A NEW DWELLING PLACE

While I was on my way to church on the night of December 31st, for the New Year’s Day Service, I came across a devotional that ransomed my mind for the entire evening. The topic was taken from the very popular Psalm 91. The verse that was focused on, however, was one that I’ve probably recited hundreds of times. This time, due to the speaker highlighting it in the manner that he did, I derived not only an entirely new meaning of this verse, but a profound entry way into a deeper relationship with God.

 

“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”  Psalm 91:9

 

Whenever this verse is read, it is usually acknowledged with a resounding ”Amen”, and rightly so! However, what the author of the devotional asked that really got me thinking was this:

 

The promise is contingent only on “if we have made The Lord our refuge and The Most High our habitation”.

 

Therefore, the obvious question is:

 

Have I made The Lord my refuge?

 

Have I made The Most High my habitation?

 

How do I know if I have?

 

If I have not, how do I do it?

 

There is a zeal that comes as a result of positive thinking.

 

“All will be well”

 

“Everything is going to be ok”; “Everything will turn out fine”.

 

Though there is nothing wrong with positive thinking, the truth is positive thinking is not an indication of Christian faith.

 

Positive thinking is a direct result of a positive/optimistic attitude.

 

That positive attitude can come from human nature, past experience or the profession of a belief that is non-Christian.

 

Believing “everything will be all right” because my spirits are high or because things have worked out well in the past is different from believing these things as a result of my hope in God.

 

If the promise of Psalm 91:9 is to become a reality in my life as a believer, it has to be of the utmost importance to me that The Lord become just that for me.

 

My Refuge. My Habitation. My Dwelling Place. My Home.

 

God must become everything!

 

The danger of “zeal centered” positive thinking for a Christian is that it causes us to make affirmations based on our hopes and desires. We then proceed to ask God to certify those affirmations. Then, when things don’t work out as we hoped, we question God and become disappointed. We have to make sure that our zeal for God is not separate from our knowledge of God, and it is only the Spirit of God, who can give us a knowledge of God.

 

Our faith has to be in God. In his Omniscience.

 

Not in a “good life”; not in things working out how we would rather they work out; but by a total surrender of our lives to Him. As willing vessels. Allowing Him to use us as He pleases. All the while, trusting Him completely as He reveals Himself to us through the Holy Spirit.

 

The only way we can intimate ourselves with God is by recognizing the purpose for which He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, and allowing that purpose to be made a living actuality in our lives via the Holy Spirit

 

The Lord being our Habitation means that He covers us – not our worldly existence, but our life in Him. Our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) and the evil one cannot touch us (1 John 5:18, John 14:30b).

 

Under normal circumstances, one would say that making The Most High our Habitation is the easiest thing to do.

 

In theory it is.

 

In words, it is.

 

But in actuality; in the course of “working out of our salvation”, we realize that under the assault of “worldliness” in this present age, it is hard!

 

But for the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

It is only the Spirit of Christ that can make it possible for the Most High to be our Habitation.

 

This is why unless we have deliberately sought the Lord in this manner, let us not assume that we have made Him what these verses ask that we make Him.

 

Look at what He saves us from:

 

“No evil will befall thee”

 

“No plague shall come nigh thy dwelling”

 

But only if we deliberately make Him our Refuge and Habitation.

 

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  Ephesians 6:12

 

Fellow sojourners, we need to understand that the evil one is not interested in “interfering with our happiness”, unless he knows that the disruption of our happiness will cause us to stray from God in our hearts. If it is all about happiness in this world, then, it is not about God. If it is all about God, then, we are devoted to Him whether we are “happy” or not. Satan is interested in stealing our joy in the Lord; in causing us to lose our crowns of salvation by losing faith in God.

 

That is why The Lord urges us to make Him our Refuge and Habitation. Because it is only in Him that the evil mentioned in Ephesians 6:12 “will not befall us nor come nigh our dwelling place” which is – our life in Christ.

 

The Lord in His infinite mercy has seen it fit to allow us to see 2018. But it is simply not about “not dying”, it is about “living to declare the works of the Lord” (Psalm 118:17).

 

For every morning that we are given the grace to awaken, let us place the Lord’s promise of Psalm 91:9 before Him in prayer, because He says, “I watch over My Word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12).

 

Let us ask Him to fulfill the promise.

 

To become our Refuge and Habitation.

 

The exact way He meant it when He spoke it.

 

The exact way He wills and purposes to be so.

 

That we may always dwell in safety. In Him.

                                                                                                                   His Handmaid

 

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ABIDING IN THE SHADOWS

In Luke 2: 41-49, we are told:

 

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.  When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.  After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first,  because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there.  Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”  “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.

The passage tells us that this incident occurred when Jesus was 12.

 

Here, the 12-year-old Jesus is bewildered as to why His parents were worried about His whereabouts.

 

“Where did you expect me to be?”

                 OR

“Where else could I have possibly been?”

 

Was the question that the child Jesus asked, quite perplexed.

 

Luke 3:23 says “Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry.”

 

Even though the “Miracle Working Jesus” was not made known until age thirty or so, the scripture tells us clearly that “The Son, doing the will of His Father” had always been there. Present. Doing exactly what the Father had called Him to do:

 

ABIDING.

 

As Christians, we often believe that it is only the conscious “thrilling” things of life, are a sign of God’s presence in us.

 

We are only conscious of God when we are in the act of service: preaching, ministering, charity work, prophecy, church work, when we are in prayer and the expectation of answered prayer.

 

However, here was Jesus, years before His public ministry began.

 

When He was just “the carpenter’s son”, faithfully abiding in the will of His Heavenly Father. Behind the scenes. With no audience – except the One who sent Him.

 

Are we zealous in the shadows?

 

Are we faithful in obscurity?

 

Are we abiding in the ordinary, mundane, routine, every day aspects of our lives?

 

Is abiding in Christ as important to us in the menial things as it is in the grand “everyone is looking at me” things?

 

Is abiding in Christ as important to us when we the other driver cuts us off in the road?

 

Is abiding in Christ important when our husband/wife/friend/parent/sibling does not behave in the way that we would prefer them to?

 

Is abiding in Christ important to us when we don’t receive the things we believe are our right to receive?

 

Do we abide in Christ when someone disrespects us? Dishonors us? Cheats us? Wrongs us?

 

Is abiding in Christ important to us when dealing with people we don’t like? Who don’t like us?

 

Is abiding in Christ important to us even if it does not seem like God even hears us? Not to mention giving us what we are asking of Him?

 

Are we abiding in Christ in the drudgery of life? Or are we just barely getting through it?

 

If someone came looking for us in those times, where would they find us?

 

In our “Father’s House” abiding faithfully? Or in “Our own houses” doing as we see fit, while saying “God will understand.”

 

God does not call us to perform miracles. He does not call us to raise the dead, heal the sick or save souls.

 

He calls us to ABIDE IN HIM. OBEY HIM. PLACE HIS WILL ABOVE OUR OWN.

 

It is in the obedience of ABIDING, that He can now use us to raise the dead. Heal the sick. Save souls.

 

Jesus Christ says “I and my Father are one” John 10:30

He also says “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.

Jesus is our only example of what it means to Abide in the Father.

                     AT ALL TIMES!

“How is that even possible?” We ask.

He answers:

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

Not only was Jesus’ life on earth our example, it is He, by His Spirit, who works in us, enabling us to obey the will of The Father”

But He can only work in us when we come to what is called “The end of ourselves”.

Which simply means that “On my best day, at the peak of my self -flattering reverence of all of the good qualities that I possess – and my  “thank God I’m not like all those weak, useless, sinners” state of mind – I realize that “I” do not have the power or ability to make myself right before God.

Only Jesus Christ can do that.

Only Jesus Christ –through His blood and by His Spirit – can make me acceptable before God.

But Jesus Christ will do NOTHING until we come to Him in the total, broken, humble, inadequacy of ourselves…

…and when we arrive there, we should not ask for any other heart’s desire, except the desire to live every single day, for the rest of our lives, Abiding in Him.

Jesus Christ could only be the “Propitiation for sin” because He was “The Spotless Lamb”.

Not just as an adult but throughout His entire life!

How did He do it? Have we ever thought about this? He was FAITHFUL to His Father his entire life! NEVER, not even once, placing His own will above the will of His Father.

But the Word of God tells us that this is exactly what He did.

Therefore, if we truly believe the Word of God, if we truly believe on the Name of Jesus, then we will ask Him to give us His Spirit. This Spirit, which is His Life; His victorious, successful, perfectly God pleasing Life. It is then by this Spirit and through this Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that we too can live a life that is pleasing to God.

This is the “life” that the Father requires that we live on this earth. This is the “life” causes us to be “in this world” but not “of this world”.

But brethren, we cannot live this life unless we willfully, purposely, determinedly, abide in Christ.   May this be the new life, the Abiding Life, that we desire from this day. Amen.

STOP SEEKING THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD

STOP SEEKING THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD

 

We have just celebrated Easter Sunday, otherwise known as Ressurrection Sunday. This is when Christians all over the world celebrate Jesus Christ’s ressurection from the dead.

 

In the account of the resurrection according to Luke’s gospel, chapter 24:1-7, we are told:

 

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they (the women also, which came with him from Galilee-Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them) came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.  And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

 

The two men who informed the women that Jesus was no longer in the tomb were angels of God. Their words to the women: specifically them saying “Remember how he spake to you in Galillee…”: were bringing to their recollection something that Jesus had told them would happen.

 

The angels were saying “When Jesus was alive, He told you that they would kill Him. He also told you that He would rise from the dead after 3 days! So, if He told you that He would rise from the dead, that means that He would certainly not be in this tomb. A tomb is for dead people. Jesus is not dead. He is alive. That being said, “Why seek ye He who is alive in the place set aside for those who are dead?”

 

The celebration of Easter is an annual event, and though the world has tried and continues to try to secularize it to the fullest, it remains, I believe, a most significant gift of God to His people in this world.

 

As Christians, we are affected by circumstances just as every other human being in this world. We face hardship, suffering, disappointment, loss, trepidation, heartbreak, oppression, illness, devastation, fear, depression, sadness, etc, just like everyone else in this world…

 

…and Christ said that we would.

 

However, just before He was parted from His disciples, He prayed to The Father for them saying:

 

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17: 9, 15-16)

 

In His prayer, Jesus makes a clear distinction between His disciples and ‘the world.’ This distinction also assures us that His prayers and promises are meant for His disciples and all who will believe in Him through their word. His prayers and promises are NOT meant for ‘the world’.

 

When Christ prays to the Father to “keep us from the evil” many of us believe that it means that we will not suffer. That is not true. Not only is that belief unsubstantiated in the Word of God, the Word of God specifically tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” and in John 16:33b “In the world ye shall have tribulation”

 

The world (which is a term that represents every thing and system determined to do without Jesus Christ) and all it has to offer constitutes ‘the evil’.The world, under the direction of Satan, aka the Prince of this world, will offer deceptive forms of relief. These deceptive forms of relief will not only be within our reach, but they will always mimic that which Jesus Christ offers us, and Jesus Christ is praying for us to the Father to deliver us from these things.

 

1 John 2:15-17 tells us:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

 

The Lord is telling us in these verses that if we continue to seek solace and comfort from the things of this world: a world that is perishing and temporal; ‘dying’, then we are, in essence, seeking the things of “Life” from that which is dead, i.e the world.

 

So the question now becomes, O thou follower of Jesus Christ, what do YOU do when that persecution comes? Where do YOU turn when that persecution comes?

 

Understand that the ‘persecution’, though it be meted out by the hands of men and women, it’s source is always the “evil” referred to in John 17:15 and in the Lord’s prayer where Jesus says “but deliver us from evil”, and Christ’s prayer to The Father, on our behalf, is that we not be “overcome by that evil.” Meaning that we do not turn from the only source of our deliverance – Christ, and turn to the world or the things of this world to seek relief.

 

We who are children of Light cannot seek the things of Light and Life from that which is ‘death and darkness’, namely, the world. We can and must only seek Light and Life from the Giver of Light and Life – Jesus Christ.

 

No matter the suffering (for we are not experiencing anything that Christ did not tell us in advance that we wouldn’t experience with “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]  and “In the world ye shall have tribulation” [John 16:33] ) we must trust in Christ and the deliverance that comes from Him alone.

I believe that the problem for many Christians arises when we envision that Christ’s deliverance will come in a certain manner and when it does not come according to our vision, we become desperate for relief by any means. That is when we become ensnared by anything that gives us relief and makes us feel better. The truth, however, is that not all ‘relief’ comes from God.

 

Therefore, knowing this, we cannot seek the living (the relief, peace and strength to endure that can only come from Jesus Christ) amongst the dead (the relief, comfort and convivialities of this world).

 

Satan offers comfort. Satan offers peace. Satan offers prosperity, happiness and healing. But the things offered by Satan are the things of death.

 

Jesus says in John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

 

He also says in John 16:33

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

 

What the world and it’s Prince have to offer are nothing compared with that which our Lord and Savior has to offer. That is why we, His followers, must not seek peace, prosperity, relief and comfort, but the peace, prosperity, relief and comfort that comes from Christ and Christ alone. If Christ is all we seek, He will expose any angel of darkness trying to masquere as an angel of light.

 

2 Timothy 3:10-11  the Apostle Paul says

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

 

The Spirit of Christ will cause us to fully understand His doctrine, manner of life and purpose. His Spirit will manifest in us His faith, longsuffering, charity and patience. So that when we are faced with persecutions and affliction, by His Life within us, we will endure and overcome.

 

There is, however, a question that each of us must ask ourselves: “Which is more important to me? Overcoming the world as a faithful disciple of Christ or having a good life in this world?”

 

Because if all we want is a good life in this world, the we do not need Jesus Christ. The world can give us that.

 

For Christ did not live and die to give us a good life in this world. He lived and died that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That is what He promises to those who are faithful to Him.

 

The former comes with only a promise for this world which as the scriptures have told us, is perishing.

 

The latter comes with a promise for this world and the world to come – For this world we will be certified. For the world to come, we will be glorified.

 

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-12.

 

Fellow Christ seekers, as we march on in this life, under the umbrella of God’s grace, let us ask Him, that by the power of that grace at work within us, to help us to stop seeking the living among the dead. Let us stop seeking the things of this world to ease our afflictions. Instead, let us seek the deliverance of God only.

 

The Lord, by the working of His perfect grace, is sufficient to point out the difference between the two to us. However, He will only point it out to us if we are truly desiring to know if we are guilty or not.

 

Let the prayer be “Lord, if I, unbeknownst to myself, seek peace and relief from any source other than you alone, please reveal it to me. When you reveal it to me, grant me the contrition to accept it. Then, lead me in The Way everlasting. If I have to endure suffering for your sake – for the sake of my trusting in you and you alone as my source of everything – then I, by your grace will endure it in joy and confidence. Trusting and believing that you will, according to your promise, deliver me.”

 

Since we know that God will answer every prayer according to His will and we know that it is His will that we trust in Him completely and walk in the Light and Life of Jesus Christ, then we know, of all surety, that this is a prayer that He will answer. May we continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.