Give Me Your Heart

give-me-your-heart

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

Happy woman standing with hands up on long straight road facing

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

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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

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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. 

A New Thing

a-new-thing

Titus 3:4-7 (NLT) But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

The past few weeks I have discovered chalk paint. To be completely honest, it has become somewhat of an obsession taking over my life. I love to make old things new again. My first project was an old antique dresser. It was a minimal investment to insure if I ruined it that I would not fret. Staining the top to bring out the original wood grain and textured, the old chest could be seen. I proceeded to coat and cover the rest of the piece with linen white chalk paint and it became my masterpiece. So now every old piece of furniture that I am considering getting rid of undergoes a fresh transformation thanks to the newly discovered painting product and the fact I discovered a wide selection of colors at the local Wal-Mart. I love taking something someone is ready to throw out and giving it new life. Making it into something new and useful. God did that for me, you know. Took a little girl lost, gave her a new life, new purpose, a beautiful family and wonderful future. It didn’t always look like it but as I trust the Lord with a little bit here and a little more there – faith is growing into something more beautiful than anything I could think or ask for.

No, this is not a tutorial on chalk painting or the merits of it. But one more thing about the paint that I find quite impressive and then I will move on. It covers everything. One coat makes such a difference. If you distress it by rubbing off edges or added some texture, it looks even better. The Blood of Jesus covers it all. My past is hidden behind the pristine righteousness left behind once our sins our covered in His Bright Red Blood. I wonder if we could see ourselves as God sees us after grace is applied, if we would understand that our future is way better than our past. Would we give up the old things taking the place of the new things that the Lord is ready to do in us, through us and around us? Would we trust Him in the application of transformation just a little more and know that in that moment His Grace is enough to catapult us into a prosperous future? What if we took a chance on a new thing rather than clinging to old things that are comfortable? The unknown Plan of God is way better than our present reality – we just need a little faith in the product of our salvation and confidence in the Promises of God.

Isaiah 48:6-8 (NLT) You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it. Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past. So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’ “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, things you never heard of before. For I know so well what traitors you are. You have been rebels from birth.

It took me months to muster the courage to paint a piece of furniture. I was afraid that I would mess it up. Yet secretly I kept looking at the work of others thinking I could do it. I had no confidence in myself. I had no knowledge and therefore doubted my ability to do so. Here is the thing. I wonder how many things that the Lord whispers to us to encourage us and empower us to do something new that are suppressed based on our old life, old ways and old person. What is He whispering in your ear today? What is that new thing that sounds impossible? Overwhelming? The Lord inspires us to do new things because we are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He sees us as a new person even if we don’t. He sees the purpose in us not the conditions around us. He makes all things new beginning with you. It takes time for us to be transformed into the new creation but the most important thing is that no matter how long it takes – we are transformed. (Galatians 6:15) Also of great importance to note is that God knows people are rebels from birth so He provided grace and new mercy each day. No excuses. Today is the day of new things…

Isaiah 43:18-21 (NLT) “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world.

I used to think that all the “new things” the Lord wanted to do in my life was new like the world perceives it. Out with the old in with the new. God is the Creator of all things. He created you with a plan and purpose that sin tried to kill and the enemy tried to steal. But God. He provided everything we needed from the beginning right down to documenting every minute of our journey and recording it in time, that lead to our success and not failure. So what does that mean? Your life is just as it should be. When we discover the Love of God and accept Jesus Christ as Savior – the sin that once killed every good thing in our life and darkness that prohibited our growth potential is gone. The decision to make Jesus our Lord and follow Him causes the new things He promised to come to pass. He takes our life, this life exactly where we live and prospers us here. He turns wastelands to waterfalls. He makes a pathway through our wilderness. Our commitment to Christ is what brings forth the new thing. Our willingness to follow leads us to prosperity.

Romans 4:16-17 (NLT) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

Faith is all that is needed to have a new life. Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Do you believe in that God, too? Abraham believed enough to sacrifice his only son that he waited almost 100 years to meet. What are you willing to sacrifice? Your time? Your comfort? Your trust? Your feelings? Your rights? Your past? Your anything? The Lord has been whispering to you a new thing. He is always leading us to new life. Are you listening? Are you trusting? Do you believe that He can actually do something with all those broken pieces not fit for anything? Why not hand it over? Why not just give God a chance? Faith trusts God when we cannot see what is coming or a way out. It is the thing that says keep going when the impossible rises up. New things come to those who trust the Lord enough to stop looking back and take one step…just one step forward. Is that you? Are you ready for something new? Go for it. He is waiting on you!

Mark 8:34-36 (NLT) Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

Proof of Purchase

proof-of-purchase

I John 4:12-13 (NLT) No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 

The besties and I set out on the “Black Friday” adventure on Thursday afternoon. With no real plan or intent other than just to hangout and have some fun, we gathered at command central (one friend’s house) to plan our outing. Pouring over sales papers, finding great deals, and enticing offers – off we went to fight the crowds, laugh and start off the festivities of Christmas together. Now before anyone pulls out the old soapbox to declare consumerism is communism of Christmas, let me assure you my friends and I love Jesus. We are considerate of those who had to work on Thanksgiving as well. If the stores had been closed, I would have been just as happy at home with family and friends. I believe in contentment. If your choice was to stay home, I pray it was with the heartfelt intent to enjoy one another and share the love. There is a point to my story and it has nothing to do with politics or opinions, but rather proof of purchase. It is my conviction that human beings compare and find conflict quite easily. We divide and demand our own way readily. Just ask the person who zoomed up behind the car pulling out at one store, and honked profusely when I pulled into the spot that I had waited patiently for. They waved letting me know that I was number one or at least that’s how I took it. This is about proving who I am in Jesus Christ.

Driving home on Friday after Thanksgiving, there was a man on the street corner yelling at the passing cars about God’s Judgment. He was hollering at people that Jesus is the reason for the season and I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly except the Jesus I know whispers in a still small voice and speaks to my heart. He doesn’t berate me when I fail Him. I let Him down enough to know that the Lord should have left me a long time ago, but He loves me and will never leave me or forsake me. Is the gentleman who gave up his time to “preach” on a street corner really getting God’s Point across or is he only reinforcing what the world already thinks about Christians? It doesn’t have to be the guy on the corner it could be those of us congregating in the lobby of any church. When the person walks in who is not walking the right way in the world or at least according to our self-righteous opinion? Do they feel welcome? How about the one who has not been there for a long time? Do they feel love and warmth? See I think that as believers – we need to reconsider our approach to this thing called Christianity. As followers of Christ – we must be like our Savior and Lord rather than redefining the guidelines with new doctrine. Let’s just do it His Way for a change.

One of the stores was offering small appliances at a major discount. Waffle irons like the fancy hotel kind that make my kids giggle with glee and crockpots were less than ten dollars. I was sold at that sign. I love kitchen goods and gadgets. Once at the register, they rang up more than double the cost. When I asked the cashier, if the price was correct. She said, “Yes, there is a rebate on these items.” Ahh…rebates. Rebates are a commitment that many shoppers are not willing to make. They are safety nets for the stores because many consumers never get around to turning them in. With a bit of hesitation, I went ahead and bought the items I couldn’t resist. There were more purchases that required the same process to claim the discount. I have spent some time gather the information, filling out the form, sorting through receipts and providing proof of purchase barcodes. Each one sits before me in a carefully marked envelope with proper postage. I will mail these in today and wait for the refund for each item. Waiting is not my favorite but always seems to be a requirement.

I have asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior. Many people will agree that they are saved simply because they asked Jesus to save them. This is the only requirement. It is the process of redemption that we declare Jesus to be Lord of our life and live like it. Many will make this process more comfortable by bending the rules which is compromise or making this a legalistic venture requiring staunch adherence to ridiculous rules and regulations never outlined by Christ at all in His Commandments. He only gave us two – to love the Lord God with our body, mind and spirit and to love everyone else the same. Well, now you know why everyone makes Christianity about something else. Love is my proof of purchase. We struggle to love selflessly. Many honest people will admit that it is tough to love themselves some days. How do we know that redemption is at work in us? After all, I cannot see God, yet I know He lives in me. But how? God’s Existence in my life is exemplified by my ability to love other people.

I John 4:15-16 (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.

About halfway through our shopping adventure, our group decided that food was absolutely necessary to carry on and came across an old burger mainstay that remained open to serve the tired and weary shoppers. Sitting around the table after inhaling our food, I looked at the faces of three ladies I love and admire very much. They are people who I cannot live without in my life. One face represented the younger me. One represents the transformation process I have gone through. One is the person I am becoming. Each one is necessary in my life not just because I love them with all of my heart but they reflect God’s Hand at work in me. I believe that God positions people in our life everyday meant to draw something more from us. Those we love and respect teach us, sharpen us and encourage us. There are those that challenge us causing our iron to be sharpened. There are those that break us and reveal the contents of our heart exposing anything not worthy of His Spirit that inhabits us. God loves all people. All people have a purpose. Redemption is achieved by our ability to love each other. Say what?

To demonstrate our commitment to Christ, is one’s ability to love and be loved. We cannot earn or achieve salvation any way other than to surrender our life to Jesus Christ – body, mind and spirit that encompasses the whole person. With this in mind, the two commandments are to surrender our entire life to our love for Him AND to give that love to everyone else as well. I have accepted God’s Unfailing and Unconditional Love as my own and now I am mandated to give that same love and grace to others. This is how the world knows I belong to Him. This is the characteristic that tells others I belong to Christ. Can I do it?

Philippians 2:12-16 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 

In order to receive the refund, I had to follow the instructions on the rebate form. We must continue in the Word of God daily and do what it says not what we want it to say or decide what bits and pieces relate to us. It is all about us. When eating and digesting God’s Word each day – it will feed and nourish our soul, it will strengthen our mind, and it will cause us to lose taste for the lesser things in life. To taste and see that the Lord is good quickly will make us see that the Bread of Life is all that is needed to live a healthy and prosperous life.

To redeem my rebate, I also had to provide everything that was required in the instructions. I couldn’t just give what I wanted to give. I had to follow the redemption requirements. I am speaking this softly and in love, if you try to preach the Gospel and share the Good News without copious amounts of unfailing and unconditional love – you are not preaching at all. The point of the entire Bible is that God is love. If your message is not working, lives are not changing, people are not listening – it is time to evaluate the content of our heart to be sure our message is purely that of God’s Love.

I had to consider the cost. When I purchased the products, I had to pay the full price up front. To mail off the rebate information required postage. Are you willing to pay it forward today? To love when you feel unloved. To give when you are not receiving. To exchange hatefulness and ugliness for love and peace. See the world is not bent on giving but getting. Love has grown cold. Sin is rampant. You are not like that anymore but a Child of God. You live in light that others hide from because they have not experienced the Light of His Love but that of condemnation and mostly by church people. We have work to do to save the face of organized worship that long has invited sinners to slap that them with doctrine and beat them with rules. God is love. Christians should express the same thing to others that the Lord has given them even if it means paying it forward. Self-preservation is not part of the saving process, friend. You cannot give your life away and keep things tucked away and hidden safely inside. Faith is based on unseen things not what is right before you. We must be willing to lay our life down in the Name of Love holding nothing back and considering the cost before attempting to build relationships with others (all others) on anything less.

Finally, my favorite part (not so much), waiting on the return or reward. Ugh! Are you willing to wait for love to find you? Will you love until He comes? Will you provide proof of purchase and wit on your reward?

Matthew 10:16-22 (NLT) “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”

Believers are sent out as sheep in a world full of wolves. Early disciples were beaten within an inch of their life and when released continued to share the message of God’s Love. Most Christians cannot endure a good tongue lashing from another without giving up on loving that person altogether. Everyone who endures to the end will be saved. The world will hate you because you follow Jesus. It is not our job to change the world’s mind. The ruler of the world hates God and therefore hates His Children. Stop trying to change the world and devote your time, energy and prayer life to loving others completely. Unconditional love is mandated as the only thing that true believers are obligated to. God is God over it all. He has everything under control. What if we spent as much time trying to win souls with love as we did with arguments? God didn’t sent you to win a debate but to be His Disciple. He is Sovereign. It doesn’t matter what people think. What matters is have they experienced God’s Love and had a one-on-one encounter with His Son, Jesus? I cannot make proper introductions when He is a stranger to me or casual acquaintance. I cannot be a Child of God or disciple of Christ unless I am learning, striving and devoted to loving others all others. It is part of the redemption process that cannot be overlooked and avoided. It will require me giving my all to love. (Period)

Psalm 103:1-4 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

Lord do not let me forget the benefits of your love today. I am saved by Your Grace alone and nothing I do. Let me remember each day that I am redeemed and crowned with love and tender mercy. It is from this position that I rule and reign over the enemy each day. To live in Your Love and share it with the world is my process. I am only effective when I give my life away like You did for me. Lord, teach me to love like you do so I will endure to the end and be saved.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Simple Thanks

Praying woman hands

Ephesians 5:20 (NLT) And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you thankful today? It is not always easy to be thankful. Life happens. People are people. Stress this time of year is high. Anxiety from now until January makes it difficult to see the evidence of God’s Provision and Prosperity in our everyday life. This week has been tough. One of our fur babies went to Heaven. Please don’t tell me that animals especially dogs do not go to Heaven. Let me figure it out when I get there…if I get there. I am not always thankful. There I said it. What about you? Do you float on a cloud with a little harp in a pristine white robe of perfection? Or are like me, and some days it is a challenge just to be civil in the midst of performance pressure and long lists of responsibilities? Love has grown cold and it is emanated in a society that is selfish and self-absorbed. I still do not understand why bad things happen to good people. I can’t wrap my head around senseless violence. I know what its like to get an unexpected bill or a whole pile of them. I have kids. They are teenagers…need I say more. But in the quiet hours of this morning, while my whole house sleeps and I trudge to the kitchen to make the Thanksgiving meal. I may not be thankful for everything in my life or some of the circumstance or current conditions but I am content. I am not thankful for everything in my life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t “give thanks for everything to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here’s why…

Ephesians 1:3-4 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

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

Romans 8:28 (NLT) 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.

I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. I have overwhelming victory because God loves me. And finally, whatever does not line up to God’s Best in my life is not impossible but processing. God has promised to cause everything to work together for my good simply because I love God and He called me to His Purpose. So when I am not thankful for something I can still be thankful because God is working it for my good and I always win. I am a winner because Jesus is my Champion.

Going back to Ephesians 5:20, I made the conscious choice to paint our youngest daughter’s bedroom yesterday and some furniture. I completed the task singlehandedly which usually is a two-person project with my husband. This morning when I got up, my body was as stiff as a board. With each bend and twist something snapped, crackled and popped. I went to get our little dog to feed her and let her out. My heart sank at the reminder her “brother” is gone. I felt a tear rise up. I began to think about our kids who won’t be with us today. My son who will protect and serve today. My daughter and her husband who are serving God in New Hampshire much too far to come home for the day. Sigh… Stepping into the kitchen I became overwhelmed, I know I pared down the menu and tried to simplify some things but I still was overcome by the preparation process. Finally, I realized things were going south fast. So I began to thank God. I thanked Him for my family, home, church and job. Provision. Blessings. The Holy Spirit urged me to be more specific. Naming each blessing right down to the running water in the sink and the disgusting raw turkey I was cleaning. Suddenly, I could feel a change in my heart and the atmosphere around me. Thankfulness gives us contentment. Contentment brings peace.

So to make it simple – I looked up thankfulness in the Word of God and am sharing some tips for those days when it is a challenge to remain thankful. Just to make is easy…

Psalm 50:14 (NLT) Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.

The Lord knows that thankfulness is difficult sometimes. He doesn’t condemn us or punish us but waits for us to remember. The Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness even when it is that of being unthankful or taking the Blessing of God in our life for granted. It is okay if your thankfulness is a sacrifice. If life is letting you down, circumstances devastating, people disappointing, or problems plague you – just say thank you for whatever it is that is good. There is always something to be grateful for – always.

Colossians 2:7 (NLT)Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Thankfulness that leads to satisfaction can only be found in a deep and abiding connection to Jesus Christ. There is nothing in this life that can satisfy our soul. We need Jesus. Without Him, there is a longing that will never be satisfied. We must strive to know Him. To remain in Him. To commune with the Lord each day. To invite Him into our life and spend time with Him.

Psalm 100:4 (NLT) Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.

Thanksgiving opens the door to His Presence and as praise pulls back the veil, it allows us to enter His Presence and prepares us for an encounter with the King of Kings. So often we come to Him without acknowledging who He is and dump our mess at His Feet. He is our Lord. We must come with thanksgiving and praise.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT) Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

A thankful heart produces a productive prayer life. It creates intimacy between you and your Beloved. The way one enters a conversation often dictates the outcome.

Colossians 3:15-16 (NLT) And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

When our heart is thankful, it ushers His Presence. Where Christ rules peace is enforced. Always be thankful. When dissatisfaction and discontentment come knocking on the door to our heart, it is up to us if we will let them in. Will I entertain such thoughts? Will I allow this attitude to come between me and my Savior? Will I choose thankfulness? Thankfulness is a choice. We decide to entertain any other concept in our life. We choose who or what is accepted and entertained in our life. We are the gatekeepers of our heart… unless we allow Jesus to be.

I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

The things in our life that bring dissatisfaction, discontentment and unthankfulness are usually the areas that the Lord is attempting to gain access to. He wants us to pray about these things so He can reveal His Will to us. Jesus wants His Best for us even when we are willing to settle for a substitution. Compromise is not in the Covenant of God for our life. It is a provision that humans try to write in there when tired of waiting or fear takes over. All circumstances in our life come with purpose, promise and provision. Be thankful for God’s Commitment and Covenant on those days when you are troubled by circumstances. He is always working on our behalf even when we give up or give in.

I Timothy 6:6-7 (NLT) Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.

Finally, let’s put things into perspective. We brought nothing with us into the world. What do you have right now? Look around you. What do you see? Every “thing” that is good is from God. When we leave this world, we take nothing with us except our soul. About that…

Hebrews 12:28 (NLT) Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.

And it is with this thought that I leave you to check the turkey and take a shower to get ready for the rest of this busy day! We have been given life and an unshakeable everlasting Kingdom in Jesus Christ. There is more to life than what we see, how we feel or what we are going through. For this we can be thankful. In each moment of every day, we have Jesus. If you know Him, you know that He is enough. If you have experienced Him, you want more of Him. If you have an encounter, you will never want to leave His Presence again. This life and the things in it will never be as Glorious and Perfect as Heaven. But to see Christ in all things, makes thankfulness simple. Be thankful. In all circumstances friend, for this is the Will of God for us.

Psalm 106:1 (NLT) Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

True Reconciliation

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2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Probably one of the most difficult things to achieve among people is reconciliation. In this day and age, most people don’t reconcile their own bank account let alone anything else in their natural life so to consider spiritual reconciliation is out of the question. As believers, if we do not learn to reconcile our life first to Jesus Christ and then with other people, we miss the point of Kingdom building altogether. Christians and followers of Jesus are called to be the Body of Christ. To reconcile is to bring into agreement or harmony. It means to make compatible and consistent. Reconciliation is to reconsecrate our life to Jesus Christ and build relationships according to that connection. Our expectation is then removed from other people and placed fully in the Lord. Whatever we give to others is from the endless and limitless supply that Christ gives us. But how do we get there from here…

True reconciliation is only possible as the next step after true repentance. Put on your waders people because this is about to get deep. We are called to become a new creation in Jesus Christ. New creation. Not a fancy remodel. Not a Band-Aid fix. No weekend makeover. One or two trips to the altar does not instantly produce new attitudes, actions, thoughts or intentions. Salvation is a process. We must work it out inside of us to share it with the world. The trouble is the human component of pride that will not allow our heart and mind to be fully transformed by God. His Ways are not our ways and His Thoughts are not like ours. The idea of surrender is not acceptable to our flesh. We don’t really want to be crucified with Christ. We want to walk with Him. Talk with Him. Even dine with Him in precious communion but when it comes to laying our whole life down for His Cause – it is a quick no thank you followed by a frigid plunge into denial. Religion makes us feel good about ourselves and what Christ is doing in us. Relationships make us feel good about other people and what Christ do within us together. How do I stop evaluating myself and others from a human point of view? After all I am only human. Oh how I loathe it when people confess this over their life. Just as much as, I am what I am. Stop limiting the potential of your life by remaining human, reconcile your life to Jesus Christ, put all your faith in Him, put all your trust in Him, surrender your whole life to the Lord and let Him make you into a new creation.

Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT) My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

“The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  You cannot step into a new place without leaving the old place. It requires an exchange of where you are for where you are going. You cannot live in the past and step into the future. Time will pass but nothing will ever change. To be crucified with Christ means that I lay down my old life for a brand new one. No longer living by the same set of standards, I accept God’s Glorious Standard which now belongs to me in Christ. Now I must daily examine my life for those things that do not “reconcile” with what God has promised me according to the New Covenant handed to me when I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” How is that even possible? To be alive in our body yet dead to ourselves. Welcome to the plight of all mankind? We must die to our flesh and live by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God in us. He is our Helper. He is our Advocate. Our Teacher who guides us and instructs us along the way. So how am I reconciled to Christ exactly? The Christ in me is greater than any other force in the world around us. He is the Sovereign Living God in us who has all power and authority in Heaven and earth. I have a free will. I can call Jesus my Savior in Name only but until I call Him Lord and surrender my life – I cannot be reconciled or called a new creation.

Matthew 9:19-21 (NLT) So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

Everyone has issues. Everyone has problems. Everyone has hang ups. Everyone sins. You can dress it up. Clean it up. Pretend. But the truth is that every moment of every day every single one of us need Jesus Christ completely. The woman who bled for 12 years. She sought help from doctors. She expected comfort from her friends. She was shunned by religion. Twelve years of disappointment, hurt and isolation that finally led to desperation. She was desperate for change. She was focused on deliverance. She had heard of Jesus. She saw a glimmer of hope. As her desperation grew she would make one final attempt. The crowd was packed. The road was narrow. The way was blocked. She lunged for the hem of his garment just as Peter did when the waves and wind wrecked his faith. In that instant, the glorious and marvelous moment, she was healed. Set free. Delivered of pain and shame just because she reached out to touch Him. In that second, her body became reconciled to Christ and started working properly again. Her heart took a long time to decide. Twelve years of reconciling her trust to others. She took it back and handed it to Jesus. She was complete.

Jesus can only heal those who admit that they are hurting. The man with the withered hand had to reach out to receive restoration just like the woman who touched the hem of his robe. Are you reaching out today? Or are you still trying to fix it, resolve it or heal it yourself? Afraid of disappointment or worse devastation? Our faith is not worth anything outside of Jesus Christ. If we reaching within for solutions rather than crying out and reaching out – restoration is not possible.

Jesus can only comfort those who are broken. He is close to the brokenhearted. Hearts filled with pride and surrounded by unforgiveness are uninhabitable by the Holy Spirit. Sadly, fear and anxiety make people who live in such strongholds feel safe and secure. Pride bolsters their confidence with the lie that this is a godly position rather than a horrible compromise. We must let our walls be broken down and live openly. Forgiveness is essential to spiritual freedom. It is trusting Jesus to guard our heart, keep us safe, and restore our brokenness with hope that never leads to disappointment.

Jesus can only satisfy those who are empty. We cannot be full of our self and full of His Spirit. The two are like oil and water. They conflict. If what we are doing does not stem from our heart but our hands it is hard to be fulfilled in Christ. Every good thing comes from the Father. It is looking for a place to fill or void to replace. I must lay down my life on earth to inherit the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not something that I can see but must experience. If God’s Glory is not filling my life, it means that I have not given Him room to move or a space to fill.

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

I cannot be an effective minister or ambassador for Christ if I do not submit my weaknesses to Him every single day. I cannot be an effective messenger unless I am willing to share my inabilities with other and point to Christ for the change that people see. We do not glory in our transgressions but to paint a perfect picture is a lie. No one can live up to that. Church is for the hurting, broken and those desperate to reconcile their life to Jesus Christ. For when I am weak, I am strong. God never called me to be the strong one. I am just to have faith. Not a bucket of faith, but a teeny tiny mustard seed because let’s face it that is really all we can muster. It is my total inadequacy to save myself and redeem my life that I am made into a new creation. It is not my ability to serve God with my hands but in full surrender of my heart.

John 15:5-9 (NLT) “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.”

True reconciliation with Jesus Christ is an act of surrender. To maintain the constant conviction that apart from Jesus Christ I can do nothing. It’s true. Apart from Him, you can do nothing of worth just random acts of kindness and some generosity. I cannot save a single life, fill an empty void or offer anything of worth outside of Christ in me. If I construct a wall of pride to protect me or a fence of offense to secure my feelings, there is nothing of worth that God can do through me because Christ cannot move in my life. He is with you. He will sit behind that wall with you as long as you want. He will never leave you or forsake you. But if the Glory of God is not manifested all around you – lives changed, people healed, strongholds broken and chains falling as revival breaks out – it might not be a God thing…it might be a you thing or a me thing.

True reconciliation with Jesus Christ means reconciliation with the Body of Christ. God desires that all of humanity to be saved even though He knows full well it is not going to happen. Jesus tells us to “remain in His Love.” His Love is farther, deeper, wider and longer than our human comprehension can ever conceive let alone experience. His Love is big enough for everyone. How big is your love today? If it is your own heart, emotions and feelings, it will only be big enough for the first hurt, insult or let down. It is in Jesus Christ that we can tap into unconditional love and never-ending grace that we as human beings are incapable of.

Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

Pride keeps us from renewal and restoration in Jesus Christ. Self-preservation tells us to hold on so we don’t fall apart. The truth is if we do not fall apart and had all those pieces to Jesus Christ there is nothing for Him to work with. He will not take our life from us. We must be willing to lay our life down for Him. Jesus Christ invites us to think about all the possibilities of heaven not the things of this earth. If you are willing to die to this life including all the drama, emotions, feelings, hurts, injustices, unfairness and let Him flood those empty spaces – the Lord will fill  your life with every good and gracious blessing that Heaven has to offer. It belongs to you. True reconciliation is giving up less to acquire Heaven’s All. You are worth it. You may not feel like it. You may even doubt it. The work of Jesus Christ on the Cross says differently. You are worth it all. All of Jesus. Why not give Him your all today? Every disappointment, hurt, shortcoming, downfall, broken piece, letdown, all of it. His Hope never leads to disappointment instead He will fill you up! True repentance must be followed by true reconciliation to seal the deal. Hold tightly to your promise of new life today.

Hebrews 10:20-23 (NLT) By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 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.

 

The Garden of My Heart

the-garden-of-my-heart

Luke 6:44-45 (NLT) A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Home renovation central, I guess is what you might call it. This place has become one DIY project after another. Paint is going on the walls. Furniture is moved around. Making a house a home is a process. Ironically it is the house plan that our former house was. Laid out the same even built by the same builder, yet as we settle in it is different. A new location. A change of season, if you will. A month or so ago, I dug up the front flowerbed. I decimated all the dead plants and overgrown weeds even removing a “Christmas” tree. It is now a clean canvas ready for a floral masterpiece.

I find that as I look at that barren area in need of new plants, that I am carefully considering what to plant there. The soil seems good. The sun hits it differently than our old beds at the previous house. It is a new place and should have new things. Our children were younger and in need of more care before so I would just head to the Garden Center and grab a variety of pots to stick in the ground. It didn’t matter what really just needed some ground cover. But now is different so I am contemplating more now than before. I really would love to successfully grow some hydrangeas in the damp corner by the house. Their full blooms are my favorite. I would also like some of those large colorful pots that people lean over to put annuals in each year. I am considering the time it will take to maintain it also. Heading into winter, some of dreams and aspirations will have to wait for the cold to give way to spring again.

As I read today’s passage in Luke, it made me think of my heart. The things that are growing from it. Are they beautiful like the garden I envision for the front of my house? The kind of blooms that when others drive by they notice the array of color and glorious splendor so they slow down just a little. If a tree is identified by its fruit, it matters the seeds that I sow each day for they will be that which I bear in the future. I cannot grow what I do not plant. To be a good person, I must produce good things. Those good things become godly things when born of the precious seed of His Word cultivated by His Spirit in my life. What is growing in my heart today? What do I want to grow?

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

The Bible is clear as believers the Holy Spirit should be cultivating this kind of fruit. Love. I stop here because it seems to be the biggest problem that we face. How to cultivate Jesus Love among all people. The love in this world has grown cold and selfish…in many ways so has the church people gone. God grow love in my heart today. There is a variety of other fruit including joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are produced by God’s Spirit in us and often emulated as a means of defense. I can act like I have joy – until I get a bad report. I can believe that I am at peace – until conflict arises. I can say that I have patience right before blasting the offending person who disrupted my day. I can do kind things yet not act in kindness at all. I can accept God’s Goodness and never offer it to anyone else. I can mistake service for faithfulness. Gentleness is displayed in more than our words – it is to be our response to life. Finally self-control, pride is an enemy of self-control. The Spirit cultivates control from love that evaluates and compares our words, actions and intentions according to the Great Love and Amazing Grace that is sown in us through Christ rather than what is given to us by the world.

It is important to see these fruits in our life. Examining the condition of our heart daily to make sure it is good soil. Softened by the Word of God. Watered by it, too. There will be times of brokenness as God plants the new and better fruit in the old and hard heart surrendered to His Hands. Given to His Way. Accepting of His Will. As I evaluate this new place and new season of my life, I am evaluating the condition of my heart and the atmosphere God desires in my life. What kind of fruit will I plant today? What will I get rid of to make room for that which is better?

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The multiplication of the Kingdom is discipleship. Discipleship is the cultivation of human hearts. It is not teaching people to be like other people. It is not religion. It is not rules and regulations. It is love. “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” Got it, Jesus. I’m on it. What did you command us to do, again?

Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

I know what you are thinking. What about all those dos and don’ts that I have been taught? What about our church’s doctrine? What about what my preacher, teacher and mentor said? What about this? Jesus said it. I believe it. That settles it. If you act first in love, you will never break a commandment. Not earthly love, but the supernatural love given to us by God through Jesus Christ. If we start planting that kind of love in our hearts, it would begin to multiply the church. Selfless love is not fashionable in a world bent on saving itself. True love. God love. When the avoidance of sin becomes about loving Jesus rather than congregational acceptance – we will be onto something. I don’t really care what people say anymore. If you wait long enough and get close enough from the abundance of their heart – their mouth will speak and tell you what is really growing there. What God is longing for is a church that is set on multiplying His Kingdom not their own buildings. He desires a people so consumed with love that the differences on the exterior of people give way to the potential and promise inside of them. The Lord loves us and wants us to cultivate the same kind of love to all people. How can we ever move down the list of fruits if we cannot become overtaken by the first – love. Love God. Love each other.

Hebrews 6:7-8 (NLT) When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.

Rain falls on the just and unjust or so the Bible tells us. God is watering our heart to see what grows from within us. He knows what is in there but now it’s time for us to see what pops up. When I cleaned out the flowerbeds a while ago, I tried to be sure to dig down deep and remove all the roots of the plants I was excavating. Well, as time has passed some of those unwanted plants are growing up again. I didn’t snatch them out by the root so now they are taking over the places vacated by the old plants now long gone. When I do not properly examine my heart every day and remove certain things I run the risk of them growing and taking over again.

I must get rid of all evil behavior. (I Peter 2:1-3) All evil behavior means everything contrary to God’s Word, Will and Way. That’s a lot of stuff. I must stop judging others until I can clearly see my own shortcomings and take them to the Cross. (Matthew 7:4-5) I cannot judge you until I have rid my own life of all the sin hidden within me. What does that mean? I will never be able to judge anyone else. Good! That’s not what I am called to do! I am made for love. I must get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander. (Ephesians 4:31) Oh Holy Spirit, put your hand over my mouth today. While we are at it, our communication should be rid of all filth and malice so that the words we speak are covered in love and smothered in grace. We are sowing in other people’s hearts when we speak so I must always consider what they will produce from our conversation. My new nature should speak life into other people not drive them away. It should offer everything that God has given me not what I think they need. (Colossians 3:7-10) My opinion doesn’t matter. All that matters is the Word of God that brings dead things to life. Finally, so get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” Here is what I have discovered in this process of growth I am undergoing. The more I know God the less I love me. My opinion is not as important as His Word and Truth. My feelings are emotional but His Word is full satisfaction. If I cultivate anything before love, it is worthless. Every fruit of the Spirit and that of worth in my life is grown from love first.

What is love?

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

This is the kind of love that God produces in us. Just when we think we have it all together, it is clear there is another facet to His Love missing. We never arrive fully at the place of unconditional love because only Jesus knows what that is. The selfless love that gives up perfection for people. There are some days that believers will not give up pride for people let alone their whole life. My garden, my heart – to represent Jesus must be covered in love and grow the fruit that comes from love each day. This is what feeds my soul causing it to prosper. As my soul prospers, so will I. Discipleship is the multiplication of love and commitment to Christ through the Body. It has become disconnected with superficial relationships rather than supernatural love.

James 3:13-18 (NLT) If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

The property our house is built on belongs to us. It is our responsibility to maintain it. The flowerbed out front is no exception. I must decide what I will plant there if anything at all. I get to choose what grows from the earthly black soil all around it. As I care for the plants, it is up to me to water and fertilize them. Each year as the old dies away, I must evaluate their heartiness and whether or not I should plant them again or choose something else that is more suitable to this environment. I am free to pick what grows from my garden. The garden outside and the garden inside my heart. I will not know until Jesus returns or I meet Him face to face if I chose well.

Wisdom from above is all pure. Get in the Word today and compare it to the productivity in your life beginning with your relationships. If envy, bitterness, or strife has created division – pray for resolution and ask the Lord to make His Way through your heart to forgiveness and resolution. Decide what spiritual fruit needs some attention in your life and look for ways to plant it, water it and cultivate it in your life. The Holy Spirit has probably already begun pressing seeds into the brokenness of your heart. Be peace loving – love is peace. Be gentle to every one all the time. It is time for the church to yield to others again rather than molding and shaping Christians to be like us – it is our lifelong serve to get wrapped up in His Love, covered in His Grace and begin to grow that in the fertile ground around us. Will you examine your heart with me today? Removing all the weeds and worries choking out purpose and prosperity. Breaking up all the hard parts making it ready for more seed. Will you stand in the storm so He can water your soul and wash away hidden sin? God wants to grow you so you can grow others. He is looking at our hearts today. What will He find?

Psalm 65:9-11 (NLT) You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.