Never Say Never

Never Say Never

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 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.

I don’t remember who spoke these words into my life. Like a challenge issued to every part of my stubbornness, I set out to prove them wrong. Never is a powerful word. It is difficult to enforce. It is final. It means not ever, at no time, not at all, absolutely not, and to no extent. However, who are we as mere human beings to dictate time. Ecclesiastes 3 tell of God’s Outline of life including the relevance of His Timing in that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven” climaxing with the promise that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, and even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Never implies control over God’s Will and Timing that is simply not the case.

When our daughter was very small, she developed rapid onset asthma. Within a matter of weeks, her condition had worsened to the point of daily doctor visits and an extension list of medication to manage her breathing. We had to carry a nebulizer with us everywhere. Her activities were limited in order to prevent a respiratory illness due to the compromised state of her lungs. This would be the beginning of a journey of faith. I had been praying for the Lord to give me faith. I wanted to see the sick healed, the blind see, the deaf hear, and even the dead raised. I wanted to see the signs, wonders and miracles. For weeks, I struggled with the condition of my child. A couple strong in faith mentored us and taught us about the elements of faith. To them I am forever thankful for their teaching and guidance by the Holy Spirit. On the day that the Lord would reach down and touch our daughter, forever removing this dreaded disease in a single instant, I found a truth about the Lord that I will “never” forget. God rules forever. He dictates the boundaries of our life with His Love. When the enemy tries to cross that barrier, the Lord firmly enforces His Position of the Reigning King. When the doctor told us that she would remain the list of medications forever based on a slightly improvement and never be without it. Heaven and earth collided. The room stood still as His Presence filled that place. Our God is the One who has dominion over forever. Neverland is not a real place. God does not ever except never but gives it a time and place.

I have found it to be true that every never I ever have spoken is a line that I have crossed. Never makes us think we have some kind of control over our life including our mind, will and emotions. The moment it is established as some kind of boundary – it seems our flesh takes the challenge. As a young person, there are some things that I said that I would never do based on the mistakes of my parents. Disappointments and doubts that formed a plan for my life with certain boundaries which I am sad to report – I did them all. Giving my heart to Jesus during my teenage years, I accepted a harsh doctrine with many more definitive items on the long list of never. I did them all, too. Every never has become a reality in my life. I wonder if Peter felt the regret of never, the pain in his heart as he discovered that he was all too human by denying Jesus not once, or twice but three documented times. Jesus told him that the enemy wanted to “sift him like wheat.” I am sure it was a painful process but oh so necessary to make the reunion on the beach more wonderful.

Matthew 5:34-37 (NLT) But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

To say, “I will never” is a vow. It is implied control over our present state that is just not the case. We are ruled by a master – be it sin and flesh dictating our attitudes and actions or the Master who gives us the Mind of Christ. The enemy uses the statement that “I will never” to set up false barriers and invisible boundaries in our life so when we cross them we are shackled with guilt, shame or regret. The feeling of failure erodes faith as doubt and fear take over. We cannot ever say that never is possible for us or become insistent in one direction. This life that I live given to Christ is a humble offering. It is to yield my life piece by piece to the Lord. It is to accept His Will giving up my own. Therefore, I cannot say never but remain hopeful that whatever happens in my life that the Lord will keep His Promise. What promise? This one:

Romans 8:28-30 (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. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29 NIV) Predestination – now that is a word that will start a quick theological debate. I am not looking for a discussion or a debate simply to reveal the promise of such a revelation. Predestination means to decide in advance, to foreordain, to predetermine which is exactly is what the Lord did for us. He provided a plan for our life including a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) He recorded every single day before our birth. (Psalm 139:16) He decided to give His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for my life. Not to bring condemnation but grace sufficient to cover ever sin in advance. (John 3:16-18) The Lord has provided everything I need according to His Riches in Glory (Philippians 4:19) and every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) to yield abundance and prosperity in my natural existence on my way to heavenly hope. Jesus even promised that He went to prepare a place for us in eternity and will come back for us one day. (John 14:2-3) We are predestined. Freedom allows us to choose our destination. There are many flights leaving the airport today that will go to a variety of destinations around the world. The people in the airport must choose their destination according to their free will. We do the same. To indicate “never” in our life may be the very dictate issued that limits the rich and satisfying life that Jesus promised us. (John 10:10)

The promise found in predestination is this: “we know that God causes EVERYTHING to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose.” Jesus came to save us and provide the grace needed to return to right-standing with God. Humility is the route to such a destination. It is to release control of our life including mind, will, emotions, body, spirit and soul to live in His Love completely. This eliminates never and impossibility from our life. Faith in Jesus is the requirement which means I give up my way to follow Him beginning with my stubborn heart set on dictating the order of my life and accept His Spirit to lead me into the everlasting.

Ezekiel 11:19 (NLT) And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.

The New International Version translates the same verse as – “And I will give them an undivided heart”. We want Jesus in our life. However, to release perceived power and control contradicts everything the world tells us. We are to protect our heart. Gather all the broken pieces and hold it all together. Hide our insecurities. Build walls between ourselves and fear. Fake it until you make it. God has placed eternity in our heart because that is the part He longs for. To pursue God with our life and keep our heart for ourselves will end in disappointment and frustration. God is love. Love is messy. It requires brokenness and giving up our way to unite with the object of our affection. No marriage can survive two people bent on having their way all the time. There must be giving.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Is the Gospel of my life hidden behind a veil? This veil can be constructed of many things. It represents the veil in the Temple. The one that kept people on the verge of knowing the Lord but dependent on someone else to endure the process. The Spirit of the Lord ripped the veil in half when Jesus died for our sins. There is no longer anything separating us from God and His Heart except those who decide to reconstruct a barrier in our life. The limitation in our life is built by us not the Lord. He made it clear. God wants His Children. His Desire is for us. He longs to live in love with us. He has created a life for us worth having.

We cannot share a love that has not been experienced. If we do not give our heart and all its stubbornness and brokenness and insecurity to the Lord to accept the new heart that He offers then what is the point. I can share the Good News with others but without the Light of His Glory which is His Love shining forth – it’s just another fairytale or feel good story. I can share all the miracles that we have experienced in our life as a result of faith – but without the love found in the careful and constant intervention of Jesus – it is just another coincidence or inexplicable random event – gawked at today and forgotten tomorrow. The Gospel is a farce without the heart of God’s People shining His Love through fragile, clay jars containing grace and mercy for all. We must give our hearts to Jesus. Every part. The broken parts. The hidden parts. The held-on-to parts for safekeeping. Our life is nothing under our own control. We cannot even keep the simple promises and vows made in our life. Jesus makes all things possible. He erases impossibility completely according to His Will and Way. His Goodness can only overflow from a heart freely given and a responsive one accepted in return.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 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.

So we go back to the beginning…God has promised to give us a new heart. He also offers us a new spirit. A tender and responsive heart. What is the never in your life that is holding you back? Or maybe it is the never that you did anyway? You and I are created in the Image of God. Christ is the visible image of God. Before departing this world, He took the Light of God’s Love and placed it in our heart. The cold, stony, and stubborn heart still held on to carries the potential to live a rich and satisfied life not in the choices we make or our ability to “change” our life making better choices or improving habits, but in our acceptance of a tender and responsive heart. We must respond to God’s Promises beginning with accepting the new heart and new spirit that is freely given to us. However, this is a position of trust that believes no matter what happens in our life that His Love is working out everything for our good. Do you believe that today? If so, your love will be made in the image of God. Your giving will be complete as you give your life away in love relinquishing control. God is intent on changing us not the environment that we live in.

The Glory of God shines brightest through the broken. This verse came to me praying for a mighty woman of God with congestive heart failure. A year ago, she testified in church that through many complications she did not have a “zipper” meaning no heart surgery. She gave the Lord glory for her healing and was a source of encouragement to me. She is in the hospital today facing her third heart surgery. Her faith in the Lord is stronger than ever. She still sings louder than everyone else when worshipping Him in the sanctuary. The first to proclaim “Hallelujah” at the mention of His Name. Her testimony is even stronger today than it was a year ago because in the midst of her trial she is still in love with the Lord. Her faith shines through the darkness of a broken body. Her heart for Jesus beats strong though her human heart is struggling. Jesus let that be me today. I give you my broken and beat up heart for a tender responsive one that shares the Light of Your Love consistently in all things, in all ways, from now until You come! I must decrease allowing You to increase Jesus! Like a wineskin bursting with new wine, I give my heart to you again. Make it beat with Yours, Lord. Give me the desires of Your Heart, God. Make me one with You today Jesus!

Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Chasing the Wind

Chasing the Wind

Ecclesiastes 11:4-8 (NLT) Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. 

Saturdays are precious in our family. Five work days and one day of church worship leave only one for my husband and I to do spend time with our children and do some chores around the house. To wake up when we want to and dawdle through the day is quite nice rushing through the week. The alarm this morning did not greet a happy and expectant employee ready to jump up and seize the day. With a sigh, I immediately began to pray and thank the Lord for the opportunity I have in the workplace and the great weekend that we had. Gratitude seems to change my attitude. It is a great help when the dark cloud of drudgery tries to overshadow God’s Goodness, His Grace and His Glory in our life.

This Saturday an industrious spirit took over as Spring Fever was in the air. Our neglected front porch is right outside the windows of the study where I write. As the morning sun beamed brightly through the windows, I decided to wash away the residue of a long winter and pollen that collected as spring arrived. Armed with all my supplies, I tackled the windows inside and out. The front porch of our house was barren. There really was no point upon our arrival and many other areas of our “new” home that needed our attention, but an image filled my head of two porch rockers. Well, you know the old saying, if mama ain’t happy then… well you know the rest. My husband and I headed to our favorite date place or the home improvement store. Loading a hand cart with two black rocking chairs, a couple small palms and a can of black paint along with a couple other “necessary” items – we headed home. After some assembly required, the two rockers were just as I imagined. We sat down to overlook our work for the day. The yard was manicured, the windows washed and porch cleaned – all the details in place. Sitting in the cool breeze, just rocking along, I realized that the newest chapter in our life had finally arrive. Our littlest girls are almost grown. The three older ones all in their twenties and living their lives. Me and my best friend rocking on the porch in the chairs that will be the place to rock our grandchildren, visit with friends, or maybe even share the greatest love story ever told with someone who is hurting. I have named the two chairs – one is satisfaction and the other will be contentment.

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.” If a perfect life were possible, grace would not be necessary. Since people are not perfect, the ability to live such an existence escapes them. To live this live pursuing our dreams and working for our goals outside of satisfaction and contentment is chasing the wind. I believe this is the meaning behind 3 John 1:2. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Funny that it comes in 3 John and not 1 John. The prosperity of our soul is satisfaction. The confidence in Christ born of faith is called contentment. Both are qualities birthed by trust, yet hard to grasp much less hold on to in a world that lives according to immediate gratification and a constantly changing perception of what will bring these two qualities. If it were power and wealth by the world’s standards, there would not be so many people who end their life in the height of success because of dissatisfaction and disappointment feeding a disease called depression or fueling the fire of anxiety buffered by mood altering drugs and pain killers. So many talented people who no matter how successful could not catch the conditions they desired most – the peaceful stillness found in two rocking chairs on a front porch in the county.

“Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.” Balance is the art of both hard work and peace of mind that is very hard to achieve outside of Jesus Christ. Striving becomes thriving when this balance is achieved. God gave us goals, dreams and desires when He placed eternity in our heart. Without a perspective of heaven or His Kingdom including the blessings and benefits that His Children have there, the joy and peace marked satisfaction and contentment are impossible. The Lord planted a seed in you and I called faith. It is the substance of all that we hope for. Unless this seed is cultivated in every area of our life – it will only bloom where it is planted. A diversified life will only contribute to stress and worry increasing our burdens but Jesus invites us to “yoke our life with Him” and He will partner with us in all our endeavors sharing the heavy load of responsibility that weighs us down in life giving us a precious promise called rest. (Matthew 11) You have the potential of prosperity in you. It will yield the two things you desire most but we must work into the fields and furrows of our heart to be incorporated in every endeavor of life or we are just chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:11-12;17 (NLT) Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

The Lord has a plan for our life. Recorded before our birth (Psalm 139), it is a good one with a future and hope. God didn’t design our life for disaster. God promises to hear our prayers. He will be found by those who look for Him wholeheartedly. This is an important detail often missed in a world that cries “what is in it for me.” Life. Jesus died to give us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) All of us. He didn’t go to the Cross just so you and I could just make it but that in Him find live a prosperous life according to God’s Riches in Glory. To restore the glorious standard of living that sin had taken from us but Jesus came back from the grave to give us. He didn’t force us to take the Keys to the Kingdom but rather offers them to us each day. Our willful disposition fostered by the old Elvis anthem, “I Did It My Way” will find many in the same position that the world renowned “king of rock and roll” did. A man who could have had anything he wanted, denied himself nothing, reaped a huge reward for all his labors and fully accomplished in his industry died in addiction. We must seek soul satisfaction or risk putting all our efforts into a success that will never reach the innermost part of us. Without faith it is impossible to please God – without faith there is no satisfaction and contentment continues to wave in the wind at those who pass it by.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NLT)  So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1) The realization that every good thing in our life is from the Hand of God can change one’s perspective. The greatest revelation is that of Romans 8:28 in the promise that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose for them.” To find truth in the words and apply trust to them will change our lives forever. To believe that every good thing in our life is a product of God and not self or random fate is one thing, but to also see the potential of God in every situation and know that He will work it in our favor – now that my friend is life changing and soul altering. Soul satisfaction comes from faith that trusts God and believes in His Goodness even on our worst day.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 (NLT) Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” And yet, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”

Comparison is a joy killer. It comprises faith because it plants a seed of envy that will bloom into bitterness. God has no favorites. Before declaring the grass is greener in someone else’s yard, perhaps one might ask what fertilizer they use. See God uses every detail of our life for our good. Before comparing our life journey to another, one might decide if it is worth the cost. We are a masterpiece – each one of us an individual work of God with his or her own process of completion. The end result is the same. The process is different. To be jealous of another displays disbelief in God’s Purpose and Plan for us. It destroys satisfaction. It corrupts contentment. A seed demonstrates the growth process in God – one must first die to self. Our present form must be completely undone to incorporate His Goodness in every facet of our life until His Love completely overtakes us and trust allows all good things to grow hidden in our new heart – new life – new creation. To prosper without satisfaction and contentment is not to a blessing. Any form of prosperity does not change our heart but simply magnifies what is already in it. The Lord offers us the Mind of Christ. We must know Him, trust Him and believe Him to have perfect peace that is not challenged by condition or circumstance but leads us to safe harbor every time. The truest blessing of prosperity is a satisfied soul resting in the Peace of God even in a stormy situation.

Ecclesiastes 5:15-20 (NLT) We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry. Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

I love our new rocking chairs. I love the front porch. The wind feels good blowing on my face. I love the promise represented called satisfaction and contentment. I know they are a product of age and maturity. There is no need to chase the wind for it will blow where it will. Looking back, I do not see the broken life that I have lived and all the bad things that have happened. I do not look ahead with fear, worry or stress but I sit there rocking and thinking of all the good things that the Lord has done for us. Our youngest daughter sits at our feet with playing with our little dog laughing at her antics. She is the last of our children who is growing up so quickly before us. But I am not afraid my role as mom will soon be over. Sitting next to me is my best friend and soul mate given to me by a gracious God. Our journey has not been easy but it has been worth it. From the beginning, we decided to be yoked with the Lord. He has carried us to this point. As I continue to rock envisioning children running around the yard as the days turn into years, I ask the Lord not for more of anything but to continue this work in my heart. Give me a wealth of satisfaction and rich contentment to fill every nook and cranny of my heart. There is nothing in this world worth more than a prospering soul. It shines a new light on an ordinary life magnifying far greater potential then hard work and motivation could ever afford. To find satisfaction is really what we are after no matter how hard we try to seem confident and uncaring. We want to be loved just as we are in a world that cries to take – maybe God wants us to give. You cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself. It is common sense. You cannot share the fathomless love and endless grace of God with others until it is found within ourselves. You cannot faith it until you make it. Faith is a solid footstep in God’s Direction. Real love and true faith produce satisfaction in life because they are the seeds that God planted in us and faith in Jesus will begin to grow. Once our soul is satisfied, the sky is the limit literally as the windows of Heaven open and His Light reveals all the blessings in our life and sends down all every promise day by day.

I Timothy 6:6 (NLT) Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great worth.

Dynamis

Dynamis

I Corinthians 4:20 (NLT) For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

The tweet read “If you want to experience dynamic results, you’ve got to have a dynamic attitude.” It immediately brought the word “dynamis” to mind. Dynamis is the Greek root word of dynamic and also dynamite. According to Strong’s Definitions, it means force both literally and figuratively. Miraculous power including ability and abundance. Digging a bit deeper, in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it is inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature or which a person exerts or puts forth. This power is mentioned 77 times in the King James Version of the Bible, It is also referred to 11 times as mighty work, 7 times both as strength and miracles, 4 times as might, and 3 times as virtue. To summarize the “dynamis” that is referenced in the Word of God – it is strength, power and ability. Inherent power that resides in a person which can be exerted, power to perform miracles, moral power and excellence of soul, power and influence belonging to wealth, power and resource multiplicatively, and power given to armies for victory. Now all of this is referred to as the contents of those who belong to God’s Kingdom because He has given us His Power. Where is the power? Where is the prosperity? What has happened to the potential of God’s People to live in His Glory? Where is it? It is in you. It is in me.

Acts 1:8 (NLT) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The last words of Jesus before He ascended to Heaven. The final remarks of our Savior and Lord would not be void of one last promise. Jesus is full of promises and everyone is associated with power. Power that you and I are incapable of but that He full bestows in our life. He promised the people that the Holy Spirit would come and they would receive power. This word “power” is from the same dynamis explained above. You will be my witnesses. When Jesus came to earth as a man, He was God’s Word wrapped in flesh and bones. God sent His Spirit down descending “like a dove” so people could visually see what God was doing literally in their life through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. God wasn’t giving up on His People by giving them His Grace but rather empowering them to build His Kingdom despite their sin and depraved state. In Joel 2, the Lord tells the people what He will do to release His Power. Through repentance comes His Spirit, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Fast forward to the New Testament, to Acts 2 as Peter introduces His Arrival. When Jesus died on the cross, He released the Spirit that God had placed in him that day He was baptized. Immediately the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom so that no man could take credit or sew it up again. I believe the Holy Spirit did it when He left Jesus’s human body and then immediately after that it went to the grave and started pulling dead bodies out. Resurrection power released into the world and just waiting to be poured into the people which happened on the Day of Pentecost. One of the most noted transferences in the Bible has created the most controversy in the church.

Jesus said, “You will receive my power.” I do not believe that Jesus ever lied or changes His Mind about us. When He told the people, you will receive My Power – He intended to do just that. To say that the Power of God was just for the past, exempts those in the future of all God’s Promises even the one of salvation. The Holy Spirit is the identifier that gives us entrance into eternity. (2 Corinthians 1:22) The Holy Spirit is our guarantee. (2 Corinthians 5:5) The Holy Spirit is the One who reproduces spiritual life in us (John 3:6) and nourishes our soul while replenishing our reserve to give good fruit to others. (Galatians 5:22-23) The Holy Spirit leads us to truth making God’s Word come to life in our life. (John 14:17) Finally, in the same account in the Book of Luke, Jesus tells the people on His Departure that the Holy Spirit would come and fill them with “the power of heaven.” The Holy Spirits presence in the life of a true believer is non-negotiable. He is the Power that Christ gave us. HE is Christ in us. If this is true, and the Power of Heaven is in us, why is it not evident in our life today?

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NLT) We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

The United States Armed Forces uses an explosive called C-4. It looks a lot like molding clay given to young children for their first introduction to art. My son was attending a C-4 handling during his military training. He sent me a picture and expressed his absolute elation at the exercise. My heart fell to my stomach. My child was absolutely giddy over any form of explosive display. From the youngest memorable age, he loved fireworks and pyrotechnics. I wasn’t sure that even as an adult that he and his buddies were ready to handle one of the most dangerous explosive substances on the planet. We all survived, praise the Lord.

They say that “dynamite comes in small packages.” A single stick of dynamite is estimated to be slightly over an inch in diameter and 8 inches long. The potential for destruction is not evident in its composition. It must be detonated to fulfill its purpose and explode to make an impact. As a believer – this statement applies to me and you. We have potential and power in us that is not evident in the life we live. Dynamite is filled with a highly absorbent material such as clay with some nitroglycerin added. Clay. I am not making it up. Just like our body is made of clay, God has given us the Power of His Spirit to be absorbed and ignited in our life. All areas of our life. We talk a good talk – now it’s time to walk the walk. Dynamite has the power to change the atmosphere, tear down barriers and fill breaches – so do we. However, we have a greater content. We have the Power of Heaven in us.

Just like a seed, planted in the ground must die to self so must I in order to have this power. I must allow God’s Spirit to be absorbed in every fiber of my being and facet of my life to allow His Power to be my strength. Why limit the Lord to the four walls of church? His Spirit is to be incorporated in my daily life. I must identify with the Spirit of God within me. I must believe. Believe in His Power. Believe in His Wisdom. Believe in the Christ in me. Believe He is more than enough. Believe there is abundance to feed my soul. Believe that there is prosperity to seed my life to plant His Word in others. Jesus told the disciples who failed to cast out a demon that it was simply because they did not believe. They said they did. They acted like they did. But when it came time to release His Power, they could not. Religion is often built around what we cannot do. Relationship with Jesus Christ makes all things possible for those who believe.

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

The Holy Spirit in you and I is our greatest potential. We have been given every spiritual blessing necessary to do “even greater works” than Christ did because He is with the Father and has placed it in us. Faith is the measure of resource or the seed placed in us with great promise. The Holy Spirit cultivates the seed of faith and multiplies it in us. As our faith grows it becomes confident hope that allows us to live our life as Children of God rather than slaves to our circumstances. Christ must increase and I must decrease. This is not about following some rules and regulations set forth by a religion, Jesus tore them up and put His Spirit in us to lead us, guide us and teach us. The only way to test the doctrine under which we serve is to know the Word and the Holy Spirit to discern truth from lies. I am not bashing religion just religiosity. It is the Christ in us and our connection to Him that is our source of love, power and hope in this life and forever. To release God’s Potential in our life is not restrictive but radical. Once the wick burns down to the cap penetrating its seal, dynamite explodes into purpose. I believe that is what is happening in us. The Lord is working in us to release our full potential. It may be uncomfortable. Change is not always welcomed. However, if I want to see revival in my life, church, community and the world – the Christ in must find His Way out of me otherwise it will remain unrealized potential. I must believe that the God in me is worth pursuing even to the end of myself. I will be challenged. I will be pressed. Get knocked down and even fall down in the process. God’s Purpose will be worth it when His Glory floods my life and I am able to effectively radiate His Love for all to see. I have God’s Power in me. I have His Word. I have His Spirit. I have all the components for a dynamis life. It is up to me to detonate it. Faith makes it happen. To believe is to receive all the power promised to me. Lord, I believe.

2 Peter 1:3-5 (NLT) By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. 

 

 

Radiate

radiate

Isaiah 60:19 (NLT) No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

As the sun slowly rises, its rays fall on the study floor. Catching my attention, I look away from this study to see its radiant brilliance shining through dirty windows. Yes, I need to clean my windows. Put that on the list today. Just outside the window bushes have risen above the handrail, obstructing the view. Maybe Big Daddy will cut them back a bit for me, so that I can add those black rocking chairs that I have been waiting for spring to buy. Spring is here. Life is bursting forth after a long winter. We are full of life. Each day the Lord is working on the inside to make His Light shine outside of us. After all, He has called us to be His Light to this world. He placed His Spirit in us to produce His Glory through us. Is this the life we live? New life. Bursting from every facet of our life like a brilliant diamond under direct light. Or have a windows become cloudy and the cracks of brokenness subtly filled, so that the image is slightly askew, maybe a bit dimmed or has it grown dark altogether? The Light that shines from our inside must reflect the true radiance of God. It is not a light that flickers or impacted by any other source. It is a fiery passionate burning flame that consumes all that lies between us to emit light glorious unfiltered light. Is your light brightly shining today? Is it breaking through the darkness that surrounds you?

To radiate means to extend, spread and moving outward from the center. To project or cast forward. Light changes the atmosphere around it. Darkness cannot remain where light is present. Light is attractive. The emission draws and things to it. Is my life attractive? Is it engaging? Do I project and cast a true image of God and His Great Love? Isn’t that the most attractive thing about our Savior and Lord? The fact that His Love for us is unchanged by condition or weakness. He loves us. Case closed. He promises to fill us with His Love and release His Glory in us. It all begins with grace. Amazing grace. It sounds so sweet but is so easily mistaken. Grace is not a doorway to enter God’s Favor but the Source of the life. We live in God’s Grace which allows to be in right standing and live in the Presence of God. I cannot earn it but only receive it. I cannot ever exchange grace for entitlement but must live humbly before Jesus who is the Source of Grace.

I believe Isaiah 60 is not a futuristic place yet to come but the very opportunity Christ gives us now. It is for today. This very moment called opportunity. God’s Glory covers us in radiance that cannot be altered, filtered or covered by this world. It is the favor of God that allows us to be blessed and prosperous no matter how many clouds fill our sky or how long the night may seem. It begins “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!” Throughout the chapter, it tells of powerful influence as “everyone is coming home” drawn to the light. Not just ordinary people but kings are attracted as well. The radiance will also direct prosperity into our life as “they bring you the wealth of many lands.” As the Light of His Glory shines in us making its way through us until the substance of our faith is made into absolute trust with confident hope that allows us to be the light rather than groping in darkness any longer. The Lord will be your everlasting light. The events outlined in Isaiah 60 are not for eternity. The Favor of God for life is found in His Presence. To trust the Lord with our natural life allows His Light to shine through us. His Light is His Love. His Love makes the way. As His Love grows complete in us an extravagant exchange is made, our feeble attempts to earn His Grace become a willingness to accept His Grace as sufficient alone.

Isaiah 60:20-21 (NLT) “Your sun will never set; your moon will never go down. For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end. All your people will be righteous. They will possess their land forever, for I will plant them there with my own hands in order to bring myself glory.”

If just for a moment, try to forget about the church culture familiar to you. No matter what denomination chosen or the doctrine that is subscribed to – for this second just focus on you and Jesus. Let the weight of service, the next offering, or even the sin that you struggle with evaporate from your thoughts and fall like heavy chains pooling at your feet. Say to yourself, “Jesus loves me.” The beginning and end of every bit of hope that I have as a believer is the credibility of this statement in my life evidence by my ability to believe it. Is Jesus enough? If I truly believe that then the things of this life no longer affect the light of His Love radiating from me. My ability to project the perfect life does nothing for those who feel helpless, worthless and defeated. My acceptance of God’s Love through the Grace of Jesus Christ that shines bright even on the worst days of my life is attractive to others. Grace is completed in our willingness to say, “I am weak. He is my strength.” This is not fake faith. I will never say the words “faith it until you make it.” It is of the same concept as fake it until you make it. Nobody wants to come closer only to find our love is not real, joy superficial, and peace a façade. We have eternity in our heart. The substance of our faith provided in a measure must grow into an abundant overflow of trust. Trust is the radiance of our life that makes others come closer to see what it is all about. An authentic life bears fruit not a leafy cover that gives nothing of worth. Is the Lord your everlasting light?

Romans 15:13 (NLT) I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Part of our son’s cancer treatment included radiation. After a series of scans and images were taken to precisely pinpoint the location and dimensions of the tumor growing in his nasopharyngeal cavity, a mathematical engineer studied the coordinates to make direct the radiation beam to hit the tumor and avoid other areas. The tumor in his head was millimeters from his brain stem so it was imperative that they not miss the mark. Before the next treatment, a new scan was taken and the coordinates reevaluated for accuracy. With all this precision, there was still a fair amount of radiation that was in the aura that projected to surrounding tissue. I share this to say that as God’s Love begins to chip away at our heart to find its way in – certain things in our life will begin to change. As His Grace, the source of our hope, begins to penetrate the thick walls and hard sides of our heart – it begins to fill us with inexpressible joy and perfect peace that is unexplainable. Though it may be painful in the brokenness as His Love overthrows the insufficiencies in our life with His Grace, the power that takes over changes us from the inside out. As it makes its way out – God’s Glory fills our life. We must experience God’s Love by trusting Him and encountering the Lord one-on-one in an intimate and personal relationship before the radiance of His Love can shine through us. Do not take for granted your alone time with Jesus. Do not stop striving to make more time to spend in His Word and prayer. The Light emanating from our life will only be as strong as the source in us. The radiation was painful. It was damaging. It broke our son’s saliva glands. They don’t work anymore. It burned his skin but the Lord has healed him. It was a painful process that eradicated the tumor called cancer from his body. The Lord removes all impurity so the purity of His Love, Life and Light can show through us.

In her book, The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp shares “cancer is what refuses to die to self.” You know the part of you, as do I which seems to be the source of our struggle when it comes to trusting the Lord. It can be many things. Insecurity, doubt, fear, or even unforgiveness. All of these things are the point of unwillingness to change and may be the very thing that are keeping God’s Glory from radiating from our life. Total trust in the Lord and His Love which is defined by His Grace is the thing that causes us to shine the brightest. It requires an inspection of the heart where He lives. Are the windows a little cloudy? Have some weeds popped up? What is it that keeps God’s Glory from bursting forth in our life? Wake up Jerusalem. Wake up church. Wake up friend. Wake up me. Nothing I “do” or “don’t do” for the Lord amounts to anything without first being covered in His Love and Grace. I cannot project a clear picture of God and His Grace outside of unconditional love for all people. The culmination of faith and hope evidenced in my ability to trust the Lord begins with believing His Love is complete. To know the Lord and His Love is to break the notion that anything I am or ever hope to be is worthwhile unless His Love fills me to overflowing. It is the Christ in me that is attractive. It is the Love of God that captures the attention of people. His Glory will come when His Love finds its place in my very human heart.

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT) The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 

God’s Love is on the horizon shining on us. Jesus is the Source. He wants to shine through us. His Glory is for us. His Favor is ours for the taking. His Love never ends. It never fails. It is more than enough. We don’t add to it or take from it. It is there for us always to step in, live in, and radiate every day. Jesus is the Source of Hope. His hope never leads to disappointment. I will never know that for sure until I am willing to love and trust Him with my whole life. It is a process. It is going to take some time. Why not start today? I am off to clean some windows. To let the light shine in. My desire is to radiate God’s Love, His Light and His Glory in my life. How about you? By allowing the Lord to penetrate my heart with pinpoint precision to the part I am withholding and eradicate it with His Love and change me from the inside out produces a spark inside me. It is then and only then that the radiance of His Love will break through the earthen vessel and be fully expressed as light glorious light that leads to life glorious life.

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

Tiny Treasures

Tiny Treasures

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

I have many masterpiece designs made by my little artists over the years. Carefully wrapped in newsprint and bubble wrap, hidden in the guest room, they are precious treasures to me. Preparing for our move last year, I held them in my hand carefully wrapping each one. I labeled each box “fragile” and made sure they were transported in my car. We are fragile clay jars. (Job 33:6) Produced from clay, by the Potter, yet far from finished from completion. (Isaiah 64:8) The work of the potter’s hands begins with a lump of clay thrown unceremoniously on a wheel. Water is added to soften the mound. The potter takes his hands and begins to firmly knead the clay working the water through it and making it pliable in his hands. He presses hard with all his strength to eliminate all the air bubbles inside. It is a rigorous process. But if any of those pockets remain when the final work is placed in the kiln exposed to great heat – it will crack or worse explode. Oh Lord, remind me today that I am only clay. A masterpiece in the potter’s hand who just happens to be my Father.

Ephesians 2:9-10 (NLT) Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

There are other little art creations tucked away. The kids and I used to go to the local ceramic store in the summer or when visiting my family. A “pick-and-paint” operation filled with shelves of different items to choose from then with a wide assortment of colorful paint create a bowl, cup or little boxes. Once complete, the shop would put them in the kiln bringing the color to life. I love those little pieces and the memories they hold, yet do not prize them as I do all the little clay pieces. Could it be the time invested? Or maybe because the clay pieces were the individual work of each child rather than one simply painted?

Growth in God may seem like complete destruction. Well, if God’s Plan and Purpose is the true desire of my heart – it will be the complete undoing of my heart. God has a plan and purpose for my life – He promises that it contains a future and hope. It is blessed. It must be broken. I cannot maintain my present form and be the masterpiece that Lord has called me to be. I must become a new creation.  A new person. A seed must die to its present form to become the potential hidden inside. We must die to our present form to become that new creation and let God’s Light shine from us.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV) Substance…what is the substance of our life? Our bodies are molded and shaped of clay or so the Bible says. God scooped up some earth and made a human being. Our physical being is terminal. From the day of our arrival – our death is one day closer. This is not a morbid reality just a bit of mortal truth. Our potential is locked inside of us. God put eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He labeled it a “measure of faith”. (Romans 12:3) It comes wrapped in the promise that the Lord will make all things beautiful in its time. Romans 8:28 ensures us that He will use every detail for our good and His Glory. God is working the substance of our life. He is kneading us. Pressing out the impurities, filling us with His Grace, and shaping us into the new creation He promised. He needs only one thing from us. It is not what you may think.

Psalm 37:3-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

The invisible link between faith and hope is trust. We must trust the Lord enough to endure the process of our undoing and remaking in the Potter’s Hands. If our desire is to know Him, serve Him, find Him and live in His Presence – we must do so with the understanding that God does not lie or change His Mind. Though favorable for us, it will not allow us to remain the same while inching closer to Him each day. We must be changed by the grace that saved us into the masterpiece that He calls us. To change in our appearance but not in our substance puts us in danger of becoming like the Pharisees. Doing and saying all the right things, but never becoming the new person changed by faith, trust and confident hope. Instead, we are simply “white-washed tombs”, (Matthew 23) The Blood of the Lamb washes us white from the inside out. Not the other way around, The Lord doesn’t want perfect Christians with hard hearts. No, He wants new creations who are soft and responsive to know and become one with His Heart.

To live for Christ and become one with Him will never allow for me to remain the same. I must submit to the process of applied pressure that works the measure of faith hidden in my heart to become the Light-Conducive vessel that breaks through the darkness of this world. I have a purpose. It is hidden inside my very human heart. The more my heart breaks – the more evident it becomes day by day. I am not called to strong, but completely broken so that the Lord can do what He planned from the beginning before I was born when He recorded it from my mother’s womb as He knit me together there. (Psalm 139) Trust allows me to commit every detail of my life to the Lord and become yoked to Him. (Matthew 11) I don’t have to worry about tomorrow or the troubles I find in this day or the next. The future is no longer a concern.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

I know that I will be pressed, but trust the Lord not to allow me to be crushed. I may be persecuted, but I trust the Lord to never abandon me but stay right beside me. I know that I will not understand it all, but that’s okay because I can trust God at His Word. The enemy can hunt me down and draw a huge target on my back, but the Lord is my strength and shield and I can trust Him. Though struck down by insecurity, fear and even doubt, I trust the Lord to never let me fall and keep me from stumbling. I trust Him at His Word. It is all that I have to go on. It must be enough. Jesus is the Word of God who came wrapped up in flesh. Trusting His Father through this life, to be tortured and killed on a Cross, but it did not stop there. He marched through the fiery depths of the hottest hell to take my life from the enemy’s hand and deliver it back to me when Jesus came back just three days later. My faith must grow into absolute confidence in the hope that I have been given so that when I am tested and tried by the fire called refinement, I will not be destroyed but exhibit the Power of God given to me by His Grace. Faith, trust and confident hope are essential in becoming the person who God calls His Masterpiece. It is not a pleasant process all the time, but I can find joy in it each day.

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Thinking about the tiny treasures tucked away in the box marked “fragile”, I cannot help but wonder if God thinks of us the same way. How precious it must be when we trust Him and submit to the process and pressure as evidence of trust? How happy the Lord must be when we decide to let Him work that measure of faith into a something of substance so that we become the Light of the World no longer hidden in darkness? Oh how the Lord treasures us even in our present broken and imperfect state as He whispers from the potter’s house, “Come and let me finish this great work that is within you.” Let me mold and shape your life into the Masterpieces that I created you to be. Jesus wants to complete me today… and you, too. He longs to work His Love, Grace and Mercy through us so His Love can radiate from us. I hear His Calling and I answer with my heart, “Lord, I am coming.”

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

 

Lessons From a Giraffe

Lessons From a Giraffe

Revelation 3:10-12 (NLT)  “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

I will admit that I have become captivated by April the giraffe. A small animal farm in New York got the brilliant idea to put a 24-hour camera to record the impending birth of her calf. They have received national attention and news agencies across the country are tracking her progress. I have always loved giraffes. On a mission trip to Kenya many moons ago, I was able to go on a camera safari through a preserve where they could be seen walking in the distance. Even many yards away, they were majestic and towering over the small trees. One of the only souvenirs that I brought back was a hand-carved giraffe with her calf. Though I do not sit and watch her progress, I do leave the “giraffe cam” open on my desk at work, in the kitchen while I cook and as I sit here now she is off to the side of me. Giraffes are not particularly intelligent animals. Basic creatures driven by their desire for food and their inner drive of curiosity – I cannot help but wonder if she is aware of her popularity. Does she know what is happening in her body or the impending arrival of her newborn? How aware is she that the end of her 15-month process is near?

This morning while I wait for the computer to load, the sleeping giraffe is suddenly awakened and rises awkwardly to her feet. The movement catching my attention, I glance at the screen just in time to see a series of resounding kicks from the 150-lb, six-foot tall baby inside her belly who apparently wants out. There has been little movement noted by keepers over the last few days. Most babies in the animal kingdom and the natural world settle down right before the greatest journey of their life. It is almost time. I know that feeling. Having been blessed with five beautiful babies, I understand the end of the process. The overwhelming need for the stress on our body to end. To release the promise inside because it is ready to live and breathe on its own. There are so many feelings and emotions mixed up and overflowing in a mother just before the birth of her baby. It doesn’t matter how many children you have, each one a process of perseverance all its own. Today as I watch the mama walk in circles, her steps are slow and unsteady. She lowers her head to endure the pressure of a contraction as the little one gets ready to make its highly anticipated appearance into the world. I am feeling pressure these days. No, thank goodness, my childbearing years are done but my promise bearing years continue. The process is similar. Both require perseverance. The result of the process of pregnancy is culminated in a successful birthing process of a healthy baby. If a human body were to experience the changes to it without a purpose – no one would endure it. The reality of our promise determines our willingness and ability to persevere.

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.” I have lived long enough to have experienced many processes in life. I have learned to persevere and yet I am still in the midst of its process. Perseverance is a test of strength. It reveals our depth of purpose according to our commitment to the process. As a Christian, faith is measured by our willingness and ability to preserve through hard times, difficult situations and those things that seem to break us completely. But the words I keep coming back to today in this passage are “you have obeyed my command to preserve.” Set free by Jesus Christ, I am free indeed. As far as I can tell there is but one commandment predicated by a new provision that I must live by according to the New Testament words of Jesus Christ who is the Word of God. I cannot find a direct command to preserve or persist in anything but this one thing that He commands. It is my purpose despite every difficulty in life or even the times I become discouraged. Are you wondering what it is? Do you already know?

Matthew 22:37-39 (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.’

Thankfully and by the Grace of God, the five pregnancies became five people who bless my life and give me purpose each day. My love for them gives me infinite grace and determination to care for them all of my life. Jesus demonstrated God’s Love for us by coming in the form of a man, living a completely innocent life, and then dying for our sin on the Cross. I know it sounds so brutal and messy. It was. The story did not end there. If Jesus did not complete the process, hold on to the promise, and preserve through death and the grave to emerge in Resurrection Power – there would be no salvation for us. There would be no pathway to God the Father to righteousness. Every promise has a process. Every process will require perseverance. If it is worth anything at all, there will be a struggle to find new strength even when the promise is faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God much less reach Him. Less I digress…

In Revelation 3, the Word encourages those who “have obeyed my command to preserve” that the Lord will protect them in great times of testing. It also tells us to hold on to what you have so that no one can take away the crown. You are a Kingdom Kid. You are a daughter or son of the King. However, you are on a journey home to a place that you cannot see driven by faith that is bound by confident hope and not evident by sight. In Revelation 3:8, the Lord indicates the opening of a door that no one can close – the promise. I love this part, I can identify with it completely. “You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” The commandment of Jesus for my life is to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second one that Jesus has indicated as “equally” important is to love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the commandment attached to perseverance.

The love for self is natural. It is part of human survival. The love born of the Christ in us is different. It is not a natural emotion but supernatural takeover of our flesh that is crucified with Him to become the new creation that the Lord has promised. The process by which faith moves from our mind to our soul requires perseverance because it takes what is natural and overtakes it spiritually. It is the Christ in us that teaches us to love. Love is clearly defined in I Corinthians 13 and my love must bear all the qualities of Christ’s Love for obedience to be evident in my life. Even the most simple offering will not be accepted by God until I forgive those who I may grudge against to exemplify the grace I am given. Nothing I give to the Lord or attempt to do in His Honor is worthy of Him until I love Him wholeheartedly and express it to others effectively. Love is the commandment that is the subject of perseverance. It is the most difficult one of all. It requires putting aside my feelings and emotions. It is absolute and total crucifixion of pride and stubbornness. I have to lay down my life to claim my place in Heaven. Jesus came to fulfill the Law. (Matthew 5) He did it. There is not a letter of the Law that I am bound to except the one commandment which is to love the Lord and love people. Love changes everything. It sounds cliché.

I Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT) But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus Christ lives inside of every believer. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of His Promise to us. It is by falling in love with the Lord that He is able to consummate His Love for us as His Grace empowers us. To do what? To live and love radically. To persevere and power through those tough days in the Name of Love. Isn’t that what pregnant woman do in the midst of vomiting, exhaustion, swelling, bedrest or complications? They will do anything to get the promise inside to become a reality. What about the Promise of God in each of us? Is it not worth having more than anything this world has to offer including comfort? Of course, it is.

“It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15) Jesus Christ came to initiate a relationship not institute a new religion. Unlocking every chain and opening every door so that the Body of Christ might become one in anticipation of His Eminent Return. I can share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a thousand people but if I cannot express His Love it will fall on deaf ears. Real Love. Authentic Love. Selfless Love. True Love. The church must learn to love to become the new creation it has the potential to be. Unconditional love is to love without condition. Without rules or regulations, the Lord did not require you to change a thing and still considered you to die for. Why do we insist on changing people? We must love them like Jesus loves us.

What is a righteous and godly life anyway? “Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” This verse makes me think of Micah 6:8, “this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” The Lord is whispering to us today and encouraging us to get it right. To pursue a righteous life. To live a godly life. To do so the way that He tells us to, a life defined by “faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” I think the word “perseverance” is tucked in there to remind us that there will be hard days, trials and tests, and those when our strength gives out making us ready to throw in the towel. You are pregnant with promises today that are worth having. So much so that the enemy is pressuring you to give up, give in, and just quit. I cannot imagine being pregnant more than 42 weeks as that is the longest pregnancies that I endured. A giraffe carries her promise for 15 months and some animals even longer. Whatever God’s Promise is for your life, it comes with a process and prescribed time. You must only endure and preserve for the reality of God’s Promise to be revealed. Faith must be our confident when waiting for that which we hope for to come. To abandon the process of pregnancy is abortion. To abandon the process of love is to end our future with the Lord. It is His Commandment to us. It is His Mandate on our life. Every other attempt to serve Him absent of love is pointless. Love is the most difficult thing to maintain. Jesus warned us that love would grow colder. It does each day. It is the love within us that makes us a new creation and our life offering incense to God. My faith is in the Love of God and His Faithfulness to me. My confidence is that His Love never fails and nothing can separate me from Him. It is from this faith and confidence that the Lord makes us new creations who can love unselfishly just because He loves us.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT) So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

 

Yes

Yes

Matthew 5:37 (NLT) Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Many Christmas’ ago, our youngest daughter put an IPod Touch at the top of her list. Midway through the holiday season, I received an IPad Mini from a blogging site and thought she would enjoy it even more because it was bigger and had more memory. She could certainly play her games on it and watch videos with ease. When the big day arrived, our littlest was on a mission. She was opening her gifts searching for the shiny new electronics. My heart skipped a beat when she finally selected the package to open. When she realized it was not an IPod Touch, her hands fell in her lap with it in her hands. She whispered, “Thank you” but my heart sank as I realized she was disappointed. We want to give our children the desires of their heart. In this instance, I thought this was a better gift but it did not meet her expectation. She later shared that she wanted the smaller version because it would fit in her pocket like a cellphone. She was too young for her own phone, but since all her siblings had one – it was the next best thing. Our little girl had an expectation and when what she found did not meet her expectation – it was only natural to experience disappointment. A human response that we all have from time to time.

Matthew 21:18-19 (NLT) In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.

Jesus was hungry. He came across a fig tree covered in leaves. On closer inspection, it did not have any fruit on it. Jesus cursed the tree right then and there, because it was not fulfilling its purpose which was to bear fruit. It put on a glorious show but when it came right down to – it was not fruitful. Who doesn’t want the Lord’s Approval on closer inspection as a Christian? When He moves past the grand show of righteous living, and the performance of service, and peers into our heart – what will the Lord see? Will there be any fruit on the vine which He planted there? “Yes, I will” or “No, I won’t.” These are the only two promises that a person is capable of keeping. The ones pertaining to self and nothing else. I have no control over heaven or the earth. These are the Lord’s domain. He has given me a simple yet great commandment to follow. It is not complicated or overly comprehensive. His Commandment is this:

Matthew 22:37-39 (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.’”

I am challenged today with my “Yes, Lord”. The commitment that I have made to Christ based on His Generous Gift of Amazing Grace. I take it in and apply lavishly on my life. I know that God is good because I have experienced His Goodness and Glory firsthand in my life and know that I am undeserving. For many years, I have been committed to the church and even religion if I am completely honest. I love to serve. Yet, in all the running, organizing, teaching and sharing, something was missing. I had the best of intentions but something was missing. Me. The “yes” I have to give the Lord completely is “me”. When He commanded us to love Him, of course it is with exuberant affirmation and acceptance Why not? He offers unconditional love to His People. He removes the weight of sin and fills us with inexpressible joy. However, if I do not effectively express His Love to others – I am not bearing His First Fruit.

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.”

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. It is so simple. We have made it complex. When Jesus came upon the fig tree, the Lord was hungry. He had an expectation that the fruit on the tree would satisfy His Hunger. It would fulfill His Desire. But when all that He found were leaves covering the tree – it was cursed. When Jesus comes to live inside of a person – truly take over their existence – the first fruit is love. Not the kind of love found in this world but the Kind of Love that has been deposited inside of us.

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!

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.

Love has a definition. The Lord went so far as to clearly demonstrate unconditional love for us. In return, Jesus asks us to love Him and love others. He has an expectation of His People based on the seed deposited in us. To accept Jesus as Savior is to believe in His Great Love for us. As one strives to make Him Lord, our great aspiration is to serve Him. Those who seek Him wholeheartedly are saying, “Yes” to live a life of love. He is our First Love. Loving others is our mission. This is how we make disciples. But this kind of love is not a simple “yes”. It is a messy one. It requires a new kind of fasting our life that breaks the tradition of religious fasting. (Isaiah 58:8-12) Our life given to loving others provides the miracles that many search after. We literally must give our life away. How many times has the Lord inspected our tree and like my daughter on that fateful morning felt the disappointment of unmet expectation? No act of service great or small is worth anything unless it comes wrapped in unselfish love.

Love that is patient. Love that is kind. Love that is not jealous. Love that is generous. The love chapter, I Corinthians 13, goes on to say that the edifying gifts of the church such as prophecy will be gone one day and only love will remain. If we do not get love right, our tree is barren and there is nothing to offer the Lord in our life.

Matthew 26:7-9 (NLT) While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

If the giving of time, talent and treasure is not wrapped in love and presented in worship then what good is it? If our “Yes” to the Lord is presented to this world wrapped in religion, tradition and condition – what’s the point? If I try to relay an experience that I have not encountered myself than I am a counterfeit. For example, how can I explain the Grace of God and His Forgiveness when I cannot bear the fruit of forgiveness in my life? How can I share the Jesus who did not come to condemn that world when I pass judgment on them on sight? To love others like Jesus will harvest a life of giving that displays the Gospel in living color. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He did not leave those in need unfilled even when He didn’t tell them who He was or what He was about to do. He met them where they were and loved them on the spot without hesitation, reservation or condemnation. This is true love. The disciples were worried that the worship in the form of expensive perfume could feed the hungry. Noble effort but they missed the point completely. The service performed by the church is community service unless it comes packaged in unconditional and fruitful love born of the great love give to us by Jesus.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Jesus is looking for those who love Him to love others. Not with the kind of love that the world is known for. God’s Love has no requirement. It is by His Grace that we have acquired love. It is to be given freely and cheerfully. Love with condition is a counterfeit. People know the difference between real love and fake love. There are many broken hearts out there that will never don the doors of a church because of the judgment and condemnation that is felt when they enter. To preach a Gospel of words without true and genuine love is to counterfeit the Cross. To give from anything less than a humbled heart changed by God’s Love is a lie. To try to present a message of love with words that hold empty promises is to literally shun those who need Jesus most just like me. The seed of our life is love. Not conditional love, but radical love that meets the need of others not based on prideful religion but the pursuit of each heart as Jesus would. He pursues us with unconditional love and goodness. (Psalm 23:6)

From a very early age, I participated in church visitation. As a teenager loaded in buses and dropped off in neighborhoods to present God’s Message to the lost. Invite them to church. Pray for them. As a young adult, every Tuesday night armed with an atlas and the Bible – we would go visit those who dared to fill out connection cards at church. I remember every awkward encounter. It was after I became the woman at the well, that I finally had something to share. After wandering, I met a man who knew everything about me and still thought I was to die for. His Overwhelming Love rushed in and covered me just as I was not waiting for me to do anything or be anyone other than who I was. It would take years for this truth to finally manifest in my heart and see that God wants us to accept His Grace and grow His Love to give to others. This is what “Yes, Lord” means it is to love extravagantly and overwhelmingly giving our life to others daily even in the seemingly smallest of gestures such as a smile. The Love of God is attractive. It is perfect. I don’t need to add to it a single condition but spread it thick in the world in which I live. Nothing will ever change the heart of a person more than experiencing the Love of Christ. It is love for Christ that empowers us to make better choices and give more to Him. I can never out give the Lover of my soul. So I say, “Yes” today. Today I will love others (or try to) just like Jesus loves me – radically and unconditionally – it will be my act of service. I will call it a fast. Either way… it is the fruit of our life that He desires. I do not want to disappoint Him. Yes really is that simple. Will you do it today?

Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

Misfit

Misfit

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

Forging through life in pursuit of hope led by faith, there are days when I can sit in a room for of believers and still feel like I just don’t fit in. Like a misfit, who is not suited for the environment in which I suddenly find myself yet not given to adaptation. Have you ever felt that way? I have. I do. I don’t like it. In all humility, I will be the first to admit that “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection” because the more I know Christ the less confidence I have in myself. The transition of faith fortifies confidence in hope not a sense of pride to self. I am definitely pressing to possess that thing called “perfection” or purpose that Christ Jesus first possessed me. I am finding that the more I know the Lord, trust Him, seek Him and follow Him – the more out of alignment with people that I find myself. Maybe that is what the pursuit of Jesus is all about. Letting go of fitting in with the world to fully embrace the joy of His Presence.

It is in those moments when I feel like a misfit that I must dig deep inside my heart and pull out the word or seed that God has planted there. Why am I here? How did I get here? God, what is my purpose in this place among these people? Like an ill-fitting garment, slouching over the chair, I know God has placed me exactly where I am. I am confident that the Lord is the One who led me to this place and put me right where I am. Faith is like that leading us out of comfort zone and the complacency found in it to catapult us into divine purpose that changes everything. When I feel like an outcast, out of place and out of alignment, I must ask myself – “what am I doing here?” What led me to this place? For if it is the Lord, I must only maintain alignment with Him to see all the pieces strewn across the table fall dramatically and miraculously in place. Life is like a puzzle with a beautiful picture depicted on the box. It draws us to the challenge. Once the pieces are dumped out unceremoniously on the table, the need for control and order in us begins to sort through each one. Inspecting them carefully, they must be organized all flipped to the right side and corners and edges (boundaries if you will) carefully set. Once in place, it becomes clear that the more pieces in the box and detailed the design that this could take more time than expected or allotted. Now what? Will I wait it out? Will I continue to concentrate on the finished product? Or do I swipe it all back into the box putting it on a shelf for another day perhaps when more patience is developed or someone will come help me finish it? Sometimes Christ must mess everything up to put it all back together.

Growth in anything requires total destruction of the present form to become that which is hidden inside called potential that will one day become purpose. But I am not in the Hand of the Farmer anymore, I am buried in the dirt, the shell of my exterior lies within the foundation called faith waiting for His Glory to draw me to the surface so I can see the Plan coming together and its fruit born in my life. But right now it is dark, I feel my form changing. It is an isolation that is not separation. The enemy longs for us to look in the rear view mirror. To look back and question, if we took a wrong turn or missed the turnpike. It is human nature in the process of life and journeys that take too long or head in a new direction to wonder if we have missed the destination. It is the definition of doubt. The Lord uses these times to stress the importance of true dependency on His Word, His Will and His Way. Where the Lord called you – He will complete you. You are not a misfit or mistake but rather on a mission called fulfillment to be complete in Jesus Christ.

John 1:1-5 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

The greatest love story ever written begins with these words. In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. It takes an experience to forge God’s Word in our heart. For me it was our son’s illness, when nothing in life could save him but Jesus. When I had absolutely no hope to hold on to in the natural, God’s Word to me the very first night was the end of the rope. I tied a knot in it and held on for dear life. It changed everything. I have seen the Lord perform miracles. I have witnessed signs and wonders that human logic cannot explain. Nothing will ever have the impact that God’s Word holding true will ever have such a profound impact on my faith. The Word is essential. It is the breath of life to every living soul. It is the thing that binds us together and creates commonality in God’s People. It reveals our heritage and birthright. It is sharper than a two-edged sword dividing bone and marrow. It is alive and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12) It is the sword of God’s Spirit that slays every lie that the enemy ever slung at us. (Ephesians 6:17) It is the rod and staff that comforts us with divine direction and discipline. (Psalm 23:4) God’s Word refreshes us like a deep cleansing breath. It reveals the character of God and every promise that He has made us that will become His Purpose and fulfill His Plan. Faith is illogical and impossible without the Word of God to define it. It is but one component of His Alignment that keeps me in place when nothing seems to fit together for my good and His Glory yet it keeps me clinging to hope.

John 14:23-27(NLT) Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 

Once the Word of God takes hold of our heart, His Spirit comes to “teach you everything and remind you of everything” that the Lord has told you. We need to communicate and commune with God’s Spirit in us. Faith is going to lead us outside the borders marked trust and boundaries called fear to a place far deeper and farther than ever thought possible. As our life is unraveled to form the masterpiece the Lord has ordained it to be, the coming undone reaches our heart and soul releasing every insecurity and doubt there so faith can finally take over. The process is uncomfortable. It is not fun. It is necessary for fulfillment. To do the Will of God – we must align our life with the Spirit. It means when God tells us to go – we go. If we get there and things are not what we expected – the Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s Word and tells us to stay put. He is our Partner in the watchtower while we wait on the vision. It has an appointment in our life. If we leave the waiting too soon, we will miss hearing our name being called when the time is right.

Jesus said it plainly and made it overly simple, He said, “All who love me will do what I say.” How can I do what Jesus tells me if I do not know His Voice? He shepherds those who know His Voice and follow Him. The Word of God tells me what to do and the Holy Spirit nudges me in the right direction. He is my Advocate who is my support. (John 15:26) He is my Comforter when life is hard and uncomfortable. He is my Peace. I have the mind of Christ because His Spirit lives in my giving me hidden knowledge and secret understanding that the world and my enemy do not know. (I Corinthians 2:16) He is the Intercessor who prays for me in weakness when words escape me but is enunciated in the groaning and wailing of my soul. (Romans 8:26) I must learn to align my life with God’s Word and His Will to have His Way.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 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.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” The only way that I can live in agreement with God is through Jesus Christ. He is the Way. He is the “champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” There is a whole lot of mileage between those two words making life a marathon rather than a sprint. We prefer the sprints in life that hint at immediate gratification. Faith is a process defined by endurance. It is a lengthy endeavor requiring a sacrificial commitment of all of me for All of Him. Piece by piece our life is offered to the Lord as He shapes and molds us into who He created us to be. Have you ever watched a potter form a clay pot? It can be a brutal process. First he must begin to squeeze it and press it down hard with both hands to soften it and make it pliable. He may use some water to moisten it. Once on the wheel, it begins to spin all the while his hands creating his vision and bringing purpose to life. But if in the process, something goes awry, he will remove it from the wheel and start all over again. If he places the piece inside the kiln and sets the fire on high, any imperfection may cause the pot to break under the intense heat. God has a plan and purpose for our life defined by His Word. It is written to perfection with a future and hope that He is intent on giving His Children. His Spirit, the very essence of His Presence, accompanies us on the long journey to find the Way. We must follow the Way. He is the Author and Finisher of faith. The Champion who gives us victory. He has gone before us and falls in behind us covering and protecting us along His Path. He will never let the righteous fall. Leveling mountains and straightening our path, we cannot get there without Him.

Philippians 3:15-16 (NLT) Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Back to the crowded room of Christians, believers, and righteous people, where I sit as a misfit. Knowing this is where I belong but feeling completely out of place, it is the Word of God, His Will and His Way that keeps me firmly in planted by faith. Alignment with the Lord including His Word, His Will and His Way keeps us from being distracted by how we feel because God is greater than our feelings. He put me in this place “for such a time as this.” I can choose to walk away and find a place that I am more comfortable or I can remain committed to God’s Word, Will and Way. I am free. Christ has set me free and given me the choice of the life I live. Now it is up to me. This is what the Lord has said to me and He may be whispering to you today – “we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Regret romances the past while hope embraces the future. My hope is in the Lord not this world it’s people or anything else. Hope in Jesus never ever leads to disappointment. These are not just words to me anymore but the experience I live on and lifeline I hold on to. To continue in the race of faith and make the mark of His High Calling means I cannot give up but must wait it out. Waiting is not my favorite and I daresay probably not yours either. It is necessary while the Lord takes all the pieces of our life making good on His Promise that they will be used for our good and His Glory. This life I live for Christ is walked according to faith not by the things that I see or how I feel. Faith is the substance of the things we hope for not naturally evident or occuring. If we do not bear the qualities of faith such as perseverance and endurance – it is not possible to reap the benefits of it called confident hope. Hope is the priceless commodity that only faith can grow in us. It requires aligning our life with Christ and waiting for everything else to fall into place.

Philippians 3:8-9 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

To Give

To Give

Luke 6:38 (NLT) Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Our small group has been studying Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way. When I first chose to use in our group, it was really a no-brainer. The Holy Spirit put on my Facebook feed, and then dropped in my email. The Holy Spirit really operates like “A Spiritual Guide for Dummies” most of the time, at least where I am concerned. At our first meeting, each participant shared a moment of brokenness. Their transparency evident as they tried to make sense of the broken pieces each held ended with giving God glory for their survival. Some shared the lesson learned in the shattering of their fragile heart. The more tears that fell the heavier my heart became threatening to spill out at any moment. I carried the burden home with me and began to pray for these ladies. At the next meeting, as I watched the video listening to the author share, I realized that there was a rattling in my chest, too. Broken pieces of my destroyed heart put under the Blood and committed to the Lord but still crashing around in there. Suddenly, my comfort with brokenness and the thorough examination of this journey became clear and discomfort rose up inside me. I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. To look into the mirror with eyes wide open and see the shell of the woman looking back at me. I gave it all to you, Jesus. Now what? Do I really have to try to put those pieces back together again? It was much easier to leave them be. To consider healing as a scar that holds them tightly within my bandaged heart rather than allow Christ to complete the process. So, on Sunday afternoon after a glorious nap, I knew that I must embark on this journey for it was part of my process. I didn’t want to. Who does? To consider all those things that we don’t understand or that did not turn out as one expected. I have a list. The list of the things that I still cannot reconcile with the Goodness of God and how it ended for His Glory. I save it for Jesus. When I meet Him face-to-face, so He can help me comprehend them.

The author talks about a cross that she has drawn on her wrist. It makes me look at the tattoo forever marking my right arm. It reminds me that this journey is all about “faith” which is what I see when I look down at it. It offers “hope” to others when they see it from a different perspective. I got it when our son was battling cancer not the first time or even the second, but the third time. I wanted to remember that no matter what the outcome was that God is good. My life is all about acquiring faith and confident hope. I was doing pretty well, or so I thought, until our son was diagnosed. I managed to somehow find my legs and walk through the first two rounds. But by the third time, I just wasn’t sure how much farther I could go. I wonder if Abraham felt the same on his journey to the mountain. To receive his promise, and now consider offering it back to God. This study brings back to a time of great victory. However, the brokenness experienced during that time changed me into someone I wasn’t comfortable with. It made me relinquish control of my life. Nothing would ever be “normal” again. The Lord wants to make something beautiful out of our brokenness. It has been not only a theme in my own personal time with the Lord but is coming from many other authors and writers. However, the evaluation of the pieces of our life requires us to go back to times of great hurt, hardship, betrayal and disappointment. The Lord promises to make good of every detail of our life. Perhaps some of those pieces buried deep within have potential and purpose that have yet to be released. Rather than being in captivity behind our scars, Jesus wants us to sow them with His Promises in our fertile heart. It has been plowed and watered with our tears. Now covered in the Blood, it has the ability to be renewed, restored and refreshed so that our giving is complete.

Brokenness is the prerequisite of giving. To give means to present voluntarily and without expectation of compensation. It is to place in someone’s care. To hand it over to someone and grant it to them. Giving is a form of communication. It is to transfer ownership and place in the permanent possession of another. There are two forms of giving. Offering and sacrifice. To give an offering allows us to maintain our life as it is. To sacrifice is to give something away for good. To give our best. To give our all. We all know the story of sacrifice offered by the hen and the pig. The farmer cooks breakfast as they peer through the window. The chicken gives an offering. The pig gives their all. What is the giving in your life? I am not talking about what you do for Christ, give to the church or offer others? What is the level of your giving? Offering or sacrifice?

Psalm 25:1 (NLT) Lord, I give myself to you.

Giving comes in many forms. We give tangible gifts. We also give intangible gifts such as thanksgiving, forgiving, care-giving, and so forth. It is a form of brokenness to be thankful because it honors another. Forgiving is humbling ourselves before others. Care giving is to offer assistance to others rather than choosing our way. Give and it will be given back to you. It is so basic yet labeled different ways in the church today. I offer this to you. If I allow myself to be broken, I will receive the blessing of the Fullness of Christ in me. It takes what I am willing to give and makes it blessed, beautiful and worth having. Suddenly, my life is complete in Christ so giving is without fear or trepidation. The Lord supplies everything I need. Jesus is the desire of my heart. His Spirit completes me.

Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)  As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Covenant in the Old Testament was a mess. Each bringing a sacrifice, to tread down the middle of, yet sacred in those days. Jesus was the Blood sacrifice for our union. He gave His Body to be broken and His Blood for the remission of sin. Once His Blood covered our sin, it is our privilege to live in the Presence of God. However, what about His Body. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Could it be that we missed it in this old hymn? Could it be that our brokenness is blessed by the Body of Jesus instead? When the disciples gathered and Jesus performed the first communion, the Lord said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” He had taken a loaf of bread, broken it into pieces and blessed it. They were instructed to “eat it”. The Lord’s Body now one with their own. Isn’t this what happens when the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is consummated. However, unless our heart remains broken it cannot be made beautiful. We must be broken to be blessed. That is what true repentance is after all – giving up my way for His Way. Giving up my life so that Christ will be complete in me. Religion and relationship are marked by two different things. Religion is defined by what I can do for God. My relationship with God is when I can do nothing – His Grace becomes enough for me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Ironically, or not so, this is the verse that the Lord gave me right after the call marking the third diagnosis of cancer in our son. When the doctor told me it was back and it was really bad, I fell to my knees. I was at work. My office consisted of three walls and one full of windows. Everyone in the lobby could see me go down. It didn’t matter. I was broken. To truly take in the fullness of Jesus Christ, one must consume Him in every part of life. It is in our brokenness that blessing comes. The blessing makes something of our once worthless offering and giving which is now a sacrifice of our whole life.

Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT) You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Why would God desire a broken spirit? It leads to repentance. A soft heart is a fertile heart. A broken heart allows God’s Word to penetrate and give way to growth. Faith needs a place to grow. The Lord is close to the broken hearted. It is in our weakness that He is made manifest in our life. Brokenness allows us to partner with Jesus and become yoked to Him. (Matthew 11:28-30) While I control my life, dictate my way and choose my path – I am not broken or repentant. To give my life to Jesus Christ means yielding all that I am to all He is. We cry out for it, want it, desire it, and even pursue the fullness of Christ never considering the brokenness that provides for the blessing.

In Psalm 129:3-4, the psalmist refers to his “back covered in cuts as if a farmer had plowed furrows.” He goes on to say, “The Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.” Jesus freed us from the captivity of sin. The consequence of sin is brokenness. The Lord blesses brokenness and makes it beautiful. He has redeemed us from sin and now His Grace exhibits its power. Every broken thing (or detail) of our life is designated for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) We must not ignore the broken pieces or hide them away but haul them to the altar called sacrifice and give them to Jesus. We must examine our heart. To those rattling pieces of the past, the jumbled mess of circumstances, and even scars that bind our wounds to staunch the bleeding. Brokenness must not be ignored. It is meant for our good and His Glory.

Psalm 37:3-5 (NLT) Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

Jesus Christ is the strength of my life. It is in my utter and complete destruction that His Power is made manifest in my life. Blessed are the brokenhearted because the Lord is close to them. Not because He feels sorry for them but because it is in such a state our heart is open to the Lord and His Careful Intervention. Pride keeps us from humbling our heart and life to Jesus. Personal strength must give out by coming to the end of self. Trusting the Lord is a noble effort until our broken heart can beat no more. In our brokenness, it is the Savior who we see. The One who rushes to hold us closely, care for us deeply, and it doesn’t matter what we are doing or where we are the moment before tragedy strikes. His Loving Compassion for us cannot help but come to our side. How can I commit everything to the Lord if I am withholding pieces of my life? I cannot. It is when my heart is irretrievably broken that I can lay all of the pieces at His Feet. Trust is born in that moment. Not ordinary trust, but complete dependency on the Lord that allows us to give our life away unrestricted. Brokenness is the perquisite of blessing that makes our life worth giving to others. Grace empowers us to be blessing. Thank you Lord for brokenness. It enables our giving and empowers our works to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus. It gives us a life worth giving. All giving starts with brokenness. Brokenness is made complete in Christ.

Philippians 3:8-11 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Hidden Treasure

for sale

Matthew 13:44 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

Hidden treasure, how exciting! The thought of a chest of gold at the bottom of the ocean. Or maybe beneath the sandy beaches of a shore left long ago. Secret maps encoded by those who never would return to claim their prize left to be discovered in another time. The fodder of fairytales no doubt or is it. Is there really such a thing as hidden treasure and secrets in this life?  In the ruthless reality of life is there really room for fantasy? Or would it just be another set up for failure to expect the unexpected? To truly believe that there is more to life than this and that there is a favor yet to be revealed in a mundane existence of struggle and striving just to get by. Does Cinderella really leave to marry a prince in a castle? Does Snow White find a way of escape? Does Aurora ever truly experience the kiss of her sweet prince? The plight of the princess ends in a rescue by her prince. Such things are not truth but written by fanciful authors to bring hope to the hopeless. What about us? We are believers. We have hope. Hope that promises to never lead us to disappointment. We do not wait for a prince but King Jesus. The One who sits on a throne with every enemy as His Footstool. The reality of hope is dependent on faith. Faith is the substance of what we hope for. It is the matter that keeps us engaged in the pursuit of the impossible day by day.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure. When you think about Heaven, what do you see? The envisioning of a place filled with light paved in gold? A gathering of those who are now gone but your heart still longs for? What does it look like to you? The Kingdom must become a reality in our life in order to fully seek it out and discover its true potential. A man discovered a treasure hidden in a field. He was excited. He would not steal it so he hid it again. The man returned to his ordinary existence and sold everything he owned to buy the field. Is Jesus real? Is His Kingdom a true destination? Our life hints at the truth of what one believes. We invest our time, talent and treasure to have what is truly valuable to us. There is treasure hidden in Heaven for me. I have an inheritance and secret blessings that are mine for the taking yet if I do not understand the value and worth enough to desire it above all things – it is as the hidden chest of gold or potential princess in the secret place – it waits for us to believe and therefore search for it.

If my grandmother were alive today, she would confirm that I loved to read about the princesses. The story of Cinderella was my favorite. The pages worn thing in the book from constant reiteration. She would offer to read another account of one of the others, but I pleaded to read Cinderella again. Dreams are something given to us at a young age which often are forfeited to cruel and harsh reality. Visions of a better way, life and journey forsaken to disappointment that causes us to bury our dreams while entering adulthood. The desire of our heart is designed by God. I believe it is the potential that the Lord wrapped with the measure of faith and marked “eternity” that is placed in our heart. Your life today has the priceless potential to be more than you can think, ask or imagine. Have you buried your dead dream today? Deciding that it was just a childhood foolishness called fantasy and moved on to real life. I did, too. However, for some reason, they seem to be coming back. My mind is entertaining them again. My heart quickens at the thought. Could it be that the Light of the World is lighting up inside of me and through a fragile heart marked with cracks and crevices full of flaws and imperfections that He is illuminating the hidden secrets called fulfillment as He works the details of life for goodness and His Glory just like He promised. Is it possible?

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

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

People are quick to judge the rest of their life by its current condition. We make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. There are things that the Lord has hidden in us from the beginning of time when our creation was decided. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Every moment of our life is previously recorded by God. (Psalm 139:16) Our life is predestined to be glorious. (Romans 8:29-30) Jesus changes everything. (Ephesians 1:10-11) Nothing can separate us from God’s Love any longer. (Romans 8:38-39) This is not random fate or good fortune. God planned it from the very beginning that our life would become a masterpiece on display for all the world to see, like a city on a hill that is well lit and inviting. The Glory of God is revealed in His People. What glory is there in a life of poverty, weakness, and ignorance? Faith promotes growth and increase in our life. His Grace gives us the power to overcome every weakness. Knowledge and understanding mean nothing until they become wisdom or applied in our life. Hope never leads to disappointment but if we do not believe hope exists or do anything to pursue it – we will not benefit from it in our natural life. If hope exists only after the expiration date marking the end of our earthly existence – we will miss the glorious life that Jesus Christ offers while alive. Christ lives in me. He is worth having and I am ready to “sell” out to have His Kingdom a reality in my life.

Proverbs 2:1-4 (NLT) My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.

Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh to come express God’s Love in a real and tangible way. Even the people closest to Jesus struggled to believe even witnessing great miracles, signs and wonders. Those who believe without seeing are the ones that Jesus called more blessed when showing Thomas His Wounds for credibility. To ask Jesus to be our Savior and call Him Lord gives us keys to His Kingdom to unlock hidden doors and open secret places that are just for God’s Children. My faith in Christ is all that I need to make those dreams and desires a reality now. To know Jesus I must know the Word. To treasure His Commands empowers the process that leads to potential and the realization of my purpose. Ignorance is not bliss. It kills our dreams and the potency in our life. We must listen for God’s Voice and engage in conversation with Him to know the way. Wisdom is applied knowledge. Concentrate on understanding. Cry out for more insight. Ask for understanding. What if all that I am doing is in vain even humbling my life in service to God? What if all the things that I am doing are religious because I do not have a connection or real relationship with Christ? The enemy tells us that Christ requires us to give up everything and live an abased existence because we owe it all to Jesus. Jesus didn’t say that at all. We forfeit the bondage to sin, captivity to the lies of the enemy, and breakthrough every wall of resistance when our faith in the hope that He offers makes us confident enough to pursue Him wholeheartedly. We are adopted by God as His Children. To live in His Kingdom is to experience His Glory now AND forevermore. We must get our faith working for today as it does for the future.

Mark 4:21-23 (NLT) Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

It is human nature to think the worst. How many times have I heard this verse used in conversation concerning people living double lives? “Well…everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open…” said with strong Southern slang followed by the obligatory “bless their heart” or worse the knowing nod of the pious. What if Jesus didn’t mean that at all? What if He was saying as my love burns through your heart igniting a passionate love affair building confident hope that causes you to come boldly before me seeking, knocking and asking that I will show you all the wonderful things that I have hidden in your life? What if it means the windows of Heaven will open flooding your life to overflowing with all my promises so you can lend and not borrow being generous without regard, worry or regret? A lamp draws those in darkness to the light. The Lord is gracious. He doesn’t want to put our sin on display but His Glory. We are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard of Living and continue to do so daily no matter what we do to avoid it. His Grace is enough. His Mercy is new every morning and fuels His Love and Power in us. We have great potential and purpose in life to do more than imaginable simply because Christ is alive in us.

Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

Matthew 27:50-52 (NLT) Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 

When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit. The temple veil torn from the top to the bottom. God was ready to receive His Children and grant them an inheritance. Joel’s prophecy fulfilled. Dreamers could dream again. Visionaries have new visions of the Kingdom. God’s Glory permeated the earth and in Acts 2 came to live in His People. This would be the moment in time that changed everything. God in us. Why is that we bury our dreams? Why do we pass off vision as fantasy? Where is our confidence in hope? It is time to take the measure of faith given to us and unwrap it, inspect it and use it again. God has given us the potential to achieve great purpose and shine His Glory for all to see. We will prosper. We will have success. We will be blessed. We will have influence. We will experience favor. We will see signs, miracles and wonders as His Glory permeates every area of our life. However, none of this is possible until faith is the reality of our passion and persistent pursuit of our life. The reality of His Kingdom is our hope. Hope must have confidence to be of any use today. My forever and future are secure. It is up to me to decide if His Kingdom will impact my today. Dreamer – the Lord invites you to dream. Visionary – the Lord invites you to see new things. Child of God – there is a treasure you have yet to discover. Give up the reality called life to experience the true revelation of hope. A life fully invested in Jesus Christ will bring to light the secret and hidden things that are there just for you! Sell everything to acquire it and it will be yours.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.