"He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5, ESV).
As we near the end of this dedication, I want to spend some time thinking of salvation. How incredible it is that we are saved! How great is the salvation with which God has saved us! When we think of salvation, we should always be left in awe.
Salvation starts with His mercy. We have been saved because His mercies were great towards us! Without His mercy, we would've been destined to be apart from Him forever. His mercy made salvation possible. His mercy caused Him to save us even when we didn't deserve to be saved. How great is His mercy!
Salvation is continual in the physical life of the believer. It continues to happen, and continues to be more true everyday as we walk in the knowledge of our God! And His power is evident in salvation, not just when we receive it, but also as we are washed, regenerated, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. We know we are saved because our minds are being washed of all uncleanness; we know we are saved because we are regenerated. We know we are saved because our entire being is being renewed constantly. This is all possible because of His great salvation! And His salvation is only possible because of His saving mercy.
So as you go about your day, whisper to Him, "Thank You for your mercy," knowing that it's because of His mercy that you can even approach Him in prayer. How great is the salvation with which He has saved us!
Today, I want to take you through a process known as Lectio Divina. If you're not familiar with it, you're not alone! It's simply a disciplined way of reading Scripture. Really, we should always read the Bible in a reverential, disciplined way.
Before we look at the text, I'm gonna explain the process of it. There are typically five stages: reading, prayer, meditation, contemplation, and action.
We READ carefully, taking the time to savor every word, phrase, and sentence. We then PRAY, share our hearts with the Lord, and ask Him to highlight what He wants to highlight in the Scripture passage. Where does He want our focus to be? Then focus on that.
After prayer, we MEDITATE on the truth we have just read. We meditate on the spiritual reality of what God has shared with us. Then we can CONTEMPLATE on that fact that God wants those truths to be true in our lives. We can enjoy the presence of God as we delight in the Word of God! Finally, we get to the ACTION part: we go and live out the Word of God. We make those things true in our lives (by the power of Holy Spirit)!
Go through these five steps as we read below:
"1 Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!"
Take the time to do this and it will bless you greatly!
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV).
I really like this passage. I know this passage. I fully agree with this passage, and I pray it is true in my life. We need to take note that Paul doesn't tell us it's possible for us as Christians to have some bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander. He doesn't say, "Mitigate the amount of bitterness you have in your life." He doesn't say, "As long as it's a little bit, you can have some bitterness, wrath, and anger in your heart."
No, he tells us to let it ALL be put away from us. It is possible for us to get rid of ALL bitterness, wrath, anger, etc. We cannot do it on our own power, but we do have to make the right decision to put it ALL away. When we do, we bring it all to the Lord.
"Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22).
As we bring it all to the Lord, as we cast it on Him, as we surrender the fight so that HE can fight for us, He helps us get rid of ALL bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander! Please read verses 31 and 32 again at the top. Do you see something else that is essential to getting rid of all of these?
We need to have hearts that are kind to one another. We need to be tenderhearted towards one another. We need to care about others. And, here's where many people get tripped up, we have to FORGIVE one another, as Christ forgave us. If we can't forgive one another, we can't get rid of all bitterness, anger, etc. We can't deal with them fully until we can forgive fully.
So in 2022, as we fully dedicate all that we are to the Lord, let's fully forgive everyone. Let's cast that care on the Lord, and He will sustain us and help us forgive. Let's be kind to everyone, tenderhearted, and let's care about everyone around us. We'll reap so many blessings by putting away all bitterness and anger, etc., and we'll be freed to experience the freedom that forgiveness brings!
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13, ESV).
I really love that the Lord here is identified as the God of hope. He's the God of hope not only because true hope can only be found in Him, but also for another reason. One definition of hope is "a feeling of trust." Pause and think about that for a second. This means that He's the God that can be trusted! Our hope can be placed in Him, and our trust can be placed in Him. As we sow in the beginning of 2022 to the Lord, we place all our hope and trust in Him.
What can we expect if we put our hope and trust in Him? We can expect for Him to fill us with all joy. I realize lately that I am in need of joy everyday! And what I've found is if I trust Him to fill me with joy, He provides numerous moments throughout the day to give me joy.
If our hope is in Him, He also gives us peace. We can experience peace no matter what else is going on in our lives! More and more people need to experience more and more joy and peace. We believe He is the God of hope, the God that can be trusted, and the God that fills us with joy and peace in believing all this!
When we are trusting God, and hoping in God, there's no way we could think it's by our own power. It's by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we trust the God of hope to fill us with all joy and peace in believing, Holy Spirit helps us to abound in hope! That's what this verse is all about: abounding in hope! It's the Lord's will for us to abound in hope.
In 2022, I pray we not only abound in hope, but that we also abound in trusting the Lord. He is the God of hope and the God that can be trusted! Trust Him! Abound in hope in Him!
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).
As we dedicate ourselves and 2022 in a special way to the Lord, I want to give us a strong recommendation. Read the verse above again, and I will share it.
Get in the habit of relying on the Lord's righteous right hand. His right hand is His hand of power. His righteous right hand will uphold us! It's His will that He upholds us no matter what we face. The truth is, whenever we face anything, it's not up to our strength to overcome it; it's His strength we rely on to overcome it!
So the next time you are facing fear, rely on His righteous right hand. The next time you are feeling dismayed, rely on His righteous right hand. The next time you need strength, rely on His righteous right hand. The next time you need help, rely on His righteous right hand! Get in the habit of relying on His righteous right hand in 2022!
As we're dedicating all that we are to the Lord during this time, I ask you (and myself), "How dedicated is your tongue to God?" Our words either tear down or build up. What are your words doing during this dedication? I feel led by the Lord to share this article with you. Link is below. Read it, be blessed by it, and may your words give life!
"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ" (Colossians 2:1-2, ESV).
As I was driving my brother to the airport, our conversation shifted to something interesting. We started talking about what loving our brothers and sisters looks like in real life. Primarily, we were referring to when we don't get to talk to other Christians, and even when we haven't met other Christians, but have heard of them and their story. What does love look like when the person you are supposed to love is not in the room or the conversation?
You believe the best about them. You speak good about them. You celebrate their triumphs. You rejoice in their testimonies. You light up as you share their story with whoever you are talking to!
"I heard they were facing depression, but they stood up, prayed that their thoughts would be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and they were set free from depression!" "I heard their kid encouraged them to pray for his fever. They prayed in faith and his fever went away!" "I heard she fought alcoholism with Jesus on her side and is now 6 months sober!" "I heard they weren't able to pay their bills, but they got some money from an unexpected investment!" "I heard they served their neighbors by inviting them to their dinner table!" "I heard they slipped some money into her purse without her noticing, and without wanting recognition!" And on and on we should go!
This is what it looks like to love someone who is not present! You want them to be encouraged; and in thinking about them, you are encouraged as well. This is how Paul felt for the Colossians. Though he wasn't present with them, he longed for them to be encouraged and for their hearts (including his) to be knit together in love.
This is what our conversation looked like. I was telling him story after story of our Freedom family. He was telling me story after story about the people at his church. And we were encouraged as we shared in and through love. Our hearts were knit together in love just by thinking and talking about those we love.
As we go through day 11 of our dedication, talk about someone else in love! Share someone else's story with someone else in love. Talk about them because you want the best for them! Talk about them because you want them to be encouraged, and you want to encourage the people you're talking to! Do more and more of this, and watch all our hearts be knit together in love. We will reap a flood of love in 2022.
"8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus" (Acts 19:8-9, ESV).
If you didn't read yesterday's post, please do so before reading this. This is part two of that post.
Now focus on what is happening here. Paul is a BELIEVER who is speaking boldly, reasoning, and persuading people about the kingdom of God. He's sharing the gospel with them because he believes it will set them free in the Spirit! He's sharing the gospel with them because it is expanding the kingdom of God, and as His kingdom expands, so does His victory! All of this was possible because Paul BELIEVED God.
But I want you to take note of what happens next: Paul has to withdraw from them because some "continued in unbelief." Because of the unbelief of some, all of the synagogue was forced to miss out on the blessings that God wanted to bring them through Paul, who believed. He also had to take the disciples with him. I'm sure they were supporting what God was doing through Paul in the synagogue, and were able to support and encourage those in the synagogue. Until, that is, the unbelief of some drew them away.
Look at verse 11, "And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul." This is incredible! Heaven was invading Earth, and these miracles could've taken place in the synagogue, but because of the unbelief of some, they didn't. They had to take place elsewhere. Unbelief moved the miracles away. Unbelief moved the move of God away. Unbelief moved those who believed and were experiencing the blessings of that belief away. Unbelief is a repellent to belief.
My counsel is this: don't force blessings out of your life because of unbelief. Don't think that 2022 won't be filled with blessings, miracles, and the glory of God; BELIEVE it WILL be filled with blessings, miracles, and the glory of God! As we dedicate ourselves and this year to Him, we are BELIEVING this to be true.
Blessings upon blessings upon favor upon favor! BELIEVE!
"So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19, ESV).
As Christians, we sometimes do not know how powerful belief really is. Obviously we have to believe in the right thing, in this case, and every case for that matter, it's belief in our God. So when I talk about belief today, it directly applies to belief in God. Now that that's out of the way, belief is so important to our spiritual life. Not only that, belief is vital to the quality of our spiritual life!
There are many incredible things that have happened because people simply believed God. Noah made an ark, Abraham believed God, Hannah had Samuel, David slew Goliath, Elijah did all he did and then Elisha doubled it, just to name a few from the Old Testament. We see so much happen in the New Testament all because of belief.
But as you can read in the verse, the lack of belief is powerful, too. Think about it, because they didn't believe, they didn't enter into the Promised Land. They never enjoyed the fruits and benefits of that land that was flowing with milk and honey.
If you read that passage, you'll see because they didn't believe, they were rebellious and disobedient. Because they didn't believe, they couldn't enter and enjoy rest. Their lack of belief didn't only affect them; they provoked and were an annoyance to those who did believe. Because they didn't believe, they sinned and their bodies fell in the wilderness. Dead. They fell dead because belief leads to life, and not believing leads to death.
There were things Jesus couldn't do because of unbelief. There were people and places He had to leave so He could continue His ministry. When people don't believe, they don't move forward spiritually. They don't grow, they don't rest in God, they annoy those that do believe, and the hopes and dreams God has for their lives slowly deteriorate.
Belief makes everything better. I'll say it again, BELIEF MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER! Your relationships, your quality of life, and especially, your spiritual life. Belief breeds miracles. Belief makes a way for heaven to invade Earth. Belief makes it easier to hear God's voice and follow His plan for our lives: Belief makes everything better! Believe in 2022!
"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love" (Micah 7:18, ESV).
As we begin another week in this dedication, let's simply marvel at the fact that there is no one like our God! There is no one who can do what He does; no one who can create like He does; no one as wise as He is, and no one who can love like He loves.
This is the God we live for! This is the God we are dedicating all that we are to! Did you make mistakes in 2021? He's pardoning them, as we ask for forgiveness. Have you made mistakes in 2022? He's passing over those mistakes because you are part of His remnant.
Because He is love, He delights in love wherever it may be. When He finds His love in us, He delights in that! He loves it when we love the way He does, with a steadfast love. He especially delights in steadfast love. Transgressions, iniquities, sins, and mistakes in our lives get in the way of Him delighting in steadfast love.
Dealing properly with these helps US to have steadfast love towards HIM! He delights when we have steadfast love towards Him! He loves when we love like He loves.
This is a commitment to love Him no matter what comes our way in this life. Loving Him with a steadfast love is a decision we make every day. Determine in your heart to love Him with all your heart no matter what happens! And we will enjoy the fruits of steadfast love in 2022!
During the 21 Days of our Dedication, we will post what we hear from the Lord here. Make sure to follow along, not only in reading, but in joining us in this dedication to the Lord! We hope these words stir your spirit to follow hard after the Lord in 2022.