Rooted and Established

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

© Deposit/sonerbakir

© Deposit/sonerbakir

In Christ, the Spirit of Christ lives in you. You are in Christ. Christ is in you.

Do you see how fighting God could make you frustrated? You’re one with the living God and you’re trying to work in opposition to Him.

It’s not that you don’t understand God, at least in part, it’s more that you do. You realize deep down what it’s going to take to follow Him fully. You realize what you’re going to have to give up, what will be sacrificed in your journey with Him. And less than money, position, influence or relationships, but more of your pride, excuses, vices, comforts and conveniences.

But here’s the deal: fullness of life comes from God, not these other things whether material or self-satisfying attitudes and motivations.

When we hold back even one part of our heart from the saturating living waters of the Holy Spirit, we lack fullness. Our relationship with God can seem stagnant, but it’s not. It’s always moving. We are always moving. He is the same. He is constant. We are always moving closer to Him or farther away. We can choose to let His fullness invade our hearts or we can close off more and more pieces to Him. Because when we find reasons and justifications to keep one area closed, we’ll find reasons and justifications to close Him out of others.

Even a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that has no mind, knows that it’s best to grow deep roots into the ground that’s saturated with water. And it’s best to be saturated with the Spirit.

Streams of water move. The Spirit within us moves.

Ground saturated with water from streams has a fresh supply of oxygen. The stream feeds fresh water in while pushing old water out the way our lungs pump oxygen into our blood and our hearts move it through every part of our body. And just like our bodies know how to dispose of toxins, this flow of water in the ground allows for drainage of anything that may hinder the growth of the tree.

The stream flushes the ground and the Spirit flushes our hearts.

A heart saturated with the Holy Spirit has a fresh supply of God’s fullness. The Spirit brings all of God’s goodness and glory into our hearts and we can tap into this fullness through the roots we grow. When the Spirit reveals those things in our hearts that are damaging or harmful to us, we need to let the Spirit remove them. We have to let go and stop fighting Him.

God’s resources are unlimited. He will never run out of what we need to live, move or have our being in Him. As He empowers us with His strength through the Spirit, we learn to trust Him more. Our roots grow deep. We choose Him sooner, we choose Him first. We look to Him to satisfy rather than other people, other things or our surrounding circumstances. As we come to understand how deep His love runs, we realize our roots will never outgrow Him. His love is long and wide. There is nowhere He won’t go to find you and no pit too deep for Him to pull you from. How high is His love? Higher than any cloud, any star. Higher than the most powerful telescope can see.

This is the love that loves you.

When you allow your heart to be saturated with Him, every dark and secluded corner filled with His light and love, there will be nothing that can bring you down. He will establish you in a firm foundation and strengthen you with His strength that stands for eternity.

Something to Consider…

Does the understanding of God’s great love for you escape you? Do you feel like you have too many questions and not enough answers? God wants to you to ask your questions with a willingness to listen. He wants you to know Him in the depths of your heart. He is strong and His love for you can handle any question you throw at Him.

Do you have a hard time letting Him into the deep recesses of your heart? Does the thought of what He will reveal worry you? He already knows what’s there and He knows how to bring healing through the living waters of His Spirit. As cool water refreshes our bodies, His Spirit refreshes our hearts and our souls.

Every success and accomplishment along with every difficult decision or situation will cause you to choose where your roots will grow. Find your satisfaction and fullness of life in Him.

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A Tree Planted

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

 

I’ve walked in step with the wicked and stood in the way that sinners take. I’ve also sat in the company of mockers. I tried to find a place to fit in wanting to puff myself up so I didn’t feel so small and inadequate.

Instead, I felt empty and dirty. I didn’t like what was coming out of my mouth nor the feelings I harbored in my heart. I was not kind or gentle, but rather harsh and belittling.

Understand, I had friends. I laughed and loved, cared for and enjoyed time with people who I honestly thought of quite highly. The problem was that for those I didn’t like, those who I didn’t consider friends, I could be quite mean-spirited. I didn’t necessarily say anything to their face, but behind their back it was no-holds-barred.

A friend of mine once said, when talking about something her husband had said or done, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. In other words, it was okay that she was breaking his confidence by telling us what had happened.

That was a turning point for me. I realized that he trusted her and even though she didn’t agree with his thinking, she had belittled him. She mocked him behind his back. And if we’re willing to do it to those we love and care for, or are supposed to love and care for, how much worse are we willing to treat those we don’t like or even know?

Choosing where to be planted

Psalm 1:3 says that the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord, the person who meditates on Him and His word day and night, that person is blessed. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water. They yield fruit in their season and do not wither.

Consider for a moment that we are trees, but unlike real trees, we can plant ourselves wherever we choose. Also imagine that the soil is the condition of our hearts and the water is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Where we choose to plant ourselves will determine our overall health because the condition of the soil and the source the soil feeds on will allow us to either have healthy or unhealthy roots.

Planting yourself in the world

According to 2 Peter 1, the worldly nature is corrupt and deceitful. Ephesians 4 adds attitudes and behaviors such as speaking falsely, unwholesome talk, stealing, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice. The list goes on and on throughout Scripture.

Not many people think they would choose to plant themselves in these actions or feelings, but we do it all the time. When we don’t forgive, we may be holding onto a grudge, feeling resentment or bitterness toward someone. We experience a form of malice when we are happy or relieved that someone who has hurt us is hurt themselves. We’re glad they’re getting what they deserve. Twisting the truth is a lie. Gossip can cause someone to see another in a bad light.

By planting ourselves in the world, we separate ourselves from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We live in a place where we are mostly unaffected by the work of the Spirit and the soil, or our hearts, will remain hard and unyielding. Our roots will grow out rather than down to find what we need. They will remain shallow as our hearts look to the world to meet our needs, rather than the Spirit within us.

Planting yourself in Christ

On the other hand, when we plant ourselves in soil that is rich with the Holy Spirit, our hearts will become softer and more pliable to the work of the Spirit. We yield more willingly to the Spirit. This doesn’t mean there’s no pain in the movement of the soil. There may be places that are not as saturated, places we’ve kept closed off to the Spirit. Once we’ve experienced the goodness of God’s work in our lives, we become more willing to let Him into the deeper, darker and dryer places.

2 Peter 1 and Ephesians 4 also give us some information about the behaviors, attitudes and motivations that cause our roots to grow down rather than out. When we speak truthfully building others up with words that benefit them, work hard sharing with others, and are compassionate and forgiving, we make space for the Spirit to work in our hearts.  We can persevere with self-control loving others as we trust God’s will over our own.

We we dig deep letting the living water of the Spirit saturate our hearts, our roots grow deep. We look to Him to lead, guide, correct and encourage us. We find our peace and satisfaction in Him as our source rather than the world.

 

Something to Consider…

Where do you tend to plant yourself – in the world or in Christ? To whose voice do you tend to listen? Be honest with yourself and with God. He already knows the condition of your soil and roots.

How have your thinking and actions changed as you’ve let God have more space in your heart and life? In what places do you need to seek Him above the worlds influence?

As you spend more time talking with God, reading His word and responding to what He’s saying to you, you will find His company better than any other.

Be Transformed

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Woman thinkingWhat is the pattern of this world?

Ecclesiastes says there’s nothing new under the sun. Everything that has happened will happen again … and again … and again. We think we’ve learned our lessons from life and death, war and peace, and yet we find ourselves repeating our mistakes. Maybe a generation effectively passes on to another what they’ve learned, but then a generation or two later, it starts all over again. Why?

The corruption of the world caused by evil desires. Or, put more simply, sin: Disobedience to God.

So Paul says, rather than be disobedient to God, let Him transform your thinking. Let Him renew your mind. Let Him show you and teach you a different way to live. What does this way of life look like? Here are three ways of living that will change as your thinking changes.

1. Sacrificial Living

When we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we nail to the cross our old ways, that old self we talked about in my previous post. We let Him weed out the evil and deceitful desires that fill up our hearts and minds. Some of these weeds have long and deep roots. The deeper He goes, the more painful it can be, but when we allow Him space to work, the soil of our hearts moves more freely. We give up what we want for what God wants for us. We let Him remove the bandages we’ve put in place to protect ourselves and let Him heal the wounds and broken places within us. We deceive ourselves when we allow our desires to draw us away from God’s protection and provision. And while we seek Him, sacrificing anything that gets in the way of our relationship with Him, we will find that He gives us the good and perfect desires of our hearts because He’s the one who has put them there.

2. Holy Living

It seems that as the world is more and more connected, this is harder and harder to do unless we completely unplug. As we consecrate ourselves to the Lord, we are not only separating ourselves from the world, we are being set apart for His work. And more often than not, His work will require us to be in the world. As we are taught how to be in the world, but not of it, we are learning to test or discern what is God’s perfect will, putting into practice what we’re learning. God grows in us the desire to live His way, not our own nor the world’s.

3. Worshipful Living

In Matthew 22, Jesus is questioned about paying taxes. Jesus asks whose image is on the coin. It was the image of Caesar. Jesus says, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) What is meant by (give back) to God what is God’s? Whose image is on your heart? What do you hold precious in your heart? Everything you do begins and ends with worship to Jesus Christ when it’s His image, His Spirit that resides in your heart. And our worship is true and proper when we live sacrificially for God and His will. We don’t grumble and complain about what we don’t have or can’t do, but rather rejoice that we are able to serve God’s purpose in this world wherever we are. We get to give back to God our gratitude through a lifestyle of worship.

If in Christ we are whole and complete, then every part of our lives must be grounded in and moving the same direction with the same purpose. When we hold back even one part of ourselves, our whole self is affected.

Something to Consider…

In what ways has your thinking been renewed in regard to the ways of the world and the ways of God?

Where in your life are you challenged the most when you think of living a sacrificial, holy and worshipful life? In what areas are you encouraged and joyful?

As new creations, possessing everything we need to live God’s way, we need to remember there is a process of learning, growing and choosing Him over all other things.

The Life You’ve Learned

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:20-24

© Depositphoto/xerox123.mail.ua

© Depositphotos/xerox123.mail.ua

There was a way of life that I learned before I knew Jesus. Growing up, watching those in my family, my neighborhood, at school and elsewhere, there was a way of understanding myself, others and God that I was learning. I was learning how to process information and interpret my experiences. I didn’t realize I was learning a way of life, I was simply living, existing, surviving, and trying to have some fun in the process.

If, in Christ, we are a new creation, then that means there was an old creation. If we are a work in progress, that means we started in one place or state and are moving toward or becoming something else.

In Ephesians, Paul is explaining in part what it means to live as this new creation. He’s given examples of the old that is gone from within us, but still exists in the world around us. He says there is a former way of life, an old self. This old self and way of life was full of corruption and deceitful desires. Peter refers to these desires as evil. (2 Peter 1:4)

Part of this “work in progress” that we are experiencing is the learning to discern between the old way of life before Christ and this new way of life in Christ. As we begin to understand what God wants for us, certain things will look different. As we become familiar with Jesus, we will recognize attitudes, motivations and actions that look like Him and those that are the opposite of what we know to be true about Him.

As I mentioned in my blog A Work in Progress, there are things that will change because the Holy Spirit now lives inside you. There are also things that you will need to choose to do differently. This choosing is the putting-off of the old self and the putting-on of the new self. There are things we need to remove from our lives and hearts in order to make room for more of Jesus.

If we listen to music or read materials with vulgar or offensive language, we are more likely to use that language ourselves. We teach ourselves to talk this way. When we choose to listen to music, teachings, or read materials that encourage and honor God and others, we are more likely to speak in this same way. We teach ourselves to encourage and honor rather than offend.

There are also the deeper issues of our hearts. When we learn that resentment and bitterness cause us to hold grudges and not forgive, we need to instead choose kindness and compassion forgiving those who’ve hurt us, letting go of all that keeps us angry and hard-hearted. This is why repentance is so important. Repentance says I recognize my own sinful nature (the corrupt and deceitful desires within me), and am choosing to put it off and put on Christ and His righteousness.

In Christ, we learn there is a new way to live. There is a new way to think, a new way to participate in relationships with others and with God. There is a new way to respond to what we experience in this lifetime. And we have an active role in how this happens in our lives.

Something to Consider…

As you think back on your life before Christ, what did you learn about how to live? Who taught you and how did it affect you and your relationships?

What is God giving you to “put on” in this season of your life? What do you know you need to “put off” in order for it  to be effective?

Even though we must choose to do this, the Holy Spirit is always with us helping us to know what needs to be done and giving us the strength to do it.

A Work in Progress

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6

© Depositphotos/weerapat

© Depositphotos/weerapat

In Christ, I am a new creation. In Christ, you are a new creation.

And yet, we are still a work in progress.

Perfection is still some time off. The attitude or mentality of perfectionism says I must get it right. I must be fully capable before attempting because otherwise, I will mess it up. I’ll make a mistake. When we think we need to “get it right”, we often try to do this in our own power. When we miss the mark, we condemn ourselves and think this is how God must see us as well.

But we can and need to give ourselves permission to be a work in progress. As Philippians 1 says, the good work being done in us is a result of the power of Christ. God has drawn us toward Himself. He has deposited the Holy Spirit within us so we can know Him more and rely on His power within us.

God knows the healing that needs to take place in your life, in your heart. He knows the habitual patters of how you think, act and respond. God knows what needs to change in you so that you can be transformed into the new creation He  has already created you to be.

You may realize over time that some things are just different about you. You didn’t think much about it, but you see things or do things in a new way. Things you used to do have lost their appeal, while you are drawn to other things, other people, places and activities. Maybe you respond to situations with a new sense of peace or clarity.

There are also thoughts, attitudes and desires that God brings to your attention. He reveals issues and conditions of your heart that need to change. Knowing what God has shown you, with the knowledge and understanding of what He says about it, you now have the opportunity to do it differently going forward. God’s revelation is not a condemnation. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance of old ways and helps us choose to follow His new ways.

As a new creation, you have everything you need to live a life pleasing to God. Be patient with yourself as you trust Jesus to bring forth what He has already planted in your heart.

Something to Consider…

In what ways has God already made you a new creation? How has your thinking, attitude or desires changed since coming into a relationship with His Son, Jesus? Spend some time praising and thanking God for what He has already done.

How is God doing a work in you? In what new ways would you like to experience His work in your life? Be honest with God about what you know needs to change. He already knows and wants to help you make these changes.

As He reveals areas of your life where He wants you to follow His way rather than your own, choose to cooperate with His Spirit and be obedient to what you know He’s calling you to do.

The New has Come

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (emphasis added)

sunriseIn Christ, I am a new creation. In Christ, you are a new creation.

When I first accepted Christ, I was a new creation. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, but I was different. As I look back, I realize I was excited about life in a new way. I was responding to the Spirit even though I didn’t know what that fully meant. I was proactive and had energy to do the things He put on my heart. I didn’t feel I had to do these things or else. It was more of a feeling that I had to do these things because I was so compelled to action.

Over the years, I’ve gone up and down in how fully I follow His promptings and there have been times when I’ve felt anything but new in my inner self. I’ve felt more like my same old self trying to figure out where I fit in to a new world.

What I found is that there are plenty of people inside and outside the church who will tell you in some way that it’s okay to be your old self. You are who you are and if it gets a laugh, if it gets you noticed, if it helps you deal with whatever’s going on, that’s okay. Because if it’s not okay, then that means they should be seeing change in themselves, too. And sometimes, that just seems too hard.

 

What would your life look like as a truly new creation? What will people think? Who will stay and who will go?

In Christ, you ARE a new creation whether you feel like it or not.

Just like a seed has everything it needs to become a tree, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you already have everything you need to live a new life in Christ. The Holy Spirit is like a seed planted in your heart. And just like a seed that is planted, certain things just happen. You don’t make them happen. You don’t make the tree sprout, but you can assist in the process.

If the soil is our heart, how do we do assist the work of the Spirit?

  1. Work the soil. Whether we like it or not, we have stuff buried in the soil of our hearts. When we moved into our first house, we found a huge wooden wagon wheel buried in our front yard. Rather than haul it off to the junkyard, those who were building the house, buried some of the garbage. We do that, too. Rather than look honestly at what has happened in our lives – what we’ve done, what’s been done to us – we deny, ignore and justify, burying it deeper and even letting the roots of that event grow. We need to let the Spirit clean out the junk and be willing to look at it, acknowledge it and let it go with His help.
  2. Water the seed. Water is life-giving. Water is needed for any living thing to survive. Without water, there is no life. What is water? Water is what brings life, encouragement and growth, new understanding and discernment. Practically speaking, reading God’s word, studying it with others and talking about it, as well as actually doing what it says is what it means to water the seed. People who have compassion while not letting you make excuses, but rather encourage you to “work the soil” are like water. Everything you do that moves you toward God is like water. Learning to hear the prompting of the Spirit AND responding to that prompting will grow your faith, your desire and your character. The great thing about this is we don’t have to decide what to do, we just need to do what the Spirit has decided we need. Everything we do when being led by Him will lead to our growth.
  3. Protect the seed. We do, however, still have decisions to make. There may be people in your life who try to keep the seed from growing, maybe even try to kill it. I know that sounds harsh, but most likely, it’s people who don’t have the seed themselves so they don’t understand it or it’s people who have the seed, but are unwilling to yield to the work of the Spirit in their own lives. Protecting the seed means not allowing anyone or anything to come between you and the Spirit. There may be times when, in order to protect the seed, you need to make a decision to distance yourself from a person or a situation, maybe a specific place or type of place, for a specific length of time. Protecting the seed may also be speaking up for the truth of Christ in your life regardless of the possible response. As one who has the Spirit, we can trust that He will give us the words and we can trust Him with the outcome of those words.

As a new creation in Christ, the Holy Spirit in us will never lead us to do anything outside the character or nature of Christ. He may refashion some of our old skills and talents for work in His kingdom, but He will never lead us to our self in ways that don’t align with Christ.

We ARE new creations. We have everything we need to operate and participate in this new life with Christ.

Something to Consider…

How have you seen or experienced the Spirit’s work in your life? In what areas of your life is there evidence of a new creation? In what areas are you still learning to let the Spirit have His way?

Which of the three things you can do to assist the Spirit’s work in your life (working the soil, watering the seed, protecting the seed) do you struggle with the most and why?

What have you found to be most helpful in learning to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit?

 

Great and Precious Promises

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

I don’t know one single person who’s kept every promise they’ve ever made. I know I haven’t. As much as I want to, sometimes I don’t. People break their promises and we can get accustomed to being disappointed at some level.

How great is our God who keeps all of His promises!

Maybe this is why Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.” Matthew 5:34-35,37a

Our making an oath, or a promise, in the name of God carries with it a heavy weight. We are saying our promise is backed by God. Then when we fail, it appears He has failed. But there is really no comparison when we consider the promises we make and place them next to His.

God doesn’t lie. God doesn’t change His mind. God doesn’t retract His promises. Some promises are guaranteed; some promises are conditional based on our response. But when God says He will, He means it.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

The list goes on.

Why is it so important that we understand the significance of God’s promises and not misrepresent Him in the course of making our own? Because not only are God’s promises great and precious, they have a great purpose. They are the reason we can live transformed lives in His power.

There are people I know who break their promises regularly. The only thing I believe when they say, “I promise”, is that an excuse for breaking it is imminent. Their promises hold no weight, no value and no expectation of trust.

God’s promises on the other hand carry the full weight of His character. They are so valuable that they are considered precious to those who hear them and receive them. God is completely trustworthy so when we walk in and live out a godly life based on what He promises is true, we will operate, think and behave in a way that is contrary to the world and completely in line with His kingdom.

Through His divine power we have everything we need to live a godly life and participate in the divine nature. Because we know Him, we can trust Him. And because we can trust Him, His promises change everything.

Something to Consider…

What promise do you need to hear from God today? That He is your peace, your strength, your refuge? That He gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding? Seek Him and know His promises for you are true.

How is God calling you to move from your old way of thinking or living to His way of thinking and living? What do you need to know is true in order to be able to make the change? Ask Him to show you the truth about what stops you so that you can move forward in His promises.