A Time to Reflect

A Time to Reflect

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

This morning writing the date in my journal, I still cannot believe it is the last day of 2017. Where did this year go? It flew by in an instant. I love the New Year…every year. It is always a new beginning. A fresh start when gym memberships flourish, new habits are formed, and so many good intentions are set forth. Looking back over the past year, how many were successful? What about the unexpected things that happened? Did you lose someone close to you? The seasons of life go by and without time to reflect one becomes another until our life is nothing but a course of events.

The last couple of weeks have been challenging as our family has been hit by a nasty virus that I have labeled the “plague”. Sickness and exhaustion have kept us homebound. It has been a quiet time. The usual hustle and bustle stilled to a snail’s pace. My husband actually went to Target with us yesterday desperate to get out of the house. Ironically, it is in this sickness when activity grinds to a stop and best intentions turn into a long winter’s nap that I have time to reflect.

The highlights of the past year far outweigh my disappointments. God is good. He is always good. His Faithfulness is evident in my life. We have many things to look forward to in the coming year. However, human nature often discards those good things to focus on what didn’t happen. Reflection will often lead to regret if not redirected. Perception is driven by perspective. I must align my perspective with God’s Promises and by faith accept them as the inevitable. Faith believes all that confident hope offers as a definitive in our life or at least, it should. Fear tells us to give up on faith when it doesn’t produce what we want in our timeline. God has placed eternity in our hearts and we are eternal beings. The Grace of God offered through His Son, Jesus Christ, gives us access to the Kingdom and every blessing God has for us. His Promises become the premise of our life.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. God will do exactly what He has promised to do in you and through you. He will prosper you as your soul prospers right where you are. The effort that releases such things in our life is faith. We must fix our heart and mind on faith for 2018 to experience the life God promised for us. It is important to reflect on the past year but to leave regret in 2017. God’s Grace is always enough. It is completely sufficient and will make a way where there is no way. It opens doors that no one can shut. All you have to do is believe. There is no need to carry regret, disappointment or sadness into the coming year. It is not the lifestyle of the believer. Repentance offers things like refinement, renewal, restoration and revival which are all good and life-giving qualities. The enemy can take nothing from you or the Hand of God in safekeeping for you. God is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere. He is protecting your promises and potential until the time comes for fulfillment.

I Corinthians 13:11-13 (NLT) When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. I am reminded in my reflection that I cannot see things with the clarity of God. At least not yet, there are things that exist in my life that create uncertainty. Not because God is not completely confident in His Way, but because like everyone else I struggle with believing sometimes. When God speaks to my heart, I grab hold of His Words a paint an elaborate portrait in vivid detail of what it will look like creating a master plan of my own. When He has only given me of a glimpse of the greatness of the work that He is doing in my life. When it does work out the way that I planned, I am often humbled at the feet of my Lord in the realization that He didn’t let me down. I let myself down. If I can do it, it’s not God. This year, I want to be mature in childlike faith. When God speaks listening, but not assuming.

Three things will last forever – if the thought, attitude or action is not representative of faith, hope and especially love then I must let it go. Rebellious thoughts that come disguised as good intentions, motivation or even hard work that are really just pride trying to get a leg up – they must also be subject to God’s Word and His Three Essentials – faith, hope and love. It sounds simplistic. It is. We have so complicated the gospel of Jesus Christ that no one seems to be finding their way to Him. I don’t want to be that person. My hope for 2018 is for my life to reflect Jesus Christ to all mankind. I must fight my flesh to make this a reality.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT) In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In 2018, it is my goal to make every effort to respond to God’s Promises and NOT REACT to everything and everyone else. This is going to require a disciplined life. It is a character change from humanity to Godly Identity. To live in the spiritual and supernatural realm yet function in the natural. I can do it. But it will mean a great deal of self-control which is a fruit of God’s Spirit in me and not human nature. I must strive to allow God to build my character to acquire every promise set forth for my life. I must grow, mature and develop in order to be more productive and useful for Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT) For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

In 2018, I will live in freedom. Free from fear, worry, anxiety and doubt that will restrict and inhibit the freedom given to me by Christ. I ask the Lord to help my unbelief. My relationship with Jesus Christ is defined by freedom. To live, love and laugh. To pursue the dreams and aspirations that He has given me. To live a limitless life unrestricted so the Lord can change our ordinary existence to extraordinary abundance as I am changed into His Image. God has not given me the spirit of fear so I must strive daily not to accept it in my life. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. It is in this freedom that God can complete the good work that He began in us.

Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 (NLT) And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

In 2018, I will enjoy the gift of life that God has given me. Are you happy? Are you content? Are you at peace? What is missing? There is an attitude of gratitude that can overcome many of these problems. God’s Goodness is for us in the land of the living. Too often – we get so busy living that we lose sight of the goodness evident in our everyday existence. I have a good life. Thankfulness for this gift that I have been given and His Goodness all around me will change my life. As my soul prospers, so will everything else. To a life aligned with the Lord is to acknowledge the good things that He has already done for us. Thankfulness overcomes discontentment. It will change our sadness into joy turning our face from the clock marked “waiting” to all the answered prayers around us. Every good thing in my life came straight from God.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake.

Looking ahead to 2018, I carry the hopeful expectation of God’s Word that has not yet come to pass in my life. I will leave behind regrets and disappointments because they are all just lies of the enemy. Worthless weight better left in the past. Lord, I will enter the New Year full of expectation. As I reflect on 2017, all I can say is “Thank You!” You are awesome as usual. Moving ahead, I will continue to trust your Plan for my life because “a day is like a thousand years to (You) and a thousand years is like a day.” You are not in a hurry because time is not an issue for you because you have made a time for everything already. Moving into the next year, I realize that there are things from this year that will bloom, blossom and reproduce there that would have been aborted if risen up too soon. Thank you Lord that Your Promises are my reality. Keep me close in 2018 – it will be another good year – of this I am quite sure! Let my life and everything in it be a true reflection of Your Love and Faithfulness and the fact that You are always good!

Proverbs 27:19 (NIV) As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Advertisements

New Discipline

New Discipline

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

New Year’s Resolutions. Making better choices. Forming new habits. After the first of the year, I am going to (fill in the blank). Some are preparing to do the annual Daniel Fast that many churches participate in each year. Considering my life and the coming year, there are some things that I would like to do better and become more disciplined in. Personal choices that will benefit my life in positive ways. However, as I consider the spiritual aspect of my life, it is here that I am led. Hebrews 12 doesn’t talk about God doing a new thing in my life or even in me. It is about endurance. To continue the course already laid before us and finish the race of faith. Oh, but new beginnings are much more exciting. New people. New places. Fresh starts.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This reminds me of marathon races where there are people along the way watching at checkpoints. They do not hear the pistol shot at the start or see the finish line, but still wait and watch for the runners to pass by. These are the witnesses of the struggle as flesh rivals faith. When runners consider giving up, and must dig deep to carry on. The place where sweat is overcome by tears as muscles scream and chests heave. What do these witnesses see in God’s People?

As 2018 approaches, I feel the need for change. There are some cycles that need to be broken so new seasons will emerge. However, the Lord is not instructing us to leave the present course. Give up on this race and enter another. He is not telling us to move on but keep going. We must set aside the heavy burdens and weights to yoke our life to Christ. (Matthew 11:28-30) It is time to examine our heart for those sins that cling to us. (Psalm 26:2; 51:10) We must run with endurance the race that is set before us. I believe this could be a game changer for many people in the coming year… most of all me!

Endurance is the ability or strength to continue especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions. It is the power of enduring. To endure means to hold out against, sustain without yielding, to bear without resistance, to bear with patience, to continue, and to last. What if the problem is not in our willingness to begin but our ability to endure to the end? Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) Endurance is a product of discipline. (Hebrews 12:7) There is no greater temptation than the one to quit. Our flesh identifies with it because it is a pardon for our sinful nature. It takes our flesh off the cross and allows it to live another day. There is no temptation that has overtaken me that is not common to man. Jesus endure temptation. Paul confides the inner struggle between our Spirit and flesh each day in Romans 7. A lack of discipline with no endurance doesn’t produce finishers but quitters.

Hebrews 12:3 (ESV) Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…

Are you weary? Growing faint at heart? Discouraged by the lack of harvest? Are you considering something new? Me, too. The areas that lack productivity have gained my full attention. The source of discouragement, discontentment or maybe for some devastation are the areas of life where discipline is most important. These are emotional minefields. Our flesh argues with our faith. There are some important qualities about the Lord that may lend some encouragement and support the concept called endurance.

Psalm 100:5 (ESV) For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. God is good. He is always good. His Steadfast love endures forever. His New Mercies given to us each day are evidence of His Love. It is not dependent on our acceptance for relevance. His Faithfulness never quits. He is always faithful even when we give up. He never stops working His Plan and Purpose in our life because His Absolute and Total Faithfulness will not allow Him to no matter what we do or do not do.

Psalm 119:160 (ESV) The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. The Word of God is truth for my life. You can never be excluded from the Perfect Will of God. God had to consider the cost of our sin to pay the price necessary on the Cross to provide us with sufficient grace. God’s Word cannot return to Him void. In fact, He promises in Romans 8:28 that He works every detail of our life for His Good. The rules of righteousness always produce the reward – it doesn’t matter what it took to get you to the place of repentance and acceptance. God’s Word and His Will for you are still just as glorious.

Psalm 138:8 (ESV) The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. God’s Purpose for my life will be fulfilled. He prerecorded my life according to Psalm 139 and He will do exactly as He promised. It is not based on me at all but rather conditional according to unconditional love. Steadfast love. Love that endures forever. Never gives up on me. Never forsakes or forgets me. His Love and Goodness are always pursuing me. He will do exactly as He said.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 (ESV) I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. God’s Plan and Purpose for my life is perfect. He will not change it. Nothing is to be added or taken from it. Christ completes me if I am willing to endure to the end. The divine character and nature of God is perfection. Christ is the founder and perfecter of faith. Faith must focus on the unseen reality of what is hope for rather than on all the temporary distractions along the way. God is an enduring God. Endurance is a quality that He is determined to give His Children so that we may have all that His Goodness and Grace provides.

2 Timothy 2:8-10 (ESV) Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Most of us will never undergo the persecution of the early church. The men and women who dared share the Gospel after the death and resurrection of Christ. They were hated. Imprisoned. Tortured and even put to death. The modern church struggles with comfort, convenience and control. As I consider this thing called endurance, I believe it is God’s Word for the coming year. I must endure. I should endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain salvation.

Have you ever been traveling with a GPS and lost the signal? Or maybe along the way began to doubt the integrity of the pleasant voice giving you instructions? Or perhaps found yourself caught up in road construction and detours that the satellite did not catch? Suddenly, you feel lost. Did I take a wrong turn? None of this looks or feels right? Am I going in the right direction? I believe that these are the exact feelings we get when God is teaching us endurance. Do we stay the course? Do we try our own way? Tough call. I have found that generally the GPS is right. I have also discovered that God’s Word will never return void. If God told you to do something or go somewhere, that is exactly what He meant for you to do. It is not my experience that He changes His Mind (even when I beg and plead) or that He lies (not once). What I have discovered is that when I have made it to the end of a thing it is exceedingly abundantly more than I thought it would be or imagined it could be. The key and essential quality was not enthusiasm or zeal but endurance to the end. No matter if I had to crawl to the finish – Christ, who is my victory, always met me there.

Considering the coming New Year, I encourage you to try something new. Better choices are always a good idea. Healthy habits preserve the Temple of the Living God. But also, pray and seek the Lord on those things you are considering giving up. Ask the Lord for guidance? Is this a place of new discipline? Are you really supposed to endure? You may be on the verge of breakthrough. Discouragement only leads to defeat if you quit or give up. I will probably never know the suffering of Paul or Timothy for Jesus Christ. I do know this. I have a plan and purpose that will bring the Lord honor and glory. To allow Him to complete the good work that He has begun in me will break through in glorious light through all my cracks and broken pieces that will show others His Unfailing Love. He endured the Cross for me. It is my turn to endure.

Psalm 145:13-16 (ESV) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

What’s the Rush?


What's The Rush

Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT) Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 

Well, it’s that time of year again. The holiday rush is upon us. My goal has been not to be overtaken by the wave and to enjoy the most wonderful time of year. To control the overtures of urgency as crazy schedules, long to do lists and heavy demands burden my mind and try to influence my heart. The expectations placed upon us during this time of year are tremendous. It is important as believers to rely on the Lord and His Offer to partner with us. He will share the load of life with those who allow Him to. However, that means pride must take a seat to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Busyness is a product of pride. To take full responsibility for the happiness of others is not what God intended for us. If our motto is “if I don’t do it who else will” is a prime indicator that pride has crept into our heart and mind. God is ultimately in control, in charge and the confidence of our life. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and have the privilege of choosing how to use it. It is the freedom given to us by the Lord. We can rush out or rush in. Rushing is the result of urgency. Urgency is driven by importance that creates persistence and earnest drive that insists on our immediate attention. Insecurity and fear play roles in the development of urgency. To try to survive on anything other than the Love and Grace of God given to us in ample portions is to live a life of urgency for lesser things that will not satisfy us but fuels our flesh.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God for my hope is in Him.

All that I am must learn to wait quietly before the Lord. He is my confident hope. The only hope that I have a rich and satisfying life. I can make people happy for a moment or even a season but as surely as the sun rises and sets each day – that is always subject to change. Those who applaud you one day will revile you the next – it is human nature driven by fickle hearts. God has given me a wonderful husband. He is my best friend and soul mate. I am blessed to have him. However, there are times when our imperfections cause us to be at odds and it is our commitment to each other that keeps us together. If my hope is in anyone other than the Lord, the relationship is subject to failure because it is God who fills the voids left by sin and imperfection.

To wait quietly before the Lord requires my spirit to rule over my flesh. We see in Romans 7 that this is not an uncommon plight among people who want to do all the right things and live a life pleasing to God but fail miserably on any given day. To transfer my life and all my expectations to Jesus Christ takes time. It demands my full attention. It takes a whole lot of energy…just like any good marriage does. It takes all of me – not some of me.

I Kings 19:11-13 (NLT) “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” The Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

What are you doing here?

When Elijah rushed away to hide from Jezebel, it seems so ironic. After the miracle of God on Mount Carmel, one would think that he would be full of confidence. Yet, the threat of one person landed him on another mountain hiding in a cave. Life happens. If faith were easy or came in large quantities, it would not be compared to a tiny mustard seed. If confidence were a cloak easily worn on a daily basis, we would not experience fear, doubt and unbelief on a daily basis. Faith and confident hope in the Lord is a day by day and moment to moment decision. If you are overwhelmed with fear, anxiety or stress today, the Lord is ready to meet you right where you are. He asks only one thing, “What are you doing here?” What has caused your insecurity? What is the root of your bitterness? Why are you so down?

The Lord does not force us into His Presence. He invites us. God doesn’t beat us into submission. He offers a better way. The Holy Spirit doesn’t barge into our heart demanding space. He waits for us to open the door and let Him in. The area of your life that has created this urgency and need to rush about is the very place the Jesus stands at the door waiting. You have the mind of Christ. You have been given the opportunity to rest in perfect peace. He gives understanding to those who ask and seek Him. Rather than being influenced and driven by this life, we must become Kingdom minded and Spirit led into the peace that passes all understanding. To the place of refuge. To the strong tower given to us to lean on and live in. His Name is Jesus. His Love is unquestionable and undeniable. His Grace unfathomable. His Glory incomprehensible. His Presence is our peace. His Place is in our heart and mind. As we begin to allow Him to take over, so will the love, peace and joy that brings full satisfaction to our soul.

Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT) God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 

Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT) “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. 

Be still, and know that I am God!

Stillness in the Lord is a decision to take our life and place it fully into the Presence of God. It means that rather than taking full responsibility for our life into our hands, we place it into the capable nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ. He is our life partner. The one who can take all our worries, cares and burdens in exchange for full satisfaction. We must trust in His Goodness and Faithfulness with full confidence that His Grace is always enough especially when we are not. Confident hope relies on trust beyond the capacity of our understanding.

We must discipline our life today with stillness. Stillness not subject to the urgency placed in us by the rush hours of life. Our persistence must be in patience not immediate gratification as we allow the Lord to do exactly what He promised according to His Timeline even when it differs significantly from our own. The Blessing of the Lord comes but without sorrow, regret, remorse or indebtedness. We are to owe no man anything but love. It is not your job to fulfill the expectations and desires of other people – it is God’s Job. Let go and let God is an effort far beyond human ability, reasoning or inclination but absolutely essential to live the abundant life that the Lord has promised us. Even when God begins to move our mountains, it will create uncertainty and instability to our flesh. Those who have learned to look to the Lord rather than man will be able to stand steadfast during the shaking until faith gives way to His Glory.

Be still today oh beating heart given to so many other things. Listen for the Lord’s whisper in the stampede of the holiday rush. Pursue the Presence of Prince of Peace and let Him overtake you! He will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Him!

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

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.”

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.

The D-Word

Dare To Be Disciplined

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Puppy

New Puppy

Colossians 3:12-13 (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.

I am really not sure why or how I thought a new puppy was necessary but in my crazy need for nurturing there is a new family member. Her name is Scout and she is a massive Labrador Retriever. Her daddy is larger than most in his breed and she is definitely daddy’s girl. So much so, that is hard to conceive that she is only nine months old. We have had a few dogs over the years. All Chihuahuas and none above about 8 or 9 pounds. Scout is already about 16 pounds. She lumbers around like a toddler requiring constant supervision as she is currently “teething”. She wailed driving away from her parents and siblings. Crate training is our method of pet handling and she does not agree with our methodology so her first night home was a living nightmare. She wailed and whined as though being tortured until finally like any baby falling asleep. I was near tears heading to bed thinking what have I done? Did we really near this kind of responsibility? Oh my goodness!

Many people recommend this breed of dog. She has great potential not only as a pet but maybe even as a duck hunting dog when she is older. Right now. She is a demanding puppy in need of much love, training and discipline to teach her acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. She requires a commitment. It will take a whole lot of patience although last night I pretty much felt like she was going back. I believe the Lord is going to teach me something valuable and important in this process. Our other dogs have been rescues. Dogs that were brought home and discarded. Each required some retraining and discipline along with great patience. But this is my first baby – dog that it is – I keep telling myself I raised five human babies so surely I must be able to do the same for this animal.

Puppies are obviously not as important as people but still require commitment and patience to nurture and develop successfully. I wonder what might happen if we made the same commitment to difficult relationships and undisciplined people as we do the new puppy at home. Do we cast them off when they do not get it or continually mess up? Do we become tired of cleaning up their messes? Paying the price to care for them? The breach in relationships of the church and empowerment of people may be evidence that there is some work to do in this area.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. It is not always the easiest route but certain the most worthwhile highway to be taken. “Since” God chose you to be His Child, it is our responsibility to clothe our life with “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” This is not such an easy task. When I stayed home with the children, I had the time and energy to invest in dog training but now with a full-time job and other duties I am a bit overwhelmed. I am committed. I want to make it work. I wonder if I can say the same about my commitment to people. Not those easy to love, but those who may be a bit more difficult to endure. Am I tenderhearted? Am I merciful? Am I kind? Do I remain humbly engaged? Am I gentle with them? Am I patient? These are the qualities of Christ that I should be giving to all people, just as Jesus did for us.

Matthew 5:44-48 (NLT) But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. When we do such a thing, it is to act as true Kingdom kids. However, how often do people not really engage in real relationships with their own family let alone loving the unlovable and praying for problematic people? God does not withhold the sun or rain from any person. He gives each the opportunity to plant and harvest. God does not have favorites. He loves His Children and desires those who are not just the same. The Grace given by Jesus makes us all His Beloved whether we accept Him or not. Kindness to our family and friends is to be expected but loving everyone can be a challenge. It takes a commitment to Christ and others that does not go back on its word. It is a life-long endeavor.

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.”

The next few months should prove quite interesting for our family. Our newest family member has a lot to learn to become the pet that I believe she will be – a loyal and trusting companion. I have made the commitment to her. I have promised to give her the time and attention needed. The discipline and training required. The patience and love necessary to make her feel secure in our home. I wonder if I can say that same about people? Will I be a loyal friend and trusted companion to those the Lord has placed all around me? Will I make a commitment to love them unconditionally and provide grace for every insufficiency in our relationship> Will I be patient and loving? Encouraging? Will I be faithful to my commitment to Jesus Christ by loving them as He has loved me? Our new puppy is teaching me lessons from the moment she arrived. Reminding me of my commitment to Christ to love those who He loves and give my life away to them. Jesus help me. With this new little puppy for sure, but even more so with those around me. The people I encounter in each day of ordinary life. Let my love for them be extraordinary. May the commitment to Christ that I have made be evident in my care and concern for them. I hope to apprehend each enemy with so much love and grace that they cannot be an enemy any more. Jesus thank you for this lesson in love. I needed the reminder. Now about this dog…

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) 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.

Fizzy Soda

Fizzy Soda

Psalm 34:8-10 (NLT) Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Have you ever been then grocery getter for your house? You have those thin and useless plastic bags rolling around in the back of the car. When you get home an army of helpers hoping to plunder the new supplies arrive to help carry the hoard in. Some of those big two-liter bottles of soda were on sale so you got them BOGO or to the novice shopper – buy one, get one free. Immediately, my people turn up their nose at them. In my efforts to be a wise consumer, I find that they do not want the surplus of soda and list their complaints. Opening the bottles at the release of pressure, the dark syrupy liquid becomes a foaming bomb shooting soda everywhere creating a huge mess that even the dog is incapable of licking it all up. They don’t like the way that after a day or so they go flat – no matter how tight the lid is kept or how quickly they try to consume it. When the fizz is gone – so is their appetite for the once coveted drink. In all fairness, I bought them for portion control. Tired of pouring their unwanted, forgotten soft drinks down the sink that sounds like change falling in the drain. Yet now, I have a garage full of unwanted bottles but wait what just happened? Suddenly, they are grabbing water bottles instead. How did that happen?

For more than a week, I have had this image of fizzy soda in my head along with the idea that it is just like the zeal a Christian might have at first for the things of God. We come to the Lord full of expectation and excited about the potential of His Spirit’s Inhabitation in life. But once the “fizz” is gone, our life goes flat so we return to our old life and old way of thinking abandoning the potential of faith in God that remains there. Where are we once the excitement is gone? What happens when things take longer than expected? Why is discipline necessary? God is greater than all things. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He supplies all we need but when I ask I must wait. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. We must desire to move from things that are not good for us to those things that benefit our life. It will be a struggle in a world that offers immediate gratification and feeds our emotions. God wants us to be godly people who have joy in Him and those who trust Him will lack no good thing.

For the last month or so, I have been attempting to give up a beloved diet drink. Is it bad for me? Depends on who you ask. Water is better for me. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. When I was young, my birth mom was a “Coke” addict in the soft drink form. She gave it to us freely. As I began to share time between both parents’ homes, my new mom provided sweet tea – the soft drink of the South. Loved it and consumed it freely. However, I became more aware as I grew older that water is a much better choice. However, I don’t necessarily want water. I don’t care for the taste. I don’t really want it or desire it. It is good for me in many ways. It is the best for my body health wise. It is excellent for my skin. It keeps me well-hydrated. But I prefer other things and none of that I desire is illegal or prohibited. I make the choice to drink a gallon of water or at least try to every day. What I have found is the more water I consume the less capacity that I have for those things that are not as good for me. Water is more beneficial. How does this all tie together? I am glad that you asked.

So many times, we try to make a Godly life resemble our good life worldly expectations applying our appetite to the things that the Holy Spirit would like to do in us and through us. Did you know that the primary content in all soft drinks is water? We add the sugar or sugar substitute. We put the carbonation in it that makes it fizzy. Have you ever noticed that conscientious parents do not give their newborns soft drinks or tea? They give them milk. If not straight from mom, they sterilize the bottles. Everything they do is to make sure that their baby grows, develops and matures. God sees us as His Children. He feels the same way.

I Peter 2:1-3 (NLT) So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Pure spiritual milk. What is it? I believe that it is the Word of God. We must know the Word to enter fully into a productive relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. Salvation is not an arranged marriage but a personal choice to engage in an active and committed relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord. We make that choice. All things are permissible yet not all things are beneficial. Just as in our relationships naturally, there must be development and growth to mature our relationship so it is no longer superficial. If we are not growing in the Lord, we are growing apart from Him. I find it interesting that in this passage, it says, “Get rid of all evil behavior.” Then it begins to talk about things that destroy relationships first. To cry out for nourishment once we have tasted the Lord’s Kindness is to grow in our knowledge and capacity to love the Lord and other people. We focus on our list of seven deadly sins and regard religious rules and regulations but miss the part about love. God is love. To be godly we must be good lovers.

John 7:38 (NLT) “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

A newborn primarily exists on milk although the newest parenting trend does add water at an early age. When my babies were little, I only gave them milk, some juice and lots of water. Growing in our walk with Christ, spiritual milk gives way to living water. Jesus promised that living water would flow from His Heart to us. He has given us His Spirit. The Word of God works with the Spirit of God to allow us those benefits offered to those who choose the better way over the permissible options in life. We must discipline our body and mind to live a healthy spiritual life. Have you ever tried to take candy from a baby?

The little children at our church flock to “Memaw” a beloved matriarch. She always has a sugary candy treat for them so after service like little ducklings they flock to her. They want the contents of her big bag. They know she has treats for them. However, mom and dad have the opportunity to train their children in healthy habits. Thank God I am headed into “memaw” days! I found with my own children that in order to take something from them, I offered them a better choice. If they did not want the new thing, they would often pitch a fit. As a mom, I hated that they were so upset but my heart was set on giving them the very best start in life. Candy and sugar was limited. I made sure they were given the right food – all the things that were nutritious. Too many times, it is human nature to cave in to emotions rather than stand strong for goodness and so it is with the church.

Romans 10:1-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

To pursue God emotionally but not spiritually is misdirected zeal. To claim to know Him but not take in the spiritual milk and living water is spiritual suicide. You are starving your spirit to feed your flesh. False teachers pave new roads every day and we fall for it because our flesh is strong and our spirit weak. Many years ago, in order to lose some weight, I switched from full-powered soft drinks to diet soda. Ironically or not so much, it was after a Daniel Fast, where for a solid month I only drank water. After becoming addicted to them, I read an article that warned of the high sodium content in diet drinks that they wreaked havoc on weight loss efforts. How is this possible? Well, the sodium that settled in our body soaked up the water and got fat, too to put it in layman’s terms. Bottom line – water retention. Ugh! Darned if you do and darned if you don’t. Is it possible that rather than relying on water – we are substituting things in our life that are not God’s Best and of no benefit. Absolutely.

Zeal is not bad. In fact, the Bible encourages and endorses spiritual fervor for the Living God. Romans 12:11 tells us to never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. See the “but” – it is our warning. It is easy to direct our zeal toward the Lord, and then get detoured, delayed, or distracted. In fact, it is the greatest scheme of the enemy. He challenges our knowledge of God every day in the temptations of life. Religion is the diet soda of the church. Rather than truly loving people somehow church folks get an appetite for judgment and hypocrisy based on false knowledge of God who expects love to be our first and foremost motivation. If I can do it, God is not required. It’s everything I cannot do that is where grace causes His Power to manifest. I am not supposed to be strong but weak and reliant on Jesus Christ for all things every day. The psalmist admits in Psalm 119 that “zeal wears me out” and goes on to admit that his enemies ignore his words. Words must hold power. The power of my words is based on my knowledge of the Truth and its ability to set me free. I am free to choose the life I live.

God is not emotional. Our feelings do not move the heart of God or His Hand, His Focus is set on our future. He is working in us now for forever. Endurance means making it to the end. It is a struggle because usually somewhere around the middle we begin to wonder what were we thinking. Towards the end, everything in us screams quit. Those who endure to the end are honored because not many will. When the zeal is gone and the fizz goes flat in their spiritual life, many become discouraged, discontent and disinterested in Living Water which runs steadily and consistently in us. Water seems boring. It doesn’t seem like anything of worth. Yet 71% of the earth is covered in it, and mankind is made up of about 60% water. It would seem that water is important. Living water is essential to spiritual survival and one’s ability to thrive in Jesus Christ. Maybe there are substitutions in our life that must be filtered out so that we can engage in spiritual growth and development again rather attempting to survive in deprivation.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

People spend a great deal of time on what they consume. Whether deciding what to eat or where to eat. Challenged to consume more or eat less or even just make better food choices. Intake is a primary concern in many households. There are even some that wonder if they will get to eat. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. The first day of the water challenge was horrible for me. I didn’t want to drink one glass of water let alone almost eight. Some days I do great and other days I choke it down. I know that if I stick to it that over time I will develop a taste for it. Why the struggle? Water is good for me. It is good for my body and skin. I hate when my flesh dictates things so the more it fights me – the more I fight back. I want a healthy body.

God is not building a building – He is creating a body. The Body of Christ. The Bride for His Son. It is important that I do my part to be the best member of the Kingdom I can be not for others or even me but to be who I promised to be when I partnered with Jesus. I would become less and He would be more. I would decrease so He could increase. I John 3:20-21 is clear that God is not an emotionally-driven God. Thank you, Lord! His People are emotional enough. When our spiritual life goes flat, maybe God is facilitating an appetite change in us that will produce growth and maturity. He is giving us something better if we will endure the process of refinement. Our flesh wants none of it and will fight it all the way. Until our relationship is not emotional but faithful – the blessings and benefits promised in His Word may seem elusive. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are exclusive. Exclusively for God’s Children, those who decide to use their freedom to become part of the Body of Christ rather than building another church.

To become rooted and grounded in the Love of God through Jesus Christ, we must stop wavering back and forth. Discipline gives way to faithfulness when we decide to engage in the process called endurance. We must move from the emotionalism of infancy into the steadfastness of adulthood – the Body of Christ must mature to become effective. The Holy Spirit and Goodness of God’s Word produce the spiritual growth potential in the lives of those who are committed to its consumption daily. (Hebrews 6:1-6) We must learn to hold on to the progress made in our spiritual life and build upon it. (Philippians 3:14-16) If our goal is to press on and obtain the high calling, we need something to stand on. The firm foundation of faith built in trust is the only way to reach the heavenlies and bring it to earth. God promised that our earthly life and heavenly existence can be connected in heaven and on the earth. We put in the effort.

Discipline is not a warm fuzzy feeling but a tough painful process. Immediate gratification is not part of it but endurance is. There may be some things in our life that although they are permissible are not beneficial to our walk with the Lord. When runners pass a checkpoint, they are not handed coffee or a can of soda. The helpers hand them water or a supplement filled with electrolytes to replace those used while they run. What do we give others when tired, thirsty or weary? When weighted with sin, do we give them yet another set of rules to fail at or the grace that has been so sufficient for me? The first discipline that is to be readily accepted in the modern church is love. Not love for the rules and regulations set forth by religion, but to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ and relaying it to the world including every single person in it. Our language is love and we must not only speak it but live it. You cannot give what you do not have. God’s Word and His Spirit give us new life to give to others. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. Has your spiritual fervor gone flat? Are you growing disinterested in God’s Way? It is time to make a change. Call a fast. Ask the Lord to stir you up. It is up to you to develop a taste for spiritual things rather than feeding full of substitutions. God has given us everything we need to live a godly life – now we just have to tap into it. It’s a choice. Better life or best life. Permissible or beneficial. Good or God! I know what I am after…how about you?

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NLT) His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 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. 

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.

 

I Must Press

i-must-press

Philippians 3:12-14 (AMP) Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi

Perfection is impossible to achieve on the earth. Those who live in pursuit of perfection will one day achieve it. Jesus Christ is perfect. Sinless. Selfless. He belongs to me. Paul said, “I have not obtained or been made perfect…but I actively press on to take hold of perfection.” (Paraphrased) There is a better life worth having. God has empowered us with all that is needed to attain. It is the inheritance claimed by repentance as one returns to His Father through Jesus Christ. It belongs to us. We just have to desire it enough to “come boldly” to get it. Jesus has given us the keys to the Kingdom. I am free to use them at any time. The door is locked to keep the enemy from taking what is designated as mine. Shaking the keys does not scare the enemy, however; when I decide to use the Keys to the Kingdom to release God’s Power in my life – he will tremble and flee. The devil’s roar is no match for the Lion of Judah.

I must press for perfect to walk in excellence. This is true in all aspects of life. When I decide to be the best in any given area, it is a mind, body and soul decision to press past every obstacle, overcome every weakness and push past every barrier that keeps me from success. Vince Lombardi was a great football coach. He coached in the National Football League. The highest award in football bears his name, The Vince Lombardi Trophy is given to the winner of the Super Bowl. Certainly, his attitude reflected in his statement was emulated in his life. What about you? I wonder what would happen if we set our heart on Heaven and Jesus as heavily as we do on natural achievements? What if I got up early to work the Word instead working my body? What if I left ten minutes early to make it to church as I do to get to the office early? What if I engaged in conversations with the Lord as much as other people? What if I sought the affirmation, acceptance and approval of Jesus Christ as much as every other person who roams the planet? What if my foremost expectation was in Christ alone? Would I press? Would I pursue perfection that is Jesus Christ?

“I press on toward the goal to win the (heavenly prize) of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The word “press” has two meanings: 1) to move by weight or force in a certain direction or into a certain position, and 2) to compress or squeeze as to alter shape or size. If our goal in life is to become a new creation and engage in transformation both of these are applicable in our life. We cannot stay as we were and become who God created us to be. We cannot remain still and not become stagnant. God is moving. I must learn to live, move and breathe with Him. His Spirit in me presses out the impure to make room for the pure through the process called conviction. Jesus invites us to become yoked to Him so we can go where He goes, say what He says, and do what He does. We want to remain the victim, but Jesus tells us no you are an overcomer. A victim is not a victor. It is moving from one role to the other where victory is achieved and the prize obtained in life.

Matthew 11:28-30 (AMP) “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”

The biggest handicap in Christianity is ignorance. In fact, Hosea 4:6 says that people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Knowledge is to know God’s Word. Wisdom is when it is applied to life. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ means knowing the Word. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. (John 1) To attempt to follow Jesus but not know the Word is to wander aimlessly without a map, compass or GPS to guide the way. To walk by faith and not by sight means there must be something to guide us where we cannot see to go. Our faith must be found in Jesus Christ. Our faith must be in the Word of God. Our faith must believe enough to follow Him.

Are you ready to press? Matthew 11:28-30 is not about Jesus picking you up and carrying you through life. Read it again. It says plainly, “Take My Yoke upon you and learn from me.” A yoke joins two together to walk as one. Jesus invites us to walk with Him. He teaches us how to live, move and breathe in Him. Our weakness is given up for His Power in grace. Grace is achieved when I humble my life to accept His Salvation and live in His Righteousness. It is when I discard the filthy rags and assume the Robe of Righteousness offered to me by His Nail-Scarred Hands. Old wineskin cannot carry new wine. (Matthew 9:16-17) With this in mind, I cannot expect a new life or to be a new creation which is absolutely necessary to claim perfection when I meet the Lord one day, if I am not willing to press today.

John 5:5-9 (NLT) One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! 

The man was sick for 38 years. The woman with the issue of blood suffered for 12 years. Both had infirmities that would be healed by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith applies pressure to the possibilities in our life that will cause us to push past impossible and receive the miraculous. However, if I am satisfied with my life remaining status quo, good enough, or I settle for less to maintain comfort and complacency – the real problem is a lack of faith. Desperation will press us to step out of our weakness and infirmity. The important question here is “would you like to get well?”

To be well requires change. It will mean doing something or a series of things that you are not necessarily comfortable doing. It will require faith that is more than rhetoric but a reality in your life. The man sitting by the pool was a victim in life. When he met Jesus that day, he was faced with a choice. Do I continue to wait for someone to carry me? Or am I going to press for perfection by responding to the Word? He chose the better. He pressed past the impossible and obtained the miraculous the moment he gave up being a victim to take hold of victory. He believed. His faith changed everything once put in Jesus and not anyone or anything else.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Jesus is telling us the very same thing today. Stand up. Press. Apply pressure and force to that thing called faith within you. Give it some attention. Nurture it. Feed it. Foster it. Force it to grow. Label it “purpose” and make it a priority in your life. What if the only thing keeping you from supernatural living is you? How sad would it have been if the man waved off Jesus keeping his eyes on the water and facilitating fruitless relationships hoping someone might carry him? How tragic if the woman with issues stayed home that day inhibited by the judgment of others and hindered by the crowds allowing her weakness to hold her captive forever? Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to “help us in our weakness”. (Romans 8) He is working in harmony with God’s Will for us to achieved and succeed according to God’s Plan for our life. He is our helper which means that I must still be doing something to promote this radical change faith produces in our life.

Mark 8:33-37 (NLT) Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “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 and for the sake of the Good News, 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?

In an effort to improve my physical well-being, I have engaged in a “squat challenge” for the month of February. Every day I have committed to a certain number of squats. The first day it was just fifty. Today on day 18 – it is now up to 155. On the last day of the challenge, the goal is 250. I cannot even imagine such a feat. I am disciplining my body to do the exercises every day. When I begin a set, I feel good, powerful, and have the mindset for success. About halfway through, it gets more difficult. My momentum begins to slow. I am becoming out of breath. My legs grow shaky. Sweat begins to form on my brow. Toward the end of the set is when my thoughts begin to rally against my commitment. I want to stop. Give in to the discomfort. Stop and catch my breath. I must press to complete the set. I must push past the pain in my body, the discomfort in my chest, and the thoughts in my head to finish. Why? I have made it my goal to be successful in this challenge and kick start a plan for better health and wellness. Why don’t we apply such principles in our spiritual life as well?

We would not need the qualities of patience and endurance if the walk of faith was easy. It’s not. It kills our flesh and ignores our thoughts. It presses on for something greater than our natural senses can perceive therefore needs a higher perspective obtained only through the Word of God and close alignment with His Son. I must put forth the energy. I must make a commitment. I must take responsibility for my part of the partnership in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I must decide I am no longer a victim in this life but will pursue victory in all things. I must become an overcomer because greater is He who is in me. I cannot try to drag Jesus to defeat because He will not go there, but continues to lead me to victory. I must press. I must push, I cannot give up or risk being left behind. If I submit my weakness to Jesus Christ by faith, I will be made whole. But it won’t happen if I don’t press! I will remain subject to people or clothed in my issues. I must apply weight and force to my fear. I must squeeze out every doubt. The Lord promises to help me if I just yoke myself to Him. I must press. Will you?

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT) All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.