Category Archives: Lessons

Poor in Spirit

Poor in spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

As a kingdom dweller, do you know what it means to be “poor in spirit?”

When I read The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 again, the questions I’ve had about “poor in spirit” came to the forefront. Perhaps you’ve harbored the same questions.

How can I be “poor” when I have access to all the glorious riches in heaven? How can I be “poor in spirit” when I have the Holy Spirit living in me? And how can I possibly be blessed if I’m poor in spirit? Much studying required.

Since this first beatitude is the bedrock of all others, we need to understand it. Jesus’ disciples did too. So as crowds gathered, Jesus took them aside to give them an outline of what being His disciples would look like; but first, He had to revolutionize their thinking because their message would change the world.

Over the years the Jews had showcased their status as God’s chosen people. They stuck to the Law–even added a few of their own–and paraded their prophets with puffed up pride, but in the process they became legalistic and withdrawn trying to save their faith for themselves. But that’s not what God intended.

In these first teachings, Jesus explained to His disciples that God’s people were not to be concerned with their outward appearance but with an inward transformation that would enable them to show God’s love, mercy, and grace to a fallen world. He was preparing them–and us–to be part of His kingdom. Thus The Beatitudes–or as some call them, “The Blesseds.”

To be “poor in spirit” means we recognize that without God we are lost, hopeless, and destitute: sinners saved by grace alone.

It means that we are to live our lives as He lived His–in the world but not part of it. But as we fight our earthly battles, we often fall under the influence of the prince of the air, while Jesus lived above the fray. He followed a different plan.

Even though Jesus was a human being filled with the same Holy Spirit who indwells us, He said only what His Father told Him to say and did only what His Father told Him to do.

When we compare our indwelt lives with His, along with all the I-me-my words we speak and all the things we do for ourselves instead of others, we discover that we are indeed “poor in spirit.” Spiritually in poverty.

Can we be blessed knowing that we’ve failed miserably as His disciples? Yes.

Blessed goes beyond happy. It means having an inner joy–the unexplainable peace that resides within that sometimes bubbles over and splatters on others. It’s the “I’m lapping from the saucer ‘cause my cup is running over” kind of joy that draws others to Him. We have that joy because we know that Jesus loves us in spite of ourselves.

Jesus knows that you and I will always fall short of His glory while we are here in this fallen world. We’ll never measure up to His standard on this side of eternity. That’s why He said we are “poor” in spirit. But at least we are His, created in His image to walk in His Spirit and do good works for Him.

As we recognize our need for God and look to Him–instead of others–as our standard for how we measure up, we understand that we are indeed blessed to be poor in spirit; and we look forward to the kingdom of heaven.

Repaired Gates

Nehemiah's Jerusalem

The repairing of the gates and walls surrounding old Jerusalem was critical to the safety of the city. So everybody pitched in. They repaired their own section first, then helped their neighbors complete their sections. As a result, the wall and it’s gates were completed in a record 52 days.

I was intrigued that each of the gates not only has historical and prophetic significance, but altogether they parallel our journey to salvation and living the Christian life. The complexity of it all isn’t surprising considering that our God is a God of order and depth beyond our understanding. So I started digging to learn more.

Knowing that Scripture must interpret itself, here’s what I found…

The third chapter of Nehemiah begins and ends with the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3: 1, 32) through which the sheep were brought for sacrifice. You’ve probably caught the significance already. Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, through whom all things were brought into existence is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for our sins. His death on the cross was the turning point in human history; and believing that He died for our sins is the turning point in our spiritual lives. So sheep are a symbol of sacrifice.

Going counter-clockwise around the wall, the Fish Gate was for the fisherman from Galilee to enter into the city to sell their fish. Centuries later when Jesus multiplied two fish to feed thousands, Christians used the fish symbol to identify those of like faith. The Greek acronym for “fish” was also the acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. So the Fish Gate represents sharing the fish or evangelism. As followers of Christ, we are called to sacrifice our will for His will and to be “fishers of men.”

The Old Gate may have been one of the original gates. It represents the old ways–the ancient ways–of truth as opposed to new ways. I’ve heard it said, “If something is new, it’s not true; and if it is true, then it’s not new.” Truth never changes–not even with the New Age Movement. The Lord calls us back to, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The Valley Gate represents humility. The suffering and pain, trials and tribulations of our lives remind us there is no place for pride in our lives. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Valley experiences help clear away the garbage in our lives and bring forth opportunities for great personal and spiritual growth.

The Dung Gate was the exit for all the rubbish, refuse, and rot. Once we are aware of the rot and corruption in our own lives, we sense a need to be cleansed of its filthiness. Confession is our Dung Gate. “When we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness,”

The Fountain Gate is located at the end of the Pool of Siloam. It’s streams of living water describe the work of the Holy Spirit who cleanses us of the dung in our lives and empowers us to live the life Christ wants us to live. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me…streams of living water will flow from within him,” (John 7:38).

The Water Gate, the only gate that didn’t need repair, led down to the Gihon Spring where Ezra read God’s Word to the people. Water refers to God’s Word, and God’s Word is truth–the same yesterday, today, and forever. It doesn’t need repair either. The streams of living water by way of the Holy Spirit make God’s Word come alive for us, in us, and through us so we are truly washed in the water of His Word.

The Horse Gate follows the Water Gate because wherever God’s Word is read, spoken, or discussed spiritual warfare is sure to follow. The King’s men left for battle through the Horse Gate located close to the soldiers’ barracks. In Scripture, the horse symbolizes battle or warfare and reminds us that we too are on a battlefield swirling with spiritual warfare.

The East Gate faces the Mount of Olives and speaks of a future time when Jesus will return and stand on the Mount of Olives. He will then enter the city of Jerusalem through the East Gate. Jesus told His disciples, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” (Luke 21:28). So the East Gate assures us that Jesus is coming again. Till then we wait expectantly for His return.

The Inspection Gate is also called the Mustering Gate. This is where King David met his troops for inspection or to see if they passed muster. It reminds us that we too must pass muster. We will be held accountable for our lives and face a final inspection.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him,” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

As we wait in eager expectation for His second coming, let’s repair and restore the gates of our own spiritual lives then lend a hand to help others.

The Jordan River Decision

 

 

Don't settle 2

Why settle for an ordinary life when you can live an extraordinary one? After all, the convenient path in life is rarely the most rewarding.

In chapter 22 of the history book of Joshua, God promised Joshua that the 12 tribes of Israel would cross the Jordan River, enter the land of Canaan, and defeat all the enemies they faced. If they settled there, they would enjoy rest on every side. All of God’s promises came true for those who crossed over.

But the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh liked the fertile grazing land east of the Jordan River for their massive herds of cattle. All the tribes had camped there before crossing the river, and the two and a half tribes grew comfortable there. So they promised Joshua they would lead them across the Jordan and into battle to defeat their enemies if he would allow them to return and settle on the east side of the Jordan River as Moses said they could.

After seven years of battle Joshua conceded, “You kept your word to the Lord, to Moses, to me, and, perhaps most importantly, to your brothers in arms…therefore turn and go to your home in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. Take good care to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away; and they went to their homes.

On the surface it might appear that the two and a half tribes lived happily ever after. But when we look a little deeper into God’s gift and Moses’ concession, we discover a different result.

God gave the land west of the Jordan River.

Moses gave the land east of the Jordan to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh as a concession for fulfilling their promise to fight with them. There is no record of Moses consulting the Lord about it or receiving His approval.

It was God’s will that all 12 tribes cross-over, claim their inheritance, and settle into a close relationship with Him. Nine and a half tribes were obedient and enjoyed rest on every side.
Two and a half tribes chose not to cross-over. Instead they chose to divide the nation of Israel, abandon the covenant of the Lord, separate themselves from God’s promises, live in a pagan land, and bow down to gods they did not know. In doing so, they invoked the wrath of Almighty God and later were carried away by Assyrian kings, never to be heard from again.

As believers, we face the same Jordan River decision–to cross over or not to cross over–to move forward in God’s will and receive His blessings or retreat to our comfort zones and leave His blessings behind.

God has so much more for us than we can imagine. He doesn’t like for us to distance ourselves from Him. He doesn’t want us to settle for the comfort of what we know. He wants us to step out in faith, trust His plan, and claim all that He has for us. He wants us to lean on His promises of safety, security, and rest and exchange the ordinary life for an extraordinary life with Him. That is the desire of His heart.

 

 

The Key to a Peaceful Life

 

Peace 2

Have you ever wondered why people write what they write, or what event prompted their writing about it? The psalms always peak my curiosity like that.

This week as I studied Psalm 91, I discovered it was written in celebration of God’s defeat over the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites which occurred during the reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 20 and provides the key to living a peaceful life in spite of life’s trials, troubles, and battles. Here’s what happened.

Jehoshaphat, an ancestor of Jesus Christ and king of Judah from 872 – 849 BC, was a king who mostly did what was right in God’s eyes. Mostly. But like us, not always. In his case, he didn’t worship other gods, but on occasion he made alliances that did not garner God’s approval.

As we look at his story, we discover that at this particular time in his reign, he found favor in God eyes. When Jehoshaphat was told that a vast army was on the way to conquer them, he gathered all the men, women, and children of Judah and Jerusalem and proclaimed a fast. The people came together for a “national day of prayer.” All the people sought God’s help while Jehoshaphat recalled God’s faithfulness to them and cried out to the Lord, “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

While they were praying–I love that phrase. It’s found several times in the Bible–the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel, an inspired Levite, with a message from God.

“Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle is not yours but God’s. March down, take your position, stand firm, and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”

Isn’t it nice to know that the battle is the Lord’s. All we have to do is be still and let God handle it.

When Jehoshaphat heard that the Lord would deal with the approaching army, he bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people fell down and worshiped the Lord. Some of the Levitical priests were so thankful, they stood up and shouted their praises.
Early the next morning, Jehoshaphat told the people of Judah and Jerusalem to “Have faith in the Lord, and you will be upheld.”

As a man of faith himself, Jehoshaphat appointed singers– not warriors suited up and armed for battle–but singers with their vocal cords tuned up to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of His Holiness before the battle began.

Did you get that? BEFORE the battle, they sang and praised the Lord. Before they knew the outcome, they thanked God because they trusted Him to provide the deliverance He promised them. That kind of trust only comes from being still in God’s Presence and acknowledging His sovereign will.

And while they were praying [there it is again], praising, and singing to the Lord, the Lord set ambushes; and the Moabites and Ammonites destroyed each other.

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert, they saw only dead bodies. It took three days to collect all the plunder from that vast army. On the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah (means praise) and praised the Lord; then returned joyfully to Jerusalem, and went straight to the temple of the Lord to thank and praise Him.

After that, their enemies all around them feared the Lord; and the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace because God gave them rest on every side.

Would you like to have rest in all areas of your little kingdom? Then place your unwavering faith in God, lean on His promises, and do what He tells you to do.

“Don’t be afraid or discouraged… The battle is not yours but God’s. Take your position [in Him], stand firm [in your faith], and see the deliverance [from the problem] the Lord will give you. Go out to face [your problem], and the Lord will be with you [to do battle for you].”

That’s the key to a peaceful life. When you know that God is ready, willing, and able to answer your prayers–maybe not in the manner you imagine because He isn’t limited by your imagination–and you’ve learned to trust Him, then ask for His help and thank Him ahead of time. He will answer your prayers, too. Even while you are still praying.

Now go read Psalm 91. It will make a whole lot more sense to you now that you know the back story. And, praise the Lord for giving you peace in the midst of your daily battles.

Peace 1

 

7 Lessons from King Asa

Seek God 2

I’ve always heard that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Last week I learned otherwise. The way to a man’s heart is really through his femoral artery.

My husband is having an ablation procedure Thursday at St. Thomas Baptist Hospital in Nashville to correct A-fib because the meds haven’t worked. I asked friends on Facebook to prayer for him. Their response was comforting.

With a grateful heart I replied, “The only thing better than having praying friends is having our God who answers them all.” The life of King Asa, who reigned in Judah for 41 years, illustrates that point and provides several lessons that still apply today.

Early on in his reign Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, cutting down all the false idols and commanding Judah to seek the Lord. Because he sought the Lord, Judah enjoyed peace on every side. (Lesson # 1: Seek the Lord. Enjoy peace.)

Years later when the Cushites rose up against Judah, Asa called on the Lord; and the Lord defeated the larger and mightier Cushite army. After the victory, the Spirit of God came upon Azariah, the son of a prophet, and he reminded Asa, “The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (Lesson # 2: Stay close to the Lord.)

At this point my mind wandered. I wondered if what’s going on in our country right now is a result of our forsaking the Lord. An open border with thousands of children, guns, drugs, and criminals working their way into our country; the swap of five known Al Qaeda terrorist leaders for one U.S. deserter even though we abandoned four of our best in Benghazi and one is still in a Mexican jail for a simple mistake; and now a murderous band of terrorist thugs are marching through Iraq on a head-hunting spree as they make their way to our embassy in Baghdad. (Lesson # 3: The advice Asa received still applies today. Stay close to the Lord.) But I digress.

King Asa took Azariah’s advice, sought the Lord, and there was no more war until the 35th year of Asa’s reign. Do you see how important it is to have God on your side? (Lesson # 4: Heed Godly advice.)

And yet, Asa forgot. Caught up in another war, he was again reminded, “When you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (Lesson #5: Half-hearted commitment is no commitment. God wants your whole heart.)

Four years later when King Asa suffered a severe health issue, a disease in his feet, “in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.”

What! He sought God’s help for the health of his nation, but he didn’t seek God’s help for his own health? That’s what the Bible says. King Asa died two years later. That means he endured two years of severe suffering without asking the Lord for help. (Lesson # 6: ASK!)

I’m not downplaying the importance of physicians. After all, one who specializes in electrophysiology is going to do my husband’s heart procedure. It was through much prayer that God led us to this physician and got us on his schedule when our original appointment with him was not until July 29. (Lesson #7: When we seek God’s plan at any given moment for any reason, He will reveal His plan to us, strengthen us, and give us peace.)

So please, wherever you are, whatever battle you face, I hope you will seek God’s help. We did and have enjoyed His peace here and now and have great hope for whatever tomorrow brings.