Beauty of Submission

The Beauty of Submission

I Peter 3:1-4 (NKJV) Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

There is beauty in submission for the heart intent on surrender. It is a beauty far surpassing the outward appearance that leaves an indelible mark on the heart it touches. The heart must be soft, pliant, open, and humble to receive such instruction and not become hard and unyielding as pride senses a takeover. Submission is the utmost form of trust in any relationship. It denotes total surrender to the Lord for fulfillment of expectation releasing all other human counterparts. In the beginning it may be a bitter pill choked down rather than savored. Those who force it down will find it to be a seed of blossoming blessing that will lead to success in all relationships as we live and love from a gentle and quiet spirit confident in God’s Love, Grace and Goodness.

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands…

I will be the first to admit that I did not receive the “gift” of submission as one probably should. Preparing for a women’s conference at church with a fellow board member, I had spent the better part of a half-hour ranting about my husband and a disagreement the night before. She allowed me to vent thereby setting the groundwork for a message that would change my marriage forever. When I finally ran out of words, the room was silent. She crossed over to me with what I knew would be solid and profound advice. Holding my hands in hers and looking me right in the eye, she said, “You must learn to submit to your husband. You must be submissive.” If it were possible for my head to spin and steam come shooting out of both ears, it would have happened in that moment. I was so angry that not a single word could be formed and my mouth was hanging open. Had she not heard the injustice? Had she not listened to my hurt? Did she not understand that it was all his fault? I thought she was on my side. She was. She was the godly influence who would plant a seed of truth in my open and exposed heart that would grow, develop and mature into a beautiful marriage of mutual responsiveness and respect.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

I am woman hear me roar…not so fast tiger. Inner beauty within our heart is the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that God finds very precious. I am an extrovert and my husband an introvert. Our personalities are very different as are our life experiences. Coming together in marriage is to leave all other relationships and establish a primary connection with our spouse. To become one together. Just as two people traveling in different directions do not end up at the same destination, one of the two must submit. It is our gift and calling as wives to do just that. To become a reverent partner to the man who God has joined us with is to honor and revere God with total trust and dependency. I trust my husband. I love him. He is just as human as I am and we both make a lot of mistakes. The Grace of God is the glue that keeps our marriage strong as I have learned to submit to God’s Authority and my husband but boy oh boy was it a fight.

Ephesians 5:22-24 (NKJV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

To submit means to be humble and compliant. It is a perceived vulnerability yet must be pursued for complete faith. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. As wives, women are called to respect, regard and deeply care for her spouse. To reverence or be in awe of as translated from the Greek word “phobeo”. All believers are called to live in mutual submission. (Ephesians 5:21) As a wife I am called, according to God’s Word in Ephesians 5, to serve, honor and edify my husband. Does such a statement rub you the wrong way? Are you irritated at the thought of it? Good, so was I. My life as a wife is to be lived as unto the Lord. I do these things for my husband out of reverence for God and His Word. This should end the argument but it usually causing a warring in our heart and mind. What about me? Who’s going to take care of me?

The husband is called to lay down his life and sacrifice his interests for his wife. He is tasked to support her growth and development spiritually. He is to cherish, warmly care for and attend to her needs, wants and desires. He is to love her as Christ loves the church. He holds the most responsibility in this thing called marriage. God holds husbands accountable for their wives. We must only trust the Lord. This is important unless marriage is deemed impotent because it is out of order or misaligned.

Submission to each other following the guidelines set forth by God creates mutual responsiveness. Just as the Body of Christ is formed by leaving the things of this world and clinging to God through Christ and His Way – marriage is the same process. To become one body in marriage or in the Body of Christ requires leaving and cleaving. Cleaving is to adhere firmly and closely with all loyalty unwaveringly to something. Genesis 2:24 sets forth the marriage principle that “a man shall leave his father and mother to be joined with his wife and they become one flesh.” I wonder what the success rate of marriage might be if both partners embraced these roles fully and completely as designed by God made possible through Jesus Christ. Would revival break out in the Body if it became one?

I Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)  Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Smith Wigglesworth was a great man of faith. One of the forerunners in faith for the modern day church. His wife, Polly, was a mighty woman of God in her own right. When his plumbing business became very successful, Smith began to work long hours. He missed services and his heart grew cold toward the Lord. Polly faithfully continued serving the Lord. One night she was later than usual returning from church and her husband rebuked her saying, “I am the master of this house and I am not going to put up with you coming home at such a late hour.” Polly told her angry husband, “You may be my husband, but my master is Christ.” Smith put her out the back door in anger forgetting to lock the front door. She came around to the front entering the house in laughter. Soon her gentle spirit and sweet response had both parties dissolved in fits of laughter.

It is human nature to be caught up in our rightness and miss the point of righteousness. We are Kingdom builders which is all about relationships. Building relationships requires submission. Successful marriages are marked by wives who embrace the role of submission and empower their husbands to take the leadership role and fulfill the assignment of accountability for our life. Grace is the gold of submission. We serve in all positions of life as unto the Lord including our marriage partnerships. Each member of the Body of Christ has a role that must submit to the headship of Jesus. Without submission – all things will remain broken. Those who embrace and strive to live a submissive life will inherit a blessing far greater than pride could ever yield. Be submissive. Take on your role given by Christ, whatever that is, fully embracing the calling clearly defined by His Word. You will prosper as your soul prospers.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NKJV) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

Strong Together

strong together

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Have you ever seen a water buffalo? The water buffalo or Asian buffalo is the largest member of the Bovini tribe which also includes yak, bison, African buffalo and other species of wild cattle. The do not appear to pose a threat. These mammals can be domesticated and are sometimes referred to as living tractors. Moving quite slowly, predators often seek them out as easy prey. Water buffalo are not of the utmost intelligence and can be outsmarted quite easily. However, if you mess with one of the herd, they gather together and fight the attacker no matter the foe. They begin to charge together to take back an animal being carried off by a predator. No one would ever suspect that a wild bovine would be so aggressive but do not make the mistake of messing with one of their own. We must follow their lead. Being mindful that the vulnerable and weak are the first to be led to the slaughter. With diligence, it is of the utmost importance to seek one to become two. Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to find the one. To one another rather than tearing each other down. We must be helpers, not hurters. Two can defend themselves because now they have agreement. Finally, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Not three strands floating in the breeze but three strands woven into a cord. Relationship weaves our life together. It makes us aware by close proximity. As the Body of Christ, we must learn to live as a Kingdom. It is important to win the war waged against us. We have victory in Jesus. We claim it together as one.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The Lord has given us His Armor that covers us from head to foot. We have the belt to truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, and our fitted firmly fitted with the Gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:14-18) This passage begins with “be strong in the Lord and in His Mighty Power.” You are not defenseless in this struggle against powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil. All those coincidences, circumstances, situations, bad reports, and rough patches collectively are the enemy’s attack as God’s People. You. The Body of Christ. The strength of a unity is unity. The determination to collectively advance as a group rather than individually gives power to presence. Just a fish travel in schools for protection, it is of the utmost importance that the family of God decide to work together, weave relationships and war against the enemy together.

It is of the utmost importance that while donning the Armor of God that we do not forget the Assembly of God – we must fight for our faith together. This time of fasting and praying is targeting unity in our church body. Asking God for one mind, one heart and one purpose thrills our Father. Who doesn’t want a close knit family? One a person becomes a people it has a miraculous impact on the community. God desires harmony amongst His People. It blesses him. So naturally pleasing God perturbs the enemy and sets off an alarm in the realm of darkness. We must be aware of this and work to build an even stronger bond together. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matthew 11:12)

Matthew 24:6-8 (NIV) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4) The motto of the military is “no man left behind.” As good soldiers of Jesus Christ fighting for faith and building a Kingdom, it must ours as well. The birth pains of the Kingdom are clear and the pressure real. In order to endure to the end, we must be Kingdom minded and King focused. We cannot become entangled in civilian affairs.

Reading Psalm 23, the Lord prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Doesn’t that mean there will be battles? If he prepares a table, it would imply that it is not His Will or Purpose for us to fight alone? We are called to greater love. The kind of love that lays down its own life for others. To unite, bond and form a unit to become the Body of Christ and ultimately His Bride. How are we doing? Are we working together? Are we warring as one? One mind. One body. One heart. One purpose. Collectively joined by One Spirit. We have a mission. Time is of the essence. It is time to stop worrying about all the rumors and rumblings in the earth and set forth an initiative of unity among all people in the Love of God through Jesus Christ.

John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Proverbs 17:7 (NIV) A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Friendship is important but brotherhood essential. We are the Kingdom of God. Working together and warring as one for our family. The family of God is not defined by race, color, gender, or even religion. Jesus died for all of us. No one is exempt from His Mercy, Grace and Unconditional Love. People limit love not God who is love. It is with this in mind that we must decide to forgo pride and preference to bind together as the Body of Christ. It is the greatest form of love to lay down our life, needs, wants, desires, hurts, and offenses to love someone else. It is of even greater importance that we love our enemies. People are not the problem. God loves them what gives us the right to refuse them? A friend loves at all times. Brothers and sisters are born for a time of adversity. God gave us each other so that when going into battle that we would not fight alone. Are we utilizing unity as the Lord intended?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The Kingdom of God uses relationship, agreement, unity and harmony to defeat the enemy. We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. It is the common thread in our life that weaves us together as one Body. We must grab hold of the rope and never let go of the importance in togetherness and relationship. The Armor of God is most effective when working collectively for the Body of Christ as a whole. You need your friends and enemies more than you think. When there is agreement in faith and confident hope – we become unstoppable for the Kingdom of God. We win! We are victorious in Jesus Christ – together!

Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reviving Relationships

Reviving Relationships

Proverbs 11:30 (NLT) The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.

It’s a girl’s weekend – Woo Hoo! My mom, sister, sister-in-love, oldest daughter and I have ventured to a women’s conference out of town. Over the years, the Lord has grown our family and knit us together beyond the commitment of family to the covenant of friendship. We do not get to choose our familial relationships. It is ordained by God and heredity. However, friends are not the same. We do decide who is allowed in the inner circle of our lives. Those who can be trusted to share life with beyond superficial communication and ordinary contact. Some people are wonderful at maintaining such connections. Thoughtful and dedicated to each relationship. Others not so much. I see it in my own family among my children. Some are social and make friends easily. Some not so much. Others gather friends easily and others move from one friend to the next.

It always happens once reconnected with these ladies. I remember how much I love them and miss them in my everyday life. We live in different places. From Missouri to New Hampshire to Florida, yet put us in a room together and the laughter begins to flow as words and stories fill the room. I love that. I cherish that. We are called to be friends and have friends. God loves relationship. He loves friendship. He created families and encourages us to be friends. Yet, the enemy attacks such a kinship daily. Strife lingers in most families deemed imperfect and dysfunctional. It’s not a people problem. It is a sin problem. The only solution for sin is the Blood of Jesus that provides us a sufficiency of grace to draw from and spread all around.

The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life. Each day our life is comprised of a series of sowing and reaping. Planting seeds for the next season and harvesting the crops of the last. Those who sow love, grace and friendship will receive the same. But if I feel alone, isolated and lacking in this area, the Lord will provide every seed I need to sow it into my future. Wise people are those who sow God’s Word in their life to allow its promises to grow will make the decision to pursue relationships and work to maintain them. Why? It fills our life with His Love, Grace and Goodness as it multiplies around us.

Luke 1:39-42 (NLT) A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.

As many know, Elizabeth carried John the Baptist who would become the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Mary had just been told by the angel that she was carrying the Son of God. Jesus and John the Baptist were destine for friendship. Mary and Elizabeth were cousins. Mary chose to go to her cousin who must have been her friend and confidant to share her good news. When she arrived on the threshold of Elizabeth’s home, the baby inside of her swelling form leapt with joy. It says that in that moment, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. God has made an investment in those who He predestined for relationship. The seeds in others hidden for us as a deposit to be discovered in the midst of friendship. He ordained this between Mary and Elizabeth. He also ordered it for the next generation – Jesus and John.

We must learn the value of friendship. If we understand that it is ordained by the Lord and blessed by the same, it will become worthwhile. It is essential to becoming the Body of Christ rather than a dysfunctional and barren union that lacks productivity or prosperity. Friendships should be evident in the Body – the whole Bride of Christ is to be presented without blemish or handicap to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords which is not possible if it is all torn apart. Relationships are messy. Family drama just plain foolishness. It is much easier to shake the dust off our feet and walk away then to fully engage and fight for friendship. The Lord has blessed friendship. He loves harmony above all things.

Psalm 133:1-3 (NIV) How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

I struggle reading the story of Job. Engaged in the good fight for faith in the midst of great tragedy and devastation, I find his friends religious and annoying. They are constantly berating him and accusing him and seemingly judging him. I wonder why Job keeps answering their knock on the door. I think as I sat scraping my sores with fragments of pottery with a broken heart and tear-stained face that I would probably respond to their intrusion with a “go jump of Mount Sinai” retort. Job continues to engage with them. It was well worth his time. In Job 42, the Lord instructs Job to pray for his friends and so he does. It is immediately following the restoration of friendship through forgiveness that “the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10) Could there be a blessing that we are missing due to an unwillingness to nurture and maintain friendships in life? Absolutely! What the Lord does for others He will do for us? He has no favorites. I am God’s Favorite Child just like you are.

Matthew 18:19-20 (NLT) “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Elizabeth and Mary experienced the Power of Agreement when two friends become one by faith. The Holy Spirit joined them right then and there. This is the same promise given to us by Jesus in this passage. Ecclesiastes 4:12 elaborates with A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Relationship is God’s Security in our life as it unites the Body of Christ in to a faith-fighting machine. The enemy is powerless against God’s People standing together as one. We must seek to agree with our family and build strong bonds of friendship within each structure. Our families include those given by birth or joined by association. Any seed of potential friendship that is not cultivated is purpose left to die in the ground. Real friends have bonds closer than family ties. (Proverbs 18:24) It takes work. It requires our attention. We need the Fruit of God’s Spirit to feed and nourish godly relationships in our life to build long lasting and diehard friendships. Iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) It smooths rough edges and breaks off hard parts especially in our hearts. We need those kinds of friends to grow, mature and develop in our walk with the Lord. They are the very ones who God uses to speak instruction, wisdom and direction into our lives. These are the ones who will be His Voice to us. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is valuable and sweet. (Proverbs 27:9) The Lord has hidden treasure in each one to be unearthed and bound in Heaven to experience blessings only given by a good, good God!

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

If we only knew the promise hidden in real abiding relationships called friendship, I believe it would become a priority in our life. God has given us such an opportunity to be empowered by investing our life in others if only we believe. I will admit that I have taken relationships and friendships for granted countless times in my lifetime. Allowed distance or even dispute to separate me from people who I know the Lord has specifically placed in my life. There is no such thing as a coincidence for those called by God just constant opportunity to experience His Grace, Goodness and Glory like gentle waves washing over our life. The enemy wants to make us think that people are the problem when really they are the reality of blessing in our life. No greater love for Jesus is shown than when we lay down our life for our friends. It is not all about the big things but each day giving up a little bit of my way to maintain peace and prosperity in friendship. God blesses every relationship that is harmonious and unified. He loves it. His Spirit cannot help but come in the midst of such agreement. Maybe we have missed the true meaning of revival. Maybe just maybe it will begin with the restoration of true friendship and real relationships in the Body of Christ that cause an outpouring of His Love too great to deny! We won’t know unless we try! We can start with our family and work our way out until ripples become a current that changes the atmosphere with His Love. We must revive relationships and be committed to friendship to experience the Fullness of God’s Love.

Romans 15:5-6 (NLT) May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Power of Relationship

The Power of Relationship

Ruth 1:16-17 (NIV) But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 

My sister stopped in last night for a quick visit. She lives in Missouri. We live in Florida. Seven years apart seems like forever as children but now as women – we finally connect. Early this year, we spent a great deal of time together when our mom had open heart surgery. In those days, years melted into moments and the reality of relationship decades in the works gently unfolded. The Lord was working in my heart on His Next Great Set Up for my life. How could my sister who lives miles away know the details? With busy lives, there is little time for conversation yet she gave insightful words only possible through a Living God who lives in us. It’s funny how the Lord starts at the beginning and works things to the end when we live unaware and incognizant lives so “independently” only to discover that He has been working it all the time.

Our family would be considered a blended family. A small version of the “Brady bunch” with a man and his two children meets a woman and her two children and from there the rest is history. Messy and difficult – yet by the Power of God seamlessly sewn together into something of value and worth. There is power in relationship. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God the Father. He did so by grace because apart from it – our flesh and sinful nature would not ever allow such a union. In an age of hook-ups, break-ups and make-ups with quick marriages and even quicker divorces resulting in broken lives and if we are blessed blended families, I wonder if people are truly experiencing the power of relationships.

Walking through the quiet house knowing that my sister is sleeping in our guest room, I am thankful. Thankful that in spite of us, God had an amazing plan. The story of Ruth and Naomi replayed in my mind. Naomi and her husband took their sons to Moab to escape the famine. Her husband died in Moab. His sons married two Moabite women, but both of her boys died within ten years. Naomi and the two women were now helpless in their culture. They had no one to care for them and Naomi felt there no other choice but each to return home to the care of their family. She blessed both women to return to their families. They were reluctant. Naomi finally convinced Orpah to leave and she kissed her mother-in-law and departed. But Ruth would not go. Ruth was committed to the relationship. She would go where Naomi went even if it meant dying there.

John 15:12-14 (NIV) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

The command of Jesus Christ for my life is this – Love each other as I have loved you. He wants me to develop long-lasting and committed relationships with all people to form the Body of Christ. Build the Kingdom Of God. I wonder what might happen if the church and all of its people really followed the commandment of Christ for us all. It is not in the religion or even proper doctrine. No, it is in the messy and complicated thing called love. Not just any love but love that follows through in a relationship. To lay down our life for our friends. This is the power of relationship. Love is the power that fuels relationship. Love and all that it is defined clearly in I Corinthians 13 is the only thing that is required of us. However, it is easier to give all else but keep our self. It is difficult to love anyone else if our love for Christ is incomplete. If His Grace is not sufficient for me, I will never be able to love another because of unmet expectation. It is not until I find completion in a linear connection to the Lord that is vertically kept that I will ever be able to give my life to a friend let alone all of them.

Romans 13:8 (NIV) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

As children, my sister and I lived in constant competition for love that already belonged to us. My father was absent for many years of my life and when he resurfaced it was with another child. What I didn’t realize was that some of the difficulties between my sister and I were because of my unmet expectations. I couldn’t love her the way I should because of the hurt in a young girl’s heart. However, as Christ healed my heart over many, many years and mended my relationship with my dad by His Grace, I have found that this person who is my sister is a treasure. A blessing hidden in my life by God who the Lord has placed on a very similar path. It took years to bring us together and form the union of sisterhood that is evident now. I wonder how many of us are willing to admit that maybe the lack of longstanding and fulfilling relationships in our life is not because other people left us but rather our inability to let other people into our hearts and lives. Hearts hardened by betrayal. Emotions devastated by unmet expectation. Empty soul spots reserved for another that truly belong to Jesus. Once filled with the Love of God, we will love others as Christ loves us. However, until we experience the Grace of God to fill our hurts and heal our hearts – there is the danger of living and striving for a love that already belongs to us and cannot be earned only discovered.

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. The only obligation in life that God identifies is our purpose to love. Love is a commitment. It is not a shallow emotion. To love is to lay down our life including our mind, will and emotions for another person. God does not limit the sphere of relational influence to just our family and acquaintances. No the truest test of love is to love even our enemies.

Matthew 5:4348 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What would happen if the Body of Christ truly became a New Testament church? A body of believers who truly loved each other according to God’s Word and not personal expectation. Religion is easy. It’s a list of do’s and don’ts that make us feel better about our ability to earn a little bit of grace. It is the opportunity to maintain our own pride and peace of mind by retaining a piece of self. It is toxic. Religion excludes. The Spirit of Jesus Christ tore the veil in the Temple from top to bottom. His desire was clear. He wanted a relationship with us. He desired a place in our hearts. A love so deep and overflowing that it would pour out on others. We must rediscover the power of relationship to fulfill our commitment to Jesus Christ. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Go where we go. Make a way for us. The list goes on and on. When I decide to love others or at least to try to as Christ loves me beginning with absolute and abundant grace, I am about to experience the most powerful breakthrough possible as Child of the Living God. Such bonds of love produce agreement that make miracles possible.

Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” To release the life-giving and full empowering Spirit of God in the form of revival will start with relationship. One relationship at a time. I believe that our greatest miracle may just be hidden in our most impossible and difficult relationships. We must rediscover the power of relationships to see the Glory of God fall all around us again. He promised He would be in the midst of just two people who agree.

Come on church! We can do so much better than that when we decide His Grace is enough for me to let go and love. Forgive or forge the way with love glorious love. It is all about love. Thank you Jesus for the important reminder that it is all about love. Look around. Who do you find it most difficult to love? Find that person. Pray for the restoration of the relationship or creation if there has never been one. Tell them, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. In the beginning – it may just be you telling you under your breath. The person the enemy fights the hardest to keep you from loving is usually the one who is the key to your miracle. The secret of revival is the power of relationship. Lord fill us with your love today. Give us more of Your Grace to forgive and forgive some more. Let your new mercy fall on  us like rain that washes away hurt and insult to allow new hope to spring up in the cracks and crevices of broken hearts. Lord, bind us together in the Light of Your Love for Your Glory. Amen and amen.

John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Fizzy Soda

Fizzy Soda

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

Have you ever been then grocery getter for your house? You have those thin and useless plastic bags rolling around in the back of the car. When you get home an army of helpers hoping to plunder the new supplies arrive to help carry the hoard in. Some of those big two-liter bottles of soda were on sale so you got them BOGO or to the novice shopper – buy one, get one free. Immediately, my people turn up their nose at them. In my efforts to be a wise consumer, I find that they do not want the surplus of soda and list their complaints. Opening the bottles at the release of pressure, the dark syrupy liquid becomes a foaming bomb shooting soda everywhere creating a huge mess that even the dog is incapable of licking it all up. They don’t like the way that after a day or so they go flat – no matter how tight the lid is kept or how quickly they try to consume it. When the fizz is gone – so is their appetite for the once coveted drink. In all fairness, I bought them for portion control. Tired of pouring their unwanted, forgotten soft drinks down the sink that sounds like change falling in the drain. Yet now, I have a garage full of unwanted bottles but wait what just happened? Suddenly, they are grabbing water bottles instead. How did that happen?

For more than a week, I have had this image of fizzy soda in my head along with the idea that it is just like the zeal a Christian might have at first for the things of God. We come to the Lord full of expectation and excited about the potential of His Spirit’s Inhabitation in life. But once the “fizz” is gone, our life goes flat so we return to our old life and old way of thinking abandoning the potential of faith in God that remains there. Where are we once the excitement is gone? What happens when things take longer than expected? Why is discipline necessary? God is greater than all things. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He supplies all we need but when I ask I must wait. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. We must desire to move from things that are not good for us to those things that benefit our life. It will be a struggle in a world that offers immediate gratification and feeds our emotions. God wants us to be godly people who have joy in Him and those who trust Him will lack no good thing.

For the last month or so, I have been attempting to give up a beloved diet drink. Is it bad for me? Depends on who you ask. Water is better for me. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. When I was young, my birth mom was a “Coke” addict in the soft drink form. She gave it to us freely. As I began to share time between both parents’ homes, my new mom provided sweet tea – the soft drink of the South. Loved it and consumed it freely. However, I became more aware as I grew older that water is a much better choice. However, I don’t necessarily want water. I don’t care for the taste. I don’t really want it or desire it. It is good for me in many ways. It is the best for my body health wise. It is excellent for my skin. It keeps me well-hydrated. But I prefer other things and none of that I desire is illegal or prohibited. I make the choice to drink a gallon of water or at least try to every day. What I have found is the more water I consume the less capacity that I have for those things that are not as good for me. Water is more beneficial. How does this all tie together? I am glad that you asked.

So many times, we try to make a Godly life resemble our good life worldly expectations applying our appetite to the things that the Holy Spirit would like to do in us and through us. Did you know that the primary content in all soft drinks is water? We add the sugar or sugar substitute. We put the carbonation in it that makes it fizzy. Have you ever noticed that conscientious parents do not give their newborns soft drinks or tea? They give them milk. If not straight from mom, they sterilize the bottles. Everything they do is to make sure that their baby grows, develops and matures. God sees us as His Children. He feels the same way.

I Peter 2:1-3 (NLT) So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Pure spiritual milk. What is it? I believe that it is the Word of God. We must know the Word to enter fully into a productive relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. Salvation is not an arranged marriage but a personal choice to engage in an active and committed relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord. We make that choice. All things are permissible yet not all things are beneficial. Just as in our relationships naturally, there must be development and growth to mature our relationship so it is no longer superficial. If we are not growing in the Lord, we are growing apart from Him. I find it interesting that in this passage, it says, “Get rid of all evil behavior.” Then it begins to talk about things that destroy relationships first. To cry out for nourishment once we have tasted the Lord’s Kindness is to grow in our knowledge and capacity to love the Lord and other people. We focus on our list of seven deadly sins and regard religious rules and regulations but miss the part about love. God is love. To be godly we must be good lovers.

John 7:38 (NLT) “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

A newborn primarily exists on milk although the newest parenting trend does add water at an early age. When my babies were little, I only gave them milk, some juice and lots of water. Growing in our walk with Christ, spiritual milk gives way to living water. Jesus promised that living water would flow from His Heart to us. He has given us His Spirit. The Word of God works with the Spirit of God to allow us those benefits offered to those who choose the better way over the permissible options in life. We must discipline our body and mind to live a healthy spiritual life. Have you ever tried to take candy from a baby?

The little children at our church flock to “Memaw” a beloved matriarch. She always has a sugary candy treat for them so after service like little ducklings they flock to her. They want the contents of her big bag. They know she has treats for them. However, mom and dad have the opportunity to train their children in healthy habits. Thank God I am headed into “memaw” days! I found with my own children that in order to take something from them, I offered them a better choice. If they did not want the new thing, they would often pitch a fit. As a mom, I hated that they were so upset but my heart was set on giving them the very best start in life. Candy and sugar was limited. I made sure they were given the right food – all the things that were nutritious. Too many times, it is human nature to cave in to emotions rather than stand strong for goodness and so it is with the church.

Romans 10:1-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

To pursue God emotionally but not spiritually is misdirected zeal. To claim to know Him but not take in the spiritual milk and living water is spiritual suicide. You are starving your spirit to feed your flesh. False teachers pave new roads every day and we fall for it because our flesh is strong and our spirit weak. Many years ago, in order to lose some weight, I switched from full-powered soft drinks to diet soda. Ironically or not so much, it was after a Daniel Fast, where for a solid month I only drank water. After becoming addicted to them, I read an article that warned of the high sodium content in diet drinks that they wreaked havoc on weight loss efforts. How is this possible? Well, the sodium that settled in our body soaked up the water and got fat, too to put it in layman’s terms. Bottom line – water retention. Ugh! Darned if you do and darned if you don’t. Is it possible that rather than relying on water – we are substituting things in our life that are not God’s Best and of no benefit. Absolutely.

Zeal is not bad. In fact, the Bible encourages and endorses spiritual fervor for the Living God. Romans 12:11 tells us to never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. See the “but” – it is our warning. It is easy to direct our zeal toward the Lord, and then get detoured, delayed, or distracted. In fact, it is the greatest scheme of the enemy. He challenges our knowledge of God every day in the temptations of life. Religion is the diet soda of the church. Rather than truly loving people somehow church folks get an appetite for judgment and hypocrisy based on false knowledge of God who expects love to be our first and foremost motivation. If I can do it, God is not required. It’s everything I cannot do that is where grace causes His Power to manifest. I am not supposed to be strong but weak and reliant on Jesus Christ for all things every day. The psalmist admits in Psalm 119 that “zeal wears me out” and goes on to admit that his enemies ignore his words. Words must hold power. The power of my words is based on my knowledge of the Truth and its ability to set me free. I am free to choose the life I live.

God is not emotional. Our feelings do not move the heart of God or His Hand, His Focus is set on our future. He is working in us now for forever. Endurance means making it to the end. It is a struggle because usually somewhere around the middle we begin to wonder what were we thinking. Towards the end, everything in us screams quit. Those who endure to the end are honored because not many will. When the zeal is gone and the fizz goes flat in their spiritual life, many become discouraged, discontent and disinterested in Living Water which runs steadily and consistently in us. Water seems boring. It doesn’t seem like anything of worth. Yet 71% of the earth is covered in it, and mankind is made up of about 60% water. It would seem that water is important. Living water is essential to spiritual survival and one’s ability to thrive in Jesus Christ. Maybe there are substitutions in our life that must be filtered out so that we can engage in spiritual growth and development again rather attempting to survive in deprivation.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

People spend a great deal of time on what they consume. Whether deciding what to eat or where to eat. Challenged to consume more or eat less or even just make better food choices. Intake is a primary concern in many households. There are even some that wonder if they will get to eat. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. The first day of the water challenge was horrible for me. I didn’t want to drink one glass of water let alone almost eight. Some days I do great and other days I choke it down. I know that if I stick to it that over time I will develop a taste for it. Why the struggle? Water is good for me. It is good for my body and skin. I hate when my flesh dictates things so the more it fights me – the more I fight back. I want a healthy body.

God is not building a building – He is creating a body. The Body of Christ. The Bride for His Son. It is important that I do my part to be the best member of the Kingdom I can be not for others or even me but to be who I promised to be when I partnered with Jesus. I would become less and He would be more. I would decrease so He could increase. I John 3:20-21 is clear that God is not an emotionally-driven God. Thank you, Lord! His People are emotional enough. When our spiritual life goes flat, maybe God is facilitating an appetite change in us that will produce growth and maturity. He is giving us something better if we will endure the process of refinement. Our flesh wants none of it and will fight it all the way. Until our relationship is not emotional but faithful – the blessings and benefits promised in His Word may seem elusive. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are exclusive. Exclusively for God’s Children, those who decide to use their freedom to become part of the Body of Christ rather than building another church.

To become rooted and grounded in the Love of God through Jesus Christ, we must stop wavering back and forth. Discipline gives way to faithfulness when we decide to engage in the process called endurance. We must move from the emotionalism of infancy into the steadfastness of adulthood – the Body of Christ must mature to become effective. The Holy Spirit and Goodness of God’s Word produce the spiritual growth potential in the lives of those who are committed to its consumption daily. (Hebrews 6:1-6) We must learn to hold on to the progress made in our spiritual life and build upon it. (Philippians 3:14-16) If our goal is to press on and obtain the high calling, we need something to stand on. The firm foundation of faith built in trust is the only way to reach the heavenlies and bring it to earth. God promised that our earthly life and heavenly existence can be connected in heaven and on the earth. We put in the effort.

Discipline is not a warm fuzzy feeling but a tough painful process. Immediate gratification is not part of it but endurance is. There may be some things in our life that although they are permissible are not beneficial to our walk with the Lord. When runners pass a checkpoint, they are not handed coffee or a can of soda. The helpers hand them water or a supplement filled with electrolytes to replace those used while they run. What do we give others when tired, thirsty or weary? When weighted with sin, do we give them yet another set of rules to fail at or the grace that has been so sufficient for me? The first discipline that is to be readily accepted in the modern church is love. Not love for the rules and regulations set forth by religion, but to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ and relaying it to the world including every single person in it. Our language is love and we must not only speak it but live it. You cannot give what you do not have. God’s Word and His Spirit give us new life to give to others. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. Has your spiritual fervor gone flat? Are you growing disinterested in God’s Way? It is time to make a change. Call a fast. Ask the Lord to stir you up. It is up to you to develop a taste for spiritual things rather than feeding full of substitutions. God has given us everything we need to live a godly life – now we just have to tap into it. It’s a choice. Better life or best life. Permissible or beneficial. Good or God! I know what I am after…how about you?

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NLT) His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

whats-love-got-to-do-with-it

I John 4:19 (NIV) We love because he first loved us.

What has love got to do with it? Tina Turner made millions of dollars asking this question in her famous song. Her life story was one of great pain and sorrow even abuse. Love tainted by the world and its lack of love convolutes the possibility of true love for many who will settle for a lack of it in their life. Love is not emotional. I do believe in love at first sight. I do not believe that any love affair is without its challenges. I know for a fact that even if you marry the person God created for you that there is definitely challenges in coming together as one. Love is professed on so many levels about many things in our life. We love people or at least think so. Love things. Love hobbies. Love sports. Love interests. Love social media. Love shows. We attach the word so flippantly without consideration of its context that many believe that people really do love in life.

I have a friend who a couple of days ago professed her undying love for her partner. She reveled in the love she has found with this person never thinking it possible with someone. I smiled as she relished in it and reveled it even saying she never imagined being this happy. Well, yesterday she confessed that her “true love” had hurt her feelings causing an explosion of sorts. Why do we put godly expectation on human beings? We do it all the time. We expect people to be like god. Fill every void in our life. Meet our needs and expectations. So much so, that when they don’t it is our tendency to lower our expectation, draw back or walk away. The good news is that they eventually talked it out, worked through it and are moving past it… together… in love.

When Jesus warned people about the last days, He clearly indicated that love would grow cold. His Word has come to past with staggering divorce rates and cheap love plastered on everything from people to things. Not to sound like a modern day prophet or old-fashioned preacher, but love has grown cold. We love because He first loved us. We have lost the foundational truth in our life that God is love. He is the Source of Love. He is the Prosperity of Love. He is the Power in love. He is the Provider of Love. We are loving from an unlovable source that cannot produce the kind of passionate love needed to secure our souls to Jesus. Without the Love of God, it is weak and tainted by our sinful condition, prideful nature and propensity for self. God is love. I need to love God to love anyone else including myself.

I John 4:10-16 (NIV) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 

Our eagerness to show God our worthiness of His Love often separates us from His Love. He does not without it from us but our humanness draws away from it. We want God’s Love. Need it. Are desperate to have it? Human awareness produces insecurity and suddenly people decide that God’s Love is not for them unless they earn it. The Pricelessness of God’s Love is that there is no possible way to earn it or achieve outside of the Lord. The enemy tries to convince us that unfailing and unconditional love is impossible. But it’s not, it is exactly how God loves us. We must become invested in the truth about God’s Love to produce anything of worth from our broken hearts and devastated lives. God’s Love fills the void left by all the impersonators of it.

God is love. It is imperative as believes that “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Doubt and disbelief come when I do not believe that God’s Love for me is complete. The moment I think there is an end to it, my faith evaporates and hope dies with it.

I John 4:18 (NIV) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I can remember the first blow up my husband and I had after getting married. It was a doozy. Yelling, screaming, crying, doors slamming and the works. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t need any man and I could do it on my own. I didn’t deserve such treatment. My feelings were hurt and expectation met. Whoa! What does that mean? We know people will let us down and begin to expect it. When something minor happens – the issue is forced into a confrontation because of fear of loss and abandonment. Looking back at most confrontations in our relationships, they are avoidable. The problem is that we expect people to love like God and God to love like people rather than loving each other from the Love God has invested in us. Fear causes us to test and try love every single day even setting others up to fail with unrealistic expectations of perfection and performance. God says simply – I loved you first.

Revelation 2:2-5 (NIV) I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

God knows every single thing done in His Great Name. He sees our works. He knows our perseverance. The Lord sees our desire to live apart from wickedness and how we test the spirits of others around us. He knows that hardships have been endured as faith is maintained. He sees every one of you who have not given up despite harrowing odds. BUT it means nothing if our love for Him is not as it was at first.

What does this mean? Love is easy… at first. Love is fun… at first. Love is true… at first. Love is childlike… at first. Love is forever… at first. Life happens and the one who was boasted about becomes a fading memory in the midst of unmet expectation. Marriage can fall into this rut just as quickly as our relationship with the Lord. When the newness wears off, it is easily taken for granted. When the other does not read our mind and do what we want, we begin to grumble and complain seeking satisfaction elsewhere. The book of Hosea is all about Gomer and her other lovers representing God’s Great Love and Desire for Israel. God loved us first. He loves us best. He loves us forever with the same intensity and passion as He did when He first made the decision to love us at all. Can we say the same?

2 Timothy 3:2-4 (NIV) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

This is the love of the world in which we live. It is cold and uncaring. People have become lovers of themselves. Consumed with self that causes them to turn on others even God. This is the world of the lost and the world of Christians. We have lost our first love. Apart from the Lord, we can do nothing and that includes love. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us the Fruit of the Spirit produced in us by the holy inhabitation of Christ in us. The very first fruit is love. Every other fruit produced in our life is a seed from the Love that God has planted in us. Without that seed, the rest of the fruit in our life is spoiled. No good. Worthless. Romans 5:5 tells us that God poured His Love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. The identifier that marks us as Children of God begins cultivating love. No other fruit can be produced in our life unless it comes from the Love God has sown in us first. First love. True love. Everything of God that is good in our life must come from our first love.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV) If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

God details all the qualities of His Love for us and the kind of love that He produces in us in 1 Corinthians 13. Many marriage ceremonies include this vital chapter in identifying true love for us. But the beginning of the chapter is a warning to those who think they love God, “I may boast, but if I do not have love…I gain nothing.” Hear me today, we must learn to love God again. Like we did at first, before discovering the Gifts of His Spirit or even the productivity of faith. Sowing and reaping is an earthly concept sent to mankind from the heavenly realm. If we do not allow the Spirit to produce love in us and do everything from the vantage point of His Love…we have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

What is love?Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8) If this was how Christian believers loved, our churches would be full. Revival would come. The Body of Christ would be united and healthy again. The Kingdom of God would advance. We have lost our first love. Buildings are empty. Revival is not hear. The Body of Christ is unhealthy and dysfunctional. The Kingdom is not advancing. Our love for God is not producing because it is not from the first fruit of His Spirit. We want the prosperity of God’s Love but would rather perform to get it than persevere to have it. What does love have to do with it? Everything. Or we have nothing at all.

I Corinthians 13:13 (NIV) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is messy. Love is sacrificial. Love doesn’t always feel good. Love requires us to give up our way. Love requires waiting. Love requires forgiveness. Lord, look at all these other nice things that are good I have done for you. God asks us today, “Where is the love?” Love is not reserved for others but begins with God. Maybe our love has grown tired and cold in the waiting. Could it be that brokenness let it all leak out? See our love for God must be the driving force and motivation of every next breath and next step in life. However, there are times when people think God could not possibly love them because of their actions, or that God forgot about them in His Silence, or that maybe God is not for their good because of their current condition or circumstance. Some decide to have faith and hope in God but reserve their heart just in case they are wrong. Every area of my life investing in doing God’s Word and obedience will yield a blessing in my life. Seed in the ground produces a harvest. It will do nothing for my soul condition and salvation unless I choose to stay true to my first love.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NIV) Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

Our experiences form our expectation. Life is hard. Love is cold. People don’t really love each other but often live lives of codependency. When you came to Jesus, it was with the expectation of unfailing and unconditional love which His Grace readily provided. The moment a person stands up after such an experience – the enemy of your soul wages war against this new love. From that moment forward, passion must burn away doubt and knowledge of God’s Love and how He loves must be the wisdom one lives by. God doesn’t love you like the world does. He loves us perfectly. He loves us completely. He knows every fault, failure and weakness in our life and STILL His Grace is enough for me. With this in mind, it is up to each one of us to examine our heart. Am I passionate about my love affair with Jesus? Do I love Him like I did at first? Am I doing from my own abilities or from what the Holy Spirit is doing in me?

Place me as a seal over your heart. We must seal our heart with God’s Love all over again. Going back to the beginning even if we were young and naïve. God’s Love did not change just our expectation. If we leave our expectation in God’s Love and Grace for us, we will continue to do greater things like Jesus promised. It is when our love grows cold and our pursuit of Him stops that situations and sin overtake our progress, devour our seed, and stifle His Spirit.

I must choose to love God every day. I must decide in my heart that He will be my first love and priority in all things. I must infuse the love that I have been so graciously given into every action and attitude. I cannot concern myself with others and how they love allowing it to dictate my choice to love like Jesus. My love for the Lord must be passionate. It must be my desire.

Lukewarm love is spit out but when God sees that our love for Him consumes us – He pours out Himself even more. Lord, rekindle my love for you today. Not with the simple “you know that I love you” but with the pure intent so everyone will know that I love you, Lord – beginning with YOU!

Proverbs 3:2-4 (NIV) Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and

What Is Revival?

what-is-revival

Psalm 85: 4-7 (NLT) Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more. Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

Driving home from church last night, my husband and I began talking about the coming New Year. In the midst of our conversation, it turned to revival. The cry of the church seems to be revival. Everyone is preaching it. People are praying for it. The united cry of the church is for God to send revival to us now. But my husband asked a question that cranked the motor of my brain, when he simply inquired…”what is revival?” It is obviously noted in history as Great Movements of God in churches and communities with many names associated with it. However, if we as a church corporately have finally joined our voices in one accord, it would seem that it is important to know what we are asking for so that it will be recognized when it comes. So I ask you today the same question for careful consideration, what is revival?

Going straight to the Word for an accurate description as the only credible source, I find only this passage and one other in the Old Testament that refers to the revival of God’s People. This leads me to believe that revival is a manmade term. It is not actually an “event” to be planned and executed but an experience that carries over somehow. God of our salvation. The cry for revival is an invitation for God to restore us. It is a personal plea for the God of the Universe to come down and touch me. Me, first which will ignite passion to overflow into my family and church. As the Light of His Love spreads among us, it builds momentum. The momentum of the church is unity. Unity is selfless harmony that burns away flesh and pride to expose our heart and mind to more of God’s Spirit than ever before. Let us not be confused. To experience true revival requires true repentance and complete forfeiture of self to be fully consumed by the Lord for His Service and Use in a collective community called the Body of Christ.

Put aside your anger from us once more? Have I drifted? Has the church strayed? Yes and yes. God has put the spark of desire in us for revival BECAUSE He wants grace to cover our fickle heart and wandering mind to be one with Him again. Revival is to desire the Presence of the Living God to come down in our midst. To save, heal and deliver everyone who dares to come near. However, if I think that revival will come to change other but not to do the same for me, I am merely delusional. Revival begins in me and overflows from me. I cannot offer what I have not experienced. I cannot introduce anyone to someone I have not encountered and become acquainted with myself. My message is less than convincing until it radically changes my life.

Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in You? I have attended many churches over the course of my lifetime. I have met many believers, professing Christians, pastors, teachers and leaders. I have served many positions in the church enough to see the business in the building. However, I have rarely experienced such great moves of God that I can recount them to you now. I have experienced the Lord personally but corporately I have not seen the Glory of God called revival in our midst. Why? We cry out for something but not make any attempt to find it within ourselves. People need Jesus. But if I do realize my own desperation and depth of longing for my Savior, Messiah and Lord – I will never be able to meet the need of another by offering them something I do not know. So many starts and stops, makes it apparent that we are missing something along the way.

The woman at the well had a personal experience with Jesus Christ so radical that she had to run back and tell everyone. (John 4) Come and see this man that told me everything… She forgot her guilt and shame including all those things that had isolated her and kept her from the company of others. She didn’t have time for pride, guilt and regret to hold her bondage any longer. No, they had to come and see. There was no other alternative than to come to the well with her to taste and see. When was the last time, your experience with Jesus Christ moved you to push, pull and drag people to church? How many times do you miss meeting together with other believers because there is something, anything more important to do? The want, need and desire for revival from the Lord must begin in each one of us to become the next great move of God. Going into the New Year doing the same thing but expecting different results is deemed insanity. You know the routine. The New Year comes and the church calls for a corporate fast. Everyone becomes focused on new menus, renewed prayers, shaking off the old, and embracing the new. Then by February, it is the same old thing all over again. If I truly want revival, I must decide that in the coming year that I will let God restore, renew and revive me first. I must submit my life including my mind, will and emotions to Jesus Christ to change me from the inside out. Revival did not come this year or the year before despite my cries and pleas. I do not believe that it is because of God’s Timing but the condition of God’s People that has kept it elusive for this long.

Ezra 9:7-9 (NKJV Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

“And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant of escape, to give us a peg in His Holy Place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” Pride has driven the church back into bondage. Preaching for profit has cluttered our storehouses with lesser things. The modern day church is big business. Don’t get mad at me. I am not judging preachers who live in million dollar mansions. Things are not the problem. Purpose and drive are what is missing. Passion for Jesus turned into passion for other things. Pride of life that has caused us to deviate from building God’s Kingdom to prosper in this world. God is showing us grace. He is positioning our heart for a radical change from idolatry and worldly pursuits to a passion and drive for Jesus Christ that forces a choice to make a decision that is really not that difficult in the Presence of One’s Savior.

Revival is the remnant’s escape. Revival is the doorway that leads from self to selflessness. It is the moment that all I want is Jesus Christ. It is when He truly becomes all that I need to live, breathe and thrive in this lifetime. It is such a radical connection with the Lord that it creates an opening between heaven and earth that when two or more are gathered in the same spirit – His Glory overtakes them all. This is revival. We are not ready. Yet from our bondage and captivity – the church cries out for Him. “To give us a peg in His Holy Place” – I need to study this some more. Many years ago, someone spoke a word over me that God was driving me into the ground like a peg or stake. This passage made it come to my mind again. What if the next great move of God is not random or released on a whim? What if revival is not what we thought it might be but something more overpowering and overwhelming than we have every experienced? What if it changes my lifelong pursuits? What if it takes up too much of my time? What if it means being at church more than I care to? What if? What if revival is not about others but God releasing me first?

Psalm 85:8-9 (NLT) I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory.

Do I really want revival? Do I want God to restore and revive me which will always roost me from my comfort and convenience right into fiery refinement? Do I want His Glory to fill my life completely? Revival is for the remnant for a reason. Small pockets of people throughout the history of time who dared be pegs driven into His Presence. Refusing to move until He comes near to them. Those who, like Jacob, will wrestle with God until the new man (or woman) and new life emerges. It took a lot for me to forsake myself. I am not the same person with the same beliefs that I had five years ago. The price paid for such revelation is one I would not have paid knowingly or willingly. Everyone talks a good talk. However, when it is our life to be laid on the line everything changes…trust me. When it is time to totally trust the Lord for survival or even your next breath, this is the moment of truth and when only a remnant remains.

The Lord used my husband in a mighty way last night. I am blessed to be partnered with a godly man. I cannot shake the question now. “What is revival?” From now until the New Year comes, I am going to continue to ask this question of God and dig into His Word until I find that one thing I am not doing or surrendering that will allow His Glory to fill me and overflow from my life into my home into my church and into my community. I cannot participate in a move of God until I am moved by God. To cry out for revival is noble, but God knows our heart. He knows who is not serious enough to give their all. No one knows your heart but you. We can all put on our game face when need be, but who is willing to be driven in the ground like a peg to seek and stay in His Presence until His Glory comes. To be uncomfortable. To be inconvenienced. To wait, tarry and stay right here until He comes.

According to man’s interpretation, the dictionary defines revival as restoration to life, consciousness, vigor or strength. It is to restore to use, acceptability and currency (or worth). It is an awakening of interest in and care for matters of religion. God is ready to breathe life back into the Body of Christ which is gasping for air. He longs to restore the joy of salvation so that our hearts and minds will be one with the Lord and passion will produce a persistent pursuit of God and His Ways. Revival will not be the result around us until it is the change in us. If at the end of 2017, I am the same as I am right now, again I have failed. If there is no change in the atmosphere around me as God moves closer and His Glory fills the space around me, He did not fail – I did. There is a reason that revival only comes to the remnant. It is not a manmade feeling or controlled spiritual encounter, revival is to allow God to completely overtake us body, mind and spirit and then letting Him flow out of us to change the surrounding environment. Revival is not an elevated position but a prone posture as pride and self are sacrificed to make room for more of Jesus. It is not fashionable but definitely favorable.

Psalm 85:10-13 (NLT) Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.

Many have seen the movie or at least heard the clip of Jack Nicholson yelling to the crowded courtroom, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.” Maybe just maybe this is what the Lord is whispering to us today. When His Unfailing Love and truth meet together righteousness and peace kiss and truth springs up from the careful consummation. Intimacy with the Father through the Son is at the complete forsaking of self. We must give up our way, wants, whims and wanderings to find our way into His Presence. A total commitment of mind, soul and body is required for God’s Fulfillment to begin restoration, renewal and revival to take place. All that we hold precious and dear in this life is at stake to be burned up with God’s Passion for us and ignite our heart with the Light of His Unfailing Love to be the torch for others. This is when the windows of Heaven will open allowing His Blessings to finally reach us not the meager provision experienced now but an outpouring like never before. Our land will yield a bountiful harvest of souls set free if believers and Christians would just do their part now. Righteousness is the herald before Him. Jesus is coming back. We are not ready. Revival must come. It must begin in me. What is revival? I am not completely sure right now. I intend to find out. I don’t want to waste another year doing the same things hoping for something new and different to emerge. Lord, take this time to start a fire in me.

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

The Purest Gift

the-purest-gift

Romans 3:21-24 (Message) But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

I usually do not study or write using the Message translation of the Bible. It must have been the last one I used because when I looked up the word “restore” today, this scripture in Romans 3 was included. I love the part where it tells us that we have “Jesus-setting-things-right” for us. I know that I am incapable of living the glorious life that God wills for me. I get distracted, disappointed, discouraged and even disgusted which causes me to wander or even sometimes stomp off mad in my own direction. Pride is the ominous beast within me always vying for control, pointing a finger at others ignoring the four aimed straight at me. Out of sheer generosity, God has given me a pure gift that as hard as I try to mess it up – somehow it just keeps rising up around me. The Lord restores us. Day after day, He lovingly and gently nudges those who love Him and serve Him back into His Will in spite of our hard hearts and willful attitudes. It is a pure gift.

Romans 8:29-30 (Message) God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

In the midst of the holiday season and the Christmas crush, people come together. Though driving up to the party, everyone may be rush tempers flare and frustration builds. But once the door opens and everyone comes together, it seems differences melt at least for the moment. Tis the season that brings families, friends, and even enemies together to celebrate. Forced into the proximity of acquaintances and strangers, a sense of community begins to rise up. People who have not been together since last year around this time find themselves catching up over apple cider or standing by the bonfire wondering what happened over the past year. The promise to communicate more and see each other fell through as the New Year came and life marches on.

God knew what He was doing from the beginning. He has always been intent on building a Kingdom. A family. A community. No wonder the enemy tries on every level and at every turn to destroy relationship rather godly, familial or even just friendly. He walks around like a roaring lion with a giant ax ready to cut and severe every bond of love and soul tie formed between God and His Created Ones. It is working. People are drifting farther and farther apart. Relationships are conducted on social media or via text. Face-to-face encounters are fewer and fewer so lies circulate in the midst of misinterpretation and insecurity. But God…

The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. Jesus died to give us new life. A place in the Kingdom of God as part of His Body and community called Heaven. It is no wonder that the Greater is He in us continually is striving to connect with those who are around us even when our flesh is not privy to His Plan. I have watched the Lord melt division this holiday season. Strife that no one could seem to overcome has dissolved this Christmas. No lengthy discussions. No overthought words. Just Jesus. He is the only explanation as relationships are restored and friendships renewed. What about you? Gods will is for His Kingdom to be restored and His People to be renewed. If you are sitting on the sidelines in the midst of anger, hurt, or frustration today – Jesus has a gift for you. You don’t have to try. You don’t have to do a thing. Just bring all your disappointment to Him and let the Lord give you hope again. The first step of restoration is not one a forward movement. It is only to turn around and see that His Unfailing Love and Goodness has been pursuing you every day you thought you were alone, misunderstood and yes, even rejected. He was whispering, “Wait! Where are you going? I am doing a new thing. Hang on! Don’t run off! Just wait on me! It will be worth it.”

Many live by the words “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!” This is not the position of Jesus who is our example. It is not a notion that leads to anything good. Yes, we must be wise and discerning in our relationships but one must also allow Christ to oversee all of them. When we put Jesus, His Love, Grace and Mercy in the midst of ourselves – something beautiful and pure rises up in our midst. When the Lord becomes the Protector, Provider and Portion of our heart – there is a place for people in it too. He is more than enough for me. I cannot experience thriving relationships that can be renewed, restored and replenished day by day until I am rooted and grounded in His Amazing Love and Overflowing Grace.

Colossians 2:6-7 (Message) My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

For months, there has been a rift among some young ladies that I know. Friendships – close friendships – torn to shreds by the enemy. Lies and gossip spread about one another rising from insecurity planting bitterness and strife that spread beyond them causing mass destruction in a body of believers. No one knows the root, but many experienced the devastating effects of it. Yet this Christmas in the midst of holiday gatherings celebrating the birth of Jesus together something no less than miraculous has taken place. New life has risen up among them. Restoration is bringing them together without any intervention. The pure gift of the Father was His Son. The gift of the Son is amazing grace. The grace that is given is more than enough to restore and renew every broken relationship in our life.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (Message) Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

The power of God’s Kingdom is relationship. Our relationship with God is fully and completely dependent on Jesus Christ. What if someone else’s relationship with Jesus is completely dependent on us? How is that possible? What if my inability to facilitate a relationship or build community with someone else creates a stumbling block that keeps them from Jesus? What if my stubbornness and lack of grace for them makes them think Jesus is as fickle as I am? What if my unwillingness to be in the same room with them keeps them in the dark rather than exposing them to Light? God’s Kingdom is a body of believers. Believers who form a community not a commune. All should be welcome. Heartbreak is most often inflicted person on person. Someone hurts us. Offends us. Betrays us. They don’t even have to actually do any of these things, but if I think they did the seed is planted.

What kinds of seeds are growing in the garden of our heart today? Will they produce fruit that nourish, replenish, renew and restore the Body as Christ intended? Or will I allow bitterness, division and pride to destroy the pure gift given to me by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ? I have struggled this Christmas because my family will not all be together. I want all my children together in one place at the same time to open gifts and stay in our pajamas all day. Most of my kids are adults. Some will be here. Others will not. I must have the same longing for the other relationships in my life. They must take a place of importance. Be a subject in my prayers. The only new commandment is to love one another. To love them more than ourselves. To love them as He loves the Body and everyone in it. It is His Will that all would be saved and not a single one lost…not even the one who is a thorn in our flesh today.

Are there relationships in your life in need of restoration? Are there some that need to be renewed – labeled “too difficult” so pushed far away? Is Jesus laying problematic people on your heart? Do you find the same ones showing up in random places? Jesus wants to give His People the pure gift of restoration and renewal so we can fulfill His Commandment together. Jesus wants to renew our grace for each other and restore our love for one another. I must be willing to let Him do it in me and around me. Relationships are the most important thing to the Lord and the most difficult to maintain. His Grace is enough today. I speak life to every dead relationship in your life today in Jesus Name. Lord, teach me to use the love and grace that you have given me to maintain healthy and thriving relationships with people all year round. Show us how to form strong, impenetrable bonds that the enemy cannot break. The purest gift given is love and grace. The best gift to give someone is the one they desire most. Jesus wants us to love each other. After all, it is His Birthday right…

I John 4:7-10 (Message) My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

The Garden of My Heart

the-garden-of-my-heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The One

the-one

Luke 15:3-7 (NLT) So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

The phenomenon of the lost sock prevails in every household with a washer and dryer. Where do they go? What happens to them? Do washers eat socks? Actually sometimes they do! In some models during the spin cycle, socks can get caught up in the top around the basket and work their way down behind the drum. Do dryers consume them with hidden fire within so they vanish without a trace? You can buy six pairs of socks for about $8 or $9 at the local discount store. Why do we find it so irritating to lose a sock? Is it because now there is a perfectly good one without a mate? Is it the principle of ownership that causes indignation because it belongs to us so we want it back? Or could it be now there is one more task added to our long list of chores? Find the lost sock!

My husband and I are opposites. I do not stress over a lost sock. It is not a big deal to me. He is a details guy. The lost one drives him nuts until he finds it. A few years back our daughters started following the trend of mismatched socks. The clothing stores even sold an assorted pack of socks that did not match. My poor husband! It took a while for him to grasp the concept that they aren’t supposed to be the same. I am not so much of a worrier about socks because I know I can just go buy another pack when I hit the grocery store each week. It is the principle for my husband. It should be there. It belongs with the other sock. There is no reason that what goes in the hamper should not survive the washing and drying process and make it back to the drawer. It’s all about the one.

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and teachers of religious law when he shared three parables in Chapter 15 of Luke including the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the Parable of the Lost Son. All three are very important to the basis of Christianity and the way I approach my life in Christ. However, I often forget that this whole life that I live is about the one. The one who is lost. The one who wanders in the dark. The one who is fallen. The one who keeps stumbling. The one who doesn’t get it despite numerous attempts. The one who doesn’t understand. The one who walks with me or falls behind. It is not about me. It is all about the one.

John 3:16-17 (NLT) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) No one can make it to the Father except by Him. Who needs the Way, Truth and Life? Every single person who is born into this world and roams the planet has sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. (Romans 3:23) Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin” is death but that God has given us the free gift of eternal life. There goes our self-worth and pride. There is nothing that I can do to earn God’s Love or Salvation because Jesus did it all. He is the One we owe our life to so it is up to Him what He requires of us.

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.”

Are you ready? Get your pen and paper out. We are going to write the list of demands that Jesus places on our life. “Love each other…just as I have loved you.” Got it. What else, Lord? “You should love one each other.” I got it. Now what…”your love for one another will prove to the world you are my disciples.” Love one another. That’s it. What about all the religious rules and regulations? Nope. The long list of doctrinal do’s and don’ts? Nope. If we do not love one another, it really doesn’t matter what else we do for the Lord because it is not what He desires.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who has 100 sheep and one of them is lost. He leaves the 99 to find the lost one. The weak one. The vulnerable one. The rebellious one. The isolated one. He goes after them letting the others remain together and care for themselves. When he returns, he is not dragging the wayward one, scolding it along the way, punishing him for running off, threatening him for abandonment – the shepherd joyfully carries it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he calls everyone together to celebrate the lost one’s return. “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God over 99 others who are righteous and never strayed away.” My purpose in life is the one.

Luke 15:8-10 (NLT) “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Have we lost sight of our purpose? Maybe. There is a current shift in church culture reverting from mega church to small group. However, if the small group is a clique it still missing the point. Jesus mandated us to love each other, love one another, and to love others more than ourselves. The problem may not be our process but our perspective. Do we value those who are lost, wandering or fallen away? Do we consider those who leave our church, congregation, or small group collateral damage? Well, they were a problem. They had issues. They were just not a good fit. The list of excuses go on and on but the reason we do not go after the lost is because we do not see their worth.

If I have ten dollars and lose one of them, I will be disappointed and may spend some time looking for it. But eventually I will just chalk it up as a loss and move on. But if I have ten one hundred dollar bills and lose one, I may look a little longer, harder and even may tear up my house to find it. Let’s take this home. What if we are not talking about money but a child? We could have lost our son to cancer. In fact, many didn’t believe that he would live. I have five children – two sons and three daughters. If I lost my son, why would I be sad because I still have four other children including another son? Stupid huh? Of course, I would do anything to save my child even though there are many he is precious to me. Hello? Jesus died for the one. Why do we not value all others as much as ourselves? If my ministry does not revolve around the one, I can forget finding purpose in many.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT) “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’  “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

The father had two sons – a good one and a bad one. A rebel and a saint or that’s at least others may perceive them. The father loved his sons. While one obediently remained at home and responsible, the other ventured into the world and fell flat on his face. When he finally came to his senses (vs. 17) – he realized that the hired servants at home lived a better life than he was now living and so he returned. How was he welcomed? His Father was filled with love and compassion. Do we love the lost when they find their way home? Or do we judge them, try to change them or criticize them? The way I treat others is a direct reflection of my character in Christ. The way a church treats them is evidence of their motivation. To sit in climate controlled sanctuaries with padded seats and expensive projection systems so we know all the words is not enough. To gauge our success by the size of our roster and total membership on the books. To evaluate our life with Christ by any other standard is false pretense. It is all about the one. The lost one. The broken one. The fallen one. The one who can’t seem to get it right. The one who is lost. The one who rebels. Every single “one”. That is who we are accountable for. Those are who we must love. They are the ones of value and worth that causes all Heaven to rejoice. The ones who the church writes off, has forgotten and turned their back on. I am the church. If I do not love others with the same love, devotion and grace that Jesus has given me – I am not His Disciple. If I regard others as worthless, insignificant and not worth my time – I am more lost than they will ever be.

Romans 13:18 (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.

Until the message I speak and the Gospel I preach is clothed in the Love of God and offered with the same grace that Christ has given me it is false teaching. I owe no one anything except I am under godly obligation to love them. Love one another. Love each other. Love them more than myself. If you are like me today, faces have flooded your mind as these words have been read. We give up on people too easy. We turn our backs when relationships become uncomfortable or messy. We look away from those who give their life to something less. Those very people who we are called to love yet choose to remain offended, unforgiving and bitter toward. If people interrupt your ministry, then it is not ministry at all. People are ministry. Every person ever created is the one who God desires and Jesus desires. Every one. They are the one.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

In Hebrews 10, people are encouraged to hold tight to the hope we affirm without wavering. God has promised us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot do anything to deserve it or earn it. I can live out the rest of my life according to this promise. Doubt causes us to think we must live to deserve God’s Love and Affection. Fear tells us that it can somehow be earned which is a lie, too. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ is not about preaching and teaching the Word of God. This is definitely a spiritual gift but not our ultimate calling or mandated lifestyle. I know a lot of people who can preach and teach but don’t know how to love like Christ commands. I don’t love like that all the time. We must think about it. We must learn to motivate each other to acts of love and good works. We cannot neglect meeting together. We must become encouragers of the body of Christ so we become bound together in harmony.

Since…God chose us. He already picked you as one now it is our turn to pick the next one and the next one as his disciples. To pull people together – all people. This is not picking teams. It is building a Kingdom. The Kingdom of God that rejoices over every single one. The governor of Florida cannot tell you the name of every person living in his jurisdiction. The mayor cannot tell you those who live in his city. To be honest, I only know the names of a few of my neighbors. Not only does God have the name of every member of His Kingdom, but can tell you the number of hairs on their head. We must clothe ourselves in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. It is the soft garments worn under the armor of God each day. It is the attire of a heart in love with Jesus and committed to be His Disciple. We must learn to forgive. We must live above offense that builds walls around hearts. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Think about the one today. The one who you haven’t seen in a while. The one you wrote off. The one you gave up on. The one who tries your patience. The one who is the thorn in your flesh. The one who hurt you. The one you stopped praying for. The one who offended you. The one who is lost. The one who is wandering. The one who will show up in your church today. All the ones who are missing. That is the one you are called to love and bind together with in harmony. That one. Lord, let me always think of and go after the one.

I Thessalonians 3:12 (NLT) And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.