Moving Into Greater

moving-into-greater

I John 4:4 (NLT) But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

How do we walk from victory to victory? Do we really win? If the Spirit who lives in me is greater than why does it seem like the one who rules the world is winning? The news around the world wreaks of turmoil, death and destruction. How do I keep my hand to the plow and my eyes on Jesus? I know a man who had a difficult childhood that gave way to many bad choices as a young adult. After attending a rehabilitation program, he met a girl and they made a beautiful family together. They raised their children in the admonition of the Lord. Went to church. Seemed to do all the right things to be in the Will and Way of God. I got word recently that the two are in the middle of a nasty divorce. One of their precious babies overdosed on heroin, died and was brought back to life by her father and paramedics. One is selling the stuff that almost killed a sibling. Another lost in an identity crisis trying to figure out who and what is real. How can this happen? How can Christian families who know the Lord fall apart so completely? They are not the only ones. I know a pastor whose family engaged in the same battle our family did at the exact same time. His sister battled cancer and won. Her victory was secured in Heaven with Jesus, not as they had hoped. We experienced a different kind of victory. Why do I feel guilty sometimes? Why do I feel like life is so unfair? Every day as I pray, I plead the Blood of Jesus over my husband, babies, church and friends. The battle for them is real and the adversary is ruthless. How do I take my eyes off all the fires burning around me? How can I not be distracted by the disturbing images to see the view from God’s Perspective and walk in it? I must learn to move into “greater”.

“You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” The people referred to in this passage are the false prophets. There may even one or two still circulating in this world (written with a hint of sarcasm). The Spirit who lives in me is greater. Jesus is greater than any other power or authority. (Period) The Sovereignty of God is passed down as power and authority to Jesus Christ in honor of His Sacrifice for all mankind. If the Spirit of God lives in us based on our decision to ask Jesus to be our Savior, to repent of our sins and turn from our own way, and make Him the Lord of our life – we have the Power of God and His Kingdom hidden inside of us. We can speak to mountains and they will move. We can cast out demons. We can drink poison and it will not harm us. We can do anything in His Name and for His Glory because He has given us His Victory. So why am I not winning? Are you fighting the right fight?

We engage in “civilian matters”. 2 Timothy 2:4 reminds us that “soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.” Our civilian life are all the “things” we do to survive in this world. Kingdom business is the life we live for the Lord outside of our daily routine and scheduled activities called living the American Dream or running the rat race depending on who you are and the given day. We get caught up in too many things that don’t really matter. I get caught up in too many things that don’t really matter. People are complicated. Circumstances are messy. Complications are inconvenient. I have feelings you know? Yes, God knows how we feel yet cannot leave us all emotionally caught up but tries to loose us because He is greater than our feelings. The Lord is fighting for our freedom. The battle begins inside of you and me.

John 3:30 (NLT) He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.

If only I could get past how I feel some days, and live only in the greatness of who He is. I know my life would be greater. Yet, I struggle with people and purpose every day. Less of me will always make room for more of Him. As I yield my body, mind, will and emotions to the Holy Spirit – He moves in and fills me with love, peace, joy and satisfaction allowing me to walk by faith and not by sight for that moment. I find that once I completely yield my broken heart or spirit to the Lord that He is faithful to fill up and secure it in me. Yet there are those areas that I give Him and before He can get there snatch it back. I want the greater things of God and to live for His Glory. Lord, move me into greater today by moving in and taking over more of me.

John 14:11-13 (NLT) “Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”

I have seen modern day miracles. I have seen the Hand of God touch human beings and supernaturally change their condition. Yet, there were times that I still did not believe. I believed in God the Father, of course. I believed in Jesus Christ and the fact that He died to save me. I also believed that His Holy Spirit lived inside of me. The struggle was for the greater things. I would give up to avoid disappointment. I did not fully believe or accept God’s Intervention in my life or my ability to do the same works that Jesus did. I do not believe that anymore. I absolutely believe that God is moving me to greater things. Miracles, signs and wonders. Sharing a message that will be received by many.

The confidence and boldness that I have found did not come the way I assumed that it would. It arrived at the end of me. Complete and utter brokenness. The days that I thought I could not move another step in faith and the “mustard seed” seemed too small. I found it when not a single thing in my life added up to victory, when everyone around me did not see a win and on that day when all I had left was His Word. He made me a promise. The ruler of darkness had done everything in his power to make me relinquish it. I did not wail. I did not beg. I did not plead. As I recall, it was in a quiet and calm voice that I reminded the Lord – this is what you said.

As Christians, we are always trying to “make things happen” in the Body of Christ to promote repentance and revival. I am wondering if it’s possible that we are taking the wrong approach. Am I trying to win a victory already won rather than going through the Victor? What do I mean? King Solomon called life meaningless because he believed there was nothing new under the sun. While I agree with him that there is nothing new under the natural sun, I concur with him that God has placed eternity in the heart of mankind. It is that seed of faith that changes everything in our natural life to the possibility of supernatural outcome. God put divine purpose in each heart for harvest. We must allow it to become greater than us in order to reap the reward.

John 15:19-21 (NLT) “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.”

Jesus was abundantly clear that the world pretty much hated Him and everyone associated with the Gospel. “A slave is not greater than the master.” If you think that the world is ready for the gospel, you are wrong. Christians have not helped our own cause. The Word of God tells us “students are not greater than their teacher” and that “slaves are not greater than their master.” (Matthew 10:24-25) We must be like our teacher. (Luke 6:39-40) The messenger is not greater than the one who sent the message. (John 13:15-17) Mega church is big business. Pastors reside in mansions and fly around in private jets. The world sees church as just a big business endeavor. I hear people refer to preachers and podcasts every day but don’t hear them recite the Word of God at all. If the world embraces you and celebrates me, am I serving God or man? The Love and Grace of God are wonderful. Those who experience them will be forever changed. However, they have the Gospel message when preached appropriately leads to opposition. If not, we must compare our life and our message to our Teacher, Master, Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ. He healed people. He helped the community. He did nothing wrong. He did not defend His Innocence but went to the Cross. John 15:13 says “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus laid His Life down for us all. We must be willing to lay our life down for Him to attain the greatness offered to us in His Word.

On Shark Week, the Discovery Channel shows men and women who will put blood in the water to summon sharks. They will then take a video camera, jump in a steel cage and be lowered in the water to film the shark’s frenzy. Some of the sharks will ram the cage. Others grab it with their razor sharp teeth and shake it with all their might. Those crazy, yes crazy, scientists though narrowly escaping with their life will do it again and again for their love of science and species. No thank you! I believe that as believers set their heart on revival and allow the Lord to remove lesser things to make room for greater things, they will encounter the same. We will go into the world with a message of love, peace and joy some days feeling as though we barely escape wrath.

I John 3:19-20 (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.

Winston Churchill is credited with the statement, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Good advice. If you want to get to Heaven, you are going to “go through hell” to get there. The enemy is not going to sit lightly by and watch you pass content with those who he has already apprehended. His hatred for Jesus is too great. His demise is too eminent. He will fight tooth and nail to pull you out of God’s Best to settle for lesser things in life even if that lesser thing is religion over a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our actions must be based on the fact that we belong to the Truth and absolutely believe the Promise of God is for us and worth having. Why? It will cost all of me and every ounce of pride in me to attain it. We have been promised “far greater glory” (2 Corinthians 3:8-9) and friends we are not living in it so there must be more to it. I must believe that the God in me is greater than everything outside and around me. It will take all of me to get there. The greater ones desire to see the greater things of God and experience the Greatness of His Kingdom, the more that will be required. Are you willing to give God all of you for a higher view? A new perspective comes when we get out of the way along with our feelings about our faults and failures. We must move past our pride, insecurities and doubts that cause conflict and division in the Kingdom to work love, grace and mercy in and through our life. I want to move into greater things today. I must get past me to do it. He must increase and I must decrease not just today but every day!

John 14:12-13 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.”

Learn To Run

learn-to-run

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Not really sure how it happened, I guess I was just one bowl of ice cream away from a binge. After working for a long time to establish a good diet and consistent exercise routine, I just stopped. The workout was the first to go. Three or four days at the gym turned to one here and there, which constituted good stewardship and ending our relationship. I quit the gym. But that’s okay, I still had a “good” diet right. I ate healthy for the most part. Well, I did anyway. It did not take long for old habits to come creeping in and late night snacking to take over. Now as I like to joke with others, I have noticed a waist line that resembles a “busted can of biscuits” so it is time to bet disciplined again. It is important to be a good steward in life and that includes our health. I will never be a 5’10” super model with abs of steel. In fact, as I shared with someone yesterday, I am not so sure this model came with abs. I believe that balance in life is mind, body and soul. We cannot be healthy in our soul and it not impact our mind and body. As my soul prospers, so will I in health and other things. (3 John 1:2)

It is with this thought that I am embarking on the journey once again to get my body back under control. I am not a runner. I aspire to be one day just because I believe it to be the ultimate endurance. If you see me running right now, should probably do the same because something is obviously chasing me. However, as I gain endurance, I have learned that running becomes a little bit easier. As my heart gets stronger and lungs learn to breathe under pressure, I am able to go longer and farther without stopping to catch my breath or ease a cramp. Hebrews 12:1 offers excellent advice to those who want to run a marathon or continue in the race of faith. I am interested in both.

“We are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to (our) life of faith…” If I profess with my mouth to be a Christian, the folks around me will immediately place new expectation on me as a person. They will indeed judge me. I know God is our judge, but if we use His Name I believe that to honor Him – we must be conscious of those around us just like Jesus. Jesus was always aware of those around Him. He took notice of the weak. He looked past infirmity to find their purpose. He did not discard those clothed in darkness and filled with hatred. He reached out to them – dismissing that which was hindering them to remind them who they really were. It is easy to build walls of righteousness around us. It is even easier to “work” ourselves in a frenzy in the Name of the Lord. But until we love others like crazy…we have missed the point. Yes, they are watching. Yes, they are evaluating. And yes, they are more than likely judging you. But does it really matter what they “think” as long as in the end they find that the love that never fails. We must be aware of the huge crowd of witnesses – it is every face that we encounter in life.

“Strip off every weight that slows us down…” Our life was very chaotic during the time it took to sell our old house and move into our new home. Our church life is very busy now too as we have become more involved than we were able to be in the past several years. Our kids are on the go. The transition period completely wrecked our schedule and routine. The ordered fell into disorder. When we finally began to establish a new routine, a hurricane came blowing through our community. Now as it all settles, it is time to examine our life and place new priorities on certain things.

I believe it is easy to become undisciplined in areas that once were under strict control. Discipline is not welcomed by our flesh so if we let our guard down it is easy to become distracted. We start eating bad again because fast food does not equal healthy diets. We stop exercising because there are too many other “things” we need to do. We stop reading the Bible because work is overloading us. The prayer closet door remains closed because there is not a moment for ourselves. Church is the last thing on our mind when home is the last place we go. If we do not check the weights in our life and seek the Lord to remain in good order, we will become overloaded, weary, and weak so we give up. People experience burnout not because the burden in their life is too heavy. They burnout because they do not balance their life according to God’s Word and His Way. You can have it all but are not called to do it all.

“Especially sin…” Sin is in everyone’s life no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. No one will ever be without sin. It is human nature. We escape sin only when fully redeemed. The perception of innocence is false. It is by grace we are saved by faith because we will never overcome our battle with sin without Jesus Christ. I find that if I focus on other people’s problems with sin that I somehow fall into it myself. If another person does wrong, and I choose to discuss it with other people – I am a gossip and I have sinned. If a new person comes to church who doesn’t look like a believer, act like a Christian, or dress like the rest of the religious folks, and I look down on them or think of ways to change them OTHER than introducing them to Jesus Christ, well then I sinned again…in church no less. Comparison with anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ will always open the door to sin and darkness. He is our example.

Finally, “run with endurance the race God has set before us…” I aspire to run the marathon at Disney one day called Disney Princess Half Marathon. It supports the Children’s Miracle Network. Participants don tutus and mouse ears running for an excellent charity. Why? I have no idea other than I feel like it is impossible for me to run that far. In order for me to successfully complete the event held in February each year, I must train and run for the other months in order to be prepared. When I (notice my optimism) arrive at the event, they will give me a map of the course and mark it out so that I can follow it. God has set a course for my life. It is in each step from the moment I am born until I leave this world behind and step into eternity. Nothing is wasted or forgotten. He makes good of every detail of my life. (Romans 8:28) There are days when I fall or fail but that is not the end. It is in the rising again that I discover a little more character where my flesh used to be. It is when I push and press against adversity that I discover the overcomer who lives in me. This life is a marathon. It has a clearly marked course. We find it in the Word of God. We work to claim the Will of God. Jesus is the Way of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

“Keeping (my) eyes on Jesus…” I am good at getting distracted…the Good Lord only knows. I am surprised that He never put blinders on me. If He did, I would never develop faith. We are called to walk by faith not by sight. A word of warning needs to be interjected here. This is not just about fellow believers or those living in sin and darkness around us. We must be very, very careful not to look at preachers and teachers as our example either. I have heard people quote famous preachers from Billy Graham, Jentzen Franklin, Steven Furtick, and Joel Osteen. I have heard young people quote their leaders, teachers and the like. I challenge you to quote Jesus. To make His Word the authority in your life. To make His Spirit the guide for your life. To stop listening to what everyone else says about Jesus and experience Him one-on-one for yourself. Our encounter with Jesus Christ must be personal to be credible.

“The champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” We are in a process. This process is not a sprint but a marathon. It will always require patience and endurance whether you have them or not. Jesus is the Source of all faith. He is the only way to God the Father. (John 14:6) We cannot bypass faith and collect grace. It is by grace I am saved THROUGH faith. I must believe. I must believe that Jesus Christ has given my victory or how will I ever sell my soul on commitment. What’s the point if the end is uncertain? I can certainly find ways to entertain myself until I die if there is no relevance to Heaven.

“For the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross…” We are the joy that awaited Jesus Christ on the other side of the Cross. Do we joy enough in Jesus Christ to endure this life to reach Him on the other side? He gave up everything just to be with me. Yet, on some days, I struggle to give up small things just to be with Him. We will never be committed if find no joy in Jesus Christ. He is ready to satisfy our soul. We must believe that to engage and endure in the marathon of life called the race of faith.

I Corinthians 9:23-26 (NLT) I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. 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.

I must run with purpose in every step. My life has the potential for constant victory. I can live each day in full satisfaction without disappointment. It requires a discipline in faith that I have not yet achieved but have the potential to do if I give my life to Jesus in each step. My life is recorded by God moment by moment. (Psalm 139) Nothing escaped His Immediate and Divine Attention. It is my inability to remain disciplined and committed that keeps me from fullness and completion in Jesus Christ. He demands my full attention yet I constantly find myself looking to lesser than things and giving them what belongs to God including my energy and time. Thank you Jesus that your Grace is enough for me to get back on track again and again and again. You have a prize for me worth having if I will just discipline myself and devote this life to You.

Philippians 2:13-18 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.  But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

Are you stuck in a rut? Is there a certain part of your life naturally or spiritually that has become a place of discontentment? Are you tired all the time? Do you feel weak and weary? Do you feel like God has moved away from you? Or that Jesus is no longer with you? That’s God. He is working in us giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. He will never force us to change but encourages us from deep within. How do I know? You came with a measure of faith that is purposed to grow. When we pray and seek the Lord, it nourishes that seed and it begins to press back against every oppressive thing in its way from full realization. We become discontent. We feel isolated. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. What happens? We begin to dig deeper in His Word, seek out His Face, call on His Name and He comes rushing in to lead us, guide us and direct us to better things. It is God’s Love moving inside of you telling you to get up, dust yourself off and start running again.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” Do not speak against the promise that is putting pressure on your life for change by griping all the time. Such conversation is a curse on that promise and alignment with the enemy’s declaration on your life. You are an overcomer. You are a winner. You are a runner. You are a mover. You’ve got things to do that require messing up your routine. You have a purpose that is not on the corporate ladder. You have people to reach so your arms must be emptied of all that extra weight and unnecessary burdens you picked up along the way. God is rearranging our lives to make room for the discipline and commitment that leads to revival and full redemption. “Hold firmly to the Word of Life.” You cannot give up! It is those who endure to the end who are saved. Most mamas want to give up in the process of labor just before the baby is born. It hurts. You are tired. You don’t think you can give any more to the process. It is with that last push something wonderful and perfect emerges in your life. The promise you have waited for all this time is here. God is doing the same in you, my friend. He is birthing a promise more wonderful than any child ever born. It is called faith. It is the one thing that can take you into Eternity to live in His Love forever. We must learn to run and not grow weary. Walk and not fall. We run this race of faith with purpose. Never giving up until we win!

Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Life Quote

life-quote

Philippians 2:5 (NLT) You must have the same attitude as Jesus Christ.

Facebook recently circulated an application by Nametests.com that allows users to generate and post a life quote. The user clicks on a friends “life quote” are redirected to the website with the question, “What is your life quote?” Logging in with your Facebook account it generates a “life quote” for you. Many of my friends have posted the results on their timeline. The truth is the application takes the posts from your personal page analyzing the key words used in posts. It takes the key word and puts the quote associated with that word or words assigning it to you as a “life quote”. As I read these quotes posted by others, I began to wonder what my life quote might be.

As I am writing this, Jenn Johnson is singing in the background. The words “I once was lost but now I am alive in You!” This pretty much sums up my life. Is it the impression I leave others is the question. I can post what I want people to see on Facebook. I can dress a certain way, act another way, and say all the right things and still not be living life to the fullest in my Lord Jesus Christ. I want to be an authentic and genuine believer who not only tells the world that Jesus is my Savior and Lord but am believable. I have found a love bigger than life itself yet if I do not share God’s Love is my testimony credible. We are all bound by the Great Commission but if we do not have the right attitude behind all these words – we will never effectively share the Love that is found in Him.

Another quote from Facebook today – “When the church feels like it must become like the world to win the world, it has not won the world, the world has won it.” I don’t disagree with this but I think there is also truth that the church has tried to create its own realm of reality. The religious realm that makes it about anything other than the Unconditional Love and Amazing Grace of Jesus Christ given to us as a Gift from God. (Period) Religiosity is like the security gate at Walmart that sets off an alarm. It was put into place as a theft deterrent but in most cases just scares the heck out of unsuspecting shoppers when the cashiers fail to deactivate the security tag. We invite people to the House of God and into our sanctuaries under false pretense offering a “come as you are God” yet offering conditional love, terms of doctrine and other religious traits that God does not impose on us. If we care more about how they look, the way they live and how quickly they look like, act like, talk like and live like us, we missed it. There are alarms going off and to many they are silent. When the church feels like it is “better” than a single sinner it encounters it has become like every other social club. It is by grace I am saved through faith. No matter how long I live I will struggle with sin. The only thing that I have of worth in my life to offer is Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t reject anyone on their appearance or actions. He accepted everyone who came to Him and met their need. Only twelve were invited to follow Him, the rest came just as they were and followed Him all the way to the Cross. Masses and crowds of people left their homes, business and “churches” to sit on waterfronts and mountainsides just to hear what Jesus had to say! Why are buildings and sanctuaries empty if our message is clear? The world was just as sinful then as it is now. The enemy just as ruthless. People need love more than ever before. Where is it? What is my life quote today Jesus? What is the testimony of my life?

Philippians 2:1-4 (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. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

These verses precede the key verse. Am I an encouragement? Do I comfort others with His Love? Do I fellowship with others in the Spirit? I believe to do so means that the Fruit of His Spirit will be produced in such relationships. Is my heart tender and compassionate for all people? The Lord is coming for one bride, one church, and one body. He is not a polygamous god but one Savior and Lord who is one Bridegroom coming for One Beloved. People, friends, brothers and sisters – we have got to get our act together. We must have the same attitude as Jesus Christ. One mind and purpose to be like Jesus more and more every day. Love. Love. Love. More love. Putting all of our expectation in Jesus Christ to change hearts and transform lives while trusting Him enough to do it that we put aside what we think people should live in order to let Christ’s Creative work be manifested in their life.

Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Do I think of others as better than myself? What if they don’t love Jesus like I do? What if they don’t serve Him like I think they should? What if they don’t believe the same doctrine I do? Are they worthy of laying my life down for? Jesus thought so. What makes me any better? Revival has become stalled by personal agendas as we try to make Heaven look like us and our idea of church. Revival comes from the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ when Heaven comes to earth and makes us love and look like Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we do not truly want the kind of revival that comes when the Presence of God falls upon us. Let your Kingdom come, let your Will be done will never look like we have made it – it will always be the Love of Jesus sweeping people away who are not the same but want the same Savior.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT) For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

There is no religion in the Kingdom of God. Heaven is not filled with churches of every denomination. Denominations create division. Doctrine are articles of organization put into place because people do not yet know how to live in one accord so we need order to continue in the midst of different opinions and individual ideas. If we devoted our life to having the same attitude as Christ – to simply walk in His Way. Do what He did. Say what He says. Love like He loves. Be who He called us to be. There would be no more walls of division as there are today. The Kingdom of God is living a life of goodness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. To serve Christ with this attitude. God I just want to please you today. Let us live in harmony, Lord. Let us build each other up. Let us be an encouragement to others Lord. Help us to be humble in our approach. Forgiving in all things whether intentional or not that no one is offended. The attitude of the Kingdom is and has always been a building process. How far we have fallen by tearing it apart…

I Peter 3:8-12 (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. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

My heart is grieved today. As I retreat to my prayer closet, I am asking the Holy Spirit to renew my thoughts and attitude today. My heart’s desire is revival. The more I pursue Jesus Christ the more I have come to realize that so many principles and precepts that I have applied were incorrect. When I have looked down on others only to realize it was an attempt to appease my own performance insecurities. I cannot gain my own salvation. I cannot earn the Grace that God has given me. I can never repay Him for His Goodness. I will never be perfect and to act like I have it all together is a lie. The very lie that is killing our churches today. At the end of the day, when all is stripped away and we stand before God the only thing that will save us is the Blood of Jesus that covers us. Not a single deed will be accounted in that moment. I cannot be perfect. God does not need me – He desires me. Jesus will never make me love Him – but His Love for me is unconditional and unending. His Spirit will not shove me but draws me closer each day that I say, “Yes, Lord.” To ask the Lord change others will not bring the Kingdom of God any closer. To preach a loveless, hard message is not the Gospel of Love that changed my life. The Love that I have found in Jesus Christ is indescribable. It is complete. It is absolute on the days I do great and the ones I fail miserably. To offer anything less to another living, breathing soul is hypocrisy. To recount the sins of others along with every fault and failure is to renounce the grace that I have been so freely given. Revival comes when I invite Jesus to change me. To transform me. I don’t want to conform to the world or the church. I need a new heart and new mind. I need new thoughts and a brand new attitude. I must be one with Jesus to be one with every other human ever created. This is the Will of God for our life. This is the Kingdom of God. Lord, I want my life quote to be by your design not my own. Lord, make the words I speak and the mediation of my heart be pleasing to you. I will be saved by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony. Let my testimony be “I once was lost but now I am alive in You!” Lord, make me like you today. I want to love like you Jesus. Let your Kingdom come. Let your Will be done. Send Heaven to earth!

Psalm 19:14 (NLT) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Perfecting Praise

perfecting-praise

Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT) It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening…”

Thank God it’s Friday! I don’t think I could have made it to one more day of this week before the weekend. It has been a busy week. It is already shaping up to be a busy weekend. If I am not careful, I will get wrapped up in my to-do list and all the “things” I need to finish at work, the “things” I want to do at home, and the “things” I have to do at church until I no longer am doing what I should be doing the most. My life is very busy. Yours probably is, too. It is human nature to think that we are too busy for certain things and get our priority list out of whack but truly if I do nothing else today – I need to praise the Lord.

My commute to work is about 45 minutes one way each day. I have about an hour and a half blocked Monday through Friday with nothing to do but drive to town and back. I was concerned when we moved that I might get tired of the daily drive. This is not the case. It has become a designated praise break. After I drop our youngest off at school, I have about 40 minutes of uninterrupted Jesus time. This time is so important. I love to praise the Lord. Worship is my favorite part of every church service. I am not a musician. I cannot play an instrument. I am not able to carry a note. However, when I am alone in the car worshipping my Lord and Savior – it is as if no one is there but me and Jesus so I sing at the top of my lungs. Right about now would be a good time to thank the Lord that you do not carpool with me.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. Are you thankful today? Do you have something to sing about? God loves you. His Love never fails. It is enough to sing about each morning. His Faithfulness is relentless and enduring. The Lord never gives up on us. It is work singing through the night. No matter how this day shapes up or falls apart, I have a reason to praise the Lord.

Psalm 42:4-5 (NLT) My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

Is your heart broken today? Are you discouraged? Overwhelmed? Weak or weary? A bit burned out or completely give out as we say in the south? Do you remember when you used to walk with the worshippers? Lead a procession of praise? Sing for joy? Be thankful? What happened? Life happens. We come to the Lord with great expectation but it is not solely based on truth and understanding so when the first storm blows in or trouble comes knocking – it takes our breath away. We begin to complain, grumble or murmur rather than praising, worshipping and singing praise to the Lord. Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart sad? When we take our hope from the Lord and place expectation in anyone or anything else, it is misplaced. He is our Rock and Salvation. He is our only Hope that does not lead to disappointment. We were created to give Him praise. It is the very reason there is breath in our body today. To do anything else is out of character. Our soul fights for its voice in the midst of our discouragement. It is ready to praise. We must learn to let it out!

Luke 19:36-40 (NLT) As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.  “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”  He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

Jesus does not need my praise. He doesn’t want it. Jesus is worthy of all praise. If I choose to withhold praise, worship, honor or glory from my Lord, “the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” Sometimes, we need a humble perspective. God did not have to save us. He is God. He is Sovereign. Yet in His Complete and Utter Perfection, He still loved us and decided to send His One and Only Son to die for us and give us life again. By asking Jesus to be our Savior and Lord is to accept this gift so graciously given. We cannot earn it or attain it any other way than the acceptance of Jesus Christ. So what makes us think in our depleted human state when the only good thing in us is the Grace of the Living God that we can withhold thankfulness, praise and adoration from Jesus for a single moment? But we do it every day.

When I choose to complain about my situation? It tells the world that my God cannot satisfy my soul. When I gripe, grumble and gossip, it expresses a void that the capacity of my Savior’s Love cannot fill so I am empty and dry. The confession of my life speaks from the inner most depths of my heart. It is not what we say in church or in the presence of other believers that tell on us, but when our love is put to the test in discomfort or inconvenience. This tells the Source of our hope and our confidence in Him. The Lord is good. In every season, He is faithful. He gave us a new life, voice and breath so that we could join in the course all around Him.

Revelation 5:11-13 (NLT) Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

There are three voices in Heaven singing blessing, honor, glory and power filling the atmosphere with praise. The angels sing. The souls sing. The creatures sing. Everyone is singing to the Lamb. This is Heaven. This is the greatest praise break of all time that will last forever and ever because He is worthy! God has given you and me a song to sing! (Psalm 40) Are we singing it? In the Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid”, Ariel exchanged her beautiful singing voice for her sweet prince. She left the sea to live in his world. However, it was her voice that drew the prince to Ariel in the first place. What have we given up our praise for? Is there anything so precious that it would be more important than worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? He is our soon and coming King. Is our allegiance to His Kingdom clearly being expressed audibly in our life? It is our voice that unites us with the declaration of heaven that Jesus is Lord. Is this our confession? Is our life filled with praise?

Psalm 150 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.  Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!

We must protect our praise today. We cannot sit back silently and let creation take our place. When you wake up each morning, it is because the Lord has provided the breath to make it through one more day. The breath in our body is given to us to express the Glory of God by following His Word and fulfilling His Purpose in our life. Dead people cannot praise God. (Psalm 6:5) Life gives us the opportunity to worship one more day. To give Him thanks. To bless His Name. Each day should begin with praise. Each night should conclude with it. Praise is the perpetual confession of faith and hope in Jesus Christ. If we grow silent, it is a reason for concern because even the rocks will cry out in His Name.

Wednesday night after church, a new mama was holding her infant son. He is just old enough to respond to his mother’s voice. She would speak to him softly and a smile would break across his face revealing a toothless grin. As she continued to engage with him, he began cooing in response to her voice. His adoration of his mama was clear. He was responding to her. Praise is our response to the Lord. It is how we express our love and gratitude for the grace we have been given and new life discovered in Jesus. Can the Lord hear our response to His Goodness today? Is He able to weed through our words to extract some glory, praise and adoration? Many will come to Jesus on “that” day telling him all the “things” they did for him and in His Name, but Jesus will say, “I never knew you!” Praise is the voice of our relationship to God through Jesus Christ. We must make it clear. Praise is our expression of salvation. Paul said, “And they praise God because of me.” (Galatians 1:24) Lord Jesus, let that be my testimony today! Let my praise be with expectation. My hope is secure in you, Lord. I will make you known today Jesus. I will not let a rock cry out in my place. Amen and amen!

I Peter 1:3-5 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

 

 

 

 

Counter Pressure

counter-pressure

Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion is “to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and directed to contrary parts.” It is commonly described as “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I am not a scientist or physicist and do not claim to be yet I see this in operation daily both physically and spiritually. To explain the third law of motion simply – whatever presses another is as much pressed by the other. For example, if I hold a stone or rock in my hand pressing it with my finger, my finger is also pressed by the object. It is counter pressure. It is this law of motion that can also be applied to our spiritual life. As we press into God – He will not relent or move but presses back.

Counter pressure is to use pressure in the opposite direction. It is how one applies pressure in the opposite or opposing direction. If a wound is bleeding, it is recommended to apply pressure to it which should cause the blood to clot and stop the flow. We must learn to apply counter pressure in our life in order to exhibit change. When pressed by circumstances or conditions rather than giving up, believers must learn to press in. Press in to our Bible, press in to our prayer closet, press into His Presence, press into the Spirit – the church must learn to press again.

“I press to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” It is not easy to go against the flow. The current of society is hard to overcome to live in a place of totally trusting the Lord and living for His Purpose. You will not achieve such a thing in giving up but rather pressing in. We come to Christ with certain expectations and once any kind of hardship or pressure is encountered – we give up on perfection and decide to give in to maintain our comfort. We accept what life hands us rather than pushing back on compromise to receive the promise. God gave His Only Son for me so I could have His Perfect Plan. By grace I am saved through faith with a promise. There is purpose hidden in my life that must be expressed by pressure. It has to make its way past my emotions, feelings, pain and exhaustion to be birthed in my life. The birth process is a response to pressure. As the baby moves from the womb to the world, the mother labors and yes, there is pain but more so there is pressure. Right before her travail is over, she feels the need to push as hard as she can. It is innate. It is primal. It is built in her DNA to continue to push until she hears the baby’s first cry.

I am a firm believer in natural childbirth. I do not think pregnancy is a sickness. Delivering five babies was not fun, and yes, it hurt very much. I would do it all over again to have these precious and wonderful people in my life. What I discovered through my different experiences is that the less intervention the more effective the process. The three times I was able to deliver outside the hospital with little to no intervention, the more quickly the baby came. It was when I diluted those natural hormones with saline IVs and pain medication that my body slowed down. Why would I do such a thing? Afraid that my body could not do what it was created to do maybe and obviously looking to avoid pain, of course. What I have found after successfully delivering healthy babies is that when I did not accept outside intervention, I was able to press and push more effectively.

Could it be that in our avoidance of pain and discomfort, the Body of Christ, His Church has forgotten how to press through? We do not like to wait or be inconvenienced so we skip the steps in the process seeing them as unnecessary. God has ordered each step of our life. It is filled with blessing, provision and purpose that will ultimately lead to fulfillment. If a baby is born on the first push, the mother’s body has no time to prepare the way and open to release her child. What would happen? The mother would be harmed. The baby would not go through the process needed to press all the fluid from its lungs. There is purpose in our pressure today. We must learn to press back.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NLT) We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5) The hope given to us by Jesus Christ never ever leads to disappointment. To believe this one truth will allow you to press through. Disbelief and doubt will keep us from exerting energy and investing time into pressing through and overcoming. We would rather work for now than wait until then. We have been filled with the Light of His Love and it is driving away the darkness giving way to fulfillment of purpose as His Promises are revealed to us and desire rises up to know Him more. To get that light out of us, there is tremendous pressure. What did you think your flesh would die without a fight? You have fed and nurtured it your whole life. What makes us think that when we attempt to live for Jesus and crucify our flesh that it wasn’t going to fight back? We are going to experience hardship as Christians. (PERIOD) The days of blab-it-and-grab-it ministry has proven false. Yes, the Lord wants to prosper your life. It begins with your soul. We must be broken to expose the light hidden inside our soul and connect with forever. We must learn to press again.

Matthew 9:17 (NLT) “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

As the church cries out for Jesus to come closer and for revival to break out, it is important to note that there is an equal and opposite reaction created by pressing God for more of Him. You cannot move closer to the Lord without yielding your way, giving up your ideals and pressing into Him. We ask for more of Jesus but fail to make room so when brokenness comes it is perplexing. If you want more of Jesus, it will always require less of me. He must increase, I must decrease. (John 30:30) New wine will not work in old wineskins. The response of the Lord as we cry out for more of Him is to prepare for the outpouring. Pressure. There will be pressure. What is our response to that pressure? Do we look for relief or choose to respond?

Hosea 6:1-3 (NLT) “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

There are some women who endure one pregnancy and go through one birth and decide that is enough for them. The pain is too great so they decide not to go through with it again. Or maybe there were complications throughout culminating in a traumatic birth or early delivery. We often tease our youngest that if she had been the first, she would have been the last. Endless nights of colic almost did this mama in. We pressed through. As we walk through life with Jesus, we must take the time to know His Word (Psalm 119:143) and His Way. The narrow road is filled with heartbreak and brokenness but not disappointment or despair. For every curse there is a blessing. For every problem there is a solution. For every sin there is a Savior. For every failure there is grace. You cannot achieve such things if you do not trust the Lord enough to keep pressing through the pain to find the healer. You must apply the counter pressure of praise when perplexed by circumstances and adverse conditions. It only works if we press on to the perfection we are called to. Jesus is perfect. God’s Way is flawless. The giving comes from us. We must know that in calling on His Name and crying out for change – it is to invite pressure into our life. Revival will come when we get out of the way so when we ask for it – understand you will be moved by it. Such movement causes discomfort and it is inconvenient so we press into the Lord so in our weakness, He becomes our strength.

Proverbs 24:10 (NLT) If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.

If our heart’s desire is truly Jesus Christ, we must expect pressure in our life. Pressure to change. Pressure to move. Pressure that keeps us from settling for the lesser things and compromising for now rather than enduring to obtain forever. We will settle for less if allowed the convenience. God is pressing us today because we are asking for more of Him. His Automatic Response to our cries is to give us that which we ask for. If in fact we are crying out for revival or Christ’s eminent return, then we can expect lots and lots of pressure. It is time to press back. Get in the Word. Close the door to your prayer closet. Find your way into His Presence again. Jesus is all I need to endure the pressures of life. I must learn to press in. As I am pressed, He is released in my life. He never grows weak and weary. The Lord wants to be my refuge and strength – I must learn to keep pressing.

Psalm18:1 (NLT) I love you, Lord; you are my strength.

Finding My Soul

finding-my-soul

Psalm 63:1 (NLT) O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

My soul thirsts for you. Thirsts implies more than a basic need or indulgent want but an urgency far more complex than natural sustenance. How do I feed my soul? A part of my being unseen and untouched by human senses. My dad called yesterday. After running some tests, the cardiologist has concluded that my mom’s heart is not functioning as it should. She will have a heart catheterization on Monday to evaluate her aortic valve. I remember when my grandad was diagnosed many years ago with complete heart blockage undergoing a quadruple bypass. The doctor warned us that whenever the heart is operated on it can cause changes in emotions. It’s crazy because the heart is just a muscle. Yet, there must be something in there that is different from animals and the like or why would an invasive operation release such a flood.

According to the American Heart Association, emotional upheaval is common after heart surgery, heart attack or stroke. Survivors can feel a variety of emotions all at one time including fear, loneliness, depression, anger and heightened sensitization. Those not given to emotionalism are suddenly tearful. Could it be that there really is truth to a broken heart? I am certain that there is. Could it be that hidden beneath its obvious need and necessity to keep us breathing hides our soul? My soul thirsts for you, Lord.

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (NLT) “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.”

We are to love the Lord three ways. We love Him with all of our heart which I believe is our mind, will and emotions. We love Him with our strength which is our physical being or our body. We are to love God with all our soul. What is that? I believe that is our forever love. The commitment that reaches past this life into forever. It is foreign to us. Could it be that it is hidden in our heart? Could it be that is why our heart must be broken to discover real love and our soul hidden within? When our heart is broken – we seek the Lord. When our body is sick – we seek the Lord. Our soul needs Jesus just as much as our heart and body. In fact, dare I say, even more because it is our soul that crosses from this life to eternity. The Lord uses our natural means of heart, mind and body to give way to prosper our soul in this life so that when all else fails it endures to the end reaching eternity.

Psalm 84:1-2 (NLT) How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.

Would we ever discover the vast depths of God’s Love for us outside of physical and emotional hardship? I don’t know if it’s possible. Only when death becomes a possibility and the next day uncertain do we reach beyond this life to feel for something more. Faith maintains itself in the comfort of a rocking boat until the storm comes. Only then do we test it decide maybe it’s time to step out of our comfort zone and test the water. Trusting God is easy when nothing of true value is at stake. But when there is a need for sacrifice, it’s time to pick up the knife, wood for the fire and head to the mountain of sacrifice praying that the Lord will meet you there with a ram in the thicket. My heart loves God. My body loves Him, too. I strive to show the Lord my love for Him in the natural. However, without a prospering soul – I will miss the mark. So my heart must be broken and my body limited. God’s Presence will never be a place arrived at by pride, self-preservation and the strong. It is reserved for those who decide He is life.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Could it be? Is it possible? People try to draw God into their natural circumstances and change the condition of this life when all along the secret is to find rest in our souls. Confidence that no matter what we face today that our forever is secure. Complete trust that the God in us is greater than anything we face around us. Jesus invites us to come to Him when we are weary and carry heavy burdens and He will give us rest. Are you still tired despite a relationship with the Lord? Do you still get overwhelmed with life? Are you weary of well-doing because there do not seem to be results? Maybe just maybe – we forgot to read the next verse.

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your…souls.” Jesus wants to teach us to have confidence in His Strength found in His Grace so that when our heart, mind and body are challenged in the natural that we can find supernatural peace in a satisfied soul. This world is not going to change for the better. I must be made better. I cannot do it so my own natural ability and strength are not important. I cannot figure it all out so therefore what good is my mind. My heart is fickle and wavering most days so it cannot be the guide for my life. It is my soul secure in Jesus Christ that will allow me to endure to the end and find rest even on the most uncertain days of this life.

Matthew 16:25-26 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

I have tried to hang on to this life. There are days that I have invested way more in this life then I should have. The only thing of worth on this planet is the human soul. Every human soul that ever was created is important to God. Love is our primary objective though it is human nature to make it about other things. I tried to hang on to our son’s life during his battle with cancer. I did. But somewhere around the third relapse, I realized that I could not make him live. I could not sustain his life. The reality of life and death played out before me. It is humbling to realize that no matter how strong you are today all that can change in an instant. The ordeal of three years broke my heart completely. I never expected to find peace in the midst of our life being turned upside down and radically shaken. Could it be that was the moment I discovered my soul? Is that why the human heart experiences new feelings and emotions when it is afflicted? Our soul is the only thing we have to completely connect with the Lord. We must pay attention to it. Feed it God’s Word. Allow His Spirit to prosper it. We must be ever conscious and aware that our body may pass away. Our flesh will fail. Our soul can prosper from now into forever.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

We make worshipping the Lord so many things. Jesus wants us to find rest, confidence, completeness in Him alone. He promises rest to our souls. The Word of God is alive and powerful. It cuts between the soul and spirit. Could this mean that we need God’s Word to discern between what we feel and what we know? My soul thrives on the knowledge of God’s Saving Power and Amazing Grace demonstrated in His Son, Jesus. It is the center of my soul’s reality and the place where I can find true rest. However, people can get caught up in emotionalism. We must feel something for it to be real. We must touch it to be genuine. We must walk by faith and not by sight. Only our soul can truly know and understand this precept. It is how it moves, lives and breathes.

When Jesus came to the disciples eight days after His Resurrection, He went to Thomas. Thomas had to place his fingers in the nail-scarred hands of His Lord to believe. Jesus said, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” Our soul believes without seeing Jesus. In the natural, we look for signs and wonders. In our heart, we seek His Consolation. But it is within the human soul that we find confidence that allows us to rest in His Presence until He comes.

Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT) So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Lord Jesus, hope is the anchor for my soul today. Do not let me drift. Do not let me be shaken by a trembling heart on the verge of breaking but welcome brokenness if that is what it takes to prosper my soul. Jesus, don’t let me become discouraged if I am fighting a physical battle especially if it makes me let go of this life to hang on to You. I want your promise. I depend on your oath. I rely on the fact that you do not change. It is where I find rest today. You are my confidence in all things Jesus. Today Lord make my soul prosper no matter what it takes as I find my way to You!

3 John 2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Intentional Kindness

intentional-kindness

Two arms reaching together with sun.

Ephesians 4:30-32 (NLT) And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Random acts of kindness is not a Biblical principle. It is a humanitarian effort. The golden rule only goes so far in this life but it is the Truth in I Corinthians 13 that governs our life. God is love. (I John 4:8) If God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, we will produce love, joy, peace, patience and kindness…among His Other Fruits listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is patient and kind. It “is” not it may be, could be or should be. To be a Child of the Living God, filled with the Holy Spirit, means that we are to live a life of love that begins with these two attributes.

Spontaneous or random acts of kindness are given on a whim. Gestures that do not really cost us anything at all because what we offer to another did not require a sacrifice. However, God desires us to show intentional kindness to everyone we meet, at any given moment, each and every day. The Lord provides opportunities every day for His People to extend His Loving Kindness to others. Are we taking full advantage of these moments to share the Love of God unconditionally based on kindness and compassion rather than human judgment. I am challenged today by to examine my heart for kindness. To see if I am measuring up to God’s Standard of Love by living to be intentionally kind not relishing in those moments I mess up and do the right thing offering kindness to others.

Kindness is not a natural response. It is a learned behavior. Why? People do not trust. It is not human nature to open ourselves up to vulnerability. Fearing others will take advantage of our giving or yielding to others, we judge those who are worthy of our grace rather than understanding it is not ours to evaluate only to communicate in every interaction.

Ephesians 1:4-8 (NLT) Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God loved us before He created the world. He chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault providing the grace that we needed to do so. God decided in advance. His Love is intentional. He decided to do it and did. It is what He wanted to do. It was His Pleasure. It is in these statements that we can identify God’s Intentional Nature. When God decides to do something – He does it. He doesn’t change His Mind. To be like God our Father and follow the example of Jesus, our love must be intentional and marked by kindness.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

We have a little dog named Izzy. She is a tiny 4-pound monster. She makes a lot of mistakes. Barks all the time. Yet, she is very loving and loyal. The thing about dogs that we love so much is their loyalty. I can fall over her. Yell at her. Even put her in the crate when she does not behave, she still loves me and wants to be with me the moment that I let her out. Her love for us is relentless. What is it in dogs that make them so loyal? They must have very big hearts. People can learn a thing or two from dogs. We are to be clothed in “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Clothed meaning covered in it. It should be what people see and experience when we are with them at all times not just when we feel like it or think they are worthy of it. But with the same loyalty as our furry friends, give it freely and willingly to those around us.

Psalm 145:16-17 (NLT) When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.

What is kindness? Desiring to help others, indulgence, consideration, helpfulness, mildness, gentleness, generosity, tenderness and compassion all underlined by love. We love others because He first loved us. When the Lord opens His Hand, He satisfies. When I open my hand, mouth and heart to others are they satisfied or do I leave them lacking because I once again have failed to be intentionally kind as Jesus has been to me.

The Word of God promises that kindness will be a reward. (Proverbs 11:17) Kind words are like honey that is sweet to the soul and healing to the body. (Proverbs 16:24) It doesn’t say who it will sweeten and soothe. To be a wise woman, I must give instructions with kindness as I work within my family, life and world to be the Proverbs 31 kind of girl I long to become. (Proverbs 31:26) God defines a lack of kindness in our life as judgment. (Romans 2:3-4) Who am I to decide another unworthy of the kindness that I have found in the Lord? Not sure, yet I somehow manage to do it every day.

Matthew 5:46-48 (NLT) If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We offer kindness to those who we trust. Plain and simple. It is fear that our kindness may be rejected or taken advantage of that keeps us from giving it freely and without condition. We offer random acts of kindness like pennies in a fountain. No real loss if we do not see our wish come true because we don’t really put a true value on a single cent. However, remove all “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander” means that we must “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” now this puts a whole new spin on things. We must live with intentional kindness to walk with Jesus. It is His Way. It is the Truth. It is how we find new life in the giving of ourselves to other people.

Through trial, tribulation, problems, hardships and brokenness, there is a small opening in my heart and soul that has developed some patience. This is by far the hardest fruit of God’s Spirit to cultivate in me. To be intentionally kind requires patience makes us slow down and become acutely aware of those around us. Busyness is no longer an excuse. No one is undeserving of our kindness. We are called to love one another and there is no specification that I can find of any person who excused or eliminated from this group. I must live in kindness. I must walk in kindness. I must be clothed in kindness. I must speak words filled with kindness. I must give in kindness. I must love with kindness.

There is an old saying, “I am going to do it but I don’t have to like it.” It is a lie when it comes to loving others and being kind. Obedience to God is love. Anything else will not be accepted. I think that is why so many churches fail and ministries fold. They come together with the best intentions but forget what they are brought together to do. A commitment to Jesus Christ will always be marked by love and kindness. It is who He is. Our character is no different if we say all the right words, do all the right things yet fail to love every person who we come in contact with. If we will become intentional about our kindness, I believe we will begin to walk in love. Lord, examine each word before I speak it, every gesture before I do it, every action before I commit it, and every act I do in Your Name. Jesus make sure it is based on the unconditional love and amazing grace that I have found in You.

Proverbs 3:3 (NLT) Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.

 

 

Grace Rules

grace-rules

Acts 20:24 (NLT) But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

It has become apparent on careful inspection that over the last couple of years, my face has wrinkles. Lines and creases have emerged that were not there before as my age becomes apparent on my face. The very origin of the word means “defect or problem” so no wonder society offers so many things to fix “wrinkles”. If wrinkles or creases are in clothing, the iron uses heat to smooth things out. Steam can also offer a quick fix when needed. Neither an iron nor steamer seem to be a safe alternative for the ones clearly taking over my appearance. Walking through the store, I have read a few bottles of the miracle creams and overnight lotions meant to help stop the signs of aging. Professionals say to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Believe me, I do each day. Yet still they occur despite my best intentions, nightly routine and antiaging rituals.

Collagen is the key to avoiding wrinkles. Collagen is the support structure that keeps our skin young in appearance according to medical studies. When levels are plentiful, our skin looks young and fresh. As we age, these levels decline and wrinkles begin to form on once supple faces. Researchers believe that the solution to wrinkles is more collagen to supplement our body’s inability to produce it. Some people resort to injections to fill in creases more quickly and eliminate crevices all together but these are only temporary and wear off over time.

Collagen is the answer to wrinkles in our face. Grace is God’s Solution for wrinkles in relationships. Ah…you didn’t see that coming did you. Me either. When I felt like I should study grace this morning, it was not about me…or was it. It was, of course. Grace is the most valuable asset that God has given us to share His Love with all people. Everyone needs grace. An abundance of grace to maintain our relationships. Are relationships necessary? Absolutely. God has called us to love one another. Grace gives us the capability to do so. Filling in the gaps left by hurt, harm, offense, and discouragement.

From the moment a person is born, human expectation is placed in another. An infant looks to their parent (or guardian) to meet their basic needs. Helpless to care for oneself – to survive means depending on other people. How those people respond to our needs and fulfill our longings develop our individual mindset of care and that which we offer to others. Since imperfect people beget imperfect people – there is a certainty that no matter how hard a parent tries they will let down their child and make mistakes in the nurturing process. When introduced to Father God and His Son, Jesus Christ, it is easy to apply our perception of people not realizing that we serve a perfect God. We love God. Serve Christ. BUT do not know how to transfer our life, wants, needs and total expectations to the Lord like we need to.

I Peter 1:2-4 (NLT) God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

Our relationship with God through His Son, Jesus gives us great expectation. As our life is transferred from this world into His Kingdom, it is no longer bound to the conditions and consequences of sin. We are given a second chance to live with a priceless inheritance. But if we do not take the time to discover what this new life is all about, we will not experience a difference. God is not a fairy god father in a white suit with a magic wand. He is God. He is Sovereign. Our Father created us with a perfect plan that was exchanged for sin. Now we have the opportunity by His Grace to have everything lost to death and depravity. Salvation is the act of repentance or turning our life over to Jesus Christ. His Death, Burial and Resurrection gave us this thing called Grace. It is truly amazing but seldom understood. Grace is not an excuse to sin. It doesn’t give us permission to ignore God’s Word and still experience a supernatural existence. May God give us more and more grace and peace.

Grace and peace are partners. Grace is found by those who choose to live as partners at peace with God, His Word through His Son. Grace is not given in small amounts but massive doses. It is not for us alone but for others around us. It fills in the gap that creates division in relationships which keep us from fulfilling the Great Commission and loving others as ourselves. We must apply grace to live in peace.

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.

The Word of God identifies the “sin problem” that people inherently have from conception. It is unavoidable. God’s Word would bring condemnation if not for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now when we read about our shortcomings, God provides an immediate solution. This is why the Word of God “as people sinned more and more, God’s Wonderful Grace rules instead”. Does the Grace of God rule our life? Good question…

I have right standing with God through Jesus Christ. There is no higher goal or attainable honor than oneness with Jesus Christ that gives me a renewed relationship with my Father in Heaven. However, if grace stops with me than it is not being applied correctly. Grace must abound in my life to be effective as a believer and to administer the Gospel of Jesus Christ efficiently. See without grace there is no good news. The Light of the Word put His Light inside of me and it should always be defined by faith, hope and love. All of these qualities come from the grace that I have been given and must therefore administer to others. Grace fills the gap of human imperfection allowing us to partner as the Body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:14-16 (NLT)  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

“As people sinned more and more, God’s Wonderful Grace rules instead…” does God’s Grace rule our life? Before you answer, think about your daily interaction with others. Are they peaceful? Do you get worked up when someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you become offended when taken for granted? Do you get mad when others do not do their fair share? Do you judge people by their appearance or choices? Do you compare your life to others? Where sin abounds, grace must abound more. When faced with the challenges of life that cause division and strife between us and other people, grace is always the solution. It is always the answer. The yielding of our way to allow others to see Christ in us is more important than being right, having our fair share or even taking our place. We must learn to allow the Grace of God to be our everyday expectation and stop depending on people for fulfillment, happiness and joy.

Our spirits are to be renewed day by day. When I go to the local fast food restaurant and place my order, the clerk will hand me a cup. I can take that cup over to the drink station to fill it up. There are many choices. Carbonated sodas, fruit drinks, ice tea and water. I make the choice what I fill it up with. If I choose not to read God’s Word each day, I may forget that His Grace is enough for me in every trial, trouble, problem and hardship that comes my way. If I do not pray, I may miss the Voice of God telling me what is coming and how to overcome it. If I do not make it a point to seek His Presence day by day, I will not experience the supernatural because I have chosen to live in the natural. It is up to me if my cup overflows with the love and grace of God today or I choose to drink from this world’s offerings of unforgiveness, jealousy, strife, malice, division and brokenness. I have been given the glorious grace of God and permission to use it. It is up to me what I do with it.

2 Peter 1:2-4 (NLT) May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

Living in full expectation of the Grace of God is not easy. It is a call to walk by faith and not by sight. We must take our natural needs, wants and desires pinning them to God, His Son, His Spirit and His Word completely letting go of expecting perfect things from imperfect people. Isn’t that why we restrict grace from others, because we are not completely sure it is enough to satisfy me? God will give us more and more grace and peace as we grow in our knowledge of Jesus. Without such knowledge, we cannot expect to trust the Lord or follow His Ways. Ignorance will lead to death. When we call on the Lord, do we know what we are asking for outside of His Word? Not really. To surrender my life to Christ means all my expectations, too.

Releasing other people from our expectation will allow us to show them the love and grace that God has commanded us to do. We can now love them and forgive them because we have an abundance of grace poured into us by the divine power of God living in us. He called us to live by means of his marvelous grace and excellence. When we choose to hold other people accountable for our happiness, joy and fulfillment – it is to reject that which is our inheritance to settle for lesser more immediate gratification. This is a forfeiture of fulfillment.

“These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” Faith in Jesus Christ means faith in His Ability to satisfy our life completely. It is according to this promise that we take back expectation from other people and liberally apply grace. Is there someone in your life today that you are withholding God’s Grace from? Release that person in Jesus Name and forgive them. It is not because they deserve it. They are just as guilty as you and me when it comes to sin. Grace is God’s Solution to sin always. When we give grace to another, it fills in those imperfect places in our life to allow God’s Spirit to continue the life-giving renewal process that meets and exceeds our expectation as grace abounds so does His Peace. Let grace rule your life today!

 

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.

Treasure

treasure

Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

A fisherman was on the water one day when his boat anchor became stuck below the sea. After many attempts to free his vessel, he had no other option but to dive in the water and swim to the bottom to eliminate the problem. He found that the anchor was clinging to a giant clam shell. The man dislodged the anchor and decided to drag the enormous obstacle with him to the surface. He was unaware that a treasure was hidden inside. Upon opening it, he discovered a large pearl. It measured two feet long and one foot thick. He considered this to be a lucky find and stuck his prize under this bed for good luck. The pearl was hidden there for ten years. He was unaware that the pearl was five times larger than the world’s largest pearl ever documented. When he finally decided to share the pearl with the world, it was determined that the giant pearl weighed almost 75 pounds and was worth an estimated 100 million dollars.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.” The fisherman had an abundance of wealth hidden under his bed. One hundred million dollars changed his life forever. Yet, he had no idea that the huge misshapen hunk of pearl was worth anyone. Maybe he was looking for one of perfect roundness. Or perhaps he expected a valuable pearl to fit on a necklace, bracelet or earring. People spend most of their life in pursuit of purpose. No one wants to live in vain and think that their life did not matter. It is the cry of every human heart to find its place in the grand scheme of things. God placed eternity in our heart. He also gave us a measure of faith to find the true meaning of our creation. I wonder if because this life doesn’t always turn out as we expect that we hide things of worth away rather than examining them for their real worth and meaning.

The Kingdom of Heaven is our treasure. It is the reward for a life lived in pursuit of the Living God. It is the only thing of worth that we have because it is the only thing there is beyond this life – it is called eternal life. What does it matter if I have the whole world yet lose my soul? My spiritual connection to the Kingdom cannot be separated from my natural life or I will not acquire the treasure that is everlasting.

Spoiler Alert – If you are in the Sunday school class that I am teaching this morning, you may want to read this later. I discovered this week that somehow my pursuit of the Kingdom had been a bit detoured. One of those times when lesser things became greater things and my priorities were misaligned. How can you tell? When agitation overtakes my peace, joy turns to aggravation, and disappointment begins to overshadow hope. The Lord is my satisfaction. He is the only thing worth pursuing in my life. The closer my walk grows with Jesus the more aware I become when something tries to interfere.

To discover Jesus Christ is to find the “pearl” of great price. His Love and Grace causes a heart change that desires to know Him more and seek Him. However, the pursuit of Jesus is difficult in a world filled with distractions, shortcuts, compromises and substitutions. The enemy offers counterfeit blessings every day. Even though we know God has something better, we choose to accept that which is easy and does not require a process.

Matthew 7:6 – (NIV) Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do not throw your pearls to pigs.” I have read this scripture many times but feel there is new meaning here to be revealed by God’s Spirit to my heart. We have been given the Kingdom of God. It is part of the salvation package offered by Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is our gift eternal life. We do not experience the reality of eternity until we die. Our whole existence is centered on avoiding death altogether when the reality is that every baby is born dying.

In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells us through a parable that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth the “joy” of complete sacrifice. The man sold all he had just to buy the field it was in. It says that the treasure was hidden there. He bought the field by faith. He would have to go through the process of cultivation to harvest it. There is a process to acquire the Kingdom. It requires sacrifice, commitment, dedication and motivation.

The enemy cannot touch anything bound by the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 6:19-21, the Word of God tells us to “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” Why? Because they cannot be destroyed by the enemy. They cannot be corrupted. No one can steal anything we place there. Our heart follows our treasure. Jesus wants our heart today. He wants our love. Our heart must be bound in Heaven and not set on the earth.

Are we throwing our pearls out to the pigs to be trampled on? A pig eats whatever it is given. It is not discerning and eats whatever is in the slop to fill its insatiable hunger. Could this mean that when we reject the process of God in us set in motion to provide the promise of great value and worth culminating in entrance to the Kingdom, could this be the meaning of throwing out our pearls?

Revelation 21:21-27 (NIV) The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Pearls are formed when a small irritant, like a grain of sand, somehow makes its way into the interior of an oyster shell. Annoyed by this foreign object, the oyster begins coating it in a material it produces called nacre. The oyster slowly coats the foreign irritant in layers upon layers of nacre, eventually forming a pearl. Freshwater pearls take 1 to 6 years to form. Saltwater pearls take 5 to 20 years to form. If the oyster could somehow remove the irritant aborting the process, there would be no pearl.

Relief ends the trial eliminating the problem. Release is enduring the process to produce the promise. What do I do when irritated? How do I react to trials? Do I respond to the promise or react to the problem? It is important to note our behavior in the midst of opposition, irritation or challenges. There is a Kingdom waiting for me. Each gate is made of a giant single pearl. A pearl can only be made one way. Could it be that God placed them there to remind us that this life is a process not a quick fix? Maybe He is telling us that the Kingdom is worth every trial and hardship endured rather than escaped? The Lord is reminding us of the power and glory invested in our fragile jars of flesh today. He is saying don’t give up. It’s going to be worth it.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV) – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

On a personal note, the last month or so has been very trying. Everything seemed out of order. Nothing was adding up. I felt agitated all the time. I prayed and prayed. I poured over the Word of God for answers. I begged God to show me what I was doing wrong. Nothing. Midweek – there was a breakthrough. Hallelujah! Thursdays I clean house. It was quiet as my girls were off with friends and my husband cutting the yard. The phone rang. It was my friend. A godly gentleman who I respect as a mighty man of God had a dream regarding my husband and I. It seems to be a prophetic dream about a trial that is coming and a promise that we will overcome. My heart sank. Lord, Lord. See I have been through some stuff, I know that Jesus is faithful and will do exactly as He promised. I am human. My flesh cries out that I just don’t think I can do it again. The Lord whispers to me, “You can’t, but I will.”

I have been given a measure of faith that must become large enough to walk over into eternity. When you study the Word of God, it is clear that it is not an easy or lighthearted acquisition. There are many things from here to there that I would like to walk around and run past without enduring but where is the value and worth? It is the process that produces the promise in me. To forsake the process is to relinquish the promise. We cannot have the pearl without the price. I must decide whether I will use my life to gain forever or to live for this day. It is not forced upon me. God injects that irritant that requires change and I decide if I will receive it or reject it. It is that simple.

Where is your treasure today? The fisherman did not know that the hunk of pearly mass under his bed was worth anything at all. He made it worth what he wanted it to be worth. He called it his good luck charm. I have to chuckle. Do we put God and His Kingdom in the same kind of box? Do we decide His Worth and limit His Wealth in our life? Fear will do that. Doubt can certainly do it too. The faith that the Lord has invested in you is worth something. It will be worth every fight to hold on to it. Jesus will be the firm foundation that He promised but we must build that foundation of faith in our life. We must be committed enough to sacrifice. It will not be easy. It will not be quick. It will be worth it all.

Matthew 16:19 (NIV) – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Puzzles

puzzles

Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I have always enjoyed puzzles. Not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, they completely stress my husband out even at the preschool level. I think it is the concept that every piece has a place and if you just work it all everything fits together. There is a solution. I imagine this appeals to my need for order and control. Dumping the contents of the box on the table, sorting through each piece, separating the edges to begin with, it is no surprise that I found one waiting to be done at the Hope Lodge where my son and I stayed during his treatment. Caregivers and patients alike would join each other around the table to sort out and complete something when everything else in their life was turned upside down. Friendships were formed around the puzzle. Tears were shed as well. Time passed slowly yet somehow even on the hard days and darkest hours of the night there seemed to be something being completed and finished in our life.

On the box of every puzzle there is a picture of the completed product. The goal for which we strive in our endeavor to put all the pieces in their proper place. Don’t worry I am not going to continue to bore you with the semantics of puzzles but feel in my heart that it is the premise of unity in its example that we need in our churches today. Within each congregation new pictures and images have been formed of a body clearly defined and a Spirit fully formed. Division and dysfunction take over if we cannot find ways to fit together and find everything is falling apart. The longer a puzzle is spread out and fitted together – the more likely it will lose pieces along the way. Each piece has a place in the big picture that will never be fulfilled in its absence. Oh the Lord is speaking to us today as believers – we must come together. We must find our place.

“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” These words are scripted by Paul from a prison most likely with chains on his wrists, he still felt freedom in his heart. He called his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to come together. To unite and be one. It is our calling. How are we have come yet how spread apart also? We are part of one body. We are born of one Spirit. We are called to one hope. We have one Lord. We have one faith. We experience one baptism. We serve only one God. He is our Father. We are His Children. It is time for the family to come together.

When working on a puzzle, we look at the hole and search for the piece that will fit in it. Why are we going back to this? It is time to apply the same philosophy to the Body of Christ. The world in which we live thrives on grouping. I cannot help my kid with her math homework anymore because rather than simple arithmetic, it requires crazy regrouping. We divide people based on sex, race, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, diagnoses, and the list goes on and on. There is no push for unity because if we truly came together personal agendas would be destroyed. Everyone would have to give up something they want to become one with the other. To fulfill our calling in Jesus Christ is to surrender all of our life to become one with Him. We think we want it but does our life relay the same?

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

To create a puzzle an image is chosen and printed. The picture is glued on a board thick enough to fit together. A sharp blade then cuts into pieces which are amassed into the one that is bought and dumped out on the kitchen or card table where it will be put back together. The picture is chosen first. We are chosen. Our lives completely recorded and handcrafted by the Lord before we are born into this world. Before our hearts are broken, the Lord provided the healing needed to keep going. He knew the hardship to be endured so He provided all the grace needed in advance. He understood how much faith would be required to establish hope in our life so He gave it to us up front in the measure required. See all of this is part of a plan, picture, or masterpiece that God predestined before our birth. It is up to us to decide will we become part of the hope that is our future or will we just be a piece with a part of the picture never to be fulfilled.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

God designed the Body. He knows how it fits together and works properly. It would only seem logical to seek His Instruction (His Word) and His Guidance (His Spirit) for everyone to find their proper place. Pride is not a part of God’s Character. He is not arrogant. He is Sovereign. In order to find our place in the Lord, it will require submission and surrender on a level that humanity is not accustomed to. It is our vain glory that allows us to try to define worship, spout out praise, and live a life of service all the while glorifying ourselves rather than humbling, hopefully following the Lord to find our way and proper place in the Body of Christ.

No one can see your heart except the Lord. No one can fulfill your purpose other than a partnership with God the Father. He puts people around us to connect with and as a body we are to connect with those around us in other churches and throughout our community. Church is a living breathing body filled with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”

I know that when I would sit and work on the “community puzzle” in the Hope Lodge that I would find rest for my mind. It would take my mind off the struggle and fight we were in if only to become lost in a pile of pieces in need of proper placement. While he lay sleeping, fighting, healing and recovering, I would sit with my new friends and talk about life before this tragic set of circumstances befell us. Since that time, I know of others who are now fighting the same fight. They post pictures of their puzzle creations. I look intently at each one. An effort to restore order in the midst of chaos. Busyness that calms the mind and quiets the heart if only for a few moments. I understand completely.

I wonder if rather than working on programs, projects, calendars, and promotions, the church and body of Jesus Christ worked on coming together in complete unity what might happen. What if we took the same diligence and thoughtfulness used in putting together a puzzle? Never quitting until the final one slips in its place and searching high and low for those who missing or lost, what would happen?

The Book of Ephesians is focused on Christianity as a whole. What it means to be a Christian in faith and in practice regardless of circumstance or condition focused fully on Jesus Christ. With this in mind, in the Book of Revelation, their error is made clear. The Lord knew of everything they were “doing” in His Name. Their hard work was no secret. They patiently endured trial and tribulation for being Christians. They did not entertain sin. Showing wisdom, they did not fall for the convoluted word and lies of false prophets but rightly discerned God’s Word. These people were not quitters but kept pushing and pressing no matter what. All of these qualities and characteristics were of God and done for His Glory, yet they were in clear danger of missing it altogether.

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Many of the people who sat around the puzzle with me at the Lodge are with Jesus now or at least I hope so. As we worked together in that place, there was never an argument or dispute just love, kindness and compassion for each other. Why can’t we come together like that as believers?

Years ago Rubik’s Cubes were popular. Do you remember them? A 3-D puzzle in the form of a plastic cube covered in multicolor squares. Twisting and turning each section, the object was to have all of the same color on one side. I would work that thing for hours until one day I discovered that if I popped one out that they all fell out. I could take each piece and put it in its proper place suddenly the endless process all came together quickly. I never knew the satisfaction of completing it without cheating. I gave up. It was easier to do it that way but over time the cube was not as tightly together and became loose until one day the pieces just fell apart. There is a process in unity that brings satisfaction when the Body of Christ presses through the pain, pushes past their problems, stops defining one another by differences, and puts in the time, twisting and turning until believers come together as a well-formed properly place body. Everyone is necessary.

The only way to work this out is to stop looking for the differences in one another and find our likeness. Likeness will turn into acceptance. As we accept one another as we are applying grace just as God gives it to us a bond is formed called relationships. My shoulder has a relationship with my arm including my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. My muscles and tendons allow it all to relate and work together so that I can use it. They are doing so as I type the message today. If a tendon is damaged or muscle is torn suddenly my entire arm including all of its parts could be impacted. Why? They were created to work together. God has given us one another for a purpose. We must love one another not just in word or deed but from the heart. Love is our likeness. It is this kind of relationship that will form the Body of Christ creating the masterpiece that God created us to be. Every person in proper placement. Churches without walls that come together to promote the Good News and find another missing person who has fallen out of place. When our purpose forgets people we have missed it altogether. What if we looked at ways to make people fit in rather than exclude them? Imagine the possibilities.

Lord, teach me to see people like you do. Impress upon my heart unity, love, compassion and grace for all people in all things never to drive them away but draw them closer to You. Forgive me for all the times I compared them to my standards rather than embracing them with Your Love as instructed. I want to be part of a fully functionally perfectly constructed masterpiece. Humble me in Your Presence Lord. Teach me Your Gentleness, Love and Kindness again and again until I get it and give it to all people unconditionally. Remind me today and always that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as (I am) called to one hope (with) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Lord teach me unity, bind it with love, so we can come together and be all you have designed us to be!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.