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Don’t Quench the Spirit

Don’t Quench the Spirit

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.

How do you NOT quench the Holy Spirit? You cultivate a framework of truth within your soul.

At the gym, I saw a woman who I hadn’t seen in a while. I use to see her just about every time I was there. She looked great! She noticeably had still been coming. I felt a little prompting in my spirit to tell her how good she looked; to tell her the hard effort was paying off. Though, I had seen her many times, we had never exchanged words. The regulars at the gym know each other. We may not always say much, but we know who we are. I walked over and said something like, “I just wanted to tell you, you look great, I mean really good.” She smiled and said, “Thanks”. Then I went on with my workout and she hers. A week later, I saw her again. She handed me a card. She thanked me for what I had said to her. She had been struggling and I said exactly what she needed to hear. By her eyes, there was a lot behind that simple statement. For her to take time to write a note, it must have meant a lot. I thought I was giving a simple and obvious compliment. I’m learning that following a little prompting can manifest something much bigger.

We’ve all felt that little nudge in our spirit to do or say something. Sometimes we listen. Sometimes we don’t.

Why do we listen to some nudges and ignore others? This may seem like a superfluous issue, but it’s important to spend sometime contemplating it. If it’s the Holy Spirit leading us, we want to be responsive to Him and not ignore Him. Following His lead is the life we are to walk. Following His lead takes us down the paths of abundant life. When we listen and respond to Him, our ability to hear Him grows. If we don’t; it diminishes.

So why?

As we seek God’s face in the Bible with the instruction of the Holy Spirit, a framework of truth is established in our soul. This framework enhances the voice of the Holy Spirit because it’s a support system for His words. It allows Him to dwell more fully in us. Imagine your mind as a vast place. It’s filled with lies and truth. Whichever one is more predominant affects your ability to hear the Spirit, the voice of truth, at any one time and in certain areas. In the areas you know truth; you are more likely to hear Him. In the areas you don’t, you are less likely. In other words, if what He says is in line with your beliefs, His voice is more likely to be supported and acted upon. If what He says contradicts what you believe, it’s more likely to be ignored. This is why gaining the truth from the Bible by the instruction of the Spirit is critical.

For example, if you believe that compliments are great encouragements to others no matter how big or small, when the Spirit prompts you to give one you are more likely to. If you believe that they don’t really make a difference, you are more likely to ignore Him.

If we believe something contrary to God’s truth, it will be much harder to hear and thus respond to the Spirit’s leading. As soon as it enters our head, the lies start to quench His voice. Thoughts derived from fears, laziness, or irrelevance begin to smother the prompting.

For example, suppose we are part of an unhealthy fellowship and God wants to move us into a healthy one, so His Spirit starts nudging us. If we are untrained by the Word in this area, then we will be quick to dismiss the prompting. At that nudge, a flood of thoughts will pour into our minds about fear of being excluded, fear of appearing judging, justification that no fellowship is perfect, the lie that there’s no where else to go, and fear of losing friends and that little voice is suppressed. Without an accurate framework of truth about a healthy fellowship, we are more likely to dismiss the prompting to better pastures, because there is nothing to support His leading. Conversely, if we have been abiding in the Bible and building truth, then we are more likely to respond. When we do, then we move into a place where God wants us to be.

The key to walking in truth and following the Spirit’s prompting is to read, abide, and meditate on the ENTIRE Bible trusting the Holy Spirit to teach us. When we understand the lies that abound, then we realize our need for the truth. Truth breeds life, lies breed death. Thus whatever we are following, lies or truth, will manifest death or life in our lives.

Everything in the Bible is for our instruction. It’s the tool by which the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. Over time, as we abide in His instruction, a framework of truth is constructed in our soul. This framework guards us from deception and allows our spirit to flourish. Then as He prompts us to act, we have the support system within us to respond to His nudges and to follow them. This is how we begin to walk in wisdom, truth and abundant life.

How many times I haven’t followed those promptings, but justified them away. This post has been truly convicting and enlightening to me. But the past is done. It’s time to press forward and persist in cultivating the framework of truth in our souls so we don’t quench the Spirit, but listen and act. When we do, we will become a useful tool of God. We are able to walk in His will of life and not ours of death. We are able to walk in a unity with God. We are able to impact others in ways we’ll never thought we could because the Spirit is moving through us.


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Rewards for Foolishness

Rewards for Foolishness

God will not reward foolishness.

No good father does.

We’ve all seen the scenario of a child acting up in the store and to assuage him the parent lets him have some M&Ms from the check out stand. What does that teach the child? Act up and get rewarded! Thus, the cycle begins. Can you imagine if God did that with us?

A more knowledgeable parent or perhaps a more patient one doesn’t encourage bad behavior and neither does God. God won’t reward us for our foolishness, but for our obedience. Our foolishness hurts us and others so God won’t reinforce it. Instead, we experience the discomforts of our actions instead of reward. Yet, because of His mercy, God keeps us from the full onslaught of the consequences we’ve manifested. He allows as much discomfort as we need to get our attention for the areas He wants to address in our lives. Psalm 107:17, Psalm 119:71

The discomforts (like physical aliments, trying situations or relationships, physical hardships) are to get us to seek. When all is good, we don’t ask. It’s when things go wrong that we start looking for answers. Our discomforts are often a sign we are somehow out of line with God and His will for us.

We chose to be either rebellious children living in a world of affliction because we are not heeding His Word and instruction in our lives. Or to be children who seek to walk in accordance with God’s will because it’s a path of truth, freedom, and love. Obedience is our wills coming in line with God’s so that we start living in the fullness of abundant life He desires for us. As our wills align, we gain unity with God. We live as one with Him in truth, love and purpose. Proverbs 13

Obedience isn’t about forgiveness. We are already forgiven now and always in Christ.

Obedience isn’t about being “good”. No one is good but God. Obeying God’s commands is about walking in God’s will. The moment we focus on trying to be a good person, we act according to our expectations and assumptions about what good means. Because we think we know what good is, we cease to seek God’s will in all things. Instead, we are following our definition of good thus our will, which is limited and often different than God’s. The essence of religion is people trying to be good, according their definitions. It’s easier to follow a set of rules verses seeking and listening to know God’s will day to day, but following rules doesn’t bring abundant life – drawing near to God does. True Christianity is about being in unity with God’s will. Big difference. Obedience is about the heart. If you are in line with God’s will in your heart, the right actions will follow.

Obedience isn’t about US taking control and making things right. It’s about God working in us. For Him to work, we have to submit. For a doctor to do surgery we have to submit to his work. We can’t be running around the hospital. Once we know God’s will for us in a situation, then our focus changes from moving forward our way to His. Part of our submission comes through prayer. Our prayers start to align to His will, and that is when our prayers become powerful. John 15:7

When I have a discomfort like an affliction in my spirit or a physical aliment, I seek. I seek God’s instruction and He opens my eyes to see my error. God doesn’t want us in affliction. He rewards a seeking heart with enlightenment and truth. Usually, it’s something I’ve justified to such an extent that I don’t see it as going against God’s will. But as I seek because of the rising discomfort, the Spirit points it out so clearly that I can’t deny my error. As a child of God, I desire to walk in God’s way. So upon knowing my error, my heart is moved to walk in His truth.

Though I desire to walk in God’s will, it can be hard to obey. We do what we do for a reason; approval, fear, self-protection, or lack of trust. So God also has to deal with this aspect of our rebellion as well. He has to go the source of why we do what we do, not just the outward actions. If you don’t fix the source nothing is fixed. Thus, obedience is a process. It’s a deep work of the heart and that takes time.

Because it’s about the heart, and it’s God who changes our heart, our part is to seek God’s work in us. Our role is to be willing to submit our will to God. To lay down on the surgeons table; to take the small steps of obedience as He leads us; and to pray in line with His will. Because a changed heart isn’t easy, we will never be more dependent upon Him, His strength and mercy. We have to depend on God to carry us through. We have to depend because it’s His work, not ours.

One area for many of us is a change in heart toward another. Can we just change our heart? Have you tried? I find I can’t in my own strength, but I’m not meant to either. My duty is to come to God and desire to submit and pray. I pray before each encounter with that person. I pray for a new perspective about them. I pray for God’s love to abound in me. And above all I trust in His work in me and His grace to carry me through.

Obedience is a process – an affliction or discomfort happens, we seek to understand, the Spirit reveals our error, we submit to God’s will, we pray according to that will, God works through our issues that cause such actions, and we start walking in His will. It’s a journey, but it’s the path to life. I’ve walked through this process in enough areas in my life to know it truly does lead to a more fulfilling, freeing, and loving existence.

Don’t ignore the discomforts or explain them away or think that is just life – seek. Deeply seek and listen as you spend time in God’s Word and prayer. Let God peel back the layers of your soul to expose the truth of your heart and actions because only then can your will start to align with His. As your will aligns with God it begins a sequence of events to bring on a change that will move you out of the discomfort and into the reward. Hebrews 11:6


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Obedience is Freedom

Obedience is Freedom

Freedom

 

There are many paradoxes when we dive into the realm of understanding the spiritual dynamics of life. Here is another one.

The other day at the beach there were two dogs reminding me of a valuable lesson in life; obedience is freedom.

The first one was playing catch with his owner running into the cool ocean waves and retrieving his favorite ball. Highly trained, he obeyed each command his owner gave. Running, jumping, leaping, bounding, wagging his tail, and grinning ear to ear, he was having the time of his life.

The second dog was on a short leash. Pulling so there was no give, he drove forward trying to escape the bondage – if only he could run free! He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t free, so he pulled and pulled. However, unbeknown to him, he would never have what he was striving for. He wasn’t in control despite his efforts – his owner was. With his arm about to come out of the socket, the owner pulled back. The dog went one way and he another. Frustration covered the owner’s face, shaded by disappointment. He wanted to let his dog off the leash, but he couldn’t – because he wouldn’t obey his voice. So the battle warred on, the dog pulling in one direction and the owner in the other as they plowed through the sand. No one looked happy about the arrangement. The owner’s eyes revealed his thoughts – if only his dog would listen, what freedom he would have.

In our relationship with God, we can be like either of these two dogs. We have the perfect owner, who is ready to teach and train us so we can live a life of freedom and enjoyment, but we chose either to listen and follow our Lord’s voice or not listen and push forward going nowhere. The first way leads to immense freedom, joy, and living as we desire. The second leads to limitations, frustrations and never obtaining what we long for. Like the dogs, we either run toward our Lord in freedom and delight or away in bondage and frustration.

Obedience brings freedom. Because the first dog listened to his owner and the owner could trust him to listen – he had immense liberties. He could run unleashed, frolic in the ocean, and play with his ball. When the owner called, the dog listened and followed. He was granted freedom because there was a bond of trust. The owner trusted him to listen and he trusted his owner to lead. As a result of his obedience, he lived the life he wanted to and enjoyed an incredible bond with his owner along the way.

But the second dog didn’t listen and chose to go his own way; therefore he didn’t have any true freedom. He thought he was moving closer to having his freedom by all that pulling, but it was leading nowhere. There was no trust on either end. Therefore, there was no deep bond, and the owner and the dog missed out enjoying a rich life together.

The gift and secret of obedience is that it’s really about desire. When you know that God truly wants your best and happiness then you can trust Him and follow where He leads. When the first owner walked down the beach – the dog followed close behind. The dog delighted in following his master because he knew it led to what he wanted – a rich close relationship with his owner, freedom, and enjoyment of life.

In the same way, when we trust God and know He desires our best, we want to follow Him. Our obedience is our desire. From past experiences, we have learned our ways lead to bondage and His ways to freedom. In choosing His way, we experience a close bond with God, freedom and enjoyments in life. On the other hand, if we don’t know and trust Him we won’t follow Him. We will believe we know better and as a result we won’t live in the freedom we could and we won’t have the life we could – the life we truly desire. The second dog has no idea the extent of what he is missing – and it is a great deal.

God is good. He delights in giving us good things and freedoms just like the first owner, who had a huge smile as he watched his dog have the time of his life. The only way to a rich abundant life is following Him and listening to God’s voice. Obedience is freedom.

Which dog are you? Are you enjoying a strong close bond with God playing with Him in the ocean waves, or are you pulling away thinking you know better, missing on a relationship with Him and suffering for it?

Proverbs 16:20 He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.

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If Love Me, Keep my Commandments

If Love Me, Keep my Commandments

 

John 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Obedience for a believer who is growing in the knowledge and grace of God is more of a desire than obedience. If you are born of God and abiding in His Word, your desire to do His will is strengthening because you are growing in love with Him.

It is important to recognize the ones maturing are the ones who experience this desire and not the burden of obedience. Many Christians aren’t growing and still think and act like carnal men. Therefore deep down they don’t desire the ways of God. They may act certain ways because they feel they have to but it is out of pure obedience and not love. Romans 8:7 What they have is a religion of rules and not a relationship of love. They lack a strong inner spirit to walk as a free spiritual being who isn’t rule bound but love bound. 1 John 2:5 Unfortunately, those rule bound people who think they are mature can be quite destructive and misleading to others about what the Christian faith is all about.

Kids are given the rule, don’t run into the street, because they can’t yet grasp the deeper truth that running into the street means you might get killed. It is the same with an immature spirit – all they can grasp are rules so they cling to them. But staying in this condition isn’t what God intended when He sent Christ to us. God desires a bride in love with Him and following Him because of love not a maidservant following the rules because that is what you should do.

This is why in the verse above love comes first. Obedience as God desires, with our hearts not just our actions, has to come from love not brute discipline. When we love Him, we want to follow Him.

Because Christ stands in our place, we have completely fulfilled the law now and always as He did. Covered in grace, we could go about sinning – however if you are truly born of God that isn’t your desire. Romans 6:14-16 You desire what God does because now you are a part of Him. God took care of our sin at the cross. Being free from the judgment of sin, the lessons of our lives are about walking in God’s will because that fosters intimacy and love with Him. He teaches and leads us down paths to accomplish that closeness; paths that instruct us what is His way and what isn’t. When He reveals a path we are walking that is counter to His, it isn’t to condemn us we have already been judged in Christ – it is to lead us closer to Him because sin distances us from being united to Him in truth, love and will.

And at its core, His will is about love, loving Him and loving others. Every command of God is what it is because that is the most loving thing to do. As a maturing believer you desire to grow in love – not a love of this world but a love beyond what we as flesh humans are capable of. John said that by our love others would know we are His – that means it is a love that mere men aren’t capable of giving – otherwise why would it set us apart? John 13:35

God’s love is much greater than ours. Most of us assume we know what love is, but what we know is a tainted version of His. We have to seek what is true love and what isn’t. And from what I am learning it is beyond what I ever considered as loving. The extent of His love – just the purity and selflessness alone and what that looks like in my day to day – is amazing. As you grow in love you begin to understand the depth and the reasons behind His commands and you desire to walk in them.

If you love God you want to do His commands of love therefore they aren’t burdensome. 1 John 5:3 If you want to do something it isn’t a burden but a joy. This is the experience for those spiritually maturing. It isn’t about following the law, trying to be perfect, or following some rules. It is about seeking God’s heart in each situation with a desire to love others with the power of His love flowing through you. You aren’t focused on following rules. You understand that Christ is your righteousness so you cease from trying to earn your own. You do what you do because you want to. And the closer we draw near to God the more this desire grows.

Since I started seeking God, I have seen this transformation in myself. It doesn’t happen over night it is a process of growing in love with Him by spending time with Him. From that time comes a true desire to follow Him. I want to do His will. It isn’t that I’m not tempted. I am. We all get blindsided by our Mr. Hyde personas – but the Spirit waves a flag shows me how that isn’t the most loving thing to do and I think oh, yeah, I don’t want to do that.

If we love God then we will obey Him because we desire to abide in His love. John 15:10