Gates: In and Out

I paused when I read Jesus’ words in John 10:9. “I am the gate.While I meditated upon these words, I also reflected upon my childhood experiences with a gate. Two gates. Did the gate have a similar function in both instances?

A gate allows for entrances and exits.

While growing up, we lived on a farm. Our home and surrounding yard were enclosed by a fence. The fence had a gate. The purpose of the gate was to keep children in and chickens out. Children benefited from the safety of a smaller space on a big farm. While chickens needed to roam freely, we did not want them destroyubg flowerbeds near the house.

Children in and chickens out. How does this apply to Jesus?

To fully understand the function of Jesus as a gate, we need to continue reading Jesus’ words in John 10:9. “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.

I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” When we are purified of unrighteousness, sin is out! In addition to forgiving our sins, Jesus also functions as a gate keeping sin out. Sin and chickens out!

Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.Ephesians 5:18 goes on to say, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit lives within us when we enter through the gate of Christ. Holy Spirit and children in!

Let’s think about what we want to keep within our lives and what we want to throw out when Jesus is the gate to our hearts.

Out with religion and in with relationship. We experience more intimacy with Jesus when we allow Him to be the gate of our heart. Our faith is no longer simply based upon obeying religious laws.

Our soul is composed of mind, will and emotions. All three are affected when Jesus is our gate.

According to I Corinthians 2:16, we can have the mind of Christ. This is possible when Jesus is the gate protecting our minds. I Corinthians 2:14 KNJV tells us “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.However, verse 10 says that God reveals things to us by His Spirit. So, out with the natural mind and in with the spiritual mind.

Our will undergoes a change from “mine” to “Thine” when Jesus is our gate. Jesus taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.We must let go of our selfish desires and yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  This requires humility. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves.Romans 12:16 simply warns, “Do not be proud.” Ephesians 4:2 exhorts us, “Be completely humble and gentle.Out with pride and in with humility.

Our emotions are also affected when we allow Jesus to be our gate. Negative emotions must be replaced with positive ones. We want to kick out worry and fear. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.. . . Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Jesus says in John 14:27 NLT, I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. . . . So don’t be troubled or afraid.Then I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.Worry out and peace in. Fear out and love in.

As a child, I thought it was fun to swing back and forth on our farm gate. This activity defeated the gate’s purpose. Proverbs 4:23 NLT says, “Guard your heart above all else.Make sure Jesus, the gate, is in control of what enters and exists your heart. What we allow to enter our mind, will and emotions affects our spiritual life. Let us keep Jesus in our heart and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Bible warns us about vacillating (swinging back and forth) in our faith. Mark 11:23 encourages us not to doubt in our heart but believe.

Whether thinking about physical or spiritual structures, we always enter and exit through gates. Physical gates remind me that Jesus is our spiritual gate. A physical gate provides for children in and chickens out. A spiritual gate keeps sin out and allows the Holy Spirit in. Let’s keep our gates in place.

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Rocks and Stones

The coastline of Lake Ontario is diverse. Occasionally, we go to Webster Park where the shore is lined with rocks and stones. It is harder to walk with rocks and stones underfoot but the terrain does not wash away as easily as sand.

What does scripture say about rocks and stones?

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
Exodus 24:12

The 10 Commandments were engraved on tablets of stone. God gave them to Moses. The purpose was to lead the Israelites to a life of practical holiness. Today, these commandments continue to be guiding principles of life. We will not find these stone tablets on our rocky beach, but we can collect 10 stones and meditate upon the meaning of the 10 Commandments.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:
2

Children often gather rocks and build forts on the beach. We can gather rocks from the Psalms and build a fortress of faith. God is often described as our rock in the Bible.

I will give you a new heart and a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Ezek
iel 3626-27 NKJV

If I get a little stone in my shoe, it irritates and hurts while walking. I want to remove it. Think about what a person with a stony heart must experience. A hard-hearted person may irritate or hurt others without realizing it. God wants to remove a stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh. Then He pours out the Holy Spirit upon this person so he/she can walk according to God’s way. His way is not irritating. It is easier to walk on the stony beach than to walk through life with a stony heart.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Psalm 118:22

There are several scriptural stones that remind us that Jesus is the cornerstone. The gospel writers of Matthew Mark and Luke all quote this verse. Jesus is also referred to as the cornerstone in Acts 4:11. When a building was being constructed in Bible times, a cornerstone was the standard to make sure the other stones of a building were straight and level. Jesus’ life and teachings are the church’s foundation. While there are no cornerstones among our rocks and stones on the beach, stones are a good reminder of Jesus.

You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. . . .
As the Scriptures say,
“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, . . .
Yes, you who trust Him recognize the honor God has given Him.
But for those who reject
Him,
The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the
cornerstone.
And,
He is the stone that makes people stumble,
the
rock that makes them fall.”
I Peter 2:5-8 NLT

So many stones on the beach. Stepping stones and stumbling stones. We can step on stones to prevent our feet from getting wet in the water. Or, we can stumble over a stone and fall into the water. If we make Jesus our cornerstone, it is our first step to a deeper walk with the Lord. If we reject Him, we will stumble and falter in our faith. Peter not only refers to Jesus as the cornerstone, but also describes believers as living stones. I want to be sure I am a stepping stone for others to know Jesus as the Rock of their salvation. I never want to be a stumbling stone that prevents them from this relationship.

The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
II Samuel 22:7
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Psalm 95:1
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the
Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:4

It may be fun to meander on a rocky reef, but nothing compares to knowing the Lord as the Rock of our salvation! While walking on a stony shore, may we take time to praise Him!

Frequency

Have you ever heard someone make a comment such as “God told me…”? How did it make you feel? Did you feel like this person was speaking authentically or were you intimidated by someone thinking they could actually hear God speak?

Maybe you have been the person who has said “I heard God say…” Were you speaking these words literally or spiritually? What did you hear and how did you hear it?

Is it truly possible to hear God’s audible voice speak words? Yes, I believe it is. However, I also believe God speaks in many additional ways. Just because you have not heard His audible voice, does not mean you have not heard God speak. I believe God is always speaking in some way. But, are we always hearing?

I will often say that God has revealed something to me. He speaks to me through an impression rather than audible words. For example, I may be typing a blog post and all of a sudden I will realize I am typing words that were not part of my original idea. I wonder, “Where did that come from?” I realize it came from God. I was attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

God is spirit and we are human. Having a human to human conversation is quite different from hearing God speak Spirit to spirit. Although we may not exactly hear words, we can sense in our spirit that God is speaking. Job 33:14 says, “For God does speak–now one way, now another– though no one perceives it.” May our spiritual ears be sensitive to the way God chooses to speak.

In Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior, Graham Cooke has said, “Never allow the noise of your circumstances to drown out the sound of the Spirit.”

God will speak to each of us in the way we are best able to comprehend. God may speak through the beauty of nature or the words of a friend. He may speak through inner feelings, impressions, or experiences. Maybe a verse of scripture or a couple of sentences in a book will jump off the page.

Whatever God chooses to speak, in whatever manner, His message will always align with His character. Psalm 100:5 declares, “the LORD is good.” Graham Cooke had said, “You need to be able to tune out the voices in this world that are not helpful and really tune into the voices that will sustain you on the journey ahead.” There are many voices and variables speaking to our hearts. We must discern what is truth.

Do you have a favorite radio station? Craig von Buseck has suggested that God may have His own radio station called WGOD. He emphasizes that God is always broadcasting. However, we must be aligned with His wavelength. Our ears must be accurately tuned to His frequency to catch the signal. Just as we carefully adjust the radio’s digital dial to the exact frequency to clearly hear a song, we must adjust our spiritual dial to God’s frequency to clearly hear His voice. Are you tuned to the spiritual station where you hear God? He may be telling you that He loves you. Listen carefully! He may be giving you guidance or revelation.

Webster’s Dictionary defines frequency as the number of times any action or occurrence is repeated in a given period. This can refer to the frequency of radio waves. Or, it can refer to the frequency of our moments spent with God. We must frequently listen to His frequency. What good is a radio station if we do not listen to what is being broadcast? What is the value of God speaking if we do not listen and obey His words? Samuel said in I Samuel 3:10, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” God spoke to Samuel – and He still speaks to us today.

In Daily Fire Devotional: 365 Days in God’s Word, Reinhard Bonnke has said that we are conductors of God’s power. Prayer is the way we can connect to the frequency through which God speaks. Bonnke goes on to say that prayer is intended to be the grid system for transmitting the power of God into this powerless world. He points out, “the lower our resistance to the Word of God, the higher our power rating!” The opposite is also true. “The higher our resistance to obedience to the Word, the lower our operational power of God.” Hmmm. This sounds like James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

In Revelation 14:2 John says, “And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. That was God speaking through spiritual wavelengths. Finding the frequency of faith is possible only when we frequently tune our spiritual ears to the correct frequency. We must be ready to frequently hear on God’s frequency.

In his book, Frequency, Robert Morris writes, “We are responsible to steward God’s spoken Word. Those who listen to God – receive His word with humble hearts and act upon it – will hear God again. God will not continue to speak to prideful people or those who do not obey what He has said. God is speaking all the time, but the only ones who hear are those who tune in to the right frequency through humility and obedience.” Luke 11:28 says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.

My Reader, what is God saying to you? Are your ears tuned to His frequency to receive His spiritual signal? How frequently do you listen to the message coming over His air waves? Remember Hebrews 4:7, Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

Praiseorama

I want to create a new word: praiseorama.

My concept for praiseorama originates from panorama. A panorama is defined as an unobstructed and wide view of an extensive area in all directions.

I suggest that a praiseorama is a portrait of a spiritual atmosphere of positive praise. No derogatory words, thoughts or actions to obstruct our perfect view of God. Just praise in every direction.

Click – click – click. A camera records visual images. Then, numerous individual photos are combined to create a panorama. Speak – speak – speak. We declare our praise unto the Lord. Then, we gather together a multitude of verbal declarations to create a praiseorama.

The following verses are appropriate scriptures to speak forth.

Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD!
Jeremiah 20:13

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.
Psalm 34:3 NKJV

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
Psalm 100:4

Because Your loving devotion is better than life,
my lips will glorify You. So I will bless You as long as I live;
in Your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:3-4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Philippians 4:4

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
He is to be feared above all god
s.
I Chronicles 16:25

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.
Psalm 29:2

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are His
.
Daniel 2:20

Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His footstool;
He is holy.
Psalm 99:5

You ar worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor
and power, for You created all things,
and by Your will they were created and have their being.
Revelation 4:11

A panorama allows for an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer. A praiseorama allows us an unbroken view of God’s environment.

My Reader, I encourage you to develop your own praiseorama. Surround yourself with praise – shout it out! Psalm 22:3 says that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. So, as you praise Him, He comes into your presence. The Lord surrounds you when you praise Him. A praiseorama creates an awesome environment that is more than just a grouping of pictures. A praiseorama becomes a spectacular manifestation of the Lord.

Summer Fruit and Spiritual Fruit

Fresh fruit! Peaches, cherries, pears, apricots and plums! Available during the summer.

Spiritual fruit! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, good, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control! Available year round.

Fruit trees and fresh fruit are part of God’s creation. In Genesis 1:11-12, it says that God made “fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them.” Genesis 2:9 stresses that the “trees were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”

Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are the nine virtues of spiritual fruit.

A natural fruit tree produces only one kind of fruit. It is a fruit tree – not a fruit salad! During summer, the tree’s branches hang with an abundance of fresh fruit. Peach trees bear peaches, cherry trees produce cherries etc.

Spiritually, it is quite different. Spiritual fruit is singular and all inclusive. This fruit is within us rather than upon a tree. Galatians 5:16 tells us to live by the Spirit. Each of us is capable of bearing all nine  attributes with the help of the Holy Spirit. Excerpts from Psalm 1:1-3 declare,How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, . . . But his delight is in the law of the LORD, . . . He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

A peach tree laden with peaches does not just appear overnight. First, a peach seed is planted. Then it grows into a seedling and eventually matures into a tree. Over time, it blossoms and produces fruit. We can apply the message of Mark 4:28 to the growth of a peach tree.The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.”

We can learn how to become a spiritual tree bearing good spiritual fruit by observing the growth of a peach tree. Just like a peach that starts from a seed, so it is with us. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become a new creation according to II Corinthians 5:17. When we are planted and watered in the good soil of His written word, we grow in faith. Jesus says in John 5:14-15, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Colossians 1:10 tells us to bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. As with any fruit, we won’t see the full results of this fruit immediately. Over time, it will grow and our ability to offer this fruit to others will increase.

Matthew 7:17-18 tells us, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.”  

Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” The fruit of the Spirit we bear will be lasting! It will not spoil like an overripe peach. Spiritual fruit is not just picked and eaten once. As we offer spiritual fruit to others, the abundance of fruit increases. In contrast, once all the peaches are picked for a season, there will be no more peaches until next year.

We can taste the sweetness of summer fruit in our mouths when we bite into a fresh peach. We can express the sweetness of spiritual fruit when we praise the Lord with our mouths. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” 

I enjoy fresh summer fruit that is produced on trees. However, I also desire to produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life.

It’s vital that Christians bear fruit in their lives—the fruit of the Spirit. But what does that fruit look like? In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of what God’s Spirit should produce

It’s vital that Christians bear fruit in their lives—the fruit of the Spirit. But what does that fruit look like? In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of what God’s Spirit should produce in our lives.

Stars and Sand

It was a beautiful summer evening. My husband and I decided to go to Hamlin Beach. We took off our shoes and felt the sand between our toes as we strolled along the shore of Lake Ontario. Darkness descended and stars appeared. It was beautiful. So many sand granules beneath our feet and so many stars above our heads.

As we gazed upon the magnitude of stars, I was overwhelmed with awe. I thought about Abram, later Abraham. I wondered how he felt as he looked into the heavens many years ago. On one of those special nights, God spoke to him about stars and sand.

Genesis 15 records Abram’s vision and his conversation with God that culminated with a covenant. Genesis 15:5 says, “He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” God intentionally wanted Abram to be aware of the vastness of the heavens when He spoke His words of promise. It is important to notice in verse 6 that, Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

In Genesis 17, we learn that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. The name change was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his future descendants. God says in Genesis 17:7, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.

Years went by and God reiterated His covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac. God confirmed the covenant He made with Abraham to Isaac in Genesis 26:4. “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,.” Abraham’s descendants were increasing.  Their numbers were becoming more like the stars in the sky and the sand on the earth.

God is described as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This meant the oath needed to be extended to another generation. Jacob, Isaac’s son, had a dream about a ladder. Genesis 28:13-15 says, And there at the top the LORD was standing and saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you now lie. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

These scriptures help us understand how Abraham’s descendants became as numerous as the stars and sand. The story began with God’s promise to one man. When the Israelites left Egypt to travel to the Promised Land, it is estimated that there were approximately 2.4 million people. That is a lot of sand granules and twinkling stars!

God’s covenant was a promise to the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Spirit Filled Life Bible says that a covenant is one of the most theologically important words in the Bible. Covenant comes from the Hebrew word berit defined as a pledge or agreement made by God with His people. The greatest provision of the Abrahamic covenant is that it is the foundation stone of Israel’s eternal relationship to God. All other Biblical promises are based on this.

So, how many promises are there in the Bible? I tried to find the answer online. I liked the comment on bibleQ. “The Bible is so full of God’s promises, that it is not really possible to count them. Some people have tried and come up with about 3000. Others have counted 7000. Herbert Lockyer wrote a book called All the Promises of the Bible and claims to list 8000.” God’s promises are as hard to count as sand and stars!

Today, God desires to fulfill more of His promises than we realize. Isaiah 55:11 says, “so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.Going back to Genesis 15:6, we learned that Abraham believed God. So, let us believe. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Paul gives glory to God in Ephesians 3:20,Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” My attention is drawn to the word “immeasurably”. Not only are we not able to accurately count all of God’s promises, but neither can we measure God’s power available to us. Sand, stars, promises and power are all more numerous than we can comprehend.

I recall our starry evening on a sandy beach. Now I understand the symbolic message in relation to God’s promises and power. Praise the Lord for His abundance!

One final scripture comes to my mind. I declare with David the words of Psalm 139:17-18, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God. How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.

 

Happy Birthday, USA!

You are invited to a birthday party! It will be a big party. Over 327 million people are invited. July 4 is the birthday of the United States of America. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the birth of our nation. It will be our 243rd birthday!

The birth certificate of the USA is known at the Declaration of Independence. This formal statement was written by Thomas Jefferson. It was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The original 13 American colonies declared their independence from political ties to Great Britain.

Today, our nation has grown from 13 original colonies to 50 states. We have grown up to be the leading nation of the free world.

Over the years, we have undergone many growing pains. One of the biggest challenges for our nation was the Civil War from April 12, 1861 to April 9. 1865. It was a war within our own country caused by differing views of slavery. Our country was divided into the North and the South during that time. Finally, the war was over and our country was reunited.

As Americans, we recite a Pledge of Allegiance to our flag and country. Through this pledge, we acknowledge our unity as one nation and our dependence upon God and our commitment to liberty.

The pattern for this pledge was originally written by Francis Bellamy in August 1892. After a couple of additions, our pledge affirms the following. “I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our country is unique in that we are composed of 50 individual states that have agreed to work together for the betterment of one country. We declare to be indivisible – not able to be separated. I believe this is only possible because we are a nation submitted to God. We are under His guidance and protection. God has blessed our nation and we must continue to rely upon Him for the survival of our nation.

Regardless of our political ideology, we must work together to stay together. We must pray together to stay together. Titus 3:1-2 outlines a positive way that we can work together as a nation. “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to pray without ceasing. This directive can be applied to our prayer responsibility for our nation.

A birth certificate has been written for our nation. However, may there never be a death certificate issued for our nation!

We will probably not sing the traditional “Happy Birthday” melody at our birthday party. However, I believe there is an appropriate song for us to sing. The chorus of God Bless America by Irving Berlin (LINK) is a wonderful song and prayer for our nation.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Let’s celebrate our nation’s birthday! Happy Birthday, USA!