction, knowing that their lives depended on it. They knew her leadership was solid. Her ongoing influence and power are tested in this crisis, and she passes the test.
Abigail understood how life works. She humbly provided, and humbly received. After Nabal dies from shock after she reveals the truth to him, David sends an offer of marriage to Abigail. She accepts his offer, and offers to serve in humility. She also reaps what she sows, as David later rescues her and others when they are later abducted from the city of Ziklag.
FYI, Abigail is my new favorite influencer. Some may think that her humility and her apologies make her look weak. The opposite is seen here. Her humility, along with her wisdom, trustworthiness, and understanding make her one of the most powerful people who ever lived.
The Temple Project Part 4 – The Holy Spirit Fills the Temple
Since the beginning of time, the Holy Spirit has brought creativity, order, and power! As the third Person of the Trinity, He is God the Holy Spirit, along with God the Father and God the Son. He is not less-than. He works in conjunction with the Father and Son to bring about the will of God.
He hovered over the unformed creation in Genesis 1:2. All through the Old Testament books, the Holy Spirit “came upon” prophets and kings to deliver words of power to God’s people. He inspired the writing of the Word of God through the centuries. As God, He knows the deepest things about God: “Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them (the things God has prepared for us) by and through His Spirit, for the Holy Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God (the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny), for what person perceives (knows and understands) what passes through a man’s thoughts except the man’s own spirit within him? Just so no one discerns (comes to know and comprehend) the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Filling Solomon’s Temple
As King Solomon built a temple to worship God, he carefully obeyed God’s instructions. As he had the ark of God brought in, he welcomed God’s presence: “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:9-11)
God responds to worship and unity in Solomon’s temple by again bringing His Presence: “When the priests came forth from the holy pace and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord, saying, “He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,” then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” (2 Chronicles 5:11-14)
Jesus came to bring a New Covenant, a further blessing to God’s people. He would be our perfect Sacrifice, and our faith in Him and His saving grace would bring us into an eternal relationship with Him. He promised His disciples that when He left the earth in bodily form, He would send One just like Him, just as the Father had promised: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever, that is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because he abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
Here’s where things change…the Holy Spirit would now be IN the believer instead of UPON the believer at certain times. The evening of His resurrection, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they with clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
The Holy Spirit Fills the Human Temple
As they prayed and waited, God sent the Holy Spirit to fill the believers. “And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, when suddenly, there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. and there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages (tongues) as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression (in each tongue in appropriate words.”
Peter proclaimed, “This is the beginning of what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream (divinely suggested) dreams. Yes, and on My menservants also and on My maidservants in those days I will pour out of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy (telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom.” ” (Acts 2:1-4, 16-18)
Power for Us
This power from the Holy Spirit is available to every believer. We have the blessing of having access to God from the inside of us as well as from all around us. He will fill, empower, embolden, correct, inspire, teach, train, and lead every believer. He will gift you with spiritual gifts as He sees fit to build up, encourage, and comfort others. (See 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.) He will develop good fruit in you. (See Galatians 5:22-23.) He wants to give you what you need to expand the the kingdom of God on earth. He will teach you what the Word of God means. You will hear the still, small voice of God in your spirit. You are never alone when you are filled with God! We can live a life on this earth and forever with Him.
If you have questions about anything you’ve read in The Temple Project, feel free to message me! I would love to listen, understand, and help! Blessings to you.
The Temple Project Part 3 – Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Welcome back! So far, we’ve determined that you and I are temples of God. We are God-created humans with the capacity to carry His presence. We’ve also determined that all together, we are the church, the temple of God. We carry the presence and blessings of God in a corporate way.
The Need for Cleansing
What happens, though, when things don’t remain holy on the inside of individuals and on the inside of the church at large? As you might suspect, Jesus always has a plan. He gives us a glimpse of His heart and His intentions for us and our holiness as we walk through this life as individual temples and as the church:
“Now the Passover of the Jews was approaching, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And in the temple (enclosure) He found the people who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting at their tables.
He made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; then to those who sold the doves He said, “Take these things away! Stop making My Father’s house a place of commerce!” His disciples remembered that it is written (in the Scriptures), “Zeal (love, concern) for Your house (and its honor) will consume Me.”
Then the Jews retorted, “What sign (attesting miracle) can You show us as (proof of) your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and You will raise it up in three days?”
But He was speaking of the temple which was His body. So when he had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered what He had said. And they believed and trusted in and relied on the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:13-22)
Father, Son, and Spirit Together in Purpose
We see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in concert in these moments to fulfill the purposes of God on the earth. The Father had planned this moment since the beginning of time. Jesus knew (and knows) the intentions of every heart. He functions in the Holy Spirit without measure, and knows all things. (See John 3:34)
Keep the Temple Holy
One purpose in cleansing the temple was to keep the temple holy in the power and passion of the Lord and His Scriptures. What He saw was the holy temple of God was being used as a marketplace to make profit. People were dishonestly making money off money changing. Animals were in the temple area instead of outside the grounds. Let’s realize, where there are animals, there is smell, chaos, and noise. Sellers were using the temple as a “short cut” to get where they wanted to go. The disrespect, the greed, and the callousness of it all woke up the zeal of the Lord.
Conviction of Sin
Another purpose was to convict the wrongdoers of sin. He made a powerful display of the Did Jesus have a tantrum? I think not, according to the clues in the Scriptures. He wove a whip made of cords, quietly, and with a sense of perfect timing. Jesus was filled with all the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit’s job includes convicting the world of sin (See John 16:8-9). This was a zealous, righteous controlled cleansing of His Father’s house. It was not a tantrum. It was done in accordance with His Father’s will, as Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing. (See John 5:19) It was part of Him making things right in that environment. Can you picture coins scattering everywhere for the poor and previously cheated customers to claim. Isn’t that just like God to repay people for the injustices they experienced?
Drawing Us Near
Lastly, as Jesus drew people to Himself as the Savior and Redeemer of their souls, He was displaying his perfect balance of grace and truth. He is full of grace, and full of truth. He wants all people to be holy as He is holy (See 1 Peter 1:16). He still draws us today (See John 12:32) and wishes for each of us to follow Him and His ways of love, righteousness and holiness.
The Throne of Grace
The reality is, we cannot cleanse ourselves. We can repent and confess our sins before the Lord, with faith that He will do the cleansing. He is the only sinless one with the right and the authority to do so. He allowed His human temple to be destroyed so He could destroy the power of death and sin in our lives. His sacrifice gives us all hope for a life of forgiveness, cleansing and freedom. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus still calls us to come with confidence to that throne of grace. We are invited to examine our hearts often. The conviction from the Holy Spirit draws us to that place of repentance, mercy, and grace. I urge you to rest in His presence and allow Him to show you, to lead you, and to cleanse your temple. All He does for you is in love. The discomfort of momentary conviction is worth the peace and freedom of living in a clean temple. Blessings to you as you enjoy His freedom!
The Temple Project Part 2
Part 2: God is Building Us!
When you think God is amazing for building us into individual temples for Him, He shows us that as His people, we create a larger, cohesive temple for Him to dwell: the church. His presence in us becomes multiplied exponentially as we gather together in His name, The individual anointing in us becomes a corporate anointing, able to magnify the Lord, and able to uplift the body itself.
From “Me” to “Us”
God met individually with Moses in the desert. The cloud of God’s presence would come and He and Moses would speak face to face as friends. When the cloud began to move, however, it was a sign to the whole camp it was time to pack up and move. Then it became “us.” God was leading and working with His chosen people to unify, re-identify, and strengthen them.
When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, the pronouns were (and are) in the plural. He was indicating that we ought to pray together as one unit. The Father is addressed as “Our Father.” We ask God to give “us our daily bread.” We ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” And to “not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
Jesus meant for us to work our faith together, to pray together, and to dwell in unity together. As such, He tells us that the two greatest commandments are to “Love God, and love your neighbor. Upon these commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The Apostle Peter describes the New Testament church like this: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) In that context, Jesus is proclaimed the Cornerstone, the foundation of this temple.
We, as spiritual, living stones, are being shaped and molded together to form this spiritual house. That means our rough edges, our pride, and the sinful human nature that weighs us down, must be polished off. In other words, we don’t fit together well if we’re carrying too much “self.” Being in community in conjunction with the Holy Spirit helps polish those edges. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
The goal that God earnestly has in mind for us is the love and unity that come from being the true body of Christ. Paul uses the analogy of the human body to explain the church in 1 Corinthians 12:12,18, 26-27: “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they be many, are one body; so also is Christ. But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if one member suffers, al the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
For the body to get along in unity and grow, we must change our mindset from human selfishness to selflessness. Paul tells the church at Ephesus, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Ephesians 6:2) These burdens he’s talking about is our weaknesses, personalities, quirks, and other things in all of us that require grace. In other words, he saying to work together and keep working together with grace and forgiveness.
Paul’s monumental statements concerning the body tell us more about the goal of Christ’s church: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling…
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-6,11-16)
Yes, God wants and needs you to participate in the body of Christ, wherever He leads you. You are unique, called into His kingdom, and have special gifts to share. He will make a place for you in the body of Christ.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Temple Series: God Cleanses the Temple
The Temple Project
Part 1: What is God Building?
It is my distinct pleasure to remind you that God is building YOU! That’s right, you are a beautiful work in progress, no matter how it looks and feels to you right now, Each and every trial, tribulation, victory, and failure are part of His plan to build you into a stronger, more compassionate, greater-loving you. He’s building you to be more like Him – peaceful, joyful, holy, and full of glory.
The Old and Glorious
The magnificent temples of the Old Testament were built from the blueprints of heaven given to the spiritual leaders in order to duplicate an earthly version of the heavenly temple. These earthly temples were built from the outside-in of the finest materials. And gold. Lots of shiny, brilliant gold. (See 1 Kings 6-8, 2 Chronicles 5-7, Ezra 3) After the framework was built, the inner rooms were constructed, ornately decorated, and made ready for the presence of the Lord to fill them. In fact, the presence of the Lord overwhelmed them with power and glory. “It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
The New and Glorious
Here’s where it gets even better! “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) That’s how much God values you. That’s how much He will fill you and protect you. And yes, because of Jesus’s work in you and for you, you are holy. You can ask Him for more of His Holy Spirit and His glory, He is willing to fill you as He filled the temples of old.
You as a Temple
So how do we function as a temple of God? First, we can realize that we have within ourselves the capacity to worship God. Our being can be a place of worship. praise, obedience, and gratefulness to God. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1) How can we make progress there? Our transformed minds.
Our Transformed Minds
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself that he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:2-3) The Word of God and the Holy Spirit work together to help us think well. Some of our old ways of thinking have derailed us, and God is eager to fill each of his people with wisdom, faith, and good judgment. We have access to all these as His precious ones.
A Place of Revelation
As we invite God’s presence to fill our temple, He will show us things about Him, about ourselves, and about important life strategies that we need to know. We will know things we could not know otherwise. He leads us in His ways, on His paths, and for His purposes. We only have partial knowledge on this earth, but God gives us what we need to live a victorious life. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face, now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
A Place of Beauty
The physical temples of old were places of distinct and overwhelming beauty. The creativity, the artwork, the exercising of gifts and talents to glorify God were clearly evident. The same is true inside of you. God has gifted you with ideas and talents for you to use. He is also making YOU more beautiful on the inside. He’s filling you with the love and grace that comes from Him. Even through those trials and tribulations, He can give you a demeanor that can only come from one who knows and trusts their loving God.
A Temple for a Lifetime and Beyond
Through it all, He’s building relationship with you that will last forever. That is the promise for those who follow God and His ways. His transformation on the inside of your temple may not always be quick. It took Solomon and thousands of craftspeople seven years to complete the temple of the Lord. Expect Him to love you enough to work on you for your lifetime. Even the advanced Apostle Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Stay tuned for The Temple Project Part 2: God is Building US!
Pioneer Part 3
Four hundred years. Biblically speaking, that’s ten generations. That’s how long it had been since a fresh word from God. Israel had fallen into a dry, oppressive system of following rules – many rules that no one could possibly keep. The heart of the Law had gotten lost in the letter of the Law. The ones “managing” the Law had fallen into a political system, and had forgotten the love with which God gave His people the Law.
“In the fullness of time” God sent His Son, Jesus to plant something new in the dry desert of His people: “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:3-7)
Again, we see that Jesus is the Pioneer of our souls, redeeming us, or buying us back, to original loving relationship with God. He did so by actually being a Seed being planted in our hearts! “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)
Seeing as the ground of the hearts of humanity had been dry and desert-like for generations, God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way, speaking of the things of God. He led many to repentance, or a turning back to God, so they could receive the Messiah who was soon-coming. The soil of their hearts needed tending to receive the Word Himself, bringing them to belief in Jesus and the salvation He brings.
Jesus spoke of the soil, or receptivity of the human heart in His parable of the soils, seen in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. If the heart is rocky or dry ground, the seed gets taken, or begins to take root and then dies. In ground that is full of weeds and thorns, the seed gets choked out by other things. And in the good soil, prepared for the word of God, the seed takes root and provides a harvest in the heart of the believer.
Part of that harvest is having the Word Himself planted in your heart. His righteousness, peace, and joy have the opportunity to fill and overflow our hearts in all circumstances as well as in our relationships. We truly become re-born into a new spiritual life, or born-again. The apostle John wrote: “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9) John is speaking of repeated, or habitual sin. Those who are born of God will sin, but God will speak to their hearts and lead them back.
Jesus, as our Pioneer, has taken what was a hopeless desert in the heart, and has planted Himself, the Seed in a barren place. He has redeemed the hearts of all who will receive Him. He has made our desert into a fruitful, pleasant place. That pleasant place starts a new “cycle” for us, one that receives and gives life.
That leads me to these questions: What is the condition of the soil of your heart? Have you let Jesus fill your heart and bring you back to life in your spirit? Ask Him to help you. Spend time with Him. He loves you.
(If you have questions about anything shared in this topic, feel free to message me.)
Pioneer Part 2
Last time, we discovered that Jesus is the original Pioneer. He has gone before us, has paved the way for us, and there is no place we can go where He hasn’t already been. He gives us the assurance of His presence as we go along in life, forging ahead, and doing new things. He makes us better pioneers!
Merriam Webster online definition 2 for the word “pioneer” reads as follows: “A person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or new method.”
Can you think of any other person who has turned the world upside down more than Jesus and his friends? Mindsets, cultural norms, outward religious practices, and a host of other changes swept into the world with the words and actions of Jesus. He treated people with love and fairness. He hung out with religious outcasts. He approached and healed the lepers, the sick, and the diseases. He broke every taboo, and loved everyone in the process.
A new line of thought was spoken with power and authority in the Sermon on the Mount. Just a few snippets from that sermon:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ (worthless) shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hellfire…
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart…
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:21-45) NKJV
Jesus was making His point – God looks on the heart of each person and desires that our devotion to Him would be from the heart and not just empty external practices. He was preparing peoples’ mindsets for the biggest change of all: a new covenant with God’s people. No longer would they have to live under the burden of sin and oppression. They would be able to release and freedom through the sacrifice of His life to take our punishment. Following Jesus in faith would mean that God would be able to guide them from the inside, rather than instruct from the outside.
Jesus was the first and only to die a sacrificial death for others, and rise from the dead as was prophesied He would. He is truly the Pioneer that defeated death and sin, and is the Way for us to follow. In loving sacrifice, and as love embodied, He turned the world upside down to benefit all mankind. Now we can live a life of love and freedom because of Him. The best Pioneer. Ever.
(Stay tuned for Pioneer Part 3.)
Pioneer Part 1
A trusted ministry friend recently called me a pioneer. I hadn’t realized that over time, team ministry had helped advance the kingdom of God. 25 years ago, not many women had been able to join the team. Things are changing in that realm, so I guess the word “pioneer” is not so far off.
My trusty online Merriam-Webster dictionary showed me one definition: “A member for a military unit usually of construction engineers.” Pioneers build – and build with a plan. The military aspect of this word tends toward organization, focus, advancement, and protection. Perhaps methodical construction is what’s happening as we work together, and as we reflect Jesus and His kingdom for the greater good.
Can we really take credit, though, for who God is, what He is doing, and what He has always done? Jesus may be considered the original team pioneer with the Father and the Spirit! Take a look:
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
God is ever-creative and ever-creating. He hasn’t stopped. The Father, Son, and Spirit have made us in their likeness. They were all there, creating together. The apostle John, through revelation, has given us more details about Jesus’s role in creating as the living Word of God:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1-3)
To tell you the truth, there are some parts of being a pioneer that are intimidating, or vague, or even discouraging. One Scripture verse that helps keep us determined and focused is this: “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Do you know what that means? God has already gone before us wherever we go! There is no place that He has not already been. Not only is the most creative creator leading the way for us as we pioneer into new things, but He is also the Lord of hosts, the commander and chief of the armies of God. So as we are led by Him, the kingdom building continues. And indeed, His plan and protection are with us. Be encouraged as you move forward in whatever is before you. He’s the Pioneer that has gone before you and has made a way.
(Stay tuned for Pioneer Part 2.)
God placed the word “earthbound” in my thoughts this morning. It’s a word I haven’t thought about in a while. It is meant to describe something that is mundane, unimaginative, and bound by earthly interests, In other words, it means boring.
Why would God say that word? I’m reminded that we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience. We are not earthly beings having an occasional spiritual experience. We were created as eternal beings to have intimate friendship with the Creator. As our Friend, He longs to tell us secrets concerning Himself, His nature, and His perfect character.
As He continues to work on my mindset, He’s reminding me of this truth: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4) He desires that our mindset be one of excited anticipation for each day, each year, and into eternity.
He did not create us to get caught up in petty arguments and futile activities. In fact, synonyms for “earthbound” include the words “carnal” and “material.” Doesn’t the Word of God call those the things of the flesh? Paul writes: “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)
These past two Sundays, God has shown me that He’s shifting the season for us. He’s equipping us in a greater way to hear His leading and to make further progress in our spiritual lives. I believe He’s beginning a season of His presence in a powerful way. It is an opportunity for us to seek Him and find Him, just as He has promised. His favor is on us to know Him in a greater way.
Moses, as a friend of God, asked for more of God’s presence and received it. “Then Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:15,18-23)
Moses had no desire to remain earthbound in his thinking. He asks to see God’s glory and God answers his request! How much more, in the power of the risen Christ, can we set our minds on things above and see God’s glory! He’s got exciting and glorious “now” for you as well as a glorious and exciting eternity. He’s merely waiting for us to seek Him and to ask. His favor is upon us.