The Believers’ Rest

Hebrews 4: 1

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

I find this language interesting. Why should there be any fear related to God’s rest? Verse 3 reveals that God was angry and in His anger He swore that “they” would not enter into His rest. Look at verse three from the Passion Translation, “For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise and we experience the realm of confident rest! For he has said, ‘I was grieved with them and made a solemn oath, ‘They will never enter into the calming rest of my Spirit.’”

Rest comes by faith. God was angry at the disobedient ones (Hebrews 3: 18). The Tree of Life version of Hebrews 4: 1 illuminates the disobedience. It says, “For we who have trusted are entering into that rest.” Their disobedience, then, was that they did not trust God and that is what angered Him. Selah – pause and consider that.

Rest is a matter of faith and trust. People who believe, enter into the promise of rest that the Father gave, and they do so with confident trust. They are persuaded that God will not let them down. Failing or refusing to enter into God’s rest is a slap in His face. It says that we do not trust Him. Instead, we trust our own abilities. We are focused on all we need to do and thus, abandon the idea of a partnership with the Divine.

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our “go along.” His intent is to walk with us, side by side, go along with us everywhere we go, assisting us in all we do. Actually, he is supposed to be our guide. He wants to stand shoulder to shoulder but lead us from that position. That is why I call it a partnership. He wants to intertwine with us in every activity rather than run over us or dominate us. And he will gently step aside if we do not choose to partner with him. However, we cannot enter God’s rest if we do not receive the aid of the Spirit. God grieves when we fail to enter into “the calming rest of my [His]Spirit.” His anger is kindled when we try to do everything in our might. “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience,” (Hebrews 4: 11). Our job is to enter into His rest. Our task is to seek His face. He has people for all of the “work” but there is only one person who can spend time with God for you. Guess who!

Let this sink in today. Ponder these verses and ideas. Can you find the way to let God do the heavy lifting for you at your job? What about all those tasks on your list, can He somehow help those to get done more efficiently? I think you will find the time you spend with Him, seeking His advice and guidance, will more than pay for itself. Find your place of rest. I will give you a hint. It’s in Him.

Building Blocks

Hebrews 11: 1          (KJV)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is the substance of those things you are praying for. Faith is something real. It is substantive. It is not just an idea or a concept. It isn’t just theology or a feeling. It is the substance, the actual matter, that becomes your answered prayer.

My dictionary defines substance as: the real or essential part or element of anything; essence, reality, or basic matter. You see faith isn’t ethereal. It is real even though it is not tangible. A thought is real, as is a word. You cannot reach out and touch them with your fingers, but they still are real and have real world consequences. Some have said that we are the sum of our thoughts. That is a powerful statement whether or not it is true. Certainly, our thoughts greatly influence our lives. And by now we all know that our words have power. And although they are not palpable, they undoubtedly affect the substance of our lives. So it is with faith. Although we cannot bottle it, it is a crucial element in our answered prayers.

Faith is the very essence of the things you want or need. And although you will not find it listed in the periodic table it is the element which God uses to form your answers. Cast your mind back to High School Chemistry and imagine, if you will, a periodic table of spiritual elements rather than physical elements. Faith would be right up there. Maybe its symbol is Fa. Looking at the table we find that faith is the key building block for all things spiritual just as the physical elements are to the things of the physical realm. In order for us to operate in the spiritual realm we must first grasp this concept that faith is substance. It is something real. It is something perceptible, if not tangible.

The next premise we must understand is that faith is the substance, the essential building block of the things we are hoping for. So, stop right here. What are you hoping for? For what are you praying? Now picture a child’s building blocks. Instead of the letters of the alphabet these blocks have their spiritual symbols on them. You look there on the rug where are scattered all the building blocks and you see a block with Fa on it. You grab it. Perhaps you can find more Fa upon them. You collect all that you can muster and you build the first level of your edifice. As you look you see other blocks there with symbols on them. Maybe there is P. You reason, “That has got to be prayer.” Another one has Co for confession, another W for the Word. As you look you see more and more essential spiritual elements, the building blocks of a spiritual reality. You gather them, stacking them one atop the others until you have constructed something magnificent. Then you realize that it was all rather easy and fun once you realized the blocks were there and that they were for you. It is though the building blocks were in your toy chest all along, but you didn’t know they were there or you didn’t realize what they were for. Now you know, though, and armed with new information you can begin to build anything you need or want.

There is one more premise you need to understand though. Everything that exists in the physical realm first came into being in the spiritual realm. Everything you can see, touch, taste, etc. first existed in the realm of the spirit. Before the earth existed, before even the sun or the moon, God had an idea, a thought, a vision. He then created in the physical that which existed first in His spirit. Every creation of humankind was first birthed in the spirit of a person. The spiritual realm is the realm of creation. The physical realm is the realm of fabrication. Therefore, before you manifest anything in the physical realm, you must first perceive and create it in the spiritual realm. Now that you have your spiritual building blocks this will be child’s play for you.

So, we have today, opened the toy chest and let the wonder of God’s creation flow out. Perhaps you will identify some other spiritual building blocks other than the ones I mentioned and can write me telling me their spiritual symbols. As you begin construction, though, remember that Fa (faith) is the essence of those dreams you are building. It is a crucial element and must be included in every construction project. Without it, you are building a house of cards. Faith is the substance; it is the raw material of your hopes and dreams. Dream big dreams. Live large but begin with faith.

Highly Combustible

Ephesians 1: 18 – 20         Complete Jewish Bible

I pray that he will give light to the eyes of your hearts, so that you will understand the hope to which he has called you, what rich glories there are in the inheritance he has promised his people, and how surpassingly great is his power working in us who trust him. It works with the same mighty strength he used when he worked in the Messiah to raise him from the dead and seat him at his right hand in heaven.

Although we looked at verse eighteen yesterday, I included it here for continuity’s sake. You might also like reading it from this version. I do.

Paul’s purpose in verse nineteen is to divulge the might of God’s power at work in our lives. There are two very telling items in his statement. First, this surpassingly great power is working IN us. That’s interesting. In other words, the power of God is not external. It is internal. That might be eye opening. God’s power is at work in us. That means we are a party to this surpassingly great power. We have a role to play with His power working in us and through us.

Here is the caveat and the other interesting bit. God’s mighty power is working in those who trust Him. Now wait a minute. I thought His power was on hand and particularly in His hand for all who confess Jesus as Lord. Why didn’t Paul write it that way? Let’s look at the Passion Translation for a clue to answering this question. “I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you!”

Notice the addition of faith. It is our faith mixed, in trust, with the Father’s power that brings about desired results. This surpassingly great, immeasurably vast power is yours by faith. Does that sound like a cop out? Well, maybe a little because it means that we have to mix faith and trust with Father’s power in order to have it working in us but that is why Paul prayed for the eyes of our heart to be opened. God’s power works in our hearts by faith and trust. It is like an internal combustion engine. You see the output of the engine on the exterior, but the power is actually generated on the inside. Within the cylinder of your heart, faith and trust mix and explode like the gasoline and air when the spark is introduced in an engine. The power of God is ready to combust. Just add some belief and trust and you have the workings of a power generator right inside you. The power for every goal to be achieved and every dream fulfilled is inside you right now. Ignite your passion and Dad’s power with a bit of faith and trust and your engine will take you anywhere you want to go.

The Big, Bad Wolf

Psalm 34: 4

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Fear is a pernicious emotion. It draws us into ever deeper dread, and it draws to us all sorts of negative experiences. Once fear gets a foothold in our spirits, it invites all its little buddies to come torment us as well. We may begin with a fear of spiders or of heights only to realize one day that fear lurks around almost every corner. That is its nature. It wants to invade every part of our lives and it will if we don’t resist it. Thank God that He is our provider in every sense.

In the context of yesterday’s verse, we looked at 1 Chronicles 28: 9, “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” In Father’s never-ending quest to encourage and edify us, He sends us this good news today from Psalms. We discover that not only does He let us find Him but that He answers us and our needs in that moment. Going one step further, when we seek Him, He delivers us from those insipid fears that plague our heart. There is healing in His wings, so every encounter with Him brings healing. He touches our hearts, our minds and our bodies with His soothing touch. His love roots out fear even that which has been lodged in our souls for many years. There are two keys, though which will help dissolve those fears.

When we search for God with our hearts, then it is our heart which finds Him. This may seem like semantics but there is a very real principle involved. Searching with your heart opens your heart to Him. The alternative is to search for Him with our minds. I am not suggesting that is a “bad” approach, just not the most potent. If you search with your mind you will still find Him but you will learn about Him more than engage with Him. This is the case because you are presenting your mind to Him. It is best if we present our hearts to Him. Allow your mind, will, emotions and personality to aid you but go to the Lord, seek Him with your innermost being. That is your heart or more precisely, your spirit.

Second, relinquish your fears to the Lord. Begin in a space where you accept and acknowledge that fear has no place in your heart. Expect Yahweh to vanquish those fears. This scripture reveals that if we are afraid, we have need of deliverance. I think we live in a time when we have come to accept fear as part of life. That is the exact opposite of the message the Father is communicating to you. His intention is to deliver you from fear. This means that you must let go of it. That can be harder than it sounds because you are surrounded by people who, almost proudly, confess to being fearful of at least something. Secondly, you may have lived with fear a long time. The familiarity may make it difficult to release the hold it has on you and that you have on it.

Fear is, functionally, a distrust of God. We don’t think of it that way, but it is true. To live with fear is to say to God that you don’t trust Him. The fear of heights or whatever is stronger, bigger and louder than your faith in God. Does that sound harsh? It is not my intention that it scald you. There is, however, an even more accurate way to articulate fear, if you can bear it. Fear is faith in Satan. It is the acknowledgement that he has power in your life and over your life. Deny that obscenity. Faith in God vanquishes fear because there can be no fear where the love of God prevails. Fear is like the big, bad wolf in the story of the three little pigs. He was big and frightening but, in the end, he was overcome, defeated.

Therefore, whatever that area is where fear has taken hold, infuse it with the love of God which has the power to deliver. Speak faith words over it. Do not continue to confess fear but rather replace those fear expressions with ones of faith.

Father is on site to deliver you from all your fears. He has promised you that if you will seek Him, not only will He answer you, but He will give you His deliverance. Don’t live below the God level, the level of life Jesus died to give you. Do not tolerate fear in your life. It is not of God nor meant to be a part of you. Call on the Almighty to be a keeper of His promises and present your heart to Him for healing and restoration.

Law or Liberty

Psalm 1: 2

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

I want to talk about prayer and study today. I continually encourage you to read your Bible but the question is, is this a matter of law or can we find liberty in it.

We live in a period of grace, Jesus having saved us from the curse of the law and being the very fulfillment of the law in this age. So, is it right or acceptable for ministers to teach and advocate the exercise of legal requirements? I think the answer is no but I think we do it so we must be vigilant to preach liberty to the captives. We tell you to tithe and to give offerings. We tell you to read your Bible and pray daily. Does it begin to sound like law. In other words, is this something you must do in order to please God?

The Bible says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Hebrews 11: 6). So, anything we do without faith will not please Him. That includes reading your Bible and even praying. That is a big concept, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong. I want you to read your Bible every day. I want you to spend time talking with Dad. It’s just that I want you to do it because you choose to, not because the law requires it of you. Reading the Word, meditating on it, discussing it with the three persons of the trinity are important because in those tasks are key elements to your freedom, success and overall wellness. We are learning that it is good for our brains, good for our bodies and good even for our pocketbooks. The same is true of giving into God’s work. I do not want it to sound like law. I want you doing these things because it is healthy to your life.

Any thing which draws you closer to Jesus is going to make you happier, healthier and more prosperous. Listening to his voice is key to having the abundant life Jesus came to give you. I have pointed out Joshua 1: 8 several times before. This was God’s advice to Joshua when he was required to assume the leadership of Israel after Moses’ death. It reads, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Even when God spoke this to Joshua He did not give it to him as law. God wanted to encourage Joshua and give him the help he needed. So God told him to camp in the Word. It is for this same reason that I and others continuously encourage you to read and think about what the Bible teaches. If it is the single best piece of advice God could come up with, it must be pretty potent.

Literally, this verse from the book of Joshua means to observe the Word. In other words, we are to engage ourselves with it, looking to see what it says and what it does. And, it’s not as if we don’t have Jesus, Father and the Holy Spirit to ask when we don’t understand it. God promised He would give us wisdom when we ask but it usually comes when we are focused on His Word. Spend an hour in it or three days in it as Kenneth Copeland often does, and you will also observe some things that are not only fascinating but life giving as well.

There are promises which go with focused attention to the Word. I didn’t share verse three with you until now. It promises that the person who does ponder Father’s Word will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Come on!  That’s great news! So, don’t meditate day and night because you are commanded to. Don’t do it because you feel a compunction. Do it as an exercise of your liberty and in faith because you want to. Desire to know what Father has hidden in those pages just for you. It is a veritable gold mine. Really! The Word has power to transform lives, especially yours because you are already open to His heart. You are unique in the body of Christ as you are devout in reading this daily devotional. Let Father impart even more into your life. Be Joshua. Be the believer who is firmly planted by streams of water. Be free to live abundantly.

Understanding

1 Corinthians 1: 19       KJV

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Last week we sang a song at church which spoke to me. I extracted this idea from it, that when we trust Him, we don’t need to understand. We live in an age of intellectualism. We like to process everything through the left side of our brains so that everything makes sense and is understandable. This is the opposite of what Jesus told us to do. He told us to believe by faith. Faith is doing what Jesus says when you don’t understand.

God takes us in directions we would never fathom. If you wait until you understand all His motives and plans, you will never go where he is leading. He rarely lays out His plan before you but rather gives one step at a time. We have to learn to trust Him rather than question Him. He isn’t going to answer you anyway so you might as well learn to trust. Everyone who walks with Jesus has had to learn this. The hardest part, at times, is slowing ourselves down enough to hear Him clearly. Sometimes you need to hear more than once to be sure it is from God. That is the question we should ask, “Lord, if this is you, bid me come.” We only need to know we are in God’s will, then we can step out of the boat with confidence, fully trusting that the Lord has us in his care. The question we don’t need to ask is, “Why,” or “How does this work.”

Some people have the ability to walk in simple faith. They have the ability or have made the decision to accept and believe what they hear from the Lord or read in their Bibles. These are not unintelligent people. They are mentally and spiritually disciplined. They have trained themselves not to ask the Lord unfruitful questions.

There is a time and place for understanding. God recognizes that and He will explain what you need to know. There is, however, more occasion for obedience, faith and trust. Those three will always put us in a good position when employed. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and even higher than our intellectual capacity. They are never beyond our ability to believe and act though. That is what the Father requires of us. Simple faith and obedience, a willingness to do as He directs whether or not we understand. There is great freedom in this way of living. Maybe it is something you can talk with Father about.

The point is that God is not relying on our wisdom.  He wants us to rely upon His.  We must invest trust and that is the challenge.  We like having control but Yahweh would have us relinquish it to Him.  Wow, what a difficult thing to do.  Now you know why it takes a disciplined mind and spirit to walk in full faith with Him.  This is our calling though and this is the appointed way.  It is not about our intellect but rather about our ability to trust His.  That is where we must grow and we can, with Jesus’ help.

The Good Shepherd

Psalm 23: 4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

This is many people’s favorite psalm. What is it that folks like about it? Is it knowing we have a shepherd who cares for us? Verse 1 from the Passion Translation reads, “The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.” If this is your favorite psalm, do yourself a favor and read it from the Passion Translation. You are really going to love it. If you don’t own a Passion Translation just go to Biblegateway.com.

It wasn’t easy choosing one verse from this psalm but this one seemed louder than the others and thinking about it I realized you and I walk through the valley of the shadow of death almost daily. One of the points which has resonated with me over the years about this passage is that David was walking through the valley. He didn’t set up his tent and camp there. He kept moving forward, out of danger, through the challenge to glory and victory.

We recognize there are times when we must go through a troubling situation. There is no way around it, you just have to go through. We generally encourage one another that Jesus is with us even through those tremulous times. David takes it up a notch though. He says that even though he must walk through this foreboding valley, he shall not fear. David knew God was with him and being a shepherd boy himself, he recognized the devotion and care of the good shepherd. David killed both lions and bears to protect his flock (1 Samuel 17: 36). He knew God to be an even better shepherd than he. He trusted God to proactively deliver him from any evil that threatened him.

David said he was comforted by the Great Shepherd’s rod and staff. Here is where our image of God may depart from David’s. David saw the rod as comfort whereas some teachings cause people to fear God. Yahweh does not wield a rod to beat the sheep into submission. That is the image some people carry of God. We must put in the forefront of our thinking that our God is the good shepherd. He cares for the sheep as did David. If David was willing to face a lion and a bear to protect those in his care, won’t our Father do the same for us? Could David be a better shepherd than the Lord?

The rod and staff were for protecting and guiding the sheep. With the staff the shepherd could gently lead the sheep. When they went the wrong way, he could redirect their path. It could also be used to defend the sheep. David understood this and because of his understanding and his trust in the Lord, he could walk through the valley where death’s shadow looms without harm and without fear.

Fear is a crippling disease. In its grip we don’t walk through the valley. We don’t valiantly and confidently march through. The message of this psalm is that the good shepherd is with us and taking care of us. Therefore, we can lift our heads, throw back our shoulders and march through whatever peril appears on the horizon. There is no occasion for fear because the Lord God is your guide and your guard, and you couldn’t have better. You know that, but fear is an tricky thing. Our challenge is to live our life fearless and we can when we know our Father is with us. When we have true awareness of His presence with us and His guiding hand on us, then we, too, will walk through the valley and have no fear of evil befalling us.