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Imagine a wee little spring bubbling and gurgling, laughing and splashing life giving water on it’s surroundings. We see beauty in the rock’s hidden treasures that only wetness can bring. Our eyes caress the little mountain wildflowers and we wonder at that perfect shade of lavender. The little spring accomplishes so much as it feeds life into it’s environment.
“But whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be more thirsty again. The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
The Holy Spirit lives within those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Transformed and made whole hearts happen because of the up-springing of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is the spring within us that gives us victory over our old life, makes real the things of Christ, and helps us realize the Fatherhood of God.
When the Holy Spirit can flow through our lives unquenched and ungrieved, he takes up our troubles and fears and settles them for us according to God’s will. The Holy Spirit makes a way for our outer lives to be the unforced reflection of an inner life which is pure, full of tenderness, looks on humanity with a heart of love, and watches for opportunities to offer a helping hand to lift up the oppressed and weary.
The power of God lives within us like the little spring in the woods. Sometimes we wonder if it will ever run dry, but then we hear the whisper of the upper spring assuring us that we’re connected to a much bigger source that will never run dry. It’s only risks are blockages to the flow. Muddy leaves or falling branches will prevent the grand-daddy springs from feeding the little spring.
What blocks the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
Grieving the Spirit
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:30-31
Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice grieve the Holy Spirit. Every time we justify one of these by saying, “God made me with a quick temper, it’s just the way I am, he’ll understand.” It might be the way you are, but have you considered the consequences to the person you took your quick anger out on? We don’t live as isolated islands, but intertwined and inter-dependent on one another.
All the things we keep in our hearts, defended, hidden, petted, and justified choke the inlet and outlet of the Holy Spirit in our life.
Quenching the Spirit
“Do not quench the spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19
Is it easy or hard for you to say yes to God? When God says to pray, do you? When he says be still, do you get busy? When he says give your time or money, do you find ways to get out of it?
Each time we say “no” to the command to pray, give, or serve, we block the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Say yes with your whole heart.
My beautiful friends, it’s not about getting more of God in you by praying harder or doing more, it’s about taking into account the fact that you have him already. As C. I. Scofield states, “If you really believe that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in your mortal body, a transformation of life has begun.”
We don’t base this God-life on feelings but by receiving the facts by faith. God lives within you, you are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ, and the Holy Spirit lives within you. Those are facts that you can receive by faith.
What does freedom look like?
When I think of freedom I think of jubilant dancing, arms lifted high, lots and lots of chocolate and comfy spaces with a great view. I don’t think of deserts or cliffside trails or enemies.
Freedom leads us into some pretty lean places, spacious places, and scary spaces. But through it all, God is with us. In fact, He is the one who leads us into these not so friendly, seemingly freedom stealing journeys.
But that’s the thing. Wouldn’t life get boring if all we did was sit around drinking sweet tea and nibbling on carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (did I mention it’s 3 layers of yummy goodness)? Wouldn’t it get a little bland and we’d go looking for adventure?
Usually when I go looking for adventure, I walk into some trouble that I need rescuing from. But walking in freedom with God means He leads us on adventures that can be fraught with danger and safety all at once.
He is our safety and life with him is our adventure.
But it doesn’t seem that way when we’ve been wandering in the desert and we’re desperate for drink.
It seems scary when we’re on a narrow trail with our backs pressed to the rocky cliff and our toes hanging over a precipice, and God calls us to keep walking.
We wonder if we’ve been left to die when we look up and see we’re surrounded by our enemies.
We can echo the psalmist in Psalm 18:30, “As for God, his way is perfect, the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him,” when we find ourself on a seemingly narrow passage with sheer cliff face on one side and the depths on the other because verse 33 states, “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.”
We will find ourselves in death defying heights or the depths of despair in this freedom journey, but also in the presence of the living God who calls the stars by name, knows every hair on our heads, and who holds us close to his heart.
We need not fear when God calls us to the desert, or waters, or fire because he is with us. He guides us with his staff and protects us from enemies. The question is, will you give up your idea of freedom and exchange for a life of freedom adventure.
Our idea of freedom is perilous because it places us on the sidelines, nibbling on bonbons while life is lived around us. And pretty soon, those bonbons become like a chain and we’re back in bondage.
Freedom is a gift so that you can walk confidently in all that God has called you to, whether it’s raising your kids, managing your employees, serving your customers, or loving your neighbor.
In Psalm 23 we have the perfect description of a life of adventurous freedom. God leads us beside still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death. He guides us in righteousness and spreads a table for us in the presence of our enemies.
He is with us and goodness and mercy follow us.
Trust him to guide you, never take your eyes off him, and listen for his heartbeat.
Can you imagine leading a people who constantly opposed you? Who constantly accused you of trying to harm them? Who longed for the benefits of the land of their bondage and who found freedom too burdensome? This was Moses’ experience.
But every time the people opposed Moses, he had the same response: he fell facedown. He fell facedown before God and waited for God to speak. Moses knew a secret that we could all learn when faced with opposition. Humility.
What does that have to do with forgiveness? Everything. It shows Moses’ heart towards people, his security in his identity as a child of God, and his awareness of who he is without God.
The underbelly of unforgiveness is a form of pride. Unforgiveness says, “How dare anyone hurt me or treat me that way? Who do they think they are?” But underneath those questions is a more pointed thought, “I would never treat anyone that way.” But there isn’t a perfect person who responds perfectly in all situations. Careless remarks can hurt just as bad as deliberate remarks.
It would look pretty silly if every time someone opposed us, we dropped to our face in front of them. But what if we trained our hearts to immediately take that posture? Can unforgiveness stand if the heart is bowed low before God?
Moses knew this secret. He also knew the secret of Luke 6:27-36, which contains Jesus’ teachings on loving your enemies. This passage has the theme of forgiveness woven into it because we can’t love our enemies if we harbor resentment and bitterness towards those who wound us.
Do good to those who hate you. How? What? Why? I’ve failed at this spectacularly. Especially when I’m face to face with this person. Can I tell you a secret? On the days I do good to someone who can’t stand me, I experience a hop in my heart and a skip in my step. I feel lighter, happier, and more joy filled. But it’s hard.
Our natural inclination is to withhold good from someone who doesn’t deserve it. But do we really get to decide if someone “deserves” good? We can’t go around with a naughty or nice list. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, and your neighbor is anyone whom you have contact with: enemies or friends.
Bless those who curse you. If doing good is about our actions towards our enemies, then blessing them is about our words. How will you speak to your enemy today? Will it be with courtesy or contempt? What about your thoughts? Thoughts are words unspoken, and thoughts eventually make their way into the world.
The power of life and death is in the tongue and what we speak is the overflow of our hearts. Speak words of life. Speak with gentleness, watch your tone, and put on a smile. This will take superhuman strength, but if you know Christ as your Savior and Lord, then you have His strength and power living in you. Use it.
Pray for those who mistreat you. Prayer is our number one tool that God gives us, but it’s often the last tool we reach for. Why? Because when we begin to pray in earnest for someone one of two things happens: we develop compassion for them and/or we see our own weaknesses. Neither one of these things are wrong, but they make us uncomfortable because they challenge our secret resentments.
At times, we won’t know how to pray, but we can follow Paul’s example in Romans where he groaned his prayers. Or we can turn to the Psalms and see how David prayed when he was beset with troubles. He poured out his heart–ugliness and all–but then he turned his heart towards praise.
Have a generous heart towards them. Be helpful. If they need something, step in and offer your assistance. Being generous with your time, your compassion, and your interest in someone’s life paves the way for love to flow from your heart to theirs. But what if someone takes advantage of you over and over again?
Yes, boundaries are important. Time to heal is necessary. Trust is not the same as forgiveness. The key in all of this is to stay close to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit lead you. It also means that you don’t allow one horrific experience to cloud your judgement that all people are out to hurt you. Being generous means entering into relationships with an open heart, not judging a person based on a past experience. Be wise, but gentle.
Be merciful. God is full of mercy. We only have to read the book of Numbers to see example after example of the Israelites treating God and Moses with contempt and God not destroying them. Mercy is defined as not getting what you deserve. Your enemy might deserve your contempt, hatred, and slander. But to show mercy means that you don’t give them that.
Mercy takes the high road, not out of pride, but out of love. Love for God and for people. But in order to be able to extend that kind of mercy, you must receive it for yourself. When was the last time you fell facedown before God because you did or said something so wretched that you knew without a shadow of doubt that you didn’t deserve his mercy. Yet, He gives it to you anyway as you humble yourself before Him.
Forgiveness brings us full circle with humility in its center. In order for us to receive forgiveness from God, we must first humble ourselves before God. And then, we can extend that forgiveness to others.
Loving our enemies finds its roots in developing a lifestyle of walking in forgiveness.
We develop a forgiveness mindset by doing good, blessing others, praying for our enemies, cultivating a generous heart, and extending mercy.
Always, always, always rely on and look to the Holy Spirit for direction and guidance. It’s through His strength not your own that makes the impossible possible.