Live in harmony in the Lord

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by: carole l. haines

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4 NASB)

We don’t necessarily like everyone in the Body of Christ, do we?  Just as personalities clash outside of God’s Family, they clash inside as well.  So what do we do when this happens?  How do we respond when we can tell someone is giving us the cold shoulder, or when we bristle inside at the presence of another believer who just rubs us the wrong we?  We choose to see them as God sees them, as God sees us.  We help one another to grow and transform into Christ’s image. We love one another, without necessarily “liking” everyone.  How important is this response, this choice to love who we don’t like?  According to 1 John 4, it is absolutely crucial to the world being able to see Jesus, and to our own spiritual growth and transformation. Listen to what John says:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Our very spiritual maturity depends on obeying Jesus call to love one another.  Liking has nothing to do with it.  But I have found that when I pray for someone I don’t necessarily like, God opens my spiritual eyes to see this person as He does, and that changes my perspective.  God’s perspective is always truth, ours may only be opinion, preference, or a judgmental spirit. So, the next time someone in the body of Christ rubs you the wrong way, do not respond as the world does, in retaliation, spite, or judgment; choose to apply Christ’s love. Further still, pray for the person, for yourself, and the situation.  If it is still too difficult, confide in a trusted leader your need for help in loving this person; as Paul mentions above to the Recipient of Philippians. No gossip allowed, just sharing your need for help, not your opinion of the person.  No one has seen God at any time, if we love one another, despite our differences; we shine a light on the perfect love of God, and point others to Jesus.

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Spiritual Memories

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By: carole l. haines

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah. (Psalm 143 NASB)

Ah yes, I remember, I remember. When our hearts are aching for our Father’s love, in a world filled with arrogance, rejection and the destruction that follows such attitudes, remember the Lord’s faithfulness. When our souls long for justice, mercy and grace, in a world filled with selfishness, greed and pride; we will choose to meditate on all the doings of the Lord our God. We will muse on the Work of His hands.  Let us stretch out our hands to our Lord God. Yes, we long for You, Lord, as in a parched land.
Now many of us may not have experienced a parched land, but any who have been through a drought or extreme dry season know what it’s like.  First, the lack of rain begins to wilt the flowers. The edges of the leaves turn brown, starting at the bottom of the plant, eventually making the blooms stunted. The grass becomes brown and crunchy beneath our feet.  We watch helplessly, as all that was thriving a month ago, slowly withers and dies.  The ground becomes so dry that it cracks open, and tiny, soil crevasses form in our yards and gardens.
We can have spiritual droughts in our lives as well.  This is part of what was happening to the writer of Psalm 143, David. But I love how David chooses to encourage Himself with the memories of God.  He looked back to the days of old, meditating on God’s faithfulness, and encouraging His own heart. We must learn to do the same.
Look at all the “action” words in these two verses.  David remembered, meditated, mused, stretched out his hands, longed for. David took responsibility for his heart, his thoughts, and his actions.  He didn’t just let himself be hi-jacked and spiral down into the pit of despair. We must learn to do the same.
Spiritual maturity is not automatic, it takes work.
*One of those works is to choose time, lots of time with God.
*To call to mind His faithfulness when things are difficult. To meditate means to speak, utter or imagine.  Focus hard to remember all the good things God has done in the past.
* Write it down, make a list and read it often, if necessary. Muse on the work of His hands. Muse means to ponder, talk, sing and pray; all are activities.
* Stretch out your hands to Him in prayer, trust Him, believe Him in these difficult times.  He has been faithful in the past, and He will be again.
*Long for Him, in this dry season.  Come to Him and He will fill you up to overflowing. Linger longer in your times alone with Him, and you will find He comforts and satisfies you.  Let all else fade away, as He fills you with Himself.
Spiritual Memory, is crucial to spiritual maturity. Sit long with Your Lord.

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Some Jesus Glasses

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by: carole l. haines

A truly wonderful time of fellowship and worship was had by all at our Church Service yesterday.  It was a joy like I have rarely experienced.  I was left wondering why that was. Why had I rarely experienced such joy in corporate worship? The Lord revealed to me that I have had a tainted perspective on things for quite a long time.  It would ebb and flow, decrease and increase, but it was never really gone.  It lingered within me like a bad after-taste. We’ve all had pretty rough stuff happen in our lives, no one can traverse this life unscathed.  But it’s all in how we respond to it, and I take things way too personal.  As I was pondering this, the Lord gave me a picture of what it’s like when we do this.  We all, in a large swath of the United States, recently witnessed a once in a lifetime event, a Solar Eclipse.  A small gathering of our family went to an extremely wide-open field, with our Eclipse Glasses in tow, and awaited the wonderful event.  The time had come, and we all began sharing the glasses, and looking up at the Sun to watch this marvelous event.  Sure enough, the Moon started to cross over the Sun and the place where we stood began to take on an eerie, twilight glow, in the middle of the afternoon.  It was a Spectacular event.  When we put those glasses on and looked around, everything else was blacked-out.  The only thing you could view in them was the Eclipse itself.

As God spoke to me this morning, He revealed to me, that this is what bitterness does.  It blocks out our ability to see everything else, except that one event that happened to us.

12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3 NASB)

But truly, past is past. We can’t go back and undo anything.  We can’t make it right. There are no do-overs, truly.  But in Christ, there is forgiveness, both of our sins and the sins of others.  There is grace, both poured out on us, and our ability to pour it out on others.  There is Trust in the promises of God, who says that He will work everything for good, to those who love Him and trust His purpose.  As Paul says above, forgetting what lies behind is a key that unlocks the door to a whole new world of freedom.  Reaching forward to what lies ahead is the open road of trusting Christ.  My perspective had been tainted by a Long Season of one loss after another, after another.  It blocked my view of everything else for a while, forcing me to see only that Eclipse of my life. Even as time went on, the bitterness was not as painful, but it lingered.  I realized that just as putting on those special glasses, to safely view the Eclipse blocked out everything else; I needed some Jesus glasses, to block out all that pain, and to trust Him, and only Him. 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12 NASB)

We all need Jesus glasses, as we look back over our lives.  Only He can show us how to view it all, how to perceive it all, and how to press on from it.  Only He can bring clarity, true joy, and freedom, out of our pain and loss.  I could worship so freely yesterday, because of what Jesus did over 2,000 years ago.  Because of His sacrifice, I am free.  Praise be to the God who loves us too much to leave us stranded in our pain.  Look to Him, and He will lead you out of whatever is tainting your perspective in life, and robbing you of His joy in you.

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Surrender

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by: carole l. haines

While I was reading a Devotion this morning, I read, “It takes a child-like heart to believe.” The devotion was by K.P. Yohannan, and is called, “Believe Jesus when you pray.”  As I read, I sensed something in my heart, a tug of war between what I thought it took to have faith, and what faith really is.  I was thinking I had to get bigger, be stronger, grow bolder, in order to have faith.  But God was revealing to me that, actually, I needed to become smaller, humbler, yielded, surrendered.  I breathed a sigh of relief because becoming smaller actually seemed do-able.  I believe this is part of what Jesus meant when He said, “Come to me all you 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 of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB) I look at this passage and can see two separate to-do lists, ours and Jesus’s
Ours states that we are to:                      Jesus’s Promise is to:
Come to Jesus                                                  Give us rest
Take His yoke upon ourselves                     Be humble
Learn from Him                                             Yoke with us
Find rest in Him                                             Be humble and gentle

It’s so important that we, as followers of Christ, discern what is our responsibility and what is His.  I tried to make my life count for something, but failed and suffered much loss.  I tried to be bigger, stronger, bolder; but was exhausted with my efforts, and felt like a gerbil on one of those exercise wheels, running much, yet getting nowhere.
But as I have come to Jesus, yielded to His kindness and gentleness, I have found rest.
As I have come to Jesus and yoked with Him, giving up my ideas of who I am supposed to be, I have found His yoke easy and His burden light.  As I have sat at His feet in the Word of God, and learned from Him as my tutor; I have come to know just how to live this life with all I have and all I am. He gently teaches, corrects, guides and encourages us.
It really does take a child-like heart to believe. A child trusts, learns to obey, and eventually finds great joy when the wrestling stops, and yielding has overcome self-will.  My husband, Bruce, wrote a song that we have sung many times, it is called, ”Surrender,” and comes out of his own learning of this all-important truth.  I will close with its words:

Surrender

By: Bruce Nevin Haines

Can a broken heart be healed, sealed away in vaults of anger?
Can a weary soul be freed, when it is bound by roots so bitter?
Remembering love and redemption, as a dream when I was young
a sweet, but faded memory; so pure and golden spun

And the watchful eye that’s guided me, with a tenderness unseen
beckons me to kindle now, these fires of hope again
O to bask in the brilliant light, of redemption’s brightest glow
to melt these walls of ice and anger, and break this heart of stone

When these feet have grown too weary, carry me to that River
when this prodigal begins to stray, please hold me to your side
O my soul will never finds its peace, while I am prone to wander
I must give up my life and surrender,
I will give my life to You, Lord, and surrender

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For You shall enlarge my heart

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by: carole l. haines

Strengthen me according to Your word. 29 Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law. 30 I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. 31 I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! 32 I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart. (Psalm 119 NASB)

For I, The Lord, will enlarge your heart.  How wonderful to know that God not only initiates our faith in Him, He grows it up to full maturity.  God will not force Himself upon a person, but He will continually provide opportunities to grow up, and grow more and more like Christ.  Let’s break it down and see what God does, and what we do, in cooperation with His loving work in our lives. When we know what we are to do, it prevents us from trying to do what only God can do, and we find truly, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

God will enlarge my heart.  He will broaden it, make it grow wide.  He will increase our capacity to love as He loves, to care as He cares, to see others, and ourselves, as He sees.

God will remove the false way from me, if I ask Him to.  He will remove the lies, what deceives us.  All that is fraudulent, a sham, or a “put-on.”  He will show us how to be ourselves, more than we ever could, because He knows exactly who He made us to be and why.
God will strengthen me according to His Word.  He will cause me to arise, to stand upright, to become powerful in Him. He will establish, confirm, and maintain my faith in Him.  He will prove and validate His purpose in me.  I don’t need to fight for a place in the world, because God will make the way plain.  He will go ahead of me and open the way of His will. The word, strengthen, even means to come on the scene.  We are told to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:6 NASB) God knows when we are ready to move up and out.  Jump too soon, and down you’ll go.  Step out from under His kind guidance, and down you’ll go.  I know, I’ve done it, and it hurts.  But He is there to pick us up, brush us off, kiss our wounds and set things right again.

And what are we called to do? We are to daily choose the faithful way. We are to cling to His testimonies and run the way of His commandments.  We try to do too much of our own sanctification work.  Our work is to yield, to trust, to obey, to believe, to rest in Him and daily do what He places before us.  O, God is so good, so faithful, and so true.  Truly, “He who began a good work in you, shall be faithful to complete it in you.” (Phil. 1:6 NASB)

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I was brought low and He saved me

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by: carole l haines

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.
The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
(Psalm 116 NASB)

Give me an AMEN if you can relate to this.  Have you been there?  Have you been in that low place, with no way out, but to look up and find Him Faithful?  Truly, I was brought low and He saved me.  What brought me low?  Well, quite frankly, my own pride, thinking that I knew best, or better than God or others. You know, one of the sneakiest sins to deal with is being judgmental and self-righteous.  These two sins have been tricky, little buggers to root out of my life.  They are like getting rid of pesky bugs, like ants or stink-bugs.  Once they are in your house, you have to work to find the point of entry and destroy them at the source.  All sin has to be pulled out by the root.  You can’t just pull off the top growth, nope, you’ve got to get it all.  Look at what James says about it:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1 NASB)

This is a step by step unraveling of the mystery of sin.

1)     God doesn’t ever tempt people. God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

2)     People are enticed and carried away by their own lust. It’s already inside of you, the tendency to sin.

3)     When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin.

4)     And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Now this breakdown tells me that I have approximately, 2-3 chances to refuse any sin.  Sin comes out of what I am already thinking about, my own thoughts, inclinations and desires.  These are the root.  If I want to be free of sin’s grip, through faith in Jesus and His Power to deliver;  I have to open up to God and let Him reveal the roots to me.  Then I can confess and repent of those inclinations.  Often we try to deal with the behavior, which is only like pulling off the top of the plant.  When we do it this way, the roots of sin are still there, and it grows back.  I have asked God to reveal all that is in me, that is not of Him.  This is arduous and difficult, but O, so very refreshing and freeing at the same time.  I have never felt so worn out, and yet so unburdened and light.  This journey of purity will continue for me until the day I leave this earth and go to be with Him. 

O Yes, I have been brought low, and so have we all, but cry out to Him and He will come and save you, and purify your heart.
 Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord In the land of the living.  (Psalm 116 NASB)

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The Waiting Room of God

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by: carole l. haines

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. (Psalm 37 NASB)

The Waiting Room of God is one of the hardest lessons to embrace in our walks with Christ.  I know that for much of my younger life, I was like a puppy straining at the leash; choking, wheezing, pulling. But as I have grown up in the Lord, I have slowed my pace, and am learning better how to walk beside Him, to keep pace with Him, to not run ahead so much.  He will get me there, in His time.  I know it probably seems silly to some, to compare my walk with the Lord to walking a dog, but I am an avid pet owner and have learned lots from them.  I look at the breakdown of the passage above and see that in God’s Waiting Room, there are things I am to do, and things only God can do.  Let’s break it down together:

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. I am to focus on trusting in the Lord, doing good wherever I can do good.  I am to dwell where He has placed me, minister there, and cultivate faithfulness.  When I looked up the Hebrew for “cultivate,” I found that it means to shepherd, pastor, keep company with.  I am to faithfully shepherd those whom God has placed in my life, faithfully minister to them, and love them in Him.

Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. I have discovered a wonderful truth in this particular verse.  I used to think it meant that if I delighted in the Lord, he’d give me what my heart desires.  But I have come to find that what it really means is that if I delight in the Lord, He will manifest His purpose into my heart, and enable me to walk out that purpose.  You see, when I delight in the Lord, I find who I truly am and my desire becomes what He desires. My purpose comes into focus, and I realize who I am, and why I am here on earth.  Then I simply walk out, day to day, what He places in front of me.

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Commit means to roll away, to roll together, to flow down.  We are to roll everything toward the Lord, to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.  We are to bring ourselves in sync with Him, to roll together with Him, to flow down.  Jesus tells us: “Whoever believes in Me, from his innermost being shall flow Rivers of Living Water.” O, I want to be a refreshing River in the Body of Christ, we all do, I’m sure.  But in the process of seeking this, there are things we do, and things only God can do.  We must learn the difference and yield to Him.

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Rest means to be silent, be still, to die.  That is interesting in the light of Jesus’ words to us:

“Whoever wishes to follow Me, Must Deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 6:24NASB) We must die to ourselves, and let Him live through us.

Wait patiently means to dance, whirl, OR to be anxious and fear.  Wow, two choices in how we wait patiently for the Lord.  Both are active, not passive.  We can wait in worship and delighting in Him in so that our life is a dance, or we can wait worrying, fearing or being anxious.  Let’s choose to worship in the Waiting Room of God. Let’s choose to delight in Him, trust Him, Rest in Him and Wait patiently for Him.  He is faithful, He is good.

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