The Father’s Glory

The Father's Glory

John 15:7-8 (NIV) 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.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. Yet another unfathomable promise from a good, good God. The Christ in us gives power and authority to our words. This is to my Father’s Glory that you bear much fruit…showing yourselves to be my disciples. The Holy Spirit cultivates the qualities and characteristics of God in our life. To be a disciple is the glorification of God. It is exemplified by the life of Christ in living color. A life of unconditional love and incomparable compassion for all mankind. So often focusing on the Gifts of God rather than His Grace, it is easy to become caught up in the promises of God without paying attention to His Process.

I am the worst of these when it comes to trying to accomplish godly character humanly. Perhaps, you may find yourself in the very same position today. Trying to achieve the spiritual naturally is a common problem facilitated by religious tradition in many cases. Some churches still sing give me that “old-time religion”. The church needs a fresh anointing and new revelation. I need it. The sum total of my effectiveness and efficiency as a Christian is my ability to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the Word of God, He invited the twelve to come and follow, but not one time did Jesus invite them to be just a follower or even call them a Christian. He asked them to be My disciple. Following Christ is part of the process of becoming a disciple but it is the positioning of our entire being IN Christ that completes it. So today, let’s talk about bringing glory to the Father. We seek His Glory desiring His Presence and everything that comes when it permeates a church service or even our prayer closet at home. I don’t want just an encounter or even an experience. My heart’s desire is eternity.

God’s Word

Matthew 13:23 (NIV) “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

God’s Word is the seed that produces good fruit in our life. It is the particle of faith that the Holy Spirit uses to create the life God promises those who believe. Without God’s Word, there is no point in our faith because it is illogical outside of His Provisionary Plan. The Word of God is the seed that when placed in a broken, fertile and receptive heart begins the spiritual reproductive process within us. Faith germinates the seed and the Fruit of the Spirit comes into existence and beings to grow and develop.

Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Holy Spirit is essential in a believer’s life. He is the essence of Christ in us that identifies us as Children of God. It is the existence of Christ in us that offers power and authority of supernatural impact to live in our words and prayers. The Spirit produces fruit from the Word cultivated by faith. The fruit is clearly defined as love, joy and peace. The three substantial satisfiers of humanity. Everyone wants love, joy and peace. There are other fruits of the Spirit that are necessary for productivity in our ability to fulfill the commandment of Christ to love others. They are forbearance, kindness, goodness and gentleness. We strive for these in our relationships though not born of our natural mind, will or emotions. The Holy Spirit produces these qualities from the love, joy and peace found in Christ. Finally, there is self-control. Oh how this is vital to spiritual success as a disciple. To keep going when no one else is. To continue when quitting seems favorable. To remain uncomfortable when comfortable escapes are offered. To opt for convenience when inconvenience is required. To maintain control when God asks for our complete trust and confidence.

Be My Disciple

John 15:8 (NIV) This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is the Father’s Glory. It exemplifies the power of His Presence to fulfill His Purpose in us. We have no possible means of doing so. It is God’s Word planted in us. The Holy Spirit’s cultivation process. The commitment to be His Disciple… not just a Christian or a follower. To abide in Christ. To live each day for the Kingdom. I am challenged today by this passage. Do I live for the Father’s Glory? Is my life bearing fruit? Spiritual fruit? Sowing and reaping will produce the blessing of God in our life. Doing what the Word says will also create prosperity. Fullness is only accomplished when our life abides in Christ. Abundance is the surplus reserved for His Children.

Discipleship is to continually Jesus Christ. To engraft our life into His Word, His Will and His Way. Every day. Every breath. Every step. Every decision. Every moment. Not everyone will decide this is the life for them. It is not a requirement for Heaven. It is a requirement to glorify the Father. The good Father and gracious God who sends every good gift to us. The One who sent His Only Son to die for us so that we could become His Children in right standing again. God has given us an opportunity to glorify Him. It is the only “thing” we can do. God did everything else. He gave His Son. His Son gave the Spirit. God has provided for us from His Riches in Glory. He has given us the strength to do all things through Christ. The Lord has given us every spiritual blessing. We have it all. We also have the freedom to choose how to use this wonderful gift.

The Promise

John 15:9-11 (NIV) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus offers His Love to us. We have the opportunity to remain in His Love. Keep His Commandments. He told us these things so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Are you satisfied with your life? Are you complete in love, joy and peace? Does your life glorify the Father today? Grace is the open doorway to every bit of fulfillment found in God’s Word. No matter how we lived yesterday. The Holy Spirit wakes us up offering new mercy for the new day with new opportunities to glorify the Father, bear much fruit and be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It means I must decrease and allow Christ to increase and take over. It means fear must give way to faith. It requires doubt drowned by belief. It is the promise of fulfillment to overflowing abundance of love, joy and peace. It is a privilege. It is a promise. It is more than I can think, ask or imagine. God is good! He is a Good Father! He deserves to be glorified.

Psalm 86:11-12 (NIV) Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

Power of Agreement

Power of Agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philippians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

How many churches have you attended in your lifetime? Can you count the number of places you have attended? I posted something on social media. A friend liked the post. Another friend inquired how the person knew me. We had attended church together many years ago. I have had this happen more than a few times. I do it myself. I have a high school friend who teaches another friend’s children. The Body of Christ is to be just that a living, breathing, working, communicating complete unit. It seems like just when a ministry is growing and strengthening into a fully functioning body something happens and it falls apart. It is time to out the enemy and his assault against unity to become the Body of Christ – a strong source to be reckoned with in the world today.

After years of tearing apart Christians, how ironic that Paul would give the rest of his life after coming to Jesus Christ to rebuild the ruins of wreckage left behind. In an almost pleading fashion, He says, “If there is any consolation (comfort, solace) in Christ…if there is any comfort in His Love…if there is any fellowship in His Spirit…if there is any affection or mercy for one another…fulfill my joy…do it for me if no one else…be like-minded…have the same love…be of one accord…be of one mind.” (paraphrased) The tone reminds me of trying to deal with our teenagers. We teach, instruct, discipline, and finally exasperated in effort plead with them.

It’s funny how families work together. Dysfunction is a key trait in families. Our children fuss, fight, pick and disagree on just about everything UNTIL someone dares mess with a sibling. Suddenly there is complete agreement that that person is about to get hurt as they rally together. The church isn’t much different. Rather than walking in love and commitment together, it only happens in the midst of opposition or tragedy. God desires unity in the Body of Christ. He purposed it for us. Jesus even prayed for us to be one. The Holy Spirit identifies us as one family. How do we overcome the natural sense of family to become one as God’s Family? To stop fussing and fighting all the time and begin to function as Christ intended. It may be harder than you think.

Genesis 11:4-6 (NKJV) And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 

After the flood, Noah and his family replenished the people of the earth. The whole earth had one language and one speech. Unity. They decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. “Let us make a name for ourselves. Lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Self-preservation and pride decided to make a “name” for itself. The Lord came down to see the city and tower. Immediately, He interrupted the building of such idolatry by confusing their language and ability to communicate ending the unity and stopping their downfall. I wonder sometimes if church communities built on the wrong foundation fall apart for the same reason. False prophets who create a community built on foundations other than faith in God’s Word and an introduction to Jesus Christ.

The point of opportunity in this passage and promise rising from another’s misguidance is that when people become one “nothing they propose will be withheld from them”. The power of agreement works naturally and spiritually. Natural agreement produces favorable results in the world. Supernatural agreement builds a Kingdom. It creates a living, breathing body that will become the Bride who Christ is coming for. We have a long way to go!

Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The early church set the precedent of fellowship. Thinking of fellowship today, I smell fried chicken and a desert table piled high on a special day at church. In the South, there is homecoming or maybe it’s a “Friends and Family Day” to invite or entice new members. This is not the concept set forth in the New Testament. The church broke bread together and prayed together daily. Every day. Not Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Not small groups. Not via texting. No, every single day. The word “fellowship” or koinonia means sharing, unity, close association, partnership, participation, a society or contributory help. Every member was a valuable asset to the group. They sold all their possessions and goods dividing up the proceeds evenly among everyone and giving to those in need. They lived in one accord. The early followers who were baptized by the Holy Spirit literally devoted their whole life to unity with God and each other.

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

This was the prayer of Jesus Christ for all of us just before going to the Cross. He desired that those who will believe in Him through the message of the disciples and apostles “that they all may be one” like Jesus and God are one. To abide in love and fellowship together in one accord. One heart. One mind. One body. How are we doing?

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

I wonder if the Lord allows confusion and discord to set in to the church so it doesn’t become built of pride and self-preservation. Is it possible that it is the heart of His People causing the issue and not the enemy to blame? Pride is a human trait overcome by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces the spiritual fruit that feeds our soul. As our soul prospers, it overflows those same gifts and characteristics into our natural life. We must live lowly and gently lives. Patient. Bearing one another with love. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit who binds us together in peace. There is one body. There is one Spirit. In 2016, there were estimated to be over 300,000 Christian churches in America. Where is the impact and influence of such mass numbers?

We have been called together in one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in us all. We must work on the Body before we take on the world. What is lacking?

Philippians 2:3-5 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about us united with Christ in full fellowship together according to His Spirit. It is not about building new buildings and erecting new walls – physically, structurally, emotionally, congregationally, or corporately. It is about tearing down every barrier between us and God and everyone else. God doesn’t desire one person over another. Our God doesn’t have favorites. He loves us all. His Love is for us all. His Kingdom has a place for us all. His Body has a function specifically for us and no one else. We cannot fulfill our purpose without the other members of the Body no more than my hand can function apart from my arm if detached from my body. We must learn to live in fellowship. We must figure out how it all works. We must strive to live in harmony and unity with all mankind. It is the Will of God for us and the Way to the Father’s Heart. It is to achieve the Mind of Christ.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) 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.”

 

 

 

Out with the Old

Out with the Old

Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In a little classroom after a powerful church service, the leaders gathered at the pastor’s request. I knew what was coming, it had been stirring in me for a couple weeks. He called a time of fasting and praying. Ugh! The moment the words came pouring out of his mouth, my stomach responded. Suddenly, all I could think of was my next meal. It’s funny how our flesh reacts to discipline. It doesn’t matter how many times diet, exercise and yes, even fasting and praying has yielded positive results – our flesh hates discipline on every level. Spending time with the Lord, I have heard over and over again – it’s time to give up comfort, convenience and control. It’s time to press harder and reach farther than ever before. Not that I have already attained it…not that I am already perfected…but I press on…

What’s all the fuss? I mean really isn’t fasting Old Testament living. Is it religious? What’s the point of self-denial? Discipline is the heart of discipleship that yields results in us and through us. I used to go to the gym three or four times a week. My physical condition was better than even my youth. Why did I stop? Responsibilities took the time. I moved away from the convenient location of my gym membership. I became overwhelmed by work and church. No matter how positively my life was impacted or what my excuse, I gave in to comfort and became complacent about my health. Excuses limit our life. I am too busy for anything means that you have decided to spend your time and are not satisfied with how it is portioned. Everyone has the exact same amount of time and the freedom to use it by our choosing. Responsibilities is the yoke that is chosen. Taking on too much is a human choice not God-given calling. Who He calls He equips! So here I am the day before the fast begins arguing with myself – truly flesh and spirit are debating.

I am sharing the details not to point to anything good in me. I am not telling you to fast or not to fast simply what fasting can produce in a life yielded to God by faith. I have successfully accomplished times of fasting and then others when I have failed miserably in my flesh. When I sat down this morning, it was with mixed emotions. Isn’t that what faith is sometimes? We want what God has promised but do not want to do what He says to have it. Faith is not pretending but believing God with our natural life including all conditions and circumstances. The fine line believe confession and confidence is achieved by silencing one of the two. Fasting kills our flesh and enable our spirit to regain control.

One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…

Experience is a form of education. It conditions the mind as far as expectation. Even living a Christian life, our expectation is constantly being molded and shaped by experience. It is important to evaluate our expectation and live in expectancy. God wants to accomplish more than we can think or ask in our life. He does this through faith. Faith occurs when we stop trying to do something by our own efforts and trust someone else to do it for us. Faith is the one attitude that is exactly the opposite of trusting ourselves. Faith is not pretending but living in confident belief of God’s Power in our life and that He is willing to do the impossible for us.

I have experienced miracles firsthand. The unexplainable and undeniable move of God completely independent of anything I could have accomplished on my own or that which anyone else could have exacted in my life. Just as important as forgetting the past including shame, regret, failure and frustrations, we must not attempt to reproduce yesterday’s move of God in the present. Religion is the art of repetitiveness. A relationship with Jesus Christ is Resurrection Power and New Life as a new creation. He wants to do something new and different every single time. Experience is like a recipe made over and over producing the same thing. God is not looking for sacrifices of old, or fasting in the form of routine. He is looking for a rending of the human heart so He can produce new life and new glory in His People.

Lukewarm living takes over when church becomes a service. When our religious routine loses its willingness to do whatever it takes for God to move in our midst. My life is better knowing Christ. Preachers encourage me in the Word of God. The Word of God washes over me and refreshes me each day. His Spirit works in me to renew my thoughts and motivation. Prayer keeps me connected to Jesus and the Father. But still, like any relationship, we must work to avoid monotony that leads to disregard for the precious ember and burning passion that brings love to life. Living not by “you know that I love you” in the realm of “I am going to make sure you KNOW that I love you”. Dead church does represent the Kingdom because His Kingdom is a remnant of living breathing bodies pursing Him day by day by faith and trust in the God of the Impossible and His Viable Interest in us as His Children.

Reaching forward to those things which are ahead…

Joel 2:12-13 (NKJV) “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

Living in waves of amazing grace, it is easy to become complacent. Our life is better than we hoped for but not all that God has promised. We settle in the place of comfort afraid to test the limits of God with radical obedience. What if there is an end to His Love? What if grace has a capacity? What if God is not the God of the Impossible? What if hope only an elusive dream? Why push it? When the end comes, will Jesus know me? I wonder if in taking advantage of His Grace, we miss the open door of opportunity marked obedience. Obedience to Christ is more than just doing, serving and ministering. Full obedience is giving Him our life. All of it including every facet of our being, living, doing, working and loving. We do not HAVE TO but do it because we want to. Freedom will never require anything of us that we are not willing to give or liberty is lost. Fasting and praying rends our heart and allows God to inspect the contents removing those things that keep us from fulfillment.

Joel 2:28-29 (NKJV) “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; our sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:32 (NKJV) And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls.

A remnant is a small part or quantity. God is looking for a place and people to literally pour out His Spirit to. Will it be me? Will it be you? There is only a remnant of believers who will experience such an outpouring. It comes at the price of self. We must be moved out of the way in order to make room for Christ to expand and be expressed in our life. He must increase and I must decrease. Fasting is the vehicle of miracles. It is the place where faith is exercised and used in order to be strengthened and renewed. It is the place of dreams and visions becoming a reality as in our personal weakness – God’s Power is manifested. In those days…meaning it hadn’t happened yet. We are the remnant church. Those who continually seek to know Him more and exchange comfort, convenience and control to drain the depths of complacency giving way to an outpouring of God’s Spirit in us and through us. We must reach for it. Press toward it. Strain our flesh to obtain it. We must answer the call to fast and pray like never before.

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 4:16-21 (NKJV)  Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 

Faith is the art of heavenly acquisition. Pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ requires faith. The thing about faith is it is likened to a mustard seed. Seed holds potential. Seed reproduces. Seed is filled with perpetual life. If we put a seed in the ground, it must grow, develop and mature to reach its full potential. It must endure many seasons. A seed’s potential is not evident in its present form. It must be planted deep in the ground and hidden in darkness for the work to begin. There is a process. If the seed never makes it through the hard layers of fear, doubt and insecurity into our heart, it cannot grow and reach its full potential. We must rend our hearts in order for the potential of faith evident in God’s Word to become the reality of our life. Faith is absolutely essential in the fulfillment of God’s People. Not sometimes faith, yesterday’s faith but the perpetual planting and harvesting of new and greater faith in God.

Abraham is the father of faith. God who “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” is ready. What is dead? What is dormant? There is a difference. The dead things in us must go so that God can awaken that which has only been dormant. Impossible things are possible by faith in Jesus Christ. All those dead dreams and lost visions are not gone forever just submerged in the comfort, convenience and control. Once complacency becomes confidence in the God who brings dead things to life and speaks invisible things into reality suddenly your natural will become supernatural. It is going to take some effort on your part to haul your flesh to the altar binding it with strong faith. Is it time to call a fast? I wonder…may I ask you a question? What are you trusting and believing the Lord to do in you, through you and for you? Can you do it yourself? If not, fasting and praying brings the impossible to endless possibilities by faith! We must be fully convinced that God will do what He promised and is able to perform it.

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NKJV) And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

I often joke with people if you see me running you should run to because something must be chasing me. I am not a runner though I would love to run a marathon one day. I think the Princess Run at Walt Disney World would be so much fun. Trekking along in tiaras and tutus, call me crazy. Anyway, I cannot imagine finally entering a marathon, running the course, and finding no reward at the finish line. Just a line to cross without any cheering or medals essentially no victory or glory. Nothing to celebrate, just getting in the car and heading home. When we compete it is for a prize, the thought of disqualification is bad enough but if there is nothing to gain why do it?

Am I comfortable? Am I holding on to convenience? Am I maintaining control in my life? Am I confident in Christ or my own ability? Am I fighting the good fight of faith or simply beating the air? Am I a true disciple or just following a crowd of Christians? Am I complacent? Lukewarm? I would like to answer a resounding “NO” to all these things but I am not sure. The only way to be confident in our hope is to fully accept God’s Grace, Mercy and Love by faith. Faith that is not reliant on what we see but who we know. If there is no passion in my praise, worship and obedience to Christ, then I am in danger of being disqualified. This love affair is not ordinary but extraordinary. To be successful, I must endure to the end. Am I holding on by a thread?

Tomorrow begins this new journey with new expectation. Subjecting my flesh to discomfort, inconvenience and surrendering control of my entire life to Jesus Christ all over again. Confident hope and complete faith marked by total trust requires a challenge or test. I am called to God so must strive and reach for Him daily to achieve it. Is God calling you to fast and pray? If your first response is absolutely not or no way – you might consider it as your flesh speaks out against it. I encourage you to try it. It doesn’t have to radical just ask the Lord to reveal something to you to give up and fill that time with prayer and create expectancy by releasing all of yesterday’s expectations and experiences to fully embrace fulfillment in Christ.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Psalm 27:7-8 (NLT) Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

In the Weeds

IN the Weeds

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Hate is a learned behavior born of insecurity and fear. As believers, the only real and true enemy is satan. Children are born with hearts of acceptance. They do not understand the inherent dangers in life and so God gives them parents to love and protect them. Being of an imperfect nature, it is easy for us to teach our children the morals and ethics of our life molded by our experience rather an encounter with God’s Love. Jesus says, “Love your enemies” and “bless those who curse you”. As if that is not enough, we are to pray for those who spitefully or intentionally use us and even those who persecute us becoming a thorn in soft flesh. Why? So we may be Kingdom Kids who live in alignment with their Father and His Kingdom. Tough one. High calling for sure.

How do we love the people who abuse, betray, hurt, and use us? Where do we find the capacity to ward off offenses, ignore bad intentions, and keep the penetrating darts of gossip and slander penetrate a heart softening in the Hand of God? God doesn’t allow us to ignore them. We are to love them. Pray for them. Accept them with forgiveness no matter how many times they continually mistreat us. I know what you are thinking today. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Or maybe, it’s God doesn’t want me to be anyone’s doormat. The all-time best is I can forgive them but it doesn’t mean I have to let them hurt me again. Well…

He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Evil is not a character trait of human beings. People are born with eternity in every heart. Each given a measure of faith like seeds to sow in life. Everyone. Even the person who is causing you pain and strife. God loves and desires them just as He does you. Evil is cultivated from sin and sinful desires that take over but are like a sickness or disease that can be removed by the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ. Which means every person has potential and God is constantly showering all of us with “fresh rain” in the hope that faith would grow and eternity would break through the hardest of hearts growing into a fruitful relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NKJV) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Peter asked the pointed question, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” I wonder if we ask the Lord the same question. The answer is more than anyone can conceive in the natural. True forgiveness as God forgives us is born of grace. Grace is enough. God’s Grace given to us is the river from which our ability to accept apologies and restore relationships come from. When our expectation is in the Lord, it becomes our profound privilege to extend to others the same grace that has been given to us. I didn’t say it was easy only that it is possible. The Kingdom of God is all about relationship. Not only a right relationship with God but all of His People even those still living in sin and darkness.

True love is unconditional. True love waits while others catch on or catch up. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Is this truly the kind of love that is required of Children of God in every situation? Yes…it is. The model of prayer presented by Jesus to His Disciples does not suggest it but requires it in order to be forgiven and fully accepting God’s Grace. God will not give us anything that does not promote generosity in us. Seed reproduces. Good seed produces a harvest of good deeds that give honor and glory to God. Love is the greatest of the Fruit of His Spirit and the first step in achieving our purpose in the Lord and prospering in this life.

Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

We must sow good seed in our life. Seed produces of the Holy Spirit and not unmet expectation. The Kingdom is comprised of men and women who as daily disciples strive to sow and grow godliness in their life. Any seed not of God is produced from fear, insecurity and doubt that God’s Power is enough and His Authority somehow compromised. It is human nature to experience such emotions. It is the Power of God working in each one of us to remove them.

The enemy will constantly sow weeds in our field. He is a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy every good thing that the Lord is producing in our life. He is methodical in his approach. Ruthless in every attack. There is no compassion for his victim. We are God’s People who live in His Love and Compassion for others. His Directive is clear. We are not to uproot the weeds. It is not our job to kill them. We grow right along with them. Why? It is God’s Eternal Hope that one day the rain will touch their heart and the seed of faith and promise of eternity will grow from within in them as it does in you.

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.”

I have recently been studying the differences between followers of Jesus and disciples of Jesus. There is a marked difference. Followers are led by their feelings and disciples are led by their future. Public opinion can influence the objective of a follower and offense cause them to be distracted and detoured in life. If you desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, love must be the premise of your life. Not just any kind of love, but the love received from the Father through the Son. Love that sacrifices its feelings for a future hope far greater them temporary circumstances. A fruitful life that continues to cultivate grace when surrounded by weeds. The kind of life that does not walk by sight but faith continually overcoming daily assaults and attacks by the enemy in an effort to kill our faith by producing fear, anxiety, worry and the worst of them insecurity. Love is relational. To love requires interaction. It is the overwhelming compassion of Jesus Christ who tells us to there is no great love than to lay our life down for a friend. To be a friend to all who are around us unaffected by their inability to show love and kindness in return. The only root to be removed is bitterness. By this ALL WILL KNOW that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another.

I will be honest this is a challenge for me with a handful of people. I am not speaking from a place of innocence but a daily struggle to love others including those who don’t love me. Those who have hurt me. Those who talk about me. I do so with this promise from the Lord – perfect love casts out all fear. God’s Love for me is enough. His Grace is sufficient for me. I must accept His Love and Grace in full measure to extend it to those around me and be His Disciple.

I John 4:17-19 (NKJV) Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

Eyes Front

Eyes Front

Luke 9:62 (NKJV) But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

“Eyes front” is a military command. It is a call to attention. An important order that calls the soldier to readiness. The discipline of the military is established in drills. Exercises designed to prepare them as a unit to execute precise movements. The unit must respond by moving together on command. It is vital to their success on missions when distractions and disorder can cost them their lives. Discipline brings to a state of order and obedience by training and control. It is to behave within the rules of conduct and skill improvement. Discipline is to train. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. A disciple is a follower. One who is adherent to the doctrines of another. Many desire to follow Christ but few will follow through finding the cost of discipleship more than bargained for. One must consider the cost of following Christ in order to have expert follow through and success as his disciple.

The parable in Luke 9 gives some examples of the things that keep us from living a disciplined life following Jesus Christ. He offers us insight on the very pitfalls to prosperity and shortcomings to success that will allow us to look forward and stop looking back. It is a call of “eyes front” for the believer who desires deeper faith and abiding hope as the mainstays in their life.

Luke 9:57-58 (NKJV) Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

The Emotional Follower

The emotional follower impulsively decides to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Influenced by hype and zealous to serve. Hearing the Word of the Lord and sensing His Calling, they jump in feet first without any knowledge of what they are getting themselves into. In Hosea 4:6 warns that “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It is dangerous to live by faith without God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for guidance. True worshippers do so in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:23) Submission to God’s Righteousness is yielding our way to follow Christ that takes a level of discipline that is not based on emotionalism but steadfast commitment according to His Word, His Way, and His Will. God is greater than our feelings. To know God we must know His Word. For faith to become the logic that leads our life the Word of God must be a priority. Knowledge is used to breed understanding that produces godly wisdom in our life.

Luke 9:59-60 (NKJV) Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

The Realistic Follower

The realistic follower is a responsible person. Quite dependable as the loyal person who is consumed by their current cares, worries, burdens and responsibilities in life. They want to follow Christ but are too connected to their daily duties. Their time consumed doing all the right things but not allowing God’s Righteousness to take over. Righteousness is not claimed by my performance but persistent yielding of my natural life to supernatural conduct. Faith is the key to the Kingdom. The realistic follower wants to be a disciple of Jesus Christ but cannot get past what they see to walk by faith. The world fills our plate and tells us that we must finish it all to serve Jesus Christ. He says, “I am the Bread of Life.” You don’t need all that. His Body was broken for your consumption and His Blood spilled for your freedom so that you can choose how to spend your time without care or worry for the worldly distractions designed to detour you from living a godly life. Sometimes it is not always sin that so easily besets us but the cares and worries of this life that threaten to cross forever boundaries. All lies set forth by the enemy to convince you to do what the world requires rather than releasing your time and talent to Jesus Christ. Discipleship does not leave us destitute but allows divine intervention in our natural life producing God’s Favor, His Provision, His Prosperity and Increase. The more faith becomes the reality of our life the less that is needed as Christ completes us.

Luke 9:61-62 (NKJV) And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The Halfhearted Follower

The halfhearted follower is probably the most dangerous disciple of all. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” The Lord has not time or use for the halfhearted follower. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ requires our whole heart not just the bits and pieces of no use to us. We give God the leftovers of our life rather than giving Him our first fruits. “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Jesus goes on to tell us that second is to love others as you do yourself. Let’s be real. We cannot get to the second commandment without fully embracing the first one. How many false starts and do overs have you experienced in your walk with Christ? Too many for me to count. We want to go all out for Jesus but when it gets a little difficult, our flesh cries out for relief or we just get plain tired and worn out – we take detours and shortcuts rather than staying the course and keeping our eyes on front. Discipline is a requirement of discipleship. It defines the integrity of the calling. It is the very character that the position is produced. The first discipline in life is to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. It is a daily binding of our life to the altar, allowing His Blood to cover our sins, His Word to wash us like water, and to give our all to Jesus again because His Mercy is there to greet us. His Grace is enough. Jesus doesn’t need us to accomplish His Work. He already did. He desires a relationship with us that increasingly leads us to freedom.

John 20:4-8 (NKJV) So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

The Religious Follower

Two of the disciples ran to the tomb. They heard that it was empty and were intent on seeing for themselves. You know Peter was one of them. He was the most emotional, impulsive, realistic, and halfhearted of them all. When Jesus was walking on the water, he was the guy who jumped out of the boat. He was the one who told Jesus that he would die for him. He was the practical one. He also was the one who went back to fishing after Jesus died. Although the other unnamed disciple outran Peter to the tomb, it was Peter who went into the grave looking for Jesus. We are not perfect people just forgiven ones. His Grace is enough to overcome every shortcoming of the follower. However, the “other” guy couldn’t get past religion. He couldn’t go into the place of the dead. Peter was after resurrection life. He wanted a relationship with Jesus the Son of the Living God enough to get past religion.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The heroes of faith are not spectators. This is the difference between followers and disciples. Just because you choose a life of love with Jesus becoming his disciple doesn’t mean that you will not get bogged down or fall into one of the category of followers listed above. It does mean that His Grace is enough to pull you off the sidelines and back on course. Jesus is fully aware of the sin that easily ensnares us. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is our champion. If we can keep our eyes front and focused on the Lord enduring all the way to the end. We win. Every single time…we have victory as Christ leads us from victory to victory. We must commit our life to not just following Jesus but becoming his disciple.

Philippians 3:13-15 (NKJV) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

We are equally called and fully equipped to be disciples of Jesus Christ. It is willingness that makes all the difference. He gave us every spiritual blessing. The Lord is poised over the windows of heaven ready to release every blessing and promise that He has offered you. His Resurrection Power is ready to give new life to all the dead dreams and broken visions in your life. He is ready to heal you. He desires you more than anything. Will you reach for Jesus today? The word “reaching” in this passage is the striving and straining as a competitor in a race presses to the end running to win.

Perhaps you saw yourself in one of the follower roles listed above, but your heart is set on becoming a disciple of Christ and living in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ overstepping the bounds of religious activity to full consummation and oneness with the Lord. Well, I have good news. He promises to come when you call. The key qualities of a disciple are teachability and willingness. Are you willing to change? Are you ready to invest time into character development as the Bible sets forth for God’s People? The opportunity greets us each day as new mercy. His Word cannot return to God void. His promises are yes and amen in Jesus Christ. His Spirit lives in you ready to produce every good thing that God has placed inside of you. The plan was set before your conception. Those who seek Him wholeheartedly throwing all they are, know and desire into the cause of knowing and becoming like Jesus will have the desires of their heart, live in abundance and have a rich, satisfying life.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

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.