Gathering the Crumbs

Gathering the Crumbs

Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV) O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Is brokenness a requirement of God? Yes, it is. It sounds contrary to a God described as love. The One who is always good. The Lord whose character is defined by faithfulness. It is hard to understand these verses that reach further into His Way to remind us that it is with a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart that God is delighted in us. It almost sounds cruel and heartless on His Part. There is an indescribable beauty in brokenness that cannot be seen from the outside but must be experienced inside of the human heart. I wonder today if in His Word – there is a way to extract praise from the shattered pieces of our broken hearts.

Jesus is the “stone that the builders rejected” who “has become the cornerstone” of the Kingdom of God. He is the foundation on which the church now constructed of people is being built. However, the Word of God also calls Jesus “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” Jesus is also described as “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” His Unchanging Character and Divine Nature is always good and given to holiness but those who came to save, heal and deliver are not. It is a daily choice if faith and hope will be the substance of our life joining with Jesus or will it mean stumbling in rebellion and refusal to submit to His Love. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that through Him people might be saved. We receive God’s Love, Grace and Mercy in our broken heart that no longer desires control but gives control of their life and destiny into the Hands of the Savior.

It would be safe to say that most of us have sought after the Hand of God more than the Heart of God though few are willing to admit it. We want the Kingdom of God but not the change in character necessary to live there. God understand our selfish nature and is not at all offended by this innate character flaw. He completely understands it. Yet still in His Perfect and Loving Way – He chooses to continually offer us more. I have been trying to make sense of the many pieces of my life lately. However, it situation and circumstance significant in and of itself comprises overwhelming conditions that have caused me to stop and collect my thoughts. Why is life so hard sometimes? Why is the chosen path of holiness so darn difficult? Why must there be desperate circumstances and devastating situations in life? I will never know the “whys” and “what fors” of all the details of my life but the Lord has promised to make good of every one of them. (Romans 8:28)

Matthew 15:22-28 (ESV) And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” Who doesn’t want to hear these words of Jesus in their life? I want to be found faithful in the end when it matters the most. Yet what if finding our faith requires complete and utter devastation? Are we willing to continue to believe when life becomes impossible? The Canaanite woman had no claim to the Messiah. She was not of Jewish decent and therefore a lost cause to the House of Israel. Jesus came as the Messiah. To save God’s People who at this point wanted no part of Him. She came to Jesus desperate for her child. What mother wouldn’t do anything to see her baby delivered or healed? She cried out to the Lord in the midst of many onlookers that day. Jesus would make a lesson of the woman’s plight that day and give her a forever place in His Word. It would come at a great price she was absolutely willing to pay. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s Table.” Humility. This woman would do anything to see the Power of God move in her life. Would you?

Humility is the greatest stumbling block that people and the Body of Christ face even today. When was the last time every single person in your church came to the altar unsolicited by the coercing of the pastor but so in love and in need of Jesus that they stopped worrying about what everyone else thought and fully gave their heart, mind and pride to the Lord? It didn’t happen at my place of worship last Sunday either. It is a common plague of pride that is delaying the arrival of the next great revival. People want God’s Hand but have no interest in His Heart. To become humble one must be broken. It is to give up pride and arrogance to live a modest life. To lower our opinion of self in order to exalt the Name of Jesus in our life. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom but our freedom comes when giving up our independence to become completely dependent on Jesus Christ. It is to live in meekness which many consider weakness. To love, forgive and avoid all offense even when you have done nothing wrong but knowing your relationship with God must be defined by His Character being developed and personified in each one of us. Even the disciples struggled with the concept of humility as Children of Israel, when Jesus told them how difficult it would be to enter Heaven – Peter reminded the Lord that he and the others had given up everything to follow Him.

Mark 8:14-21(ESV) Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

I am so thankful that Jesus is patient, loving and kind. How many times will it take for us to understand? Twice the disciples witnessed a miracle. Feeding tremendous crowds with a few loaves of bread and then retrieving basketfuls of pieces or for this lesson sake, crumbs. Well, they forget to bring bread…again. They had only one loaf in the boat. Jesus warned them saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Leaven represents pride in this passage. Leaven is what elevates and gives rise to the dough. Yeast is a form of leaven. Pride requires us to keep our present form and hold ourselves together. But to fully experience a miracle – humility is required. Brokenness is godly humility that allows Jesus to take our life and make it into the beautiful masterpiece that He promised. It cannot happen in our present form. We must live humbled and broken before the Lord to have all that He has promised and so much more.

Psalm 34:17-19 (ESV) When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Are you brokenhearted today? Is your spirit crushed? What if the Lord is the one pressing, pushing, molding and shaping your life into His Purpose? Would it be worth it? Of course it would even though you are not so sure in your present condition. The undoing of what we are to become a new creation is never a comfortable process. Change is good but no one likes it. Troubles in life cause us to reevaluate our existence time and time again. It is the opportunity to reprioritize our life. God has promised that we will be victorious in His Son, Jesus who is our Champion. Well, we must get on the winning team for that to happen which means moving or transition our life from here to Heaven. We must live for forever today. We must walk by faith and not by sight. We must live in humility and not pride. When we are brokenhearted it is because our expectation is not met and disappointment shatters our perception. However, when we are broken it is the Lord’s Opportunity to perform a miracle and release His Power in our weakness. God is not as interested in our comfort as much as our confirmation. He will do whatever it takes to make sure that our destination is to be with Him forever.

Psalm 147:3-6 (ESV) He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.

The fact that you are reading these words today means that there is still hope for God’s Plan to become your fulfillment. I have spent the last six years trying to take all the shattered pieces of my life and put them back into something normal that I am comfortable with. Today I am challenged to see the pieces as crumbs rather than hard, sharp pieces of glass meant to cut me. The brokenness that the trials and troubles have produces are leading to the abundance and fulfillment of God. I no longer can depend on me. I am not a trustworthy source. I am weak and powerless to control the details of my life much less make them anything good. When I praise and worship, lift my hands and shout His Name in church – it is not because I want anything from His Hand. He has given me so much even in the midst of pressures and problems. I need Him to continue to heal my heart. To make it beat with His Heart because it no longer can hold its own.

Jesus will heal our broken heart but He needs all the pieces. After each miracle, the disciples gathered more baskets of crumbs than the loaves they began with. You were created with a plan and purpose that will prosper your life. It is in you. God wrote it out before you were born. He set it into motion from the beginning. Jesus died to ensure that you could be that person who can live with Him forever. It is all in you. It comes out through brokenness and humility before the Lord. He will life us up, when we live a humble life. Great is our Lord! Abundant is His Power! He is mighty to save, heal and deliver us. To move us from glory to glory and victory to victory. The disciples experienced miracles through the brokenness of bread. The Canaanite woman would forever be remembered as the one who would eat the crumbs from the Master’s Table. Will you allow the Lord to exalt you through humility? Will you be broken to be remade in Christ? The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Is this our desire? What will be our sacrifice? A broken spirit and broken and contrite heart summons the Presence of God into our life. He will heal your broken heart and prosper us from this place of humble brokenness. Gather those crumbs today. Cast your cares before the Lord. Let Him take you from brokenness to blessing. Bow before Him in humility and He will life you up!

James 4:10 (ESV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

It’s Only Temporary

It's Only Temporary

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT) That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

In life, change is inevitable. Everything is in a state of evolution. Evolution is the process of formation, growth and development. Consider technology, for example, and its many advancements in the last decade. Everything is “smart” now…or so it claims. Without growth, there is only death. Nothing stays the same over the course of time. Life is temporary. Things that are temporary last, exist, serve and are effective for a certain amount of time only. They are not permanent but again subject to change. Oh, how I wish I could remember this on a daily basis. Especially on those days when outcomes appear terminal. Terminal is forming the end. My life is eternal but most of the time – I live for the day.

Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. God has ordained every activity under the sun with a time and season. (Ecclesiastes 3) His Promise is that everything is beautiful in His Timing even those things that seem brutal now will be transformed. Planting seems like sacrifice until the harvest. If only as believers, we could see that the space of time between our prayers and outcomes is temporary and not terminal. If only we could discern the lie of the enemy from God’s Truth about our life. It is important to never make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances but it happens every day.

Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. God is moving on the inside which produces pressure to change. We are being transformed which means what we are today will give way to who He called us to be if we do not give up on the process. Called to walk by faith and not by sight, there must be a new perspective so that in the temporal passages of time – our thoughts are transformed by heavenly possibilities.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT) So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Romans 12:2 (NLT) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The beginning of our transformation process in Jesus Christ is faith. The renewing of our mind gives way to the new person as faith becomes the logical choice. Faith is only logical when supported by the Word of God and motivated by His Spirit. The Lord is making us into His Image as His Children. He is molding and shaping our life into a vessel that can hold the abundance that God has planned as our future and hope that becomes a rich and satisfying life. Our present condition cannot hold the Glory of God in store for us. Like an old wine skin, it is completely undone under the pressure of new wine. Our form must give way to His Process so that our faith becomes our foundation when everything changes and nothing remains the same. Hope is the anchor for our soul when God begins to move us from this place to new horizons without boundaries or limits. You are being transformed by God, therefore today is only a temporary condition.

Colossians 2:6-9 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

Psalm 52:8 (NLT) But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.

Transplant means to move from one place and plant in another. Before meeting Jesus Christ and inviting Him to be Savior and Lord, our life was subject to natural outcomes and consequences governed by our choices. However, the decision to follow Christ is a process of transplantation. No longer subject to the consequences of sin, grace changes outcomes in our life. God promises to work every detail for our good and to His Glory as His Children. It doesn’t mean that God’s People are exempt from the sowing and reaping of the effects of poor choices or sinful misgivings. It means that by choosing to live in the Presence of God – His Grace overwhelms the power sin once had so that our life becomes fruitful again. Even barren land will give up good fruit when surrendered to the Lord of the Harvest.

God has promised those who seek Him wholeheartedly will have all that He planned before our birth during creation. His Word cannot return to Him void. The soil of a fertile heart is softened by brokenness. It is such a state that transplantation is possible as God begins to sow His Word into us and it grows into every blessing just as He promised. It is not a matter of can the Lord do it but our faithfulness in trusting, leaning and depending on Him makes it inevitable that He will do it. The trouble is most people live in pots rather than planting themselves in the Love of Jesus Christ. Living one way on Sunday and another the rest of the week, souls starve Monday through Saturday. To grow deep roots in God’s Love is to be planted in Christ allowing His Love to grow and overtake us from the inside out. It is to study God’s Word. Practice its principles. Pray it. Purpose to live by it and believe it. This is how faith becomes practical in our life. Tired of striving? Ready to thrive again? This place is only temporary. God’s Kingdom is forever. Choose carefully where to reside today.

I Peter 1:16-18 (NLT) For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.

Acts 17:28 (NLT) For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

In the old episodes of Star Trek, Captain Kirk would say into his teleporter watch, “Beam me up, Scotty.” Suddenly, his entire body would begin to become blurry until it changed form to be transported to the good ship, Enterprise. On those tough days when life is overwhelming wouldn’t it be nice if we could request the same of the Lord? To see things from His Perspective. To see the end from the beginning. To understand the Will of God enough to fully commit to His Way. The enemy wants us to believe that life is terminal, void of possibility, and subject to natural laws. It’s not. We are being transformed, transplanted and even transported to a new life in Jesus Christ that is always subject to change. The Lord does not change. He does not lie or change His Mind. He does not take back blessing. He doesn’t withdraw callings. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever which means I am the one who must be changed.

When the pressure is constant and pain overwhelming – it is tough to hold on to our faith and confident hope because after all we are only human. If only our heart and mind would agree that today’s situation, circumstance, condition, hardship, trial or even diagnosis is not terminal but temporary. Tomorrow new mercy will meet us and His Word says that joy comes in the morning. If only I can hold that thought for today. God is transforming my life. I am in the midst of constant change, growth, and development. Things are always subject to change in the life of a believer. Life is temporary so we live for the eternal. Lord, help me to remember that today and your promise that you perfect all that concerns me. (Psalm 138:8)

Be encouraged today. God’s not finished with you yet. When I woke up this morning, I knew today is a brand new day. I had a choice to make before my feet hit the floor. The enemy offered me my disappointments and “not yets” of yesterday, but today I decided to try out new mercy and its working quite nicely. To view of life in the natural is to lose all hope. The hope that I have is in the supernatural living God inside of me who is changing me day by day. He teaches me to live from victory to victory. He is preparing me to live from glory to glory. I am changing but He is not. My life is temporary here on the earth but not terminal. I am in the midst of transformation, transplantation and transportation from this place to live in the flourishing Presence of God both now and forevermore. I cannot see it with human eyes so I must live by faith and hold fast to hope. Change is inevitable. Life is temporary. Everything is subject to change. In this I can plant my feet, invest my faith, and hold tight to hope. God is good.

I Peter 2:11 (NLT) Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

3 John 1:2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Just Turnaround

Just Turnaround

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

In a Bible Study, the speaker said, “Cancer is a cell unwilling to change.” I tucked it in the back of my mind for a bit. The recent news of cancer scares, chemotherapy appointments, “pink nightmares” and another diagnosis have me contemplating cancer and change. Our son has scans next month that will determine if the cells in his body remain in check. I believe the bone marrow transplant and Hand of God upon him are doing their job but my heart grieves for all who have awakened in this nightmare, living the bad dream or trying to make sense in the aftermath. The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming. It seems that ever since our son’s journey ended, I have been struggling to decide what a “normal” life looks like or if there is such a thing. Something happened during that time. Something inside me changed forever and now I am learning to live in it. To survive the ordeal of a horrific and traumatic illness threatening the life of one of my children, I had to fully step into Christ. My whole being – body, mind, spirit and every single piece of my crushed heart had to be surrendered to find my next breath.

The perspective of my life has changed. My goals and aspirations are much different. Just like you, I see my future one way and when life takes a turn it causes stress and worry to fill my mind. As the pressures of life began to weigh me down, I started to complain and resist in an outward display. Challenged to find a solution or quit my job, I went to the Lord. You know what He told me? I had to change. God doesn’t see our life and all the problems. He sees my potential. The purpose for which He created me and the plan designed specifically for my life. It is not dependent on the variables around me but it all works together for my good. If I can keep my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith and remain yoked to Him – life and power belong to me. His Grace is always enough. I have to change…no one else and nothing else but me.

John 3:30 (NLT) He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

A quick and simple lessen about cancer from a novice perspective. Cancer is just another cell in the body. The problem is it doesn’t come pre-programmed with the life sustaining power to change. It is rogue. Rogue means no longer obedient, belonging or accepted and hence uncontrollable. It becomes a renegade. If you think about it, cancer never wins. For death is to kill its own source of life. It is suicidal in its mission. For if medicine doesn’t stop it or the Hand of God does not immediately heal it – it kills itself by ending the life of its human source. Cancer is basically a disease of uncontrolled cell division. Cells come with regulators that are overridden in a cancer cell. It does not have the safe limits built in that tell it how to grow and develop normally in the human body. Cancer cells make their own rules and growth factors. They are stuck in the “on” position. They ignore the innate signals from the body designed for healthy growth and development. How many times do I allow my flesh to override the Spirit? The Lord is working in me to make me a new creation and produce new life yet in my impatience and unwillingness to change cause a delay in my development. What if the lack of progress towards fulfillment of my purpose is me?

Repentance is turning back to God. It is not a mandate for change. I can do nothing to make my life better. Repentance leads to salvation which is an act of submission. It is to surrender every “cell” of my body and fiber of my being to the redemptive, restoring, renewing and renovating Power of Christ. To allow Him to improve my standard of living to God’s Glorious and Life-Giving Standard. I can do nothing apart from Christ. But in Christ, I have everything I need to grow, develop and mature my purpose. The only parts of my life that will not be renewed, restored and revived are those unwilling to change. The process of transformation is change. Not a change I can produce, but the One the Lord will if I give every part of my life to Him.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

At one point in our son’s fight against cancer, the doctors discussed his participation in a clinical trial for immunotherapy. Essentially they take some cells from a patient with active cancer and teach the immune system to fight back. We didn’t enter the trial but instead he was approved for a bone marrow transplant which took some of his cells after chemo-blasting as much cancer out of his system as possible and storing them for later use. He entered the hospital and for weeks they killed every cell they could without killing him and then reintroduced the clean cells to take over. They did and our son is alive today despite only having a 2% chance of survival. He is a living, breathing miracle. Though he celebrates victory day by day, there are still challenges in his post-cancer life. A review of systems provides a lengthy list of side effects from the disease and treatment alike. He requires medications and monitoring of certain health conditions. He is still dependent on his medical team which leads me to this point – you will always need Jesus. In fact, the more you grow, the more you will come to know that He is Your Life Source.

Sin will take over in the absence of Christ. Rogue behaviors will surface from our past. Flesh will rise up to overtake us in weakness. Our mind will play tricks on us as the enemy tries to convince us that God is not good, or He has forgotten a single promise. The enemy wants you to believe that the Grace of God is not enough. The truth is friend it is more than enough to make it through each day triumphantly even in the midst of trial or tragedy. We must only be willing to repent (turnaround)to face the Lord and allow Him to live, move and breathe in us. There is no condemnation in Christ. Someone needs to hear that today and understand. God sees sin as cancer. He has the cure. Just turn around and let His Unfailing Love and Goodness overtake you – this is when death becomes life, potential results in purpose, and you will experience Him from glory to glory.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Jesus didn’t come to save the world. He came to save us. You. Me. Everyone. To think that He came to save the world would be like Christ draining the ocean to keep our feet planted on the ground. No. Faith is not needed in such a case. It is when water is all around us and still our heart beckons us to come. Jesus says, “My grace is all you need…today.” No matter what you are facing or how good the day may seem – we all need His Grace and Mercy to continue the transformation process that all believers are undergoing. We much know that His Power works its absolute in our weakness. Why else would the prideful be warned of a fall? It is in that moment when Christ is enough that our life is immediately changed for the better and life released in the midst of such a declaration. This is the Gospel of our life. To let Christ have His Way in every area. It is not a choice attributable to anything that I can say or do but in the choice to let Him have His Way and fill every space and void in my life. Sometimes it is releasing my expectation to fully embrace His Promises which are always more than I can think or ask. Is it possible to take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles – yes it is. The power to change lives within us. Christ is enough. I just have to believe it to receive it. To believe it means that each and every day – I must repent (turnaround) and embrace the Christ in me and the life He is producing.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I made a startling realization this week. Okay, I am not going to lie I come to this every time. When I am stressed, anxious, worried, and overwhelmed – I begin to release the pressure by taking it out on those around me. I find myself complaining and grumbling. I become exhausted and given to tears. Time and time again…I hear the Lord whisper – “Hey, My Grace is still enough for you.” I turnaround and find Him right there where He always was with a Handful of Goodness and Heart full of love that the Lord is ready to lavish on me. I only have to turnaround from doing things my way and holding to my expectations to receive it. Jesus always gives me joy and peace that is indescribable without fail. I want to be a new creation. I want the new life I am promised. I am all too human just the same. When I find my life overwhelming, it is then that I realize I am the one who got turned around. I am the one doing it my way according to my will. The overwhelming feeling inside me is desperation mixed with unmet expectation that reminds me – Christ is all I need and He lives in me.

Stop evaluating your life according to those around you. Your Purpose and Plan are designed specifically and exclusively for you. This is not a competition. God has no favorites. Everyone has the potential and promise to be a Child of the Living God by accepting Jesus Christ. Everyone. You have the opportunity to put your old life of shame, regret, lack and discontentment behind and fully embrace the new life Christ died for you to have including full freedom and soul prosperity that somehow makes its way into our life as increase. What if all you have to do is stop doing it your way and let Christ have His Way? Could it be you are trying too hard rather than depending fully on Jesus? The Lord stands right behind you. He is ready, willing and able to change your life beginning with you. Will you just turnaround?

Psalm 23 (NLT) The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Art of Adaptation

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Romans 12:1-2 (AMP) Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

Survival is largely based on one’s ability to adapt to their environmental conditions. It is an outward emulation of the strength within them. Humanity is excellent in their efforts to survive. The sheer number in existence today around the world in a variety of atmospheric areas shows that people are strong. For example, there are essentially four seasons in each calendar year. With each weather change, we will either layer clothes or shed a few. Turn on the air conditioning or maintain a source of heat. We change with the weather. Change comes in two forms – conformity or transformation. There is a definite difference to be considered to adapt to the conditions, circumstances and conditions of life. Challenged each day by change – many will survive by means of conformation, but some will dare to thrive in transformation. I want to be transformed.

What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? It means to submit our life to God’s Process called transformation. To be changed from the inside out by the Hand of God until our Heart beats with God as His Children. It doesn’t mean that I must change but rather that through the everyday opportunities presented in life that I allow God to change me rather than trying to change to be like everyone else. The Will of God for our life is daily transformation. I know – that means change and no one really likes change even though it is our boast. When Jesus was transformed – His Face literally shined in. His Person radiated the Glory of God right before the eyes of the bewildered witnesses. What if that is God’s Plan for you? What if His Desire is to use your process to transform you into a real and true visible light of His Love for His Glory? To set you apart from the others and make your life a beacon to those who live in darkness by illuminating you from the inside out. Will you accept His Offer to change you? To renew your life and redeem you fully until you reflect the Light of His Love. It means becoming a living sacrifice as conformity is exchanged for transformation. You will never be the same. Things will change. Are you okay with that?

Romans 12:1-2 (MSG) So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

The Message translation of Romans 12:1-2 makes it clear. God wants to help us transform our life from natural to supernatural including our “every day, ordinary life” our “sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life” not just our church life but all of it. The Lord wants it all – the whole enchilada – to make it into the masterpiece that He created you to become once sin was removed from you. “Embracing what God does for you (and in you) is the best thing you can do for Him.” To accept our belief in Jesus Christ means to know that He is Savior and Lord. But to accept Him fully – one must embrace Jesus as Savior and Lord allowing Him into the inner circle of our being – the hula-hoop reserved for those who are permitted to live in the intimacy of self close enough to connect heart-to-heart. In life, it is easier to embrace people because they are tangible. We can encounter them with all five senses making them logical and approachable, but what about Jesus. He lives inside of us. When I asked Jesus to come live inside my life, it is like a guest in my home. They come and stay in the “guest room” use the “guest bathroom” but my husband shares my bedroom and bathroom. He inhabits the place where I live. The privacy of my space that others do not necessarily feel welcome to enter uninvited. Is Jesus staying in your guest room today? He is present but aloof. Is His Presence welcomed in every area of our life or do we relegate Him to the outer court of our existence? We can conform even to Christianity. We become transformed when Jesus moves from the outside of our innermost being to every single area of our ordinary life.

It is human nature to conform to our community. To change according to the culture. Who doesn’t want to fit in? I guess I no longer do. I have never really fit in or at least felt that way. As a child, our family moved many, many times. I attended eleven elementary schools, one middle school and three high schools.  Always being the new kid, I learned to adapt quickly to my environment as a means to blend in quickly. I didn’t want to be the outsider or new kid on the block all the time. The worst was when changing schools mid-year. When friends had already been chosen, seats assigned, and the classes scheduled. To be “worked” in is a stressful situation. I learned to conform in the midst of change that when the Lord invited me to be transformed – I was a bit confused. Conformation and transformation are different. One is adaption and the other is the sacrificial offering of one’s life to be changed, renewed, restored and redeemed. One allows us to maintain self while the other requires all of it.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (AMP) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

The Lord invites you and me today to stop trying to be like everyone else and give our life to Him. Our ordinary life. Our mundane existence. Our well-maintained and meticulously scheduled day. Our chaotic mess. Every part of our life no matter how great, not-so-great or just plain terrible it is. He wants to give us the freedom to be transformed releasing us from conformity to the culture in which we live. Jesus offers to transform us form death to life, bondage to freedom and give us favor produced by His Glory. Transformation is the progressive process by which prosperity occurs. As our soul prospers, so do we. Seeds of life begin to turn into fields of blessing and an abundance of satisfaction is harvested in the peaceful plains governed by His Grace, Mercy and, of course, Unconditional and Amazing Love. God doesn’t give us the life we deserve. He gives us the life that He planned for us. The Plan promised comes with a future and hope as we are changed into His Image – Glory to Glory – by His Grace alone. It is all is enacted, enabled and embellished by God through us when we decide to stop conforming and allow His Spirit to fully transform us from natural to supernatural and ordinary to extraordinary.

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)  For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

The sculptor takes a hammer and chisel to solid stone and an image emerges, He sands and smooths the rough surface until it becomes a work of art. What once was worthy of a quarry filled with other slabs now is valuable. A canvas and paint are art supplies. The artist takes a brush and portrays the beautiful image in their thoughts and mind to create a masterpiece. It will look nothing like the final work in its many stages. It may require many layers of paint to blend it into the final work. Onlookers may wonder what in the world it will become but the creator knows exactly what it will be when it is finished. The potter takes clay to the wheel. He shapes, softens and forms it into something useful. Putting it in the kiln, the fire blasts away any impurities and strengthens it solidifying the new creation into its new and improved state. The colors once dull and lifeless radiate all the hidden color. It is now a beautiful and useful piece of pottery because it went through the process of transformation to become a masterpiece. Think of all the priceless artwork around the world. God calls us His Masterpiece and products of His Workmanship. When I allow the God in me to transform me into who and what He created and designed me to be – my life by faith will become the Light that He promised. It will radiate His Glory and reflect His Goodness. I must allow the Lord to change me from the inside out by welcoming Him into every part and place of this existence called life. It is by this process that His Glory fills me and spills over into this ordinary life that I live. It will become glorious. I will be changed to reflect the limitless and overwhelming God I serve so that others will experience Him too. I will be changed. I will be different. I will never be the same. That’s okay with me…Jesus I invite you today to transform me and crush the conformity that I have embraced in my life. I want you! All of You! Jesus you are welcome so please come right in!

Philippians 3:20-21 (MSG) But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

Dynamis

Dynamis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Dangerous Habits

dangerous-habits

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. (Aristotle) Successful people are those with successful habits. (Brian Tracy) We often look to those who have achieved success that is coveted to decipher their lifestyle and habits to glean the tips and tricks needed to have the same effect in our life. What are their habits? The things they repeatedly do. Here are some examples that I discovered: Get up early (Robert Iger – Disney CEO), Have a plan (Benjamin Franklin), Stay active (Anna Wintour – Vogue Editor), Prioritize what’s important – Steve Jobs, Make time for hobbies (Warren Buffet), Practice stillness (Oprah Winfrey), Take time to reflect (Bill Gates), Give back (Richard Branson – Billionaire), and Keep up momentum (Jay Z – Rapper/Music Producer. These people are considered highly successful individuals whose wisdom is coveted by those who wish to achieve the same things in life. There is truth in their statements that can be applied to our life and effect positive change.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine. (John C. Maxwell) There is a myth that habits are formed in just 21 days of repeating the same behavior. This is now proven to be a myth. There is a new belief that there are actually three phases to habit formation. The first is the Honeymoon Phase – This is characterized by the feeling that this change will be a piece of cake. The “this is easy” feeling much like in marriage. The first week or two of elation ends when two people begin to actually do life together. The next phase is termed appropriately the Fight Thru Phase. It is when inspiration turns into brutal reality. A person must find the means and motivation to “fight thru” positive habit completion. The final phase is called the Second Nature when balance is achieved and the habit finds its place in our routine becoming engraved in our brain. All of this is not a bad thing, but I have decided that though good habits make for success in life that they can be dangerous to one’s spiritual success.

A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. As I prepared a cup of hot tea this morning, I forgot to put the microwave cover back in its place. I stopped and put it back. It caught my attention. When I was a young person, I was messy. My children all but one have followed suit. Yet now, I make my bed every morning. Put things away after I use them in the proper place. I get up early each morning. I used to love to sleep until noon. There are mornings as I make the commute to work in thought or prayer that I lose track of the journey. Segments of time that I am no longer conscious of the road, lights or other drivers. These are all things that I no longer think about but just do. Some may call these good habits, I tend to agree as they suit me just fine. The part that concerns me is the word “involuntary”. Involuntary means independent of one’s will. It is not by choice. Unintentional. Unconscious. What if my pursuit of Jesus Christ has become a habit and I am no longer aware of it? What if the things I do for the Lord are no longer faith based but just something I do lacking passion and desire? Am I a creature of habit or becoming a new creation? I must examine my heart to be certain that my life is marked by intentional Christianity and not involuntary actions. If you make positive changes, you will most certainly reap what you sow. However, I am not after earthly reform but holy transformation.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

It is comfortable to order our life according to certain behaviors and schedules that offer a level of control. Is the control over my life self-control produced by my ability to change or the Holy Spirit within me? We pattern our lives in accordance with the goals perceived as good and beneficial. At some point, most successful people will achieve some form of balance. This is not all bad, but it can cause our relationship with the Lord to become stagnant. If I judge my life according to the world’s standard, it may appear to be a good life with a fair amount of success. I have had my share of failures. Success is not defined by those who don’t fail but those who do not give up. When I experienced a failure in life, it quickly became a lesson for survival. I am not called and created to survive in this life but to thrive well beyond the 70 or so years that I am given.

With this in mind, if I become comfortable with my life serving God I am susceptible to complacency. Religiosity gives a false send of security to the believer based on good behavior and time well spent serving God that produces certain blessings. I am blessed. Is it enough for me? No, I have a deep desire and burning passion to be transformed. What if transformation doesn’t look like success to the world? It doesn’t my friend. Success in the Kingdom is selflessness that gives way to complete unity with Jesus Christ. I cannot gauge my spiritual success by a worldly standard. I must not become a habitual Christian but strive to be an intentional one.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” (Charles R. Swindoll) While this is applied in both the natural and spiritual realm equally, I believe that this powerful statement holds the secret to our success as a believer. If we could focus 10% on life and become 90% fixed on responding appropriately by using God’s Word, His Wisdom and Christ’s Example to transform our heart and soul – we would be a successful, healthy and functioning Body of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3:16-20 (NLT) But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Has my spiritual life become a habit? Am I serving God involuntarily? Am I lukewarm? Am I intentional anymore? Am I willing to be honest with myself? Our life in the Lord is like an onion as each season peels back another layer producing a new aroma and often many tears. What if I get used to the smell and do not give way to those tears anymore. Becoming comfortable with the process of transformation thereby giving way to complacency. How will I know? Will it be too late when my lack of newness becomes evident in the Presence of my Savior? My attitude and actions can be changed by my ability to change certain habits in my life. But if I don’t allow the Lord to expose every weakness and every insufficiency to effectively apply more of His Grace until I am a new creation – my life will be a complete failure. The Lord is offering to strip us of indifference before it’s too late. He wants to heat things up so our life is palatable again. I must be willing. It must be my choice. I must be intentional. It is my conscious decision to be successfully transformed no matter what it takes.

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be…is what you do.” (Bill Phillips, Author and Entrepreneur) Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. We are free to choose the life we life. The Lord will not force us into a relationship with Him or this would be void of love but enslavement. He is offering us the opportunity of unity which means I must leave “me” behind and become one with Him. All of me for all of Him. I am free to choose the type of relationship that I have with God. Each day holds 24 hours of opportunity. I am the master of my time. How I spend it? How I waste it? What I do with it? What I get out of it? My mind, body and soul can be invested as I choose to do so. However, if my heartfelt desire is Jesus Christ. It is not a habitual change that will create success in my pursuit but rather intentional surrender and submission of my life to the process of transformation called faith. I must give up my rights to claim righteousness. I must admit I am weak to secure His Strength. Hope must be the anchor for my soul not schedule or routine. I must go where Jesus goes. Do exactly what He says. Come when He calls to me. Not because I have to but simply because He is my greatest desire.

Lord, forgive me today for the lukewarm places in my life. I repent for every action that has become habit and routine lacking passion and burning desire for You, Jesus.  I want to move deeper into Your Presence. I desire You above all things. Show me the areas of indifference in my life so I may surrender them all to You, Lord. Show me the involuntary actions of compromised complacency. I rebuke religious habits and give these also to You! My greatest accomplishment will be acceptance into Your Kingdom forever. Lord, make my life so. I ask you to makeover my heart and renew a right spirit within me, Jesus. All I want is You, Lord and my full intention is to have more of You!

Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Ready for Rain

ready-for-rain

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.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Into each life some rain must fall.” He is absolutely right. Before planting a single seed in the ground or one’s heart, it is important to understand the importance of rain. Rain is necessary. It has purpose. When the ground is broken or even the heart, it is ready to receive the seed promised by the Lord for grow into its potential and fulfill its purpose, but if we do not understand the relevance of rain in our life – the seed will die. Just as the ground must be plowed or the heart softened to receive, it is equally important to know that into each life some rain must fall.

Looking at the weather for the next week, it indicates rain will fall on five of the seven days. Ugh! Living in the South, we do not experience snow, blizzards or the like but rain glorious not so glorious rain. Rain is essential to the earth but mighty inconvenient when it comes to routine and scheduling. I am convinced that people have no idea how to drive in it so the commute is longer. There is nothing worse than damp clothes, wet feet or mud puddles unless you are five years old playing in the rain. It is just one big discomfort unless you are a farmer watching your field. Suddenly it becomes a blessing. To those without running water, it fills their water barrels and swells the streams from which they drink. See it is all about perspective. There is someone somewhere today praying for rain. We all should be.

Genesis 2:4-7 (NLT) When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Eden was created a civilization completely dependent on God. He created the heavens and earth. Divided land and sea. Springs came up to water the land but there were no crops or grains or people to cultivate the earth. Rather than glancing over the words to make it to the desired text, look closely again. If you ever wonder if God knew people would sin, it says so right here – “there were no people to cultivate the soil.” Cultivation became a requirement outside of Eden after the fall of mankind. God knew. He planned and prepared for our rebellion ahead of time. It was not an afterthought. God did not send rain yet because at this point creation relied solely on Him.

Genesis 6:9-13 (NLT) This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt. So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!

Well, that didn’t take long before people managed to get evicted from Eden and run the entire world into the ground. What a mess! Only one person could be found in all the earth to be righteous, blameless, and in close fellowship with God – Noah. God revealed a crazy plan. He would flood the earth and wipe it clean all except one man and his family. He would be required to build an ark all on his own. Fill it with two of every kind of animal. Get his family and herd to enter the boat and God would close the door. He would be required to live there for 40 days and nights while it rained. It had never rained before. Mankind’s first experience with rain was destruction. As the water receded, everyone remained on the stinky, smelling ship until the ark came to rest and the door opened.

Genesis 8:20-22 (NLT) Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Genesis 9:12-17 (NLT) Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”

There is significance in the events following the flood. Noah built an altar to the Lord and sacrificed a burnt offering. Noah did not fear a lack of provision. He offered an offering from the supply on the ark because the earth and all its contents were destroyed. Noah had faith. He trusted the Lord even in lack. His family and supply would populate and fill the entire earth again. What a responsibility – what an amazing God!

The first thing the Lord did was bless the ground. He promised to never curse it again. He ordained seedtime and harvest so that what is planted will grow. It was not because sin was gone but because grace would abound. He even admitted that “everything they think and imagine is bent toward evil from childhood.” God’s Blessing on the land to be cultivated is not based on our ability to plant and harvest but on His Word. I will bless the land and as long as the earth remains there will be planting and harvest. Potential. Our life always has potential even in the natural.

The second thing the Lord did after the flood was to give us a covenant. Yes, the rain witnessed brought destruction. God didn’t want us to fear the rain, storms or even floods of life. So he placed a rainbow in the clouds. When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I had about ten days to prepare for his treatment and make my way back to Gainesville from our hometown. I had to trust God to save him. As I drove the interstate, I cranked up the praise music and worshipped the Lord at the top of my lungs with tears streaming down my face. It was raining off and on which I didn’t mind as it was reminiscent of how I felt. I have never encountered what happened that day before or since that drive. There was rainbow after rainbow after rainbow along the way. By about the fifth or sixth one, I was laughing through my pain and sorrow whispering, “I get it God! I hear you!”

Never again will I destroy all life. God does not send rain, storms, floods, sickness, pain, trials, or tests to destroy us. He wants us to be broken and ready to receive His Blessing. His Unconditional Love and Amazing Grace are literally pouring out of heaven each day but am I ready to receive it? God promised in that moment with Noah that He would always remember His Eternal (Forever) Covenant. Jesus was coming. The Lord would come and give us all the opportunity to live. God knew that people were given to rebellion and sin yet still in that moment He prepared them for life eternally. His Covenant that day remains today. Better than before because the Way has been made and now we can be in right standing with God thanks to Jesus!

Psalm 135:6-7 (NLT) The Lord does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths. He causes the clouds to rise over the whole earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses.

Rain is essential to abundance. It comes from abundance. Psalm 135 tells us that these natural elements are released from his “storehouses.” Storehouses are made to hold abundance. No one builds a silo to keep weeds or rocks, but to be full of good things. So it is with God. Rain is good. Rain is needed to produce in our life. The Lord does whatever pleases him. His Good Pleasure and Precious Treasure is His People. When God releases rain the purpose is prosperity. However, you can only reap what is sown in your life. You cannot grow corn from tomato seeds. With this in mind, it is important to note that you rain does not produce a godly crop from a sinful heart. If God’s Abundance is being released, why is there no prosperity in the church today? Why are ministries failing and falling apart? Why is the Body of Christ not growing? We need rain to permeate hard ground and find good seed.

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.

You reap what you so is evident in the productivity of our life. When rain comes and makes it into our heart to make the seeds found there grow, what is produced? The productivity of our life is not always what God planted in us but most often what we decided to sow instead? Rain falls on the just and unjust alike according to Matthew 5:45. God is watering the potential in our life. God rains down provision in our life every day, but often it is not enough to satisfy the desire of our heart. (Psalm 78:21-29) We place our expectation in this world and the things of this world so when the condition or circumstance of our natural life does not change in an instant – we abandon the field and curse the rain. Freedom allows us to choose our way and the pathway of life. He never leaves us without evidence of His Goodness – he sends rain, gives us good crops, and blesses us each day with new mercy (Acts 14:16-18) but is it enough?

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT) “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

My life must be built on a firm foundation of faith. Not proverbial faith that talks a good talk, but logical and literal faith that knows God’s Word and acts upon it. Faith is our future. Rain often is the test. When rain falls on us, do we respond with faith that accepts it as a promise of abundance in the end? Or does it cause everything known and believed about the Lord to wash away so that fear and anxiety takes over? In Deuteronomy 32:1-4, it says, “let my words fall on you like rain.” God is raining His Blessings and Abundance in your life. Are you uncomfortable? Is it inconvenient? Does it interrupt your schedule or prevent our plans? Rain brings change washing away the temporary in our heart and mind to reveal what is permanent. Seeds of faith are small for a reason. They are hard to find and even more difficult to grow because it requires full attention and complete focus on the Author and Finisher of Faith to acquire it.

Job 36:26-28 (NLT) “Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted. He draws up the water vapor and then distills it into rain. The rain pours down from the clouds, and everyone benefits.”

God has given us an internal watering system to irrigate our heart and soul called the Holy Spirit. Just as Eden was well-supplied so are we, but in the meantime as while faith is cultivated it is human nature to rely on the world, too. God is greater than we understand. He takes the offering of our life the “vapor” if you will, and in turn releases abundance. The only thing of worth in my life is Jesus Christ. How much of my life is surrendered to Him? This is the amount of heaven I am able to receive and achieve in my life. God opens the windows of heaven and pours out blessing on His People and everyone benefits.

Jeremiah 5:23-25 (NLT) “But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned me. They do not say from the heart, ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God, for he gives us rain each spring and fall, assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’ Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things.”

Sin will always stop us from receiving the benefits of rain. It creates a hard heart that cannot receive rain to water that seed of faith and potential hidden there. What about grace? Grace is only accepted in true repentance. Grace is not a “get-out-of-hell-free” card. It does not give us permission to sin. It is the understanding that my sin separates me from God and I don’t want anything to keep me from Him. Sin violates our covenant. He gives us new mercy each day to overcome sin each day. To fall in love with Jesus Christ is to not want to sin anymore because it creates separation from the One our heart desires. Falling in love with Jesus Christ is consummated by accepting seeds of faith to be grown for righteousness sake. To give up our wants and desires to receive blessings believing they are better than anything I can produce in my own life. It takes time, it takes tests, and it takes rain to wash away every fear and insecurity and reveal this in our life.

Hosea 6:1-3 (NLT) “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Sowing and reaping in the natural will always produce something. If I put seed in the ground, cover it, nurture it and watch over it – something will be harvested. Rain is essential for seed growth and development in our life. It is the very thing that waters the ground and feeds that seed. However, if we are not sowing for the Kingdom – God’s Abundance is not possible. For example, our family made the decision to tithe according to the Biblical Standard more than a decade ago. God has provided abundantly for us in this area. Dollar for dollar – I cannot figure out the math of obedience. However, I have found that the greatest blessing of tithing has not been found in a dollar figure but rather the favor of God evidenced in our life. There are times when money cannot fix it and I know it is the Favor of God that did it.

When believers decide that the Hand of God is not enough, they will seek His Heart. I was once a very religious person. I had a strict set of rules and regulations that governed my life. I was blessed, but not satisfied. When doctrine did not produce deliverance, I started digging again. There had to be more to this thing called prosperity and blessing in the Lord. When my heart was completely broken and my life torn apart…when I lost control and the world was crashing down around me…it was in that moment of being torn to pieces that His Grace finally reached the seed called faith in my heart. The connection complete something changed in me and is growing through me. True repentance can only be discovered at the end of self. When you have nothing left to give but still choose to come to Your Savior. His Grace is suddenly sufficient in that moment. A place nobody wants to arrive.

Are you living in the abundance of God? Just as sure as the forecast is for rain next week, the windows of Heaven are open over our everyday life. Faith is the seed that produces satisfaction and contentment in our life. It may take our whole life to find it. It may be discovered after the storm. Whatever it takes to get there. God knew people were given to sin. Yet He still sent the rain and marked the sky with a rainbow. He knew our stubborn, rebellious heart and reprobate mind would make us till hard ground for every day blessings. Rain falls on the just and unjust every day as God keeps up His End of the bargain. The Lord is always faithful even when we are not. He waters every seed committed to the ground and gives it increase. What about you? What about me? Am I faithful? Am I willing to really repent? To call Him Savior and make Him the Lord of our life requires true repentance and lifelong change. His Blessings are falling but some are not properly positioned to receive. The next time it rains remember that God is showering the earth with His Goodness including blessings, provision, promises, purposes and power on each of us every single day in each tiny raindrop. Am I ready to receive is the real question?

Joel 2:22-24 (NLT) Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field, for the wilderness pastures will soon be green. The trees will again be filled with fruit; fig trees and grapevines will be loaded down once more. Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.

 

Embracing Change

embracing-change

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Living in Florida, the winter season is very mild here. There may be rainy days, but at least I do not own a snow shovel or ice scraper. Amen! Hallelujah! When I woke up this morning to twenty degree weather, I could feel it coming through the window before I got up. Mounds of blankets and covers along with the steady hum of the heater running, I snuggled in a bit more. The clock was not so accommodating. If I was going to have time with my Lord this morning before church, it was clear I must get out of my cocoon and prepare for the change in the atmosphere. Donning a hoodie and wrapped in a blanket, I was ready to face the cold with our fur baby in her tiny cute sweater. I still wasn’t ready for the blast of frigid air that met me at the door. Baby, it’s cold outside.

Rummaging through the closet, it is clear that I must put on some extra layers today. But what to wear is yet another challenge as the change of conditions make it necessary. I have apparel for warm weather and even days of pouring rain but this freezing thing is new so I must adjust. I have pulled out some options to be revisited before I get dressed. It’s funny that on days like today rather than getting out there and embracing this new season as experience, my girls and I just want to hunker down and hibernate. Willing to forgo shopping or an outing into “town”, they were just fine piddling around the house and staying warm inside. Oh the comforts of home that breed complacency within us in more ways than one!

What is complacency you ask? It is the feeling of quiet pleasure or security along with satisfaction with an existing condition or situation that often makes one unaware of some potential danger or defect. I am comfortable in the warm weather of the South. This sudden change in the environmental conditions around me are unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unwelcome. God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. If there is to any change or transformation in my life – I must be the one. Change is inevitable in the progression of our relationship with the Lord…if we allow it to move us, mold us and make us new.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT) For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

The Lord is constantly promoting change in our life. His Deepest Longing and Greatest Desire is that we are changed into His Glorious Image. This morning when contemplating what to wear to headed to church. I have selected some options not only for the occasion but for the conditions. There is one thing to be clothed in to meet with the Lord. Do you know what that is? Righteousness. The only thing that God looks for when He sees us is Jesus Christ. When I am “in” Christ, I am His Child. Sin is no more. Grace properly applied and love exuding all around me as Light to a dark and dying world. It is all about righteousness. God is absolutely right. He is perfect in every way. When my life doesn’t line up with His Word, it would be foolish to pray for my way because the Lord will never march us back to captivity but always provides opportunities for freedom.

Genesis 31:1-3 (NLT) But Jacob soon learned that Laban’s sons were grumbling about him. “Jacob has robbed our father of everything!” they said. “He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.” And Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”

To recap the story of Jacob, he came in this world wrestling with his twin brother, Esau. He finally tricked him out of his birthright. With the help of his mother to avoid his brother’s wrath, Jacob went to live with his family member, Laban. Laban had two daughters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob fell in love with Rachel immediately and after working to obtain her hand was tricked into marrying Leah. He worked even more and would be given Rachel in marriage as well. The Lord blessed Jacob with many children and he prospered caring for Laban’s flocks. However, Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him. It was then that the Lord revealed His Plan to His Child. “Return to the land…I will be with you.” The conditions of Jacob’s life which once were comfortable became uncomfortable and it was time for him to move.

It would be ridiculous for me to get mad that the temperature has dropped outside. It is not unusual for extreme cold in winter seasons. However, it is not normal for where I live. With this in mind, consider the conditions of your life today. Has there been a change in people’s attitudes? Have uncomfortable situations presented themselves? Do you feel sudden dissatisfaction? Are you discontent? Is there strife or division around you? Conflict? God does not change. We must. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. There I must not be. If the conditions surrounding my life change, could it be a new season is upon me? Is it time for a move? Is God promoting change? His Spirit seeking more freedom? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Genesis 32:22-28 (NLT) During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob. Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

At this point, Jacob has made a covenant with Laban. He could go back if he wanted to. Jacob has sent gifts to his brother to make way for his future. His wives and children were already there including his servants and possessions. It was Jacob and the Lord. In Exodus 14, the Children of Israel have been freed from slavery but now faced with the Red Sea they are unsure if they desire this change. The people and Moses cry out to God. God replies, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!” I wonder if this was not the same point in time for Jacob. While the promise of his future and hope was before him, the comfort and control of the past summoned his return. We do not like to be uncomfortable. We do not yearn for inconvenience. Like Jacob, we wrestle with change. God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. If a new life is to be had, new person discovered and new thing to come about, it will never because anyone else moved but me.

Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT) But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

There are some people who will wake up this morning realizing how unfavorable the conditions, turn over pulling the covers up and skip church. Barring unsafe conditions, these are the ones who just do not want to weather the cold but certainly go make it if they tried. We are citizens of Heaven. The future hope held on to is much more than our needs, wants and desires for our natural life but securing our residency in God’s Kingdom. This will always require change on our part. Change is inevitable to those who desire success according to God’s Plan which is perfect. He perfects all that concerns us. Promising to make good all the details of our life, no circumstance is wasted. No hardship unnoticed. However to avoid change is to skip the transformation process of God that moves us from death to life. God desires to give us a new heart. He wants to give you His Spirit to produce the kind of fruit that will satisfy our soul. He will take out that stony, stubborn heart that keeps you from fully accepting the robe of righteousness that awaits you so that you will be responsive to the change that the Lord is precipitating in your life. (Ezekiel 36:26)

James 1:16-18 (NLT) So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

Have the conditions of your life changed? Do you feel like it is time to move? Is the atmosphere of your life forcing a choice that you are not comfortable making? God is with you today. He is in you. He is more than likely the One who is promoting change in your life. Change means to make the form, content, nature or future course of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. God will not force you to change but offers us the opportunity to do so in the form of freedom. You are free to remain comfortable and complacent without hope. Hope is for the future. Hope requires change.

Hebrews 6:17-19 (NLT) God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Hope is the anchor for our souls. Hope is for the future. It requires faith that believes without seeing. Faith will allow God to move us and change us even when uncomfortable and inconvenient. God does not lie. He doesn’t change His Mind. We must change. Change is indeed inevitable, yet why are we surprised when it comes. Struggling and striving with God for our way only hinders the process of prosperity in us. We must submit and surrender to win the race of faith and secure the hope to endure to the end.

I want to encourage you today to embrace the change. Look for the ways that the Lord is pressing you toward freedom, take the leap of faith that carries you from death to life transforming the natural into supernatural that touches here and now. God has a plan for you that contains a future and hope that is not in any way impacted by us. It can only be accepted. You can do nothing to limit God’s Love and Devotion to you. Nothing can separate you from His Amazing Love. It is unconditional. That in itself will take me a lifetime of searching and transition to Heaven to fully understand. Friend, God is offering you an opportunity to be changed and transformed. For your life to look like His Word and according to His Plan… the rest is up to you!

I Peter 1:3-5 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Stale Bread

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John 4:21-24 (NLT) Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

My people are bread fanatics. If it is made of dough or contains any form of flour and yeast, it is the preferred manna of our home. The local grocery store carries Krispy Kreme donuts as there is not one locally – it is the best one can do to fulfill the craving for this glazed piece of heaven. However, there is no “hot” sign to signify that a warm, soft, squishy, sugar-covered concoction is ready for human consumption so one must improvise. If you reheat the donut for about 10-15 seconds in the microwave, it regains its former splendor. However, this is short lived. It must be immediately eaten or as it cools it becomes harder and less appetizing than before. No one wants stale bread so they reheat it over and over until there is no life left in it.

Stale bread. There are days that my worship seems to have arrived at the same state as day old bread. It is not as fresh as it once was. Not as sincere as before, when heaven comes down and touches my soul. Life is hard. Just like the forgotten box of donuts in the pantry or bread tucked away, it is not that it is unwanted just hidden behind other things that catch our attention or consume our time. The Lord opens the windows of Heaven over the lives of His People but there are times of wandering and settling for less than God’s Best because maybe the process is a bit inconvenient or change too uncomfortable. The Father is looking for those who will worship him in Spirit and in Truth. Can we be honest? Faith is not a fake it until you make it routine. You cannot overcome fear and achieve faith pretending that everything is great and things are going just swell. God sees much deeper than that. His Mighty Hand is reaching for the crumbs and scraps that one merely survives on to replace it with a feast at His Table to thrive on.

Matthew 15:21-28 (NLT) Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

I am a Gentile. I am not of Jewish decent. The mindset of religion was demolished by the arrival, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in many ways, Christianity has returned to its rebellious roots. Not intentionally, of course, but seeking after a God who cannot be seen and Spirit that is invisible – leads one to make certain assumptions, I guess. Jesus knew the heart of this woman who sought after Him that day. He fully intended to heal her daughter and deliver her from the demon that raged within her. But in the last few moments of her desperation, the Lord tried to change the hearts and minds of His Disciples. They believed He was the Messiah. They were ignorant in His Method, though. Jesus came to save everyone – not just God’s Chosen People but all those who He created. Ethnicity is the flavor of creation when God designed a series of individuals with differing characteristics and qualities painting a Kingdom with color and individuality perfect in His Eyes. We see limits and boundaries of differences that divide us when all along His Love was for all of us.

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Is it hard for you to accept God’s Conditional and Perfect Love sometimes? I think it is a challenge for us all yet few are willing to admit it. God’s Grace is sufficient for me. His Power is manifested in my weakness (or humility, if you will indulge me). This woman believed that Jesus Christ could heal her daughter and do exactly what He said. I wonder if she knew the centurion known for the same. It didn’t matter what anyone thought or how many disappointments she endured. When she came to Jesus, she believed. She would not be dissuaded. Her life, her child were her world. Jesus was the Healer. She would get what she came for that day. Even in the midst of rejection of religion, she knelt before the Lord and worshipped Him all the same. Still in the same condition, pushed away by people, she knew in her heart something that her attitude and actions relayed.

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” Are you willing to worship anyway? Are you intent on changing your pattern of worship to gain access to the Savior, Healer, Provider, Perfecter, Waymaker, Lifechanger – His Name is Jesus Christ. How far are you willing to go to gain access to His Throne? Well, she was willing to bow as low as possible, forsake all pride and simply gather the scraps beneath His Table if that is all she could get? What about you? Are you willing to fall to your knees? Get on your face before the Lord? Stay there until He comes? It is time to change my pattern of worship. Will you?

Hebrews 8:1-6 (NLT) Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.” But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.

Human nature maintains the idea of corporate worship. Strength in numbers, if you will. But I believe that before our churches are empowered, each person must come back to the heart of worship first. Faith is my personal investment. It is the seed growing, developing and maturing in me that yields a harvest of good fruit. I cannot give what I have not received. The fruit in my life is born of His Spirit. The seed is defined as God’s Word. The process of sowing and reaping is firmly established. I must dedicate my life to living according to His Spirit and His Truth to prosper beyond survival to learn to thrive in life. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. He ripped the veil from top to bottom, but do we try to sew it back up? Limiting the Presence and Glory of God by holding back bits and pieces of our life due to a lack of faith or disbelief?

Luke 8:44-48 (NLT) Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Matthew 8:5-11 (NLT) When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Two of my favorite stories of great faith are the woman who had “issues” and the Centurion who believed Jesus simply at His Word. What great examples of worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. I believe that when the woman pressed through the crowd, obviously on her hands and knees because she touched the hem of His Robe, that Jesus knew not only “who” touched Him but that she was coming. He wanted the others to see her as an example of true worship. They left their lives, families and jobs to follow the Messiah as King of Kings, but were they will to make Him Lord of Lords?

The centurion took Jesus Christ at His Word. He recognized the authority and power that was in Jesus Christ and even though he was not a member of the local synagogue or Jewish by birth, he believed with his whole heart and his mind, as well. It made sense that only the Son of God could do these amazing things that defied natural and human logic. He was confident in God’s Word. So where am I in all of these amazing people? I am a Gentile. I am not worthy of the Grace that I have received and cannot ever earn the forever that I am promised. All I can do is offer my heart and mind as a living sacrifice to be overtaken completely by His Spirit and His Truth.

John 6:26-29 (NLT)  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

John 6:34-40 (NLT)  “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Signs and wonders will come when the Glory of God surrounds us. It is not something conjured up but grown by faith inside of each one of us. Perfecting the process called church and revising our doctrine is not the pattern of worship referred to that will bring us into alignment with God. It is seeking the Bread of Life as a constant sustenance of our everyday life. Fortifying our heart and mind in the Spirit and Truth that grow faith more and more each day. We must trust the Lord in all things even at only His Word to build the confident trust that allows us to live peacefully in all conditions and circumstances. It is the very thing that draws us closer in heartache and brokenness rather than allowing anger and bitterness to leak out. The only way to see the Glory of God manifested in our life is to personally participate each day in gathering fresh bread rather than reheating stale donuts. You can have it hot. You can have it fast. It will not sustain you. Religion and service cannot replace a real relationship with Jesus Christ or becoming a living sacrifice. He offers you a place at His Table. Will you remain eating scraps off the floor? Old worship. Old ways. Religious tradition. Has it changed your life? Has it renewed your soul? Has it healed your body? Has it provided more than enough? Has it strengthened you in weakness? Nope. We must change our pattern of worship in the New Year or risk starving our faith even more.

But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. Our life is built on expectation. When Jesus came to the earth, He was not what they expected. His Followers constantly sought after signs and wonders. It was difficult for Jesus to get His Word or His Seed into their hard hearts. Who doesn’t come to the Lord seeking a better life? A little relief? Some provision for our lack? What if we came to Jesus, our Savior and Lord, seeking only to worship Him? What might happen if we did that? The Bible tells us that He will give us a new heart and new mind. His Spirit and His Word will change us from the inside out. Like fresh bread, there is kneading, pressing and molding to combine all the ingredients and form a loaf. The bread is left to wait while the yeast or potential rises up within. It is put in the oven to bake in extreme heat until it comes out in the form of fresh bread. Jesus wants to do the same thing in our life. If I embrace the pressure to change and endure the process of promotion, my life will prosper. Lord, change my pattern of worship. Help me to let go of every bit of staleness and stagnancy in my life to produce the prosperity of soul that you have ordained for my life.

John 6:47-50 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 

Exceedingly

exceedingly

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 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.

In a study published in January 2013, it was determined that the annual income of the wealthiest 100 people was enough to end global poverty. Not once, but four times over. These individuals received a net income of $240 billion in 2012. Think about that for a moment, this was their net income not the gross. This is what they received after taxes, interest, depreciation and other expenses. There is more than enough money in the world. The problem is distribution. Knowing there is more than enough wealth to sustain every man, woman and child is not enough. It is to receive the portion needed to survive or even thrive that changes lives and improves one’s quality of life.

Let’s bring this home to the United States. Our country is believed to be #1 in total global personal wealth, according to Fortune magazine, holding a whopping 41.6%. The next country on the list is #2 China who secures only about 10.5%. The problem is not a lack of funds but unequal distribution of the wealth. The rich get richer and the poor only poorer. This is not a political platform but I use this information to reveal a Bible principle. The divide between wealth and poverty holds many people who make the personal choice each day to continue to strive for the American Dream or succumb to their situation, circumstances or condition. If there is in fact a surplus of funds available in the world, why can’t I have it? How do I attain it? Why am I struggling?

The wealth of the Kingdom of God is not money. The Lord warns a love for money can overtake us and become a fleshly drive in our life. So let’s talk about Kingdom inequality. There is none. If you are dissatisfied with your quality of life today, you can change it. I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places. You can be, too. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. He has the authority and power to remove my sin making me eligible for every blessing once forfeited by it. God chose to bless me when He created me. He set aside a portion of His Kingdom vaster than any other place for me. Upon my adoption and return to Him, it becomes mine again. Where is it? Why do I not have it? Why am I not satisfied or content with my life? God blessed me according to His Good Pleasure so I do not need to earn favor because I have it. I do not need to repay the debt sin created because Jesus said, “It is finished.” I am His Beloved. I am well cared for. So why do I lack?

Mark 9:23-24 (NLT) “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Anything is possible if a person believes. Jesus told the father of the tormented son, who asked the Lord, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” How many of our own prayers end the same way? Lord, if you can. Well, Jesus answered him directly, “If I can? Anything is possible if a person believes.” What will it take for you to believe that God has granted you every spiritual blessing in the Heavenlies? It is that very thing that will increase your quality of life, confidence in God and pursuit of His Kingdom. Our heart allows follows our treasure. Our mouth speaks from the abundance of our heart. If you believe your current life is as good as it will get, well than you are more than likely to remain in the same situation from year to year. But God offers us a life that is transformed from Glory to Glory. Those who receive it are those who believe it. Those who believe it will seek it. Those who seek it will speak it. All the rest will watch from the sidelines – jealous, envious and without.

2 Corinthians 9:10-14 (NLT) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.

Every single day men and women gather up their families headed to the United States to pursue the American Dream. To consider the wealth monetarily of our great nation and the poverty of other countries, it is no wonder people literally die trying to find hope for a better future. This nation was established as one nation under God. I cannot help but believe that is why the Hand of God and His Favor have impacted it so heavily. Pressing on to my point, as not to digress, if my life is not representative of the life that God describes in His Word. It is not a God-problem. I bear total responsibility for the lack in my life.

God provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. He will provide and increase your resources. He will produce a great harvest of generosity in you. You will be enriched in every way SO THAT you can always be generous. Generosity. Could the lack in my life be two-fold? I am not pursuing the Kingdom and if I do I am doing it only for myself? Yes and yes. What is the point of personal monetary wealth to a Christian who does not give? There are many who give tithes and offerings to be obedient to the Lord, but never experience increase in their life. Why? Seed. Are we using what the Lord blesses us with to plant seed or whisking it away to hoard it for self. This is not about money but every resource in our life – physical and spiritual! Seedtime and harvest, sowing and reaping are New Testament principles that carryout through life. You reap what you sow.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT) And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

God provides all that I need. He is a good Father. If I am not planting, sowing, and giving, I will only have enough to maintain my family. Why? I don’t need anymore. There is no purpose in surplus. You will always have everything you need AND plenty left over to share with others. The Fruit of God’s Spirit produced in us is for others, too. If I want more love, I must give more and so on and so forth. If all I want is God’s Hand and do not possess God’s Heart, I will probably experience lack of satisfaction and discontentment for the rest of my life because my purpose was wasted in surplus.

Hebrews 11:5-6 (NLT) It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Enoch walked so close to the Lord that one day the Kingdom simply consumed him and he was gone. God just scooped him up. It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith must be progressive releasing us from this world to be overtaken with the hope give in Jesus Christ. This can only happen when our heart longs for God’s Heart rather than His Hand. Too many times God examines human hearts only to discover that they really didn’t want Him but for His Hand to open and release the money, power and influence to make this life better. How can one improve a condemned building marked for destruction? It is uninhabitable. Our faith must grow beyond our natural resources to supernatural living. You cannot save this planet. Take care of it. Maintain it and be a good steward, but one day it will all disappear. Our efforts must be focused on building the Kingdom and finding our way there. Becoming one with God so much so that I am consumed by love for Him and passion for His Kingdom.

We may never end the inequality of wealth on the earth. In fact with love growing colder by the minute and sin rampant, it is highly unlikely if not impossible. But with God all things are possible, if you believe. We can all establish a Kingdom lifestyle when we live according to Kingdom principles rather than the law of the land or the doctrine of each church. We must strive with all our might to seek the Kingdom of God first above all things to have all that God promised which is more than enough. Money and personal wealth will not change your life. It only magnifies that heart that keeps you alive. If money, power and influence is given to a selfish person, it will magnify pride and greed in them. Only those who truly seek the Kingdom will experience an abundance of satisfaction no matter where this life takes them knowing they are on their way to a Kingdom without end.

Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

I shared a story not too long ago about a fisherman who discovered a gigantic pearl. His fishing net got tangled up on a giant clam which he brought to his boat. When he opened it, he found a hidden treasure. He took it home and put it under his bed where it was hidden for ten years. The pearl is estimated to be worth more than $100 million. Where is your treasure today? Shrouded in doubt? Buried in disbelief? Blinded by disappointment? Left behind for other things? Have we become so consumed with making this life better that believers have lost the Keys to the Kingdom?

Faith will never be evident in what we can see but our constant and steady pursuit of that which cannot be seen but is hoped for. Hope is our future. It is not living in this moment or today. It is about investing every ounce of energy in pursuing God’s Kingdom and building it up. Are you mega minded or mission minded today? Those who are mega minded build store houses to protect their money, feelings, emotions, and self. Those who are mission minded give it all away just to know Jesus more and build His Kingdom. It is up to us if we live a life of full satisfaction. We make the choice how to live and what we are after. Choose well. This is my intent and full motivation for the coming year. To step out of lack and live in fulfillment. This is not necessary a wealthy endeavor but a worthwhile life.

Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

In the New King James version, the last verse is translated “now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Exceedingly abundantly. That’s a lot my friend. God can, will and wants to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. You and I cannot comprehend the riches in His Glory ready to be poured out in our life. The Ephesians were members of the Church of Ephesus. The same church that did every “thing” right but for the wrong reasons. (Revelation 2) They had become a loveless ministry full of good works. I don’t want this to be the description of my life. Religion is not for me. I want a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ that insures my entrance into His Kingdom above all else. Christians must evaluate their life, motivation, attitudes and actions for authentic faith that is seeking the God’s Heart and not just His Hand. It is easy to become distracted. The flow of society sucks us in with supply and demand rather than sowing and reaping the blessings of life. What is it worth to gain the whole world and lose my soul? What is it worth to have everything and loved ones in hell? The church should be bridging the gap between earthly inequalities rather than creating a further divide. Where is the generosity of resources and heart? God’s Grace is enough for me…and you… and every other person God ever created. No one is greater or lesser in Heaven. We are all the same. Have I lost my first love? Have I forgotten all that I am and all that I have is by the Grace and Love given to me by Jesus Christ? Sometimes…I do. Do you?

Let’s regain our focus in 2017. This could be the best year of our life. It all depends what you are willing to sow in your life today in 2016. These are the seeds that will grow into our harvest. What are you sowing these last few days of the year? Will it be tears of repentance? Will it be the broken pieces of a contrite heart? Will it be willingness to surrender those parts of life previously withheld? Will it be what you have? Will it be what you don’t have? Will you put all your expectation and energy into knowing Christ more and chasing the world a little less? It is my intention to know, understand and experience this thing called exceedingly abundantly. How about you?

Luke 9:24-25 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?