God is with us

They will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”
—Matthew 1:23 NLT
After Jesus’ resurrection, two of His followers were walking to the village of Emmaus. In the midst of their deep conversation, Jesus came and walked along with them, “but they were not able to recognize who he was” (Luke 24:13-32 MSG).

When Jesus inquired about what they were discussing, the men stood there, downcast for they had lost their dearest friend and beloved companion. Then they described to Him how Jesus the Nazarene had been a mighty, miracle-working prophet, and that He was loved both by God and His fellow man. Sadly, though, they related that Jesus had been crucified, and their hopes crushed. They were sure He would deliver Israel from the heavy yoke of the Romans. All the while, the risen Christ was standing right by their side!

Perhaps you’re like these men traveling to Emmaus; struggling with some trial or loss that seems devastating. Remember: Even when you don’t yet recognize Him, Jesus is right there with you!

When Who and What You Are Really Doesn’t Matter– What Can Stop You?

God calls us to work for Him.  Many times I watch people fail that God has set aside to do a certain work.  I see that God has put it in their hearts to desire to serve Him in an extraordinary way, and they are giving themselves to Him more than others around them. The desire to serve Him often turns to defeat and they accomplish little.  I believe this is because they have failed to become nothing, submit their weaknesses and failures, unbelief and doubt, their past, and everything they are and aren’t to God.

We come to God with a great load of many things that can cause us to fail.  In this chapter we will talk about this load and how it can hinder us and how we can be delivered from these things.  If a man tries to run a race with a load of bricks on his back he will not be able to finish. There are many things that can be a greater load to us than a load of bricks that can become a weight to us and hinder us from being able to finish the race that is set before us.  Let’s talk about some of those things.

stop

Past Sins

We often come to God with a load of past sin.  These sins cause scars that can trap us away from totally trusting God’s love.  It is hard to accept forgiveness and forgive ourselves and let God totally and unconditionally love us.  Until we do, we won’t be able to love Him.  To really love God, we have to be able to receive His love.  A one-sided relationship is really no relationship at all.  These scars can also cause us not to trust ourselves.  Satan will constantly remind us of our failures.  Commit them all to God.  When satan accuses you, remind him that those failures and past sins are no longer there.  God has them and He will keep them.  They are forgiven and all you see now is who you are in God, and a vision of what you will one day do for Him.  When you commit the past to God and trust in His forgiveness those past sins become nothing and satan can no longer use them against you.

 stopp

Scars of Hurt

Another load we carry is the hurt caused from what others do to us.  The devil is a master of discouragement.  He knows if he can cause scars in our heart, these scars can turn into bitterness and rebellion.  He can, through these, destroy our self-worth to the place that we no longer try or care.  He will line up people to hurt us.  I wish I could say that he can only use sinners to hurt us, but the greatest pain often comes from our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The devil uses those that allow themselves to be used.  Christians get careless with their emotions, tongues, and flesh as a whole, and the devil can step in and use them against the family of God.  When he does this, these accusations can echo in our minds and defeat us, destroying our confidence in our relationship with God.  We have to identify these as satan’s tools and refuse to accept them as truth.  We have to give these weak places to God and ask Him to heal our minds and hearts.  When satan comes back with them, either echoing them in our minds or using others around us, we have to identify him and say, “satan, that is an old battle.  I have committed that to God.  It is His.  You cannot accuse me any longer.”

Another hurt that is hard to overcome is abuse of any kind.  In this age of self-centered, Godless people verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse is rampant.  When this happens we are often made to feel that it is our fault.  We are victims of the person who abused us, but the devil is a master at victimizing us with this abuse, and making us feel as if we are the one to blame.  This abuse may be as simple as being ridiculed as a child, having other children or someone in your family make fun of you, or as complicated as sexual abuse by another family member.  Whatever it is, often satan is the author of it.  I believe that satan can see a limited view of the future, (not as extensively as God can, because God rules the future).  Satan can see enough to spot those that will one day serve God in a great way, even when they are young.  His best tool to stop them is to bring spirits against them to harass them their whole life long, to keep them bound from God’s love and deliverance, so that they never can fully operate in His love to serve Him.  One way satan does this is to send people to cause abuse.  This abuse can trap us into a tunnel of defeat, self-destruction, and self-hate before we can find the release of God’s love.  This can also cause us to be very self- destructive in our judgment of ourselves.  We will constantly knit-pick every fault we have and we can judge ourselves into hell if we don’t commit this to God. If we commit all this to Him, God can take it all, deliver us and even change the worst abuse into something for our good. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28.  I have watched this happen in the lives of abuse victims.  God used even the worst experiences by allowing them to work good in their lives and the lives of others, and they actually thanked God for it happening.  A key in coming to that place is forgiveness.  To be delivered from these scars and the spirits that satan can bring against you because of them, you have to forgive everyone that has hurt you.  That is not easy, “but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).  To be able to forgive we have to really want to forgive them, and ask God to help us.  He has a great love.  Great enough even to forgive those that nailed Him on the cross.  He lives in your heart.  Trust in His love to work inside you, when you know your love won’t be enough.  When you forgive them, you must also forgive yourself.  You must also forgive yourself and let go of any feelings you have against yourself. Abuse can cause us to condemn ourselves.  It often cause feelings that we are stupid and everyone thinks so, we are to blame for anything that happens wrong, we are no good and only the devil can use us, we will never amount to anything, we are mentally unstable, we are asking for hurt and only deserve that, we are total failures.  All these feelings can come from abuse.  We have to identify these lies and refuse to accept them.  God can help you identify the things that are satan’s lies.  Refuse to accept satan’s way of thinking.  Commit this to God.  Don’t dwell on these thoughts.  As you begin to fight this, satan will be anxious to keep this hold on you.  He will increase his battle against your mind and he will send those around you to join in his accusing with him.  Keep on rebuking him and not accepting what he says.  In a way, he will be doing you a favor.  As you consistently stand against him, you will become stronger and you will come to the place that you will automatically, without thought, block out what he says and you will learn to accept what God’s Word has to say about who and what you are.

 stopno

Our Failures and Weaknesses

Another part of the load we carry is our past failures and our present weaknesses.  The Bible says, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).  We know this, but when we judge ourselves (which we have no business doing because only God can judge a righteous judgment), we forget it.  Everyone makes mistakes and fails.  Is there anyone that God used in the Bible that was perfect? Some people would say 2, Enoch and Elijah, because they didn’t have to die.  But James 5:17 tells us that “Elias was a man of like passions as we are….”  Elijah was just a man.  He got afraid, ran and pouted.  God didn’t take him because he was perfect, but because he walked with Him and pleased Him.  We don’t have to be perfect to please God. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  He expects us to love Him with a whole heart and walk with Him.  He’ll do the perfecting we need.  Many times we hide from walking with Him because we feel that we can’t be perfect enough to do it.  God just wants our love.

When we learn how to handle our failures, we can learn from them, and they can be building blocks in our faith and our walk with God.  The problem with our failures comes either when we hide them from ourselves or God and fail to receive forgiveness, or when satan arrives to accuse us.  Satan is the accuser of the brethren both day and night.  He will say, “Look at you, why are you trying to do anything for God.  Look at what you did in the past.”  Moses ran into this battle.  While living at Pharaoh’s palace, he lost his temper, and killed an Egyptian taskmaster in Exodus 2:11-15. The next day, he tried to help an Israelite.  The devil spoke through the man and said, “Intendest thou to kill me as thou killedst the Egyptian”. Moses had miserably failed.  Not many of us have failed God to the place of killing someone.  The man’s accusations caused Moses to run.  Moses may have had great plans for his future in Pharaoh’s palace as Pharaoh’s son.  Satan’s accusations brought an end to these plans and his life as he knew it.  He didn’t realize that God had a better plan.  Satan’s accusations drove Moses right into the plan God had for his life–leaving and coming back later as the leader of God’s chosen people.  Satan’s accusations can destroy us, or we can let God use them to bring great victory into our lives.  We have to commit the weaknesses we have to God, become as nothing so that these accusations cannot rankle our flesh, lay down our pride, and satan’s accusations can even bring great victory.  Luke 6:23 tells us to “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy….”  Why leap for joy?  We can leap for joy because God can even use persecution to bring victory into our lives.

As humans, we have many weaknesses.  Satan can jump and shake his fingers at these.  It is important to know your weaknesses, commit them to God and trust Him to turn them into strengths.  II Corinthians 12:9 tells us And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness“.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”. Verse 10 closes with “For when I am weak, then am I strong.” Paul said I thank God for weaknesses that I may glory in strength of God.  When we are the weakest, we finally rely, trust, and totally depend on God’s strength.  Only then can we be really truly strong.  Our strength is not enough even when we think it is.  When we become nothing in our own strength then we can rely on the supernatural strength of God.  When we recognise this, how can satan use our weaknesses against us?

2018: Moses, Isaiah, and the Holiness of God

God’s presence is real, full of love, and completely transformational. It takes what was broken and brings healing. It takes what was lost and guides us to our rightful place in the Father. It satisfies the weary, brings light to the darkness, and pours out the refreshing rain of God’s love on the dryest, deepest parts of the soul. Scripture contains story after story of God coming down to meet God’s children where they are, and your heavenly Father has the same heart for you as he did them. He longs to make the reality of his presence known to you. He longs to refresh you with his nearness. You were created for encountering God, and you will never be satisfied until you continually live in the experience for which you were created. Allow your desires to be stirred up to encounter the living God this week as we read powerful stories of God’s people encountering his manifest presence. May you respond to God’s word by seeking out that for which you were made: continual encounter with your heavenly Father.

holiness

“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”-  Exodus 3:2

The Devotional

Two of the most powerful recorded encounters of God’s presence are found with Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-7 and with Moses in Exodus 3:2-6. Let’s open our hearts to both learn from these encounters and allow them to guide us into a powerful encounter with the living God ourselves.

Isaiah 6:1-7 says,

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah demonstrated that experiencing the holiness of God and seeing our own sin in light of his holiness are consistent and important parts of encountering God’s presence. Time after time in Scripture, God’s people see their own sin, repent, and are healed after having an encounter with the presence of God. In fact, Moses has a similar response to being in the presence of God for the first time in Exodus 3:2-6:

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

In light of God’s astounding holiness, Moses was filled with fear to look at the face of God. These two descriptions of God’s presence illustrate an important truth for all: the light of God’s holiness has the ability to pierce into the depth of our soul, bringing to light the darkness that destroys us from within. My prayer today is that we would follow the examples of Moses and Isaiah and allow God’s holiness to shine light on our sin and draw us to repentance. And may we experience healing today the way Isaiah did as the angel of the Lord cleansed him with the coal.

God’s presence casts light on our sin and brokenness because in order for us to live the fullness of life God desires, we must walk in righteousness. It’s because of God’s love that he reveals our sin. It’s because God longs for us to experience a life of holiness and freedom as his children that he shines light on our darkness and draws us out into the glorious light of righteousness.

God promises in Isaiah 42:16, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” And 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” God’s desire has always been to lead his children into his righteousness. God’s longing for us to partake in his divine nature has been a chief desire of his from the first sin of Adam and Eve. And through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ our nature has been transformed. Ephesians 2:1-6 says,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

You have been set free from what once separated you from your heavenly Father. But the key to experiencing this freedom is allowing God to shine light on what does not belong to you anymore: your sin. You must walk as a child of the light, not as a child of wrath, and it’s spending time encountering the holiness of God that will transform you from the inside out. Spending time on holy ground as Moses did will heal you from the sins that entangle you. Spending time allowing God to reveal your sin and purge it from you as he did with Isaiah will empower you to choose the light over the darkness. A vital part of encountering God is repenting of our sin in light of his wonderful, holy love for us.
humility
Experience the holiness of God today as you enter into guided prayer. Repent of whatever is in you that’s not in line with your new nature in Christ and walk as the child of God that you are in light of his wonderful and powerful grace.

The Prayer

1. Meditate on Moses and Isaiah’s encounters with the holiness of God. Put yourself inside the story. Imagine yourself as their character. Feel what they would have felt. See what they would have seen. Allow the stories of Scripture to come to life around you.

“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:2-6

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!’

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” Isaiah 6:1-7

2. Allow the holiness of God to shine light on the darkest parts of your soul. Where do you have unconfessed sin? What’s holding you back from walking fully in the light? What sin does God want to heal you from today?

3. Confess your sins to God. Repent from any area of darkness and turn fully toward the light of holiness. Rest in his forgiveness and allow it to be the foundation on which you can live in the freedom bought for you by the blood of Christ.

Psalm 30:11 says, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” When we give our sin over to God he turns what the enemy meant to harm us into our greatest source of gladness. Forgiveness is something to dance over, to sing about, and to enjoy wholeheartedly. Our God takes what was dark and makes it light. He took what tied us to this world, placed it on the shoulders of Jesus, and put it to death with the last breath of his perfect Son. May you discover today a freeing joy in the presence of the God of holiness and forgiveness. And may you live your life in light of the glorious grace you’ve been shown through the love of God.

why_fast