The Fellowship of the Saints

The fellowship of the saints

The following is Psalm 16:3 in several different versions.  They differ from each other but all express the same fundamental thought.  The variation is refreshing and allows for a stronger development of thought.

 3 As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” (NKJV)  

 

3As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight. (NASB)

 

3 The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!  I take pleasure in them! (NLT)
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No matter how we look at it, the Psalmist knows the value of other believers.  He exults in their companionship and rejoices in their presence in his life.  He knows that they have an excellence in them and about them.  He savours all contact with them.

We could say the psalmist has struck gold.  Whenever he has contact with them, good things start to happen.  A joy is awakened in him and bubbles to the surface. ( This Psalm 16 should be read in its entirety, I am only pulling out a single verse because of the light within it.)

Friendship, or companionship is a critical necessity for us, especially when the momentum of our culture is towards isolation.  I’ve been told of a certain kind of rock will begin to resonate, becoming warm in the presence of a rock of the same type.  (IDK if this is true but it is a great story).

I need brothers and sisters to awaken me.  As a man who struggles with physical and mental illness that connection brings me healing and wholeness.  I in turn through this same connection transmit grace and wisdom to them (or whatever).

There is not a lot of things better, and more invigorating than coffee with a Christian friend.  In heaven, there will be a Starbucks on every other corner serving up Vanilla Lattes for disciples wanting to visit and share their hearts (that is my personal theory anyway.)

The Psalmist puts our relationships into the light and evaluates them by the encouragement they bring.  We need to have that awareness as we contact each other.  As a “closet-hermit” I need that extra push.  I would anticipate or even expect it. 

The Holy Spirit works in the specific area of relationships.  That is His strength and forte’.  I believe that the way the Kingdom of God works, flows and advances is in large part because of godly relationships.  The more we cultivate them, the more the Church grows.

An Open and Sincere Prayer

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Eternal Father, you alone fully know my past and the deeds I have done.  I ask that you remove from my burdened mind the guilt and darkness of those days.

Having been set free from this pain, I earnestly want you to direct my steps.  The futurebelongs to you and there is nothing more from me that would desire the dark.  I have had enough of sin and the vain delights of this world.  I am yours forever.

Lord, I struggle with my depression.  It trips me up at times and I let it take control. Forgive me.  Unless you bring your light I will continue to struggle further while sinking deeper. I so need your help in this.

 

Help me to reach forward to the prize of the upward call of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Help me to forget the ugly past and lunge for the tape.  Amen.

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“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

Philippians 3, the Message

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Hope this blesses you today.

 

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When Sin Brutalizes You

Detail of Painting by Rembrandt, “Return of the Prodigal Son”

There are three things for certain.

#1 You will never forget your sins.

#2 God has forgotten them.

#3 The Devil will try very hard to condemn you for your past.

 

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There are some days that are harder then others.  You see, I have lived profligately, harmed many, and influenced others to do evil.  I have wounded and hurt people very deeply.  There are days when I have this mental image of myself– I’m a ‘Fountain of Feces’ spewing and polluting my filth to anyone passing by.

But I am also the Prodigal.  I’ve squandered everything.  It’s gone.  I’ve been to the pig pen.  Filthy and starving.  Coming to my senses, I decide to return home, and sell myself to the employ of Him I once called “Father.”

But the most outrageous thing has happened.  It is so wildly fantastic that it defies any reason.    (I hardly dare to think it real).  The man who I once called “Father” refuses to listen to my list of sins.  He has embraced me, dressed me, established me as a son.  I have new shoes, and a signet ring.

I am a wonder to behold. A feast of unparalleled joy is waiting.  I pinch myself– is this really happening to me?  Those days in the pig pen, what a stupid waste.  I want to weep and shout for joy– all at the same time!  It doesn’t seem real.

The subject of my grossness and sin has been forgotten.  I have not been interrogated or punished.  (Since then, I’ve learned that Someone else took this on.)  But my perversity and my iniquity has never, ever been discussed.  Their is no list of my sin, no cataloging has taken place.  The promises tell me that my past sin has been put on a big barge, and shipped to the deepest part of the ocean– and dumped!

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Micah 7:19

As critical-thinking believers, with just a modicum of divine truth, what we do with our personal sin is huge.  It determines much about our walk.  We function out of our past.  The plant is rooted in something.  But our Father has turned our prodigal past into our personal future of total redemption.

Look at your greatest pain.  The Holy Spirit will very likely take that deep, deep bruise and turn it into your greatest ministry.  And He does it without resorting to a list of your ugly, ugly sin.  You see, He has already forgotten it.

“The question is who are we going to side with? God says our sins are past, cleansed, and gone. You cannot go on with God until you stand on His Word as cleansed with the heart made pure.”  

Smith Wigglesworth

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Bryan (the Prodigal)

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He Knows Where I’m Going

“I go east, but he is not there.
    I go west, but I cannot find him.
I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden.
    I look to the south, but he is concealed.

10 “But he knows where I am going.
    And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
    I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”

Job 23:10-11, NLT

Job is not sure where God is exactly. He can’t be pinpointed to Job’s satisfaction. But Job knows one thing very well. The outcome will be golden (v. 10).

Especially thinking of these last two verses, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t be switched (verse 11 changing places with verse 10.)  But I most certainly won’t try to edit the Book of Job.  I guess I’m just looking for an ‘enhanced grip’ on these verses.

Job explains his confidence, “He knows…where I am going.”  That most exceptional understanding gives him an awareness and a sensitivity toward the presence of God.  “He knows, where I am going.”

Verse 10 will be my trumpet blast.  Testing me, is His full intention.  He intends to make me golden. As I think of this, I first should understand that it is “He” making me.  It’s the Father’s work; it is not by my efforts.  Nevertheless, it will happen!

His intention is to put us in His crucible.  He ‘cooks’ us until we are gleaming, shiny and pure.  Just understanding this process, brings us into a huge, new dimension.  We now understand why we have discipleship.Under_construction

Verse 11 now injects us with this concept of discipleship.  There is an “Under Construction” sign that hangs over us, we are being worked on. Because Job is thrown in the crucible, his faith is transformed into a solid walk.

Job loves because he has been deeply loved. Job claims this understanding.  “For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”  Some might suggest ‘hubris,’ or pride and overconfidence.  But just maybe it was the truth.  And could it be– that he has been changed by the crucible?  Changed and altered by the “heat?”  This intensity is of the Holy Spirit, and sovereignly using our various trials, completes us.  I suppose that this process is what we call—  sanctification.

“The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”

Adrian Rogers

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Apples of Gold

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“The right word spoken at the right time
       is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.”

Prov. 25:11, New Century Version

I’ve been thinking about this particular verse for years.  I had an older translation and I couldn’t decipher it.  It is really good to understand what you have just read.

This verse tells us that there is a certain cadence– a timeliness for just the right word.  There is a proper sense, a beautiful art in making the situation perfect. The wisdom comes in a conversation, and suddenly everything makes sense.  There is a elegance that’s shared by everyone, and a dignity that the Holy Spirit bestows on our words. We only have to ask Him to bless what we say (or write.)

People speak wrong words as well.  Rather then edifying, they tear down.  Thirty years ago a Christian girl I was working with would always try to counsel me.  Soon, I had enough of it.  I walked up to her desk and said, “Becky (name changed), God has given me a word for you!”  She looked up at me and smiled. ‘It’s Judges 16:16’, she got out her Bible to read the verse I just had given her. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.”

I absolutely crushed her spirit.  I had used the Word to assault her like a blunt instrument.  Tears welled up in her eyes.  It would be a time before I sought her forgiveness.  I was hard and brutally used the Bible to purposefully hurt her.  I do not suggest that you do this.  I will never forget what I did. Oh man, did I ever learn.

That day I would learn the awesome power of my words— for good, or for evil.

Let us also decide that our words will bring life to those who we meet today– wise and encouraging words!

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Overcoming Fear of Death [GotQuestions.org]

Question: “How can I overcome the fear of death? How can I stop being scared of dying?”

Answer: Even the most secure, devout believer can have occasions when they fear death. It is hard-wired into our systems to avoid death. And death was not an original part of God’s plan for His creation. We were made to be whole and holy, living in paradise in communion with Him. The introduction of death was a necessary response to the admittance of sin into the world. It is a grace that we die. If we didn’t, we would have to live in a sinful world for all eternity.

Knowing that in your head doesn’t necessarily counteract the visceral reaction to the thought of your own mortality. The fragility of our physical bodies and the sudden cessation of life are violent reminders of our lack of control in a large, dangerous world. We do have a great hope, that He Who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). And He did go to prepare a place for us so that we can join Him (John 14:2). But it might help to consider the more immediate, practical considerations we’re faced with.

Beginning with, what is the actual fear? There are several aspects of death that can potentially cause fear. Fortunately, God has an answer for each of them.

Fear of the unknown
What exactly does it feel like to die? What can you see as your life leaves your physical body? How will it come about? Is it anything like people have reported—a bright light? A group of relatives?

No one knows for certain what it feels like, but the Bible does describe what happens. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Philippians 1:23 say that when we leave our body, we are at home with the Lord. What a reassuring thought! We will stay in this state until Christ comes and resurrects the believers (1 Corinthians 15:20-226:14) when we will be given a new, glorified body.

Fear of loss of control
By the time humans reach adulthood, they have a pretty good idea how to interact with the world around them. They know how to find what they need, get to where they want to be, and interact with others in a way that fulfills their intent.

Many though, even those who profess a trust in God, are so fearful of not getting what they need that they feel they have no choice but to manipulate their surroundings and the people around them to their benefit. We have all met men and women who abuse and grasp out of fear. They don’t trust God to provide for their needs, so they take care of things themselves. They don’t trust others to give them consideration, so they demand what they think they need.

How much more they must fear the loss of control upon their deaths. As Jesus said to Peter, describing how he would die, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18). Before Peter got this warning, he denied Jesus out of fear. Directly after, he reacted by demanding to know how John was going to die. But after Jesus returned to heaven, Peter took the gift of the Holy Spirit and became a new person—one whose passion for Christ’s message far out-stripped his need to control his surroundings (Acts 5:17-42). The Holy Spirit alone gave him the strength to face whatever challenges he might face.

Fear for those left behind
The Christian view of death is “separation.” Ultimate death is separation from God. With physical death, we will be separated from our loved ones on Earth for a time. If they are also Christians, we know that the separation will be a short blink of an eye compared to the eternity we’ll spend with them in heaven. If they are not Christians, that will not be the case. Our commission, then, becomes to use this time together to talk to them about where they will go when they die. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with them. Just as God gives them the room to choose, we must also.

Fear of the act of dying. Few of us know how we will die. Quick and painless, in our sleep, a long drawn out illness—the mystery of it, the inability to prepare, can be frightening. If we do know, if we’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can still be scary.

But it is only a moment. A moment nearly everyone has gone through or will go through. And, when that moment is over, we can claim Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Often, being informed and actively participating can help assuage fear. You can take steps to prepare yourself and those around you.

Overcoming the fear of death – Practical steps
Many people believe they shouldn’t die because they have too much to live for. Often, this means they have responsibilities and unfinished business that wouldn’t be taken care of if they were gone. But having people and things you are responsible for won’t keep you from dying if it’s your time. Doing what you can to make sure they’re seen to can alleviate fear.

If you have a business or children or other dependents, consider their care. Decide who will take over your role and work with that person to come up with a plan. Look into a will or a trust. Make sure all of your necessary paperwork is organized and easy to find. Reconcile broken relationships before you’re unable to. But don’t live for dying. There’s a difference between taking reasonable steps and obsessing.

Overcoming the fear of death – Physical steps
If you have strong feelings about what you want to happen to you should you become incapacitated, express them now. It’s entirely possible that during the course of an illness or injury, you’ll lose control over the situation and be unable to make your wishes known. Get a living will. Let those closest to you know what you want—or at least tell them where it’s written down. Choose someone you trust to be authorized to make decisions for you should you become unable.

Overcoming the fear of death – Spiritual steps
These are all steps to keep up responsibilities or maintain a measure of control in the worldly realm, but they don’t get to the meat of the matter. The most important thing to remember regarding death is the truth about life. You love your family and care for them, but God loves them more. You may worry about your Earthly legacy, but God’s more concerned with a kingdom perspective. All the paperwork in the world won’t bring the peace of mind of once simple action: abide.

In the middle of living this life, with these people, in this world, it’s difficult to keep in mind that this is just a temporary condition, and not a very good one at that. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves 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 boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” How we remember this is by abiding (1 John 2:24). Staying in the truth of His Word, believing what He says about us and the world around us, will give us the proper perspective regarding this life and the one we will receive.

When we are able to keep that kingdom perspective, we’ll be able to fulfill 1 John 3:1-3: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are, for this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” It will be so evident that we do not belong in this world that others will see it, too. We will so take ownership of our position as children of God that we will actively seek the day we can be like Christ and see Him as He is.

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Recommended Resource: One Minute After You Die, Updated Edition by Erwin W. Lutzer.

This is derived from a wonderful site– gotquestions.org. I rarely share something this bold or lengthy but this sort of connected and so I simply pass on what I’ve received. No editing, crimping or adjusting.

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Our Post-Pit Life, [Choosing Well]

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“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
 3who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases,
  4who redeems your life from the pit.”

Psalm 103:2-4, ESV

You can’t help but respond to His deliverance of your soul.  Stop and think.

You have been lifted to a place of safety.  He has poured on you extraordinary blessings.  Complete forgiveness, total healing, and a secure redemption–you’ve been purchased off “the slave block.”  So much has happened to you since you met Jesus. Plus he loves you, present-tense. He has gifted you with the premium salvation package!

Our deliverance wasn’t just “once upon a time,” way back then. I suggest that it is for now, in this present moment. Do you remember when you first understood Jesus’ sacrifice for you? Can you recall the joy and peace when he “broke you out” of your miserable cell?

Dear one, a pit was dug to trap you.  If you’ve fallen into it, you won’t be able to escape on your own. It will do its work, grimly and completely.  Falling into it should not be part of your plan, it is a dark place. But there are many living who reside in this pit.  It most evil and desperate place, and fully destructive to the souls of men.

In the light of this “atrocity of the pit,” deliverance is monumental.  When we are lifted out of the darkness, we start for the first time living a life of worth and meaning.  This alone should generate an overflowing heart. If you will only start to walk in understanding, you will start to find victory!

Forgiveness, healing and redemption: This triumvirate bores into our heart.  These three words create salvation deep inside us.  Each concept shapes us into ways that could never happen unless the Father wanted it. And He delights in delivering people from their darkness.

He lifts us out of that wicked trap. Look! He is coming to free us!

Our simple response must only be to worship.  For many of us, it will take time and practice.  Worship needs to be learned, we simply don’t do it naturally.  But, thats ok.  Simply put, we just need to start, and not forget all that He has done.  Please, don’t forget.  But remember all that He has done for you!  Psalm 103 will teach you, and bring you to a special place.

Whom should we love, if not Him who loved us, and gave himself for us?

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

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