I Wonder…

I Wonder

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

What is the substance of your life? What is “the real physical tangible matter of which you consist and has a tangible solid presence in your life”? Substance adds weight to our life. In continuing the ongoing study of mountains and more specifically the kind of faith that moves mountains (Matthew 17:20), I wonder if we changed the substance of our life then would it break down the mountain of doubt on which we stand. Part of our driveway is broken. The large pine trees roots underneath caused it to be unleveled. When the previous owner parked a fully loaded moving truck on it, the weight of the truck broke apart the foundation. I wonder if our faith outweighed our doubt if it too would break the foundation of our fears. What if the mustard seed of faith planted grew large roots and then we put the substance of our life including every need, want and desire on top of it. Would the mountain move? Would it begin to break apart on its way to the sea? I wonder…

Faith is the substance of things hoped for not what we see. The evidence of our faith are deep roots of trust and dependence on the Lord without seeing it first. God gives good outcomes. He completes us. He finishes what He starts. The Lord wins every battle engaged in. He is the overcomer of the world. He promises good things to us in the land of the living. The righteous will not fall. All these wonderful and precious promises are there for us but do we place our life upon Him. Jesus is the Cornerstone described as the One the builders rejected. What if we became approved builders who decided to build our life and existence on God taking Him at His Word and pursuing His Son as our source rather than just the blessings and promises He offers. I wonder…

Proverbs 6:30-31 (NKJV) People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; he may have to give up all the substance of his house.

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. (John 10:10) If God’s Word is true, it also indicates that once vindicated that the thief must return to the owner sevenfold the loss. Sevenfold is seven times as great in number or amount. Therefore, as Children of God, the enemy owes us seven times anything that he has taken from us. I work in the insurance industry. According to most homeowner policies, if the insured experiences a covered loss, they must return the damaged property in order for it to be either replaced with like kind or better. In some cases, it will be for financial compensation according to the loss payment provision of the policy. The only requirement is that I keep the policy in effect. Two things are required – I pay the premium and keep my part of the conditions. I wonder…

Is it possible that we cannot obtain the substance of our faith because we will not relinquish the weight of our doubt including but not limited to fear, anxiety, stress, worry and even complaining and grumbling. Or could it be our lack of willing obedience in keeping with the guidelines of His Word which our way of acquisition in Christ? Could it be our substance that is keeping the mountain from being cast into the see? I wonder…

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus offers to shoulder the load of life with us. He will not take it from you. You have the freedom to choose whether you will carry the burden of your life or give it to Him. Life is hard. There will be struggles. We have an opportunity to transfer the weight or substance of our life to the Lord. We must choose to. Come to me – this is His Invitation. I will give you rest. The rest and peace of His Presence is a choice. We decide to plant faith in our life and let it break apart the foundation of the mountain of doubt keeping us from His Promises. Just like the moving truck that eventually broke the driveway did not receive its load all at once but box by box and with each piece of furniture carefully loaded, we can give our worries, cares and burdens to Jesus bit by bit. It is a trust process that will take time. Give Him one thing. Let the Lord show you His Faithfulness. Carry another concern to Him. He understands us. He knows us. He has experienced our weaknesses firsthand. He is patient, loving, kind and gracious! Why not try? I mean what do we have to lose. Faith over fear. Confidence instead of uncertainty. Promises and prosperity from the inside out. I wonder…

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

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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!”

 

Plot Twist

Plot Twist

Matthew 1:20-23 (ESV) But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Talk about a plot twist. Joseph surely didn’t see it coming. I imagine that Joseph and Mary were the couple everyone knew would one day be betrothed and then married. Good Jewish kids from faithful families, there would be a celebration when they finally were joined to be one. A house full of love, laughter and many children. It was all predicted and carefully planned between their families. God came and messed it all up. Like a made for television movie by Hallmark, who would have thought that Mary would be found pregnant before the union. Who would have ever believed that God would design such an introduction and arrival for His Only Son? God is the master of plot twists, my friend. Life with Him will never be found to boring or mundane. It is thrill ride for those who grab hold of hope refusing to let go. It will take you to the depths and raise you up to the highest hill. Never a dull moment, but always worth it.

One might only imagine the turmoil in Joseph’s heart that night, he wanted desperately to believe the story of his one true love. How can she even whisper that God did this? The Holy Spirit producing a child. Is it even possible? The Word of God predicted it. Yet, how could he believe such an audacious claim? He gave this young lady his heart, and now considered taking whatever part of it he could reclaim prayed to the Lord for help. I do not think Joseph was asking God in that moment if Mary was being truthful but how to get out of this mess alive. He loved her. He had given his heart, life and future to her. But now, he felt embarrassed, betrayed, hurt and confused. The Lord came to his sweet son that night. He told him the truth, his beloved had been true to him. She was carrying the Jesus the Messiah who would save his people from their sins. The baby was Immanuel. He would be God with us. All Joseph had to do was believe.

In the plot twists of life, it is human nature to reevaluate what one believes. When God doesn’t do things as expected, doubt rises up and disbelief tries to erode our trust. “But as he considered these things…” What’s on your mind today? What is the plot twist currently unfolding before you? Take it to the Lord. I say that without hesitation or moving one more step in the Word today. He did not leave us alone or forsaken. Christ lives in us. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

As our worship team sang “Spirit Break Out” in the morning service, I heard the voices of those around me which is unusual. Worship is my escape. Praise is the platform that rises my head above my circumstances to see God is in control. Yet, as they sang, I wondered if they really comprehended the words of the song. “Spirit break out. Break our walls down. Spirit break out. Heaven come down.” To look to the roof, sky or beyond the clouds for His Spirit is not looking for Him at all. The Holy Spirit lives in us. He is with us always. From the moment, one invites Jesus to be their Savior and become the Lord of their life – His Spirit unites with us like a marriage. He is with us always. He guarantees every promise God has made us. When God sees the Spirit – He knows that I am His Child. The Holy Spirit is not coming down from Heaven to be with us and then recede back to the sky. He lives in us and is always trying to find a way out of us. God’s Goodness and His Glory wants to permeate our life from the inside out. The walls that need to come down are of our own making. Heaven joins with earth when our spirit connects with the heavenly realm. It doesn’t happen all around us if nothing is going on inside of us.

Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV) Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Immanuel is introduced in the Book of Isaiah. The Lord offers King Ahaz an amazing offer. “Ask a sign of the Lord your God” not just any sign, but God goes one step further…”let it be as deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” The response of Ahaz may sound shocking to read, but it is very common. “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” Drop the mic. The Lord invited Ahaz to ask anything of Him. The All-Powerful, All-Mighty, and All-Knowing God gave this man the opportunity to test Him. He declined the offer. Who would do such a stupid thing? Before you begin to judge Ahaz too harshly, consider the fact that God lives in us. Jesus Christ offers to yoke with us and help us through this life including providing everything we need, carrying every burden and doing more than one might think, ask or imagine, yet we still try to do it ourselves. Until that moment, the plot twist comes and everything seems to be falling apart.

Hebrews 6:17-18 (ESV) 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.

Ahaz refused to trust the Lord. The sum total of his response was an absolute refusal to allow God to be God, have His Way or do His Will. God was shaking things up and the king’s comfort zone was being unsettled. But rather than trust the Lord, Ahaz was going to try to work out the details in his own power as king. Doubt and fear were his counsel. Lack of faith evident in his words. His heart feeble and shaking at the thought of such a plot twist. No thanks, God. I have everything under control. How many times do we say it? We pray one way with words and do something entirely different.

God’s character is constant. He does not lie or change His Mind. The plan that the Lord designed for your life is for your absolute good with a future and hope. The only requirement is faith. Not words, but trust that responds to His Voice and His Word. His Spirit is your guarantee that everything God promised will be yours if you decide to believe. The Spirit of God is in you today. The only limitation on your life is the one placed there when you choose not to believe. God is okay with us testing Him and trying out His Word. He answers our questions. He calms our fears. Immanuel is God with us. Jesus deposited His Spirit in us. It is still full of every bit of power and resurrection life that it contained the moment He released it. If God’s Power is limited in my life, it is me.

Romans 8:5-11 (ESV)  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

To further divulge the imagery in my thoughts during worship that day, I saw the Holy Spirit standing with a person looking at a giant wall. They walked around the wall. They shouted at the wall. Together doing everything one might have heard to do in church or a song. Now the man is scratching his head looking up at the wall with one hand on his hip, when the Spirit whispers in his ear with a huge sledgehammer in the other hand. It is clear to me that the Spirit is offering to take the wall out. The man shakes his head putting one hand up as if to say, “Wait a minute, I am thinking this through…” How many times is the Lord ready to take down walls, boundaries and barriers between us and His Blessing that we respectfully decline until we figure it out? What is the chance that God has been pushing on walls that we are holding up?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” God has given us His Word. Jesus came as the Word of God wrapped in flesh. He died and released His Spirit to live in us. To give us His Power and Authority on the earth and mark us as residents of Heaven. It is finished. The deal is sealed. Faith is the assurance of the hope we are given. It is evidence of the unseen. Ahaz could not see God’s Plan so he chose his own instead. Gideon did not see the man in the mirror who the Lord did so he asked for a fleece. (Judges 6:37) Nothing is impossible for God. (Luke 1:37) Impossibilities in our life is the opportunity to expand our faith and trust in the Lord. As a spirit-filled believer any impossibility in our life is the chance to let the Spirit out. We cannot please God without faith so what if the plot twists in our life are really God given us another chance by His Grace to grow in faith and confident hope rather the enemy’s device to take us out. Impossibilities are only impossible for those without the Living God. The moment He came to live in us nothing is impossible anymore…if you believe.

Hebrews 11:5-6 (ESV) By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Set your heart and mind on the Spirit life. Plot twists will happen in every great love story even the one that is written for us in Christ. Without change, it is human nature to become comfortable and complacent right where we are. God has offered us a limitless life with endless possibilities. It is accessible to those who by faith and trust choose to believe Him at His Word and follow live as one with His Spirit. Immanuel. God with us. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross allows the same Spirit in Him that overcame death and the grave to give us overwhelming victory in life. Enoch was a man of faith. He walked so close to God that he just was gone one day. I want that kind of relationship with the Lord where I disappear in His Presence. Enoch pleased God. Enoch put all his faith and trust in the Lord. In order for my faith to be valid, it must grow into trust and confidence. God uses every plot twist in our life as an opportunity. Impossibility is just another reason to test Him at His Word and follow the Guidance of the Holy Spirit. God is in us. God is with us. We cannot fail. God doesn’t fail or fall short. Neither will I if I put my faith and trust in Him today and every day especially those days with a plot twist or two.

I Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the Valley

in the valley

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

Walking with my husband and fur babies, I become lost in my thoughts. Conversation fades to only the sound of our footsteps on the pavement. I thank God for this wonderful man and soul mate who He created to “do” life with me. I honestly do not know what I would be or where without his precious love. The details of life like a heavy wet blanket burdening my thoughts laying heavy in my soul. Life is hard. Not all the time, but if totally honest most of the time. I don’t understand all the details and how God is able to wrap them into something good and tie a little bow on top like His Word says He will do. The Lord has been good to me. He has been more than gracious to our family. Yet, still there are many details that do not add up. Parts of our life not prospering as the Word of God indicates they would. I know it is a season and just as I get tired during this walk, I will not stop until I round the corner and make it home – it is not my intent to stop in the valley but rather find peace here.

The Word of God tells us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. I am quite certain that He is exactly who Psalm 23 promises Him to be but that doesn’t make climbing the mountain any easier or the valley filled with light on any given days. The Power of the Shepherd in my life is manifested by my willingness to trust and obey His Leading in my life. It is not human nature to give up our way and follow anyone like sheep. Sheep are not known for their intelligence. In fact, just the opposite. Living in dependency to the one who leads, guides and directs them completely is the marked trait of such livestock. They are meek and cowardice. Desiring only basic care and daily needs met if they leave the flock they are immediately lost and fall victim to the environment.

John 10:9-11 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” The confidence of sheep in the shepherd is the quality that produces loyalty. Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe that He provides all we need? Do you believe that Jesus came to give you a rich and satisfying life? Do you desire to walk in His Ways and follow the Lord (the Good Shepherd) all the days of your life? Do you believe that the Goodness of God is for the land of the living? See all of these qualities and attributes of God are valid and true. However, I do not believe them, I will not experience them as I will not follow the Lord very far.

Hope is belief in the unseen. Faith is for those things that seem impossible in the natural. Yet we try to use faith and hope for things that we can have, see and do rather than applying them to the principle of prosperity that is not humanly possible. The kind of prosperity that comes as our soul prospers. Why? Dependency is not a characteristic embraced by our pride. To totally surrender the care of our life to Jesus Christ is way more difficult than one may think. The valley is like swimming so far out in the ocean you cannot see the beach you left and too far away to see the shore on the horizon. The valley requires us to totally depend on God and trust Him. It is not a bad place yet not a favorable condition. Are you in the valley today? The place of walking, waiting and watching. I am. I will admit it so that we both can find purpose and meaning in this dark, low lying place.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.”

In complete honesty, it feels like most of our days are in the valleys if you think about it. I know that the day I decided to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of my life a bright red target was placed on my life by the enemy. Thank God that the bright red blood of Jesus Christ makes it null and void as He assumes the role of Good Shepherd. I must learn to trust Him more. I must learn to follow Him when I cannot see where we are going. I must learn to seek Him when He doesn’t feel like enough. When my hands are reaching for other things, may I not stop grasping until I fully embrace Christ.

The valley is dark but Jesus is the Light of the World. His deepest desire is to live, move and exist in us so that our life becomes glorious light that reflects His Amazing and Unstoppable Love. I cannot share something that I have no experienced. My words are not convincing until I become confident in the words I am speaking. The rod of God’s Word leads me to obedience. He doesn’t punish us anymore because the Grace offered by Jesus Christ is enough. More than enough, now I can be confident in God’s Love and Care for me as His Child. Do I believe God loves me? Do I believe that He is a Good Father with only my best interest in mind? Do I believe that if I seek Him wholeheartedly His Plan will become the destination of my life? If not, I need more of God’s Word to fill the voids that lead to willful disobedience so I am encouraged to live an obedient life. And let’s be clear as I pause for a moment, obedience to the Lord is not a religious effort. It is not strict adherence to rules, regulations, doctrines or guidelines. It is absolute and total submission to Jesus Christ in a loving and committed relationship. His Spirit will lead, guide and direct us in life. Along with the rod, the Good Shepherd has a staff. Again, the Word of God is like that staff. It rescues us with the hook when losing our way. His Word equips us. It feeds our spirit. He guides us with that staff through the valley to the place of promise. Oh Lord, let me fully embrace your Word and your Will for my life today.

Enemies are a real threat to sheep who become separated or isolated from the flock. It is vitally important to maintain our relationship and close proximity to Jesus Christ. We need Him every day not just on those days that are particularly difficult. Many years ago, I had a dream. At first, I would have called it a nightmare. But not anymore, my family was visiting a state park. Our youngest became separated from us. I found her in the presence of the enemy. He kept changing forms and becoming the face of many ordinary people before taking form. I could smell the putrid burning of flesh. I prayed and cried out to the Lord. The enemy pushed my daughter into my arms unharmed. Then in the blink of an eye, I could feel his hot breath on my neck as he seethed, “If it wasn’t for the Blood of Jesus I would kill them (my children) all.” I believe that the Blood of Jesus is our protection from the enemy’s attack and assault against our life. I also believe that Jesus doesn’t stop there but actually flaunts His Love, Care and Protection of us in front of him. To trust the Lord with our life and our loves is one thing, but to live confidently in that place means we do not have to fight the enemy but simply live in the Presence of Jesus Christ who won the battle already. The enemy is powerless in my life because I believe Jesus won it all.

John 1:1-5 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 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.

The Good Shepherd is the Light of the World. He is the Word who came wrapped in flesh to share God’s Love Story for us. He did just that. When He died on the Cross, He removed everything that separated us from God. He opened a river of overflowing grace that rushes through every valley in our life whether led there or wandered to that place. God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He goes before us to make our way straight. He fills in valleys. He levels mountains. He unbends curves and smooths out rough spots for us. (Isaiah 40:3-5) He comes in behind us pursuing us, wanting us and desiring our love more than anything else. Most importantly, Jesus lives in us. He is our Source of Life. Jesus prospers us and shapes our life so that it becomes a rich and satisfying one as He promised. Many times, it is in the valleys of life that this is discovered because it is those dark times and places that the Light of His Love becomes our desire. The places where disappointment and unmet expectation lead to dissatisfaction which is contrary to the Promise. We must learn to believe and depend on Jesus Christ to have the life that never leads to disappointment. A life of faith and hope. A life that learns to prosper and rejoice in the valley just as much as in the field of harvest or on the mountaintop of worship. We have the opportunity to live in the Presence of God. The one true Almighty God who loves us more than life and proved it by laying down the life of His One and Only Son, Jesus. We learn to trust the Lord in the valley.

We also experience new hunger and thirst in the valleys of life. When the details of our life do not add up to the Word of God or the vision in our heart, desperation sets in. Our desire increase for the One who makes all things new and gives life to new creation. If you have experienced the Light of His Love just once, you are hooked. It is impossible to not want more of His Love, Joy, Peace and every other good and perfect gift coming from Heaven. Trust is the only way to accomplish a true relationship with God because it is evidence of the reality of our confidence. I will not trust anyone I lack confidence in. Struggles and challenges give us the opportunity to trust the Lord just a little bit more. In our desperation, we finally cry out to the Lord who immediately comes rushing in to save His Sheep from despair or destruction. (Isaiah 41:17-20) God is leading to a place of full satisfaction. (Isaiah 49:10-12) It is on the other side of the valley.

Psalm 27:12-13 (NLT) Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

I don’t think it is possible to ignore the depth of the valley or see through its darkness in our natural abilities. I believe that the only way to successfully navigate the deepest valleys in life is with the Light of His Love and our confident belief that Jesus is a Good Shepherd. Life is a series of peaks and valleys that keep us leaning, trusting and depending on the Lord with good reason. We have a hope worth having that cannot be seen and only obtained by faith characterized by absolute confidence in God’s Saving Grace. It must believe that the Blood of Jesus is enough to overcome sin, death and the grave. We must hold tight to our hope without wavering making it the anchor for our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) What better place than in the valley when we cannot see or even find the bottom yet confidently trust the Lord. He provides in the valley. He protects in the valley. He even will prosper us in the valley. The Lord does it for those who love the Shepherd, know His Voice and follow Him to the other side. I am really not sure where the Lord is leading me or my family today. What I do know is: Jesus loves me. He died for me. He will lead me to the other side. I will have a rich and satisfying life. He is the Good Shepherd. I have all that I need to achieve what He has called me to do and prosper as my soul prospers. Amen. And Amen.

John 10:14 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me…”

Total Confidence

Total Confidence

Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV)

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

 

Confident – Having strong belief and full assurance; sure. Sure of oneself; having no uncertainties about one’s abilities; correctness; successfulness; boldness. Excessively bold and presumptiveness.

 

Am I totally confident? Do I remain confident? It’s not easy to trust the Lord. Do not let anyone ever tell you otherwise. It is the greatest challenge a man or woman will ever face. Completely worthwhile, beneficial and life-giving – yes. But too many times Christians try to act the part not really living it. To totally trust the Lord and be completely confident means that we never worry, stress, become anxious or hesitate when motivated by God through His Spirit to do something. We would jump on every single commandment and directive in the Word of God because the benefit would always outweigh the risk in the natural. Supernatural living would explode in the church as people came boldly to God through Jesus Christ for every single need in their life no matter how large or how small. It wouldn’t matter if they lost everything because their hearts would remain full. For many, many years, I have wanted to be that kind of believer. I have been fully committed to Jesus Christ for more than fifteen years now. Most days it seems like two steps forward and three steps back in my pursuit of complete faith and confident hope. I have only been able to trust the Lord when I have had absolutely no other choice. This is candid. This is transparent. But I want to be real. I want a faith so genuine that when God ever so slightly presses something in my heart that I jump at the opportunity to please Him no matter what the cost, inconvenience or opposition in the natural. Why? I want to see the Goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Goodness is not always about finances, security and self. Am I willing to risk discomfort and discombobulation to be complete in Jesus Christ? Are you?

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

I believe that it is erroneous to ever think, believe or teach that there will not be some discomfort, hardship and brokenness in our life with Jesus Christ. This is not what the Word of God in its entirety reflects. Following Christ comes at the price of self. These things are required to reshape, remold and rebuild the mess that we made of our life before Jesus became a part of it. To never experience such things would prohibit us from fully understanding and accepting the grace necessary to be saved. God doesn’t make our life hard. We do. Sin is the thing that we hold on to creating a barrier between us. Jesus works in us to change our attitude and actions to reflect a heart motivated to have a relationship with God the Father once again. The prosperity gospel that many think has died out still lives. Prosperity in the Lord has never been and will never be about personal financial wealth in the earth. Money has limits. It creates a burden. The Lord has made it clear that it is nothing more than a vessel in our life but quickly can be made master if we are not careful. We prosper as our soul does. (3 John 1:2)

Now before all those who believe God wants to give all our stuff up for Jesus that’s not true either. The Lord provides for His People. We can have nice stuff. It’s not a sin. Why is this topic so sticky? I can feel people grabbing their stuff and pulling it in tightly reading this right now. Stop that – let go for a minute. The revelation of prosperity came to me at a very, very high price. After our son’s fourth round of chemo, the doctors knew that this disease was not going to stay gone so they decided after much study and conversations around the world to try a bone marrow transplant which was part of a clinical trial for his “type” of cancer. In their mind, his very life depended on this procedure. So we went to the insurance company who denied the procedure not once but three times even though the medical reviewer agreed. Ok, we appealed federally. Denied again. We appealed with my husband’s company who is “self-insured” and could override the appeals. They denied. Time was ticking. Because of the cost of the procedure which was estimated to be between $300,000 and $500,000 everyone declined. For the first time I realized that in this world there is a price tag on life. I contacted government officials who called agencies. We did not have time to play around the cancer was recurring within a few months by now. I remember sitting at my desk in my office after the final denial came in not having the heart to call my family to let them know and prayed. The world was willing to let my child die. I reminded the Lord of the Word that He had given me that our son would live and not die. I didn’t pray for money or an insurance approval. I prayed one thing – “We need You, Jesus!” Peace flooded me, my office and my home that night with absolutely no earthly reason. The next morning, the hospital called me. They had an approval. No one knows where it came from but the woman took it and ran with it. Within hours, we were scheduled. My son just passed nine months of remission. He has never made it that far in this journey. To God be the Glory.

The early church risked everything to follow Jesus Christ in the natural. Why would we expect anything less? They went to prison. They lost their stuff. Their lives were completely turned upside down in their pursuit of complete faith and confident hope. Are we somehow insinuating that we are better than them or that God loves us more? To think that following Jesus requires nothing in this life is not biblical. It is not founded on truth. You can give up everything to follow Jesus but you must build your faith and become confident in the Lord. Confidence comes from trust. Trust is not comfortable until it is complete. We are far from that point yet in our prayers for the things of this world missing the true potential of being set free from the things of this world. Have you thrown away your confidence today? Those who persevere will be richly rewarded. Those hard times, broken times, and destitute times in your life have the potential to yield big dividends when you let go of the things of this world and take a better grip of what God is giving you. His Spirit produces in us the things that complete us and satisfy our soul. He gives us “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” that come from our faith and confidence in the Lord. These are not worldly things, monetary issues but Kingdom wealth that provides everything we need to experience God’s Goodness.

Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

 

I am encouraged today that the key to everything I need, want and desire in my life can be found in Jesus Christ alone. He knows me and loves me anyway. The Lord knows exactly what it will take for me to be completely satisfied now and forevermore. I must become confident enough to trust Him completely. It seems like the more I delve into this thing called faith the deeper I must go. It is not a quick process but a lifelong pursuit. You will not arrive until you stand before Jesus. I want to hear “Job well done.” My confidence is no longer in my ability to do all the right things or make a better life here. I know that only Jesus can do that so I work within myself to challenge myself to become more faithful. I want to be the one who God knows that He can count on to do His Will, heed His Word and follow His Way implicitly even though I feel most days I fail miserably. Like the marathon runner that we are all called to be, I just scoop up that new mercy and keep going. Don’t give up today. Just because everyone else seems to be getting somewhere, you cannot judge a book by its cover. You don’t know their heart’s condition any more than they know yours. Make today about Jesus only Jesus. Pray for His Will and Way. Remind Him of His Word for your life. We don’t have to tell the Lord what we want, need or think will make us happy and whole. He is already doing it in our life. We just have to become more confident in the Lord than we are in ourselves. God is working miracles in our life. It’s up to us to move out of His Way.

Hebrews 3:6 (NIV)

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.