Greatest Temptation of All

Greatest Temptation of All

I Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

What is temptation? According to the dictionary, it means anything that entices or allures one to do something regarded as unwise, wrong or immoral. The Latin origin, temptare, means to test. Everyone is tempted in life according to wisdom, knowledge, morals and ethics. Each year around tax time many are tested when it comes to proper income reporting to the government. In church, there is the temptation to withhold the tithe from the Lord. In life, there are corners to cut, gray areas to live in, and little white lies to tell. There is no one who can honestly say that they are not tested on a daily basis with opportunities to live beneath their own values and beliefs.

What about you? What tempts you in the natural each day? Is it to give less than your obligation to your employer? Is it to tear down the person who tweaks your insecurities? Is it to give more time to work than God or your family? Do you struggle with addiction? What is it that tempts you the most on any given day? For some it is obvious and others may not really think too much about it, but the truth is that every person is tempted every day. Temptation comes in our choices. The Son has set us free. As Children of God, we are free indeed. Will I choose God’s Best or settle for the rest? Will I press on or punk out? Am I determined to prosper and succeed according to God’s Promises or is just enough fine with me? Do I love comfort more than confidence? All of these questions are valid in determining our goals and setting our standard for life. The enemy of our soul wants nothing more than for us to settle for something less than what God has for us. To limit the victory of the Cross in our own life by allowing disbelief and doubt to dissuade us from faith and destiny clearly given to us when Jesus said, “It is finished” and released His Spirit to live in us. I have Resurrection Life and Power hidden inside my broken and fragile heart waiting to burst out of me – heal and restore me and wrap its arms around a dark and dying world to revive it as well. What temptation is breaking the back of believers? We are all challenged but one overriding temptation each day – it is the temptation to give up.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful.

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.

Truth be told, most of focus on the celebration of victory filled with emotional adrenaline rather than what it takes to live in it. Victory is not by chance. Champions do not win one game. It is easy to become caught up in the “huge crowd of witnesses” what they think, what they say and what they do. It is only natural to continually try to “strip off the weight that slows us down especially sin that so easily trips us up.” Often our relationship is forsaken for religion in the need to “do” all the right things but never becomes righteous in Christ alone. We look to Jesus. He is our Champion. Then things get a little difficult to understand, initiates and perfects faith. We cannot see faith or even touch it. It is our daily struggle to believe whether willing to admit it or not. Our life would be nothing but love, joy and peace if Christ completely took it over.

Endurance is the critical key to salvation. Don’t take my word for it. Jesus said it – the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13) Sin will be rampant. Love will grow cold. Life is unfair. Those who endure in their faith beyond what they see, feel and touch will be saved. Now where in that is the happy, happy, joy, joy feeling that makes the hair stand up on our neck and goosebumps cover our body? Where is the adrenaline rush in that? While waiting for our son to go into full remission, I thought about what my reaction would be to the news. Would I run, jump, dance or dissolve in a ball of raw emotion? I often fantasized during our fight for insurance coverage what it might be like when they called and said that he was finally approved. It wasn’t at all like I thought it might be. There was no finish line tape to run through, or freshly painted line on the road to cross. We did not dissolve in a cheering crowd or met with a ticket tape parade. To me it felt like I crawled across the finish line of faith and collapsed on the other side – empty and broken.

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Jesus was clear. His Purpose when He came and died for us was to give us a rich and satisfying life. How are you doing with that so far? Is your life rich? Is it fulfilling? Are you content? Are you satisfied? Me either. The only way that the enemy can steal your blessing that God preordained and Christ precipitates in us and through us is to convince us to quit. If he can entice us to give up before the finish line, he can stop our victory. Otherwise, he is powerless in our life. The one thing that keeps Christians going is faith in God. Complete confidence in the fact that God is not only able but willing to do exactly what He said. To be completely convinced that when Jesus said, “It is finished!” that it was done. New life begun. New creation in process. It is not a lack of promise in our life, purpose or potential but a lack of faith in God that keeps lacking.

When tempted to quit, it should be a red flag in our heart and mind that something is coming. God is doing something more than we even could think of or ask for. The unimaginable is on the horizon of hope and the enemy is working overtime to stop you from enduring long enough to obtain it. Do you want to quit? Are you thinking about giving up? Dig in? Press on? Your promise is closer than you think.

What is endurance? I looked it up, of course, I am a word junkie. To endure means to hold out against, sustain without impairment or yielding, undergo, to bear without resistance or with patience. To continue to tolerate. To bear. We must learn to endure. It is the secret to overcoming the temptation to quit or give up. Endurance is waiting on God until the very end. It means never letting go or letting up until fulfillment comes. To hold on to hope and all of God’s Promises until He does exactly what He said that He will do. To stay in the field until the harvest comes. To believe when it is impossible because that is when faith makes all things possible. God is faithful. He is always true to His Word. His Word will never return to Him void. It will always bear the fruit it promised. The purpose of endurance is maturity. Full development in our faith that gives us the rich and satisfying life promised to us by God.

James 1:12 (NLT) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

God isn’t looking for perfect people. He does not expect you to live a sinless life. One sin is enough sin to put Jesus on the Cross for you. His Grace is enough. God’s Grace is the only thing that can make you righteous so give up on religion and fully embrace your relationship to the person of Jesus Christ. Endurance offers us the opportunity to bring God’s Kingdom to the earth. To live from glory to glory like He promised. It is not anything in my natural ability other than my unwillingness to give up on God or stop following Christ but simply to endure. Endurance leads to salvation. Simply saying, “Where you go, I go Jesus”. Endurance never stops following Jesus. It is in the place of His Presence that our life is made complete. Nothing I can do in my natural ability will produce the fruit that the Holy Spirit is holding as seed for me. I must live through each season, tending the field of my heart, planting seeds of faith and waiting for them to grow without giving up or quitting. Endurance produces an exit door from ordinary to extraordinary, natural to supernatural and mediocre to the miraculous. There is no escape door that will offer the same. We must reach the end. Finish the race. Cross over into His Glorious Goodness by His Amazing Grace.

James 1:17-18 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift from God. I do not argue this point at all only the perspective for a moment. What if there is an abundance that we are missing by simply settling for God’s Provision in our life. There are many “good” things in my life that I am thankful for, but what about the “perfect” gifts. What if there is more and I am missing it on those days I choose to tap out, give in to the temptation to whine and complain or worse yet give up altogether. If we were honest, every one of us would admit to days like that. Grace is such a wonderful gift. It is the opportunity granted by God to let Him pick us up, dust us off, and put us right back on track again. The beauty of grace is none is wasted and we will never miss what God has for us if we live in it. You are God’s Prized Possession. You! Yes, YOU! He wants nothing more than to flood your life and person with good and perfect gifts each and every day.

Galatians 6:8-9 (NLT) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

What if there is more to life than this? What if God really is willing and able to do EXACTLY what His Word says about Him? What if I just have to endure? What if? We all can think about what if in the form of doubt and regret but what if I look ahead instead? What if God’s Blessing in my life is real? What if He really is that good? What if the Lord really does want to bless me? Is life so great now that I am willing to forfeit the potential of prosperity? To settle for the known rather than investing my life in the glorious standard of living that only faith and trust in God offers. I can satisfy my sinful nature and preserve my pride. I am free in Jesus Christ to live the life of my own choosing. However, if I want the rich and satisfying life that Jesus has promised – I must endure. I cannot and will not give up. I want the harvest of blessing from each seed of faith planted in my past. I have been sowing in the Lord a long, long time. I know there are harvests coming even though I am tired, weary and struggling to hold tight to the promise. God is Good! He is Faithful! He has never let me down. He does not intend to start now. I know this full well. I must act on my belief investing faith that chooses to endure to the end. I want all that God has for me. Everything Jesus died for me to have. I will trust Him. The greatest temptation in the life of a believer is giving up. The greatest blessing comes for those who endure to the end. Salvation. A Crown marked Life. Not just any life but a rich and satisfied one.

2 Corinthians 1:5-7 (NLT) For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

Birthday Thoughts

Birthday cupcake against a blue background

Proverbs 16:31-33 (NLT) Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life. Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city. We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.

Happy Birthday to me. Today marks my fifty-first year of life. I say it, but cannot truly feel it. Age is really just a number. It has never really impacted me like some of my friends. But the idea of fifty-one has made me slow down a bit and take a look at the scenery. I am pretty sure my nose-to-the-grindstone, press-thru-the-pain, and get-the-job-done attitude has caused the last decade of my existence to pass by in a blur. In our ladies Bible study, we talked about our lifetime estimated in the Word to be about seventy years. Seems like a long time and maybe even endless to a teenager, but I took that number and broke it down into days. If I live exactly 70 years, it means that I was born with 25,500 days of which I currently have about 6,935 days left as of today. To some it may be an instance of glass half empty, but to me it is a glass full of possibility. I am not worried so much about my life running out as it ending without fulfilling my purpose.

Gray hair may be a crown of glory for some but as long as my hairdresser will schedule another appointment – not on my head. However, in the Word of God, it is called our crown of glory just the same. I have gray hair carefully hidden under hair dye but that doesn’t keep them from popping up from time to time. Proverbs says – it is gained by a godly life. Perhaps the point is that if we make it in life long enough to have gray hair that it is an accomplishment. Mine mark years of survival. It is representative of a life given to pursuing the Lord and missing Him a lot. It shows that there is grace to overcome our mistakes and misgivings. It marks me as one who should have something more to give for it is the crown of glory that should be woven with wisdom and good common sense that has led me through impatience and impetuousness to the place I am now. The truth about my place in life is that it is usually a crossroad. The place where many decide to dig in or give up on their dreams and inspirations. Is it folly to think that at this age dreams really do come true? Is it possible that we have buried seed meant for planting in the barren field of hopelessness marked with the sign called unmet expectation? It happens all the time. We left life get ahold of our perception and make it into a harsh reality absent of faith, hope and even trust until believing in what we see overshadows the truth of what we know to be true.

“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” The final fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Perhaps patience and self-control are not possible in our youth because endurance and perseverance are necessary to find them. Seeds don’t grow overnight. You may be full of potential that just hasn’t been given enough time to grow, develop and mature into the purpose that God intended it to be. Too often, like the fig tree, it is human nature to cover up a lack of fruit with a plethora of leaves and foliage. Hiding behind a well-constructed façade, no one is as they seem. But God knows…He sees inside of our heart. He knows our deepest desire and while we try to bury it, get over it and move on. The Lord whispers wait a minute. It is part of my plan. Hold on. Don’t be so impatient. You have to live a little more life in order to produce the harvest. Waiting is not a bad thing. It is part of God’s Timing and vital to His Process. If you compare the older me to the younger version, it is clear that I have developed patience. They came at a high price – through difficulty, lack of control, waiting and more waiting and helplessness. I am finally beginning to see small hints of patience in my character. Praise God – it only took five decades to achieve. Self-control. It has been a tough one. I have always been a great starter but horrible finisher. I lacked the self-control to remain engaged when the “woo-hoo” wore off and the process grew tiring. There is the ever so slight but definitely noticeable change in my character to hang on, wait for it, and stay put. All this is to the Glory of God. None of this is human nature, but godly influence. It didn’t come through personal victory but daily defeat. As I sit here this morning, I finally see His Glorious Plan coming together. Though the pieces are definitely spread apart, His Hand is carefully aligning them into a beautiful picture that I am excited to see even in my fifties.

Proverbs 16:1-4 (NLT) We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The Lord has made everything for his own purposes…

The Lord has blessed our family. I spent Saturday with our youngest daughter. She is the only one who is still bound to us as she will not drive for a couple more years. Her oldest sister lives in New Hampshire and will arrive today for a visit. Her middle sister has a full agenda and a flourishing social life. So, it was just the two of us for a day of birthday shopping. As we wandered from store to store, she became very agitated with my lack of ability to share something I wanted that was not practical. It is your birthday, she told me. It is a big deal! My husband and I had more humble beginnings. I will admit that we have spoiled our children with love and things. They do not know the difficult times that shaped both of our childhoods. They only know the security and structure of family. I am so very thankful for that. However, walking with her, I feel a nudge inside. The Lord is pressing for my attention to this thing called dreams and desire.

We make our plans. BUT the Lord gives the right answer. When I was a little girl, I decided that I would be a professional mom with just two kids. I wasn’t interested in being a stay-at-home mom much less have a handful of children. Well, when the first one came, I knew my purpose. It was to be a mom. I wanted it more than anything else. I ended up with not two babies, but five of them. There were many times in my life that my priorities set a regulatory standard for my life which has fallen apart. I had good intentions but the Lord was moving in my heart. He has a much higher standard of living for us than we could ever plan or execute. Truth is most days – we don’t believe it any more. Fairytales and fantasies are for children and fools. Reality is adulting. Day dreaming is for the lazy. However, sitting here at fifty, I hear the Lord whispering why not believe? Why not go for it? Why not think my love is extravagant? My power limitless again. Why not?

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The Lord has made everything for his own purposes. Is it possible that at my age, I am only beginning to see the harvest of years of planting and sowing in life and people? Could it be that there has been unseen purpose and greater potential in the ordinary steps of my life leading to an extraordinary finish? The Word of God tells us to commit our actions to the Lord AND they WILL succeed. What have you done for Jesus over the last days, months or years of your life? Do you know that there is purpose in each footstep to be discovered? The Lord determines our steps according to His Plan. (Proverbs 16:9) Those dreams and desires in our heart are a product of the eternity and faith hidden there. To bring them to fruition. In Proverbs 16:20 is the promise that those who listen to instruction will prosper and those who trust the Lord will be joyful. Prosperity and joy are found in fulfillment as the Lord brings to completion the work that He began in you before you were born.

Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I handled it better than I thought it would. I began slinging the Word of God like a sword at it and held up my shield of faith against it. Fighting the good fight, I never considered it would take many years to accomplish. God gave me His Word that our son would live and not die. I had no idea it would be a seed that took many years to grow. This summer marks remission times three years. However, after the battle was over, I found myself dry, empty and done. How could it be? How is it possible? Victory is not always easy that’s why defeat can be so agonizing. Laying it all on the field means that if winning doesn’t happen you have nothing left to fall back on. After three long years of fighting to keep the faith and finish the course, the reality was that my life would never be “normal” again. It would not be as I had expected. The reality of life’s brevity and uncertainly loomed over me like a tiny black raincloud. The numbness in my limbs from fighting traveled to my heart. Some days, I felt like it was barely beating. I had finally come to the end of myself. It was not pretty. She was no longer in control of her life, family and destiny. For those of us who have control issues, pride barriers and any other type of fear or insecurity – this is not a fun place. It is a realization that demands a choice. It requires a change. The only good part is that finally the Lord has the opportunity to lead us to fulfillment. Grace works best in our weakness. His Power takes over when we step out of the way.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) God takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful. When the battle was won, our son declared cancer free. I rejoiced, but it was not as I expected. Three months later, more scans and still clear. I became depressed at my lack of enthusiasm. I felt very guilty because many had not been so fortunate. This would be a turning point in my life forever. I walked around in a daze for about a year. Clueless as to hold to operate outside of my overdriven and constantly controlling personality. These waves of emotions carried me yet I had no idea what to do next. That’s when Joel 2:28-29 was introduced to me in a different way.

Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike. What if brokenness and undoing is the point when potential finds its way into purpose? What if it takes reality and life to break our hearts to the point where God can reach the bottom? What if our best days really are hidden in the rest of them following our arrival at the end of self? Is it possible that the dreams and visions promised to the “old men” is really where the potential lies? Could it be possible that the course of my life is exactly as God planned it before I was even born? Yes. Yes. Yes. You are exactly where God planned for you to be. He orders our steps for His Destiny not necessarily our desired destination. He is not transporting you to the Magic Kingdom, but transforming you for His Kingdom. We want a better life, but the Lord is preparing us for eternal life. It takes time. It is a process. It will require years to yield harvest. You will have to wait. You must endure. It requires persistence. You will be remolded and reshaped – broken and more. But you know what? It will be worth it all.

Romans 8:28-30 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

So what if it’s true? What if God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His Purpose for them? It means that every dream I have dreamed should be dug up from its grave and given a careful and thorough examination according to the faith and hope that I have. Possibility is hidden in every detail of my seemingly ordinary life so I must be careful not to dismiss bad days and mess ups as experience but decide if there is something to be gleaned in that moment. A lot of people my age life in regret, shame and guilt over the not-so-productive choices that they “think” they made when the reality is it is all working together for their good! To God’s Glory! What kind of God would He be if He only showed up for emergencies? He is definitely the First Responder to those who call on Him, but why do we put our God, faith, hope and trust in a glass case to be of emergency. He wants to work every detail of our existence with His Power, Potential and Purpose. He’s not holding back…we are.

As I celebrate with my family today, I am thankful for every one of those fifty-one years. Lord, help me to remember all the seed planted and remind me to continue to sow in the coming year. Age is just a number. My potential is not in my days but how I choose to spend them. Time is the only commodity that cannot be bought but you restore all things. You are a miracle working God who will multiply purpose and yield promises in the time offered to You. Whether I have one more day, 6,935 days to seventy or even more than that, may I give them completely and wholeheartedly to You – Jesus. Keep my heart soft and pliant in Your Hands even it means I must stay broken. Keep my eyes on You Jesus – focused on the future never on the past. Keep my ears open to hear Your Voice, value your instruction and apply it daily to my life. God, I truly believe that the best is yet to come. Thank you for life. Thank you for your promises. Thank you for a purpose and plan worth having a lifetime of lessons to see it come to pass. This is not the end of my life – it is only the beginning. I am thankful to report… He’s still working on me… To make me what I ought to be…It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be… He’s still working on me!

Philippians 1:6 (NLT) And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

To Be Still

To Be Still

Psalm 46:10 (AMP) “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”

As I sit in His Presence today, I am waiting. Wondering about some details that just don’t add up. Asking for clarity and divine discernment. Introspection leads to listening. I want to hear His Voice. I want to do what He says to me. So different from my younger days, when dissatisfaction created distance between us, now it only leads to a greater desire to know, recognize and understand Him more. Completion is my purpose. Fulfillment is the potential of my life. To be fully invested in Christ body, mind and spirit until my soul prospers and runs over to every person I encounter in this dark and dying world. To light in every darkness and speak words that lead to life. To love so extravagantly that all they see is God’s Love poured out before them in spite of me.

Yet soon, I will have to close the Bible, turn off the computer and leave the prayer closet/study. The door will be open and life come pouring in like a wave unhindered. I will face challenges. I will have trials. All opportunities to grow a little closer and wade a little deeper into the fathomless grace that I have been given. As I go, my greatest longing is to just be still. To be still and know. To be still and recognize. To be still and understand that He is My God. It would be so much easier if I could stay right here in His Presence. To distance myself from the pressures of life persistently bearing down on my chest, stealing my breath, taking my attention, and just to be still. Oh for a moment of selah today, a moment to pause and reflect on the walls of the strong tower, my refuge, and my strength.

Psalm 46:1-6 (AMP) God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved; God will help her when the morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered and were moved; He raised His voice, the earth melted.

Reading these words today, I am encouraged. Feeling like Peter whose desire for the Lord took him out of the boat to walk on water, but the winds and the waves got in his way. Sometimes faith feels like swimming in an endless ocean, too far out to turn back but so far gone the shore is not in sight. It is then that our life hangs in the balance. It is in that moment that we become aware of grace that is like an ocean – you know the one where we are sinking. God is good. God is always good. He is love. Endless love. Fathomless love. His Purpose and Plan for my life is complete lacking no good thing unless maybe my full attention sometimes. In the past, the adrenaline might kick in right about now. I would have to make the decision to fight for my faith or flee with what is left of my left. Oh, I am too far gone now. Like Jacob in Genesis 32, his wives, children and livelihood crossed over on the other side. Jacob was alone. Nothing to go back to, just Jacob and God wrestling through the dark of night. Holding tightly to the Lord, who said, “Let me go for the day is breaking.” Jacob refused. He declared to the Lord, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” Jacob was given his heart’s desire. No longer would he be known for his struggles, but as the one who came face-to-face with God. Do you remember what happened when Moses came face-to-face with the Lord? God’s Glory shone so brightly on his face that he covered it as not to frighten them. Oh for Your Glory, Lord. I desire that new name. I want to be the one who despite her many struggles and insufficiencies experienced the Glory of Your Grace full immersed and overflowing.

God is our refuge and our strength. His Presence is a mighty and impenetrable fortress that allows us to be still and know – no matter what conditions or circumstances are circling our life. I am so thankful today for His Presence. The Lord does not only promise to keep us safe and secure in His Presence but offers freedom from fear so faith can grow, develop and mature into deep roots that keep us well-grounded so that we learn to thrive in life and not just merely survive. (Psalm 92:14) Jacob fled for his life which didn’t amount to much except the Lord was with him. He served Laban faithfully and flourished even in exile. He encountered the Lord in the stillness of the night upon his return. He was 97 years old. Oh for us to know, understand and recognize that our journey with the Lord is a lifelong endeavor seldom offering immediate gratification or instantaneous harvests. It is a life of sowing and reaping governed by the promise of God that what we plant is what we will reap. God has blessed Jacob in the natural but in his old age he wanted God’s Blessing to reach into the depths of his heart and change him.

Lord, help me to be still. To know, recognize and understand that my life is a process. Grace to faith to trust to confident hope. To complete the cycle again and again until my heart is secure in the stronghold of your love. I don’t want to end the process or escape the pressure. I want you Lord. I will not let go until You bless me with the desire of my heart. Lord teach me to fully rely on Your Sovereignty today. You go before me and fall in behind me. You pursue me passionately with Goodness and Unfailing Love. Teach me to pursue you with my whole heart.

Psalm 37:3-7 (AMP) Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him also and He will do it. He will make your righteousness [your pursuit of right standing with God] like the light, and your judgment like [the shining of] the noonday [sun]. Be still before the Lord; wait patiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him…

Trust is to rely on and have confidence in the Lord. Our ability to trust is in direct correlation with what we believe to be true. Faithfulness is God’s Quality that I believe in along with His Goodness. He is faithful while I can only try to be. My only real chance at faith is created by the amazing grace that I have been given. Do good. Dwell in the land. Feed on His Faithfulness. Such a simple thing, yet a daily challenge with the pressures of life bearing down on us. Dare I believe that in the midst of adversity that God is giving me the desires of my heart? Yes, and a thousand times, yes! Such understanding doesn’t come without a price. It will require my complete undoing. It will take all of my heart, mind, soul and body fully invested in Jesus Christ. It will be in my weakness. It will be found when I fail. Those who commit their life to Christ must put all expectation in the Lord, His Word, His Will and His Way. It is a day by day – moment to moment process to build trust and confidence in the Lord. It is a daily pursuit and endless process that requires endurance. Endurance is marked by stillness. Those who endure must learn to be still.

James 4:6-8 (AMP) But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].” So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you. Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people].

Oh Jesus just a few more minutes together before I must leave this place of refuge. This quiet place in our home filled with Your Spirit and like-minded people. I am persuaded today that nothing can separate me from the Love of God. I know that all things work together for my good because I am called according to His Purpose and desire it above all things. Yet still, to be still is such a challenge sometimes especially when the ocean of grace is so vast that I cannot see from shore to shore. What lies beneath the surface frightens me. The length of this journey overwhelms me. The enemy taunts me. His lies raise the hairs on the back of my neck. God gives more and more grace to those who forgo pride and float in humility. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Resist. Withstand. Strive against. Oppose. If I simply resist, the temptation to give up or give in then he must go. The enemy cannot do anything to me other than lie to me. If I silence the lie with God’s Truth – He must go. Our closeness to the Lord allows us to endure such harsh conditions and one day realize that the thing that carried us through was His Grace. It is enough. It is more than enough. It is always sufficient. It leads me to faith. It is the one thing that I trust most because without it – I don’t stand a chance.

Psalm 84:1-4 (AMP) How lovely are Your dwelling places, Lord of hosts! My soul (my life, my inner self) longs for and greatly desires the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. Blessed and greatly favored are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah.

Have you ever encountered a spider web? You didn’t see it. Like a carefully laid net to capture you, it overtakes you or so it seems. You flail around as if consumed in invisible fire to get away from it. It is not the web that you are afraid of but the little spider that may be lurking in it who more than likely ran away when you destroyed its home. The world’s largest spider is ironically called the Goliath spider…no kidding. It is about 11 inches in diameter making shudder just to think about it. Though a deadly ambusher of small rodents and even a bird – to date it has not consumed a human. Thank God! However, even a small spider will cause a grown man to jump and scream. So many times – this is how those filled with the Power of Christ respond to the words of the enemy. When walking through the woods, I must look out for spiders. It is their dwelling place. Their home and not mind. But in my house, the spiders are quickly killed and disposed of. It is my home and they are not welcome. Where are you living today?

To live in the Presence of God is a place that goes with us. He lives in us. The world is not our home. However, God gave us dominion over it in Genesis. My authority is evident by the Christ in me but if I have no confidence in Christ – I will remain subject to my fear and insecurities because I have no idea of the strong tower and refuge available for those who take grace to access faith and live in it by trust. Just outside the door awaits all the pressure and pain along with cares and concerns that comprise this life we live. I will be tested and tried by the many challenges. The enemy has new lies and careful traps ready to trip me up and cause me to stumble. The Lord offers a strong tower and refuge for those who desire to enter in and to be still. These are His People who will experience blessing and favor in their life. As their soul prospers in the Peaceful Place of God so will their everyday life no matter how tough it gets. Lord, my soul, my life and my inner self long for you. I greatly desire to live in Your Presence today. Help me to do so. Show me the way deeper into the courts called beautiful, peaceful and strong. Teach me to be still today. Show me how to put all my life in you, Jesus!

Psalm 84:12 (AMP) O Lord of hosts, how blessed and greatly favored is the man who trusts in You [believing in You, relying on You, and committing himself to You with confident hope and expectation].

Overcoming One of Those Days

overcoming one of those days

Hebrews 12:1-4 (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. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Are you having one of those days? Maybe it’s been a week? For some, it may even seem like one of those years? I have one of those days. Actually, it has been a week. In the midst of change, uncertainty and chaos it is clear that the Lord is doing something beyond my comprehension. Faith in my heart holds on to hope that doesn’t seem as confident but I must not let go. God is working out the details of my life for good. I want everything I do to reflect His Glory. However, my little light has been flickering with the turbulent wind blowing all around me. I woke up this morning and in the quiet I knew that the Lord was right there. He was waking me up with a Word for me. As I opened the Word of God today, it was like a bright and shiny arrow pointing to this passage. No wandering around or wondering what the Lord had to say – it was abundantly clear. Keep going. Don’t stop moving. Just one step each day will lead you to the destination. The only action deemed failure is to fall and refuse to get up or to throw up my hands and say, “I give up!” Not today devil – I am in a race for a prize that will be the key to the rich and satisfying life that Jesus promised me. It is called endurance. It is hard to obtain but worth overcoming each day that turns out to be “one of those days.”

I love days like this when in the quiet of the morning – the Holy Spirit is our encourager. He heard our prayers last night. I have a confession. This week has not been my week to get the gold star of perfection. In fact, it has been an ugly slugfest to keep my eyes on Jesus and keep moving in the right direction. Our leadership team was having prayer on Monday night. It seemed like I had been at church all weekend. Needing time to prepare for the Bible Study the very next night, longing for a family dinner followed by some snuggle time with Jesus and the study guide after a hectic day at work. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t going to go. I went anyway. Tuesday night – the ladies of our church, the ones who I am supposed to lead, had their Bible Study. I left feeling like a complete and utter failure. I am no good at this whole organizing and executing thing. Ten times I almost text the pastor admitting defeat and telling him to find someone better for these sweet women. Instead, I went to bed. Wednesday morning, it was clear. I had nothing left. As I sat before my Savior with my head bowed, praying for the same people and situations, it seemed so redundant like water poured on a rock, I finally just admitted to the Father, “Lord, I need you today! I am stuck!” As the Lord, poured into me from His Word, I began to blog. His Words powerful and true cutting through my resolve to release a balm inside of me that I knew He was not only sharing with me but others, too. Yeah, so my computer shut down right then and there losing more than half of it. One of those days, now became one of those weeks… I could bore you with yesterday’s details but it ended with the same tired, worn-out believer dragging herself into church.

Today may be no different but my Father has prepared me in advance. He has given me these verses to hold on to and the Holy Spirit, the excellent life coach that He is, provided a detailed game plan for me that I am about to share with you. These are the things to remember not in the beginning of our race towards the prize called a satisfying life but in the midst of it. When you have come too far to turn back now, but struggle to find strength to take one more step. On those days when giving up seems more fruitful than pressing in, because your mind loudly whispers “what’s the point?” The Lord is making a point. We need to hear it and act on it today.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith…” My life is a light. To walk by faith and not by sight causes that light to shine a little brighter as the Jesus in me begins to attract people. When those challenging and overwhelming days come, I believe is when we have the most people watching us. They are looking for a difference. Has Jesus made a real difference? Is the Savior you are talking about really capable of saving people? The key is learning to respond to God’s Word rather than reacting to our situation or circumstance in life. People are watching. Faith without works is dead. Faith is for the things unseen not those things I can do. Faith makes the impossible possible. If you believe it, your light shines because you will keep following Christ even when it’s tough and seems pointless. My life is not about me. It is about shining so bright that His Glory lights the way for others to see His Great Love. God is good on the bad days. His Goodness is not influenced by anything in my life. I connect to His Goodness by faith in His Love for me and confident hope that nothing can separate me from it. This must be the evidence of my life to be a light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Jesus did not say, “Dump all your worries and cares on me including your sin and then go find something else to do.”  No, He tells us to come…bring all our weariness and heavy burdens…and I will give you rest. Then the Lord says, “Take my yoke upon you.” Jesus is not a dump site. He is the ultimate recycler of everything but sin. My boss is an avid conservationist. He will literally retrieve recyclables from the garbage. The garbage cans in our office are small receptacles but the recycling bin is huge. We must come to know and understand the context of Matthew 11:28-30 in order to understand how the Lord works in us and through us. We chalk up bad days to experience and just move on. But Jesus full of life and resurrection power, digs through the refuse of our life, because He promises to make good of every detail even the rotten ones. (Romans 8:28) The key is to bring our burdens and sins considered the weight that slows us down and YOKE our life with Him. Jesus wants to be our life partner. He wants to be our constant source of instruction and motivation but He is not in the garbage business. The Lord promised to make us a new creation but it requires becoming connected to Him as our Source. Sin is the only thing that separates us from God. Grace allows us to overcome weakness, but Jesus is the Source of Grace that covers us so all the Father sees is a son or daughter. Having one of those days? Come to Jesus and give Him all of your worries and cares. Confess your sin even relinquishing any hidden sin that may be hidden the heart. Then, yoke or attach yourself to Jesus and say, “What can I do for you today, Lord?” It may be a simple (or not so simple) as just keeping your mouth shut which on bad days may take every ounce of effort I have left.

Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” The one who endures to the end will be saved. Salvation and redemption are possible only if we finish the race of faith. Endurance is achieved in each step. Do not take for granted the path set before you. Your hope is identified as the Plan of God for your life which is marked by good things but often a product of struggle. The same principle applies to changing lifestyle habits. Incorporating a new heathier lifestyle exhibits the same kind of struggle. You want the fatty, fried foods filled with carbs and calories but in order to have a healthy body – we must defy our physical desires and replace our intake with better choices. I need to exercise as well. I loathe it. Yet as I do it and see the results in my life the pain in my body and constant overcoming the longing to be a coach potato wane. I make myself follow the plan despite my grumbling, complaining and rebelling flesh. Why? I want to live a long, healthy life and chase after grandchildren one day. Our life in Christ is the same. We must flight our flesh to have the life God promised is possible if one believes. I must crucify my flesh in order to endure. Endurance is a successful step that becomes an amazing life. Too many times we cannot see the forest for the trees or the staircase for the steps. We have a prize called Eternity. It is worth fighting for and that is exactly what we must do each day. Those who are successful will claim a prize far greater than anything on earth can achieve. Each successful step taken is one less needed to God’s Heavenly Prize.

John 21:6-8 (NLT) Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” I love this passage so much. Peter, what a character, who had undeniable passion for the Lord took quite a bit of discipline to get to the man who jumped in the water and swam about a hundred yards to shore. The same Peter who couldn’t make it a few steps walking on the water by faith would not let anything keep him from reaching Jesus. These steps of our journey to secure faith and confident hope in the Lord are not pointless but purposeful. The Promise and Plan of God for our life fills us with great potential that is impossible without faith in the Lord. Not only was Peter confident that it was Jesus, but he must have been confident in his love. Peter knew Jesus heard his denials the night before the Lord died for him. He saw Jesus looking at him through a window. Peter also remembered the day that He first recognized Jesus answering His Inquiry correctly. “But who do you say that I am?” He also knew all the things that Jesus told him like he would be the rock on which the church was built. I am sure during the three days that he thought Jesus was dead, Peter evaluated his whole life just as we do in the midst of the marathon called endurance.

Did I waste my time? Am I giving up my life for nothing? Jesus where are you? BUT when Jesus came to the beach that day – Peter knew that his faith and confident hope was alive and well. Faith will never be logical according to the conditions in life. The world is completely consumed by sin and self. Faith puts our sin in the Blood of Jesus and our self in the Person of Christ. We must strive to remain there. Jesus is our champion. I cannot produce anything good let alone prosper from the inside out apart from Him. It is in Jesus that I live, move, and exist. (Acts 17:28) “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

I Peter 1:8-9 (NLT) You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

“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.” You can live life looking ahead or with your eyes in the rearview mirror. Our future is either defined by our past or hope. Freedom allows us to decide. My past is over. Jesus was clear. Those who put a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. Looking back will lead us back. Just as a batter must keep his eye on the ball, we must keep our eyes fixed on the future to maintain the right direction and stay on course. Jesus endured the Cross because of the joy waiting for Him. I will get to what His Definition of Joy is in a moment. God has given you dreams, desires and promises that requires faith to achieve in life. Total trust opens the windows of Heaven and the human heart. Once open to receive, inexpressible joy begins to bubble up and overflow not based on our circumstances but the potential of God’s Promises. If we endure one of those days, weeks or even years, by faith and nothing else, the full satisfaction called joy will well up in us so that we don’t need to depend on the world for happiness but the secret power of a prospering soul will satisfy us in the famine and cause us to grow through adversity to bear fruit in every season.

James 1:17-19 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

“Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.I am His Prized Possession. You are the joy that awaited Jesus on the other side of the Cross. He endured the Cross because He desired us above anything else. God is sending good and perfect promise packages to His Beloved Children every day. Opportunities and possibilities that are often overlooked by the hardships of life. Even when we are weary, tired, wandering or just wondering, God still loves us and sends His Blessings to us. The world that He died to save remained hostile toward the One who only showed it love, compassion, mercy and grace. Compared to my struggles and troubles in life, it seems so small. His Grace is enough to overcome every insufficiency in my life. His Mercy comes new every morning to refresh, renew and reassure me. Every step I take labeled endurance is a step in the right direction. I have everything I need to win the race even on those days that all I can do is stand on the faith and not move an inch. Even Jesus dealt with exhausting and frustrating people, yet still managed to love them enough to die for them. To die for us. To die for me. He endured the process to have the people. Am I willing to endure the process to have the promise?

2 Corinthians 5:15-18 (NLT)  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

This thing called life is not a sprint it is a marathon. The Lord has painted the perfect picture of encouragement for endurance in Hebrews 12. Endurance is the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, and other adverse conditions. It is marked by hardship and hostility that should be our expectation. When life gets hard, it is evidence that maybe just maybe we are getting somewhere. The enemy has no interest in a life that is unsuccessful in faith. It has not future. Those who endure will find that you may end up having more of “those days” than ever before. Instead of looking back, press forward. Society tells us to run across the finish line, but I think in our walk with Christ it is actually crawling across when we come to the end of self and rely fully on faith to get us there.

After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” You are alive. It means that your full potential has not been reached and there is a promise waiting for you. In fact, our life is filled with promises and purpose that can only be reached when we choose to discipline our body, mind, will and emotions to hold fast to faith and confident hope rather than allowing the problems, people and persecution of life overtake us. We have the ability to overcome because greater is He who is in us. There is no power that can overtake the believer yoked to Christ. However, you will not get there apart from endurance. Endurance is the fuel that makes our light shines brighter. When all else fails, but faith in the Father prevails. I had a pastor tell me once, “Do not make permanent decisions in temporary circumstances.” Good advice.

Is it one of those days? Has it been one of those weeks? Is it shaping up to form one of those years? Be encourage today. God has not forgotten you – how could He? You are His Prized Possession. He is working a process in you that will lead to fulfillment and inexpressible joy! Stick with it. Struggles often release unknown burdens and hidden things unnecessary weight in our life. They cause us to press in deeper into the Presence of God striving for help to overcome. When I am overwhelmed, I look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith. God’s Discipline in our life proves His Great Love for us. He is a Good Father on bad days. He is always cheering us on and focused on the good in us. Whether success for you today is running the race, crawling along, or just standing refusing to go back – the Lord loves you and sees that you have chosen to endure. He is Your Champion and you are His Prize. Endurance is not fun – it takes a great deal of discipline – but for those who choose to finish the race – it is absolutely essential to victory!

Here are some verses to accompany you today:

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Colossians 1:10-12 (NLT)  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT) So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

James 1:2-3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

Now and Later

Now and Later

James 1:12 (NLT) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When I was a kid, my favorite candy was called “Now and Later”. Small squares of taffy individually wrapped in a variety of flavors wrapped in colorful paper sold at every corner store. A bit sour at first, it took a while to chew it until it softened and completely swallow it because it stuck to every corner of your mouth. The inventor decided to take a bar of taffy and cut it up so it could be enjoyed – you guessed it – now and later. Previously the bar was sold in whole pieces so it had to be consumed all at once. Surprisingly this candy has withstood the test of time and is still available in nineteen different flavors. Have you ever eaten a “Now and Later” candy? It is very dense, thick and chewy. At first it requires a great deal of jaw strength and a whole lot of work to make it soft enough to enjoy. It takes a while to process and swallow to digest. So it is with faith and the process is called endurance. The only requirement is patience.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation now. Afterward (later), they will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. Why would God test and tempt us now? He doesn’t. God will test us, but it is our flesh that does the tempting. Today – there are many in the middle of a test who think God is tempting them or otherwise engaging them in this difficult process. It is human nature to try to escape those situations and conditions that require us to “patiently endure.” Who wants to be stretched? Who asks to struggle? Yet throughout our life certain circumstances and difficult conditions call for this very thing. We must learn to patiently endure because Jesus told us those who “endure to the end will be saved.” I think we have painted a multifaceted picture with brilliant color of what that means in accordance with our situation or condition. However, God in all things sets forth a redemption process in our life. We endure the process and He produces the outcome. Not just any outcome, the best of all possible outcomes. He gives us victory in all things through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are overcomers.

What does it mean to patiently endure? I looked up both words and here is what I have come up with. To be patient means bearing provocation. Provocation is anything that incites, instigates, angers or irritates. Provocation occurs each day. People seem to be the ones who hit the deepest nerve and many will give credit to the enemy. Proverbs tells us that if we fall under pressure that our strength is too small. There is no provocation that can overtake us unless it is our reaction to give in to it. Provocation is like the giant taunting David in the midst of the battlefield. His words and verbal attack could not hurt God’s Man. He patiently endured his brothers ridicule and the Philistines banter. He won!

To be patient means bearing annoyance. I grow annoyed every day don’t you? Little things become bigger things by dwelling upon them. How many thorns in the flesh do you have? Overcoming annoyance means to learn to ignore disturbances and those pointless arguments. We must learn to focus on the One who brings peace and rest to our mind, will and emotions. Those who trust the Lord will have perfect peace. Annoyances become disturbances that distract us. Leading us from following Jesus to be driven by the fuel of emotionalism.

To be patient means bearing misfortune. Everything may not work out the way that we think it will or expect it to but that does not mean it is not working in our favor. God takes every detail of our life and works it out for our good and His Glory. When reading the Gospels, it is hard to understand sometimes the doubt and disbelief exhibited by the disciples. However, we have the whole picture. We see Jesus on the Cross. We know that He released His Spirit and soon it would be available to us. We know that He is coming back from the dead and resurrected to life. But to these men, this was real life. Depicted in real time without a higher perspective or futuristic vantage point. They say Jesus persecuted. They witnessed the violent beatings and torture of the Man they called Messiah. They heard the nails being driven into His Hands and Feet. They experienced the humiliation of the Cross and the belittling of those who watched everything they believed made a sacrifice that day. We were not. We are given the whole story beginning to end. Yet many still do not believe…it was the same then as it is now. Unmet expectation only means that it was not in Jesus Christ. He will fulfill every desire of our heart if we are patient in misfortune.

Patience is bearing delays, deferment or postponement in life. It means taking a seat right there and being still when God says, “Wait.” I don’t like to wait. In fact, over time I can see all the ways the Lord has offered me opportunities to learn to wait. A little here and a little more there. Over time, I have become much more patient. From my early childhood to young adulthood, my grandmother probably told me once a day – you must be patient. The church told me no matter what to never pray for patience for the process is too hard. Knowing all this, the Word of God tells me that I must by all means endure the process that produces patience to receive God’s Blessing. Proverbs says a hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. I wonder if God proverbially calls life a tree so that we will come to realize growing faith is a slow process involving many seasons. We will wait. Those who wait in the Lord are promised not just the strength to do so but in their humble state to be lifted up at just the right time. I know you are tired of waiting – I feel your pain. I also know the joy and life that comes when the dream or desire is finally fulfilled. It is always worth the wait.

To be patient is to bear hardship. Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people. Sin is the rampant. Love has grown cold. Worldly expectation cannot count on fulfillment because the heart is fickle. Difficulties are certain. Oppression will come. Suffering is inevitable. Feeling any better yet?

Of course, the final thing and probably the one most understood is pain. Human beings experience pain from birth. It is a common thread. We know how to support each other through painful processes including physical infirmities, emotional breakdowns and mental suffering. Most people have some form of compassion. Pain is part of life because of sin. It was introduced by the first humans who chose their way over God’s Plan. They picked the lie over the Truth and so here we are now. Your sin does not necessarily produce the pain in your life because of anything you do or do not do. It is just a prevailing factor of human depravity. If a virus or germ goes undetected by our immune system, it becomes an infection. If our body doesn’t come against it fighting it, it will lead to death. Sin is a factor in our DNA. God’s Word, His Will and His Way are given to us and we are guided by His Spirit to avoid it. However, we are still subject to the invasion of our life due to the sin that is already here. God’s Grace given in Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin and death over our life. Though there is pain, there is the promise that He will relieve our pain, wipe our tears, and heal us forever.

All of those bearings in life will inevitably happen in your lifetime, but the thing that makes the difference between going through them or to do so patiently is this: to do so with fortitude and calm without complaint, anger or the like. I have endured many things in life. However, by definition there are not many of them which I have done so successfully. I have quit and I have definitely complained. I have been angry. Pitched a fit. Walked away. How about you? God uses these natural situations and everyday occurs us to teach us endurance. To endure means to bear without resistance, to hold out against, to sustain without impairment. It is to tolerate and put up with it. Those who learn to do so are promised God’s Blessing in their life now and later.

Maybe you are thinking as you read this – you have outlined my life, trials, tests and temptation in great detail – are you really trying to make me feel better about it? “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a change to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing!” God has a purpose in this process called life. It is not easy. It requires patient endurance that is only possible by faith and confident hope. That is not easy either – faith is evidence of unseen things that cannot be experienced in the natural. It is to explore possibility in the impossible. It to live a life that is illogical compared to our flesh and human nature. It takes time to produce such a change in the heart and mind. Trouble is when the pressure and pain that produces endurance hit us – it is our desire and temptation to escape. Temptation is the personal desire to give up, give in, or go another way when faced with obstacles and oppression the force the God in us to be expelled from us. The pressure of death to life is overwhelming. New life takes time. Like a tree planted by the riverbank going through many seasons, but the promise is that we will prosper in all of them. A tree must withstand every season because it is planted with deep roots in the ground. What about you? Are you planted in a firm foundation of faith? Are you patiently enduring the change of each season? Are you struggling just to hang on? Does the end of your rope appear to be a disappearing thread?

I Peter 2:19-21 (NLT) For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

I used to perceive God only as futuristic. This was my way of avoiding the things I did not understand or could not reconcile to the Love of God and found contradictory to His Character. There will be things in my heart and mind that I struggle with. Certain outcomes that do not meet my expectation. Are you patiently enduring today or just struggling to get by? I want to encourage you today. If we decide to apply faith and confidence to our struggles each day, it will produce peace and joy as God begins to complete the work that He began in us. Do not be discouraged. The disciples struggled to believe in all things with Jesus right there with them. God is pleased when we patiently endure. He did not say that we were perfect, He is perfect. It is His Perfection that blesses us as He makes good out of every detail of our life. We must only try wholehearted to seek Him and we will find Him. Patient endurance is holding on to our faith without wavering from our faith. He knows life is hard. He knows we are tempted. He knows we are only human. He is working every detail for our good. His Blessing is not our success or failure to overcome the obstacles presented in each day but our simple obedience called patient endurance.

Mark 6:47-50 (NLT)  Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 

When the disciples were caught in a storm in the pitch black darkness right in the middle of the lake, Jesus was walking across the lake. We often think it is to them, but in the Gospel of Mark it tells us that Jesus was going to pass them by on His Way to the other side. It was a test to measure their faith. Their faith ran out before they made it to the other side. They cried out to the Lord in fear and terror. So He came to them… Jesus will do the exact same thing for you. Yes this may be a test. This may be the opportunity God has designed to grow you in faith and confidence. If you are in need of strength or courage, cry out to Jesus today. He did not tell you that you must do it alone. He is our example. The Lord is our every present help. We are not called to be the strong ones but to be yoked with Jesus so He can be our strength. Don’t go it alone. He is our Lord both now and later.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT) Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

 

 

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. 

Life in a Pressure Cooker

life-in-a-pressure-cooker

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT) 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.

The pressure cooker was invented by a Frenchman, by the name of Denis Papin, who was a scientist rather than a renowned chef. His goal was more of a science experiment in physics more than a culinary innovation. The first pressure cooker was called the “Digester”. A solid metal pot with an airtight lid and steam-release value on top to adjust accordingly. The early models of his invention resulted in many explosions that ultimately led to the development of the piston-and-cylinder. The Digester was also the forerunner to the autoclave used to clean medical utensils before and after each use for hygienic purposes. I have never used a pressure cooker, but have had food cooked in one. The high pressure cooking brings out the moisture in food making even the toughest meat tender. It cooks much faster than normal as the boiling point is raised from 212 to 250 degrees. However, by design, it can be a bit intimidating with the bubbling value that shoots out steam under pressure. Though I cannot relate to cooking with pressure, I certainly will “amen” that I live under constant pressure.

“Pressed by every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.” The pressures of life though unseen can feel unbearable at times. Pressure is force upon the surface of an object. Life is fueled by expectation influenced by society, culture and even religion. Certain expectations that create external pressure to perform up to the level of the expectancy of others, self and yes, God. We have the Light of God’s Love within us and it is trying to make its way out. All the while the enemy tries to snuff it out with half-truths, lies and deceptions meant to make us give in, give out and buckle under the pressures of life. But what if the pressure you are feeling is not from external force but internal resistance trying to extract our purpose and fill our life with God’s Goodness to His Glory. The Light in us resisting the darkness around us and we are caught in the middle. What if the pressure is not to crush us but promote us to the position God intended for us? We are filled with a Great Treasure not meant to be hidden under a basket but positioned on a hill high above the city for all to see. Our life is not supposed to be ordinary but extraordinary thanks to the God in us. Natural gives way to supernatural by allowing God to move through us … the process that is used most by God is pressure. Pressure to change. Pressed to release. To be pressed down, shaken together so the Lord can run over in every area of life. Are you feeling the pressure today?

Job 23:8-14 (NLT) I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed. “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.

One of the most challenging things about God and a pressure cooker is that you cannot see what’s going on inside of them. The pressure cooker is sealed for the entire time. Who can see or really know what God is up to inside of us? During times of testing, it is only natural to feel like God has abandoned us when nothing could be farther from the Truth. He prepared you for this moment when pressure surrounds us. He has been positioning you for such a time as this. When taking a test in school, does the teacher give you the answers during the exam? No, the answers were provided before the day of the test. God prepares us along the way with His Word. He teaches us discipline. He gives us discernment so that when the time comes to be tested – we will pass. If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. (Proverbs 21:10) Job expresses this very feeling in Job 23:8-9 but comes to a very important conclusion by faith – “But he knows where I am going, and when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.”

What is the purpose of the test? God is working to develop faith in us to be used to overcome and prosper. To be successful in all we do demands obedience to His Word, Will and Way. This is not about a religion or church guidelines. No, this about purpose and destiny inscribed on your heart and brought about by Christ living and breathing inside of you. Too often, we do what people say and don’t listen for God’s Voice or study His Word or follow His Way. Instead we rely on people to take us somewhere they have never been and do for us only what God can do. God applies pressure so that we will not settle for where we are, who we are or what we have. He wants His Goodness and Glory to overflow in us and around us.

In Psalm 23, David writes “even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Like Job, David understood the Presence of God all around him. He knew that “rod” of discipline and “staff” of direction were absolutely necessary to make it through the shadows and valleys of life. Everyone has tests and trials in life. Everyone experiences pressure. It is our response to these things that dictate our destiny. David knew if he remained faithful and followed the Lord through these hard times and did not succumb to pressure that he would experience tremendous and overwhelming blessing despite his hardship. How about you? What do you do when pressure bears down on you? Is your strength in the Lord strong enough to endure? To seek relief from the pressure is to start the whole process over again. If I release the pressure cooker value before my meal is done and ready to eat, I must begin the process over again. God’s Way is perfect. His Plan is fulfillment. To comprise and give in to pressure will result in costly do overs and lengthy delays in reaching our destination.

Job decided it was better to remain faithful and true to God’s Word, Will and Way. He made the choice that when his world fell apart around him to continue to honor and serve God despite the horrors he faced. He did not give into the pressure of life. When others would have cursed God and died, Job made the right choice yielding to the Lord and walking in His Ways despite his pain, heartache and complete devastation. How are you responding to the pressures of life today? Jesus tells us in His Word that we must endure to be saved. Pressure produces endurance in the heart secured by faith and confident hope. Is that you today?

“But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does so he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.” I love Job’s declaration in the midst of devastation. Job surrenders to the Lord. God’s Way is perfect. Say that with me: “God’s Way is perfect.” Even though it may seem perfect – He is always working to perfect that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) If He is working everything for our good like His Word says, we must trust the Lord to complete this work that He began in us. I cannot work God’s Plan – He will work it out in me. I must simply surrender and submit to the Lord every area of my life. To endure the pressure to make it to the gold inside of me. To know that God is love. God is good. God is faithful. God is steadfast. His Love unfailing. His Grace neverending. All this means nothing, if I do not believe. Belief is demonstrated in trust. Do you trust the Lord today? If you do, you will not be tempted to turn the knob of rebellion and give up midway again. You cannot seek to relieve the pressure but endure it so that what God has placed in you, your potential will be refined and released as purpose.

Hosea 6:1-3 (NLT) “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Would the Lord really tear us to pieces? The Lord works best in our brokenness. His Grace is perfected in our weakness when His Power can completely overtake us. When a colt is introduced to a bridle and bit, the first urge is to resist. It shakes its head and tries to go its own way trying to wrestle the reins from the trainer. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. The Lord will not make you follow Him. He will not force blessings and prosperity in your life. Simple obedience provides basic provision. Radical obedience produces an abundance of prosperity. Not because of what you do, but because of where you are going. The deeper in love I am with Jesus the greater my desire for His Presence. The more I seek Him, the more I find Him. Where He is – there is my greatest treasure. The only thing that gets me closer to the Lord is faith and trust. I must learn to not give in to the pressures of life and rather rejoice that the Lord is up to something wonderful and if I don’t give it – it will come to pass in my life. Trusting the Lord keeps us steady under pressure. In the meantime, let us press to know Him more.

Psalm 119:143 (NLT) As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

As I have shared before, transition is the final phase of childbirth. It is also the hardest. You want to give up. You don’t think you can do it anymore. The pressure seems unbearable. The promise is so close. The very thing God is birthing in you is in transition. It is closer than you think. You cannot give in now. Get your hand off the release value, you are going to see this thing through. Maybe the pressure around you is not intended to break you down, but bust through the darkness to let your Light shine. Perhaps, it is your purpose about to break down every wall between you and prosperity. God uses pressure to promote us but only those who endure will know the sweet taste of victory. Are you feeling the pressure? Dive into God’s Word find your promise. Let Him strengthen those weary hands and weak knees today. Those who do will learn to rejoice under pressure because they know God’s Promise waits on the other side. Release is coming. Everything is going according to plan! God’s Plan. The Holy Spirit is cooking up something wonderful in you so taste and see that the Lord is good!

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 

My Time

New Year's at midnight - old vintage clock and fireworks

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

When our son was diagnosed with cancer, the morning after his oncologist came by to make introductions and schedule his initial appointments for evaluation and treatment plans. He has two oncologists who are amazing and definitely sent to us by God. After explaining the beginning processes and possible avenues of treatment, they asked our 19-year-old son if he had any questions. He quietly looked up clearly processing all the information and said, “I do not smoke. I do not drink. I do not go places where these things happen. Why me?” Completely plausible question considering our son never really was a social kid and has always stuck pretty close to home. He was honest in his estimation of his life including the fact I was a complete fanatic about our kids not being exposed to secondhand smoke. Why? How is it even possible that he could have nasopharyngeal cancer? Good question. No, that is exactly what the doctor said to him completely validating his estimation that it was inconceivable. He went on to explain that our son’s case was indeed rare and they were at the moment scratching their heads as to where it came from and how they would fight it. But…his final words were quite impressive. His doctor walked around the foot of the bed to his side, placing his hand gently yet firmly on his shoulder, looking him directly in the eye and spoke something quite profound and unforgettable to him which applies to all of us. He changed positions in that moment from doctor to philosopher of sorts. “Everyone goes through something in life that defines who they are. This is your one thing. You can overcome this and life a better life because of it.”

Is this your “thing”? Are you going through something that has you asking the Lord, “Why me?” God’s Grace and Character can handle your question even when it becomes a harsh interrogation. He welcomes it, in fact. It is in the moments of time when everything we know and believe about the Lord is challenged that fallacies of faith are discovered and filled with His Grace to grow a little more faith each time. When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. You learn to believe God’s Word a little more. Walk out on the water just a little bit further. One day the thing will come that causes you to cross over from being caught up in little things and you will be consumed by one thing. Jesus will be all you need. He will become your greatest desire. It will be in that moment that satisfaction and completion produce fulfillment. Is your time coming? Is it already here?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

There is a time for every activity under heaven. The list is long and comprehensive but covers the whole gambit in Ecclesiastes 3. It does not change when Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord. The potential of each moment is infused with the Power of God so that every detail can result in our good according to Romans 8:28. The Christ in us makes us triumphant overcomes in all things but does not exempt us from the process of endurance that solidifies our faith. We all must endure something that allows our faith to grow larger than our fear, confidence in God greater than any human insecurity, and our perception of life greater than tomorrow but firmly secured by hope called forever. The realm of hope is the place where the impossibilities of life become possible by faith.

God makes everything beautiful when? He makes everything beautiful in its own time. This implies process which will require patience and endurance. These qualities of discipline must be part of our life to keep us on track yet they are not very pleasant physically or spiritually. I do not like to wait. I do not have a vast supply of patience. My entire being rebels against endurance. But God says, “Hold on, I am doing something here. Maybe not around you, but in you!” He has placed eternity in my heart that has become desire to know Him more. As I call out to the Lord, He answers but not always the way that I would like Him to. Growth is a process. It cannot be hurried to accommodate my feelings but rather I must learn to wait for its proper time. For such a time as this…

Esther 4:13-14 (NLT) Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Esther was not pursued by the King Xerxes but rather part of a roundup of sorts. After he had deposed Queen Vashti, his attendants suggested that they search the empire for the most beautiful virgins. They would be brought to the palace (whether they wanted to come or not) and be subjected to months of preparation for a night in the king’s bed. This is not exactly what I would call a fairytale but rather enslavement. Esther was one of those young women. I cannot imagine her fear at being taken from her family and prepared to be presented against her will to the king. She endured the process and would become his queen. However, God knew exactly where Esther needed to be for such a time as this… She is not the only one. David had his “for just such a time as this moment” when he faced a giant with only a sling and handful of stones. He didn’t go with an army or even in armor. He faced the giant by faith overcoming fear. Daniel spent the night in the company of lions. Alone. Surely he would become a feast, but that’s not what happened. Daniel had been groomed and prepared for just such a time as this. What about Abraham? Walking to the mountain alone, completely by faith as he hoisted his son on the altar. He would honor God even if it meant driving a knife through his son, his only son to honor his God. He left his servants behind. Just Abraham and God went up that mountain with a sacrifice, but came down with a son. Even Jesus had a moment when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” We are made for the moment, for that thing that moves us past ourselves into a faithful relationship with our God. When given the choice to press in and endure of give up and move on – we give our all to Jesus like He gave His All for us.

Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

Sin is rampant. Love is growing colder by the hour. The world is a dark and perverse place. We have a Light within us that must find its way out. Eternity planted in our heart is only potential unless it becomes our purpose in life. We are given the opportunity to have eternity by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Faith turns our potential into purpose. Jesus was clear that He came to give us a rich and satisfying life that the enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy daily. We must endure to the end to be saved. Our footsteps are ordered by the Lord to take us the valley to face the giant or lead us to the den filled with hungry lions or even to the mountain of sacrifice where the price may be more than our willingness to pay – it is that moment when there is nothing left of me to give and all I have is the Christ within me to offer. Jesus is enough. His Grace is always sufficient but if I never reach one of these places in life then my faith may not be strong enough or real enough to take me Eternity. It must be tested. I must know that it is true.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT) 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.

Peter the disciple of Jesus Christ was quite firm in his stance that he would die for the Lord. When the time of testing came – Peter denied Jesus three times in one night. However, when Jesus rose again and came to meet the group of disciples on the beach that day – Peter dove in the water and swam to Him. Something had changed. Peter became the Rock Jesus told him that he would be. However, what about Judas? He left the group and killed himself. I believe that if he would have come back to Jesus after the resurrection that the same grace I have been given would have been bestowed on him, too. Judas didn’t believe it. He felt despair so deep he could not go on. I know you are being pressed too far. I understand what it means to be perplexed when our life doesn’t look like what God promised. It feels like the enemy is hot on our heels…he is. We get knocked down. We feel the pain of suffering, the hurt of betrayal and devastation of trauma – but we are never crushed, driven to despair, abandoned by God, or even destroyed. No – all these things are the obstacles that must be removed so our faith can grow. It is all part of God’s Plan – “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

I Corinthians 9:26-27 (NLT) 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.

Be encouraged today! You have purpose in every step. Now is the time to begin to discipline your body like an athlete, take control of your thoughts making them subject to God’s Word, and it is up to you if you will choose His Way. If you have asked, “Why me?” You are very close to a breakthrough a moment when the Light of His Love breaks through the dark and your faith has a chance to grow a little or even a lot. Do not give up. Do not give in. Press. Push. Do whatever it takes to take the next step, reach out a little further, and make it through just one more day. God is with you. He did not abandon you but is trying to take all that potential and burst forth with purpose today. A successful life is a purposeful life. A purposeful life is a fulfilled life. A fulfilled life is a satisfied life. It is impossible to have this kind of life apart from our faith. We must live, breath, move and exist in Christ to have all that He has promised expressed in each moment. You were made for just such a time as this – it doesn’t matter how it looks or what anyone thinks – it will be defined by what we know and believe which is relayed in our faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ. Beat the giant and you will win every other battle. Shut the mouth of lions and you will never fear their roar again. Go to the mountain and come back full of faith. There are a great cloud of witnesses cheering you on! You can do it. You were made for this moment! This your time! This is my time to be blessed, prosperous and fulfilled by the rich and satisfying life that Jesus purposed for me!

John 10:10 (NLT) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Time to Push

time-to-push

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.

Over the years, as a woman, I have heard more than my fair share of birthing stories. Testimonies of life on the battlefield of childbirth shared as the glory days of each mother. Why not? Most of us bear the scars and weak bladders proving it was a fight for life to get that little person here. God made woman to bear children with bodies equipped to nurture their babies and hearts read to nurture and care for them. It is engrained in our purpose. This does not make having a baby any easier. In fact, included in all the joy and anticipation of preparing for the new arrival, somewhere around the eight-month mark with a belly too big to get around the revelation comes – what is in me must come out of me. I will not deny the pure beauty and wonder of seeing our child for the first time and falling in love all over again but the moments proceeding their arrival is not so glorious. Labor is hard. It takes every ounce of energy. It is surrendering our bodies to the process that God designed in us and is written in our DNA. However, when it is time to push, there is a sudden shift during the transition phase. With every fiber of our being and all that is within us, it is time to see our promise come to pass and hear the wail of a new being. What is God trying to get you to push out today?

We come pregnant with certain promises. In God’s Time, He makes all things beautiful and it is time to push them out into the atmosphere. That’s right, we have to push. To press and to push are too different forces. One is to obtain and one is to release or move away. There is a term to promises in our life set by the Lord for completion. If it were to arrive too soon, it would be a spiritual abortion. If left to its own devices inside of us, it will become a dead dream. But when God puts pressure on us to push, those who respond will see His Glory fill their life. His Glory and His Goodness begin to bring to life all the things He has promised and release His Blessings along the way. His Power in us must find its way into the atmosphere around us. It is time to push.

Hebrews 12:1-4 (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.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

When a mother is given the news that a baby is on the way, most moms will begin to make certain lifestyle changes to give her little one the best possible chance. She changes her diet, stops partaking in things that may be harmful and even may begin an exercise plan. Reading all the latest literature and seeking the advice of others, she engages on a journey to receive her tiny promise. She gives up her body. She disciplines her life according to the promise within her.

I have a promise. Truly many promises are wrapped up in my purpose according to my Champion who is Jesus Christ. He handed me victory in all things and the power to overtake every obstacle between me and His Glory. How do I get there from here? I have to push my purpose from the inside out of me. This is a process. I engage in it by preparing for the arrival of my purpose. I must “strip off every weight that slows me down especially the sin” that keeps derailing, detouring and delaying the completion of my promise. Jesus has initiated and even perfected my faith, but I have to use it to change the way I think, the things I do, my attitude and my actions. To push purpose from within me, I must prepare the way. The process is repentance. It clears the way for His Glory to be expressed and fill my world with the Light of His Love for all to see.

Psalm 44:4-8 (NLT) You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. 

Women endure many insults to her body during pregnancy. The growing child zaps her iron from her blood and calcium from bones and teeth as it develops. Many endure months of morning sickness, and continuous illness. There is swelling in her ankles and feet. She is exhausted in daily tasks and her body performs 24/7 in the background making a new person. Even though God made women to reproduce, it doesn’t mean that process of pregnancy any less difficult. Yet I have delivered five babies and I have friends who have even more than me. Why do we do it? Why do we push even when we know the toll it will take on our body? Because it is worth it.

The worth of our purpose does not go unnoticed by the enemy. He has but one purpose. He wants to steal, kill and destroy the purpose of God ready to come out of you before it makes its way out. The enemy wants to destroy our confidence in the Lord with doubt. He wants to force us out of process with discouragement. He wants to create delays that will make us want to give up. With our fifth child in the ninth month, I was exhausted, swollen and done with the whole business of baby making. I remember sitting on the table looking down at my elephant-sized ankles thinking enough was enough. When the doctor came in, he chuckled and asked, “how are you doing, mama? All I could say was “get this baby out.” It is important that when the pressure to give up or give in comes that we push it away and push back the enemy. How do we do that? Simple – praise.

When I choose to praise God in my process, it releases His Power all around me and protects me in my process. When it was time to deliver our children, my husband was by my side and the midwife close by. I was surrounded. God has given us His Spirit inside of us. His Power is in us. Praise release it to the surrounding atmosphere. It announces the promise is coming and prepares for purpose to break loose. Sometimes praise is difficult when the pain too much, the pressure to hard, and the process too long. Praise pushes back the enemy so to discard our complaints and grumbling and replace it with praise is God’s Power being released from us to prepare the way before us.

Psalm 18:30-32 (NLT) God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.

God’s way is perfect. Do you believe that today? Do you trust God’s Process for your life? Careful before you answer because a life of true believing is characterized by godly obedience. Those who truly believe in God’s Process, His Promise and His Purpose will walk in his ways. To the faithful – God shows He is faithful. My faithfulness to God tells God that I believe more than a single word uttered from my mouth. If I believe that every promise that the Lord has made me is true, then I would be ravenous for His Word and gorge on it daily. Why? Because if everything that God promised really is true, it would produce a much better life than I have now. Faith is just a word, believing it makes it a verb. When the promise of God becomes my purpose, I will discipline my life to have it. I must decide that I believe that His Purpose is what I want and push through to receive it.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

If there was not a process to the process of purpose, why would we need Christ to give us strength? We want God to do it. The Lord gave us the Keys to His Kingdom, and Jesus lives in us for a reason. We are supposed to do something. We must exert energy and force in pushing out the promise and purpose of God within us. Faith makes the impossible totally possible. However, we spend a whole lot of time shaking the Keys to the Kingdom while the enemy laughs. It is when I take those same keys and use them that he begins to tremble and retreat. The Lion of Judah is quiet and still confident in His Power. His next roar will be the shout of His Return. The enemy, however; is roaming around roaring on his leash hoping to instill fear, doubt, worry and despair so that rather than pushing through you will run and hide. Not today, devil. I am pushing out purpose today.

“If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” (Proverbs 24:10) Weakness is not failure but the very moment I am completely moved out of the way so His Power can become my strength. I cannot obtain spiritual things with earthly force. Heaven comes to earth when I say, “You are perfect in all of your ways, Jesus. Have your way in my life” and mean it. Five times in labor, I have said, “I can’t do this”, “I don’t want to do this” and “I am not going to do this.” Each time it was within minutes of delivering my precious child. The pressure to give in and give up is always the closest to breakthrough. If you are considering such things, tell yourself that transition has arrive and breakthrough is almost here. Praise Him in that moment for the victory that is close and promise that is just outside your reach. It’s coming!

Ephesians 3:16-20 (NLT)  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

The Holy Spirit is our partner in the process. He leads us, guides us, teaches us, instructs us, comforts us and even empowers us. Purpose has a process. The pressure is overwhelming as my flesh gives way to supernatural possibilities in my life. I need the Spirit to help me. That is His Purpose. Our purpose and God’s Promises that are obtained by faith are much bigger than me. I cannot comprehend fully what the Lord has in store for me. It is too big for my ordinary life and therefore takes an extraordinary process to prepare my environment for His Glory. God is able in His Mighty Power to accomplish “infinitely” more than we might ask or think. The productivity of our process is much larger than we think or know with this in mind the pressure may be indicative of the promotion and prosperity God has in store for us rather that when we think is going on or the end result. Faith is for those things that I cannot do. Faith is outside the boundaries of comfort and control strive for in by humanity. Faith is for the unfathomable and impossibilities of life. God is pushing us past all fear, doubt and insecurity because what He has for us is greater than anything we have chosen for ourselves. I must push to know the extent of God’s Love and Power invested in me so that I can push forth the purpose which He has placed inside me and empowered by His Son, Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:10-12 (NLT) Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

Whether pregnant with a promise, purpose or even a tiny person, you will need endurance and patience to endure the process. It is not a coincidence that God also uses these two things to perfect our faith. To strengthen it. What are you waiting on today? What is the promise that seems so long overdue? What is the purpose hidden in your heavy heart today? God’s Way is perfect. He created you with that longing in your heart and is perfecting all that concerns you. (Psalm 138:8) He works out EVERY detail of our life for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) Whatever your place in His Process, it is important that our response to pressure is to push. Push away every weight that keeps us being fully engaged. Push back the enemy. Push away the urge to give up knowing breakthrough is coming. Our promise is on the way. Pressing in to the Presence of God and pushing aside every obstacle. Protect your promise today. Do not douse with venom called complaining and grumbling but immerse it in praise and worship for the Father who gave it to you and the Savior who died for you to have it. It will be worth it but only if we push through the process and receive that which is greater than we can think, imagine or even ask for. We are birthing God’s Promise. Laboring for His Purpose. There is a glorious prize when victory is achieved in the life of a believer. It is time to push!

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NLT) Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.

 

More Than a Follower

more-than-a-follower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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