Not Outside Then Inside………


God gave us the cogent example of the Pharisee in the Gospels to demonstrate how human wisdom and human interpretation of God’s word leads to spiritual blindness. The Pharisees were experts in the letter of the law but they did not have a clue about the significance of Christ – whose identity originates in the Old Testament to prophets like Moses, who wrote the Torah.

Consider the lesson contained in the reaction Christ demonstrates towards the Pharisees.

Cup and Saucer
Cup and Saucer (Photo credit: Cookieater 2009) WHAT GOES INSIDE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE BEAUTY ON THE OUTSIDE

If you too are so focused on keeping your outside clean for others to think you have it all together, yet you continue to neglect God’s goodness to your spirit, through his love, forgiveness, grace and mercy at Calvary, then, like the Pharisees, you too are guilty of hypocrisy.



Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others.
 23:24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!
23:25 "Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites!You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
 23:26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too! (NET Bible)

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Get Tested! It Saves


Jordon river
Jordon river (Photo credit: swortman53)

I know someone who is desperately afraid of going to the doctor. His apprehension subjects him to incredulous fears associated with the process of finding out the status of his health. Day after day he experiences physical symptoms that force him to contend with the fact that his body is in need of medical attention. Yet his fear allows him to stay nestled in the confines of uncertainty. He continues to go on about the daily routines his life has constructed. Amidst all the vocational, social, political and ecclesiastical activities he fervidly attends to during the course of  weeks and months that have passed – with an astounding zeal for life, the fact of a physical struggle continues to plague him. He lacks a willingness to get honest and get tested.

All around the city of Atlanta there is an advertising campaign for children and adults to “Get Tested” for HIV. Billboards, TV commercials and print media all serve to push this message socially . The ad seems to present the point from the perspective that it is better to “know your status” and be treated rather than NOT know and do more harm to yourself and others.  A life of promiscuity and/or sexual irresponsibility, compounded with the guise of sexual crimes, all seem to give rise to this fear and more and more people are physically,mentally, emotionally and spiritually spent. The rippling effects of this crippling dilemma is rectified IF there is a willingness to get honest and get tested.

We can understand how medical testing yields physical, mental and emotional treatments BUT what testing applies to spiritual treatments?

The answer:

LIFE ISSUES i.e. TRIALS i.e. PROBLEMS i.e. HARDSHIPS i.e. DIFFICULTY i.e. UNCERTAINTY i.e TRIBULATION

The human race deems life issues as a NEGATIVE and not a POSITIVE. This is largely due to how the world order views these guaranteed life phenomena. The world has developed a safeguard to greatly support the negative associations with “life issues” so much so that when they materialize in a person’s life, an immediate barrier presents itself between him/her and the world.

For example, when someone is plagued with sickness –  PROBLEM – she not only has to deal with the mundane processes associated with treatment and the pursuit towards wellness. The issues magnify with the steady stresses of the employer, finances, loss, dissociation from society and certain peer groups and family and all the fears of loneliness. Meanwhile, people continue to make the world “go around” with their selfish and self-centered idealism towards preservation, progress and upward mobility while isolating themselves from the sick and shut-in. It is selfishness to the core that makes an associate retreat and withdraw from a person plagued with illness while being fully aware of their own ability to offer the sick with the resource of certainty – a certain affirmation that you will do all that is within your power to support the sick. That ideology is now absent in several American cultures today – and sadly, the church (without naming denominations) is in this number. It would seem obvious that they (the local church) would be inclined to serve the sick, poor and widowed most willingly. This is not to say that the existing church programs are not serving “Life Issues.” Oh no! Their service history supports the blatant reality of a need for more involvement from their neighboring local church bodies thereby exposing the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace that Paul clearly addresses.

Ephesians 4:2(NET) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
4:3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

At the end of the book of Joshua, the author makes a compelling appeal to Israel before his apparent death.

Furthermore, Joshua was prophesying to Israel that they would need to have courage and consistency in dealing with “Life Issues” in the future.

English: The Walls of Jericho Fall Down (Josh....
English: The Walls of Jericho Fall Down (Josh. 5:16, 6:1-10,13-19) Русский: Падение стен Иерихона (Иис. 5:16, 6:1-10,13-19) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joshua 23:6-11 (NET)
(6) Be very strong! Carefully obey all that is written in the law scroll of Moses so you won’t swerve from it to the right or the left,
(7) or associate with these nations that remain near you. You must not invoke or make solemn declarations by the names of their gods! You must not worship or bow down to them!
(8) But you must be loyal to the LORD your God, as you have been to this very day.
(9) “The LORD drove out from before you great and mighty nations; no one has been able to resist you to this very day.
(10) One of you makes a thousand run away, for the LORD your God fights for you as he promised you he would.
(11) Watch yourselves carefully! Love the LORD your God!”

His instruction is concise: “REMEMBER WHAT GOD HAS SAID, WHAT HE HAS DONE AND CHOOSE HIM DAILY – in war and peace”  One example is pertinent here – JERICHO. Jericho was a city that Israel needed to go through to get to the Jordan River. It was God’s Determined will that Israel would cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Jericho was an immediate “Life Issue” to Israel because of its great army and wall that was designed to protect its inhabitants. Israel was ill-equipped to handle Jericho’s might militarily. However, Joshua was in complete relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who meticulously brought the Israelites out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and preserved them in the wilderness. The story concludes with the Israelites marching silently for 6 days around the wall as God instructed them. Victory prevailed on the 7th day as they marched silently, blew the trumpet and began to shout on Josh’s command. Simultaneously, the walls of Jericho tumbled down. God permanently dealt with the barrier.

The Israelite‘s  testing i.e. “Life Issue”  in the Old Testament offers Bible readers a glimpse into God’s character. The tests were all designed to get them to line up with His will for them. Israel’s history with God gives rise to the importance for humans to practice willingness to be honest and get tested.

Every “Life Issue” has a Divine purpose. Get Tested! It saves.

Breaking the Silence


Man with sledge hammer, Gerhard Janensch 1920 ...
Man with sledge hammer

It’s difficult to open up and express your heart when you feel the need to protect yourself. My innate coping skills to protect myself from experiencing heartache are grounded in silence. Often times I have used this skill in such a way that it backfires and causes me to have regret. “If only I had spoken up/out!” “I should have told ………. the truth, now it’s too late!” These 2 statements, internalized on many levels, can be haunting. For the past 2 weeks, God has been working on me, preparing me, instructing me on  “Breaking the Silence.”

Why the silence? Well it seems pretty obvious to me that this coping skill is a direct result of fear – fear of negative consequences i.e. I won’t be heard, believed, appreciated and loved -which is based in my realities from childhood. How many times in my adulthood have I had the opportunity to stand for the truth only to keep silent instead because of this fear? More than I can know, I am sure.

The idea that I must keep silent so that you will not become uncomfortable in my presence is the other dilemma that continues to fuel my silence. The fear that you will not accept me as a person worthy of your friendship, company and companionship remains as a staple characteristic of my silence. Once again I am compelled to abhor fear. It is crippling, damaging, and destructive.

I can do many things to combat against silence- pray, study the Bible, fellowship with others, therapy, practice honesty on a daily basis (all of which help considerably even to the point of publishing this today).  A recent post “The Good Comes Through AS U COME THROUGH” was the “shot” I needed today to invigorate my spirit to expose the willingness God is giving me in “Breaking the Silence.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 says 1. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2. fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne ofGod. 3. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The first time I studied this passage of scripture I was a pre-teen. By then I had already developed these crippling, damaging and self-destructive tendencies towards internalizing everything. People could say or do anything to me – harmful physical, mental and emotional acts by family, friends, and church members – and I would say NOTHING!

My cousin Peaches was instrumental in introducing me to the passage of scripture that I am referencing today. I thank God that He used her to challenge me then to study and discover the nuggets of truth contained herein. I stated earlier how difficult it is to overcome destructiveness and all that I can do to combat this dilemma. These statements accurately define the problem. Obviously the problem is still active. So then the solution – FAITH – is necessary.

What would Abraham‘s story have been if he did not have hope & faith in what God spoke to him about his inheritance and Sara in her unborn son through her aged womb? Moses would not have lived if his mother did not have FAITH in God’s ability to preserve him despite an edict of death. We would not have an example of perseverance through FAITH IN GOD without Moses’ wilderness experiences. The hall of faith gives us direct insight into Moses’ ability to trust in God rather than in man in ANY circumstance.

Breaking the silence today means to trust in God enough to lay aside this weight daily. I am amazed at how God has led me to this wonderful forum of blogging. It is the one way that I am aware of my willingness to break this destructive pattern. Even when I don’t know how to express my thoughts and feelings, He makes my pathway straight in this forum. ConquerorShots served me over the past few days as I clicked on a “shot” that I needed to get some courage to stay in the race.

There are times when reading/studying my Bible just seems mundane. I do it anyway but I keep silent because I feel that no one will appreciate my honesty. However, I DO NOT KEEP SILENT WITH GOD ANY LONGER! I may not be inclined to tell another person what I am dealing with personally because of the dynamics of my character I exposed earlier. They became damaging, crippling and destructive because I would NOT allow God to BE MY CONFIDANT.

The one thing that Conqueror Ministries advocates is consistency with prayer and reading God’s Word – NO MATTER WHAT! It does not matter how uncomfortable it may become -PRAYER CHANGES THINGS! How else can I lay aside every weight and the sin that does so easily harass me? How can I endure hardship like a good soldier? How can I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith? HOW ELSE CAN I POSSIBLY STAY IN THE RACE?

Romans 8:37 reminds me “Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Outwardly it may appear that I am overwhelmed by life today, and often times that is true.

I thank God daily for His continued presence in my life, power over my life and the purpose for it all which He manifests through my life. Inwardly He keeps on getting better! It is an inside job………….  When I am willing to “have a little talk with Jesus” and tell Him all about my struggles……. breaking the silence is achieved every time. Telling Him gives me the courage to tell you too – in His time, not in mine – that is wonderful,blessed difference today.

A Presence of COURAGE


Courage
Courage (Photo credit: drp)

In my teen years we used to sing a song in the choir – “I’m determined to walk with Jesus-yes I am.” Through hard trials, tribulations, persecutions, I am Determined… I’m Determined to walk with Jesus, yes I am.”  It had an infectious bass line that pounced down deep in the souls of all who heard it with a reverberating, spiritual anchor. A simple yet powerful display of the presence of COURAGE.

This type of determination I speak of must have it’s origins securely connected to a firm foundation. I have found it to be a compelling gift to be able to assess when it is present and when it is not. I know that there are many times when my faith in Christ and the finished work at Calvary gives me courage to stand in the midst of hardships. I have just too many examples to refuse this reality. But, I must admit there are times when my human side shows up. Then, and only then, is my determination to walk with Jesus hindered.

I am glad that we have Joshua 1 to remind us all of what the presence of COURAGE in us looks like. In the first 9 verses God repeatedly offers Joshua this vital instruction – “Be strong and of a good COURAGE” 2 times and  “Be thou strong and very COURAGEOUS”. Then towards the end of the chapter he again states “Be strong and of a good COURAGE.”  By the 10th chapter God once again felt the need to ONCE AGAIN REPEAT “Be strong and of a good COURAGE.”

Thank God for repetition! He is so gracious. How many times has he repeated something in your life? Are you listening? I know this Divine teaching principle has always been at work in my life. For so long I was too caught up in my human affairs to even pay attention to the  subtle messages God was teaching me through repetition. It took God’s consistent faithfulness in and over my life to get me to yield to his Word. But in the text, Joshua was a quick learner. He was listening to God’s Word so intently that by verse 18 it appears that the message was thoroughly received – “BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE JOSHUA!”

“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might,” Ephesians 6:10 comes to mind as we define what strength was required. Joshua was going to encounter many adversaries – some of which were superior to his military preparedness. Joshua had to rely on the Strength of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to overpower the might of the earthly armies along the way. If he were naive enough to disregard God’s instruction – “BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE JOSHUA” – he would not have realized the success that God was calling him and the children of Israel to. It stands to reason hear how difficult it must have been for Joshua to disregard ALL human efforts to succeed and rely TOTALLY on the STRENGTH AND POWER of God’s Word EXCLUSIVELY. Imagine how Joshua had to encounter the men under his command who would see the mission from the prospective of human eyesight and how he had to CONSTANTLY remind them of the importance of FAITH IN GOD’S WORD! It seems to me that the more opposition he faced, the more inclined Joshua was to exercise DETERMINATION to do it God’s way and thereby continue to bask in the presence of COURAGE.

We often times get sidetracked from the presence of COURAGE because we put so many unsubstantiated demands on ourselves on how a DETERMINED response should look like. “I should have said this” “I could have done it this way” “Why can’t I be like ……..” “If only I had ……. faith”  “God I want to be like……” Clearly the demands we place on ourselves to be what or who we are not capable of being – AT THE TIME – are designs of bondage that keep us from being the person we are at that moment and relying on God’s Word exclusively.  Joshua never seemed to experience a dilemma getting ready for God to demonstrate His power. He merely was who He was called to be – the son of Nun and Moses’ right hand trained to one day lead – who was given Divine and SPECIFIC instructions on how to succeed moving forward. He did not have to encounter all of the self help gurus, the constant barrage’ of success stories that dictate how human success works and constant reminders of how success is SUPPOSED to look. NO! He was under the tutelage of Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Shammah and Jehovah Tsori just to drop some names 🙂

What a travesty it would have been if Joshua was so egotistical to respond to God by saying, “OK God, I hear you. I will get the ranks ready and we are going to make you proud of us. I am going to do my best. You will not be ashamed of me God, I won’t let you down. I got it God. We will be strong in our might and skill sets, our military growth and our courage to win will not go unrealized.” This is why God makes a SPECIFIC attempt to repeat the message “BE STRONG AND OF A GOOD COURAGE, JOSHUA.”

Guess what, God is doing the same repetition today. Are you so busy telling God how you are going to get the job done that you are not basking in the the reality of His Sovereignty? – “IT’S ALREADY DONE!” A presence of COURAGE is so peaceful. You can be assured that God will do EXACTLY what He is going to do and no one or nothing can prevent His will from prevailing. The more Joshua practiced this “single-mindedness” the more he realized victory and success. It worked then and it is STILL working today.

THANK YOU LORD FOR THE PRESENCE OF COURAGE.