Faith Tested is Grace Proven

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” – Romans 8:16-17

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that “ALL who live Godly WILL suffer persecution.” They will be rejected, lied on, slandered, cursed, hurt, and hated at the least, while many will be beaten, in-prisoned, tortured, and even put to death. Yet we are told that though the severity may very, persecution, trial, and tribulation is not some remote possibility for Christians in an other country or of an other time, but that ALL true believers will face it and have to endure it if they are truly led of God’s Spirit because the first place the Spirit will lead you is into a wilderness where the faith you claim will be tested so that you can come out testifying to others of the faith you have and the grace it manifested to you in your wilderness when you stood upon it and where not shaken from it. In this will you then be proven fit for the masters use in the greater works that He desires to entrust you with. For they will surely stir up a far greater persecution against you then the former, yet will you have learned to trust God with this giant on the battle field because that you have already learned to trust Him with the lion and the bear in the wilderness, for the purpose that the impossible feats of faith preformed by you may glorify God even as Christ did.

“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” – Matthew 4:1

Even Christ Himself had to endure rejection and persecution for the sake of obeying the Father’s voice and will, and it is no different for us, for the servant is not greater then His Master. If they did it to Christ, they will do it to us. So away with this false notion of an easy Christianity, a painless Pentecost, a Passoverless salvation, a sacrificeless death, and a powerless resurrection. It’s high time the modern church put down their pacifiers, their passive liars, their useless muses, their petty excuses, and pick up their cross and follow Christ down that straight and narrow path that so few are willing to walk because it’s not the easy road, it’s the broken one. It cuts the feet with every step, yet for love we ought to walk it. We will walk the wide road being cut to the heart with every step for the love of the world but we won’t walk the narrow one for the love of God.

Selfishness! It’s all rooted in selfishness. “Oh make me known like Christ but don’t make me known for what Christ was known for. Don’t make me too unconventional. Don’t make me too uncomfortable. Don’t make me too unlikable. Don’t make me too unconformable. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, I don’t really have to carry that heavy cross”…

Oh my friend of little faith, you miss the point completely. Because of love the true believer will pick up the cross in faith, then being yoked together with Christ will He then bare the burden with you and you with Him. In this will His strength make the burden light and easy to bare as His grace is shared with those who love Him enough to except the burden in faith. Once picked up in faith then and only then will His grace (which is favor and power) be poured out that you be able to carry it as a witness and testimony to others of the impossible love, strength, power, faithfulness, and glory of our God granted to us and manifested through us that it might prove us in faith and the strength of our God through us in grace. Yet none of it will come but by trusting God when you are led of the Spirit into a wilderness that no one else will understand and everyone else will reprimand.

So lay down your desire to please anyone but God, set your eyes on things eternal, set your heart on Him alone, yoke up with Christ Himself, pick up your cross in love and faith, and go in fearless grace, because that love for God cast out the fear of man. The fields are ready, the Master is calling, do you have eyes to see and ears to hear? Or will you forfeit the Kingdom in the name of comfort, doubt, selfishness, and fear?

Yes we are saved by Grace through Faith but understand that faith must be tested for grace to be proven. In this is the tree proved by the fruit that it bares, and those that be proven only, Jesus says… “the Kingdom is theirs”.

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:” – 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” – ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:13‬ ‭


Stirred Up

Today I had to clean out our swimming pool. The water looked clean, it was clear and pretty. However, there was some debris that was settled deep on the bottom where the filter didn’t reach. So I got in there with the pool vac. As I did it stirred up the water and by the time I had finished, even though I had gotten a lot of stuff out with the vac, the water was no longer clear and the whole pool actually looked worse then before. I thought, “man, I didn’t know how dirty, and in need of work this pool really was until I got it all stirred up”

You know, our soul can be a lot like that pool. We think we’re doing pretty good when things are calm. We seem pretty clean spiritually, but what happens when something “stirs you up“? What filth rises up that had been settled deep down in your heart that you didn’t even realize was there? I think that sometimes God allows the enemy to rise up against us to stir us up and show us how dirty and in need of work we really are. 

You are growing spiritually, you have allowed God to remove many big things from your life, and your feeling pretty clean. You just know that you are ready to be that refreshing pool of Holy Spirit living water to others. Then a friend betrays you, your spouse pushes you over the edge, someone comes against your kids, something happens that really stirs you up and stuff that you didn’t know was in you starts to come to the surface. It is in these moments that we need to stop and run to the thrown room. It may be the time that you feel the least worthy to be there but it is when you most need to be there, so you can humble yourself, acknowledged these formally hidden heart issues (such as offense, pride, anger, unbelief, control, unclean lips, self centeredness, vain glory, etc.) as sin before God, confess it, repent of it, and ask His grace to overcome and remove it!

Don’t become discouraged by the stirring. I would not have known how desperately the pool needed my attention had it’s issues not been brought to the surface by it getting stirred up. Likewise we would not realize how much we need to get before Jesus and let Him work on cleaning us up had our own junk not come to the surface by the things that stirred us up. The goal is to be so completely pure that, just like the pool, even when stirred up it still stays crystal clear because there is no filth left to surface. 

The fastest way to achieve this is with a different kind of stirring, by stirring up the Holy Spirit in prayer daily so that He can reveal and remove those things hidden deep within you. You see, I began to realize that the bottom of the pool had gotten so dirty because I had not been spending time in it stirring up the waters so that the pump could do its job. Likewise, if we do not spend time every day in prayer stirring up the Holy Spirit and letting him do his cleansing work in us, then the water will fall still and junk will begin to accumulate and settle in. 

So in this I see that we will face a stirring that will cause to surface that which is deep within us one way or the other. Either gently by daily time stirring the waters of the spirit in prayer, or chaotically by something stirring the emotions of the soul. Ether way, what’s in your heart will eventually come to surface. Clean it up and keep it clean by keeping it stirred up in the private place of prayer to your glory that it doesn’t get stirred up in public to your shame.

“…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” – Luke‬ ‭6:45‬ ‭

“… and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” – Genesis‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭

Enduring Spiritual Winters

When the sun is shining, the days are warm and sunny, the rains plentiful, and the trees are green and covered with leaves, it’s hard to tell which branches are strong and fruitful, and which are weak. They all look alike in this season. However when the winter comes and the tree undergoes a stripping as the days grow cold, the light lessens and becomes more distant, the warm rains turn to cold snows, and the leaves fall away, it is then easier to see each branch for what it really is and what it is able to endure.

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” – Matthew‬ ‭24:13‬ ‭

However, when the tree has to endure the hard winter season, the branches that have grown strong drawing and feeding vigorously from the root in the good seasons will be stripped bare, shed the unnecessary, and face the cold, but being well connected to the root they will survive to grow knew leaves and bare more fruit then before the stripping.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” – Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭

However, for the weaker branches who were indistinguishable from the stronger ones during the summer months, the winter identifies the truth about them. The reality that they were drawing most of there energy from their environment through their leaves rather then from a strong and healthy connection to the root. Therefor, when the environment changed, they died. Their leaves fall away and they dry up. At this point they have become a danger to the tree as disease can now spread from them to the rest of the tree, so that they must be cut away and cast into the fire by the husbandmen.

“I am the true vine (root), and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” – John‬ ‭15:1-6‬ ‭

As for the strong branches that are well connected and drawing strength from the root and not primarily from the environment around them, though it is a difficult season, winters actually help to strengthen them and the tree over all, hardening it against the cold of greater winters to come, making it’s fruit sweeter and more abundant, and allowing for even greater growth in the spring season to follow. As the dead branches are pruned away, the tree can focus more energy and resources toward the healthy branches to bud and for the growth of new life and branches to spring forth. Where the weak and dead branches before were a three and drain to the treat as a whole, the removal of them and the pruning of the healthy ensures the fruitfulness of the tree as a whole.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” – James‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭

Yes this process happens to us as individuals through the hard seasons of our lives, it happens in our local church through trying times, and it happens to the Church at large through tribulations. All seem like such hard times when the light of His countenance feels so distant, the bitter resistance comes, the cold snows seem to attack relentlessly, and everything we depend on in our environment fails us and falls away. It is in these times that we either learn to draw our strength from the root and become dependent on it alone, or die and be pruned away. Yet for those who do establish that strong connection to the root during these seasons of desperate dependency, there is a special blessing. You see, it is a fact among fruit trees that there are some fruits that will not come forth to bare at all, except that the branch has first endured a certain level of cold for a certain length of time. In other words, the best and rarest fruit is only produced by the hardest trials. So endure, draw closer to the Lord, and thanks Him daily for the trials of great reward.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” – 1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭

A Seed in the Dark

29136110_10211610570521620_256729960721416192_nI sealed a bean up in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel for 2 weeks containing enough water to germinate the seed. I insured that this little bean received no light, not even from a crack under the door. It was well hidden in a dark closet, and sealed up tight.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

The Holy Spirit waters us in the dark seasons of our life, having only this, we have all we need. So sometimes it is in the darkest places that we seem to have the greatest growth. Yes, it is mysterious to us, but that’s God.

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” – Job 11:7

He is so good to bless those dark days. The bean that was given all the same things in it’s sealed bag but was kept in a place guaranteed to receive sunlight did not even begin to grow a root, and barely enlarged in size at all. That was to my surprise. I did not expect the bean in the hidden darkness to grow in leaps and bounds while the bean receiving abundant light and protected moisture, barely changed.

How baffling to my mind. My hypothesis was wrong. What I have seen in this was perfect to encourage my soul and hopefully yours. When our source of growth is continually coming from the Spirit of God (HE is watering us), we can actually grow even more in dark seasons, than we did in the sunniest circumstances!!!!

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)” – John 7:37-39

Prayer: Thank You God, for the dark seasons that grow us even more than those filled with sunshine and expectation. Much to my amazement, You work so differently than man can fathom, but You are God and I am just a little seed being watered by my father.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a seed of wheat fall into the ground, be burried, and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” – John 12:24-25

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” – Psalms 91:1-2

“For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon the rock.” – Psalms 27:5

Submitted by Amelia Barr

A Call to Prayer

“Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.” – Lamentations‬ ‭5:19‬ 

In the midst of lamentation, through every situation, in every generation, and over every idol nation, God is on His thrown. No matter how out of control things become, in your life, in your school, in your place of work, in your community, in your nation, or in the world, remember that God only allows lamentations to come to shake us awake, to call us to pray, to cause us to look up and remember that He is there, that He is our hope and if we will but remember Him, believe in Him, turn to Him, and call upon Him, everything will change.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬

Let’s face the reality of this sad truth (at least for most people). When things are good, God is not so real to us as when they are not. It is true that He is near to the broken and heareth the contrite because the desperation of their situation causes them to prioritize and cease to minimize their communion with God. Desperate people in desperate situations are desperate to get through to God and will lay aside all pride, vanity, preconceived notions, religiosities, and distraction and just cry out to God. What if we didn’t wait till we were in dire straights to allow the desperation of our situation to cause this activation of faith? What if we just “choose” to humble ourselves and do it now. No matter how it feels. No matter what people think. No matter what others say. Choose to remember how real He is, how present He is, how He longs to hear from you, to see you have the faith to start crying out for the things that are pleasing to Him in both your own heart and in the world around you, before it comes to chaos.

Most will not do this, this is why tribulations come upon the church and the world alike, because God is waiting for His people to pray, to believe in Him enough to show it in their actions, to love Him enough to want to obey and draw closer to Him, and to love others enough to intercede on their behalf. Then and only then will He act. 

Yet their are always those few who don’t wait to be humbled, they are willing to humble themselves. These are they who believe in Him enough as a real living present and powerful God to desire to draw close and get to know Him. They choose to spend time with Him, to speak to Him and hear from Him in prayer and in His Word. They don’t just love the idea of Him, they fall in love with Him. They get to know Him personally and these are the ones that He places His trust in when all else is falling apart. 

These faithful few already know their God and His voice, and another they will not follow. Therefor does He position them in advance of the storm to show forth great exploits unto the building of faith and the glory of God to lead others through it. Because, you see, while in the midst of chaos when others are just coming to terms with the fact that God is still on the thrown, these precious humbled souls don’t just know that God is on the thrown, they know the God who is on that thrown, and in the end, that makes all the difference.

“… but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many:…” – Daniel‬ ‭11:32-33‬

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:” – Joel‬ ‭2:15-19‬ ‭