Time to Confess

Reverse the Curse

James 5:16-18 (ESV) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and Heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Elijah prayed and by the power of God it did not rain for three and one-half years. When he prayed again, the Heavens opened releasing rain and prosperity again. Why doesn’t God answer the prayers of man? Why do we not see the power of God in such an obvious and vivid display? His Word says that He will open the windows of Heaven over our life. We do what it says. Try to live right. Be right. Do right. However, the results so lackluster that doubt creeps in and disbelief begins to raise some questions. What’s wrong? What is out of order that is limiting God’s Glory from creating abundance in all areas of my life. If my soul is prospering, why not my life? Well…it is the prayer of a righteous man that has great power. Elijah prayed. He walked in God’s Ways. He had obvious faith – after all look at the miracle of Mount Carmel.

Prayer is our communication with God. God is omnipresent. Wherever you are – God is right there with you. Christ lives in you. The Holy Spirit inhabits you. The words spoken in every conversation is equally as important as those in our prayer closet. I wonder if the problem is not what we say to the Lord but words scattered everywhere else.

James 3:9-11 (ESV) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?

A spring does not have fresh and salt water just as our words cannot bless and curse at the same time. Blessing is rebuked by the curse. Curse are rebuked by the blessing. The Bible is clear to bless those who curse you and spitefully use you. There are no enemies in the Kingdom just family. The person that causes you the greatest distress is your brother or sister in Christ. To pray for them and then talk about them stops the flow from Heaven in every relationship. The only enemy in our life is satan. He is at the root of every problem. He is the one who offers temptation. He is the one who sows division and discord. But do not discredit the power of God within you and me called self-discipline. Change the words that come from our mouth and our life will change according to what we speak. Life and death are in the tongue. Are you bringing life to the Promises of God by faith or are you causing them to die in the field because of grumbling and gossip? You have the power to speak life into every situation in life. You have divine authority over every demon and even the devil as it tries to take what the Lord has given you by faith. It is up to you and me if we will reverse the curse and establish a life of blessing. God ordained it. Christ died for us to have it. The Holy Spirit fills us with the good fruit needed to produce it. The rest is up to us.

Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus asked Peter directly, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” No ifs, ands, or buts. Peter knew Jesus. He believed in Him. He confessed Him as the Messiah right then and there. Then Jesus tells Peter who he really is and reveals the power of his confession. The same mouth that confessed the Lord would soon deny Him, not once but three times. Everyone struggles when the conditions of our life do not line up with the confession of our mouth. We must learn to speak from our heart. A heart full of faith and promise rather than give praise to those things that do not line up or are not yet evident. We must respond to the Presence of God in us and stop reacting to every discomfort, discontentment, inconvenience and chaotic situation in our life. We have the power to change the atmosphere but it is not in our rightness but righteousness found in Christ alone. When our tongue is bridled and led by the Spirit, it will not say what we are thinking but rely on Who we know.

Proverbs 18:20-21 (ESV) From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

We have no excuse. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Lord has already seeded our life with the seeds of faith that produce good fruit to satisfy our heart and soul. These same things produce a confident hope that allows us to remain fearless and full even in famine and drought. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Every lifeless situation is subject to the vocabulary of our confession. We give life to those things not of God but giving them precedence in our proverbial overtures making our problem bigger than the promise. We say that right words but then smother them with complaining. Our communication is a confession that gives life to the thing in which our faith resides – what are you talking about? What are you confessing? What is the basis of communication?

Are you satisfied? Are you content? The fruit of our mouth produces the abundance of our life. It is from the abundance of the heart – the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45) We may think that there is growing, developing and maturing faith in our life until we carefully begin to listen to what we say. You may be surprised. Though it may be justified by the current condition of your life, the fruit of our mouth can also choke out the new life and new creation being cultivated by Christ.

When our son was undergoing extensive radiation treatment, his skin was burning from the inside out. His tumor was located inside his nasopharynx so the concentration of therapy was his head and neck. To my utter horror despite being warned near the end of his treatment, the burns began to surface. The blisters were awful. I would apply ointment that would cause him great pain and began melting off my hand before I even touched him. On one such morning, as tears ran down my face, I told him God would understand if he complained about this situation. The Lord would understand. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Now what good would that do?” Lesson learned. In the midst of the unthinkable, undergoing a treatment no one should endure along with chemotherapy which is poison coursing through his body – this young man still did not see fruitfulness in complaining when just that morning I griped about the uncomfortable bed as I rolled out of bed with a healthy body and free accommodations graciously provided to us. Perspective can often change our communication when we stop complaining.

James 3:1-5 (ESV) Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

Many years ago, I thought being right was all that mattered. It gave you a free license to stand on your soapbox and yell. Things are different now. The journey of faith with our so changed my life forever – in a good way – in a God way. Nothing is normal anymore. Such an ordeal takes highly regarded priorities and completely changes them forever. I am not necessarily a better person but I am definitely humbled at my lifelong disregard for righteousness. That’s right righteousness. I was right in many of my observations. But the power of my life is righteousness given to me by Christ and the access to the Presence of God that I now have – my responsibility is to sow seeds of faith and life into the world. I am to be a Light. Not one that shines on the faults and failures of others, but rather Light that attracts others from darkness to engage in the Light of His Love. My life is not attracted by harsh, bitter words. It is not influential when plagued by complaints. It is not going to cultivate fruit in barren fields of doubt and disbelief. The only hope that I have in this life and eternity is Jesus Christ. My heart and mouth must agree that He is who I boast in.

Before the change in my heart, I used to feel it appropriate to give people a piece of my mind. I did it so frequently that a co-worker made a literal “STOP” sign. When a conversation became heated, she would hold it up as a warning. On the other side, it said, “GO RIGHT AHEAD!” She was more influential than the Holy Spirit at that time. But the sign has been discarded and now I must truly rely on the Holy Spirit. The change of heart was appropriate because now rather than focusing on my pride or being right – the Lord keeps my eye on the prize. The prize and potential of the Kingdom is in people. My response to them and the situations of life is by faith. Faith in the Love of God that I can never be separated from therefore I am free to share without reciprocation because my life is full. The kind of love that is always pursuing me. It is looking for ways to bring His Goodness and Glory in my life. Yet, even now with years, I still find that there are so many areas of my life that need attention. Careless words that need to be redacted. Prayers that need to be released from bondage. Fields of foolishness that need to replanted with faith which produces good fruit. So many idle words that require repentance to be filled with life again. Lord, help me to always be sure that the meditation of my heart is You. May the meditation of my heart and the words of my mouth agree! May the greatest confession of my life always be You – Jesus!

Psalm 19:14 (ESV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

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Rejection

Rejection

John 12:47-50 (MSG) “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.”

What a different world would we live in if people did not fear rejection? Rejection is the feeling of being refused. Rejection can be delivered from either party. What in the world is Christ saying in this passage? I don’t understand. “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him.” To the organized religion called church that is a preposterous notion. To hear the Word and not do it most certainly must bear a consequence. Not in the face of grace, it can’t. To allow condemnation of any kind is to reject the idea that His Grace is enough to overcome every weakness. God will never reject the repentant heart that makes its way through the Blood of Jesus Christ. Rejection is not a Kingdom principle but an earthly choice made by mankind to choose something else.

Jesus came to save us. He came to heal us, restore us and revive us again as sons and daughters of God. His Purpose was not to judge the world yet it is the heavy mantle of many to not only judge each other but themselves. There is a difference between judgment and accountability. One is terminal the other can be life giving. Throughout my lifetime, the Lord has placed many in my life who hold me accountable to the Word of God. I have also faced many judges and harsh critics. The purpose behind the pain is the determining factor. Was the point of the lesson to tear down or build up? Jesus came to build a Kingdom but in doing so He had to tear some things down and rebuild them.

John 2:18-22 (MSG)  But the Jews were upset. They asked, “What credentials can you present to justify this?” Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.” They were indignant: “It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this. They then put two and two together and believed both what was written in Scripture and what Jesus had said.

The Jews were more than upset – they became downright irate when Jesus said that He could rebuild the Temple it took 46 years to build in three days. Thank you Jesus! That’s exactly what He did. On the Cross, the Jews recounted his words completely ignorant that He was doing just that. He was tearing down religion to make way for a relationship. A love covenant with mankind that could never be destroyed or threatened again. No more condemnation but overflowing grace that could strip down every stronghold and overcome every obstacle between the Father and His Beloved Children. Now God’s Love pursues us. There is no longer rejection but open relationship if we allow it.

So if there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ and no judgment in Him, what about sin? Accountability to the Word of God and reconciliation to Jesus Christ are fulfilled in repentance. Turning from our way to pursue Him. Religion is a change of habit. Repentance is a change of heart. One leads to a good life and a successful church. The other leads to eternal life in the Father’s House. I wonder today if the rejection felt by many is not rejection but a call of repentance. A gentle urging by the Son to come back to the Father and experience His Love. If we experience punishment – it is not of the Father. To experience permission comes when we give up our way to encounter the fullness of the Word and freedom it delivers.

Matthew 7:1-5 (MSG) “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

After eating with a friend, have they ever told you that you have something in your teeth? Or maybe just gestured it as not to gain attention? How do you feel in that moment? A little embarrassed. Quickly trying to dislodge the speck, leaf or pepper from your pearly whites? You may ask them, “Did I get it?” Did you get mad at them for pointing it out? Of course not! You didn’t want to go around for the rest of the day smiling and conversing with your meal on full display. How much more embarrassing would that have been?

God has placed people in each other’s lives in the Body of Christ to act as iron sharpening iron. We have many acquaintances in life but then there is that one friend the Lord sends to be our accountability partner. If you do not know who that is, then look for them. The point of our partnerships in life is beneficial. The enemy works night and day to destroy godly relationships especially the sharp and pointed ones that enable us to discover God’s Purpose and encourage us to follow His Plan. Relationship is essential for it is the currency of the Kingdom and its greatest commodity. If we do not learn to hold each other accountable, it will become judgment in our life. Those who celebrate us but never convict us to be more of who Christ created us to be will one day become our critic because the relationship is not based on the Love of God but man’s preferences. The fine line between critical people and committed people rests in their convictions. Do they serve a Savior who always accepts and loves regardless of our willingness to follow Him? Or do we have conditional love that doesn’t believe in the God of all grace? Without true repentance there is only religion. We must learn to love and learn together in the Body of Christ without judgment or condemnation but unconditional love and amazing grace.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (MSG) It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

Am I really being rejected, condemned or judged? In most cases, yes. It is human nature. The dangerous game of comparison that feeds our pride to keep it alive. However, it is of vital importance in our spiritual life to evaluate those relationships that are rough around the edges to see if God is actually but an ironclad friend to be an accountability partner. Even the caring friend who points out the debris in our smile offers a slight sting at the revelation that our salad is on display for all to see causes a bristled reaction. It is only human nature, but in the end it produces a change. You work to right the problem and so it is with God. The commitment of our Lord at work in us with the help of the Holy Spirit is to engage in a deeper and more intimate relationship with God and then each other. When we feel rejected, we seek isolation. Remove ourselves from the haters, if you will. But maybe they aren’t haters at all but the true lovers of our soul? Food for thought and learning for life straight from the Word. Lord, show me the people who I have rejected that You have placed in my life with purpose. Examine my heart and illuminate any dark seat of judgment my pride has established. Point me in the way of everlasting life to build your Kingdom one person at a time in Jesus Name! Amen!

Proverbs 27:17 (MSG) You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.

Take a Stand

Take A Stand

Psalm 18:32-34 (NLT) God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.

“He (or she) who kneels before God can stand before anyone.” (Unknown and paraphrased)

Psalm 18 is David’s song to the Lord praising God for rescuing him from all his enemies particularly Saul. Who better to sing it than the shepherd boy turned mighty warrior with a single stand and monumental victory over a Philistine giant with one small pebble hurled by faith and powered by the Hand of God. David did stand in strength and power full of self-confidence and natural abilities. He was a scrawny kid surrounded by a battalion of soldiers whose heart was firmly established in the Lord. God arms me with strength. He makes my way perfect. He makes me surefooted. He enables me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle. He strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. One might think this is a battle cry of a highly trained tactical fighting machine but really it is more about the human heart than any man’s ability.

Adrenaline fuels our heart and mind to react to a situation. We will either fight or flee depending on our perception of the outcome of an encounter. In the natural, it is often an assumption made after sizing up our opponent or obstacle to determine one’s ability to overcome. But with God all things are possible to those who believe. Do you believe today? Do you have faith and confidence that God is for you? Do you believe that He loves you and will never leave or forsake you? Our mind can play tricks on us especially when the enemy comes with clever traps of half-truth and deception. He cannot stop the plan or purpose of God in our life. He is successful only when we give up or give in to human temptation, weakness or emotions. Yet even still God’s Word for you will never return to Him void. What the Lord has promised – He will deliver – if we stand!

God arms me with strength. God’s Power is delivered by grace in our weakness. It is the humility of repentance when our life is turned over to the Lord and trust begins to develop that victory is secured. I know it seems preposterous that in surrender that His Power is most effective. It seems illogical. But what if this strength mentioned in Psalm 18 is not about anything our physical body can do but rather strength of spirit to trust the Lord until the bitter end. To stand in the field well sown but not growing. To believe in famine and drought that you will do more than survive but God says you will thrive. How do we find our way to the source of strength that becomes the sound foundation of a prosperous life? Tell us today David where does your strength come from? “I love you, Lord. You are my strength.” (Psalm 18:1) From beginning to end, David put his heart and soul into knowing and loving the Lord. From the pasture full of sheep to the battlefield of soldiers, God was God to David.

Psalm 139:1-6 (NLT) O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

He makes my way perfect. In Psalm 139, there is a glimpse of the moment of creation. An intimate encounter with God even delving into His Thoughts for us. God is greater than our emotions and feelings. When He created us it was with the full potential of purpose that would completely satisfy our life exceedingly and abundantly more than we could think or ask or even imagine. Knowing this and believing this requires a self-discipline that stands when every fiber of our being says to run. It is the hardest part of spiritual maturity. To develop an understanding that doesn’t understand everything (or anything) God is doing yet still chooses to continue following His Path. To decide God you are who You say you are and will do what You say You will do and live life with such a conviction and confidence that keeps us in place. It is hard. It is completely contrary to our education and life experience that is until we encounter the Living God and begin to experience His Promises.

It is not uncommon to come to crossroads of decision each day. Who will I trust? What will I believe? Will I consistently choose the better way? Jeremiah 6:16 talks about crossroads – “This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’” How many times have I made a rational choice rather than a radical commitment to do things God’s Way? I cannot count the number of times that I have taken my toys and gone home rather than continued laboring in the field God has placed me. What about you? Have you done the same? Well, I have good news. His Mercy is new every morning. His People are called to endurance so there is still time. The God who created you knows you. He had to if His Son would provide enough grace to save and empower you. You may have made a bad choice but today is a new day. The Lord inside of you is full of resurrection power and life which is yours for the asking and ready for the taking of those who surrender it all to Him.

A little knowledge of God is worth more than great knowledge about him. (J.I. Packer)

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. God is fortifying our feet to be surefooted. To stand on mountain heights and look at life from His Perspective requires conditioning. I could not hike up a mountain in my present condition. I am embarrassed at my unhealthy state compared to a few years ago. When I finally foray back into the gym, I will have to recondition my body. It will take time. It will require a commitment. I must ignore screaming muscles and dying fat to continue to bring my body into subjection. And so it is with our heart, soul and mind when it comes to being “surefooted” in the Lord. His Perspective is higher than our own. His Plan is naturally uncommon. His Purpose fully encompassing a life not fully lived. It is our passion to know God that keeps us engaged. Knowing about him does nothing for us. I have thoroughly researched the gyms close to my work and home. I know their hours of operation. I know the equipment offered. I have inquired as to membership fees and requirements. I have not made a commitment yet. Therefore, my knowledge is really doing nothing for me. We must exercise our knowledge of God by faith to make it wisdom beneficial in our life. It requires a commitment. It will take trust to get us there. Our confidence must be in the Living God who is not fully understood yet embraced just the same. Maybe the greatest battle in standing is not taking one but staying there until the battle is won!

“God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand – you failed.” (St. Augustine)

He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. The battle is the Lord’s today and every day. His Plan for you and me is in full effect. The stand to be taken is in solidarity with God. To continually walk in His Ways while training our heart and mind to trust Him implicitly. It doesn’t matter whether you think your enemies are many and your strength too small – greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world. No weapon formed against you will prosper. God is offering you His Strength today. He will be your refuge. It is all up to you. Will you take a stand against human understanding today? Will you believe past your doubt and disbelief? Will you say to the Lord forsaking all others I choose you? These are the words of warriors who win battles and overcome all obstacles in life. The warrior is you! Take a stand! The war waged against you is won in your heart not with your hands!

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.

Philippians 4:7 (NLT) Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

In the Trenches

In the Trenches

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Woke up to the sound of rain today. Not gentle droplets on the window sill but a pounding torrential downpour with rolling thunder. Turning over pulling the covers a little bit higher, I don’t want to get out of bed but rather soak in some extra sleep and surrender to laziness. Struggling to pull myself out of bed, all the inconvenience of going outside and loss of comfort keeps me cozy and in place. Blame it on the rain! I can do this. I will do this. I must do this. It’s Sunday! It’s the Lord’s Day!

Rain is a life giver. As it soaks the fresh cut grass, it is a brilliant green. All the spring pollen is washed away, and it smells new outside. Our lab thinks it is just for her. A gift from Heaven as she frolics, runs and rolls in it. She is a waterdog. Made for such a time as this, I stand wrapped in a jacket hoping it will end before our departure. Yet her enthusiasm makes me smile – she loves the rain. Maybe the rain is just for her…

There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. The power of the life giving Spirit has freed us. I will rejoice. Sometimes caught in the trenches of service for the Lord, it is easy to forget what this thing called ministry is all about. We are ambassadors of Christ called to ministry in our once ordinary life given to extraordinary potential with Jesus. Those who are called are equipped with the Spirit of God and ability to make it rain especially in the life of those currently living in seasons of drought, despair and darkness.

I Kings 18:41-45 (NLT) Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”

This chapter of I Kings chronicles the “contest on Mount Carmel”, the place where God poured out His Glory, Elijah overcame and killed the prophets of Baal and there was a revival amount the people. “And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, ‘The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!’” THEN, Elijah went to pray for rain. The chapter begins by setting the scene. It was the third year of drought. The promise spoken to Elijah from the Lord – I will soon send rain! The problem in the midst of it all – disbelief. The people had given their heart and mind to serve a dead god – Baal. Yet the Living God pursued them nevertheless. The only thing standing between them and relief from the drought was repentance and revival. Life in the trenches is where we find Elijah. He did not pray for rain with expectancy until the people were revived in heart and soul.

Luke 15:4-7 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Death was introduced to mankind by one man, Adam. Grace was delivered to all mankind through one man – Jesus Christ. Elijah was one man. He was sent to end drought. The contest on Mount Carmel had to be accomplished so the heart of the people would be ready for rain. More importantly, they had to align themselves with God to receive it. Elijah released God’s Glorious Grace when he overcame the prophets of Baal that day. It was not in their death but the new life and hope created when the people recognized God coming back to Him in humility.

I wonder if we forget that sometimes. When a church service doesn’t produce an altar full or maybe the response to the message seems to be nil. Do we lose sight off the greater good that is the power of grace in one person? “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and turns to God.” We can all pretend to be righteous or maybe a tad bit religious but when our heart repents and our soul is revived – God sends an outpouring of His Glory like never before. We can pick apart our church and all the people in it. We will miss the point altogether and live limited lives. Elijah dug trenches around the sacrifice filling them with water. It would be impossible for God to light a fire, right? No miracles happen in the impossible. If you have been praying for an abundance of rain, but seem to be living in drought – God is ready to pour out rain on your life today. Examine your heart and align your mind with His Word again. If you have been working a dry and barren land that seems impossible to bear fruit, keep digging those trenches for the rain is coming when the soil becomes broken and fertile. The rain is coming – will you be there to experience His Outpouring? God’s Word will not fail. He will do exactly as He promised. We must humble ourselves and pray with repentant hearts ready for revival. This is life in the trenches and you are in good company!

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (NLT) At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.

Wild Horses

Wild Horses

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

If I had a dime for every time I have recited this verse to my rambling mind, rebellious thoughts and overwrought emotions. God did not give me the spirit of fear but there are days I completely own it myself. Stress and anxiety fuel doubt and disbelief. The enemy whispers, “But…” Lies that get me all hot and bothered as I try to wrestle in my flesh and take captive those thoughts that so easily distract me. God did not give me the spirit of fear or timidity. He didn’t give it to you either. Anything contrary to God in our life must go in order for us to fully embody Christ and experience freedom that is given through Him.

Yesterday was one of those days, after a week of fighting the good fight, it seemed like it was going to be a good day. I got out of the house on time – major victory for the time challenged. I had an awesome worship, praise and prayer time on the way to work. Two major victories before the morning meeting at work had me feeling pretty confident that it was going to be a great close to the long week. Well then the enemy lobbed a bomb over the fence and immediately I was on the run. I was angry, mad, stressed, worried and anxious all at the same time all of a sudden. Caught off guard, I was unsuccessful at pulling in the wild horses dragging me off fast and furiously. It’s hard to remember to never let your guard down especially on the “good” days. To think that the enemy is not lurking in the darkness just looking for a foothold. For me it came as a “misunderstanding” mixed with some “confusion” all the enemy’s tactics waging war against a confident heart and made up mind. “Are you sure? What if? Or else?” Subtle attacks that lead to devastating results if not handled immediately.

So this morning, I am going to share three tips for reining in “wild horses”? Those thoughts and notions that there is a limit to God’s Love, Power and Faithfulness in our life. I hope they help you. They are not quick fixes. It will take a lot of time and practice to instill them as habits in an emotional world that has decided God is not who He claims to be and tries to rob the finished work of Christ on the Cross. So here goes…

Power

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) 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.

Matthew 19:26 (NLT) Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.

Luke 1:37 (NLT) For the Word of God will never fail.

Grace is available in our weakness. Power comes when we relinquish control of our life to the Power of God promised by Jesus and the Word of God. The problem is that our world is D-I-Y obsessed even the church. “Well, if I don’t do it – who will?” The one called and commissioned to. Giving up control is what crucifying the flesh is all about. To decide that you will fully invest your life in God’s Way through the Way – Jesus Christ means giving up your power to fully embrace His Power. How do you do that? Repentance. Obedience. Trust. Key components to full embracing God’s Power is at the end of self. We cry out for God’s Intervention asking Him to open the windows of Heaven over us and fill our life with the abundance that is promised but never really understanding the change that comes with it. We cannot live in the Presence of God unchanged. We cannot reach the depths offered without giving up our current position. There is no way to discover the vastness and limitless boundaries of His Love and Grace for us without accepting His Grace fully.

Love

Romans 8:37-39 (NLT) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I John 4:18 (NLT) Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

There is no limit on God’s Love. He pursues us with unfailing love. (Psalm 23) It is endless reaching from creation, through life and into eternity. God demonstrated His Love by giving us amazing grace. The kind of grace that works best in our weakness. Christ was the example who was crucified in weakness to give way to resurrection power and new life. We have overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ who loved us. His Spirit lives in us as evidence of adoption. No longer are we exiled from God but through Christ reconciled as sons and daughters of God. Do you love your children? How much? Too much sometimes, right? How much more does God love us? Do you believe that God loves you today? Are you convinced? Love is the conviction of God’s Faithfulness to us outside of our ability to remain pure and blameless. His Love came down and rescued us in our weakness and gave us victory. We do not deserve it. We cannot earn it. We can do nothing to repay God for His Gift. The only thing we can do is believe it and live in that love fearlessly.

Fear is evidence that there is doubt or disbelief in the fulfillment of God given through Jesus Christ. It does not fully embrace the finished work on the Cross or grab hold of the “overwhelming victory” promised in God’s Word. The only hope that you and I have of living a courageous life is in our ability to completely and confidently receive God’s Love. To allow His Love to change our heart, soul and mind until it is completely convinced that there is nothing that can separate us from His Love. His Faithfulness is not contingent on anything we do other than to believe it enough to embrace it and stop running from Him.

In fact, the Word of God says those that believe in the perfect love of God live fearlessly. Perfect love expels fear. The solution to the problem does not end fear. Fear continually sows seeds when not eradicated. It is in the constant sowing of God’s Love in our life that fear has no place to grow, mature or develop into worries, cares, stress or burdens. The conviction of God’s Love is the birthplace of freedom. It is the place where ordinary life takes on an extraordinary existence. Right where you are even if nothing changes. Perfect peace takes over until God delivers.

Self-Discipline or Self-Control

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Proverbs 25:28 (NLT) A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

I Peter 1:13 (NLT) So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Each week I make a grocery list and menu for the upcoming week. I have the best intentions of making delicious meals for my family that are often upended by busyness. Just because I have all the ingredients doesn’t mean I will follow through with my original plan. The Holy Spirit produces all the good fruit for an amazing life – but self-control is what we must use to make it all work together. My thoughts are pivotal in execution of God’s Plan. I must rein in every thought contrary to Christ and adverse to God’s Word. I cannot allow myself the opportunity to worry, stress or fear what is to come. God promised to work every detail of my life for His Good and Glory. Do I believe Him? My response to lies and taunts of the enemy will reveal the content and true conviction of my heart. Consumed by worry, I must decide to worship. I cannot give lies permission to remain but must pray and praise my way through it. I must give up every other conviction than the one that says, “God loves me and He is for me – I cannot fail!”

When I was much younger, I had a good friend who owned horses. We could go riding on Saturdays. There was one particular horse that I was riding which was a bit skittish. My friend who was a confident equestrian asked as we were headed home, “Would you like to change horses because the one that I was on was “barn sour”? I had no idea what that meant and later wish I did. Coming out of the woods when she saw the pens and barn just past it – she took off running out-of-control. I pulled the reins with all my might but she was not having it. All I could do was hang on and pray I didn’t fall off in her haste.

A “barn sour” or “herd bound” behavior is produced by anxiety. Fear of separation from the herd or physical location which it deems secure such as a pasture or barn. It is a dangerous behavior as the rider loses all control of the animal. There is no threat except the stress of the animal. The basis for this equine problem is one that many humans suffer from, too. Insecurity. According to experts, the insecurity caused by this instinct in horses is exacerbated by a lack of training which is easily overcome.  You must teach the horse to be responsive to your clues. It is the same with people who want to live a fearless life embracing fully the freedom given to us by Jesus.

Father, I ask you to flood our hearts with light today. Expose every lie that the enemy has sown in us that it may be uprooted and replanted with faith. I rebuke fear, stress, anxiety, worries and care commanding them to go in Jesus Name. Lord, I trust you. Help any disbelief in me to give way to resurrection power and life. I believe that You love me. I am convinced that nothing can separate me from Your Love even my fears, doubts and insecurities that you are removing right now. Lord, let your Spirit complete His Work in me. I give you permission to permeate every part of my life for my good and Your Glory! In the Name above all names – Jesus!

Ephesians 1:18-23 (NLT)  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

 

Unlikely Opportunities

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Psalm 76:23-26 (NIV) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

“Deny your weakness and you will never realize God’s Strength in you.” (Joni Eareckson Tada)

The unlikely opportunity of empowerment comes at the high price of the realization of weakness. The moment that mind over matter doesn’t work anymore and human inadequacy will fail the test of time and trial – this is the pivotal placement of dependency on God. Human nature demands a breaking point to lay aside pride and lean on the Lord. The mountain has to be too big. The valley too low. The season too hard. Or the darkness impenetrable for our pride to finally die. We are created in the Image of God. The bigger they are the harder they fall.

My flesh and heart may fail… is a huge understatement. My flesh will fail. My heart does fail. Those seasons of life that are just too much for our humanness so our heart turns to God. Though it is not a time called affectionately to our remembrance, those who wait upon the Lord or find Him there will never give up the strength and power of His Presence. It changes you. You are still made of flesh. Everyone has a wavering heart, but it is in the Presence and Power of our Creator that we find a new kind of strength called trust that will fill us with peace even in the midst of tremendous pressure.

God is the strength of my heart and portion forever. Is He enough? Is your faith and confidence in God enough? The Lord cannot heal unless something is broken. He cannot fill a place that is already full. Miracles happen in the midst of the impossible. You cannot find your place in Jesus until you stand down from self. Such unlikely opportunities, all the things that the world tells us to avoid. These are the primary places of true empowerment. When weariness gives way to an upset, when our strength completely fails and all that is left is to surrender to the Power and Presence of God.

When life falls apart and the world crashing down around us – chaos ensues. Our mind cannot wrap itself around the incomprehensible tragedy or loss surrounding the time and place when our normal is no longer. It happens all the time. The unexplainable time when human understanding is lost and all that is left is to look to our Lord and Savior. What will that moment look life for you? For Joni Eareckson Tada, it was the moment a freak accident forced her into a wheelchair and a life of quadriplegia. For me, the moment our son was diagnosed with cancer. The same cancer that would come back aggressively time and time again. The days of fighting for treatment in a world that puts a price on human life. The aftermath of a warrior with a body covered with battle scars. Maybe for you it was in the loss of a loved one to death or even in life. Perhaps it was a career that abruptly ended or financial disaster. Could it have been when you just couldn’t do it anymore?

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Such a glorious hope that we have in Jesus, a bright and shining light that sometimes requires shrouds of darkness to truly discover. The Lord is always with us. He is right there with you. It doesn’t matter if you wandering off or ran from Him. He pursues you every day with unfailing love and goodness. His Glory is ready to overtake you. He deposits new mercy on your doorstep each morning and His Grace is enough. It is sufficient for you in every situation. I will always be the place where His Strength and Power overtake us. It is the unlikeliest of places but has the most potential of all.

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.

Every weakness is the opportunity for God to show us His Glory and Strength. Empowerment is a benefit of grace and reward of surrender. God has given us His Spirit. The Spirit is hard at work producing good fruit in our life according to His Word. He is our helper in all things. The Holy Spirit is also our guarantee. The One deposited in us when every promise became “yes” and “amen”. He will not force us into submission. He will not demand our surrender. He waits in us for the moment it is our choice. It is in that time and space that the Presence of God overtakes us and a new strength of heart called faith emerges. The crevices of a broken heart give way to fertile soil that allows His Spirit to sustain us even in seasons of famine and drought. When nothing seems to be going right but rather coming apart. It is right then and there that something changes. We give up our way to fully embrace His Way. Thank you Lord for the days when everything falls apart that You are forever faithful in making every detail and taking every piece of my broken heart to fill with power and use for Your Glory! God is good! He is always good! His Goodness is ready to overtake you today! Max Lucado said, “I simply think God is greater than our weakness. In fact, I think it is our weakness that reveals how great God is.” I agree.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

“The human experience of weakness is God’s Blueprint for calling attention to the supremacy of His Son. When miserably failing people continue to belong to, believe in, and worship Jesus, God is happy.” (Michael Spencer) Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He provides unlikely opportunities for ordinary life to become an extraordinary existence. He turns natural consequences into supernatural experiences for those who choose to surrender every weakness to Him. The Lord did not come to condemn us. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. He is the Resurrection and Life. He is where dead things breathe again. He is where the terminal is no longer fatal. He is the Alpha and Omega or the Beginning and the End. It’s not over until the Lord says so. The Lord is an everlasting God. He will not give up when you do. He will not give in because you decide its time. No, the Lord will finish the good work that He began in your life. All you have to do is hope in Him. Trust Him. Believe Him.

“A sacrifice to be real must cos, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His LOVE than your weakness.” (Mother Teresa)

I Corinthians 1:26-30 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Working in Me

Work in Me

Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” Buddha

There is more to the story of salvation than to escape the ramparts of hell. To engage in an experience of repentance and leave the same person with the same problems with a lack of purpose is a great tragedy considering the deposit and investment that is conceived in that moment. We live in a visible world serving an invisible God. His Presence surrounds us and His Spirit lives in us but the tangible being is not so evident. We must work hard to show the results of our salvation through love-driven, passion-infused, reverent and radical obedience to the Living God. The words of Buddha hold true even if not the intent. We must work out our own salvation independent of people and fully reliant on the Lord. God is working in us even before our first encounter with Christ leading us to that moment. Once we have found our Savior and Lord the continuation of our life has the potential to be powerful and purposeful in every single endeavor because Jesus is now inside of us.

We must make a personal investment in the potential of our future. But the Work of God in us is not an external effort but rather an internal transformation. It is not an act of doing but rather a work of becoming. The work completed on the Cross by Jesus was enough to provide all the grace needed for the Power of God to fully finish that which He predestined and preordained for us. All the blessings and promises are predesigned with our only act of obedience to fulfillment. We must work God’s Plan so it will work in us. The distinguishing factor in all of this is to keep our relationship with Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life of every purpose and promise rather than becoming a willing participant of religion that is consumed by what we do more than who we are.

Mind, will and emotions are pivotal to the change of God beginning to take over within us. We must sacrifice them along with our feelings to let the Holy Spirit produce good fruit that nourishes our heart and soul instead. As our soul prospers, our spiritual life becomes primary and natural life is impacted by a crucified flesh giving way to the Holy Spirit. It is a takeover of sorts by those who long to be pursued and overtaken by God’s Unfailing Love, Amazing Grace and Constant Goodness. It is a submission of our mind, will and emotions to the Cross so that confidence in Christ and what He promised to do is our primary position. It is the moment that we take up that Cross to follow the example of Jesus that things begin to change in a good way.

James 2:19-22 (NLT) You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 

Working the Plan of God is not what we do but the confidence to lay down our life in careful and continual obedience. To trust the Lord means doing things His Way when all logic points another. Abraham is a prime example of working God’s Plan. There was no reason for him to believe that he would father one child let alone a nation. Yet, he dared to believe. The unbelievable was his absolute confidence and so he lived loving and serving God. Did he mess up? Yes. Did he make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. God did not look for his perfection but rather his perseverance that no matter what he still believed especially when there was absolutely nothing tangible to be confident – the person of God – the Great I AM – was simple enough.

“Salvation is not a self-improvement program. That can only change us on the outside. The work of God changes us on the inside.” (Zac Poonen) It is easy to change habits and make better choices. Hard work, determination and motivation will change our way of living and produce a better life. Even religious obedience can produce the benefits of sowing and reaping, but in the end if our relationship with Jesus Christ is not established – we gain absolutely nothing. There are those who will come to Christ and have a better life just because they decided to work the plan. The Bible is the precedent of obedience that leads to productivity. However, if we do not allow the Lord to work His Plan in us – our life is worthless and meaningless void of God’s Glory found in His Grace.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT) And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Greetings from Paul to the people in Philippi who belonged to Christ is one of thanksgiving for the testimony these people lived. As he continues, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work in you, will continue His Work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Friend, we are a work in progress. The only time that Christ stops working in us and through us is when we decide go our own way (He is the ONLY Way), to live a lie (contrary to Truth), and choose something other than Resurrection Life and Power given to us for today. God will do exactly as He promised. Our only job is to continually surrender our life to Him. How? “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:5) He finished the Work on the Cross for the joy set before Him. Jesus did not live for immediate gratification but eternal pleasure. His Good Pleasure is you and me. He thought we were to die for and He did. He marched into hell and took possession (title and deed) to our life. When Christ came out of the grave, His Motive always was love so rather than take ownership of us and enslave us. He gave us freedom to live in love with Him or choose something else. What is your choice today? Will you work God’s Plan by submitting everything to Jesus? Will you surrender your heart to the work that was begun in you? Do you trust that God will complete it? That is what this life is all about – falling in love with Jesus Christ! Living in a loving relationship that transcends the boundaries of time and brings heaven to earth. He gave it all to us. We must only work out our salvation with fear and trembling as His Love consumes our ordinary life and produces an extraordinary existence.

“Salvation is a work of God to show His Glory. That’s why He’s not going to let it fail.” (Paul Washer)

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Oneness

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Colossians 3:10-11 (NLT) Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Christ prays in me. Christ works in me. Christ looks through my eyes. Christ speaks through my words. Christ works with my hands. Christ walks with my feet. Christ loves with my heart. As St. Paul’s prayer was – I belong to Christ and nothing can separate me from the Love of Christ. It was that oneness – oneness with God in the Holy Spirit. (Mother Teresa)

I am struck by the words of this meek and mighty woman of God. Mother Teresa gave her life to passionate prayer and pursuing complete oneness with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Her words echo through the recesses of my mind, body and soul asking the question, “Are you one?” Am I experiencing the fullness of oneness with Jesus Christ? To be fully consumed by love for the One who loved me first and always loves me the most. The holy inhabitation of God’s Spirit is given in order to live in complete consummation of our relationship to Christ. Have we lost our passion for God? Have we lost our first love – Jesus Christ? Busyness robs us of precious moments better given to Christ. Distractions keep us from seeing the opportunity offered in each encounter. Stress and worry produced by fear erode the confidence that is conviction of God’s Timeless and Endless Love for us.

Put on your new nature. Our identity is not an orphan but dearly loved Child of the Living God. It goes deeper through Christ now we are a bride. We prepare for marriage with Him similar to that of natural marriage in the confession and conviction forsaking all others – I choose You – Jesus! Is that your heartfelt desire today? To be a Child of God. To become the Bride of Christ. It is through the pursuit of oneness with the Lord and reconciliation to Christ that this is accomplished. Christ is all that matters. He is alive in us.

2 Corinthians 5:14-19 (NLT) Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Comparison to people and personal evaluation to human standards will build and fortify pride in our life. We can always find someone who will make us feel better about ourselves. We can use the scales and balances of the world and find self-satisfaction in our own rightness. But that is not the standard of living that the Lord has called us to. Reconciliation to Jesus Christ will produce a godly standard of living impossible apart from Him. It removes every arrogant thought and prideful excuse to give way to complete submission and surrender to the Lover of our Soul. When two people married it is perceived that they become one. No longer two separate individuals through the bond and covenant of marriage they are one. It is from this union designed by God that our union with Christ is personified. Except two come together in agreement and harmony giving up their way to pursue life together – there is no relationship but constant striving and struggling to maintain our own way.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Do you belong to Jesus Christ? Mind, soul and body have your given your heart to the Lord? If so, then you know it requires a change of direction called repentance. God does not lie or change His Mind. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The unchangeability of the Trinity makes it impossible to pursue oneness unless I am willing to give up my way, the lie of the enemy and engage in new life together with Jesus. The church cannot properly reconcile the world to God until the individuals comprising the Body get it together first. We must reconcile our life to Christ completely to create unity of the Body as a whole. We must stop evaluating the success and failure or the church by numbers and begin to identify with the person of Jesus Christ again pursuing oneness with Him in every possible conceivable way.

Love is a commitment. It is a covenant relationship that forsakes self for oneness. If you have been married more than a few days, you understand that success in a marriage is giving. Taking is not conducive to continued unity but the constant and consistent giving of yourself. It is the pursuit of oneness that keeps us on the altar with our flesh slowly dying when it comes to our commitment to the Lord. It is this sweet smelling sacrifice that entices others to engage in such an endeavor to give up this life for so much more.

I Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

Our first two children are boys. After that, we have three girls. Lord, help me. Boys are pretty straight forward. Girls on the other hand test every fruit given by the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. The emotional overtures are ridiculous. My childhood was very different from our family. The relationships of this generation are mind boggling to say the least. I know people who have sons pray for daughters so consider yourself duly warned – be careful what you pray for. All joking aside the on again off again relationships sometimes hormonal and always emotional are like a rollercoaster that is out of control. I am currently working with our girls on humility and forgiveness whether their adversary deserves it or not. The teenage culture is brutal. I want my girls to arrive at the doorway of adulthood with tender hearts. I want them to be a blessing even if they are cursed by others. The only way this is accomplished is to be of one mind with Christ. I wonder if we are setting a good example for our children. The heart of God is love. The mind of Christ is love. The Holy Spirit cultivates love in us. The confidence of my commitment to Jesus is that He loves me. Nothing can separate me from His Love. This must be the foundation of my life – body, soul and spirit.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

The joy of the presence of Jesus, you must be able to give wherever you go. But you cannot give what you don’t have. That’s why you need a pure heart, a pure heart that you will receive as a fruit of your prayer, as a fruit of your oneness with Christ. (Mother Teresa) Oneness with Christ must be our lifelong pursuit. It fuels the Light of His Love within us. It is the saltiness that flavors our message making it palatable to a lost and dying world. Unity with Jesus cultivates the fruit of His Spirit – the first one is love. To be one with Jesus of the same heart, mind and purpose requires an overtaking of our self with His Unfailing Love and Overwhelming Grace or it is a religious learned behavior. I can change habits. I can make better choices. But I cannot be a new creation living a new life outside of oneness with Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)  I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 

Shining Light

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Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

You are the light of the world. A city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. A lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. I think sometimes this imagery of Christ is modernized into a flashlight meant to shine in the darkness when all along it was intended to be a light standing in the darkness attracting others to its light. The need to illuminate the life of others must never be to expose them but always to encourage them to leave the darkness behind. We choose to live in the Light and give others the same opportunity by becoming light.

Yesterday started out well, I knew there was a big project with a looming deadline waiting in my inbox. I was prepared for it. However a couple hours in the day, things took a twist. It sent me to the Emergency Room with our son. I could feel my not-so-normal life trying to put a damper on the day. My joy was under attack by the constant reminder of days gone by. Sitting in the hospital for some precautionary tests, I could feel frustration rising up accompanied by the incessant beeping of a monitor the nurse forgot to silence in her haste. As time ticked by, I could also sense the urgency of the task waiting at work. Upon returning, I knew that it would be a late one. My heart sank. This is the night our daughter and grandson come to visit. Though the sun was shining, I could sense rain clouds on the horizon. It seems like lately the tears fall just a little faster than before as though they are on the edge of my eyes all the time. Standing in the grocery store with the deli backed up, now even dinner was taking forever. I felt like I would burst into tears at any moment. It was then my daughter called she was passing by the store and asked if I would like her to come wait with me. When she walked in the store holding her bundle of joy, it was like sunshine through rain clouds. She was light. My dark day illuminated by two people who bring me absolute and complete joy.

John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

You are the light of the world…or at least the Light of the World lives in us. Rather than living like flashlights, it is our privilege to become lampstands of Christ. The light of His Love burning bright inside of us is more appealing than a spotlight in someone’s eyes. There are days I don’t feel saved. There are times when I don’t want to get up again. There are moments when the pressure seems too much to bear. The enemy too close to my ear. But it is in that moment, that God sends His Light to me. I do not ever have to walk in darkness but if it possible to be honest and transparent some days the darkness finds us anyway.

How do I maintain the Light of His Love? To keep a fire alive requires attention or it will burn out. We must feed the Light of His Love within us with the Word of God. The Light of His Love is a lamp that keeps us company in the dark times and helps us find our way in our wanderings. It shines through the broken pieces of its fragile jar called our heart for all to see. This life in Christ is one of complete transparency. People don’t need an artificial light that doesn’t represent a real God but rather need a passionate fire to fuel God’s Love in them. Is your light attractive? Is it bright enough? Is it properly fueled? Maintained even in the most inclement weather?

Psalm 27:1-3 (NLT) The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.

This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Hide it under a bushel…no! I’m gonna let it shine… I am quite sure that I will sing this with my grandson one day. He is a little light already. He is just another representation of God’s Love, Goodness and Faithfulness in my life. A blessing among blessings. The Lord is my light and my salvation. The next part of this verse is so important…why should I be afraid? What are you afraid of? What keeps you from living fully in the Light of His Love today? I guarantee you it is from the father of lies because there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from the Love of God today.

Before I can be a light to the world, I must identify the Light that lives inside me. He is Jesus. He is the Light of the World and definitely my salvation. In order to become a light in the darkness, I must become confident in His Love and Salvation. I know many people who claim to be saved but do not know or understand that capacity of God’s Love and Grace for them. They live in prisons built by fear, doubt and insecurity because surely no one can love like Jesus or offer grace without a price. Well…plot twist…He did and He does!

Psalm 36:7-9 (NLT) How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.

One of my favorite worship songs has a verse, “You can’t turn out a light that shines from the inside. You can’t put out a fire that burns from the inside.” You cannot become light to the world without a constantly consuming passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Your light will flicker and go out according to circumstances and conditions if not fully confident in the Lord as our Source. He must be more than enough. He must stand as overcomer. He must be exactly who He says He is to me in order for me to offer any kind of glimmer to another. The passion in our hearts is missing so the vibrant reflection of Christ that once was a beacon drawing thousands at a time, without sound systems, light shows, computerized screens and full bands with professional singers but just a light on a stand or city on a hill, is slowly fading to black. The Light that shines from my heart is an important part of the Kingdom. The Light potential in you is, too. Together we become the city for all to see and run to for refuge.

I have a flashlight I use each morning to take the dogs outside before dawn. It is important to avoid any surprises such as freshly dug holes or piles of mess. I share this because this is true in life, too. The Lord has given us the light to see. We must use that light in our own life. It is important to keep our eyes on the path before us with a consciousness of the “cloud of witnesses” all around. Those who are looking for light. Those who need help out of the pits of life and those who need to clean the mess off if you know what I mean. Sometimes we become so consumed with our own magnificence in life that we forget to magnify Jesus and draw others to Him. A light in the darkness stands like a candle. It cannot move or be swayed but nevertheless must be constantly consumed by fire to accomplish its purpose… as do I!

Ephesians 5:8-10 (NLT) For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.

I must live as light. I must pay attention to the lens of my life to be sure that I am allowing the Light of His Love to shine through me. I am not called to illuminate my darkness and live in my circle of light but to be a lamp on a stand and city on a hill to shine the Light of God’s Love to the lost, broken and dying people who He came for. We become consumed with our own life sometimes rather than allowing the all-consuming fire of His Love burn away fear, doubt and insecurity so total trust gives way to complete transparency. The world is looking for love – real love. We have it. Hidden in the fragile jars of our heart ready to spill out for all to see – will you let the Love of God shine through you today? It means focusing on others rather than self. It means climbing the rough side of the mountain with a smile on your face. True joy is found in Jesus Christ. If you do not have joy – it is time to reevaluate the well. Living water flows through you to quench the thirst of others. You were made to be salty adding flavor to life. Jesus Christ lives in you. You are the Light of the World. Don’t hide. Shine. Shine bright and confident in His Love today. No matter what you face you will be victorious. No matter the obstacle – you will overcome. You are more than a conqueror with the confidence that no weapon formed against you will prosper. Even if you are weary, if you wait on the Lord – He will take you higher than ever before. You are called to be a city on a hill! Be the Light!
Proverbs 4:18 (NLT) The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

Proverbs 13:9 (NLT) The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.

 

Finding Purpose

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Proverbs 20:7 (ESV) The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

A throne is God’s purpose for you; a cross is God’s path for you; faith is God’s plan for you. (Alan Redpath)

Did you know that you were created on purpose? It doesn’t matter the details of conception or conditions of birth – no baby arrives void of purpose. Your situation may not have been ideal. Your childhood a terrible tragedy. Teenage years a journey of guilt and shame. Adulthood filled with broken relationships and dead dreams yet still deep inside your heart is purpose. God placed eternity in our heart. He gave us a measure of faith to insure our success. He sent His Son – Jesus to take our life back paying the penalty of all sins so a full dispensation of grace might be available. Our life handed back to us labeled “free” and now it is up to us to decide how to use it. The purpose of God within us is far greater than just making it to Heaven. It is the opportunity to bring Heaven to earth.

The woman at the well had no idea that a divine appointment awaited her. She arrived around noon at the peak of the sun. She was shunned by other women and used by many men. Her current master not her husband just one willing to take the broken pieces of a shattered life and capitalize on it. She had no idea that the broken path she followed was leading her straight to redemption. She didn’t think this was a new day of new opportunity – I believe like many women just like her – she was just trying to get by. When she met Jesus, he asked for some water to satisfy a thirst. It would become an invitation for this dry and devastated life to be renewed.

John 4:13-16 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The purpose in our heart is deep water. We must search for understanding to draw it out. This woman began her conversation in the natural and then encountered the supernatural. She forgot who everyone said she was and ran back to tell them about the Messiah. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” I wonder today if the well of our hearts get so filled with worthless conversation and other garbage keeping the living water within us from making its way out of us. The opinions, insults and offenses stuck in our heart. The woman found her purpose. His Name – Jesus Christ. The guilt, shame and regret of our past is no match for the unfailing love and unfathomable grace given to us in just one encounter with the Lord. Purpose is a deep water that will only be found by those who are willing to dig a little deeper than the superficial overtures of life to reach the abundance found in new life.

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV) The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

For you will certainly carry out God’s Purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (C.S. Lewis)

Purpose is God-given. It resides in us. God placed eternity in each heart. He also provided us all with a measure of faith to successfully secure us in the Kingdom. He even sacrificed His Son to give us the freedom to choose between good and evil again with new mercy each day and more than enough grace for those days we miss the mark. God has us covered completely. Jesus gives us overwhelming victory as a byproduct of His Love for us. We can overcome in every situation. Why are so many Christians and so-called believers struggling then? Are you serving Jesus like Judas or John? Everyone would be quick to say, “John” but on closer evaluation of a wayward heart may be an indication that Judas is hiding in the darkest part.

Job 42:1-6 (ESV) “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

The story of Job is all about pride. Job’s life was prosperous. He was known as a religious man. He lived a righteous life. Yet, in all his goodness, the messengers came one by one as his kingdom fell. His family and finances were devastated. Disease soon infected his body. His own wife told him to give up on God. Yet in all his misery, Job did not give up on the Lord. His friends didn’t understand. They tried to offer comfort but only inflamed his heart and mind. In his complete and utter misery as his flesh was dying, Job came to the Lord and this was his cry. Job still believed. In the midst of all the tragedy, God still lived on the throne of his heart. Job knew that God is sovereign. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Such a profound statement. We hear a lot about the Lord and even adopt a certain language laced with hints of faith and believing. Yet it never reaches their heart or penetrates their thoughts forming a new belief which becomes a new life. As the Truth of God’s Identity and Character began to seep into the brokenness of his heart, something changed. Job was ready for a turnaround. Job repented.

Our purpose in the Lord will never be more than a promise if repentance is not a lifestyle. The Kingdom is not a place to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Hearing the Word of God it is easy to make a list of excuses why it’s not for us. But one encounter with the fullness of God in His Son – Jesus changes everything. The Lord dealt with Job’s accusers disguised as friends. He did not just restore Job but gave him double for his trouble. The renewal of faith in God will fill the gaps left by every tragedy in life. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. God already gave us everything we need including the promises so greatly desired. It must be our purpose to discover God’s Purpose and invest our life in Him.

“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. What if God’s Purpose is for you to give your life away for others? It is. What if you must lose your life to truly find it? You do. What if the eternity in our heart will not escape without brokenness? It won’t. God has placed a purpose in you far greater than your human life can produce or sustain. It will require every bit of faith to achieve. Your heart will be devastated to be redesigned – molded and shaped into the Masterpiece promised by the Lord in Ephesians 2. My heart was forever changed during our son’s battle with cancer. Normal will never be normal again. Once you know the truth, you cannot believe the lie anymore. For years, I prayed for the Lord to increase my faith and He did. It was not in some glorious service when Heaven opened and poured out His Glory. It was in a hospital room when I finally gave up all of me. Pride must die in His Presence for purpose to be properly birthed. It is painful. It can be messy. It is always worth it.

Psalm 138:8 (ESV) The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill His Purpose for you and me regardless of our participation. God will do exactly as He planned and promised to do because of His Steadfast Love for us. His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us even when we think we are pursuing Him. The Truth about us is that God created us with a plan containing a future and hope far greater than the life created by randomness. Every step has the potential to be purposeful when committed to the Lord. He is leading us to something far greater and exceedingly abundantly more than we can think, ask or imagine. Do you trust Him today? Do you believe in God’s Steadfast Love? If you do, you will go with Him. Following Him to the ends of the earth just to continue in His Unconditional Love. He will never leave us or forsake us. The Lord invites us to invest our freedom in His Purpose and to prosper in this life. It is up to us whether or not repentance turns us from a worthless life to a radical resurrection of a power-infused supernatural existence filled with God’s Favor.

Is there more to life than this? Yes, there is. His Name is Jesus. He is our Purpose.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.