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Mighty Oaks

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Because of this, they will be known as
Mighty Oaks of Righteousness,
    planted by Yahweh as a living display of his glory.

Isaiah 61:3b TPT

Someone needs to hear this today. Go read all of Isaiah 61.

Many are familiar with the first two verses of Isaiah 61 in the context of Jesus quoting it in the temple in Luke 4

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim
freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”.

Luke 4:18-21

Michael W Smith’s song Surrounded (Fight My Battles) came to mind as I was praying for several friends and the crazy time in which we are living. Unless you listen closely (or go look up the lyrics like I did) you may not know the meaning of the words “This is how I fight my battles.”

At the beginning of the song, these words are spoken:

The word says
For the spirit of heaviness
Put on the garment of praise
That’s how we fight our battles – yeah!

Remember those spoken words when you sing this song or anytime you sing praise to God. Any time you feel the heaviness of your circumstances, remember that Jesus said Isaiah 61:1-2 are fulfilled in him.

But wait there’s more! He doesn’t just set you free so that you will praise him. Isaiah 61:3 says HE strengthens those crushed by despair; HE gives them a beautiful bouquet in the place of ashes; HE gives the oil of bliss instead of tears; HE gives the mantle of joyous praise instead of the spirit of heaviness. The words spoken before the singing begins in Surrounded come from that last phrase.

Jesus bestows (look that word up) this on those he as set free. What does it mean to be set free? It means we don’t have to sit in the darkness. It means we are not under the control of the enemy who tells you that you are trapped in your circumstances. No, you are not trapped if Christ has set you free!

Let’s go on in Isaiah. End of verse three…

“They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Oh, wow! Re-read that please. let that soak in. Who is “they?” It’s you, child of the most high God. It’s you if you have asked Jesus to set you free from the enemy who was prince of your world until almighty God placed his Holy Spirit in you as a deposit, guaranteeing you are his and his alone.

Watch an oak tree in stormy weather. It may sway a bit. It isn’t immune from the storms but the mighty oak can withstand a great deal. Now picture yourself not just as any oak tree but a “mighty oak, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

This is how we fight our battles! The garment of praise is given/bestowed on us. It is not a garment I threw together out of my abilities or my strength. The battle cry is bestowed on us from God for the display of his splendor.

Thank you Michael W. Smith for drilling that battle cry into our minds with music.

This Very Day

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. ” 
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently.   
Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Luke 4:18-21

This very day
* Jesus brought good news to the poor

This very day…
Jesus proclaimed:
* captives WILL be released
* the blind WILL see
* the oppressed WILL be set free
* the time of the Lord’s favor HAS come

From that day forward, life is different because Jesus [Yehoshua] came with the anointing of the Spirit and the favor of the Lord to change everything.

Do I grasp, can I grasp the significance of that very day? Or the significance of Jesus today, this very day. Do you?

Oh God, that we would grasp each day the significance of your anointed one for this very day.

Got Fears? Get Joy!

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help
will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Psalm 34:4-5,8

It is such a wonderful feeling when someone tells me I glow with joy or they like that I smile a lot because I know that it is only because of the Holy Spirit in me. God is my refuge. I find rest in him. He has freed me from all my fears.

Not sure you can experience God in this way? Read His Word (the Bible), ask Him to open your eyes and ears to what he is saying to you, talk to Him. Listen to Him. He loves you!

God’s love becomes even more tangible in community. Find others who are radiant with joy and grow with them.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER AS YOU READ MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME

It was not a spectacular, emotional thing, but very real. It was at the very center of my life. He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light. He built a fire in the cold hearth and banished the chill. He started music where there had been stillness, and He filled the emptiness with His own loving, wonderful fellowship. (Munger, 1951)

How do you describe Christ coming into your heart?
If you haven’t experienced that, just invite him, he will come.

THE LIBRARY/STUDY

What do you need to throw out?

How will you fill your library?

THE DINING ROOM

What kind of food are you serving Him and what kind of food are you eating yourself?

In other words:
What do you consume in hopes that it will satisfy what you think your desire is?

THE LIVING ROOM

How did your experience as a new Christian relate to the authors eagerness to be alone with Jesus in the beginning?

Do you still have that eagerness? Do you want to have that eagerness?

How have you kept it or what has pulled you away?

THE WORKROOM

Do you know your gifts and talents – spiritual and natural?

What do others compliment you on that you enjoy?

THE REC ROOM

Do you live a compartmental life?  If so, why?
i.e. Christian activities compartment, work compartment, friends compartment, family compartment

What rec room activities do you need to invite Jesus to participate with you or invite Jesus to transform for you?

THE HALL CLOSET

What things in your life do you find yourself justifying to yourself or others?

Have you asked Jesus if these things are keeping you from a deeper joy in your relationship with Christ?

TRANSFERING THE TITLE

When have you felt tired and weary of trying to maintain a clean heart and an obedient life?

How does it look different in your life to treat Christ as the owner versus a guest?

Love never fails
1 Corinthians 13:8

Never – not even at any time, i.e. Never at all
Fail – piptó: to fall; to perish, i. e. to come to an end, disappear, cease (BibleHub.com)

Love never comes to an end seems to be the best interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8 based on the next couple of sentences in the chapter. Would you prefer that love never fails be the better interpretation? I would.

Yesterday, a childhood friend died. She, her two sisters, and parents were at our house a lot when I was young. Her older sister died less than three years ago. If Love never fails… God never fails… moms of young children would not die, right?

Today, an update from my best friend from high school states she will begin chemo on Thursday… for the third time in two years. Two of her older sisters died within a couple years of each other in the early 90’s both from car accidents. If God never fails and love always protects…?

What is your question?

Robert Morris (Gateway Church) in a message on how we can know God loves us in the midst of pain and suffering said that there are only two answers to the question: God, why did you let that happen? The answer is either Because I love you or I didn’t.

Failure and success can be defined in many ways. But a closer look at this passage tells us that the writer did not use a word that we would struggle to define or understand. This scripture says love never ends – never ever, not at all. This we can know, whatever happens in this world, love never ends. God’s love never ends. Never.

Remember, 1 Corinthians is talking about the use of spiritual gifts. Verses eight through twelve tell us clearly that spiritual gifts are for this present world as we know it. Verse eight says prophecies will cease; tongues will be stilled; knowledge will pass away. Paul tells us we can’t see everything clearly right now, but one day we will. In the same way that children don’t understand adult life, our earthly bodies can’t understand what our heavenly bodies will experience.

One day all the questions we have will disappear because we will know fully, even as we are fully known by God right now. He does know you and me, individually. He knows our needs, our pain, our struggles, our heartaches. And he knows how all those play into the fuller picture he has for all creation now and the not yet.

One day, we will see God face to face and all questions will be answered, instantly.

It is absolutely fine to question God. He’s a big God, he can handle it. But I’m finding a better question helps more. Next time you want to ask God the why questions, ask God to reveal more of himself to you.

Read through 1 Corinthians 13 – out loud is best – inserting “God” for the word “love” in the entire chapter. This is who God is. We can’t see everything clearly yet. But we can know that God is love and love never ever ends.

God Is Love

Love always perseveres
1 Corinthians 13:7

Persevereshupomenó Cognate: hypoménō: literally, remaining under (the load), bearing up (enduring); for the believer, this uniquely happens by God’s power  (HELPS)

Translated “perseveres” in the NIV, the more common translation is “endures”. When I think of Paul and the word endurance, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 comes to mind:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. . . . But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Continue reading in 2 Corinthians 6 to see what Paul endured

  • troubles
  • hardships and distresses
  • beatings
  • imprisonments and riots
  • hard work
  • sleepless nights and
  • hunger

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:6 why he endures these things: “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.”

This endurance or perseverance is not about just being nice or putting up with another person’s annoying ways. It is both active, as in persistently doing God’s will; and passive, as in enduring difficulties in the doing of God’s will (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology).

Ultimately, it is about letting the steadfastness of God be your strength in sharing his plan of eternal life. We have that hope, therefore God’s love in us perseveres for the encouragement of all God’s people.


RESOURCES

God Is Love

Love always hopes
1 Corinthians 13:7

Hope – elpizó: to hope, actively waiting for God’s fulfillment about the faith He has inbirted(sic) through the power of His love (HELPS)

Titus 1:15 “we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”

Hope is the source of present strength for believers because it is grounded in what God has done in Christ, is experienced in the power of the Spirit and moves toward the glory that is to be revealed.

Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, p. 416

Christian hope is focused entirely on God and his promises. Primarily the promise of salvation through the messiah. Before Christ, Israel’s hope of help and deliverance was based on trust in who God is and his faithfulness throughout the history of Israel. One reason some Jewish people do not believe Jesus is the Messiah is because they have not been protected and delivered from evil in this world. Their “hope” was for total deliverance from physical enemies of their current circumstances.

The Christian (including Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah) look to the death and resurrection of Christ along with the present experience of the Holy Spirit as assurance of our hope in God’s deliverance to come (Dictionary of Paul and His Letters). That will be the time when all things are made new (Isaiah 43:18-19 and Revelation 21:5).

So how does this all fit into “love always hopes?” Remember that 1 Corinthians 13 is about the necessity of love in the expression of the spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifting is from God. There is no reason to exercise our spiritual gifts without hope in God and his promises.

Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:19: “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others.” It is our hope in God that should motivate everything we do. Not just a selfish hope that we will “make it” to heaven but a hope that knows God has prepared a place that is void of sorrow and pain. God has given us his Holy Spirit as a taste of that life to come. When we operate in Holy Spirit’s giftings, it is for the purpose of sharing that good news with others – giving them a taste of the promise of God. Therefore, love always hopes.

I encourage you to do a word study on “hope.” It has been very powerful for me to see the significance of Christian hope for the individual believer and for the world. I have listed below the resources I used in writing this blog. There is so much more information. As you read the Bible, pay attention to the word hope and know that Biblical hope is far greater than the world’s wishful thinking.


RESOURCES

God Is Love

Love always trusts
1 Corinthians 13:7

Trustpisteuei: to believe, entrust (Strong’s); with the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord = faith-believing (HELPS).
From pistis; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing) (Strong’s)

A quick read through 1 Corinthians 13, a person may read “love always trusts” as “if I love someone, I will trust him/her.” I’m pretty sure most of us have someone in our life that we love but don’t always trust. One source even indicates the word pisteuei in 1 Corinthians refers to confidence in the goodness of men (Thayer’s). That is not inline with my understanding of scripture. And, pisteuei or pistis is almost always used in reference to faith in God or Jesus.

It is my personal experience that because God is love, we cannot have true, godly, love for anyone without the persuasion of God in our life. That is, hearing and obeying Him. Don’t worry, none of us is perfect at that yet. But remember, God is love. He loves you according to his unchanging character. Therefore, get to know God and his love will grow in you.


RESOURCES

God Is Love

Love always protects
1 Corinthians 13:7

Protectsstegó: covering to keep off something which threatens (Thayer’s).

First Corinthians is a letter from Paul addressing inappropriate teachings and behaviors in the church. The entire letter references God’s power and God’s wisdom over and above eloquent words and man’s wisdom.

Paul’s desire to protect and build up the Corinthian Christians is evident in 1 Corinthians 4:14 where he says “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.” He goes on to emphasize his fatherly love for them in verse 15: “I became your father through the gospel.” As a father, he will visit them to find and correct those who are misleading them. He asks this rhetorical question:

“What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?”

I Corinthians 4:21

Discipline is (or should be) always for the protection and training of the one being disciplined or for the community. In Jewish tradition, a father may use a rod of discipline and could have a rebellious child to put to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Paul prefers the gentle spirit in love.

Your Heavenly Father loves you. He is a covering to keep you in peace against anything that threatens you if you will listen to his gentle spirit. Are you listening?

I read a great blog this morning about breathing prayers that I highly recommend to everyone – especially to those struggling with anxiety and fear.


RESOURCES
THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.
BREATH PRAYERS FOR ANXIOUS TIMES; A centering practice for us in these unusual days. Sarah Bessey

God Is Love

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:6

Eviladikía: a violation of God’s standards which brings divine disapproval.[1]
Truthalḗtheia: a mode of life in harmony with divine truth [2]

The two Greek words translated delight (chairó) and rejoice (sugchairó) in this passage are similar. The first phrase – does not delight in evil – refers to oneself experiencing God’s grace or favor (HELPS 5463). The second phrase – rejoices with the truth – refers to sharing God’s grace with another person (HELPS 4796)

So I might paraphrase this passage as:

When my life is in harmony with the reality of God, I will not approve or encourage any violation of God’s standards. Instead, I will share God’s grace and truth in love.

It’s not just being unhappy about evil. And it does not use the Greek word for “hate” (miseó) which would indicate loving less. It is about sharing God’s grace and truth.

Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 5 with the case of incest. The people are proud about the sexual immorality among them. Paul said the sexually immoral man should be put out of the fellowship. He tells them that when the power of the Lord is present they will turn him over to Satan to kill the sinful nature so that he may be saved for eternity.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul speaks of how God’s grace changed him. It is God’s grace in him that works hard to pass on the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Ask God to show you where you have encouraged or approved of evil among your Christian friends. Then ask God to empower you with his grace and to love enough to share God’s truth. Keep in mind you may also have areas where someone needs to share God’s grace and truth with you. Remember love is kind.


[1] HELPS Lexicon | NASEC dictionary; 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
[2] THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.

God Is Love
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