Substance of Prayer

Substance of Prayer

Psalm 141:1-2 (ESV) O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

In the Tabernacle and then the Temple, the high priest was tasked with burning incense. Incense is a gum, spice or other substance that is burned for its sweet smell it produces. Incense comes from the Latin incensus or set on fire. Incense refers to the substance consumed and burned not the aroma emitted. The high priest would offer incense while performing morning and evening prayers in the Presence of the Lord symbolic of the prayers of the people to God. Prayer is the incense of our life. It is to be sweet smelling and sacrificial. Pouring our hearts out to the Lord in reverence of who He is.

Give ear to my voice when I call to you!

God hears every word spoken. The conversations among each other. The secret whispers in the dark. The cries of His Children never uttered past thought. He is interested in us. He longs to live in intimacy with us. Too often our approach to the Lord is like the local fast food drive-thru, speeding up the window, barking our requests in detail into the speaker, pulling around to the window impatiently, and grabbing our food then speeding off. God forbid the poor worker gets our order wrong or it is delayed at which time it is our duty to angrily give them a piece of our mind. Oh, I know what you are thinking. I would never treat God like that. But I ask you to carefully consider your prayer life today as I do mine. To examine your heart for the content of godly communication in your life. How do you approach the Presence of God? Do you enter in with thanksgiving and praise or barging in to demand what’s ours? Is it an ongoing conversation between friends and lovers or a clandestine affair of convenience? God hears every word that is spoken, what is He hearing from you? What am I a saying to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on a daily basis? “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,”

Isaiah 56:6-8 (ESV) “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Are my prayers incense to the Lord? In Isaiah, an image of prayer arises that may change one’s perception of prayer altogether. Good, I hope so. Prayer has not lost its power but people have forgotten its purpose. By joining ourselves to the Lord, it becomes our privilege to minister to Him, to love His Name, to be His Servant, and to hold tightly to the covenant given to us in our relationship with Jesus Christ. He promises His People to be brought to “my holy mountain” or into His Presence. To make them joyful in my house of prayer. The old time church believed in travailing before the Lord and there are times and seasons that may elicit such prayers. However, the true power and potential of our prayers come when our confidence in the Lord allows us to praise His Name and live in His Presence apart from the distractions of need or want knowing and believing God will do exactly what He has promised to do. These are the prayers that silence worry, fear, anxiety and doubt. Power packed petitions that silence the enemy in the Greatness of our God. The Lord waits for “the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 139:16 (ESV) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Do you believe these verses are true? Is this the potential for your life in Jesus Christ? Can I ask you to consider your prayer life? If this is the Truth concerning your life, what is there to ask for? God has plans for our welfare never to be in distress. He has given us a future and hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord promises that when you call on His Name, come into His Presence and pray that He will hear you. When you seek Him, you will find Him. Are you seeking the Lord wholeheartedly? Only you know the answer to that. Truly believing and trusting the Lord takes our faith and plants it in His Word, relying on His Wisdom, and walks in confident confidence not in our condition or circumstances but the constancy of His Great Love. God doesn’t lie or change His Mind. Once His Word is released, it cannot come back to Him until it accomplishes exactly what He sent it forth to do. It tells us in Psalm 139 that every day of our life is prerecorded and therefore provided for by God. We do not lack any good thing because He is a Good and Gracious Father. And finally, trusting the Lord includes those days when He is still working to work all things together for our good and His Glory. What does my prayer life sound like on those days? Is it an incense filled with sweet praise? Faith and confident hope changes the consistency and content of our prayers changing them from desperate cries for help to desperate cries for more of Him.

“The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

James 5:12-16 (ESV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Prayer and praise are partners. They go together. Our prayer must be infused with praise to become powerful. Yes, there will be times when our human weakness needs assistance. However, the majority of our prayer time should be incense on the altar of God – day and night, night and day – let incense arise. In Exodus 30:7-8, there is a direct command for the priest to enter the Presence of God each morning and evening with incense. This represents prayers and praise to the Lord perpetually. Is your prayer life consistent? Day and night and night and day. What is the content? Is it incense to the Lord? Does it give off a sweet aroma of faith mixed with confident hope emitting praise and honor and glory to God? Or does it stink of doubt and fear crying out for what is already given? Exodus 30:37 makes it clear that prayer is not about me and what I want but the Lord and who He is. The vessels on the altar of God took human form (2 Timothy 2:21) when the Spirit of the Living God came to live in us and make us His Temples (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

My righteousness is not me, but Christ who is in me. Every good thing in my life is straight from God. Nothing good lives in me apart from the Lord. When I come to Him and communicate with the Lord, it is an opportunity to express my faith in His Power and confidence in His Plan. Am I wasting my time whining and complaining or do I spend it wisely worshipping the Lord? I can only evaluate my own time spent in the Presence of God. God is able. His Power is not in any way lessened by my ability to believe but when I do by chance get it right and plant my faith in His Power, watch out! The prayer of a righteous man or woman is powerful. My righteousness is Christ alone. If this is what I believe, it changes my prayer time. To fully invest our time and energy in praising Jesus even in our prayer time changes the content of our life. There is power in prayer, I have seen its wonderworking power firsthand. Imagine the change in the atmosphere if God’s People stopping begging for bread and began singing the praises of an abundant God. The Light of His Love would burn brightly from our passion. The incense of praise overpowering the stench of doubt. Revival would come as God rushed in to get a closer whiff of His People’s Praise. The drawing in of His Mighty Breath would pull us closer and deeper than ever before. Lord, set us on fire with passion for who You are. Make the words of our mouth and mediation of our heart agree and pour out praise. May the incense of our prayer life be praise and adoration formed from faith and trust in You!

2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

 

Life Unveiled

Life Unveiled

Matthew 27:50-52 (NLT) Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.

It was a game-changing, plot-twisting, and script-flipping moment in the history of humanity. Some would later come to realize the true potential of the moment Jesus released His Spirit that day on the Cross while many would go back to life as usual. On the Day of Pentecost, the same Spirit that reached out and tore the veil in the Temple from top to bottom would come and have His Way in us. Do those words make you a bit uncomfortable? Does intimacy sound like a forbidden word in your Christian conversation? The Holy Inhabitation of Jesus Christ in us and the consummation of His Covenant with us is conceived in just one place – beyond the veil in His Presence. I believe I just might write a book one day to try to express the impact of God’s Presence, His Perfect Peace that defies logic and understanding and His Inexpressible Joy that finds has made His Way to me in the most difficult times. I cannot help tell you again, if but for a moment I could take apart my broken heart and show you the Light that lives there. You would never be the same. You would be changed. You would know in an instant that anything good in my life is the Jesus Christ inside of me. One experience. One encounter and your life can never be the same. For generations, many would desire God but fear of sin and death would keep them just outside the curtain. The High Priest would come and go on their behalf. Where is the hope in a covenant that does not offer life? Where is the potential of a relationship with a man in the middle? It is hard enough to stay married in a partnership of two. Could you imagine if you had to go through a third party to settle disagreements or to apologize? It is difficulty to create intimacy in a crowd. Jesus wanted more. He wanted us. He provided a way for us to step into His Presence and live in a place of constant unity with Him. In return, Jesus came to live in us.

I am a logical person. Things must make sense for me to believe they are true. Until the details add up and the bottom line is balanced, the jury remains out. I am not a person who lives in blind trust. Serving a God who I cannot see, being filled with a Spirit who I cannot touch and to live as part of a Kingdom that I cannot yet enter used to be challenging. Truly, reading God’s Word was a bust for me – I would fall fast asleep. The Holy Spirit was a silent partner locked away in a box. I knew He was in me but had no idea what to do with Him other than respond to the gentle nudges offered from time to time. Prayer. Not the conversation that I expected, but then again the Lord couldn’t get a word in edgewise in the midst of my endless banter. I read a book called “Beyond the Veil” which introduced me to this place called Presence, but I will be darned if I could find my way in despite the “OPEN” sign hanging on the door. Intrigued by the thought and determined in my heart to find this place, I decided to do whatever it took to find my way there.

Exodus 26:31-34 (NLT) “For the inside of the Tabernacle, make a special curtain of finely woven linen. Decorate it with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and with skillfully embroidered cherubim. Hang this curtain on gold hooks attached to four posts of acacia wood. Overlay the posts with gold, and set them in four silver bases. Hang the inner curtain from clasps, and put the Ark of the Covenant in the room behind it. This curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Then put the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place.

2 Chronicles 3:14 (NLT) Across the entrance of the Most Holy Place he hung a curtain made of fine linen, decorated with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and embroidered with figures of cherubim.

In both the Tabernacle and the Temple, the curtain was hung across the Most Holy Place. This was where the Ark of the Covenant that held the Presence of God – God-In-A-Box. Why was God in the box? The repayment of our sin had not been made. God’s Goodness and Glory would consume any human with sin if released to dwell among the people. Only those who truly lived holy and righteous lives could enter – Moses and the men who were consecrated to be high priests and serve the Lord there. Anyone else would die according to the sin within them. Yikes. The high priests mediated God’s Relationship with humanity going back and forth between them.

When Jesus died on the Cross, the veil was torn from top to bottom. God accepted His Payment for our sin and grace was fully dispensed. His Spirit was not free to come and go spreading life wherever He flowed. Life. Continuously death-overpowering and defeat-overwhelming life. Glorious life. Abundant life. Life everlasting. Life of increase. Life-giving harvest. Life. I think you get the point. Death was defeated. The grave overcome. Life was released and the covenant between God and His People complete. No need for a middle man our Mediator now Jesus Christ.

Exodus 34:34-35 (NLT) But whenever he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he would remove the veil until he came out again. Then he would give the people whatever instructions the Lord had given him, and the people of Israel would see the radiant glow of his face. So he would put the veil over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord.

I love this part, I really do! When Moses would go into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord…stop right here for just a second. Moses didn’t go into the Tent of Meeting to “pray” like some people do. You know…you go on and on to God about your problems, troubles, needs, wants, and desires. No, Moses had a relationship with God. When he entered the Presence of God it was with the intent to “speak with the Lord.” I wonder if this is the limitation on our prayer life. We do all the talking with no intent to hear the Voice of God. Let me just leave that right there and keep going.

When Moses left the Tent of Meeting after conversing with the Lord in His Presence, the radiance of God’s Glory on his countenance was visible. You could literally see him glowing. This completely freaked people out for lack of better words. They didn’t understand it. Could not conceive it. Feared God. Feared the man of God. So, Moses put a veil over his face until he entered God’s Presence again. Do we do the same thing? I mean really. Do you live from God experience to experience? Did you know that thanks to Jesus Christ that you can live IN THE PRESENCE every single day?

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (NLT) The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!

Spoiler Alert! I am about to flood you with 2 Corinthians 3. Why is our life not radiating God’s Glory? If our life as believers shined in a tangible way as Moses face did just from basking in the Presence of God – our words might mean more. Infused with life our message begins to make a difference. Confidence in our covenant with God begins by our willingness and desire to seek His Presence. I pass by businesses all the time with “OPEN” signs and even “WELCOME” signs but I do not go inside. Churches open their doors with free admission and come-as-you-are invitations yet many seats remain empty and altars unused. Why? Where is the radiance of God? If this new way given to us in Jesus Christ is that much better, why isn’t our life any better? If He offers new life, new creations, new anything at all then why are we living the same old way?

2 Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT) Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

The new way gives us such confidence that we can be very bold. Does it? Are you confident today? Confident in what? Confident in God’s Love, His Goodness, and His Faithfulness. See becoming truly confident in this hope that is given to us will make faith rise up out of us as a tangible substance in our life. This confidence never leads to disappointment as it is the hope that anchors our soul. These are just words on a page to some but that can all change with an encounter with the Lord today. Not in a church full of people, sobbing and wailing at an altar but simply grabbing a cup of coffee, opening God’s Word, and sitting in His Presence. Yes, turn off all the noise, put away the cellphone, and lock the door. This is His Time. It is an intimate experience for those who decide the Lord is worth having. To strip off the veil requires confidence. It will require trust. Giving our heart, mind, body, soul, time, talent and treasure to Jesus Christ is an offering not a requirement. The decision to do so produces a relationship that has nothing to do with religion or ritual. It is personal. It is private. It is perfection.

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

The Spirit of the Lord gives us freedom. As believers, we choose the depth of our intimacy with the Lord. It is not a requirement to live in His Presence or shine with His Glory. He gives us the opportunity. I write insurance policies for a living. I do not sell them but help develop the contracts. The insurance business is regulated by the state government. If an insurer wants to change anything in the contract, it must be reviewed and approved by the Department of Insurance. After beginning this new adventure, I realized there was more to my homeowners insurance than I realized so I pulled out the contract and read all the provisions again. What if we are missing important benefits of our new covenant? What if there are blessings and promises that belong to me that I am not taking full advantage of? I have the Word of God but it doesn’t always make sense or seem real. I have the Holy Spirit, too. However, what might happen if I pursued Presence?

What if I stepped through the veil now torn in two and decided to spend quality time with Jesus rather than random stolen or leftover moments from my day? What if I gave a consistent offering of my life? What are the possibilities? Nothing would be possible if you believed enough to try it. You cannot reflect a Glory you have not experienced. Like a solar light must soak in the sun to give light in the dark, I cannot effectively reflect a Light that has not saturated my life. How can I love others without His Love? How can I live for Him without knowing Him? How can I share a message that I have not heard or do not believe? I can’t. God is offering us a place in His Presence again today. New mercy will open the door again tomorrow, but wait to do tomorrow what could be done today. The Lord, His Spirit, will make us into the new creation as He makes us more like Him. We will have all the Fruit of His Spirit. We will have a rich and satisfying life here in the land of the living just like He said. It all begins with the decision to live a life unveiled and step into His Presence.

Psalm 16:11 (NLT) You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you 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.

Lessons From a Giraffe

Lessons From a Giraffe

Revelation 3:10-12 (NLT)  “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

I will admit that I have become captivated by April the giraffe. A small animal farm in New York got the brilliant idea to put a 24-hour camera to record the impending birth of her calf. They have received national attention and news agencies across the country are tracking her progress. I have always loved giraffes. On a mission trip to Kenya many moons ago, I was able to go on a camera safari through a preserve where they could be seen walking in the distance. Even many yards away, they were majestic and towering over the small trees. One of the only souvenirs that I brought back was a hand-carved giraffe with her calf. Though I do not sit and watch her progress, I do leave the “giraffe cam” open on my desk at work, in the kitchen while I cook and as I sit here now she is off to the side of me. Giraffes are not particularly intelligent animals. Basic creatures driven by their desire for food and their inner drive of curiosity – I cannot help but wonder if she is aware of her popularity. Does she know what is happening in her body or the impending arrival of her newborn? How aware is she that the end of her 15-month process is near?

This morning while I wait for the computer to load, the sleeping giraffe is suddenly awakened and rises awkwardly to her feet. The movement catching my attention, I glance at the screen just in time to see a series of resounding kicks from the 150-lb, six-foot tall baby inside her belly who apparently wants out. There has been little movement noted by keepers over the last few days. Most babies in the animal kingdom and the natural world settle down right before the greatest journey of their life. It is almost time. I know that feeling. Having been blessed with five beautiful babies, I understand the end of the process. The overwhelming need for the stress on our body to end. To release the promise inside because it is ready to live and breathe on its own. There are so many feelings and emotions mixed up and overflowing in a mother just before the birth of her baby. It doesn’t matter how many children you have, each one a process of perseverance all its own. Today as I watch the mama walk in circles, her steps are slow and unsteady. She lowers her head to endure the pressure of a contraction as the little one gets ready to make its highly anticipated appearance into the world. I am feeling pressure these days. No, thank goodness, my childbearing years are done but my promise bearing years continue. The process is similar. Both require perseverance. The result of the process of pregnancy is culminated in a successful birthing process of a healthy baby. If a human body were to experience the changes to it without a purpose – no one would endure it. The reality of our promise determines our willingness and ability to persevere.

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.” I have lived long enough to have experienced many processes in life. I have learned to persevere and yet I am still in the midst of its process. Perseverance is a test of strength. It reveals our depth of purpose according to our commitment to the process. As a Christian, faith is measured by our willingness and ability to preserve through hard times, difficult situations and those things that seem to break us completely. But the words I keep coming back to today in this passage are “you have obeyed my command to preserve.” Set free by Jesus Christ, I am free indeed. As far as I can tell there is but one commandment predicated by a new provision that I must live by according to the New Testament words of Jesus Christ who is the Word of God. I cannot find a direct command to preserve or persist in anything but this one thing that He commands. It is my purpose despite every difficulty in life or even the times I become discouraged. Are you wondering what it is? Do you already know?

Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Thankfully and by the Grace of God, the five pregnancies became five people who bless my life and give me purpose each day. My love for them gives me infinite grace and determination to care for them all of my life. Jesus demonstrated God’s Love for us by coming in the form of a man, living a completely innocent life, and then dying for our sin on the Cross. I know it sounds so brutal and messy. It was. The story did not end there. If Jesus did not complete the process, hold on to the promise, and preserve through death and the grave to emerge in Resurrection Power – there would be no salvation for us. There would be no pathway to God the Father to righteousness. Every promise has a process. Every process will require perseverance. If it is worth anything at all, there will be a struggle to find new strength even when the promise is faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God much less reach Him. Less I digress…

In Revelation 3, the Word encourages those who “have obeyed my command to preserve” that the Lord will protect them in great times of testing. It also tells us to hold on to what you have so that no one can take away the crown. You are a Kingdom Kid. You are a daughter or son of the King. However, you are on a journey home to a place that you cannot see driven by faith that is bound by confident hope and not evident by sight. In Revelation 3:8, the Lord indicates the opening of a door that no one can close – the promise. I love this part, I can identify with it completely. “You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” The commandment of Jesus for my life is to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second one that Jesus has indicated as “equally” important is to love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the commandment attached to perseverance.

The love for self is natural. It is part of human survival. The love born of the Christ in us is different. It is not a natural emotion but supernatural takeover of our flesh that is crucified with Him to become the new creation that the Lord has promised. The process by which faith moves from our mind to our soul requires perseverance because it takes what is natural and overtakes it spiritually. It is the Christ in us that teaches us to love. Love is clearly defined in I Corinthians 13 and my love must bear all the qualities of Christ’s Love for obedience to be evident in my life. Even the most simple offering will not be accepted by God until I forgive those who I may grudge against to exemplify the grace I am given. Nothing I give to the Lord or attempt to do in His Honor is worthy of Him until I love Him wholeheartedly and express it to others effectively. Love is the commandment that is the subject of perseverance. It is the most difficult one of all. It requires putting aside my feelings and emotions. It is absolute and total crucifixion of pride and stubbornness. I have to lay down my life to claim my place in Heaven. Jesus came to fulfill the Law. (Matthew 5) He did it. There is not a letter of the Law that I am bound to except the one commandment which is to love the Lord and love people. Love changes everything. It sounds cliché.

I Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT) But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus Christ lives inside of every believer. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of His Promise to us. It is by falling in love with the Lord that He is able to consummate His Love for us as His Grace empowers us. To do what? To live and love radically. To persevere and power through those tough days in the Name of Love. Isn’t that what pregnant woman do in the midst of vomiting, exhaustion, swelling, bedrest or complications? They will do anything to get the promise inside to become a reality. What about the Promise of God in each of us? Is it not worth having more than anything this world has to offer including comfort? Of course, it is.

“It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15) Jesus Christ came to initiate a relationship not institute a new religion. Unlocking every chain and opening every door so that the Body of Christ might become one in anticipation of His Eminent Return. I can share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a thousand people but if I cannot express His Love it will fall on deaf ears. Real Love. Authentic Love. Selfless Love. True Love. The church must learn to love to become the new creation it has the potential to be. Unconditional love is to love without condition. Without rules or regulations, the Lord did not require you to change a thing and still considered you to die for. Why do we insist on changing people? We must love them like Jesus loves us.

What is a righteous and godly life anyway? “Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” This verse makes me think of Micah 6:8, “this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” The Lord is whispering to us today and encouraging us to get it right. To pursue a righteous life. To live a godly life. To do so the way that He tells us to, a life defined by “faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” I think the word “perseverance” is tucked in there to remind us that there will be hard days, trials and tests, and those when our strength gives out making us ready to throw in the towel. You are pregnant with promises today that are worth having. So much so that the enemy is pressuring you to give up, give in, and just quit. I cannot imagine being pregnant more than 42 weeks as that is the longest pregnancies that I endured. A giraffe carries her promise for 15 months and some animals even longer. Whatever God’s Promise is for your life, it comes with a process and prescribed time. You must only endure and preserve for the reality of God’s Promise to be revealed. Faith must be our confident when waiting for that which we hope for to come. To abandon the process of pregnancy is abortion. To abandon the process of love is to end our future with the Lord. It is His Commandment to us. It is His Mandate on our life. Every other attempt to serve Him absent of love is pointless. Love is the most difficult thing to maintain. Jesus warned us that love would grow colder. It does each day. It is the love within us that makes us a new creation and our life offering incense to God. My faith is in the Love of God and His Faithfulness to me. My confidence is that His Love never fails and nothing can separate me from Him. It is from this faith and confidence that the Lord makes us new creations who can love unselfishly just because He loves us.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT) So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

 

Exceedingly Abundantly

Exceedingly Abundantly

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to His Power that works in us. This is a bold statement which may be interpreted many ways. The definition of exceedingly is to the extreme and to an unusual degree. Abundantly is to be present in great quantity, more than adequate, and overly sufficient. Do you believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think? Obviously, the immediate response of most Christians would be “yes” or “of course”. But before you answer today, let’s examine our heart and mind for the real answer. Do I believe? I believe that I have faith but the Word of God is clear I that faith without works is dead. If the estimation of my life is based on the factors including circumstances and conditions present than it is limited to the natural and prohibitive of the supernatural. If ordinary suits me just fine, my bills are paid, marriage is rocking along, kids are doing well, and no major illnesses – praise the Lord – but your life will not be extraordinary locked in the promised provision. Christians spend a whole lot of time trying to make better choices, spend more time in the Word of God, and come up with the right prayer language. God has already prepared a plan for us with a future and hope. It is available to all who seek Him wholeheartedly. To seek God wholeheartedly will open up a new realm of heaven that contains the exceedingly abundantly above commodity most believers never tap into and don’t even realize is available.

2 Kings 4:2-6 (NKJV) So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 

How big is your God? God is not limited in size or power. We are the limited resource that keeps exceedingly abundance from flowing through our life. I love the story of the widow woman who had a dilemma. Her husband a prophet had passed away. I am assuming that they had both served in the ministry many years. Now with no way to pay the bills, creditors were coming to enslave her children to pay the family debts. When Elisha came, she expressed her concerns. He asked her, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” What’s in your house? What’s in your wallet…as the popular credit card commercial asks? What’s in your heart? Oil represents anointing. The woman’s life did not line up to the Will, Way, Word or Work of God presently but she had the secret all bottled up on a shelf. Elisha told her to “go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors – empty vessels.” He only wanted her to gather the empty ones. He was not telling her to go beg from her neighbors. This is important. He was not telling her to put her faith anywhere else but in the Lord. Where is your faith today? People, job or personal ability? The widow did as instructed.

How big is God’s Supply? God has an exceeding abundance for our life that is much greater than our human perception. The woman and her sons gathered together the jars and brought them to Elisha. Once inside the house, she was to “shut the door”. There are things that we need to “shut the door” on in our life to hear the Voice of God, to actively participate in our relationship with Him, and live in His Presence. When the Lord instructs us to do something, how often do we add our own spin or share it with anyone and everyone who will listen? She went inside with her sons and she “shut the door.” Obedience. Distorted or delayed obedience is disobedience. What if God has a miracle that is exceedingly abundantly more that is limited only by our unwillingness to obey His Directions? What if it is us deferring our blessing and not God at all?

The final instruction – pour it (the jar of oil) into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones. The widow did exactly as she was instructed. She did not take her small jar and compare it to the much larger vessels. She did not question the prophet. She did not delay. She did exactly what he told her to do when he told her to do it. The oil did not cease flowing until she ran out of jars. What if within us is the resource needed to produce exceedingly abundantly more and our limitation is our faith? Is it possible? Oh my friend, it is more than possible it is probable. The woman was desperate to save her sons. I understand that kind of desperation. The point of no return is the best place of all when it comes to faith because it is when the end of self is found and the prosperity of God in full measure can fill our life. You have the anointing. Christ lives in you today. You just have to become an overflowing vessel so He can pour it out in your life.

Ephesians 3:13-19 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is much easier to make excuses and find all the reasons that we are not blessed or prospering than to commit the time, energy and discipline necessary to making exceedingly abundantly the reality of our life. Doubt tells us that the Goodness of God is too “good” to be true. Shame and guilt persuade us to somehow believe that His Grace is insufficient when nothing could be further from the Truth. There is no boundary to the Love of God concerning us. The death of Jesus Christ was absolutely enough to secure a right relationship with the Father, but we refuse to come home. God’s Goodness is for us in the land of the living, but pushing it off to the future allows us to attempt to maintain some form of control. It is when faced with desperation at the end of all possibility that God becomes our only option and mode of survival, yet God didn’t put us here on earth to survive but has ordained and anointed us to thrive.

God’s Love for me is so wide, long, deep and high that I will never reach the edge of it. When I allow faith to root and ground me in that unconditional and overflowing love – I become fearless. I can reach for the Lord and all that He has without fear of disappointment. God loves me. He is for me. He wants to do everything in His Word in my life. I must simply become the vessel that is needed to be conducive to such an overflow. Yes, it means provision. Yes, it means prosperity. Yes, it means healing. It means every good thing God has in Heaven is possible on the earth for those who believe. Do you believe? Lord, help our unbelief today!

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly Places in Christ. He didn’t do this because I asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. He ordained my birthright and inheritance before I was ever created. I am predestined to be blessed. Sin sold my birthright for a meal like Esau. Jesus gave it back. The Spirit of Adoption is complete. Why? Why does the Lord bless us? Why would He still do good things for me when I fail Him every day? It is not about me. It is His Good Pleasure. Blessing me blesses the Lord. He decided it gave Him pleasure from the start. To not actively pursue the Blessings and Promises of God for my life is to say, “No, thank you to Jesus!” To truly believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than one can think or ask would certainly facilitate faith on our part to have it in our life. Christ lives in us. He is more than enough. We must use our time, talent and treasure to be the vessel conducive to reproducing that anointing in our everyday life. It is not just for church. It is for our life. Every moment, every season, and every activity. We just need to be a bigger vessel so God can pour out His Blessing in our life.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

God has a purpose for our life. He wants the Light of His Love to shine for all the world to see. He has hidden that Light in these earthen vessels. It is a treasure to be discovered. It can only be discovered when allowed to shine for all the world to see. Who wants a God who does nothing? Who needs a Lord of the ordinary? Grace makes God’s Power complete in our weakness. What if the season you are in is just breaking the seal off the prosperity of your future? What if the oil in the jar sitting on the shelf unused is the very thing that will overflow abundance in your life? Maybe the secret to your success planned by the Lord is that idea or thought you have been mulling around in your head afraid to step out in faith to try? What are you waiting for? You only fail if you do not try. Faith releases God’s Anointing in our life that leads to success. It is the key to unlock the exceedingly abundantly that is beyond anything you can envision or dream. What are you waiting for? Shut the door on negativity. You don’t have to tell everyone what God has promised but let the Light shine as He completes His Work in you and through you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you step out on faith to dream the impossible and do what the Lord is telling you to do. Who cares what the world thinks! Let the Christ in you have His Way today! You are a Child of the King. You should live like one. God’s Full Potential and Purpose for our life is that we will live up to the full standard of Jesus Christ to be complete lacking nothing. God is ready to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can think or ask. Are you ready to receive it?

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Wholeheartedly

wholeheartedly

Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT) If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

How do I give all the pieces of my heart to Jesus? Wholehearted is to be done, enacted, given with total sincerity, enthusiasm and commitment. It means that I am fully and completely committed to that which my heart is given. What is that exactly? I instructed in God’s Word in Deuteronomy and confirmed by Jesus that “I must love the Lord (my) God with all (my) heart, all (my) soul, and all (my) mind.” This is called the first and greatest commandment. In Jeremiah, it is the established way of attaining God’s Plan for our life with the future and hope that comes with it. I wonder sometimes if in our plight to perfect a way easily followed that this is overlooked in the modern day church. Righteousness becomes rightness. My righteousness is found in Christ alone but there is some sense of natural security that is assumed by doing what is right. This misconception is nothing more than a lie of the enemy meant to deceive God’s People. Our sole pursuit in life must be to love God wholeheartedly for that is how to find Him.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NLT) “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”

Our pursuit of God and His Righteousness begins with the Word of God. Jesus is the Word made into flesh to dwell among us. To know, understand and begin to comprehend God’s Love demonstrated in Jesus Christ is to study, meditate and pray the Word of God in our life. God speaks to His People through His Word. It is a foreign language that must be learned and committed to memory. It must be incorporated in everyday life. We must study to show ourselves approved. Ready to share the Gospel in season and out of season. The Word brings wisdom that is more valuable than precious gems or the purest gold. Jesus is the Bread of Life that feeds and nourishes our spirit so the Holy Spirit can cultivate His Fruit in us. We must commit wholeheartedly to the words of God and Jesus Christ. The Word of God is life. It takes all the pieces of our heart no matter how broken, binding them altogether with the promise that everything is going according to His Plan.

Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT) “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

God has not and will not ever force anyone to serve Him. He does not need servants to attend Him or workers to do His Business. God desires our love. The Spirit of the Lord set us free allowing us to choose who we will serve rather than keeping us captive to sin. He offers us a plan with a future and hope to live and not die. It is a personal choice. We must choose carefully. Amaziah I is noted in 2 Chronicles 25 as one who did what is right in the Lord’s eyes, but did not do it wholeheartedly. Hezekiah is later noted in 2 Chronicles 31 as one who also pleased the Lord but he did it wholeheartedly. The Lord is looking for those who do not just seek to please Him for His Goodness but desire His Glory wholeheartedly. God fills our life with good things because He loves us. The rains falls on the wicked and the righteous because God is good. When I do what is right in His Sight, I will experience more and more of His Blessings because they are already provided for me. It is simply a matter of positioning myself in the right place at the right time doing the right thing as His Word and His Way indicates. But that is not enough for me…not anymore.

To do what God desires will benefit our life. It will expose hidden blessings just because we are honoring Him with our attitude and actions. I want more than that. I want the full and complete standard of Jesus Christ that creates unity of faith and knowledge. (Ephesians 4:13) I don’t want anything left out of the Glorious Standard of Living that sin was kept from me. I can have it now because Christ lives in me. But if I do not have a relationship with Jesus, I cannot be a Child of God. Doing what He wants just makes me a slave to God rather than sin. (Romans 6:16-18) When I decide that I love God wholeheartedly is when I begin to experience the truest freedom that is to become a Child of God.

Jeremiah 32:39-41 (NLT) They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.

God desires a relationship with you today. One that you have not every experienced before and that your flesh rallies against daily. To give up this life in pursuit of forever seems like a risky investment. What if I am wrong? What if there is not a God? What if God is not as good? What if Jesus is not real? I cannot convince you of the existence of God or the vastness of goodness or fathomless depths of His Love. You will have to experience them for yourselves. What I do know is this? No one can convince me otherwise. If I die, I will not be disappointed. My hope in Jesus Christ is secure. But for argument’s sake, what if I am wrong and there is nothing after this life? Well, I can honestly say that loving God and serving Him has only benefited and blessed my life in inexplicable and inconceivable ways. If God were only a myth, it would still have been worth giving my life to Him. I want more. I want to love God with ALL of my heart, ALL of my soul and ALL of my mind. Daily I must make it my passionate pursuit to love Him with more of me. God desires an everlasting covenant. He wants to be one with us. We avail ourselves when we seek the Lord wholeheartedly.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Lord, if I have withheld pieces of my heart, my soul or my mind from you – I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these areas so I can give more of me to You, God! We have been given an opportunity to enter into the greatest love story ever written. To experience a love so great that the boundaries will never be seen. To experience the Glory of God so overwhelming that it melts us in His Presence. What if for a moment – we stopping working so hard and try worshipping the Lord more? Taking time to enter His Presence, sit at His Feet, listen to His Words and hear His Heart. God desires a relationship with us. He wants you. He longs for me to be with Him forever. What if I am trying to impress God with my actions and all He really wants is my heart? My time. My talent. My treasure mean nothing outside of His Power at work in me. Nothing I can ever accomplish on the earth in my power will ever outshine the work of Jesus on the Cross. God simply wants to raise my standard of living so that I can live in His Glorious Standard as any good parent would do. His Love is completely overwhelming but so very simplistic. For God so loved me that He gave His Only Son that I might be saved. There is nothing I can do, say or be to cap that kind of love. All I can give is all that I am for all that He is.

What if God only desired our true love? What if He really is not impressed by what we do for Him but how we love Him? I believe that if we came back to our first love as it tells us in Revelation that becoming the church that the Lord called and created us to be would not be quite so complicated. As believers if we would choose to love God wholeheartedly, there would be a shift in the dynamics of the organization and institution so that it would become the living, breathing and healthy Body of Christ again. No longer would there be politics or personal agendas leaking into the walls of the church but the Power of God called His Glory would emanate from it pouring out into our communities, our country and around the world. The same message would be spoken. It would be all about love. Agreement wholeheartedly would produce a sound message that the world would hear clearly. God is love. God is in love with you! My life is worth nothing until the Love of God overtakes every part it so that I can effectively communicate God’s Love to a lost and dying people in a cold, dark world. Lord, I give you my heart, my soul and my mind. Make it whole according to Your Word, Your Will and Your Way today so that I can give it back to You!

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NLT)  For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 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.

Ezekiel 36:26(NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

Micah 6:8 (NLT) No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

More Than a Follower

more-than-a-follower

Luke 14:25-27 (NLT) A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Or are you a disciple of the Lord? I am challenged by this question today that can only be examined and evaluated by one’s commitment to Christ. There were many followers in the days that Jesus walked the earth. Some curiosity seekers while others in need of a cure. If you read the account of the miracle of the fishes and loaves when Jesus made a meal for more than 5,000 out one little boy’s lunch, it is easy to see that people poured out in droves to hear His Message and receive His Word. But when it came down to those committed to serving the Lord, it was only twelve. According to the Bible account, but even all twelve did not fully believe or have true faith. How can I be certain of my commitment level to Christ?

Jesus told the people that day, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else…yes, even your own life.” Well, that seems a little bit harsh, huh. How can I hate those who I am called to love? John 13:35 seems to contradict this: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” If you look closely at Luke 14:26 – it says, “by comparison.” It is natural to love, care for and nurture our family and even some friends. Each day is set forth to make a better life for them, meet their needs and support them any way possible. Every follower of Jesus Christ may remain committed to both serving Jesus and their family as well. However, as His Follower, there are certain things left behind in pursuit of Jesus. We must choose to go His Way and leave our old ways behind. Is this enough? This is completely and totally up to you. Many received signs, wonders and miracles simply because they followed Jesus. There were those who prospered in the natural because they successfully served Jesus with their life. But need I remind you – there were only 12 disciples.

Matthew 9:9 (NLT) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

All disciples begin as a follower. The invitation is always the same. “Follow me.” Leave the darkness and come into this marvelous Light of Love. He will wash us in His Blood, and soothe us with His Word. Cover us in a Robe of Righteousness. Supply enough grace for every weakness and mercy for every shortcoming. We have all that we need according to His Riches in Glory. To be a follower of Christ and work the Word creates prosperity and goodness as His Favor reaches us. Is God’s Favor enough? Yes, for the follower…but not for a true disciple.

A follower is an imitator. To do what Jesus did. To apply God’s Word to life. To serve the Lord. To identify with His Spirit. It is not a bad gig and yields many spiritual blessings and success. But is it enough for you? To become a true disciple of Jesus Christ is to become a pupil. A pupil does not simply imitate or mimic the instructor. They listen, observe, take notes and prepare for the next examination. The goal is to past the test. Score high in the evaluation. To be found fit and the end of the course – enduring training and assessment. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is a commitment to discipline that radically changes one’s heart and mind putting Him above all things including our family when necessary. It is to carve out the best portions of our time to know Him more, study and become an approved worker.

Luke 14:28-30 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Before deciding to become a disciple, one must definitely count the cost. The transition from one role to the other will cost you more than something, it is a commitment of everything you are, own and hold dear to know Him, trust Him and seek the Lord wholeheartedly. It is to lay all of our life on the altar in surrender to the Lord and to say, “Have your way, Lord! Here is my life – all of it!” You cannot be a true disciple if you are not willing to give up this life. There is always a cost for anything of worth. Our willingness to pay for it is the only thing that keeps us from our heart’s desires a lot of times. I would like a new couch, for example, but I am not willing to pay the price because there are other things that I feel are more important right now. Where does Jesus fall on your priority list today? This will indicate your chosen role. He must move His Way to the very top to become his disciple.

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!

Busyness is the excuse the enemy gives us to accommodate failure. It is the snare that traps followers who desire to be disciples. Your time, talent and treasure belong to you. You are free to use it as you please. We must learn to tithe these three things and give the Lord our first fruits. Until our time is invested in the Kingdom, our talent given to the thing He called and created us to do, and our treasure in Heaven not the things (or people) of this earth – we can only follow at a distance – held back by the shackles of a need and desire for lesser things. When the Kingdom becomes our treasure – we will be given to discipleship because it becomes worth it all. When God’s Glory is our desire over His Goodness – miracles begin to happen and His Glory will produce a vast revival with the potential to be global in effect. How precious is the Kingdom to you? Enough to reprioritize your schedule? Renew your commitment to Jesus Christ? To carve out the choicest portion of your time, talent and treasure as a tithe and offering to the Lord rather than slinging yesterday’s leftovers like scraps on the floor? We are free to become disciples if we choose to pay the cost. Cost is driven by worth. Is He worth it? Yes, Jesus you are definitely worth all of me AND my life.

Luke 14:31-33 (NLT) “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

“Si vis pacem, para bellum” or “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Jesus did not come to bring peace to this world. In fact, He came to set the world on fire. To start a wildlife of love and compassion that would sweep through the world and burn in the hearts of people. He came to empower us with His Power by His Grace to be overcomers. To walk in victory. To live by faith. To give us a place called hope where all things are possible for those who believe. To be a disciple is to believe that Heaven and the Kingdom requires force. (Matthew 11:12) To be willing to invest the time and energy of the “good soldier” who is willing to their families, homes, jobs and life goals to secure freedom for all people. Discipleship is fighting the good fight of faith even when it means forsaking our comfort. “Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to even lay his head.” They promised to follow Him “wherever you go.” Jesus said, “Follow me now.” They made excuses. (Matthew 8:19-22) Faith is ready to follow. Trust is the first step.

You must be ready to give up the “civilian” life. To fight the good fight called faith. Most of us will never endure suffering such as Jesus and the early Christians did. There are people in the world right now who must endure great oppression and even torture to be disciples of Christ. We are so tied up in civilian affairs and unwilling to give up our personal comfort, pursuits and passions to take up our cross, follow Jesus and become His Disciple. Yet, still have the audacity to demand revival and wonder where it is and why His Glory has not come.

Matthew 16:25-27 (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 lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

Jesus will not make you follow Him. He will simply invite you. He offers you the opportunity to be His Disciple but does not force such a lifestyle on you. He has promised us a place in His Kingdom. He has even given us the keys to unlock it and unleash it here on earth. We have been given everything needed to prosper in faith, promoted by trust, and a hope that is confident. The rest is up to me. If I want to be a disciple, I must be willing to make a difference in the atmosphere of my life by committing it all to Jesus. All of it. The truth is – it all belongs to Him anyway. The test is – do I love my life more than Jesus? We all must evaluate our position – am I a follower or a disciple? If you do not like your current position – it is completely up to you to make the change necessary. He will meet you in that moment, but will never push or pull us into it. Faith. Love. Hope. Trust. Commitment. Discipline. These are the labels on the steps of discipleship. The stairway to the Kingdom is before us. His Glory is ready to descend from the Highest of Heaven to meet us right where we are if we are willing to take the first step. The moment that you and I believe it will be worth it, we will be willing to step up. Lord, make me more than a follower. I want to be your disciple. Here is my life today – take it all. I love you Jesus and want Your Glory to fill my life!

Matthew 28:19 (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

Beyond the Fog

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2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT) For we live by believing and not by seeing.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything in perfect clarity. All I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (I Corinthians 13:12) A thick fog has blanketed the streets and houses in the neighborhood this morning. It is difficult to make out the house across the street, but I know it is there. Fog is nothing more than tiny water droplets suspended in the atmosphere making it difficult to see. The same word is used to describe something that obscures and/or confuses a situation or someone’s thought process. One might say that someone is walking around in a fog.  As believers, I believe that such is a normal state of life. As what we now on the earth collides with what we are learning about the Kingdom, it causes a new state of understanding called belief. The sun will soon burn away the water that has hindered natural visibility. Lord, I ask you to clear away the foggy areas of my life so that all I see is You.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for. It is the evidence of things we cannot see. (Hebrews11:1) It is without hesitation that in a few hours everyone will load up in the family vehicle and head to the House of God. What each person encounters will be strictly up to them? Surely as pastors all over are praying, worship leaders preparing the way to enter His Presence, teachers are studying lessons, and group leaders picking up donuts on the way to fire up the coffee pot, the Lord is waiting. He is wondering if today will be the day that the fog lifts from our faith. If it will be the moment that His People choose to believe in Him. Just the Lord, only Jesus. We have made church such a prominent production that many times it is easy to forget what really matters. It is what we believe. The things that we cannot see but trust by faith to be real and true.

Do you believe today? Yes, I believe that I will find a parking spot, be met by a greeter, find a seat in the sanctuary, hear good music, and be brought a good message but will I believe just a step farther by placing one foot into the fog where faith becomes belief. The place where new life begins. The Presence of God is where I want to go. It is the very place that I am called to be where my purpose is revealed and potential exposed to growth beyond that which I can imagine or even think. Corrie ten Boom said, “Faith is the radar that sees through the fog.”

Matthew 8:5-10 (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!

The first paper that I ever wrote in Bible College was about the centurion’s faith. It quickly became one of the most inspiring stories in the entire book. Immediately, I had a burning desire to have faith like He did. The kind of faith that made Jesus marvel and amazed Him. The officer made it through the military ranks because he understood authority and power. He not only recognized these two things, but his training and experience allowed him to respond with confidence and absolute trust that if Jesus spoke the word – it would be enough. I want God’s Word to be enough for me to respond to. His Word is all that I need to have all the authority and power of God’s Kingdom at my disposal. My response to God’s Word, His Will and His Way must be marked by submission and surrender. These are the very things that our pride and flesh hate. They are the acts rallied against by our mind, will and emotions as they exact the death blow to sin in our life. Which gives us a new life where there is no room for self in order to make room for all of Jesus!

Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. When the Lord told me that our son would live and not die, I had to make a choice. Trust is always a choice. It is the element of freedom that cannot be forced therefore submission and surrender are absolutely essential to step out of our natural life and secure eternal life. It is the boundary between impossible and possible that can only be overcome by faith. We must move from the place of doubt and disbelief to obtain faith and trust in the Lord to allow Him access to our now rather than waiting on forever.

Mark 9:22-24 (NLT) The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “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!”

“Help us, if you can…” Many people pray this way even today. “Lord, if it is Your Will – heal my _______” We must fortify our belief system with truth. Jesus met the woman at the well when she was isolated and alone. (John 4) Her past made it impossible for her to join the other woman. She was an outcast. He imparted life changing wisdom to her that day filling her heart. He said to her that there was coming a day when “true worshippers” would do so in Spirit and in Truth. To live by Spirit and Truth is to live under the power and authority of God. We have the Holy Spirit to produce spiritual fruit to nourish our faith and feed our trust so belief will be born in us. The Truth is God’s Word. We cannot know Jesus and not know the Word because they are one. (John 1) She decided to believe. When she went to tell the others, they also believed. (John 4:42) “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief, Lord!”

John 8:44-45 (NLT) For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!

Born in sin, it is not natural for people to believe the Gospel message. We are born judged. Acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord relinquishes our familial connection to sin that is natural to step into the supernatural realm called hope. To have all the benefits and blessings of being a Child of the King. We must make the transition from death to life in doing just one thing. We must believe in Jesus. He must be our Savior and become our Lord. Just as solider enlists voluntarily, we become good soldiers of Jesus Christ by accepting Him as our Lord. His Word becomes our authority and therefore we submit obedience. His Power becomes ours by surrendering our weakness and inability to His Power. It is not natural so it will require constant attention.

The father of lies tells us many things contradictory to the Word of God but readily accepted by unknowing flesh. Jesus did not come with a long list of demands. He did not come with an assassin’s agenda to exact punishment. He came to offer salvation. He came not to condemn but pardon. The world says that it is too good to be true. Religion adds an addendum to perfect love created fear and anxiety over one’s inability to follow them. Jesus didn’t come for all that but with one purpose in mind. Those who believe would be saved. The only sin that forces judgement over mercy is its refusal to believe in Jesus Christ. I didn’t say that the Word of God does. (John 16:9) We must believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior. We must believe that He is the Lord of our life. This belief by faith and confident hope will cause us not just to trust Him for our forever but allows Him to change our today and tomorrows, too.

John 11:23-27 (NLT) Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

“Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” (John 11:28) Martha’s faith was limited. She could not believe beyond seeing. When Jesus arrived, she scolded Him. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus even revealed Himself to her directly by saying, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He went on to tell her that those who live in Me will never die. Though her mouth said the right thing, it revealed the reality of her faith. Martha had faith for forever, but she did not believe for that day. Martha was blind to the spiritual significance of what Jesus was saying so passed Him off to Mary. It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of faith without truly believing. We must be so very careful as Christians that faith is a verb and not just a noun. We must live by believing not seeing. Faith is believing without seeing and living based on confident hope not human confidence.

John 11:38-40 (NLT) Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

When Jesus encountered Mary, she fell at His Feet also indicating that she believed if Jesus had been there – her brother would be alive. Jesus was in the midst of them ready to give new life to Lazarus but they were caught up in their circumstance and current conditions believing that it was over. Hope arrived but they didn’t even recognize Him. It says in John 11:35 that Jesus wept. Was He weeping because those closest to Him did not believe? Do you believe that Jesus can bring even dead things back to life? ”So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.”[ This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Romans 4:16-18)

John 9:35-38 (NLT) When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.” “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!” “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

Jesus healed this man of blindness. The Pharisees demanded an explanation of the miracle from the man. He recounted his experience. They continued to harass Him until they finally threw him out of the synagogue because the beggar could not give a natural explanation of his supernatural experience. Jesus came to the man and made an introduction. The man believed.

Thomas was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was with him for all the ministry and miracles of his years leading up to the Cross. When Jesus came back to life, his close follower and disciple refused to believe without actually seeing the Lord with nail-scarred hands and the fresh scar in his side. Jesus came to Him. It is His Deepest Desire that we believe. Jesus said to Thomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Once Thomas finally believed Jesus said these words, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” This is not a message for the lost but those who think seeing is believing. In the natural this is true. Spiritually faith is believing what we do not see enough to trust Him for now not just forever.

Mark 11:22-25 (NLT) Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

True worshippers will do so in Spirit and in Truth. God’s Power and Authority is ready for you. All that is required to have faith in Jesus Christ, to believe in His Word and live according to His Way. To submit and surrender to His Word. There is an inherent danger to demanding God to do it our way or constantly give us signs in order to believe. In Mark15:31-32, the religious leaders demanded Jesus to save Himself from the Cross in order for them to believe. If Jesus Christ had done what they required to believe – no one could be saved. Life was in their grasp. Forever within an arms width away. Yet the tried to call our Savior (the Messiah) off the Cross to satisfy their doubt and disbelief. We cannot demand Jesus to do it our way but believe that His Way is perfect and live accordingly. Belief is empowered by His Spirit and His Word. They become the Truth to live by. We must rebuke the natural desire to see what God is doing and respond to what we know of Him. The Word lights our way and is a lamp to our feet. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life who better to guide and navigate us then the Word. The Holy Spirit is our helper. We will never walk alone if we acknowledge Him and partner with Him to discover more faith which fuels our belief. We must fan this desire to know the Lord into a passionate flame of unquenchable desire.

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

The tell-tale sign of belief is faith and trust demonstrated by obedience to God’s Authority and His Power. It is the very thing that allows us to experience all the benefits and blessings associated with new life and rebirth. The Resurrection Power that brought Jesus forth from the grave victoriously is in us. The key to unlock it is labeled “believe”. Do you believe? The easiest way to know if there is disbelief in us is disobedience. If we truly believe that God is always good, His Word true, His Love unconditional, His Grace powerful and His Glory better than life – we would obey Him at His Word and achieve the faith of the centurion. The kind of faith and trust that amazed Jesus! I would love for that to be the legacy of my life. To trust the Lord for more than just forever. To obey Him at His Word. Lord, help me today to walk completely by faith and not by sight. To step into the deep from which You are calling and not hesitate because I cannot see the way. I want to be where You are Jesus! Take me to that place! Be my Light when I cannot see and my comfort when fear grips my heart! Let the response of my heart in all things to follow you. I want to believe, rid me of all disbelief in Jesus Name!

John 10:25-27 (NLT)  Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

 

Hope for the Future

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Jeremiah 29:10-13 (NLT) This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Most of us have heard the age old expression to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Could this be the same thing as being stuck in a rut? I don’t know. I often feel as though I have stepped out of the boat by faith and Jesus is just out of reach – so now what? Welcome to the realm of hope. The uncomfortable place where faith is expended but hope not yet realized. It is the place offered as deep cries out to deep. It can also be the very place the enemy meets us when he knows fear may be stirring and doubt beginning to rise like waves just before the storm. The place where mockers cry out foolishness from the shoreline. Christians call out from the boat, “Are you sure it was God?” and Jesus waits with His Nail-Scarred Hand extended. He said, “Come.” And you responded. Now what?

Welcome to hope. The so-called “anchor of our soul”. The place where faith takes it first step and leaves us in an abyss of swirling thoughts and the vortex of our mind attempts to suck us in and pull us from every single promise engrained in our thoughts. Why? Why do we struggle? Why is life so hard? There really must be an adversary who wants my soul. Who desires every good thing God has given me in this lifetime. He wants my faith. It is the only thing that can save me. He wants to rob me of hope and a future more glorious than can be imagined. Joy so wonderfully secure that it is inexpressible. Do you have plans for the future? Maybe a birthday coming up or an anniversary. Perhaps, you are awaiting a birth be it a person or a promise. Are you taking a special trip? A promotion coming down the pipes. Whatever it is that lies beyond today and this moment are not promised. Only today. This moment. This breath. What will you do with it?

Jeremiah 29:10 hints at a lifetime. Mankind did not have a prescribed lifetime until sin entered him. God offered death as a release from the effects of sin in our life. He limited our years to 120 in Genesis 6:3. The psalmist eludes to a further shortened existence of just 70 years in Psalm 90:10. God’s Grace would not allow His People to suffer as a demonstration of His Unfailing Love and Compassion for us. Jeremiah 29:10 says “You will be in Babylon for seventy years.” Could it just be a coincidence? Or is our future truly vested in forever? We want the future and hope that is mentioned in these verses but so often design it by our choice and preference when it is all by predestination and God’s Master Plan and Design. If our future and hope is hidden in Jesus Christ, one might be wise to decide what am I doing to invest in this future and hope rather than in the one scheduled to end a few decades or less.

“But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. I am captivated by the future today. What is to come? This week between Christmas and the New Year evokes this response more and more each year I am alive. Since becoming a Christian, this has stirred excitement in me to move into the new thing God offers with each year of life. Our life comes with a plan. It contains a future and hope. Every step of this life has the potential to lead us there. However, our thinking must grow and expand from thoughts about daily life, current conditions and all the circumstances surrounding our existence beyond this life to forever…now. God planned good for us forever. He plans a future in Jesus Christ. We have hope that can only be realized after our departure.

In Matthew 24:36, the Lord tells us that we do not know the day or hour of His Return and that only the Father knows. In Romans 8:28, God promises to take every detail of our life and use it for our good…for those who love Him. What you desire, you pursue? We pursue many things in life based on our wants, needs and desires. Investing our time, talent and treasure in passions and pursuits to improve our standard of living naturally. Will we allot the same amount of energy and dedication to a future and hope that is never experienced by the five senses and only confirmed by His Spirit in us. Will we take a single step of faith when the rest of the process is unclear? Will I waste my time with no guarantee other than one that is promised in ancient text and whispered by an unseen Spirit? I must if what I am after is eternal life and forever with the Lord. I have no idea when He is returning or the day I will meet Him face-to-face, but what I do know today is that I must invest more of me into the process of finding Him in order to have faith that is secure and hope that is confident.

Romans 8:22-24 (NLT) For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.

I believe that the church does people an injustice when they do not teach the meaning of hope. I have hope because I have Jesus Christ. But the hope that I have does not exempt me from trials, heartaches, disappointments, and seeming disaster sometimes. Heavenly hope in Jesus Christ does not lead to disappointment, but how many times do we invest our belief in something other than the Word of God, His Truth and His Way? We diversify our faith. Giving some to God, some to man, some to money, and some to self just to name a few. All the while, wondering why we are stretched in so many directions.

We are given hope when we are saved. Hope that will never be fully realized in this lifetime. I remember the first time I heard “realm of hope”. It was sitting in an infusion room when the doctor was trying to tell me that the third relapse of cancer in our son may be his last. As I asked her a flurry of questions, the physician who was always so optimistic and encouraging could not make any promises. When she said those three words, “realm of hope”, something in me leapt with exhilaration. Would this be the place where God took over?

Later in our conversation, she used my other favorite word. She said, “Impossible.” In every trial of life I have endured so far, when someone uses the word “impossible” or “forever”, I have seen the Hand of God intervene. He is the God of our future and no one can dictate the outcome of His Children’s future no matter what. When man says our situation is impossible, it means our faith must be fully shifted to the God who makes all things possible. In our utter devastation and weakness, it is human nature to call out to the One who is higher. He answers our call in that moment of pure desperation. This is the moment when His Power becomes enough for us because it is all we have to hold on to. Life drives us to this point by design. God desires us to live forever with Him. He wants to give us a future. The Lord is making all things possible for those who believe enough to pursue hope wholeheartedly.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT) For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

“You have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” In my fifty years of life, I have seen the Hand of God come close to the earth and do great and mighty things. I have also wandered in darkness so deep that I thought I might not return. I have joined many churches and left most of them, too. I have seen ministers step up and sit down. I tried religion for many years struggling with all the “do’s and don’ts” of doctrine and regulations of religiosity. I have been built up by pride and shattered in brokenness. I have come to this revelation today. All of these things are trivial and do not matter if I do not have hope. One glorious hope for the future. It is the commonality of Christianity that is lost in hidden rivalries and mass marketing but remains the same day after day. My future is in Jesus Christ not my ability to work or invest appropriately. Nothing I do, say or become outside of a Child of God really matters. We must focus our attention on one hope in order to experience the revival the Body of Christ is calling out for. It is time to liquefy our lives as an offering to God.

There is one body and one spirit. We are the Body of Christ. We are not functioning as one body currently. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. We do not act like it. Our hope demands unity in order to fulfill our future. My future, my forever is in Jesus Christ. I have made it about so many other things. “You have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” Me, too. How do we get there from where we are now? If we all are headed there, why can’t we get it together?

Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

The Ephesians were “members” of the Church of Ephesus. Do you remember them? In Revelation 2 they are applauded for all their “hard work” and “dedication”. They were known for their patient endurance. The picture of “Christianity”. They were victorious in many ways and touted for not being quitters.  The model church, right? Wrong. What does the Lord say to them? “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” The incredible wealth of Jesus Christ is His Grace and Kindness toward us. His Great Love for us is our hope. He is our future and forever. Have we taken back our heart? Are we pursuing God with some of us and the world with the rest of us? If our heart is not invested in our pursuit of Christ, are we not just lusting after His Hand?

Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NLT) In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

What am I currently pursuing in this life? What are my passions? What do I desire? Where is my treasure? My future and hope are in Jesus Christ. I must align my life with Him in order to have that which I hope for. It is time to repent. It is time to return to the Lord wholeheartedly. It is time to pray more than ever before. It is time to examine what is precious to me right now in this moment and determine if it is my Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ. Do I love Him like I used to? Do I love Him more than ever before? Have I lost my first love? My one true love. Are there things in my life that have taken God’s Place? Have I chosen to hold more tightly to this life than my future? Am I gaining the world but losing my soul? Is there anything worth more than your soul today? Jesus certainly doesn’t think so. He died to give us one future, one hope and life everlasting. Do I want it? I do. How about you?

Matthew 26:25-26 – “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 lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

Lost My Way

lost-my-way

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

When the children were little, each one was carefully instructed in what to do if they were ever separated from me. The first thing I taught them was the information to identify themselves and their parents to tell an adult. The second was to stay exactly where they were the moment they realized that that they were lost. Don’t move. Then they were to begin calling me as loudly and possible. If someone else touched them, they were to yell and shout “you are not my mom” or “you are not my dad” and fight with all of their might to gain the attention of others. This was our disaster plan. With five children, it was absolutely necessary to be sure that I did not lose tract of anyone. The poor Dillard’s clerk was the first to test our emergency plan when she thought my son was separated from his mother. She grabbed hold of his arm to stop his wandering and it began yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs. She was traumatized. He was quite proud of his survival techniques. We all lose our way. It doesn’t mean that we wander off or even leave our walk with the Lord. There are just sometimes when faith does not illuminate the way far enough ahead for our human comfort and so it threatens our confidence in the Lord.

What should we do when the way of God is not as clear as it used to be? What is the next step when I don’t understand His Way? How can I trust a God I cannot see, feel or touch and follow His Way completely in the dark? Think about our friend, Peter who as he ventured out on the water was confident in Jesus. When the wind and waves kicked in, suddenly he could see his next footstep “on top of the water” very well so what did he do? He panicked. What did Jesus do? He caught him. The Lord promises to do that for righteous people. (Prov. 24:16) It says that as the Heavens are higher than the earth so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. There will be days that I just don’t understand what God is doing or how He is doing it or if He is STILL doing it. He is.

I Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

When I read this verse today, I said, “God that’s me today. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” What do we do as believers on those days when every step before today added up to this moment? When we have a promise, but in each step it seems further away? When every natural condition defies God’s Word, Promise or Plan as we know it? Then what? I am here today. I seem to have lost my way.

Luke 21:19 (NLT) By standing firm, you will win your souls.

Standing firm. We must stand on the Word of God. His Promise for our life. His Word that He has spoken to us. The Plan that He prepared for us. Even when our natural life does not add up to the supernatural mandate that the Lord has inspired us to receive. God always gives us a promise. Always. He gives us His Word. Always. He instructs us by His Spirit. Always. He empowers us with everything we need to stand firm and endure to the end. We are fully equipped. We also have a free will powered by a reprobate mind that would rather give up on God and have immediate gratification – I don’t care how saved and sanctified that you think you are.

When we reach the end of our own understanding, this is the beginning of faith and trust. We must come to the end of ourselves. Some call it the realm of hope. I usually long to hear the word “impossible” or “forever” because this is where the ruler of this world tries to overstep his boundaries and enter God’s Sacred Territory of complete sovereignty and wrestle away the authority and power that He bestowed Jesus when He beat death and the grave. But just before I get there – I run out of “me” power. My optimism is gone. My enthusiasm wanes. My patience begin to run out. I am running on reserve power rather than maximum potential. I feel weak and weary. What do I do here? I must stand. Just as I told my children to stand in the place where they lost their way – God is reminding me to do the same thing today. The place where He led me until I lost sight of Him. Stand on the Promise. Stand on faith. Trust Him. See if I lose sight of my child, I am going to retrace my footsteps to find them. God never loses sight of us. He keeps us in His Hand. He also goes before us preparing the way of that thing He has promised. He has not left us at all. He is simply perfecting that which concerns me (Ps. 138:8) and working every detail for my good. (Romans 8:28)

I John 5:18-21 (NLT) We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

This is what we know for sure. I am a Child of God. Nobody can snatch me from His Hand or take me from His Love. I have a very real and ruthless enemy. Jesus has come and before He left the Lord gave me something vital. He gave me His Spirit. His Spirit is my understanding about a God I cannot see and Savior who I cannot touch. He confirms in me the Word that I read and digest each day. The Word of God contains the Bread of Life that feeds and strengthens my spirit man to engage in the battle for my mind, will and emotions each day. I must rely on what I know about God to trust Him. I must keep anything else from taking God’s Place in my heart, soul and mind. God is the Source of my hope that makes faith possible. (Romans 15:13)

But wait there’s more…

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.

God meant exactly what He said to you, confirmed in His Word and confided in His Spirit. If all three agree, it is a title deed to what we cannot see but know belongs to us. It is with this in mind that hope becomes the anchor that keeps us in place during those times that we do not understand and begin to lose heart. God holds us in that place. It is during such times that we must “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His Promise.” (Hebrews 10:23) Time to put our money where our mouth is so to speak. If you trust God, it is time to show it. Trust keeps you hoping when you have no reason to and standing on faith without anything to show for it. It is called endurance. Only those who endure to the end will be saved. “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36) Ugh! This is not easy…but He promises us today that it will be worth every drop of sweat on your brow, your weak knees, and your broken heart as we lift tired hands to praise the Living God while we wait and cannot see the next step before us.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

During chemo treatments, my son would often just drift off to sleep. The infusion room was a flurry of activity with nurses rushing back and forth, monitors beeping, alarms sounding, televisions blaring in each little cubicle made of curtains. Yet, he would be sound asleep. I used to wonder how in the world this child could just conk out like that when most people would be completely unnerved by all the distractions, not to mention, bags of poison being pumped in his body time and time again. Yet, he was completely peacefully sleeping. Why? He trusted the doctors who cared for him. The nurses became his friends. He knew that I was sitting right next to him watching every move and asking endless questions to understand. From the beginning, our son trusted God to save his life. He believed that the Lord was in control so he did not worry about the details and people around him. He just endured. This allowed him to sail through four rounds of chemotherapy in that room without any apprehension or fear just peace that allowed him to sleep. I remember time and time again thinking God this must be perfect peace.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT)  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. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Sitting in this chair today thinking about the “things” I find perplexing, I still don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Heck, I don’t know what will happen in the next ten minutes for that matter. I cannot understand how our family arrived in this place at this moment or where the Lord is leading us from here. All I know is that here is the last place I found Him before I became lost. Lost in my feelings. Lost in the moment. Lost in the pain. Lost in the confusion. Lost in the wait. Here I will wait because at the end of the day – I trust the Lord. My understanding has led me to places I didn’t want to go. My way is a dead-end. In His Presence I do find peace. He is there waiting for me every time I come. He doesn’t always tell me what is next but He promises that He is already there. I’m really not lost just waiting. Thank you Lord.

If you are lost like me today, I pray that from His Glorious and Unlimited Resources that the Lord will empower you with inner strength. His Grace is enough and weakness allows His Power to work in us and through us. May Christ gain more real estate in our hearts today as we learn to trust Him more and let our faith grow just a little more. Lord, give us another glimpse of the vast capacity of your Amazing Love for us. Your Love is too great to fully comprehend or completely understand. Thank you for your ability God to accomplish infinitely more than we could think or ask. Maybe that’s the reason the wait is so long and the road so narrow. Your promises are always larger in hindsight than in our approach. I surrender my life, my way and my will to your process of completion. You have made a way for me and I intend to find it.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT) May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.