Of course, I thought in the back of my mind, I don’t HAVE to post what he tells me, I don’t have to share it with anybody. And, some of what he says is uplifting. Sometimes.
There are many times when I’d just rather keep these things to myself, because after all, few people are paying attention, that’s obvious. Just read the newspapers, listen to the TV nightly news, surf the web.
Then Jeremiah 20:9 will pop into my mind: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
Here’s what the Lord showed me the other night:
Remember when your children were young? You’d give them some instructions, something you wanted them to do, or not do. But they’d ignore you. Remember those times? What did you do?
You would devise consequences. Perhaps take away a toy for a while, or revoke freedom to do something they wanted like watch television, or go to a friend’s house. Nothing too drastic, but made to fit the situation. I’m not talking about simple mistakes or forgetfulness, I’m talking about rebellion. Determined disobedience requiring action.
Later on, as they were older, consequences for disobedience had to increase in severity, and if that still didn’t work, more severity. From withholding privileges, loss of allowance, to various kinds of restrictions, whatever had the best chance of success.
The laws of sowing and reaping were working then, as they always do. They are working now.
As I meditated on what he had said, I realized some things.
All of that necessary training, physical and spiritual discipline for my children, was to prepare their growing souls to function with self-control as adults. It was quite unpleasant occasionally… but it worked.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11)
And the Lord showed me, that is what’s happening in America. Warning after warning has been given. Disobedience and rebellion have been met with consequences, and the consequences have been increasing in severity. Unpleasant. Painful. Dire.
Fires. Floods. Famine. Disease. Lawlessness. The laws of sowing and reaping are still at work.
Consequences of rebellion cause anxiety, frustration and anger – even at God – for some who simply don’t or won’t believe His word (yet). But those same consequences result in repentance, prayer, intercession and pleas for mercy for those who do believe, some of whom had not been taking God’s word very seriously.
Is it time to quit warning people? That time will come one day, I know. It’s not time yet, but how much more severe do the consequences of sin and rebellion have to get, before people listen?
“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10)
Being “occupied until Jesus comes” means some of our time must be spent learning how to spiritually feed ourselves, strengthen our faith, and learn “best practices” in living in a world that grows ever more hostile to Christians.
Books, magazines, devotionals, sermons on CD or internet sites can be added resources, but they are not our primary source for God’s life.
God’s word is.
Jesus said, ” … the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63 NIV)
Meat and milk, our spiritual food for life, health and growth, is contained in his word. It’s also our faith producer, faith exerciser, armor and weapon against the enemy.
Having God’s word on hand in your memory isn’t just a good religious idea, it’s life-preserving. Basic survival gear. So, how to get it into our memory? Here are some practical tips.
- Read it regularly.
- Think about what you’re reading. Pray for clarity and listen to the Lord as you read.
- Write out verses you particularly want to remember.
- Read them out loud as you write. Index cards can be useful tools, one or two verses per card. Keep the ones you’re currently working on handy – in your kitchen, your office, even in your pocket or purse.
- Re-read them every chance you get, out loud when possible, and occasionally re-write them. Every time you work on the same verse, that memory is reinforced and becomes easier to recall.
Memory is a complex brain function but not that complicated. Each individual step in the process of learning is stored in its own memory cell. Plus, each combination of those steps is stored in a different memory cell. For instance,
Seeing a word = 1 memory cell
Thinking about meaning of the word = 1
Combination of seeing and thinking about the word = 1
Total = 3 places that word is stored
Seeing the word = 1
Thinking about meaning of the word = 1
Speaking the word out loud = 1
Hearing the word spoken = 1
Seeing and thinking = 1
Seeing and speaking = 1
Seeing and hearing = 1
Thinking and speaking = 1
Thinking and hearing = 1
Hearing and speaking = 1
Thinking and seeing and speaking = 1
Thinking and seeing and hearing = 1
Total = 12
Hope I didn’t miss any combinations… When you add any element to this process, such as speaking out loud (movement of your lips and tongue), or writing (movement of your hand, gripping the pen, putting the pen to paper) you add each step and each combination of steps — multiplying many times over the places in your brain that memory is stored.
Every time you do this with the same word (or verse), other memory cells store that same information and the ones where it is already stored are reinforced. If you include background elements such as music playing, fragrances wafting through the room, or walking around while reading, the memory effect is multiplied exponentially.
Here are some excellent verses to remember, and why we should remember them.
- “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
- “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (I Peter 2:1-3)
- “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9)
- “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (II Peter 1, v2)
- “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (v3)
- “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (v4)
- “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;” (v5)
- “and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;” (v6)
- “and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (v7)
- “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v8)
- “But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” (v9)
- “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” (v10)
- “and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v11)
Learning and remembering the scriptures is essential for increasing our knowledge of God’s word and will, and with it, increasing our faith.
For part one, see Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Really?
No bill collectors calling, no kids sick or flunking, no major house or car troubles. Mostly happy. Pretty much satisfied with life.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “A state of peaceful happiness: satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more.”
That’s what I always thought contentment was. Not exuberant joy, but not bad. If circumstances lined up, then I’d be content.
Of course, it did depend on those circumstances… there have been days when I wanted to yell and throw things. At the wall, at other people, at God. When I was angry, frustrated, exasperated and afraid. When I wanted to curl up in bed all day, take pain pills or sleeping pills or “chill pills.” Give up and quit everything.
Times when I had to bite my tongue to keep from speaking my mind, had to leave the room to keep from lashing out at my children. Disappointed. Hurt. Broke. Hungry. No joy. Not much faith. Certainly no contentment. When I had to make a decision, grit my teeth and say, I will survive this. I will survive this. God, you have to help me! And he did.
In his thank-you letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote:
“Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance.
“I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.
“I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” (Phil. 4:11-13 AMP)
“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received (accepted), and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil. 4:9 KJV)
Here are a couple of interesting definitions from the Greek:
- Learned – manthano – to be apprised; to hear, be informed; to be increased in knowledge; to learn by use and practice; to be in the habit of, accustomed to.
- Content – autarkes – sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances; contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest.
Hmmm. He was chained up in prison when Paul wrote the book of Philippians. By then he’d been traveling, working, preaching and teaching for over 25 years.
When he first started preaching, you’d think everybody would be so excited. And some folks were, but some were suspicious (rightly so, considering) and some were murderous. (Acts 9:20-31). He had to escape from Damascus over the city wall in a basket, and then escape from Jerusalem to Caesarea, where friends arranged to ship him back home to Tarsus.
Over the years Paul had lots of opportunities to see God perform spectacular miracles, acquire lots of friends and supporters, and write lots of letters. Along the way he also saw the enemy stir up lots of opposition, some of it vicious. Some of it downright terrifying.
… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (II Cor. 11:23-28 NIV)
So did Paul’s inner attitude fluctuate up and down with whatever was happening, as ours is apt to do? It may have, in the beginning. He certainly had a right, if anyone had! It takes time for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to grow, time to learn a new habit, make a new response.
He had to learn some things as a baby Christian just like we do. Contentment was one of those things. He learned it by being taught by someone, by listening, paying attention, making a decision to go for it, and by experience – by putting into practice what he was learning. Same way we have to learn it.
Who taught Paul to be content that way, despite the circumstances? The Teacher. The Holy Spirit. The same indwelling Spirit of God who will help us learn contentment, too. It takes practice – a lot of practice! But it’s a lesson worth learning.
God’s grace isn’t always “good” like gooey apple pie, moist pound cake or luscious love songs. Sometimes it’s power tools. Weed killer. Paper towels. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, for whatever he wants to do through you – that’s grace.
Here’s a related post from last year… https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/the-anointing/