Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Your Connection to Your Land

There is a connection between our land and our lives.

I got to thinking the other day that the land we live in is a reflection of our spiritual condition. Think of Adam. He was put in a beautiful garden land. Everything was provided for, he just needed to work the land. He could plant, harvest, prepare food, eat, design beautiful and functional gardens, harvest seeds for replanting, and so on. Yet once they sinned, a curse came upon them and they were driven from this beautiful land into a land that, like their spirit, was cursed.

In this new land, however, they had the opportunity to overcome. The land reflected their spiritual condition, yet it also provided an opportunity for them to overcome the physical and spiritual challenges. They had to learn to work a land that was cursed. They had to learn how to handle drought and weeds. How could they survive in this condition? They also had to learn to worship God in this place, which would be more challenging than in the beautiful garden.

In the days of the flood, God brought Noah and his family into a land--the land of the ark. The rest of the world perished in the land that came to reflect their spiritual condition--death.

God called Abram out of one land and into another. He promised him this land, yet he lived there as a foreigner, not an owner at first. Before they could enjoy ownership in the Promised Land, they had to endure a period of slavery--hard work for the benefit of another. The opposite of freedom--working to enjoy the fullness of their hard work.

When Moses led them out of Egypt, their double-mindedness and rebellion caused all but two of the original travelers to die in the wilderness. The land reflected their uncommitted condition. They wanted to follow Moses, but they wanted to go back to Egypt. They wanted to serve God, but they created idols.

When they did finally enter the Promised Land, it was with an army who was willing to fight for the promise and claim ownership of what God had said was rightfully theirs.

The land reflects what is going on with us spiritually. It may represent the blessings on our life, or it may by symbolic of the obstacles to those blessings. It may be a reflection of our call and destiny, or it may reveal the enemy's opposition to that call. Take a look at the land you are living in. Look at your home. Look at your surroundings. What do you see? What are the blessings. What are the problems? ask the Lord to show you how it might reflect what is going on with you spiritually.

Jesus was driven into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He was driven to a land. This wasn't an indication of His spiritual condition, but ours. He was to die for the sin of all mankind and this land reflected that. He needed to overcome in this wild waste land.

You are in the land you are in for a reason. Where you are reflects your spiritual condition, as well as giving you opportunity to overcome the things you need to overcome in order to fulfill your destiny. Ask yourself, what kind of stuff thrives in the land you are in? What grows? What is the soil condition? What is the climate like? What is the population like? Is your house cluttered? Is your soil dry, or hard, clay, or thorny? Or is it good soil? The Lord has a purpose for you here. Ask Him to show you what it is, and how to overcome what needs to be overcome in order for you to live a flourishing life in Him.

He didn't lead you to this land to drop you off and forget you. But you need to work the land. You won't get anywhere if you sit on a rock and pout, or wonder what went wrong or what you should do. Get up and start working the land. Begin by exploring it. Start by looking at the physical place you live, your job, your surroundings, the people around you etc. Ask Him how to thrive in this land. He will show you!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How to Measure Your Spiritual Maturity

There is a way to measure your spiritual maturity.

Specifically, to gauge how well you know God and how mature you are in Him.

When we think of spiritual maturity, we usually think of what we are doing for the Lord, or how we are being used in His gifts. When we come to know the Lord, we are excited to grow and do things for Him. We are happy to give someone a prophetic word, or to pray and see them healed. These are good things and we should pursue them. However, this is not necessarily a measurement of how well we know Him or how we are maturing.

When we think of knowing God we often think of how well we hear Him. If we hear Him and are used by Him then we might think that we know Him well and are quite mature. But remember what Jesus said about those who did many wonderful works in His name and thought that would give them entrance into the kingdom. He said He never knew them and for them to depart from Him. (Matthew 7:21-23).

I don't say this to scare anyone or lay a guilt trip on you. On the contrary, if we understand this message, it will bring us into freedom and growth. The point is, just because we can hear someone doesn't mean we know them. Think of any public figure, you may be able to watch their videos, or read their books and Facebook posts, but that doesn't mean you know them.

Knowing someone involves two-way conversations. It also involves time and experiences together. I once heard someone who was involved with marriage counseling say that strong marriages and families come from having experiences together. Not just communication.

Those who did 'wonderful works' in the name of Jesus but were told to depart were not doing the will of the Father. They weren't seeing what God was wanting to do. They thought they were doing things for Him, but they really weren't doing what He wanted. Consider what Jesus said:
“...Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing;... John 5:19-20
Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, and He is our example.

So how can we tell how well we know the Father, love Him, and do His will? How do we measure our level of maturity in Him?
"If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen."1 John 4:20
When I first read this Scripture years ago I was in denial. I thought there was no way this could mean that if I didn't love people I didn't love God. I thought it had to be wrong. God is so much easier to love than people. But finally, I realized it means just what it says and then I grieved over it. I knew I fell so far short, and every time I got angry or irritated with someone I thought of just how far short I was of the love of God. Then I felt guilty and tried to love people better, but I was often fake about it. That wasn't the way to go either.

Then there's this verse:
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
Everyone who loves knows God. When we love, it shows that we know God. So if I wasn't loving people then that meant not only did I not love God, but I didn't even know Him. This was difficult for me to accept, until I realized that I have Him living inside of me and I can do all things through Him who gives me strength! The love of God has been poured out into my heart by the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:5).

Let's get back for a minute to our level of maturity. How do we gauge that?
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Rather than defining maturity, this passage of Scriptures defines immaturity. Which is jealousy and strife. When we are striving and jealous of our brothers and sisters then it shows that we are immature. If we love, we will not strive or be jealous of others. Love, once again, is a measuring tool, this time to define our maturity. It is the hallmark sign of knowing and loving God, as well as identifying our level of growth in Him.

Consider what Jesus said:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Once again, love for one another is the identifying factor that shows we are disciples of Jesus.

However, we can become more than His disciples. We can become His friends. Jesus gave us His commandment to follow, which if we keep we become His friends.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you."  John 15:12-14

Knowing that love is the measuring device relieves the pressure we might put on ourselves to work hard to please God. You are His child. He loves you already. Just receive His love for you and start from there. We love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). We don't have it in ourselves to love first--we must receive His love first, which He freely gave. Get to know His love and believe that God loves you.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16

You will abide in Him, and He in you, when you know and believe the love He has for you!