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Two Kingdoms

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“…there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The KINGDOM OF THE WORLD has become the KINGDOM OF OUR LORD and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15, NAS).”

 

“For He rescued us from the DOMAIN OF DARKNESS, and transferred us to the KINGDOM OF HIS BELOVED SON (Colossians 1:13, NAS).”

 

We must first acknowledge that there are two kingdoms: God’s and Satan’s. Ultimately, we know that the Kingdom of God will reign supreme over all darkness – the world kingdom – Satan’s kingdom reigning currently on earth. By accepting Christ’s redemptive blood through repentance, people are able to transition from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. This is the broad picture, but what about the more detailed picture that involves we who dwell on earth?  To whom does the earth belong?

  • GOD?

 

“The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…(Psalm 24:1-2, NAS).”

Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it (Deuteronomy 10:14, NAS).”

  •  SATAN?

 

“…the devil has come down to you…he has a short time (Revelation 12:12).”

“…now the ruler of this world will be cast out (John 12:31, NAS).”

“in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel…(II Corinthians 4:4, NAS).”

  • MAN?

 

“The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the EARTH hath He given to the children of men (Psalm 115:16, KJV).”

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28, NAS).”

 

This can be tricky if we only look at these Scriptures individually. Ultimately, the earth belongs to God as everything in existence does because He is the Creator of all – the seen and the unseen. He is the “owner.” As the owner, He gave rule over the earth to man through Adam. Adam and his descendants were ordained to rule as “acting manager” in a manner of speaking. However, as manager, he had the authority to give management over to someone else – and so he did. Through Adam’s sin, he inadvertently gave the management to Satan, the prince of the power of the air, aka the god of this world.

A common phrase among people is, “I went/am going through hell.” This is because currently, Satan’s domain is the earth. When he was cast from heaven, God said “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth!” – yet all is not lost. We, God’s ambassadors from the Kingdom of heaven, are clearly to usher heaven down to earth! This hasn’t been happening much because of lack of understanding of God’s Kingdom, but it’s time to learn from whence and from whom we originate.

 

“The devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him ALL the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only (Matthew 4:8-11, NAS).”’”

 

Satan could not have offered Jesus something he did not already possess. Satan took possession when Adam legally gave it to him in the Garden of Eden. God gave authority to Adam, therefore by all legal rights, because of Adam’s fall, the earth is currently run by Satan.

After the flood, God made covenant with Noah hence giving back all legal ground over the earth to man. As time passed, mankind grew more and more evil, in turn handing the earth back to Satan. It wasn’t until Jesus came in the lineage of King David that, by conquering death and the grave, authority was given to Jesus.

Now all who receive Christ as their Lord, King, and Savior have within them the One who holds the authority. God gave Jesus authority and Jesus gave authority to the Church – those who accept Christ (mankind). Through redeemed man, the Kingdom of God can reign on earth as it should have been in the beginning. God owns the earth, the earth is Satan’s dominion for now, but we who walk according to the Spirit instead of the flesh, we can take back what God originally gave to Adam. We must of necessity allow Holy Spirit to overtake us (the individual and collective body) so as to allow the Kingdom of God to come down to earth.

As Dr. Myles Monroe points out in his teachings, when Adam sinned, because he was the visible manifestation of the invisible kingdom of heaven, technically, he committed treason. He lost both his relationship and his kingdom. Dr. Munroe states: “Adam was a king without a kingdom. A ruler with nothing to rule.” God’s holy people need most desperately to discover a Kingdom mindset, how God’s Kingdom government works, and then turn and rule the earth through Holy Spirit so as to overthrow Satan and the hell he regularly ushers. The time is now to take back the earth!

 

I hope you’ll come back next time. If you’re interested in reading more, please go to my website and check out my books or my ministry Facebook page.

Peace and blessings,

 

Alexys V. Wolf

www.thefierysword.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fiery-Sword-Global-Ministries/185299884822251

http://thefierysword.wordpress.com/

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Abundant Glory

I just thought I would share this photo that I captured tonight on my back porch.

I’m in awe of the natural beauty that The Lord has made. I believe that He is the Master Artisan.

This snapshot reminded me of God. I hope that this photo will uplift and encourage all of you as well. <3

Photo taken by Alicia Hostetler of Covered By Mercy

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YOUR UNIQUE ROLE


by Neil Anderson

July 3

2 Corinthians 5:20 
We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God
 
God has a unique place of ministry for each of us. It is important to your sense of fulfillment that you realize exactly where that place is. The key is to discover the roles you occupy in which you cannot be replaced, and then decide to be what God wants you to be in those roles.
 
For example, of the five billion people in the world, you are the only one who occupies your unique role as husband, father, wife, mother, parent, or child in your home. God has specially planted you to serve Him by serving your family and the community where you live.
 
“I don’t understand women who are looking for fulfillment in the world in some meaningless job,” said a mother of five children. “What could be more challenging and meaningful than raising five godly children and managing a Christian home?” I agree. Assuming the responsibility of our primary roles is too challenging for some, but it is the only path of fulfillment. You will never be fulfilled trying to become something you’re not. 
 
You occupy a unique role as an ambassador for Christ where you work and live. These are your mission fields and you are the worker God has appointed for the harvest there. Your greatest fulfillment will come from accepting and occupying God’s unique place for you to the best of your ability. Sadly, so many miss their calling in life by looking for fulfillment in the world. Find your fulfillment in the kingdom of God by deciding to be an ambassador for Christ in the world. Paul said, “Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
 
Prayer: Lord, keep me sensitive to the ministry You have for me in the ordinary places of my daily life.


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Ephesians 4:3-6 (NAS): 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; ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

 

Matthew 16:19 (NAS): I will give YOU the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever YOU bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever YOU loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

 

There are at least 68 references in the New Testament about the Kingdom of God. Everything Jesus taught His followers to know and teach is THE KINGDOM, not anything outside of the Kingdom or fragments of the Kingdom. Every other reference about love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, salvation, humility, overcoming, having the mind of Christ, and every other topic all fall under the Kingdom – EVERYTHING. None are exclusive in and of themselves. We’ve had it backwards for centuries preaching only salvation and the cross, or prophecy, or healing, or deliverance, as somehow exclusive from God’s Kingdom. We need to be preaching exactly like Jesus – the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and nothing less. All other subjects fall under Kingdom heading.

If my great, great, great grandparents call dogs cats and teach their kids to call their dogs cats and I then continue such a practice and everyone in my family for generations thinks that dogs are called cats, does that make my family right? Of course not! It’s simply a matter of wrong thinking passed from generation to generation. I could argue until I’m blue in the face to convince people that I’m right, but I’m still wrong no matter how passionately and good intending I may be at heart hoping to bring someone into, in my estimation, truth that dogs are called cats.

So it is with religion. We, many (most) of God’s people, have practiced a garden variety of religious traditions for centuries. Does that make it right? Absolutely not! For most that fervently practice the religions of their forefathers do it wholeheartedly with good intentions. Needless to say, it’s still wrong. Jesus preached the Kingdom. Jesus came to tear down the wall that divides (Ephesians 2:13-16). Jesus came against the religious practices and man-made traditions that kept (and continue to keep) people of all walks of life in perpetual bondage and division.

Ladies and gentlemen, Christ came to bring all people freedom from religion, not create more religions. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Non-denominational, Church of God, Church of Christ, and countless other denominations inadvertently stand between people, their Creator and His Kingdom – our Kingdom – He graciously offers His people. Divisions of every kind (e.g. color, race, money, politics, etc.) stand as a tall, wide and deep barrier between imprisonment and liberty and it needs to stop. God has called His holy people to bring heaven down to earth, not become more like the earth.

When we begin to discover the Kingdom of God, His government, His mind, His ways, His plan, His purpose and all that fall under the umbrella of His Kingdom, we will cease hating each other, competing against one another, dividing ourselves from one another – killing each other instead of healing each other. He has equipped His people with power from on high and it’s time to learn it, understand it, apply it to our own lives, and then walk in it in a world full of sickness, sorrow, darkness and death.

 We who carry the name of Jesus are to be the walking, talking, physical manifestation of Jesus Himself. If He is in you, He needs to come through you and that requires unity in love. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. If you want to expand God’s Kingdom, stop the division. Recognize that possibly, just possibly, much of what your parents taught you may be incorrect. There’s no shame in this admission as no one is perfect. What is shameful is to know things need changing and pridefully refuse to change.

Supernatural love that is God is the key because it is the essence of His holy Kingdom. Know His heart and allow it flow through you.

……………..

Closing verses:

Philippians 2:2 (NAS): Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

I Corinthians 1:10 (NAS): I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

I Corinthians 6:17 (NAS): But the one who joins himself to the Lord is ONE spirit with Him.

 

I hope you’ll come back next time. If you’re interested in reading more, please go to my website and check out my books or my ministry Facebook page.

Peace and blessings,

 

Alexys V. Wolf

www.thefierysword.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fiery-Sword-Global-Ministries/185299884822251

http://thefierysword.wordpress.com/

 


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Circling for a Landing

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Do all dogs do this?  All the ones I’ve ever had did.  They would approach their favorite landing spot…pillow…dog bed…my bed (sigh)…and they would begin the process.  They would circle and tramp and circle and tramp and circle and tramp until they finally plopped and curled into a compact and comfortable ball of fur.  They would then look up at you with “that look” (furtive, raised eyebrows)–the look that said, “I am comfortably ensconced now…DO.NOT.BOTHER.ME.  I will let you know when I need feeding or walking or other service from you.” 

The Doberman would exhale with a canine harrumph.  The Dalmatian would tuck her nose tightly under her foreleg.  The Dane would sprawl…legs cast about in random compass headings…occupying acreage that was the envy of small countries (This is true; I have the ambassadorial complaints on file).

It was clear to anyone who observed: the pooches had arrived at max comfort and would not move until some biological necessity or some rude human required such movement.

And I have to confess that part of me grew wistful as I observed this dogified pursuit of comfort…landing “just so” on a perfectly prepared perch…not a care in the world…the essence of serenity.  Makes me want to run out and get one of those deluxe doggie beds.  You know the kind…it’s advertised in the “mall in the sky” magazine that you browse when you fly.  Those doggone beds have comfort-dialed mattresses, separate dining rooms, and spare rollout doggie cots for when the in-laws visit.

Supreme comfort…the pinnacle of pup aspirations.  And, I am afraid, often the pinnacle of people’s aspirations as well.  There have been so many conversations with Christians who have punctuated the dialogue with a note about (or insistence upon) comfort.  “I’m just not comfortable with that,” or, “I’m looking for a place where I can be comfortable.” 

My usual mental response:  “Well…the mattress store is just down the street, why don’t you try there?”  My preferred verbal response:  “Are you out of your EVER.LOVING.MIND?!?”  No, not really… 

My actual verbal response is usually something like this:  “I don’t think Christ followers are called to comfort; I think we’re called to radical obedience and I think that radical obedience often implies a decided lack of comfort.”  Then, upon completion of the mandatory and reflexive eye roll, my conversation partner will usually “ease on down the road”–often muttering something about me needing to get a grip on reality. 

To be sure, the Bible mandates the giving and receiving of comfort on the part of God’s people (see Isaiah 40:1 or listen to Handel’s rendering of same). 

But the Bible’s comfort is not a pursuit of the pain-free, cushioned, doggie-bed life–nor is it a ministerial call to provide such for God’s people.  The Bible’s comfort is all about experiencing the fullness of the God’s presence in the middle of the hard stuff of life.  

Paul was most eloquent in this regard in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1.  He says that we who have struggled are called to reach out and comfort those who have had a life struggle that resembles ours…by dispensing the comfort we ourselves received from the very hand of God.  This is not a “making my life easy” proposition; this is a full immersion in the fabric of life and ministry that Jesus called “abundant” but which is not usually marked by luxury or an absence of challenging personal circumstances.  Sadly, advocacy for this is near quixotic in our day and time. 

My experience (for what it’s worth):  the most growth, the most fulfilling times of life and ministry, the deepest relationships forged, were all in the midst (don’t you love it when I speak KJV?) of the most decidedly “uncomfortable” times. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”

(2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

© All rights reserved.  Scripture quotations from the NIV. 


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PRESERVING UNITY


by Neil Anderson

 

June 25
 
Ephesians 4:3 
Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
 
I really don’t mind taking a stand on biblical grounds and living with the conflict that comes from those who oppose the gospel. I think that is part of our calling. What grieves God is when our ministry and work is stopped because well-intentioned people resist the inevitable and needlessly fight change.
 
I tell my students that the greatest asset they will have in their early years of ministry is older, mature saints in the church. The greatest liability they will have is old saints who have stopped growing years ago. All these saints do is censor. They reflect no more love or kindness now than they did 20 years ago. They don’t worship–they critique the worship service. They no longer sit under the judgment of Scripture–they sit in judgment of the pastor. They no longer bear fruit–they actually prevent it. They insist that they are right when what they need to be is holy.
 
Mature saints have learned to restrict their freedom for the sake of weaker believers. Their faith doesn’t rest in traditions, so they gladly accept changes in style of ministry that will reach the younger generation.
 
Another problem arises when young Christian leaders act impulsively as change agents without giving thought to what the consequences will be to the fellowship. Any movement forward that results in the loss of fellowship is not an improvement. We must be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit. Such change agents seem to be unaware that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. The modern generation wants it now. They seem to have forgotten the fact that God does everything decently and in order. He is not the author of confusion.
 
Prayer: Father, please don’t allow me to sit, soak and sour, but to remain open-minded, lighthearted and nonjudgmental.


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A Reflection

I made it! Today marked a milestone in my short 18 years of living. I graduated high school! The last four years have been an incredible time of growing and maturing, ups, downs, and fellowship. I wouldn’t change a single one of those years (except maybe to add time to my senior year). So, I’m about to take you on a quick reflection on the last four years. 

Freshman year: Oh boy. What a big step. I remember walking into my first day of high school as a little immature and scared kid. Now it didn’t take me long to get comfortable, but it was a little nerve-racking for awhile. As I told a friend a few weeks ago, I made some mistakes almost right off the bat. I let the people I was around and my own selfish ambitions shape who I was becoming, how I talked, and how I thought. Somewhere along the right I got back to who I was and I remembered Who I represented. God made me (and everyone of you) for a particular purpose. I forgot that for a time. Freshman year is when I started strengthening the friendships I began over my elementary and junior high career. I lost some friends, but I guess that happens. 

Sophomore year: Honestly, I dont recall much of my sophomore year. At least, nothing major really stick out for me. This was the first time I spoke at church though! That was more nerve-racking than my first day of high school for sure! 

Junior year: Wow. This was probably the hardest year I had academically. I was so busy with classes that legitimately challenged me. My intention here is not to brag, but school has always come fairly easily for me. I make good grades and most of what I learn will stick with me for quite awhile. Junior year was a test and I passed. I continue to do well in school and make friends. Some of those friends that made a lasting impact on me will be discussed in a minute. Junior year is really when I started maturing both as a person and in my faith. 

Senior year: This year was different than all the rest. I took a couple dual credit classes at a local university. That was a great experience! I also spent a lot of time in the front office (my school as a class where I got to work in the front office). I’m extremely glad I chose to do that (again I’ll tell you more about that in a moment). This year was incredibly fun and exciting! I met some new friends, I made a college decision, and obviously graduation was huge! As for my college decision, I will be attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago with the intent of going into some sort of ministry field after college. I have to do my first year online because of limited space on campus, but I have a good shot of moving to Chicago in the Fall of 2015. 

Friends that made a lasting impact: Now don’t get me wrong. I have a ton of friends that I will never forget. The thing is, if I wrote about all of them, I might as well write a book. I could fill pages. I’ll spare you the time and effort by just writing about a few that are really the closest to me. 

First, my brother and I have really formed the relationship brothers should have. We used to fight a lot as kids. We didn’t get along. Yes, it’s normal for sibling to quarrel. But, we just never got really close until around my eighth grade year. Maybe even my freshman year. The point is, now we are best friends. We set aside what was hindering our relationship from progressing and allowed our faith in Jesus to shape our friendship. I love Joey and I’m grateful for the relationship we have now. 

I have another friend named Craig. I knew Craig a little bit in elementary because we played on the same sports teams and of that good junk. He didn’t go to the same school though until eighth grade. What I love most about my friendship with Craig is the fact that I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch him grow in his walk with Christ. I don’t claim to have any huge part in that growth, but I’ve been completely delighted when we have had the opportunity to discuss the Word and I’ve been delighted when he has had questions about God that I was able to give him an answer to. He’s really been an encouragement to me through the years! He knows what it takes, or rather Who it takes to live the Good Life. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. 

Like Craig, I’ve knew the next guy just a little in elementary. Trace also came to my school in eighth grade. Trace is an incredible athlete! I know if he works hard, he can achieve a lot both in life and in his future athletic endeavors. Through high school, Trace and I would poke fun at each other (always in a friendly way, of course!), but he has also been an encouragement. Just watching how hard he works to be the best he can be is what has encouraged me the most. I wish him nothing but the best! 

The next friend is Drake. To be quite honest and a little blunt, Drake is good at aggravating people. It isn’t often I show frustration and anger in public, but at times Drake has successfully brought it out of me. And on purpose I might add! Regardless, he quickly became one of my best friends. Even though we spent much of our time together joking with each other, he’s always been a person I could talk to just to get things off my chest. All of these friends that I have listed (and the last one I will list) are people I can talk to if I need to. We’ve both share a love for golf. Now, Drake is better at golf than I’ll ever be, but I still enjoy the game. I remember one particular time on the golf course, we had a pretty serious discussion in which we basically shared some of the history in our lives. I won’t get into the actual conversation we had because it was just a talk between he two of us. However, the point is that that is a moment that really stuck out to me. 

Finally, the last friend I’m going to talk about. I’ve rambled enough. :) I met this girl for the first time this year. In the front office. Yep. Remember that blow off class I was talking about? It ended up being a bigger blessing than I thought possible. Saylor is an all-around incredible person. Just about every time I’ve been around her, she either laughing at random things, smiling about something, or blankly staring at me because I said something incredibly stupid. Many times this year when I’ve been stressed or down about something, she’s been able to lift me up just because of her attitude. She didn’t know it of course, but just being around her often brightened my day. I looked forward to that time in the office every day just because of the fun and uplifting time I knew was coming. I’ve only known Saylor for a year, but I’m glad I met her and I thank God for her daily. I hope we can continue to grow closer as individuals. 

I thank God for all of these relationships I have managed to make over the years. God is good! My time in high school has shaped me and matured me into the person I am now. My faith has grown tremendously as well! Again, there are many more friends I could talk about, but time would not permit me to do so. I sincerely hope to remain in contact with all of the ones I listed as I enter my college career and beyond. I know many classmates and other relationships formed in high school often lose contact after one or both people graduate. It’s just a fact of life. But you can bet that I will do everything within my power to keep in contact with my friends. 

I think this verse fits well for the relationships God has blessed me with:

“Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.”- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

-Austin


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IN THIS FREE LAND, BY THEE OUR LOT IS CAST

In This Free Land, By Thee Our Lot is Cast

 

I love Memorial Day and all holidays patriotic! I have great memories, just like you, of barbecues, running in the sprinklers, and knowing summer has just begun!  But I also have always been taught and reminded the significance of what these holidays mean.  Coming from a family with many that have served and are serving our country, and being married to a former marine, I know firsthand-as many others do-what our soldiers sacrifice.  Though I have not felt the sting of losing a loved one from war, I have a deep sense of gratitude to those who have fought and died for the freedoms that I enjoy.  But, as I have grown older and grown deeper in my relationship with God, I understand even more how precious this freedom is and how important it is to recognize that freedom comes with a cost…and a cross.  We don’t all need a history lesson today, but it is important, as we are remembering, to note that our country was based and founded on the Word of God.  It was the love for God and the desire to have the freedom to worship Him that caused our founders to fight for independence and to be willing to lay down their lives.  Because of their love of God, they surely were reminded of the One who was willing to lay down His life for them.  They knew that Jesus willingly went to the cross, in obedience to the Father, to make them free.  Free from the bondage of sin.  Free to love and serve Him because of the righteousness of Christ.

Today, as you gratefully remember our heroes that have fallen, do not neglect to give thanks to the One who made and has sovereignly ruled this land.  Who places kings and rulers and holds them in derision. Who raises up the soldiers and gives them the courage to fight.  The One who gives us hope because of Jesus Christ.  Hope not based on the security of our nation, our freedoms, or peace.  Hope based on the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Remember, as the early hymn-writer did, the source and reason for our freedom:

 
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
 

 
Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
 

 
From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
 

 
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

Daniel C. Roberts

http://www.livingoutgodsdesign.blogspot.com


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UNDER THE SAME YOKE


by Neil Anderson

May 24

Matthew 11:28-30 

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light
 
Matthew 11:28-30 contains a beautiful description of the purpose and pace of the Spirit-filled walk. Jesus invites you to a restful walk in tandem with Him, just as two oxen walk together under the same yoke. “How can a yoke be restful?” you ask. Because Jesus’ yoke is an easy yoke. As the lead ox, Jesus walks at a steady pace. If you pace yourself with Him, your burden will be easy. But if you take a passive approach to the relationship, you’ll be painfully dragged along in the yoke because Jesus keeps walking. Or if you try to race ahead or turn off in another direction, the yoke will chafe your neck and your life will be uncomfortable. The key to a restful yoke-relationship with Jesus is to learn from Him and open yourself to His gentleness and humility.
 
The picture of walking in the Spirit in tandem with Jesus also helps us understand our service to God. How much will you get done without Jesus pulling on His side of the yoke? Nothing. And how much will be accomplished without you on your side? Nothing. A yoke can only work if both are pulling together.
 
Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). You and I have the privilege to plant and water, but if God isn’t in it, nothing will grow. However, if we don’t plant and water, nothing will grow. God has chosen to work through the church, in partnership with you, to do His work in the world today. He’s the lead ox. Let’s learn from Him.
 
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I want You to be my yoke-mate today. Keep me from going ahead or lagging behind. I want to walk step-by-step with You.


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God is Not an Elephant — But Most of the Rest of Us Are

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My last time in Zambia I had an interesting encounter.  After a couple of days work with some remote churches, my hosts and I were heading back to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city.  En route, we stopped at a roadside café for some tea and scones (delicious).  Looking out across the veranda, we saw an elephant loitering by the outside tables.  We learned that this elephant often hung around the café and had been adopted by the staff.  It seemed quite domesticated for a four-ton animal. 

Elephants are curious creatures:  their trunks, their tails, their big ears, their ivory tusks all contribute to the curiosity factor.  Plus…there is one reputed trait of elephants that bears exploring:  Elephants, we are told, never forget. 

Researchers have scrutinized elephants to help understand elephantine memory and have confirmed that there is, indeed, something to it.   Elephants have been observed to follow the same migration pathways and apparently have a way to “hand down” memories of the wheres and whats of their annual trips.  Elephant clan groups have distinct burial sites to which they will inevitably head when “their time comes” and elephants have been noted for their high-level family affinities. 

All of which is to say that elephants are quite unique creatures and that notion serves as a prelude to a grand theological statement: 

God is not an elephant.

Having cleared that up, I wish you well.  No, indeed God is not an elephant.  Particularly with respect to memory:  where (apparently) elephants never forget, God can and does choose to forget our sin.

This is a wondrous aspect of life with God in Christ.  Not only does God forgive our sin (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9) but He has a supernatural ability, fueled by His great love for us, to forget our sin (“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” Isaiah 43:25).

This is a blog and not a theological treatise on the nature of God’s forgiveness.  For the moment, we will simply rest in this dimension of God’s grace and mercy toward us:  all the wickedness we bring before God, is forgiven and forgotten…no longer held against us…by Him. 

But there, as they say, is the rub.  Because while God is not an elephant, most of the rest of us are.  

I was reminded of this recently when, in bolt out of the blue fashion, someone chose to remind me of one of my own most grievous, sinful, relational-fracturing, odious failures.  And, while clinging tightly to the fact of forgiveness from God, I was immediately transported (in my thoughts, emotions, and spirit) back to the place of that failure.  I heard the words I said and the way I said them.  I saw the looks of horror and hurt in others’ eyes.  I felt their anger and woundedness afresh.  I re-read the emails and notes and letters I had (yes) mentally filed away.  I felt it all (all of it) all over again.  It took me a while to climb back out of that “tar pit” of despair.  Even when I had gotten out, I still had sinful memory “tar balls” stuck to my spirit.  It hurt…a lot.  The hurt became anger; the anger became fury and then…well… 

And then I was taken back to my own proclivity for doing exactly the same thing.  Because while God is not an elephant (with respect to memory), I certainly am.  Simultaneously blessed and cursed by (I am told) a better than average memory, I have the tendency to rehearse and repeat others’ sinful failures when confronted by the squeeze of relational circumstances. 

It is so easy to dig out others’ failures and bring them to my mind (like a warped cable TV “on demand” feature) and then (of course) bring them to their minds when in skirmish mode.  It is a sad state and, with respect to memory of failures, I wish I was not an elephant…and yet it seems I am. 

It’s as if the memories of others’ failures are balloons with very, very long strings attached.  We can (I can), it seems, let the balloon go until it is far distant, out of sight, and seemingly forgotten.  But like carnival balloons, I have tied the long string to my wrist and can pull the balloon back within reach anytime I choose.  I somehow cannot seem to choose untying the string and just letting the balloon go. 

I have often struggled with these verses from the Apostle Paul:  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).  

For Paul, “forgetting” does not seem to be a memory wipe.  After all, he had just finished rehearsing his reasons for “confidence in the flesh” and counting them as “garbage.” It seems that Paul was making a conscious, Spirit-guided choice to not let the memories impact his forward progress in Christ.  And this is the choice I must make if I am not to be an elephant. 

I must choose to not draw the memory of others’ sinful failures back into my presence…not to lord the failures over them nor to delight myself with my own relative “righteousness.”  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  “All” includes, well, all; and that certainly includes me.  And, as much as I would sometimes like to take out those memories of others’ sin and play with them, I must choose to not. 

I have enough trouble not resembling an elephant with my carbohydrate-fueled physique.  I don’t want to be the elephant-like person who “never forgets.”  I want to forgive AND forget.  I want to “press on” unhindered by my own decisions and I want to let the balloons go.  And…it would be nice…if others on this journey with Jesus would make that choice too. 

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). 

Howard blogs at:  howardsruminations.com 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.