Hobby, Habit or Holiness

hobby habit or holiness

Luke 14:26-30 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.

In January, my husband and a group of men arranged to go duck hunting. They planned the excursion for months. Purchased mounds of hunting gear and ammunition. Planning included requesting leave from jobs, making hotel reservations and mapping out travel. Everyone paid their portion of the hunting lease and provided for meals and expenses. When the calendar finally fell on the travel date, the weather conditions took a dramatic turn for the absolute worst. It was below freezing. The lakes and ponds frozen over. Each morning they would trudge out to the field, break through the ice, set the decoys and lay in the blinds in the frigid conditions. They didn’t get a single one. They paid a high price yet got a miserable return other than the lease owner offering them a free return visit at the beginning of hunting season. This hunting hobby is new to our family.

We all have hobbies in life. It may be a variety of different things. Activities or interests pursued for pleasure and relaxation but no as a main occupation. I recently began repurposing old furniture. Reconditioning them is therapeutic to me. I was purchasing some pieces from a new acquaintance who encouraged me to sell the pieces rather than giving them away. I don’t really want to do that because I do this to escape the world and get lost in something creative. It is a hobby. Since most pieces are this side of tossing in the garbage, my investment is limited other than time spent cleaning, repairing, sanding and painting. It brings me peace. The great thing about a hobby is that I can choose how much of my time, talent and treasure that I invest in it. If I walk away for a few weeks, a month or so – it has not impact on me, my family or future other than a few choice words from my husband about the clutter in the garage. It is good to have hobbies in life.

What about habits? Those things that are not necessarily for pleasure or relaxation but driven by routine and schedule. Most adults have certain habits instilled by the values imbedded by the example of their parents or mentors. Some habits are formed by a desire to change certain behaviors, trends, circumstances or conditions. Habits can be good or bad. It is just what we do, who we are, and the choices we make. A habit is an acquired behavioral pattern regularly followed until it becomes involuntary. The word “involuntary” means independent of our will and not by our own choice. There are habits worth giving up for better health, emotional wellness, and spiritual awakening.

Church can become a habit. Religion is the routine of the church for organizational purposes. Habits and routines are comfortable. They give way to complacency in life and love. We must evaluate our habits as often as our heart to see our motivation. Do I do the things I do because I have always done them this way? Is there a better way? Is this a Christ-like endeavor or just something I do to fit in to my social group? Church is known for cliques and many times it is the birthplace of complacency as our pursuit of God is tempered by the other sheep in our fold. Is church a weekly habit? Is it an occasional hobby? If our relationship to Jesus Christ can be defined as either it is up to us to count the cost of becoming a disciple. Hobbies and habits do not produce holiness. It is not the way of those who desire God’s Kingdom and His Riches in Glory. It is just another way the enemy is keeping our churches and communities from experiencing revival.

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NLT) For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

When Jesus died, He released the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord made it clear that the new dwelling place of His Spirit was in His People. Those who opened their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ and desired Him as Savior and Lord would house His Spirit. The church moved from the outside world to inside God’s People. Empowering them with new purpose and new power. When Jesus told the people that He would destroy the temple that it took 46years to build and rebuild it in three days, (John 2:15-21) He was referring to His Death which destroyed religion and His Resurrection that move His Church from buildings to bodies. As believers – we are the church. Not just any church of any denomination, we are the Temple of the Living God. Holy inhabitation is the cornerstone of holiness. Holiness is not a hobby or habit. It is who we are in God through Jesus Christ. We must become holy because God is holy. (Leviticus 19:2) His Presence in us forces an evaluation of our contribution to the Kingdom. Are we mere contributors or fully committed to the Cause called Christ in us?

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT) Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.

Have I made a rash (acting too hastily without due consideration)? We all are prone to say, “Yes” to many things without proper consideration or careful contemplation. Why? Who doesn’t want the affirmation and acceptance of others? Our “yes” is often based on meeting the expectation of others rather than fully consideration what it requires or what the desired outcome may be. We must count the cost of discipleship and decide if it is the life desired. Why is this important? At the end of my life, I will meet Jesus face-to-face. If I invested in the Kingdom as a hobby, I do not believe that He will say, “Well done, though good and faithful servant!” A hobby is something I do for me. Me alone. It is for my relaxation and my personal pleasure. Is that what I signed up for when I came to Jesus Christ? Is that what He was really offering? I don’t think so.

Is my commitment to Jesus Christ a habit? Has it become just another routine and scheduled event added to the long list of responsibilities in my life? Is it my religion or a true relationship? The truest test of religion verses relationship is passion. Am I passionate about loving, knowing, serving and following Jesus for the rest of my life? Or do I just go with the flow of the local church? Is my spiritual temperature set by the thermostat of my church or is it a flame being fanned and fueled by an All-Consuming Fire and burning desire to become His Disciple? To go where He goes, do what He does, and experience His Kingdom (as promised) on the earth as it is in Heaven. Hmm… makes me think. How about you?

Luke 14:26-27 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

Holiness is not a religious preference. It is not an organized denomination. Holiness is God’s Mandate on the life of the believer. To be wholly consumed and filled with His Spirit. To passionately pursue the Calling and Purpose found only in Christ as He calls us a new creation. To bring Heaven to earth in our own life while connecting the Body and its intricate membership and parts coming together with one heart – one mind – and one purpose. To make Him greater and greater while I disappear in His Presence. Sounds good until one begins to count the cost. We decide if we will carry “our own cross”. Jesus died to set us free to choose the life we live. To “take up our cross” is become responsible for our membership as one part of the Body of Christ. I cannot live, breathe, move or exist as an effective part of the Body unless fully connected to and directed by Jesus Christ. He must be my motivation. He must be the One Thing that I am after. I hear you. Family comes first. It does right after Jesus Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to discipline my body, mind and spirit that in all things Jesus is first which means if anyone else makes a contrary decision that it does not influence or impact my partnership with Jesus.

Love and grace are the foundation of this wonderful relationship. I cannot have my way and live successfully in any relationship. My relationships (all of them) must have Christ as a foundation. Even my relationships to my perceived enemies, even those who are considered a threat or constant thorn in our flesh have purpose in our life. God put them there for a reason. We do not systematically cut off difficult relations or those who don’t understand our faith and marriage to Jesus. We must learn to put all our expectation in Jesus Christ and trust Him with every other relationship that we have engaged in. We must always take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What do I give my life to? Is it possible to graph the timeline of my life? Of course, it is but do I really want to. How much of my day is focused on this cross I have chosen to carry versus all the other endeavors in my life? Ignorance is not bliss but the death of the good seeds ready to be planted and harvested in our life. The secret to a successful partnership with Jesus is found in His Word. Simply because Jesus is the Word. To decide not to know releases us from responsibility is not ignorance it is foolishness when all of creation displays the Glory of God. If I refuse to follow Christ – the Word of God tells me that I “am not worthy to of being called mine.” Holiness requires shirking off the filthy rags and donning a robe of righteousness. It means picking up the full armor of God to step into a victorious life. It means to put away pride and live in humility. It means giving up my way. If I cling to this life, I will lose it. If I give my life to Jesus fully, I will find my true purpose and live in fulfillment forever. (Matthew 10:37-39) It is a daily choice. (Luke 9:23)

Luke 14:28-33 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Our life is comprised of three things of worth: time, talent and treasure. These are the things that we have to invest in something or someone. It is totally up to me how I invest my life. Time is the most precious commodity because it is irreplaceable. Talent is only as valuable as the realization of that potential in our life. Treasure is every tangible thing we own whether we think it’s worth anything or not. To become a disciple of Jesus Christ and live a holy life is not what so many have made it out to be. It is to live our life fully consumed by Jesus Christ. To step out of self and into Christ completely. It means investing my time, talent and treasure into His Kingdom. It is to combine our resources with the Lord completely. Giving Him all our time. All of our talent. All of our treasure. Then stepping back and letting Him use it for His Glory. The problem is that we give our hobbies and habits too much time and there is not enough to pay the price of discipleship. Divided interest and diversified investments may create natural security by not putting all our eggs in one lifetime basket but if my heart and soul are set on Eternity – I must take all my life and invest it in Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT) For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

When Jesus handed us the Keys to the Kingdom, the first key is marked “freedom”. I am now free to choose how I live my life. I choose my master. Asking Jesus to be our Savior is not enough, we must make Him our Lord to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God. I choose death or life each day. I choose blessing or otherwise. I decide if today will be to the Glory of God or pursue selfish interest. I get to choose. When I do, it determines my destiny. I cannot choose one course and expect to become part of the Kingdom. There is no middle of the road or gray compromise. Is my relationship to Jesus Christ a hobby? Do I do it for my own benefit and blessing but nothing more investing what is left of my time and energy? Is my relationship a habit? Do I take Him for granted? Rather than pursuing Him do I just pencil Him in? Is He part of the schedule or a routine measure? Do I every even think about Him or just do what I do and have done traditionally? Is my life ordinary? Is it just mediocre? Where is His Glory? It is not for the hobbyist or habitual Christian. It is for the intentional believer whose one desire is to be one with Christ. To put everything second. To give God the surplus of our life trusting Him with all of it. To follow Him relentlessly and passionately from beginning to end, no matter how deep the valley or high the mountain – no matter who comes with us. Does your love affair with Jesus have passion? Do you think about Him most of the time? See we have made this thing called discipleship a production but its not. It is the process by which our life, entire existence, is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It is how we achieve a state of holiness. It is not a hobby. It is not a habit. It is a relationship with the One who thought we were to die for. He gave up everything for me. I must reconcile my life to Jesus Christ to live a holy life. I must use my freedom to bring every part of my life into agreement with His Word, His Way and His Will. It is personal. Am I willing to give everything to Jesus? Lord, examine my heart and evaluate my life. Reconcile everything to you, Lord.

Acts 17:28 (NLT) “For in Him we live and move and exist.”

More Than a Follower

more-than-a-follower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

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

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

 

The One

the-one

Luke 15:3-7 (NLT) So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

The phenomenon of the lost sock prevails in every household with a washer and dryer. Where do they go? What happens to them? Do washers eat socks? Actually sometimes they do! In some models during the spin cycle, socks can get caught up in the top around the basket and work their way down behind the drum. Do dryers consume them with hidden fire within so they vanish without a trace? You can buy six pairs of socks for about $8 or $9 at the local discount store. Why do we find it so irritating to lose a sock? Is it because now there is a perfectly good one without a mate? Is it the principle of ownership that causes indignation because it belongs to us so we want it back? Or could it be now there is one more task added to our long list of chores? Find the lost sock!

My husband and I are opposites. I do not stress over a lost sock. It is not a big deal to me. He is a details guy. The lost one drives him nuts until he finds it. A few years back our daughters started following the trend of mismatched socks. The clothing stores even sold an assorted pack of socks that did not match. My poor husband! It took a while for him to grasp the concept that they aren’t supposed to be the same. I am not so much of a worrier about socks because I know I can just go buy another pack when I hit the grocery store each week. It is the principle for my husband. It should be there. It belongs with the other sock. There is no reason that what goes in the hamper should not survive the washing and drying process and make it back to the drawer. It’s all about the one.

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and teachers of religious law when he shared three parables in Chapter 15 of Luke including the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the Parable of the Lost Son. All three are very important to the basis of Christianity and the way I approach my life in Christ. However, I often forget that this whole life that I live is about the one. The one who is lost. The one who wanders in the dark. The one who is fallen. The one who keeps stumbling. The one who doesn’t get it despite numerous attempts. The one who doesn’t understand. The one who walks with me or falls behind. It is not about me. It is all about the one.

John 3:16-17 (NLT) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) No one can make it to the Father except by Him. Who needs the Way, Truth and Life? Every single person who is born into this world and roams the planet has sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. (Romans 3:23) Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin” is death but that God has given us the free gift of eternal life. There goes our self-worth and pride. There is nothing that I can do to earn God’s Love or Salvation because Jesus did it all. He is the One we owe our life to so it is up to Him what He requires of us.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Are you ready? Get your pen and paper out. We are going to write the list of demands that Jesus places on our life. “Love each other…just as I have loved you.” Got it. What else, Lord? “You should love one each other.” I got it. Now what…”your love for one another will prove to the world you are my disciples.” Love one another. That’s it. What about all the religious rules and regulations? Nope. The long list of doctrinal do’s and don’ts? Nope. If we do not love one another, it really doesn’t matter what else we do for the Lord because it is not what He desires.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who has 100 sheep and one of them is lost. He leaves the 99 to find the lost one. The weak one. The vulnerable one. The rebellious one. The isolated one. He goes after them letting the others remain together and care for themselves. When he returns, he is not dragging the wayward one, scolding it along the way, punishing him for running off, threatening him for abandonment – the shepherd joyfully carries it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he calls everyone together to celebrate the lost one’s return. “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God over 99 others who are righteous and never strayed away.” My purpose in life is the one.

Luke 15:8-10 (NLT) “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Have we lost sight of our purpose? Maybe. There is a current shift in church culture reverting from mega church to small group. However, if the small group is a clique it still missing the point. Jesus mandated us to love each other, love one another, and to love others more than ourselves. The problem may not be our process but our perspective. Do we value those who are lost, wandering or fallen away? Do we consider those who leave our church, congregation, or small group collateral damage? Well, they were a problem. They had issues. They were just not a good fit. The list of excuses go on and on but the reason we do not go after the lost is because we do not see their worth.

If I have ten dollars and lose one of them, I will be disappointed and may spend some time looking for it. But eventually I will just chalk it up as a loss and move on. But if I have ten one hundred dollar bills and lose one, I may look a little longer, harder and even may tear up my house to find it. Let’s take this home. What if we are not talking about money but a child? We could have lost our son to cancer. In fact, many didn’t believe that he would live. I have five children – two sons and three daughters. If I lost my son, why would I be sad because I still have four other children including another son? Stupid huh? Of course, I would do anything to save my child even though there are many he is precious to me. Hello? Jesus died for the one. Why do we not value all others as much as ourselves? If my ministry does not revolve around the one, I can forget finding purpose in many.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT) “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’  “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

The father had two sons – a good one and a bad one. A rebel and a saint or that’s at least others may perceive them. The father loved his sons. While one obediently remained at home and responsible, the other ventured into the world and fell flat on his face. When he finally came to his senses (vs. 17) – he realized that the hired servants at home lived a better life than he was now living and so he returned. How was he welcomed? His Father was filled with love and compassion. Do we love the lost when they find their way home? Or do we judge them, try to change them or criticize them? The way I treat others is a direct reflection of my character in Christ. The way a church treats them is evidence of their motivation. To sit in climate controlled sanctuaries with padded seats and expensive projection systems so we know all the words is not enough. To gauge our success by the size of our roster and total membership on the books. To evaluate our life with Christ by any other standard is false pretense. It is all about the one. The lost one. The broken one. The fallen one. The one who can’t seem to get it right. The one who is lost. The one who rebels. Every single “one”. That is who we are accountable for. Those are who we must love. They are the ones of value and worth that causes all Heaven to rejoice. The ones who the church writes off, has forgotten and turned their back on. I am the church. If I do not love others with the same love, devotion and grace that Jesus has given me – I am not His Disciple. If I regard others as worthless, insignificant and not worth my time – I am more lost than they will ever be.

Romans 13:18 (NLT) Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Until the message I speak and the Gospel I preach is clothed in the Love of God and offered with the same grace that Christ has given me it is false teaching. I owe no one anything except I am under godly obligation to love them. Love one another. Love each other. Love them more than myself. If you are like me today, faces have flooded your mind as these words have been read. We give up on people too easy. We turn our backs when relationships become uncomfortable or messy. We look away from those who give their life to something less. Those very people who we are called to love yet choose to remain offended, unforgiving and bitter toward. If people interrupt your ministry, then it is not ministry at all. People are ministry. Every person ever created is the one who God desires and Jesus desires. Every one. They are the one.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

In Hebrews 10, people are encouraged to hold tight to the hope we affirm without wavering. God has promised us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot do anything to deserve it or earn it. I can live out the rest of my life according to this promise. Doubt causes us to think we must live to deserve God’s Love and Affection. Fear tells us that it can somehow be earned which is a lie, too. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ is not about preaching and teaching the Word of God. This is definitely a spiritual gift but not our ultimate calling or mandated lifestyle. I know a lot of people who can preach and teach but don’t know how to love like Christ commands. I don’t love like that all the time. We must think about it. We must learn to motivate each other to acts of love and good works. We cannot neglect meeting together. We must become encouragers of the body of Christ so we become bound together in harmony.

Since…God chose us. He already picked you as one now it is our turn to pick the next one and the next one as his disciples. To pull people together – all people. This is not picking teams. It is building a Kingdom. The Kingdom of God that rejoices over every single one. The governor of Florida cannot tell you the name of every person living in his jurisdiction. The mayor cannot tell you those who live in his city. To be honest, I only know the names of a few of my neighbors. Not only does God have the name of every member of His Kingdom, but can tell you the number of hairs on their head. We must clothe ourselves in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. It is the soft garments worn under the armor of God each day. It is the attire of a heart in love with Jesus and committed to be His Disciple. We must learn to forgive. We must live above offense that builds walls around hearts. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Think about the one today. The one who you haven’t seen in a while. The one you wrote off. The one you gave up on. The one who tries your patience. The one who is the thorn in your flesh. The one who hurt you. The one you stopped praying for. The one who offended you. The one who is lost. The one who is wandering. The one who will show up in your church today. All the ones who are missing. That is the one you are called to love and bind together with in harmony. That one. Lord, let me always think of and go after the one.

I Thessalonians 3:12 (NLT) And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.

Breathless

Breathless

Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

I love praise and worship. To begin with a simple song, and get lost in His Presence erases the burdens of the day filling the heart and mind with freedom all over again. A room full of people evaporate into a moment of just us – the Lord and I. If you haven’t experienced such a time in the Presence of God – I highly recommend it. With my eyes closed lost in His Love, the worship leader made a statement something like, “When you woke up this morning, the Lord was there with you, but what if He wasn’t?” My heart stopped. I couldn’t find another breath. It was unthinkable to comprehend a morning without Him let alone a whole day. I am too far gone in this thing called faith. Somewhere in the last few years, my life has become unmanageable without the Holy Spirit in me, filling me, holding me and keeping me. It was a defining moment. Just an ordinary midweek service in a little church in the woods, but nevertheless no less motivating than that which thrust Peter from a boat in the midst of the storm. Maybe this is what it means the deep cries out to deep.

If you want to be my follower…Jesus didn’t force us to go after Him. He invites us into His Presence but does not push or shove us to go. He just tells how to do it, and makes the way clear with unconditional love, overwhelming grace and new mercy each day to accompany us on our journey. We must decide to start. The steps are clear and uncomplicated. You must give up your own way. Take up your cross. Follow me. We are the ones who make it more difficult than it really is. With fancy religion, outdated tradition, and overrated opinions creating methods that do not lead us into the Presence of God or create a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, there is nothing. A fathomless void of empty promises sealed with regret.

To save our life, we must lose it. What does it benefit me if I gain the whole world, but lose my soul? Is anything worth more than my soul? Not to Jesus. He died to rescue our soul, the essence of our being that makes it to eternity. My body will die. Everything I own turn to rubble. It is my soul that must prosper. As He breathes new life in me day by day, I find that I am no longer breathing on my own.

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 

I have a friend who grew up in the Greek Orthodox. She knew of God. Heavily immersed in the teachings of her church, it was something she did not about someone she knew. It was when the Lord heard her cries and answered, “No one can come to the Father except through me” that she finally accepted the grace that is sufficient to allow us access into God’s Presence again. The doorway opened by faith and maintained by hope can never be closed again by anyone but those who possess it. Jesus is the Way. He is the Truth (Word of God). He is the life (His Spirit). All these qualities wrapped in a love so great and inconceivable even those who receive it seldom know what to do with it.

Repentance is truly the giving up of our way to walk through life the Lord’s Way. I cannot step into right standing with God or come to Him boldly outside the covering of grace given to me by Jesus. I cannot follow another without surrendering my way. People are not given to surrender or submission. It is a sign of weakness in society but God uses such things to confuse the enemy. Jesus is the only way. I was talking to a very nice gentleman who belongs to a certain fellowship that believes that life is a journey to God. It doesn’t matter what path you choose – you will get there. Believing only that one must be a good person and give their life to others it leads to Heaven. That is not what God’s Word says, and you cannot change it without nullifying the whole thing as tainted to truth which becomes a fallacy. He missed it. They all missed it. Studying the Bible yet not surrendering one’s way leads to darkness. Compromise is of this world, a new life in Christ is bound by commitment. It is the only way that our faith become the key that unlocks His Kingdom for us.

John MacArthur defined the first step of discipleship as self-denial. He said, “Discipleship is on God’s Terms, just as coming to Him is on His Terms. The Lord here reminds us that the key discipleship principle of wining by losing involves self-denial, cross-bearing, and loyal obedience.” The word “deny” is from aparneomai which means to completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone. This is the kind of denial a believer is to make regarding self. To utterly disown and refuse to acknowledge one’s old self. Arthur Pink wrote, “Growth in grace is growth downward; it is the forming of a lower estimate of ourselves; it is a deepening realization of our nothingness; it is a heartfelt recognition that we are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies.” It is in the midst of such revelation that one can move on to take up our cross.

Galatians 2:20-21(NLT)My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

How do I take up my cross? John MacArthur relate that this “is simply to be willing to pay any price for Christ’s sake. It is the willingness to endure shame, embarrassment, reproach, rejection, persecution, and even martyrdom for His Sake.” Early followers understood the concept of the cross because they watched people carry the load of it all the way to their death naturally, physically and visually daily. During the lifetime of Christ alone, it is estimated that there were about 30,000 crucifixions that took place. MacArthur goes on to share to take up our cross for the Lord as His Disciple is to begin a death march through this world. In fact he sums it up quite nicely as “To come to Jesus Christ for salvation is not to raise a hand or sign a card, although such things may sometimes play a part. To come to Jesus Christ is to come to the end of self and sin and to become so desirous of Christ and His righteousness that one will make any sacrifice for Him.”

My old self is crucified with Christ. The process is complete but my transformation is not. Each day the Lord reveals more and more to be sacrificed and surrendered to His Love, Grace and Mercy. To complete this journey of genuine faith and confident hope means that I must continue to follow Christ with my cross by my side to nail every passion, desire and intent outside of His Way and keep moving as instructed. The cross represents the suffering I will face in my pursuit of Christ. Christ does not call us to His Side to make life easy and prosperous but to make us holy and productive. This will result in complete peace and satisfaction in our acquisition of the life that He planned for us.

Matthew 10:37-38 (NLT) “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.

In the children’s movie, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, the character known as Winter Warlock wants to leave his evil ways behind but cannot seem to find his way. Kris Kringle attempts to help him with the song, “Put One Foot in Front of the Other.” It goes like this – Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” One step turns into another and another. Change of direction is formed one footstep at a time. I hope you are not offended by this analogy. But rather than making following Christ so difficult, why not keep it simple? It truly is basic. Deciding with a single footstep and continuing with each footfall to follow Jesus. That’s really all there is to it. Change is always overwhelming. Comfort is compromised when our Call is Christ. I didn’t say it wasn’t hard. In fact, it challenges me every single day in each choice I make to choose Christ, His Way and His Word. But it is worth it…oh so worth it.

To follow Christ may mean leaving others behind. It is a radical transition from death to life that some people will not embrace. Love them. Lead them. Pray for them. You have to keep moving closer in obedience each and every day to reach the full potential God placed in your life and achieve the purpose for which He has called you. So what does this have to do with anything from the worship experience? It means everything and here’s why.

Ephesians 3:17-20 (NLT) Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

About halfway through our son’s battle with cancer, I think around the third and most heavily involved relapse, I reached the end of me. The distance between God and man became too wide to live on both sides any longer. Each conversation laced in pity. The treatment plan now involved the word “death”. In our faith and medically, just about the time it looked like we had won only to discover it was fighting back harder and stronger almost smarter each time. Just about the time, a glimmer of hope began to shine it was threatened by insurance. I don’t know what happened or exactly how it did or the precise moment of transition but somewhere in the mix of chaotic details, I detached from reality and grabbed faith with both hands. I couldn’t straddle the fence, I was forced to choose who to believe and to follow. I think we all come to that inevitable moment when we can no longer serve God and this world. In that moment a choice is made that will change our life forever…at least it did mine.

The moment of truth comes when we must answer the call to deeper things of God. Not the occasion run for the altar or shedding of some tears, but the moment that we finally disconnect from faith in anything or anyone other than Jesus. It is a traumatic event to completely surrender one’s faith and life to the Lord. However, what I found in that moment when I could not bear the details of my life any longer that His Response was unfathomable and endless love for me. He filled all the empty spaces and cavernous voids left in the process of refinement when all the worthless things in my life were burned away to reveal fresh ground for new faith.

How did it begin? Not the moment my heart was shattered along with every sense of security I had when they told me that he had cancer. It was not in the complete undoing of my perception of life to accept the reality of Christ found in our crisis. It began when I made the commitment to give up my life, take up my cross and follow Him. It was not spectacular in production just the simple choice to put one foot in front of the other again and again. When I came to the end of myself, Jesus was waiting. Diving into the depths of His Love, I still struggle to fully understand this encounter. When Christ completes us, it leaves us breathless to try imagine life without Him immersed in His Love. He wants you to experience the width, length, height, and depth of His Love for you. You must come to Jesus. Do things His Way. Take up your cross laying down your life and decide to follow Him no matter what the cost. Nothing more or less will do. In exchange for your life, He gives us His Glory. Through His Mighty Power at work in us, the Lord will accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. This is His Promise to me. This is His Promise for you. Yes, it leaves me breathless.

Job 33:4 (NLT) For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

This is the air I breathe, this is the air I breathe, Your Holy Presence living in me. This is my daily bread. This is my daily bread. Your very Word spoken to me. And I’m desperate for you, and I’m lost without you! – Breathe by Michael W. Smith

A Good Measure

A Good Measure

Luke 6:38 (NIV) Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Who doesn’t want a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over in our life? To give must mean that as I give financially that I can expect a return. Maybe. I believe that sowing and reaping applies to everything in our life. Living long enough to experience many seasons gives one great hindsight vision. I don’t know about you but my life has felt the pressure, shaking and running that is often associated with routine and responsibility. To God be all the glory as He has blessed our family every way possible, yet in my heart I know that there is more.

We will soon sell the house that our family has lived in for more than a decade. Our youngest daughter doesn’t remember life before it. It is filled with memories good and not so good. It is the shell of refuge where we have dwelled a long time. Labeled sanctuary many times, it is filled with the Holy Spirit because we ask Him to come in regularly and be our guest. We are settled here. (Sigh) I believe that we all would settle where we are building comfortable places and allowing complacency to fill us if the Lord would allow it. But those who seek to know the Lord, do His Will and experience His Glory live a life of being pressed and shaken. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, it reminds me that I am but a jar of clay filled with this treasure of God’s Power. I am hard pressed, but not crushed. I am perplexed but will not live in despair. I am persecuted but never abandoned. I will be struck down but not destroyed. This is the process of a good measure. Our lives pressed and shaken until God’s Glory spills out running into our lap.

Mark 4:24-25 (NIV) Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

With the measure you use, it will be measured to you and even more. These words are important to those who want more out of life. We must decide what that “more” looks like and create clear objectives and goals to attain it. The earth provides opportunity to sow into the natural reproductive cycle of life. We have families. We are allowed to build finances. To commit ourselves to a better life here and now – limits one’s future and hope. The weighable substance of life in the Kingdom is faith. We must take the measure of faith (Romans 12:3) provided to us and sow it now.

We can make this life more comfortable or we can live as temporary residents now to bask in forever. We worry about what we wear on the outside rather than being clothed in righteousness on the inside. The accumulation of our life that matters to the Kingdom will never be according to the wealth of this world. However, God’s People often live below His Standards because they cannot let go of what they have to possess all He is. Faith is not just reserved for the impossible but gives us the opportunity to live according to God’s Glorious Standard once forsaken by sin. The more the pressure and shaking in our life, the more evident those things that are keeping us from fulfillment.

2 Peter 1:5-9 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Make every effort to add to your faith. Every effort put forth in the course of a day should be wrapped in faith pursuant to hope. Our life should be viewed through God’s Word for fulfillment. Each request brought boldly before His Throne before another. Before our foot falls that step considered according to the Way, the Truth and the Life that is given to us. We have His Spirit living inside of us. Is He a silent partner or closest friend? Salvation is when we turn to Jesus. Faith are the steps that form our following of Him. To call Him Lord yet still live according to selfish motivation and daily aspirations to have a better life places a limit that Christ never intended for His People to have. In fact, just before going to the Cross, Jesus prayed for us. His Disciples. His Followers. The believers who would live long after His Departure. He promised those who endured the pressure, shaking, and like would be given a full measure of joy in return. (John 17) God thoughts are always higher than our own and His Ways far exceeding. Faith is the only way to have the Promises of God through Jesus Christ. If there is no faith evident in our life, there is nothing of worth to increase.

The Word of God reads like a recipe. Take your faith and add some goodness to it. Fold that goodness into the Word of God which is knowledge until it becomes self-control. Allow self-control to sit and wait until it becomes perseverance. Now mix perseverance with some godliness until it produces love and mutual affection for everyone. God’s commodity in our life is His Love. We have faith because God loved us first and loves us best. To commit our life to faith is not necessarily to produce natural things or creature comforts but rather to increase our faith inside until the only thing we become desperate for is God alone.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

As a believer, I have the Power of God working in my life to change me into the person that I was created to be. The operative power in my life is faith. It is the measureable substance that the Lord examines in me on a regular basis. He looks at my heart. He listens to what I say. The Lord weighs the Fruit of His Spirit to see if I am producing properly. All of these things lead to my fulfillment. However, rather than comparing my life to Jesus, I become distracted and begin looking around. This is dangerous because God’s Plan, His Future, His Hope and His Inheritance for my life doesn’t look like anyone else’s. If I begin to desire what others have, do or become, then I immediately begin to settle, compromise and all substitutions in my life. 2 Peter 1:9 comes with this warning, “But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”

Luke 6:37 warns us not to judge, not to condemn, and to forgive. Leading into verse 38 which begins with the word “give”. It is human nature to be selfish. It is the character of God and Jesus Christ to give. We are called to be givers. I believe money is the easiest thing to contribute to the Kingdom and the least desired by God, maybe that is why the streets of Heaven are paved in pure gold. God wants us to have faith. Trusting Him for our life – all of it. However, when we read this verse in Luke 6, it is much easier to accept it as the giving of our personal wealth rather than the giving of our life to a higher standard. The Lord desires to open our eyes to the real value and worth of our life that only seems to come about when we are pressed or shaken. It causes us to reexamine the content of our life looking for faith. Faith is the only substance that makes hope possible. It is the commodity and currency of God’s Kingdom that leads to fullness and complete satisfaction.

“To know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” The Lord has a better way. Judgment is often born of comparison. We measure our life according to another which creates substandard expectation in our life. Our desire should be to be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God. To pursue Him with our whole life not just bits and pieces along the way. If we would take all the possibilities of our life including the probable and improbable and place it in His Capable Hands, faith will add to the substance of our life making what we hope for the impossible come to pass. Here’s the catch: God always does immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. It is according to His Power at work in us which is represented by our faith in God alone. God wants to bless you more than you can ask or think. Are you limiting your life today? Perhaps if we dumped out our cup and allowed the Lord to fill us up, we would see that our life can be better and more satisfying than we ever thought possible In fact, the Lord guarantees it. Are you feeling pressure to give God your situation today? Do it. Are you experiencing some turbulence in life that has you all shaken up? No worries. God is just making room for more faith that will make all things possible.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Every Blessing

Every Blessing

I Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV)

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

 

Just two verses hidden in the Old Testament bear a revelation much larger than the text. Many years ago, Bruce Wilkerson brought the story of a man named Jabez to light. Pulling this individual out of the Old Testament and thrusting him into the light, many people including myself were greatly encouraged by his story. The first verse tells of how he came into this world and that despite the bad label of “I gave birth to him in pain”, he went on to be an honorable man. It is my belief that anyone whose name makes it into the Word of God does so with a purpose so I also believe that Jabez caught God’s Attention with his obedience and faithfulness to the Lord. The second verse is the request of this man before the Lord. His petition was simple yet profound. Lord, bless me. Enlarge my territory. Let you hand be with me. Keep me from harm that I will be free from pain. “And God granted his request.”

 

I am challenged in my heart today by the concept of fullness in God. What does that mean? My baby girl woke up with an upset stomach today. She is a Child of God. She is saved and full of the Holy Spirit. She shares Christ with her friends. She is demonstrating faithfulness in her young life at a tender age. If she indeed living an honorable life, why is she sick today? Why do we have pain, suffer, endure hardship and experience trials if we are saved, sanctified and filled with God’s Spirit? Do we ask the Lord for more if there is fear that it will need faith produced only through fire? His name bore the mark of his arrival with pain. He was delivered by pain so much so that his mother named him after his past. Did Jabez run from his past or learn to live in the present? He lived in the present. He was honorable, credible, consistent, and upright despite the mark against him. My past has marked me severely. However, it does not limit me from the Fullness of Christ today. My thought is that sometimes we settle for less because we know who we are and fail to accept all of Who Christ is.

 

Ephesians 3:10-12 (NIV)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 

 

God’s intentions from the beginning was for His People (us) to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ so that the “manifold wisdom of God” should be made known the rulers and authorities of the heavenly realm. This is important. Our enemy, satan, is the ruler of the earth. His army is the attacking force that distracts us and discourages us from proclaiming and living in the Supreme Power of God given to us through Jesus Christ. It is who we are apart from what mankind has chosen to call us or how it has judged us. The world and every demon in it including the devil have absolutely no power over a believer’s life unless surrendered to him. If you (or I) are not living in the fullness of Jesus Christ including dominion, power and authority over every situation and detail of life, then it is on us not the Lord.

 

In Jesus Christ and through our faith in our relationship with Him, we may approach God with complete freedom and confidence. The only restriction is sin. Repentance is turning from our sin (or at least that is what it means) so we can come closer to the Lord. Our life is a perpetual turning of all of who we are over to who God created us to be with all the divine benefits. What does this mean?

 

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

 

Our life is predestined. Predestination upholds the belief that God has a plan for us with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) The problem is not God’s Planning or His Timing and certainly not a question of ability. It is all up to you and me. We decide if we live in the spiritual blessings of God or endure the curse that was ended on Calvary. In Jesus Christ, believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing through Him. He chose us. He loves us. He desires us. In our repentance and return to Him, Heaven is opened to us while still here on the earth. Miracles still happen. Psalm 103 delineates just some of the spiritual blessings warning our soul not to forget. Sometimes we forget who we are in Christ and live the life designated by birth. Jabez chose to live according to who God said that He was and reach for who God placed in his heart that he could be. He came to God and laid out his request according to the confident faith that he had in the Old Covenant. “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:7-8)

 

2 Kings 4:1-6 (NIV)

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

 

The Glory of the New Covenant in our life is unquestionable and yes, unfathomable. Believers are full of spiritual blessings that are not tapped into but wasted in bondage to fear, anxiety, worry and stress. God promised that His Children would have His Fullness. Do you feel full? Are you full? If you are a saved, Blood-bought, Spirit-filled, believer, you are most certainly full of God. Trouble is that when life gets good, people stop pumping. If the water is running, why all the work? We do not think beyond today about our future. This family had experienced terrible tragedy in the loss of their father and husband. They were being preyed upon by creditors. The man who passes was a godly man “from the company of the prophets.” Bad things happen to good people. Tragedy strikes God’s People. It’s life. It’s the world we live in. Love is cold. Sin is rampant. We were warned. However, we were never lost, forgotten or forsaken but arrived fully equipped. She had the oil. She needed to pour it out. She needed to tap into it. She needed to see that greater was He in her than he that was in the world. It only stopped flowing when there were no more vessels to fill.

 

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

When Jabez came to God with his request, it was not the usual give me this or that, fix this problem or that, or any tangible thing. He asked the Lord to bless me. He didn’t say how or why just bless me, Lord. What might happen if rather than telling God what we need and how to do it but rather asked Him simply to bless us according to His Will? I wonder. He asked God to enlarge his territory – to increase his influence. To give him broader perspective. He wanted God to move the stakes of his faith out a little farther, to explore new places in the Lord, and to claim his ground. I wonder what might happen if we did that, too? He asked the Lord to keep His Hand on him. He wanted a relationship with God that was more intimate than before. He invited the Lord God to be with Him. He wanted the Father’s Blessing in all that He did. Finally that I will be free from pain. Love covers a multitude of sin. Harmony is better than the oil that flowed from Aaron’s beard. Jabez knew the importance of his legacy in life and asked the Lord to make him loving and lovable all at the same time. When we follow Christ, though the world will hate us, they cannot deny that we loved if we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

With this in mind, what was God’s Response? He granted this man’s request. I don’t think that believers lack any good thing, I just think that fear keeps us from getting tapped in to the fullness of God because it comes with a price. Obedience. Confidence. Honor. See you can have it all. You do. God placed it in your design. You are not a note scrawled on a cocktail napkin. You are an elaborate masterpiece designed by God. No one else could see the image in Michelangelo’s head that would become the display in the Sistine Chapel. It is intricate. It is magnificent. It is spectacular but it began as a tiny image in one man’s mind until he allowed God to move him to the scaffold with a brush in his hand. It took the artist four years to complete. God has filled you with the same potential that He does every living, breathing human being as we are created in His Image. When we connect to Christ becoming rooted and grounded in His Love, we are established as God’s Children. The spiritual blessings in our life are limitless. We limit them by unbelief. You will never know the power invested in you without taking a step of faith by beginning to let pour from you. God is ready to release spiritual blessing in our life always. We must decide if our vessel is open or shut.

 

Today, I am asking the Lord to strengthen my innermost being and stir His Spirit up within me. I am ready to level up and grow some more in Christ. It is time to acknowledge my authority and power in Jesus and claim victory again over all the details called reality that are holding me back with invisible power. I want to know just how wide, long, high and deep God’s Love really is so by faith I must venture out past my comfort and step over complacency to be stretched just a little more. I want to be filled with the measure of all the fullness that God has promised through Jesus Christ and I believe that He will grant my request in Jesus Name.

 

Colossians 2:6-10 (NIV)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

 

Don’t Buy the Lie

Don't Buy the Lie

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV)

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

 

The devil cannot make you and I do anything that we do not want to do. There I said it. God’s Children are covered by the Blood of Jesus, hearts sealed in the Spirit and surrounded by heavenly angels for protection. They are under guard of the Most High God. Though the enemy attacks, his weapons are futile against the Born-again, Blood-washed, believer who by faith stands firmly on the Word of God without wavering. Our faith is in the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in human flesh who lived and died to demonstrate God’s Love allowing us to step back into a right relationship with God the Father once again. To think that the enemy can harm us or take anything from us is to discredit God’s Power. It means that we consider satan’s power to equal or exceeding the Lord’s Sovereignty which is just not possible.

 

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” The enemy’s tactic is temptation. The weapon that he yields is only one. His inability to touch us or harm us in any way leaves only one device – he is a liar and a really, really good one. No temptation has taken us except what is common to man. Sin began with a lie. The serpent challenged the reasoning of Eve concerning the Truth that God had given her. She chose to believe the lie rather than stay true to the Word. When God created human beings, we did not possess an ounce of shame. (Genesis 2:25) However, the moment they believed the lie – guilt and shame covered them. (Genesis 3:7) The Word of God concerning them. The Fruit of the Tree did not change Eve in the slightest, but rather it was her action that made the difference. The Tree of Knowledge did not enlighten Eve to some secret condition but in eating it sin now existed in her and she could see it. People are created in the image of God. The sin perpetuated from generation to generation is our inability to discern the difference between the Truth and a lie. It is sad to think that this is the source of our struggle yet the struggle is real.

 

God is faithful. He is always good. He cannot lie or change His Mind. What the Word of God says is true. This Truth is the basis of our faith completely. Though many people think that they know God and believe in Him without becoming filled with God’s Word and knowing the Truth – we are always on the verging of falling ever farther from our Father. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. However, it is imperative that we know God’s Word and build it into the foundational truth of our very being and existence only then can we endure the trials and tests of life coming out victorious with faith intact and the blessings of God pouring over our life.

 

John 8:43-45 (NIV)

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

 

People possess the power of discernment. When Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, discernment is was given to her. She now knew the difference between right and wrong. Discernment is the ability to distinguish or recognize. It means that one can discriminate. The fall of mankind came in the fact that they did not trust God so they accepted the lie. The lie was not the Word. When she ate from the tree, she was instantly give insight and understanding. The lie was that she would not die. Death is considered mercy. Without death, people would forever suffer in their deteriorated condition. God did not make eternal life available until the Perfect Sacrifice was given to restore our right standing with Him impacting our destination after death.

 

The Word of God is the Truth concerning us. If one decides to do exactly what God’s Word mandates line by line and precept by precept – they can live a better life. The Word of God is the absolute truth. Truth is validated in our life by trust. If we trust God wholeheartedly when tempted we will not be lured away. We bought our home. Our name is on the mortgage and deed to the property. We live here. So if someone were to come knock on the door demanding entrance claiming it was there house, I would tell them differently. I would certainly not let them in nor would I pack up my things and leave because I KNOW this is my house. It is time for God’s People to know His Word and believe it. When the enemy comes demanding what is rightfully ours as God’s Children, we would not give it up so easily because we would KNOW it belongs to us. Things like salvation, healing, deliverance and prosperity belong to us by faith and are assumed when we take God at His Word over the lie of the enemy.

 

2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV)

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

 

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) How is this possible? We have lost of senses. Choosing to believe a lie over the Truth causes a double-standard making us unstable in our faith and ability to trust the Lord. When we believe what the enemy says over God’s Word, we fall into temptation. We leave the foundation of our faith which is truth to live captive to the lie. When Jesus taught his people how to pray, he included “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13). When the disciples were supposed to be praying but fell asleep, Jesus warned them, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) The lie of the enemy is our weakness. However, it does not have to be our downfall. Jesus told the woman at the well that true worshippers will do so in Spirit and in Truth. Jesus gives us His Spirit, we must work to know the Truth. Study to show that you are approved. The Word of God gives us confidence that in the midst of opposition – no weapon formed against us will prosper.

 

Luke 8:11-15 (NIV)

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

God’s Word is the seed for our life. His Word has the potential to yield harvests of prosperity to those who keep it, grow it, develop it and mature into godly wisdom for our life. It is human nature to find the lies of the enemy tempting full of shortcuts and substitutions. The enemy wanders through life ready to challenge the Word of God for our life. He will manipulate it and twist it to convince us that serving God is a worthless and stupid endeavor. You only live once right? Wrong. Your soul will live forever. Job was tested and tempted by the enemy but not before the devil went before the Lord to ask permission. God offered Job for consideration because He knew that this man was faithful and fully believed in Him. God did so to bless Job with a double portion. What is God’s Word for your life? How far will you go to protect it, nurture and solidify it in your life? I have trusted God and failed to endure. It was not until it became a matter of life and death that I hung on to the bitter end. Our ability to trust the Lord and live by faith is a matter of life and death. We must learn the difference between the Truth and his lies. We must remain faithful to the Word of God.

 

I Peter 5:7-10 (NIV)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

 

Are you double-minded today? Stress, worry, anxiety and fear are symptoms of doubt. They are prefaced by a lie that is slowly accepted until it manifests these conditions in our life. We are to cast all our cares on the Lord because He cares for you. He loves you. He loves me. He will never let the righteous fall. He is a Good Father filled with unconditional love and compassion that causes Him to release His Favor over our life. Do you believe that? If not, you are double-minded. To recite the Word of God and then say, “but…” nullifies everything you said before. I hear it all the time. I trust God but… I believe God but… and my all-time least favorite is when “but” is followed by “but the reality is…” The reality of such a statement is the evidence that you trust the lie more than the Truth friend. We must call it what it is. When we decide that the enemy can tempt us beyond God’s Intervention and Grace – it is sign that we are overcome. We must resist the enemy. We must hold firm to the Truth we have been given. We must refuse to move until God does. The Word of God tells us that a double-minded person is unstable in all they do simply because they cannot tell a lie from the Truth. This is a curable condition.

 

James 4:7-8 (NIV)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

Submission to God is full acceptance of His Word, who is His Son, as the Truth that governs our life. This aligns us with the Kingdom and releases Heaven to come to earth. Our pursuit of God by faith seems illogical but is not without explanation. We have all that we need to obtain godly knowledge, eternal insight, and become full of wisdom. Will we take the time to do it? His Word feeds and nourishes our spirit and fertilizes our soul for prosperity sake. We must decide to know God through His Word. Jesus said, “I am the way, truth and life. No one can come to the Father but through me.” We know of Jesus but to truly know Him enough to really love Him and surrender our trust to Him requires His Word on a daily basis. We need it to feed the streams of living water within us until it rises up in us and pours out of us into this dry and thirsty land. You do not have to go it alone. You have everything you need already supplied to open every locked door, as well as to close the ones barring the enemy’s access to your heart and mind. You have all power and authority because Jesus Christ, the Living Breathing Word of God lives in you. His Spirit and Truth connect to make the powerless more than powerful.

 

John 8:31-32 (NIV)

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

If you can find it in God’s Word, you can have it for your life. God’s Promises belong to God’s Children. You are a child of God. Don’t let the enemy tell you any different. The Word of God cannot be changed by the enemy only challenged by his lies. Our knowledge and belief in the Word of God exposes the lie and brings it to no effect in our life. We hear it but no longer believe it. Greater is the one in us than he that is in this world. You must hold on to the Truth. When you do, the Truth will set you free. No longer bound by sin, shame or any other lie the enemy shoves in your face, you will overcome experiencing victory in all things just like the Father planned it. We win. We are victorious. Everything becomes possible when we believe the Truth over a lie. God is Truth. His Word is true. We can trust Him. The rest is up to you. Today, I claim this promise, I will know the truth and it will set me free!

 

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

New Rule

New Rule

John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As mom to five “fearfully and wonderfully” made individuals required house rules as a way of life for most of my life. The kids currently range in age from 26 to 13. Regulations put into place to maintain order and not lose tract of anyone seemed totally necessary wrangling all those personalities and trying to accomplish more than just getting out of bed. Those days seem so long ago with just two left at home. Some here and others there, I find that I am definitely mellowing. I thought it was from age. Or maybe, they have just worn me down over the years. I see young mamas frazzled and exasperated in the concept of “perfect” parenting. Let me set you free today. There is no such thing. Overwhelmed and lost in the doing, running and buried in laundry and homework, I encourage you that this day shall pass and all too quickly. When I look at my ideas regarding parenting over the years, I see a marked change. On those days, it is not so clear the children are more than happy to let me know the difference in how I treated their siblings compared to my harsh and overbearing treatment of them.

When I read John 13:34-35 this morning, it reminded me of those times when it seemed like I was recanting the same instructions for the 457th time. Clean your room. Put your clothes in the hamper. No food or drinks in the bedroom. Do not hit your brother. Do not aggravate your sister. Over and over and over again. So many times with a sarcastic twist, we would preface the redundant statement by saying, “New rule…” as if implying that what came next might be new and exciting rather than hearing myself repeat the same thing one more time. Children require repetition to learn. We wish that they would get it the first time but they don’t. From the earliest age, they will test boundaries or ignore our directives. It is human nature to rebel. It is innate to be selfish and seek our own way. We desire immediate gratification and abhor self-control some more than others. Jesus is so patient, loving and kind with us. He reminds us gently but firmly over and over again those things of importance that lead to the everlasting and manifest God’s Favor in our life. Are we listening? Do we obey?

New rule – love one another as I have loved you. Over and over again, it is repeated. Have we finally accepted and applied this concept called loving one another to every facet of our life. The problem I ran into with my own children is similar to that which Jesus runs into with us. He tells us to love one another yet each one must decide whether or not to apply it to their life. My adult children were raised with the same moral and ethical instructions. How they apply it to life now is completely up to them and beyond my control? I tried to instill the proper guidelines and develop their character as they grew, developed and matured but now application is completely up to them. They are now accountable for their choices in life.

I Peter 4:7-10 (NKJV)

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Jesus tells us that people will know that we are His disciples by our ability and frequency of love in our life. How do we love? Is it completely unconditional? Is it full of grace? Do we offer mercy as much as we are given? Is it new each day even for those repeat offenders in our life? If not, it should be if our goal and aspiration is to represent Jesus in all things.

Side note – an automobile has an exhaust manifold that takes the burned up gas from the engines cylinders and ejects it out of the tail pipe. Over time with expansion and contraction, this component may begin to leak. These hot emissions from the exhaust reach the motor where it will damage parts. I think it ironic that we are called to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God. God’s Grace is like a manifold exhaust in us. When we get frustrated, mad, angry, disappointed or hurt by other people, it is God’s Grace that should work properly as to remove it from our heart and mind so we can love those who cause us to feel such hot-tempered emotions. Love is affected when the manifold of God’s Grace is not working properly in our life. It consumes us with selfish and unrealistic expectations of others that belong to Jesus Christ. Love will cover a multitude of sins. It does when I think about my precious kids who don’t always act so precious. My love for them far exceeds any mistake, fault or failure. It does not stop there. They also have grace for me in those times I lose my patience, yell or overreact. We all need God’s Grace fully operational in our life in order to love as we are supposed to.

John 15:11-13 (NKJV)

 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

I wish I had a dime for each time I was told by my children that so-and-so’s mom didn’t make them make their bed, do chores, or do a certain thing. When we give our children directives, they cannot see the value and worth of each one in their inexperience and naïve state. Many of the things that were required of them was to develop discipline that would allow them to prosper in life as the character trait of self-control grew inside them. House rules were created out of respect for one another. If we do not teach our children to respect authority and a sense of responsibility including discipline – they will not be successful in life. They will struggle in their relationship with Jesus. It will literally put them in harm’s way physically and spiritually.

Jesus said, “I have spoken to you, that My joy man remain in you and that your joy may be full.” When we accept the Lord’s Mandate to love one another, it is to say, “Yes!” to His Fulfillment. His Purpose in us grows and blooms into fruit that satisfies our soul when we yield to His Word, Will and Way. He is specific. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus is asking us to love others as He has loved us. To be inconvenienced and uncomfortable. To put the needs of all mankind before our own. To be a living sacrifice for all human life. New rule – we are to love others more than ourselves.

 

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

The level of faith and confidence of hope that abide in us are reflected in our ability to love others. Total trust in the Lord’s Love allows us to love others without restriction. God’s Love is fathomless. No one will ever find the depth, height, or width of it. (Ephesians 3:17-19) We can never cross the boundary because there is not one. Just think about that for a moment, there is nothing that I can do to be separated from God’s Love. (Romans 8:38-39) By faith, we are able to stir up love and good works in others. Unity is bound by love. Peace is established by His Love working its way through us to the outside around us. His Love changes the atmosphere for those who accept it and apply it their life loving others more than themselves.

Romans 12:9-13 (NKJV)

 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

It is hypocrisy to accept God’s Grace and Love yet not extend it to others. We do not deserve it and did nothing to earn therefore we are not entitled to it. Our relationship with Jesus Christ removes all expectation from the world and who lives in it placing it in the Hands of our Lord and Savior. No longer do we need anything from others because we live in the fullness of Christ. To be honest, sometimes we forget. We make our own set of rules to love by that are contradictory to the Word of God and try to be successful in it. Our inability to love others as Christ loves us will hinder God’s Favor in our life. We will not be satisfied. (I John 3:22-23)

The Love of Jesus and His Grace fill us up to overflowing. We need nothing. We have it all. The only thing that is required is that we extend the same love and grace to others. It is a tall order. We have big shoes to fill. When we fall short the same love and grace bring us back into right standing again so we can keep trying to live up to this mandate that we are given.

 

Romans 12:14-18 (NKJV)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Live peaceably with all men. How is this even possible? I am challenged with teenage girls to maintain peace in my own household let alone the surrounding world. We are called to liberty. (Galatians 5:13-16) The Holy Spirit lives in us producing everything in us we need to live a satisfied and abundant life. (Galatians 5:22-23) Freedom in Christ means that we do not need anything from anyone else. We just need Jesus to be satisfied. When we cannot love someone else, it means that we put an unrealistic expectation on that person that is not of God. The Holy Spirit maintains our bond of peace with all people IF we choose to walk in lowliness and gentleness with longsuffering bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-3) We are to abound in love.

I John 4:7-12 (NKJV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

The Lord is telling us today, “New rule – love one another.” He has said it countless times before. But He is saying it again. To know God’s Love completely allows us to love others. If we fall short, it is because there is more of His Love for us to discover and accept into our own life. What does Jesus say? “Beloved, love one another.” The word “beloved” signifies our Savior’s affection for us. It affirms us as His One and Only. Beloved means greatly loved or dear to the heart. It is in the boundless overflowing love that we are able to love others completely selflessly without regret. It will change our reactions to offense into responses of grace and forgiveness. We will stop trying to make everyone else think like us, act like us or do what we say but rather love them with the Love of Jesus as we guide and teach them the way. The world responds to love. It stops them. They take notice because agape or godly love is different. It is humble and not self-seeking. Some of the most hideous transgressors of this calling live in the church. Bound by religion not a relationship they must drive home right rather than allowing righteousness to take over. Focusing on anything else while losing sight of people is to be sitting in judgment unconsciously withholding love given to us to share with others is a dangerous position.

My grandmother was patient, loving and kind. As a grandmother, I think it is a role requirement for them. At her funeral, I cannot count the people who came to me sharing stories of her gracious love and kindness. She loved Jesus and loved them. This is her legacy. I want that legacy, too. Not just to love those who are lovable, but to love everyone the same. Jesus loves me. He has given me great grace. I must love others. I must give them equal measures of the same grace. In doing so, there is no limitation on the love that I have for others. Today, I am adopting a “new rule” to love others as Christ loves me. I may have to be reminded tomorrow and the next day and probably the day after that as I continue to humble my life surrendering all to Jesus. That’s okay – His Grace is enough for me.

Romans 13:8 (NKJV)

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

 

 

The New Thing

The New Thing

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NIV)

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Oh, it’s about time to get this party started. Seriously, the New Year is just around the corner and oh Lord am I ready! What about you? Glad the holidays are over? Ready to take down the tree? Shed those extra pounds? Clean out the post-Christmas clutter? Or maybe you don’t see the point in such a celebration. Will you welcome the New Year as you did the one before? No preparation. Just some collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread with maybe a sip of champagne. What’s the big deal anyway? It will just be like every other year, right? Struggling to get ahead, but only falling farther behind. Time keeps passing, but nothing is changing. The check is definitely not in the mail but another stack of bills. Can’t go anywhere without worrying that somebody might lose their mind and start shooting up the place. Am I the only one that feels hope rising with the New Year coming? I hope not.

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. Why am I a Christian but nothing ever changes? What am I doing wrong? Why am I not experiencing the Blessings of God and Benefits of His Covenant in my life? Well, if I may be so candid and not to offend, but do you believe? Do you believe that the old is gone, and the new is here? I have been saved for a very long time. I even thought I believed until I realized that there is a difference between saying I believe and living like I do. Our new life in Christ is not like a job title. For example, I go by many titles in life. I am a daughter, I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a friend. I am an employee. I am a church leader. I am a woman. I am many things in the world that I live. But notice I did not add the word “Christian” or “believer” to the list? That is because to be a true Follower of Jesus Christ and His Disciple impacts every other title that I have. It is not what I do but who I am. It is in the separation that we become frustrated. It is in our conviction that Christ died for us and set us free that we become compelled to change beginning by our love for others born of our love for Jesus.

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Our connection to Christ must be maintained to embrace our new existence in the Lord. Hope is what we cling to as the anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) Hope is not what we can see, do or attain on our own but solely and significantly found in Christ. When we put our faith in the Lord to attain naturally occurring and humanly possible things only – we limit our new life and new thing potential. God created the universe and everything in it. All things are possible for those who believe. We access God’s Power in our life through His Son, Jesus. When we become engrafted, it is not just to make this life a little better, easier or more fulfilling but rather we are building a future. We are constructing a Kingdom by filling it with souls that will live forever in perfection with God. But what about now? I need God’s Help now. I am barely making it now. I am suffering now. I am sick now. I am dying in my soul, what will God do for me today in this moment and in this place? I hear you. I feel you. I have been right where you are and wondered if I would be able to survive the process that produces those fruits we need and so strongly desire.

John 12:24-25 (NIV)

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

To grow every seed must die in the ground. Our hopes, dreams and aspirations must give way to godly expectation and trust. We must be willing to lay our life down to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. I know that I will never convince anyone in and of myself without His Spirit cultivating their heart, but the moment that you decide to lay your life down, become buried in His Presence, and give up your very existence to the capable cause of Christ – everything does become new. New is not comfortable. It demands total weakness to discover God’s Strength. It means humbling every facet of our being implying a terrible risk. For those who desire a new life and to have that new thing, it is a requirement.

Isaiah 42:5-9 (NIV)

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.

I will testify that our family came through the furnace of refinement over the last few years, but it was not without change. We were doing pretty well right before devastation struck our family. I think of Job. Business was good. Family was thriving. Our life was better than we had dreamed it would ever be. We were comfortable. Oh boy! When our son was diagnosed with cancer, everything fell apart. The only thing holding us together was our faith. When our heart is truly broken, the contents is revealed. Thank you Jesus – He was there. Now on the other side of the ordeal, I expected life to go back to normal. That probably would have worked but through the fire of testing something changed. It was me. I was broken. I was weary. I was traumatized. I needed Jesus. He found me and restored my soul again. Now new things are happening, at first it was scary and I was ready to run.

“See the former things have taken place and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Oh, the former things of life. Some people are hindered by their past afraid that God will not use them because of it. Others are stuck in the past celebrating what God has done unsure if He can top it or do it again. There are also people like me afraid to fully trust the Lord again because I feel as though I barely made it through the fire last time. I don’t want to jump in it again. Where are you today? Just before a New Year would be the perfect time to decide. Before you make a resolution or set some kind of goal to decide where God and Jesus fit in your new plan for the New Year. If you decide that the Lord is what you desire more than anything else, it will require releasing your past and the former things to fully embrace the new thing that the Lord is doing. He will share His Secrets with those who are listening.

Isaiah 48:5-8 (NIV)

“Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’ You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them? From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’ You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.

Oh Lord, I feel this burning in my spirit today. The Lord is constantly speaking to His People. It is up to us to listen. God has placed dreams and ideas in us according to His Plan. First, He gives us eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) I believe every other plan, purpose and idea in our life will point back to that original thought. He promises that there is plan in place for our life with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) He invites us to seek Him wholeheartedly to have it. (Jeremiah 29:13) We miss that part sometimes. Every day recorded before we are born (Psalm 139:16), backs up His Promise that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) It doesn’t matter how this year ends, but the promise of a new thing always remains as long as we are breathing. Jesus is our hope. (Isaiah 4:1-4) He makes this all possible as we connect our heart and join our life with the Vine. Now we are worthy of fruit, dying to our ways and our desires to give way to His Spirit who makes all things new. Isaiah 4:9 acknowledges that God is fully aware of the “former” things and still ready to begin the “new things” in our life. Before they come, the Lord announces them. Do we want them?

 

Isaiah 43:18-21 (NIV)

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

I am a firm believe that God changes our wastelands into waterfalls. I do not believe that I would be where I am ready for something new had God not allowed our whole life to be upended. He doesn’t always change our surroundings or conditions but for those willing to be changed – Jesus gives us a new heart and new mind with desires and dreams that align with His Will and Perfect Plan. It defies what we see or how the world does things and even may require a venture or two in the wilderness to find our way. To have a new thing, one must be willing to do new things. It sounds so simple yet everyday people defy the Lord but expect Him to fill their life with His Goodness and Grace. Friend, the Lord is doing just that 24 hours a day. It is our stubborn heart, closed mind, covered ears and blinded eyes that are keeping us from it. We keep hold of former things. We live in the past. We do not see, hear, or feel what God is doing and fail to respond when He calls. We are His People who He chose and are precious to God. The only thing comparable is our love for our human children. I would die for my child but would not let my child die for you. See God allowed His Child, His Only Son and Perfect One to not just die but suffer tremendously for you and me. Humbly, I stand on the verge of the coming year yielding every expectation and hope that I have to honor God’s Sacrifice and invite this new thing into my life.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NIV)

“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.’”

I do not believe that the world will get any better. In fact, I believe that the conditions of this planet called earth will become significantly worse in the coming days. I also believe that the church is doing something new in the midst of the famine. There are plenty of resources to sustain people but the evil condition of human souls is starving the nations. God is reviving the hearts of His People. The modern day church will soon suffer great loss as men and women intent on building the Kingdom and saving souls will gather to become the remnant of Christ. The mega church will become empty and those tiny buildings with a handful of people fasting, praying and hungry for God will become the safe house of sinners who want a Savior and will choose to make Him their Lord.

 

It begins not with a preacher or even a place to worship. It begins in us. You. Me. We must decide if the Kingdom is for us or here is where we want to be. We must decide if the “new thing” that God is doing is what we desire, or venture off for personal gain and prosperity outside of the Cross. This new thing is not about us but all about Jesus. I want the new thing. I want a new heart. I want a new spirit. I want to build the Kingdom of God and fill it with the souls in need of salvation and freedom. I am asking God to prepare my heart, mind, soul and body for the New Year that I will be ready for the new thing that He is doing. How about you?

Isaiah 65:17-19 (NIV)

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”

 

The Gift and His Givers

The Gift and His Givers

John 13:34-38 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

For the first time in a long time, I have had the privilege of working with the youth for the Christmas program at church. For weeks, the kids and leaders have met together to prepare a piece to describe the victory of won the night Jesus made His Way to earth. Though it seems like a simple story of a man and woman great with child, navigating a lengthy journey to find no vacancy in the local inn who would labor through the night and give birth in a stable among the sleeping livestock. Babies are born every day. I am quite certain that Jesus did not look any different than a normal infant who draws its first breath. It’s funny how life works. As a woman, my body is fully equipped and able to give birth without the assistance of another. We have made it as comfortable and controlled as possible. Not that night, as this young girl produced the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How could anyone know other than those carefully chosen by God be aware that love, real love, pure love, and true unadulterated, unbiased and unconditional love had burst into the atmosphere?

As we have worked with these young people, I have become more and more aware of the impact of God’s Gift to this world. The truth is that even though I have two sons who are less than perfect, they are mine. I love them. I cherish them and would not allow a hair on their head to be harmed for another human being. I guard them with my life though they are well into adulthood. I would never allow them to die for another or willingly give them up for you. I told these young people that very thing on a night when attention was wandering, playfulness distracting and a lack of self-control prevailed. People would come to church for this one night some to see this very thing. This might be the only chance that we have to share the Gospel with those they love and care for. The stranger who somehow drifted in. Would we do a good job? Would we give our all?

It is the holiday season. I know how busy I am. I can imagine how busy you are. We have long lists of gifts to buy. In each store, I hear couples deliberating what they will give and how much to spend on those they intend to bless in their giving. What are you giving Jesus for Christmas? He has been speaking to my heart. Each time I get overwhelmed in the tasks, get a bit grouchy or become too busy. The Holy Spirit gently reminds me that this is not what it is about. It is about God giving His Son, His Only Son that I may have eternal life. The most precious gift ever given. What will I give back? Since the season began, we participated in parties and events. I have made Christmas goody bags, wrapped gifts, given to those who need it, and so much more in a vain attempt to honor the Lord with my life. Is it enough? Only if I decide in my heart to give myself first. Any gift given is only as valid as the intent of one’s heart.

John 13:34-38 is not a Christmas story passage at all. However, it allows us to see the struggle of mankind in giving back to the Giver of Life with our own. Jesus is nearing His Hour of Sacrifice. He shares with His Closest Friends, His Disciples, His Greatest Desire. We are to love on another. Peter does not agree or disagree but asks Jesus, “Where are you going?” He wanted to go with Jesus even offering his very life to keep his Lord safe. The awful truth comes out when Jesus tells Peter before the rising of the sun, you will deny me three times. Have we denied Jesus this Christmas? Has He told us to love one another but we chose to give Him something else? Something less uncomfortable? A gift that costs less than our self? What He has asked is what He desires? Have we given Him less than our best? Have we chosen to do rather than love? Have we become so caught up in the holiday that we are not honoring Christ and His Birth? I am not pointing a finger at you but rather asking myself. Tonight as people gather together in our church, am I ready to love them? Will I receive them? Or will I be so caught up in costumes and lights that I forget the Light of the World and the Gift for which He is asking?

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 

God loved me so much that He gave His Only Son. He gave His Best for me. He allowed His Son to come to this earth and endure a long separation. He watched as the people rejected, abused, tortured and killed His Child. He even turned from Him that day on the Cross as His Wrath was poured out on His Child for each and every sin we have ever committed bore down on Him. My greatest fear is losing a child. Thank God for the Blood of His Son that covers my children each day. The only choice that we have to make is will we take the Gift of Jesus and allow Him to change our life or will we reject His Gift and remain in the darkness. Do not be mistaken there is only one choice – life or death. There is no gray area. Light has come to the world. Many people love the darkness more than light. Whoever choose the Light of God’s Love will live by the truth of who they are and what they have become. To love God means that we must love other people.

Jesus did not to condemn anyone but with the sole purpose that all would be saved. When people encounter us this holiday season, do they see the Gift and the Giver? Can they tell a difference? Or have we somehow taken what was given and assumed a sense of entitlement? Do we freely offer the Love of God to others unconditionally as it was given to us? We are not called to live in the darkness or entertain it but we come in contact with people hidden in the darkness bound by sin. What is our response? Judgment or condemnation? Do we look down on them? Are we able to extend love to them from the unfathomable, unconditional and overflowing Gift we have been given from the Flawless Giver?

 

I John 4:11-12 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

When Jesus saves us, He gives us His Spirit. As we repent of our sins and turn our life fully over to Christ, there is a change in our perspective from the earth to the Heavenlies. God fills us to overflowing with His Love giving seed to the sower so we can now spread this love to others. Unconditionally. Overflowing. Neverending. This requires that our heart is changed to see others as Jesus does. It means that our expectation is no longer in what they can do for us but completely in what the Lord is doing in us. We can now love them when they let us down, step on us, betray us and overlook us because everything we need is provided mind, spirit and body in the Lord. We become complete when our love connects with others tightly bonding together the Body of Christ.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

A few Christmas ago, our youngest requested an IPod Touch for Christmas. It was really the only thing that she asked for. We decided to give her an IPad Mini thinking it would be a step up for her. It was a more expensive and much nicer gift than what she asked for. Our intention was that we would surprise her with something better than she asked for. When she opened it on Christmas day, her face showed her disappointment. When I talked to her after all the gifts were opened, she was clearly upset. “But I didn’t want that…” As a parent, my heart sank. I became angry and tearful. I was devastated that I let her down and mad at her dissatisfaction. She had an expectation. When the expectation was not met as she had planned for her own personal satisfaction, she was disappointed. However, once she began using the gift, it was soon clear that it was perfect.

Sometimes we do not understand that what God is giving us or has already provided in our life is a valuable gift. We have predetermined what will satisfy our soul and fulfill our longings. When God gives us what is best, we become like disappointed children. The Gift that God has given us is His Love. He gave it by giving us the Life of His Son. In Jesus is every hope, dream and desire that we have coming to absolute and complete fulfillment. We must hold on to our hope. We prove that we are His Disciples by loving others. Completely. Are we doing that today? I want tonight’s performance to be flawless, but truthfully if at the end of the night a single, solitary soul finds Jesus and experiences His Love – all the time, preparation and sacrifice will be worth it all.

 

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

 

Do you desire to honor Jesus this Christmas? Are you killing yourself trying to do so? Stop right where you are. I am about to let you off the hook. If you simply hand the Salvation Army bell ringer a hot cup of coffee and tell them Merry Christmas with a smile while dropping a small offering in his pot – you just got it right. If you invite someone to the Christmas play at church, pick them up so they will come, sit by them and introduce them to all your friends even though they don’t look or act saved, guess what? You nailed it. When they cut you off in traffic, instead of offering an offensive gesture, pray that they will make it safely to their destination. Hold the door for others. Smile and thank every clerk. Love. That really is all there is to give. Jesus doesn’t want our fancy clothes, expansive feast, or perfect performance this Christmas. He doesn’t even want us to make vows that we have not the wherewithal to complete. First, Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart. He has given us all of His Love. Then He wants us to love others with the passion the Lord gives us. His Love. He is the Giver. We receive the Gift. To honor Him is to become a giver of His Love ourselves.

II John 6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.