Christianity 201

November 1, 2012

Life in the Wilderness

This post is from Claire at the blog, One Passion, One Devotion.

David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands. 1 Samuel 23:14

From the promise of kingship to the day David got the crown on his head he was in leadership training.  the wilderness may be tough and rough but it is where some of our greatest life lessons are learned.  It is the university of life.  many great people in the bible had some wilderness time before they were promoted to a position of power and responsibility.  Abraham.  Moses.  Joseph. Jacob.  Job.  John. Jesus.

Don’t underestimate or despise the wilderness season in your life.

It is essential that we “get” is that sometimes great time can pass between the call and the living that call. During this time God is shaping us and forming us and dealing with the crud within us. He is renewing our mind and making us into a vessel of honour (2 Tim 2:20-21)

Take for example Saul and David.

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. 1 Samuel 9:2

They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” 1 Samuel 10:23-24

When Saul was chosen king he was the most handsome and stand out guy in the nation. He had all the gifts and talents and personality. Samuel anointed him and he immediately began ruling as king of all of Israel. Yet he ended up failing as king and turning away from God.

“While king Saul was truly the best man Israel had to offer when they demanded a king, his heart had not been groomed through testing before he assumed the throne. As king, Saul was entrusted with a measure of anointing to lead the armies of Israel to victory and shepherd the people. Yet without the strength of character that only comes by winning private battles, these public victories exposed the previously hidden weakness of Saul’s heart towards God. That weakness, combined with his growing appetite for favor of man, led him to bring glory to himself and disobey the Lord.” Bill Johnson – Strengthen Yourself In The Lord

David however was anointed and then spent about 14 years in “training”. In those training years he endured more difficulty, persecution and rejection that many of us face in a lifetime. He probably didn’t expect it to take so long for him to be king. God didn’t want another king Saul and so took His time to mould David into a king and man after His own heart.

The wilderness always reminds me of this quote:

“But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.” ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness

The wilderness is a place of preparation in our lives, a place of transformation.  a place where we are reliant on God and trusting Him.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith— of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1 Peter 1:6-7

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

It may be a place of delay – the delay between the call and the living the call, the delay between the promise and the position.  delay has the capacity to bring up things that are hiding in our hearts that will restrict and sabotage us.  better out NOW than later!  delay reveals sin and brings it up to deal with now.  delay is a time of preparation.

There are lessons to be learned in the process, in the wilderness. Lessons about ourselves, lessons about how to work with others, lessons about how to relate to God.

God will open the right doors at the right time.

“Its not about knowing who holds the right keys but its about knowing the KEEPER of the keys”– Peter Robertson.

God can promote us at the right time. But I also believe He will also hold us back if we are not surrendered and transformed. God is full of grace but He is also holy. He uses flawed human beings but that doesn’t excuse compromise and a heart that isn’t fully leaning to God… God wants us to be intentionally following Him not intentionally following our own self and self desires.

The great things God will do through you are going to grow in the soil of persistence, prayer, obedience and sacrifice.  That means there will be plenty of plowing and pruning.  That’s the way living things grow, whether you’re talking about vegetables or vision. The process is a time of strengthening.  The process is the place where you lay down your pride and learn to rely totally on God.  Most importantly, the process is the way we grow to know God.  And that’s really the whole point. Steven Furtick

David’s time of wilderness prepared him to be king, the most renown king in all of Israel’s history, and most importantly, a man after God’s heart.

This is one of several posts Claire has written on the the wilderness theme as found in scripture. To see more, click here.

February 25, 2012

There is a River

The most interesting part of this blog is the part you never get to see: The discovery of all the wonderful things God is doing in the lives of unique individuals as reflected in the Christian blogosphere. Today’s post is part of a much longer story that will be especially of interest to women, and because the blog is relatively new, you’re encouraged to visit Faith Rises and go back to the very first post in January of this year, and follow Faith’s continuing story. You can probably read the whole narrative (to date) in less than 30 minutes.

After combing through, I decided to stay with the most current blog post — the one that led me to Faith Rises initially — that will be most meaningful to those of you for whom tears of been part of your experience this week.  The original title was Two Rivers.

Once, when I was invited to speak at a Women’s Conference to share my story, I opened by saying that I had cried a “river of tears”… That may not sound very encouraging, to some people, but I knew that there were  women present who could relate, because they too had experienced the pain and disappointments that lead to crying lots of tears. I knew, because I had been there…

Sometimes people, in an effort to be comforting,  may say,” I know how you feel”… but it’s much more of a comfort when you know that someone has actually experienced circumstances similar to your own. As women, we feel things so deeply, and “crying a river of tears” was the best way that I could describe the heartfelt sadness that accompanied me through this difficult time in my life. I knew that I was not the only one to feel this way.

Many mornings,when I was having problems with my health, and praying for a miracle, my husband would wake to hear me quietly crying, with my head sunk in my pillow. He would try to comfort me, but after a while, I think he just wanted me to let go of what he considered to be an “obsession” with wanting to have a baby. But I was not obsessed, and I would not let go.

In spite of all my tears, I knew in my heart, that there was another river…

Psalm 46 says that,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,…God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early… Be still and know that I am God…”

Sometimes we need to have a good cry, and that’s OK,… but we mustn’t cry as if there’s no hope… There is true comfort in knowing that God sees our tears, and will answer our prayers. Just remember,

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!”

Again, at risk of repeating myself, I strongly encourage you to read Faith’s story.  This link should take you to the oldest January ’12 posts where you can begin.

February 16, 2012

Scars and Struggles on the Way

II Cor 4:8(NLT) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

II Cor 4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

 II Cor 5:1(NLT) For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

 II Cor 5: 6 (NLT) So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did you leave us on our own
God, You are faithful…
~Matt Redman

February 9, 2012

God I Need Patience, and I Need It in a Hurry

Late last year the blog Reign of Faith began a series of articles under the series title Breakthrough.  We’re going to use one here today and another tomorrow.  This one appeared mid-January under the title Breakthrough: Patience.

The element of patience, spoken of in a prior post, is vital to, and on, your journey towards breakthrough. You may feel as though your journey is taking a long time. Maybe you are questioning if you will ever see the promise fulfilled. These feelings and thoughts are from the enemy. He hopes to cause a spiritual abortion within you through your feelings, thoughts, words and actions. Remember, the enemy cannot harm, curse or disable you, but he can get you to harm, curse, or disable yourself.

Maybe you have been waiting months, or even years, for manifestation. I understand how frustration can begin to surface; however, you must rebuke your flesh and subject it to the power of your spirit.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. (Hebrews 6:13-15 NKJV)

Your breakthrough is going to come after your patience has been tested {probably multiple times}. Things are going to seem like they are “going your way” and then take a so-called “turn for the worst”. People around you may begin to place pressure on you, treat you unfairly. Many things can and will happen and they are designed to test and perfect your patience.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, endured a test of His patience, steadfastness, endurance, and conviction.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. (Matthew 4:1, 2 NKJV)

Take note. When did the enemy show up? He began His attacks right after Jesus spent 40 days fasting. The enemy is not going to attack you when you are already headed down the path of destruction or when you are already off course. His attacks will come when you are seeking after God, pressing towards the mark, praying, fasting and getting new revelation. Also notice that verse 2 emphasizes the fact that He was hungry. Satan knows the points of weakness in your flesh {not to be confused with your spirit}. On your journey, before your breakthrough, when you are about to receive, he will send something your way that he knows would have typically bothered you. If worry concerning your finances is something you have done in the past, then he may throw something your way which requires you to pay money you did not feel comfortable giving up. If you are not subjecting your flesh to your spirit, then this may get you in a frenzy.

Learn to recognize areas where you previously struggled. When the enemy attacks those areas, you will be able to recognize those attacks and cast them down. Remain patient throughout every test and trial. Your patience will help propel you forward just like your faith and obedience.

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:11 NKJV)

Jesus withstood all attacks from the enemy. He was not drawn away by the lust of the flesh (1 John 2:6) nor did He grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). He continued resisting the devil, whom had no choice but to flee (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9).

You will reach the point that God has promised you. Remain faithful, obedient, and patient!

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives.  The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

January 12, 2012

Strength of Character

Anyone who can’t find Biblical encouragement and devotional material online isn’t looking very well!  Today we dropped by the devotional site of Campus Crusade For Christ International…

Be Strong in Character

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.


Bible Reading:

James 1:5-12

New International Version (NIV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

 12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 


 

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

…and found not one, but two devotional readings to share with you…

Nothing You Cannot Do

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:13, NLT).

What would you give for the power to live a truly holy, fruitful life? Strangely enough, it is yours for the asking. If your problem is timidity in witnessing, God promises to help you share your faith with others: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If it is victory over temptation, He reminds us that temptation is not a sin; it is only in the yielding that it becomes sin.

If you need victory in your thought-life, He promises to allow no tempting or testing above that you are able to bear – and that certainly includes your thought-life (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are invited to “cast all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If it is forgiveness you seek, He offers it freely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV).

In short, you have no burden, no problem, no need that is too big for our Lord to handle. “Ye receive not, because ye ask not,” He reminds us.

If your need is for physical healing, know that He is able to heal you if it is His will. If His answer to your prayer is no, thank Him for the sure knowledge that His grace is sufficient in the midst of pain and suffering. Acknowledge His sovereign right to be God in your life, whatever the cost may be. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and He will” (Psalm 37:5).


Bible Reading:

Philippians 4:6-12

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.


Today’s Action Point: I will begin this day – and every day – by committing everything I do to the Lord and expecting Him to help me. I will remember that I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and power (Philippians 4:13).

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