If It’s Not One Thing…

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Psalm 138:7-8 (NKJV) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Do you ever feel that way? Trouble comes and goes making room for something else it seems. Last night, my husband and I attended a visitation for a man of God who is the father, father-in-law, and grandfather of many of our friends. The place was packed. People gathered to honor the man and the room resounded his legacy of love and kindness to others. As I walked to the front of the church embracing my sweet friend, I could not help but feel her heaviness and feel completely helpless in alleviating her burden. Her mama so weak and frail standing next to her husband now with Jesus. I could not “do” a single thing to ease her burden or lighten her load. As everyone visited in the little church together, conversation turned to “how are you doing” and “how’s the family” as people began to catch up with one another. Burdens and concerns were shared amongst each other when one person said, “If it’s not one thing, its another.”

Well…getting into the truck to head home, I had missed a call from our youngest daughter. She called to tell me that our little dog was very sick. She had apparently found some potpourri and decided to try to eat it. The thought occurred to me right then and there, too. If it’s not one thing its another. Now as I sit in my quiet time this morning with the Lord, our tiny little creature is shaking in my lap while I wait for the vet to open. She is very sick. Sadly, our family just said goodbye to our other little elderly dog just a couple of weeks ago. I am concerned this morning. Concerned for friends with broken hearts, others with broken bodies, some with broken marriages and more. Though I feel almost guilty for having such concern for an animal with so many friends facing so many things there is comfort in God’s Word. My heart is reminded of this precious promise in Psalm 138 – “the Lord will perfect that which concerns me.”

One might think that this is regarding those who are enduring terrible times and tough trauma. Concern is not the high alert, panic button but it can be that thing causing your brow to furrow a bit or even what gains a second thought. As trouble escalates, it certainly can reach a higher level and without hesitation it is taken to God. But how many times do we say, think or even pray as not to bother God with little things like a sick pet or unexpected anything in life? God wants to perfect what concerns you today. He wants to do His Will and release His Plan for your life. Will you accept?

Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV)  In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

When Jesus told us how to pray, He was specific. “In this manner, therefore, pray! The prayer model is not grandiose but granular. First, we call Him Father. God I honor Your Great Name today. “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This one phrase releases our Father God to be who He promised to be and do what He said that He would do in our life. We take a step back and tell Him – You lead the way today. Give us this day our daily bread. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Maybe this “daily bread” is not about what we will eat or drink or even sleep tonight after all His Word says that He will supply all of our needs according to His Riches. Maybe this more about a daily dose of Jesus who is the One that feeds our soul so that as our spirit man grows there is more room for heaven to fill our existence on the earth. Of course, then there is that little thing called forgiveness that keeps all of lives imperfections from growing into bitterness that will kill every godly work in us. We need the Lord’s Help or Helper to keep us from temptation especially the one that tells us to give up or give in along with His Deliverance from the evil one who pursues us relentlessly day and night trying to steal our joy and kill our confidence in our Father God. See we don’t need to sweat the small stuff. Whether what we face is major like the death of a loved one or minor like a sick pet – His Word is true. God is perfecting that which concerns us today.

Matthew 11:27-30 (NKJV) All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

God is in control. He has given Jesus Christ all power and authority over His People. In life if it’s not one thing it will always seem to be another. We were told ahead of time to expect tests and trials in life. Our goal at the end of the day is complete and total trust in Jesus Christ. To trust Him with every major thing and every minor detail of life. To pray about everything and worry about nothing. To revisit our Lord’s request to come those who labor and are heavy laden from this perspective means to give all our burdens to Christ not just the one’s deemed worthy of His Attention. His Word promises that He will perfect that which concerns me today. It doesn’t have to be a big deal but can be the smallest thing and He will perfect it.

Deuteronomy 32:4 (NKJV) He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

God is perfect in all of His Ways. Our imperfection tempts us to settle for less than God’s Best. Sin caused us to fall short of His Glorious Standard of Living. When Jesus died on the Cross, He marched into hell and took the keys of death and the grave back. He then proclaimed victory over our life. He handed us the Keys to the Kingdom and now it is up to me if I will live according to His Kingdom or settle for my circumstances here on earth. If I choose God’s Way, it is perfect. It means that I must have faith in what I cannot see and trust that He will perfect that which concerns me every time. It means releasing control and waiting for God to do His Will – not always my will. Yet in doing so, comes the promise that no matter how many times “it’s not one thing than it’s another” that the Lord will take all my burdens and perfect all that concerns me. There is nothing too big or small for the compassion and care of our Savior and Lover of our soul. Give it all to Jesus today. All of it. Holding nothing back until His Kingdom comes.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

 

The Undoing

Onion.

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

I seldom use onions in recipes but when I do I handle them with care. Peeling off the paper-like covering, to reveal the pearly white surface releases the distinct odor of the onion. However, once you cut into it – the onion fights back as oils are released into the air that irritate our eyes producing seemingly endless tears. A trick to eliminate the tears is to cut the onion under running water. This causes the oils to be rinsed away and keep them from reaching the tear duct. Fancy trick I learned from my grandmother. You can learn a lot from grown folks. You can learn a lot about life in Christ from an onion, too.

Salvation is only the beginning of discovering our newfound freedom in Christ. Redemption is to take full advantage of the gift given to us by the Grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christianity and the pursuit of Christ also will produce many tears in our life. As the Lord peels back the layers of sin, shame, regret, guilt and stinking thinking, the aroma and stench of death leaving us to make room for new life, new hope, and new freedom causes tears to be released. Our life is going to produce an aroma of some kind. Will it be a fragrant sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving while claiming God’s Gift or will it be the continued stench of rotting flesh taking over again? It really is up to you and me what kind of life that is produced after coming to Jesus inviting Him to be our Savior. It is in His Lordship that a whole new existence is possible free from the chains, bondage and slavery of this life to claim freedom.

John 8:36 (NLT) So if the Son set you free – you are truly free.

Do you feel free today? Are you singing a freedom song? There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ so who the Son sets free is free indeed. The word condemnation means to pronounce guilt. It is an unfavorable or adverse judgment. It means to pronounce unfit for use or service. To force. It is to declare incurable. None of these qualities exist in the character of Christ concerning you. He is intent on freeing you from every thought, suspicion or notion that you are bound, hindered or restricted in any way, shape or form. He says that you are free…completely free…totally free. You are free to win. Free to live. Free to prosper. Free to grow. Free to love. You have absolute and complete freedom in Jesus Christ. You own Him nothing. He gave you everything. So why the long face and heavy heart today?

Christians do not experience freedom because they cannot accept the free gift of God’s Grace completely. There must be a catch. So like a prisoner who has been imprisoned far too long, the door is unlocked but they will not reach out their weary, tired, oppressed and fearful arm to open it and walk out. Jesus has set you free today. Free from sin, worry, despair, self-loathing, religion, and more You are free indeed to do as you please with this new life you have been given. What will you use your freedom for today?

Life is like an onion covered in many layers. I am like an onion who as I have grown older in life taken on many layers that do not necessarily belong to me in Jesus Christ. I wear them proudly and hold them tightly. When the Lord comes to make something beautiful out of my life, I refuse to let go of the known to take a faithful chance on the future. What lies just beneath the surface of me that He is trying to get to? We do not like brokenness and fear the cut of pruning. It produces many tears in our life. But I know a trick that I want to share with you (again) that my grandmother shared with me…you gotta run it under the water!

Romans 8:26-30 (NLT) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

The Holy Spirit is our partner when it comes to attaining the freedom offered in Jesus Christ. We need His Help. This is way too complex and comprehensive for my finite thinking and limitations of the human mind. I need His Wisdom and Guidance to wash over me and renew me as I endure the process of change from death to new life. As the Word cuts to the core of my heart, pruning out sin, eradicating the flesh that keeps me from growing, it is His Spirit that washes my wounds, heals my heart, nourishes my soul and nurtures my growth. The Holy Spirit is water the water that keeps me in those times when I don’t feel free or try to shut myself up captive in fear, doubt and worry again.

The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and waters me with it. My family is not too big on raw onions. So often when I cook, I use the dried minced onions from the spice aisle instead. This is very convenient but not as flavorful. It lends some of the taste to a recipe but not the full flavor of a freshly cut onion. Now if you take a raw onion and cook it, something changes. The flavor changes and becomes sweeter as the texture softens. This takes longer than just grabbing an onion and cutting it up. We give food time to cook but refuse to give any credence to God’s Timing and Preparation when it comes to us. The onion is only one ingredient in the recipe. Brokenness is only a part of the process. With patience and time, the onion is going to work with all the other flavors to produce a delicious dinner.

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose. His Purpose. His Recipe. His Design. This means that you are only seeing a small part of a huge picture. You are in a single step of a perfect process. Do not judge your future or forever by the tough situation, hard time or heart break you are going through right now. It is part of a beautiful masterpiece that the Lord has designed your life to be. “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image.” (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

Colossians 3:10-14 (NLT) Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. 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. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. Any part of our life lived in bondage is not of God or His Son or His Spirit. Sin doesn’t condemn us anymore. Sin happens so repentance is given so grace may be applied. Those who love the Lord will try not to sin. Love is the best motivator for repentance. Change comes more easily surrounded in purpose. It is my passion and pursuit to live in the Kingdom of God. I live in Florida. If I get in my car intent on traveling to Canada, I must go north. If I go south, I will fall into the ocean. If I go east or west the same thing will happen. My vehicle is faith. Faith is the title deed to hope that is the Kingdom of God. I must head in that direction if it is my chosen destination. With that being said, religion often adds extra layers of “things” I must do and rules to follow. My relationship with Jesus Christ is not dependent on religion or anything or anyone else. My relationship is intimate and personal. I am committed to Jesus Christ so I strive to be close to Him. To come closer means certain layers of my life have to go. Those things can hurt and produce many tears but it is full assumption of my freedom to undergo the transformation. Beauty is pain. I believe it. Letting go of how life defines me to grab hold of my destiny.

True freedom is to fully assume your new nature. To be renewed body, mind and spirit to become like Christ. It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to because it is all about our relationship with Jesus that matters. God chose to love me. It is my privilege to remove the layers of life and take on the splendor of His Kingdom. To be clothed in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. To form strong bonds and build relationships with my brothers and sisters. To forgive and off the grace that I have so generously been given. To love and love some more. The freedom that I have is found in His Love. As I discover just how “wide, long, high and deep” His Love really is, it is then that I am able to see just how free I really am.

It is hard to remember in the midst of hurt, hardship and trials that our life is part of something bigger than what we see, know and experience every day. It is also difficult to fully understand and therefore accept that God’s Love is completely unconditional and His Grace never ending. It is with this in mind that I am reminded today I am free. I have been freed from sin, shame, guilt, and every other kind of bondage that exists in the world today. I am a soul set free in the One I love. I am destined to be part of something much bigger. To fulfill my position will be my complete undoing as God peels back the layers that keep me from fulfillment and becoming exactly who He created me to be. Brokenness will come. Tears will fall. It will be my undoing. But it will be worth it – it will be worth it all!

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT) Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Stay Present

stay-present

Psalm 68:3-4 (NLT) But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy. Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord—rejoice in his presence!

Not too long ago, I purchased an oversized lounging hoodie with the words “Stay Present” on the front. I bought it because it was soft and flowy ready to put on with some yoga pants and do nothing kind of shirt. The words on the front “Stay Present” caught my attention and moved in my spirit a little so with the deeply discounted sales tag, I threw it in the buggy and kept shopping. As I rummage through the closet looking for something to wear on occasion I stop and read the shirt time and time again. It’s as if there is a message for me there that I am not grasping yet I know it means something. Am I not present for my people including my family and friends? Lord, have I lost touch with reality. Have I missed something along the way? Or does it speak of a time to come when a new season of life will begin and I will be busy again…too busy and need to be reminded to stop, look and listen? Maybe I am reading too much into a clearance rack message that means nothing at all…I don’t think so.

I have a tendency to take on too much, make numerous commitments, overestimate the time allotted and not to say, “No.” I am learning that not doing is just as important as doing sometimes. In a season of being rushed, overwhelmed and definitely overcommitted, I wonder if the garnet shirt yelling at me to “Stay Present” is a reminder of some sort. A mantra to be adopted. How do I stay present when life is busy? When it is hard? When the unexpected hits? When I am overwhelmed? How do not become moved by my conditions, circumstances or problems? The Lord has provided a place for us in His Presence. It allows us to stay present in this life yet maintain our faith, confident hope, inexpressible joy and be constantly renewed by His Grace that gives sufficient power and strength to overcome and live victoriously. It is not about an actual place that we can go to, but one that may exist inside the human soul. It is internal yet infinite.

Rejoice in His Presence. To live in the presence of God is to know who I am in Jesus Christ. It is acquired by knowledge that is turned to wisdom through experience as a believer when an encounter with God every day is a top priority in our life. He is not at church or in a building. God lives and breathes in us. It is to become present with the Presence of God in us that changes everything. No longer do the things of this life and problems that come with it matter to us, because suddenly greater is He that is in us than he who is in this world. We must stay present in His Presence – no matter what comes our way.

Exodus 33:16-19 (NLT) How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.” Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.

I have heard many accounts of people who were raised in denominations and churches that did not understand or teach about the Presence of God who after one church service IN the Presence of God could not explain what or how they felt other than to say, “It was God!” Tears flowing something happens inside of them that their consciousness cannot comprehend yet their heart knows it is the Lord. The Presence of God changes everything when our perception of God meets the Person of God.

Moses had been given a tall and impossible order. In his conversation with God, he is looking for something credible to offer those who might contradict him along the way. He asked the Lord for His Presence. Why? “For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” His personal revelation was prophetic in nature. When Jesus died, He said, “It is finished.” He then released His Spirit to inhabit the heart of every man and woman who accepts Him as Savior and calls Him their Lord. His Presence lives inside of us. It IS the very thing that sets us apart from everyone else. It will be the deciding factor on Judgment Day. Will the Lord know me? Yes, if I stay present today.

What is it about God’s Presence that is so desirable? Well, first it is the very thing that makes us His Children. If that is not enough, it is characterized by His Goodness. It is His Mercy and Compassionate Love for us surrounding us, changing us from the inside out and completing us. It makes something out of nothing. It makes all the impossibilities possible. It releases growth power to our personal potential hidden in us since creation. It is our confident hope that is the light that guides through darkness and leads us through the valleys of life. His Presence truly is the only thing we have that is tangible enough to feel, hear, touch, see, breathe and live within. His Presence is possible because of His Grace and as I submit my life to His Wonder Working Power it overtakes me day by day until it is where I choose to exist.

Psalm 15:1-2 (NLT) Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

The Presence of God does not fill a building or sanctuary. The Presence of God does not exist outside of human context. If the Spirit of God moves in a building, it is because the Presence of God came with some of the people. When Jesus released His Spirit, people became the Temple of God rather than buildings. Christ lives in you. He lives in me. If God is not sweeping through our congregation, it is time for soul searching on the part of each member. We all have a part in the next Great Move of God that I believe is coming. We must welcome the Presence of God in our heart and mind allowing God to prosper our soul. We stay present in His Presence if revival is to come.

Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking truth from sincere hearts. Well that is certainly not me on any given day, how about you? I do not and cannot and will not live a sinless life no matter how desperately I may desire to. How can I live in the Presence of God in such a deplorable state? True repentance. Every single day I must live to turn my life over to the Lord and give Him all the real estate of my heart. Just as I am. His Grace is enough for me. It must be my desire to love the Lord and to live in His Presence. With an intentional heart, that is intent on knowing God despite my sinful and terrible condition.

Psalm 16:11 (NLT) You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

When I am not experiencing the benefit or blessing of a promise that I find in God’s Word, I retrace the scripture before the promise to see what the steps of acquisition may be. To acquire the Presence of God in my life, there are some simple steps. First, I must accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. (Psalm 16:1) He becomes my refuge the moment I repent and call on His Name. Now, like many other people, I could stop there and invest my whole life in only knowing the Power of His Grace and its sufficiency in my weakness. But God provided more for me than just salvation, Jesus offers to be my Lord. Some people do not ever get beyond Savior to call Him Lord.

“I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” (Psalm 16:2) When a person moves from acceptance of salvation to acknowledging Jesus as Lord there is a shift in the dynamics of our life. It is the process of redemption that leads to completion in Christ. Full satisfaction is found in the holy inhabitation of the Holy Spirit as Jesus takes over our life and carries our burdens, heals our body, and leads us from everlasting to everlasting. It is in His Presence that everything changes. To repent yet not redeem the potential of God for our life is like holding the winning lottery ticket worth millions or more but never going to the lottery office to claim our prize. It may be worth a fortune but the paper it is on is only representative of its potential. Wasted potential is unfortunate when God has promised the Kingdom to you today.

And so begins the adventure through acceptance and acknowledgment, our lives are lived in pursuit of His Presence. If God is there, I am going. If He is here, I am staying. If He turns, I am turning. To live in step with Jesus every step of the way, I will go where He goes. Life with the Lord is an adventure. There is never a dull moment. We will still be hard pressed. There will be days like that. Bad things will happen to good people. Life is still not fair. We do not need fair because now we are favored. To transition our life from what we see, feel and touch in this life, to experience what we know and Who we know makes all the difference in the world. We must pursue the Presence of God and stay present at all costs.

Ephesians 3:11-12 (NLT) This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

I have been given the profound privilege of entering the Presence of Almighty God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Not cowering but with boldness and confidence, I can enter the Presence of God each day. What better way to honor the sacrifice of His Only Son, then to accept His Invitation to come closer. To move deeper. To live in His Presence day by day.

Colossians 1:21-23 (NLT) This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

I know what you are thinking, I feel the same way too sometimes. I know me. I know every fault and failure. I remember my shortcomings. The times I was disobedient. The thoughts that sometimes overtake me. Let me assure you as the Holy Spirit must insure me. It is not about me. It is all about Christ crucified and honoring His Gift with my life. No matter how messed up I am or how many times I mess up, God desires my presence in His Presence. He loves me because compassion is His Character. His Grace is enough for me to be washed white and admitted entrance to the refuge of His Love. My selfish consideration that there is anything I have done to keep from accessing His Presence is my own lack of faith because His Grace is enough for me and every sin that I have committed or am yet to commit.

You must believe that God’s Presence is for you today. Come to the Lord and lay every burden and sin at His Feet. Step into His Presence with the boldness and confidence that comes from faith that chooses to trust the Lord rather than anyone else’s report. The Presence of God in you is absolutely essential to the next Great Move of God in the church. Will you stay present in His Presence today? The world needs you to be there. You cannot lead where you have not been. You cannot share something you do not have. You cannot share a Gospel that is not in you.

Hebrews 10:21-23 (NLT)  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house,  let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Merry and Bright

merry-and-bright

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

The holiday crush is on. Busyness and rushing around is inevitable. Planning and preparation in full swing. My daughter and I went to a store yesterday to pick out some new Christmas decorations. The place was a wreck. Deep discounts created a feeding frenzy with garland, ornaments and ribbon everywhere – kind of made me think of Santa’s Workshop on December 26th. You could not navigate the buggy through the place. Shameful. One more stop on the way home to another home store was much nicer. This store was dimly lit. The aroma of cinnamon and apples wafting through the air. No hurry just people strolling and browsing. When the clerk asked one group of ladies if she could assist them, they replied, “We just stopped because it was so pretty and inviting when we drove by and saw the warm lights.” Hmmm. Made me think…

People put a great deal of effort and money into Christmas. Creating the perfect holiday is really what they are after with memories to match. The stress and pressure of perfection robs of us the joy of Christmas so often. The need to perform and produce mounds of gifts causes great anxiety. Schedules overfilled and routine completely shattered, it is easy to become overwhelmed. In all our busyness, even as Christians who insist on “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”, I wonder if in all the form and fashion – our light goes out. The Christmas pageant and production with all its extravagance means nothing if it does not project the Light of God’s Love to all those who come searching sitting in the crowd. We need the Light. We are carriers of His Light. We must learn to make this Christmas merry and bright or miss it altogether.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NLT) If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells me, in Matthew 5, that I am the Light of the world. See it. “You are the Light of the world.” Got it. Or do I truly understand the origin or importance of the Light that God has given me along with His Grace. I must know the Light to appreciate what I have and effectively express it to other people The Gospel is no good without the light. It becomes do as I say not as I do which we all know never works on people. Just saying.

We are first introduced to light in Genesis 1 the first few moments of existence that we are privy to thanks to God’s Word. The earth was formless and empty. It was covered in darkness over deep waters. The Spirit of God (Jesus) hovered over the water. The God said, “Let there be light.” There was light and the light was good. Jesus illuminated the world at God’s Command. God was pleased.

Moving into the New Testament, God has sent His Son to redeem His People. At the baptism of Jesus, the skies opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove so people could see that this indeed was God’s Son… the Messiah. (Matthew 3) Anyone who spent any time in church can usually recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Woo Hoo! We are saved. We win. My life will be perfect because my Savior has come…but wait there is more. Jesus did not come to judge us but that we may be saved through Him. Okay, I get that commence celebration again. No wait…keep reading there is more.

John 3:18-21 (NLT) “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

Jesus is the reason for the season. I am sure every believer concurs with this familiar sentiment. However, there is a house in our neighborhood with a sign in their yard with this slogan on it. Nothing more. Nothing less. There is no Christmas tree by the window. Not a string of lights on a limb. The porch light of the house is off and all the blinds closed. No light just a yard sign stuck in the ground. Now I do not know the situation or the traditions of the family who live there and I am certainly not challenging anyone’s convictions, but here is what I am saying: We are the Light of the world. Have we our lights go out? God’s Light came into the world. His Name is Jesus. He did not come to judge or to condemn but make a Way to the Father. He did that and then put the Light that lives in Him in us to light the way for others. The merry message of this season is not “turn or burn” but come and see what the Lord has done for me.

Can we keep it simple? My mission in this life is to be light. Jesus illuminated unconditional love and never ending grace for those who flock to the Light. Is my light even shining? Is it the Light of His Love? Our “good deeds” should relay the Truth of God’s Love who was present in the beginning and filled this world with light. The One who came down as a baby born in a manager to bring hope to the hopeless and ignite the Light of God’s Love in our hearts. Jesus was quite frank when He said, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12) He told us that we are the light of the world as His Followers. When Jesus was transformed during his transfiguration, He was covered in bright light. Our flesh covers a light that attracts others to God’s Love. Can we take a moment to get us out of the way so the Light makes its way to the darkness?

There is no question that a momentary experience with Christ can change everything. Just ask Paul who as Saul encountered a bright light from Heaven. When he asked who was speaking, the voice said, “Jesus.” Do not every downplay the power of the Light that lives in you but strive to let it emanate from your life. Perfect Christmas’s should be merry and bright. The Light of His Love is the brightest light of all.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (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.

Our family missed out on adopting a family for Christmas this year. When the opportunity to take some children who had not received anything came about – I was ecstatic that God allowed us to participate. I love to give. It is my favorite part of Christmas though this has not always been my favorite time of year. I struggled with Christmas for many years for many reasons. Not the meaning of Christmas, of course not. Some may be able to relate, as a child it was a power struggle between parents. A stressful time of having Christmas and dinner at one house and then at noon doing it all again which to a child of divorce only exemplifies the painful stress of loving two parents who don’t love each other. So when my own children were born, I became militant about staying at home for Christmas. I became overwrought with doing all the “things” and making all the “traditions” to make it like a Christmas card. I hated decorating our house, putting up the tree, planning the menus, organizing events and all the parts of making it a successful holiday season. The only part I truly enjoyed was giving. Can you relate?

For some Christmas only makes the loneliness and depression they live in more prominent. Others become anxious in their inability to meet the expectations of others. I could go on and on. Yet a whole lot of people pretend it is the most wonderful time of the year when deep down inside they are only enduring its passage.

The light given to us is placed in fragile clay jars. God knows what we are made of for He is after all our Creator. He put the Light of His Love into broken vessels so it could make its way into a waiting and watching world. The same place that is filled with darkness and death. You are the Light of His Love. I am the Light of His Love. We are the Light of the World. What if for a moment our mission became uniting as one light and making this season merry and bright together. Admitting that our flaws and weaknesses are real but sharing the Message of Love and Grace that has been given.

John 12:35-36 (NLT) Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

Do you trust in the Light of His Love today? Do you trust it enough to let Him change your holiday tradition into a Christmas Experience? Tear up the list. Stop fussing over the tree. It doesn’t matter if there is one light or a whole strand out on the house. He says, “Come to me all who weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Jesus wants to ignite a spark in your heart today so that we can have a merry and bright Christmas. It doesn’t matter if the Christmas play is not perfect. Truthfully it is all the mistakes and miscues that keep it real. What would happen if rather than trying to make Christmas perfect, we focused on the One who perfected it? Jesus is the reason for this season. He is the only one who really matters. What difference does it make if we create the perfect Christmas but do not experience the Living Light that is within us trying to make His Way out of us so others will come to know our Savior, too?

Like our neighbor with the simple statement posted in their yard, what good is the Truth without the Light that comes with it. I can tell people that God loves them. I can even tell them all the ways that He has blessed me. But until I become like the Light and immerse my words in the Light of love and good deeds, the words continue to fall on cold, untrusting hearts. The Light of His Love is the warmth that melts hard hearts and attracts weary souls. We must walk in the Light even when it makes us a little uncomfortable. Through us, Jesus will make this season merry and bright for those who we choose to share the Light of His Love with and in the process will change our hearts and minds, too. Lord, make my light shine before others so they will experience the Light of Your Love today, too.

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

Take Out the Trash

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Philippians 3:7-8 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.

In the wee hours of the morning, I received the news that a good friend had suddenly lost her father. He had been sick for a while and then his health dramatically improved. He was able to spend quality time with his family even traveling. Everyone was relieved and rejoiced in his recovery. He was a good man. A godly influence to everyone who knew him. I had only known him a short time but the legacy of his love and leadership ripples out through generations. Suddenly, everything changed. In that instant his wife became a widow and his children fatherless. Grandchildren and even great grandchildren will only have memories to sustain the impact of this gentleman. The family went to bed planning Christmas celebrations and woke up planning a home going celebration instead. It’s funny how life works sometimes.

Driving to work, I passed one of his grandchildren headed to his grandmother’s house as the family gathered. My heart sank for this young man and his family. I began to think about our family and friends. The community of believers that I belong to. My coworkers. Everyone in my sphere of influence who continues on the daily grind each day. I wonder if we understand how close our time is or that this day is the only thing that is certain. Do we (do I) live like that? Or have I become so consumed with worthless and temporary things that I sometimes forget, take for granted or think I have only today to love and live for Christ?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 

Could it be that as divine creations carefully created with eternity in us that sometimes our focus is on forever rather than today? Not eternal forever, but that thought that we live forever takes over and somehow living for this day even this moment escapes us because our mind grabs hold of tomorrows that may never come. The breath that just left your body can never be reclaimed or recounted. There are a certain number of breaths in our body and the Lord knows exactly how many so He plans our life accordingly providing the opportunity to accept Him, know Him and live for Him if that is our choice. Falling in love with Jesus is a choice. It is a privilege. It is our purpose. However, alongside the Lover of our soul is one who hates us equally. The “God” in us makes him livid and relentless in stripping us of faith. The greatest distraction is time and our thoughtless idea that it is unlimited.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

I woke up this morning with painting on my mind. Yes, painting. Painting my daughter’s room to be exact. Then I remembered that I needed to decorate for Christmas and buy a tree. Oh, that’s right I have only purchased a few gifts. Wait a minute! I haven’t been grocery shopping more than quick stops since before Thanksgiving so I probably should do some meal planning and make the dreaded trip. Hold up…there is something I am forgetting. Oh that’s right! My December baby is about to have a birthday. So I did what any ordinary person would do and pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed another thirty minutes or so. Ugh! Worthless things. Things that don’t really matter. Things that steal the moments from my life rather than adding quality as Christ would have it. Do I need to do some of these things? Sure I do. Do I want to do some of them? Of course. Do any of them matter as much as knowing and loving Christ. Of course, not. We grab hold of worthless things and garbage thoughts all the time forgetting that God created times and seasons with our breath, steps and heartbeats in careful consideration. There is no need to run ourselves ragged with planning, preparation and execution of certain seasons, schedules and such. Nothing matters more than asking the Lord to guide us in our time management. To help govern our to-do list. How to spend the next few moments? Where to take the next couple of breaths? What matters today Lord – because tomorrow is not certain? You know the plans that You have made for me and the life You designed so that I could have them. They are my future. They are filled with hope. I must find you to fulfill them. You are never buried in worthless things. Help me to rid my life of all such garbage and take hold of you today.

Psalm 119:1-5 (NLT) Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us    to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!

Are you full of joy this holiday season? Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. My heart can get filled up with a whole lot of junk sometimes. My mind becomes filled with worthless ideas and thoughts that don’t do anything but distract me. As I sit and study and even pray this morning, random thoughts keep popping in my head about things I need to do and remember. I learned a long time ago that when I hide away with Jesus to keep my journal and a notepad close by. I journal my thoughts, considerations, and personal time with Jesus. When those others things come to mind, I write them on the list so that my mind is free of them until this time is over. I am most joyful when I am in the Presence of God. When He washes away my sin and takes my burdens, instead filling me with His Peace and Joy. Such an investment of time, changes the course of my day. It creates the right kind of expectation. Time is a precious commodity wasted too many times on lesser things.

Psalm 119:9-11 (NLT) How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

I have never met a white-haired believer that does not have a story of their mess turned into their message. In disbelief, it is hard to think that they ever did not serve the Lord. What we see is the transformation of time standing before us but if we did not witness the change for ourselves – we seldom believe it. When my grandmother passed away, so many people came to offer condolences and kind words sharing what a sweet, kind and loving Christian woman that she was and how she impacted their life. Ever since that day, I knew in my heart that I wanted to be that kind of believer who loved like Jesus and was a Light in life. Just like Brother John, who passed away yesterday, the legacy of his life is waves of love and admiration for time well-spent getting to know Jesus, falling in Love with Him, and pursuing Him wholeheartedly. This will always emanate to those around us when we give up precious time once spent on worthless things to hide His Word in our heart and know Him more and more.

Psalm 119:29-30 (NLT) Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions. I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.

Life is too short to waste it on worthless things. We must stop lying to ourselves that tomorrow will be here before we know it. We must stop procrastinating and putting off today the things that make us uncomfortable or inconvenienced. When the Lord says speak…we must speak. When He tells us to forgive…we must forgive. When He speaks reconciliation, we must move. When He calls to us…we must come. When he tells us to go…we must go where it is He tells us. We must stop wasting precious moments of our life on the lie that tomorrow is coming just hold on. What if the joy promised for the morning is to meet Him face to face? Will I be ready or wasted away on worthlessness?

Psalm 119:37-40 (NLT) Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

What are you wasting your life on today? Any regrets? What about “what ifs”? Where are you? Is it where you want to be? Are you thriving or merely surviving? Life becomes very short when faced with the end of it. Suddenly, all those “important” things are not so important any more. I know that when the enemy put a death sentence called “cancer” on our son’s life that my priorities changed in an instant. Nothing was as important to me as staying by his side watching and waiting for the Lord to fulfill His Promise that he would live and not die to declare the works of the Lord. When I tried to get back to the life I remembered, the one that afforded me comfort and control- I found it was gone. Such a season in my life was over, everything changed and would continue to be different. Not in a bad way, many times with disaster comes discernment as the Light of His Love reveals the depths of our heart. Sometimes we like what we see, but often it is quite appalling all the garbage allowed to remain there.

Lord, I ask you today to turn our eyes from worthless things. It’s time to take out the trash that fills us with lesser things when you created us with so much more in mind.  All those things that stop the Fruit of Your Spirit from growing and overflowing in my life. All the junk that keeps me from Your Goodness called fulfillment that is Your Promise to us. Lord, help me to declutter my mind and sensitize my heart to what really matters to You. Lord, fix my thoughts and keep me focused on today rather than getting caught up in tomorrow, next month or next year. Today has a purpose. You have a plan. Each step is ordered remind me to take steps rather than running ahead. Thank you Lord that our life has meaning. Thank you Lord, You are already there.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Give Me Your Heart

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Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Some mornings as I dive into this time with the Lord, it is in a quest for knowledge or a thought that came to me during my commute that is creates urgency to dig a little deeper and uncover another nugget of truth to be cultivated. Other times it is a battle of my spirit to apprehend my flesh washing it in His Word while I act like a stubborn child who loves the mud. Thoughts that do not correspond with the Christ who live in me are challenged during this time as the strongholds I try to build with my hands are torn down by His Spirit in my life. Parting from reality and stepping into hope, I find this place in His Presence to always be refreshing and renewing. Time well spent in the course of the day and never missed or decidedly wasted at the end of my day.

This morning was a little different. When the alarm went off, I had this profound need to surrender my heart to the Lord again. Just hand it over to Him in exchange for the new heart that He promises me day by day. Coming through a challenging season and stepping into the new thing God is doing – I am overwhelmed with the need for His Heart. The kind of heart that He promised in Ezekiel. I want a new heart. I want a revived spirit today. My heart is given to stubbornness. It is apt to become hard without me even trying to do so. God, I want a tender responsive heart today.

If the church was completely honest, every single person sitting on a pew or even comfortable padded chair in the climate controlled comfort zone of religion, it would probably feel the same way. Frustrated that others do not see the Light so clearly hidden in the recesses of my very human heart. Concerned for a lost and dying world that doesn’t seem to hear the message of the Gospel being shared. Tired of serving without results. Hurt by those around us who are imperfect. Desperate due to misplaced hope expecting something that has not happened or that seems impossible. You are the ones who can relate. I don’t want life as usual. I want supernatural life that cuts through darkness, breaks every chain, heals every hurt and renews me day by day to engage with others and share the Love that is greater than life given to me absolutely free and with more than enough grace to discover.

I need a new heart. Not just today, but every day. Pride would like to convince me that my confidence in Christ has something to do with me. The Spirit of God within me often cannot get past the resolve of resignation that I somehow or some way can contribute anything at all to a perfect gospel, flawless message or selfless service already accomplished by Christ on the Cross. I cannot. Less of me and more of Him is the only way that I live a worthwhile life from the mess that I made it. My heart will never bow to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords until it turns on itself. Pride has no place in a human heart that longs to be all God created us to be. Grace is the only sufficiency in my life. It completes me. Otherwise, I am only half the woman God created me to be. Lord, humble my heart today so your Spirit can take over.

I John 4:7-8 (NLT) Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Our dining room table has seen better days. How it survived all five children and countless meals is a miracle in and of itself! Over time, our daughters discovered nail polish. They also found nail polish remover. On multiple occasions, I expressed my concern about using it on the table. Explaining in careful detail that it would remove the finish if it happen to find its way on to it. I was “assured” by my girls that would not happen as they were being extremely “careful”. And then I would hear the word, “Oops!” The dark expresso finish has some boo boos compliments of the girls and their beauty quest. I have been refinishing and repurposing furniture lately to reuse in our new house. He has hinted that it would be nice if I did the same thing to our kitchen table. For years, he has asked for a new one but I cannot part with it.

The table is special and unique. Many years ago, one of girls struggled with a deficiency in her fine motor skills. She could not write her name or other words smaller than about six to eight inch letters. After consulting many doctors and neurologists, she was given a weighted pencil to achieve the task. The wood on my table is pine and softer than an oak finish. The weight of the pencil made an impression in the table and her name is found inscribed there. I do not want to remove her little masterpieces from it so I cannot bear to redo it.

God wants to use our heart. He wants to write the names of people who are on His Heart and trust us to love them more than ourselves. More than our comfort. More than our convenience. More than our hang-ups and insecurities. But we hold tightly to the pieces of a broken and hard heart wondering why there is no movement in our personal ministry (called life) and why others are not benefiting from the Light of His Love that we try to project. The ministry of Christ was not apart from Jesus but who Jesus was. God is love. His Son was made in His Father’s Image just as we are. I cannot be effective for Christ or even serve Him efficiently if I withhold any of my heart from Him.

Matthew 9:16-17 (NLT) “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 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.”

New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved. The call for revival is a cry for a new outpouring of His Spirit. His Spirit cannot inhabit a hard heart. If He does remain there, He cannot move without risk of destroying the person. God does change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Spirit is from Him so therefore has the same characteristics. Yet believers want the Spirit to move in them, through them and around them, one must be full aware that this will only come at sacrifice of self. God’s Spirit will not change to meet your space or condition. The move of God’s Spirit through you will not be limited to the space allowed. If God poured out His Spirit on the church, due to its current heart condition it just might implode or collapse at the weight of it.

Why? On the way home from work last night, I stopped to spend some time with a lovely young woman from our church. She is quiet and shy. The Lord has placed her on my heart to love and get to know. Yesterday was a long day at work, I had to work late and tried to think of every reason in the book to cancel but couldn’t. My heart told me to go. Afterwards, it was late and the family was hungry. I had a meal prepared to cook for them but knew that by the time I got home no one would want to wait so I swung into a fast food restaurant. Too tired to think, I ordered four of the usual and recanted the drink order that I have asked for a hundred times before. Arriving home, everyone gathered around the table immediately gratified by food that isn’t all that good or good for us. We want it fast. We want it now. We want it our way. We want what we want when and how we want it without waiting more than five minutes to get it. We want convenience, comfort and control. This is not how life in Christ works as He lives, moves and breathes in us. We must give up all those things that this life offers to acquire a new heart, new spirit and new life. It all begins with our heart.

I John 4:15-19 (NLT) All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

Today all I want is a new heart. I want the kind of heart that loves like Jesus. The kind that is willing to be broken over and over again if grace and salvation comes out of it. God is good, yes! He has been so good to me! But first and foremost, God is love. To be like my Father requires a selfless, patient, unconditional, unfailing and unending love that this world cannot identify with but longs for. This is the kind of love that sparks revival. This is the heart ready to be filled with His Spirit. Lord, I ask you today for the new responsive heart promised in Ezekiel. The kind of vessel that is willing to be inconvenience, uncomfortable and broken over and over again for Your Glory! Give me your heart God, the one like yours prepared for me. Amen!

Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Raising My Standards

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Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT) Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Does my life measure up to the full and complete standard of Jesus Christ? Well, one would hope so but how can I really know? Am I satisfied with my natural life? Am I making a supernatural influence and divine impact on the world around me? Has my relationship with Jesus Christ raised my standard of living? When it comes to economics, standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class in a particular geographical location. In other words, it changes from person to person, class to class, country to country and even county to county. Success and failure are often determined in this life but what we have or do not have, what is achieved or attained. The gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge of a country’s economic health but gives no insight to a soul’s survival or well-being. It is the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period and based solely on human ability not godly influence.

“Equity, dignity, happiness and sustainability – these are all fundamental to our lives but absent in the GDP. Progress needs to be defined and measured in a way which accounts for the broader picture of human development and its context.” Helen Clarke, UNDP. I agree with Ms. Clarke. Too often people become consumed with a better way of life and not raising their standard of living. Comparing our lives to those around us, it is difficult to achieve success and happiness beyond what we know now. People and society is always changing. Supply and demand drive economic influences producing a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction. For example, I can buy a new cell phone or computer today and in six months it will be obsolete. Why? Supply and demand can never be satisfied and produce a healthy national economy. Consumed by needs, wants and desires there is no cessation to our greed and drive to attain more so when it comes to the standard of Christ which means less of me to have more of Him – humans are locked in a battle. Our heart wants God, but our flesh only wants more…

My standard of living in the world’s terms has vastly improved since I was a child. I remember spending a cold night in a frigid mobile home with no electricity because our mother did not have money to pay the bill. My brother and I went to live with our dad when poverty struck our mother. I will never forget that night and it became a driving force in my life to make sure that my children had everything they needed and more. As long as I worked hard and stayed motivated, all would be good right? The economic outlook for our life is good. My husband and I are blessed with stable jobs and incomes. We can provide for our children better than our parents were able to give to us in those days. What profit is it if I gain the whole world but lose my soul? These are the words running through my thoughts today.

Matthew 16:25-27 (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? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard.” (Romans 3:23) God’s Standard of Living is not a set of rules and regulations given to us to follow and adhere to at the risk of judgment. Since we have all sinned, the standard of living produced by God for us and in us has been abandoned so humanity set up their own standards and moral code. Over time, it becomes convoluted when the rules are constantly amended and adjusted to meet the criteria of an imperfect society filled with dysfunctional people. When Jesus came the first time, it was to provide the grace that is needed to establish a new life of righteousness again. Our Savior came to provide one last chance for us to be made right with God, not to judge mankind but lead them to fulfillment. (John 8:14-15) He made us righteous when we accepted His Gift. Our ability ended with our choice to be saved. Jesus became our Savior in that instant. However, the choices and decisions taken in future endeavors determine whether or not one chooses to make Him Lord. This is vitally important to one’s survival. God put us on the earth not to survive but multiply. He wants us to thrive. However, our standard of living must change in order to achieve success in this area. I will never be content in things. My prosperity in life begins in my soul. If my soul prospers, my life will too.

The standard set before me is Jesus Christ. Sin was not a problem for Jesus. He didn’t know what it was like. He and the Father were one. Sin had no place in their relationship. Jesus consciously laid down His Life to take up the Cross and become the Way, Truth and Life through which I became able to achieve a higher standard of living. It does not look like man’s way. It doesn’t always produce economic wealth or financial growth but it grows me from the inside out into the person I was created and called to be. Christ completes us. We must choose to be made whole again.

Romans 9:30-32 (NLT) What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

Is your spiritual growth today stuck between a rock and a hard place? The Rock is Jesus. The hard place is often in our heart. We want the Lord our way not His Way. We do not want to “wait” on the Lord but have His Best right now. When not immediately gratified as conditioned by the world, it is all too easy to throw in the towel and settle for less. Every act of obedience to God produces prosperity in our life. Blessings are found in the smallest of gestures. Grace abounds in the slightest act of kindness and generosity. If we do nothing more than ask Jesus to be our Savior, our life is made better so too often it is the place of comfort where many stop. We ask Him to be our Savior but do not make Him our Lord.

Faith is the only thing that establishes right standing with God. Faith in His Son. Faith in His Word. Faith in our future with Him because of His Son’s Sacrifice. Trust is the catalyst of strong spiritual growth in our life. He must increase. I must decrease. (John 3:30) Now hold on just a second, I was born again to die to self. Who would want that? Why make Jesus Lord if less is more? Well, less of me allows room for more of Him and with Christ all things are possible, all things are made new, and my standard of living has the potential to be complete. There is nothing I can do – it is all about who I become in the releasing of my control and power to let Christ rule in me.

Jeremiah 6:16-17 (NLT) This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ I posted watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the alarm.’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’

True satisfaction and complete contentment are God Products in our life. The Holy Spirit works in us to produce soul prosperity that is not dependent on our natural conditions. Jesus raised my standard of living when He became my Savior. I attain it when I make Him my Lord. We stand at “crossroads” every single day. Just like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. (Matthew 19) He was comfortable following the Law with all its rules and regulations even asking Jesus for the specific ones to follow. Jesus replied that he must not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, and not testify falsely. He was to honor his mother and father along with loving his neighbor as himself. The rich young ruler went down the list checking each one off. We do this so often comparing our life to the Law rather than the example set before us by Jesus. Jesus then told him that if he wanted to be “perfect” that he must sell all his possessions, give his money to the poor AND come follow me. Jesus basically told this rich man with power and influence that he must give up all he had worked for and held in his possession to follow Him. To trust Him. To have faith in Him. See we must all consider the cost when we decide to take up our Cross each day. This man came to the crossroad and chose the less not the more.

“Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive.” (Joel 3:14) Each day I stand in the valley of decision and choose the standard for my life. Will it be Christ? Or will I choose something far more comfortable than faith? Will it be to raise the standard of my life to God’s Glorious Standard if it means less of me or waiting endlessly for His Completion? What must I give up today to have more of Him? Pride is usually the first casualty of faith. Control is forsaken for trust. Well worth the trade but you cannot have one without giving up the other. So today believers wait at the crossroads of choice and valley of decision not because there is no promise or potential for greater and even the impossible to be made possible. No, we are still counting the cost. Do I want my pride or Jesus? Do I want control or Christ? Do I want the best life ever or something more manageable? More of Him will always require less of me. He must increase which means I must decrease with every crossroad and choice.

Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT) Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 6 that once you experience the Goodness of God there is no turning back. Those days that I struggle to have my way and follow Jesus. Those times when I do not want to wait anymore, I am reminded of the Goodness and Grace I have experienced those times when I chose to give up my way and do things His Way. Those moments when I laid down my pride to let Him rule in my heart. Those situations that seemed impossible – yet I dared to hope in the Lord. Few and far between those were the times that my life benefited with fulfillment and completion. The best is yet to come. I have experienced the Goodness and Greatness of God and I am hooked. Faith is worth fighting for. You are not alone. When you come to crossroads, His Spirit will always point the way. When you are in the valley, His Spirit is guiding you like a light in the darkness. It is not a problem concerning God’s Faithfulness or Commitment to us but rather our willingness to give up substandard living for God’s Glorious Standard of Life. Compromise will never produce a better way of life even for believers. Substitutions will always take the place of that which is genuine and real. Waiting is a requirement as the Lord perfects that which concerns us beginning with what is inside of me. He promises that all things will work together for my good. I must trust and believe Him enough to choose His Way each day.

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Constantly Good

constantly-good

Psalm 27:13-14 (NLT) Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

How confident are you in the goodness of God? Are you confident in His Ability to care for you? Are you confident that He loves you today? Our confidence is the thing that relates trust. Without confidence in God, it is easy to abandon hope altogether. Confidence is not partial but complete trust. It is full assurance. The reliability of God is not based on our confidence in Him as many would believe. If you remove every trace of Him from the things of this world, eliminating His Name from every government building, hushing the use of His Name in every school, and attempting to stop worship in every home and heart – creation will still cry out His Name for His Glory. God is Sovereign. We do not understand such a thing in our society. Authority is challenged on every level to conform to our needs, wants and emotions even if it means lowering the standard of life. The inconsistent nature of human beings has created an unstable world spiraling to destruction. A constant God is not welcome because He will not conform His Standard to our sin. Does this make God bad? When bad things happen to good people, God’s Love and Care for us is not in question. God is still good. How do I know this? He is unmovable. He is unshakeable. His Kingdom is forever unlike the world in which I live. He is true. He is Truth. He does not have the ability to lie and will not change His Mind. The life that God chose for me apart from sin was a good one. It was my choice to sin that caused the problem in the first place.

Where does my hope come from? God is Sovereign. He is Constant. He is the Great I Am. He doesn’t change. Salvation is not that God changed His Mind or Position on anything. Grace came when He sacrificed His All to make a way for me to approach Him again. My confidence is not in me or my ability anymore. It is completely in the fact that God is good and He does not change. I must remain confident in everyday life that God’s Goodness is for me…right now…to effectively discover the new life that is for me and new creation that is rising up with me.

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT) I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I was forever changed. It challenged my abilities as a mom. It made me question my purpose in life. Motherhood is my identity. There are many days that I find myself and the maternal instincts engrained in me “mothering” people and things that I did not even give birth to. Nurturing seems to be instinctual. However, when he was sick, I felt like a total and complete failure. Why? My confidence was in me – not completely entrusting Him.

The first test was when our oldest son spent a year in the Middle East. The difference is that our son chose to pursue this path. Our younger son was issued a death sentence. “I will never forget this awful time.” Such times create voids in us that need to be filled. The space of shattered expectation, unexpected trauma, and other places that “awful” things create must be filled by something. Will it be the Goodness of God? Or will it be bitterness and resentment? It is all about the source. You are what you eat. It’s really true. Romans 8:28 became my constant diet. It manifested an appetite for His Goodness in the midst of great trauma and tragedy. What will be on the menu for you today?

Psalm 23:5-6 (NLT) You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Who doesn’t want a fairytale life? But how quickly one forgets that happily ever after is preceded by hardship? There is a very real enemy and ominous threat in our life. Every day the enemy seeks to destroy you. He wants to steal your blessing. He wants to kill your desire to serve God. He roars like a menacing lion waiting to attack. “You prepare a feast for me” where? In the presence of my enemies. The Bible is the greatest love story ever written but it is not without a villain who wants to steal, kill and destroy the dream. Therefore, my confidence must remain in the unfailing love and goodness that pursues me. When I believe and trust in the Sovereignty and Constance of God, I am saying yes to His Unfailing Love and Goodness in spite of my circumstances and conditions because I know that He is preparing a feast in my honor and will soon bestow His Blessing on me. Do you trust in the God’s Goodness today? If not, you should.

Psalm 31:19-20 (NLT) How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.

God’s Goodness is found in His Presence. His Presence is a place of power in this life and refuge of peace that allows us to successfully navigate the trials of life with faith and hope intact. To confidently trust God does not mean that everything in our life will be perfect and without problems. It means that God’s Goodness will make its way to us because we stand in confidence at His Constancy.

Psalm 119:37-40 (NLT) Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

God’s Word is a menu of His Goodness for those who turn from worthless things. Again, you are what you eat. A diet of junk does nothing to nourish the body. It may satisfy our hunger for the moment but adds nothing nutritionally to our life. I have snackers in my family who constantly ruin their appetite for meal time. They eat all afternoon so that when I cook the evening meal they are not hungry. About an hour after dinner is done and the kitchen clean, they are right back in the kitchen and pantry foraging for something to eat. They are not satisfied. Come on, you can see where this is going! The Bible says to taste and see that the Lord is good. He is good. But we do not know that because we do not feast on His Word, and nourish our soul. If I base my life and decisions solely on this moment and how I feel, it will not yield long term results. It is immediate gratification rather than confident hope. However, if I know that God is good. He is faithful. He is unshakable and immovable. He is constant. If I believe that unfailing love and goodness belong to me here and now enough to wait on Him, I will be completely satisfied in my heart and soul. We read the labels on food for content, caloric intake, fat grams and sugars but starve our soul. What’s up with that?

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.

When my children were younger, I would not allow them to eat junk food but provided healthy choices. Okay maybe I have mellowed and my youngest has been known to eat chocolate cake for breakfast on occasion, please don’t judge me. When the meal was set before them, they were given the choice to eat the meal or have no dessert. I was harsh back then just ask the older three. I didn’t do it to be mean but rather to ensure their health through a proper diet and good nutrition. My intentions were good for my kids. God is a way better Father than I am a mother. He is always good. He always sets His Very Best before us but He will not make us eat. It is up to me whether or not I partake of His Goodness. However, that never changes the fact that He is good.

With this in mind, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to help us discover His Goodness. In fact, the Holy Spirit produces goodness in us along with the other fruits of His Spirit. If I am living in the Goodness of God, it will begin to grow and overflow from my life. My soul will be healthy. My heart will be full. My mind set on Him because my appetite is for God alone.  A healthy soul and fullness of heart comes from a made up mind. When the church decides that God is good and worth having – it is then that Body of Christ will grow and mature fully developed in His Love.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT) For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God…

Do you have a good life? You have a Good God. Are you confident in His Goodness for your life today? Or have certain circumstances, situations and troubles caused you to doubt and wander? We must resign ourselves to the fact that God is Sovereign and will not change to suit our wants and desires. We can rejoice in the revelation that God is Good. It doesn’t matter how life looks now – you can have confidence in the hope you have been given through Jesus Christ. If you are not experiencing His Goodness in your life, it is not a God problem. It is our gut problem. His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursues us each day – will we slow down long to allow it to overtake us. His Mercy is new each morning – will I reach out and take hold of it. I can be confident that God is good but I will not see His Goodness when my eyes are fixed on worthless things that my hands are holding tightly too.

Once you have tasted the Goodness of God’s Word and His Blessings, it is impossible to turn away from God. What about those who wander? They have not truly experienced the Goodness of God for themselves. To step into His Glory and be surrounded by His Goodness creates a hunger and desire that cannot be filled by anything else this world has to offer. It makes a confident heart and made up mind that will settle for nothing less. It creates a strong body that will build the Kingdom. God is good. His Unfailing Love and Goodness belong to you today. They have been chasing you over the mountain, in the valley and through the dark woods. Will you let Him overtake you today? Right now. In this moment, His Goodness is right there for you to have and hold and live in. The rest is up to you. It doesn’t matter what is happening around us the Goodness of God is for us.

Psalm 34:8-10 (NLT) Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Think About It

think-about-it

Ephesians 5:15-17 (NLT) So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 

Life lessons are often those hardest to learn but quickest to reinforce. For example, from the earliest age a child may be warned that the stove is hot. Be careful. Do not touch it. But the moment, the heat of the fire is felt the lesson is burned into the mind. Caution is born of pain. Knowledge is instantly wisdom so futuristically great care will be taken to avoid the flame altogether. Knowledge is power. Power doesn’t work until cord is plugged into the outlet. Once the current is flowing it becomes wisdom. Why all the imagery? People do not think. It is human nature to be impetuous and carefree until taught otherwise by life lessons. Minds are molded and shaped by experience. The things encountered leave impressions in our thoughts that govern one’s thinking. Morality is impacted by those around us until God is discovered and allowed to live in us. We think about what we do, where we go, sometimes what we say and many other things in the course of a day. But do we think about the Lord…

Be careful how you live. Be wise. Make the most of every opportunity. Don’t act thoughtlessly. Understand what the Lord wants you to do. Do it. The wisdom of God is not found in carnal things. However what we think and know about the Lord cannot be separated from our everyday life and still produce the character that God has prescribed as our new person. A local football coach is under fire for praying before games with his team, students and participants. A group bragging of freedom from religion want him to be reprimanded, punished and lose his job. Freedom? Would true freedom take away our rights and limit one’s faith? No. Who is the hypocrite now?

Every day our feet will walk a certain number of steps. I will say an estimated 9 to 10 thousand words according to studies. I have a list of things to do. A schedule to keep. Errands to run. A routine that I will follow. Wash to be done. Children to raise. Church to attend. This is real life. In the course of that day, will I consider Christ? If so, how much? With some things or in all things? How often will He cross my mind or enter my thoughts?

Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT) Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Jesus Christ is everything. Everything is created through Him. Everything exists in Him. From beginning to end, Jesus is everything. He is the visible image of the Living God. He existed before creation and will continue be King of Kings and Lord of Lords when all this is gone. All of God’s Fullness is completely satisfied in the person of His Son, Jesus. I understand that. My kids bring me great satisfaction even in their imperfection. I love to be with them. Can’t wait for them to come home. Enjoy their company. Hear their laughter. Share life with them. I think about them all the time. God reconciled everything and everyone to Himself through His Son. He made peace with the world through His Son’s Precious Blood. How can I expect to please God and not consider Christ in every moment of every day?

Ephesians 5:1 tells us to imitate God. God loves His Son. He finds great satisfaction and pleasure in Jesus. John 14:6 shows us how to get to God – through Jesus who is the Way, Truth and Life. He is the only way to gain access to the Father. Faith is not a logical response. It is only strengthened by trust. Trust in a God who I cannot see. In a Savior, who I cannot feel when His Hands reach out to catch me. He is a Lord who I am to lay down my life for without laying an eye on. Faith is based strictly on knowledge found in God’s Word. Applying this knowledge to our life produces wisdom as His Spirit works it through our mind wrapping it around our heart. We must think about how we live, the things we do, and who I am reconciled to who He is in order to become like Him.

Hebrews 3:12-14 (NLT) Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

We have today. Tomorrow is not promised only hoped for. If it is important, then do it today. Today is the day of salvation. Though it would be nice if this were a global effort, revival begins in our home. It is reinforced the moment our feet hit the floor and our mind begins to think. Too many times it is easy to put off what needs to be done. Procrastination is a mindset that must be broken to live in satisfaction and fulfillment. Pursuit of Christ begins when our eyes open and must continue until our head hits the pillow each day. To fully reconcile our life to Jesus Christ and make our way to the Father requires wrapping our entire existence up in who He is. The world and all its distractions has no interest in God or Jesus. Why do we insist on promoting Him there? My faith must be in God alone. My hope is in Christ alone. If nobody else believes or agrees with me, it makes no difference if my faith and confidence remains intact.

Ephesians 5:10 (NLT) Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 

What pleases the Lord? Love God with all our heart, mind and soul. Love others the same. You can add your own spin, flavor or routine to it, but it doesn’t change its context. This is what please God. This is what Christ came to do and the example that He set before us. We can choose to ignore it or even overthink it but until we do it – we miss the mark. I cannot be a Christian and not know Christ. I cannot be a Follower of Jesus and not go where He goes and do what He did. I cannot know the unseen God without reading, studying and applying His Word to my life. His Spirit reveals His Character so that I can strive to be like Him and live to please Him. I must think about these things. I must think about my faith. I must think about Jesus.

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

If God is good, why would my mind not want to know Him? To know Him is to disregard our flesh, feelings and emotions to grab hold of truth and promises that will be the death of me. Greater is He that is in me. I must step aside and let Him take over. My flesh doesn’t want to die. It rejects God-like thinking and a Christ-like mentality as a detriment to its well being. This is why we waver in our faith and why total trust seems impossible. But look what it says…”capture rebellious thoughts.” What does this mean? I don’t mean to be redundant. We must think about it.

The cause for Christ that becomes the foundation of our life and faith must be carefully considered every single day in every single choice made. It cannot be inconsistent but constant. Running everything through the Word and by His Spirit for validity in our life and rejecting those things contrary to Jesus Christ – His Word, His Way and His Life. This is a full-time job and life-long endeavor. Those who endure to the end will be saved.

Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

What’s on your mind today? Thoughts contrary to Christ include worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, and the like. How is it possible to avoid the cares and concerns of this world? To think about other things. Denial would be to imply that real danger, problems, trouble, and concerns do not exist. Faith is when all these things do exist and are relinquished to the care of Christ. Trust allows us to transition our thoughts from the trouble around us to the God in us. Today we must fix our thoughts.

What is true? The Word will define truth for you. Read it. What is honorable? All the words in red spoken by Jesus are relevant for your life. Do them. What is right? Jesus is perfectly right all the time. I attain rightness or righteousness through Christ alone so humility must be the life I live. What is pure? I am pure when I choose to use the Light of His Love to avoid sin in my life. I am pure through the washing of His Word and by His Grace I am saved so that is what I have to offer others for I will never be clean outside of Christ. What is lovely? He is lovely. His Presence is glorious and it is there that I see me as He sees me and not as the world has defined me. I find my peace and worth in the secret place with the Lord. What is admirable? Jesus. (Period.) Everything He said, all that He did, who He is and what He has promised…nothing more or less.

To think about things that are excellent or worthy of praise requires me seeing my life through Jesus Christ. God designed and dedicated me for His Service as His Child. Jesus made it possible for me to assume my new identity. I must think about Him to be who I was called and created to be. Nothing more. Nothing less but all of Him. To think about the Lord, in each moment, in each step and in every decision allows His Peace to guard our heart until He comes. Think about it.

Ephesians 3:18-20 (NLT)  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

 

Stop Fighting

stop-fighting

Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT) I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

I am the oldest in our family. The big sister, if you will, who could aggravate her siblings with the best of them. On the contrary, the same big sister who became staunch defender and quite ferocious if you messed with those who fell under me. When I was in elementary school, probably around second grade or so, my brother and I were playing in the neighborhood when a truck passed by with what appeared to be my brother’s bike in the back of it. I was absolutely appalled that someone had the audacity to steal it. So I hopped on my bike and headed after the thief, who lived just a few blocks over. Watching them from a distance, it was my brother’s bike. How dare they? I went home to tell my parents. My father went and retrieved the missing property.

As a child, I was no match for the dishonest adults who dared to take what did not belong to them. But inside I was filled with indignation at the thought of such injustice. Now as an adult with children of my own, they trust me to look out for them and fight for them when necessary. Did you know that Your Father is fighting for you? God is our Father. Jesus is the Lion of Judah. Mighty in battle and able to sustain us through this life into forever. I am not called to fight for my victory. He gives me  victory in life when I trust Him.

In church during worship, we sang the song “The Lion and the Lamb.” The chorus is “Our God is a Lion, the Lion of Judah, He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles and every knee will bow before You. Our God is a Lamb, the Lamb that was slain for the sin of the world, His Blood breaks the chains and every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb.” I wonder…who is fighting your battles today? Is it you? Am I fighting for myself? Or am I submitted and surrendered to the Lion of Judah and the victory that He promises? My God is a Lion. He roars with power. He is God Almighty. No one or thing is more powerful than our God. Yet, we insist on fighting battles that He has already won. Wrestling for victory that is freely given. Why?

Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT) Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God for my hope is in Him. Trust. Do you trust the Lord today? We all want to say yes, but it is in our everyday life and responses to conditions, circumstances and crisis that there is truth in our declaration. It is human nature to fight for our rights. It is our innate need for survival that will not allow us to rest and wait quietly before the Lord. In some instances, I believe that righteousness somehow goes to our head causing one to forget that the Power within me is not me at all but the Lion of Judah who sleeps in my soul. He is full of power. His Authority is unquestioned. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The victory in my life is secure. It is my wandering heart and wavering mind that keeps me from walking from victory to victory and living from glory to glory each day.

My victory and honor come from God alone. This is truth that changes us from revolutionists to revelationists. It doesn’t matter if the whole world rebels against God. It makes no difference if they remove His Name from every building and dollar bill. God is God. He is the Great I Am. I am His Church. His Temple. His Place. They cannot take Him from me or remove me from His Presence. Confidence in His Power and His Authority allow all that I am to rest in all that He is today. I am not called or commanded to fight for His Name but for my faith.

Revelation 5:4-6 (NLT) Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.

God has secured victory for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our victory is in the fact that Jesus Christ, the Lamb, laid down His Life so that God’s People could attain righteousness again. The Power is in the Blood. In Revelation 5, the chapter is devoted to the Day of Judgment. The Day of Redemption is near. Who can open the scroll? The Lamb. One would think it is the Lion of Judah in all His Ferocity that would be the one to open it, but it is the Lamb. Jesus. He is our example.

The Word of God does not tell us to fight but wait for victory. Exodus 14:14 tells us to be calm. God is fighting for me. Deuteronomy 3:22 do not be afraid but have confidence in the Lord. Deuteronomy 20:4 says He goes with me. He will fight for me and give me victory. Joshua 23:10 His Power belongs to us in that our presence will set 1,000 of our enemy to flight. Flight not fight. They will run from us as our confident trust keeps us in step with God for all who humble their life to Him.

2 Chronicles 20:16-17 (NLT) Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”

King Jehoshaphat was in trouble. His nation was surrounded by many nations bent on destruction. He went to the Lord. This was the word of the Lord to the king. “You will not need to fight.” How often God speaks this to our heart but our mind will not accept it. Finding our right in rightness not righteousness – our fear and lack of trust cause us to lash out rather than lock in to God’s Word for us. “Take your positions. Stand still. Watch the Lord’s Victory.” It is not the place to which one is driven by the world and its ways. It tells us to fight or take flight. Adrenaline coursing through our body cannot be overcome by those who lack confidence or trust in the Lord’s Power and Strength. The Lord is fighting for us today. Am I fighting against Him?

2 Chronicles 20:20-22 (NLT) Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.” After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.

The enemy is a roaring lion who seeks those that may be devoured. Those who are isolated, weak and defenseless. Paralyzed by fear, confused by doubt and lacking trust in their Refuge and Strength wandering aimlessly with a toy sword. Praise secured victory that day for Jehoshaphat and His People. Praise secures our battle today in the Name of the Lord. The Lamb has handed us His Victory though some days I refuse to take it. His Grace is enough for me. Do I want grace? Grace means that I must follow His Example and lay down my life to take up my Cross and follow Him.

Luke 22:47-51 (NLT) But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, the disciples were ready to fight. They were armed with swords. They asked, “Lord, should we fight?” We brought the swords!” Jesus said, “No more of this.” The battle to be fought and won was over the death and grave. It was not a worldly war. At that moment, Jesus reached out to the man who was there to take his life and healed him. Church…this is our calling. This is our mission. We are not called to fight the battle…Jesus won the war. We are to walk in victory and power today. We have been given the Authority of Jesus Christ. Grace is the power that is given to the weak. It produces praise in us from confident hope born of faith. The enemy is real. The enemy is not people. The enemy is defeated. Our mission in life is to love and heal the broken. Find those lost in dark hopelessness. Set the captive free. Break the chains holding many captive. We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. When I came to the end of myself, I found Jesus waiting. I could do nothing to save myself…He did it all.

Hebrews 12:2-4 (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. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Singing the song, The Lion and the Lamb, the Lord pressed it onto my heart that I am called to be like the lamb. Laying my life down for others. Reaching out even when my hand is slapped with offense, hurt and anger. To keep shining the Light of His Love, no matter how deep the surrounding darkness. He is the Lion. He fought all my battles and secured victory for me. I am not called to fight but lay down my life to Him. Fighting is my natural instinct born of a sinful nature that cannot place its trust in an unseen God. But hope arises that Jesus is the Champion of my faith. He initiated it and will complete it in me. All I must do is lay my life down and stop fighting all the battles already won. What battles are you fighting today? We become weak and weary fighting for things already secure.

It is time to stop fighting. Not everything battled in life is the enemy’s doing. Sometimes when we do not like God’s Way, His Timing or His Answer – it is our nature to rebel. I believe that our struggle is not flesh and blood but always within ourselves to wrestle just a little more of our heart and mind to surrender to the Lamb. Jesus won the victory. He is the Champion. He gives us the win when we trust Him completely, lay down our carnal weapons, and live a life of praise. You have the victory. Faith allows you to walk in it. What are you fighting for today? Is it a victory already won?

Psalm 44:6-8 (NLT) I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name.