Tag Archives: sanctification

(Numbers 33) Unnecessary Detours

If I counted correctly, the Israelites moved 44 times during their forty year romp through the wilderness. God had brought them right to the door of the Promised Land, but because of their unbelief, they were forced to turn away and roam the countryside.

I taught school for almost forty years. During that time I made eight moves. One was during the worst snow storm Ohio had ever seen. None of the moves I made were fun. I can’t imagine picking up and moving 44 times. That’s more than one a year! No thanks!!

What makes this a tragic tale is the fact they didn’t have to have moved at all. If they had only trusted God, He would have given them the land He’d brought them to. It was right there. It was so close. It’s what God wanted for them. But they just couldn’t trust Him, and God closed the door. Such an unnecessary detour.

As you look back on your life, do you recognize the unnecessary detours you’ve taken because you hadn’t trusted God? It happens. God brings us right to the door of blessing, but we hold back. We try another route. We question, and doubt. And God closes the door.

We find ourselves taking that detour that includes hardships and heartache. Yes, there are blessings in the detours. Yes God can and does use us during those times. But we miss what was beyond our doubt at the time God wanted us to accept it.

God is speaking to me about trust today. Are there areas of my life I keep to myself, things I think I need to handle on my own, ministry opportunities I decline because I think the hurdles are too high? What am I missing if I don’t trust God with it all?

I want God’s perfect will in my life. Not just because there are blessings there, but because it’s God’s perfect will for me. I would rather not take unnecessary detours to get there.

Becoming Me (Jeremiah 18-22)

I’ve never tried to use a potter’s wheel. It must take practice to know the exact touch, the right pressure to use to turn a lump of damp clay into a beautiful and useful vessel. The potter’s hands touch every fraction of an inch inside and out, as the pliable clay is molded into the finished product. If the clay begins to harden, the potter adds just enough water to make the clay soft and pliable again, so that he can continue to fashion something beautiful. He works, and re-works the clay until it is exactly the way He intends it to be.

The potter’s wheel is one picture of our relationship to God. The clay has no say, no control, no opinion. It is totally at the mercy of the potter.

That’s right where I want to be. I want to be molded and fashioned after God’s will, and if I begin to try to take control of my life, or if I start to become hardened to sin in my life, I want the Potter to intervene, to soften me so that He can continue to work His magic in my life.

I love the analogy of clay in the potter’s hand. But I also love the picture of being that vessel God can use. In Scripture we see examples of empty pots being filled by God, as in Elisha and the widow, and Jesus at the wedding. We see pots that are clean on the outside, but filthy inside as in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. We see a woman at a well ready to fill her pot with water when Jesus offers her Living Water. We see a broken pot no one wants, here in 22:28.

Today, I want to be both pliable clay in the hands of the Potter, and an empty vessel that only wants to be filled by God Himself. I want Him to mold, push and pull me and never stop until I meet Him face to face. I want to be that vessel filled to overflowing by the Holy Spirit so that I, like Jeremiah will be compelled to speak of God every chance I get.

Jeremiah said this:

But if I say, “I will not mention (God) or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” (20:9)

I want to be a vessel not satisfied with keeping God to myself, but one used for exactly the reason I was created: to know God AND to make Him known.

As old as I am, I am still becoming me. And honestly, I don’t want the responsibility. I’ve never heard of a lump of clay creating a pot of itself, anyway. I want to put my self in the hands of the Potter, and trust Him to create a beautiful vessel He can use for His Name.

There is an old hymn that keeps running through my mind this morning. The first verse speaks about me being the clay, the last verse about being that vessel. I want to leave you with these beautiful words:

HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD: by Adelaide Pollard

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay!
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Desperate (Psalms 89, 96, 100-101,105, 132)

So much praise in these psalms for our faithful, powerful, loving, deserving God! I hope you’ll read them and let them be the prayer of your heart.

Psalm 132 has me considering how desperate I am that God live in me.

I will not enter my house or go to my bed – I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob, (vv 3-5)

I wonder if  I am that focused on preparing my heart for the Presence of Almighty God. Do I provide His resting place, or do I invite Him into a cluttered, chaotic space? I wonder if God is comfortable in my heart? May it be so.

Lord, may You find Your resting place in me. Please create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Take away anything that would distract, anything that would compete, anything that would cause You discomfort. I want You to be at home in my heart, dear Lord. I won’t rest until You are.

What Am I Missing? (Joshua 16-18)

The thing that always hits me when I read these chapters is how the Jews allowed the enemy to survive, knowing God specifically said to destroy them completely. They not only allowed the enemy to survive, the enemy was allowed to co-exist with them in the towns God had given the Jews.

I am also struck when I read these chapters, and hear Joseph’s clan demand more land than what they’d been assigned. They said their numbers were too large to fit in that portion of land, so they needed more. Joshua called them out and, in effect, told them the problem wasn’t the amount of land. The problem was that Joseph’s clan was just too lazy, or too fearful to do what needed to be done. They had all the land they’d ever need – if they’d clear it.

Sure, the Canaanites were a formidable foe. But the Canaanites were no match for God’s army. Joseph’s clan just needed to quit whining and go to war.

God uses these chapters to ask me if I have allowed the enemy to co-exist in my life. Is there a sin I’ve gotten used to having around? Have I watched enough TV to be desensitized to the seriousness of sin? Do I turn my head and ignore sin in myself and/or in others close to me?

When I read these chapters God also reminds me there is land to clear. There are battles to be fought in order for me to enjoy the Promised Land of His Presence in my life; in order for me to embrace all of Him and receive everything He has in store for me. God reminds me I need to go to war.

It’s tempting to ask God for more of Himself, more blessings, more opportunity to serve Him, without even trying to defeat the enemy in our lives. People pray, “Heal our land,” when they should be praying, “Heal my heart.” People pray, “Send revival,” when our prayer should be, “Revive me.” The problem isn’t that we live in a sinful world. The problem is that we are sinful, living in this world.

When I read these chapters in the book of Joshua, I wonder what it is I am missing by not trusting God to help me take everything available to me through the blood of Jesus.  What blessings have I forfeited? What opportunities have I squandered? What joy have I missed?

Dear God, I want it all. I want everything a relationship with You can bring. I want to go to war against sin in my life. I want to clear my heart of any remnant of the enemy. Convict me. Break me. Strengthen me to win my battle over the enemy. Oh God, I don’t want to miss a thing.

November 23; Be Sanctified

I Thessalonians 2:17-5:28; II Thessalonians 1

What does it mean to live a holy life? Paul tells us it is God’s will that we be sanctified in order to please God. Then Paul tells us what that looks like:

that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. (I Thessalonians 4:3b-6a)

So is holy living, or sanctification, restricted to sexual behavior? Remember, Jesus told us that we commit adultery when we lust. It doesn’t have to involve bodily contact. Sin comes in all shapes and sizes.

Trying in our own strength to do what Paul is telling us to do only leads to failure. We can’t muster up courage, or find strength inside us to defeat the power of sin. It’s impossible. A sinner can’t sanctify a sinner, so I can’t sanctify me.

But the Holy Spirit can! When we humble ourselves and accept the gift of God’s grace, the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, when we place our faith in God, the Holy Spirit is given to us. Then we can avoid sexual immorality because the Holy Spirit gives us His strength and His desires. We can control ourselves in holy and honorable ways because the Spirit in us is holy and honorable.

Paul tells us it is the work of the Holy Spirit to grow believers, or to sanctify believers. But he also says it is possible to “put out the Spirit’s fire.” Then he tells us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (5:19-20)

Then Paul prays: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (5:23-24)

Does that thrill your heart? Yes we have responsibility in our walk with the Lord. But the good news is that the Spirit within us gives us wisdom, and the ability to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. The Spirit within us gives us exactly what we need to be sanctified.

He is faithful. And He will do it!

 

November 4; Tears

John 15:18-17:16; Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46

It’s hard for me to read about the last few hours of Jesus’ life on earth. I find myself wanting to sit with Him, to hold His hands, to put a cool cloth on His fevered brow. I want to pray with Him, and wipe His tears.

But I know had I lived at that time, I would have been just like Peter, James, and John. I wouldn’t get it anymore than they did.

You know how I know that? Because even as I sit here with tears running down my face for love of that hurting Man who loved me enough to die for me, I have slept while He is grieved over sin in my life, in the lives of my loved ones, and over sin in the world.

Jesus didn’t die, then return to heaven to sit on a throne and say, “Glad that’s over. Now it’s up to them.” He is still working, still praying, still grieving over sin in our lives.

I know the Bible says one day He will wipe the tears from our eyes. But who is wiping His tears?

Oh, may I see sin like He sees it, how He faced it there in the Garden. May I live to please and not grieve Him. May I have the privilege of wiping His tears, and bringing Him only joy.

August 6; Malleable

Jeremiah 14:1-15:9, 18:1-9:13, 24:1-10

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be malleable clay in the hands of a potter? Those hands pushing and stretching, applying pressure both firm and gentle, shaping and re-shaping toward a finished product only his mind can see?

Sometimes, if there is an imperfection, the potter might take the clay back to a formless clump by squeezing the clay between the palms of his hands. Then, once any trace of the imperfection is gone, the process begins again. The hands begin to knead, the wheel begins to spin, the fingers begin to work, and at just the right moment, a perfect form begins to appear, carefully fashioned by the potter’s hands.

Jeremiah is speaking to dry clay, hardened by drought, that would only break into pieces when the potter tries to form something beautiful. A clump of dry clay is fairly useless on a potter’s wheel.

But the potter, by adding just enough water to that dry clump, can restore it to a pliable form. Oh, it takes some strong hands to work that water through the crusty clay, to break it down, to soften it. But a skilled potter can restore that parched piece of clay, then form it into a beautiful, useful piece of pottery, that he can be proud of.

I want to be that malleable piece of clay in the hands of The Potter, the Creator God. I don’t want there to be any signs of dryness or imperfection, so that He can make me into something beautiful and useful for His purposes.

So I will continue to spend time in God’s Word every day. I’ll continue to let those Words apply pressure, push and stretch me. Because at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I want to look into the eyes of the Potter and see His approval as He looks at the woman He has fashioned from malleable clay.

 

March 29; What’s Stopping You?

Joshua 16:1-19:31; I Chronicles 4:24-33

The Israelites had crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land. For some, that was enough. I find it interesting, and a bit sad, that only five of the twelve tribes got busy to take what was their’s. The other seven tribes, for whatever reason, seem to be satisfied with where they were.

Some of Joseph’s descendants complained they’d have to cut down some trees to occupy their portion, and expressed fear concerning the strength of the enemy they’d need to conquer. Joshua, in reply kind of said, “Get over yourselves.”

Some of the other tribes needed Joshua to come up with a detailed plan before they followed through.

So, considering your own spiritual Promised Land, which tribe do you most identify with? Are you one who dives in, who is always learning, and growing, and serving our great God? Is your walk with the Lord everything He wants it to be as you move ahead in faith and defeat the enemy that would prevent you from enjoying God in your life to the fullest?

Do you seem to be more like the tribes who didn’t move ahead, seemingly unsure of what to do, or content with the status quo?

Or maybe you, like Joseph’s clan see the enemy and think it’s too hard to step out in faith, to do the work required to gain the land? Does the thought of disciplining yourself to be in God’s Word every day, to live a life set apart, to resist sin, to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus just seem too hard?

As a child of God through the blood of Jesus, God wants you to live a vital, blessed, life with Him at the center. It doesn’t just happen. You can live on the outskirts, missing out on the benefits of an active relationship with Him. But He promises to be with you, to guide you, to be your friend and advocate. God wants to bless you with Himself.

What’s stopping you?

 

2 Kings 17-20; Cleaning House

When Hezekiah became king he did some housecleaning. He removed the idols the Jews had been worshiping, including the bronze serpent Moses had made while their ancestors were in the wilderness. Hezekiah didn’t want any trace of any false god in the land.

I never really thought about what that must have looked like to the neighboring nations. They were used to worshiping their “gods” at high places that were everywhere. Now here the Jews were demolishing their high places and limiting themselves to worship only one God, and only in one place. Ridiculous.

The Assyrian king interpreted this as vulnerability (chapter 18), and decided it gave him the means to defeat the Jewish nation. He didn’t understand the action taken by the Jews, because he was interpreting it though blind eyes.

The world is still judging God’s people through blind eyes. They see us obeying God as being judgmental, because they are judgmental. They see our stand against homosexuality as hateful because they are hateful. They see hypocrisy in us because they are hypocritical.

Christian, that’s why we have got to show them through our witness, both verbal and life-style, that they are wrong about us. If we hate homosexuals instead of loving them while hating the sin, we prove them right. If our language is as judgmental as theirs, they are right to call us judgmental. If our lifestyle doesn’t match our profession of faith, we deserve the label hypocrite.

When the Assyrian king tried to bully the Jews into surrender, they didn’t get caught up in a war of words. They didn’t return insult for insult. They kept their mouths shut. Then Hezekiah went to the Lord and allowed God to do His thing.

Non-Christians will continue to misunderstand us Christians until they become believers themselves. May we, as followers of the One True God, remove any visible signs of conformity to the world. May we worship God in Spirit and in Truth, and allow Him to do His thing in and through us. May we love people to the Savior at the same time we are standing on the Truth of Scripture.

In other words, may we do some spiritual housecleaning, and let God remove the world from us, so that the world can see Jesus through us.

Genesis 12&13 – Possess It

If God gave Abram the land, why haven’t they always lived there? Does this prove Scripture can’t be trusted? God even said He was giving Abram the land forever. Is God unable to keep His promises?

Did God fail? The failure lies right smack dab in the lap of His people. God may have given them the land, but they failed to possess it. They got side tracked. They deserted God and worshiped idols. The land was their’s forever, if they’d possess it. But they didn’t possess it.

I see a New Testament parallel here. It’s salvation, bought by Jesus’ blood, a gift we all have at our fingertips. But we need to possess it. God didn’t hold His people captive in Canaan. And He doesn’t force us to accept His grace. Just like the Jews, we have to defeat the enemy, clear the land, till the soil, repent, flee the devil, grow in grace, put on that armor of God.

Then we can live forever in the land.