Category Archives: God

Desert Horse

Are you living in a spiritual desert?  Maybe you feel dry in your relationship with the Lord.  Or maybe it is not you personally, but the spiritual climate of your surroundings that feels like the Sahara. 

For a few days now, I’ve had the desert horse of the Middle East on my mind.  Carefully bred for many centuries by the nomadic people who live there, Arab horses are known for their great stamina, strength, and agility.  Their ability to endure searing heat and travel great distances through difficult terrain, with a minimum of food and water, are legendary.

There is allegorical truth hidden in their story for those of us who are currently living in a spiritual desert.   Desert seasons are a part of every serious Christian’s life.  Some of us spend more time there than others.  No one finds it to be much fun.  We love the Psalm 23 experience of Jesus leading us in green pastures, beside still waters.  But if we stayed there all the time, we’d just be fluffy, helpless sheep, and the Lord has better things for us than that.

Like the desert horse, we are meant to have, spiritually speaking, muscles of iron.  Psalm 18:34 comments, “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.”  Such strength comes only through the rigors of enduring difficult conditions.  Steel becomes what it is through a careful process that involves applying enormous amounts of heat.  And yet, God speaks of giving us strength superior even to that possessed by steel.

Some of you live in a place where not much spiritual life is going on around you.  You may not sense a great desire for the Presence of the Lord in your community or church house.  There may not be a local “feed trough” of solid Bible teaching available to you.  And you feel so very hungry and thirsty for nourishment from the Lord.  I know what that feels like.  Access to sound Bible teaching through books and the Internet is wonderful, but there’s nothing like having everything you need right in your own home town.  The easy way out would be to shift locations — to find a new city or church where God is moving.  But perhaps you know deep down inside that, at least for this season, you are called to be a desert dweller.  It is part of God’s plan for you right now — but it’s a bleak outlook, all the same.

God has a way for us to not only survive, but also to thrive in the desert.  Arab horses are renowned for their intelligence and sensitive nature.  These traits have been developed in them through many centuries in a peculiar way.  The nomadic people have commonly allowed the finest of their horses to live right inside their tents with them, sometimes even sleeping under their blanket and drinking from their own cup.  Their legends are filled with stories of extraordinary love  bonds and deep understanding between horse and master.

The key to surviving and thriving in our desert seasons is to stay close to our Master, too — abiding in His tent, the tabernacle of His Presence.  We all have that place available to us, because Jesus has opened the way into the Holy of Holies for all who wish to not only visit occasionally, but to dwell there.  We absorb His understanding, His sensitivity, His wisdom as we live close to Him.

Dwelling in the Lord’s tent does not happen automatically.  Staying close to Him in the desert requires extra time set aside for Him in prayer and in His Word.  We will increase in wisdom and understanding, but we will also find nourishment, so that we are sustained.  Discipline and  determination are needed, just as the desert horse must exert effort in his search for grass and water.  Jesus’ Word is meat, and He is the Living Water.

God promises to take care of His desert dwellers:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the LORD will hear them; I the LORD will not forsake them.  I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys.  I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. — Isaiah 41:17, 18

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD.  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out her roots by the river, that shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.  —Jeremiah 17:7, 8 

May you thrive and grow wise during your season in the desert.  And may you come out of  that time a valiant warhorse for the Lord.

See also:
Why the Desert, Lord? 
Three Levels of Journeying Through Your Desert

What God Doesn’t Know

One of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is that God is omniscient: He knows all of the past, all of the present, and even all of the future.  (Yes, open theology enthusiasts, He DOES know ALL of the future! — but that is another subject.)

But here are a few things God does not know:

  1. He doesn’t know how to go back on His word.
  2. He doesn’t know how to let you down.
  3. He doesn’t know how to be unfaithful to you.
  4. He doesn’t know how to abandon you.
  5. He doesn’t know how to lie.
  6. He doesn’t know how to not love you.
  7. He doesn’t know how to be untrustworthy.
  8. He doesn’t know how to betray you.
  9. He doesn’t know how to worry or fear.
  10. He doesn’t know how to lose the war.

— because these things are completely outside of His core being, His nature.

May you fully trust Him today, in the middle of whatever circumstances you are enduring, because He is fully trustworthy.

Fruit Trees

For a good tree does not bring forth corrupt fruit; neither does a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  For every tree is known by its own fruit.
Luke 6:43, 44

No doubt we all encounter well-meaning Christian people who constantly emphasize that we must do the will of God — that we must prove our love for God by what we do for Him.  With some, it seems to be an obsession.

I understand the passion for holiness.  Yes, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His words, or commandments (John 14:21, 23).  And James was writing in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 — see James 2:14-26).  I want to be ever so much like Jesus — holy, pure, kind, and loving.

But the obsession that some have with doing bothers me.  I think perhaps their motives are good, but they have gotten the cart before the horse.  As I thought on this, the Scripture about the good and bad fruit trees came to mind, and my light bulb went on.

Think about the fruit trees in your acquaintance.  Do they strain with all their might to produce apples or cherries?  If a tree could think, would it say to itself, “I MUST produce fruit!  I must!  I must!  Oh, this is so hard, and I’m so worn out making it happen, but I will produce fruit if it kills me!”  Does one fruit tree whack its fellow tree with a large branch and exclaim, “Produce!  You’ve got to make it happen to show you are a fruit tree!  Can’t you crank out a few more oranges, Brother Tree?”

Fruit trees produce fruit because they are fruit trees, not because they strive and strain to do it.  They draw continual strength from the sap that flows through them.  They put their roots down deep, and receive the nourishment of the soil, and the fruit comes as an automatic product of what the trees already are.

We can learn from the fruit trees of Luke 6 and the vine of John 15.  So many believers are exhausting themselves, trying to prove to God and each other that they are good fruit trees or vine branches by what they produce, rather than abiding in Jesus and letting the fruit come as a natural by-product.  So many are cracking the whip over their fellow believers, goading them  to perform, instead of encouraging each other to rest in the presence of Jesus and let Him bring forth the fruit His way.  It reminds me of the Egyptian taskmasters demanding more bricks from the Israelite slaves!

We say we are saved by grace, but the way many of us try to walk out our Christian life after salvation is a mixture of grace and law.  I dare say a goodly portion of Christianity is heavily into this mixture, and it is not God’s way.  But it has been interwoven into our church life for such a long time that we fail to recognize what has happened to us.  We know all the right doctrines, but our mindsets are quite another thing.  Our emphasis on what and how much fruit is produced has become bondage.

Abiding in Christ and expecting fruit to come about naturally does not mean we sit around and do nothing but “soak” in the Lord.  When we stay in close communion with Him, He leads us by His Spirit, and the outflow of being sensitive to Him will be good works.  If the fruit never shows up, we’ve got an unhealthy tree.  In the Christian, there is then some kind of disconnect with our Source.

What I’m suggesting is that, instead of striving to DO for Jesus, if we will BE in Him, the fruit will be a reality.  “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) will outflow into righteous acts which will convince the world that our God truly is worthy to be worshiped.

Staying in the Counsel

Sometimes the battles in life get pretty hard.  In fact, based on what I am currently going through and what I have been hearing from a number of you, battle pressures feel close to overwhelming for many of us at this time.

Why?  Part of it is just the nature of our fallen world and the troubles we humans experience because of it, while some of it is because every day we are getting closer to the time of Jesus’ return.  The Book of Revelation speaks of great trouble that will come upon the earth.  Revelation 12:12 foretells, “… for the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.”  If we are not in that day, we are fast approaching to it.

What can we do to help ourselves in the midst of trying circumstances?  How do we manage to not fall apart when our minds struggle with fear and other assaults of the enemy?  I’m going to share with you what God said to me in the midst of a stiff mind battle:

“Stay in the counsel of the Lord.”

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?  No, it’s not.  Refusing to focus on the problem, anchoring our attention instead on what Jesus has said about it, is one of the greatest challenges we face in obtaining prayer answers or in pushing through into the destiny God has for us.

God is speaking to many of us, and the tenor of His words is, “You’re going to be all right.  I will get you through to the other side.  I’ll take you where you need to go.  I will not fail you.  I will meet the need.”  And we take comfort for a short time in what He is speaking — but then the circumstances start to loom larger than life once again, and before we know it, we’re on the edge of losing our peace, as though He had never spoken.

“Stay in the counsel of the Lord.”

A number of years ago, while going through a season of great discouragement, I had a dream.  In it, I saw myself run my head up against a wall.  I heard the sound of the collision, saw stars, and heard the words, “a stumbling block.”  I immediately awoke and had this conversation with the Lord:

“Lord, what was that?”
“It’s a warning.”
“What are You warning me about?”
“Your mind is a stumbling block.  You’ll run up against a wall if you listen to what your mind wants to tell you.  Stay in My Spirit.”
Then He continued, “Whose report will you believe?  Will you believe what you see with your eyes?  Or will you believe what you have heard in your spirit?”

I chose to believe what the Lord had clearly spoken to me and to press on through the difficulties to get there.  I’m still doing that.  It is what we all have to do if we are going to see our promises fulfilled and if we are going to finish our race successfully.

The devil may be raging, and our circumstances may look like an awful mess, but if we will hold on tightly to Jesus and the things He has spoken to us — especially the Scriptures, but also the personal promises He has shared with us — we’ll get through and we’ll be all right.  He is faithful.

The good news is that there isn’t always going to be a conflict.  The opposition of the enemy will one day be nullified, and all will be well. 

     But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
     The Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
     — Daniel 7:18, 22

Stay in the counsel of the Lord.  Not only will you be all right, but you will be a victorious overcomer.  You will accomplish what you were born to do.  Just don’t give up, and you’ll get there.  Your day is coming. 

The Rules of Sonship

Crown, by Mordecai20 at PhotobucketAnd all creation’s straining on tiptoe just to see
The sons of God come into their own.
from a song by The Fisherfolk

Romans 8:19 puts it, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the unveiling of the sons of God.”

I got to thinking one day about what it means to be the sons of God.  (“Sons of God” includes women, by the way.)  And I came up with a list — sort of a “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all understood who we are in Christ and acted that way?” kind of compilation.  So here it is.  I hope you will enjoy it.

#1:  Sons know that since God their Father thinks they are wonderful, Sister Effie’s opinion about them doesn’t count.

#2:  Sons serve each other, but are nobody’s slaves. They don’t let any man “own” them.

 #3:  Sons don’t get offended by intimidation tactics. They smile and stand tall because they know who they are, even if the intimidator doesn’t. (I’ve had a hard time learning this one.)

#4:  Sons and Dr. Seuss know there are Yertle-the-Turtles in the Kingdom. They just refuse to be part of the stack.

#5:  Sons trust their Father to meet their material needs. He’s got the universe at His disposal, after all.

#6:  A son remembers there are other sons in the family and shares generously with them.

#7:  Sons are secure in their destiny-callings and don’t try to usurp someone else’s.

#8:  Sons also know there is plenty of destiny to go around, so jealousy of other sons isn’t necessary.

#9:  The King’s sons know the privileges of royalty and appropriate them.

#10:  There is no caste system or waiting line to an audience with the King. All sons have equal and instant access.

#11:  Royal sons have a gracious demeanor. They treat others with respect because honor is ingrained in their hearts.

#12:  Sons don’t make a big deal about other sons’ mistakes and faults.  That’s just the way family is, quirks and all.

#13:  Sons know no man can take away from them what their Father has given them.  Their destiny/mantle/calling is secure in Him.

#14:  Sons understand the authority backing them. Their Daddy bears the title, Supreme Potentate of the Universe.

#15:  Sons wear their royal robes inside out. (Their beauty starts on the inside and radiates to the outside.)

#16:  Sons know Father is a God of His Word and can be trusted.

Can you think of any more rules of sonship that I’ve missed?  Why not post them as a comment?

Thanksgiving: Gateway to Answered Prayer (Part 2)

Did you know that Jesus released thanksgiving as a means of receiving answers?  I didn’t — until the Holy Spirit showed me this, in the story of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish, found in John 6.  The concept is hidden away in what may appear to be an insignificant detail.

John 6:11 tells us, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them who had sat down; and likewise of the fish as much as they wanted.”  We know the story: five thousand men, plus women and children, were fed, and twelve baskets were left over. 

The story seems to end there.  John moves on to tell about Jesus going up into a mountain to pray and then walking on the water in the middle of the night.  But look at John 6:23, a seemingly insignificant explanation of how the multitudes found Jesus the next day: “However, other boats came from Tiberias near to the place where they had eaten bread, after the Lord had given thanks.”   Why did John mention that last phrase at all?  Because the concept of thanksgiving as a gateway to answers is there.

Five thousand men, plus women and children, were fed with five loaves and two fish after Jesus released His faith for the miracle through giving thanks to His Father.  Yes, He gave thanks out of a grateful heart for the food He had to work with — but He also was giving thanks for what God was about to do.  His prayer request was linked with His thanksgiving.

May I suggest that if the answers to your prayers are not flowing in as you would like them to, that thanksgiving may be the missing component — the peg that needs to be put in place to secure the needed result?  Yes, thank the Lord for all that He has already done for you, but add to that your confident thanksgiving that He has heard your current request and has sent the answer in response.

Keep thanking Him that it is already done until you see that answer materialize — and then thank Him again when you do see it.  As you keep yourself in the place of anticipatory thanksgiving, your spiritual eyes will begin to see with certainty what your natural eyes do not yet behold.  Your faith and joy will rise to new levels, and you will be at peace while you are waiting for your results to appear.  Fretting and unhappiness about your situation will subside.

Now, you may face some spiritual opposition while attempting to keep the position of thankfulness.  A basic truth of the Christian life is that when we come into new understanding of any of the treasures God has for us and begin to apply them, we will be confronted and tested concerning them.  As you move into leveraging thanksgiving to receive answers to prayer, the enemy will see to it that circumstances arise that greatly challenge your desire and determination to maintain a heart of thanksgiving.  At times it may be  hard to see that there is anything to be thankful for.  This is just part of what happens anytime we move into the greater things of God. 

Press through anyway.  Don’t give up.  You will receive your answers.

Previous: Part 1

Thanksgiving: Gateway to Answered Prayer (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago, I shared in my post, Thanking My Way to Gladness, what I have been learning personally about the benefits of having a thankful heart.  Today, I’d like to go a little deeper into that topic, based on what I am continuing to learn.

There are many Bible verses that talk about thanksgiving.  We all know that we are supposed to thank God  for Who He is and for all that He does for us.  Sometimes we might feel a little guilty, knowing we don’t always remember to thank Him as we should.  Thanksgiving brings glory to Him: “…  that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).

But God has been showing me another dimension of thanksgiving, beyond it being our proper response to God’s goodness:

It is a gateway to answered prayer.

Scripture clearly links thankfulness with prayer, as we shall see.  I’m not talking about thanking Him once the desired answer shows up on our doorstep.  Of course we should do that.  I’m talking about thanking Him before the answer arrives.  There is a reason this makes sense.

Philippians 4:6, 7 tells us, “Do not be care-filled about anything; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

This verse is not only referring to thanking God for past answers or in a general way for His goodness.  Some people do that as a sort of ritual, to butter God up so that He will answer their current prayer.  That’s not sincere, and I have an idea that it grieves Father’s heart.  (How would you feel if your children cozied up to you and gushed all over you, just so they could get something out of you?)  Now, when I am petitioning God for things, I do thank Him for all His past faithfulness and for His goodness — but it is out of true gratefulness, not to hoodwink Him into giving me the next item that I want or need.  And it builds my faith to remind myself of past answered prayer, too.

Philippians 4:6 is actually talking about thanking Him for the current thing we are requesting.  Why would we do that, if we haven’t gotten it yet?  1 John 5:14, 15 gives us a clue: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”   We thank Him because the answer is already ours the very moment we ask — even though it may take a little time to evidence itself in our natural realm.  We have confidence that He has heard and has answered, because He promised that if we would ask anything in His name, He would do it for us (John 14: 13, 14).  We thank Him because our answer is already a reality.

Apostle Paul clearly linked prayer and thanksgiving together, in Colossians 4:2: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” 

And when teaching on speaking in tongues, he had this to say: … When you bless with the spirit, how shall he who is unlearned say ‘Amen’ to your giving of thanks, seeing he does not understand what you are saying?  For you truly give thanks well, but the other is not edified” (1 Corinthians 14:16, 17).

When we speak in tongues, whether publicly or in private prayer, thanksgiving is at least part of what we are speaking.  When we use our prayer language as part of our petitioning, the Holy Spirit is releasing perfect prayers through us (see Romans 8:26, 27  and also my series, The Power of Your Prayer Language).  Much of what He is praying through us is thanksgiving, and although we cannot say for sure, it is highly possible that the thanksgiving we are thus sending heavenward is in connection with our current petition. 

Next time, I’d like to share with you a story in the Bible that further illustrates thanksgiving as a gateway to answered prayer.  It was something I had never seen before, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Next: Part 2