I’ve often imagined myself as the Samaritan woman sitting with Jesus by the well. Putting myself in the story of the Bible. Listening to Jesus. Other times I just imagine sitting with Him on a park bench and, in my mind’s eye, seeing what is before me, fields or meadows or flowers. I listen to His still, small voice, which, in a quiet heart, is like a booming burst of love and hope!
As I sat with Him recently, I was pondering being called the temple of the Holy Spirit. What an incredible thought.
“Or do you not know that your body is thetemple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
1 Corinthians 6:19.
In my heart I could see clouds, like a mountain valley full of mist.
Jesus reminded me that I’m seated with Him in the Heavenly places and what I saw was a view from heaven, looking out at the clouds. It was beautiful – like seeing clouds beneath you when you’re in an aeroplane. That sense of awe.
Twice last week friends sent me Romans 5:1-5; such a powerful and wonderful chapter. (Really, they all are!) So, I knew there was a message for me in there. And I loved the new revelation that dropped into my heart. I always marvel at how the Holy Spirit highlights truths I’ve read before and I get to see them in a fresh and exciting way.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
One of these highlights was in verse 5, that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. That really struck me. We don’t have to seek Him ‘out there’, far away. He is in us, right here. Close. When we seek Him, it is not us going somewhere, working at finding Him, slogging to see Him, sense Him, know Him. It’s so much more precious than that. Seeking Him is but a prayer, a breath, a turn of our heart to know He is there. He is in us. Of course, we want to pray and study His Word, to hear His voice, to seek Him. But it is from a place of ‘here’. God with us. How wonderful.
If you are His, bought by His precious blood and saved by His great love, if you are reconciled to Him through His own death on the cross, then know that God’s love has been poured out into your heart! And if you desire this love of God in your heart, you just need to ask Him. Give your life to Jesus and follow Him. It’s His promise to pour His love out to you.
We certainly understand ‘poured out’ at the moment.
Rain! Constant, soaking, flooding, even destructive, as it builds and flows, taking over and building new water courses. Overwhelming.
War. Greed, evil, misunderstanding, fear and stubbornness in poor leadership (world-wide) causing such disaster, heartache, and unnecessary pain. Too much sadness poured out into our world.
But God’s outpouring of love is definitely not destructive or selfish like floods and war. Though the imagery is powerful. How immense is God’s love for us. So overwhelming that it can even wash away the biggest difficulties in our life, it can move our hearts to where he wants them to go, it can create such a shift in our world that we will never be the same. And who wants to be the same? I want to be like Him. I need to be changed, healed, victorious, courageous… These shifts are not usually instant, of course. ‘Suddenlies’ usually come after time and patience, trust and faith. But He is a good God worth all our faith, all of our life, all of our hope. More than a hundred years ago, Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God.” It is still a saying that gives me courage and joy.
Here is a small glimpse of God’s character: His love is patient, kind, everlasting, unfailing, faithful, sacrificial, powerful, cleansing. On any page of the Bible you will see His goodness and grace, mercy and love. We have the privilege of receiving it.
“God is love”
1 John 4:16 (NKJV)
And so, I receive this love poured out. God Himself! That is worth pondering and believing. God, who IS love, lives in me.
This knowledge wasn’t new to me, but it was fresh. And it brought hope. This is the beauty of the Living Word of God.
Like many of us, I have found these last two years difficult. Covid, cancer, fires, floods, mandates, more floods, loss, war… Watching our world disintegrate around us has made me consider and question my place and purpose, my understanding of being God’s person in this world. In some ways I feel helpless. Will God answer my prayer? What can I do to make a difference? What evil is afoot? These questions are good to ask. They refine us, cause us to seek God for deeper answers and meaning. Doors have closed, so what’s next? How do I reconcile God’s goodness with such pain? How do I live a blessed life here while others are suffering? These are questions that have been asked since the beginning of time. And I certainly don’t have all the answers.
But another fresh revelation from Romans 5 also gave me great hope. Even a bit of grunt and excitement to keep trusting God.
“…knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)
As I journalled, I called it the ‘Harvest of Suffering’. I love a harvest, seeing the fruit (or vegetables) of my work in the garden, the dust over the plains as the combine harvesters do their job, the loads of sunflowers growing by the edge of the road. This is what our suffering produces – something worthwhile.
Suffering produces perseverance, making us strong and resilient, which then produces character – faithfulness, being trustworthy, compassion, kindness, courage… Making us like Jesus. Character produces hope – the confidence we have in God’s Word and His faithfulness. Trusting that God will come through for us at the right time. What a joy to know that God uses all of our hard days, all of the trials, our developing perseverance, and our growing character to bring about a harvest of hope. Hope, like faith, is not seen. It is used, like a muscle. It is a foundation to stand on. It is strength to our circumstances.
“And hope does not put us to shame…” (v5 NIV) We don’t have to carry shame – wondering if He will answer us, doubting His love, thinking we are not good enough for his attention and love because of our mistakes. Hope, instead, will wash away any inferiority, fear, disappointment. Verses 6-10 reassure us that God knew full well who we were when He died for us. “Christ died for the ungodly” (v6) “While we were still sinners…” (v8)
This is His great love.
And it is this great love that is in me, poured out through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. So we can stop striving to find, earn or even feel God’s love. Child of God, He is already here. He is in me. He is in you. What an honour. What a privilege. His love, poured out into this temple of the Holy Spirit.
Actions: Read these verses to see some of God’s incredible character: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Exodus 15:13, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 100:5, John 15:13, Romans 5:35-39, Ephesians 316-19, 25-27
In which circumstances will you hope in God? Tell Him. Write your vision and thank Him.
As I’ve been contemplating ‘Truth’ in the midst of these disturbing times, I’ve been reminded to keep my eyes on Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); to spend time with Him – in prayer, worship, and the Word, and to continue to join with other believers, whether in person (my preference) or through technology (sadly, my main option at the moment, though I’m grateful for that). Our hearts are revived and encouraged when we keep our eyes and hearts on the Creator and Saviour, the One who has all the answers. His truth trumps every other thing we read or hear. Even God places His Word higher than anything else!
“… For You have exalted Your word above all Your Name.”
Psalm 138:2 (MEV)
Such an incredible verse! His promises are backed by the honour of His Name. (NLT)
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how we see ourselves, and God, and why we think the way we do. Where we get our information from is critical. Truth is so important. It effects the path our lives take. You can read Part 1 here –
How we engage with His word and the way wereceive that Truth, will make a critical difference to how our life looks. This is described by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower.
“Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”
Jesus goes on to explain, “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word they quickly fall away.” (v 20-21)
Rocky ground doesn’t have enough soil or moisture to sustain growth in a plant. It needs soil and compost to be added. It needs a source of water, and the rocks need to be removed for the garden to flourish, so the seeds can grow without hindrance.
It’s easy to see how this relates to our lives:
We might feel drained, like dry ground, and need a refreshing from Jesus, our Living Water, from the Word, or just some encouragement from a friend. Our hard journeys might need some TLC to keep us going – a revelation from Jesus, some worship, a fun activity that acts like ‘compost’ to boost us, or some counselling that is like fresh soil to our hard ground. Maybe poor decisions or life’s circumstances have you living on ‘rocky ground’ – distractions, hurt, sin, or unforgiveness. These may need to be attended to, put aside, removed, or forgiven, as a gardener would remove the rocks.
Or we may be living shallow lives – lukewarm, inattentive to Christ.
“But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
James 1 :22
We want to be authentic, not living in legalism or religious habits that have no lasting effect, not holding to traditions that bind us to the world, instead of setting us into God’s freedom. Nobody wants to be called ‘shallow’. Having a deep, authentic faith not only helps our lives grow, but it is also what the world needs to see and experience. Religious traditions that have outlived their ‘use by’ date, words without actions, preaching without truth and love – these ‘rocks’ need to be put aside for a true following of Christ and His Word.
“Thus, you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.”
Mark 7:13 (NIV)
Sin, of course, is another rock to remove, along with the shame and guilt that comes with it. But how easy this is when we go to Jesus, the One who forgives, and bring our lives to Him, receiving in turn His mercy, grace, forgiveness and assurance.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
“…Instead with a sensitive spirit we absorb God’s Word, which has been implanted within our nature, for the Word of Life has power to continually deliver us.”
James 1:21 (TPT)
“Prepare the way for the people, build up, build up the highway! Take out he stones, lift up a banner for the peoples.”
And what of our friends who are new to faith? We can be people who remove the ‘rocks’ which hinder their growth. We can speak words of hope to those who need encouragement, truth to those who are struggling with their self-image, like giving water to the thirsty. We can be forgiving, generous, and gracious to those who have a poor image of Jesus and His church, or do our best to remove offenses that block ears to the gospel. Just maybe, our love will gently remove a rock of condemnation in another’s heart, instead of having it hurled at us by someone who has only seen hypocrisy. (And sometimes they will be thrown in any case.) As believers, we want to bring a confident, trustworthy faith to those around us – to help build their own faith and trust, and to give them time to develop a deep, strong root in their hearts. This will help keep them grounded even in a time of testing, instead of withering or being scorched. We have an enemy and so do our new friends. Let’s help protect them.
It’s easy in these times to hear God’s Word and be encouraged for a moment – “it sprang up quickly… and at once received it with joy” – but unless we allow those truths deep in our heart, we may not see the changes we want. Jesus has asked us to act on His Word, to walk it out by faith, to allow it to renew our minds and transform our lives. What a privilege, and what a gift we have in His Word, the seed of God, that can do this.
I don’t want to just hear the Word once a week, ‘receiving it with joy’, but then do nothing to allow the seed to get planted deep in my heart. It takes time and tending, sun and water, protection from harsh elements for a seed to grow and flourish. Let’s protect the seed of God’s Word by meditating on it, speaking and praying it, digging deep into its meaning, thanking God for His promises, and responding by faith upon it. And we can help others to do the same through our encouragement, testimony, right living, and blessing upon them.
“Encourage one another and build each other up”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Ask the Lord who you can encourage today.
Praise and worship Jesus, and allow His Living Water to refresh you.
What truth in God’s Word are you struggling to believe? Where do you have doubt? Meditate on God’s Word in these areas and pray for strength and courage to believe.