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Loved and Lavished in Grace

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 ESV

“There is no one on this planet more blessed than you.”

Beth Moore spoke those words during a recent taping of “Wednesdays in the Word” for Life Today TV. At the time, I joked with a friend who attended with me. “I’ve been telling you this for months. Will you believe it now that you’ve heard it from Beth Moore?”

Somehow it seems impossible to believe. Most days we don’t feel extravagantly blessed.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. I presented that same truth to the ladies in my Sunday school class a few days ago and asked if they believed it. You should’ve seen the eyes darting from my gaze, heads shaking in disagreement around the room.

I think we believe in a God of blessing. We just have trouble believing those blessings belong to us.

We easily assure others that God loves them desperately and has great things in store. But that same truth doesn’t seem to apply when we look in the mirror. We carefully guard our list of reasons that prove what our thoughts convey: most of God’s blessings aren’t meant for me.

The Apostle Paul begs to differ with you, dear one. So does the God who inspired his words.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

Whether or not you feel blessed at this particular moment, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God’s Word says that you are. According to Ephesians 1:3, you have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing available to you in Christ.

Think about that truth for a minute. The God who speaks things into being has spoken blessings over your life. Already. You’re not going to be blessed someday, dear one. You are already blessed.

I have to ask, beloved. Are you living out that blessing?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us live in the reality of who we’ve always been rather than the blessings of who we’ve become in Christ. We don’t walk as though we’re already blessed. We live still seeking the blessing.

Paul offers the key to unlocking God’s blessings over us in verse 6:

. . . his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Just so we’re clear, Jesus is the Beloved. And what has He blessed us with? Grace. Glorious grace.

That word grace in the original Greek means, “the state of kindness and favor toward someone, often with a focus on benefit given to the object; by extension: gift, benefit . . . blessing.” (Strong’s Concordance, Greek #5485, p.1653)

You, dear one, are blessed with the favor of God—favor that gives benefit. Favor you can’t earn. Favor you already have.

Do you believe God favors you, dear one? Do you know what His favor offers you? Perhaps you should read 2 Corinthians 9:8.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Grace provides whatever we need at whatever time to succeed. And we’re swimming in it.

I’ll be honest with you. I have always struggled a bit with the concept of grace. This logical mind has difficulty grasping the idea that God’s love and favor doesn’t have to be earned. In fact, it can’t be. But the thought doesn’t sit quite right under the umbrella of reason.

And yet, that’s what scripture claims. For God so loves, that He gave (John 3:16). Freely. He poured out grace that provides all sufficiency in all things at all times. And if you are His, nobody has more blessing and favor from God than you.

Whether you believe it yet or not, Christ has lavished the riches of His grace upon you “in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). That means He didn’t make a mistake speaking it over you. He thought it through. He had insight into who you are, and He chose to favor you anyway.

So how do we learn to live in that favor? How do those blessings spoken over us in the heavenly places become our new reality on this earth?

The answer actually isn’t complicated, although we do our best to make it so. You and I need to return to where we began in Christ at the moment of our salvation.

We believe.

You see, one thing ushers us into the flow of grace poured out on us. Faith.

Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Dear one, you are loved and lavished in grace. One thing alone can stop the realization of God’s favor in your life. Unbelief.

Will you see yourself as you really are and step into your blessing?

Are You God’s Friend?

I am a friend of God.

You’ve probably heard songs making that bold claim. You may have even sung them in worship on Sunday morning. It’s a wonderful concept, and I love the reminder that God is approachable and seeking relationship. But I wonder if God’s definition of friendship matches ours.

Are you really living as God’s friend?

Only a handful of people received the distinction of being called God’s friend in Scripture. Abraham earned the recognition first, followed by Moses. You’ll notice that God used both in mighty ways to bring about His plan for this earth.

Through Abraham God created a nation, a people group He called out from the world to become His own. Through Moses, God delivered that people from slavery in Egypt and led them to the banks of their promised inheritance. God revealed His miraculous power through each of them, their faith in what God told them becoming a catalyst to release His glory.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 NIV

Along with their amazing exploits of faith, both of them share the distinction of having direct communication with God. Exodus 33:11 tells us, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” God consistently spoke to both of them, and they each responded to what they heard with faithful obedience.

I have to ask, dear one. How does the description fit so far? Are you allowing God to use you in mighty ways to further His Kingdom? Do you speak with Him face to face and allow Him to whisper direction into your life? When you hear from Him, do you trust Him through your obedience so that His perfect will comes to pass?

Another group also earned the title of friend in Jesus’ day. Eleven men who left everything to follow Him received His invitation to friendship in an upper room right before He gave His life for them. The twelfth had already left to sell his “friend” for 30 pieces of silver. Here’s what Jesus said to them.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:13-15

Did you catch it, dear one? Do you see God’s definition of who His friends are? In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’ll repeat it for you. Jesus’ friends are those who do what He asks of them.

Perhaps we have been throwing the word around a little too flippantly.

You see, according to Scripture, friends of God live with Kingdom purpose. They draw near to Him, pressing in close to hear what He has to say. And when He speaks, they follow, even if it means heading in a different direction than they had intended to go.

Beloved, Christ delights in sharing His Father’s business with His friends. He longs for eager Kingdom builders to come alongside Him and boldly exercise the faith they profess. Why? Friends of God living in faithful obedience release kingdom power that changes things.

Unfortunately, while we love to sing songs about friendship with God, most of us actually live as friends of the world. We embrace its principles and found our plans on its beliefs. We tune into all its channels to hear how the world defines who we are or who we should be. Then we eagerly align our lives to what it speaks.

Here’s the thing about that, dear one. We cannot live as friends of both God and the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? James 4:4-5

You see, biblically, what unites us in friendship is purpose. Look at what Scripture reveals in Luke 23:12, right after Herod and his soldiers had mocked Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate during His trials:

That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

It is our common ground that unites us. Our friendships are built on what we believe, on our goals and motivations, on the principles we live by.

Dear one, we’ve been trying to claim friendship with God while standing on the world’s principles. In doing so, we’ve inadvertently made ourselves God’s enemies. Then we wonder why He doesn’t seem to want to bless.

Hear Jesus’ heart for you, beloved.

. . . As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world . . . John 15:19

What if you and I determined to live according to the biblical definition of friend of Jesus? What if we took up His cause as our own? What if we pressed in close to hear what He desires to speak to us? What if we determined to realign our lives with what He speaks?

I’ll tell you what we’d see, beloved. We’d see the glory of God poured out on this earth. We’d see power that changes circumstances. We’d see life that heals and resurrects. Is that not worth the risk?

I am a friend of God.

 

 

Have You Heard Your Word From God?

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” Genesis 15:4 NIV

I imagine you’ve probably experienced the dull ache of a longing unfulfilled. Life disappoints all of us at some point or another. Some things just hurt worse than others.

Scripture describes the result of those unfulfilled longings in Proverbs 13:12.

 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

God spoke our opening Scripture to Abraham at a time when his heart ached over a hope that burned within him but hadn’t been realized. He had longed for an heir, and he was starting to have a few doubts about God’ plan for him.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Abraham’s story. The God of glory had appeared to him years before and made a request.

 “Leave your country and your people,” God said, “and go to the land I will show you.” So he left . . . Acts 7:3-4

I wonder how many of us would have been willing to give up everything to follow a God no one else believed in or served. Abraham remained completely alone in his allegiance, and yet he left the life he knew to follow the God he had met.

God must have made quite an impression on him.

As is always the case, God’s command to Abraham came with the promise of blessing.

 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3

Not a bad promise! Only Abraham couldn’t quite figure out how it was going to happen. How would he become a great nation when he had no heir? He was already an old man.

In Genesis 15 he begins to voice his concerns to his God. Notice the doubt rising, his heart ailing over having his hope for an heir long deferred.

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Genesis 15:2-3

Don’t you love the freedom he feels to get honest with God? God loves it too. And in a tender moment, He whispers hope into Abraham’s aching heart.

 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:4-5

Can you imagine it? God tells Abraham, “I want to show you something.” Then he challenges him to count the stars and tells him, “That’s how many offspring I’m giving you. And it won’t be coming through your servant. Your heir will be your own flesh and blood.”

God’s plans for us generally surpass what we can dream up. The problem is, many of us don’t let Him whisper His dreams into our hearts. We set our hearts on our own plans, our own dreams, and expect God to meet them. Then our deferred hope shatters our hearts.

Beloved, let me remind you of a biblical truth on which you and I need to establish our faith.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:17

The most significant part of Abraham’s story can be summed up from Genesis 15:4.

Then the word of the Lord came to him: . . .

At every turning point in Abraham’s journey, God spoke. And each time, Abraham chose to believe Him.

I wonder if some of us are frustrated because we’re trying to believe God for things He hasn’t spoken over our lives. We’re trying to claim promises because we believe that’s what God should do for us, but we haven’t bothered to ask Him if it’s in His plan.

Beloved, faith comes from hearing. We cannot fully express faith to follow Jesus without seeking Him to hear His Word for our lives.

I encourage you to ask Him, dear one. Perhaps, like Abraham, you’ll receive the word you longed for. If so, hold onto His promise with both hands until you see it come to pass.

Or perhaps you’ll discover that the hope you’ve held onto isn’t part of His plan for your life. If so, He wants to minister to your wounded heart and turn your attention to the blessing He has set aside for you.

In case you’re wondering, you won’t have to worry if you’ll like the blessing. It will be a perfect fit for you because it’s what you were made for. And your soul will sing with elation that far surpasses what would have come from what you once hoped for.

You may even discover what Abraham did about the God you serve.

“. . . I am . . . your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

Death: The Door to Life

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

Death scares most of us. We spend the majority of our lives trying to avoid it. And no wonder. Death represents an end, ceasing to exist in the way we’ve known. What follows is unfamiliar territory. And most of us prefer the comfort of familiarity, even when what’s familiar to us isn’t all that great.

Like the way we feel about our sinful nature.

We don’t want to let go of it; it’s what we know.

It deceives us. It hurts us. It even harms the people we love. But we can’t fathom life without it. We fear the death of it more than we fear the pain it causes. So we rebel against Jesus’ command to crucify it.

Yet Jesus forever changed what death means for us as believers. He came to the earth and shared in our humanity,

. . . so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

In Christ, we should no longer fear death. Jesus has conquered its power! Instead, He asks us to embrace it. Even seek it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus challenges us to lose our lives for Him.

We read those words and our flesh kicks up. We don’t want to lose our lives. That’s death, and we’ve always been afraid of death.

But Jesus has freed us from that fear. In Christ, death isn’t an end, dear one. It offers a new beginning.

And Matthew 16:25 extends a clear promise: When you lose your life for Him, you will find it.

You will find your true life, beloved, when you’re willing to lose the one you have.

It doesn’t make sense to us. Logic wars against it. Everything in us screams to hold onto who we’ve always been. After all, it’s what we know.

But when you and I fear the death of our old nature and try to protect and preserve it, we settle for a less than life.

How can I say that? Jesus said it first.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Jesus wants you to experience life to its fullest extent. That happens when you stop living from your old nature and allow Christ to live through you.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

When you and I cease to live—when we put to death our sinful nature—Christ lives in its place. And that scares the enemy of our souls, because he knows he can walk all over us as long as we still live through our old nature. He governs that nature and can easily manipulate us.

But the enemy can’t do anything against the power of the living Christ. Jesus need only utter a word, and he’s undone. He’s powerless… feeble… nothing. And so he does all he can to convince you to remain in your own weakness. He whispers that you should fear death.

Beloved, Jesus has released you from that fear. It’s time to walk in the fullness of life Christ offers. Death has become your catalyst to abundant life!

Imagine it for a moment. What if you crucified your insecurity and let Christ’s assurance of who He Is reign in its place? What if you let go of bitterness and experienced the flooding of His love equipping your heart to feel joy again? What if you buried your self-centeredness so Jesus could replace your impatience and agitation with His perfect peace?

Abundant life awaits, dear one. You need only trust His Word.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

Will you walk through that door and trust Jesus for your new life?

Approaching Glory

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

Do you ever have moments when darkness seems to engulf you? When it becomes so thick and heavy you find it hard to remember the warmth of the light?

I do. They don’t come frequently, but they do come. Sometimes things just don’t play out like I hoped they would. And in those moments of darkness, doubt takes over. It tries to convince me that the God who loves me has abandoned me.  Forsaken me.

Ever been there? I’m guessing you have. You and I won’t follow Jesus for very long without facing some kind of adversity.

I wish I could tell you that once you step into the Light and give your life to Jesus you’ll never feel the touch of darkness. But I can’t. Jesus doesn’t promise an end to trouble on your path to abundant life. He promises the means to overcome it (John 16:33).

Beloved, there will be moments when adversity comes against you that you will feel abandoned by God. The logic of your circumstances won’t align with what you committed to believe by faith, and the enemy will do all he can to convince you that God has forsaken you. After all, he is the deceiver and the father of lies (John 8:44).

I’d like to ask you to consider another possibility. What if, in those moments of greatest darkness, God has never been closer? What if He is so near He must shield your eyes from viewing Him to protect you from His closeness? And as you trust Him through the darkness and the first streams of light begin to filter into view, you will glimpse His glory like you’ve never seen it before.

How can I make such a statement? It happened to Moses.

“When my glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” Exodus 33:22-23

These words of God came in response to Moses’ bold request, “Now show me your glory” (verse 18). God responded by saying, “I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.” (Verse 19)

Beloved, will you consider with me that in moments of great darkness, perhaps God has hidden you in the cleft of the Rock to shield you from His approaching glory? As He covers you with His protective hand, the darkness appears thickest, yet He is nearest. While the enemy whispers that God has forsaken you, He is actually holding you in His grasp, causing all His goodness to pass by and proclaiming His name, the LORD, in your presence.

You see, we cannot see God approaching. We can’t stare head on into the fullness of His glory and survive the experience, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (verse 20).

And so as He draws near to meet us in our need, He covers us with His hand. Darkness looms, not because it’s winning, but because in that moment, we are unable to see the light of His glory. But as it passes by and He removes His protective hand, we have the privilege of seeing His glory as it departs.

Have you ever noticed how you can’t see God’s handprint in a circumstance until after it’s over? In the midst of it, you can’t see Him anywhere, but afterward you begin to recognize His mark all over the place. When that happens, dear one, He has hidden you in the cleft of the Rock and caused His glory to pass by.

Darkness will come, beloved, but so will the glory of your God.

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:1-3

Notice that this isn’t an “if” promise. Adversity will come. If you and I are going to journey with Jesus to the mountain of the Lord, we will pass through swirling rivers and raging waters. We will face the heat of blazing flames. But take heart in this truth, beloved. We will never face them alone. And as we tuck ourselves under the shelter of the Most High, committed to stand on His truth and renounce the enemy’s lies, whatever the enemy brings cannot hurt us. In fact, as we walk on in step with Jesus, trusting His will even when we don’t understand, we set the stage to witness glory.

I pray you have discovered a few truths to stand on when the darkness comes. Let me leave you with one more. Why does God promise to be with us in our difficulties? To walk with us through turbulent waters and raging fires?

I’ll let Him answer.

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” Isaiah 43:4

 

 

Week 7: Empowered by Grace

We have reached the final week of the workbook. Well done! God will bless your perseverance as you follow hard after Him.

Today we take a deeper look at the grace of God. Grace offers so much more than what most of us understand. We will dig into Scripture to discover some of what God reveals in His Word about grace. I pray you will open your heart to receive His Truth so that you can become empowered by God’s great gift.

Click here to print the prepared note sheet for this session.

Watch the Video

Week 7 Assignment

Complete Days 1-2 of Week 4 in your workbook

Additional Suggestion:

Take some time to consider the impact grace has had in your own life. Do those around you bear witness to its affect on you? Has the gospel come to you “not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)?

If so, take some time to thank God for His grace and invite Him to reveal more of His lavish plan for you. If not, consider that faith and humility are the keys to accessing the grace of God. Surrender yourself to His will for you and commit to trust Him as He leads you. Ask Him to help you believe and step into His promises. Then get ready to experience the touch of His grace.

Overcome by the Word of Your Testimony

“I am sending you.”

The message penetrated my heart in the middle of worship on Saturday afternoon during our annual women’s conference. An image of my friend who is battling end stage colon cancer flooded my mind.

My lips stopped moving as everything faded, the presence of the Spirit commanding my attention. I knew without doubt He was asking me to go and pray healing over my friend.

I wanted desperately to comply. I would like nothing more than to be a vessel Jesus used to heal her. But in the same moment fear and doubt took hold. Who was I? Nobody. Just a friend…a soccer mom…a Bible teacher. Not a miracle worker.

Do you notice how we tend to focus our eyes on our own inability rather than God’s ability? When God calls us to exercise faith, we make everything about us. But the tasks He appoints have nothing to do with who we are and everything to do with who He is. And in those moments, He asks us to trust. “Will you believe I AM who I say I AM?”

It might be interesting to note the theme of the conference I attended: Empowered by the Spirit. The speaker challenged us to Feed on the Word, Believe the Word, and then Live the Word. What good, after all, is knowledge of the Word if we can’t live it in the everyday? What does Truth mean to us if we don’t believe it and put it into action?

“I am sending you.”

The moment passed and we all settled in to hear the final message from the speaker. I found myself challenged by Revelation 12:10-11,

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

 “Now have come the salvation and the power

and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,

who accuses them before our God day and night,

has been hurled down.

 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb

and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much

as to shrink from death.”

You’ve probably felt the weight of Satan’s accusations against you. We deal with the burden of his lies every day. But do you see how these brothers and sisters in Christ triumphed over him? By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.

Hear me, beloved. Christ’s blood poured out on that cross guaranteed our victory over the enemy. But if you want to experience that victory—if you want to see the glory of God poured out— it isn’t enough to simply rest in the knowledge of what Christ accomplished. You’ve got to live it out. You and I have got to live like the enemy is the defeated foe he is and let the word of our testimony proclaim our victory.

That means we can’t allow Satan to fill our heads with doubt. When God speaks, we must simply believe and take action in faith. The rest is up to Him.

That night I prayed for God to increase my faith. I rose early the next morning and opened the Scriptures, determined to feed on the Word of God and fill myself with His presence. He confirmed His message to me, and I knew I was to go that day. For a moment, I allowed the doubt to creep into my thoughts again. What if it didn’t work? I can’t…

Immediately God spoke, this time bringing a familiar Scripture to remembrance.

 “Go in the strength you have … Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:14

I began to weep. I could not deny His message to me, and I determined to believe.

In worship at church that morning, I presented myself to God as a living sacrifice. I confessed my sin, received His forgiveness, and asked Him to anoint my lips with His Word.

After the service I shared my mission with two dear sisters and asked them to pray. One of them asked to accompany me, and we headed together to the home of my friend.

My heart hurt when I saw her lying on the couch. Breathing was difficult due to fluid filling her lungs from the cancer. I bent down to hug her and she began to cry, confessing she felt forgotten and abandoned by God.

I looked into her sweet face and was able to tell her, “He sent me to you. He loves you desperately, and He has not forgotten you.”

I knew in that moment it didn’t matter if I witnessed a miracle that day. God had already provided what my friend needed simply because I showed up. She needed hope. She needed to understand that she was not forsaken. She needed to grasp the height and depth of God’s love.

I read from Ephesians 3:16-21.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I cannot adequately put into words what happened next. The Spirit led us in the sweetest time of prayer I have ever experienced. We laid hands on our friend and prayed as the Spirit moved us. We declared His glory and proclaimed His Truth, surrendering our wills to allow the Spirit in us to pray what she needed. We declared healing, praying for the fluid in her chest to recede. We proclaimed life and invited glory.

Minutes passed unnoticed, and nearly 2 hours had lapsed when we uttered the final amen. His presence was so thick I felt my hands going numb. I didn’t want to move, not wanting to sever the connection we had as we united our hearts in submission to His purpose.

I can’t tell you what the road ahead holds for my friend, dear one. God alone knows what happens next. But I did see Jesus touch her that day, and what a privilege to be the hand that He used.

When we left her, her breathing was less labored and there was pink in her cheeks we didn’t see when we arrived. But above all, she and her husband had hope.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

 

Week 5: The God Who Fills

Hello, dear one! We have reached a pivotal point in our study together. Our focus shifts this week from our exploration of faith to the inner work that Jesus desires to perform in each of our hearts. I pray that the understanding of this material will open the way for each of us to experience John 7:38,

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

Click here to print the prepared note sheet for this video.

Watch the Video

Week 5 Assignment

Complete Days 1-3 of Week 3 in your workbook

Additional Suggestion:

Spend some time in prayer asking God to ready your heart to receive Him fully. Ask Him to reveal any areas that you have held back from Him. Surrender everything to Him. Then boldly ask as Moses did:

“Now show me your glory.” Exodus 33:18

My Righteous One Will Live by Faith

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” –St Augustine

I spent a good bit of my life misunderstanding faith. Instead of exercising it and living my life by it, I thought of faith more like a noun—something we hold in our hearts. If we simply possess enough of it, God will act on our behalf, right?

Then I found myself discouraged because I didn’t see God move. It left me wondering about my own condition. Did I not have enough faith?

Perhaps you’ve been there, wondering why others can share powerful testimonies of how God showed up in their need, but you’re left doubting yourself and the God you claim to trust because your circumstances haven’t changed.

Dear one, if that’s you, perhaps you’ve missed the beautiful foundation through which true faith must flow: relationship.

Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Look at the actions describing one who pleases God with faith. Not only must we believe He exists, but we must “come to Him” in that belief. True faith can only be exercised by one who comes near to God. And that approach isn’t simply uttering a casual prayer when the need arises. The verse is clear that God rewards those who “earnestly seek Him.”

Consider Romans 10:17:

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

Dear one, faith is birthed in us when we hear a message through the Word of Christ. Perhaps our faith is failing us because we haven’t drawn near to Christ to hear what He is saying. Maybe we’ve told God what we think we need, even believing He can provide it, but we haven’t approached Him to listen for what He knows we need. Beloved, faith comes from hearing.

In John 10:3-4, Jesus describes the true nature of faith.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

We express faith as we trust and follow. In order to follow, we must quiet ourselves and draw near to the One who speaks. Perhaps we don’t see God moving on our behalf because we haven’t bothered to quiet ourselves to hear Him speaking (Psalm 46:10). We haven’t given Him the opportunity to reveal His thoughts on the matter. Instead of following behind, we’ve wandered toward what we think we need and expected God to come with us.

Beloved, Jesus releases His power where He is. If you want to see Him move in your circumstances, you must draw near to Him with an open, listening heart. As He faithfully whispers His will into your life, you must trust Him through your obedience. Your faith—initiated as you hear from Him (Romans 10:17) and completed as you follow His instruction to you (James 2:22)—will open the door to the release of His grace.

You will see Him move. Perhaps not the way you first thought He would, but you will see Him nonetheless.  And you will discover with a thankful, joyous heart, that Jesus is, indeed, faithful. His love is better than life.

 

Changing Your “Want To”

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NIV

Last week I was reading through a Bible study by Tammie Head called Duty or Delight? In it, she challenged me with this suggestion:

The basic definition for the power of the Holy Spirit means to be able. Please take this in: The “to be able” came to live in you and in me. What if we began calling Him the To-Be-Able instead of the Holy Spirit? Can you imagine how that would change our thinking? We’d no longer be ruled by I can’t because the To-Be-Able can. (p.92)

 That day I wrote in my journal: You are the To-Be-Able to change my want to.

Do you have a “want to” that you’re struggling to overcome, dear one? Is there something in your life God is asking of you that you can’t seem to do because your heart doesn’t agree?

 I think you can probably relate to what I’m talking about. God says . . .

  • Take this step . . . but I don’t want to.
  • Give this to me . . . but I don’t want to.
  • Forgive . . . but I don’t want to.
  • This relationship isn’t good for you; let it go . . . but I don’t want to.
  • Feed my sheep . . . but I don’t want to.
  • This sin is hurting you . . . but I still want it.

And the worst part is that you really want to obey God. You want to please Him, but you can’t seem to follow through. What He’s asking goes against your nature. It doesn’t feel right. So you don’t do what you know you ought to do. Instead, you keep doing what you know you shouldn’t.

I can’t help thinking of Paul’s words in Romans 7:18-20,

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So many of us have good intentions. We really want to please God through obedience, but when it comes right down to it, we find that we can’t. And so we rejoice when we read Paul’s words because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin! This is normal.

And it is.

Scripture makes very clear that we humans are unable to combat the stranglehold of sin’s desires in us. That’s why we need a Savior! And as Christians, we read those verses describing Paul’s struggle and breathe a sigh of relief. Then we use them to justify our own disobedience.

Perhaps we need to read further and discover what else Paul said.

 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

Did he say delivers me? Is it possible to end those habitual cycles of sin? To stop doing those things we know we shouldn’t do? Paul seemed to think so. Notice his use of exclamation points! He could hardly contain his excitement. Let’s read on.

 . . .through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:2-4, NIV 1984

Listen, dear one. If you have put your faith in Jesus and received the gift of His Spirit, you have also received the power to do everything God asks of you. Look at those verses. God sent Jesus as a sin offering, not just to cover our sin, but to conquer the power of sin living in us. He did it so “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.”

He did it to give you a new nature. His nature.

Jesus didn’t just pay the penalty for your sin, beloved. He also defeated its power. You and I have been given a supernatural ability to obey God. Do you remember what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus approaching?

 “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

He doesn’t just want to cover or hide it; He wants to remove it altogether.

So how do we let Jesus do what He came to do in us? Romans 8:4 provides the answer: We have to choose to surrender our desires to the Spirit we’ve been given, instead of continuing to follow the natural desires of our flesh. We have to ask our To-Be-Able to change our “want to.”

 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Precious one, the Holy Spirit wants to start changing your desires. Are you ready to give Him permission? I hope so, because He’s ready to reveal Himself in your life. You just may bear witness to God’s power “. . .to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).