2 Timothy 1:7 (WEBBE): For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.
Psalm 121 (WEBBE)
1I will lift up my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
2My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3He will not allow your foot to be moved.
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The LORD is your keeper.
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7The LORD will keep you from all evil.
He will keep your soul.
8The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forward, and forever more.
God doesn’t sleep. He is never too busy. He won’t lose interest in us after a while. He won’t stop loving us because of what we do or don’t do. And He would really love to have an intimate relationship with each and every one of us, one where we really get to know Him. One where we can experience the fullness of His love for us. So make the choice to spend some time to get to know Him!
There is an ongoing war between good and evil. And in this war I have chosen, and publicly declared, to be on the side of good. I am a reborn child of the living God, my freedom bought at a high price, and I will shout this from the rooftops!
But the enemy certainly also takes note.
You are a target. You might be a hero. I say “might be” because the choice is ultimately yours.
– Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords
So who is it that we are fighting against? Who is it that is targeting us? Other people? No, certainly not!
Ephesians 6:12 (WEBBE): 12For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
If our war is against powers and principalities, then surely our weapons cannot be worldly ones if we are to succeed. Paul describes the nature of our weapons quite well.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (WEBBE): 3For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, 5throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience when your obedience is made full.
Sounds like the right kind of weapons for the job to me. But we need more practical specifics – what are the weapons that we have exactly?
Ephesians 6:10-20 (WEBBE): 10Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace, 16above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints: 19on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Hebrews 4:12 (WEBBE): 12For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Paul clearly says that we should put on the whole armour – if we miss bits and pieces, we will be vulnerable in certain areas. So it is all important. But if we have all the armour pieces on and are well protected, yet we leave our swords at home, the battle will still not be won!
No army ever won a war by showing how much it could suffer.
– Curry Blake
We need to spend time with the Bible, so that we can know the Word of God, and only then can we wield it like the sword that it is meant to be. And then we need to choose to be heroes – we need to choose to step out and make a difference!
Believers in the early church in Acts were said to be “of the Way”. Saul, before his dramatic encounter with God, was persecuting followers of the way.
Acts 9:1-2 (WEBBE): 1But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
If we Google the meaning of the word way in English, we see that there are two main meanings of the noun:
– A method, style, or manner of doing something; an optional or alternative form of action.
– A road, track, or path for travelling along.
So being a follower of a way either means actively doing something in a certain manner, or moving along a path to a particular destination.
I think both of these meanings are apt when describing the early believers. They were doing things in the manner that Jesus showed them, and they were on the road leading to heaven. But neither meaning includes being a passive observer that just reads about the Way every now and again.
Acts 3:1-8 (WEBBE): 1Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2A certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask gifts for the needy of those who entered into the temple. 3Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive gifts for the needy. 4Peter, fastening his eyes on him, with John, said, “Look at us.” 5He listened to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” 7He took him by the right hand and raised him up. Immediately his feet and his ankle bones received strength. 8Leaping up, he stood and began to walk. He entered with them into the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God.
The early believers saw many miracles happening, and yet that is rare today. What is the difference between then and now? The early followers of the Way acted!
Mark 16:17-18 (WEBBE): 17These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages; 18they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will in no way hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
If we believe that what God promises in the Bible is actually true, and act on it, we will see the same results!
Brooke Rothshank is an artist and mom that decided to paint a tiny painting every single day for a whole year! Read more about it on Upworthy – 15 of her paintings appear on that page too. She spent all that time on her art, because she enjoys creating it. I am sure you agree that is quite a remarkable feat!
But there is a canvas far bigger, and an artist that is constantly creating new beauty. Just look up at the sky above you!
Genesis 1:6-8 (WEBBE): 6God said, “Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8God called the expanse “sky”. There was evening and there was morning, a second day.
God created the sky, and that is pretty amazing already. But He didn’t settle for just a boring, unchanging, monochrome scene. What you are seeing right now will never again occur exactly as it is in this moment. Sometimes the clouds are dramatic and colourful and high contrast. In other moments, the shades are subtle. But the one constant in all of that is that God is in control.
So take some time to look up at the sky, and contemplate the awesome God that puts on the greatest art show of all time for us every day!
1 Corinthians 16:14 (WEBBE): 14Let all that you do be done in love.
Paul’s letters are packed with great pieces of advice for everyday living. But this short sentence is probably the most spectacular of them all. Go back to the verse, and read it one word at a time. Really think about each one!
Here are some of the things that came up for me with this verse. Let is a verb – this is something that we can (and of course should) choose to do. It is an active choice on our part. It doesn’t just happen. But it should also be easy – it is “let” and not “make” or “force” or something like that. If we are filled with God’s presence and His LOVE, then it is easy to allow that to flow through us.
All means, well, all. Everything. No exceptions. That is what we should aim for. Imagine what the world would be like if everybody acted out of love all the time! We don’t have influence over everybody else, but we can at least make the choice for ourselves. And that will make a huge difference!
Do is another verb. Love is not just an emotion that is felt by the one that loves. Real love prompts us to take action, to make a difference.
This week, think about the actions that you are about to do before you do them. And ask yourself first whether you are about to act in love.
The water of a river brings life. If you drive through a dry area, and you suddenly see patch of lush green trees, there must be water there!
John 7:37-39 (WEBBE): 37Now on the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! 38He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, from within him will flow rivers of living water.” 39But he said this about the Spirit, which those believing in him were to receive. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus wasn’t yet glorified.
Jesus Himself said that rivers of living water will flow from believers. I think you would agree that just like a physical river changes the landscape and vegetation, so this river flowing from us should also make a marked difference in the lives of the people around us.
How do we get to be a part of such a wonderful thing? It is freely available to us, but we need to choose to come to Jesus to fill our very beings with Him, to overflowing. Allow Him into your heart, and then choose to let Him work through you. And you will see the effect of the rivers of living water!
When I just logged into my WordPress blog to write this post, I noticed how almost all of the posts on the first page of posts are categorised under Relationship, together with one or two other categories. So I decided to activate the category cloud for my blog. It represents the number of posts in each category by changing the font size.
There it is again – Relationship. Notice how the title of this category is singular – it is about our relationship with the one and only true God.
John 15:12-16 (WEBBE): 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn’t know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you. 16You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Jesus calls us friends now after His redemptive work! Restoring us to personal relationship with Him was the very purpose of His sacrifice! But if two people say that they are friends, it has to come from both sides. Jesus has made it possible for us to be His friends, but we still have to make the choice to spend time with Him, to really get to know Him!
And then everything flows out of that personal relationship. We will know His will and bear fruit and walk in power and the Father will give us what we ask in Jesus’ name. But it all starts with really getting to know Him.
So make time in your life for your most important Friend this week!
Think of how it would be to invite your best friend over to your home for dinner. Would you prepare his or her favourite food, or is the right dessert maybe the most important part of your planning? What would you talk about?
Shauna Niequist describes so beautifully what dining together is about:
“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way (from Goodreads)
Are you starting to see that dining with somebody special is much more than just the standard, safe option for a first date?
In the first few chapters of the book of Revelation, there are messages from Jesus to several churches. And here we find the well known words of Revelation 3:20 – written to lukewarm believers!
Revelation 3:20 (WEBBE): 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.
Stop for a moment, and read that verse again. Think about each word before moving on to the next!
Think again of inviting your friend over for dinner. Before he or she arrives, everything is quiet. And then you hear a knock at the door. It could be anyone at that point. But then you hear your friend calling out to you through the door, and your heart soars. This is the moment you have been waiting for! You sit down to eat life giving food together, and you share with each other the important details of your lives.
Jesus wants to have such meaningful encounters with each and every one of us. He stands at the door and knocks, not just for an instant in time, but as long as it takes for us to open up. He calls out to each of us by name, so that we can hear His voice and know who it is that is at the door. And when we open, He shares with us His Words that are life giving, and He listens to all of our stories even though he knows them all already. And we get to know Jesus a little better, from a personal encounter.
So what are you waiting for? Open the door!
There are plenty of things in the world that can cause fear. Earthquakes and stormy seas are certainly some of the forces of nature that we feel most powerless to overcome as human beings.
Imagine being in the middle of the ocean on a two person row boat, in a terrible storm. That is scary, right? Now imagine that you are still in that storm, but on a huge cruise ship. Feels a bit better, doesn’t it? The vessel is much more stable, and you have a roof over your head.
Now imagine being in that same storm on an island, in an impenetrable fortress that has withstood the storms for generations. This feels quite safe! The storm didn’t change, but where we are taking refuge did.
Psalm 46:1-3 (WEBBE): 1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes,
though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas;
3though its waters roar and are troubled,
though the mountains tremble with their swelling.
God is our ultimate refuge in any storm, literal or otherwise. He is in control of all of the whole universe, and your problems are included in that. There will be storms, but if you take refuge in the immovable and eternal God, they are no longer scary!
God’s love for us is so awesome! Nothing that the world says or does can change the fact that God loves us, and that He is worthy of praise! So I get why David wrote that he would sing to the Lord for as long as he lives.
Psalm 104:33 (WEBBE): 33I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praise to my God while I have any being.
After Jesus made His huge sacrifice for us, Paul writes to the Ephesians about the greatness of God’s “power towards us who believe”.
Ephesians 1:15-23 (WEBBE): 15For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is amongst you, and the love which you have towards all the saints, 16don’t cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule, authority, power, dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. 22He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things for the assembly, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
So join me today in singing praises to our amazing, loving Father God! And you will see that earthly problems will suddenly look far less important!