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By: Carole L. Haines
How do we measure Spiritual Growth in our lives? How can we tell we are making progress, when sometimes we feel like we’re falling back? There is an answer to that question right in the Book of 2 Peter, chapter 1.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I highly recommend that you go back and read the whole 1st chapter of 2 Peter at this point, just to get the amazing Context of this Scripture. But in practical encouragement about growing in our Lord Jesus, this is a key passage. The desire of each of our hearts as followers of Jesus, is to be fruitful in the Kingdom of God, to be useful. God tells us here in 2 Peter how to be sure that is happening. We don’t go around planning lots of Christian events or happenings, although those can be important places for fruit growth. This passage tells us to have these 8 qualities in our life and to apply all diligence in growing them up. Faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. These 8 qualities of our Character are what God emphasizes here in our personal growth. We are to let Him transform us by the renewing of our mind, and offer our bodies as living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1-2). I think sometimes we focus too much on outward projects instead of inward Intimacy with God. I believe that God is showing us here that as we spend lots of quality time with Him alone and growing in these qualities in our relationships with others, spiritual growth for ourselves and His Kingdom, are the ultimate result. We get it backwards sometimes and try to bear fruit through programs and ministries, but Jesus says it this way:
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
I will finish this post with a final thought from my favorite Devotional.
We say we do not expect God to take us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, and yet we act as if we do! I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all of the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I will do my duty, not for duty’s sake but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience all of the magnificent grace of God is mine through the glorious atonement by the Cross of Christ.
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)
By: Carole L. Haines
I was praying for a friend who is struggling with despondency, having heard the cry of her heart as she uttered, “What’s the point?” Life can be hard like that and most of us have experienced that feeling in our lives, some of us more than others. So, what is the point? Scholars and Philosophers have been debating this question since time began. I believe my friend was struggling especially with herself and all the obstacles, short-comings and failures she is facing right now. It can be overwhelming. When I used to run cross-country (and I only did it for one semester) I fell before the finish line. Everything in my body told me to just stay down, just sit there. My muscles were throbbing, fatigued and weak from over-use. But there it was, just beyond my sight, the finish line. I can’t remember if others helped me there, they must have because I just couldn’t stand up. Not even sure I crossed that line or was helped off to theside. But I did get up, and I did move on.The race was over, and I was glad. I was glad that I didn’t just sit there, much as I wanted to, I got up. I kept going. Paul in The Book of Hebrews describes our life this way in Chapter 12:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…”
That Great cloud of witnesses is described in the Chapter Prior, Chapter 11. It is often called the Hall of Faith. So many have gone before us in this Journey with God and it’s not a sparkling, clean, perfect group of people, either. We had some seriously messed up fore-runners in the faith. At least two were liars, two were scheming manipulators. One was a strong leader who committed adultery and who neglected to discipline his kids. Another asked for wisdom, but used it for so many wrong purposes, including indulging himself beyond all others described in the Bible. I mean, they were all kinds of messed up, even as we are. And I believe that is exactly why God allowed their stories to be so raw in the Bible. We needed to see that God loves harlots and prostitutes right into His kingdom. He restores the adulterer who truly repents. God keeps His promises despite our many failings. The Apostle Paul shares about this in 2 Timothy 2:
11 It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
God’s faithfulness is not based on our performance, whether good or bad. His faithfulness is based on His own character. He is a promise keeper. So, if you are feeling like my dear friend, who is discouraged and thinking, “What’s the point?”, rest in His faithfulness to His own promises, built on His own character. We are all kinds of messed up in this world, but God is all kinds of Wonderful. There is no sin He cannot forgive, no kind of failure that He cannot redeem. Listen to what He says in the Book of Isaiah 50:2,
“Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver?
Our entire being cries out to God, “Of course not!” We know God has a strong arm and infinite power to deliver, we are just so weary ourselves, we feel so weak. But THE Apostle Paul turns those inadequate feelings on their head.
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NASB)
So, let’s take our all kinds of messed up and lay it before God. Let’s rejoice as He makes it all kinds of wonderful to the praise of His glory and grace.
By: Carole L. Haines
I caught a tear from my eye this morning as it began to meander down my cheek. Soon I began to wonder about the purpose of tears. Why do we have them? What purpose do they serve? My search took me to the phrase I heard a friend utter the other week.
“This life is but a Valley of Tears,” she said, “It says so in the Bible.”
I was intrigued by this phrase and went to look for it in the Scriptures. I found it in the Psalms.
5 Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of Springwater;
even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
7 They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion.
(Psalm 84:5-7 HCSB)
Baca means weeping. A Vale of Weeping,, a Valley of tears. I looked up the composition of Teardrops, and what I found was amazing. Here is the quote below:
How the Composition of a Teardrop Changes
Tears that protect your eyes every day are slightly different from those that flush away irritants or those you cry in response to emotion. Here are the three main types of tears:
Basal Tears: These are typical tears that keep the eye hydrated, clean, and nourished.
Reflex Tears: Reflex tears are produced in response to irritation from chemicals, bright light, or foreign matter.
Weeping Tears: Crying as an emotional response or from pain is termed “weeping”. These tears contain the protein-based hormones prolactin, which acts as a natural painkiller.
(by Anne Helmenstine (updated on September 6, 2018), online magazine: Science Notes)
I just find it amazing that Our God would fashion three different kinds of tears, for three different purposes. His intimate, Sovereign Care over us is such a blessing every tiny detail, fine-tuned. He even knew that we would sin before he created us. The plan to redeem us was in place before the foundation of the world.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. 4 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Ahhh, the miracle of tears and redemption. Every tiny detail of God’s plan was in place and our Creator/Savior knew us before it all (Psalm 139) Rest in His Sovereign care and provision this day.
By: Carole L. Haines
Just shake it off, that dust from your feet. Simply shake it off. This concept, from a familiar passage of Scripture, was illuminated by God for me through a Bible Study I am doing with a small group The Scripture is:
12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matt. 10:14-15 HCSB)
Its context is the sending out of the 70 disciples. The author went on to share how that dust of rejection, if not shaken off, can cling to you and really affect how you walk.
“To be given authorization to shake off rejection and disesteem is no small thing, it helps rescue the servant of Christ from a victim mentality. I get to choose whether or not this rejection accompanies me down the road. I refuse it the right to cling to my feet and affect how I walk. Rejection will not be my co traveler. I’m leaving it right where I found it.” (Beth Moore, THE QUEST, pg 119)
Jesus knew His disciples would encounter tough things out on the road. They would either be accepted or rejected. He was sending them out as sheep among wolves, as is stated a little further down in the Scripture passage.
Well, things haven’t changed much over two thousand years later. We are still finding ourselves as sheep among wolves and that dust is still mercilessly clinging to our feet. The dust gets caught in the grooves of our sandals and hardens into hard lumps, causing us to walk unsteady and twist our spiritual ankles. God has me in a fantastic group of believers where I am learning to share freely, just exactly where I am, what kind of dust is still clinging to my feet, and how, by the Grace of God, to shake it off. If you are not in a group like that, find one. If you need help finding one, leave a reply and I will tell you which ministry I am a part of for that purpose. Let’s pray together about freedom from the rejection we all encounter on our dusty trails.
Dearest Lord Jesus, I have twisted my spiritual ankles many times from all the rejection and misunderstandings I have experienced. I also know that I have caused others to twist their precious ankles, due to my lack of sensitivity to where they are at times. You are still speaking those words to us who follow You today.
16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
We need You, dearest King, to teach us how to walk amid wolves, while avoiding becoming one ourselves. Teach us what it means to be shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. Keep us close to You, gazing at You and following You step by Step. Thank you for the promise that You, who have begun this good work in each one of us, will be faithful to complete it. (Phil. 1:6) Amen
By: Carole L. Haines
I do a lot of thinking when I am doing chores around the house. I have some real unspoken chats with God while folding laundry or unloading and reloading the dishwasher. This morning’s revelation had to do with my attitude toward adversity. Born and raised on the edges of a bustling and somewhat unstable Eastern City, I toughened up a little too much. I developed a ‘suck it up and move on,” way of living and thinking about life. When it came to fight of flight, I was on both ends, either running away or fighting, usually the former, because the gal was usually bigger than I was. No one would know this by looking at me, I mean, I think I look fairly Middle-class now. But that was not my beginnings. As I pondered my tendency to “take it as it comes, roll with the punches,” and of course, “suck it up and move on;” God seemed to whisper to me. That whisper spoke so kindly and said, “How about taking Life as I come?”
Hmmmmmm, taking Life as He comes, as sovereignly from the hand of the God who loves me, who sought me out while I sat staring at stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross. To take Life from His hands as the One who formed me in my mother’s womb and knew every word I would ever speak before I spoke it (Psalm 139). Imagine receiving my everyday happenings as, not random and nonsensical things that just happen to me, but as drippings from the Honey-pot of God. Even the hard stuff, the tear-jerking moments, the painful stabs from my fellow humans. Can I embrace those prickly moments, the bloody nosed rags as from God’s hands? Not all things come from God, but He is Sovereign over all and He makes some pretty amazing promises in His Word to me, like:
17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18 HCSB)
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13)
28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
And one of the most beautiful and encouraging verses ever penned by God:
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)
So take heart, Dear Fellow-Believer. Our God is mightily at work within us, through adversity, struggle and failure; but also, through blessings and His own loving Sovereignty. Join me in learning to take life as He comes and see all things as trickling through His loving and caring fingers. One of His most overlooked promises is that In this world you will have trouble, but the rest of the verse is priceless.
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)
By: Carole L. Haines
We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. 14 We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. (Colossians 1:9-13)
Clearly, I’m missing something here in this transference from the Domain of Darkness into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son. This transference is our spiritual reality, but some days I feel like I still have more parts of me stuck back there in the Dark Domain, than feeling like a Child of Light. I have wrestled with this truth, as well as the Scripture passage in 2 Corinthians 5:7, about being new creatures in Christ, often in my life. Paul speaks about the battle with his own dark side in Romans 7, concluding that he needed rescue from the body of this battle over flesh and spirit. He kisses us with Romans 8:1, in the answering of his own question about deliverance: “There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
I have tended to think of verses 9-12, of Colossians 1, as a duty list that I must somehow conjure and keep, as a follower of Jesus Christ. But that is not what it is at all. It is a prayer of the Apostle Paul’s, over these precious believers in Colossae, to experience the reality of this transfer that has already taken place in the Spiritual Realm.
I have used this prayer to pray over my husband and children often, but never thought to speak it over myself, embracing it as my new, solid, and firm foundation. I have failed to fully embrace the new Reality into which I have been transferred. So, I will now speak it here:
God will fill me with His will, give me all wisdom and spiritual understanding. He will enable me to walk worthy of Him, fully pleasing Him. That’s my Spiritual inheritance. I will bear fruit in every good work, growing in my knowledge of God, because He is faithful and will finish what He has started. I will be strengthened with all power, not according to what I can conjure or manifest in my own strength, but according to His power, His glorious might. I will have all endurance, patience and joy available to me as I embrace my New Reality in Christ with every ounce of my spirit, soul and body. I will forever give thanks to my Heavenly Father who has enabled me to share in the inheritance of the Saints of Light.
I have been, (paste tense-finished work) transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of my sins, fully. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, this is your new Reality. All that still feels somehow stuck in the Dark Domain is, in reality, already transferred. It’s the believing, embracing and walking out of our New Reality in Jesus that enable us to see ourselves as free from this once Dark Domain that ruled over and within us for too long. Speak these truths out loud to yourself, and any discouraged Christian you may know. We need to rest in His promises, and not our feelings.
by: Carole L. Haines
And there it is, coming up from behind what was already there. An unexpected bloom, a place of blessing, a new way to minister to others. I have Orchids, and they are such amazingly delicate flowers, yet they do amazing things. They can sustain blooms for up to 4 months or more. Then they go into a time of dormancy that can last up to 9 months. I was caring for one of the four Orchid plants I have when I noticed new buds coming out just behind the current blooms. I love this because, as the old blooms die, new ones are opening, to replace the color and beauty the old ones are losing.
Isn’t God just so amazing in how He designs life to work, both earthly and spiritually. There are times when our life can feel dormant, or stagnant, nothing new on the horizon. But God is always at work within us and around us. Like a master artist and designer, He is creating new growth that we cannot see yet, but it’s there, deep down, awaiting God’s call to come forth.
18 “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old.
19 Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 HCSB)
I love that about God, He is always doing something new, bringing us new ways to honor Him and to serve Him. He delights in surprising us with new opportunities and wonderful paths we’ve never been down before. Following Him is always an adventure . But there are times of extended dormancy in our lives as well. Times of rest and training. Times of confusion and healing. Time much needed for our roots to grow deeper and our faith to become stronger. Ecclesiastes says it best:
The Mystery of Time
There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;
3 a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
6 a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
8 a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What does the worker gain from his struggles? 10 I have seen the task that God has given people to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 HCSB)
Are you in a time of new growth and blessing? Rejoice in it. But if you are in a time of dormancy, wait for the Lord there. He is deep at work within you and around you, preparing new paths for you to walk, new ways to bring Him Glory. Watch for it, wait for Him. It may come in a very unexpected way, a bloom coming up from behind. An unexpected path into His Joy.