Desire & Destination

Desire and Destination

I Corinthians 12:31 (NIV) Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Our desire will lead to a destination. Desire defines our drive, dictates our dedication and decides our destination every single time. Desire is not an opinion but an inner force of combined thoughts that become our attitude and actions. Desire is a strong feeling. A feeling of wanting something or wishing for something to happen. God has a desire. His Desire has a face. It is your face and mine. God desires people. To create an everlasting Kingdom of those He loved first and still loves the most.

“Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” (Plato) Our attitude and actions first formed deep within us are motivated and mastered by sin. Our flesh knows no other way until introduced to the better more excellent way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is by way of Jesus that humanity is reconciled to God through His Grace that is always enough. To know the Way is not enough – even demons know the Name of Jesus and tremble at it. However, to the Way and decide to follow Him is a new thing altogether. Our destination is decided by our desire. Desire dictates our drive. Desire is the motivation for dedication. When we desire anything other than Christ, it leads to dissatisfaction.

Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 (NIV)  I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

The Lord loved Solomon. In I Kings 3, King Solomon was faithful to the Lord God and so God offered Him anything. Solomon chose wisdom and a discerning heart. I wonder how the same person who was so invested in serving God would come to such a place as Ecclesiastes 2. At this point in his life, “everything was meaningless.” His desire and drive made him successful. He denied himself nothing that his eyes could see. Maybe if he had heard Paul’s warning that all things are permissible not all things are beneficial. When he surveyed his success, all that his hard work had achieved – he found it all meaningless. He had gained the world and lost his soul. Anytime that our life prospers without soulful participation – life becomes meaningless. The purpose and plan of God that leads to fulfillment cannot be achieved apart from Him.

Mark 4:18-20 (NIV)  Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Overcoming doubt in our life is accomplished by faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Seeds of faith planted by the Word have various results. Seeds sown among the thorns hear the word and maybe even believe it but quickly the “worries of life”, “deceitfulness of wealth” and “desires for other things” literally choke the word and it does not bear the fruit it was intended to. This was King Solomon’s dilemma. God was true to His Word and gave the king exactly what he asked for. However, his human desires overtook his desire for the Lord and well we see what happened in Ecclesiastes 2. It happens to us all. God blesses us and then our desire overtakes our desire for the Living God and well you know the rest of the story. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:17-19)

Romans 8:5-6 (NIV)  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

We must master our desires and place them fully into Christ. The mountain you are facing marked doubt will not move until the very thing you desire is Jesus Christ. Why would God move a mountain if the everlasting was not waiting on the other side. The Lord has placed His Spirit in us to cultivate the fruit that leads to everlasting life and hope that never disappoints. Are we using these gifts for righteousness sake or do we simply desire the Hand of God? Are we after His Heart in the process? The things of this world will pass away. Our life in Christ is eternal. It is the admission point of eternity. Jesus died to give us access to His Kingdom. His Father will not give us the things that might block our entrance. His Grace is enough to endure our wrath of unmet expectation. “Desire increases when fulfillment is postponed.” Maybe the mountain is not moving because secretly you desire something different than Christ? Is it possible to know the Lord but not desire Him? Absolutely.

The Spirit of the Living God will lead you to life and peace. Feeding our flesh starves our soul. Feeding our soul, likewise, starves the flesh. The Fruit of God’s Spirit changes our appetite for the things of this life as eternal life becomes a reality. Suddenly, all the things we wanted, needed and desire change to one thing – Jesus Christ. As our soul prospers, so will we.

Psalm 145:13-16 (NIV) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same. (Unknown) Are you satisfied with your life today? Are you struggling with unmet expectation? King Solomon had it all according to earthly success yet found life to be meaningless. How many of the rich and famous who appear to have it all end their life due to depression, discouragement and distress that the world could not see for the notoriety of fame and influence of wealth? Life outside of Christ is preset and predetermined. Sin produces death. Our life in Christ must become more than just knowing His Name but we must desire the Lord. He desires a relationship with us. His Hand opens with His Heart. His Hand will not open outside of an established relationship or risk losing us forever. His Desire is for us so He will do nothing to keep us from Him even if that means withholding what we ask of Him.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” You were born to be part of an everlasting kingdom yet arrived in a temporary world. The Lord is trustworthy and true. He created you with purpose. You have a handwritten plan prerecorded for your good. The only investment you make in your future is faith. Faith in God’s Love. Faith in God’s Son. Faith in God’s Grace. Faith in God’s Promises. It is all about living a life of faith that overcomes doubt in every area of our life. This is when the mountain will move and be cast in the sea. The very moment our heart’s desire is for the Lord and Him alone. God will then open His Hand and satisfy our desire.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NIV) With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ

Advertisements

The D-Word

Dare To Be Disciplined

 

Philippians 3:12-16 (AMP) Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude that too God will make clear to you. Only let us stay true to what we have already attained.

It’s funny as I type this today, that spellcheck on my computer doesn’t care for the word “Christlike”. It has the red squiggly line under it that means it doesn’t recognize it or suggesting that I select an acceptable alternative for it. Isn’t that life most days? Autocorrect and spellcheck are used for grammatical and typographical errors but omit certain legitimate words according to the usual vocabulary. It is even modified as not to offend others. Sigh. Yes, I have inserted a sigh. I am not a runner. I am not built for endurance. Patience are a challenge for me most days. I am cool under pressure… most of the time. But as time goes by, things don’t change, my plans don’t line up, and fatigue sets in – the thought “there has to be more to life than this” brings me to a choice. The valley of decision. It is a low place with many dark corners. It is filled with echoing voices and shadows of doubt and fear that tell me just quit. Stop. Give up. Quit. What’s the point? Life cannot ever be normal again. There will always be problems. Constant pressure. What are you going to do? My head is filled with circling thoughts of why I should give to all these suggestions made valid by my feelings and emotions. But then I hear it…that still small voice inside of me…probably a lot like the one Elijah heard on the mountain after the earthquake, fire, and storm…”What are you doing here?” The Lord spoke these words to the prophet. So many victories in his corner, so many miracles already in his midst, yet still the voice of doubt and fear drove him into hiding. The voice I hear today is just a bit different. The Lord says, “Press on.”

2 Timothy 4:7-10 (NLT) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. Timothy, please come as soon as you can.  Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia.

Before you pick up the bat of comparison and begin beating yourself soundly in the head for feeling this way today, let’s look at the Super Christian Paul. Paul fought the good fight. He finished the race. He remained faithful. He knew in his heart that his days were numbered and soon he would claim the prize. The crown of righteousness which the Lord would hand to him. He was ready. Paul was also human. Immediately following this confident statement comes the cry of man struggling and feeling isolated. “Timothy, please come as soon as you can.” Everyone had gone on their way. The only one left with Paul was Luke. He was calling for backup. Paul needed some support. It is only natural in this life of following Christ to have days when the pressure is overwhelming, doubt may kick in, discouragement gets the best of us, our emotions out of whack, and even when throwing in the towel seems like a viable option. It doesn’t mean that you do not love God or desire Him with all of your heart. It means, dear friend and follower of Christ, that you are human.

Matthew 26:36-40 (NLT) Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 

Jesus understands how pressure feels. He knows what it means to want to give up. He also decided to press on. The Last Supper over and the betrayal of his follower, Judas revealed. Our Savior and Lord is well on His Way to the Cross. The hour had come. The end was near. He needed to talk to His Father one more time before this final journey to the Cross. He already knows the one who claims to love him most and the person who professed dying for him would soon deny ever knowing Him. Yet, Jesus asks him to come and keep watch while He prays. Well, Peter, James and John were exhausted from their journey. Still mulling over His Words, they fall asleep. Even after Jesus said to them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” – still they could not keep their eyes open. In those final moments, Jesus petitions His Father in Heaven, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” I cannot imagine how the words of the Son must have ravaged the Father’s Heart.

I believe that when in the midst of a trial or plagued by problems that when we pray – the Father’s Heart breaks for us. The Word of God admits that He is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18) What a promise? Especially for those who feel abused, violated, betrayed or isolated. The Lord is with you. He is close to you. He is ready to rescue you. You must press on. You cannot give up. It is now when the breakthrough comes because God can easily access the brokenhearted.

2 Corinthians 4:6-10 (NLT)  For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Our body works against us. Our thoughts rally to stop this foolishness. Our emotions and feelings press us to give up. Why all the pressure? Why am I so perplexed? Why isn’t following Jesus easy? All the workings of our flesh are enticed by temptation working against us from the inside out. The enemy is aiding it in every way possible. Why? “There is a light shining in the darkness for you today. It invites you to live in the Presence of God. To experience His Glory in your life. To radiate the Favor of God. To become a beacon of hope to those who are lost and dying. To have this great treasure means pressing in rather than giving in to the pressures of life. Sin is not the problem for those who have fully experienced God’s Love, Grace and Mercy responding by faith that says, “Jesus, I want you.” It doesn’t mean my life will look radically different the morning after I ask Him into my heart. It is the starting point of the race to the finish line marked faith. It is going to be a long, tedious journey. My flesh and feelings are going to try to trip me up. The enemy will be shooting fiery darts at me all along the way. Those who cheer me on in the beginning may not make it to the end. But there is a prize worth having and I intend to take it.

2 Corinthians 9:22-27 (NLT) When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

It is a privilege to participate in this race of faith. It is a divine opportunity provided to me by Jesus Christ. I would also like to run the Disney Princess Marathon races. If you must know, I would be thankful just to survive a 5K or 3.1 mile race. I must admit that I am not a runner. I am not sure that I could make it one mile running and not dying. In fact, I will tell you the same thing I tell other people – if you see me running you should too, because something is probably chasing me. Now how in the world can a 51-year-old mom who is out of shape make it to a Disney Princess marathon? I guess first I would have to make up my mind that I wanted to do it and set a goal with certain steps to achieve before the next race. Given the popularity of these events, I should probably go ahead and sign up now. It might be a good idea to invest in some good running shoes. The next is probably the hardest part of all – I would then have to discipline myself to train for the marathon. Ugh! The D-word wreaks havoc in us. It is the boundary and barrier for most people when it comes to achieving even the smallest goal or aspiration. What overcomes the thought of discipline – devotion. What is devotion? It is profound dedication and consecration. An earnest attachment to a person or cause. Devotion is the attachment or assignment to any purpose. In the Biblical sense, devotion is an act of worship including worship for a special use.

Are you dedicated to Jesus Christ? Fully devoted heart and soul to knowing Him fully and having His Way in your life? Me, too. Discipline is the choice to take what we know about the Lord and His Word and apply it to our life. Not just in word, but in every attitude and action much like an athlete eyeing a prize. It is not an endeavor casually undertaken but a full-on effort to make every part of our life conform to that of overwhelming victory. After all, Christ is our Champion according to Hebrews. To those who disciplined, dedicated and fully devoted probably the worst word they will ever hear is disqualified. “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”

Hebrews 12:11-13 (NLT) No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

I do not believe that discipline is the same as punishment. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that through Him that I would be saved. Thank you, Jesus! However, it is human nature to view discipline as punishment. When I go to the gym after missing days, weeks, months or the past year – my muscles scream for relief as I press through the pain and work through the notion that quitting would be so much easier. No one is punishing me. I want more. I desire to be healthy. I pay for the membership to undergo such “torture”. Devoted to Christ, the pressure inside of us is His Way of making us into the masterpiece that He purposed and designed us to be. It is the molding and shaping of character so that endurance will keep us until His Glory is released in our life. I must press past every pain, insecurity, fear and emotion if I am dedicated to this cause called Christ. Anything worth having requires a higher price, I must decide today if I will pay that price. If I will endure tough times, difficult seasons and painstaking processes to let Christ have His Way in my life which will lead to a rich and satisfying life just as He promised. I must press on to have that which the Lord is calling me to. I must not give up or give in but allow the Lord to strengthen my tired hands to life them in worship and my weak knees to seek Him in prayer. The only thing that must not happen is I cannot and will not quit, give up or give in. I am His Prized Possession. No discipline is enjoyable. Can I get an “amen”? It is worth the peaceful harvest that is coming for those who decide to be devoted to right living and following His Way.

Isaiah 38:16-20 (NLT) Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord.

Treasure

treasure

Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

A fisherman was on the water one day when his boat anchor became stuck below the sea. After many attempts to free his vessel, he had no other option but to dive in the water and swim to the bottom to eliminate the problem. He found that the anchor was clinging to a giant clam shell. The man dislodged the anchor and decided to drag the enormous obstacle with him to the surface. He was unaware that a treasure was hidden inside. Upon opening it, he discovered a large pearl. It measured two feet long and one foot thick. He considered this to be a lucky find and stuck his prize under this bed for good luck. The pearl was hidden there for ten years. He was unaware that the pearl was five times larger than the world’s largest pearl ever documented. When he finally decided to share the pearl with the world, it was determined that the giant pearl weighed almost 75 pounds and was worth an estimated 100 million dollars.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.” The fisherman had an abundance of wealth hidden under his bed. One hundred million dollars changed his life forever. Yet, he had no idea that the huge misshapen hunk of pearl was worth anyone. Maybe he was looking for one of perfect roundness. Or perhaps he expected a valuable pearl to fit on a necklace, bracelet or earring. People spend most of their life in pursuit of purpose. No one wants to live in vain and think that their life did not matter. It is the cry of every human heart to find its place in the grand scheme of things. God placed eternity in our heart. He also gave us a measure of faith to find the true meaning of our creation. I wonder if because this life doesn’t always turn out as we expect that we hide things of worth away rather than examining them for their real worth and meaning.

The Kingdom of Heaven is our treasure. It is the reward for a life lived in pursuit of the Living God. It is the only thing of worth that we have because it is the only thing there is beyond this life – it is called eternal life. What does it matter if I have the whole world yet lose my soul? My spiritual connection to the Kingdom cannot be separated from my natural life or I will not acquire the treasure that is everlasting.

Spoiler Alert – If you are in the Sunday school class that I am teaching this morning, you may want to read this later. I discovered this week that somehow my pursuit of the Kingdom had been a bit detoured. One of those times when lesser things became greater things and my priorities were misaligned. How can you tell? When agitation overtakes my peace, joy turns to aggravation, and disappointment begins to overshadow hope. The Lord is my satisfaction. He is the only thing worth pursuing in my life. The closer my walk grows with Jesus the more aware I become when something tries to interfere.

To discover Jesus Christ is to find the “pearl” of great price. His Love and Grace causes a heart change that desires to know Him more and seek Him. However, the pursuit of Jesus is difficult in a world filled with distractions, shortcuts, compromises and substitutions. The enemy offers counterfeit blessings every day. Even though we know God has something better, we choose to accept that which is easy and does not require a process.

Matthew 7:6 – (NIV) Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do not throw your pearls to pigs.” I have read this scripture many times but feel there is new meaning here to be revealed by God’s Spirit to my heart. We have been given the Kingdom of God. It is part of the salvation package offered by Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is our gift eternal life. We do not experience the reality of eternity until we die. Our whole existence is centered on avoiding death altogether when the reality is that every baby is born dying.

In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells us through a parable that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth the “joy” of complete sacrifice. The man sold all he had just to buy the field it was in. It says that the treasure was hidden there. He bought the field by faith. He would have to go through the process of cultivation to harvest it. There is a process to acquire the Kingdom. It requires sacrifice, commitment, dedication and motivation.

The enemy cannot touch anything bound by the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 6:19-21, the Word of God tells us to “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” Why? Because they cannot be destroyed by the enemy. They cannot be corrupted. No one can steal anything we place there. Our heart follows our treasure. Jesus wants our heart today. He wants our love. Our heart must be bound in Heaven and not set on the earth.

Are we throwing our pearls out to the pigs to be trampled on? A pig eats whatever it is given. It is not discerning and eats whatever is in the slop to fill its insatiable hunger. Could this mean that when we reject the process of God in us set in motion to provide the promise of great value and worth culminating in entrance to the Kingdom, could this be the meaning of throwing out our pearls?

Revelation 21:21-27 (NIV) The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Pearls are formed when a small irritant, like a grain of sand, somehow makes its way into the interior of an oyster shell. Annoyed by this foreign object, the oyster begins coating it in a material it produces called nacre. The oyster slowly coats the foreign irritant in layers upon layers of nacre, eventually forming a pearl. Freshwater pearls take 1 to 6 years to form. Saltwater pearls take 5 to 20 years to form. If the oyster could somehow remove the irritant aborting the process, there would be no pearl.

Relief ends the trial eliminating the problem. Release is enduring the process to produce the promise. What do I do when irritated? How do I react to trials? Do I respond to the promise or react to the problem? It is important to note our behavior in the midst of opposition, irritation or challenges. There is a Kingdom waiting for me. Each gate is made of a giant single pearl. A pearl can only be made one way. Could it be that God placed them there to remind us that this life is a process not a quick fix? Maybe He is telling us that the Kingdom is worth every trial and hardship endured rather than escaped? The Lord is reminding us of the power and glory invested in our fragile jars of flesh today. He is saying don’t give up. It’s going to be worth it.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV) – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

On a personal note, the last month or so has been very trying. Everything seemed out of order. Nothing was adding up. I felt agitated all the time. I prayed and prayed. I poured over the Word of God for answers. I begged God to show me what I was doing wrong. Nothing. Midweek – there was a breakthrough. Hallelujah! Thursdays I clean house. It was quiet as my girls were off with friends and my husband cutting the yard. The phone rang. It was my friend. A godly gentleman who I respect as a mighty man of God had a dream regarding my husband and I. It seems to be a prophetic dream about a trial that is coming and a promise that we will overcome. My heart sank. Lord, Lord. See I have been through some stuff, I know that Jesus is faithful and will do exactly as He promised. I am human. My flesh cries out that I just don’t think I can do it again. The Lord whispers to me, “You can’t, but I will.”

I have been given a measure of faith that must become large enough to walk over into eternity. When you study the Word of God, it is clear that it is not an easy or lighthearted acquisition. There are many things from here to there that I would like to walk around and run past without enduring but where is the value and worth? It is the process that produces the promise in me. To forsake the process is to relinquish the promise. We cannot have the pearl without the price. I must decide whether I will use my life to gain forever or to live for this day. It is not forced upon me. God injects that irritant that requires change and I decide if I will receive it or reject it. It is that simple.

Where is your treasure today? The fisherman did not know that the hunk of pearly mass under his bed was worth anything at all. He made it worth what he wanted it to be worth. He called it his good luck charm. I have to chuckle. Do we put God and His Kingdom in the same kind of box? Do we decide His Worth and limit His Wealth in our life? Fear will do that. Doubt can certainly do it too. The faith that the Lord has invested in you is worth something. It will be worth every fight to hold on to it. Jesus will be the firm foundation that He promised but we must build that foundation of faith in our life. We must be committed enough to sacrifice. It will not be easy. It will not be quick. It will be worth it all.

Matthew 16:19 (NIV) – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Empty Altars

Empty Altars

Psalm 84:1-4 (NLT) How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. 

Sitting at my desk, just outside the window, there is a flurry of activity. Positioned in the tree overhead are bird feeders. Little birds and squirrels look for the seeds that make the way to the ground below. Chirping wildly at the treasure found, they catch my attention throughout the day. They are provided for plentifully from those feeders high and out of sight so they build nests in the camellia trees and bushes. Without a care in life, they make their home within the shelter and sustenance of the homeowner.

As I prayed for my church yesterday, a thought came to me. Why are the altars of the church empty? Where did this idea come from? It has to be because it is the same people each week. Maybe if we invited more people the altar be full. Could it be that everyone in our church is saved? Is salvation why we come? I was perplexed as nothing I came up with settled my spirit. The altar is empty because I refuse to come. Whoa Nelly! When did this become about me, Lord? When I cry out for revival, but refuse to come. When I ask the Lord for help, healing or the like, yet will not change positions. When I desire change but rebuke discomfort or inconvenience. When did this become about me, the moment I cried out for more.

The image and idea of God’s Altar has changed over the years. It used to be an institution of the church but now it is not so clearly defined. Removed as not to offend or seem old-fashioned, I long to see the old benches come from their hiding place maybe then we would answer the call to worship again. The modern day church is choosy about their delivery of the Gospel. Careful not to offend by removing the cross, blatantly refusing to discuss the Blood of Christ as it is much too messy for our Sunday best.

What about the Name of Jesus? Is He mentioned in your place of worship? We are conditioned by the world even as Christians to limit our use of His Name, to pray secretly in closets, and be ashamed of the cross called to bear. Bound to our seats as not to show weakness, the Lord is pressing me today to leave it behind and head to the altar again. It’s not just for salvation. It is not just a place of rededication but restoration and complete redemption day by day.

People keep us from the altar. After all, don’t you wonder when someone comes, why they kneel there? Come on, we all do. The person thought to be strong, a teacher, a leader, or faithful member who serves each week, what happens when they kneel under the suspicion of glaring eyes meant to be praying but really only prying. I am guilty. There are times I just want to come forward and kneel in the Presence of God not feeling a need for anything only desiring to move in closer step in deeper and linger in His Presence. Why won’t I? I struggle every single day to be the person that God has created and called me to be. Do you? If so, the altar is our dwelling place. It is the very place that I belong. Lord, let me do my part to fill your altars again.

Psalm 26:6-7 (NLT) I wash my hands to declare my innocence. I come to your altar, O Lord, singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all your wonders.

The Altar of God represents our innocence never condemnation. It is the place, as believers, that we declare His Grace is enough. As I come to the Lord in humble obedience and surrender my life to Him publicly, it is a public declaration of faith. It is the kind of proclamation that needs no words. My ability to be yielded to the Lord encourages others to do the same but truly it is for me first in my own life. I need to wash my hands. I need His Grace to wash over me and flood my soul. No matter how committed I am or hard I try – sin still finds its way into my life. Even if its been a good week or a great one, the Altar is where I can publicly thank the Lord for all that He has done privately in my life. It is an expression of faith that promotes inward change. Lord, fill the altar again.

What keeps us from this place? Pride. No other reason to not accept the invitation to come other than living a double life. You should still come. The Lord honors our willingness to kneel before Him to confess that we have blown it again. Let him without sin cast the first stone. It doesn’t matter what another living, breathing soul thinks about me. If I do not achieve right standing with God through His Son, Jesus, I lose my soul forever. Is pride really worth it? Apparently to some, pointing at myself.

Hebrews 13:15-16 (NLT) Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

The old form of the altar was a place of continual sacrifice focused solely on sin and retribution. Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for sin so now the altar changes a bit. It is a still a place of continual giving but now since the sacrifice is satisfied it becomes our offering to the Lord. We do not come to the altar to give God a sacrifice but to surrender our life as an offering. To avoid the altar completely is to say that there is nothing for which to praise the Lord. It means that I may have allegiance to other things especially that thing which keeps us stuck to our seat.

Psalm 118:26-27 (NLT) Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.

According to Psalm 51, the sacrifice that God desires is a broken spirit and repentant heart. Is this the life that I live? A repentant heart needs Jesus all of the time not just on Sunday and Wednesday. Jesus scolded Martha gently as she ignored His Presence to remain invested in her service, doing and work. Those things that would bring her glory rather than pointing to Jesus. She just got caught up in things. She had a to-do list laying on top of the Word pressing her heart.

Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords to the altar. We need to come to the altar again… and again. In the Book of Ezra, it talks about the rebuilding of the altar of God. It had been prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (in chapter 25) that the Temple of God would be destroyed and God’s People would be exiled. Nebuchadnezzar would do just that. (2 Chronicles 36:17-21) It would sit in ruin for 70 years. Why was it destroyed? People refused to turn to back to the Lord. Warned over and over again, they decided to live in sin and betrayal against God. But there is a glimmer of hope arising in Ezra 3, even though the people were afraid they decided to rebuild the altar. When the altar was complete, the people turned to the Lord and began worshipping again. Immediately following the rebuilding of the altar, the people would go on to build the Temple of God again.

A commitment to rebuild the altars in our churches and one’s commitment to fill it all by their self if necessary will be the catalyst for revival and the very element that builds the Kingdom of God one final time before He comes.

Acts 17:22-31 (NLT) So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 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. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

We do not serve an unknown god but the only True, Living God. He sent His Son Jesus so that we could get to know Him intimately and personally. If we (or I) could just wrap my head around and commit my life to the fact that EVERYTHING concerning me is under the complete authority and power of the Living God because of Jesus Christ, I would never hesitate from falling before Him again. Before Jesus, people didn’t know God. But after Jesus the message is clear and concise and sent forth by His Spirit who gives us all understanding in exchange for ignorance.

The Word of God says plainly here in verse 25 that Jesus satisfies every need. Do you have a need today? Why won’t you come before the Lord? Anything that is not completely satisfying in our life can be surrendered to the Lord for fulfillment, if you are think it worthy of a journey into His Presence. Everything I need for a rich and satisfying life is found in total surrender at the Altar of My God. Jesus invites us to come and He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:27-29) Do have a burden? He will lift it from your shoulders so you don’t carry the weight alone…if you will come to the altar. Everything if only we believed enough to come.

In Matthew 14:27-30, Jesus is walking on the water in the midst of a violent storm. Peter says Lord let me come to you in verse 29 but by verse 30, he is going under fast. Faith in God is facilitated by our actions. If you don’t pursue the Lord with passion, our faith grows tired and weary surely we will sink. However, we find later after Peter failed the Lord multiple times and watched as He was beaten, tortured and crucified, back to his “normal” life. When he sees, Jesus walking on the beach. Peter didn’t ask to come or even want a miracle. He wanted Jesus and swam all the way to the Lord. Our desperation for the Lord and dedication to Him must be expressed in our actions. We cannot hide behind religiosity anymore thinking we have to portray the image of perfect people, pious Christians and professional servants but rather just desire Him more and more each day. What will it take to draw you back to the altar today?

Hebrews 4:16 (NLT) So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

I need Jesus all of the time. There is no time that I can remember since meeting Him that there wasn’t a longing deep within to find Him again and again. In Jeremiah 29:11, it talks about this plan that includes a future and hope. However, few people read beyond these words to the requirement. In verse 13, it says that we must seek the Lord wholeheartedly. With our entire being, all of our emotions, the long list of needs, wants and desires that motivate us, and in this simple act of surrender to the Will of God and submission to the Word of God our rebuilt altars will begin to expand the Kingdom of God. It begins with me. It begins with you!

Let us come boldly. It is the thought of confidence before the throne of the Gracious God that began this press for the altar. To step out of our comfort zones and cast off convenience to be where the Lord is that motivates me. I want to see a great revival rise up in our midst. I desire all the fruits God’s Spirit is trying to produce in me and through me. I want it all. I have to surrender it all to have it. I don’t know how I will respond to this new word etched on my very human heart today. I know what I want to do. I long to make my life a living sacrifice. I will do whatever it takes to fill the altar with those who worship in Spirit and Truth longing for more of Jesus. It may mean a journey or two or twelve or too many to count to kneel at His Altar, to shed real tears, to turn over more personal real estate to the Lord for His careful consideration and constant cultivation. What is keeping you from falling facedown before the Lord in front of people? I am challenged today to remove ever barrier between myself and the Altar of the Living God! Will you join me there?

Psalm 43:3-4 (NLT) Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!  

 

The Lampstand

The Lampstand

Luke 11:33-36 (NLT) “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

We live in light. Relying on the sun, people become a bit dreary when it hides for too long. We live in homes filled with lights, but if a single bulb burns out its noticeable. Each ceiling fan in our house has four lightbulbs, if one is out the side of the room it faces immediately is dimmer. The light is not as bright. Replacing the broken bulb solves the problem and once again the room is well-lit. There are also new and improved options to the old incandescent lamp called compact fluorescent lamp or lights (CFL). The glow of these bulbs are different than the older versions. Giving off the same amount of visible light, the CFL is popular because it is more energy efficient using one-third of the electricity and lasting up to ten times longer than regular lightbulbs. The only setback is that the CFL bulb is more expensive. Many will not pay the price up front or go to the trouble of changing out all the old ones. To be completely honest, I really wasn’t thinking about lights or fixtures today but about my walk with Jesus.

I wonder if my light is shining today. I am challenged by the position of my lampstand in this life. Our purpose is to shine brightly as a beacon to people living in darkness, but am I successful in this endeavor? I will admit to you today that there are several bulbs in need of replacement in my home currently. As we pack and prepare to move, I keep overlooking these small details in an attempt to get us ready to go. I am considering making the switch to the new CFL bulbs in our new house once making the transition. In my busyness, I have placed a very low priority since there is plenty of light still burning. When I got up this morning, I felt tired. My body aches from lifting, bending, stretching, reaching and packing boxes. We have only just begun. My husband is out of town so there are additional responsibilities that he would do but I must maintain for a few more days. Stumbling through the dark, I turn on a few lights so I don’t trip over anything but the light is blinding to my tired eyes. Let’s face it, what good is a lamp if you don’t open your eyes, right? Crying out to the Lord for energy and strength – I find myself in the tabernacle of the Old Testament standing next to a lampstand. This is not where I expected to be.

Exodus 27:20-21 (NLT) “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually. The lampstand will stand in the Tabernacle, in front of the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant. Aaron and his sons must keep the lamps burning in the Lord’s presence all night. This is a permanent law for the people of Israel, and it must be observed from generation to generation.

The most important thing to note about the lampstand is that it points to Jesus Christ. The lampstand is introduced in the Book of Exodus and referred to throughout the Bible into the Book of Revelation. It stood in the tabernacle. It was placed in front of the curtain shielded the Ark of the Covenant. The commandment was that it should remain burning at all times using the pure oil of pressed olives. It was to be maintained. This permanent law must be observed from generation to generation right into today.

I know what you are thinking. Jesus died for our sins so we no longer need a High Priest. No, Jesus is our High Priest. Jesus tore the veil in the Temple/Tabernacle so we don’t have to stand there anymore. No, when Jesus ripped the veil in two it gave us greater access. It did not eliminate the commandment of God concerning our lampstands. We are the lampstands that He refers to in Revelation 2 with the potential to be removed if our light is not shining. Reading about the lampstand today, it is clear that the Light within me is of far greater importance than it is given in my haste to complete tasks, maintain a routine, and mark off my to-do list.

John 1:4-5 (NLT) The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 3:18-19 (NLT) And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 12:46 (NLT) I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.

Matthew 17:2 (NLT) As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

I Corinthians 6:19 (NLT) Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?

All of these verses reference Jesus as the Light of the World. He came into darkness with a light that would be invested in us and lead others back to Him. Before Jesus in Exodus, the lampstand stood in the Tabernacle representing our relationship with God blocked by sin. When Jesus died the curtain was torn in half giving us direct access to God the Father. In this monumental step, God’s Temple became every man and woman who call on Jesus Christ to be saved. He gives us His Spirit filling us with life-giving light. Now people can choose to remain in darkness or walk in the Glorious Light of His Love. As a child, we would sing “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” How are we doing now that we are adults?

2 Corinthians 4:6-10 (NLT) or God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Let’s face it! Most people would not pursue Jesus Christ outside of the pressures of life. When things are good, the Bible goes on the shelf, prayer closet closed, and church a casual commitment. When we become “pressed on every side by troubles, perplexed, hunted or knocked down” and any other kind of suffering is when begin to push our way back into His Presence again. We have been given such a magnificent light, but left inside our fragile heart it is of no use. God loves us too much for our light to go out. He will fan the flame just as He instructs us to do. He will blow on us. He will stir us up. Whatever it takes to get the Light in us out of us. The Lord makes us uncomfortable so we will move up the mountain to be the light which becomes a city on a hill for all to see. But what might happen, if we followed simple instructions. The people were commanded to be pure oil of pressed olives daily to the Tabernacle. What about the Temple? Are we tending the light of our lampstand daily or just when we think it might go out?

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Did you know that satan can disguise himself as light? (2 Corinthians 11:14) In fact, there are many false prophets who do not preach the Word of God much less live by it. One encounter with the true light of the Love of Jesus changes everything, just ask Paul. He was on a mission when the “light” surrounded him, but not everyone in his group encounter Jesus like Paul did that day. It changed his life forever. He became committed to the Light – Jesus Christ. (Acts 26:12-19) In his conversation with King Agrippa, it is clear he is not entirely sure what happened other than Jesus happened. Our message is not complicated. It is very clear.

Light will always be a threat to darkness. We must desire a life of transparency living in the Light of His Love. Such a commitment requires a turning from sin. If you are avoiding the light, it is time to reach deeper and find out why? There are tragic results for those who do not fulfill their purpose in Christ. Light will always keep us on guard, rooting out the enemies diversion tactics and death traps along the way. His Light keeps us clearheaded so that we do not fall for the vague lies masked with a hint of truth. The Light exposes every lie and fallacy the enemy hurls against us. (I Thessalonians 5:4-6)

Philippians 2:12-16 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

This weekend I will take an inventory of all the burned out lightbulbs in the house to replace them. I am beginning to think examining my heart for light might not be a bad idea either. I am called to be the Light of the World because Jesus who IS the Light of the World lives in me. I must do something with that investment or risk falling back into darkness again. I must keep my lampstand in His Presence. I must take the time to tend to it no matter now busy I think that I am.

In Luke 15:8-9, the Parable of the Lost Coin sums it up quite nicely. The woman lost a coin. She felt it was worth something and valuable to her. This being the case wouldn’t she “light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?” The investment in our life is worth seeking out. It is worth allowing the Light of His Love to fill us even the darkest part. If only we valued our relationship with Jesus (the Light of the World) as much as lesser things, I wonder what it might like if everyone took the time to tend their lampstand.

Ephesians 1:18-20 (NLT) I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Just a fire left untended will certainly go out, so will we if we do not remain attentive to the Light of His Love burning deep within us. Our life is judged only by our choice to live in the Light of His Love leaving darkness behind. Once full of darkness, the Lord has filled me with light. What I do with it determines the outcome of my life and success in following Jesus. It is the Light of His Love provided by His Grace that allows good things and right things and true things to be produced in my life. (Ephesians 5:8-14) I must determine what pleases God and the Light of His Love makes it clear for me. The Light makes everything in my life visible for careful evaluation and thorough inspection. I have nothing to fear. His Grace is enough for me to rid my life of worthless things and continue my pursuit of perfection. Perfection has a name. His Name is Jesus. He is the Light of the World. He lives in me. I am His Lampstand.

Colossians 1:11-12 (NLT) We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

The Bride

The Bride

Revelation 19:6-9 (NLT)

Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”

It has been almost year since our daughter got married, I think I still suffer from “post traumatic wedding syndrome.” I had no idea how much work went into such an occasion until I was deemed the esteemed honor of mother-of-the-bride. I already have begun coaching my other two daughters on the advantages of elopement. Maybe I am overreacting or perhaps it is because the blessed occasion was just three months after returning from our son’s bone marrow transplant on the heels of three years of cancer treatment. Call me crazy, but I found it all a bit stressful. Thankfully there have been a few other moms who were recently in the same position, I found that they had the same experience. When our now son-in-law came up with the brilliant plan to marry our daughter, it was right before our son’s transplant was to begin. How could he know that this would be a bitter fight with the insurance company, medical boards, executive committees and hospital administrations that would drag on for months delaying treatment? I remember the day that it was decided the wedding must be postponed as treatment started much later than expected. I felt terrible as my daughter wept with disappointment. One month to a young bride anticipating the beginning of a fairytale seems like forever. But thankfully from that point on, the favor of God surrounded us without any more setbacks. Our son successfully completed treatment and stood by his sister, the most beautiful bride on her very special day.

Over the course of her engagement, countless hours of planning and preparation went on. It was fun. It was exciting. It was stressful. It was expensive. But when she walked through the doors on the frigid November day, she was a breathtaking bride. As her father led her to the aisle, her groom openly wept at the sight of her. Overtaken by the moment and the beauty before him, he hung his head with tears streaming down his face as his dad put his hand on his shoulder. Surveying the wedding party in front of me for the first time in what seemed like forever, I took a deep breath. The Lord is good. All of my precious children stood before me together, alive and well just as He promised me from the beginning.

We are the bride of Christ. I wonder if somehow we have forgotten what it feels like. Maybe you have never experienced such an event firsthand only watched from the sidelines. We must maintain our position as bride-to-be with the same anticipation that a young girl feels for her betrothed. At some point right before the big event, my daughter told me in the midst of wedding details that she just wanted to be married. Yeah, no such luck young lady, we are too invested to turn back now. Where is our love for our beloved? When will begin preparing for the big day when He comes for us? Are we ready? Do we even care?

Jeremiah 2:32 (NLT)

Does a young woman forget her jewelry, or a bride her wedding dress? Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me.

 

I wanted my daughter to have the perfect wedding day. Everything had to be just what she wanted so early that morning while the rest of the wedding party and family were getting ready her dad and I headed out to the reception hall to prepare for the big party after the ceremony. Thank God for Pinterest as it is the birthplace of miracles or at least great ideas for weddings. Armed with the details for her place settings and a young lady who would be a godsend. We lovingly and carefully set each table for each guest right down to the silverware. Each centerpiece adjusted and readjusted right down to the little hand-cut special order confetti on the table. For hours, we poured over every detail until finally time was up and I had to get ready. Once I returned, my friend who would take over the schedule for the day had arrived to help do the very things completed that morning. She just shook her head, “You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?” We have been friends for a very long time. She knew my heart – it had to be perfect.

Choosing a dress took trying on countless gowns. Picking out jewelry consumed hours of shopping and ordering until we had it custom made. Every detail mattered. Why aren’t we the same when it comes to our wedding to Christ? Where is the need for perfection? The life of the family of the bride is consumed with the smallest detail and the tiniest whim, yet we balk at the request of the Lover of our soul. Have we forgotten the Bridegroom? Throughout the day, I could have paid for the wedding each time my daughter asked about a detail or item. Where is this? What about that? Each time I assured her its right here. “Honey, it is taken care of don’t worry.” When will we begin to prepare for our wedding day like a bride to be? When will our bridegroom become our first love?

Matthew 25:1-12 (NLT)

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’ All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’”

Our son-in-law is an extravagant giver who loves to bless our daughter. He sets the bar high for future men that will one day court our two other girls. From the moment, he decided to ask her to be his wife. He began planning their engagement. His love for our daughter evident in every detail. What more could a first love do then die for His Beloved? Jesus died on the Cross so we could be a bride dressed in white and come to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Perhaps this sounds like mumbo jumbo to you. The Love of God for His People was demonstrated on an old rugged cross high on a hill when His Son, His Only Son, was tortured, abused, and ridiculed, nailed with pegs to die the most brutal death possible in that day. He was humiliated. He was perfect, He was sinless. He died for His Bride. Have we forgotten? Why are we so ill-prepared? What will it take to get us excited about the return of our bridegroom? When will become a giddy bride rather than a wandering one? In my heart, I can hear the Spirit saying come – it’s time to get ready. This is not a religious call but a jealous whisper straight from the mouth of my Bridegroom. This isn’t a call to good deeds but a life of love. He wants me to love Him like I first did when I gave Him my life. The Lord wants me to be excited about the day we meet again with the same heated anticipation that He has. He wants a lover. He wants me. Now I must show that I want Him, too.

Song of Solomon 2:16 (TLB) My beloved is mind and I am his…

 

People who are in love understand the longings written in the Song of Solomon. Just before this declaration of love, it says, “The little foxes are ruining the vineyards. Catch them, for the grapes are in blossom.” Distractions. Schedules. Appointments. Routines. I know that there were days during the execution of her wedding that our daughter was ready to elope. Run off and marry her love. Weddings do not always bring out the best in people. It is all about love. The love of two people who want to become one. Isn’t that our life as a believer? We are one person who wants to become totally consumed by Jesus Christ. Why? Why make such a commitment? Without love, what’s the point? The only way that we will ever become the Bride of Christ is to fall hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with Him. It is in the confession above all others I choose you that we discover the Love of our life and are willing to serve Him.

Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels.

Are you overwhelmed with joy in the Lord today? He dressed you (and me) with the clothing of salvation and draped us in a robe of righteousness… like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. Our perception of salvation is flawed if it is anything less than extravagant love. Endless and copious amounts of grace come from blind and jealous love. God passion for His People is matchless. No one can or will ever love us like Jesus loves us. So why are we not excitedly preparing our life to meet our beloved? I am asking myself this question today. Why are there some things that I am not willing to do to meet Him? Why wouldn’t every detail be important? Why don’t I want to please Him in every motive and action? Have I lost my first love? Obedience and submission are gifts for my natural husband. Things I choose to give him but certainly do not have to according to this world. In return, he loves me like Christ loved the church. We both do these things to the best of our ability for one another. Why do anything less for Jesus? He is our Bridegroom who will return one day! Will He recognize us as His Bride? This is not an arranged marriage. He chose to die for us. In doing so, just like a young man offering a girl a ring, He offers us salvation to enter a covenant union with Jesus forever. It is a love affair of epic proportions not forced or arranged. I chose to fall in love with Jesus. Or have I? Those who approach their relationship with the Lord as their Beloved will enter the greatest courtship ever known. As I surrender my heart, mind and soul to Jesus as my Beloved and not as a chore, I suddenly become like that beautiful bride waiting for her bridegroom again. It is all about love. Without love, there is no marriage. Without commitment, there is no covenant. We are offered it all in our relationship with Jesus Christ if we are willing to become like a bride! Our daughter was radiant on her wedding day. I am bias. She is a beautiful girl. But the moment she saw her beloved she absolutely glowed. This is the relationship that we are after with the Lord, it is the one that He desires, too. To love and be loved for the rest of our life. To live and prepare for our wedding day paying attention to the tiniest of details. If only we would live like a bride waiting for our groom!

Jeremiah 33:10-11 (NLT)

“This is what the Lord says: You have said, ‘This is a desolate land where people and animals have all disappeared.’ Yet in the empty streets of Jerusalem and Judah’s other towns, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the Lord. They will sing, ‘Give thanks to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, for the Lord is good. His faithful love endures forever!’ For I will restore the prosperity of this land to what it was in the past, says the Lord.”

The Circumcised Heart – A Devotion

Deuteronomy 30:6 (NLT)

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

 

There is a strong movement away from traditional circumcision of male babies in America today. It is estimated that below 40% of newborns undergo this procedure. In the 1980’s, this number was significantly increased at around 81%. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend circumcision and it is considered to be an elective procedure by most health insurance companies. The American Medical Association calls this procedure “non-therapeutic.” So why do it? Good question. Circumcision began in the Old Testament and became a religious rite of passage in the Jewish community. It soon began a widely accepted practice in America. Could it be it continues today because it has been socially accepted for many years? Maybe it’s a sensitive subject not to be discussed in casual conversation. While I will not share my personal opinion of the physical circumcision of male children, it is important to note that God is in favor of it – spiritual circumcision that is. In the Old Testament, it symbolized a cutting away of the flesh expressing a commitment to God. One must also consider that before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, sacrifices were made by individuals for the remission of sin. Man attempted to satisfy their sin debt by natural means, but it was not working. There was still a problem. The Children of Israel worked diligently to offer the right sacrifices and religious service to God but their hearts were still intact. The point of religion is the pursuit of God. It is an expression of one’s faith. However, when human focus is on the duty of service rather than a heart after God, religion falls short. The Lord desires a circumcised heart. Sin covers the human heart in a thick covering of flesh with selfish desires and expectations. God desires all the love of your heart and soul. This barrier between the human heart and God, while willing to perform services for God refuses to sacrifice the fleshly desires of the heart. The word “Christian” has lost its effectiveness as it no longer cuts into the fleshly desires of humanity to be renewed and changed by the Love of God. Instead, we choose to offer meaningless sacrifices of time and energy with little or no heart accompaniment. When will the Children of God learn to offer acceptable sacrifices that begin with a circumcised heart?

 

Circumcision means to purify spiritually. It also has a natural definition of cutting away. The Children of Israel struggled with the Spirit of the Living God. Comfortable with the religion associated with their belief in God but not willing to give their life to a personal relationship, they were dependent on the organized worship and literal translation of God’s Law. Without the spiritual understanding, they simply became religious. God must purify or circumcise the human heart in order to make it fit for the Holy Spirit to dwell there. The flesh that thickly covers it must be cut away through obedience, discipline, holiness and commitment. The Holy Spirit is necessary to take the things of this world and translate the spiritual aspects of life giving God’s People wisdom. However, when we become bound by religion, we become subject to the Law. Jesus died so that we could have freedom to love God without the barrier of sin. He provided an instrument for this procedure called righteousness. However, mankind struggles with anything that demands the death of its flesh and struggles to embrace the freedom found in Eternity and God’s Kingdom. We must purify our hearts spiritually to be effective Christians, committed believers and dedicated followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Galatians 5:5-8 (NLT)

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.

 

A circumcised heart is not a religious heart but one that is totally immersed in a love affair with God. It is an intimate experience because it is vulnerable in its nakedness. We spend time doing things for God because we are comfortable in hands-on service, but fail to surrender our heart to being spiritually purified. If you are religious without a relationship with God, then you must obey the Law of God. Self-sufficiency implies that the Blood of Jesus Christ was unnecessary. Falling from grace, you become bound by the Law once more. God has called you to live freely IN Jesus Christ. Submission to God is a personal choice. It will not be demanded of you in this lifetime. One must decide to yield their flesh to God knowing that He will work diligently to cut it away and remove it. It can be painful. However, those who love Jesus and are committed to having an intimate relationship with Him gladly bare their heart to the Lord. Circumcision of the heart is a cutting away of the flesh that gets in the midst of your relationship with God dividing you. Religiosity will cut you off from God. There is no middle ground when it comes to matters of the heart with God. Are you faithful to God, committed to Jesus Christ and filled with His Spirit? This is the beginning of a consecrated life symbolized by early circumcision. It is sacrificing self to demonstrate an overwhelming, all-consuming love of God. There are too many religious people and not enough righteous ones that comprise the church today. In a recent poll, it was determined that 53% of Americans believe they are Christians. This country does not reflect a moral majority so it makes one wonder if they are active believers or routine followers. God is looking for those who will sacrifice their heart to Him. Who will allow the Word of God to penetrate and the Sword of the Spirit to pierce through their mind, will and emotions? Look around, it is probably safe to assume while there are many people who claim to be Christians, few have been circumcised.

 

Romans 4:11 (NLT)

Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith.

 

Abraham was not considered righteous by God because he was circumcised. Abraham was a religious man but he was defined by his righteousness that was expressed through Judaism. See he was faithful first. Abraham was circumcised as an expression of his faith in God and it had nothing to do with making him righteous. Abraham did it to honor God with his body and natural life. Religion is something Christians do to honor God with their life…it does not make them faithful or righteous. It is an outward expression of an inward relationship, if not it is nothing more than tradition or habit. God is interested in the motives of the human heart. He is not waiting for you to give up a certain habit or stop repeating a particular sin. Your love for Him will manifest that way over time. God is looking for people who will submit to spiritual purification by opening their heart to be inhabited by God’s Spirit.

 

Romans 2:29 (NLT)

No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praisefrom God, not from people.

 

Please do not take this the wrong way. Church is an important aspect of a believer’s life for teaching, fellowship and service. However, it is not what makes you a Christian. A true Christian is one who has experienced a heart change by the Spirit of the Living God coming to live inside of them which begins to produce changes in the person’s life. Man cannot change himself. Lord knows we try, but only God can make us a new creation. God changes people’s hearts. If you are struggling to serve God with your WHOLE life, then it is a heart condition that must be changed. The circumstances of your life only magnify any hidden problems or needs. God desires to make you a new creation today. Is your flesh in the way?

 

James 4:8 (NLT)

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

 

You cannot change your heart. You cannot change the heart of others. The Spirit of God can change hearts. God wants to come closer, but you must submit your heart to purification to make it a dwelling place for His Spirit. There is freedom in such a commitment because we are not bound to the Law any longer. Forever is yours. If you want this kind of life, choose a consecrated life. Allow the Holy Spirit access to your heart. Surrender the flesh that covers your heart creating a barrier between you and God. Allow the Lord to cut away those things that are offensive to Him. Daily it is an offering to the Lord. King Saul was impacted this way in I Samuel 10 but reverted to his old ways later in the story. A heart must be yielded, vulnerable, cut apart and inhabited continuously to remain in a relationship with God. It cannot be faked. It is a lifelong process and demands careful attention at all times. God is looking intently at the heart of man with His Word (a two-edged sword) looking for those who will surrender their flesh and allow His Spirit to penetrate their heart. Is that you today? Tired of trying to be a Christian and failing miserably? Stop trying to believe and build your faith by surrendering your heart to Jesus Christ. There is nothing worth preserving in your wicked sinful heart and the Spirit of the Living God is searching for a resting place in you. Will He find it? Will you have a circumcised heart? Let God remove the veil that is covering your heart today and reveal His Glory in your life!

 

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Love Interrupted – A Devotion

Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness, I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.

The day every little girl dreams of and the moment that she has practiced thousands of times, it’s her day – her wedding day! Years have prepared her for this moment and months have gone into the careful preparation of every detail of this day. Friends and family gather to celebrate the union of a couple passionately in love with a lifetime before them to share this wonderful discovery! It is the moment of truth. Everything they have sought after and longed for is culminated in this moment as she stands at the end of a long aisle, her attendants have gone before her and she waits for the single for her to join her bride. Suddenly, the splendor of the wedding march begins and everyone rises to honor her yet she sees no one but her bridegroom waiting at the other side. His eyes are fixed on her and there is a passionate exchange with each step that brings her closer to his side. They are totally in love and completely dedicated to one another and anxiously awaiting their union when all of a sudden she is stopped by a friend that simply must talk to her immediately. Surely her groom can wait for just a moment while she chats with her friend. Then as she resumes her journey down the aisle again, her boss stops her seeking assistance with one last thing before the ceremony is over and she is whisked away. It will take just a second but he simply cannot do it without her, so she pauses to assist him. As the bride completes the task, picks up her bouquet and continues her journey she begins to be called aside by various guests with little distractions and needs. What should have taken moments has now taken hours and when she finally arrives at the altar she realizes her bridegroom is no longer there. All that remains is a note scratched on the back of a wedding invitation. It says, “Let me know when you are ready!”

While this story seems quite preposterous or maybe like the script of a romantic comedy, it sadly is a scenario lived out every day by one bridegroom – Jesus Christ. Jesus has longed to be one with His Bride but the distractions along the way have interrupted this great love affair. You are the Bride of Christ. It is not your church, small group or youth group! You are His Bride. He passionately loves you with the intensity of a couple on their wedding day. When Jesus looks across the pathway that separates you cluttered with the things of this world, His eyes are fixed on only one thing! You! He longs for you to make the journey to where He is! Like any bride on her special day, the choice to give herself to her husband is her own. She glides down the aisle in pursuit of a completeness that she would never experience on her own with great expectation for the future. Had she hesitated or stopped along the way, her groom would certainly have noticed and the more she did the less likely he would still be waiting when she arrived. So often Jesus becomes our jilted bridegroom as we allow people and things get in the way of our union with Him breaking the heart of the Lover of our Soul! Just as a bride passionately in love with her future husband would never stop on her way down the aisle for anything or anyone, Jesus Christ is looking for a bride who will love Him with such intensity, fervor, commitment and passion that nothing will stop her pursuit of Him. Is that you today? Or is your love interrupted?

We often believe that we are faithfully pursuing Christ. Yet there is no intensity or passion. It is not a love affair but rather a task to be accomplished. The only dedication is selfish and self-seeking. When the slightest distraction pulls us off track, and other things seem more important than connecting with our Bridegroom surely there is a lack of love. There will be no connection – not because Jesus is not committed because He gave His all for His Bride! Problem is we His Bride is fickle and uncommitted who is easily distracted. Jesus is not our priority but an option in our lives! He is not our focus and foundation that makes everything secondary, but rather we make Jesus fit into our existing life. What groom would stand and wait on an uneager and distracted bride? Jesus does!

Revelation 19:6-8 (NLT)

Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear. For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.”

Jesus Christ is the expectant groom waiting on His Bride to arrive, yet it is important to understand that the vision of His Bride is not corporate but personal. It is not the church that He looks for down the aisle but it is your face He seeks. It is your heart that Jesus longs to become one with not the mission of your congregation. His love for you is quite personal and passionate burning with great intensity. How is your love for Jesus? Is your passion for the Lord consuming you today as that of a bride and groom on their wedding day? Love interrupted can be resumed when there is equal purpose! Resume your love affair with Jesus Christ today! Remove all idols and other lovers from the pathway to righteousness and run into the Presence of Jesus Christ today! He is anxious to unite with you and live the life you have only dreamed of and that He died for! What are you waiting for today? Your Lover awaits…