Rejoicing Together Always

Rejoicing Together Always

Philippians 1:18-21 (ESV) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The text came in long after I was sleeping from our daughter at summer camp. She shared her experience and all the enthusiasm that I have come to expect from the “mountaintop” times hidden away with God and a bunch of young people. I cannot imagine a place in time without cellphones but they don’t need them there. I am getting only bits and pieces of what is happening in this gathering. Did you ever go to church camp as a kid? Our family moved from Georgia to Florida when I was a teenager. My mom reconnected with some church friends and decided that I was going to camp that summer. Pulling up to the church, I had never seen so many young people in my life. It was a large congregation of more than 25,000 so you can only imagine the number of children. My mom stopped the car and I immediately protested. I didn’t know any of the kids. I was an outsider looking in. She quickly found her friend who was a youth leader and deposited me along with my suitcase before heading off. My only expectation for that week was to survive, but God had other plans. It was my first journey to the mountaintop experience. Like when Moses entered the Presence of God, he came out all aglow. Then life and all the Israelites became the crushing reality that surrounded him. When kids come back they are pumped up, ready to live every moment for Jesus Christ, and fully immersed in the Presence and Power of God for days. Kids come back with full intentions to walk with the Lord. Then life happens all over again.

I prayed for our girls before they left and have continued to do so. However, after reading her text, I began evaluating her experience. As much as I hate to admit it, I became a bit cynical. Cynicism is not my natural inclination. I am more skeptical over their spiritual diet then what they feed their natural body. I want to know that every word invested to them is God’s Word straight from His Throne. This is the place from which my cross examination and close scrutiny arises. The Holy Spirit immediately rushed in with a simple request, “Rejoice with her.” She is on the mountain. I am in reality. How can I evaluate a work so far removed? Trust me. I do not doubt that our kids are encountering the Lord in a whole new way. However, sometimes when we are living in reality it is easy to over evaluate what God is doing. As her parent, I want this to change her from the inside out and empower her to live a holy and righteous life that continues long after she returns. She is on the mountain surrounded by the Glory of God and my desire for success in her spiritual life tries to build a net at the bottom of her mountain top experience rather than rejoicing with her there.

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

It was not hard to pick a topic for my Bible Study today. I must learn to rejoice always. Philippians 1 leads us to a new understanding of what it means to rejoice. To rejoice, whether in pretense or in truth, that Christ is proclaimed. The word “pretense” means pretending, feigning, make believe or a false showing of something. How could this even be written in God’s Word? We rejoice in the Truth right? I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love and all its best qualities. “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing (sin) but rejoices in the Truth (God’s Love is greater). Truth is that sin overtook us but His Grace overwhelms us. In Christ, I am more than a conqueror because He loves me and gives me victory. The proclamation of Jesus Christ is to tell of His Great Love, His Gift and His Power. When the Name of Jesus is spoken it evokes all of these qualities. Full understanding is not required. His Ways are higher and so are His Thoughts. The Lord is doing more than we can think, ask or imagine. Therefore, it is not up to me to fully evaluate His Work but rejoice in the fact His Name is proclaimed.

To proclaim the Name of Jesus. Not fancy preaching or intellectual teaching, but to cry out, call out, and confess His Name. It is simple. It doesn’t have to be backed by human wisdom or theological dialogue. To say the Name of Jesus releases Power into the atmosphere. It promotes change in the present. When a person comes to the altar whispers His Name it doesn’t matter what the intention of their heart is in that moment, there is an opening or a crack in which Christ fits.

Romans 12:8-16 (ESV) Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.”

When everything is going wrong, and nothing is going right – it is tough to rejoice with others. When you get passed over for the promotion, but someone seemingly undeserving gets it. Or your child is still sick while another one healed. To pilfer through life while others prosper. The enemy wants us to compare our life with other people. His goal is to make us all the prodigal’s brother comparing and contrasting our blessings, promises and purpose with another. God has no favorites. He doesn’t have step-children but fully adopted sons and daughters. We are of the same bloodline through Christ. Our inheritance is secure. To desire another’s belongings and destiny in life is to forfeit our own. We seek that which our heart desires. It takes confidence in Christ’s Love for me to rejoice in the blessing and good fortune of another. It is the shield that keeps envy and bitterness from building barriers between us and a rich, satisfying life.

To celebrate with another creates unity in the Body of Christ. Let love be genuine. If my child is promoted in their job, I celebrate their accomplishment. We are not in competition. It should be the same with other people as well. If God’s Plan for me is for me and no one else, it cannot be compromised or claimed by another. I have nothing to worry about so I am free to rejoice with those who rejoice. To put all of our energy and effort into love and harmony with Jesus and other people creates a bond that the enemy cannot break. A body of fully moving parts who do their own work together.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

The hope that I have found in Jesus Christ never ever leads to disappointment. God is not a man therefore He cannot lie or change His Mind. Once the commandment to bless you is released, His Word cannot return to Him void. It must do what God released it to do. This means there will be days when happiness seems elusive so it is inexpressible joy of knowing Jesus must be what is clung to. Trials and tribulation are inevitable. Patience is a fruit from His Spirit that keeps us company in the waiting. Constant prayer is nothing more than maintaining confident, constant, and conscious conversation with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus Christ comes when we stop looking for Him in other people and find Him in us.

I Thessalonians 5:16-19 (ESV)  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

Rejoice always.

Is it even possible? Saul met Jesus just going about normal life. He was a religious man. He thought he was upholding his belief in God by persecuting the Christians. Saul was not evil. His intentions were not bad. He just didn’t know the Lord. Jesus made a formal introduction that day. Saul became Paul when his eyes were dimmed to this world and focused on Christ. One experienced changed his heart forever. I wonder sometimes if we become like Saul unknowingly and certainly unwillingly. Persecuting verbally the Work of God in others because our eyes are set on this life and not Jesus Christ. A lack of understanding is enough to evoke doubt from even the most believing and unsuspecting heart. I believe that in that moment when everything becomes clear to us in the Presence of Jesus it will bring us some dismay to find out God didn’t do it all our way. The way we worship, choose to serve, or interpret the Word of God may be different than what it really is. I am human and so are you. We do not know everything even though our pride might argue the point. It is cloudy at best. Challenged to love beyond self and serve outside of comfort – the struggle is real. When we are in the valley or just immersed in reality, it is easy to question, speculate or over analyze what is happening on the mountains in the Presence of God. We must learn to rejoice in every move of God until it reaches us.

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

God is a Good Father. He doesn’t leave us without options. If we learn to pray without ceasing, be thankful in all circumstances, and stop quenching the flow of His Spirit in us, through us and among us – we will accomplish His Will for us. He has prescribed a plan and purpose for us with a future and hope individually that is not dependent or any way impacted by what He is doing in others. God calls us His Masterpiece. He is molding and shaping our life into something unique and wonderful. Focus on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith and access point to all that is within God’s Presence with our name on it. God loves you. Jesus died for you. His Spirit lives in you. His Desire is for you. It is all individually secure but corporately enhanced when we learn to rejoice with others. Don’t overanalyze what God is doing. Outside of faith found in His Word nothing will ever be completely logical. It takes the impossible to release the supernatural. It is a choice to rejoice in all things by faith in Jesus Christ and confident hope that He knows exactly what He is doing. Confidence in Christ causes us to rejoice. It is a reason to shout and give Him praise rather than worrying about every little doctrine and theology. Lord, help us get love, faith, and hope right so we can rejoice in all things. It is all about you Jesus nothing more and nothing less.

Lord, thank you for moving in and through our young people at camp. Thank you Jesus for reaching down and touching our daughters. You are an awesome God. Prepare me to receive them when they come home. Lord, to keep the passionate ember you are kindling in them burning brightly. May it spread like wildfire everywhere they go and in every word they speak. Lord, teach me to rejoice with all who rejoice…always. I ask your Spirit to quench any cynicism that rises up and fill it with confident hope. Thank you for Your Presence always open and available to me even in the valley. Thank you for joy and the ability to rejoice always. Amen.

Psalm 70:4 (ESV) May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

Coasting Through Life

Coasting Through Life

Psalm 107:29-31 (ESV) He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

As a child, I had a bike with big handlebars and a banana seat. I would love to trudge up the hill in our neighborhood and coast down letting the momentum of the downward slope carry me quickly to the bottom. It was the same hill where my dad taught me to ride my bike just after removing the training wheels. He encouraged me as he began undoing the little nuts holding them in place. He tried to build my confidence as I fearfully climbed on the seat. He promised to hold tight to the back as I started my decent. But then he did the unthinkable, as I gained my balance he let go. I did great…for a while before crashing into a tree at the bottom. He came and scooped me up. I was mad, hurt and scared. My father loved me and then put me right back on the bike again so that fear would not keep me from the freedom of doing the very thing that I desired which was to ride my bike.

Some who read this might think my dad cruel to just let me go like that. We live in a society where kids don’t try anymore because they are given what they want in such a situation. They go unchallenged by parents but are pacified for peace. My father was not mean or abusive. He always encouraged us to try. He taught us to go after the things we wanted in life and that failure was not the end but the opportunity to do it again until success was found. Yes, I fell down that day but the crazy thing is that I got back up and continued to climb the hill and ride down it over and over again. I cannot help but believe that in some strange way there was a life lesson learned that day much greater than just riding a bike on two wheels.

There is a saying that “all who wander are not lost.” Life is our lesson book. The Word of God holds every solution to every problem but let’s be real – it is not the first authority in our life. It should be, but for many it is not. Christians desire the things of God but do not go after God to find them. When presented with challenges, circumstances, conditions, and change – it is human nature to give up. If I had attempted to ride my bike on two wheels alone, would I have been successful that day? Or was it the love of my father and his ability to see the lesson far greater than the task at hand, to build character in his children to try. To equip us to not give up when times are tough but dig in. My dad taught us not be concerned about the climb but to make it to the top and coast down it. I believe that someone needs to know today that the challenge you are facing has meaning and purpose. It is not the Father’s Will to destroy you but to wrap you in His Steadfast Love. Everything He does is with His Plan in mind. The future and hope that He has prepared for us never leads to disaster of defeat but overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ. To continue on this journey even in the wandering is to know that you are never lost but constantly pursued by His Unfailing Love and Goodness that is ready to overtake you! The Father is for you today.

Psalm 107:4-9 (ESV) Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

It might be human nature to do good and parental compassion leading us to pull Joseph from the pit and the prodigal from the pig pens of life. I know that I never want to see my children fail or fall down but there are times and seasons when I must remember that God loves them more than I do and has meaning in the struggles they go through. My love and compassion does not change but I yield to the Power of God at work in them. To trust the Lord with their future and hope as I work to define my own. Journeying through Psalm 107, there are some examples of different situations where people went through something to find the Presence of God in their life. Opportunities to let go of our expectation in order to survive and find that God has something bigger and better. There is purpose in the climb, blessing in each valley and your sowing is never in vain. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” Oh how many of us can relate?

Our ability to endure the trials of life and continue through to the other side requires confidence in the Steadfast Love of God our Father. He promises to satisfy the longing soul and to fill the hunger of our soul with good things. The word steadfast means fixed in a direction, firm in purpose or in faith, and unwavering. God’s Love for you is constant. It cannot be changed or undone by a single sin or mistake. It is forever. Do you believe that today? Or did natural paternal relationships jade your thinking and compromise your trust? Sometimes it is our nature to view the Lord through human eyes rather than a broken heart. Withholding the pieces marred by betrayal, broken promises, and shattered trust, we do not give the Lord what it takes for Him to make our life the masterpiece He declared it would be. (Ephesians 2:10) I am a work in progress but if I do not allow God to move me, mold me or shape me – I will remain unchanged. It takes faith and confidence in the fixed, firm and foundational love that is the solidity of our life and permanence of our position as Children of God.

Psalm 107:10-16 (ESV) Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

There are times when the actions in our life produce unfavorable consequences. God does not promise to end the consequences of our actions and eliminate the challenges that arise from our rebellion. It would contradictory in that it would end the sowing and reaping ordained in the days of Noah. There is cause and effect in life. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In Romans 8:28 there is a precious promise for such times. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” To interpret this verse to mean that God will spare us from every consequence is foolishness. Where is the power to overcome if there is not difficulty? How does one experience victory without the possibility of defeat? Where is the glory in such a life of entitlement? God uses our struggles to produce faith in His Love and His Power that leads us from victory to victory and glory to glory through the challenges of life not around them.

True freedom in Jesus Christ is experienced by accepting our position as Sons and Daughters of God and living in His Favor. To pour out blessings and prosperity on a rebellious heart would only give way to farther wandering and worse mistakes enabled by God’s Provision. God loves us too much for that. He doesn’t withhold any good thing from us but will certainly not contribute to our fall. By faith, we are given access to God’s Presence and Promises through Jesus Christ. To enter into this place of undeserved privilege allows us to experience freedom from the driving force of self that keeps us hungry and thirsty imprisoned by our emotional bondage and lack of trust.

I John 3:19-21 (ESV) By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…

The New Living Translation says “God is greater than our feelings.” When my dad let go of the bike so I could coast down the hill, he knew that I might fall. He also knew that I might just make it and successfully meet my goal, too. His feelings may have told him to hold on, but his faith in me told him to let me go. He was ready to meet me at the bottom. Pick me up and love on me when I fell down. Wiping away my tears and brushing off the dirt. Did I mention that the slope was covered in packed sand rather than asphalt? On the other side of the houses, there was a paved road which would have made the ride faster and smoother but if I feel I would have really gotten hurt. It probably would have made the ascent easier and the ride much smoother but if I fell down, which was inevitable as starting and stopping are two different lessons, I probably would have stayed down for good. God makes a way for us. He knows every pathway of our life even the hard or difficult ones. His Love always makes a way. God is not leading us to defeat but victory.

Psalm 107:33-37 (ESV) He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.

If only we could see with human eyes what the Father is doing on the other side of our test, trial or tragedy? If we could just understand a portion of His Purpose or an ounce of His Passion for His Children? God has the power to change your situation instantly. He can do anything and everything except go back on His Word. When He released His Word as purpose for you and penned the days of your life including a future and hope with the promise to become a masterpiece, He cannot change His Mind no matter how loudly you cry. He must endure the process just like you do. His Steadfast Love is set on seeing you successfully satisfied now and forever. He will not relent or back down. We walk by faith and not by sight. The faith that we walk in is the Steadfast, Fixed, Firm, Unwavering, and Unchanging Love of God our Father. We can label the journey anything we want but the destination remains the same.

Coasting is to continue to move or advance after effort has ceased. It is different from drifting which is to be carried along. Drifting is driven by emotions, feelings, and circumstances. Coasting is confidence in that which is moving and advancing you to finish the course. You stop “peddling” and let the momentum carry you. When our life seems out of control, fear overtakes us, bondage threatens captivity, people let us down, and chaos is overwhelming us – it is important to remember that as Children of the Living God – we are not drifting but coasting in His Love. God was with us in the beginning, by us through it all and is waiting at the end.

Psalm 107:30 (NLT) What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!

Let go and let God! It doesn’t mean to just give up, throw the towel in, or quit. It is an act of surrender and submission to the Power of His Love being greater than our feelings and emotions. It doesn’t mean that there will not be storms, deserts, darkness, affliction, pain or the occasional fall but it means that the Father’s Love is always there for us. He is always perfecting that which concerns us. Even in our wandering, things are going as planned. Coasting is really the desired response. When I don’t let the conditions or circumstances of this life pull me from the Truth that God loves me, He is for me, and He will never let me down.

Psalm 107:1-3 (ESV) Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

”So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:17-19)…indeed the anchor for our soul is hope. An anchor does not keep a ship from the storm put it keeps it in place through it. We will go through things in life. There will be many choices and opportunities. It is up to me if I will choose to believe that God loves me. He is good. He is for me enough to grab hold of that anchor and endure to the end. His Blessing is the stillness, peace and confidence that no matter what happens – His Love for me is steadfast and unchanging. I can coast through life knowing that His Love will carry me home.

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He Will

He Will

Hebrews 11:5-7(NLT) It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.  It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

“It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.”

Enoch had the kind of relationship with the Lord that most of us desire. However, to follow in the footsteps of this man right in to the New Testament would mean He must increase and I must decrease. (John 3:30) It is a faithful proposition to find fulfillment in God through Jesus Christ. Enough was taken up to heaven without dying because he had already died to self on the earth. Walking in the giant footsteps of God, side-by-side with the Almighty and sharing in the rhythmic timing and beat of God’s Heart. It was a seamless transition from this life to eternal life. Or could it be that Enoch’s walk with the Lord projected a light so brightly that people saw the Lord and not the man anymore. I am fascinated by the idea. Some days it is my greatest desire, but in building anything including a new life as the new creation that Christ died for us to be there is always a price. The price of my life for God’s Best is self. Every selfish thing in my life must be submitted and surrendered to the Cross Examination of Jesus Christ for Kingdom relevancy. This life is temporary but constantly on blast demanding my time and talent. Some may choose to give portions of their life as an offering to God while maintaining a strong presence in the natural existence. Others may decide that walking with the Lord is worth a fully obedient tithe of 10% with the occasional love offering of just a little bit more. This life producing the blessings of sowing and reaping – seedtime and harvest just as God promised in the days of Noah. For those who are after the Kingdom, it requires much more. It requires all of my life for all of His Plan. All of it.

This life is not for everyone. There were only twelve disciples and yet still one still became a traitor. There is only one Enoch. One man who would walk enshrouded in the Presence of God and become elusive to the naked eye. Enoch was known as a person who pleased God. How do people know me? What pleases God? We do not decide what pleases the Lord. It is what we are willing to give to the cause. The only thing that truly pleases Him and rightfully so would be faith.

Acts 17:24-25 (NLT) “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.”

We serve an all-sufficient God. He doesn’t need us, but rather desires us. He loves us. He provides for us. The Lord doesn’t lie or change His Mind so there is nothing I can do to change the plan set forth for my life. It is impossible for God’s Word to fail. (Luke 1:37) He made this world and owns everything in it. He is the Supreme Authority over heaven and earth. Nothing here surprises Him or causes God to flinch. “He doesn’t live in man-made temples.” Christ lives in me and you. Human hands cannot serve His Needs. Let me put that on repeat. There is nothing that I can do to earn God’s Love and Acceptance because His Grace is enough for me. It is the total summation and sufficiency of my salvation. (2 Corinthians 12:9) God has given me life and it is in Jesus Christ who I live, breathe and exist. Finally, it is all wrapped up in His Promise to satisfy our every need. I can do nothing to please God other than to have faith, trust and believe all of this is true.

Luke 18:24-30 (NLT) When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.” “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

A religious leader came to Jesus. He had one question. “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” After a long discourse, Jesus told him the man, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man considered the price too high and became very sad for he was very rich. Jesus shared this story with his disciples to which Peter threw in his two cents. “We’ve left our homes to follow you.” As if Jesus didn’t know the lives these men had given up, his outspoken disciple chose to point it out. In Matthew 19, a different account of the same event quotes Peter as saying, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Don’t’ judge him too harshly. One must consider their own good intentions in following Jesus Christ taking offense at Peter’s words. Isn’t that really the reason for coming to Christ in the first place – a desire for a better life? We live in a living color world but serve a black and white with occasional red lettering God. The Word of God must become alive to us. His Spirit must be recognized in order for faith to be acquired. Faith is not easily harvested in our life. But…

“It is impossible to please God without faith.”

The word “impossible” means not possible. The very thing which is unable to be, exist or happen. Incapable of being true. Not to be done or endured. Utterly impractical. Hopelessly unsuitable, difficult or objectionable. It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith is confidence, belief and trust. The Latin root explains further – trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, and pledge. Faith demonstrates allegiance. The Bible tells us that “faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Just as it is impossible to please God without faith – it is equally not possible to have faith outside of impossibilities.

I have personally witnessed the miraculous in my life. Each time it came prefaced by the word “impossible”. The moment that a desired outcome became absolutely and utterly impractical in the natural – God did it. There is no other explanation. The steps of arrival to the procurement of faith are difficult. It requires all of you. All of your trust, confidence, reliance, credence, and a pledge to not let go of hope at any cost. The substance of our faith is our willingness to stay true to the Lord even when our life becomes impossible. Even if our circumstances seem intolerable, still hanging on to God’s Word – waiting and watching. It seems that He will never do it, never come and even makes us feel foolish while the world mocks our dedication to an invisible and seemingly absent God. God is faithful. I just need to have a mustard seed of faith.

There is a promise hidden in Luke 18:30 that perhaps you missed. ” Jesus said, “I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” When Jesus finally made it to the home of Lazarus, he was dead. Talking to Martha, it was evident that she believed in Heaven, but she didn’t recognize her Lord’s power here on earth. Jesus intended to raise Jesus from the dead right then and there. He is the Resurrection and Life. (John 11:25) Christ now lives in me. (Galatians 2:20) Faith releases His Power in my life the moment it is planted. I have confidence in my employer to pay the wages that I earn. I trust the roof over my head will be standing after a storm. I believe my car will get me around today. I rely on many objects and some people in my life every day for fulfillment. However, if I want God’s Word, His Will and His Way completely including the rich and satisfying life that is promised to us in this the life or the land of the living (Psalm 27:13) I must put my faith into action.

“It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”

When Noah built the ark it had never rained a single drop on the earth. Yet God told him to build an ark with specific dimensions. Noah did just that day after day – he continued to do what the Lord told him despite not knowing the full plan. Hammering away at doubt and fear, he built the ark. It would be the vessel that not saved his entire family. It would be the vehicle that continued the perpetuation of the human and animal population. Faith requires the impossible. I don’t know what you are facing today? I only know my own heart and its troubles. God has been faithful in every test and trial. He has never ever contradicted His Word or gone back on a single promise that He has made me yet I still struggle daily to completely trust and believe. What about you? Are you faced with the impossible today? Is the Lord telling you to do something crazy and out of character? Is He calling you deeper but you don’t know how to swim? Jesus invites us to trust Him. Our heart must respond. It is impossible to please God without faith because truly there is nothing of worth that I have to offer Him BUT to love and trust Him.

“Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

I have a picture hanging in my home that says, “Faith is not believing that God can but knowing that He will.” Think about that for a minute. Faith is not believing God can. Why would that motivate a God who already did? His Plan for your life is prepared before creation. Therefore, with our first breath, it is set into motion. Faith does not give Him Power. It allows His Presence to fill our life. It is to believe that despite my sinful, selfish, and self-centered disposition that His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursues me every day. Faith is our acceptance of God’s Love and gives Him presence in our life. Faith wants the life that God has promised and is willing to give up time and space in this life to have it. Do you believe that God exists? Most people reading this will say, “Yes.” Do you believe that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him? This depends on faith. How long have you been waiting? Wait just a little more. How much have you been praying? Just five more minutes might give you the confidence to watch one more day? How precious is the promise? I want all that God has for me and my family. I want His Fulfillment to bring full satisfaction in all things, but through these times of testing one thing has become evident in my life. At some point, I stopped breathing. The thought of waking up a single day, walking another step or breathing my next breath without the Lord is incomprehensible. All the broken pieces of my heart cannot maintain a single beat except His Hands that hold it together every single day. His Word is my protector, defender, and confidence. Faith grows when things are impossible and yet for just one more day we choose to hope fast to His Promise that His Love never fails.

Zechariah 8:6 (NLT) “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Zechariah 8:12 (NLT) For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you. The grapevines will be heavy with fruit. The earth will produce its crops, and the heavens will release the dew. Once more I will cause the remnant in Judah and Israel to inherit these blessings.

The prophet Zechariah prophesied to the people of Judah who were returning from 70 years of exile in Babylon. I am quite sure rebuilding their life and taking back the land of seemed overwhelming. The Lord points out them that He is God of the impossible. He asks the question of them, “But is it impossible for me?” I wonder how many of us are being asked the same today. It is an invitation to take that measure of faith the size of the tiny mustard seed and plant it. In verse 12, the Lord delivers the promise. What a wonderful promise it is! “For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you.” Sowing seeds of faith produces harvests of God’s Faithfulness. We may plant, others may water, but God always gives increase to even the tiniest seed of faith, trust, confidence, dependence and passion for Him. He always delivers no matter how reluctant I may be – God is never reluctant to bless me. It has been His Plan all along.

Does today seem impossible, this week, this year? Could it be that the impossibility is evidence that God is working all things together for our good? Could it all be a divine set up so that I will trust Him more and receive all that He has for me? Is it an opportunity to move from glory to glory? I believe that for those willing to walk through the impossible to reach the Lord will find Him and every blessing and promise even those thought dead and gone. I am a careful person. A planner who is uncomfortable with spontaneity. I am by no means an adrenaline junkie. However, I have personally seen God do the impossible. Not just once, but consistently. The transition is not easy. You are birthing the supernatural. Endurance is tough. There are even times when you feel foolish because no one sees the potential of our faith but yet you still believe. God is faithful. The great news is that the impossible is possible for the Lord. Most of us believe God can do anything, but we must invest our faith in believing that He will!

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

 

Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted

I Timothy 6:11-12 (ESV) But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

The last few weeks have been challenging. But then again, when is life not full of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, good and bad. Life is challenging. Each new day comes with its own set of circumstances, long list of responsibilities, and uncertain conditions. The unexpected really shouldn’t be so surprising. It happens all the time. Constantly recurring change. Will I conform or be transformed? Will I commit or quit?

But as for you, O man (or woman) of God, flee these things.

I am not a quitter by nature although sometimes I say that I am quitting. But when push comes to shove, I hold fast. Words like persistent, tenacious, stubborn and obstinate have been used to describe me. Character is developed when the qualities possessed are shaped by wisdom and not pride. The letter to Timothy written by Paul addresses natural tendencies relevant in our walk with Jesus Christ. He is speaking to him one on one about false teaching. He describes the character of them as “puffed up with conceit” who understand nothing. People who are “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” As believers, the pursuit of godliness is encompassed in just one commandment defined by love. However, pride and vain glory had somehow begun to seep through the walls of the early church. Gospel for personal gain. There was no contentment but rather pursued God for His Hand not His Heart. Paul tells Timothy…but as for you, O man of God…flee from these things.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

It is challenge to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. It is especially difficult to maintain them when tough times come along. However, Jesus did not ascend to Heaven with a “peace out” see you on the other side. Or good luck – hope you make it. No, He gave us His Spirit as a helper who would produce all these qualities even though most of them are contradictory to human nature. (Galatians 5:22-23) The first thing I must do is “think about these things”. To change my mind, I must change the way that I think. I change the way that I think by the pursuit of higher learning to obtain understanding applying it to my life so it becomes wisdom. We decide who or what influences us. I must choose to believe what is true. The Word of God is the Truth concerning my life. To pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness outside of the Word of God and Jesus Christ would be pointless.

Fight the good fight of the faith.

What is the good fight of faith? According to the Message translation of Hebrews 11:1, faith is “the fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.” The Amplified Bible describes faith as “the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. We are instructed to walk by faith and not by sight. I don’t know about you, but it is really hard to see past my circumstances sometimes to the Promise of God to work it all out for my good and His Glory. Without faith it is impossible to please God. It is the substance that firmly fixes us in confident hope. It is the recollection that keeps us pressing on when we are pooped out. Why must I fight for my faith? The enemy wants us to give up on faith. He doesn’t want us to trust and rely on God. He is looking to make us collateral damage on his way out. How? He lies to us. Plain and simple. Faith holds firmly to the truth that God loves us, Jesus died to save us, and His Grace is enough for me to live in this world but not be of it. I want to believe God’s Word and that He perfects all that concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) Lord, help me to remember what is worth fighting for so I have the wisdom to pick and choose my battles.

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

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

Paul challenged Timothy to remember God’s Call on his life and walk in it. The course of life will prove challenging. The only way to overcome is to take hold of Jesus Christ all the way to the finish line. The finish line of faith is found when we meet Him face-to-face. I must settle in stride with Jesus and forget my preconceived notions about life and love. I must be passionate about God’s Heart and not focused so much on His Hand. I have been called to eternal life which is way longer than my natural life – it is worthy of investing in at the price of an ordinary life. It is up to me to lay aside the things that weigh me down like worry, stress, anxiety and fear to take hold of things like “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” and every other spiritual blessing God has already given me that just needs to grow in my life. I have everything I need for such a pursuit. The only thing left is that I must be willing to do it. Laying pride aside to surrender it all…again and again if necessary to the founder and perfecter of faith – Jesus Christ. I have only one thing left to say, “Challenge accepted.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Hope Less

hope less

Psalm 33:18-22(ESV) Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

I have a tattoo inked on my right wrist. To some it may be offensive that a Child of God would mark their skin, and some are of the opinion that is unbiblical. Each is entitled to their own opinion and I am not offended in the least. I am terrible with remembering dates and times but it was sometime after our son’s first fight with cancer. A friend had lost their son shortly after his diagnosis. All of the family were posting pictures on social media of memorial tattoos. Yellow ribbons with his name, school colors and other things that reminded them of Austin. Though in remission, once the diagnosis of “cancer” comes – it seems to find a place in the dark shadows of the mind as a reminder it may visit again at any time. There is no promise of permanence once remission is achieved just to be ever hopeful the disease is gone for good. I thought to myself that no matter what happened I would never memorialize death like that. No judgment to others but for me – it would mean hope was gone forever. Everyone deals with pain and trauma differently. Most of the infusion room nurses have a tattoo where special patients who left indelible marks on their heart will get a spot. One has a song bird with a note for each brave one lost in battle. Another is a flower with tiny butterflies – you get the idea.

I decided I would get a tattoo now to celebrate life. To remind me that my faith is secure and there is always hope. When I look down at my wrist, the word “faith” reminds me that I have an investment to make while it is still today. A seed of worth that if planted deeper each day will produce a harvest of life. When I show someone my tattoo, they see a different word. It spells the word “hope” to them. Life is a journey to find faith, sow it in our life and produce confident hope in the Love of God that is salvation. It is easy to lose sight of that in the day to day pressures of life in general. It is even easier when trauma or tragedy strikes. The truth is that our existence as it is now today is hopeless. Everyone dies. We are appointed once to die. It is in the Word of God. The hope that I have is for eternity. I promise this is not a message of doom and gloom but when the reality of hope is recognized it has the power to change our life today.

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.

My hope is in the steadfast love of God given through Jesus Christ. Hope means to believe, desire and trust. It is the feeling that what is wanted can be had and that the events will turn out for good according to Dictionary.com. The British Dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of desire for something and confidence in the possibility of its fulfillment” with reasonable grounds. The Bible gives hope a name – Jesus Christ. He is our hope. The unconditional and unchangeable love of the Living God is our hope of fulfillment and substance called faith. Faith is the substance of what we hope for. It is unrealistic to hope for someone not to die because it defies logic and reality. Everyone will pass away and get rid of their flesh. It is the moment after our last breath that hope is finally realized and rightfully so.

Ephesians 1:17-20 (ESV) …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Hope is our spiritual expectation. It is not to life forever in the abundance and increase of this life but to one day step out of these naturally decaying bodies and assume our place in God’s Kingdom as a heavenly being. Natural expectation revolves around naturally occurring outcomes. Hope ventures into the impossible. Faith in God is to hope for eternal results. It takes a higher level of spiritual thinking to grab hold of confident hope which is what our faith in God is based on. Hope less in this life and the physical outcomes but rather hone in on faith that is not dependent on this life but forever results. Heightening our expectancy requires godly knowledge and spiritual wisdom not found in the world but in the Word.

Hope is what God has called you to according to His Glorious Inheritance and what His Immeasurable Great Power can produce toward us when we believe. He is working His Great Mind through us to the same extent used to raise Jesus from the dead. An inheritance comes later, it is not a “now” thing. It comes after a death. The Power of God working in us today is His Grace. It is most evident in our weakness. All contrary to the workings of this world. Humility and brokenness are the ground most fertile for God’s Workings in us and through us. The Light of His Love shines the brightest through broken vessels. Finite thinking thinks hope changes our circumstances, conditions and/or consequences but it doesn’t. Faith didn’t keep Joseph out of the pit, or from the accusations of people, or even the prison but it got him to the palace. It put him in a position to save his family. It gave him more than he could ever think, ask or imagine. God humbled Joseph in the process. The Word of God tells us that in every situation Joseph trusted and believed in the Lord. But consider this…Joseph was never pharaoh. He never was the king. God gave him everything yet never promoted him to the highest level of earthly superiority. His hope for the future was not in this life but forever.

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Hope is the anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:19), but if there is no substance or weight added to it then what good is it? Through Jesus Christ I have faith that I am at peace with God again. I can live as His Child and live in His Kingdom. But notice that it says, “we rejoice in our sufferings.” Who wants any of that? When our son was cancer-free the first time, I was asked to record a testimony to be played in church. I mentioned my belief that God heals one of three ways: medically, miraculously, or mercifully. It played one time and was removed. The media coordinator did not agree. God is always is ready to heal someone. Agreed. He could not accept that God heals mercifully and sometimes people do succumb to their illnesses despite the countless prayers of the righteous. We must accept that Heaven is a real place and the one that is hoped for. To believe it is a viable option to leave the earth and live with Jesus is the victory that is hoped for. Suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. These steps are a requirement. Human nature is to settle and substitute natural things for supernatural results to avoid such challenges and inconvenience. What the Lord has in store for us is better!

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

It may sound cliché or even a bit silly but I believe that God wants us to hope less and have faith more. Faith is the substance of what is hoped for. Hope is established two ways in our life. The Word of God is what we hope for. It is the basis of hope. (Romans 15:4) Every single word of it is inspired by God and absolutely true. None of it is out of date, old-fashioned or untimely. It is fresh bread every day for those who choose to partake of it. It is in the Word of God where hope is found and our challenge to live in it. (Psalm 119:81;114) The Plan of God for our life is with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) We are called to seek it out wholeheartedly. (Jeremiah 29:13) To do so gives us what we need to have logical faith that can be practically lived. Jesus is the Word of God who came to us wrapped in flesh. (John 1:14) He is our hope. (Matthew 12:21) Wisdom must have knowledge. Hope is wisdom for the future. (Proverbs 24:13-14)

Romans 8:24-26 (ESV) For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

The Holy Spirit establishes our hope by taken the Word of God and working it into wisdom in our life. He moves us and motivates us to act on faith and build confidence in hope. If my faith is only able to hope for my son to live in this world, it is not big enough to sustain me. For our son to live forever would mean living with more medical conditions then I can count for the rest of his life. Chemotherapy is poison that kills cancer but has numerous side effects. The reality of what I hope for is that his faith has built a solid foundation of hope that relies and trusts the Lord so when he does cross over that Jesus will know him and welcome him home. The Holy Spirit must help us develop real faith to build the confident hope needed to trust and believe.

If we hope for what we do not see, we MUST wait for it with patience. When hope is deferred it is a challenge to deal with. (Proverbs 13:12) Faith holds the promise of hope tightly but there is an enemy ready to wrangle it from us every day. Situations, circumstances, trials and tragedies meant to persuade us that God’s Love is not real or somehow conditional. God still is a miracle worker. He meets His Expectations not our expectations. His Plan is based on forever not the seventy or so years given to us here on earth. Can I share a secret with you today? We always have hope. His Name is Jesus. He lives in us. Hope does not die. It is life. I have hope but make the choice whether to hold on to it or not. If my desire to be hope full, I must be faith full first because I will never ever see the reality of what I hope for until I meet Him face to face.

Lamentations 3:21-24 (ESV) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

I believe that God is a miracle worker. I believe that His Goodness is for us in the Land of the Living. I know many people who died suddenly or before their time as people say. There are times when things don’t turn out according to our expectation. These are the times when one must have an anchor to hold on to and that holds us in place. “BUT I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope.” The thing that I hope for and have faith in is simple. God loves me. He always loves me. On the good days, I feel His Love for me in the joy that comes. On the not so good days, I remember that He loves me based maybe on what He did the other day. But on those horrible, good-for-nothing, chaotic, heartbreaking, awful and tragic times, my hope is in His Steadfast Love alone based on the Word and His Spirit working in my life. The hope that I have is not in the everyday miracles or sudden moves of God in this place, but based solely and completely on the fact that He knows me and loves me anyway. The Lord wants to fill every void and vacancy of faith in our life so our hope remains confident and securely fastened to Him. He will never let go. The challenge is that we do not let go in times of turmoil and stress.

Luke 24:19-24 (ESV) And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

When Jesus died, the people thought hope was lost. When did you lose your hope? What is challenging your faith in God today? Has life unexpected happened? Your hope is not gone. Like the men walking down the road, He is with you right now. His Spirit lives in us. It is up to us to build confidence in the hope we have. Confidence comes by knowing, understanding, believing, and trusting the Lord in the even ifs of life. When we put emphasis on faith in our life, it naturally produces hope as our expectation moves from what we can see to the things unseen. Miracles are exciting. Signs and wonders are exhilarating. Mighty moves of God change us from the inside out. To have faith and confident hope produce the kind of character that endures to the end and crosses over to forever. I have a confession to make. During some really hard times, I have tried to scrub off the faith/hope tattoo on my arm. Tired of fighting the good fight, not happy with the outcome so far, and just plain sick of hurting or even worse watching my loved ones hurt. In anger and frustration over unmet expectations, I hated it and wanted it gone in that moment. But you know what, it wouldn’t come off no matter how hard I tried. When I woke up the next morning, it was still there. My faith cannot be dependent on here and now but must remain in Jesus Christ. He is faithful. He is good. He is the one who can do exactly what He promises. He is my Living Hope even on those days when I lose my hope. Lord, let us hope less for ordinary things and find extraordinary hope in You!

Romans 15:13 (ESV) “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Romans 12:12 (ESV) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Psalm 71:14 (ESV) But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

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.

 

Through It All Again

Through It All Again

Isaiah 43:1-3 (ESV) But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

“Through it all.” What a great old song? “I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all. Through it all. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” No truer words have ever been spoken about someone. This is my song. This is about me. I wish I could testify that this is enough to keep me from wanting to throw in the towel and give up some days but it’s not. One might think that after many battles a seasoned warrior does not hesitate for a moment before engaging, everyone has to step over fear. Trusting Jesus. Believing that salvation is real and His Grace enough takes many trials and tests to gain strength and validity in life. To fully comprehend the unconditional and boundless Love of God that knows no limits is an act of constant surrender. Depending on God’s Word can be a lonely proposition. Psalm 77 talks about God’s Steadfast Love and His Promises. His Graciousness and Compassion. His abiding faithfulness and the many deeds that He has done for us. But it also does not hesitate to mention that often His Footsteps are unseen. (Verse 19)

Through it all. We are called to walk through it all. Keep moving. Do not turn back but go through. In Psalm 23, the promise of God’s Love, Protection and Provision under the careful eyes of the Good Shepherd are still not without challenges. The table prepared for us has an audience. There will be low spots. Dark places and even valleys to go through. The promise is that He goes with us – before us, beside us and even behind us. God goes before us and prepares the way for us. He fights our battles and obtains victory for us. Strength and courage are not in our ability to fight but that Jesus overcame the world – ahead of time. The promise is secure not in my own faithfulness but in the Lord’s Faithfulness. I have blessed assurance in my future by faith. In Matthew 11, Jesus offers to walk beside you and be yoked with you in life. To help carry ever burden, relieve pressure, eliminate stress and keep us upright in the tough times of life. Finally, as if all that is not good enough or more than enough, the Lord constantly pursues us and falls in behind us with His Unfailing Love and Goodness just waiting to overtake us with His Blessings. With all these precious promises made simply out of love for us, there are still days when the struggle is real. It all may seem pointless. The next step too hard. The flesh cries out. The mind plays tricks. What do I do when I don’t’ want to keep going? What do I do when I have had enough?

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Psalm 139 is the passage where I find myself in the Lord. The place where it is clear that I am not a random act of conception and cellular reproduction but a planned creation by God who gave me a purpose and plan. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am not insignificant. My life has purpose beyond what I feel or reason. It is planned and executed by the Lord with a future and hope. The Lord who created you, who formed you is telling you (and me) today to “fear not, for I HAVE redeemed you! I have called you by name, you are mine.” Why is it important to find yourself in God’s Word? Faith is illogical outside of knowing God’s Word, Will and Way. His Ways are higher and so are His Thoughts. If I do not take the time to gain knowledge and mull over them for understanding, where will wisdom come from? The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and works into my psyche changing my thoughts renewing my mindset and positioning me to see my life through His Perception and not worldly speculation.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

The last week or so it has rained quite a bit. Off and on but consistently hot and humid. We needed the rain even though it is inconvenient. Rain comes as dew in the early morning like a fine mist. Other times, it may be a light shower on a sunny day. Then there are the sudden downpours that come out of nowhere and drench us. Some storms come accompanied by wind, thunder and lightning. Even hurricanes are just mighty storms wrapped in ferocity. All of them produce rain. We need the rain to water the earth, but who really wants to inconvenienced and uncomfortable in the process. It never seems to downpour on days when I have nothing to do but curl up on the couch with a furry animal, junk food and a book, but those times when my schedule is full, errands endless and work is calling. Maybe that is the whole point of going through things…to overcome complacency and become completely confident in the Lord. We need Him. We want Him. But when He comes in like a flood, suddenly it is uncomfortable, inconvenient and change is required to let His Love, Faithfulness, Goodness and Graciousness to sink in the hard ground around us and make it into our ready and waiting heart. I must go through it even though I don’t want to. I must endure the storms of life to have the harvest it produces. Even on those days, it is messy, uncomfortable and inconvenient because I cannot maintain my current state and be who God called and designed me to be. I must be renewed. I must be restored. I must be revived. I must be transformed. To grow in God I must position my life in obedience in order to increase.

While this verse is encouraging, it does not aid my cause. I want to walk away. Avoid this difficult time just throw my hands up and say, “I quit.” Yet something inside me says, “Wait!” I have something I am doing. It will be all that I promised. You must go through it. God’s Word for your life today and mine is that you must “go through it.” When I do not have a clear perspective of what the Lord is doing and His Footsteps are unseen, I find that I begin to dig in the Word deeper. Call out for more understanding or even a fleece. God, I have to know you are right here with me. I need you to remind me that I heard you correctly. I want to follow you, but geez this one is tough. All of these things running through my head and circling my thoughts.

I looked up the word “through” desperate to find a loophole or escape. Maybe there is another meaning that I missed and provides an open door. I really want a shortcut to the good part. I would love something to make the harvest grow faster and victory come sooner. Through means in one end, side or surface and out the other. It means to move past and go beyond. It is during the whole period. Through is to have reached the end. Isn’t that the same as endurance? To endure means going through without stopping, leaving or turning back. I must go through it to endure it. Ugh…I must go through some things to reach the other side. To have the future and hope that God has promised. It is unavoidable. It is inevitable. It is my pathway to every promise.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (ESV) Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

The passionate, all-consuming Love of God is pursuing us. Pushing us to keep going and moving through the deep waters, raging storms, darkest night, and lowest valley to get to the other side. These are the times when our strength fails. When our mind cannot comprehend how in the world there is anything good to come of our situation. It is during these times that the Lord seems silent, unmoving, and nowhere to be found. Do you trust me? That really is what this is all about. Do I truly believe what I am calling faith?

I am currently refinishing an antique table. It is an amazing piece with intricate carvings and uniqueness. In transport, one of the legs broke off so I had to repair it. Wood glue and a strong clamp for a couple days would do the trick. I carefully removed the clamp and gently moved the table a bit to see if it would hold. This table will be a conference table in its new life. I put it through a number of rigorous tests to be sure that the leg would hold up under pressure. The last thing I want it to do is collapse during an important meeting or when everyone’s lunch arrives. I wonder if this is part of what I am going through…the Lord testing the bond of my heart to Him. To make sure that it will stand tests of time, waiting, uncertainly, lacking clarity, and an end. I must make it to the end of this journey called life with my faith in Him. I must hold tightly to the substance of what I hope for so I can access eternity. It doesn’t matter if I do anything else “for” God – I must love Him wholeheartedly.

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.

I cannot have what I hope for absent of faith. Faith is not something I do though it will produce certain works in our life. The faith that I hold tightly to along with the hope that anchors my soul is the fact that God loves me. Jesus died for me. I accept His Grace fully and decide to seek Him wholeheartedly. The effort in my relationship with Jesus that means the most is my love for Him accepting His Love for me a fully consummated and full-blown relationship. If Jesus is on the other side of what I am going through, then I must go through it. Through it all – learning to trust Him and depend on His Word.

I Kings 19:11-13 (ESV) And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I believe I am having one of those “what am I doing here moments?” Elijah had an amazing victory yet the malicious and threatening words of one woman put him on the run. What did it for you? Elijah was hiding in a cave when the Lord came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah lodged his complaint. The Lord then told him, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” Of course, Elijah obeyed. It was there that the Lord passed by Him in all of His Glory. God cannot move apart from His Glory. It surrounds Him. As He went by, what happened? A great and strong wind tore the mountain apart. Rocks rolled into an avalanche. The wind was followed by an earthquake. The earthquake gave way to fire. Finally, after all of that, the Lord had his full attention again. He asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah recited all that he had “done” for God again. God didn’t even stop for a moment but went on to tell him what was next. God hears us but will not indulge us. He has a plan far greater than our whining and complaining will ever cause Him to stop trying to make a reality in our life. The Lord has purpose for prosperity in us that will not allow us to stay in hiding but prods and pokes us to go on. Oh how I just want to run into hiding. Elijah was looking to relieve the pressure. He wanted to stop pushing. He didn’t want to fight anymore. He was tired of being brave. He had lost his confidence and courage. God had other plans that did not involve stopping, quitting or giving up.

There will always be a Jezebel. Opposition is inevitable. Enemies will present themselves. Obstacles will rise up. Oppression will threaten to take you captive. You are a precious to God. He treasures you. His Love for you stronger than death. His Jealousy more fierce than the deepest grave. It is all-consuming fiery passion that will not relent until He has won your whole heart. Rising waters cannot quench and there is not a flood that can drown it. The enemy will offer you opportunities to escape the potential of growing in understanding and full acceptance of His Love but those who choose to endure until the end and go through it all – will have their heart’s desire. His Name is Jesus. He offers a rich and satisfying life. An existence that lacks nothing and is fully confident in His Love. It is found on the other side of through it all.

Psalm 136:1 (ESV) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Secrets of the Deep

Secrets of the Deep

Psalm 42:7-9 (ESV) Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Life is crazy. Change is inevitable. Becoming a Christian, inviting Jesus to live in our life doesn’t exempt us from such extremes but rather invites us to a place of utter chaos. Religion is man’s attempt to string together all the details and bring people to some form of order. The truth of the matter is that God comes to each of us on an individual basis – Jesus invites us to live in love with Him – the consummation of such an experience is the Holy Spirit. After that buckle your seatbelts as your existence is completely undone. Believers who act like that have it all together project a farce. It is not in the doing that God accomplishes great things but in our undoing. It is not when we have it all together that His Light shines through us but through our broken heart. It is not because He is cruel or controlling but rather because God created us with a plan much bigger than our finite thinking and prepared us for much more than perceived by limited sight. It is in those moments that lack understanding or make no sense at all – our inability to cope or control – that the deep surrounds us.

My husband and I were walking and talking. It would begin like most other nights. Going over the events of the days, activities of children and sharing life experiences. But last night, he dared enter the unknown. Asking the complicated question that most men would avoid – “What are you really thinking about?” I hesitated. The thoughts circulating in my head and swirling through my mind were questioning. Wondering. Contemplating. The details of life overwhelming and chaotic churning through my thoughts. The last week or so an emotional roller coaster of high highs and low lows. I feel like the toy our puppy plays with that has been shaken and pulled apart even frayed. I lay it all before my husband and become only more convinced that God has to be in all these deep places. He is ready to fill voids, level mountains and make a clear path. I have walked through deep waters before and always prevailed by His Mighty Hand and Loving Heart. I hear deep calling again. My spirit says, “Yes!” but my flesh begs “Lord, not again!”

Isaiah 35:3-8 (ESV) Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

I believe that God is good. I know that His Plan for my life contains a future and hope beyond my comprehension. His Thoughts are higher than my own and so therefore His Ways must be also. It is in my lack of knowledge and understanding that challenge me. The deep is God’s Invitation to grow in these areas. It is not in knowing what or how God works that builds faith and hope but in knowing God that makes all things possible. Faith is what pleases the Lord. Faith is not living by what we see but rather living in constant knowledge of who God is and how much He loves us. It is to put our trust in His Character and not life’s conditions or circumstances but to become fully enveloped in His Love and Grace each day. Strength, courage and fearlessness are not achieved by human sufficiency but when our confidence is completely invested in the Lord and His Process.

The Highway to Holiness unfolding before us is the pathway to victory. Holiness is not anything we do but rather what happens as one becomes the much coveted new creation Christ promised to make us. Religion has attempted to change our appearance but the Lord promises a new heart. A heart set on a pilgrimage to where He is, to do what He is doing, and make the commitment to remain in the deep as long as it takes to enter the Light of His Love.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.” What if the deeper things of God are entered into not by our own strength or willpower but rather the moment of letting go and allowing the Lord to do it all. Weak hands let go relinquishing to His Power and Control. Feeble knees stopping trying to do it all and walk it out allowing the Lord to carry us through. Dependency on the Lord is established in the deep when we cannot see or do what we used to. Maybe this is what it means “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

Daniel 2:20-22 (ESV) Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

The Lord gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what is in the darkness of the depths and the Light dwells in Him. In Genesis 1:1-3, the whole love story of God begins with the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the deep. Read it. The earth is formless and void and then God spoke. Life perpetuated life from that moment forward. God and His Spirit were there. Jesus is the Word. When God spoke – Jesus was and is and is to come. Knowledge of God is found in the Word which is the story of Jesus Christ wrapped in flesh who came to give us life just like in the beginning. (John 1:14) The Word is our wisdom for life. We read it. Apply it. In that moment, God’s Wisdom becomes power in our life. Our words begin to line up with His and there is agreement. (Proverbs 18:4) Understanding extracts the secrets of the deep hidden there for human discovery. (Proverbs 20:5) Where can wisdom be found? It is not in the deep but the One who keeps us in the deep. (Job 28:12-14) God has had complete control over the deep forever. Darkness runs from the Light so even in the lowest valley or deepest sea the Light of His Love will surrounds those who are His Children.

It may be dark all around you today. No relief in sight. The wait may be one minute longer than you can do it. The pressure overwhelming. The pain beyond enduring. The night won’t last forever. Joy comes with new mercy each morning. God is not calling you to drown you but to drench and saturate our life in His Goodness. It is the opportunity of obedience to walk by faith and not what you see. But you know what I have found to be the greatest blessing of the deep…

Romans 8:26-28 (ESV) Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

When I venture into the deep, ready to obey, willing to trust and thrust my heart in God’s Hands – He is always faithful. His Spirit, the same one who was with Him in the beginning, helps me. When I am at a loss for words or strength to move, His Spirit takes over. The Lord searches my heart removing weights and hindrances until the only thing holding me is hope that strong anchor. Somehow and some way – everything keeps working together for my good and His Glory despite my weakness and whining. I find that as I surface again – His Purpose is clear…

Romans 8:36-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through all the peaks and valleys and even in the deepest depths of life – God’s Love has never let me go. I am more than a conqueror – an embattled and scarred warrior for sure – but I refuse to put my sword down. I will fight to the end to maintain this faith I have been entrusted with and keep my deep abiding affection and trust in the Lord. It is a fight when the deep closes in around me. I feel panic and distress where peace once abounds. Then I am reminded of all the times before when His Love rushes in and He breathes new life in me. When His Perfect Love has expelled my fear – so I keep going.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The details of my life are stretch from elation to exhaustion. I cannot put into words how I feel or the emotions running through me. It really doesn’t matter how I feel now does it. My success today is based on my ability to enter the deep based on what I know. I know God loves me. I know that He has victory in store for me. I know that He is blessing me but it is only the beginning of the abundance growing in my life. One day it will be increase that will only be attributable to the faithfulness of God. Until then, I will continue to plunge in the deep when I am called. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in obedience and trust. The deep exposes us in our weakness and insecurity to God’s Love. The width, length, height and depth of His Fathomless Love for us is evident when we can do nothing but must rely on the Lord for everything. These are the times when faith are rooted and grounded in a hard heart now broken and fertile. The Lord is letting us know that His Love surpasses our knowledge and ability to understand. He is filling our voids with the Fullness of God. The opportunity of the deep is simple. It is to invest our life and all that we believe in the Lord who desires to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to His Power at work in us! Welcome to the deep! It is full of God’s Secrets and Hidden Opportunities of blessing and prosperity for those who decide to enter in.

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Finding My Joy

Finding Joy

Psalm 16:5-11 (ESV) The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Do you have joy today? Are you overcome by worry and stress? What is your state of mind as you begin this new day with great possibility? Is the reality you live in just the same old same old again? Psalm 16 tells us that “in Your Presence there is fullness of joy” so why aren’t Christians filled with overflowing joy and happiness each day? Why do churches sing songs of victory without any enthusiasm? How come believers don’t even smile? I have found my joy. Today, can I help you find yours?

Galatians 5:22 outlines the Fruit of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit commissioned to remain in you and I. The first fruit that is produced is love. God loves us. It doesn’t even matter if anyone loves Him back. His Divine Character is love. It defines God from any other god or idol of manmade creation. The second Fruit of the Spirit is joy. Struggling just to live in love, it seems it is hard to move on. Or maybe it is because people approach the Lord like the produce department at the grocery store carefully perusing, picking and choosing which fruits are desirable and passing on the rest. Fresh fruit is expensive. Canned fruit costs much less but doesn’t have the variety or taste of produce fresh from trees, vines or bushes without all the packaging preservatives. What if I told you that for one day only the farmer’s market was offering fresh fruit for free? Many would schedule their day around such an event to partake of costly goods paying nothing at all. Jesus died so that the Holy Spirit would live in us and produce every spiritual blessing that the Lord has already provided AND PAID FOR so why won’t we at least taste and see that He really is good?

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” It begins by our belief. Do you believe that the “lines” in your life have fallen in “pleasant places”? Do you believe God loves you? Do you believe that God is good? He is faithful? Those who do will make Him their chosen portion and their cup. This puts the entirety of our life in God’s Hands. The giving and receiving. The sowing and the reaping. The planting and harvesting in our life becomes God’s Divine Plan. He promises to give us a future and hope. To work every detail of our life for His Glory and our good. He perfects all that concerns me. Christ offers to yoke with us and shoulder the burdens and cares of life while passing through to eternity. Where is our joy? It is in the decision to give every aspect of our life to Jesus Christ. The evidence of such a choice is joy. “I have a beautiful inheritance” that is only accessible if I believe enough to choose the Lord as my portion and offer my cup to Him.

Psalm 43:2-4 (ESV) For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

When our daughter got married, she did a change of address and forwarded her mail. She took her birth certificate, social security card, driver license, and marriage license to change her name on everything. Four months later, she moved to a new state and was tasked with the process all over again. I still get her mail from time to time. Even though she changed residency twice and was diligent in her attempts to notify everyone who may need to contact her, her mail still doesn’t make it to her until I forward it myself. Moving through life, it is possible to lose sight of our residency in Heaven and begin to rely on natural outcomes and human strength. We must make an effort to establish our residency in the Kingdom and remain faithful in our allegiance to Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 13:15)

We are temporary residents of this place. I have a place in heaven with the Lord. As I make my way from here to eternity, it is a challenge and test not to become accustomed to this life but continually seek the character and qualities of those with future hope beyond death and the grave. It’s tough because everything in this place is geared toward living the fullness of life now and avoiding death at all costs. If this is life and there is nothing beyond it, I would completely understand the desperation and devastation of unmet expectation. Disappointment would be defeat in my eyes. A wise person once told me – “do not make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances.” I believe that there is hidden joy in our life that is missed because of distractions that are meaningless to the believer. Perfect love casts out all fear leaving plenty of room for joy and peace. Total trust gives up the right to worry and stress knowing with God all things are possible and He is our Provider.

We must learn to live in the Presence of God. (Psalm 21:6) Take our eyes off the enemy. (Psalm 27:6) Silence his lies with the truth by making a joyful noise to the Lord rather than grumbling and complaining. (Psalm 98:4; 100:1) Transfer the potential in our life from an earthly position to a heavenly inheritance. Rather than sowing seeds in the ground – sow them in the Kingdom. Decide to make finding joy your plight rather than superficial happiness in people, things, and earthly success. It took a terrible tragedy for me to find my joy. Joy is a constant state for the believer if they choose the Lord to be their portion and cup relying on His Inheritance rather than earthly treasure. God’s Favor is for a lifetime. (Psalm 30:5) This time and place called the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13) Those who look believe enough to look for God’s Goodness in each day will find it. God’s Steadfast Love never ceases. His Mercies never end and arrive each morning. (Lamentations 3:22) With it comes the opportunity to have joy with it. (Psalm 30:5)

Colossians 1:10-12 (ESV) “…So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Joy is not a naturally occurring commodity of the world. It is not human nature which is selfish and greedy always crying out for more. Soul satisfaction is the key to a rich and satisfying life living in the prosperity of God’s Promises. Joy and peace partner together to produce other fruits of God’s Spirit such as patience. It accompanies us in our waiting when our refuge is the Lord. “I have set the Lord always before me.” We must learn to live with Jesus in every aspect of our natural life. To filter every thought, idea and motivation through our love and commitment to Him will allow joy to rise up in the most unlikely of places. The threat of losing something often will heighten awareness and appreciation of what we have versus what we want. Suddenly all those other things are not as important as the Christ in us and moving through us to be expressed out as life giving light to a dark and dying world. Without Jesus, there is no hope only a life that will lead to disappointment and defeat. But when I decide to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” and “fully pleasing Him”, I will begin to bear every fruit in every good work AND with my increasing knowledge of God. Finding joy is not a life venture but a heart vindication. I am justified in Jesus. I am approved for every blessing and promise God has for me because He has given me the Gifts of Grace and Righteousness. When I begin to believe this, I will find joy. When I choose to live as a Child of God trusting and believing He is a Good Father enough to release burden, cares, worries and stress – the Spirit will begin to produce inexpressible joy in my life.

I Peter 1:8-9 (ESV) Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Sitting in a hospital room for the umpteenth time, I was discouraged. In the bed was our son who was undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Three years of trusting, praying and believing – I would put in headphones and join churches on YouTube in the midst of worship. I needed to leave the room if only in spirit. The reality of his health weighing heavily upon me – I came across Kari Jobe singing “Forever” with the Bethel Worship Team. The reality of Heaven finally became clear to me. If he didn’t survive this treatment, it wasn’t over. Jesus was right here and right there. The bridge of the song is “we sing hallelujah – the Lamb has overcome.” I finally got it as the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Something changed in me that night. Joy began to flow in my heart and through my tears to realize that in this hopeless and devastating wasteland void of love and covered in darkness that Jesus is my joy. Forever. Nothing the enemy can do to me or my family will ever be able to take victory, love, joy and peace from me because I have found my joy. His Name is Jesus. Have you?

Life is hard. We still have hope. Bad things happen to good people but it is not over yet. Jesus is our victory. Each day brings the mercy we need to sow in tears…we have the opportunity in doing so to come home with shouts of joy and the abundance of God. (Psalm 126:6) We must fully invest our life and love in Jesus Christ to have inexpressible joy that will overcome every trial and trouble ever faced. Faith is the opportunity to live for this new Kingdom and life that is coming. To reap its benefits now as the windows of Heaven open and overflow in our life. Those without hope have no joy but those with hope in Him have fullness of joy. Lord, I ask you to restore the joy of my salvation in any area of my life that I may have allowed fear or doubt to rise up. Create in me a clean heart. Renew a steadfast spirit with its sights set on Heaven today. Cast me not from your Presence, Lord but fill me to overflowing with it. I yield to the productivity of the Holy Spirit and give Him full access to every area of my life. Give me joy today Lord Jesus. Overwhelming and inexpressible Jesus Joy just as You have promised. Lord, I am willing and where I am not uphold me with Your Grace and Tender Mercies. Thank you Jesus for joy!

Romans 15:13 (ESV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Get It Together

Get It Together

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I used to think it was my job in life to defend Jesus Christ. Many times it ended in disputes. I have noticed that when some people find out I am a “believer” that they want to somehow change my mind or debate the issue. There was a time in my life when I would engage them. I took offense to their attack on my religious faith. However, I have changed my mind. I don’t feel the need to defend my Jesus any longer. I am confident that He is the Christ, died for my sins, offers my life and has enough grace to back it all up. I believe that God is good. He is always good even during those times I do not understand. I know that I have a future and hope and that each step of my life is triumph unfolding. It took away my need to explain. I no longer feel threatened by someone else’s questions. I know that God is faithful and that Christ is my freedom. I am called to love people. Not to argue with them, be offended by them or make enemies along the way. I am supposed to love everyone just like Jesus loves me. I can’t do that all by myself. I must reconcile my life to Jesus Christ.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God…” God did it. Jesus paid it all. His Spirit lives in us. If someone came to me and said that I am not who I say that I am, I have proof. I have a birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, and numerous other forms of identification. The DNA in my body is exclusive to me. If I was introduced to a stranger, and they denied who I was, I wouldn’t argue with them and keep fighting with them. I would prove it to them. If they still didn’t believe me, it would be foolish to continue to try to prove myself to them because they have decided for themselves. We are one with Christ. Jesus lives in us. I am confident that my old life has passed away and the new has come. It is from God. Change in us and through us is from God alone as Christ makes His Way into every facet of our being. We don’t have to argue the point but rather become living proof.

I was setting up for an event one day when I noticed someone I used to work with. She was my supervisor. At that point in time, my life was a wreck. I don’t know any other way to put it. I was a broken women, far from the Lord, struggling single mom of three, and a terrible employee. I didn’t want her to recognize me. I spent the whole day avoiding her and making sure we didn’t end up in the same place at the same time. I was a different person now. I had found my way back to the Lord. I had given my life to Him. I wasn’t that person she knew any more. Completely packed up and ready to leave, I made a quick stop to the restroom. You guessed it – she was coming in as I was leaving. She said, “Lori?” I acknowledged her and she quickly engaged in conversation despite my reluctance. I didn’t want her to judge me for who I was back then and I certainly did not want to apologize for being the worst worker ever. How could I explain my transformation in a 5-minute testimony to someone who knew me at my absolute worst? I didn’t have to. She told me that she had been watching me the whole time. She knew it was me but hardly recognized me by my attitude, actions and appearance. She finally asked, “What happened?” I think I was so shocked all I could say was Jesus. I was ashamed of who I was but she was enthralled with who I had become. It was a lesson learned. Sometimes the greatest testimony to be shared is the one of just living life in Christ.

Convincing people of God’s Love is impossible. They must experience it firsthand. Telling them about it will never do it justice and to argue the point is contradictory to what the Lord told us to do anyway. Our confidence in Christ allows us to trust Him. In the place called trust, our lives become transformed. The Light of His Love shines in us and through us. If every person who claims to be a believer, truly believed the Word of God and place of Christ in our life – it would not be necessary to make everybody believe what we do. We only see in part. Remember that when you encounter someone who worships differently than you do. The Lord allows us to express our worship religiously but if that religion begins to negatively influence our relationship with Christ – it is not okay.

“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” As ambassadors of Christ, God should be appealing to others through us. My life should make others want to know my God. I am an ambassador of Christ who should implore or beg with urgency on behalf of others to receive the same mercy that we found in Jesus. Ambassadors are high ranking dignitaries who go to other countries and nations to negotiate treaties. They do not go to make war or create conflict but to find the way of peace between two parties. Christ calls us to be His Ambassadors. Are we ready to make peace, give grace, pour out mercy, and do everything in our power to bring others to Christ? To expose them to the Love that has made our life new and changed our person by simply encountering it. I love the woman at the well. After meeting Jesus that day, she didn’t care what people thought of her or how they had hurt her, betrayed her or even shunned her. She met the Savior. She encountered unconditional love. This was definitely worth sharing and she knocked over the walls of hurt, fear and insecurity to tell those who perpetuated these tragedies about Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Just a glimpse into the strangeness of my thoughts, on the days I blow it. Those times when I don’t behave like someone who knows the Lord or am overtaken by worry and fear. I will envision myself pushing Jesus back to the throne of my life. Like really striving to get Him back up there. He is in His White Robe and I am sweating and huffing hauling Him back to where He belongs in my heart and mine. Jesus reigns supreme. He is the image of the Invisible God. You can see God because Christ painted a clear picture. In Christ all things were created. All things were created through Him and FOR Him. This is important. Every single human being has the same eternity in their heart and measure of faith that can grow. Love is the perpetuator. Rather than changing people, maybe just maybe if we shared the commonality of our need, want and desire to love and be loved it would get us a little further in our ambassadorship. I don’t need anyone to tell me what’s wrong with my life – I can tell you in vivid detail including the things you don’t know about. We need the One who can make our life new. Every single breathing body was created for His Pleasure with a place in His Kingdom. This is the common thread offered by Christ to live in God’s Love forever.

He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. People can interpret the Word of God a million different ways and build doctrine on their perception of the Bible. God is love. Jesus is His Son. I am loved by Him and called to share His Love not my religion with the rest of humanity. Sometimes it gets a little confusing, in our efforts to change the mind, hearts and lives of others our good intentions overshadow the Grace of God that accepts people just as they are not as they may one day be. When our son was diagnosed with cancer, the enemy used the opportunity to send people to me with the common question, “How can you serve a God that would allow such a thing?” I don’t. God didn’t give our son cancer. He will heal and restore His Body. I don’t believe the enemy gave it to him either. Cancer is a disease. Our bodies were created to be eternal. Sin made that a problem because it corrupted our flesh. The Garden of Eden was shut off to us so that the Tree of Life would not give us eternal life in our sinful condition. Jesus paid the price for our sin so now we have the opportunity to enter eternity and be rid of the dying, rotting and corrupt flesh that is our human body. Now, if I tried to share all that with someone who doesn’t know my Jesus it comes out like blah, blah, and blah. My answer was simple. Just watch what God will do. Our son battled cancer multiple times in three short years. His body has many side effects from treatment but he has been in remission for almost three years now. He only had a 2% chance of survival. Most people can only sustain chemotherapy treatment two or three times, He has had five rounds. Our son has graduated from college and is alive today because God did as He promised when He told me that “he would live and not die for My Glory.” That is exactly what happened. True story.

Reconciliation is the process of making consistent and compatible. We get our life together and experience the Glory of God – not by forcing someone to believe like we do but when we effectively reconcile our life to Christ becoming consistent in our faith and confident in our belief. When the evidence of my life is compatible with the Cross where Christ died for me. It is not my ability to teach you the Word of God but demonstrate His Love that makes all the difference as His Ambassador. You don’t need someone else to point your flaws and failures. You need the Grace and Goodness of God that says, “I love you anyway. I will make something good of all that!”

Hebrews 3:12-14 (ESV) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

The Lord did not commission us to divide and conquer but to unite His Body and build His Church on the foundation of His Love and Faithfulness. Sin will always be something every human being struggles with so don’t let anyone fool you. We all need each other to continuing building confident and steadfast relationships in Christ. Church is not a bad place and its uniformity called religion adds order to it. However, each day my life is evaluated by God on the basis of true love. Abiding love established in the preeminence of Christ. It is the very thing that makes the Lord prominent in my life. I am confident in Christ and His Love for me today. Are you? I believe that He is working on my behalf and has complete control over every authority and power in my life. Do you? I am striving to become the new creation who I am called to be in Christ but that means I must full invest my life and love in this covenant relationship. I don’t fight for Jesus. He won the victory for me. I don’t have to overcome every false religion or lie the enemy has told people just live the loving truth. Sometimes to get it all together means entering His Presence to find ourselves again. It means grabbing Jesus with both hands to hoist it back on top of the throne of our life and make sure to keep Him there. His Lordship is not compromised by my lack of faith. His Purpose is not overshadowed by my doubt and fear. My insecurity will never push Him out so far I cannot reach Him. We have come to share Christ. We must hold our original confidence until the end. The First Love feeling when we met the One who knew every detail of our past and choices in the present yet loved us anyway. Can we do the same? The First Love feeling that you would do anything, go anywhere and give up everything for Christ. Do we feel that way today?

Revelation 2:2-4 (ESV) “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first.””