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

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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

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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.

Dare To Be Disciplined

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Proverbs 10:17 (NLT) People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.

The dirty little word called “discipline.” It makes our pride buck up. Our mind comes to complete attention. The call to order within our mind, body and soul. It is the pathway to life called the Highway of Holiness. If you look around, it can be a lonely road. The destination is important. It is eternity. Forever. To cross from death to life forever with our Savior and the Lover of our souls. How I choose to live this life directly impacts my future. Do not be deceived. Without proper discipline, I will not see the Kingdom of God. I will not endure. Destination is secured by direction. Direction is heeded by discipline. I can route and reroute as much as I want because I am free to do as I please. However, if I have a particular goal in mind, a certain desired destination then I must choose a disciplined life to obtain that which I am after.

This is not just applicable to our life in Christ but all endeavors. We must set a course. Develop a plan. Decide our course. Discipline is the vehicle that carries us from point A to point B successfully. Discipline is behavior in accordance with rules of conduct. My attitude and actions must be maintained by training and control that is not natural. It is taking the knowledge given to us by God and applying it to our life. The reward of such an endeavor is called wisdom. Why? Why is this thing called “discipline” so important? Jesus has given us grace to overcome our weakness. God supplies new mercy each day to erase yesterday’s mistakes and make a way for today. Why do I need discipline?

Genesis 5:23-24 (NLT) Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

Genesis 6:8-9 (NLT) But Noah found favor with the Lord. This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

My deepest desire in life is to walk like Enoch. To exhibit the faithfulness of Noah in response to God’s Direction in my life. To live a life of absolute faith in Jesus Christ and complete dependence of God in all things. This is not a natural lifestyle but requires supernatural discipline. My flesh wants no part of it because it is pride’s death sentence. My mind will always create opposition to the unseen relied on by faith and confident hope because it desires knowledge that is common and logical. My heart and soul desire a connection to God so close that I disappear and all that is seen is the Light of His Love through me. I want my offering to become the sacrifice of seed in others honoring the altar Noah built after the flood. The one that produced promises for all mankind not just goodness and grace in His Life. If this is your goal to be one with the Lord, one must take hold of discipline and never let go.

Revelation 3:19-21 (NLT) I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

Each day the Lord desires to move closer to you. His Deepest Desire is to commune with us dwelling in our life as friends. This type of relationship is not movement on His Part but acceptance on our part. To give up my way and fully embrace the Way is an act of discipline. Discipline opens the door of fellowship between the Lord and I. It allows me to partake of the feast that is set before me by the Hand of God and have His Favor in my life. The key to spiritual success is not found in religious duty or church doctrine. The door of communion with Christ is opened by relationship. Discipline rights indifference. We must become diligent in discipline to have a right relationship with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:11 (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.

The month of February became the new January for me. My usual foray back to the gym and decision to make healthy eating choices did not start until the second month of the year. For the last couple of weeks in January, I plotted and planned my strategy. As the new month grew closer, my body loathed the turn of the calendar. My mind made many excuses as to why the timing was not right. However, come February I started. One of the changes was a “squat” challenge recommended by a friend. She faithfully followed the plan for a month with excellent results. The first couple days were tough, but by the third day – I could barely walk. My legs were stiff and every muscle in my lower extremities ached to the point of tears. These muscles had been dormant for months. I disciplined my body to endure the discomfort, press on, and keep doing it despite all these things. Now well into week two, my body is beginning to accept the new way of life.

No discipline is enjoyable. It is painful most of the time. Whether physical, mental or spiritual – our humanity is not a fan of discipline because it requires giving up our way, comfort and complacency to accept change. For forty years, the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. During that time, the Lord provided everything they needed according to His Plan. The people became disciplined in following the Lord and indifference was killed off never making it to the Promised Land. The Children of God were not punished during that time as some complained but rather in a training process under the strictest control by God. Their shoes didn’t even wear out during the journey. God protected them from the tops of their heads to the souls of their feet. The difference between punishment and discipline is relationship. If my child enters my house when I am not home, he or she is welcomed. My adult children all know how to get in. They are still my kids. But if a stranger comes in uninvited, well they are consider to be an intruder and the law will be called. Discipline versus punishment is defined by our relationship with God. He will not let anyone come to Him over the fence but must come through the Gate called Beautiful. His Name is Jesus and there is only one way – God’s Way. Faith opens the gate and discipline guides us through.

I Corinthians 11:27-31 (NLT) So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.

If our goal in life is to be close to Christ and live in His Shadow, discipline is absolutely necessary to filter our life of those things which keep us from a right relationship. It is by paying careful attention to our walk with Christ to ensure a proper relationship. This is not about never sinning though our goal is to avoid sin. Never falling – everyone makes mistakes as part of the growth process. It is not absent of failure – it takes the pit to make the palace just ask Joseph. Failure produces humility that causes the King of Kings Face to shine His Favor on us. Discipline is a commitment to never give up making our way closer to God by allowing His Word, Will and Way to shape our behavior. We must love discipline. (Proverbs 12:1) Respect for the Lord and His Ways are the foundation of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7) To reject discipline is harming us. (Proverbs 15:32) Discipline purifies our heart so that we come to the Lord’s Table worthily. (Proverbs 20:30) Not just during a Communion Service at church, but in our daily fellowship with Jesus Christ as friends. Discipline is not just a change in our attitude but our actions back it up. (Proverbs 29:19) Discipline must be evidenced in our deeds as well. The Holy Spirit helps us as He offers self-control to become a fruit in our life that sustains us causing discipline to thrive.

Isaiah 38:16-18 (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.

A woman at church approached me a few years back at the gym of all places. She had discovered this blog sharing that she also felt called to be a writer. She then asked, “How do you find time to write every day?” I quickly responded, “I get up two hours early each day to spend time with the Lord.” She began shaking her head, “Well, I can’t do that. I love my sleep.” I chuckled a minute because I love to sleep, too. Mornings are not my favorite at all. Then I realized she was completely serious and my heart grew heavy for her in that moment. She gave up an hour almost every day to maintain her health but she was willing to give up her calling for a couple hours of sleep. What have you given up your calling for? What is the thing that makes you comfortable and complacent enough to become indifferent to the whispers of Jesus to come deeper? Discipline will break the stronghold of indifference in our life. It connects us with our destiny. It puts on the course to the proper destination which is eternal life. We cannot have a right relationship with God our Father and Jesus if we do not accept discipline from Him. If the goal of my life is to be found IN Christ, I must use discipline as the vehicle to get there. Faith without works is dead. Discipline is evidence of deeds worthy of His Calling. Discipline never leads to disqualification. It is the pathway to life.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT) 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.

To Be A Champion

Confetti and trophy

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Can I encourage you a little bit today? To all those who are tired, weary, and on the verge of giving up, can I offer a little insight today? Does this race of faith seem just a little too long? Is endurance a longer word than you thought? Is persistence requiring patience you just do not have? Do not give up. Stay right where you are. You can be a champion. If Jesus Christ lives within you and eternity is etched on your heart, there is no fall to far, failure to fatal or loss to bad for you to be the victorious overcomer that the Lord has called you to be. In fact, champions are not winners all the time. Yes, you heard me correctly. It takes losses to be the lessons. It takes weakness to find new strength. It takes humility to overcome the pride that wages war against our flesh. You must breakdown fat to find muscle. You must have a broken heart to be saved.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us. What is slowing you down today? What is tripping you up? What is the obstacle that you named Goliath too big to overcome? Goliath came crashing down with a little stone marked faith planted square between the eyes. What are you hurling at that mountain refusing to move? Are you being tossed to and fro by the wind, waves and storm swirling around you? Endurance is needed for athletes to become champions. Persistence is the pays it forward for them to overcome losses to obtain the big win. Champions overcome failure to grab hold of victory. Failure does not make you a loser. Never trying again is what labels quitters. Jesus is our example. He was not a failure. The Lord never quit, but that didn’t mean in human form it was not a temptation. Jesus is our champion. He gives us the ability to be a champion, too!

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” What makes Jesus our champion? Dying on the Cross did not give Him that honor. If Jesus had died for our sin, and remained in the grave – He would not be a champion. What made Jesus our Champion is the fact that after He died – He did not stay in the grave but came walking out with the keys to death and the grave firmly in His Hand! This is our encouragement today. To fail a test, lose our way, or give in to sin now and again does not take away our potential to be overwhelmingly victorious in life. Grace would not be necessary if this were the case. God would not give us new mercy each day. Renewal, restoration and revival would not be promised if one pitfall was all it took to take away our victory. Those who endure to the end will be saved. They will obtain the crown of righteousness offered by our Champion – Jesus Christ. Somebody needs to hear that today. You are not defined by your past, your today, your failures, your shortcomings, your weakness or even devastating heartbreak – what makes you a champion is when you decide despite all things I am going get back up and do it again.

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.

Champions realize their purpose and capitalize on potential. Perseverance is an act of discipline. It is to push our mind, soul and body past the natural limitations of our flesh and decide that faith is our primary goal. Faith is never a natural thing but always dependent on the supernatural. It is all about what we cannot see, the highly unlikely outcome and even the impossible that is promised to us in God’s Word. It is the thing that makes us send away our Hagar and Ishmaels because God promised us Isaac. It is the determination to put away the things of this world to make room for His Kingdom. All athletes are disciplined in training. They set a goal in their heart long ago that is not dependent on their team but solely defined by a heart that refuses to quit and sees the glory of their goal. We must decide as believers what our true purpose is in Jesus Christ. What has He called you to do? What is your calling? Calling is not what you feel necessarily qualified to do. Purpose defines the potential of our life. It is in the commitment of our natural life to godly purpose in each step of every day that will bring it to life as we discipline our mind, soul and body to keep persevering and never give up on what God is doing in us and Christ died for us to accomplish.

Matthew 26:36-41 (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? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

I love that the Lord inspired this passage in the Word of God. We need to see the humanness of Christ in order to understand that Jesus is truly a valid example. He saw the future. He knew the agony not only of the physical nature of crucifixion, but the torture of each sin to be laid upon Him in that moment. His Father, God, was going to turn His Face from His Son. Every wretched disease would soon leave a strip down His Back. Jesus was God incarnate but His Flesh was real just like ours. His Body would feel every terrible torture that would be endured to set us free. He asked God, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken from me.” Jesus knows what it feels like to come to the end of self. He knows the feeling of weakness due to the oppression of flesh. It doesn’t matter how willing our spirit is to follow in His Footsteps, the weakness of our body will always try to stop us.

There are many athletes who must overcome weakness, pain and injury to become a champion. It is not the absence of such things that afford them the title but their mindset that no matter what they will give their all. They are persistent in training and strengthening of their body investing countless hours in training. They give up time with their family, friends, hobbies, and just loafing around to preparation. They endure insult and injury to play the game they love so much. Pain doesn’t stop them – they push through it willing to pay the price when it’s over. Champions see the potential and prize ahead of them and refuse to give up. They may be taken out of the game but a true champion will never leave the game willingly.

2 Corinthians 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.

God has filled each human heart with purpose. It is marked eternity and labeled with the promise “made beautiful for its own time”. Champions pursue purpose. The potential to be the best is the drive and motivation of their heart. Where do you spend your time? What is the prevailing thought you strive for? What is life all about to you? When our passion, pursuit and purpose becomes the Kingdom it will change the pathway of our life. The Light in our heart is His Glory. It shines brightly in our brokenness and weakness as death gives way to life in us. With each step of faith – our purpose becomes more evident which means our opponent sets his sight on overtaking it. Nobody wants to play the loser. They want to play the champion to take away the crown of victory.

The enemy comes like a thief to steal, kill and destroy. His onslaught more pervasive when purpose begins to breakthrough sin, shame, doubt and disbelief. The moment you believe that you will overcome – is the second you gain the enemy’s full attention. He is going to pressure you to give up and attempt to perplex you by filling your mind with lies tempting you to stop the nonsense. A stealth predator it is not uncommon for him to wait until you are alone, feeling somewhat isolated, and vulnerable to try to separate you from others. Champions are hunted. When they get knocked down, they get back up. Endurance, perseverance, persistence and discipline cause flesh to suffer but with each conquest new life is produced in us. These are the qualities that define champions. Though they are pursued they do not stop because they see the prize and desire it more than anything.

John 16:1 (NLT) “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.

John 16:33 (NLT) “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

These are the words of Jesus before He ventured to the Cross. Before He felt the coldness of death and solitude of the grave. These were his parting words before marching straight into hell and taking back the Keys to the Kingdom which was about to hand to you. Jesus knew His Purpose. He was a champion. He won the victory over death and the grave. Super Bowl Sunday is just a little over a week away. We watched the division championships last weekend. I noticed that during the presentation of the trophy – it was not the most valuable player of the game, the quarterback or the coach who received it but in each case an elderly gentleman. The announcer would then acknowledge them as the owner of the team. He was not the one who engaged in the battle on the field, took a single hit, caught a pass or even kicked a field goal. He is the one who paid the price so each one of those players could pursue their passion and achieve their purpose.

Jesus paid it all. He overcame the world so our faith would be worth something. Our purpose is faith that produces such confident hope that we can give up pursuing lesser things and overcome in all things. My life “in Christ” can achieve its purpose. My heart will satisfied when eternity is mine. Until that time, I must remain in Christ who is my champion. I must follow His Example. He never quit. Jesus never gave up. He endured suffering, temptation, isolation and even death for me to have victory over all these things. It is up to me if I will join in. Will I choose life over death? Will I pick blessing over the curse? Will I let the Light of His Love show through my broken heart, dead dreams and failures until His Glory overtakes my life? I cannot give up and be a champion. I may lose a few, but I win it all if I persevere never losing faith but always reaching for hope.

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Just to be clear, Jesus came to be a champion. He would secure victory over sin, death and the grave once and for all. What was the joy awaiting Him when Jesus stepped down from His Throne carefully placing His Crown on the seat to come to this world? He had all of Heaven. The only thing missing was you and me. He came to this earth for just one thing. His Treasure and Special Possession. He came for us. He left everything to have us with Him forever. You and me. Ordinary people who fall, fail and stray just about every day – but Jesus wanted us. He desired us above all things and gave up His Life to have us. Will I do the same? Will you?

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ became a champion for us because He loves us. He was committed to love us even to the death, but that wasn’t long enough so He overcame death to give us a crown of righteousness so we could live as champions with Him forever. Are you fulfilling your purpose? Do you know the true potential of your life? Jesus did and He came up out of the grave to give you the power to complete it. The rest is up to you. When you feel like you have fallen too far, you haven’t the Lord is there to pick you up. When you think you have gone too far, His Spirit will lead you right back. When you wonder if it is worth it, ask Jesus because He sure thought you were. Choose to persist, persevere, pursue and prevail in every situation because in our weakness His Power is perfect. If you don’t give up but endure by faith until the end, you will win every time. Discipline is painful but defeat is agonizing. Celebrate each victory no matter how small. It is one step closer to winning it all. You are a Champion. Jesus lives in you. Don’t give up on victory today. Hold tight to your faith for it is the key. Be confident in Your Hope because God hasn’t given up on you. The best is yet to come if you believe.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Learn To Run

learn-to-run

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Not really sure how it happened, I guess I was just one bowl of ice cream away from a binge. After working for a long time to establish a good diet and consistent exercise routine, I just stopped. The workout was the first to go. Three or four days at the gym turned to one here and there, which constituted good stewardship and ending our relationship. I quit the gym. But that’s okay, I still had a “good” diet right. I ate healthy for the most part. Well, I did anyway. It did not take long for old habits to come creeping in and late night snacking to take over. Now as I like to joke with others, I have noticed a waist line that resembles a “busted can of biscuits” so it is time to bet disciplined again. It is important to be a good steward in life and that includes our health. I will never be a 5’10” super model with abs of steel. In fact, as I shared with someone yesterday, I am not so sure this model came with abs. I believe that balance in life is mind, body and soul. We cannot be healthy in our soul and it not impact our mind and body. As my soul prospers, so will I in health and other things. (3 John 1:2)

It is with this thought that I am embarking on the journey once again to get my body back under control. I am not a runner. I aspire to be one day just because I believe it to be the ultimate endurance. If you see me running right now, should probably do the same because something is obviously chasing me. However, as I gain endurance, I have learned that running becomes a little bit easier. As my heart gets stronger and lungs learn to breathe under pressure, I am able to go longer and farther without stopping to catch my breath or ease a cramp. Hebrews 12:1 offers excellent advice to those who want to run a marathon or continue in the race of faith. I am interested in both.

“We are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to (our) life of faith…” If I profess with my mouth to be a Christian, the folks around me will immediately place new expectation on me as a person. They will indeed judge me. I know God is our judge, but if we use His Name I believe that to honor Him – we must be conscious of those around us just like Jesus. Jesus was always aware of those around Him. He took notice of the weak. He looked past infirmity to find their purpose. He did not discard those clothed in darkness and filled with hatred. He reached out to them – dismissing that which was hindering them to remind them who they really were. It is easy to build walls of righteousness around us. It is even easier to “work” ourselves in a frenzy in the Name of the Lord. But until we love others like crazy…we have missed the point. Yes, they are watching. Yes, they are evaluating. And yes, they are more than likely judging you. But does it really matter what they “think” as long as in the end they find that the love that never fails. We must be aware of the huge crowd of witnesses – it is every face that we encounter in life.

“Strip off every weight that slows us down…” Our life was very chaotic during the time it took to sell our old house and move into our new home. Our church life is very busy now too as we have become more involved than we were able to be in the past several years. Our kids are on the go. The transition period completely wrecked our schedule and routine. The ordered fell into disorder. When we finally began to establish a new routine, a hurricane came blowing through our community. Now as it all settles, it is time to examine our life and place new priorities on certain things.

I believe it is easy to become undisciplined in areas that once were under strict control. Discipline is not welcomed by our flesh so if we let our guard down it is easy to become distracted. We start eating bad again because fast food does not equal healthy diets. We stop exercising because there are too many other “things” we need to do. We stop reading the Bible because work is overloading us. The prayer closet door remains closed because there is not a moment for ourselves. Church is the last thing on our mind when home is the last place we go. If we do not check the weights in our life and seek the Lord to remain in good order, we will become overloaded, weary, and weak so we give up. People experience burnout not because the burden in their life is too heavy. They burnout because they do not balance their life according to God’s Word and His Way. You can have it all but are not called to do it all.

“Especially sin…” Sin is in everyone’s life no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. No one will ever be without sin. It is human nature. We escape sin only when fully redeemed. The perception of innocence is false. It is by grace we are saved by faith because we will never overcome our battle with sin without Jesus Christ. I find that if I focus on other people’s problems with sin that I somehow fall into it myself. If another person does wrong, and I choose to discuss it with other people – I am a gossip and I have sinned. If a new person comes to church who doesn’t look like a believer, act like a Christian, or dress like the rest of the religious folks, and I look down on them or think of ways to change them OTHER than introducing them to Jesus Christ, well then I sinned again…in church no less. Comparison with anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ will always open the door to sin and darkness. He is our example.

Finally, “run with endurance the race God has set before us…” I aspire to run the marathon at Disney one day called Disney Princess Half Marathon. It supports the Children’s Miracle Network. Participants don tutus and mouse ears running for an excellent charity. Why? I have no idea other than I feel like it is impossible for me to run that far. In order for me to successfully complete the event held in February each year, I must train and run for the other months in order to be prepared. When I (notice my optimism) arrive at the event, they will give me a map of the course and mark it out so that I can follow it. God has set a course for my life. It is in each step from the moment I am born until I leave this world behind and step into eternity. Nothing is wasted or forgotten. He makes good of every detail of my life. (Romans 8:28) There are days when I fall or fail but that is not the end. It is in the rising again that I discover a little more character where my flesh used to be. It is when I push and press against adversity that I discover the overcomer who lives in me. This life is a marathon. It has a clearly marked course. We find it in the Word of God. We work to claim the Will of God. Jesus is the Way of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

“Keeping (my) eyes on Jesus…” I am good at getting distracted…the Good Lord only knows. I am surprised that He never put blinders on me. If He did, I would never develop faith. We are called to walk by faith not by sight. A word of warning needs to be interjected here. This is not just about fellow believers or those living in sin and darkness around us. We must be very, very careful not to look at preachers and teachers as our example either. I have heard people quote famous preachers from Billy Graham, Jentzen Franklin, Steven Furtick, and Joel Osteen. I have heard young people quote their leaders, teachers and the like. I challenge you to quote Jesus. To make His Word the authority in your life. To make His Spirit the guide for your life. To stop listening to what everyone else says about Jesus and experience Him one-on-one for yourself. Our encounter with Jesus Christ must be personal to be credible.

“The champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” We are in a process. This process is not a sprint but a marathon. It will always require patience and endurance whether you have them or not. Jesus is the Source of all faith. He is the only way to God the Father. (John 14:6) We cannot bypass faith and collect grace. It is by grace I am saved THROUGH faith. I must believe. I must believe that Jesus Christ has given my victory or how will I ever sell my soul on commitment. What’s the point if the end is uncertain? I can certainly find ways to entertain myself until I die if there is no relevance to Heaven.

“For the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross…” We are the joy that awaited Jesus Christ on the other side of the Cross. Do we joy enough in Jesus Christ to endure this life to reach Him on the other side? He gave up everything just to be with me. Yet, on some days, I struggle to give up small things just to be with Him. We will never be committed if find no joy in Jesus Christ. He is ready to satisfy our soul. We must believe that to engage and endure in the marathon of life called the race of faith.

I Corinthians 9:23-26 (NLT) 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 must run with purpose in every step. My life has the potential for constant victory. I can live each day in full satisfaction without disappointment. It requires a discipline in faith that I have not yet achieved but have the potential to do if I give my life to Jesus in each step. My life is recorded by God moment by moment. (Psalm 139) Nothing escaped His Immediate and Divine Attention. It is my inability to remain disciplined and committed that keeps me from fullness and completion in Jesus Christ. He demands my full attention yet I constantly find myself looking to lesser than things and giving them what belongs to God including my energy and time. Thank you Jesus that your Grace is enough for me to get back on track again and again and again. You have a prize for me worth having if I will just discipline myself and devote this life to You.

Philippians 2:13-18 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.  But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

Are you stuck in a rut? Is there a certain part of your life naturally or spiritually that has become a place of discontentment? Are you tired all the time? Do you feel weak and weary? Do you feel like God has moved away from you? Or that Jesus is no longer with you? That’s God. He is working in us giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. He will never force us to change but encourages us from deep within. How do I know? You came with a measure of faith that is purposed to grow. When we pray and seek the Lord, it nourishes that seed and it begins to press back against every oppressive thing in its way from full realization. We become discontent. We feel isolated. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. What happens? We begin to dig deeper in His Word, seek out His Face, call on His Name and He comes rushing in to lead us, guide us and direct us to better things. It is God’s Love moving inside of you telling you to get up, dust yourself off and start running again.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” Do not speak against the promise that is putting pressure on your life for change by griping all the time. Such conversation is a curse on that promise and alignment with the enemy’s declaration on your life. You are an overcomer. You are a winner. You are a runner. You are a mover. You’ve got things to do that require messing up your routine. You have a purpose that is not on the corporate ladder. You have people to reach so your arms must be emptied of all that extra weight and unnecessary burdens you picked up along the way. God is rearranging our lives to make room for the discipline and commitment that leads to revival and full redemption. “Hold firmly to the Word of Life.” You cannot give up! It is those who endure to the end who are saved. Most mamas want to give up in the process of labor just before the baby is born. It hurts. You are tired. You don’t think you can give any more to the process. It is with that last push something wonderful and perfect emerges in your life. The promise you have waited for all this time is here. God is doing the same in you, my friend. He is birthing a promise more wonderful than any child ever born. It is called faith. It is the one thing that can take you into Eternity to live in His Love forever. We must learn to run and not grow weary. Walk and not fall. We run this race of faith with purpose. Never giving up until we win!

Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Make Up Your Mind

Make Up Your Mind

Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Every morning my husband and I make our bed before heading out for the day. We were taught as children to do so and it has carried over into adulthood. According to Hunch.com, in a survey of 68.000 people – 59% of people do not make their beds and only 27% do. About 12% pay a housekeeper to make it…lucky them. Of those who made their bed, 71% considered themselves happy but 62% of non-bed makers admit being unhappy. Bed makers were found more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly and fell well rested, but those who did not make their bed indicated that they hated their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired each day. Overall those who took the time to make their bed each day were happier and more successful overall.

 

How does making your bed improve your life? Apparently, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment, it creates a positive state of mind, lowers stress, prevents embarrassment and leads to other good habits. Who knew? I made my bed as a child because my mother asked me to. I make it now because it is a habit. According to Time magazine, it is one of the top 12 things extremely successful people do along with waking up early, exercise, spending quality time with family, connect with spouses, and pursue passion. Success is a mindset. We develop the habits and routines that define our ability to be productive in life. How can something as simple as making your bed better your life? It has nothing to do with a piece of furniture covered in sheets sitting in the center of your bedroom. It is all about that much smaller space located in between our ears and the lobe of thinking mass called our brain.

I believe the secret to success in the natural and spiritual realm is achieved by having a made up mind every single day. When we awaken in the morning after hitting the snooze button one, two, three or more times, precious time is lost in our morning that could be committed to a made up mind. It sets the course of our day. I am not a morning person. I try not to speak that in the natural anymore because I know now that my words hold power. I use them here simply so one may relate. I find sleep deprivation to be the biggest challenge for me at times. I require a certain amount of sleep to function properly. However, I used to be a night owl staying up all hours of the night to early morning. I had to begin going to bed at 10:00 PM disregarding if I was tired or not, but just doing it so that I could get up earlier and spend time with the Lord each day. I get up around 4:45 AM on the average during the week and around 7:30 AM on the weekends. It is my routine. When I get up, I head straight to my prayer closet and spend time with the Lord. I want Him to tell me something new about Him. I want Him to reveal something in me. Anything is fine. It can be something good or something I need to work on. It really doesn’t matter just as long as He is here.

 

What I have noticed over the years is that as I have taken control of my schedule, established a new routine, and developed better habits – my life is more successful. My flesh still fights some of the changes even though my mind is aware of the benefit. I must make up my mind each day who is in control. It begins by reconciling my thoughts to Jesus Christ. I must set my mind on things above, not on things on the earth. My life is hidden in Christ. I must make up my mind to find my life in Jesus.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

This morning when I woke up, this verse was circulating in my mind. The Holy Spirit was clearing up and running before I opened my eyes. It is not unusual to be stirred by the Lord in our sleep. I think God wakes us up at 3:00 AM sometimes because it is the only time that He is able to get undivided attention. If we give Him time in each day, maybe there would be fewer times that we cannot sleep at night. Hold fast the confession of hope without wavering. The Lord is clearly telling me that I must make up my mind about something. I am pretty sure what that is but maybe you have something you are wavering about?

To waver means to sway to and fro. It is to become unstable. To begin to fail or give way. To shake. It is to feel or show doubt. We must have a made up mind in Jesus Christ. Every day there is a battle in our mind for control. Will we give in to our flesh or maintain our new life according to the Spirit of God within us? It really is up to the individual. You control who or what has power and authority in your life. It is all part of the freedom given to us in our new life in Christ. The devil cannot make you do anything. He only has dominion over you to the extent allowed by you. No weapon against you can prosper. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. Jesus overcame the world. Do you believe it? This is the presiding question in each new day.

The Power of God and His Promises are not dictated by our faith in Him but His Faithfulness alone. When we come to the Lord by faith with confidence in the hope, it will produce success in our life simply because we trust the Lord. Trust is destroyed the moment doubt is present. Doubt is a detriment to our life and sin that requires repentance. (James 4:8) James 1:6-7 tells us that a doubleminded man is unstable. Doubt represents a lack of faith. Faith is required to please God. Are you holding fast today? I am getting a grip for sure.

Romans 4:19-21 (NKJV)

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.

Around this time two years ago, our son was still battling cancer. The “experimental” treatment had been denied and I was waiting on their final answer. When it came back as “no”, I was absolutely rocked to my core. The world had decided the price of life too high at roughly $350K. It is a great deal of money. My son is priceless. I remember thinking and praying during that time envisioning Abraham going up the mountain with Isaac. His son, his promise, his future determined to give the Lord exactly what He asked. I kept recalling God’s Word that our boy would live and not die. I dissected His Word over and over. Finally, I could see my feet digging into the side of the mountain as I made my ascent dragging our son with me. I had decided that God would do a miracle if we made it to the top. If I had to drag his lifeless body all the way up Mount Zion, God would do what He said. Giving up and giving in was not an option. God said it. I believe it. That settled it. No matter what the world said, I would have to hear God tell me different to stop me.

 

Many are in the valley of decision today. In Joel 3:14, it declares that “multitudes” upon multitudes are in such a place as the Day of the Lord draws near. Are you? Am I? It is a place of indecision when we do not have a made up mind. When anyone or anything can dissuade us from our faith in God and trust in His Ability, we are in the valley again.

Romans 8:5-8 (NKJV)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Just as it is proven in many studies that successful people demonstrate certain habits and behaviors consistently, so it is with successful believers. The secret to spiritual success is not habitual although changing our habits will aid in the process. It begins with a choice. Will I serve my flesh today or will I walk in the Spirit? Will I be carnally minded believing what I see and reacting to it? Or will I walk by faith not by sight and respond to the Love of God that I have found? These are two profoundly different pursuits. It requires a choice. We decide who we live for today. There are only two choices. We live for the Kingdom of God or this world. There is no gray area so we must make up our mind.

Jesus has given us the freedom to choose. (Romans 1:28-32) If we do not choose to follow Jesus, there is only one other choice left. You cannot come to the Lord halfheartedly and completion. It is with our whole heart that we experience His Love firsthand. We must steady our anxious thoughts. Stop worrying about what God has already provided. He has supplied all our needs according to His Riches in Glory. He is doing more than we could even think to ask for. We only have to make up our mind and live pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly. Our mind must be continually renewed day by day to have a transformed life. (Romans 12:2) We must have a willing heart and mind committed to finishing every good work that the Lord begins in us seeing it through to fulfilment because God is faithful to finish what He starts. (2 Corinthians 8:10-12) We should be committed to doing the same. Every thought, idea, emotion and feeling must be made up into a sound mind as we reconcile our entire existence to Christ. (Colossians 1:19-23)

Philippians 3:12-16 (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. 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. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

I have made my bed for many, many years now. I have instructed my children to do the same. It was only recently that I discovered it to be psychologically beneficial in the studies I found on line. I had no idea that it might potentially lead to other successful habits and routines in life. It is discipline. I began doing it because my mother made me. I continued to do it because it is a habit. It is only now that I realize it potentially has led to my success through discipline. See the Word of God doesn’t always make sense, but when we are obedient – it leads to success. As we praise God in His Faithfulness, looking back we can see how it all worked together for our good but during the process many times it seemed like failure was imminent. God’s Ways are not like our ways. There are many things that we are instructed to do in the Word of God AND from the pulpits in this world. I encourage you today to allow Jesus to renew your mind with His Word and His Spirit until it is set on the mark of your high calling. So that you can safely discern if the word you are being fed by mankind is in alignment with that Calling according to Jesus Christ. We must know. We live in a day and age of mixed religion, diluted doctrine, convoluted grace and inaccurate portrayals of God’s Kingdom, His Truth and His Way. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) Without a deliberately and disciplined made up mind…one might be deceived and risk everything on a lie.

We have the Mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:13-16) Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh who gives us His Spirit to help us understand and guide us through this life safely into Eternity. Any thought or idea contrary to God’s Word, Will or Way is enmity against God. It is literally hostile to the Lord and His Purpose in our life. Doubt is a faith killer. Negativity is a dream crusher. The thoughts in our head produce the words that come out of our mouth that hold life-giving power or doom and despair. We must make up our mind today…while it still is today who we will serve body, mind and spirit which is to the benefit of our soul. We do not know what today holds. God does and He prepared everything we need to be successful and prosper. God is good. He is for me never against me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He pursues me with His Unfailing Love from which nothing can separate me. All these thoughts and ideas are true and must become the foundation of my life and faith in Christ.

Am I willing to make up my mind each day? To sacrifice my mind, thoughts, ideas and emotions to the Lord as a living sacrifice? Do I want what He wants for me? A doubleminded man or woman is unstable. Those who waver do not get the promise. We must make the decision each day as we make up our bed to make up our mind. Be strong in our commitment to follow Jesus and trust His Way. Lord, help me have a made up mind today. I give every thought and idea to you for spiritual filtration and fulfillment in Jesus Name.

Psalm 26:1-2 (NKJV)

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.

Make Me Established

Praying woman hands

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans.

For our household, the Daniel Fast begins tomorrow. I am a bit overwhelmed with preparation and planning the meals for the next 21 days as we fast and pray to commit 2016 to the Lord and His Plans for us. My husband and I have had a few days to ourselves which rarely ever happen without work. Sharing a meal on New Year’s Eve, we began to discuss the fast and what our goals and objectives were for this time. I expressed some challenges as our whole family will be embarking on this journey together and meeting the dietary needs of our girls. He shared his thoughts on the purpose of the endeavor and not losing sight of the meaning of this time set aside for Jesus. See change is always difficult for human beings even temporary interruptions like a dietary limitation. There are so many things we can eat and few things not listed but those limitations totally change our family’s menu. No meats, no sweets, no bread or caffeine. Sounds simple right? When you read the prescribed changes, it becomes overwhelming and suddenly no one is searching for insight from the Lord but to simply endure the days of “suffering”. With this thought in mind, I have purposely not shared the finer details of our conversation as I think each individual and family should decide for themselves. Fasting and prayer are not a religious act when done in context with the Word but rather a time set aside to honor God rather than our bellies. It is to remove our attention from the physical needs and emotional strongholds of life to complete indulge in the Presence of God. It is the opportunity to commit to the Lord whatever you plan to do in the coming year, and He will establish those things that line up with His Word, Will and Way.

Okay, but what if my goals and objectives for this New Year are not the same as the Lord’s Best for me? What then? Fasting and prayer align our heart with God’s Heart. It allows us to spend time with the Way, the Truth and the Life rather than pouring over Pinterest trying to make a meal plan or surviving a month without caffeine. The idea of prayer and fasting is removing our attention from ourselves and subduing our flesh to be filled with more of Jesus and achieve the Mind of Christ. When we commit any portion of our life to God, He is faithful to make it count and bring success to our endeavors. Even a time of fasting, even if we do not, cannot or will not limit ourselves to the fast of others, I really believe that if we give this our heart’s attention above all else.

Hebrews 8:10-13 (NIV)

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

I Corinthians 2:15-16 (NIV)

The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

One’s goal in fasting must never be what they do but who they are. We have been given the Mind of Christ. Daniel did not have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit without measure that came after Jesus died on the Cross and released His Spirit. He was compelled by his relationship with God to continue to observe Levitical law from which we have been freed and delivered through the Power of the Blood of Jesus establishing a “new” covenant. With the new covenant, we are given access to the heart of Jesus Christ because His Spirit lives in us. When we fast it is not in observance of the law but of the new covenant that we have entered into. This makes a difference. We must enter fasting with the mindset of knowing Christ, obtaining understanding determined to use His Wisdom in the coming year. Fasting is different for everyone. Daniel fasting is a guideline but not a rule or regulation. You decide what you will commit to the fast and the amount of time set aside to commune with God. Fasting is subduing our “self” and apprehending our mind to wrap it around the unfailing love given to us and using that love to guide and direct every activity, action and attitude this year.

Deuteronomy 28:9-10 (NIV)

The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you.

Believers and the church will become influential once their commitment is established again. God established us to be a holy people. His Holy People. We are Children of the Living God. He promised us by decree that was signed in the Blood of His Son. I think He meant it, don’t you? It says “if we keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to Him” that “all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the Name of the Lord, and they will fear (respect) you.” The church has lost its influence because it is powerless in loose commitment and a total lack of self-control. Those who choose to be holy are judged by their own as “too religious” or “limiting grace”. Nothing could be further from the Truth. God has a standard of living that sin keeps us from. When an individual decides to commit their life to Christ, make Him Lord and live a holy life – they will prosper and find success in all they do.

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) How much of your life will you contribute to the fast that you will begin tomorrow? Will you give your all? Will just give some? Will you give until it hurts? Whatever you commit to the Lord, He will return to you pressed down, shaken together and running over poured into your lap. What does that mean exactly? In the passage in Luke, the Lord is talking about judgment of others but this carries over to every area of our life. God does not give like for like or we would be in a serious bind. No, He pours out His Unfailing Love and Favor on those who give up parts of their life. Those who surrender all the pieces of their broken heart will have a new one. Those who commit all their attention to His Word will have greater understanding. Knowledge gives way to understanding and wisdom builds a strong house. You cannot live by wisdom you do not have and without understanding the knowledge you are given, what good is it anyway? This time you set aside for the Lord by fasting and praying should lead to more knowledge, greater understanding and a firm foundation of faith for 2016.

Psalm 111:7-9 (NIV)

The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.

What if I told you that God’s Plan for your life is already activated? What if I told you the “works of His Hands” are faithfully creating a way and His Justice will not allow Him to stop according to the Grace you have been given by Jesus? Would you believe me? What if I told you that His Covenant is working miracles and supernatural outcomes all around you? It is established in the Heavenlies, what would be your response? Where is it? Why am I not experiencing the Favor of God in my life? They are established forever, but “enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” 2016 has already been established by God for your good. He has a plan that is filled with hope for your life. Will you enact it is the question? Will you make a new commitment to follow the Lord, walk in His Way, be faithful and remain upright?

Psalm 90:12; 14-17 (NIV)

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

Fasting does not create a new order or decree concerning you today. It moves us and our sin that is keeping us from God’s Goodness established just for us. It turns us through repentance from rebellion to righteousness which will open the floodgate of Heaven over God’s Children. The Lord is not slack concerning His Promise, we are stubborn. Even in our noble acts, we are overtaken by religiosity and judgment. If I gain nothing else in the next 21 days, Lord grant me a heart of wisdom. May I be satisfied each day with your unfailing love before I reach for anything other. Lord, may I begin and end each day with praise for it is the joy that fills my heart. Lord, thank you for the gladness that overshadows every affliction. Thank you Jesus for your favor that rests upon me – Lord, teach me to walk in it. Lord, establish me first and then the works of my hands for your service. This is why we fast. This is why we pray. To establish a greater connection with His Unfailing Love and Overwhelming Grace so our faith leads to righteousness, godliness, holiness and obedience. It will change ever outcome in 2016 but not until first it changes and establishes me.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

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