Rags to Riches

Rags to Riches

Colossians 3:14-16 (NLT) Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

I am one of the greatest rags to riches stories ever written. A wretched, deplorable person filled with faults and failures swept up in a wave of grace so powerful that every detail of my life is changed. Filled with disappointment, bitterness, and completely devastated by bad choices I was lost in my own regret and shame. All that changed when I met a man. A man who knew all about my life and yet still chose to give me a brand new one. He took all those details and continues to make good on His Promise to change this mess into a message. Like an epic love story with all of the cinematic splendor yet private and intimate, I cannot begin to tell you how love made the difference in my life. His Love that clothes me allows me to love freely and forgivingly. His Grace that has kept me this far has produced a need to give it away just to have more. His Goodness has benefited my life in more ways than I could ever count or confer to another without forgetting some of the miraculous and wonderful gifts I have been given. His Name – Jesus.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” One of the greatest gifts given to us by the Lord is His Peace. The kind of peace that passes understanding. Derived from unconditional love and uncompromised acceptance of all imperfections by a perfectly sovereign God provided by his perfectly sinless Son, how is it possible to accept such an extravagant gift without somehow reciprocating it? It would be wonderful if there was something of any worth that I could give Him, but there really is nothing other than to accept His Gift of Love, Grace and Mercy and apply it to my broken life. Oh how our pride hates the thought of something that is unearned and undeserved. Our need for supremacy and control puts rules, regulations and mandates on the freeness of God’s Grace in order to fulfill its obligation. Such in intrusion sows seeds of insecurity and doubt that will begin to uproot faith and choke out the hope rising from within.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love…” In Isaiah 61:10, it says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” The Lord gave us salvation and wrapped a white robe around us to cover us. It is this robe that gives us confidence that our relationship is secure again. Nothing can now come between us and the Love of God. Sin is covered sufficiently by the Blood of Jesus. Game over. However, if we do not clothe ourselves in His Love daily – it is easy to put back on the filthy rags of a beggar. Imagine. Why do such a thing? Would you do that now? Would you choose clothes out of the hamper rather than grabbing a fresh clean garment from the drawer?

Today, before you leave for church, you will choose an outfit, check your appearance in the mirror, and make sure everything is just right before heading off to worship the Lord. The people in the congregation will appreciate your diligence but when you arrive will the Lord see the robe of righteousness that He has given you. The love that identifies you as His Own. Will God recognize you as His Own? It is easy to get caught up in life and social standards but today if only for today – can we get so wrapped up in Jesus that no one recognizes us?

Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Studying the Word this morning, my intent was to focus on thankfulness. I am determined to carry over the thanksgiving season all the way through the Christmas holiday. Thankfulness produces contentment in our life. Taking our eyes off what we do not have to appreciate and acknowledge the things given to us by the Hand of God. Every good thing in our life is a product of God with us – Immanuel. It doesn’t matter if we acknowledge the Lord or not – He blesses us according to His Will. The rain falls on the just and unjust because God ordained it not man ordering it. There is nothing I can do to earn or deserve the Grace of God in my life. What I can do is to let the Prince of Peace rule my heart.

You must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow done into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. The instructions are simple. Why do we make it so hard? Faith is not impractical. It may seem a bit illogical until the Word of God becomes a daily consumption and His Spirit uses it cultivate your faith into a practical lifestyle. God’s Word is the fertilizer of faith in our life. The roots of faith connect us with God’s Heart and His Desires. As we build our lives on Christ who is the foundation of our faith, there is a wonderful transformation from dissatisfaction and discontentment to full satisfaction and completion. It is not based on feelings, emotions or worldly standards but thankfulness. How can I be thankful when my needs are not met, my emotions are all over the map, and my expectations seem wasted on an unseen God with invisible hands?

We walk by faith and not by sight. Faith is followed by simply doing what the Word of God says even when the outcome is not clear. A farmer plants a field with great expectation but no guarantee. Doing his best to prepare the field, sowing good seed, watering and caring for what looks to be barren, while beneath the soil – the seed is growing, changing, developing and maturing. What if the very thing you prayed for is just below the surface of your life, but unwillingness to wait causes you to leave the field? The seed will still produce in your absence.

Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT) Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Disqualification is ineligibility when breaking the terms of an agreement. The enemy will continually offer compromises in order to attempt to disqualify you. Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that appeal to human reasoning but are not divine wisdom. It is written that God’s People will perish from ignorance or a lack of knowledge. God’s Word is absolutely essential to tearing down the strongholds of the mind those things that appeal to our flesh but wreak havoc on our heart. The fullness of God lives in Christ. Christ lives in us. His Authority and Power belong to us as a product of grace and grace alone. We are overcomers in all things. We have been handed the victory. Disqualification is only possible apart from Christ. His Grace fills the void of broken rules and agreements so now we are right with God the Father again. We must make the decision to capture every thought that is in rebellion to God, His Plan and Purpose for our life in order to remain qualified for the calling. Otherwise, we will choose less than God’s Best and wander off to wildernesses in search of substitutions, shortcuts and subtle settlings.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT) Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

You are one of the greatest rags to riches stories ever written. A wretched, deplorable person filled with faults and failures swept up in a wave of grace so powerful that every detail of your life is subject to change. Though you may be experiencing disappointment, bitterness, and complete devastation by bad choices or unfortunate situations, the Fullness of Christ in you is looking to make its way out into the open. Has shame shattered your confidence in Christ or maybe regret is reasoning that you are not worthy of God’s Investment of His Son and Spirit so you simply live in your suffering?  God has written an epic love story with all of the cinematic splendor just for you, it begins only by accepting the fullness of His Grace and then following Him. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, fail or flail, God is doing the good work inside you and His Grace is always enough.

Devote yourself today. The word “devote” means to give all or a large part of one’s time and/or resources to an activity or person. I wonder what would happen if we devoted more of our time and resources to discovering the Fullness of God given to us in Christ. If we strived to clothe ourselves in the righteousness that is grace given rather than continually donning the old filthy rags of our past indiscretions or present insecurities. Devote our life to God, Jesus and His Spirit by pursuing intimacy that is not dependent on anyone else. To live with an alert mind that is fixed on the Kingdom, heavenly outpourings and miraculous outcomes. God has placed potential in us that will lead to daily fulfillment and abundance. We must be consciously aware that this moment does not dictate our future, but should be lived with forever in mind. Least but not last, a thankful heart. This is for me today.

My identity in Christ is enough to live in complete fulfillment with hopeful expectation. I must build my confidence by increasing faith. I must devote my life to Jesus Christ in all things. (Ephesians 5:10) I must be confident of the Kingdom to which I belong and its sustainability for my life today. (Hebrews 12:28) On those days when I got lost in emotional overtures or overwhelming feelings, I must still manage to sacrifice thankfulness because He never changes and is bigger than my feelings. (Psalm 50:14; I John 3:20) God knows exactly what He is doing in me, through me and for me. I must maintain my belief that He is good and will never let me down. I must remind my soul by worshiping God for who He is and not what He does.

With this in mind today, let us devote ourselves to the Lord once again. I find that I do this on a daily basis these days. About five years ago, I came to the place of understanding that I have no control over my life and what happens in it. God has complete control now. He always did but when I gave up my need to control it and came to the realization I can do nothing apart from Christ – everything changed. I am changing. The more I change the more I find that is needed to be given to His Transformation process. Giving up control is hard, but the realization I have no control is life changing. It is the moment when His Grace becomes enough…all sufficient.  I am nothing apart from Christ. I can do nothing of worth outside of the God living in me. Everything I am ever will be or have is from the Hand of God who is loving, gracious and good even when I’m not. Thank you for taking my filthy rags and giving me the riches of Heaven. Lord, let me live like it today and every day.

Ephesians 5:20 (NLT) And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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Perfect Peace

Be Still and Know.

John 14:27 (NKJV) Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 

With a Category 4 Hurricane moving toward the state of Florida, things are a little crazy about now. Pandemonium has ensued as people attempt to prepare for the devastating effects of potential winds of more than 100 mph. We have a plenty of water. A fully stocked pantry. I will pick up a generator and gas cans from a friend. The highways are filled with cars barely moving. Living in north Florida, there is no doubt the storm will impact us but the folks in south Florida are being evacuated. Will they have a place called home to return to? Will they be able to continue to work? Will their family and friends who chose to stay make it through okay? Will they have enough money and time to reach safety? Should I stay or should I go? Fatigue and exhaustion are a dangerous mix that ignites overwrought emotions. Let’s stop for just a moment. Take a deep breath. Yes, I know there is so much to do. I know danger is only a day or two away.

Stepping out into the cool morning air, fall is coming. Today is beautiful. The sun is shining with a few sparse clouds and a lovely breeze blowing. Our yard is freshly cut. The trees are full and green. I take it all in because it may not look the same way in a few days. Life does not come with a guarantee that there will never be rainy days or even hurricanes. It doesn’t mean that your perfectly healthy children will not one day become terminally ill cancer patients. Tragedy is part of life. As long as the earth is still in existence, there will be good days and not-so-good ones. The world will not last forever. Seasons come and seasons go. God is our constant. He doesn’t change. Rain produces rainbows as a reminder that even when the rain comes pouring from the sky or flood waters rise that He will never destroy the earth or His People. His Word cannot return to Him void. His Sovereignty is never in question. The Lord must work within the parameters of freedom. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. Therefore, storms come and go, but the hope that anchors our soul is found only in the Lord who is constant. Unchanging.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is important. It is the foundation of our faith as believers upon which our belief system is built. The moment God doesn’t do what He says or falls short – we have a problem. Do you have peace today? Peace that passes your human understanding. Faith is only logical if we know God’s Word and believe it. I hate cancer. I loathe every vile of it in every innocent victim whose life it has infiltrated. I will war against it all the days of my life. But I cannot say that I am not thankful for the peace the trial produced in my life. The perspective of faith triumphing over tragedy is not as I expected. There is no glory or victory lane in the natural. I thought when our son was finally in remission that I would leap, shout and run around the hospital. It was not like that. Oh there was exceeding joy but what emerged was a quiet confidence in the awesomeness of God. Three years of praying, crying and trusting – repeating words and promises until I was blue in the face that made medical personnel think I was crazy. I just couldn’t believe that God was not good. I couldn’t fathom that He wouldn’t do what He said. He said it. I heard Him. I knew it was Him. When every other word and report was to the contrary, I would whisper…”But you promised, God!” The process of perfect peace is not found in the good times and great seasons of life but those times of disappointment, devastation or desperation when all you have is the Lord and all you need is for Him to do what He said…so you decide to be still and know that He is God.

Psalm 4:6-8 (NKJV) There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” Lord, lift up the light of Your Countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Jesus came to give us perfect peace. He promised in His Word. The word “peace” is “shalom” which means completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, and harmony. It is the absence of agitation and discord. Shalom is a derivative of “shalam” which means to be complete, perfect and full. Thankfulness and contentment that is not contingent on your current situation or circumstances. The kind of peace that the Lord is gifting us with is complete and constant confidence in His Love for us and Goodness toward us. Jesus didn’t come to bring world peace. (Matthew 10:34) He did give us His Peace. The confidence of His Love and Salvation. Peace of heart and mind unmoved by world events or natural disaster. The kind of peace that can only be found by the one who seeks to attain it.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I find it interesting that despite public service announcements of being prepared for a hurricane that so many people are without the proper supplies. I think it is ironic that with running water in every household that so many are using all their gas to find cases of bottled water. I have no room to talk. I bought four cases of bottled water and had nothing on supply but some snack food when it became clear the storm was coming. I have lived in Florida my whole life. I have experienced other storm similar storm systems. I was not ready when the first warning came. We have a God who loves us. His Son, Jesus, died to give us access to Him. We are given new mercy every morning. His Grace is enough for every weakness. There is a Book of Instruction crammed full of promises, warnings and guidance. More than half of the church today is on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. Again, I am only stating facts there is no condemnation. Rain falls on the just and unjust. Life happens. Sin is rampant. Evil and darkness is at every turn. There are wars and rumors of war. There is a hurricane about to cover the state of Florida. Do you have peace today? Do you have perfect peace?

The Peace of God is available to those who are righteous. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Too often we stop at salvation and save the rest of God’s Promises for a rainy day. Well, maybe for you that rainy day is today. See there is nothing any storm in life can rob you of that is eternally of worth. Your soul is secure in Jesus Christ. God forbid if you leave this world today – you will be fully embraced in His Loving Arms. It’s a win-win situation for those who believe. However, the Peace of God that surpasses human understanding is evidence of such confident hope. Faith expresses itself in peace that is fully reliant on God and His Faithfulness. I’ve seen that peace before radiating on a man’s face. Our son-in-law’s grandfather was diagnosed with a heart that was failing. He was not given a long time to live. The pallor of his complexion due to poor heart function made it evident that the Lord would come for him soon. Yet sitting in church singing old hymns with his hand held high with a smile plastered across his face, it was clear that he did not fear death but welcomed it as an open invitation into the arms of Jesus. That’s the kind of peace I strive for and long for every moment of every day. I have experience a small portion and desire it full force in my heart and mind. The Lord has promised it to me and you, too. We must only pursue it to have it.

The Lord is with us friend. The wind and waves know His Name. They recognize His Voice. Do you? He is speaking to us all today. “Be still and know.” Know me. Trust me. Love me. Pursue me. Let me be your peace. Your comfort. Your confidence today and always.

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control, and in the middle of the war, You guard my soul,
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm

Armed To Overcome

Armed to Overcome

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

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. Why is shocking when trials come our way? Why does our heart fall apart so quickly when sorrow is inevitable? Jesus did not tell us that life would be all hunky dory. No, the Lord was straightforward and honest. Life is tough. It will be full of struggles. There will be problems and perplexities that plague our natural life from now until we see Him face-to-face. He didn’t say it wouldn’t be a fight…Jesus just told us that we win! “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Wandering into the dark bathroom this morning, I flipped on the light struggling to focus. The first thing I could see as my eyes adjusted was a fat spider motionless on the floor. Clearly alive but not moving, I watched her as I navigated the room deciding how to proceed in my conquest. However, as I moved closer she did not move. I realized I was not battling one spider but a mama spider filled with babies. Ugh! She would not make it out of the bathroom alive but any attempt to disturb her would cause her to release hundreds of spider babies. Again, ugh! Armed with bug spray, paper towels and a shoe, I went after the giant. True to form, she immediately launched her counterattack in her final throes of death. I have fought this battle before. Quickly spraying enough bug spray to kill every bug in the county around the perimeter as her young began to run in all directions – my engagement a success and all the spiders died. I used to be afraid of spiders. I know some people who are deathly afraid of them. Growing up in a mobile home, critters found their way in more readily. I have been a bug killer a long time. I also know that if this spider is all I face today – it is a good day!

Some seasons are like that in life – we kill the giant but a thousand other little things rise up. The enemy doesn’t always use the big things in life to defeat us but engages us from all sides. He tries to overwhelm us and weaken our defense, so he can overtake us with fear, anxiety, and doubt. I am in a season just like that. Every time I overcome one thing – it seems like five more things pop up. I feel like rather than walking boldly and triumphantly through life – I am tiptoeing through a mine field hoping not to set another thing off. With each burden and mounting stress, the enemy pulls and tugs at us trying to lure us off course. Not today devil – I am putting on my armor – I have already won the fight!

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

A final word…

This means that what comes next is important. A final impartation that is relevant and important. We should pay careful attention to anything prefaced in such a way. If you hear nothing else, listen to this “a final word.” Parting thoughts that summarize the entire conversation. Throughout the Old Testament, time and time again, there is insight from great men of God on their deathbed. It is when the fathers and patriarchs would give their blessing to the firstborn and siblings. Our final word…

Be strong IN the Lord and IN His Mighty Power.

My strength comes from the Lord. (PERIOD) I do not have the ability to overcome the world any more than Jesus already did. He won the final victory. The championship belongs to Him and there is no rematch. We are the prize. His People. He fought and won for us. We do not have to fight to win but fight to remain confident in His Power that won. The team that wins the Super Bowl doesn’t go to the locker room before the award ceremony wondering if they really won or if the trophy will come back to their hometown. No, they go back and celebrate until it is time to claim the prize. Jesus won it all for us. He overcome sin, death and the grave to give us a rich, satisfying life. We aren’t going to Disney World. We are headed to Heaven. This world is the stopover. The win is secure. The battle over. The enemy’s tactic is to convince us otherwise.

His Power is given to me by His Grace. When I give up my life in humble submission and human weakness to accept His Grace – I have access to His Power. Wonderworking power begins by accepting God’s Grace as more than enough to overcome every pitfall and problem in my life so that when life gets hard – I don’t. To be strong in the Lord and in His Might Power is our objective. It is the armor of God that helps us as we go.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

Let’s clarify our objective before preparing for it. Our objective is not to defend Jesus Christ. It is not to fight for our faith in government or amongst other religions. Everyone is free to believe whatever it is they choose to believe. It is our God-given right. The Son has set us free. Jesus died for every single human being ever created. The Power of His Blood is not diminished by a lack of belief or acceptance. His Trip to the Cross would have occurred regardless of people’s response. He was on a mission. To set us all free from sin. He did it all on His Own. He is fully accomplished outside of us. This is the procurement of freedom. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed is not just for Christians. Freedom was given to everyone but not everyone chooses freedom from sin. Think about it.

We must use God’s Armor to be able to stand firm against the enemy. The enemy who strategizes against us is the devil. No person just satan. Our flesh wars within us to have control as well. However, the enemy is the one who wants to stop God’s Plan and Purpose for your life which is to overcome and live in victory every single day. Why? Winning glorifies God. Success means you believe. It magnifies Jesus and His Power which is the end to the foolishness the devil is causing. Satan knows he loses so his objective is always collateral damage. He doesn’t want to go down alone but take as many of us with him as he can. Why? We are the prize that Jesus was after. We are the thing worth His Whole Life. He stepped down from His Throne in Heaven to be disrespected, humiliated, beaten, tortured and crucified because Jesus wanted us.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT) Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

When God laid it on David’s heart to kill the giant, Saul tried to give the young man his armor. But it did not fit David, he was not used to the weight of it. It was made for Saul not David. David did not win the battle – he took a stand and killed a giant with a small, smooth stone. Some might argue that little rock was inscribed with the word “faith”. Maybe so…who knows? What I do know is that David believed in his young heart that God would fight and win for him. He didn’t hesitate for a second but walked right up to the looming threat that had an entire army hunkered down cowering in fear.

What are you wearing today? In a few minutes, I must decide what I will don for the day. I am going to work in an office. Climate-controlled and not physically challenging – it will not require anything special just some pants and a shirt with sandals. This is the apparel I will put on my physical body, but what about my spirit? I will step into the armor of God. I will need to be strong in the Lord and take a stand against the enemy. Every day there are challenges and today will be no exception. I must be more concerned with my spirit’s clothing each day than my physical appearance if my objective is to remain standing in faith and confident hope at the end of the day.

Here is a rundown of what my outfit of armor looks like according to God’s Word. First, I must put on truth. The truth is what God says about me. Who I am in Christ. The new person I am becoming in the Master’s Hand. The accuser will challenge my identity as a Child of the Living God offering me a quick fix and limited lifestyle over God’s Standard of Living which is glorious. Truth allows me to see myself through the Eyes of God not man. His Word is a reflection of who I am and what I can do IN Christ today.

The Body Armor that guards my heart is that I am in right standing with God. Nothing can or will ever separate me from God’s Love because His Grace is enough for me. The Blood of Jesus Christ paid my sin debt in full – past, present and future. My relationship with Christ wraps me so tightly in a robe of righteousness that the enemy reach me if I put myself in His Presence and choose to remain there. I am fully covered. My life is no longer my own. Christ lives in me and covers me fully.

Peace is my platform. It is the shoes that I walk in given to me by Jesus. Like a child following in the sand, placing each foot in the imprint of his father, I must walk humbly with my God which means loving others and creating harmony among God’s People. I must walk peacefully today.

The shield of faith is keeps the lie of the enemy from ever reaching me. His fiery darts of mistruth fall to the ground when I hold tightly to the shield of faith and keep it before me. God loves me. He is good. He is faithful. His Faithfulness allows me to have faith because I am not the one who is expected to get it right. God has given me faith. My job is to believe it enough to place it ever before me shielding my heart and mind from the lie of the enemy.

The helmet of salvation is absolute confidence in hope. Hope never disappoints. I must believe this wholeheartedly and seek the Lord as though I do. Our mind is the biggest battlefield because if we can overcome worry, doubt and fear with the prevailing peace of mind that Jesus offers us – the enemy cannot get in our head anymore and the Spirit of God can get busy transforming our thoughts into more confidence in God’s Love and Power for us.

The Sword of the Spirit is God’s Word. I believe that the tongue is also called a two-edged sword. My words hold power. I must speak the Word of God and not what my mind tells me to. I must be careful to sow seeds of faith, righteousness and peace in my life. To be thoughtful in my engagement and interactions with others. Always expressing God’s Love with confidence rather than complaining, grumbling and bemoaning. Such communication is not confidence in God but death to it completely. Say what God says about you and other people. Don’t call out the giant but call on the Living God. Speak the Word over your life, family and workplace. Let the Lord touch your tongue with the coal from his altar today and choose carefully the words that cut through your life.

To be fully outfitted in the Armor of God is enough to stand but if you want to win – there is one final step…

Ephesians 6:18 (NLT) Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Pray. Have you prayed today? How will you get instruction or be encouraged if you do not communicate with the Lord? We walk by faith and not by sight. We need insight into the Kingdom of God that is only found in His Presence. Prayer is intimacy with God that cannot be overlooked. It is like a briefing for soldiers. It tells us our objective. Encourages us. Links our heart with God’s. Builds our faith in God as our relationship solidifies. Prayer is the communication that allows us to know Him more. We must pray at all times. His Spirit lives in us. When we release God’s Word and agree with His Plan for our life things begin to happen in us that resonate through our life. Persistent prayers is to remain alert and ready to stand. We are called to resist the enemy. We war in our prayer room. It is the place where our God adorns us with His Armor and reminds us that we win. Jesus Christ overcame the world so I don’t have to. I must only overcome my fear and build my faith and confidence in Him. I do this through trust. Not blind trust, but the kind that comes from constant communication with the One who is faithful. God is good. His Love is real. He is faithful. Jesus won every battle for us giving us the strength to stand. All I must do is choose wisely what I wear. To live in Christ and not the world.

Exodus 14:13-14 (NLT) But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Joshua 1:9 (NLT) This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Where You Go

Where you go

Ruth 1:16-17 (ESV) But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

What caused Ruth to make such a declaration to Naomi? Reading this passage today, I am struck by her commitment to her mother-in-law. Naomi was obviously grief stricken and hopeless. She had lost her husband and both of her sons. Her other daughter-in-law had taken her advice. Why was this one being so stubborn? Something in Ruth would not let her go back to where she came from and she could not return to the way it used to be so she made this commitment to her future – “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Ruth became attached to Naomi’s hip. She would venture into a new place and find a new husband. The future of both women would be secure for the rest of time and they would find their images clearly set forth for others in the Word of God. Ruth made a commitment to Naomi that day that would change her whole life. What would happen by doing the same thing to Jesus Christ? What are the possibilities if rather than running from place to place looking for immediate gratification or rainbows rather than rain? What might happen if someone…anyone…decided to see where faith might take us and just what hope really looks like? Nothing is impossible for the one who believes.

Genesis 28:10-17 (ESV)  Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

I think everyone will agree that life does not always turn out as one expected. Jacob was running from his brother. His own flesh and blood who Jacob bought Esau’s birthright with a single meal and tricked his father into releasing Esau’s blessing. Esau hated Jacob. Joseph dreamed of his brothers bowing down to him but wound up in a pit, sold to slavery, falsely accused, sitting in a prison, still being faithful yet forgotten. No one for sees the hardship that leads to fulfillment. Those situations and circumstances that turn our hearts back to the Lord. We must live not only hand in hand with the Lord carefully walking His Way but chose to live heart to heart with Him. Since it is our calling to walk by faith and not by sight, the vantage point of our voyage is not always a clear cut perspective of the pathway to promise. We stumble along groping to see God in the chaos of our life. Jacob was no different. Life had not turned out as he expected. He was in the middle of nowhere and weary so he found a stone to lay his tired head on.

Perhaps, you can relate. You love God. You love Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Life has been a struggle. Times just a little too tough. The enemy is chasing you into the wilderness of the unknown or at least you think. There is no one left to rely on or call out to. All your family and friends are too busy or long gone. Now what? The Lord came to Jacob that night to give him a new perspective. Could it be that is all that is needed by you? To see that God is with you. He is for you. He will never leave you or forsake you even in the most unlikely of places. I know I need that, too.

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it…

What is your dream? Where is your destiny? Are you desperate to find your way through the wilderness to the promise of God? What if you have to stay right where you are to find Him? What if the course of life you are traveling is exactly what God has for you? It is important to see God in the moment rather than looking all around. Christ lives in us so the atmosphere around us has no impact on faith and hope. No matter if life is beautiful or barren – God is with us. He is for us. He will stop at nothing to have us or to be sure we have His Promise. In that place, God opened Jacob’s eyes to see Heaven on the earth. Is it possible for us to do the same? To see things from the heavenly realm rather than being immersed in reality? I believe that it is. What if it is not in a dream or vision but so subtle that the human eye cannot perceive it? The disciples lived, ate, and existed in the Presence of God while Jesus was with them yet they all struggle with doubt and unbelief. They could reach out and touch the Messiah with their hands. Talk to Him. Know the Lord intimately and conversationally. Yet, still it was hard to believe.

Genesis 28:16-19 (ESV) Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel… 

Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head. He set it up for a pillar. He poured oil on top of it. He called the place, Bethel, House of God, or the holy place. What if you are standing on holy ground right now and don’t even know it? Where you go I will go Lord? The same Lord that orders our footsteps will fill them. He fills them with His Love, Grace, Mercy and Faithfulness so that our foundation is solid if only we will walk by faith. From the highest of hills to the lowest valley, He is with us pursuing us with unfailing love and goodness but it doesn’t always look like sunshine and roses. It might just be weariness that gives way to worship. Brokenness that opens up blessing in our life. The very thing that was the most uncomfortable the most fruitful. Jacob woke up from the dream and vision God had given him in the very same place but with a new perspective. He took the hard stone that was once his pillow and made it a pillar before the Lord.

Isaiah 43:18-21 (ESV) “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

Human expectation is the driving force of our flesh. It sets up our school of thought. It becomes our way of thinking. The flesh needs some sort of control. We take the Word of God and rather than allowing it to mold us, we try to shape it into some logical and applicable form according to our natural life and normalcy. When God does not do it that way, it becomes a fight in our mind and soul for ultimate control. God is doing a new thing in our life. It is for our good. It is to His Glory. If it can be explained away logically, who needs faith? God works in the impossible. Does your life look impossible to you? Is it hard to see the forest for the trees? Take off your shoes. Get on your knees. Raise your weary arms. You are not in the wilderness but on the way to your promise. The less logical life is the more miraculous it becomes.

Forget the former things. Do not conform your thinking to tradition. God is doing something new in you and through you that is not comprehensible in the flesh but must be observed solely by your spirit. Once you take hold of God’s Perspective, a life of worship is inevitable especially when you find yourself in the wilderness, wandering and wondering until worship finally finds you because you know God is with you! I have come to the conclusion that no matter what it takes I want the Lord to keep me right here until His Word is fulfilled. Some days it is easy. But there have been many more when the giants seem to get bigger and the promise even farther that I have to remember and remind myself that this is holy ground. My life is God’s Masterpiece and it is not ready yet. I must make the commitment like Ruth to Naomi that day, “For where you go I will go…”

Matthew 8:18-22 (ESV) Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

It is easy to get caught up in emotionalism and zeal for the Lord. To get all pumped up in church and crash into life just outside the door. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only way that you and I have access to the Father. Do we follow His Ways impeccably? To we know the Truth from cover to cover? Is it the wisdom of our life? Jesus understands our weakness. He was human once too. He knows that we struggle with our faith and ability to believe. His Words to the scribe seem harsh, but they are truth to feed our hungry, thirsty and weary souls today. “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Bummer right? Jesus was not saying looking for pity. No, the Lord was setting up expectation. Don’t make your home here. Set your sights on the heavenly not the earthly things. Jesus did not come to save the world but to save us. To move us from this life to eternity. “Follow me” is not a call to a better life but a new life. It is not an invitation for new comfort and convenience but to become a new creation. To be molded, shaped, pressed, crushed and broken so that the Lord can make you into a Masterpiece.

Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When God met Jacob in the desert that night, He did not divinely change his situation but confirmed his position. He reiterated the promise and potential of Jacob’s life to change his perspective. It worked. Will it work for you today? The hard place is giving way to a new life filled with promises and prosperity for the one who says, “Where you go, I go!” We must set our minds on Christ where He is and not focus on where we are. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and that’s a good thing for us. He is interceding for us. He knows our weakness and His Spirit helps us when times get tough. My new life is hidden with Christ in God. I find new life and full satisfaction when I live in His Presence even in the pits, prisons and problems of life. My situation cannot change the Way, the Truth and the Life living in me. It is all just temporary. Lord, help me to see You today. To take this hard thing and build into a new place of worship. Jesus, where you go – I will go! You will be my God and I am Your Beloved Child!

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Called To Ministry

Called To Ministry

2 Corinthians 5:10-14 (NLT) Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

I am called to ministry. You are called to ministry as well. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – God has ordained you. He has called you to be His Ambassador. I do not take this call lightly nor do I associate it with a certain position. It is human nature to be a hierarchy to certain positions. A company has a president, chief operating officer, managers, supervisors and employees. Different levels of authority to establish order and a form of functioning. However, when it comes to God’s Way of doing things, every single living breathing person who possesses His Spirit is called to be a minister of God through Jesus Christ. Have you accepted God’s Call to Ministry yet?

Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.

The most powerful form of ministry does not always come from the pulpit of a dynamic church with great worship and a flawless performance. Most often it is from the unsuspecting saint of God who comes to pray one-on-one with the broken, to continue to pray in their prayer closet for the one forgotten in the crowd, to continually sow seeds of faith and encouragement to others and to give wisdom from their time in the Word. I believe it is like the hand of one farmer placing seeds in the ground. The one who takes God’s Word to heart and decides to reproduce it in others. One by one. Day by day. Season to season. The humble at heart who chooses to remain in the background rather than racing for the platform. The one so moved by the Presence of God after He has come time and time again that they are still dissolved to tears just at the thought of His Nearness. Those who are covered in grace and gratitude just because Jesus still saves, heals and delivers people so convinced of His Great Love that they may even seem a little crazy sometimes.

The one God desires to use the most is the one with the sincere heart. The one who is in love with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The one broken to self and flourishing in the humble knowledge that weakness allows His Power to work. Those who seek the Lord with all their heart and do not lean on their own understanding. “Spectacular ministry” is not a spectator sport. It is lack luster if the total premise is not loving the Lord and loving others. My life is complete when I bring glory to God. How do I do that? By telling, showing and giving to others what the Lord has done for me.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

As ambassadors of Christ, it is our goal in life as an authorized messenger of God to establish peace between the Lord and other people. The invitation “Come back to God!” must be covered in love and grace in order to be accurate and appealing to others. To minister is a position that gives service, care or aid. It is one who attends to need. It is to contribute as to comfort or happiness. We do not have the power to snatch another person from hell. However, it is our opportunity to offer them a better way. The Way, the Truth and the Life while earnestly reaching for them in an effort to lead and assist them in gaining freedom through Jesus Christ. Still not convinced you are called?

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:6-7 (NLT) You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ to be your personal Savior and Lord, then you have the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord living inside of you. Jesus released His Spirit to be our Holy Inhabitant and help us on the earth. He lives in our heart producing the fruit of the Spirit in abundance, not just for us, but to facilitate our ministry. He has placed a Light in our hearts to shine brightly like a city on a hill. As salt of the earth with an antiseptic quality of healing, it comes packaged as the flavorful and flamboyant Favor of the Living God. It bubbles up within our bellies until living water comes flowing out. You are prewired, prepackaged and fully prepared to be God’s Ministers.

The Lord also gives a promise to those who decide to be His Minister in this life. It is called double. You will receive a double share of honor and possess a double portion of prosperity accompanied by everlasting joy if you fill the position the Lord has called and equipped you to. Comparison is the confidence wrecking weapon of the enemy that makes people think God cannot and will not use them. God caught Moses attention in a burning bush. Moses was in hiding as he tended sheep belonging to his father-in-law. He was saved from immediate death at his birth. He was rescued and grew up in the house of Pharaoh. He killed a man. He fled into hiding. God had other plans for Moses. He spoke to him in the dark of night. Yet Moses, like so many of us, did not have confidence in His Calling but was convinced by his condition that he was not the right one for this mission. He said to the Lord, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Who is going to listen to me? I know my faults and failures. How will I ever accurately or effectively minister to another person? God answered Moses just like He is working to squelch all of our doubt and fear – God answered, “I will be with you.”

Before discrediting yourself let God confirm your credibility – Jesus lives in you. His Spirit is inside of you. He has predestined you to be the light of the world and salt of the earth because of the God inside of you. In order to fulfill God’s Call on our life – we must love one another. There is no greater gift than for one to lay down his life for another following the example of Jesus Christ. The Word of God says that who He calls is the one who God also equips. You are called to be God’s Minister and Christ’s Ambassador to the world. You have been given this assignment and empowered to do it. So what’s next?

Romans 12:6-10 (NLT) In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:1-2 is the passage about giving our life as a living sacrifice to the Lord. To decide to worship the Lord by choosing not to be like the world or conforming to its standard but being transformed into a “new person” by changing the way you think. A pastor, minister, or preacher is still tasked with being an ambassador to the Lord outside of their paid position. If man repays you for something, it is up to us to find a place of offering. If you receive a paycheck to serve God, then to be a living sacrifice and present an offering to the Lord means serving Him off the timeclock. To be a living sacrifice is to love sacrificially. There are many different gifts that people are given. Romans 12 talks about those gifts and motivations but if you read it – love is the purpose to find an outlet for God’s Love in our life. Love is an emotion to this world. But to God love is a sacrificial commitment which He has empowered us to portray. Just because you are not called to be a pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, or serve in the local church building doesn’t mean God hasn’t called you to ministry. The ministry of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if the miracle in you is not a mass service with thousands saved but the one who sits in the back all alone. Hiding in their insecurity bound by barriers built by hurt and betrayal – those who come across arrogant but really are just broken people trying to survive and never enter a church? You are the one who shows them kindness, grace and even encouragement. You are the one who listens when no one else can get past the persona to the person. Perhaps what the Lord has brought you through they are now going…what if…is not really what if but will you?

2 Corinthians 6:3-4 (NLT) We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. 

Will you get past what you are going through to let God use you today? Will you stop evaluating who you are not and accept who you are? If you are waiting for the right time, I assure you it is now. The right place is not in a fancy building but the place you are right now. These verses are followed by a telling reality. Paul goes on to talk about all he has endured for ministry including troubles, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, angry mobs of people, exhaustion, sleepless nights, extreme hunger, harsh conditions and some even killed. For what? To share the love of God given through Jesus Christ with the rest of the world. Living in a way that causes no one to stumble because of us. God has called us to be his ministers. Christ calls us his ambassadors. The rest is up to you and me. The Spirit gives life and freedom. To be like Christ means to give our life as a living sacrifice and personal offering to others. Grace is fulfilled when in spite of our weaknesses – we allow the Power of Christ to flow through us. Brokenness is inevitable as the Seeds of His Spirit sprout into the new creation you are called to be as God makes His Masterpiece out of your life…and your ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NLT) It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted

I Timothy 6:11-12 (ESV) But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

The last few weeks have been challenging. But then again, when is life not full of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, good and bad. Life is challenging. Each new day comes with its own set of circumstances, long list of responsibilities, and uncertain conditions. The unexpected really shouldn’t be so surprising. It happens all the time. Constantly recurring change. Will I conform or be transformed? Will I commit or quit?

But as for you, O man (or woman) of God, flee these things.

I am not a quitter by nature although sometimes I say that I am quitting. But when push comes to shove, I hold fast. Words like persistent, tenacious, stubborn and obstinate have been used to describe me. Character is developed when the qualities possessed are shaped by wisdom and not pride. The letter to Timothy written by Paul addresses natural tendencies relevant in our walk with Jesus Christ. He is speaking to him one on one about false teaching. He describes the character of them as “puffed up with conceit” who understand nothing. People who are “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” As believers, the pursuit of godliness is encompassed in just one commandment defined by love. However, pride and vain glory had somehow begun to seep through the walls of the early church. Gospel for personal gain. There was no contentment but rather pursued God for His Hand not His Heart. Paul tells Timothy…but as for you, O man of God…flee from these things.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

It is challenge to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. It is especially difficult to maintain them when tough times come along. However, Jesus did not ascend to Heaven with a “peace out” see you on the other side. Or good luck – hope you make it. No, He gave us His Spirit as a helper who would produce all these qualities even though most of them are contradictory to human nature. (Galatians 5:22-23) The first thing I must do is “think about these things”. To change my mind, I must change the way that I think. I change the way that I think by the pursuit of higher learning to obtain understanding applying it to my life so it becomes wisdom. We decide who or what influences us. I must choose to believe what is true. The Word of God is the Truth concerning my life. To pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness outside of the Word of God and Jesus Christ would be pointless.

Fight the good fight of the faith.

What is the good fight of faith? According to the Message translation of Hebrews 11:1, faith is “the fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.” The Amplified Bible describes faith as “the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. We are instructed to walk by faith and not by sight. I don’t know about you, but it is really hard to see past my circumstances sometimes to the Promise of God to work it all out for my good and His Glory. Without faith it is impossible to please God. It is the substance that firmly fixes us in confident hope. It is the recollection that keeps us pressing on when we are pooped out. Why must I fight for my faith? The enemy wants us to give up on faith. He doesn’t want us to trust and rely on God. He is looking to make us collateral damage on his way out. How? He lies to us. Plain and simple. Faith holds firmly to the truth that God loves us, Jesus died to save us, and His Grace is enough for me to live in this world but not be of it. I want to believe God’s Word and that He perfects all that concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) Lord, help me to remember what is worth fighting for so I have the wisdom to pick and choose my battles.

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

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

Paul challenged Timothy to remember God’s Call on his life and walk in it. The course of life will prove challenging. The only way to overcome is to take hold of Jesus Christ all the way to the finish line. The finish line of faith is found when we meet Him face-to-face. I must settle in stride with Jesus and forget my preconceived notions about life and love. I must be passionate about God’s Heart and not focused so much on His Hand. I have been called to eternal life which is way longer than my natural life – it is worthy of investing in at the price of an ordinary life. It is up to me to lay aside the things that weigh me down like worry, stress, anxiety and fear to take hold of things like “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” and every other spiritual blessing God has already given me that just needs to grow in my life. I have everything I need for such a pursuit. The only thing left is that I must be willing to do it. Laying pride aside to surrender it all…again and again if necessary to the founder and perfecter of faith – Jesus Christ. I have only one thing left to say, “Challenge accepted.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Tug-0-War – It’s Not A Game Anymore

Tug o war

Philippians 1:21-23 (ESV) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Since bringing home our new lab puppy, Scout – she bonded quickly to our Chihuahua, Izzy. From the moment, they get up until it is time to go to bed there is nothing but nonstop activity. Scout is very large yet quite passive while Izzy is tiny but ferocious. When they both take hold of a toy and pull, it is clear by Izzy’s hold and posture that she fully intends to win the game of tug-o-war clearly unimpressed by Scout’s size and power. Currently, Scout is five times the size of her fur sister. But Izzy has heart and tenacity – she does not ever back down. When she engages in tugging, she believes she can win. With one mindless jerk of Scout’s powerful head, the game is over. Izzy’s response – like any good sport – she attacks Scout with all the growling and snarling she can muster while our oversized fur baby just enjoys her conquest and rolls over on her back.

While both of the participants in the tug-o-war are impacted by the pulling and tugging, can you imagine the condition of the object of their grasp? With our dogs, it may be a rope or small squeaky toy but in the game of life too often it feels like it is us. Or maybe I am the only one who has days when despite my very best effort to hold tight to my faith, steady my heart, do the right thing and keep pressing on – I feel stretched and pulled in two opposite directions? I have put forth my best effort. Tried to keep the right attitude. Even forgiven along the way as hard as that may be sometimes, yet still feel as though I have come up short. A discarded heap of hopelessness who strived with all her might yet her flesh failed and her heart is weary. Come on. I cannot be the only one.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

To live IS Christ. To die is gain. The death process begins at birth. From the moment of taking in our first breath, a human being is one step closer to their death if you think about it. God has ordered the life span of each person according to His Will and His Way. It is not always possible to understand the number assigned to each living creature, but God knows. If only it were easy to live for Christ every moment of every day and serve Him faithfully apart from all sin and transgression as one might desire. It is not easy. It is not even possible. So why keep trying?

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

The struggle is real. For me to live is Christ but to die is gain. The more I grow to understand this – the more I understand terms like endurance. The stretching, molding and shaping of my heart and mind to hold fast to the confession of my faith and let other things go. It would be easy if I did not battle an unseen adversary every single day. No, it is not the enemy. Satan has no power or control in my life because I have given it to Jesus Christ. I am a Child of God. No the waging war with in us is our flesh. On those days when the pressure and problems of life leave us stretched and stressed lifeless forms crawling into His Presence exhausted and done, it is not always because the oppressor has been the foe that is faced but our flesh. We do not battle people. We must hold tight to the Word of God and respond to the Will of God even when our stubbornness and pride dig in. The good fight of faith is waging in our heart and mind not the world in which we live. I believe that it is important to identify the problem to find the solution. What if the problem is me?

Romans 7:21-25 (Message)

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

No believer – saved and sanctified can ever say with any credibility that “the devil made me do it”. Satan cannot come near the Light that lives within us. God has given us His Spirit. The object of greatest oppression is flesh. Our own will who seeks to survive despite our desire to be crucified with Christ and live. I have been crucified with Christ by choice. I have chosen to give up sin and accept salvation. Now what? Fight. Fight for faith. Work toward obedience. Do my very best to hold on to what is good and avoid that which is not. To endure. To love. To forgive. To hope. Christ lives in me and is working His Way out of me into every part of my existence. The life I live now in the flesh is by faith in the Living God who is in me. The overwhelming factor that is my success is His Grace. (Galatians 2:20) Despite my full intent and heartfelt commitment, my flesh fails time and time again. This is the reason His Grace is my power. It is the very essence of power that lives in me overriding my inability to allow the fulfillment of Christ to be mine.

Can I just publicly thank the apostle Paul for his transparent honesty in Romans 7! If only every believer would allow others to see the reality of their plight, not by glorifying sin or immortalizing failure, but rather allowing others to witness the process. Our soul cries out for the Living God but our flesh fights to survive. It is a natural born tendency that is not exempt when it comes to dying to this life to obtain forever with the Lord. When I am overwhelmed and feel stretched like a dog toy that has been tugged and pulled on all day, I realize that maybe just maybe it isn’t the enemy pulling on me. In fact, the Lord has shown me clearly that it is not. I live in the Hand of God. The enemy cannot touch me. No, on those days, I have held hope with one hand not two and taken hold of something with my flesh that I need to let go of. This process is so intimate and personal. The good fight of faith is not in an arena but in the quiet recesses of our heart as His Word works its way through and hopeful confidence lays claim to it.

“Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.” His Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough for those days when my flesh rises up and wages war to take over my heart and mind. I will not overcome this rivalry until Jesus takes me home and removes it from me forever. In the meantime, it is important that I work in close partnership with the Spirit of God so it is two against one.

Hebrews 5:7-10 (ESV) In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV)  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus lived in the flesh. Yes, He was God during that time, too but chose to be subject to flesh and blood just like the ones who He loved and chose to die for. He experienced every bit of warring of the flesh just as anybody else does on any given day. He overcame sin. He endured every test and trial all the way to the Cross. He died a sinless man. Who better to help us then the One who knows and understands our flesh and feelings? Jesus overcame the world. He did it by overcoming flesh. One sin would have nailed Jesus to the Cross. His Death was would have been required if only a single sin existed. The necessity of grace is not proportioned to the quantity of sin but rather to overcome death produced by a single sin. Wrap your brain around that one and the playing field of life becomes quite level. There is no pride in obedience just surrender to God because there is no prize or promise outside of the Grace and Love of Jesus Christ. If there is no hierarchy of sin, that means that God has no favorites. There you have it the full potential of our life is in the Grace of God given through Jesus Christ…alone. I can do nothing to earn it, obtain it or pay it back. I can only accept it.

Philippians 2:14-16 (ESV) Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

What if we have been interpreting these verses all wrong? We are to do all things without grumbling or disputing…good luck with that right? To remain sinless (without blemish) in this crooked and twisted generation…it is not possible. Do you work with other people? Commute home in five o’clock traffic. Let’s be real – do you own any teenagers? Life happens. Sin slips out. Our flesh rises up. What then? The Light that shines within us comes out through our brokenness. When our hard heart cracks open and our one-track mind gives way to the new life and new way of thinking that is not religious but relational. The Law of God did not save us just shows us how bad we messed up. It proves the sufficiency of His Grace when knowing all my faults and failures in a single day – I still fight to hold on to faith and cling to confident hope. “Holding fast to the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run or labor in vain.” The confident hope that I have is not in my own ability to live a sinless, good life but it is in the Grace of God given to me based on His Love and Faithfulness. The Word of Life says that nothing can ever separate me from the Love of God and in fact it is His Love that makes me more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37) Pride says otherwise but grace always proves it wrong.

I Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Before this passage in I Thessalonians 5 comes a list of instructions. Things like love each other, help one another, and be an encourager. It also tells us to rejoice, pray and be thankful. It clearly outlines qualities and characteristics that are the Will of God for our life. (I Thessalonians 5:18) But the important part follows closely behind, the specific thing that I must cling to throughout each day as I try to run with purpose. The goal that I long for and strive for is this – that my whole spirit, soul and body will be kept blameless. His Grace is enough, I must cling to it every day. He is the one who is Faithful. Jesus will surely do it if I will just hold on the hope that He has given me.

Hebrews 6:17-19 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…

My steadfastness will not ever be in me. I will continue to strive to live apart from anything that displeases the Lord but I know that it is only by His Grace that I find the power to overcome every shortcoming, fault and failure. Sin separated me from God and only His Righteousness will allow me to live in His Presence again. He does not lie or change His Mind so the Word of Life is the anchor of my soul and substance of my faith that keeps me from giving up and letting go when I feel the pressures of life, stress or restlessness. My flesh is always at war with the Spirit in me. It is a fight to the death. The Spirit of God overcame death and administers life to all who live in partnership with Him. It doesn’t mean there is not struggling or no suffering in this life but He give us the power and strength to hold on and endure to the end. I don’t know what might work as soul soothing for you but when I feel weary in well doing or pointless in my pursuit of Christ, I find that worship is my release. To lift my hands, open them wide, and show love and adoration on Jesus. Burdens fall off as He picks me up and holds me. When was the last time you stepped into the Presence of the Living God? There is nothing there but life. The struggle ends where surrender begins. The hopelessness gives way to hope in the Light of His Love. Grace works best in weakness. His Power is manifested in our life when we can’t but believe He will. There is a reward for those who choose to keep His Word, walk by faith, hold on to hope and endure until the end through every trial, hardship and struggle believing God is good, God loves me, and God will never let me down.

As Scout and Izzy wrestle at my feet, I am blissfully aware that Jesus isn’t finished with me yet. Izzy will learn one day to pick and choose her battles but I hope that she never loses her heart. Scout in her sweet nature will one day learn the same or give up every toy and treat to Izzy. I believe that this is life in our house with our pets. I believe this is the life lived in Christ as well. Picking and choosing battles, knowing when to take heart and surrendering to Christ always. It is only a tug-o-war if both sides pull. The game ends when one or the other let’s go. Lord, I give you my heart, mind, body and spirit all over again today. I let go of everything except the Word of Life. May hope keep me anchored. Have your way in me, amen! I surrender all!

Revelation 3:10-12 (ESV) Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

Through It All Again

Through It All Again

Isaiah 43:1-3 (ESV) But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

“Through it all.” What a great old song? “I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all. Through it all. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” No truer words have ever been spoken about someone. This is my song. This is about me. I wish I could testify that this is enough to keep me from wanting to throw in the towel and give up some days but it’s not. One might think that after many battles a seasoned warrior does not hesitate for a moment before engaging, everyone has to step over fear. Trusting Jesus. Believing that salvation is real and His Grace enough takes many trials and tests to gain strength and validity in life. To fully comprehend the unconditional and boundless Love of God that knows no limits is an act of constant surrender. Depending on God’s Word can be a lonely proposition. Psalm 77 talks about God’s Steadfast Love and His Promises. His Graciousness and Compassion. His abiding faithfulness and the many deeds that He has done for us. But it also does not hesitate to mention that often His Footsteps are unseen. (Verse 19)

Through it all. We are called to walk through it all. Keep moving. Do not turn back but go through. In Psalm 23, the promise of God’s Love, Protection and Provision under the careful eyes of the Good Shepherd are still not without challenges. The table prepared for us has an audience. There will be low spots. Dark places and even valleys to go through. The promise is that He goes with us – before us, beside us and even behind us. God goes before us and prepares the way for us. He fights our battles and obtains victory for us. Strength and courage are not in our ability to fight but that Jesus overcame the world – ahead of time. The promise is secure not in my own faithfulness but in the Lord’s Faithfulness. I have blessed assurance in my future by faith. In Matthew 11, Jesus offers to walk beside you and be yoked with you in life. To help carry ever burden, relieve pressure, eliminate stress and keep us upright in the tough times of life. Finally, as if all that is not good enough or more than enough, the Lord constantly pursues us and falls in behind us with His Unfailing Love and Goodness just waiting to overtake us with His Blessings. With all these precious promises made simply out of love for us, there are still days when the struggle is real. It all may seem pointless. The next step too hard. The flesh cries out. The mind plays tricks. What do I do when I don’t’ want to keep going? What do I do when I have had enough?

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Psalm 139 is the passage where I find myself in the Lord. The place where it is clear that I am not a random act of conception and cellular reproduction but a planned creation by God who gave me a purpose and plan. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am not insignificant. My life has purpose beyond what I feel or reason. It is planned and executed by the Lord with a future and hope. The Lord who created you, who formed you is telling you (and me) today to “fear not, for I HAVE redeemed you! I have called you by name, you are mine.” Why is it important to find yourself in God’s Word? Faith is illogical outside of knowing God’s Word, Will and Way. His Ways are higher and so are His Thoughts. If I do not take the time to gain knowledge and mull over them for understanding, where will wisdom come from? The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and works into my psyche changing my thoughts renewing my mindset and positioning me to see my life through His Perception and not worldly speculation.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

The last week or so it has rained quite a bit. Off and on but consistently hot and humid. We needed the rain even though it is inconvenient. Rain comes as dew in the early morning like a fine mist. Other times, it may be a light shower on a sunny day. Then there are the sudden downpours that come out of nowhere and drench us. Some storms come accompanied by wind, thunder and lightning. Even hurricanes are just mighty storms wrapped in ferocity. All of them produce rain. We need the rain to water the earth, but who really wants to inconvenienced and uncomfortable in the process. It never seems to downpour on days when I have nothing to do but curl up on the couch with a furry animal, junk food and a book, but those times when my schedule is full, errands endless and work is calling. Maybe that is the whole point of going through things…to overcome complacency and become completely confident in the Lord. We need Him. We want Him. But when He comes in like a flood, suddenly it is uncomfortable, inconvenient and change is required to let His Love, Faithfulness, Goodness and Graciousness to sink in the hard ground around us and make it into our ready and waiting heart. I must go through it even though I don’t want to. I must endure the storms of life to have the harvest it produces. Even on those days, it is messy, uncomfortable and inconvenient because I cannot maintain my current state and be who God called and designed me to be. I must be renewed. I must be restored. I must be revived. I must be transformed. To grow in God I must position my life in obedience in order to increase.

While this verse is encouraging, it does not aid my cause. I want to walk away. Avoid this difficult time just throw my hands up and say, “I quit.” Yet something inside me says, “Wait!” I have something I am doing. It will be all that I promised. You must go through it. God’s Word for your life today and mine is that you must “go through it.” When I do not have a clear perspective of what the Lord is doing and His Footsteps are unseen, I find that I begin to dig in the Word deeper. Call out for more understanding or even a fleece. God, I have to know you are right here with me. I need you to remind me that I heard you correctly. I want to follow you, but geez this one is tough. All of these things running through my head and circling my thoughts.

I looked up the word “through” desperate to find a loophole or escape. Maybe there is another meaning that I missed and provides an open door. I really want a shortcut to the good part. I would love something to make the harvest grow faster and victory come sooner. Through means in one end, side or surface and out the other. It means to move past and go beyond. It is during the whole period. Through is to have reached the end. Isn’t that the same as endurance? To endure means going through without stopping, leaving or turning back. I must go through it to endure it. Ugh…I must go through some things to reach the other side. To have the future and hope that God has promised. It is unavoidable. It is inevitable. It is my pathway to every promise.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (ESV) Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

The passionate, all-consuming Love of God is pursuing us. Pushing us to keep going and moving through the deep waters, raging storms, darkest night, and lowest valley to get to the other side. These are the times when our strength fails. When our mind cannot comprehend how in the world there is anything good to come of our situation. It is during these times that the Lord seems silent, unmoving, and nowhere to be found. Do you trust me? That really is what this is all about. Do I truly believe what I am calling faith?

I am currently refinishing an antique table. It is an amazing piece with intricate carvings and uniqueness. In transport, one of the legs broke off so I had to repair it. Wood glue and a strong clamp for a couple days would do the trick. I carefully removed the clamp and gently moved the table a bit to see if it would hold. This table will be a conference table in its new life. I put it through a number of rigorous tests to be sure that the leg would hold up under pressure. The last thing I want it to do is collapse during an important meeting or when everyone’s lunch arrives. I wonder if this is part of what I am going through…the Lord testing the bond of my heart to Him. To make sure that it will stand tests of time, waiting, uncertainly, lacking clarity, and an end. I must make it to the end of this journey called life with my faith in Him. I must hold tightly to the substance of what I hope for so I can access eternity. It doesn’t matter if I do anything else “for” God – I must love Him wholeheartedly.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

I cannot have what I hope for absent of faith. Faith is not something I do though it will produce certain works in our life. The faith that I hold tightly to along with the hope that anchors my soul is the fact that God loves me. Jesus died for me. I accept His Grace fully and decide to seek Him wholeheartedly. The effort in my relationship with Jesus that means the most is my love for Him accepting His Love for me a fully consummated and full-blown relationship. If Jesus is on the other side of what I am going through, then I must go through it. Through it all – learning to trust Him and depend on His Word.

I Kings 19:11-13 (ESV) And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I believe I am having one of those “what am I doing here moments?” Elijah had an amazing victory yet the malicious and threatening words of one woman put him on the run. What did it for you? Elijah was hiding in a cave when the Lord came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah lodged his complaint. The Lord then told him, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” Of course, Elijah obeyed. It was there that the Lord passed by Him in all of His Glory. God cannot move apart from His Glory. It surrounds Him. As He went by, what happened? A great and strong wind tore the mountain apart. Rocks rolled into an avalanche. The wind was followed by an earthquake. The earthquake gave way to fire. Finally, after all of that, the Lord had his full attention again. He asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah recited all that he had “done” for God again. God didn’t even stop for a moment but went on to tell him what was next. God hears us but will not indulge us. He has a plan far greater than our whining and complaining will ever cause Him to stop trying to make a reality in our life. The Lord has purpose for prosperity in us that will not allow us to stay in hiding but prods and pokes us to go on. Oh how I just want to run into hiding. Elijah was looking to relieve the pressure. He wanted to stop pushing. He didn’t want to fight anymore. He was tired of being brave. He had lost his confidence and courage. God had other plans that did not involve stopping, quitting or giving up.

There will always be a Jezebel. Opposition is inevitable. Enemies will present themselves. Obstacles will rise up. Oppression will threaten to take you captive. You are a precious to God. He treasures you. His Love for you stronger than death. His Jealousy more fierce than the deepest grave. It is all-consuming fiery passion that will not relent until He has won your whole heart. Rising waters cannot quench and there is not a flood that can drown it. The enemy will offer you opportunities to escape the potential of growing in understanding and full acceptance of His Love but those who choose to endure until the end and go through it all – will have their heart’s desire. His Name is Jesus. He offers a rich and satisfying life. An existence that lacks nothing and is fully confident in His Love. It is found on the other side of through it all.

Psalm 136:1 (ESV) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Proper Portion

Proper Portion

Lamentations 3:21-26 (ESV) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Currently, everyone in the office is on some form of diet or new health regime. A variety of methods to control consumption and improve health – all of them seem to be reasonable and show the potential of great success if adhered to. The methodology of each one is very different but the goal of all participants is to lose a few pounds and develop a healthier lifestyle. I have tried many diets over the years. Even in fasting, I have found that when I reintroduce certain foods have lost their appeal. It’s funny how our tastes, preferences and even appetite changes over time. Impacted by life, food can become a dependency, a habit, a comfort, or even an enemy if allowed. People use it to calm fear, alleviate stress, fill voids, and soothe hurts. Usually obesity is a heart or mental condition more than a physical condition as someone tries to overcome something much deeper than gluttony or obsession with eating. I have found success in portion control more than dieting. To evaluate the food I take in and limit those things that are not healthy and satisfy my hunger with things that are good for me. I must pay careful attention to my appetite and how I appease it. What do your portions look like today? What do you hunger and thirst for? No, I am not just talking about the food in your kitchen but the mainstay in your heart.

I Corinthians 10:23 (NLT) You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.

It is important to find balance in life. The place of peaceful satisfaction that begins in our heart and soul. Such an understanding will aid us in changing our mind, will and emotions about certain things. Christ Jesus has set us free. Those who live in Christ are free indeed. The definition of freedom did not change and the Lord means exactly that you are absolutely free. Our inability to live in freedom is the problem. With a fickle heart and fixated mind, it is tough to allow the Spirit to lead, guide and direct us because we ourselves are not trustworthy in properly portioning this new life and living in our freedom. I choose each day whether or not I remain free. Once held captive by sin, shame and regret, I refused to receive the portion of love, grace and mercy offered consistently by Jesus to all who come to Him. In Christ, my covenant says that “I am allowed to do anything.” There is no limitation on my life. I can live free from sin or put the chains right back on. I can live a religious life or choose a relationship with Christ. Life is full of choices that the Lord has given us a free will to decide. Not everything is good for me. I am allowed to do anything but not everything is beneficial. Salvation is not a call to perfection but the possibility of a future and hope even when we do not choose wisely or must live in consequences. The Lord promises to work even those for our good and His Glory. The secret is that Jesus must be our portion.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”

Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To make better choices is a mindset. We must call certain things to mind and take captive the rebellious thoughts contrary to God’s Word, Will and Way for us. Transformation is possible by the renewal of our mind. I must call to mind the things God says about me and forget the lie of the enemy. By testing – you may discern what is the Will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect.” God has a plan for your life that is good, acceptable and perfect. He does not lie or change His Mind so we must change ours. His Ways are higher just like His Thoughts so to have all God has predestined for our life – our perception of life must change. Hope blossoms in a mind renewed and ready to receive God’s Word and let it grow into exactly what He promised.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If only for just a moment, our mind would let go of its preconceived notion of what love is and grab hold of God’s Love for us. God’s Love is steadfast. It never ceases. There is absolutely nothing you or I can do that will EVER separate us from His Love. Disbelief keeps us from experiencing a love so real that the only thing it desires is reciprocation and reproduction. God says love me and love others. This is all that I desire of you. What about sin? What about service? What about selflessness? What about surrender? What about sacrifice? Have you ever fallen in love? Not, like or even lust, but the kind of love that changes your mind about everything. I have. When I met my husband, the hardness around my heart cracked and fell apart. Suddenly, things I thought I would never do – I did again. Trust began to well up from the fortress of insecurity. When a person decides in their heart and mind that NOTHING can separate them from the Love of God – nothing will ever keep them from experiencing His Goodness and Glory again. God’s Love is unconditional. It does not depend on what I do for Him but to place all that I am in covenant with Him. I must love Him with all my heart trusting Him with the same. I have found that change and transformation is birthed in love otherwise it is just a change of habit.

His mercies never come to an end.”

Psalm 23:5-6 (ESV) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

It is human nature to decide the limits of God’s Love and mercy. In hard times, the only explanation possible is that God is punishing us or maybe teaching us a lesson. God cannot punish those who live in the dispensation of grace without stripping it of power. The sufficiency of grace is nullified if God decided to punish us so that is a lie of the enemy. I do not believe that the Lord is trying to harm us in any possible way. Even Jesus was tempted by the enemy, God has given us His Spirit to overcome every trial and temptation. It is just part of life. If Jesus encountered it, so will we. This is the promise. Mercy. In the presence of the enemy, I am well provided for and cared for. In fact, there is abundance for me in the battle. Goodness and mercy follow me every single day. New every single morning – I must simply receive it. Is goodness and mercy your portion today? Are you reaching for it and accepting it in your life? Regret and shame stop us from taking what is rightfully ours and promised by the Lord in each new day.

“They are new every morning.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

We live in a carryover society. Allowing things to rollover from day to day until small things become monumental making mountains out of molehills. Think about it. There was a documentary on television the other day, I don’t even know what it was about. In it, the narrator said that in certain low income areas of New Orleans that the average income was $7,000 a year. I remember thinking how can anyone live let alone family on such a small amount. I believe that in Christ – I am a new creation. Do I allow Him to increase my life daily or do I limit Him in my expectation? When I look at my life is it defined by God’s Goodness and Mercy or do I daily live comparing my life to other people? God promises are new each morning because His Mercy is in constant supply. I may judge my potential and future by my current situation or the conditions governing my life but God says, “I have a plan that contains a future and hope” which means that my circumstances today do not dictate my forever. Christ does. With this in mind, when I bring the cares, worries, failures and defeats of yesterday into my today, I limit my own ability to receive all the new things that God is doing in me and through me. Disbelief downgrades my potential and possibility as I try to amend for my inabilities rather than allowing Christ to be more than enough for me.

Great is your faithfulness.”

Hebrews 10:22-23 (ESV) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 

Faith is not our ability to be faithful but our willingness to trust and believe that the Lord is always faithful. Great is God’s Faithfulness. Grace indicates our inability to be faithful always. This does not change the fact that God is always faithful. It is our unwillingness to believe, trust, wait, depend, and hold fast that which we confess that limits our potential. We pray and then do our own thing. Unwavering hope waits on the Lord knowing He is faithful. It finds peace in God accepting the peace of mind given to us by Jesus as blessed assurance. We try to be faithful and fail then think that God’s Faithfulness ends because of our inability. That’s not how this works. God is the One who promised to be faithful. He is the One keeping His Word. The Lord is working out the details for our good. He is the One who perfects all that concerns us. He is the load bearer. The lifter of our heads to see things the way that He does. To see our life and full potential through the Cross and not our circumstances. Human beings try to be faithful but to experience the fullness off the freedom offered in the Son of God is to accept His Grace as more than enough.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 16:5 (ESV) The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The Book of Lamentations is filled with expressions of sorrow, regret and grief. In the midst of it all is this declaration. “The Lord is my portion.” Things must be undone to be remade. Hearts must be broken to be rebuilt. Life must change to be better. I share this all to say that the only decision that will ever change our heart, mind and life for the better is to say, “Lord you are my chosen portion.” You have a right to decide what will fill your life today. Will it be regret? Sorrow? Grief? Will you ever experience love, peace and joy again? Yes, when the Lord is our portion the rest of life will find its proper place. As hope arises, it comes with new possibilities. The Fruit of God’s Spirit requires a broken and fertile heart. Faith is the opportunity to invest in God’s Faithfulness. Hope is for a life filled with abundance that is incomprehensible now. God’s Love for you is secure. There is nothing you will do today, tomorrow or the next that can separate you from His Love for you. Let that soak in for a minute. He desires you above all things so much so that He pursues you day after day. He meets you in the morning with gifts too wonderful for some to accept in their state of devastation and disappointment at the thought we cannot please Him. You can. Put your faith in the Lord. Call Him your portion. Make Him your lot. A lot is short for allotted share or portion. The blessings and promises that God has made you are real. They belong to you and no one else. God is not in the business of re-gifting. Once He orders or ordains something for you or in you it remains forever until you accept it. The Word of God cannot return to Him void and must do exactly as He promised because HE IS FAITHFUL. Lord, be my portion today. Help me to see the areas of my life that I have not properly portioned to You so that I may give it all to You today. In Jesus Name!

Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV) Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Secrets of the Deep

Secrets of the Deep

Psalm 42:7-9 (ESV) Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Life is crazy. Change is inevitable. Becoming a Christian, inviting Jesus to live in our life doesn’t exempt us from such extremes but rather invites us to a place of utter chaos. Religion is man’s attempt to string together all the details and bring people to some form of order. The truth of the matter is that God comes to each of us on an individual basis – Jesus invites us to live in love with Him – the consummation of such an experience is the Holy Spirit. After that buckle your seatbelts as your existence is completely undone. Believers who act like that have it all together project a farce. It is not in the doing that God accomplishes great things but in our undoing. It is not when we have it all together that His Light shines through us but through our broken heart. It is not because He is cruel or controlling but rather because God created us with a plan much bigger than our finite thinking and prepared us for much more than perceived by limited sight. It is in those moments that lack understanding or make no sense at all – our inability to cope or control – that the deep surrounds us.

My husband and I were walking and talking. It would begin like most other nights. Going over the events of the days, activities of children and sharing life experiences. But last night, he dared enter the unknown. Asking the complicated question that most men would avoid – “What are you really thinking about?” I hesitated. The thoughts circulating in my head and swirling through my mind were questioning. Wondering. Contemplating. The details of life overwhelming and chaotic churning through my thoughts. The last week or so an emotional roller coaster of high highs and low lows. I feel like the toy our puppy plays with that has been shaken and pulled apart even frayed. I lay it all before my husband and become only more convinced that God has to be in all these deep places. He is ready to fill voids, level mountains and make a clear path. I have walked through deep waters before and always prevailed by His Mighty Hand and Loving Heart. I hear deep calling again. My spirit says, “Yes!” but my flesh begs “Lord, not again!”

Isaiah 35:3-8 (ESV) Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

I believe that God is good. I know that His Plan for my life contains a future and hope beyond my comprehension. His Thoughts are higher than my own and so therefore His Ways must be also. It is in my lack of knowledge and understanding that challenge me. The deep is God’s Invitation to grow in these areas. It is not in knowing what or how God works that builds faith and hope but in knowing God that makes all things possible. Faith is what pleases the Lord. Faith is not living by what we see but rather living in constant knowledge of who God is and how much He loves us. It is to put our trust in His Character and not life’s conditions or circumstances but to become fully enveloped in His Love and Grace each day. Strength, courage and fearlessness are not achieved by human sufficiency but when our confidence is completely invested in the Lord and His Process.

The Highway to Holiness unfolding before us is the pathway to victory. Holiness is not anything we do but rather what happens as one becomes the much coveted new creation Christ promised to make us. Religion has attempted to change our appearance but the Lord promises a new heart. A heart set on a pilgrimage to where He is, to do what He is doing, and make the commitment to remain in the deep as long as it takes to enter the Light of His Love.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.” What if the deeper things of God are entered into not by our own strength or willpower but rather the moment of letting go and allowing the Lord to do it all. Weak hands let go relinquishing to His Power and Control. Feeble knees stopping trying to do it all and walk it out allowing the Lord to carry us through. Dependency on the Lord is established in the deep when we cannot see or do what we used to. Maybe this is what it means “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

Daniel 2:20-22 (ESV) Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

The Lord gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what is in the darkness of the depths and the Light dwells in Him. In Genesis 1:1-3, the whole love story of God begins with the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the deep. Read it. The earth is formless and void and then God spoke. Life perpetuated life from that moment forward. God and His Spirit were there. Jesus is the Word. When God spoke – Jesus was and is and is to come. Knowledge of God is found in the Word which is the story of Jesus Christ wrapped in flesh who came to give us life just like in the beginning. (John 1:14) The Word is our wisdom for life. We read it. Apply it. In that moment, God’s Wisdom becomes power in our life. Our words begin to line up with His and there is agreement. (Proverbs 18:4) Understanding extracts the secrets of the deep hidden there for human discovery. (Proverbs 20:5) Where can wisdom be found? It is not in the deep but the One who keeps us in the deep. (Job 28:12-14) God has had complete control over the deep forever. Darkness runs from the Light so even in the lowest valley or deepest sea the Light of His Love will surrounds those who are His Children.

It may be dark all around you today. No relief in sight. The wait may be one minute longer than you can do it. The pressure overwhelming. The pain beyond enduring. The night won’t last forever. Joy comes with new mercy each morning. God is not calling you to drown you but to drench and saturate our life in His Goodness. It is the opportunity of obedience to walk by faith and not what you see. But you know what I have found to be the greatest blessing of the deep…

Romans 8:26-28 (ESV) Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

When I venture into the deep, ready to obey, willing to trust and thrust my heart in God’s Hands – He is always faithful. His Spirit, the same one who was with Him in the beginning, helps me. When I am at a loss for words or strength to move, His Spirit takes over. The Lord searches my heart removing weights and hindrances until the only thing holding me is hope that strong anchor. Somehow and some way – everything keeps working together for my good and His Glory despite my weakness and whining. I find that as I surface again – His Purpose is clear…

Romans 8:36-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through all the peaks and valleys and even in the deepest depths of life – God’s Love has never let me go. I am more than a conqueror – an embattled and scarred warrior for sure – but I refuse to put my sword down. I will fight to the end to maintain this faith I have been entrusted with and keep my deep abiding affection and trust in the Lord. It is a fight when the deep closes in around me. I feel panic and distress where peace once abounds. Then I am reminded of all the times before when His Love rushes in and He breathes new life in me. When His Perfect Love has expelled my fear – so I keep going.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The details of my life are stretch from elation to exhaustion. I cannot put into words how I feel or the emotions running through me. It really doesn’t matter how I feel now does it. My success today is based on my ability to enter the deep based on what I know. I know God loves me. I know that He has victory in store for me. I know that He is blessing me but it is only the beginning of the abundance growing in my life. One day it will be increase that will only be attributable to the faithfulness of God. Until then, I will continue to plunge in the deep when I am called. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in obedience and trust. The deep exposes us in our weakness and insecurity to God’s Love. The width, length, height and depth of His Fathomless Love for us is evident when we can do nothing but must rely on the Lord for everything. These are the times when faith are rooted and grounded in a hard heart now broken and fertile. The Lord is letting us know that His Love surpasses our knowledge and ability to understand. He is filling our voids with the Fullness of God. The opportunity of the deep is simple. It is to invest our life and all that we believe in the Lord who desires to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to His Power at work in us! Welcome to the deep! It is full of God’s Secrets and Hidden Opportunities of blessing and prosperity for those who decide to enter in.

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.