United We Stand

United We Stand

Romans 12:4-5 (ESV) For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

I loved scrolling through all the social media feeds to see red, white and blue. The celebration of the 4th of July with family and friends. Firework displays lit up the story line of each outlet. Though this was a quiet day for us – we did eat with some of our kids and the littlest firecracker – our sweet grandson. Facetiming with other family members who are out of town. We exercised our right to “Netflix and chill” as some might say which is totally out of character for me but a welcome respite for the midweek holiday.

Social media would give the illusion of unity yesterday as everyone seemed to be doing the exact same thing in America. The same feeds usually filled with political opinions and tirades were instead filled with images of family and food all in red, white and blue. Unity paints a beautiful picture. I believe it warms the heart of God when people put aside their differences sliding the soapbox under the bed to celebrate life together. Yes, I know that important causes exists and there are some things really wrong with the world. I am not delusional enough to think that ignoring them will fix them. However, I do believe that unless we come together nothing will ever change.

In Romans 12, it reminds us that we are one body with many members. It is clear that not everyone serves the same function yet still vitally important to proper operation. We are one body in Christ. Individually we are still corporately responsible for each other. The binding factor is love. Not our ability to love each other unconditionally and without fail but God’s Love demonstrated in His Son – Jesus Christ. In John 12, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The common factor in Christianity is Jesus Christ. He has called for all people to come to Him. Also in Romans 12, it begins by describing our life as a “living sacrifice” which is “holy and acceptable to God” and considered spiritual worship. It means not conforming to the social circles of the world but allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our mind into the fully formed and functional Body of Jesus Christ. This is the Will of God that is good, acceptable and perfect.

Psalm 133 (ESV) Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

God loves unity. He blesses such a life offering. Unity requires giving up ourselves in order to become one. The completion of Christ is established in the unity and oneness of His People. He is not coming for many brides but one bride. The Bride of Christ must be complete. The Spirit and the Bride (singular) say, “Come.” I believe that if the church could tap into the real potential of unity rather than calling for diversity and doctrine – it might just experience revival. We focus on the wrong thing. The great commission of Jesus Christ was to love and be loved as one – to come together into completeness. The Lord commands His Blessing on unity and life forevermore.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The individuality of churches and institution set forth by doctrine may be the very thing limiting revival today. The religious world is not demonstrating the relationship of Kingdom. Until we grow in perfect unity, the Bride of Christ may resemble the Bride of Frankenstein. The human soul is not clothed in race, color, gender or any other physical quality. The Lord is looking at our heart and soul. I know no coroner or medical examiner that can determine any of the physical characteristics of a person by just looking at the heart. Yet God is most interested in our heart and soul. Who we love? How we love? These are the fulfillment of the Great Commission set forth by Jesus Christ. Leading someone to Jesus is not the same as loving them like Jesus.

The basics of unity are one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is Father of all. That’s it. No matter how we paint it, carpet it, light it up, or make it loud – this is the basis of the Body of Christ known as the church. Religion creates diversity. Relationship says, “Whosoever will come” and lets figure this out together. It is simple. It is real. It has feelings but lives in a commitment called love. Not worldly affection or temporary lust but rather love that is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” It is a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, (and) endures all things. Love (that) never ends.” To immerse ourselves so completely in the Love of Christ that loving others is no longer optional but the very condition that unites us.

What can I do to unite the church?

The character of Christians must be changed, transformed, and renewed by God’s Love. Repentance, true repentance, is a turning from our way of living to totally exist in the shadow and example of Jesus Christ. I cannot love like Christ until He is the One who I am following and imitating. People are not easy to love but it is each personality that comprises the Kingdom. I cannot make them love me. But I can allow God and His Spirit to make me more lovable. The Fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” This is the kind of spiritual food that feeds hungry souls and waters thirsty hearts. It is to put “me” aside and allow Christ to flow through me. Religion allows us to maintain pride and position. However, to fully assume our place in the Body of Christ – we must become like Paul who declared himself to be “a prisoner of the Lord.” We must carefully put our mind, will and emotions under the careful guard of the Holy Spirit at all times. We must daily crucify any rebellious thought in contention with Christ and put it in the grave to die. We must remain prostrate in a posture of prayer and humility before the Lord daily and even on some days moment by moment. We must walk by faith and not by sight. Unity blesses God’s Heart and I believe if we get it right – it will bless us, too as united we stand.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

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Displacement Theory

Displacement Theory

John 3:30 (ESV) He must increase, but I must decrease.

The displacement theory is relatively simple. Two things cannot fill the same space. This theory is demonstrated in physics and psychology. Archimedes was taking a bath when he noticed that the full bath overflowed when he lowered himself into it. He suddenly realized that he could measure volume by the amount of water it displaced. The law of displacement carried over into psychology as well. The basic idea is that if you insert one thing into the space of the human mind – you exclude the alternative. Thought displacement is essential in the heart and mind of the believer. The weapon of the enemy is the lie. If we react to the lie, it is difficult to identify and respond to the Truth. Therefore, it is imperative to have the Mind of Christ which identifies with His Word because He is the Word. It is the logic of our faith in Christ; otherwise the entire concept of believing has no foundation.

When Archimedes went to take his bath that day, I wonder if he was thinking scientifically. Probably not, he was just doing what he probably did on a regular basis. He was engaged in his routine. Yet when he stepped into the bath and saw the overflowing water from the tub something clicked on the inside of him. Ordinary life can release extraordinary thinking in the fertile mind. We must be careful caretakers of our thoughts because they ultimately determine our actions. To take direction from one person will lead us to their destiny, but what if our destination is different. God has given you an identity and place that is individual. No other person is destined to live the same life as you. It is all part of this grand scheme called life designed by a Creator who is Sovereign. His Creation is perfect. Sin displaced perfection in us. However, it is only for a limited time for those who believe. If we allow Christ to increase, and self to decrease mediocrity will be displaced by the masterpiece that God had planned all along.

I Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The believer often lives a life of contradiction. It is this inner conflict that hinders Kingdom Living. A natural mind cannot and will not accept the things of the Spirit of God. Unable to understand and properly discern spiritual thoughts and ideas, they are displaced by human logic. Therefore our actions are derived from such thinking rather than being displaced by God’s Words and His Will. The spiritual person filters their thoughts including everything running through the mind, will and emotions through God’s Word and His Spirit. What does God say about your situation? What does His Word tell us to do? What reality do we respond to?

I have the Mind of Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, you do too. It doesn’t mean that our mind is made up just that all things are possible for those who believe. Those who believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Those who decide He is the only access point to the Father and choose to engage in a relationship and establish a real bond and connection to Christ. To resolve the inner conflict between doubt and belief. To determine and discipline our thoughts. To be subject to the Lord in all things not just some things. To live a life in total agreement with God and His Word is the only way that the conflict is resolved and we no longer live in contradiction to the Kingdom.

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The renewing of our mind is essential in successful Christian living. You will never walk by faith and sight at the same time to success. Our heart and mind must agree with God’s Thoughts and Ideas to keep our passion carefully under control and headed in the right direction. There is a code of conduct set forth called The Four Agreements. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, it sets forth four agreements that will lead to personal freedom. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. Simple and straightforward truths that will change your life. Are they Biblical? I think so.

Be impeccable with your word.  

Psalm19:14 (ESV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

We must be impeccable with our words. The power of life and death are in the tongue. Our heart, mind, thoughts and words must align with the Mind of Christ completely. This is not a religious overture but a relational opportunity. Our covenant with Christ affords us a better life. It offers the best life possible to any human but it is accepted in humility. It is not a go forth and conquer mentality but all things are possible to those who believe mindset. My constant and ongoing method must be seeking the Truth and allowing it to continually set me free from all the lies, snares and traps that once hindered me. I am powerful when I am powerless. His Grace is the power works best in my weakness. Giving away all that I am to fully embody the Christ in me.

Don’t take anything personally.

Ephesians 4:30-32 (ESV) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The careful cultivation of the fertile heart requires daily weeding. We must examine our heart and mind for anything that is offensive to the Lord. We cannot take offense. We cannot harbor unforgiveness and hostility toward other people or we hand them our freedom. Our life does not belong to us. We belong to Jesus. Therefore, to become hateful and grudging people halts the work of God and His Holy Spirit inside of us when it is met with willful opposition. Unforgiveness is the declaration that there is a sin or transgression unpardonable which nullifies Christ’s Work on the Cross and its completeness. Such an attitude is an act of rebellion that hinders us. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. We must maintain our freedom.

Don’t make assumptions.

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

There is blessed assurance and the assumption of power. We are to live by faith. To live in constant hope offered to us by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is the inner conviction of the reality of the unseen potential in our life to be prospered by the Lord. The definition of assumption is two-fold. An assumption is that which is accepted as true and certain to happen without proof. As believers, we have living proof. The existence of God’s Spirit living inside of us as “assurance” does not require is to assume anything. However, there is another definition of assumption that is the action of taking or beginning to take power or responsibility. Isaiah 55 tells us that God’s Thoughts are not our thoughts. His Ways are not our ways. He is higher intelligence in all things. God’s Word will not return to Him void. If it is in His Word designated for us – it is only a matter of time. We must be careful not to assume the power of our life because waiting takes too long and impatience takes over. We must live in full assurance and never make assumptions based on what we see or feel.

Always do your best.

Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV) Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Always do your best. I know there are days when life is hard. People mistreat you. Problems plague you. The world is a hard place to live most of the time. Tragedy strikes every single day. Yet if we could just keep our perspective. To purpose every day and in every season to serve the Lord. To do whatever it is you do whole heartedly working for the Lord and not men. God has an inheritance and reward set aside for you that cannot be touched by anyone but you. We must keep our focus on serving Christ and not allowing discouragement to deteriorate discipline. When we work for God and not mankind, suddenly His Favor surrounds us and there are hidden blessings in His Hand that humans could never reproduce. The Fruit of His Spirit is love, joy and peace just to name a few. This is the spiritual food that feeds our soul and prospers us from the inside out. We must focus our efforts on serving God in every position of life to see something prosper from it.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (ESV) For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

We must displace every lie, half-truth, settlement and substitution in our life. We must commandeer every rebellious and random thought contrary to the reality of faith. It is important. We must live a life in total agreement with God using His Word to stay free and live the promised. The ultimate obedience in the life of a believer is not our ability to follow the Law but in our absolute and total agreement with God’s Word. To believe Him enough to forsake all others and say, “Jesus – I choose You!” Our mind is full of thoughts and ideas contrary to the Mind of Christ. He invites to come and let’s settle this. Let’s work together until you are convinced. God is not a man that He should lie. He doesn’t change His Mind. His Word and Will for you are secure in Christ alone. You must only be convinced to receive it today and every day until we meet Him or He comes for us. True freedom comes when every wayward thought is displaced by God’s Truth.

John 8:31-32 (ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

Full Communion

Full Communion

John 15:4-5 (ESV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Abide in me. A personal invitation of intimacy from Jesus to us. He invites us to come closer, go deeper and live in the overflowing abundance called fruitfulness. To consider our creation is by God the Father. To remember that our purpose is for Him. To know that without full communion there is no fulfillment in the Lord. All these things are essential in achieving our purpose and acquiring all of God’s Promises for us. We must learn to abide in Him. We must learn to live in full communion with Jesus Christ.

I am the vine. You are the branches. Everything that Jesus has can be filtered to us and through us in life through virtue of relationship. To live in love with the Lord and remember to constantly pay attention to this relationship will make it thrive. Like a marriage, it must be nurtured each day and endure the storms of life through a steadfast commitment to love regardless of our feelings in that moment. The Lord has a purpose and plan to cultivate in you and me. It is only attainable by abiding in Christ on a daily basis. Those who endure for a lifetime will be saved.

The word “communion” makes many Christians think of the tiny glasses of grape juice and little wafers that taste like paper. This religious act is done in remembrance of Christ and His Sacrifice. However, I do not believe that this is the sum total of what the Lord was demonstrating to us. Communion means an act or instance of sharing. It is an interchange. It is also described as an intimate fellowship or rapport. The word “rapport” is a friendly and harmonious relationship characterized by agreement and mutual understanding that makes communication possible and easy. This is the kind of communion that Jesus desires – to live in a harmonious and intimate relationship with us. To abide in Him is an act of intimacy reserved for just two with the purpose of becoming one.

Matthew 26:26-28 (ESV) Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Before Jesus, the acts of religious duty were external. The sacrifice was on the altar. The blood was not to be consumed. The relationship between mankind and Creator at a distance due to sin. All that was about to change and Jesus symbolizes such a change of culture in the institution of communion. He took the bread and blessed it. Then it was broken to be consumed. He took the cup giving thanks for it and instructed them to drink the blood of the covenant. As one might imagine, the religious folks of the day were appalled this defied the rules and regulations set forth by God given to Moses. The Lord was suggesting a new relationship and new level of intimacy that would shatter religion making way for a righteous relationship between God and His People.

I Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)  For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

While I am a firm believer in the institution of communion and taking the symbolic sacraments in remembrance of Christ corporately, I believe that Paul is suggesting a much deeper form of service in I Corinthians. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Eat the bread. Drink the cup. The Bread of Life is Jesus Christ. (John 6) He is the Word. We must daily break the bread and consume it to continue in our covenant relationship with Him. He feeds our soul. He seeds our spirit. The purpose inside of me must be broken to my way to fully claim His Way. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. Every time the bread was blessed and broken, it did abundantly more than as a whole loaf. (Matthew 14 & 15) One boy’s lunch became a banquet for thousands from this very effort. Imagine our life in the Hands of the Creator becoming the masterpiece that He promised it would be. Jesus tells us that those who partake of the Bread of Life will never hunger again. In other words, satisfaction comes in daily feasting on the Word of God and digesting each truth to allow it to nourish our soul and bring us fulfillment as only He can do.

One cannot forsake the Blood of Jesus Christ. I know the Cross was a tragic, grotesque occurrence. To see an innocent man beaten, bloodied and bruised dying a horrific avoidable death. However, to demean the Cross is to devalue our life. Jesus was on the Cross for you and me. There was no other way but the way that He took to save us. How can we who are the recipients of His Grace forego a daily sojourn to the foot of the Old Rugged Cross? I cannot. I do not plead the Blood of Jesus over my life as a beggar but proclaim it as a victor. I have victory in Jesus and He won it on the Cross, walking through death and the grave until He arose in all His Glory on the third day. I need the Blood of Jesus.

I do not find the Cross offensive, but it is my objective. To be crucified with Jesus Christ means I must go to the Cross to make to resurrection power and life. I have not arrived until I stand face-to-face with Jesus Christ. Until then, I need every single drop of the Blood shed for me. I need to crucify my flesh daily. I must receive a washing of His Word. I must experience the renewal of His Spirit. I have a purpose that required payment of a penalty that I could not afford. I must remind myself daily that my life is not my own. True repentance always turns back to the Cross. Communion is where I find fulfillment. Without it, I am empty and void. Without the Blood, there is no communion.

I Corinthians 11:28-32 (ESV) Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Self-examination begins with a standard. God’s Standard of living and loving is set forth in the Word of God and demonstrated by His Son – Jesus. To understand fully the ramifications of righteousness require a standard. Communion with the Lord is not possible apart from obedience and discipline. God is constant. We must be the flexible variables reconciling our life daily to His Word, His Way and His Will to live the rich and satisfying life available through Jesus Christ. We can act out many religious rites and rituals but apart from true communion with Jesus Christ it will mean nothing in the end. Until we allow this Gospel to be fully digested and become a way of life there really is no point to following certain actions or activities because they are all labors done in vain. God is looking at our heart. He wants to see Jesus. To see the seal of His Spirit marking us as His Children. This is accomplished through a life of communion with Christ.

Galatians 2:19-21 (ESV) For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

I was made by You. I was made for You. I am unfilled without full communion. (Since Your Love – United Pursuit)

It’s A Stretch

It

Psalm 77:1-3 (ESV) I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

If I were to wake up with a headache, I would immediately get out of bed and walk to the kitchen. In the last cabinet on the left bottom shelf, there is a bottle of ibuprofen that has proven to give immediate relief in the past. As I reach for the container, popping off the lid, I take two little tablets with some water. After about fifteen to thirty minutes, the headache usually dissipates. Problem solved. Health restored. Simple, right? True story – my child (who goes unnamed) tells me that they have a headache. I give them directions as to where the pain reliever is located and tell them exactly how many pills are appropriate. A little while later the same child complains of headache. I ask, “Did you take some medicine?” The answer is “no”. Different child is feeling some pain from dental work. Same instructions given. Child continues to gripe about their mouth. Same question is asked, “Did you take some medicine?” “No…” I further inquire, “Why not?” Answer from ailing child, “I don’t like to take medicine.” Now it is me ready to hit the medicine cabinet…

My first kid wanted me to do if for them. They were waiting for me to go get the medication and a glass of water. I was supposed to bring it to them. Without asking, the assumption was that I would know and do it in response to their complaint. The second kid has a fear of swallowing pills. Rather than overcoming fear to receive the relief desired – this child would continue to tough out the discomfort instead. I am not a pill pusher. In fact, I am a borderline hippy when it comes to medication. The point of these illustrations is only to share some insight about the Lord today.

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.

It is human nature to pursue God with our problems. To ask for relief, pray about problems and give Him a complete and detailed list of our desires. In the beginning, coming to the Lord like a child, leaving full of hopeful expectation. But as the relationship grows, it can also become stale and stagnant. We stop reaching for God’s Heart only seeking His Hand. When His Hand does produce what we want and how we want it – we stop reaching. In the day of my trouble…I seek the Lord. Same. In the night my hand is stretched out without wearying. Same. My soul refuses to be comforted. Concerning and still same. There are times when it is our nature to live in our consequence, dwell in our problems and make our situation the excuse of incapacitating faith that will not bend to relieve us or soften to sustain us, but will only be complete in our believing. Nothing is impossible for God. (Luke 1:37) If we believed this simple verse completely and if it was the conviction of our life – we would be fully restored and renewed sparking a revival of epic proportions.

Luke 5:12-13 (ESV) While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Faith in Jesus Christ will always produce a miracle. Oh I hear the naysayers, I have been praying for years. My body is not whole. My bank account broke. My loved one not saved. I have no peace. The list goes on and on. Faith will produce nothing until it is invested in Jesus Christ. You can love the Lord with all your heart, mind and body but if you do not trust Him enough to believe – it will do nothing to produce His Promises in your life. Obedience is essential. The man had leprosy. A common ailment in Biblical times. It made him a beggar and outcast. He fell on his face before Jesus and full of faith said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” When was the last time, you fell on your face before Jesus and spoke similar words? Jesus didn’t hesitate for a moment, but immediately stretched out His Hand and healed him. Right there on the spot. Why? The Lord is ready to heal us. Renew us. Restore us. He is waiting on you. Jesus is waiting on me.

Matthew 12:10-14 (ESV) And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

The organized body called church has been infiltrated by preference rather than permeated by His Presence. Oh God is with us. Where two are gathered in His Name…He is right there. He is right here with all the power to save, heal, and deliver promised to those who believe. He can and will do exactly what His Word says that He will do. His Word cannot and will not return to Him void. So if the Lord is ready, willing and able according to His Word to do miracles, solve problems and heal bodies there is only one other explanation. We do not believe.

The man with the withered hand is an awesome illustration of church. He came to church with a problem. The religious folk had doctrine to follow. But then Jesus filled with the Presence of God showed up, and messed up the carefully planned service on the designated day. He gave the man one simple instruction – “Stretch out your hand…” He did. He was healed in that moment. I wonder if we are not experiencing the miraculous because no one is reaching out to Jesus. The fruit of our faith is believing. Believing is trusting. It means reaching when no else is reaching. Stretching our hand out when everyone is staring at us. It means doing what He asks in that moment to receive what He has for us! We want God to bring it to us where we are when the Lord is trying to deliver us from our current situation. We desire the healing but not the healer. The giving more than the giver. We want to be saved but do not have a desire for our Savior.

Matthew 11:25-30 (ESV)  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

A relationship will fall apart of one person stops reaching. The moment that there is not stretching to come together and continue in a relationship it is the beginning of the end. Jesus Christ offers openly to become our life partner. To shoulder the weight and carry the burdens of our life, but to give it all to Jesus means giving up the right to complain. It means reaching when others just stand there. It means stretching even in our discomfort to access the divine. The yoking of our life with Christ is a covenant relationship of continual exchange. He asks us to come to him. Take my yoke and learn from me. You will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. We must simply come.

Psalm 143:5-6 (ESV) I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.  I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

To be completely honest, I don’t mind bringing my kids some meds and a glass of water. I love to take care of them. If I were to wait on them hand and foot, they would never understand what is required of them in life. Sometimes you have to reach for things even when it’s a stretch. I can give them what they need but it is up to them to heed my instructions and take what is given. God is a good father. Jesus is a faithful Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit is constantly cultivating God’s Fruit within us by faith. The trouble is that if we stop reaching – we will never take hold of what faith has in store for us. We drag our baggage into church and lug it right back out because we identify with the weight of it. To release it all to Jesus is an act of total trust. What if He doesn’t do anything? Oh, my friend, what if He does?

Psalm 84:11 (ESV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Lord, Help Me

Lord Help Me 2

Psalm 121 (ESV) I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Did you know that broccoli can cure cancer? No seriously there is a study that there are properties in this amazing veggie that can end these rogue cells attack. Lord, help me. Help me to see that people are trying to help when offering advice and articles such as this one to my son or even me. Our son has been in remission for almost four years now. People still send us information about diets that help aid in the fight against this horrible disease. I value their concern. I appreciate their good intentions. Really, I do…at least I try to.

There was a point in time about five years ago that every avenue of treatment was being explored. Our son was living in the realm of hope. Doctors were desperate for something…anything to save our son’s life. Not only were physical doors slammed in his face but financial wells of insurance dried up completely. We were living in a season of extreme drought and famine. Sitting in the hospital praying for God to help us – I would open emails or get texts about dietary changes that would heal our son. I would get so angry and frustrated in my desperation for a “real” solution. Our prayers were answered by none other than the Lord. There is no other explanation. He is alive when there was a 98% chance that he would die. He is well despite the fact that “if” he survived they only expected it to be for a couple of years at the most. God is my helper. The Lord helped our son. He is ready to help you, too.

People generally have good intentions. So it is only natural that when trouble comes or tragedy strikes – our eyes wander looking for a helper. Someone who will listen or give a hand. What happens when no one comes? What does one do when forgotten? How do we handle loads too much to be borne alone? Where is our help? What does it look like? The Lord has promised not to leave us or forsake us so why do we feel all alone sometimes? Maybe a more fitting word might be…helpless.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Perspective and perception determine our position in life. We must decide where our help will come from by where we look for it. I can turn to people and they will help as much as they are able. I remember in the beginning of our son’s battle and our journey of faith – people brought food to our family every single day for months while I was away taking care of him. Not just take-out – no friends – they cooked spreads of delicious meals for them. Our son’s friends who were attending college in the same town as his treatment would come by to visit and maybe play some cards or video games. In the beginning, we were literally surrounded. Facing a disease such as cancer can be a long arduous journey. It is hard to watch a friend endure the treatments or loved one with anxiety. It’s hard to watch another face what we fear the most. The enemy wants us to feel isolated, alone, and abandoned. It makes us easy pickings for his lies.

From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord. You will never gain such insight until every leaves you. I wish it were different but our eyes lead us most of the time. It is only when we cannot see any other assistance or exit from our current situation that we tend to cry out to the Lord. Yet, He is always ready, willing and able to help us. In fact, it is His Prime Objective and Innermost Intention to save, heal, deliver, and prosper our life. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. The faithfulness of the Lord keeps Him on high alert and always attentive. He doesn’t fall sleep on the job. He never changes. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. So if it’s not the Trinity’s fault we feel helpless and alone…who is it then?

Psalm 40:1-3 (ESV) I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

When our son was diagnosed, I sought the Lord concerning this turn of events. Recounting my allegiance to Him and then reciting His Word to Him as if He somehow forgot, I stormed the gates of Heaven and marched right up to His Throne. He told me, “Your son will live and not die.” I took that word and tucked in my heart and mind for safekeeping. I began to build my faith around it. There came a point in time that those words given to me by the Lord were all I had left to hang on to. Nothing…NOTHING pointed to a future only a funeral. Yet sitting in the darkness, I dared whisper them just one more time. God is our helper. If He says it – it will come to pass. His Word never ever returns to Him void. It is us. We are the problematic variable in this life of faith and believing. We do not wait on God. God is not into temporary fixes but triumphant recoveries. Jesus did not come for ties – He promised you the WIN! The Holy Spirit was placed in us to remind us of His Word and accompany us in our wait time. What has the Lord promised? Are you still waiting? Waiting and wandering are very different things. God is not diversified. He calls it double-mindedness. God is faithful to His Word…are you? Am I?

Mark 9:22-24 (ESV) And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

But if you can do anything…

How many times is this our prayer to the Lord? Rather than coming to Him with boldness and confidence in His Word as the Truth that governs our life and guides us to destiny – we come to him like a homeless and helpless beggar? God if you can do this one thing. Jesus if you can heal me. Lord if you can help me. Well, it is obvious in his response, Jesus was a bit irritated with the man’s lack of belief. All things are possible for one who believes. Do you believe today? Before you answer think about it. It is disheartening to think how many Christians do not believe and have no idea. Vacillating between yes He can to maybe He will to can He – as believers it is important to stand on the firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ knowing that He will do exactly as He promised to those who believe. He is faithful even when our faith is flailing about.

Psalm 118:6-7 (ESV) The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

Please do not misinterpret these words today. People are important. Everyone who is in our life is there for a reason. God orders our steps and encounters along the way. He puts certain personalities in our path. There is purpose and meaning in every human connection in our life. We must come to know and understand that the Lord is on our side. He is always with us. No matter where we go, what we do, and even how badly we mess us. He is right there – on the inside of us. Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit who is our HELPER. He lives in us now. It is up to us to develop a partnership with His Spirit inside of us. We must become friends of God through faith and believing that He will never leave us or forsake us. Just one impossibility turned into a miracle will change your perspective forever. Just one instance when God’s Word comes to pass will change your heart and mind. Faith begins to grow in the fertility of a broken heart. Jesus knows and understands our feelings, emotions and pain because He experienced them all. He knows our weaknesses. He carried our burden. Let Him be your helper today. Lord, help me.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 54:4 (ESV) Behold God is my helper. The Lord is the upholder of my life.

No Longer Orphans

No Longer Orphans

John 14:18 (ESV) “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

On this Father’s Day, many will celebrate the men in their life who have filled the prestigious role of dad. Dad comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The natural father given the title by sheer contribution would be the likely candidate for celebration. However, there are guardians, grandfathers and step-fathers that have become the bonus dad for many. Men who stepped up to fill the void or simply added to the enrichment of children who were not their biological children but their kids just the same. Some may even honor the spiritual fathers and mentors who have guided each one with love and divine discipline along the way. Dads will be honored on earth and in heaven today. Today is all about dad!

I am quite certain the song, “Good Father” will resonate in our churches in honor of God our Father. Sons and daughters of God will sing it out among those who remain orphans. Those who have not met the Father in person or allowed Him to manifest in their heart and mind will not understand the grace and goodness of unconditional love from our Father in Heaven who came to us in His Son. We can relate to the story of the prodigal son because most of us identify with his person. It is difficult to understand the heart of the father who loves without consequence or condition but welcome his son home with open arms and full reconciliation. Oh that we could know the Father’s Love today as it is not as one may perceive it.

John 14:8-11 (ESV) Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Philip thought his request reasonable in his misconception of Christ. He wanted to identify with the Son but needed to “see” the Father to bring it all together. Faith does not come by sight but by hearing. The Word stood right in front of him, but because Jesus did not meet Philip’s earthly expectation – he questioned the identity of Christ. The prodigal was in a pig pen eating with swine when the thought of being a servant in his father’s house seemed like a logical solution to his impending starvation. I will return home and ask my father to allow me to be his slave. He was looking for a consequence. He was convinced there would be a condition. Philip didn’t see the Father in the Son so he doubted. It didn’t matter how much love Jesus demonstrated or how many miracles that He performed. Philip did not believe. The prodigal did not believe that he was worthy of his father’s love so he sought his compassion instead. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to release the Spirit of Adoption for us. The Holy Spirit in us identifies us as sons and daughters of God. He is a good father. We are no longer orphans. The question is – do you believe?

John 14:12-14 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

The Spirit of Adoption gives us the right of receivership. Jesus Christ gave us His Spirit when we first believed. This is the Way Maker that restores a right relationship between God the Father and His Precious Children. Done. Complete. Powerful. Life. See there is nothing in heaven or the earth withheld from us as His Children but we do not live in freedom as His Children when locked in our identity as orphans. The prodigal spirit is that of an orphan.

Romans 8:14-17 (ESV)  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

You have received the Spirit of God. You do not have the spirit of slavery or fear for these are products of sin. You now have been saved from these terrible reminders of your past. The Spirit of Adoption given to us by Christ FULLY RESTORES our relationship with God the Father. Complete. Lacking nothing. You are a Child of the Living God with full access and benefits. We must learn to identify with the Spirit within that bears witness to our true identity. The One that reminds us in the midst of the storm or struggle that we are Children of God. The One who whispers the truth when the enemy is pummeling us with lies. The One who is always ready to receive us because He pursues us each day with unfailing love and goodness. His Goodness is for the land of the living. You are no longer left to feed on the crumbs under the table but have been given a seat AT the table. God will not force you to be His Child or live as part of His Kingdom. He simply has given us access. The rest, my dear friend, is up to you and me.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Your natural father is only a man. Any other father figure, like the one who partnered in your existence, is a human given to faults and failures just like everyone else. As we celebrate dad today, it is important to understand that although the one who is called father in your life may have disappointed you – there is one father who never disappoints. He will meet and exceed the expectation of His Children. Children exercise the rights of relationship. There is no prerequisite for a father’s love. As Children of God, our acceptance or denial of God’s Love does not change the fact that He is love and has chosen to adopt us as His Children. He has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ withholding nothing from us that was given to His Son – Jesus. It is easy to judge God by our human parental experience, but so errant and remiss. God is not an earthly father but our Father in Heaven. Nothing can separate us from His Love. He is constantly pursuing us and waiting for us to return to Him without reservation. He is ready to respond to our acceptance of His Spirit of Adoption today and every day!

You are not an orphan. You are not alone. God has not left you to fend for yourself. He is a Good Father.  He loves you and has wonderful promises hidden away just for you. It is discovered by accepting Him as our Father. The Perfect Father. We access Him through His Son – Jesus Christ. He gives us His Spirit which seals our adoption as sons and daughters of the living God. Every day is Father’s Day for those who believe. We celebrate adoption today because we are no longer orphans.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (ESV) And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Easily Distracted

Easily Distracted

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I sat down with the youth of our church last week to talk about distractions. Using these two verses, we discussed some of the distractions in their daily life that keeps them from focusing on time with the Lord. In just a brief thirty minutes, it was as though the Holy Spirit was teaching the lesson. Rabbit trails and squirrel chases had us in fifty different conversations all at once. It took extreme discipline to wrangle everyone back on topic. It’s funny how that works in life. We are so busy running around like chickens with our heads cut off that we lose sight of Jesus unintentionally. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith that is discovered by following Him rather than seeing where exactly He is going. This requires paying attention to every detail such as His Word and communicating through prayer to know and understand what to do and when to do it. The benefit is at the end of the day peace overtakes us and the lie of the enemy causing panic is dissolved in truth. Let us run the race with endurance that is set before us. This indicates a marathon and not a sprint. One must live a life of self-control and discipline to find His Way. We must learn to cast aside the weight of sin, doubt and discouragement to live in righteousness, trust and hope. How do I get there from here?

Song of Solomon 2:15-16 (ESV) Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom. My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.

I find it fascinating that these two verses are coupled together in the Word of God. It is an intentional dialogue and one that can change our focus immediately. Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards. Your life is fertile ground. You have seeds of potential to be planted in faith. The enemy knows that God has promised you a prosperous and abundant life. He is not after the fruit of our life but rather to kill our potential. The distractions of life will cause us to stop plowing, planting, pruning, and preparing for a harvest. The little foxes ate away at the base of the plant and it died. They did not kill it but rather disconnected it from the source of the soil. Our source in life is Jesus Christ. He must be our beloved. We must decide that my beloved is mine and I am His. This commitment called covenant changes everything. It demands our attention. It is a union of one.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16 (ESV) “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

When Jesus Christ died for you and me, He gave us freedom. Real freedom to choose all over again the life that is lived in us and through us. We have life and good or death and evil. Life and good is only obtained when we choose to pursue God through the Love of Jesus Christ. His Grace gets us there. It is a choice to walk in His Ways, keep His Commandments, and to live and prosper in His Love. Bottom line – it is a choice. The life of my choosing is not the result of God’s Lack of Goodness or the Insufficiency of Christ’s Grace but my selection of something else. God does not offer a lower standard of living – it is up to us to choose it instead of abundant life.

Psalm 27:13-14 (ESV) I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

To decide to pursue God’s Love is to believe that He is good. His Goodness is for you. It is for right here and right now. Those who believe will wait on the Lord. To be strong is not the absence of weakness but acceptance of amazing grace that affords unconditional love. The lie of the enemy is that God expects something of us other than just us. There is nothing I can do for the Lord – He did it all for me already. I cannot repay Him. I cannot in any way compensate the God, Father, Son or Spirit for the complete work. All I can do is accept it. To fully experience God’s Goodness is to fully believe that His Love for me is complete without my assistance. What a pride killer and ego buster? I am weak and helpless but all I have and all I am – I give to You – Jesus!

Philippians 4:4-8 (ESV) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

I love this “let your reasonableness be known to everyone”. The problem with our faith is that it is illogical. We are not convinced and so easily distracted from the truth by the lies of the enemy. We settle for less because there is doubt within us. Faith is reasonable when Christ becomes our beloved. When our relationship with Him is the foundation of all other things in our life. Fiction becomes fact when backed by Truth. To decide to pursue the Lord is not enough. We must be fully persuaded that God loves us and His Goodness is for us. Otherwise peace is compromised by rebellion and treason of the heart gives way to compromise because doubt is allowed to exist. We must focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. This will silence complaints, grumblings, arguments and disagreement. When faith becomes a reasonable choose, it will be our choice every time. God’s Love is full of goodness. He is always good. He promises to make good of every detail of our life. It is all about believing enough to wait for Him.

Have you lost sight of the author and finisher of faith today? Have little foxes nibbled at your confidence a bit? He is the vine. We are the branches. Jesus will sustain you if you choose fix your heart and mind on Him today and stop allowing all the distractions whittle away at your faith. You are your beloved’s and He belongs to you. There is nothing that can or will every separate you from the Love of God or Christ in you… but you! Change your confession over your life today. Speak the Word not the world’s perspective. Make your faith reasonable and logical by putting God’s Word in action and living a life of rejoicing in all things. The enemy flees when we resist him. Be strong in the Lord today – He is strong in you!

Lord, I ask you to fill each person’s heart with the peace that passes all understanding. Put Your Mighty Hand over each fragile broken heart and guard it from the fiery darts of the enemy today. You are good! You love us. You pursue us with unfailing love. May each one of us accept your love, grace and mercy today – in Jesus Precious Name!

 

Undeserved

Undeserved

Romans 5:1-2 (NLT) Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

I do not deserve the grace and kindness given to me through Jesus Christ. It is completely undeserved and therefore quite difficult to take hold of. It has not been justly or rightly earned. It is unmerited favor which in my sinful state cannot ever be acquired by human acts or abilities. Like a prickly cactus in a hot desert filled with life giving and sustaining water, how does one fully embrace a love so pure and untainted? Barbs of self-recognition lead to doubt and distress. Such revelation pierces the skin and penetrates the heart with the simple truth that I can do absolutely nothing to earn or repay God for the extravagant gift of His Love.

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6) Too often those “fiery arrows” are self-inflicted when the lie of the enemy is allowed to penetrate the soft and broken heart. It is truth by the world’s standard but nullified by the Kingdom principle that God is love. His Love for us is giving freely and undeserved. We are saved by grace through faith. The route is simple but pathway diverse. The struggle to accept the simplicity of the Gospel that is the covenant of relationship often leads right back to captivity by doctrinal law and religious overtures meant to buffer our pride so there will be no suffering. The suffering that leads to repentance is the revelation of who Christ is and the fact that we will never be able to offer anything in return to reciprocate His Generosity in giving up His Life to give us a new and everlasting place with Him forever.

Salvation is a heart change. However, if there is not a mindset associated with it there is no chance of survival for the new believer. The enemy comes in with lies. He attacks us with truthful accusations. None of this changes the fact that Christ died for you and me giving us the opportunity for full restoration and active relationships with God the Father again. The helmet of salvation is confidence in the hope give to us through faith in Christ alone. Uncertainty is slain with the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Unarmed with faith and confident hope fortified and forged by God’s Word, there is nothing to defend our belief that God is who He says that He is and Christ has given us the Gift that is promised. Faith and trust in God is irrational and illogical outside of God’s Word and Truth that by His Grace I am saved through this process.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

To fully accept the gift of new life given to us by Jesus Christ, means that I must allow Him to change my character. The hope that I have comes through my utter helplessness. It is in all the things that I cannot do that the Power of Christ prevails because I succumb to weakness. Grace works best in human weakness. (2 Corinthians 12) Happiness is a temporary feeling. A conditional emotion based on the evident outcomes in life. The cause and effect of the natural occurrences in life. An immediate reaction to our current condition. The Lord has a different plan for us. It is not emotionally driven.

We can rejoice, too…when we run into problems and trials. God is building our character each day. The character of Christ was always in His Identity as the Son of God. Peter made the revelation in Matthew 16 when asked by Jesus, “But who do YOU say I am?” Peter’s response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This is the declaration of those who have a change of heart and mind. The ones who dare to step over pride and past self to fully embrace the Undeserved Love of God the Father for us – the prodigals. The strength of character is to fully know and believe that in Christ our relationship with God the Father is fully restored regardless of where we are now, how we feel, or our strength and ability. Character is built on the foundation of Christ alone. The kind of character that allows us to be confident in our salvation and to follow a hope that will not lead to disappointment. We must know that God loves us as undeserving as we all are.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

What to do when the masterpiece looks like a mess? I often joke with people that I have a black thumb. A notorious plant killer by reputation with a heart that longs to nurture and grow little plants. When I was preparing for Mother’s Day in our church, I ordered fifty tiny succulent plants. Knowing of my own inability, I waited until the last minute to order them. When the ten day shipping really was only a couple of days, I was in trouble. For about a week, I worried over my tiny wards. These little cacti are made to live in diverse conditions. Yet, I fully believed in my heart that they had met their match. When the day finally arrived for them to go their new home, they were all alive. I celebrated. I still have a handful of them in my dining room facing the morning sun. I do not worry about them just tend to them every so often. They are alive. Just outside the dining room window are two hydrangeas that are flourishing after a year of my care. Miracles do happen.

I wonder how many times God is working in us and developing our character and new nature but we still wear the titles of our past life. Apparently, I am a reformed plant killer. If the enemy can keep our eyes on the mess, we may very well miss the message. If we give up in the test, there will be no testimony. Quitters never win. If the only thing good in me is Christ – then why do I expect greater things from me than the Lord? Christ gives us new life and calls us a new creation. The Character Changer is making a masterpiece because that was His Plan all along. The nature of God does not change to accommodate my feelings or emotions. He does not lie or change His Mind. What He says will be done for no word that comes from Him will ever return void of accomplishment.

Romans 5:10-11 (NLT) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

No one deserves a right relationship with God. Jesus gave us the relationship out of His Goodness, His Grace and His Unfathomable Unconditional Love. It doesn’t make any sense. Outside of faith, it is completely unattainable. Abraham was called a friend of God because he dared to believe in God who “brings the dead back to life and creates new things out of nothing.” (Romans 4) Do you know that God? Do you believe that He will do what He says? You can say that you do but does your life show that you are absolutely certain of His Love. Certainly in Christ is evident when our character is built on humble acceptance of a love incomprehensible and undeserved. You are a friend of God by faith, friend. Your ability to be perfect melts in His Perfection and gives way to promises too great to pass by. Will you accept Him today? Get over the prickly human qualities that buffer pride constantly telling us that there must be repayment and recompense. There is nothing you can do to earn or deserve God’s Love – you must simply live in it.

James 4:5-7 (NLT) Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Perfect Me

Perfect me 2

Psalm 138:8 (NKJV) The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

I am not exactly sure when I stumbled across this scripture. All I know is that it has become one of my go-to. When things do not add up to my expectation or jive with the way I interpreted God’s Direction or Timing, this verse instantly comes to mind. When things are unraveling or the world crumbling, “the Lord will perfect that which concerns me…” I must be honest that at first it doesn’t bring the solace one might hope for. It is not easy to swallow or digest at first. How can an imperfect person achieve a perfect way?

Perfect means complete. It means having all the required elements, qualities or characteristics. When the word, perfect, is used as a verb it means to make something completely free from faults or defects. To make complete. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4) It doesn’t matter what the situation or circumstances of our life – the Word of God promises the Lord will perfect that which concerns me. His Plan for me is that I will lack nothing but prosper in all things pertaining to life and godliness. His Purpose is in me with enough faith to grow, mature and develop the good fruit that will satisfy my soul. The Lord even promises to make all things work together for good for those who love Him and to those called according to His Purpose. (Romans 8:28) This promise is just before the sweetest of godly convictions that nothing can or will ever separate us from His Love. We have been given perfect love by a perfect God who will perfect all that concerns His Beloved.

Psalm 18:30-32 (NKJV) As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect.

The egocentric nature of humanity wants to believe it plays some role in perfection. The mind, will and emotions embrace pride that can be the greatest foe against faith. Pride tells us not to surrender in weakness or to submit to God’s Authority. However, if God’s Way is perfect – it is surrender and submission is required which comes at the end of self. The Word of God is proven. No word that He has ever spoken or given breath to will return to Him empty of purpose. Jesus Christ is the Word of God who came wrapped in flesh. (John 1) To fully embrace completion and allow the Lord to perfect that which concerns me comes through the bond formed with His Son – Jesus Christ, the Word.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the access point to God the Father. No one can enter the Presence of God apart from the Son or uninhabited by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit marks us for completion as the sons and daughters of God. The only way to achieve the promise of perfection is to trust God. We must learn to live in the process of perfection with persistence, perseverance and patience knowing and believing that His Way is perfect and His Word proven for my life.

God arms us with strength by His Grace. His Power is manifested in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Perfection is achieved only by oneness with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son and filled with His Spirit. All three have vital roles in completion. The trinity is a partnership. When the rich, young ruler came to Jesus in Matthew 19, he had one simple question, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The man went away sad and dejected because he had great possessions. God knows our weakness. He knows the imperfections. He sees right through us. He wants to take those things produced by doubt such as fear, worry, stress and anxiety in order to replace them with perfect peace. The kind of peace that can only be found in total trust and sweet surrender of this life for the Kingdom of God and eternal life.

Isaiah 26:2-4 (NKJV) Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.

God will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Him. Those who trust the Lord will be able to wait on Him while He perfects or completes all that concerns them. Trust is the shelter and refuge provided by Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation. The one who takes our weakness giving us enough grace to exude His Power despite our imperfections and weakness. God is creating a masterpiece of all the broken pieces. He takes each one and makes something good out of it. He gives us beauty for ashes. Think about that for a moment. We have a fire pit in our backyard. When our inky black Labrador retriever was a puppy – she would dig in the ashes like a sand pit. Sitting by the backdoor waiting to come in, she was unaware that she was covered in gray dust and a complete mess. Do we come to God like that sometimes? After we play in the remains of our past, broken life or tried to make something useful much less beautiful out of our mess? Have you ever tried to make a log out of ashes? Impossible. Who would even try? The Lord says that He will give us beauty for ashes. (Isaiah 61) He is perfect in all of His Ways. Trust allows God to make something beautiful out of every broken thing in our life. Not just beautiful but perfect! We must only believe enough to trust Him in His Way and at His Word.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I am not perfect. I will never experience perfection outside of complete oneness with Jesus Christ. To fully embrace and totally trust His Way by following Him every day not just some days. To believe the Lord and take Him at His Word even on those days when nothing He spoke is evident in the circumstances of my life – to hold that truth as my confident hope. To continually sow seeds of faith in the firm foundation of Jesus Christ requires more effort and energy than I have as a human and must completely deplete me of self to be completely filled with Christ. Less of me and more of Him must be my daily commitment. Otherwise the life I live is not authentic but rather a façade for others. God has promised to give me His Strength. I must be weak to receive it. He has given me His Word – I must believe it. God has given me His Son – I must follow Him. The Lord has given me His Perfection – by grace I can receive it when I learn to trust Him more. Today I press toward the goal for the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus that takes me out of brokenness and worthlessness to live in complete confidence that He who began this work in me will finish it. He indeed perfects that which concerns me.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Little Faith

little faith

Matthew 17:20 (ESV) He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Dynamite was invented in 1867 by Alfred Nobel. The same Nobel who is responsible for Nobel Prizes for scientific and cultural achievements and awards. His invention of dynamite is what gave him the wealth to fund what is historically one of the most prestigious awards in the world. Before dynamite, the strongest explosive was gunpowder. Gunpowder did not have the power needed for many needs as it was very dangerous to handle especially in larger quantities. Dynamite met this need and was much safer to use.

Dynamite consists of a few common elements. Nitroglycerin, which already existed though extremely dangerous and quite unstable, is the primary potent ingredient that causes the massive explosion. Nobel took nitroglycerin and packed it in diatomaceous earth which is soft, chalky stone made nitroglycerin safer to handle. A wick and blasting cap are the final two components needed to create a stick of dynamite. Once placed in the desired location – the wick is lit and when it ignites the blasting cap causes a small explosion that triggers a much larger destructive explosion.

The Greek “dunamis” is used 120 times in the New Testament. The word refers to strength, power or ability. Yes, it is the root word for dynamite, dynamo, and dynamic. In Matthew 17, the disciples have tried to release the power of God by casting out a demon from a possessed person. It did not work. They are perplexed. When they ask Jesus, he responds “because of your little faith.” I often have read this thinking that the faith of these men too small to get the job done but I do not think that is the case at all. How much smaller can faith be than a mustard seed? What if Jesus was not talking about the size or quantity of faith but rather its handling and placement?

Mark 4:30-32 (ESV) And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Faith is given to us. God assigns us a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3) We have the proper amount of faith but it must be properly handled to release God’s Power and Glory in our life. The Purpose and Plan of God for us is released as faith is planted then grows, matures and develops into a fruitful and abundant life. The seed must be buried to give way to its present form and release its divine purpose. Seeds of faith must be sown into the fertile heart in order to produce the dunamis power inside each one. Maybe when the Power of God and His Glory are not evident in our life is not because of a lack of potential or purpose but maybe abandonment of process. Unless we truly believe in the potential of each tiny seed of faith, there will be no energy expended in cultivating them. Funny that even with dynamite the powerful nitroglycerin must be enveloped in earthen material in order to be properly handled. The death of self is in living a life of faith not futility by trusting and believing God at His Word, planting it deep in our heart, lighting it with the Power of His Love, and allowing the Holy Spirit to explode inside of us until the Light reaches the world.

It only takes a stick of dynamite to release an explosion capable of great destruction. You have dunamis power inside of you in the person of Jesus Christ. We connect with His Power by faith. Faith comes in the form of seeds to be planted in a soft and fertile heart. It must grow into the confident hope. This is accomplished outside of our five senses. Faith is not logical unless it is supported by the Word of God. Quite simply – faith can only become powerful when properly handled until just the right time. God has given us a purpose and plan that is far beyond our expectation. It is not to be found in our present form but the Glorious Power that He has hidden on the inside of us just waiting to find its way out. You have faith. It must be handled properly. Thank you God for giving me the right amount of faith. Teach me to use it properly. I have Christ in me. He is enough. The Power and Glory of God is hidden inside of me. Lord, I ask that Your Power becomes the energy and drive of my life. In Jesus Name!

2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.