When we exercise, we usually develop a routine that we follow on a daily basis. My question is, do you have a spiritual exercise routine? Do you wake in the morning and, the first thing, praise God for another day’s journey? Do you schedule prayer breaks in the same way you schedule breaks at work? Do you pray before all of your meals, regardless of where you are eating? And finally, do you pray before you go to sleep at night thanking God for all he has done, his direction, and the fact that he saved you from things that you were not even aware of?
If not, perhaps, today is the day to establish your spiritual exercise routine.
Prayer only becomes difficult if it is not intentional.
“Being intentional simply means to pray on purpose or as intended.” Spiritual exercise while designed by you is led by the Holy Spirit. This being said, God’s time is not our time. Your routine is your template, the Holy Spirit is your guide. Stay on track and let him guide you. You prayer may be only a moment long, or lengthly. Gid will provide the time and everything else will fall in place.
Looking in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to be purposeful—to pray always. (biblestudytools.com)
Prayers About Praying:
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:18 NIV
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 NIV
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25 NIV
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1 NIV
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NIV
Forest fires begin with a single spark. Our world can change with a single spark, the spark is agape love. Agape love is the love that God has for each of us. And, the love that we, Christians, should emulate and extend to everyone.
Is agape love easy to extend? As humans, we tend to offer love to those who are aligned with our belief systems. Agape love means, extending ourselves beyond loving those who think and live like us. Agape love is unconditional love. “Agape love is a sacrificial love that unites and heals.” Alyssa Roat published an article in Christianity.com entitled, What Does Agape Live Really Mean on the Bible. Alyssa described agape love as being the love of God, that we see through the cross of Jesus Christ. This love saves and restores humanity, in the face of sin and death.
When we practice agape love, we do so out of choice, not out of obligation or attraction, which is conditional. Conditional love chooses to love this group and not that group, this culture, and not that culture, this race, and not that race, this gender, and not that gender, this religious culture, and not that religious culture, those politically leaning in the same way I do, but not that other group. As mentioned earlier, agape love is unconditional, which means that we do not have the freedom to pick and choose.
It is difficult because we are a fallen people who look for satisfaction and things that make us feel good. If we extend agape love to the world in the same way that God sacrificed His only son to save us. It will become a difficult task because the effort does not seek a way to pacify ourselves to feel good, or be satisfied.
The challenge is to step out of our comfort zone and become a ray of love and light for ourselves and for the world to see and experience.
Loving does not necessarily mean that you must like the persons actions or behaviors. It does not mean that you condone those who are doing wrong. It is not a position of compromising truth for non-truth. Agape love focuses on the inner person, the child of God.
Some define agape love as charity. Charity is defined as tolerance, and choosing not to judge other. It means extending yourself beyond your current belief systems.
According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, pages 381-382, agape love expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to God‘s commands. Agape love is not an impulse from one’s feelings, it does not always run with one’s natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those whom some affinity is discovered. Agape love seeks the welfare of all. Agape love seeks opportunity to do good to all men. Agape love is a declaration that you are a child of God and reciprocate His love by loving others.
When we declare agape love, we step out of our comfort zone and obey God‘s commands. Our character steps back when we become more like Christ. At this point, we can begin to extend agape love, at which time agape love becomes the spark that changes the world.
One of the focal points for 2023 is entering the application season of agape love. When you put agape love first in your life, all things come together for your good and the good of the world.
The road we walk is self-selected, but we are not doomed to walk the wrong path, God gave us a choice.
~ Lisa Blair
This is a long post, please bare with me.
As Christians, we listen to God speak to us and then reinterpret what He said to continue down the path of self-interpretation. In short, we change how we should do what He said to soften the outcome. God’s primary command is to obey Him, yet we often choose to ignore His commands for our lives, thus the quote, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Our intentions are good but fall short of following His precept to be obedient. Obedience a requires 100% response. You cannot be 50%, or 75%, or 99.9% obedient. You are either obedient or you are not obedient, no matter the intention. God speaks to us, we either respond obediently or we disobey.
Take the case of Saul in Samuel 15.
Saul Disobeys the Lord
One day, Samuel told Saul:
The Lord told me to choose you to be king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord: 2 “When the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked them. I am the Lord All-Powerful, and now I am going to make Amalek pay!
The Kenites left, 7 and Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah[b] to Shur, which is just east of Egypt. 8 Every Amalekite was killed except King Agag. 9 Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn’t want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak.[c]
The Lord Rejects Saul
10 The Lord told Samuel, 11 “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king.”
Samuel was angry, and he cried out in prayer to the Lord all night. 12 Early the next morning he went to talk with Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to Carmel, where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory. Then he left for Gilgal.”
13 Samuel finally caught up with Saul,[d] and Saul told him, “I hope the Lord will bless you! I have done what the Lord told me.”
14 “Then why,” Samuel asked, “do I hear sheep and cattle?”
15 “The army took them from the Amalekites,” Saul explained. “They kept the best sheep and cattle, so they could sacrifice them to the Lord your God. But we destroyed everything else.”
16 “Stop!” Samuel said. “Let me tell you what the Lord told me last night.”
“All right,” Saul answered.
17 Samuel continued, “You may not think you’re very important, but the Lord chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel. 18 When the Lord sent you on this mission, he told you to wipe out those worthless Amalekites. 19 Why didn’t you listen to the Lord? Why did you keep the animals and make him angry?”
20 “But I did listen to the Lord!” Saul answered. “He sent me on a mission, and I went. I captured King Agag and destroyed his nation. 21 All the animals were going to be destroyed[e] anyway. That’s why the army brought the best sheep and cattle to Gilgal as sacrifices to the Lord your God.”
22 “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23 Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can no longer be king.”
26 “No!” Samuel replied, “You disobeyed the Lord, and I won’t go back with you. Now the Lord has said that you can’t be king of Israel any longer.”
27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the edge of Samuel’s robe. It tore! 28 Samuel said, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you. 29 Besides, the eternal[f] God of Israel isn’t a human being. He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind.”
30 Saul said, “I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord your God.”
31 Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord. 32 Then Samuel shouted, “Bring me King Agag of Amalek!”
Agag came in chains,[g] and he was saying to himself, “Surely they won’t kill me now.”[h]
33 But Samuel said, “Agag, you have snatched children from their mothers’ arms and killed them. Now your mother will be without children.” Then Samuel chopped Agag to pieces at the place of worship in Gilgal.
34 Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah. 35 Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again. (1 Samuel 15, CEV.Biblegateway.com)
The Lord spoke to Samuel and instructed him to speak to Saul. Samuel told Saul to “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don’t have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
When Saul reported back to Samuel, Samuel asked if he completed the mission as commanded. Saul said ‘yes’, but as my pastor said, Samuel could hear the sheep in the background. Samuel asked again and learned that Saul killed all of the Amalekites except King Agag and the best cattle and sheep. This was an act of defiance, disobedience. Best intentions?
In verse 22, Samuel said, 22” “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23 Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you…”
When we begin to manipulate what God told us to do, the outcome is not the outcome God planned for us. Think back to when you were a child. Your parents told you to clean your room and then you can go out to play when you are done. Sound familiar, what did you do? Your friends are waiting for you, so you smoothed out your bed spread and pushed clothes and toys under your bed or in the closet. You called your mother, who entered your room and looked around, but since it only took a few minutes, knew something was amiss. She opened the closet, looked down and saw something sticking out from under the bed and turned around to address you. The result was not as planned, you were grounded and could not go out and play. The story is not about being grounded; it is about partial obedience. The moral of the story is that partial obedience does not result in the outcome you expected.
This is the case when God instructs us in what to do. We try to get around the full request. Sometimes, it is because we are afraid. Sometimes it is because it may cause slight discomfort, and sometimes it just does not seem to be the answer we wanted, again like Saul who tried to justify his decision to only follow part of the instructions he had been given. All too often our intention to obey is lost in self gratification. You cannot receive the intended outcome if you fail to follow the full instructions.
Verse 24 reads, ““I have sinned,” Saul admitted. “I disobeyed both you and the Lord. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead.” We often listen to our inner voice. The inner voice is our carnal voice governed by Satan. It is the same voice Eve heard in the Garden of Eden. The intention of this Post to remind us that we must discern the voices, who are we listening to, the voice of God or the voice of the evil one, the great impersonator.
I will go out on a limb and say, when we alter God’s instructions to fit our needs, we reap the results that look nothing like the intended outcome, instead we reap the consequences of being disobedient. We, like the child, find ourselves in a predicament we created by our defiance to do what we were told.
When we disobey the Lord, we are walking down the road paved by our good intentions, but it is not the road to heaven, it is the road to hell.
But this is not the end. The Book of Samuel is part of the Old Testament and Christ had not yet visited earth or had been crucified. The New Testament informs us that Christ died for our sins, and we have been freed from eternal, no escape, sin. We are not destined to walk down the paved road that leads to hell. God gave us the freedom to choose. We can follow Him if we choose or deny Him and live our lives relying on our own decisions, good intentions. I choose to live in a relationship with the Lord. Do I sin, certainly, I do, we all do, that is, until Christ returns to redeem us.
Life lessons provide wisdom to follow our Lord and live by His Word. As we mature, we more readily repent of the sin we committed and over time, no longer adhere to our old habits. We can choose to travel down the road paved by good intentions, or we can obey the Lord and change lanes from the road that leads to hell, that is – self affirming, manipulated intentions, or to coin another phrase, we can ‘begin to walk down the straight and narrow’ the best we can.
God tells us, ‘not to look to the left or right’. Why you ask, enticement resides on the side roads to the left or right. Do not veer. Walk straight ahead with blinders if needed, God is leading you down the paved road to heaven. Proverbs 4:27 NKJV warns us, “turn not to the right or left; Remove your foot from evil.” The NLT version reads, “Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” And, the EST version warns, “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
The key terms are: turn not, sidetracked, or swerve. They all lead to good intentions and are unfruitful. They lead us down the path of disobedience, coined the path to hell.
The thing we all must remember is that good intentions or bad intentions, both driven by self gratification are not a form of obedience. Both lead to hell. There is no justification for our actions as seen in the story of Saul. His hell was the loss of being king and possibly the eventual aftermath. Repentance is the catalyst, obedience is the key in moving forward.
Resources: biblegateway.com; biblestudytools.com; biblehub.com. Images: Google Images, sites noted below the image.
When life feels intolerable, unbearable, and overwhelming, this is the time to get on your knees and pray to the Lord. Psalms 121 expresses that He is our hope to those who seek him. One of the commentaries I read said, …when life turns rugged, where do you turn for help? What is your source for the confidence you need to face the headwinds of life? (Psalm 121 Commentary: Where Does Our Help Come From? ZondervanAcademic .com)
Psalm 121 informs us that we must focus on God and not the circumstances. We must rest on His Word and His promises. If we keep our eyes on Him, we acquire the confidence to stand strong in the face of the circumstance with inner peace and certainty that regardless of the outcome God is with us and has a plan to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. A future we could never imagine. (Jeremiah 29:11)
When we focus on God we do not focus on the circumstances, we do not look to man for resolve. Only God’s power, mercy and grace can bring us through. No matter what, we are under God’s providence and protection. Yes – difficulties are part of life, and there are times when our expectations for our lives are altered by unavoidable circumstances. We may fail, the blessing is that we do not have to face our trials on our own. When we call on The Lord, He stands beside us, whispering directions to our soul. The Holy Spirit leads us beside still waters as our way of escape is strategized.
2 Corinthians 13:7 expresses that the Lord will protect us from the evil of sin and trouble. His protection provides safety and in due time resolve. Lift up your eyes, your help comes from the Lord.
Is this easier said than done? Yes. The evil one will elevate his attack. He will cause you to doubt and loose hope. However, like Jesus, you must rebuke him and hold fast to God’s Word. From where does your help come? Your help comes from the Lord. It is through Him that your confidence grows. It is through Him that you are led to a way out of no foreseeable way.
Looking to the Lord is an exercise of our faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7 reminds us that we live by faith, and not by sight (NIV); for we walk by faith, not by sight (NKJV); we live by believing and not by seeing (NLT). With faith we can look to the hills knowing God is our help.
We have been redeemed. We are no longer bound by sin. We in the practical sense however, live in a sinful world and still have a sinful nature until Christ returns. How do we repent and change?
~ Lisa Blair
It is comfortable to believe that we have been freed of all sin, but have we? Christ’s death freed us from the imprisonment of sin, we have been reclaimed, however, we live on a sinful earth with a sinful nature. Sin is all around us and in us. His death on the cross freed is from the imprisonment of sin and enabled us to repent and be forgiven, but woah, too many continue in their sin after repenting, thinking they got a pass. This is not a Monopoly game. This is our life in Christ. No passes, only forgiveness. This is the key, forgiveness brings responsibility, once forgiven it is our responsibility to stop the sinful practice. This may take time, however it must be done, otherwise we are still wallowing in the sin we were forgiven for committing.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:23-24 NLT. bible.com
When we received Christ as our Lord and Savior the act established our faith in Christ. Through faith we can ask for and accept forgiveness. Our relationship rests on faith and builds on the foundation of faith.
When we are forgiven for our sin, it is an act of faith. Our faith is wed to our relationship with Christ. When we walk in faith, we are following God’s law. The law is His instruction about how we should live. It is not just the 10 Commandments, but all of the instructions written in the Bible. “ The Lord blessed Abraham because he obeyed Him, because he had faith that God’s commands were good and trustworthy…obedience follows genuine faith.” (Life Principles Bible, notation, Edition 2, page 1885).
Through faith we become the bearer of His Word. The Holy Spirit is nestled in us and it directs us, warns us, and guides us. It is the still small voice that says, do not go this way or that, stop-breathe-reconsider, danger, danger. He also nudges us to help others that we do not know or sometimes places a thought about a person you do not know on your heart and it drives you to pray for them – that is the Holy Spirit working through you. When we ask for His forgiveness, we are saying we will set this practice aside and replace it with your Word, we will no longer repeat the practice. Forgiveness ushers in our need to obey. We obey because of who God is in our life, the act is not the work that God seeks, it is His obedience because we truly believe He is our Savior and Lord.. In Galatians 5, the scripture shares,
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16-17, 19-22, 24-25 NKJV https://bible.com
So, what now? Now is the time to obey the Lord, claim faith as our operating practice, repent, receive and believe we are forgiven of our sins. The trick is to ignoreSatan’s doubts regarding our failures. They have been forgiven if we believe Christ is our Savior. Christ is the victor!