Counting Blessings – A Devotion

Counting Blessings

I Corinthians 1:26-28 (NLT)

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

 

Today is a day set aside to be thankful. Thanksgiving is to be a part of our everyday life as a believer. But honestly, I am not grateful in all things. There are days in fact that I am quite unappreciative of the circumstances that dominate my life and affect the people around me. Life is not fair. It is not a place of equality and seldom do the situations of society make any sense. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) The day after my son was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer, I was in shock. Somewhere in the night, I am convinced that God’s Hand picked me up and began to move my feet step by step. All the life had been drained from my body. My son had cancer. Nobody wants such a diagnosis but as a mother it is a mortal blow that takes every ounce of our being to overcome. Standing in the hall, I was asked the pointed question that might be deemed the first step of faith in our journey. “How can you love a God that would allow this to happen to your son?” Hello Satan! That didn’t take long, huh. The night before through tears of desperation, I told the Lord that I indeed trusted Him. Now my faith demanded a response, all that I could muster was this – “Nothing that I can say will change your mind about the God I serve or His Plan so you are just going to have to watch Him save him.” We don’t always know and understand what is happening in our life let along how it all works together for our good. This is God’s Promise for our life. (Romans 8:28) Not just the entire situation but every single detail in between. He wrote our life out moment to moment because we are precious to Him. I want to be thankful for all the Lord has done. But more importantly learn to find the blessings in everything He is doing and about to do in my life. I must learn to count my blessings in order to be thankful in all circumstances as this IS God’s Will for my life.

Proverbs 10:22 (NLT)

The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich and he adds no sorrow with it.

 

For many years, the holiday season has been marked by looming depression. How could this be with a wonderful husband and a houseful of children? The blues would come around Thanksgiving not leaving until New Year’s Day. I struggled to “make” the traditional family traditions not even wanting to decorate a tree. I never remember having a bad time during the holidays just that somewhere along the way the depression started. But for the last three years, we spent our holiday season in the infusion room while our son received chemotherapy for recurrent cancer. Dinners were planned on Pinterest and gifts ordered online – we skid the Suburban marked “Sleigh” in the driveway the night before the holiday. Where is the blessing in times like these? Are you depressed this season? Are you going through hard times? Are you filled with meaningless sorrow? Overcome by the need to give yet no resources to allow you to do so? The blessing of the Lord makes us rich. If I am not rich, how can I count my blessings? Oh friend, you are blessed. Sometimes God has to take away what we call “blessings” that are not so we can see the true and authentic blessings in our life. If the world can take it from you, it is not a blessing. You can earn it back. As if in a Dickens story, this tells of holidays past.

Romans 4:3-5 (NLT)

For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.

 

Faith is a requirement for every blessing that God gives us. If you can earn it, and it doesn’t require faith then you can get it again with a little hard work and motivation. Blessing is something that the Lord gives directly to us as a result of our faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith in Christ is essential to counting our blessings. It opens our eyes to what God is doing in us and for us rather than focusing our attention on the temporal things in life. Anything manmade can be impacted by the enemy in his efforts to “steal, kill and destroy”. Attachment to these things will cause us to be destroyed with it. Faith is the thing that keeps our heart “rooted and grounded” in His Love (Colossians 2:7) so that when bad times do come, we have faith to hold us like an anchor. (Hebrews 6:19) A blessed person is a faithful person.

Back to my story, so after years of depression followed by three years of battling cancer – I am changed for the better. I know it does not make sense. I am not bitter but blessed. I am filled with unprecedented joy and thankfulness that overflows. It is not because we are out of the woods yet. It is not because we have been granted a reprieve from the hospital. It’s definitely not because my birth mother passed away less than a month ago. There have been so many hardships this year that didn’t make sense. Not to mention, the tragedies all around us. But at last, I am free. I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow holds but for the first time in my entire life I have complete faith in He who holds my future. We have just endured the most difficult year of our life, yet right now, in this moment – I only feel blessed. Abraham believed God before Isaac ever came. He believed God implicitly with His Life, God counted Him as righteous. People are counted as righteous one way – by faith in Christ. Everything else had to be stripped away for me to see this truth – now I believe it.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 

It is by faith that we find life. (Romans 1:17) When we call on the Name of Jesus, we are saved. When we decide to make Him the Lord of our life, His Spirit takes over. The Spirit of God takes every surrendered area of our life and makes good on God’s Promises in it. The problem is that we expect God to meet the world’s standard of living but God has a glorious standard for our life. We find live in Christ by the process of elimination most of the time as fear keeps us from releasing our will to have His Will. So we experience failure, devastation, or tragedy and grab hold of God. In that moment, He releases blessing in our life not because we are broken but because we believed. God’s Promises are not based on our misfortune but His Predesigned Will for our life. You can do nothing to earn God’s Blessing – just maintain a position of receivership seldom taken when things are going well.

The Holy Spirit who lives in every believer gives us the potential to live in the abundance of God that will produce blessing and prosperity in our life. We will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these things can give us satisfaction and contentment that is indestructible and untouchable when the enemy comes calling. Our position of faith secures us in right standing and the anchor of confident hope keeps us from moving in the storm so the blessing of God keeps on coming. You may even find it was there all the time simply ignored in our lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to the things of God!

2 Peter 1:3-7 (NLT)

 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

 

God’s Ways are so much higher than our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) His Thoughts more intricate and profound than my own. I do not know what God is doing in our life but I like it. It is producing a wellspring of blessing inside of us that gives us joy and peace in the outcomes. But isn’t that what a miracle really is? We don’t know how it happens. It cannot be explained naturally. It makes its way in our life supernaturally. This is how every blessing from God works. It comes from the inside out. Faith is the conduit to every single blessing God predestined you to have. Faith is the only way that it’s going to make it into your life. Blessings and miracles are not earned but giving by a Loving Father to His Precious Children. There is always something to be grateful for. Counting our blessings requires faith. Living in His Blessings is a life of confident hope that trusts the Lord no matter how things look. This is how we count our blessings day by day from the inside out. Freedom is found when we live just this way. It adds no sorrow with it. Today our family celebrates life. May the love, joy and peace possible in Christ reign in your life!

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NLT)

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

It’s a Pride Thing – A Devotion

Pride

Proverbs 16:18-20 (Message)

First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous. It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.

 

Just when I think I have a handle on my flesh and about the time I feel that I have dominated my sinful nature, something happens that makes me realize it’s still in there. Not only is it still in me but alive and well in its battle against the Spirit-woman that God is making. I take pride in my work. I strive to work as unto the Lord but sometimes I catch myself glorying in my own successes. First pride and then the crash. It’s like sugar shock. You get all amped up on candy or some other sugar-filled treat and then it drops you like an old flame. Your head hurts and the burst of sudden energy gone. I have found that over the last few years as I have tried to eliminate overly sweet and sugar-filled foods opting for more healthy choices that it takes less sugar to send me soaring and the decent is much more aggressive. A couple small bags of candy a couple weeks ago with maybe ten tiny rounds of sugar made my hyper until my system was through processing it and then my head was pounding with just two single servings. What happen to the metabolism that would eat candy throughout stressful days chased down by soft drinks? I am a new creation. I have been making better nutritional choices while incorporating exercise in my new lifestyle. Now when my body encounters those bad choices from my past, it is quicker to respond to them. My spirit self should be the same way. As I grow in Christ and develop a lifestyle of righteousness, when I do fall down or become subject to my sinful nature it should produce a response. I want to be proactive. I want to stay on top of the sin in my life to effectively deal with it and send it flowing in the Blood of Christ far from my everyday existence. This week I was slighted at work which in the past would have sent me into a tirade, but this time only a mini fit. I became frustrated and indignant at the “gross” misconduct of another that looking back may or may not have been an oversight on this person’s part. However, my flesh rose up within me with the usual gasp followed by “how-dare-they” deep inside and then it happened. Pride rose its ugly head overtaking my Spirit-woman to give way to the “flesh-monster” inside. It was not pretty. I am shocked that it was still in there.

Growing in Jesus Christ is just that a growth and maturation process. A life that is not constantly evolving and changing to be more like the Lord is dying on the vine. (John 15:5-8) Apart from Christ we can do nothing. Our sinful nature will always be hostile toward God. He is the reason for its death. Even the strongest Christian will struggle with pride from time to time, but we must not allow it to live in our life or it becomes our destruction. I must choose to allow my flesh to die day by day and assist in the process.

Isaiah 2:11-17 (Message)

People with a big head are headed for a fall, pretentious egos brought down a peg. It’s God alone at front-and-center on the Day we’re talking about, The Day that God-of-the-Angel-Armies is matched against all big-talking rivals, against all swaggering big names; against all giant sequoias hugely towering, and against the expansive chestnut; against Kilimanjaro and Annapurna, against the ranges of Alps and Andes; against every soaring skyscraper, against all proud obelisks and statues; against ocean-going luxury liners, against elegant three-masted schooners. The swelled big heads will be punctured bladders, the pretentious egos brought down to earth, leaving God alone at front-and-center on the Day we’re talking about.

 

In God’s Great Generosity, He has allowed humanity to choose the “god” they will serve. Who have we chosen to serve? Is it God who we cannot see, feel, or touch in our present state according to natural senses? Or is it the god of man who is self? Even those who have called on the Name of Jesus Christ and verbally committed to serving Him with all the body, heart and mind struggle in this area? Why? The sinful nature is real and credible. It is the driving force of every basic drive that we have until we crucify the flesh to follow Jesus Christ straight to God the Father. With this as our only defense, we do not see the enormity of God and His Power so we do identify God as the driving force of our life. He is God. Big Deal! I know, I know – I am the only one who ever loses sight at just how big and powerful God is. Indulge me in this moment of solitude as I admit that I forget sometimes that God is sovereign and my opinion doesn’t really matter when it comes to God’s Will for me. God is always good. His Plan is always better than my own. It’s a little thing called pride that gets the best of us and we forget just how awesome our God is. We do not focus our life on Him. Out of sight. Out of mind.

I John 2:15-17 (Message)

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

 

Pride causes the need for the Law. Humility comes in the revelation that we are incapable of maintaining God’s Glorious Standard of Living. (Romans 3:23) But our sinful flesh tries to tell us that we don’t have to do what God says because of grace. His Spirit living inside me reminds me that it is because of His Grace I am free to follow Him including His Word that tells me how to live. Pride is a natural reaction. Humility is a supernatural response to the magnitude of God and His Proximity in our life. My best intentions never seem to turn out for the best. (Romans 7:17-20) I struggle to do the right thing and represent the Lord effectively. But the more I try to do the right thing, the less successful that I seem to be. Paul and I are partners in this quest. But when I take my eyes off Jesus and begin to focus on myself, I lose my way just like the other day. Suddenly, my job became more important than submission, servanthood and humility. My pride was bruised and I reacted to the insult. I took offense. Offense is a pride response always! It means that we have disconnected our expectation from Christ alone and given it to someone else. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! My aching toes…

Mark 7:21-23 (Message)

He went on: “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”

 

Pride and arrogance is considered “vomit from the heart.” Oh my word… from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. God help me not to harbor pride and arrogance in my heart today. I give my life to you. I want the desires of my heart to align with your promises not the people and problems around me. I take back my expectation from them and lay it all at your feet where I lay face down from this fall! Pride always lands us flat on our face – but humility prepare us for honors. (Proverbs 29:23) We must listen to our words today and every day. They should reflect our Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ. If we talk more about us than Jesus, our heart is vomiting arrogance and pride again. When we are more concerned with being honored than honoring the One who is worthy – it is time to clean up our act.

Galatians 5:16-18 (Message)

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

 

Are you thankful for His Grace today? I am. I need it more and more each day as I come to realize no matter how far I have come in my walk with Jesus, there is so much further to go. I have been set free from being held captive by my flesh to become a new creation. From time to time my flesh will wage a war in its defense, the Spirit and Truth must deal harshly with it in order for me to remain free! Self-interest and personal agendas are not the fruits of God’s Sprit but personal investments that yield no real gain. God’s Spirit will produce in us that which makes us fruitful in this life and ready for Eternity. (Galatians 5:22-23) Lord, help me to focus on the Fruit of the Spirit today as my flesh lay slowly dying. Fortify my faith in your provision, protection, promotion, productivity and prosperity for my life. Guard my hope so it remains secure in You and only You never looking to self for any kind of future. Lord forgive me for my sinful nature as it is always hostile towards you. Less of me and more of you today God until I am all gone and only you remain!

Ephesians 2:1-6 (Message)

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Happy Holidays – A Devotion

Happy Holidays

I Thessalonians 5:8-11 (NLT)

But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Snuggled up in a big comfy chair with my not so little 11-year-old watching our show, it was abruptly interrupted to bring the decision of the grand jury regarding a young man who was shot by a police officer in the line of duty. Ferguson, Missouri will forever have a place in history. Many people took to the streets rioting based on the rumors and speculation surrounding this tragic event. A moment in time that forever changed the life of many people. My daughter immediately could sense the change in my demeanor as the media panned the crowd outside the courthouse. I began to silently pray for the city and its people. I thought about the family who now mourns their son. I also prayed for the officer and his family whose lives will never be the same. I prayed for peace and protection over the city so that it would not result in more loss of life or tragic outcomes. My children live in a very violent world. Just last week, a young man plagued with mental illness experienced a full breakdown entering the library of the local college shooting three innocent victims before being shot and killed. One young man is not paralyzed from the waist down. He was not some young thug in and out of prison or an ongoing threat to society, but a college graduate with a promising future who lost his way. Another innocent first responder lost his life when a man set his house on fire to lure law enforcement and shot the man dead in the street, he continued on his rampage until he was stopped as well. This wasn’t some troubled neighborhood but that of my mother-in-law for many years. Just quiet streets lined with quaint houses. We have entered the end times. Life does not make sense. Wars and rumors of wars are upon us. There is no going back. We were made for such a time as this.

Enter the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas has always been a difficult time for me. A cloud of darkness usually blows in about now hanging over my mood and emotions until New Years. But not this year… Could it be that I am thankful not to be in the Infusion Room with our son while he receives chemotherapy? This may be part of it. Could it be that my mother has finally ended her lifelong addiction to alcohol to live with her King? Perhaps. Or maybe it is because rather than losing our son, we have gained another? This all is a possibility. This has been a hard year. Though I am quite optimistic by faith of the coming year, I have no guarantee that I will not be presented with new circumstances or difficult situations. But if I choose to live in the Light of His Love clearheaded, protected by the Armor of Faith and wearing the Helmet of Salvation defined as confident hope – I will have joy, live in peace and always be thankful.

I Thessalonians 5:1-3 (NLT)

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

 

It would be a lie to say that things are going to get any better in the world in which we live. (I Thessalonians 5:1-11) In fact it would be a complete fallacy and contradictory to the Word of God. Jesus is coming back. The closer the time comes the more darkness will make its last stand. Our Lord warned us that such times would come immediately before His Return. His Proximity to the world causes desperation as the end nears. This is not a doomsday message to strike fear in your heart but a transparent and candid honesty according to His Word. BUT – the Word of God also says this – I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) You cannot change the world but the Spirit of God empowers us to overcome! You are an overcomer! If you have nothing else to be thankful for today, be thankful that the Love of God and His Will for your life is to be victorious in every situation!

With this in mind – as believers, God has dictated our response to such things in I Thessalonians 5:12-22. It’s funny how the Word of God works. After telling us that darkness will prevail all around us and Jesus will soon come back ending life as we know it, don’t worry about it. The unknown is always a source of contingency. People inherently do not life change and prefer the comfort of the known. This is not the life that we have been called to as God moves us from His Glory to His Glory transforming US as He goes. The strength and power to endure is in us and not subject to our circumstances. Not only must we as believers learn to live in the Light of His Love, we must strive to share that Light with others especially in these dark and confusing times.

I Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.

Respect for authority is lost in our world. The absence of the father in the home may be a large contributor. As head of the family (his ordained position by the Lord), it is has become an increasingly difficult task to instill such respect in our future generations. We have produced young people who cannot succeed because they do not understand authority and the important role it plays in their life. Honor your leaders in the Lord’s Work does not only apply to ministers, reverends, pastors and priest, but every person put in a place of authority. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar even if he puts reverend in front of his name. If you don’t believe me that’s fine. “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” (Romans13:1) Show them great respect. Love them wholeheartedly. Live peaceably with each other comes from respecting authority. God is the ultimate authority over our life. He places the individuals above us in their place. They are accountable to God for their use or misuse of power. We maintain a stance of righteousness with the Lord when we honor Him by respecting the authority placed in our life. Whether their choices are correct or incorrect is not our concern, because our faith in God dictates our response. Faith is subjection to God’s Authority over our life with confident trust that He will make every detail work together for our good!

I Thessalonians 5:14 (NLT)

 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

 

God has filled us with an abundance of His Love so we can share it with the world. People are not your problem. They are not my problem. Sin is the problem. Jesus overcame sin on the Cross so we really should not have a problem with other people. Seriously, there are days that I am sure some person is going to be the reason I do not make Heaven in my frustration. But we must strive to love others as Christ has loved us. We are His Ambassadors to the world in which we live. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) We must learn to let the Glory of God shine through us cracks and all. (2 Corinthians 4:7) What a relief? That means I don’t have to be perfect because I am only a vessel. When I am pressed, persecuted, struck down that His Glorious Love pours out…or at least it should.

I Thessalonians 5:15 (NLT)

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

 

Believers do not react to the news but respond in season and out of season with love. Riots will never be the Will of God. Violence against others will not be either. We must remember how God repaid the injustice of humanity. He did so with love. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. He repays rebellion with love. He covers fault with His Grace. His Mercy lends forgiveness in every situation. We must learn to do the same. This is an act of faith and trust in the Lord especially if you are the victim. Forgiveness is always God’s Response to the offenders. We must treat our enemies as Jesus Christ has treated us with mercy, grace and love. (Romans 12:17-20) A word of advice – you can take it for what it is worth. You must come to the realization that life is not fair. This profound revelation will take you far in this life. God is always fair. He has no favorites. If you want to live a successful and prosperous life, decide to seek justice in the Lord and not in a world that is unfamiliar with it.

I Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT) Always be joyful.

Jesus Christ is the Source of our joy. All of it. Happiness is an emotion based on how we feel and what we see. Joy is based on Who we know, love and trust. If you expect a person to make you happy, give you joy or satisfy your life, you will experience many letdowns in life. Despite the best intentions of people, they will always find some way to disappoint others in our inconsistency. God is constant. His Love is unconditional. Christ completes us. If we will put ALL of our faith and trust in the Lord, He will finish this work in our life and we will be able to maintain joy in the midst of deep sorrow and hardship because our Source is secure. “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (John 15:10-12) When we strive to follow Jesus Christ every step of our life, we will begin to walk in joy always.

I Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) Never stop praying.

 

Have you stopped knocking? Have you stopped asking? Have you stopped seeking? Could this be the reason there is no peace and joy in life. Prayer is essential in maintaining our relationship with the Lord. When we stop praying, it ends our pursuit of God and His Kingdom. It is in His Presence that we find the One Thing we really need. (Psalm 27:4) Everything else is effected by our connection to God through Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

 

Yesterday was a dark and gloomy day. It was raining when I left for the office. Christmas music was on the radio. I was just not in the mood. I turned on the CD player and began my own praise and worship session in the car. Before I had arrived to my destination, I was overflowing in thanksgiving. My joy tank was full again to overflowing. Thankfulness is a decision that I must make. It is not always based on what I see or how I feel but most often on the Promises of God brought about by faith in my life. I choose to be thankful in all circumstances. It is like a drug that lifts me out of disappointment without changing a thing other than my outlook, perception and attitude. Not a single circumstance has to give or situation have to change, but the moment I enter His Presence with thanksgiving I am changed. This is God’s Will for our life to see things through His Eyes. Our pursuit of Christ will always lead to thankfulness which is a condition of contentment. (Colossians 2:6-7) The deeper our roots in the foundation of faith that greater than outpouring which satisfies our soul. God’s Love is more than enough to be thankful for. It produces joy and peace in our life that cannot be recreated by a person. (Colossians 3:14-16) Sometimes thankfulness is a sacrifice when things don’t turn out as we expected or contrary to what we think will happen in our life, but by faith we thank God for His Will, His Way and His Word that will always result in our benefit, blessing and prosperity. (Psalm50:14) Faith produces thankfulness in our life. Confident hope keeps it flowing even in when darkness comes.

I Thessalonians 5:19-21 (NLT)

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

 

As I recently blogged, I realized that I have spent my lifetime trying to un-break broken things. I have decided that will not be the case any longer. I cannot make the perfect life for myself or anyone else. All I can do is point to the One who promises to perfect all that concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) The Holy Spirit produces the fruit in my life to share with others. (Galatians 5:22-23) As He works in me and through me, I am able to extend the Love of Jesus to others. I am able to encourage and uplift them even when I am not completely sure that I am happy. We must not stifle the Holy Spirit in our life but give Him free reign to change us from the inside out. God’s Will for our life is to be filled with His Love, Joy and Peace. Not just during the holidays but every single day of our life. When we decorate our tree each year, I carefully inspect the ornament that we have for cracks removing those which are broken. Many times I cannot bring myself to part with the pieces left behind representing what used to be. But this year, I will be throwing away the “broken pieces” of the past. I will no longer hold on to those things that the Lord has been trying to remove. I will stop trying to hold it all together but give it all to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will do a work in those who commit their life to His Work. This is not something we do but who we allow ourselves to become through faith in Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians 5:22-24 (NLT)

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

 

Happy Holidays! I intend to keep them that way! I want more than anything for the God of Peace to reign in my life now and forevermore. I must decide to consecrate every part of my life to God through Christ Jesus. He desires my whole spirit, soul and body to rest in Him. Tough choice when faced with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and even harder with the tragedies of this world broadcasted moment by moment in our living rooms. But it’s a new season in our house! It is a new day! God will make this happen because He is faithful. I started reading I Thessalonians just to maintain my thankfulness but once again God points the way to living in His Abundance for life. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. I will continue to knock, ask and seek to know Him more than ever before. Thankfulness is a choice. I choose to be thankful. Joy is a condition. I choose to be symptomatic. Peace is His Promise. I choose to have it! Happy Holidays!

Philippians 4:7-9 (NLT)

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. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Hardship to Harvest – A Devotion

Hardship to Harvest

Genesis 8:20-22(NLT)

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

 

As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Of all the things that the Lord could have told Noah on the glorious day that he was released from the confinement of the ark, He basically tells the man “life goes on.” Well not exactly, but it just would seem that after such a long and difficult journey that the man would have been rewarded. His entire family was saved from death as the planet was wiped clean of humanity. But it says right here that the Lord was pleased with the aroma of sacrifice. He promised never to curse the ground again. He could not bless the man in such a way because everything that “they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood.” The Lord went on to promise never to destroy all living things again. Hmmm. These verses are powerful statement to God’s Purpose, Potential, and Prosperity in our life but what we fail to understand that it is all part of a process that few are willing to invest their life in pursuing. Hardship is inevitable in the world in which we live. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-23) Jesus told us that the sin problem would get out of hand. He warned us to be prepared for love would grow cold, passionless and uncommitted. He also promised that the one who endures to the end will be saved. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33) Jesus warned us but also offered us peace in Him. The earth will be filled with many trials and sorrows. It is inevitable. But we can overcome them all in Christ. He promised to make good of every detail of our life. (Romans 8:28) The Lord promised to perfect that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) I know these by heart because although it seems for the moment that hardship has passed, I am still waiting on a harvest in Jesus Christ. Based on the Promise of God to Noah, it is coming. What will it take to turn our hardship into harvest?

Isaiah 61:3-7 (NLT)

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards. You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

 

The Word of God encourages us. But without reading it, studying it and meditating on it – we miss it every time. We read what we want to read and ignore the rest or at least I do sometimes. Am I the only one? I search out God’s Promises for my life but choose to avoid the process that comes with the promise. We cannot do anything to earn His Promises. But there is a process associated with having each one. Let’s look a little deeper into these verses from Isaiah 61 and make it logical. “To all who mourn…” Just to be clear, we mourn when something is lost. Otherwise there is no reason for such an emotion. What have you lost today? The thief (or enemy of our soul) came to steal, kill and destroy our life so it is only natural that we will suffer loss. (John 10:10) Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. The Lord promises those who mourn will receive a crown of beauty for ashes along with joyous blessing which means something had to be destroyed to make something beautiful. In the process of seed time and harvest, a seed must die to its former self in the darkness to spring forth with new life and become a harvest. This is how we achieve purpose far greater than anything we could predict. Righteousness must be the foundation of our life. We must plant ourselves in His Glory. Now the Glory of the Lord is shining bright continuously, it never dims or goes out. (Revelation 21:23-24) It currently is housed in the Presence of God. If we make the commitment to live in the Glory of God and His Righteousness now, it is an act of faith that relies on hope for its increase as we cannot visibly see the Light of His Love in which we will live. Faith and hope are sacrifices of our senses to embrace the Spirit in our life. It says that we will rebuild and repair which indicates that something has been broken. Is that something actually someone named “You”? To “revive” means that something had to die. To feed others, we must produce a harvest in our own life. To be part of a priesthood means ministry. God is planting us today to prosper in this life. Hardship is part of the process that leads to every harvest. But look at the promise attached, “You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Every seed yields more than it is when it lays its life down to become a harvest. Whatever you are going through today is seed in the ground when you do it for the Glory of God by faith and having confident hope in His Promise.

Job 42:10-16 (NLT)

When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.

 

Job went through some tough times. His entire life fell apart in just one day. Thanks to his well-meaning friends and even his wife, the hits just keep on coming. Have you ever been there? Beaten so far down it’s difficult to see the point in getting up? Is happiness elusive today? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Your harvest is coming. It cannot be stopped if you stand on faith, choose righteousness in Christ Jesus, and wait in the realm of hope until it comes. Your harvest is a commandment of God all the way back to the days of Noah. He promised that there would continue to be seed time and harvest. You sowed your seeds along with those tears. Now you just have to wait for it to grow as God predicted and purposed long before your time. Waiting is tough. It causes people to think too much. But consider this when you think about Job, he did not get all that livestock in one shipment. God caused Job to prosper and his livestock to multiple from season to season. He didn’t get a lump sum payment but bit by bit from individuals. The Lord gave Job ten more children which required ninety months or over eight years of pregnancy. Job lived to be 140 years old and see four generations of children and grandchildren. Job was given a full life. Do you see the process of hardship to harvest? God wants to prosper our life. He wants to give us abundant life that is growing, changing and multiplying each day. It will require faith each day. It will be based on hope for tomorrow. It is a lifelong cultivation process that comes into our life day by day. God planned and purposed our life long before we were born. He recorded every detail moment by moment. There is provision for your production in each new day. It is up to you if you will sow it in righteousness or just cast it off as nothing. We must live intentional lives to see the harvest. A farmer must wait for his crops. But the Word of God also warns that the farmer who waits on perfect weather never plant which means there is not harvest. (Ecclesiastes 11:4) What you do in the hard times determine your future? The ground you are walking on is fertile no matter how barren it looks. Faith makes it fertile. Hope gives new life.

Psalm 107:33-38 (NLT)

He changes rivers into deserts, and springs of water into dry, thirsty land. He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water. He brings the hungry to settle there and to build their cities. They sow their fields, plant their vineyards, and harvest their bumper crops. How he blesses them! They raise large families there, and their herds of livestock increase.

 

God is in complete control of the seasons of our life. He intends to bless and prosper our life. Jesus purposed that we would live in abundance. Harvest produces abundance in our life. Reading Psalm 107 makes this process clear repeatedly, as the provision dries up or hard times come – people cry out to God. He immediately blesses those who call on His Name. How? By increasing each life exponentially like a harvest! If you are looking for a check in the mail to change your life, you will be waiting a long time! If you think Jesus is going to come in like Prince Charming and carry you off to a castle on his horse, think again. God commanded blessing in the very life you are living with all of its circumstances. You can make your ground blessed by simply planting seed and waiting for it to grow. Faith and patience are the calling of all who desire a harvest. The process requires certain conditions such as loss, brokenness, death, and all the other conditions that you are facing. Our life must line up with the process

Psalm 73:21-26 (NLT)

Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

If you are reading this today, you made it with a seed of faith intact. Otherwise, you would have nothing to do with God. Bitterness is a root that consumes our harvest. It mocks the plan of God as fruitless. It is a sign that discontentment has overcome the hope we have in God through Christ Jesus. It must be dealt with severely. Your hardship was not meaningless. The difficulties that you faced will produce a harvest if you choose not to give up and endure to the end. It may be the end of your life before it comes or it may be tomorrow only God knows when and where prosperity will find you. All you have to do is remain positioned in His Presence surrounded by the Light of His Love. By maintaining right standing with God the Father through the Grace of His Son, we accept the harvest that is coming through our hardship even on the darkest day. It is in this place of waiting and watching that our roots grow deeper in His Love. When we finally come to the point that our response is “I desire you more than anything on this earth”, I believe that the harvest begins pouring out in our life! When we have exhausted our resources even our self, we accept God’s Will His Way and through His Word. It is this place that we die to self so He can revive us. We begin to rebuild our broken life to reflect what He is doing in us and through us by the Spirit’s careful direction. We begin to see beauty, meaning and purpose rise from the ashes of what has been destroyed. He heals our broken hearts and fortifies our minds. We no longer mourn what is lost but embrace what is coming! This is the life that God has for us broken and beautiful all at once. This is how we get from hardship to harvest! The hardest part of the journey is the farthest part. The point where the seed was planted so long ago and so deep in the ground that doubt begins to rise up and fear becomes our captor! Be encouraged today! Do not give up! Let God’s Spirit inside of you be your strength. Harvest is coming if you have experienced hardship. It is inevitable for those who wait on the Lord. If you but only ask, God will be the strength of your heart forever as He continues to produce harvests from hardship!

Psalm 126

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Think Redeemed – A Devotion

Think Redeemed

Psalm 72:12-14 (NLT)

He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him.

 

The morning after our daughter’s wedding, I woke up to the realization that Thanksgiving was less than two weeks away and Christmas fast approaching. When I tried to muster up motivation to being yet another list, and try to create the perfect holiday season – I found the motor of my mind just wouldn’t crank. The tank of was empty. I had no energy left to invest in preparing, planning and perfecting another day. The last ten months had drained all my reserves. I prayed that the Lord would help me become motivated and interested in the days to come. So for more than a week now, I have tried to get “in the mood” but it just ain’t happening (in Southern terms). So driving to the grocery store for a gigantic haul after ignoring the fridge and pantry for almost a month, the Christian radio station was playing Christmas music. Not just any Christmas music but rather my favorite song of all:

How Many Kings – Downhere

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

 

Tears began streaming down my face. No longer tears of frustration, fear, stress, worry, anxiety or emotional overload, but tears of joy. My Redeemer lives and He did all these things for me. Suddenly, I realized that I could not fall into a traditional Christmas because the Holy Spirit would not allow it. It was Him holding close the door to those things of yesterday inviting me to a new season. But alas, old habits are not easily shaken.

We are redeemed. To be redeemed is a past, present and future promise. First, Jesus Christ paid our sin penalty in full so we are redeemed. (Psalm 103:3) He also works to take back or recover all that sin has taken from us. He promise to turn every detail in our life into something good and beneficial. (Romans 8:28) Finally, the Lord will make up for my suffering in the future. He will sweep me up from the grave just as I am falling, and pull me into Eternity to live with Him forever. Redemption is a completion process. However, our sin and shame including all of our faults and failures often limit us from taking hold of redemption. We are redeemed but do not participate in the process of becoming redeemed so we miss out. We hold on to the past. We grab on to tradition. We allow the world to define who we should be and how things should be also. But today, I have a new attitude. I intend to experience the redemption of Jesus Christ to the fullest.

Psalm 103:1-6 (NLT)

Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

 

Are you redeemed? Redemption comes with salvation. It is the benefit package associated with the Gift that God has given you in His Son, Jesus Christ. Sometimes we forget all that Christ “has done” for us. He forgives all our sins so why do I feel guilty? He heals all my diseases, so why am I (or a loved one) still sick? He redeems me from death so why am I living in fear? He crowns me with love so why do I still feel alone? He crowns me with tender mercies so why am I still beating myself up? He fills my life with good things so where are they? My youth is renewed so why am I tired all the time? He gives the righteous justice to all who are treated unfairly so why can’t I catch a break? How am I supposed to praise the Lord with all that I am when I do not have all that He promised? Because although you have the right of redemption – you have not received it because you simply have not requested it! Let me interject – this was God’s Word to me and I am sharing it with you. Every single promise that God has made me is valid and on point. I can have all these precious promises as a Child of God who chooses righteousness through Jesus Christ. But like any other “manufacturer coupon or store offer”, I must redeem it to have it. Faith gives you the golden ticket. If you are not willing to go into His Presence to have it, it will not work. If you do not wait in right standing for it to come to pass, how can I complain when it doesn’t? We do not believe that God will do what He promised so we abandoned our benefits and blessings leaving them behind in our haste to get back to a normal life.

Nehemiah 5:6-8 (NLT)

When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, “You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!” Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem. At the meeting I said to them, “We are doing all we can to redeem our Jewish relatives who have had to sell themselves to pagan foreigners, but you are selling them back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?” And they had nothing to say in their defense.

The holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas are the most stressful for most families. For years that included me, but this year is different because I am redeemed and have decided to live like it. How in the world the Lord lead me to Nehemiah is beyond me, but when I read Nehemiah 5:1-13, I saw myself and so many other believers. They were all working to set free the other Jews who had been sold into slavery to pagan foreigners. But when the families were reunited, they were now enslaved to each other with mortgages and other unfair obligations. We are redeemed. The Lord has promised to fill our life with good things. This is not always physical things but more often the things that satisfy our soul like peace and joy. When we jump into the holiday hustle and bustle, it can take these things from us that belong to us as redeemed Children of the Living God. We don’t have to make the perfect turkey to have the perfect thanksgiving. But when we are thankful…we are blessed. We don’t have to fill the Christmas tree with presents representing huge financial oppression and overload to have the prefect Christmas – the perfect Christmas came and went the day Jesus was born. The perfect Christmas is Christ-centered. What mattered most to Jesus? People. You. Me. Every other person who we encounter during this season of giving. In order to live out the redemption, we must believe that we are redeemed and have all that Jesus Christ died for us to have enough to remain faithful until the end. Not only of this holiday season, but the end of every day that we live. To live expectantly in the Promises of God remove our need for the world to meet them. We must not let the world bribe us from our faithful foundation and persuade us to be moved from contentment, peace, joy and satisfaction. (Psalm 26:9-12) A bride always changes our position and obligates us to do so. We must stand strong in this season of temptation as our friend, Job who said, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” The Lord will indeed overwhelm you with His Love if you choose to look for Him as the reason for the season.

Isaiah 35:8-10 (NLT)

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

 

I wish that I could honestly say that I intentionally pursued Jesus Christ from the beginning. It was not until I was total desperate and struggling to breathe that I discovered that He was all I ever needed. But once the discovery is made, it is hard to go back to life as normal. I had to trust God because I had exhausted every other resource. I fought every battle I could fight. There came a day when all I could do was trust Him, so I did. Sad to think that the God of the Universe has wooed me all my life. His Son died so that I could live. His Spirit lived within me quietly ignored. Yet when I finally called, He answered like a rushing wind and overwhelming flow that permeated my soul and changed my life forever. To think that I could have missed out on redemption simply because I chose not to live as the redeemed. I didn’t have to do anything but decide to give my heart, mind, body and soul to Jesus. All of it. Every single part of me to have all that He is. I almost missed the greatest blessings of my life in my own stubborn willfulness and need for independence. Jesus changed all that in a moment when I could not even find my next heartbeat or remember how to breathe. I have peace again. I have joy again. The righteous people still face trouble, but they are rescued. The Lord protects His People. The Lord redeems those who serve Him. Those who take refuge in Him have nothing to worry about. (Psalm 34:19-22) We have everything to celebrate in a season that celebrates thankfulness and joy that is found only in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

 

This holiday season and every other day after that think redeemed. I have an application on my computer that when I visit an online store that offers rebates, it flashes on the screen so that I will remember to claim the “e-bate”. When the words of our mouth formed by conscious thought agree with the meditation of our heart which should be the Word of God and His Spirit, we will live as the redeemed. We will begin to accept the Promises of God as His Will for our life and live like it. Do not try to make the holidays perfect – people are involved so it is just not going to happen. When you make it a Christ-centered holiday season, now our expectation is in Jesus everything changes. Work at be thankful for all that God is doing in your life and the provision of the past year rather than getting caught up in cooking too much food and fussing with your mother-in-love. By faith, be thankful for what you do have. Be thankful for all that the Lord in divine wisdom has removed and that which is being recovered to take its place. Moving into Christmas, celebrate Jesus by focusing on family. Adding oppression including stress, worry, anxiety, overload and debt do not represent those who are redeemed but shows that Christ is not enough to celebrate. He is! He has done for our family in the last year more than I could ever do for them. The enemy tried to take our son. The Lord healed our son and gave us a new one! The enemy tried to limit our life but now it is increasing. Our Redeemer lives. His Promises and Blessings our part of your redemption process. Hell was not a near miss. Heaven is a sure thing. Don’t forget to take God up on His Amazing Offers!

Psalm 107:1-2 (NLT)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.

 

 

Breaking Bad – A Devotion

Breaking Bad

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NLT)

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

 

I am only human. The natural response to overwhelming circumstances and the agony of defeat. It is our fallback position in failure to claim our humanity as a handicap. I do it all the time. The problem is that I am not “only human”. I am a Child of God. No longer captive to the empty philosophies of human thinking and random reasoning, I can live in total freedom from bondage and captivity. Do not visualize a penitentiary or prison somewhere with long rows of cells, endless bars and guards walking back and forth. This is not the kind of thing that I am talking about. It is the compulsion that Christians have to revert to their old life but claim a new one. We are promised a brand new life. However, insanely choose to continue to think and act the same way. Albert Einstein defined it this way, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Welcome to the life of the frustrated Christian! It’s time we learned to start breaking the bad things off our life caused by rebellious thoughts and teach our mind to follow Christ out of bondage and captivity to be set free indeed.

John 8:35-36 (NLT)

A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

 

We are the Sons and Daughters of God. Think about that for a minute. If your son or daughter was in some kind of captivity, you would move heaven and hell to set them free especially if they were wrongly accused. You my friend have been officially exonerated. You are free to live in the promises, blessings, successes, and prosperity of God. Are you? Deliverance is not just the act of salvation but the consumption of one’s freedom. We are not slaves set free from a cell, but Children of a Loving Father waiting to welcome us home and right all the injustices against us. But I did all those horrible things before I was saved…okay. So what? The grace of Jesus Christ wiped all that away when His Blood carried every single sin as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) As far as God the Father is concerned, there is no record of sin in our life. We hold on to guilt and shame rather than righteousness. When we decide to break this bad habit, we will begin to embrace our salvation and the freedom that we have to never live in bondage again.

Proverbs 5:21-23(NLT)

For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

 

Every Sunday morning in worship services, people give their heart to Jesus Christ with the best of intentions. They are going to change their life for the better. They will make better choices. Do better things. Think better thoughts. Hang out with better people. They will do better. Well, I hate to be a dream crusher here, but we just cannot live up to God’s Glorious Standard no matter how hard we try.  We cannot do better or we already would have. No, salvation is the first step in deliverance as we give our LIFE to Jesus so He will set us free. Doctrine tells us to “do”. But the Word of God says, “Follow me.” God keeps His Eyes on us constantly. It is not His Intention to beat us down with every wrong move because we do not make bad choices as we walk under the covering of righteousness. Jesus Christ has put His Righteousness on us like a covering so that God only sees it when we enter His Presence. Our sin has been washed away. How many times do we take our sin and splash it through the Blood but never release it in the flow? Sin is the bondage. Sin is failure to trust the Lord more than we trust us. Doubt is the summation of every sin that we have because we put something in the place of what the Lord has for our life and believe that we cannot live without it. There are many bondages due to lack of trust. Anything that you currently are subject to that is less than God’s Very Best is not His Will for your life. But until you let it go, He cannot give you what He has. We must open the door that which binds us in sin and walk in freedom. Worry and stress are bondage in their own right and imply that the Hand of God runs short and the Blood of Jesus is not enough.

Isaiah 61:1-3(NLT)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

 

Flying home from a conference yesterday, I read a popular women’s magazine. Towards the back was a submission about the holidays, just a one-page essay. It’s funny how God plants Himself in our life in the smallest places. He speaks through some of the craziest things. The article was called “Ode to Joy”. Naturally, the word “joy” caught my eye. But as I read it, I realized joy and peace was the writer’s mission not profound possession. After a recent marital separation, the thought of the holidays was overwhelming. She talks about trying to get into the holiday spirit in the midst of unthinkable circumstances. When disaster strikes and the tiny Christmas tree filled with ornaments come crashing to the ground, she breaks:

“My 10-year-old son, Chase, walked in and his eyes widened and filled with tears. I wiped my own tears, plastered on a smile and said, “Everything’s fine! Everything is just fine!” And with that – “everything’s just fine” – something shifted and I was able to see clearly what I was doing on the floor and to my family. I was trying to un-break broken things. I was trying to force my family and my life backward. Back to the “perfect family” box that I’d built…”

Sitting arm to arm in an overcrowded airplane tears began to sting the back of my eyes, as I completely related to this woman. After three years of constant cancer treatment including most of this year, it will be our first Christmas without chemotherapy. Praise God! Another child has flown from the nest, and now she and her husband will visit on Christmas. But I miss the tousled hair and one-eye open little girl who bounced up saying, “Is it Christmas yet?” Our family has been shaken to the core starting with a son spending a year overseas fighting our country just over four years ago, to fighting cancer for the last three to another leaving home. There is no rest for the weary so to speak. Talk about some radical shifts. My life is not as I thought it would be. Oh, my marriage is intact and maybe yours is as well, but perhaps things did not turn out as you thought that they would. My birth mother passed away in the midst of all the chaos of our year. It is difficult to mourn the loss of someone who you lost as a child to addiction. But nevertheless, it is a terrible tragedy to realize that is the end of the story. Everything is not the way I thought that it would be. My inclination over the last three years is to try to keep things as “normal” as possible. Now I am on the floor with my author friend in the realization that I am trying to “un-break broken things.” The Lord is working to deliver me. He wants me to walk in the Light of His Love following His Way to the freedom secured just for me as a Daughter of the King. Am I the one holding the cell door shut in my quest to have a normal life? Am I trying to force my life backwards? This is a good word for somebody today, but if it is only for me so be it and indulge me, please. God cannot create new life where old life exists. Our old life must go away for everything to be made new. It is up to me to decide if I want to be free to live in the blessings and promises reserved for His Children or if I choose to put back together things that He has already broken off my life.

Galatians 5:1 (NLT)

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

 

I am bound (no pun intended) and determined to break bad off my life and keep it that way. As people, we are comfortable with the Law, doctrine and anything that carefully outlines the details and tells us what to do. However, when we are set free without restriction into something completely new it can be very overwhelming. The need for “normal” is a human one. The need for the “supernatural” is a spiritual one. God has given us His Spirit not only to identify us but so we can identify and recognize Him. Only those who know the Lord beyond a quick prayer and occasional acknowledgement will have the courage and strength to break the ropes of sin that tie us to the past and to the way things used to be. The faith that I have found in the last three years is the result of exponential growth. Not because I did anything spectacular but in my brokenness, I went to my Father. He filled every void left behind. When modern medicine could not heal our son, we could do nothing else but trust the Lord. We have the ability to do this every day and in every season not just the difficult ones.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NLT)

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life…”

 

You will never have the power to free your life from sin. People cannot make up for their own indiscretions and shortcomings. Therefore, we cannot free ourselves. We need Jesus. We choose whether we want to live or die. This includes whether we walk in freedom or choose to die in bondage. To choose life means that we will love the Lord, obey Him, and commit our life firmly to Him. Forget the “to-do” list, just love Jesus. Walk with Him today. Tell Him your fears, doubts, worries, needs, desires and dreams. Let Him know that you trust Him by leaving them all at His Feet. Those who do will be free to live their new life! You do not have to do anything at all just walk in the freedom paved in His Love! Stop trying to “do” so much. Choose to be a Child of God, live in His Presence, walk in His Way, submit your life to His Will and watch Him come to your rescue! Jesus breaks bad off our life and turns every detail into something good!

Isaiah 10:27 (NLT)

In that day the Lord will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders.

This Close – A Devotion

This Close

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

 

Is God testing your character today? Do you feel the heat of the hot coals of refinement under your feet? Wondering how you got so lucky? Heat brings out the quality of content. Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This is a true statement. God loves us. He does not want power to be our downfall so many times before He imparts all of His Power in our life, the Lord works diligently to refine our character. Power is not wasted on a person with morals and integrity for they know what to do with it. If you have asked the Lord for more faith, or to develop confident hope that will allow you to endure, welcome to the fire! God did not put this trial in your life to burn you out but to fire you up. Refinement melts away impurities so that our real substance and character is discovered. Problems develop endurance for those who desire faith for they will not give up until they take hold of their promise so they keep reaching, crawling and pressing for the end. Endurance strengthens our character because we must get past all the superficial things in our life to take hold of what will keep us. That is when hope is discovered, once we take hold of it and find it to be a trustworthy anchor it then our faith becomes the stability in our life. Jesus Christ will become the Source of all that we are and ever hope to be. Like any epic love story, there is a villain at work. Our sinful nature fueled by selfish desire and need for control fights us every single step of the way. Those who endure will find true character in faith and hope through the knowledge and wisdom of the Spirit for those who love Jesus Christ. He is our example.

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NLT)

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

 

Long before Jesus Christ, there was a boy named Joseph. God gave Joseph dreams of the future that He had planned for him. Joseph was excited about these visions of power and success. He shared them with his family and his brothers were less than enthused at the thought of bowing to their youngest brother. Joseph was born with favor and his father’s clear favorite. His brothers had enough and in an act of jealousy threw their brother in a pit. Pity took hold of them so they sold him into slavery rather than taking his life. Joseph was enslaved, falsely accused, imprisoned and forgotten by mankind. But God was in control. God used many trials to develop Joseph’s character so at the appointed time when he began to excel and succeed that his character prevailed and he fulfilled God’s Plan for his life. Joseph was blessed. (Psalm 105:16-22) “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” (Psalm 105:19) Has God given you a dream? Do you have visions of success and prosperity that have not come to pass? Are you walking through fiery trials? Are you plagued with problems? Are you being tested? Good News! You are right on track! This is the way to the prosperity of God and He will give you success. It will require faith and hope produced by godly character that will endure until the day your dreams come true.

Jesus radiates the God’s Glory and expresses God’s Character. He is our example to follow. God has given Jesus everything. The entire world, everything in it and everyone who lives in it belongs to Jesus Christ. With this in mind, it is of our utmost benefit to concentrate on our own character development holding our life up to the life of Jesus Christ as a measuring stick. Perhaps you are thinking, that’s ridiculous. I will never measure up to the Glorious Standard of Living exemplified by the Lord. You are absolutely right. His Grace gives us the ability to try! Jesus gave us right standing with God which all that we need to be successful. As we reconcile our life to Jesus Christ making Him our example, we are on our way to prosperity from the inside out. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

 

Hope requires character. Character strengthens our confident hope. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for. “Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, but the tree is the real thing.” (Abraham Lincoln) Too many times we position our life to create a good reputation. We care about what other people think more than what God thinks about our life. Those who desire to see their dreams come to life and visions fulfilled must change their perspective. People must become a huge crowd of witnesses to our life of faith. As we strip off the weight of being a “crowd pleaser” and focus on running the race of faith to completion, we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus. He is the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith. He did it for our joy. We make Jesus happy so He walked all the way to the Cross and laid His Life down. He decided to be bruised and beaten almost to the point of death only to be subjected to one of the cruelest and barbaric forms of death this world has ever known…just for you…especially for me. We have not given our life up in this struggle with sin. To have the new life found only in Christ will require it. “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm1:3)

 

Proverbs 31:25-31 (NLT)

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

 

When my husband and I were first married, we gave our hearts and lives completely to Jesus Christ and a process began. Although at the time, I was not aware of the process that we were in one of the things that I decided was that I wanted to be a Proverbs 31 woman. My goals were simple: 1) To be clothed in strength and dignity, 2) Without fear of the future, 3) Speak with wisdom, 4) Instruct with kindness, 5) Watch over my household, 6) Suffer not from laziness, 7) My children to stand and bless me, 8) My husband to praise me, 9) Charm and beauty never to be what I am after, and 10) Character to be my reward. Now at the time, I did not know what I was asking for as I scanned these verses thinking “works for me”. Surely this is what God wants, my husband will cherish and my children appreciate. I did not read the verse from a spiritual perspective but a natural one. Boy, oh boy, was I in for a rude awakening. If I was all these things, then life would go smoothly right? Wrong. By desiring to be a godly woman, I opened the door to testing, trials and trouble in my life. The process of refinement box checked on my application. I asked for it. I got it. Only now, fifteen years later, do I see the purpose and meaning of my request and the requirements to fulfill it. The heat has been turned up to full blast the last three years, and I am still in the kitchen. I am committed to the process of fulfillment. I want the dreams and visions that the Lord has given me to come to pass in my life just as He described it when He appointed it to happen. Until then, I must endure to have the promise. The promise requires faith and confident hope produced by a heart that fully trusts God. This is character. Jesus trusted His Father with His Life. Who am I to do anything less?

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can a soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

 

When a match burns too close to the end, the person holding it will begin to shake it violently to put it out before it burns their fingers. When trying to light birthday candles on a cake, many times that person will wait until the very last second to put out the match to fulfill their purpose which is lighting all the birthday candles. I wonder how many times that we are this close to fulfillment and fearfully extinguish the fire to avoid the pain of suffering that will come. In the natural, this is probably a pretty good idea. But in the supernatural the fire of refinement produces character. Character is what fortifies our confident hope that gives our faith purpose and meaning. Faith is for the unseen realities of God and the title deed to all of His Promises. Are you tired of the fire today? Yeah, me too. Are you overwhelmed by the circumstances of your life? I get it, I really do. Be encouraged today. Imitate God in everything you do no matter how fruitless it seems. Live a life of love following Christ’s example the very best that you can. He loves you. He sacrificed everything so that you and I could have it all. At just the right time, you will prosper, succeed and see your dreams come true. It will be more than you even thought to ask for. More importantly, it will be worth it as godly character defines your life. It will be your reward!

 

Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT)

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Here Comes the Sun – A Devotion

Here Comes the Sun

Psalm 84:10-12 (NLT)
A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you.

 

Arriving in “sunny” south Florida for a conference, it was disappointing to encounter more overcast cold weather. Hopeful that when we arrived, the sun would be shining providing a little warmth in the midst of unusually cold weather for our state. Granted that during these events there is seldom enough time to enjoy the lush resorts where they take place, it is still quite nice to get a quick walk in here and there to bask in the tropical breeze and soak in the unprecedented light. People travel from all over the world to encounter the sunshine and beaches of Florida. However, the superstar of the South had been hiding behind clouds and cold winds for the last couple of days. Why is it so depressing when the sun doesn’t shine? Most of the time, people are so wrapped up in busy schedules and daunting routines, what does it matter that the sun does not shine outside when it would not be seen anyway other than through a filtered window or a shadow somewhere? Sitting in the conference room listening to the speaker who was now thirty minutes over his allotted time, his words just seemed to drone on and on. The palm trees behind him caught my attention swaying in the wind and I saw it. The light of the sun was out which meant behind me the sun was shining somewhere over the water. Longing to be set free, I hurried to my hotel room to see the sun before it set for the day. Throwing open the curtains and then the doors, I could feel the sunshine overtake me. There over the water shining and reflecting glorious light hung the sun as it slowly began its evening decent. Breathtaking and beautiful I closed my eyes and willed my mind, soul and body to soak it up before it was gone for the night. It made me smile. I felt refreshed and revitalized in that moment. All because I saw the sun. My friend and coworker stopped by so we could go to dinner, I pulled her out on the balcony as well. After some goading, she stopped to watch the sunset with me. At first, she didn’t see the point until she felt the warmth of the light and the tickling of her senses, too. The sun rises and sets every single day taken for granted in its effort. But when it doesn’t shine, we look for it. I knew that the Lord was speaking to me in that sunset so I decided to look for Him.

Did you know that sunlight promotes the production of vitamin D in our body? We need sunlight for healthy bones among many other benefits that come from this necessity in our physical being. Sunlight also is a natural antidepressant that promotes the production of serotonin in the brain. Long periods of darkness or ever overcast weather is proven to cause depression in many people, so it is scientifically proven that human beings need sunlight physically and mentally. So what about spiritually? God is our sun and shield who gives us grace and glory. We need to live in the Light of His Love to be spiritually healthy as well. Those who live by His Grace in His Glory will be filled with inexpressible joy and indescribable peace that comes from an unseen source. When we stand in the sunlight, we do not try to produce Vitamin D. It just naturally occurs benefiting our body. Serotonin automatically is made in our brain without a second thought. I believe that if we as believers spent more time in the Light that we would begin to experience a change in our life internally that would change the external outcomes in our life. We must look for the Light.

Psalm 37:3-7 (NLT)

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

When I stayed with our son during his recent bone marrow transplant, it entailed almost two months in the hospital with him. I literally slept on a foldout bed in the same room with him. Each morning I would open the blinds in his room to allow light to filter in. He could not go outside for the length of his stay. But on many occasions, when missing the rest of our family or feeling isolated would begin to weigh me down, I would walk outside for a few minutes and soak in the sunshine literally. I didn’t “do” anything except find a bench and sit there for a bit. When I went back inside, I could feel the heat radiating from my skin. I instantly felt better. During that time, I could not engage in my daily routine. My schedule came to a standstill with my primary focus caring for our son which most of the time (thanks to great medicine) meant watching him sleep. In the quiet of those moments, I would seek the Lord’s Presence and sit with Him. How many times a day do you sit in the Presence of the Lord? Do you ever just bask in His Glory? Do you just absorb His Grace and the magnitude of His Love? If we looked at God for who He is I think we would see that He is more powerful than the rays of the sun? He is more majestic than a sunrise or sunset. His Love radiates a warmth that is felt in our innermost being touching our heart and healing our lives. But we miss it in the busyness of life. I will preface this statement with the obvious, I don’t ever want my son to undergo a hospital stay again. But during his previous stay, I have never felt closer to the Lord. In my isolation from the world and all its distractions, I was able to simply bask in His Glory and Grace.

Trust in the Lord. Do Good. Take delight in the Lord. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him. Be still. Wait patiently. Don’t worry. Can you imagine a life based solely on these qualities? I would love to live this life every day. I believe this is the life that the Lord has designed for me in its basic simplicity. Just as I do not have to make Vitamin D or serotonin as it occurs naturally in my body, the Lord invites me to bask in the Son and He will do the same process in my soul. He will produce the joy and peace that I need by His Glory and Grace. We try so hard to make a good life and build comforts through security. The Lord promises that if we will just learn to live in His Presence that He will gives us safety and prosperity. He will give us the desires of our heart. He will help us. He will make our innocence radiate. Our justice is served in Jesus Christ. We do not have to worry, fret or stress over life or the details of it. People are not our problem. We just need to get in the Presence of God and be still for a minute to encounter His Glory and Grace.

Psalm 19:1-6 (NLT)

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.

 

The heavens radiate the Glory of God. The natural sun is a reflection of the Son that is our soon and coming King. The absence of sunshine in our life is like trying to live outside of the Glory of God. A believer cannot maintain their righteousness outside of His Grace. We need His Glory in our life to supernaturally produce the fruits that His Spirit cultivates in us. (Galatians 5:22-23) During seasons of darkness, we must learn to pursue the Light. It is found in the resources of His Word and His Spirit but sometimes on those days when we just can break through the oppression of life – we need to just get in His Presence and sit there. He will come and break through the clouds of darkness and despair flooding your heart and mind with the Light of His Love. But you have to make the commitment to wait until He comes. He doesn’t just shine through our bondage, pain or trouble. But according to the Word of God, He promises to break ever yoke that binds us. He is smashing strongholds to get His Glory and Grace through to you. Be patient. Do not abandon your position of faith because the Son will soon break through the clouds of doubt and fear overshadowing your life if you remain committed to your stand. He will give you the hope that you desperately need to go forward even when the natural sun does not come out from hiding to help you. If you will just make it a point to seek out the Light of His Love found only in His Presence – you will have His Glory and Grace with all of its benefits. If the sun is shining, go sit in it. God has equipped your body to be rejuvenated and empowered by His Light. He made the sun. He gave it the power to connect with the human body and do its work. All the heavens proclaim the Glory of God including the sun. It is a reflection of His Son.

Revelation 22:1-5 (NLT)

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

There is coming a day when the sun will no longer shine. Its services no longer needed. The Light of His Love will shine brightly enough that we will never see another long night. Darkness will be gone forever along with every curse. We will live in His Glory forever. Understanding the natural effects of the sun will never be enough to prepare us for the Light that we will encounter in Heaven. We must learn to live in the Light of His Love every day to be prepared for what God has for us when Jesus comes back. Every day is the right time to bask in His Glory and Grace. We don’t have to wait until we are running on reserves but each day we can meet Him in the morning when His New Mercy arrives and ask for a fill up. His Spirit is with us always. In the midnight hour, we can call on His Light to illuminate us. In the dark times of life, He will be our Light and lead us out. Look for the Son today. Step into His Presence. Let the Lord revive, restore and renew you from the inside out. If you get a chance, catch the sunset tonight. Stop long enough to revel in the Glory of our God! It will be worth it, I promise. It is the moment that you realize, everything is going to be alright! Here comes the Son! Bask in His Glory today!

Job 37:21-24 (NLT)

We cannot look at the sun, for it shines brightly in the sky when the wind clears away the clouds. So also, golden splendor comes from the mountain of God. He is clothed in dazzling splendor. We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though he is just and righteous, he does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.

 

Oh the Joys – A Devotion

Oh the Joys

John 16:23-24 (NLT)

At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

 

Oh the joys…there are many scripture references to joy but is there evidence of joy in our life. Are you happy? I know, I know settle down. Happiness is an emotional reaction yada yada! Religion can make us happy but it cannot produce joy in our life. Certain situations can produce immediate and temporary happiness in the life of an individual but joy is abides it is not fleeting. If we can just get past our ignorance of who God is and what His Intentions are in our life maybe just maybe we could experience true and abiding joy as a believer.

We just celebrated our daughter’s marriage to a wonderful young man. We love our new son-in-law but he is still just a human being like the rest of us. In the midst of his talents, attributes and strengths, there is still a sinful nature wrapped in rebellion, weakness and imperfection just like the rest of us. Off and on since they left on their honeymoon, she has text me. I asked her, “So how’s married life?” She responded, “Well, I still love him so that’s a bonus!” After a few days in a beautiful if not perfect Caribbean setting on an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid vacation, she still loves him. Her happiness is evident in each message and picture that she sends. But what about after the honeymoon, when reality sets in. These two are best friends. They have literally grown up together and still have a lot of growing up to do. Will they be happy when the apartment walls close in? When they both want to get ready at the same time? How about if money gets tight? Or if they experience a setback of some sort? Will they be happy? Nobody is happy when unexpected trouble or trials hit their life but you can have joy. Joy is not happiness along which can come and go. It is happiness based on contentment. It is for this reason that I am confident that this young couple will make it. The foundation of their marriage is first and foremost their love and commitment to Jesus Christ and then they love each other with all of themselves.

Jesus promised that through our relationship with Him that we would have abundant joy. Do you have joy today? Are you truly content in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Can you smile through trouble? Can you laugh in the midst of your tears? Only those who truly know and love Jesus Christ with all that they are can ever know joy plus contentment like that…oh the joy!

Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

 

Oh the joy! I want that joy every day in my life. But in order to have such joy, I must first identify the source of all my joy. God is the Source of my joy. (Psalm 43:3-4) It is the Light of His Love that comes into my life permeates the thick walls of my hardened heart allowing me to know and experience real love once again. He becomes our sustenance and fills us with contentment so we are free to love others including ourselves expecting nothing in return. We must call on Jesus to make our relationship with God-the Father in right standing once again. When we do, joy is a product of our salvation. Such a source allows us to prosper in every season of our life because this world is no longer the premise of our joy. By faith, we have hope in the future that goes beyond this life and the circumstances surrounding it.

Psalm 4:6-8 (NLT)
Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us,
 Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

 

Who will show us better times? No one. Not to say that others will not try to fill the voids of our life, but they will fail even those who love us the most. My husband and I love each other very much. I believe that he is the soul mate created just for me. However, that does not mean that we do not disagree, argue and fight sometimes as our sinful nature and flesh are weak. If anyone on this planet can make me happy, it should be my husband but he cannot do it all the time. There are some days when my heart is so broken, all my strength has failed, and hope seems lost that no one can fix it like Jesus can. If we can just turn our eyes to the Lord and expect Him to be our joy, we will be content. Joy is a product of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) He fills us with true joy, as well as many other wonderful things that allow us to prosper. God gives us great joy. He delights in us faults and all. Sometimes I must remind myself…oh the joy!

Psalm 34:8-10 (NLT)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

 

You know that feeling at night that wakes you up to discover that your spouse has taken all the covers leaving you exposed or maybe if you are single, somehow you have worked your way out from under the blanket so you become cold? I believe that as a believer that when I begin to feel my joy slipping away or dissatisfaction overwhelm me that it is time to reevaluate my covering. Have I somehow worked my way out of the Presence of God? That is always the case. Taste and see that the Lord is good is a commitment. Smelling is one thing but tasting is another. I can smell all the cookies and cupcakes that I want but when I start tasting is when I get all the calories. It is in that moment, my entire being responds as now it is not about my feelings but an internal process as I chew, swallow and begin to digest all its yummy goodness. My mouth is watering now. Too many times, we do not “taste and see” that the Lord is good. Those who become one with God through Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit to consummate the relationship. Now everything bit of goodness that the Lord has for our life can be ours if we choose to participate in the relationship as well. God is a gentleman who will not force His Intentions on anyone. His Spirit is not going to make you accept prosperity and goodness in your life if you do not want more of the Lord. But those who develop an appetite for the things of God will have all that they need. Those who trust the Lord will lack no good thing. Pursing a growing and thriving relationship with the Lord will inevitably produce joy in our life. (Psalm 22:26) Do you want joy? You must want Jesus to find it.

Psalm 16:7-11 (NLT)

I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Joy is found living in the Presence of God. Psalm One tells us that it is not found by “following the advice of the wicked, standing around with sinners, or joining in with mockers.” We are in this world but not of the world. You do not have to do what everyone else is doing. You do not have to go with the flow in fact the Highway of Holiness is a barren roadway. Not many people are willing to forego the joys and pleasures of this life to commit to stepping out on faith, walking in righteousness and holding on to hope. This is most definitely not a fashionable trend. However, if you want joy that is marked by contentment it is found in just one place. You cannot live in the sin and darkness of this world and bask in the Glory of His Love. You must make a choice. With that choice comes a commitment to pursue it until the end. This is called endurance. I am thrilled my daughter and her husband were blessed with a fabulous honeymoon. But I think the real reward should come after they have been married ten years and still love each other remaining committed. I have many friends who like the excitement of courtship, the attention of the engagement, the highlight of the wedding and even the honeymoon who have divorced soon after marriage not once but many times. Joy is found living in the Presence of God. It is a product of salvation. We must learn to live with our Bridegroom and stop running around with everyone else. It is in that place that His Presence surrounds us with strength and becomes a shield around our life so we can maintain our joy no matter how things look or the battle we are currently engaged in. (Psalm 28:7) Love is a commitment to live with someone. I am committed to spending my life with my husband. But first and foremost, I have committed my whole life to Christ. I must ask myself daily if I am living in His Presence?

Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

 

Joy is a condition of salvation. If you are saved and set free from sin, the Holy Spirit immediately begins to produce joy in our life. As long as we continue to remain committed to the Lord, this is the production in our life. When we lose sight of the importance, relevance, effectiveness and prosperity of our salvation, it tends to lead to wandering and discontentment. We must continually commit our heart and mind to our relationship with Jesus Christ. I must pay attention to my husband. We must communicate to have a good marriage. My relationship to God through Christ Jesus is not different. As we strive to know and understand salvation and become desperate for a deeper more meaningful relationship with the Lord, He does a work in us. (Philippians 2:12-13) He shows us how to please Him and what to do. His Word directs us from good thing to good thing in our life. We must trust the Lord enough to stay with Him and worship Him no matter what the cost. (Psalm 40:4) This life isn’t for everyone only those who are desperate for His Joy and every other fruit that He promised. (Psalm 34:4-6) For those who do, He promised to turn our mourning into joyful dancing. He clothes us in His Joy! (Psalm 30:11-12) This is part of how God works every detail our life for good! (Romans 8:28) All because He loves us!

Psalm 42:4-6 (NLT)

My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the House of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!

 

Did you wake up this morning subject to the monotony of life? Did you wonder where your joy went? I did. The last three years of our life have been long and hard. But we won! Our son is alive. Just a couple days ago another miracle has happened, the endocrinologist went to take a closer look at the nodule in his thyroid feared to be cancer. It had stopped growing so the doctors went ahead with his transplant. Now it was time to deal with this nasty little problem that had shown up on several scans even the most recent one a month ago. Well, the tumor is gone. Completely gone with no evidence that it ever was. Praise God! Why did I not run around screaming and shouting? Where was the elation? Our daughter just got married and according to the happy couple, their day was perfect! What more could a mother ask for? I say all this to say that sometimes in the midst of great victory, we must find new strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. He leads me from victory to victory by the Power of His Love. I am desperate for His Joy today. All I had to do was ask! God is my hope and salvation. I have peace that His Love has enough grace to see me through even when my joy is a bit leaky. All I have to do is step into His Presence and my joy is renewed. Oh the joys “because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (Psalm 63:7-5) It is not your job to make yourself happy, but it gives the Lord Profound Pleasure to give you abundant joy! Reach out and take today!

Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT)

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

 

Psalm 90:14-17 (NLT)

Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.  And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!

Pinterest – A Devotion

Pinterest

Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT)

I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”

Pinterest is life. No really, this imaginary bulletin board is a God-send in many ways. When first introduced to it, I was reluctant to get on board simply because I did not need another thing to suck time out of my already busy life. But then cancer came into our life requiring many long periods of waiting, so one day I took the plunge. Chemotherapy infusions can take up to six hours of sitting with absolutely nothing to do. The board I created was for various recipes that I wanted to try. I “pinned” all day only to discover that I had not saved a single item. Not to be discouraged, on our next trip to the hospital I tried again. I was hooked. Suddenly, one board became eight and I dove headfirst into the Pinterest world. My cooking has gone to a whole new level. It seems now that whenever I want a new and fresh idea for my appearance, my home, my family or life, I log in and start pinning whatever I find there.

Our daughter’s wedding could be labeled a “Pinterest” wedding. Most all of our ideas and her desires are pinned to her secret board called “Hush Hush.” Not much of a secret anymore as the wedding has come and gone, but now it is fun to look at the pins from beginning to end to see the maturation process that led up the big day. The wedding dress she dreamed of changed to something completely different in the end. Every detail of her wedding is pinned to that board some things we nailed and others forgotten. Like an online journal, it is filled with her dreams and visions of the biggest day of her life so far. She allowed a few other people including myself to add to it as well. Now as we move on to other things, each of my girls are creating Christmas lists via Pinterest. I have a board to makeover our youngest daughter’s room, an exercise board to rev up my workout and a just added Thanksgiving board since it is just around the corner. But I also have dreams of other things that I have created secret boards for that no one can see, where I work out the visions planted in my heart, running through my mind, working their way our according to God’s Plan. God speaks to people. He expects us to do something with the dreams and visions that He gives us. Like Pinterest, we must find a way to channel these thoughts and images so that they will become a reality in our life. Are you dreaming? Do you envision things that are not already here? If not, you should be.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

There is more to life than this my friend. The trouble is too often we are running so fast that we do not take our place on the watchtower to wait for the Lord to work out the dreams and visions that He has for us. It is all part of the plan for our good that contains a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) We cannot have the plan of God if we do not know what it is or work to find it. We must do things His Way. “I will wait to see what the Lord says…” Could it be that we are so busy that we do not stop to hear the voice of God? Is it possible that the only time the Lord can get our attention is in our sleep? Faith is confidence that what we hope for will happen. Faith is the assurance that what we hope for will happen. If you can see it, do it, or make it happen than you do not need faith. Faith is for those unseen things that need to become a reality. We must learn to wait on the Lord and listen for His Voice. Seek His Face so we know our direction. We must take note of our dreams and visions as they lead us into the realm of Hope where all the good things He has promised can be obtained.

Job 33:14-15 (NLT)

For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds.

 

God speaks to His People again and again. People just do not recognize the Voice of God. I have clearly heard the Voice of God three times in my life. Each time, I know it was audible and directly to me. I have not a single ounce of doubt that the Lord was telling me something in that moment. Each time a miracle has taken place. I know God because I have a relationship with Him. My time with the Lord goes beyond religion. Yay me! Not really, I came to Jesus because I desperately needed salvation. The closer I get to Him the more I need Him. This is not a powerful position but an empowered posture bowed before the One who can make my dreams come true and do more than I could think to ask for. (Ephesians 3:20) Like Pinterest, my relationship with Jesus Christ stretches my mind and increases my aptitude to do things that I never knew could be done or accomplishments that I thought too great for me. He speaks to me in dreams. Not all dreams, but those who make it a point to know His Voice will easily discern godly visions from gross pizza. When I eat chocolate before bed, it gives me crazy dreams. These are not visions from God but rather my digestive tract going into overload. I always knew chocolate was a drug. Pizza or other spicy food can do the same thing. Thank God those are not realities of God making their way into my thoughts but natural occurrences that can easily be dismissed. We must know God to discern His Voice from all the other voices in the world including that of our own flesh.

Joel 2:28-29 (NLT)

“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.”

 

Acts 2:16-18 (NLT)

“No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:  ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.”

I love it when a plan comes together. Joel prophesied that God would pour out His Spirit on people. He predicted that they would see visions and dream dreams. When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, the prophecy was fulfilled. Now we can communicate with God directly through His Spirit who allows us to know God’s Heart, His Secrets and His Plan. He lives inside of us as an interpreter so we can know what God is up to in our life. Sometimes we may not know exactly what the Lord is up to but we know it is Him as the Spirit gives us peace and joy in our wait time. Daniel and the three Hebrew men were given an aptitude to know and understand all dreams and visions. (Daniel 1:17) Jacob saw Heaven and earth connected in a dream. (Genesis 37:8) His dream kept him going when he feared for his life. Joseph’s dreams almost got him killed by his brothers. Not everyone is going to understand your dreams and visions, so sometimes it is best to keep them to ourselves. (Genesis 37:8 & 20) However, our dreams give us something to hold on to in the midst of tests and trials. Such things prepare us to fulfill God’s Plans which are the premise of these dreams. As He works on our character, we can wait on Him because we see where we are going not where we have been. (Psalm 105:17-19) Your dream should not look like your reality it should reveal your faith and hope in God. Dreams give purpose to our tests as the Lord refines our character to have all that He has promised. Have you written down God’s Promise for your life? Are you journaling the dreams for the future you have? Just because you don’t feel comfortable talking about them, does not make the insignificant or unimportant details of your life! Write your vision. Make it plain. Wait for it to come. This is faith. It will become confident hope to those who allow it to grow and mature in God’s Love and Timing.

I Corinthians 2:9-11 (NLT)

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit.

God’s Spirit lives in you. The Voice of God is speaking to you. You are fully equipped to hear Him and know His Thoughts concerning you. Are you listening? When a thought pops in my head of something that I need to do or remember, I immediately write it down or log in the notepad of my smartphone. Why? It is important. I do not want to forget. What more important details could there ever be for my life than those whispered to my heart by Jesus? I can’t think of any. I find pins on Pinterest because I spend time on the website. I look at what my friends are pinning. I browse popular pins and boards of interest. I can even search for pins on particular topics. Why not spend time in the Word of God and listening for the Voice of God the same way? When I find something important, I should write it down. If it seems like a good idea, why not try it? I can live in God’s Word just like many of us do on Pinterest and other social media. The biggest difference is that God knows my heart and Jesus died to give me a rich and satisfying life, why not pay attention to the One who is trying to give me all I desire and more than I can ask rather than trying to do it all myself! God’s Secrets are deep in His Presence but not hidden from us. We must go into His Presence to know them.

Proverbs 13:19 (NLT)

It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them.

Clear and consistent dreams are divinely connected to our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I remember once testimonies of a youth group that had begun to experience some profound dreams from the Lord. Not to be left out several young people began to express dreams that were clearly of their own making. One in particular connected with a secular television show that was clearly contradictory to anything the Lord would have her watching. People who have dreams and visions of a spiritual nature must have a connection to the Lord. (Colossians 2:17-19) God will warn us in dreams when we go astray. But those who want to live to fulfill God’s Plan and Purpose means doing things His Way, the facilitation of dreams and visions that lead to miracles, signs and wonders are solely based on intimacy with the Lord. You cannot expect God to tell outsiders His Secrets. Our daughter has proclaimed that her wedding day was perfect. Praise the Lord and thank you Pinterest! It took a year to plan and execute her big day but she had dreamed of it since she was a little girl. As her mother, I protected and nurtured that dream as she grew into a young woman. When she became engaged, we worked out every detail the way that she wanted it. Toward the end of the process, I adopted the mantra “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” (All the mothers of bride said, “Amen!”) Her wedding day was amazing. I am just a human being. Imagine how God works in us to fulfill our dreams and visions that are far beyond our expectation? He is God! He is the Creator of all. Could there be anything better to search for? I find that over the last few years I do not dream like I once did. Visions have become sparse. We were being tested. I was being refined. But now Lord, I am ready. Pour out your Spirit in my heart and mind all over again. I want to dream again. I want to envision the things that You, God, have planned and prepared for my life. I want to do it your way in every way. Please help me to wait on you. I will write it down. I will make it plain. It will be perfect just like you planned it.

Proverbs 13:12 (NLT) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.