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

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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

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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.

Puzzles

puzzles

Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I have always enjoyed puzzles. Not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, they completely stress my husband out even at the preschool level. I think it is the concept that every piece has a place and if you just work it all everything fits together. There is a solution. I imagine this appeals to my need for order and control. Dumping the contents of the box on the table, sorting through each piece, separating the edges to begin with, it is no surprise that I found one waiting to be done at the Hope Lodge where my son and I stayed during his treatment. Caregivers and patients alike would join each other around the table to sort out and complete something when everything else in their life was turned upside down. Friendships were formed around the puzzle. Tears were shed as well. Time passed slowly yet somehow even on the hard days and darkest hours of the night there seemed to be something being completed and finished in our life.

On the box of every puzzle there is a picture of the completed product. The goal for which we strive in our endeavor to put all the pieces in their proper place. Don’t worry I am not going to continue to bore you with the semantics of puzzles but feel in my heart that it is the premise of unity in its example that we need in our churches today. Within each congregation new pictures and images have been formed of a body clearly defined and a Spirit fully formed. Division and dysfunction take over if we cannot find ways to fit together and find everything is falling apart. The longer a puzzle is spread out and fitted together – the more likely it will lose pieces along the way. Each piece has a place in the big picture that will never be fulfilled in its absence. Oh the Lord is speaking to us today as believers – we must come together. We must find our place.

“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” These words are scripted by Paul from a prison most likely with chains on his wrists, he still felt freedom in his heart. He called his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to come together. To unite and be one. It is our calling. How are we have come yet how spread apart also? We are part of one body. We are born of one Spirit. We are called to one hope. We have one Lord. We have one faith. We experience one baptism. We serve only one God. He is our Father. We are His Children. It is time for the family to come together.

When working on a puzzle, we look at the hole and search for the piece that will fit in it. Why are we going back to this? It is time to apply the same philosophy to the Body of Christ. The world in which we live thrives on grouping. I cannot help my kid with her math homework anymore because rather than simple arithmetic, it requires crazy regrouping. We divide people based on sex, race, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, diagnoses, and the list goes on and on. There is no push for unity because if we truly came together personal agendas would be destroyed. Everyone would have to give up something they want to become one with the other. To fulfill our calling in Jesus Christ is to surrender all of our life to become one with Him. We think we want it but does our life relay the same?

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

To create a puzzle an image is chosen and printed. The picture is glued on a board thick enough to fit together. A sharp blade then cuts into pieces which are amassed into the one that is bought and dumped out on the kitchen or card table where it will be put back together. The picture is chosen first. We are chosen. Our lives completely recorded and handcrafted by the Lord before we are born into this world. Before our hearts are broken, the Lord provided the healing needed to keep going. He knew the hardship to be endured so He provided all the grace needed in advance. He understood how much faith would be required to establish hope in our life so He gave it to us up front in the measure required. See all of this is part of a plan, picture, or masterpiece that God predestined before our birth. It is up to us to decide will we become part of the hope that is our future or will we just be a piece with a part of the picture never to be fulfilled.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

God designed the Body. He knows how it fits together and works properly. It would only seem logical to seek His Instruction (His Word) and His Guidance (His Spirit) for everyone to find their proper place. Pride is not a part of God’s Character. He is not arrogant. He is Sovereign. In order to find our place in the Lord, it will require submission and surrender on a level that humanity is not accustomed to. It is our vain glory that allows us to try to define worship, spout out praise, and live a life of service all the while glorifying ourselves rather than humbling, hopefully following the Lord to find our way and proper place in the Body of Christ.

No one can see your heart except the Lord. No one can fulfill your purpose other than a partnership with God the Father. He puts people around us to connect with and as a body we are to connect with those around us in other churches and throughout our community. Church is a living breathing body filled with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”

I know that when I would sit and work on the “community puzzle” in the Hope Lodge that I would find rest for my mind. It would take my mind off the struggle and fight we were in if only to become lost in a pile of pieces in need of proper placement. While he lay sleeping, fighting, healing and recovering, I would sit with my new friends and talk about life before this tragic set of circumstances befell us. Since that time, I know of others who are now fighting the same fight. They post pictures of their puzzle creations. I look intently at each one. An effort to restore order in the midst of chaos. Busyness that calms the mind and quiets the heart if only for a few moments. I understand completely.

I wonder if rather than working on programs, projects, calendars, and promotions, the church and body of Jesus Christ worked on coming together in complete unity what might happen. What if we took the same diligence and thoughtfulness used in putting together a puzzle? Never quitting until the final one slips in its place and searching high and low for those who missing or lost, what would happen?

The Book of Ephesians is focused on Christianity as a whole. What it means to be a Christian in faith and in practice regardless of circumstance or condition focused fully on Jesus Christ. With this in mind, in the Book of Revelation, their error is made clear. The Lord knew of everything they were “doing” in His Name. Their hard work was no secret. They patiently endured trial and tribulation for being Christians. They did not entertain sin. Showing wisdom, they did not fall for the convoluted word and lies of false prophets but rightly discerned God’s Word. These people were not quitters but kept pushing and pressing no matter what. All of these qualities and characteristics were of God and done for His Glory, yet they were in clear danger of missing it altogether.

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Many of the people who sat around the puzzle with me at the Lodge are with Jesus now or at least I hope so. As we worked together in that place, there was never an argument or dispute just love, kindness and compassion for each other. Why can’t we come together like that as believers?

Years ago Rubik’s Cubes were popular. Do you remember them? A 3-D puzzle in the form of a plastic cube covered in multicolor squares. Twisting and turning each section, the object was to have all of the same color on one side. I would work that thing for hours until one day I discovered that if I popped one out that they all fell out. I could take each piece and put it in its proper place suddenly the endless process all came together quickly. I never knew the satisfaction of completing it without cheating. I gave up. It was easier to do it that way but over time the cube was not as tightly together and became loose until one day the pieces just fell apart. There is a process in unity that brings satisfaction when the Body of Christ presses through the pain, pushes past their problems, stops defining one another by differences, and puts in the time, twisting and turning until believers come together as a well-formed properly place body. Everyone is necessary.

The only way to work this out is to stop looking for the differences in one another and find our likeness. Likeness will turn into acceptance. As we accept one another as we are applying grace just as God gives it to us a bond is formed called relationships. My shoulder has a relationship with my arm including my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. My muscles and tendons allow it all to relate and work together so that I can use it. They are doing so as I type the message today. If a tendon is damaged or muscle is torn suddenly my entire arm including all of its parts could be impacted. Why? They were created to work together. God has given us one another for a purpose. We must love one another not just in word or deed but from the heart. Love is our likeness. It is this kind of relationship that will form the Body of Christ creating the masterpiece that God created us to be. Every person in proper placement. Churches without walls that come together to promote the Good News and find another missing person who has fallen out of place. When our purpose forgets people we have missed it altogether. What if we looked at ways to make people fit in rather than exclude them? Imagine the possibilities.

Lord, teach me to see people like you do. Impress upon my heart unity, love, compassion and grace for all people in all things never to drive them away but draw them closer to You. Forgive me for all the times I compared them to my standards rather than embracing them with Your Love as instructed. I want to be part of a fully functionally perfectly constructed masterpiece. Humble me in Your Presence Lord. Teach me Your Gentleness, Love and Kindness again and again until I get it and give it to all people unconditionally. Remind me today and always that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as (I am) called to one hope (with) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Lord teach me unity, bind it with love, so we can come together and be all you have designed us to be!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

 

Attracting Opposites

Two opposite magnetic poles attracting

Psalm 133 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

Do opposites attract? I think so. While leads to conflict, but tends to thrive in resolution. I see it in the dynamics of our family. My husband and I are dramatically different. Yet somehow when we met there was an instant attraction. I am an extrovert. He is an introvert. I talk all the time. He is the shy, quiet type. Together – I think we are a match made in Heaven…most days anyway. My husband is my life partner. We made a commitment to live and love the rest of our lives together. Most days this commitment is very easy to honor. But there are some days that my selfish, prideful self tries to get in the way of the seamless love that the Lord creates in us as part of this marriage. Days when submission is tough. Times when I think I am right and do not want to relent.

Our children are no different. Each one their own individual with different personalities. As I have watched them grow up and develop their own relationships with each other, each one gravitates toward the sibling who is their opposite, too. The ones who are most like me tend to have closer bonds with their dad. The ones like dad seem to be bound to me most often. But let something go wrong, or someone come against one of us – the connection is clear. Don’t mess with our family. The love that has blended this family together is based on God’s Love. Love is commitment. God desires us to love each other and all others with the same kind of love. The kind of love that lays our heart down for one another. Even in opposition, it is time for us to connect and thrive in all our relations. Though we are opposites, it is clear we attract. We are life partners. We are family.

As I continue to pack our home preparing for the big move, memories are stirred up. I was putting the contents of some shelves in a box and read the sign in my hand. “You call it chaos. We call it family.” Welcome to my world. This group can definitely raise a ruckus. With two teenage girls, there are days I am a referee with a whistle or must resort to a water hose to cease the conflict between them. As we tear apart this house in preparation, I know that it is with great anticipation. This is the only home they have ever known. They are excited about what is coming but the newness brings about some worry and stress. As the mama of this dwindling brood, it is my job to maintain harmony and set the example of love.

Harmony is agreement, accord, or harmonious relations. In music, it is the compilation of sound into a beautiful melody and song. It reflects unity. It is peace. Musicians who play their own notes and choose their own keys create clamor. If they are unwilling to join in with the others, it is clear to the audience. Love is not self-seeking. It is not prideful. People are though. We want our way every day in just about every way. It is clear in our friendships, families, work places and, yes, even in the church that there are many marching to the beat of their own drum rather than listening to the heart beat of God seeking to join His Song.

God loves it when His Children live in harmony joined by peace. Yet the composure of people is a difficult task. Each one must come with their own offering in order to join in one accord. Opposites attract but the coming together can be a struggle when dominated by opinion and pride. The Lord is reminding us today that He loves harmony among us. All of us. It provokes His Blessing in such a place…any place…dominated by unity. The commonality in our life is God’s Love demonstrated in the Sacrifice of His Son that dispensed grace in abounding measure so that we could love, forgive and bind together is His Greatest Desire.

Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT) Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.

After years of craziness of a house filled with kids, now it is quiet as three have left our nest. When they all are together, I watch the older ones care and concern for their younger siblings and it melts my heart. When they love and encourage one another, it gives me such joy and peace. Their interaction with one another, though loud and obnoxious sometimes, clearly demonstrates their dedication to one another. I wonder if that is how the Lord feels when we love and care for one another. It has to be. He chose us to be His Children. God didn’t differentiate. He created us all with the desire for us to join His Family and live in His Kingdom. Human beings are the ones who keep choosing to love and devote themselves to lesser things. He poured out His Grace because it is His Greatest Pleasure to have us with him.

Ephesians 2:14-18 (NLT) For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

My husband and I have been married for seventeen years. For more than a decade, we have worked together to keep this thing together. My number one tip for anyone who desires to be married is this – don’t even bother without Jesus. When two self-centered human begins try to form a partnership – things get messy. We need someone who will come between us giving us knowledge, wisdom and discernment. The person who you are dating will change into someone completely different when you share life with them, live with them, work beside them and have children. The personalities introduced to the mix only adds to the conflict. Commitment is the key. First commitment to Christ and then a commitment to others.

We must reconcile our life to Christ every day in order to find harmony in all other relationships. I am human. I have flesh. I definitely know that there is pride in me that seeks to tear apart the connections that Christ has placed in my life. When Jesus became our Savior, He gives us His Spirit. We become family. The church must learn to blend the family of God into the Body of Jesus Christ. Dominated by grace. Overwhelming love. Abounding in generosity. Giving ourselves completely to be life partners with every other Child of God. This is God’s Desire for us.

I Peter 2:16-17 (NLT) For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

Jesus Christ laid down His Life for me. He stepped out of His Place seated on a throne to establish the Grace I needed but could not afford so I could live with Him forever. How do we become prideful in such a state? I don’t know but we do. Our relationship to Christ is solely based on what Jesus can do for me. It has nothing to do with anything I can do for Him. Christians exemplify pride in our religion and traditions much like the Pharisees. Church is a secret club one must be initiated into rather than putting out the “Whosoever Will Come” sign and meaning it. Jesus reminds us today that we indeed are free. Who the Son sets free is free is free indeed. How are you using your freedom today?

Don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone. Two words that crumble our resolve in that it is clear human beings do not respect one another let alone everyone. Respect is esteem for the worth of a person. Christ died for everyone. We are told to respect everyone. Why aren’t we doing it? Love the family of believers. This is not just your current congregation but every single person who believes… even if it is not exactly like you do and they do not have the same practices as you. Fear God. To fear the Lord is to avoid sin and darkness at all costs including living a loveless life of self-seeking ventures. Comparing spiritual gifts with one another is no different than being jealous of the neighbor’s new car or boat. It is all from a source of pride. You either want what they have or judge them for having it.

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.

The love suggested in I Corinthians 13 leads to harmony and peace with all mankind. True love has nothing to do with us but everything to do with Who first loved us. My love is tainted. It is skewed. It is imperfect and often has hidden conditions. The Love of God in us has certain attributes that allow us to evaluate our love for one another according to God’s Standard of Loving. If we get it right, we will live in an everlasting covenant that extends our life forever.

Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

Pride will destroy relationships and become a barrier of love if we allow it to. Pride crushes other people beneath our glares, opinions, need to be right and desire to be better than the very one that Christ led us to bond with. (Psalm 73:8) Arrogance is the acid that bubbles into conflict. Creating roots of bitterness that will kill the entire creative work that God is doing in us and through us. (Proverbs 13:10) Conflict builds walls while harmony brings them crashing down. Finally and maybe most important to note is that the Word of God clearly states that He will not tolerate those who slander their neighbor due to pride and conceit. (Psalm 101:5)

I John 3:9-10 (NLT) Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are Children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

Righteous living is dominated by love. When our sons became teenagers developing an interest in girls, I was clear that they were to respect these young ladies. Treating them as though they were their own sisters. I believe that this advice applies to all our interactions in life with all people. God desires it of us. To love one another completely and committedly. Our boys are fiercely protective of their sisters. My hope is that when they are in the company of a date that this image comes to their mind that she is a Daughter of God and meant to be treated as such. As their mom, it is my job to lead by example. Do I treat my spouse as a Child of the Living God? Do I treat my own children that way? Do I treat others including my enemies as such? We are all bought with the same blood. Jesus died for us all on the very same day. His Intentions was that all might be saved. When I encounter people today, Lord let me see them as you do. We are all life partners reaching for forever and easing toward Eternity. God didn’t make us all look the same for a reason. Opposites attract because there is comfort in the fulfilment of our weakness by another. Ultimately it is the Grace of God demonstrated by His Son and the outpouring of His Spirit that bind us all together in love. We must strive to be the example of love in all things. Not human love, but amazing love like Jesus. Share your faith with another and introduce them to hope. Be a grace giver not a grudger. Be loving not judgmental. Be good to someone today just like our Father is good. Be sure that no one is left behind for the enemy is real and looking for the one who we forget. (I Peter 5:8-9) Learn to live as life partners with everyone in love with Jesus. There is a harvest of blessing awaiting those who choose to sow in love daily.

Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT) So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

 

Becoming Less

Becoming Less

I John 2:15-17 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

I am an ambitious overachiever by nature who once given any kind of insight or instruction tends to take the ball and run. I do not like to be still and once considered myself a natural born leader. Not anymore. There is a fine line between humility and pride that is not always clearly defined. Our flesh considers our talents and abilities personal and innate sometimes forgetting that there is a Creator who formed us this way and His Spirit inside us guiding us from glory to glory. For many years, I was active in ministry, leadership and service in the church. The more I served the farther behind the door of the church office I would tread. First, just nineteen years old filled with naivety that everyone in Christ was a new creation. I thought that working in ministry would be different than employment in the world. I found it to be filled with people. No different from me and you, yet my immature expectation led to total devastation and a walk in the wilderness for more than a decade. When I ventured back to Jesus, I immediately felt that call rise up inside of me again and again I stepped out into service for my Savior. I encountered the same thing but this time with some experience and maturity under my belt somehow managed to survive it for a bit longer. Until I was hurt and took offense again, closing the door on this avenue of life I decided this really wasn’t for me and sat down. The only outlet of service in my life this blog. I thought it would be a safe place to grow in the Lord and pursue Him without being concerned with other people. My sanctuary became my prison without my even knowing it.

My burden and heart cry these days are for the souls of all God’s People. People are not the problem they create the realm of possibility to see God’s Glory poured out in our midst. The problem is often me. Pride is a dream crusher and faith killer in the Kingdom of God. It destroys churches and devastates people all in the name of service. When our son became sick, I felt as though I was in exile for years. I could not “do” anything I had done in the past. My job was left to others except for what I could accomplish long distance or when I was able to return for intermittent periods. My family had to take care of itself while I cared for our sick son. I felt guilty even though I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be that I could not “do” all the things I was “called” to do. Even in the hospital, there was only so much that I could “do” so I did those things but most days were filled with sitting helplessly and waiting on the Lord. Something happened during that time that has forever changed me. I hope in sharing this it will allow godly perspective to come and revelation to be released to those who are crying out for more of God and for revival to come will escape the devastating brokenness that was necessary to free me from vainglory.

Vainglory. It is a word that smacks of pride and causes immediate offense in our heart…at least in mine. Yet the word rose up in my spirit, kept circling in my mind, and finally I had to see what it was all about because clearly the Lord would not free me from it until I listened. Vainglory is just as bad as it sounds. It is excessive elation or pride over one’s own achievements or abilities. It is manifested innocently in God’s People as they begin to live the life that God created for them with power, authority and dominion over the earth that sometimes crosses a dangerous line. The perception that we can do or are called to do anything other than discipleship of God’s People extending mercy and compassion in all areas of life and ministry without regard for circumstances or situations. The mentality that “if I don’t do it no one else will” limits the Power of God in our life because it cuts Him off at the pass. I asked the Lord to show me if I am seeking vainglory and immediately some instances rose up in my mind. Things that made me angry with people. Times when my pride felt abused. I realized in that moment though I so much was broken off my life that there is always more to go. See I left my job when the Lord impressed upon me that it was taking more than it should. The school is doing just fine without me. I have softened in my need for perfection to make sure love is first and foremost. Excellence is not perfect. Our best will never result in excellent perfection unless it all brings Glory to God…never man.

We live in the world. Thanks to Jesus Christ, we are no longer of this world. We must seek to do the Will of God being strict in our mastery of the flesh to crucify things like lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The word “vain” is a harsh one in my assessment. It is always about pride. Each of the definitions point to pride. That is all except one that warns of “without real basis or significance.” I want my faith in God to have real basis or substance. I want the significance in my life to be the Glory of God manifested on the earth. Have we lost our way? Are we seeking the Glory of God which is each soul saved? Or have we somehow lost our way, crossed the line and somehow gotten distracted? Martha people fall dangerously victim to such a mentality. Yet the Mary’s need to learn to take the saturation of their heart mind and soul into the world becoming the Hands and Feet of Jesus. We must work together to see His Glory come back to His People and release revival in His Churches.

Psalm 8:3-5 (NIV)

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels  and crowned them with glory and honor.

As born-again Children of the Living God, we are given supernatural insight and abilities to accomplish God’s Plan for us. It is the gift of Eternity in our heart that starts our search for the Lord and His Fulfillment. When we come to Jesus, we are connected to purpose and given power above and beyond are ability which is naturally assumed. It is because mankind was created a little lower than the angels and crowned with God’s Glory and Honor. This makes it imperative that we apply God’s Word to our life and allow His Spirit to instruct us so that we continue to grow in God’s Grace and be transformed from Glory to Glory rather than using this blessing for personal gain or prideful pleasure.

Exodus 33:17-19 (NIV)

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

When Moses asked the Lord to “show me your glory.” He did not encounter a massive God who would lord over him, frighten him, or even discard him. No, God’s Glory was first marked by mercy and then filled with compassion. In every attitude and action that we desire to experience the Glory of God – it is not based on who we are or what others do or do not do but fully and completely on the mercy and compassion of God for us that should always be first and foremost in us.

Jeremiah 13:15-17 (NIV)

Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to utter darkness and change it to deep gloom. If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive,

Pride has been the rise and fall of many churches. I believe it grieves the Heart of God when His People set out to do His Will and fall victim to vainglory. He desires to bless us. He longs to release His Power. He wants people to be saved, healed and delivered to live in His Glory and the Light of His Love. However, somehow we miss it. Over and over again, there is no revival. Churches split. People get hurt and are driven to darkness by offense and hurt. If we are looking into the Eyes of Jesus, we will see people in their reflection. If we seek His Heart, a burden for people – all people – will come pouring out. If we want to do His Work, our hands and feet will carry the message of God’s Love to all mankind working to create a bond with all people to build His Kingdom that will last forever. If we just set out to unite with one heart and one mind again I believe there would be a radical shift in the Kingdom. If we do not love our own, how in the world will we love the world? Compassion and mercy must be the mandate of our life to see the Glory of God.

Proverbs 13:10 says, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” If there is strife among us then there is pride in us. If this word offends you, there is probably pride with in you. Otherwise, it is a revelation that breaks our heart, shatters our conscience allowing our mind to be renewed. When pride brings us low, God has the opportunity to lift us to the next level in Him. Think about Isaiah. In the Presence of God and all of His Holiness, he realizes that he is unclean. Crying out to the Lord in repentance at the revelation, how does God respond? Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Psalm 29:1-2;10-11 (NIV)

(Vs.1-2) Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

(Vs. 10-11) The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

This word is for you today. It is definitely for me. Pride will kill the next great move of God if we don’t kill it right now. God moves through His People. We are the next great move of God. We have everything we need to see revival come alive in us, our families and places of worship. Where there is strife there is pride, welcome to most churches. Some but not all. When we give God ALL the GLORY and live in His Glory which is marked by mercy and compassion for the people more than any production, the Lord blesses us with peace and unity. This is God’s Greatest Desire. It is totally up to each of us. Harmony among His People will release an unstoppable overflow of anointing in our midst that will see people saved, healed and delivered. Our life is wasted unless used to fulfill Christ’s Mandate on our life which is to disciple His People. We cannot teach them love characterized by selfless humility if we still hang on to any pride at all. I can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ. To do it in my strength and ability will not produce God’s Glory or the miraculous change that we long for. In fact it is what’s killing the church and dissecting the Body of Christ today. When what we do becomes more important than preserving and prospering our relationship with others sharing the Love of Jesus no matter what they do, how they act or who they are – pride is a problem. It means that grace is not sufficient enough for them which  makes it less than enough for me.

As I look back at my attitude and actions over the years, I find them less than stellar. I have acted prideful without even knowing it and I am ashamed. It is difficult to remember sometimes that my life is completely attributed to the Glory of God in me and not what I am able to do since He came and found me.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30) God does not need us. Friend, He desires us. This is His Mandate for our life. Justice and mercy are partners that can never be ripped apart yet maintain His Presence in our life. To think that there are things you have to do or it won’t get done is pride not faith. Fear cannot lead us to repentance, righteousness, renewal or restoration. Our life is worth nothing apart from Jesus. Jesus did everything in love. If what you are doing is not producing more love in you and for those around you, time to self-examine our own attitude and actions. God knows your intentions where never to become prideful. He knows that you thought you were doing your best to serve Him with excellence.

 

For the first time in a very long time, I have stepped out in church leadership again. Big step from captivity that had become my comfort zone. I tried to do it like I have done it before take charge and do what the Lord has called me to do. Something has happened to me over the last few years, it makes uncomfortable. I see people again. I didn’t always operate that way thinking my eyes were firmly fixed on Jesus as well as my heart and hands, I set my motivation to get whatever it was accomplished. What I found was that I stepped on and over a lot of people because I pursued God and His Interests personally and pridefully rather than passionately in His Love. Nothing I do for the Lord of worth will cause strife and separation among God’s People. Hurt and offense cannot be overlooked or ignored. It’s not their problem. It’s my problem. To walk humbly with my God is my greatest desire. He never passes by the lost or hurting. Am I?

Psalm 63:1-3 (NIV)

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I was reading a blog by Rory Feek whose wife, Joey, recently went to be with the Lord after battling cancer. They have a child together who was very dependent and attached to her mama. When Joey knew that her time on earth was ending, she had two choices. She could cling to her daughter every second of the day so that she would remember her mama when she was gone or she could begin to teach her little girl to depend on her daddy. She chose to become less in her baby’s life so that her father would become more. She lived John 3:30. She selflessly gave up those last few months and moments with her daughter to keep her from sadness and grief in her passing and have a strong relationship with her father so that she would be successful after Joey was gone. I don’t know if I could be that strong. To give up my final moments of mothering to allow my children to be successful after I was gone, I want to be like that though.

After I read that, I felt the Lord flood me with Light. I must decrease so that He will increase. People need to know they can count on God’s Love not me. To be a good leader is to always point to God’s Love, His Power and His Glory even if it is at the price of self. Selfless service to the Lord is not “doing” everything. It is not an appearance. It is one simple act. Loving others more than our self even our enemies. It means laying our life down again and again. Pride has no place in the Glory of God only His Unfailing and Neverending Love. To live this life and please the Lord, I lay me down today all over again. Lord, keep my eyes fixed on Jesus so that every person reflected in His Eyes become burdens on my soul. The sign of a great leader is the success of their people after they are gone. Would they make it without you? Could they get along with just God?

Isaiah 42:6-9 (NIV)

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

When I could not shake the idea of vainglory, I grabbed my journal and decided to find it in the Word of God. What was the Lord speaking to my heart? Where had I gone wrong? I wanted to right my way. It took some digging but I found it in the King James Version in Philippians 2. “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” My prayer time lately has been with the idea that God is grieving for His People – the Body of Christ. I have prayed earnestly that they might be restored and find God’s Love, Mercy and Compassion again. Silly me. He is grieving for me and every other person who attends, serves and leads church but are dysfunctional members of His Body. Consumed by pride in pursuit of vainglory – we lash out at others but cry out pleading for revival. Who is God after? Everyone. He rejoices over one lost sheep that is returned. We will not reach the world with Jesus or experience revival until we settle things within ourselves and return the House of God to be filled with His Glory. Philippians 2 is unity among God’s People for which we must strive. One heart – one mind in Jesus Christ. Lord, show us how to get there from here. When we think God cannot do it without us. It is pride. When we sit down and refuse to do anything. It is pride. Anytime I become greater than those around me, it is pride or vainglory. I am devastated that I might be the reason God’s Glory is not thickly around us saturating the community and changing the atmosphere drawing people closer. My life, attitude and action should make others want the God I serve. If my attitude or actions are barring the door of salvation, repentance, healing or deliverance – Jesus move me. Make me conscious of every soul I come in contact with each day in every place. Jesus reveal to me any area dominated by pride or vainglory. I want to crucify that flesh and circumcise my heart to you again. Lord, let them only see Jesus.

Psalm 115:1 (NIV)

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

 

Living Stones

Living Stones

Psalm 26:8 (NIV) Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.

 

Today is Sunday. Our family attends weekly worship services. We will worship today just like any other time but today will be different. Rather than donning regular “church” attire, it will be old work clothes and tennis shoes. Gathering in our newly acquired sanctuary, many will continue the work begun just yesterday but in their hearts and minds years ago. Our church building has selected a new location, larger facility, bigger parking lot with room to grow and expand. The property had become neglected as foreclosure grew eminent but now it is coming back to life.

 

Pulling up yesterday, my heart was overwhelmed. I do not recall the last fellowship that I have been a part of with so many people who were willing to give up their Saturday to move, clean, demolish, build and paint. The muscles of my body ache but I am excited to return to God’s House today though I know the long list of tasks yet to be accomplished. I love the House of the Love. I love the Place where His Glory Dwells. It is the part of me that must be a part of this body of believers.

 

This will not be a long discourse on the need for others to engage in rebuilding the House of God but rather the invitation to an opportunity to become part of something more than ourselves. Our family is blessed to have a house that we have lived in more than a decade. We have grown here, prayed here, endured here, played and celebrated in this house. It became our home. The Peace of God lives here because it is in the heart of the occupants. When returning from a trip, when I open the door and can “smell” home. As I sink into the loveseat, I love the familiar comfort. At the end of each day, I can settle into my bed and the smell of fresh sheets makes me sigh. We love home. When we are away, it is that thing that calls us back. I have also come to realize that God’s Glory dwells in this building. It is not the structure of the house that makes it home to the Holy Spirit but the living stones inside that emanate His Presence.

 

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

 

It is important to examine the foundation of our life. We are members of a community much greater than ourselves and immediate family. Have we lost touch with the others? Absolutely. Churches are not factions although characteristically they have become just that. A faction is a small organized group within a larger one usually in a state of conflict. Welcome to the modern day church. We do not serve, fellowship or worship together. Yet, throughout the Word of God is clear it blesses the Lord for us to live in unity, serve and fellowship together. Is it time to remodel the church to look like the Body of Christ? Is it time rebuild the breaches between congregations to strengthen our influence and make our light burn brighter. Unity gets people’s attention and harmony attracts them.

 

What if all churches big and small set out to be “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit? What if we all worked together rather than tearing each other apart? What if we could be confident in our relationship to Christ trusting Him to care and provide for us as we shared life with others? I have no doubt that if we placed Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone of our life and committed our life to be living stones, it would fall into place completely. People would be saved, healed, delivered and set free in our midst.

 

We are His House. (Hebrews 3:6) Have we allowed His Holy Spirit to make Himself at home? It is important that our life is home to the Living Breathing Spirit of God. Our family has been house hunting. We have visited many homes. Looked at countless properties that are for sale. We found a house that we love. We can see our life filling it. It will one day be our home. We love home! If we could only see that our life is part of something larger and commit to becoming part of it, we would see a shift and change in the Body of Christ for the better.

 

I Peter 2:4-5 (NIV)

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

 

We have the opportunity to become part of a holy and royal priesthood called and ordained by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. A stone all by itself is insignificant and small until it become part of something greater. It cannot be given and taken away but committed to the building it is connected to lest the building become unstable. Do you have a church home today? Are you part of a body of believers? Are you haphazard or fully engaged? It is important that we become connected to the Body of Christ. We all have a place but it is not always the same place. Just like Jesus, we have been chosen by God to be an important part of His Kingdom. Are you willing to take your place? If so, be prepared. It will require obedience to step into our rightful place. One must make a commitment to the structure at sacrifice of self.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:1 (NIV)

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.

 

My family was part of a congregation for about four years. We loved the pastors and people of the church but never became fully engaged. After much thought and painstaking prayer, it was time to go. When we visited the congregation which we are members of today, it was clearly evident that this was the place the Lord had led us. Our gifts and talents had a place, our children were growing, and every weight and burden I had been carrying was released and I experienced immediate relief. We fit here. God has made a place for us here to live in His Glory. Is the other church bad? No. Should everyone leave because we did? No. We must understand our place in the Body of Christ. When we are in the right place, His Peace and Glory will expand thanks to the Holy Spirit as God confirms our steps.

 

Guard your steps when you go to the House of God today. Consider your commitment. Examine your heart. Step out in service. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in the areas that are keeping you from full engagement in the Body of Christ for His Service. Sacrifice is needed to become connected. Obedience is a requirement. His Spirit lives in us and empowers us to be a part of something more. In this passage, it is referring to the vows we make before the Lord. Do not utter anything before God that you are not committing to fulfillment. We must give our all to be a living stone in the Kingdom of God. To walk into a church today without considering the cost of carrying ones Cross or intent on becoming part of the Body of Christ makes it a waste of time. Grace is not an excuse to continue to rebel against God’s Way but to align our heart and mind with Jesus Christ to be complete (within His Body) lacking nothing.

 

I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

 

My body is tired today. I am not as young as I used to be. Hours of bending, stretching and carrying made me sore and tired. However, that is just in my physical body. My body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus bought me with a price…you too! I must honor God with my body. This is much more than not participating in adultery or fornication or any other physical sin. It means to sacrifice our mouth, ears, hands and feet to the service of Jesus Christ who gave me back my life. It is to keep the Temple of my body clean so the Holy Spirit can dwell in me.

 

My life is now in total disagreement with sin. I must learn to live that way through constant repentance allowing grace to be the grease that turns me in repentance. 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 reminds me that the Holy Spirit lives in me and I am to separate myself from the world and its darkness. In doing so, I am to become separate and consecrated to the Lord. How do I do that? I get connected to the Cornerstone called Christ and become a Living Stone in His Temple. My life is not useless. I can do more than I think. I must make the commitment today to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

 

Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV)

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.

 

God called believers not to live separate lives but to serve the Body of Christ together. We are many members forming one body in unity. (Romans 12:3-5) The only thing to remain separate from is sin and darkness. As believers, we must become engrafted in Jesus Christ because apart from the Lord we can do nothing. I want to flourish in the House of God, don’t you? We have the opportunity to do so by trusting His Unfailing Love and moving our expectation from people to the Living God. When we pursue unity and harmony with the Body of Christ, we are a living stone. One that the Lord can use to build His Kingdom rather than one who is constantly forming a breach.

 

Today as you may be preparing to attend a worship service, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the place that you connect to the Body of Christ. I will soon go don my best work apparel and head back out to the House of God under construction. I am praying and believing that the Lord will light a fire of unity in the many churches today so that all can reconnect without suspicion or hidden agendas to be part of something more. The early church understood the power of unity and thousands were added to the Kingdom from just a handful of faithful people. Let that be me and my church day. Place our Living Stones effectively into your Grand Design.

 

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Psalm 84:10-11 (NIV)

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.