Broken Worship

Broken Worship

Psalm 51:15-17 (NIV) Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

It’s Sunday. The day set aside by most Christians to “worship” the Lord in a congregation during a church service. I love Sundays. I love to worship Jesus. I have been a believer for a very long time. I have attended countless services not only here but in foreign countries. Most people associate worship with music and the songs sung to prepare our heart to receive God’s Word or at least it should. Worship is music, but it doesn’t start there. Worship is more than that. Worship is a demonstration of our reverence for the Lord. It is a deep respect tinged with awe that should reverberate through our life like a ripple in an endless pond. However, most of the time it is hidden in a box, stored on a shelf, and taken out only at the appropriate time.

I am challenged today to dig deeper and find a place hidden within me that may not be fully expressing the Love of God as it should. I want my worship to transform my life rather than using it as a shot in the arm that gives me an instant boost. However, to truly know what worship is and what it requires may not be the immediate gratification that one desires. Worship requires brokenness. Raise your hand if you want to be broken? Yeah, me either. However, in this broken state in which I live now, I can attest that I do not necessarily want to be put together again after all.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God will not despise.” God does not “desire despair in us but in necessary humiliation and sorrow for sin. It is a heart breaking within itself and breaking from its sin; it is a heart pliable to the Word of God and patient under the rod of God, a heart subdued and brought into obedience; it is a heart that is tender, like Josiah’s, and trembles at God’s Word.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary) The Lord is always looking at our heart not our intentions. He looks deep inside of us where no one else can see. He is looking for those who are humiliated that they have sinned against Him. Those who have true sorrow that sin exists in their life. See worship is born of repentance first. If I am not humiliated by my sin or sorry that I am unable to completely avoid it, I cannot worship the Lord as He desires. Worship requires repentance. Repentance requires a change. Repentance turns our heart over to the Lord so He can prepare us to be true worshippers. I must live in a state of repentance to worship God each day.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

To be a “living sacrifice” and live a life “holy and pleasing to God” is to express “true and proper worship”. Conformity is not just a pattern in this world but it has infiltrated our church. The transformation that comes from Spirit and Truth has been put in a box by religion, doctrine and tradition. God is trying to rip the lid off that box and pour out revival in these last days. I do not want to be the one who is stopping it from happening. True worshippers must do so in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:24)

Luke 7 tells the story of the woman with the alabaster box. It was filled with expensive perfume which she acquired from her suitors. She was a woman who lived a sinful life. When she came to the house of Simon, a Pharisee, she broke the jar of perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus. Her actions sparked outrage among those in the house that night. As she wept at the feet of Jesus wiping them with her hair, those around expressed their disapproval. The disciples felt her efforts a waste because the cost of her sacrifice would have padded the benevolent fund to feed the poor. The religious order of the day were indignant and judgmental immediately dismissing Jesus as a prophet or He would have known what a “sinner” she was. This woman, indeed, was a sinner just like you, me, the disciples and Pharisees, but one thing she was that most of us are not is a true worshipper.

Mark 14 gives the same account in less detail. There is one point in this account that is important not to miss. She “broke” the jar. True repentance is brokenness. She did not intend to return to her old life so she did not need the jar to collect any longer. By breaking the jar, her worship was the loudest. She gave her all. I cannot help but also consider her act of worship in facing all of her accusers and those who judged her the most to worship when there are some days that I will not go to the altar to pray because of what someone might think. What about the act of weeping at the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair? If our Lord sat before us, would we be so humble? Humility comes from complete brokenness and sacrifice of our pride to serve Jesus. Can we worship like she did? Are we willing to break our alabaster box?

Matthew 21:42-44 (NIV) Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Reading this passage again, I wonder if the Lord has hidden a message to those who desire to worship Him. A word of encouragement in the midst of refinement. “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken into pieces.” I thought this was about them. All those fingers pointing to Pharisees, hypocrites and sinners…you know them. But what I have discovered is that those who do not repent will be the ones who are “crushed” when judgment finally comes. The ones who “fall on this stone” are those who call on the Name of Jesus to be saved, repent and turn to follow Him the rest of their life. We are the ones who will be broken into pieces. It is what it means to be a living sacrifice. We must be broken to express true worship but as always it comes with a promise.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

My heart rejoices today that even as I submit to brokenness and attempt to live in it that the Lord is close. My brokenness allows His Grace to cover my sin. It is a Robe of Righteousness that covers my naked state and allows His Love to wash over me again and again as I live to worship Him. This is the life that I must live. For far too long the church has tried to relay an image of perfect people who have it all together but the Lord is close to those on the verge of falling apart. His Presence is open to those who are broken. Those who live in a state of brokenness not because of sin but surrender and submission to the Lord in reverence full of deep respect tinged with awe.

Psalm 147:3 (NIV) He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

It is time to rip the lid off the box and break some alabaster jars at the feet of Jesus today. It is time to stop acting like we have it all together and allow ourselves to be broken as we fall at the feet of Jesus. It is humbling and necessary. To be broken allows the Lord to heal those open exposed wounds that have festered beneath the surface of pride for years. It is the opportunity to move closer to Jesus than ever before. In Luke 7, Jesus told the woman “your faith has saved you; go in peace.” And in Matthew 26 and Mark 14, Jesus tells the others, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Oh friend, don’t you want your worship to be memorable to Jesus today? I know that I do!

Psalm 96:1-9 (NIV) Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

 

Backseat Lessons

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Proverbs 22:4 (NIV) Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.

If you have more than one child in your family, you have probably heard them yell, “Shotgun!” while running to the car to go somewhere. I am not sure who made riding in the front seat such an exhilarating honor, but it has been the subject of many altercations in our family. It is customary that the oldest child would be the one allowed to ride in the coveted passenger seat unless, of course, both mom and dad are present. Oh the arguments that arise if this rule is ever overturned and a younger child was allowed to take the place of the eldest. What is the big deal about the front seat?

Several years back, I began riding in the backseat allowing one of our children to join dad up front. They love it. I have had many people ask me with perplexed looks, “Why would you sit in the backseat of your own car?” The truth is that I really don’t know when and how it began. It could be that our youngest simply asked me to ride with her so swapping seats with her sister is the beginning of it. But over time, I believe that giving up my seat has allowed me to share a very important message with my children. Humility. That’s right. The thing that gnaws at our flesh the most has somehow made its way into my heart and now is speaking to my children through one simply act. I promise it is not me. I didn’t do it to demonstrate some kind of life lesson but my precious Heavenly Father who loves me and my children so very much has used the simplest act of submission to share the example of His Son to us.

Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV) Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

“In humility, value others above yours, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others.” People come equipped with selfishness. It is an innate trait born of the sin that is within us. Coming to Christ, we are given the opportunity to lay down the burden of selfishness in exchange for righteousness that allows us to experience fulfillment and complete satisfaction in Jesus Christ. This comes when we lay down our life before Him and become yoked to the Lord. (Matthew 11:29) This connection to Christ called yoking means that He takes our burden of sin so that we share His Burden to love others more than ourselves. Too many times, we (or I) forget that part. The comfort that I have in Christ should allow me to be an encouragement to other people. The commonality of His Spirit living inside of us should fill me with compassion and tenderness for other people. My joy becomes complete when I am completely likeminded with Jesus which can only happen when I submit my way to the Way (John 14:6) and walk humbly with my  God. (Micah 6:8)

There are unspoken lessons being taught to my children each time I humble myself and take the backseat. It teaches them humility. It teaches them submission. It shows them that it is okay to put others first. It makes them feel important and significant in our family. It allows them to connect with their natural father. It puts them right next to him which gives them an opportunity to comminute with him. Even though I have every right to sit in the passenger seat up front, I make the conscious choice to move back so they can be in the seat of “honor.” Though it is my car and my place, I gladly give it to them because they desire it. Isn’t that what Jesus did for me? He laid down His Life so I could live again. He took the backseat to allow me to come closer to the Father again. His Grace gave me the opportunity to reconnect with My Heavenly Father.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Can I be transparent with you? Sitting in the backseat is not that big of a deal. It really doesn’t matter to me where I sit as long as I am in the car and going with them. But to some people, it is a really big deal. I offered the front seat to a friend of our daughter’s so she could sit by her on the way to a fellowship. This young lady stopped abruptly and asked, “Why?” She went on to tell me that her mom would “never” give up the front seat to anyone especially not a kid. How many people do we encounter in a single day who we could take a backseat to? How many people might benefit from humility in God’s People? It is the example of Jesus Christ on the Cross demonstrated for us to live after He was gone. Jesus, who was in very nature God, made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. Why can’t we? Why won’t we?

Pride is a problem in the church born of religiosity. It is the exaltation of self. For the life of me, I cannot understand why some pastors, apostles and teachers cannot carry their own Bible or IPad to the platform to speak. I cannot fathom the unreachable preachers in our society today who are too important to wallow among the people and reach the common folk so they stand behind a wall of security. The message they carry is not their own. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do we honor the vessel more than its contents?

Jesus stayed among the people. He was humble. When the disciples tried to build a wall of protection around Him or keep others out, Jesus removed the obstacle to reach out to the people. Jesus didn’t care what they wore, how they looked, or if they met the guidelines and measures of religion. He loved people – all people. He laid down His Life for everyone. Too many times, we will not give up our favorite seat for a visitor in the House of God yet claim we love Jesus with all our heart. Service to God begins with humility and submission to others as Jesus lived and died for us.

I Peter 3:7-9 (NIV) Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Taking a backseat to others in humility and submission IS the kind of service that honors the Lord. It is exactly what Jesus did. He was not begrudging but willingly laid down His Life for us to give us new life again. He didn’t complain and grumble up Calvary’s Hill but stay focused on His Purpose and Passion which is and always will be His People. Jesus was a blessing to ever person who He encountered. His Power, which is His Grace, constantly flowing out of Him to those who reached out to Him. Throughout the course of a single day, we come in contact with a variety of individuals. At the end of the day, if we polled those people, what would they say? Would our kindness, compassion, and love made an impact on their life. To be like-minded with Christ is to live in a posture of humility. He is the ultimate example of such an existence. Who am I to consider my life worth more than my Lord’s? To lay down my life and take up my cross to follow Jesus means that I must learn the meaning of humility and live it every day.

I John 3:16-18 (NIV) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Humility is not the loudest message we preach but definitely the most significant. Jesus Christ laid down His Life for us. He asks that we lay down our life for our brothers and sisters. Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. What is the message of your life? If you did not say a single thing, would others experience the Love of God just knowing you? It begins with humility. I have never discussed this with my children before yet I see it evidenced in their journey with Christ. Our purpose is to serve the Lord and glorify Him in our attitudes and actions. Our willingness to humble ourselves ushers us closer and deeper in the Father’s Presence. “The first will be last in the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 20) The mother in this chapter only wanted the best for her boys, but God wanted more. He desired fulfillment and completion in them that would last forever. If I lay down my life now, I have forever to look forward to. What an awesome exchange? Now for eternity. Consider hopping in the backseat and letting someone else ride up front today. This doesn’t have to be literal, but I believe God is going to give each of you (and me) an opportunity to express humility and be a blessing! Take it!

James 4:10 (NIV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

What Are We Fighting For?

What Are We Fighting For

I John 5:3-5 (NIV) In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

What is the “good fight” of faith anyway? Is there such a thing as a “good fight”? Fighting makes me most uncomfortable. I don’t like to fight. I don’t like to be around others who are fighting. I hate disagreements and discord. There is common ground to live on who is the foundation for life. His Name is Jesus Christ. So why so much division? Why all the discord? Why don’t churches worship together in one accord? Where is the harmony? Where is the unity? Where is the model of the first church into today’s modern congregations? If our common ground truly is Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who came to this world, died on the Cross, went in the tomb robbing death and the grave, only to emerge three days later with victory in His Hand which He delivered straight to us, then I am wondering what are we fighting for?

Faith. We are fighting to believe not really for what we believe. If you think about it, we have victory in Jesus Christ. If we believe that completely, there is no reason to engage in another argument, fight another doctrine, or lash out at any naysayers. We win. Game over. We are victorious overcomers just like the Word of God says. That is, if we believe the Bible is true and valid for our life. To have the victory means handing our life over to the Champion. One will never genuinely surrender their life to Christ if they do not fully believe Him capable to complete it. So how do I know that I am fighting for the right thing? How do I have confidence that makes me courageous no matter what the condition or circumstances around me?

Courage comes from confidence. Are you confident in the Lord today? Doubt, worry, stress, fear are all evidence that confidence is lacking in the life that we live. These qualities of disbelief should engage us in pursuing Jesus more and more. His Grace is enough for me. It is strength assumed in my every weakness and trust me I am weak. When I cannot do it any longer, I come to Christ. It really should be the other way around and I am working on it day by day. But in the clear and present danger of trials, tests and temptations, I must learn to have confident hope that will stand in the face of opposition, pressure and adversity because Jesus overcame the world. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it. I just have to believe it. I must apply this one belief to every aspect of my life.

I Timothy 6:12 (NIV) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

My faith has the potential to produce eternal life. My faith in Jesus Christ allows me to exchange my sin through repentance and accept His Grace which gives me right standing with God again. Too often, people make more out of this than what it really is. We have a variety of churches worshipping God in a plethora of ways, but what matters – the only thing that matters – is our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and the remission of sin. Sin is the cancer inside of that eats away at our soul. Jesus puts that “cancer” in remission which is called righteousness. Righteousness can only be achieved as long as sin is in remission. We must fight the good fight of faith in order to remain in such a state with God through His Son, Jesus. When we fight for lesser things, it tears away at our confident hope that faith in Jesus Christ gives us victory.

I did not have to fight my way to the Cross. I did not have to demand anything from the Lord, but only ask and He saved me. He has handed me the Keys to His Kingdom but my flesh wants to earn what is freely given. It cannot stand the thought of indebtedness so chooses religion as a vehicle to self-righteousness. When David approached the battlefield where he would become a giant killer. It was not because David had any form of self-confidence. Yes, he had achieved small victories along the way protecting the sheep. David did not come with armor, a shield or even a sword that day. He came with a strong heart passionate to be one with the Lord. When the giant dared cast insults about the Lord, David responded from his heart not his head. Courage and confidence in Jesus Christ is a heart matter not a thought in one’s head.

I Samuel 17:46-48 (NIV) This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

We live life each day with responsibilities and duties that are diverse. We have families, homes, jobs and churches that fill our life with a flurry of activity. Confident hope that leads to firm faith is developed in our daily activities dedicated to Christ. David developed his faith in God and confidence sitting on hillsides watching after sheep. His brothers considered him to be weak and wimpy yet all the while the Lord was conditioning his heart. The intent of heart determines if the confession of our life is bold and courageous confidence in Christ or if it is an arrogant, prideful, self-righteous boast. We must know the difference. It is not what you think. David ran quickly toward the battle that day to meet the giant with courageous confidence in Jesus Christ but for the majority of his days before that – David sat still.

Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV) Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

“Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10) To be still in God is to be consistent and committed in all circumstances and conditions. It is to ignore the wind, waves and storms of life to keep our eyes on Jesus. What is your response to adversity? When things go wrong who do you run to? True confidence in Christ keeps our feet planted firmly in the Word of God, His Promise written on our heart is sealed with His Spirit, and we stand firm through trial, temptations and trouble. This can be really tough in this world of opposition in which we live.

To be still in the Lord is to be confident. It means that when trouble comes those with confident hope and steadfast faith will wait for the Lord to respond rather than reacting in the natural. We can stand still knowing that He perfects that which concerns us. He is our Helper. Constant companion who promises to never leave us or forsake us. David would go on to become a mighty warrior. You, my friend, are a mighty warrior. This is not a feat of human strength or even a mastery of mind over matter. Nope. You are a mighty warrior because God gave you the victory. Jesus is your Champion. The Champion who is alive in us. Greater is He that is in me (us) than he that is in the world. This is my confidence. This is the anchor of hope that keeps my confidence in Christ strong!

Proverbs 2:30-31 (NIV) There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.

“God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

I must apologize to Mr. Niebuhr because I used to loathe the Serenity Prayer. Truly, detest it. In my heart I felt that it was just giving up and giving in to this world and night fighting for faith at all.

What I have discovered is that the greatest test of our faith is one’s ability to be still and accept the Will of God completely. Until I was faced with a life or death matter beyond any personal control at all, I couldn’t understand grace to accept the Will of God. I couldn’t understand or comprehend a faith in God that says have your Way, Lord even if it kills me. Life must be lived in adversity. The testing of our faith will always be refinement as unpleasant as it is. True freedom in Christ is the full acceptance of God’s Grace that allows us to stand still watching and waiting on the Lord with full confidence that His Plan is always better and worth waiting for … even if it kills us. That’s the whole point. I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

Philippians 1:20-21(NIV) I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Perhaps I have mellowed with age or maybe if I am lucky, I have matured with wisdom but I have decided that my life is worth nothing if I do not live for the Lord. He is my purpose. He is my passion. He is my portion. He is my promise. I had to come to a point where I decided for myself, “Forsaking all others God, I choose you!” It is not a battle easily won because it is not against flesh and blood. I am fighting for what I believe each day. This is not to make you believe, but to make sure that my confidence is well-placed in Jesus Christ. The tug-o-war match between Jesus and my flesh must establish Christ as the Champion.

I love to read about King Jehoshaphat. He was great leader who loved the Lord. I Chronicles 20 tells of his plight when the Moabites and Ammonites along with others came to wage war against him. He went straight to the Lord. He gathered all the people of Judah together and prayed to the Lord, when finished they remained there until God responded. The Lord told him – “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army (what you can see). For the battle is not yours (or mine either) but God’s.” Your battle today is to maintain faith in Jesus all other battles are already won in Jesus Name. You just have to believe it enough to do what God says and wait until He comes. While standing “still”, the enemy advanced on them. They were oblivious because their eyes were not on the enemy but on the Lord. They began to sing and praise. While they did, the Lord causes the enemy to turn on themselves and kill each other. Every single one was dead by the time Jehoshaphat and the people made it to the battle ground. All they were left to do was accumulate the plunder. God won the victory and rewarded the people for their faith.

How many times do we rush into to fight battles and enter skirmishes that the Lord never intended us to engage in? How many times has His Word been be still and we charged off on our own? Rebellion is rebellion. It doesn’t matter how good our intentions are if they are contrary to God’s Word, Will or Way for our life. What are you fighting for today? If it is faith, then you must learn to be bold, confident and consistent in standing still to wait on the Lord. We must guard our heart above all things. (Proverbs 4:23) To live for Christ and die is gain. Can you say that today? Live or die I do it for Jesus. Has God given you a promise today that just seems impossible? Stand on that promise. Be still and know that He is God who does not ever lie or change His Mind. If He said it – the Lord meant it. Be still. Fight the Good Fight of Faith but remaining steadfast in the Lord.

Psalm 24:7-10 (NIV) Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.

Stand Firm

Stand Firm

I Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV) Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

One’s natural inclination is to fight for a belief. To stand guard against our principles. Standing firm in one’s faith becomes a battle stance towards opposition. To be courageous is not an exterior hardness but an internal softness difficult to comprehend. Strength is not intestinal fortitude or something physically acquired. The Power of God begins and ends for us as human beings in one place. God loves us. He loves us unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what we do or how far we wander, the moment of repentance and turning back – the Lord is always right there waiting. It is our inability to fully accept the extravagance of free grace that keeps us fighting for a faith already given to us from the start.

Romans 12:3 reminds us that humility is in order “in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” God gave me my faith. I didn’t think it, create it, or earn it in any way, shape or form but rather simply accept it from the Hand and Heart of God. He fills my heart with Eternity giving me the desire to seek Him and find Him to be in that place. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) The Lord promises to make everything beautiful in His Time. Faith is the birthplace of miracles, meeting place for promises, and the platform on which we wait for the Lord because of confident hope that He will come. Could it be that we grow tired of waiting on God and standing firm in our faith because we fight for what is already our own?

Last month, our family purchased a new home. We have now bought three homes which serving the Lord and each time it is the same. We know when we find it that it is what the Lord has for us. I can’t tell you how I know, just that we do and so go through all the steps to attain that which is ours in Jesus Christ. Side note: every decision in life may be subject to God through prayer. It is up to us what we take boldly to the Throne Room of God called His Presence in our prayer room each day. God has a detailed and well-ordered plan for our life including every single detail therefore nothing is considered insignificant to the Lord. We were given a day and time to meet to close the deal. Sitting across the table from the homeowner, we took possess of the property. We signed the bank contracts assuming financial responsibility as the previous owners released the title and deed to us. They handed us the keys and garage door opener giving us last minute pointers about the neighborhood, people and various household items. We shook hands and left the office. We owned our new property. It belonged to us. We did not have to gather weapons and make a battle plan but simply pulled the huge truck with the contents of our life, open the door with the keys provided to us, and step in to our brand new home and life. The house was vacant and ready for our occupation. We only had to claim what belonged to us. What are you fighting for today that already belongs to you? I am asking myself the very same thing. Are there things in my life that require only standing in faith on His Promise, but instead I am expending a whole lot of energy trying to make it mine today? Am I fighting those things already apprehended? The enemy is defeated. I have the Keys to the Kingdom. The devil cannot “make me” do anything that I do not want to do because I am filled with God’s Spirit. Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. I am more than a conqueror if I can only stand firm.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV) For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19) Do you believe this statement? Though we know that God is not human, it is natural for us to give him human traits, qualities and characteristics that are not true. When the Lord gives us a promise, the answer is “yes” already but the part that gets us is the waiting. It is the standing issue between God and His People that we must overcome. We you continue to stand past the point of impossibility. The moment that what you were promised and that which you hope for becomes completely incomprehensible and totally impossible naturally.

I have taken many “stands” and fallen from my “watchtower” more times than I can count. It took a life or death matter to finally make me persevere to the end. It took losing it all to find what really matters in life. Why such drastic measures? Probably because we lack the determination and dedication as human beings driven by comfort and immediate gratification the ability to stand firm until the end. The Lord uses our life and His Promises to teach us to wait and watch for Him. He uses these opportunities to fortify our faith in His Foundation for our life. His Grace allows us the strength needed to get back up after stumbling or tumbling in life. He is teaching us patience. We are learning persistence, passion and perseverance in our pursuit of Christ even though it feels like temporary trails or temptations, it can have a lasting impact.

Luke 21:19 (NIV) Stand firm and you will win life.

I have seen competitions where people must stand with their hand on a car. The last one standing wins the automobile. They will endure harsh weather conditions, taunts of other contestants, overcome the temptation to quit, and even endure physical pain to win a brand new car. I have seen this same competition for other prizes. People will undergo public humiliation for “things”. What will we do to win “life”? How far will we go to enter Eternity? Matthew 13:13 warns that “everyone will hate you (me) because of me (Jesus)but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” My life is worth nothing if at the end of it, I do not find Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 6:13-18 (NIV) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

For three long years, our son battled cancer. He would have clear scans and a few weeks later cancer would creep back on the screen. All his life, as his mom, I was his nurse on call. I took care of all the bumps, bruises and occasional hurt feelings. But when the diagnosis was cancer, everything changed. I was powerless. As the stages crept up the scale, doctors, nurses and even friends and family began to lose hope. When the medical team finally did have a plan, even though a long shot, it would require months of fighting just for him to have the chance. It literally came down to the promise that God had given me the very first night as the reality and gravity set in. I ran right into His Presence demanding a response. God gave me a promise. “Trust me. Your son will live and not die to declare my works.” When the only thing you have to hold on to is God’s Promise is it enough for you to stand on? This is what it means to stand firm never lifting a finger but only to praise.

“Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” It says absolutely nothing about fighting for your faith but to simply “stand your ground”. Let’s look at our armor again as a method of defense rather than offense. With the belt of truth buckled around your waist. The Truth or God’s Word is that which keeps us standing every time. It is the foundation of our life in Christ. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. He holds us up as His Word keeps us upright. The Breastplate of Righteousness covers our heart. It keeps sin away from our heart so we can love the Lord wholeheartedly. Right standing with God keeps us where we need to be in the safety of close proximity to Christ. Following Jesus keeps our feet shod in peace. We are at peace with the Lord so we can live at peace with others. Our expectations are met. With a satisfied soul, we can walk this life out in love rather than competition and expectation for lesser things. We must hold tight to the shield of faith which blocks every single lie and snare that the enemy lies before us to trick us, distract us and dissuade us from following Jesus wholeheartedly. If the enemy has part of our heart, he has all of it. The helmet of salvation protects our mind. It is confidence in the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ and His Work on the Cross. We are given the Mind of Christ and I believe this is the same thing. If we think like Jesus, we will act like Him. Finally the Sword of the Spirit, which is our only weapon and defense in this whole armor. Verse 18 tells us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” You can never pray enough as you stand firmly for the Lord. It is probably safe to say that if you do not pray you will not stand. All of these vital components are provided so that you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand!

Galatian 5:1 (NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Standing firm will always require waiting. While we wait, it is easy to get wrapped up in doing to take our mind off things. It is the assumption that we must “do” something to make God move for us or in us that is the most dangerous lie the enemy has every told. We cannot add to or take from the Work of God or that which Jesus performed on the Cross. Salvation is complete without me and absolutely free to me. I cannot earn it. I cannot repay Christ. I can only acknowledge Him by standing firm until the end. Those who endure will be saved. What can I do? Is there anything that I am obligated to do for Christ? Yes…just one thing.

I Corinthians 16:14 (NIV) Do everything in love.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) Standing firm will always have but one requirement. We must demonstrate His Love in everything we do. Everything. All-inclusive never exclusive – we must love one another. Hold each other up. Build one another up. Encourage each other. Reach out to one another. To form relationships with those attempting to stand firm, too. It can be a lonely venture. The only debt that we have in life is to love. Love like Jesus. Fulfill the Great Commission. Love one another. To love extravagantly, forgivingly, and unconditionally just like Jesus. That’s it.

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Have you been thinking on stepping down? Is the Lord just taking a little too long? Do you doubt His Word to you? Are you experiencing opposition? Can I encourage you today? Stand firm. Do not back down, but you don’t have to keep swinging either. The battle is the Lord’s and He is fighting for you today. Surrender to Jesus. Submit to His Will. Stand firm and immovable on His Promise and remain in His Word. He is indeed working on your behalf. You are free to wait until He is down. Jesus promises that you will be complete lacking nothing. It will be worth it. Not a moment is every wasted waiting on the Lord. Stand firm, my friend, stand firm.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV) I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Water Me

Rushing Water

John 7:37-38 (NIV) On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

The single most important thing that a human being needs to live is water. A body requires a minimum of two quarts of water per day. Hikers and survivalist recommend that it is the most necessary item if lost in the woods. The safest form of water is rushing water. If every caught off guard, the suggest listening for the sound of a stream or river to secure this life source. Watch the animals – they know where to find water in their natural habitat. A muddy area has water available as well one must dig a little deeper to find it beneath the surface of the earth. A stagnant pond requires dramatic purification by fire if possible. Ponds or lakes that have no movement lack any natural filtration. Water is critical to our survival physically and spiritually. The same applies to our spiritual life. We need water – living water every single day. To survive, one must be consciously aware not to become dehydrated or allow their spirit to become stagnant. Jesus offers to those who are thirsty to come and drink. Can the Lord really give us something to sustain us in life? Rivers of living water will flow from within them. How is the living water in you today?

To effectively thrive in this life, I cannot live on stagnant water or an unmoving current. I must be sure that the water within me is living, moving and breathing with me. If not, I will become stuck in a rut, weak, and desperate for something. We must learn to be conduits of living water rather than earthen vessels. It is one thing to carry water from another source and pour it out as it were our own. But the Lord has promised that we will have living water surging within us. Where is the Living Water that He promised? How do I make it consistent in my life? So glad you asked.

John 4:7-14 (NIV) When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Samaritan woman was came to draw water. She did so every day about this time of day. It was her habit. Her routine was to come after the other woman had left to collect the water needed for her family and chores each day. She was accustomed to this life. Jesus was waiting at the well for her that day with the divine purpose of breaking new ground and releasing living water from within her. She was stuck in a rut, driven by routine, beaten down by life, and destined to hopelessness. When Jesus asked for water to drink, she quickly came up with an excuse as to why she had nothing to offer the Lord. Jesus immediately offered her the gift of life to her dead and dying soul to dry to even soak in what He was offering or Who it was who was willing to give.

The Samaritan woman quickly fell back on religion like most of us do when faced with such a question. We get uncomfortable when pressed about our relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t have to be that way. When a messenger of another faith comes to the door, like maybe a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness, does it make you uncomfortable? Most people immediately blurt out that they “go to church”. But who will say, “I know Jesus Christ. He lives in me.” Are you solid in your connection to Christ to offer them an honest answer in love and wish them a good day? Or is our immediate inclination not to answer the door at all or if we do quickly shut it in their faces? Confident hope operates in love not fear. We fear the questions that we do not know the answer to. It doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus is offering to release rushing and living water deep within those who are willing to come thirsty and ready to drink.

John 4:15-18 (NIV) The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty again. Soul satisfaction comes from living water rising up within us and nothing we can find around us. Fresh water or a good meal is enjoyed in that moment but how many times do we head back to the kitchen a few hours after. The kind of water that the Lord offers us will keep us in every season. It is not dependent on our condition or circumstances. This woman had five husbands all long gone. The man who kept her now was not her husband. How empty this poor woman must have felt? She was an empty shell left like a crumpled cup thrown to the side. But Jesus saw her differently, he pointed out her brokenness to meet her deepest need. She needed fulfillment. She needed to see herself as God saw her not all those men had made her feel. Sometimes our past limits the potential of our future, while Jesus tries to pour into us – we refuse to accept based on guilt, shame, regret and unforgiveness. He did not point this woman’s faults out to hurt her even more but to establish her need. Like the Great Physician that He is, the Lord pointed out the driest part of her in order that Living Water might reach her there – restore, revive and renew her in that place.

John 4:21-24 (NIV) “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

When the disciples returned, the woman went back to share with the others what she had discovered…leaving her water jar behind. The water jar was her livelihood. It was vital to the natural survival. We carry water jars around with us pouring out the contents on our life. Jesus said, “Come to me those who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) So let’s think about the water pot logically. It probably carried as much water as a five-gallon bucket like one might buy paint in. If a gallon of water weighs about 8.5 pounds it would make that jar filled with water to be about 43 pounds give or take. This is not considering the weight of the jar itself in Biblical times – it would have been made with clay. Every day she would lug it back and forth to get water for her family. I am sure it was exhausting when considering all her other household responsibilities. When she met Jesus, she left it behind.

What is that thing keeping living water from rushing through you today? We all must consider our stream and remove ever obstacle that keeps us from becoming completely satisfied in Jesus Christ. True worshippers are to do so in Spirit and in Truth. We must become fully operational in our service to Jesus with these two vital components in life. The Holy Spirit is often referred to as Living Water. The Truth is God’s Word – His Word is Truth. Jesus is the Word of God. We must know the Word to know Jesus. The “washing of the Word” is constantly filtering through the lower philosophies adopted by mankind that lead to compromise and substitutions. It sheds light on every lie that darkness has laid before us as a trap. Living water should be rushing through us freely and unrestricted allowing us to let go and live in the victorious freedom that Christ offers us.

Isaiah 58:11-12 (NIV) The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun- scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Before the great flood of the days of Noah, it had never rained before. The earth was watered from the inside out. Springs underground kept the plants and trees hydrated while feeding the thirst of every living creature. Sin pushed the water outside of us. No longer is could our soul be satisfied from within due to our dying state. We are born dying thus our need for hunger and thirst in order to realize our need and satisfy this state to keep us physically alive. But when Jesus came to die for us, He made the Way for Living Water to flow within us. To restore, revive, and renew us from the inside out again. Our soul can now find satisfaction again which will create a reservoir that allows us to give something of worth to others. We are called to rebuild ancient ruins, to raise up age-old foundations, to be the Repairer of Broken Walls, restorers of streets and dwellings all leading others to the Love of God that has satisfied our soul. Are you satisfied today? Truly satisfied, no matter the circumstances or conditions of your life, is it well with your soul? Or maybe I should ask is the well of your soul open and overflowing in Living Water?

Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV) “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

Our journey as believers and followers of Christ goes through many seasons and changes along the way. It is not always straight highways and flattened pathways. There are times when it is a struggle and quite draining. We neglect our time in His Presence in the name of Christian duty and church service. The responsibilities of life steal precious moments that we need to know Him more and one day we find that we have a dry and thirsty soul. What happened to the Living Water that once washed over me and ran through me with such intensity? How could I expect God to keep washing and restoring such a broken vessel such as myself? The enemy will tell you that there is nothing good in you to give and I must object wholeheartedly. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. If Jesus lives in your heart, and you love the Lord with your life, there is always something to pour from and give to others even when you feel empty inside. Caught up in responsibility and doing, the Lord invites us to the fountain again. He calls and invites us to come to the altar and allow Him to pour His Love on us. He wants nothing more than to satisfy our thirsty soul.

Isaiah 43:18-21 (NIV) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

Is your life like a dry desert wasteland today? Have you found your way into the wilderness again? Sometimes it is not a bad choice that leads you there but rather the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you have a dry and thirsty soul and the Savior is waiting to refill you. Considering our physical conditions sometimes causes us to ignore our spiritual condition, so we slowly starve ourselves and become dehydrated as the Living Water in us no longer flows through us. Maybe unresolved or hidden sin has blocked its flow and now you are filled with stagnancy that needs a good flush. I find that tears of repentance bathed in His Blood covered by His Love will do the trick quite nicely. Jesus loves us. He doesn’t want us to want for a single thing. If your life is lacking and may just not be living anymore. We must come to the fountain continually. Listen for God’s Voice which is like rushing water. (Ezekiel 43, Revelation 1 & 14) He speaks to us through Living Water as His Spirit lives in us and breathes in those who give Him their heart. The substance of God in us is not lacking but waits to fill us to overflowing time and time again. Are you thirsty? Jesus says, “Come to me!”

Revelation 19:5-7 (NIV) Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

Life of Submission

Praying woman hands

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

What is submission? It is not a popular word. To submit means to give over or yield to the power or authority of another. It means to present for approval, consideration or decision of another. Our life is to be fully submitted to the Lord. It is the next step after repentance and the turning from sin and rebellion to righteousness and obedience before the Lord. You cannot received the fulfillment of salvation without submission to God. Trust in the Lord with all your heart means that we do not “lean on” human understanding any longer but base the decisions in our life on the knowledge, wisdom and understanding that God’s Word and His Spirit produce in us. In order to have God’s Plan and His Will for our life, we must submit to Him.

Many folks desire submission to the Lord but cannot tolerate the inconvenience, uncomfortableness, and weakness that comes with it. In order to submit my life fully to the Lord, it is to surrender my way completely. To trust the Lord with all of my heart and not the pieces that get broken off along the way. Submission to the Lord creates vulnerability as it requires more and more until our heart is fully invested. Human pride must be crucified with our flesh in order to become one with the Lord. We say that we want to trust the Lord with all of our heart but do we really mean it?

James 4:6-8 (NIV) But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Then redirects us to the statement just before it. He gives us ore grace. Who? Those who are humble have the favor of God but He absolutely opposes the proud. Is it possible to think our life is submitted to the Lord yet live in religious pride and arrogance? Absolutely. Many people do. Interested in the Power of God and His Hand they are not interested in investing their life in knowing His Heart and becoming one with Jesus. This is called doubleminded. It comes with a warning. We must wash our hands and purify our hearts as we lift them in full-submission to the Lord. In return, He releases grace and favor which are absolutely essential in our pursuit of Him.

Proverbs 3:7-8 (NIV) Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

There is a difference in confident hope and religious pride. As believers, it is important that our wisdom is based on the Word of God and our way is directed by the Will of God. Our respect for the Lord will separate us from evil as we consecrate our life in full submission to the Lord. It actually has the power to renew us from the inside out. How can I determine if my life is submitted to the Lord genuinely? Perhaps if we inspected the spiritual fruit of our life, it might allow us to see what is feeding our life? Spiritual fruit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Those who are fully connected to Jesus Christ will bear much fruit but apart from Him can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV) Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

To honor the Lord with our wealth goes beyond a monetary contribution. The wealth of our life is the Fruit of God’s Spirit as listed previously. If we are not producing these very important fruits then we have nothing of worth to offer a lost and dying people in a forsaken world. They do not need a handout they need God’s Love. If we are unable to be productive in our life with Christ, what do we have to offer? I can browbeat people. I can scare the “hell” right out of them so that they change their habits and try to live the right way. Obedience is not the way of salvation. Submission is the way of salvation.

Have you ever been wandering the aisles of the grocery store to find hostesses at kiosks along the way with hats and aprons offering a sample of certain products? They will offer you a sample to taste and put a coupon in your hand to purchase the product. Genius! Whoever came up with this idea was absolutely a marketing genius. “Taste and see that the Lord is good blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8). The fruit of our life is the offering given to others to show them God’s Love and His Grace. We honor God with our wealth not only in our giving physically but our giving supernaturally to others. To share the Love of God we have been given.

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV) My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Submission will require discipline along the way. Our flesh will always rise up against submission and God’s Discipline or Guidance through life. It does not want to die. But if we are not disciplined, we are not loved. To be undisciplined is to be considered illegitimate meaning that we are not Children of God as once thought. He loves us too much to allow us to live without correction. He is a Good Father who loves His Children.

Proverbs 3:13-18 (NIV) Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

A philosophy of life that I share with my children is that to make a mistake is not fatal. It only becomes tragic when we gain no wisdom from it. Blessed are those who find wisdom. We must gain understanding for it is the wealth of life. Wisdom gives us long life in one hand and riches and honor in the other. Her ways are called pleasant. Her pathway is peace. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who hold on to her tightly. Those who do are blessed. I wonder what might happen if our pursuit of wisdom today took us down the road called submission. What if we truly understood what it meant to fully submit and surrender all of our heart to Jesus?

Romans 8:6-8 (NIV) The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Submission to God is a mindset. Why do I say that? Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding in ALL YOUR WAYS SUBMIT TO HIM. Trusting the Lord with all our heart and not leaning on our own understanding to guide and direct us through life is submission. We are warned in James about “double-minded” people. Godly submission is different than religious pride. There is a fine line between confident hope and arrogance. We must daily seek to submit our heart, mind, body and soul to Jesus Christ.

How do we submit to an unseen God? Well, the Word of God is quite detailed in its explanation. True surrender and submission to the Lord is evidenced in one’s ability to submit to authority. All authority in life, good or bad, is placed by the Lord and should be honored with submission. (Romans 13:4-5) It is important to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ not worthiness of character. (Ephesians 5:21)

We must be careful not to be caught up in the Power of God but committed to the submission of heart to Jesus every single day. Religiosity will draw our focus from Jesus to things like the power manifested in a ministry or the angels all around. Where is your focus today? On the miracles, signs and wonders, or the Person of Jesus Christ? It matters. The Power of God accessible in a believer’s life is “heady” and personal. It manifests from the Spirit within us so discernment is required. If we do not live fully submitted and surrendered to the Holy Spirit humbly before the Lord, we are in danger of falling from our high place. One must remember especially in ministry that it is not that spirits submit to us but that we are surrendered to God and saved that really matters. (Luke 10:19-20) To know what we are producing, we must examine the fruit of our life. Anyone can lose their connection to Christ. His Grace allows full restoration? We must all live under this warning – “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Colossians 2:18-19)

Matthew 8:7-10 (NIV) Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

A long time ago, a good friend told me that I must submit to my husband. I was angry at her words. She was given me godly instruction that made my flesh really, really mad. But the Holy Spirit inside of me took that Word and began to work it through my heart and mind. Have you ever read the book, “Green Eggs and Ham”? I felt like at every turn the Lord kept offering me this thing called submission. It was not palatable. I did not like it. I did not want it. Thanks but no thanks. But just as the Dr. Seuss concluded, he just had to try it. Well, I cannot necessarily say that I always find submission palatable at first. There is a story written in Matthew 8 that is one of my favorites in all the Bible. It is about the centurion and his faith. He believed Jesus at His Word. He understood the authority of Christ because he was not only a soldier submitted to his commanders but a commander with committed soldiers. Submission is our commitment to trust the Lord with every expectation in our life. It is to surrender before we understand and work to gain wisdom. We all need wisdom, understanding, and discernment. We must understand the importance of submission to get the same response as the centurion. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Submission is a requirement of faith. It is by faith that we are saved. Salvation requires submission.

Today I must evaluate the relationships in my life and determine if I am fully submitted to the authorities in it. I must examine my connection to everyone else to see if I am submitted to them out of reverence to Christ. A lack of submission is spiritual rebellion that demands a change to be righted. It is not lip service but life service. If I truly love and respect the Presence of Jesus Christ in my life – I must learn to live in a life of submission. To be productive in Christ and His Spirit is a submissive trait. It will require a lot of grace to get right. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Lord, be it unto me as I learn to submit my life to you more and more each day. Jesus I want to trust you with all my heart today.

I Peter 5:5-11 (NIV) In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

In Each Step

In Each Step

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

I find that in life a leap of faith is much easier than walking by faith. It requires one big jump rather than all the steps it takes to get through a single day. Yet the longer I spend following Jesus, the more that I discover His Desire for me to walk by faith and not continually keep throwing myself off mountains. Faith is confidence. It is the underlying belief in all things that hope is the primary focus of our life. It is assurance in nothing that we see but everything we cannot see. It is the thing that carries us from the natural connecting us to the supernatural. Obedience is marked out by our faith in God rather than following the customs of man. Faith is a commitment to live for the Kingdom of God though we cannot see it tangibly honoring its reality as much as we do everyday life.

When the Lord speaks to us, we want the full picture. Don’t leave any blanks. My own personal revelation is that the closer we move to the Lord and the more connected by faith we become the vaguer the details, but instead God says, “Trust me.” We want to trust the Lord. I believe that those who come to Him do so with the full intention of turning their messed up and broken life over to Him for restoration, revival and renewal. As dead dreams are resurrected and the newness wears off, when the vehicle of faith loses that “new car” smell then what? Everyone likes the goosebumps felt in an awesome church service. They like the way they feel when a friend comes to church and finds a waiting Savior. The exhilaration of taking a leap of faith that makes our heart beat wildly as Jesus catches us midair is matchless but this is not the life we are to live. If our relationship with Jesus is based more on how we feel rather than what we know, we are headed down a dangerous path.

I John 3:19-22 (NLT) Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

God is greater than our feelings. Again…God is greater than our feelings. He knows everything and yet still chose to love us and give His Only Son for us. If we are confident in this Truth, we can live with bold confidence and faith in each step. Every detail of our life is important to God. Each moment is filled with purpose and potential if offered to the Lord for fullness and completion. However, most of the time people only exercise faith when tragedy strikes or they are overwhelmed. Our inability to accept the grace of God freely and unconditionally allows our feelings to get in the way. Accept lies rather than holding on to the Truth. Compromising rather than persevering. Allowing substitutions to take the place of fulfillment. We need to live a life of faith manifested in each step and the slightest detail to please the Lord. No matter how we feel, it is time to trust the Lord.

Hebrews 11:3 (NIV) By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Do you believe that God created the heavens and earth? Do you believe that He made mankind in His Image? Do you believe that God made you with a purpose and plan that includes a future and hope? Do you believe that Christ can and will complete you? Faith must be practical and applicable to our life. We cannot be all that God created us and predestined us to be without it. It is contrary to this world. You will not see eternity until you arrive there. You know Jesus the Word and confirmed by His Spirit that lives in you, but to reach out and physically touch Him is impossible. We must believe and live by what believe. It is faith in the supremacy of God that confirms our need for Him. It is our desire to reach Him that calls us for righteousness sake. It is the assurance there is something more to hope for than life has to offer that will give us confidence enough to continually walk by faith rather than constantly looking for the next cliff to jump from.

2 Corinthians 5:7-10 (NIV) For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Freedom is evidence of God’s Love for us. How we use His Gift of Freedom is an indication of our love for the Lord. There is a quote by Kahlil Gibran used to describe this quite well. He said, “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, there were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” This has been morphed into many variations but the truth is the same. Love cannot be held captive or enslaved. Love is freedom. What we do with this freedom demonstrates who or what we love. Love for God will produce a life of faith because faith is the very thing that pleases Him. Faith in Who He is and what He has promised that forces us to be transformed because our desire is to be with Him more than anything else this world has to offer. The steps of our life are ordered by God. He leads us with love. He gives us freedom from our sin releasing us to decide how we will live in our new liberty. Those who love the Lord will use it for His Glory.

Hebrews 11:4 (NIV) By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Abel died because of his faith in God demonstrated by obedience. If put to the test or on trial would the evidence of our life convict us of faith. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord. But Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil” and Abel brought “fat portions from the firstborn of his flock.” Cain gave some. Abel gave his best. He laid down his life for the Lord and Cain took it in response. Faith in God will cost us our life. We must be crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20) I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life that I live in my body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave His Life for me. To live by faith requires us to lay down our life and take up our cross to follow Jesus. Why? We love Him. We want to be where He is.

What is the offering of your life today? As I examine the offering of my own, it is evident that I could always give a better offering. There is more of my life to lay down in order to have more of Christ in me, working through me, completing me so that I can give more. We cannot live by faith without offering every facet of our life to Jesus Christ. That which is withheld is the very thing that condemns us. Will I give the best of my first fruits today? Anything less than our absolute best just will not do.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

To offer one’s life as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God is consider according to this passage as “true and proper worship”. What is my anthem? Can others hear a life song that sings of the Goodness and Greatness of my God? The true worship of my life is demonstrated not in what I say, but how I live. It begins with a renewing of my mind so that I will be able to test and approve God’s Good, Pleasing and Perfect Will. My mind must find confidence in Christ so that I can lay my life before Him. I must become fully assured not that God can but that He will do everything that He has promised.

Hebrews 11:5 (NIV) By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24) So you want to know something kind of ironic? Do you know who Enoch’s father was? It was no other than Cain. (Genesis 4:17) Our life is not defined by our past or present, it is based on a future Kingdom that knows no end. The new life in Christ given to us called freedom is a clean slate. We do not have to live in the past or just look to the future. Enoch desired God. He walked with God. He walked faithfully. One day, God just took him body, mind and soul. The Lord just swept him Enoch off the earth to be with Him. I want to walk with the Lord like Enoch. Seamlessly. Completely. Fully. I want His Love to overshadow me so that all they see is Jesus.

We are told to walk by faith. Peter didn’t run on the water, he walked on it. Each morning when I put the first foot over the side of my bed, I want it to be like Peter stepping out of the boat. As I stand, may the foundation of my life be faith in Jesus Christ. The only foundation worthy of building on. Lord, teach me today to walk by faith not by sight. Allow me the grace that is sufficient for every weakness in my faith so that I can be strong in you. Lord, may I fully embrace and embody the “greater that is me” more than fear of the roaring lion who wants to devour me with doubt and overtake me with his lie. It is impossible to please God without faith. I must learn each day and in every detail of my life that faith applies. It is the very thing that will produce an acceptable offering of my life and it will bring us to complete unity. Lord, I want that same kind of testimony as Abel and Enoch today and every day in each step.

John 17:20-24 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Thorns of Life

 

Thorns in Life

2 Corinthians 12:8–10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God’s Grace is enough for you today and every day. Let me say it again, God’s Grace is enough, sufficient, complete and intended for you today and every day. Why does God require weakness to manifest His Power and Strength in us? Why must Christians endure hardships in order to be saved? The Word of God in no uncertain terms tells us that one who endures or stands firm to the end will be saved. Jesus was warning His Disciples of the days to come and left encouragement for those who live for Him long after these men were gone.

To better answer our question, why do roses have thorns? In God’s Design could it be that the thorns protect the fruitful production of beautiful yet delicate roses. The aroma of fragrance given off by the rose could very well please God so much that He places thorns along the stems to give it solitude and protection as it grows. God allows thorns in our life, too. Paul asked the Lord repeatedly to remove “the thorn in his flesh” but God didn’t do it. Why? What is the purpose? To make us uncomfortable. To bring about change. To increase productivity. To manifest growth. All these things are true. Yet in the midst of the pain of the thorn and pressure of the messenger – His Grace is enough for me.

When I am weak, then I am strong. Our flesh hates this statement. It balks at it. Finds ways around it. Works to avoid it in every way. Weakness is submission. It is surrendering fully to the Lord before we overcome and see victory. When a believer takes God at His Word, and peacefully, prayerfully and full of praise chooses to keep walking in God’s Power rather than relying on human strength. Lord make me strong in you today. Help me to apply Your Word to my life. May Your Will be done in my family, church, and life.

2 Corinthians12:8-10 was the scripture that God gave me in response to my petition following our son’s third cancer diagnosis. At first, I thought I had grabbed it rather than the Lord sharing it because of the “third” thing. God has jokes. He finds ways to keep me guessing, entertained and intrigued enough to pursue Him daily. When the doctor shared the gravity of his condition and the invasion of cancer which was much worse and widespread than before, I literally fell to my knees and said, “God, I cannot do this anymore.” Well, His Response to me in prayer the next day was this verse. I loathed it at first. Where is the hope in “my power is made perfect in weakness”? It doesn’t say anywhere that the Lord ever took this “thorn” from him. God’s Grace was not only enough for that round of cancer but two more before our son was healed.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible was written by Matthew Henry who was a “nonconformist” of the Puritan church in England. This body of believers was considered the “free church” because it did not conform to the states mandate on uniformity of religion. They were church rebels like the early believers. I use Mr. Henry’s commentary many times when I study God’s Word. When I read his thoughts on this familiar passage, I couldn’t read it, digest it, or note it quickly enough. I will share some of his thoughts with you today.

2 Corinthians 12:1-5 (NIV) I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

Saul was the Pharisee who met Jesus on the Road to Damascus – no doubt to slaughter more Christians. Saul thought he was on a mission from God. He believed that he was honoring God in his actions. When the Lord spoke to Saul, he was stricken with blindness. Maybe it is during this time that he saw visions of the third heaven also known as paradise, heaven of the blessed and the place where God manifests His Greatest Glory. This is when Saul became Paul through the saving knowledge found in repentance. Saul turned into Paul. The Pharisee turned into an apostle. I wonder how many Pharisees are hidden in today’s churches believing they are doing God’s Will but headed toward a Damascus-moment when Jesus reveals the truth to them.

Though Paul received these revelations and had this experience 14 years before – he chose not to share it. Paul kept it to himself. These images and inexpressible words shared by the Lord to this man where not public knowledge until this passage. Why? I think Paul believed that revelations from God should be tested by time and God’s Word, protected in our heart until just the right time. We talk too much. The church as a whole is a big chatterbox not talking about the relevant but constantly debating things that really don’t matter. What if we stopped talking and began to savor God’s Insight, Words and Revelations before making them public fodder? Could it be that our loose lips are sinking the ships?

“It is an excellent thing to have a lowly spirit in the midst of high advancements and those abase individuals shall be exalted.” – Matthew Henry. Lowly means humble. Abase means to lower or humble also. Humility is important to God and the standard of elevation in Heaven. Spiritual growth is not upward but downward. The more of our life humbled to the Lord identified in our weakness can be infused with His Power and Strength. One might call Paul a super apostle. Did you know that you are an apostle? One who is sent to share the message of Jesus Christ to the world? You are. I am, too. To share Christ and our experiences as believers humbly will always be identified by those who use the world “we” not “you”. We all fall short of God’s Glory on a daily basis. No one is perfect. Not a single one.

2 Corinthians 12:6-7 (NIV) Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

***Spoiler Alert*** Salvation does not exempt us from thorns in life. Trials and temptations will come. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1) We will experience thorns in life. Things that bring pressure and pain. Some will be easily removed and others will linger but stay tuned this is good news much better than it sounds. Jesus wore a crown filled with thorns. Perhaps this was a message to us that He bore these weaknesses of ours on the Cross. The enemy meant this for the Lord’s humiliation. But God had different plans that in His Submission to God’s Power just three days later Jesus would emerge from the grave victorious over death which is the hope we live for. Did you see it was “three days”? Jesus prayed to God in Gethsemane – three times yet still made His Way to the Cross. “Father your will not my will.”

The messenger of satan could use some discussion. Every time we mess up – the devil does not deserve the glory. When we make a bad choice – he didn’t make you do it. We are free to choose and we make that choice. There are two distinctly different voices that we must discern. There is demonic influence and then there is fleshly influence. They are different. Demonic influence was exhibited in the wilderness when Jesus was tempted by the enemy. However, many times it is our flesh acting up rather than the enemy to avoid crucifixion. Romans 7:15-25 is a transparent commentary by the apostle of his struggle with sin and his flesh. “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” The enemy has ill-intentions for us. He seeks to “steal, kill and destroy” us. (John 10:10) But God uses these challenges both external and internal with a purpose. He uses every detail of our life for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) God uses these “thorns” and “messengers” to reveal just how weak we are so that His Power can be manifested in this revelation.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

“Prayer is the salve to every sore, a remedy for every malady, and when we are afflicted with thorns in the flesh, we should give ourselves to prayer.” – Matthew Henry Trials and temptations lead us to pray and seek the Face of God. When our life is contrary to His Word and His Way, we seek answers to our questions from the source of life. The thorns in life should lead us to prayer, teach us to pray, and guides to continue in instant prayer even if we find relief. We learn to persistently pray through pain and pressure in life. The very things that force us out of the way make room for more of God’s Grace and Glory in our life. There will be one of two outcomes when we pursue God through prayer. The Lord will change us or our situation. I find the first to be the prevailing factor.

What do we do when the thorn is not removed? Grace in our life signifies two things. The good will of God and the good work of Christ. Grace is the good will of God is enough to enlighten (give us wisdom or discernment) or enliven us (with power and strength as to renew and revive) us as the Lord proves the sufficiency to strengthen and comfort us in All afflictions and distresses. God’s Will is His Word active in our life no matter our current conditions. It is His Word, His Promise that we hold on to.

Grace is the good work of Christ in us is that allows His Fullness which is full of authority and power. Jesus gives us grace that is suitable and seasonable and sufficient in all things. “Jesus knows us, knows our need, and will proportionate the remedy to our malady, and not only strengthen us but GLORIFY HIMSELF. Nothing I can do will ever match or exceed what Jesus Christ is working in me and through me. He gives me grace to survive this change.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

“The Christian paradox – when we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – when we see ourselves weak in our ourselves, then we go out of ourselves to Christ and are qualified to receive the strength from Him and experience most of the supplies of divine strength and grace.”

Jesus Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Weakness is not just a physical state, but mental, emotional and spiritual one. Pride lies to us and robs us of the power that God’s Grace is ready to administer in our life. We cannot grow spiritually when prides refuses to bow down to Jesus. Pride makes it into the church in the hearts that refuse to accept God’s Grace. To never admit our weakness, pain, trials and temptations is to send the message that God’s Grace is not needed and not enough. I need the Grace of God every day. I fall short every day. Through the illness of our son over three long years, yes three, God changed me. It started with a completely broken heart. I had allowed pride to overcome my spiritual growth. Not knowingly and unwillingly. It changed me completely. I am weak. Any strength that eeks its way out of me is Christ in me. I promise. I am nothing without Him.

“God gives us grace sufficient for us, we haven’t reason to complain, nor to say that He deals ill by us. It is a great comfort to us, whatever thorns we are pained with that God’s Grace is enough.” Matthew Henry

Give Me Grace

Give Me Grace

Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT) This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Everyone has bad days. Even strong Christians have moments of becoming overwhelmed, voicing discontentment, lashing out in frustration, stumbling and some even fall. I had that kind of afternoon yesterday. By the end of a day that began with exhaustion, it got the best of me. You ever notice how quickly a bad attitude can go from bad to worse pretty quickly. Well, it did. Thankfully there was no one present to witness my tirade or rant. Ears could not hear me slamming things down and throwing things about. Stepping over the mess of teenagers, walking past the unfolded clothes, seeing the dishes in the sink, and not finding the check in the mail – I was done. So as I carried in the groceries, I voiced my displeasure. I let the Lord know in no uncertain terms exactly how I felt in that moment but rest assured I was not pouring out my heart to the Lord but rather my wrath upon Him. I am a believer. I call myself a Christian. I go to church. I am a leader and Sunday School teacher who faithfully serves and supports ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I share the Word of God in this blog each day. I still need God’s Grace.

As most mornings after such a moment, guilt hung heavy in my heart. I had to get away and talk to my Jesus. Oh, I quickly apologized right after I got things off my chest. I am only human and that irritates me greatly most of the time. Repentance is worthless until one can accept God’s Grace. Such an act is humbling because there is nothing I can do to earn or reciprocate it. I tend to get tangled up in lesser things more than I care to admit. Give me grace, Lord.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Grace can be defined as “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” Got it! Not really, what does that mean really? Since grace is the basis and foundation of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we must learn what grace is to apply it to our life. God saved us by His Grace WHEN you believed. You must believe in the Grace of God to experience salvation. Grace is uncomfortable. It creates a debt that cannot be repaid for those who have trouble receiving it for free. What can I do to earn the grace of God? Absolutely nothing. If I give every second of the rest of my life to serving the Lord, selling all my possessions to give to the poor, traveling from city to city around the world sharing God’s Love, and never ever committing another sin – I still cannot earn or deserve God’s Grace.

This is so difficult for our flesh to accept. Jesus understands every single weakness that I have. He bore the weight of my sin on the Cross so He knows exactly what I am capable of. Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted and tested in this world – yet He never sinned…not once. His Sacrifice allows me to come boldly before His Throne with confidence that His Grace is enough for me especially all the times I fall short of God’s Glory and stumble in life.

Salvation will never be based on anything I can do but completely on who Jesus Christ is and what He gave us. The Gift of Grace is offered to us but will we accept it. God planned to give us all grace, orchestrated it and carried it out on our behalf. Indebtedness is uncomfortable. It challenges our pride for control. We must accept God’s Grace for what it is and live in it all our life to “endure to the end” and be saved. We are all saved the same way. It is the undeserved grace of the Living God. (Acts 15:11)

Romans 3:23-24 (NLT) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Everyone has sinned. We will all sin again and again no matter how hard we strive not to. Let that sink in for a moment because this startling revelation will change your life forever. Don’t let anyone fool you. No matter how self-righteous they may act or religious they come across they sin just like us. We all fall short of God’s Glorious Standard of Living. I wonder if the Lord allows me to stumble or even fall sometimes to make me aware His Grace that perhaps I have forgotten. Those times when I have allowed pride and self-indulgence to overtake the Truth that His Grace is all I need.

Every good thing from God intended for you can be limited by disobedience, rebellion and sin. Sin is the very thing that keeps us from our inheritance in God. Obedience allows us to live in those blessings. However, when we finally meet Jesus face-to-face is the only time we will truly understand His Glorious Standard of Living which is absolute and complete satisfaction of our soul. In the meantime, we must strive not to sin and live in the Glory of God by His Grace.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” God’s Power is our strength and power as believers. We cannot ignore God’s Grace and still enter or impact His Kingdom. Grace is the key that unlocks the door to all Heaven has to offer and facilitating it here on earth. If we are not experiencing God’s Power in life – there is a very good chance we must revisit the Cross and accept more of His Grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounded more. I know that when I am struggling His Grace will get me over the hump, but there are many times I must be reminded that it is not about me or what I can do but Jesus Christ who lives in me.

Romans 5:20-21 (NLT) God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In Ephesians 2:10, it declares us to be a masterpiece that God planned from the start. He created us with a plan and purpose that sin interrupted. Jesus came to renew and restore our life by His Grace. The Word of God was a not a new set of laws or limitations but a mirror to reflect the impact of sin in our life. It tells us what we miss out on when we allow sin to be our master. Every morning I receive new mercy from the Lord because He already knows the tests, temptations and trials that I will face in the day. He wants me to overcome them all by His Grace. I can choose to live the brand new life given to me by the Lord or remain enslaved by sin.

Sin is bondage but God’s Grace is freedom. (Romans 6:14-16) We cannot treat the Grace of God as meaningless and continue in a right relationship with God. Religion adds new mandates to an already complete gospel. (Galatians 2:20-21) Grace gives us the right to choose who we will serve. (Joshua 24:15) True freedom always allows one to choose. You cannot have your cake and eat it to. If you choose sin as the master of your life – it will always lead to death. To choose grace is to choose eternal life. Grace is never an excuse to sin but freedom to serve God and live with Him forever. If we choose to sin, it is willful. Without true repentance, no one can have the grace of God. You cannot serve two masters for you will love the one and hate the other. (Matthew 6:24) Do you love Jesus today? Are you on a mission to eradicate sin from you existence? His Grace is sufficient for you, my friend. It is enough for me, too.

Colossians 1:6 (NLT) This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

I believe that part of the salvation that the Lord works out in our life is the full assumption of His Grace. It is hard to accept something that is absolutely free but came at such an enormous price. I creates a feeling of indebtedness. I believe many people cannot fully accept God’s Grace because of the responsibility that comes with it. Even if it is not real and perceived by the flesh as a restriction of our freedom, we are not slaves of God but His Children. This is absolute freedom to live apart from sin and have a new life. Don’t let the enemy lie to you by telling you that God’s Grace is just another form of slavery because its not. It is the Gospel. The Good News of unconditional love must be wrapped in His Grace to operate in us. We cannot ignore grace and continue to willfully sin or we have made another choice entirely. The Good News that bears fruit in everyone’s life is that while we were yet sinners – Christ died for us. To accept God’s Grace knowing we can do nothing to earn it and simply to live in it. This is God’s Power and Strength manifesting in our life.

Romans 12:6-8 (NLT) In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

It’s funny how we overlook the smallest details. In His Grace- God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. I find that when I am not able to see the Fruit of His Spirit or even the spiritual gifts that I am aware of operating in my life that I have somehow strayed from grace. How are God’s Gifts working for you right now? Have you stalled? Stuck in a rut? Not feeling it lately? The warning light is on that maybe, just maybe, His Grace is no longer enough for you. This is when it is imperative that we get to the heart of the matter.

What will you find there? The only foundation worthy of building our life is Jesus. (I Corinthians 3:10-11) It is human nature to put our personal touch on things. Religion likes to add to this foundation with more rules and regulations as if we could make grace any better. Salvation is consummated in my full belief that God’s Grace is ALL that I need to reach the Kingdom of Heaven and life with Him forever. Faith in God requires believing that His Grace is always enough. When we try to “do” things for God, it must be to honor His Gift because we cannot earn it. Any other foundation will crumble and fall.

I need God’s Grace. Lord, give me more grace today. Grace to overcome the sin that quickly overtakes me. Help me to refine the message of my life so that others only see your love and grace – Jesus. Grace is our message. Grace allows us to overlook their sin and shortcomings to hand them God’s Love. Grace seals the way of repentance for the genuine heart. Don’t you love Jesus today? Thank Him, yet again for His Amazing Grace. Look for it in your life today. I encourage you to ask the Lord to give you more grace so that we may be gracious to others sharing the Gospel effectively as it spreads throughout this world.

I Corinthians 15:10 (NLT) But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.

Good Advice for Friday

Good Advice for Friday

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

At the end of a race, the runner often will stop and lean over putting their hands on their waist or knees trying to catch their breath. I am not a runner but I know the feeling. It’s Friday! The glorious day that makes way for the weekend is finally here. It has been a long strenuous week. My husband returns from his final training trip which has only added to the pressure of the last five days. For months now, a week has been devoted to company training far from home while mama kept the home fires burning. I feel like that runner today who cannot stop their lungs from burning or hold in enough oxygen to gain back any strength. Even in our best effort to trust and lean on the Lord, we still get tired and overwhelmed sometimes. Marching for the Lord’s Army is a lot of responsibility on any given day. There is opposition. There is responsibility. There is temptation. For those who live in this world but are not of this world, there are two forces battling for our attention. Could it be that there is purpose in our inability to keep going sometimes? When our mind, soul and body begin to shut down to rest? Of course there is.

Can I encourage you a little bit today? I need to do so for myself so let’s do it together. We put way more responsibility on our shoulders than Jesus ever would. We try to run faster, harder, and farther than anyone else as if in some competition. When the Lord tells us to trust Him and lean on His Understanding. Is that enough for us? To be more specific, the Word of God says to trust the Lord with ALL your heart. Wow, that’s a lot. Do you trust the Lord today? I know this is always good advice but we will move forward to practical steps once we take in this simple truth which is good advice.

To trust the Lord with all our heart requires a true dependency on Him. Most of the time, we expect supernatural results in our life without applying any faith to the matter. Faith is how we trust the Lord. It is to take His Word and do exactly what it says without looking to the world to satisfy it but just doing it anyway. Seek Him in all you do! Do you look for Jesus in every single aspect of your life? I mean right down to making your grocery list – you can ask the Lord for discernment and He will honor that request. We serve a practical and logical God if we apply the right understanding and wisdom to our cause. I know that you are tired and it has been a long week – but stay with me just a little longer. Let’s walk out this Friday together. Like a walker pacing the other side of the finish line in order to normalize breathing. We must breathe in the understanding that we must seek His Will in all we do and He will show us His Path.

I Corinthians 9:24-26 (NLT) Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (Psalm 37:23) Think about this for a minute. I know you are running late. It’s your turn to bring donuts to the office. Your kid just remembered a project is due this morning resulting in pandemonium. The dog just threw up. Are you ready to give up? Call this day a bust. Why is life so hard? No matter how hard I try to do what is right – why do I always seem to end up right here – facedown and on my knees asking for just a little more mercy and grace to make it to the weekend. Oh wait, will that be better? It’s packed with commitments when I could not say “no”. Keep walking. Keep a steady pace. Why? There is purpose in every step you take. God takes pleasure in every detail of our life. He perfects that which concerns us. (Psalm138:8) He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Do you love the Lord today? Well, He loves you more. Every step you take today whether walking in sunshine, strolling on the mountaintop, battling the storm or the valley of death – God is with you. He loves you. He is working on your behalf. Your job is just muster up enough faith to take one more step no matter how hard it seems because of the promise hidden in each one.

2 Timothy 2:4-6 (NLT) Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

As we consider ourselves part of the Lord’s Army, we must constantly evaluate our weaponry. David would not wear Saul’s Armor because it was too big and heavy for the boy. God had not ordained him to be king yet so the mantle was not for him. Is it possible that we get to big for our britches sometimes and try to take on things that we are not ready for or called to do? God’s Armor for our lives is specific – the helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, sword of the spirit, gospel of peace, belt of truth. See God gave you enough protection to make it through the fight to step into victory today even though you are mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted, overwrought and overwhelmed. Actually, you have fallen into the place that He desire most for when I am weak – His Grace becomes sufficient for me.

Soldiers of God’s Army – have you gotten tied up in civilian affairs. His Ways are not our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Are you soaring with the eagles? Or are you roosting with the turkeys who never leave the ground? It really is up to you where you live. In the Presence of God or at the mercy of people, opinions and this life – soldiers desire peace and prepare for war. They do not get distracted by the common problems all around them but keep their eye on the horizon watching for the enemy’s advances. Sometimes we must get off by ourselves and get washed in the Word, covered by the Blood and back in line with our Commander and Chief to fulfill our commission which is not bickering and fighting among ourselves.

Athletes follow the rules. The Word of God is our directions for life. His Spirit takes the Word and gives us divine discernment and understanding so that it can be applied to life as a whole. When we forsake reading the Word of God – we fly blindly. You might as well close your eyes and start walking. We must be committed to the race of faith. We must fight to win by faith not function. Today are there areas of your life not fully surrendered. If a runner runs every single day and exercises faithfully but eats terribly – will they win? I mean the race is determined by how fast we run. Not always. If it is a marathon, it is based on distance not speed. Life is a marathon. How do I know? The one who endures to the end is saved.

Finally – the farmer bless his/her heart. Works from morning ‘til night caring for his seeds as they sprout and grow into a harvest. When the harvest comes, the farmer is encouraged by the Lord to “enjoy the fruit of their labor”. Me-time is not a bad thing. To enjoy life is part of the fullness of Christ. To live your life miserable and exhausted just getting by is not the standard of living that Jesus died to give us, but a rich satisfying life. Do you enjoy the fruits of your labor? If no, you should.

I Thessalonians 5:14-24 (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. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 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. 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.

I find that many times when I look back at why I am overtired or have run out energy but still have some week left, that it is usually my own dumb fault. Today, for example, I stayed up too late finishing a painting project in our new house. Knowing that I would still get up at 4:30AM, I didn’t go to sleep until well after midnight. Seeking the Lord today, I need strength to make it through today. Lord give me direction on how to get through this weekend rested and refreshed when it is just as full as this week has been. When I read this passage today, I find that He is reminding me of how to live each day not just the one’s I am too tired to invest in but rather showing me solid steps to victory in each moment of every day. They are practical, applicable and will keep me on the right track. Good advice for Friday…well actually good advice period.

It is no surprise that the first step is to keep our eyes on others. It is amazing that as I learn to invest in others I get better at taking care of myself or maybe it is in my obedience and commitment to love others as Christ loves me that I am renewed and refreshed by God so I can pour out more of His Love on others. I am enjoying the fruits of his labor as I labor for Him. Sometimes we gain a better perspective of our life when we look at life through the eyes of others.

We must become grace full. Each day the Lord leaves us new mercies to scoop up and use freely. Do we share that grace with others? To do so is to trust in the Lord because we remove all expectation from other people, this world and this life placing it firmly and completely in the Father’s Hands. Everyone desires grace. I don’t know a person who is not pursing love, affirmation and acceptance from others. I find that what I give then I receive. Give love get love. Give grace get grace. Give Jesus get Jesus!

Always be joyful. Jesus is our joy. We must maintain our relationship with the Lord all day, every day. We do so by talking to Him. Communicating on His Level which is prayer. It is good to maintain an ongoing conversation with the Lord and keeps His Presence tangibly next to us which will result in making better choices along the way. We must be thankful in all circumstances which is a declaration of faith and trust in God alone. We must no stifle the Holy Spirit our guide, teacher, companion and advocate in life. He is not a silent partner, we just tend to stifle him sometimes by ignoring his conviction or convincing in our heart. Do not scoff prophecies. It is easy to study God’s Word and congregate with believers. If we truly believe the knowledge obtained and whispered to us in God’s Word and by His Spirit – it must change our life.

Jesus IS coming back. We must be prepared. Test everything. Do not walk randomly through life but label things good and evil. Choose well. Is what you are doing of the Lord or for Him? If not, walk away. Hold what is good with both hands. Stay away from EVERY KIND OF EVIL. We know the difference. Yet many still entertain dark things in life. It matters what we watch and listen to even in the name of “entertainment”. The very thing that we choose to entertain will dwell with us. God will make you holy if you commit to these things.

It is the surrender and submission of our life that allows Him to meet us in the place of overwhelming exhaustion and lift us up. Last but not least keep your eyes on the prize. This world has nothing for you. He has promised you eternity in heaven. It is worth chasing after and finding your way home even on days like today when you don’t feel as though you can take another step. Sure you can.

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.

One night over dinner, our teenage son challenged his not-teenage dad to a foot race. I looked at my husband and reminded him that he had nothing to prove to the boy. My husband insisted otherwise. So after a full meal, the two headed outside for a little competition. I tried to dissuade my husband from engaging in the sprint as he had not run in a while not to mention just eating dinner. He insisted he was fine and they were off. Well, father did beat his son…though barely. It is a heavily disputed finish and our son insists that his dad cheated. Nevertheless, walking back inside I found my husband sitting in our room with trying to catch his breath. His face was blood red. I really thought he was about to have a heart attack and I am pretty sure he did, too. He had no business running up and down the road full speed like that but his pride made him do it anyway. How many times do we spend our life, waste our time, and expend our energy on things that don’t really matter because our pride will not allow us to walk away? God has supplied everything we need to live a godly life. In fact, He supplies all our needs. The Lord directs our steps which are sufficiently supplied so we just walk them out. But we run ahead, jump around, get distracted or decide to do things ourselves removing the yoke of faith from Christ to embrace the words, “I will do it myself.” When we allow ourselves to become overwrought and exhausted it is a clear sign that we have engaged in activity that is not from God but of ourselves. When we adopt the philosophy as Children of God that “if I don’t do it no one will” then we have allowed pride to take the place of faith that says, “With God, all things are possible.” There must be balance in our life to run the race and fight the good fight of faith. We must live in this world but remember we are not of it. We must stop engaging in “civilian affairs” because greater is He who lives in me then he that is in the world. It is written that no weapon formed against me can prosper so my wounds must be self-inflicted by disobedience. All those times that I impatiently chose my way rather than allowing God to work it all out. We are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. Isn’t it time we started living like it? Good advice for Friday. Good advice for life.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NLT) Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.