Cutting Edge

cutting edge

Romans 4:16-17 (NIV)  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

We live in an age of evolving technology. What is new today will quickly be obsolete tomorrow? Advances made each day make supply and demand driven by an every changing market. It’s funny that the very things marketed as new and improved do not seem to stand the test of time any longer. Old appliances lasted forever but the newer more advanced cutting edge technology doesn’t have the longevity of the aged models. It seems like just when we upgrade our cellphone or tablet the next one is released. I believe in many ways church has become the same. Lights, sound and action fill the space of sanctuary and often we miss the root of salvation and position of change. Appealing to our senses and appeasing our pride, living on the cutting edge but never experiencing brokenness before the Living God.

Hebrews 4:12 has been replaying in my head. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God wants us to see that there is a better way. A simple life of faith that leads to everything He has promised. It is entered by the Son. It is lavishly covered in His Grace. He provides all that is needed to live a godly life with every spiritual blessing. The Lord has given us His Spirit and a Mighty Sword to cut through our stubborn sometimes stony heart to get to the promise hidden inside claimed by faith and resilient in confident hope. Where is our confidence in Christ? Too often it is a continued effort to upgrade that drives us from church to church. As if there is some great secret to this new life that can be claimed by a safe shortcut rather than radical obedience. Oh Abraham, the father of faith for the circumcised and uncircumcised has a message for us. Will we listen? Will we allow the Word of God like a double-edged sword to penetrate our hard hearts?

The promise comes by faith. Are you waiting on a promise? A blessing that you know awaits you but cannot seem to find its way into your life. Our world demands immediate action. It requires “fast” everything. But what about the Lord? His Timeframe is not ours with a thousand days like one day. When the minutes turns to hours becoming days and even years what is our response? Do we continue to wait? Watch? Wonder? Wander? Abram was 99 years old when he entered a covenant with the Living God. The Lord changed his name to Abraham. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. For 99 years Abram was a practicing Jew who served the Lord. The promise of a son came after he was circumcised and consecrated his life completely.

We have a new covenant given to us by the Lord. It is our choice the level of relationship that we choose to have with Him. To engage or live on the edge it really is up to us. I am challenged today by the father of faith. The one who lived for the Lord ninety-nine years before entering covenant with him. Abraham and his household were all circumcised according to the Lord’s command. Paul teaches that no longer is circumcision (outward) needed but that God is looking for the circumcised heart. The place where religion meets relationship is not by outward rules and regulations but the inward surrender of our stubborn and selfish heart. To allow Him to cut through the flesh and expose the new creation filled with new life hidden there and to allow the faith deposited in us to reach its full potential.

I looked up the definition of “cutting edge” and found it to mean “the most advanced stage of development of something.” Is this a hint at spiritual maturity? Is becoming a well-developed Christian more about who we are rather than what we do? Yes. Yes it is. I joined the “club” when I was just eleven years old. I got up out of my seat, driven by something inside the pit of my stomach, made my way to an altar and asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. It took decades to begin to scratch the surface of what a life in Christ truly means. It means less of me and more of Him. I cannot remain unchanged in any way and have the full potential of Christ in my life.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

There is an old story about a chicken and pig who lived in the care of a kind farmer. The chicken approached the pig with a marvelous idea. He suggested doing something for the farmer in exchange for his excellent care. The pig liked the idea listening intently to the chicken’s plan. “Let’s make him a good breakfast!” said the chicken knowing it was the farmer’s favorite meal. The chicken offered fresh eggs. The pig knew the farmer would want more, “What else should we bring?” The chicken thought for a moment and said, “Ham? The farmer loves eggs and ham.” The pig replied, “That’s fine. But while you are making a contribution, I’m making a real commitment. Are you the chicken or the pig? Are you a contributor or committed? How much of you is invested in the Kingdom? To Christ?

Sacrifice is defined as surrendering something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable. Sacrifice is a commitment of all while offering only a portion of some. The chicken offered some fresh eggs to please the farmer. The pig would have to sacrifice all to give him fresh ham. The Word of God tells us quite clearly that it is not what we give of our hand but the surrender of our heart that the Lord desires. Psalm 51:16-17 says, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart you, God will not despise.” If we give up our life to serve Christ but do not surrender our heart – we will end up with nothing.

Isaiah 57:14-15 (NIV) And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Psalm 34:18 tells us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. The scriptures promise that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” In the natural, circumcision is an elective procedure. It is not required but rather many people choose it for their newborn sons. The Jewish culture still recognizes the procedure as a religious rite of passage. I wonder if God is not moving among us because we have withheld our heart. All or in part. Have we surrendered our hearts as a living sacrifice so that His Word can cut through its hard, stubborn and even stony exterior to expose the new life and new creation within us? Those who do will experience a new life in Christ filled with promises and blessings as faith rises from the sacrifice of a circumcised heart. One penetrated by the Spirit and washed in the Word which allows the Light of His Love to shine brightly through its cracks and crevices. Lord, I give you my heart today. Do with it what you will? Have Your Way in me today? I trust that you will not leave me for dead but create new life in me with each cut. I put my expectation in You and give you my permission to fully examine and cut away futile and worthless desires that are hidden within. I give you my heart as a Living Sacrifice today make a masterpiece from its many pieces. Amen and amen.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 147:3 (NIV) He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

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New Heart

New Heaert

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The image a vivid reality in my mind. Praying to the Lord to take all of me is a common cry in the church today but do we really understand what we are saying. God begins a good work in us. Holy Inhabitation makes it possible as the Holy Spirit takes over those areas of our life invested in the Kingdom. The fashion of holy consecration is brokenness. It is an act of humility. Sacrifice that demands all of us to produce good fruit and abundant life in all areas. The Lord has promised to give us a new heart and new spirit. The Word of God says, “I will put within you.” When our religion becomes a true relationship with Jesus Christ – our heart cannot be withheld and flesh cannot survive the burning passion and desire to seek Him, know Him and be with Him.

The Heart of Stone

Back to the revelation in my prayer time, I saw a sharp pointed knife cutting through dull gray exterior resembling a rock. As it began to cut with excellent precision – I wondered if it could get through the concrete exterior. What would be inside? As it continued the downward trend, a beautiful beating heart emerged. It took my breath away as in that moment I drew in a cleansing breath. God is this what you want to do in me, my family, my church and my community. Are you trying to take our stony, hard hearts and give them new life? Absolutely.

It’s funny that humanity thinks it can evoke heavenly change in an earthly body. The embodiment of religion is to produce positive change on the exterior, but without the inward change of a circumcised heart – it won’t work. We can build churches but not become the Church. We can resemble broken and handicap bodies but not become the Body of Christ. The prosperity of our hands will not move the Heart of God. He must complete the good work that He has begun in us through His Son, Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) Have you given your heart to Jesus?

Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (ESV) “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Before moving ahead to obedience, our heart must truly repent before the Lord. Jesus must be the Way, the Truth and Life for us. In that moment, everything changes but unless one engages in the relationship with Christ – it is merely another social venue chosen in which to exist. The miracle of salvation is made complete in the covenant formed as a relationship with Jesus. Without a relationship, it is nothing more than religion. Religious people do not necessarily have eternal life. Without a heart change produced solely by the Lord and His Spirit, we may look different, sound good, and live better but eternal life comes from an intimate and ongoing relationship with the Father through His Son.

Grace is always enough. This is not a call to live a perfect life. Never make mistakes. Always make good choices. Stop sinning completely. Though these are our goals, the battle against our flesh is quite evident and the struggle is real. (Romans 7) What does God require of you? To fear the Lord your God. To walk in all His Ways. To love him. To serve Him with all your heart and soul. To keep His Commandments and Statutes.

Here’s a plot twist for you! Every bit of this is summed up in love. Romans 13 tells us that we are to own no one anything but love. The Message translation puts it like this – “Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” To love Jesus with all of our heart and soul makes sin unpalatable if it separates us from His Love. When our union with Christ is complete, He becomes our priority over selfishness because He is better than life. You cannot engage in a relationship with Christ without a circumcised heart. It is the sign of covenant. In the Old Testament – an outward sign of a promise. In the New Testament – it is an inward sign of a new heart, mind, soul and body devoted to Jesus Christ.

New Heart

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

This verse has been heavy on my heart. The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword to the division of soul and spirit…Is the Sword of the Spirit for me? Yes. To use on others. To wield against the enemy and every perceived threat. Yes. But first, before all of that, it is for me to allow God to circumcise me and give me a new heart and new soul to serve Him. What if we have been going about this all wrong? What if our first action as a believer is to allow God to use this two-edged sword on our own stony and stubborn hearts…first. Always first. When tempted to lash out can we let His Word cut away the lack of love in us. What if the sword is useless in our defense unless it produces change in us first? Jesus is the Word. He is the Way, Truth and Life. No one gets to the Father but through Him. If God’s Word does not work in me, I cannot become the new creation filled with new life that He promised. I must consecrate my life beginning with my heart and soul before I can make an impact in my home, church and community. Otherwise it is just good works not godly deeds.

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

A stubborn hard heart cannot give the kind of love that it has received from the Lord. God is love. His Love for us comes without condition and immeasurable grace. A heart of stone cannot receive such love and it is like pouring water on a rock. Only a heart broken before the Lord can receive all that He has for us. I wonder today if I might be so bold as to say the heart of the church must be circumcised again. To cut away the callous disregard for “sinners” just like us. To see people where they are instead of expecting them to “act” like us. To see ourselves transparently through the eyes of grace and humbly expect our misfortune apart from Jesus Christ. We have all failed the Lord. We are all sinners just the same. There is none righteous no not one.

Lord, I ask you to take the two-edged sword of your Word and penetrate our stony, stubborn and selfish hearts today. This word is for no one other than me for I am the least of these. Father, renew a right spirit in me. Let Your Presence be my dwelling place as I crawl back to You with my heart in my hands asking you to give me a brand new one! In Jesus Name!

Ezekiel 11:18-20 (ESV) And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Barriers

Barrier

Psalm 119:45 (NLT) I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

There is a young lady in my life who I love dearly. She is a beautiful girl with a sweet heart. Like many people her age, she is struggling to make the right choices and apply her faith to life. She didn’t come to church so I reached out on social media. One of the qualities that I love about her is brutal honesty. She doesn’t hide behind a churchy façade of perfection but admits that her struggle is real. I told her I loved her and missed her this morning. She replied, “I was too ashamed to come.” My heart broke in that moment. I told her that God had her and that His Grace was always enough for her, not to mention that I love her no matter what! I hate that the very thing she needed most was restricted by her distrust. She stayed home rather than facing the hypocrites, mockers and stone throwers. “Whosoever come” limited by the line drawn by Christians of boundaries and barriers that keep the seeking from actually making through the door.

I will walk in freedom.

John 8:31-32 (NLT) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The Gospel is only good news when covered by grace. Outside of God’s Grace given to us through Jesus Christ there is nothing good in us. The new creation is a result of God’s Word coming to live in us. His Name is Jesus. He is the Truth. The Truth always sets you free and never limits you. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. This is the inherent struggle of humanity with the Lord. How do we conceive and birth change in our life without rules, regulations and better choices? Jesus. How often do we try to change our attitude and actions only to fail miserable but then hide behind the things we can do and be by ourselves? Disciples of Christ remain faithful to His Teachings. His Primary Purpose and Motivation in all things is unconditional love and overwhelming grace. These are the qualities that establish our freedom and erase the line of religion drawn in the dust and dirt our flesh is made of.

John 8:36-37 (NLT) Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

Everyone who sins is a slave of sin. I absolutely believe that I am a slave to sin. I cannot help but find a way to fall into it at least once if not a hundred times a day. If you think there is no sin in your life, then you are sadly mistaken. All fall short of God’s Standard for living. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. My way of life is not for anyone else other than me. God recorded every day of my life in advance. (Psalm 139) He predestined me with a purpose only found living as one with Jesus Christ. Within that plan and purpose, the Lord has given me a future and hope (Jeremiah 29) with a provision of love and grace sufficient to empower me in every weakness. He works every detail of my life for my good and His Glory. (Romans 8) I have to believe this includes my mistakes, shortcomings and failures.

John 8 begins with the story of a woman who was caught in adultery. I cannot help but wonder where the other person engaged with her was hiding. If she was caught in the act, there had to be another party. Yet, he is absent. If we are all slaves to sin engaged in the same act, why do we not include ourselves when crucifying Christians or calling out their issues. Pride tells us that there is a hierarchy of transgresses not found in the Word. If we can pretend better than others, we win. This is absolutely not true. God’s Love and His Grace are offered to us one way. His Son – the Only Way – to access the Father. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – He is our freedom.

Twice in this account, Jesus stoops to write something in the dirt. Many scholars conclude the Lord may have been listing the sins of her accusers. I wonder if maybe Jesus was erasing the barrier of religion to form a relationship. Perhaps our Savior and Lord was actually wiping away the line between sin and salvation while her accusers left one by one. Guilt and shame form regret that removes us from the Presence of God. His Love and Amazing Grace will lead us to “spacious places” (Psalm 18) but unresolved sin and judgment lead us to deeper darkness than before we knew Christ. He is the Light of the World. What is done in secret will be made public? His Light drives out darkness. It leads us to freedom. True freedom. Free to love Him without shame, remorse, or regret and openly enjoy His Pleasures evermore.

Revelation 3:7-8 (NLT) “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”

What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open… Do you believe this passage today? Do you believe that Christ has set you free? What is limiting your life today? Jesus is the Gate. Those who come in through Him will be saved. “They will come and go freely and find good pastures.” The enemy will try to shut the gateway of freedom to our life by putting us back in our sin or at least reminding us of it so guilt and shame tries to shut the door and throw away the key. (John 10) Jesus reminds us today that His “purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” He does not mention our past, present or future shortcomings and promises that His Grace will always be enough for us. Jesus knows how we feel, what we do and yet still loves us unconditionally. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.

Galatians 5:7-8 (NLT) You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.

The religious folks had trouble accepting the matchless and magnificent grace of Jesus Christ. They could not comprehend or accept equality with common sinners. The established order of Jewish culture demanded personal retribution. Pride required a level of accountability. We must be very careful not to become trapped in their culture. The “Saul” in us must become “Paul” through our new life in Jesus Christ or it is a waste of time and energy. God has called us to freedom even providing the Way. It is up to us if we will take it, pursue it and live in Him. Legalism will never produce the kind of change that love will. Faith is in us but must be continually fed and watered the Word of God and cared for by His Spirit to grow and flourish into something reliable in our life. Bad choices do not hinder us. Unwillingness to admit our sin and meet Jesus at the Cross daily does.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Have you drawn a line in the sand? Is there a list of unpardonable sins that keep you from love and forgiveness? The limit in your life is self-imposed. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Freedom to engage in a new life and find an inheritance as a Child of the Living God. Sin made us all slaves. Your only way to freedom is sonship. Turning to the Lord means that the veil of human expectation and accountability is irrevocably broken. Expectation placed in people is misplaced. If we set our heart, mind, body, souls and spirit on the Living God our life will be complete. Satisfaction will be found. Abundance of heart will fill our hands with outpouring of generosities beginning with love and grace for all mankind. It removes the barriers and obstacles of faith marked doubt and disbelief so faith can come alive in our life. Remove the restrictions today. Forgive freely. Turn from rules and regulations to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. Our freedom allows us to grant others the same becoming a beacon in the darkness for those who desperately need the Light. I am a sinner. I am saved by the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ. This is my story. It is the Truth that allows me to come to the Cross to be set free. To live free. To experience abundance to overflowing for others in need. Lord Jesus – please do not ever let me be the barrier blocking another from coming to the Cross. Forgive me if I have. Remind me if I do. Remove me from their path! In Your Precious Name, AMEN!

Psalm 119:96 (NLT) Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.

Perfecting Love

Perfecting Love

I John 4:17-19 (NLT) And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

The local department store is filled with helium heart-shaped balloons. Aisles overflowing with chocolate and conversation hearts expressing “true love”. A jungle of stuffed animals larger than life surround me. The smell of fresh cut flowers and rose bouquets fill the air. It’s Valentine’s Day. It’s all about love. Expressing love with trinkets and tokens. I will admit I am after some of these things for my family as well. The perfect gift to express my deep affection for those I love and cherish.

Our family “went to town” together. My husband joined us. Not because he likes to shop but he loves us and wants to be with us. We meet our oldest daughter and precious new grandson at her favorite store wandering the aisles. There is nothing really that is needed just spending time with them. Together sharing candy hearts and chocolate on our way to the local mall, it is becoming the perfect date. Entering the mall, there is a section filled with sparkles and tulle. It is almost prom season so the girls and I begin looking through racks of newly discounted dresses. Our middle daughter has a big week. She turns 18. Soon, she will go to her last prom and graduate high school. Where has the time gone? She sees a dress and deems it the perfect princess dress. While she is trying on graduation dresses, I pull it off the rack. She is one of our princesses so it only seems fitting that she would try it on. She made her graduation selection and her eyes sparkle as I enter the dressing room with the “princess” dress. As it slipped over her head, and pooled to the floor nothing could wipe the smile from her face as she whispered, “I love it!”

Well, the end of the story, her dad approved and it came home with us. There was no real thought or discussion about the price or the timing of the purchase only that she loved it and we love her. I am a bargain hunter. It is my goal in life to get a good deal. Hence the huge discount signs walking in caught my attention. But when she put on the dress, and her countenance changed – I just wanted to bless her because I love her! We were blessed to spend precious moments together – to be in each other’s presence. That really doesn’t happen very often. Like every other family – we are busy. We all have places to go and things to do. I wonder if that could be called our Valentine’s date. I wonder if that is really what God is after. Precious moments of time together. To love each other and learn to love others with the same commitment as the ones in our earthly family. To be together and enjoy each other with no real agenda. To stop worrying about all the details of life and wander off together.

And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. I wonder sometimes if we have overcomplicated the perfecting of love. My husband can go buy every box of candy, flower and stuffed animal in the store but if he doesn’t love me the other 364 days of the year – it really doesn’t represent anything other than marketing dominating another holiday. We can get all dressed up and go on a fancy date but if we do not have love for each other – what’s the point? We can follow every rule and regulation in the Bible. Even get dressed up and head on church “dates” every Sunday but if we do not love then what’s the point? I Corinthians 13 tells me I can do all these things even understanding God’s Secrets and have faith that moves mountains but if I don’t have love – “I would have gained nothing.”

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.

I Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Are you dating God or devoted to Him? This is the question in my mind. Dating is when the decision to love is made. It is the testing of our partnership that leads to union. But once married, the covenant of love is a commitment. I Corinthians 13 is God’s Definition of Love. It is not limited to our spouse, family and friends because God sees us all as beloved children. Often – our love and commitment to people is not the same as how we approach the Lord. Expectations are put in others that really belong to the Lover of our soul. God’s Love for us is perfect. His Presence in us allows us to perfect our love for Him and others. Love is a discipline not an emotional overture. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we must be lovers.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. What keeps us from loving the Lord with all our heart and loving others the same way? Fear. Perfect love expels all fear. However, humans are not trusting souls. Grace is difficult to accept when we know the level of sin and shame once lived with. Does God really love us with unconditional love? Does He really pursue us with unfailing love and goodness every single day? Is He really a good, good Father? The answer is a resounding “yes”. It is impossible to replicate perfect love without first knowing and accepting it. You don’t have to understand it to receive it but you do have to experience it to exemplify it in your life. I cannot give away something I do not have. There is nothing to give if I do not know the Love of God and live in it.

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

The source of our fears, worries, regret, shame and deepest concerns are not products of God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit in us. He has not given us the spirit of fear or timidity. The Lord has given us His Power which is from a grace that overcomes every weakness. He has given us perfect love in spite of ourselves. He has given us self-discipline to produce change in us from death to life. It is not by anything we do or say but in the truest revelation of a love worth having and worth giving to the world. Fear comes from doubt. It takes the Gospel and turns into religious habits skipping God’s Intent to form a family of perfect lovers and uses discipline to mold and shape others to fit human expectation. For example, we love those who think like we do but if they make bad choices and still manage to come to church on Sunday – they face people who scorn, shun, or shame them rather than the unconditional love of Christ. If I try not to sin, but do not do it out of love for Jesus Christ it is not enough. I must love Jesus so much that I avoid sin because of that love and devotion. I can make better choices. I can do different things. It doesn’t change the fact that I still sin every day and struggle with my flesh. I am no better than the person committing a crime. I have already failed God enough to require every ounce of His Son’s Blood. Friend, we are all in this together. We are all the least of these. The very ones who put Jesus on the Cross. I can change my ways but I can only get to God by His Son – Jesus Christ who is THE WAY.

Romans 8:38 (NLT) And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

What are your fears today? What are you worried about? Do you have things that keep you awake at night? Doubt in God’s Perfect Love causes us to feel that way. To think that there is a limit to the Limitless Love of God given to us through His Son, Jesus. It is the lie of the enemy that keeps us from being overcomers. The greatest barrier in the life of a believer is doubt. The mountain to be moved is not an obstacle in the world but in us. The place where God cannot move is because we do not believe in the God of more than enough, greater than he that is in the world, and the perfect Lover of the less than lovable. I must be completely convinced that there is nothing that can ever separate me from God’s Love in order to live in love with Jesus Christ. To accept God’s Unconditional Love is to admit my weakness and live in His Grace. Pride dies in this place. Human expectation is exchanged for Godly Expectation. Ordinary becomes extraordinary. Natural turns into the supernatural.

I John 4:9-10 (NLT)  God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

I John 4:15-16 (NLT) All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

I encourage you…no challenge you to read I John 4 today. The love of God is the birthplace of confidence and trust in the Lord. It cannot be skipped or overlooked. It must be undertaken above all things. I cannot become who God has planned and purposed me to be outside of His Unfailing and Unconditional Love. I must be completely confident in the sufficiency of grace at the forsaking of self in order to have all that God has ordained and planned for my life. I must live in His Perfect Love and allow His Love to perfect me. God’s Idea of Perfect is to be completely overtaken by His Love until His Love overflows from us. It requires an honest and forthright examination of our heart, mind and soul for true transparency. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to tear down strongholds built by fear and doubt to protect us with the Sword of His Spirit – the Word of God. Until we understand and believe in God’s Love for us – we can never effectively express it to others. God loves you. He wants to bless your time together. He wants to fill you to overflowing with good things. He will perfect love in us when we choose to put our trust in Him.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT) For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Due Season

Due Season

Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT) Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

I was talking to a friend of my not too long ago. Experiencing a bit of discouragement, the Lord pressed upon me to share that “He never leads us to barren fields.” The Word I thought was for someone else began to resonate in me. I love how the Lord does that. A word in due season. “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23) What is due season anyway? It simply means at the appropriate time, in due course, in due time, in good time or when the time comes. Due means rightful, proper or fitting. A season is a period of time when something is best or available.

Ecclesiastes 3 sets forth the boundaries and conditions of each season. Not every season seems pleasant at the time but each one holds its own fruit. Purpose and potential are not always evident in what we seen. The process by which God grows and develops are character is often difficult. The struggle is not in the outward conditions but our inward character. It is the death of our flesh that produces new life in every season. Romans 7 reminds us that the struggle is real and ongoing no matter how hard we try to overcome it. What season are you in? Everyone loves the harvest season but our willingness to endure the planting, persevere the drought, and wait for God’s Timing is essential in the abundant prosperity that is promised. God will not allow outward prosperity without soul prosperity. Our reliance on the Lord in every season is important to have His Plan with the future and hope it promises. It really doesn’t matter if we are successful in life if it does not allow the faith in our heart to connect us with eternity.

Leviticus 26:4-6 (NLT) “I will send you the seasonal rains. The land will then yield its crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land. I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land.”

What season are you in today? Does it seem like it will never end? Are you discouraged? Do you feel abandoned? God’s Promise in Leviticus remains the same today. He promised seasonal rains. When you think the drought will never end? He sends a downpour. The land you are in has potential and is marked with purpose that will prosper and yield good fruit. Here is the important truth to quiet the need to leave or mindset to escape – “your threshing season will overlap and harvest will overlap WITH the season of planting. Learning to continually sow seed will inevitably result in overlapping harvests in our life. We just have to learn to continue to sow and plant when conditions are unfavorable or the wait seems too long. The problem is not in the land but in our heart.

God promises that we will be fulfilled and protected in “your own land”. Too often the greener grass on the other side causes us to wander rather than staying put to fulfill the plan of God that will lead to abundance and prosperity. He gives us peace in that place marked my own. He protect us giving us rest even when the enemies are pressing in and people seem like problems. God has already ordained blessing in our life – the problem is that we do not believe Him enough to stay put and keep beating the seemingly dry and dead place until breakthrough comes.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 (NLT) What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) What if God’s Seasons are not set by the same time and space as our perception of seasons? What if the markers He uses are different than the ones that humanity is accustomed to? Not only probably but highly likely. The seasons of the earth are to produce natural occurrences not supernatural outcomes. God defies human logic all the time by doing miraculous things – sometimes in a second or even in lifetimes. The problem is human nature demands natural results when God’s Plan and Promise is a supernatural outcome. He doesn’t bargain with just enough but promises overflowing abundance. He promises that we will produce fruit in season AND out of season. Are we limiting our life by observing natural seasons but not sowing in supernatural outcomes?

What do people really get for all their hard work? Each person who opened their eyes and took in another breath this morning has the same 24 hours to use as they see fit. Many years ago, a friend asked how I found time to write each day. I think she was looking for some epiphany and was quite disappointed with my response. I shared that I set my alarm to get up at 4:30 each morning in order to make time to spend with the Lord and write. She said, “Well, forget that and laughed walking away.” The next time busyness becomes an excuse I challenge you to examine your time. Your schedule and routine will tell you where you are sowing in life. It will tell you where to expect a harvest or increase. When we give a significant portion of our time to the world, we will reap earthly results. Hard work will pay off in our natural life. To sow seed in God’s Kingdom and connect with Him means reprioritizing our time making room for Him. It is only as our soul prospers that all of our life will reap the benefits. We must work smarter not harder. Grace is sufficient to allow us to enjoy the blessings and benefits of God for His Children. It is investing in His Kingdom to be one with the Body of Christ that produces such a harvest.

Galatians 6:8-10 (NLT) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. What is your investment in Kingdom Living today? If you made a pie chart, what portion of your life is devoted to loving, knowing and serving God? Do you spend time with Him each day? Does He go to work, school or run errands with you? Is He the primary resource in your life? Do you rely on Him or a paycheck or someone else? What are you expecting from Him that hard work and motivation cannot produce? Do you believe His Grace is enough? The place you are planted has a harvest just for you that cannot be produced by anyone else. It is part of your purpose. It is a product of your plan ordained by the Living God who is inside of you. Watch for it. Prepare for it. Sow it. Wait for it. Stand on that field until it produces exactly what God promised you.

At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Are you waiting for due season? Keep waiting. The harvest of blessing comes with no sorrow added to it. The time, talent and treasure invested in God’s Soil will always produce good fruit even when the land seems barren and dead. He is the Life Giver who has given us resurrection power to call dead things to life.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Your process must always produce the Fruit of the Spirit first. Your soul must prosper in order for the ordinary to become extraordinary and the natural to produce supernatural. The world says work for it. The Lord says, “Worship me and you will have it all!”

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

Without Love – I Am Nothing

Without Love

2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.

Flourishing faith is evidenced by growing love. What is your response to pressure? When faced with opposition how do you react? It is human nature to play the name game. It feels good to retaliate even seek revenge. Our flesh prefers to harbor an offense rather than freely forgive. Pride doesn’t like being wrong or to be wronged. We are not creatures of flesh or pride any more but new creations in Jesus Christ. This new life is one of liberty. Our freedom doesn’t limit the Gift of Love but makes it our passion. Grace is free to us but not to Jesus. His Grace is enough because He paid the ultimate price to give us this abundant life beginning with a prospering soul. Our soul does not deal in commodities, assets or finance. It is not hindered by time or testing. Our soul is eternal thanks to Jesus.

These words penned in a letter to the church of Thessalonica by Paul, Silas and Timothy commend the people for their flourishing faith and growing love in the midst of persecution. I wonder if such a church exists today. Could it be that religious freedom takes for granted the importance of love and grace in binding believers into an effective body? Our temporary and often petty problems cause the world to see us as just another struggling organization. Divisions and splits create a “Frankenstein” effect. Rather than a flourishing family with a beating heart pumping out love and community – it is a fractured farce framed in doctrine, rules and regulations, buffeted by comfort and convenience, ruled by preference and opinion, and thereby misrepresenting the Love of God and His Son that draws us together in the first place. We have lost our first love and put ourselves in His Place. How do I know?

Acts 2:42-47 (NLT) All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Peter preached the Word of God. The same message that is given to us was what flowed from him. There was no difference. The Word of God never changes. It cannot return to God until it completes its task and accomplishes all that He sent it forth to do. About 3,000 in all gave their hearts and lives to Jesus in Acts 2. What happened next? They formed a community. All the believers met together in one place and shared everything. They sold property and possessions to share with those in need. They worshiped together every day. Met in homes to take communion. Fellowshipped together with GREAT JOY AND GENEROSITY. Praising God was their lifestyle demonstrated in freely giving all they were and all they had to create a community called the Body of Christ. With this in mind, they did so knowing that at any moment the radical religious community could drag them from their homes torture or murder them as martyrs. What happened next is the very thing the modern church cries out for…revival. And EACH DAY the Lord added to their fellowship… People were getting saved, healed and delivered and joining the community called church each day. Where oh where have we gone wrong? Oh Lord, teach us to love one another properly.

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.”

To love like Jesus Christ is unnatural. It is not our natural instinct to lay our life down for another. It is not our preference to pray for our enemies and loving those who spitefully use us. It is not our culture to form communities of one but to draw lines of division to protect our own personal interests. All lives matter. Jesus proved this on the Cross when He poured out His Blood for all mankind to have access to the Father if they choose His Way.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Put away the personal agenda. Step down off the soapbox. Forget all the rules and regulations. If we do not love others, we do not possess the Love of the Father freely administered by the Son. The full acceptance of God’s Grace requires giving up our own personal interests to pursue Christ in all things. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if nothing is given. Love is a discipline. It is a learned behavior. Disciples of Jesus Christ must learn and replicate His Love to be His Body and become His Bride. It is that simple but extremely difficult to achieve.

Romans 13:8 (NLT) Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Love is not religious – it is radical. I believe this may very well be the biggest stumbling block of organized religion. The thought or idea that God’s Love is completely given by His Grace. His Goodness belongs to me and is exemplified by a daily choice to love one another. The rules and regulations administered as doctrine in the church do nothing to demonstrate God’s Purpose. They are simply guidelines to keep godly order. I like order. I am gifted in administration. But if I am not careful – it will quickly become legalism. The enemy limits us in legalistic thinking and radical religion that adds to our obligation. God says simply the only thing we owe anyone is love. Perfect love expels all fear. Expectation is fulfilled by God’s Love, Grace and Goodness towards us so that we can love freely without expectation.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. How freedom is used is up to us? God does not force us to fulfill His Purpose just promises that His Plan contains a future and hope. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life but we are not made to follow Him only offered a better way. The Holy Spirit lives in us but only takes control of the pieces and parts of our life given to Him for holy inhabitation. Love cannot be forced it must be freely given or received. Love contains no “buts”. I love you, but… I love him, but… I love her, but… I love you. Jesus never added a single condition to His Love offering for us. He freely gives it to us and it is up to us how we choose to use it. Unconditional love is the kind of love that proves our discipleship in Jesus Christ. To love like He does. This is how our freedom is revealed in the Lord when no one or nothing holds our expectation above knowing Him.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Are we gaining anything from church? Lord, help us to love more. Show us what true love is again. Let us fall head over heels in love with our First Love again. Rekindle the passion in our heart and burn away all the worthless things that reside in Your Place.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

There is a fable about a frog placed in a pot of water. It is said that if he is put in boiling water that he will jump out. But if he placed in tepid water and the heat is slowly brought to a boil that he will not perceive the danger. Frogs like water. It is comfortable to them. Science believes this to be false and that frogs will notice the change but I wonder if we notice the change in our own habitat called church. Could it be as we float around in “lukewarm” water that the Lord is turning up the heat to get our attention? Comfort causes a condition called complacency that will create false confidence that can lead to death. If we do not learn to love unconditionally and with the same intensity as Jesus Christ, we have gained nothing other than adopted a social circle.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. The best way to motivate others is to motivate yourself. You get what you give. Sowing and reaping have been around since the days of Noah and will continue until the earth no longer remains. If you plant love, you will harvest love. If you sow grace, you will experience grace. If you bind yourselves to one more person, unity is formed. If you decide to give up your way, harmony is restored. We can never offer the world something we have not attained for ourselves. The Love of God is our primary purpose in life. To live in His Love and share His Love with the world. End of story.

2 John 5-6 (NLT) I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.

Going the Distance

The Long Road Ahead

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.

From time to time, I have the privilege of teaching in our church. To share the Word of God like a warm bread basket of fresh rolls with others is an overwhelming responsibility that I find great pleasure in just like having guests over to eat a good meal together. However, there are times when the fresh word given to me from the Word of God and served up by His Spirit is not received as “I” think it should be. Like seeds falling on pavement or water splashing from a rock, last night was one of those times. While preparing, I sampled the thoughts and ideas for my own life and could see areas that the Lord was enriching me but when offered to others it was rejected like stale crumbs to be discarded. My heart was heavy. I was ready to leap off the platform when it was over.

It would be easy to quit. Give up. Never put myself out there again. It is not God’s Will. I know what I am supposed to do but struggle with not doing it. Immediately I begin to evaluate me. My “performance”. Maybe I should yell more. Jump around a little. Be more dynamic. Be more like this preacher or dramatic like this teacher. What if it is not about me at all? Well…now we are getting somewhere. What if everything was exactly as the Lord planned it last night? What if the lesson for me is perseverance not to make a better performance but to continue through the process until His Word prospers into His Purpose and His Plan?

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere…” To persevere is to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. It means to persist in anything undertaken even when faced with difficulty, obstacles or discouragement. To continue steadfastly. It doesn’t sound fun. It requires overcoming our flesh and pride to attain God’s Best. I want to live in the Presence of God. As close as humanly possible before crossing over into forever. In order to do this, perseverance will be a characteristic that the Lord works to develop in my life. I must persevere to reach my desired destination.

2 Kings 13:16-19 (NLT)  Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”

The King Jehoash of Israel came to Elisha on his deathbed. He was perplexed by the Arameans. Elisha put his hands over the king’s hands and shot an arrow. The arrow directed by God’s Hand illustrated victory over Aram in the immediate battle. However, there were more to come. The king was instructed to take the remaining arrows and strike them on the ground. I am quite certain that his royal majesty did not understand the significance and maybe felt a little silly hitting the shafts against the ground. He stopped after striking the ground three times and Elisha with his last bit of strength became angry. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” Why? It is perseverance that leads to overwhelming victory. When things go beyond human comprehension and walking by faith not by sight becomes a requirement, what is your response? What do we do with the promise of victory? Overcoming? Healing? Prosperity? Pursue it for a season and then give up? Press in for a lifetime?

2 Kings 5:9-11 (NLT) So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!

What do you do when life does not go as expected? When the healing doesn’t come overnight? You are not given a means of escape? When the hits keep on coming? Do you give up? Naaman had leprosy. He came to Elisha’s house for healing. The Man of God gave him simple instructions. But rather than immediately heading off to the Jordan River, Naaman became offended and walked off in anger. The Jordan River was not a clean spring of clear water. Oh how our pride tries to stay alive when it is time to persevere. What condition is lingering because obedience is wavering? What if you did what the Lord said and defied human logic to hold on by faith? What if your promise is not held up by the Lord but you refuse to press on?

Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)  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.

Walking out of church last night feeling defeated, I ran into the pastor. He had spent the evening with the youth. He asked about the service. I said, “Tough crowd.” He said, “Tell me about it.” I didn’t have to ask about his small group as the kids came pouring out excitedly chattering about their experience. I have the same privilege next week to continue this teaching on the Word of God. (with a slight sigh) I know that the Lord has a word of encouragement and instruction for our people. I know that I am the one to deliver it. But honestly it is way easier to share these things in a blog sent out to hundreds of people without consciousness of their reaction or response. It works for me. But for obedience tells me that in six short days, I will climb the same steps. I may even get the same response from the people. But the acceptance, affirmation and approval of others is nice but not needed. I must focus on one thing. One thing only. “The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

I must forget the past. I have to look forward to what lies ahead. I must press on (persevere) to reach the end of the race. I want the heavenly prize. To hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To have something… anything to lay at His Feet will be worth it to me. The world can keep its applause and willy-nilly emotions. Just get me there, Jesus. Holy Spirit lead the way. I will be faithful to the end. I will go the distance.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

Half Baked

Half Baked

Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 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.

Our little grandson came for his first visit to our house. He is just over a week old. Tiny and helpless but perfect in every way. As I sat holding him inspecting every little feature as he peacefully slept in my arms. Time stood still in those moments. Everyone told me that becoming a grandparent would be a blessing but I could not fathom until now just how wonderful it is. As I continued to rock back and forth, I realized that with age and maturity experience has taught me to savor this time with him. He has wonderful godly parents who will raise him. My role is to enrich his life and enjoy every moment.

It’s funny how people mellow with age. The kitchen could wait. Laundry just fine in the hamper. The television turned off with all its incessant blaring. Just to sit in the little man’s presence while he slept brought peace to me. I imagined what it would be like when those little legs began running all around. I thought about the things we would take about and discoveries made together at Grammy and Big Poppa’s house. All this contemplation brought force by a little human who is just as imperfect in all his humanness as me yet making me a better person just knowing him for one week. I wonder what life might be like if our amazement and awe of Jesus were the same. To decide it worthwhile to sit and spend time getting to know Him, falling in love with Him, and giving up something to give the One who loves us most and best to have a place in our life and busy schedules. Honestly, in those moments, nothing else really mattered but spending time with my grandson. What if we gave up something worthless to give worthwhile time to Jesus?

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

I do not live in regret. Shame is gone thanks to the Lord. However, I have wasted a good majority of my life on worthless endeavors. Time consuming traps by the enemy to steal precious moments that cannot be regained or relived. Thankfully, I have a promise hidden in Romans 8:28 that tells me that God takes every detail of my life into careful consideration and turns it into something good. Our spiritual life comes and goes in seasons just like our natural life. If I blink too long, my children will all be out of the nest and my grandson chasing his dreams and aspiration. Time is the only commodity once spent that cannot be reclaimed. The Work of Christ within me doesn’t necessarily add to my everyday life but extends my existence into eternity. Why not invest some of my time to the things that are valuable. Paul understood. Most of his adult life was shrouded by religion. He became a murderer for the cause. He didn’t know the Word in person just by perception. Religion had not given way to a relationship. When Saul met Jesus everything changed. Has Jesus done the same for you?

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.

To know Christ and become one with Him. Is this the relationship you desire? To love Christ and be loved by Him completely. To build your life on a faith so tangible that it becomes shelter in every storm. To have a hope so concrete that you can approach the Throne of God regularly, boldly and with absolute confidence. Me too. It is my heart’s desire. In order to make it my mission, it must be worthwhile. I must see the value and worth of the exchange of my time for more of Him. Going to church won’t do it only encourage me. Other believers are trying to find the Way, too. Pastors and preachers are human beacons yet still struggle with fleshly battles and rebellious thoughts. The Truth that is valuable for my life is God’s Word. Jesus is the Word who came wrapped in flesh. His Spirit fills me. His Right Hand extended. He is waiting for the Sword that will tear down and cut through every lie the enemy has presented me until only tangible Truth governs my life and directs my movement.

Psalm 119:33-40 (NLT) Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

Everyone has the same amount of time given in a single day. We all wake up with 24 hours and choose how it will be portioned by our mind, will and emotions. I shudder when someone claims to be “too busy” and even catch myself when I try to use the excuse. Priorities are the cut marks that portion out our time. We choose what is important and what is worthy of our time. The Word of God is absolutely essential to become one with Christ as Paul describes in Philippians. Jesus is the Word. We need to know the Word of God to know Jesus intimately and completely. His Spirit uses God’s Word to seed our heart and prosper our soul. With empty hands, there is nothing for God’s Spirit – the Holy Spirit to produce His Good Fruit.

Giving our time to seek God and know Jesus in His Word empowers us with some excellent tools for godly success. Consider the following:

The Word of God

  1. Teaches me. (Vs. 33)
  2. Gives me understanding. (Vs. 34)
  3. Convicts me. (Vs. 35)
  4. Produces eagerness. (Vs. 36)
  5. Leads me to repentance. (Vs. 37)
  6. Reassures me. (Vs. 38)

7, Helps me. (Vs. 39)

  1. Renews my life. (Vs. 40)

The Word of God is absolutely vital to our vitality as believers. It requires us taking a portion of time allotted to something worthless and applying it to something worthwhile. Saul knew the Word. He knew the rules and regulations strictly enforcing the religious mandate. Everything changed when Paul met Jesus Christ who is the Word. Suddenly, the rules and regulations that once convicted him set him free to become a bright light in a dark world. Salt becomes worthless if it is not salty. What’s the point if it adds nothing to our life? (Matthew 5:13)

I Corinthians 3:20-23 (NLT) And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.” So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas encountered a problem. The people decided they were idols and tried to worship them. How silly right? Maybe not. When the Word of God is spoon-fed to us by speakers, preachers, pastors and teachers ONLY – it is a leftover. God has promises, blessings and hidden things that are just for you that will not come from the teaching of another. It is very easy in this age of media to listen to many great podcasts of sermons and teachings BUT the Word of God is the source of seed for our life. When I hear people quoting people and not the Word of God or more importantly Jesus Christ – there is an immediate concern. The enemy also knows the Word of God intimately. He is quite adept at twisting and turning the truth just enough to make it dangerous. If you do not know the Word personally and intimately, you will fall for his traps and snares every time. You cannot consider the message you are hearing if you have no Truth to compare it to. There is a strong warning in the Bible of false teachers. How will you know if the word you live by is from a man or God if you do not know His Word? Impossible.

Hosea 7:8-10 (NLT) “The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake! Worshiping foreign gods has sapped their strength, but they don’t even know it. Their hair is gray, but they don’t realize they’re old and weak. Their arrogance testifies against them, yet they don’t return to the Lord their God or even try to find him.”

One of the list of “to-dos” with our grandson is baking. To sit him on the counter and bake cookies and cakes together during the holidays. I cannot wait to let him lick the spoon and see his chocolate covered face. In Hosea, the prophet shares this warning, “My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.” Some translations say, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” You can know a lot about one thing or a little bit about everything, but if you do not know Jesus Christ it really doesn’t matter when time runs out. In Chapter 7 it warns that a co-mingled life can make us worthless as a “half-baked” cake. Have you ever bit into a cake or brownies that were not quite done yet? I want only the best for my family including that new little baby. God wants His Very Best for you. He detailed your life and all its possibilities in His Word. He even sent His Word to us to demonstrate His Great Love and Desire for us. Can we set aside some of our life to know the Word and fall in love with Jesus? Lord, turn my eyes from worthless things to fully engage in a worthwhile pursuit of You! I want to know You and be known by You! May I never lose the wonder of Your Word and desire to find You in it each day!

I John 1:1 (NLT) We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.

 

Onward Christian Soldier

Onward Christian Soldier

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

Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle, see His Banners go! (Onward Christian Soldiers, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1865)

There always seems to be the one situation that seems overwhelming. No matter how many times you pray, cry out to the Lord or try to move on – it keeps coming up. I have one of those “things” in my life. It doesn’t matter how many times I shake the dust off my feet it comes back like a monkey slinging mud or worse at the zoo. The longer it takes for resolution the more blinding the doubt that keeps shouting things will never change. Is there anything too big for God? Lord, help my unbelief today.

I have fought many battles since coming to Christ. Each one strengthening my confidence in the Lord and His Promises. But everyone has a Jezebel who in the midst of celebrating a win comes with the ultimate threat that leaves even the strongest reeling and reaching for support. I am embarrassed to admit that even in my conversations with the Lord – I am perplexed wondering if this one may be too strong for us. Is this giant too big to bring down with a single stone? Is this roaring lion to be the one that destroys someone? How silly right? The Word of the Lord for our life is “despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ…” What are all these things?

Romans 8:35-36 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s Love? Of course, not. However, until I decide for myself that He lives in me, is always for me, loves unfailingly, always looking out for my good, and fights for me, my faith is wavering and belief not rock solid. When wrong gets its way and things are not “right” the waiting for the win seems like it is taking forever. For those who know God’s Word for their life continually seeking His Way it may seem even more unjust as the trial is endured and the test engaged in, but overwhelming victory belongs to the confident. The person who continually remains steadfast as the Lord works out the Plan of Victory His Way and in His Timing. In the meantime, He works on our heart. There is always more of ourselves to yield to the Lord and His Spirit.

Onward Christian Soldier, we must march as unto war. Each day the battle rages within us to give up on this new life in Christ that is so drastically different than the world lives. To continually turn over the real estate of our reality to firmly establish our faith and confident hope in Christ alone. The more it is attempted the more people will let you down. The church is an imperfect mass of people being formed and fashioned into one. It is a process that takes a lifetime. The battle within us to do right when everyone else is doing wrong. To stay firm in our own convictions and not sucking the weak and helpless into our rules and regulations. To remain steadfast in our seeking even on the narrow road. To let the higher thoughts and grander thinking of God our Father be our knowledge and understanding rather than trying to figure everything out. Overwhelming victory is not produced by my hands, my head or even my heart. It belongs to Christ alone. To inhabit His Presence and let His Spirit permeate me leads me to victory day by day basking in His Love and thriving on His Grace.

I Corinthians 15:57-58 (NLT) But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Though it was a torrential downpour outside, my heart was excited to be at church ready to worship. I walked into the classroom for a quick good morning before service began. Cold, dead stares. Was I really begin shunned? Shock and dismayed – I tried to break through the ice. Like a huge iceberg floating in the Bering Sea, it was clear this would not thaw anytime soon. Why? My dear brothers and sisters be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically…for the Lord. It is so hard to remember sometimes that my life is not my own. Everything I do or say has potential in Jesus Christ no matter how it is received or even rejected. Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. What are you bumping up against today? Have you been met with opposition? There is no need to fight back the battle is already won. Perfect love drives out all fear and doubt while fulfilling our expectation so we do not need the affirmation, acceptance or approval of people therefore in every season and situation – we walk in love because God’s Love for us is perfect and perfecting.

At the sign of triumph satan’s host doth flee; on, then, Christian soldiers, on to victory. Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise. Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the Saints have trod. We are not divided; all one body we: one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Colossians 2:14-15 (NLT) He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

The enemy cannot take our victory. When Jesus canceled the record of charges against me by nailing them to the Cross – I became victorious. The only way that I can ever lose in life is to give up the grace that I have been give. When I decide another way is better, or that I cannot win so choose to walk away – it is in that moment I hand over my win to the liar. I exchange the Truth about my life for the lie of the enemy. Are you being taunted today? Tempted to give up? Every spiritual ruler and authority has no power over you. Christ disarmed them. He publicly shamed them all by His Victory over sin, death and the grave. He triumphantly arose and gave it all to you and me.

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

We are not divided; all one body we: one in hope and doctrine, one in charity…these words are an inspiration for the church even today. The Spirit who live in you and me is greater than the enemy who lives in the world. Do you believe that today? Your victory is secure in Christ. It is not a narrow win but an overwhelming triumph. Are you immovable in your faith? Are you unshakeable in confident hope? Faith and hope are the prevailing factors that lead us from victory to victory. To believe with all our body, mind, heart, soul and spirit of God’s Unfailing Love, Amazing Grace, Constant Goodness, and that He is always for us. These are the things that allow us to walk in victory. The enemy has been defeated. Stop letting him defeat you with doubt, fear, anxiety, worry and stress. Overwhelming victory belongs to us simply because Christ loves us.

I John 5:3-5 (NLT) Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Every Child of God defeats evil achieving victory through our faith. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God who came to set us free can walk in victory daily. Not just in spiritual battles but just living ordinary life. The only way to lose is to forfeit your faith and allow fear to take away what God has already given you through the Sacrifice of His Son – Jesus. We are destined to win. Victory is in the Blood that now flows in us. There are two halves in basketball, four quarters in football, and nine innings in baseball. No athlete whose heart is set on winning gives up before the final buzzer – why are you giving up now? God makes everything beautiful in His Time not ours. We must wait for the masterpiece to be completed or it is just another pretty picture worth only as much as what it is made of. Stop comparing your life to others. Decide you will have all Christ died for you to have today in spite of other people and their opinions. There is a reason the narrow road is called less traveled. Lean not on your own understanding and follow Jesus. Let His Truth be your roadmap to victory today. Let His Spirit show you how to win!

Onward, then, ye people; join our happy throng. Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song: Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ, the King. This through countless ages men and angels sing.

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT) All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

 

Are You Listening?

Are You Listening

Proverbs 8:32-35 (NIV) “Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord.

My husband and I were having a normal conversation on an ordinary day. He kept saying, “What?” I would repeat the previous statement. This continued until I insisted on a visit to the doctor and hearing test concerned that he may have hearing issue. He laughed and said, “Or at least they can tell me if it is selective hearing loss!” Oh my goodness! Always the jokester. I read on social media recently that a husband told his wife that scientists have found that men say about 10,000 words a day while women say about 20,000. His wife shouts back from the kitchen, “It’s because we have to repeat everything twice to you blockheads.” The husband responds, “What?” And there you have it, what science deems a response to “higher level of protein” is really just a need to be heard…

Psalm 50 tells us that “the Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.” Who is He speaking to? You. Me. All of us. God still speaks today. Whispering to those He calls beloved in an effort to illicit a response and release the instruction that leads to abundance in all things as God has ordained and predestined for us. Are you listening? Am I listening? When we hear His Voice is it easily recognized and discerned from all the other influences in our life? The Lord has called the listeners “blessed”. Those who watch and wait at His Doorway. Those who do will find life everlasting and overflowing with His Abundance.

Psalm 78:1-3 (NIV) My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.

God speaks to us. The truth is that He speaks to us every day from the rising of the sun until it sets. God is encouraging us, teaching us, leading us, and guiding us to better things by better ways. We choose the voice who guides us each day. However, His Thoughts are not my (natural) thoughts and inclinations. (Isaiah 55:8) His Ways are not my instinctual ways, attitude or actions but much higher altogether. God leads us to the narrow road less followed and the higher way not always perceived in our humanity. There are two keys things necessary to discern God’s Voice from the other influences.

John 14:26 (NIV)  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

We absolutely need the Holy Spirit to discern the Voice of God. The Advocate who weighs earthly logic and Heavenly Knowledge to give us the upper hand. Faith is not logical in our present state of mind. It is only by continually allowing His Spirit to mold and shape us that we adopt the mindset of Christ that allows us to follow through with His Actions.

Matthew 4:4 (NIV) Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The Word of God is essential. If I may paint a picture, the Holy Spirit lives in you and me. He is the advocate and our personal warrior who enables us to overcome the enemy. The only weapon the enemy can use against us is the lie. The Shield of Faith protects us from those fiery darts. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit that cuts to the Truth. When you know the Truth, you will not accept the lie. Matthew 4:4 is the response of Jesus to the lie of the enemy. What is yours?

I have been to many churches and found them all unique. There are churches that emphasis the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. However, the Word is often overlooked. I grew up in a Bible-based church that focused solely on studying scripture and silenced the Holy Spirit. The church I believe that will be the “remnant” church of the end times will worship in Spirit and Truth just as Jesus tells the woman at the well in the Book of John. We must be filled by the Spirit and the Word in order to rightly divide the Truth from the lie even in our churches and small groups.

Proverbs 1:20-23 (NIV) Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.

The Lord is relentless in His Pursuit of us. Psalm 23 tells us that His Goodness and Unfailing Love follow us all the days of our lives. God desires us to dwell in His Presence. He wants to communicate with us. Commune with us. He lives inside of us as a holy consummation of the covenant of love that He has made with us. He wants to pour His Thoughts in us so we will overcome the lie of the enemy and stop living in lack. Lack comes in many forms. It is not a material or monetary term. The Fruit of God’s Spirit grows in the vacated spaces occupied by substitutions and compromise. As our soul prospers in Spirit and Truth, so will we. We must be listening for God’s Voice in every moment of every day to have all that He has promised and ordained to bless us with in this life leading to eternity.

I Kings 19:11-13 (NIV) The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah left Mount Carmel victorious over the prophets of Baal. God accepted his sacrifice proving their religion a farce and 450 were killed that day. Jezebel was infuriated and in her rage leveled a death threat against God’s Man, Elijah. He fled to a cave high atop a mountain. It’s funny how easy a lie can ensnare us. Just when everything seemed to be going so well, and then our feet get tangled in a half-truth or subtle suggestion. The enemy of our soul knows the Word of God personally. Jesus is the Word of God. He saw satan fall from Heaven. Who better to twist and taint the Truth but one who knows it intimately inside and out? With this in mind, the best defense is a good offense. You can prepare for the lie of the enemy by engaging in the Truth. Faith is credible and logical when rooted and grounded in the Word of God.

God did not yell at His Servant or berate him for falling for the oldest trick in the Book. No, he came to him in a gentle whisper and called him by name. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God is intent on the one. He will leave the 99 just to find you in the midst of delays, detours or distractions. He understands our vulnerability when it comes to believing the lie. He has empowered us to overcome yet in our weakness – His Grace is always enough.

Have you fallen for the lie of the enemy? Have you stopped listening? There is a difference between ignoring God and ignorance. If you know the Word and are filled by the Spirit and choose to do what you want to do – there is a sin problem in your heart today. Repent and let Him lead to the better way. The problem is most likely fostered by a faith plagued by fear, doubt and insecurity creating disbelief. He is not mad at you but still insists on communicating His Love to you one-on-one.

If you have never heard the Voice of God, you are in for a real treat. There is nothing more relevant in your life than to hear the Words of the One who created you. Your Father in Heaven who loves you perfectly and completely. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Word of God hidden in our heart begins to cut through the lie to expose the Truth. The Holy Spirit holds firmly the Shield of Faith to protect the tender, broken heart that has repented and presented itself to the Lord. God is speaking to you today. He has secrets just for you. Thoughts that will blow your mind with possibility. He desires a personal relationship with you that will bring you together as one. God is speaking to you. Are you listening?

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