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.

Finding My Joy

Finding Joy

Psalm 16:5-11 (ESV) The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Do you have joy today? Are you overcome by worry and stress? What is your state of mind as you begin this new day with great possibility? Is the reality you live in just the same old same old again? Psalm 16 tells us that “in Your Presence there is fullness of joy” so why aren’t Christians filled with overflowing joy and happiness each day? Why do churches sing songs of victory without any enthusiasm? How come believers don’t even smile? I have found my joy. Today, can I help you find yours?

Galatians 5:22 outlines the Fruit of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit commissioned to remain in you and I. The first fruit that is produced is love. God loves us. It doesn’t even matter if anyone loves Him back. His Divine Character is love. It defines God from any other god or idol of manmade creation. The second Fruit of the Spirit is joy. Struggling just to live in love, it seems it is hard to move on. Or maybe it is because people approach the Lord like the produce department at the grocery store carefully perusing, picking and choosing which fruits are desirable and passing on the rest. Fresh fruit is expensive. Canned fruit costs much less but doesn’t have the variety or taste of produce fresh from trees, vines or bushes without all the packaging preservatives. What if I told you that for one day only the farmer’s market was offering fresh fruit for free? Many would schedule their day around such an event to partake of costly goods paying nothing at all. Jesus died so that the Holy Spirit would live in us and produce every spiritual blessing that the Lord has already provided AND PAID FOR so why won’t we at least taste and see that He really is good?

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” It begins by our belief. Do you believe that the “lines” in your life have fallen in “pleasant places”? Do you believe God loves you? Do you believe that God is good? He is faithful? Those who do will make Him their chosen portion and their cup. This puts the entirety of our life in God’s Hands. The giving and receiving. The sowing and the reaping. The planting and harvesting in our life becomes God’s Divine Plan. He promises to give us a future and hope. To work every detail of our life for His Glory and our good. He perfects all that concerns me. Christ offers to yoke with us and shoulder the burdens and cares of life while passing through to eternity. Where is our joy? It is in the decision to give every aspect of our life to Jesus Christ. The evidence of such a choice is joy. “I have a beautiful inheritance” that is only accessible if I believe enough to choose the Lord as my portion and offer my cup to Him.

Psalm 43:2-4 (ESV) For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

When our daughter got married, she did a change of address and forwarded her mail. She took her birth certificate, social security card, driver license, and marriage license to change her name on everything. Four months later, she moved to a new state and was tasked with the process all over again. I still get her mail from time to time. Even though she changed residency twice and was diligent in her attempts to notify everyone who may need to contact her, her mail still doesn’t make it to her until I forward it myself. Moving through life, it is possible to lose sight of our residency in Heaven and begin to rely on natural outcomes and human strength. We must make an effort to establish our residency in the Kingdom and remain faithful in our allegiance to Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 13:15)

We are temporary residents of this place. I have a place in heaven with the Lord. As I make my way from here to eternity, it is a challenge and test not to become accustomed to this life but continually seek the character and qualities of those with future hope beyond death and the grave. It’s tough because everything in this place is geared toward living the fullness of life now and avoiding death at all costs. If this is life and there is nothing beyond it, I would completely understand the desperation and devastation of unmet expectation. Disappointment would be defeat in my eyes. A wise person once told me – “do not make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances.” I believe that there is hidden joy in our life that is missed because of distractions that are meaningless to the believer. Perfect love casts out all fear leaving plenty of room for joy and peace. Total trust gives up the right to worry and stress knowing with God all things are possible and He is our Provider.

We must learn to live in the Presence of God. (Psalm 21:6) Take our eyes off the enemy. (Psalm 27:6) Silence his lies with the truth by making a joyful noise to the Lord rather than grumbling and complaining. (Psalm 98:4; 100:1) Transfer the potential in our life from an earthly position to a heavenly inheritance. Rather than sowing seeds in the ground – sow them in the Kingdom. Decide to make finding joy your plight rather than superficial happiness in people, things, and earthly success. It took a terrible tragedy for me to find my joy. Joy is a constant state for the believer if they choose the Lord to be their portion and cup relying on His Inheritance rather than earthly treasure. God’s Favor is for a lifetime. (Psalm 30:5) This time and place called the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13) Those who look believe enough to look for God’s Goodness in each day will find it. God’s Steadfast Love never ceases. His Mercies never end and arrive each morning. (Lamentations 3:22) With it comes the opportunity to have joy with it. (Psalm 30:5)

Colossians 1:10-12 (ESV) “…So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Joy is not a naturally occurring commodity of the world. It is not human nature which is selfish and greedy always crying out for more. Soul satisfaction is the key to a rich and satisfying life living in the prosperity of God’s Promises. Joy and peace partner together to produce other fruits of God’s Spirit such as patience. It accompanies us in our waiting when our refuge is the Lord. “I have set the Lord always before me.” We must learn to live with Jesus in every aspect of our natural life. To filter every thought, idea and motivation through our love and commitment to Him will allow joy to rise up in the most unlikely of places. The threat of losing something often will heighten awareness and appreciation of what we have versus what we want. Suddenly all those other things are not as important as the Christ in us and moving through us to be expressed out as life giving light to a dark and dying world. Without Jesus, there is no hope only a life that will lead to disappointment and defeat. But when I decide to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” and “fully pleasing Him”, I will begin to bear every fruit in every good work AND with my increasing knowledge of God. Finding joy is not a life venture but a heart vindication. I am justified in Jesus. I am approved for every blessing and promise God has for me because He has given me the Gifts of Grace and Righteousness. When I begin to believe this, I will find joy. When I choose to live as a Child of God trusting and believing He is a Good Father enough to release burden, cares, worries and stress – the Spirit will begin to produce inexpressible joy in my life.

I Peter 1:8-9 (ESV) Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Sitting in a hospital room for the umpteenth time, I was discouraged. In the bed was our son who was undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Three years of trusting, praying and believing – I would put in headphones and join churches on YouTube in the midst of worship. I needed to leave the room if only in spirit. The reality of his health weighing heavily upon me – I came across Kari Jobe singing “Forever” with the Bethel Worship Team. The reality of Heaven finally became clear to me. If he didn’t survive this treatment, it wasn’t over. Jesus was right here and right there. The bridge of the song is “we sing hallelujah – the Lamb has overcome.” I finally got it as the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Something changed in me that night. Joy began to flow in my heart and through my tears to realize that in this hopeless and devastating wasteland void of love and covered in darkness that Jesus is my joy. Forever. Nothing the enemy can do to me or my family will ever be able to take victory, love, joy and peace from me because I have found my joy. His Name is Jesus. Have you?

Life is hard. We still have hope. Bad things happen to good people but it is not over yet. Jesus is our victory. Each day brings the mercy we need to sow in tears…we have the opportunity in doing so to come home with shouts of joy and the abundance of God. (Psalm 126:6) We must fully invest our life and love in Jesus Christ to have inexpressible joy that will overcome every trial and trouble ever faced. Faith is the opportunity to live for this new Kingdom and life that is coming. To reap its benefits now as the windows of Heaven open and overflow in our life. Those without hope have no joy but those with hope in Him have fullness of joy. Lord, I ask you to restore the joy of my salvation in any area of my life that I may have allowed fear or doubt to rise up. Create in me a clean heart. Renew a steadfast spirit with its sights set on Heaven today. Cast me not from your Presence, Lord but fill me to overflowing with it. I yield to the productivity of the Holy Spirit and give Him full access to every area of my life. Give me joy today Lord Jesus. Overwhelming and inexpressible Jesus Joy just as You have promised. Lord, I am willing and where I am not uphold me with Your Grace and Tender Mercies. Thank you Jesus for joy!

Romans 15:13 (ESV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Steadfast Love

Steadfast Love

Psalm 118:1 (ESV) Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Some things remain the same like this morning. My children still like to sleep. The puppy is happy to see me. My breakfast bar still has 12 grams of protein and the banana grew on a tree. My husband is still precious. I love the quiet of morning and Jesus was waiting when I walked in my study. The constancy of my life is Jesus Christ. His Love endures through everything in my life that is not the same today. There is always uncertainty in our future and some days it is just a little more of a reality than others. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and His Solid Foundation but it is a challenge to live there every single day especially those that don’t line up with His Word or His Way. That’s why I must know what I believe…it’s simple. The Lord is good. His Steadfast Love endures forever.

I am thankful today that my faithfulness is not a factor when it comes to God’s Constancy in my life. The fact that His Love for me is unshakeable and immovable gives credibility to the foundation of my life called faith. It means that when all hell breaks loose, chaos starts churning and people go on with life that His Love waits on me. It is there for me to hold on to. It is an open and waiting place for those who choose its shelter. It is the thing that holds me together when it feels as though I am falling apart. Grace allows me access even on those days when my belief is shaken, hope elusive, and faithfulness compromised. His Mercy met me that morning to escort me right back to the foundation held in place by the invisible anchor that keeps me safe and secure in the midst of fear and insecurity. It is always there because God is constant.

Psalm 118:5-9 (ESV) Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

Distress, distractions, detours, and even delays press and squeeze our confidence in the Lord sometimes. Lack of knowledge, understanding and wisdom threaten what we know to be true about the Lord because our mind has not firmly taken hold of that providential piece of His Character that constantly and overwhelmingly loves us no matter what. No matter what the deterrent may be the Lord is faithful in His Love as He rushes in to rescue those who cry out to Him. It doesn’t matter if my fear is valid or not because God is fearless. There is nothing that can ever overpower God’s Love for me. Nothing I can do. People can do. The enemy can do. His Love for me is constant and unchallenged by life and its many seasons. My love for Him must grow in its capacity to widen the foundation of faith my feet remain firmly planted in to the point that it doesn’t matter what happens around me, in me or at the hands of another – His Love must be the reality of my life. It is my certainty.

I Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 

The very premise of the hope that I hold on to is God’s Love for me. The fact that nothing can or will ever separate me from His Love. This is essential to living a life in love with Jesus. My love for Him is challenged and compromised by the things I see, want or desire every day. But His Love for me remains. It is everything written in I Corinthians 13. He is not a man. God does not lie or change His Mind concerning me even when I fall, fail or forget. His Love is endless. It is boundless. I can wander through this life forever and never find the edge of it. I can swim as deep as breath allows and never ever find the bottom of it. His Love for me is patient. His Love for me is kind. His Envy doesn’t want anything from me just my very human and broken heart. His Love doesn’t boast of being better only desires my best. God is not arrogant and aloof. He is not rude but always responds with loving kindness even when I knew better and did it anyway. He offers me His Way but doesn’t insist on me taking it yet still remains faithful in all things. He doesn’t get irritable when I am stubborn. The Lord never is resentful because His Grace won’t allow it. God never says, “I told you so…” but rather responds with “what are you doing here?” He keeps looking for us when we turn a blind eye to Him. His Father’s Love uncompromised by wandering and rebellion. He rejoices over me singing. My Creator sees His Masterpiece Creation inside this messed up mama. God’s Love bears all things and believe me I have put a lot on that love. His Love believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. His Love puts His Hope in me over and over again even though I am so unworthy. His Love endures my inability to get it right and always showers me in more grace, mercy and love. God is love. His Character will not permit Him to operate outside of it because it is who He is. His Love never ever ends.

Psalm 118:21-28 (ESV) I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord‘s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.

What if for just one day rather than trying to act saved or serve God humanly – His People decided just to respond to His Love. Salvation is the Love of God for us that does not lead to condemnation but sweeps us from this life into a realm called hope. It is a new place. It can be a scary transition as what we rely on and build our whole life upon is not seen. The hope that I have in the Lord is that His Love for me never ends. It is not what I can do for Him or how much I can change my life, habits or behaviors but just how fully and completely I am willing to accept His Love as the premise and purpose of my life. Let’s not lose sight today of the fact that religion died on the Cross with Jesus, tearing the veil and offering all mankind the opportunity to live in a relationship with the Living God. To love and be loved by our Creator. The one who designed our heart and knows every strength and weakness hidden inside of it. Can you just thank God for His Love and mean it? You were not saved just by asking Jesus to be Your Savior and Lord! I know what they told you. You didn’t have to join a church or serve every Sunday. We are called to be the church with consummation in our love for Christ to become one with His Body. You can miss a prayer meeting and still be saved. You can sin and still experience the Love of God, otherwise how can His Grace be sufficient? It is love for Jesus that gives us a desire not to sin. Otherwise, it is a habit change not a heart change. All things are permissible just not beneficial. At the end of the day as I recount my successes, failures and yet-to-be-determined – it is with the thought in mind – His Faithful Love endures forever. There is no end to God’s Love for me. He is constant in every season. He is constant in the change and chaos churning all about. He is always in love with me. His Desire is for me. His Heart is for me. God is for me. If only I can respond to His Love today, what are the possibilities? Not because I am right or did a single thing right, but simply because His Love endures forever. Amen.

Psalm 118:28-29 (ESV) You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Holding Hope

Holding Hope

Psalm 43:3-5 (NLT) Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. (Proverbs 13:12) Discouragement is a bummer. It is not the product of confident hope that is incapable of leading us to disappointment. God loves us. We know that but it is difficult to hold tightly without wavering to hope which cannot be seen or experienced right now. The absence of hope is discouragement. How can a believer be discouraged? Don’t beat yourself up too bad. We are all human beings comprised of dying flesh no matter how pretty the package or righteous one appears. Some days life is more than to be handled and burdens just too heavy to bear. If perfection were possible, grace wouldn’t be necessary. However, the Word of God is clear that grace is always enough. We need God’s Grace. No one can live beyond their last breath without it. In fact, no one can live a life of potential and purpose in the here and now without it.

Faith is the reality of what we hope for – it is the evidence of what cannot be seen but is relevant to our life. If you can see it, do it or produce it in your life – faith and hope are not necessary. It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith makes all things possible if one believes. Hope is the essence of what we believe and invest our faith in. Yet there are days when our heart, mind and soul can empathize with the psalmist. Our prayer to the Lord is one for help and rescue. “I am slipping!” (Psalm 94:18) The support that keeps us from going under in such times is the hope that anchors our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) Like the massive piece of metal resting on the bottom of the sea, it holds the ship safely. But still, the vessel moves up and down in the waves, feels the weight of the wind, and experiences the natural conditions of the atmosphere. Lord, help me to hold on to hope today even though I cannot see it – it is holding me in place. Let me feel its strength and security surround me and hold me even tighter than I cling to it.

Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me.” God’s Word is our Source of Hope. Spoiler alert – Jesus is the Word of God. (John 1:1-5; 14) He came wrapped in flesh to demonstrate God’s Love for us. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) I need God’s Word in my life spiritually to survive beyond my last day. Even reading the Word of God can be difficult when the wet blanket of discouragement finds us. These are the days our prayer might be “send out your light and truth.” Obedience to God’s Word is nothing more than accepting His Guidance from Glory to Glory as one lives in the Presence of God. We need His Presence to comprehend illogical faith that makes no sense outside of the Word of God. God’s Word gives us knowledge and understanding that allows us to hold to our hope. It gives it substance. Psalm 119:105 calls the Word a light and lamp that helps us find our way. Proverbs 24:13-14 compares it to honey that is sweet to taste. Nothing will overcome bitterness like the sweetness of the promises found for us in God’s Word. We must always use God’s Word to anchor our heart and mind to the reality of faith and hope that is to be clung to. Life is hard. The struggle is real. Our anchor is secure.

“Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.” The Presence of God is the place of restoration, renewal and revival of the weary and fallen who are righteous. Just because you are down doesn’t mean you have fallen. Just because you are discouraged doesn’t mean that you have lost your hope. It just means you need more Light and Love found in His Presence to drive the darkness away. Some people make Presence about manifestation. I say that sometimes the greatest miracle that can happen is to find peace in the storm and joy in the midst of great sorrow. It produces satisfaction and contentment that God is enough. He is no bigger than when His Love surrounds us and His Goodness overtakes us. To sit in the Presence of God and decide not to move until He comes will allow you to experience the faithfulness of God in the absence of doing, moving or even speaking. It is to allow Him to be God and in control at least for those few moments. God is the God of perfect peace and inexpressible joy. He is the One who promised to do more than we can think or imagine to ask for. Jesus promised a rich and satisfying life that can only be discovered in His Presence. Stop worrying about what you can do for God and let God do what He wants to do for you today. “The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.” Psalm 145:14-16) Too many times we put certain conditions on our life that Jesus never mandated or authorized. Our feeble attempt to somehow earn what has already been given makes us think there is something of worth in our actions that Christ did not already complete on the Cross. This burden is not one that I am called to carry so the weight overwhelms me until I realize again that Christ is enough. He is all that I need. He is my hope. His Name is hope. (Matthew 12:21) I must put all my faith, hope and trust in the Lord to avoid discouragement in life. I will fall. I will fail. I will be discouraged. The Lord promises to be my refuge. I must go to Him.

Hebrews 10:20-23 (NLT) By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

My hope is in Christ alone. Period. God’s Plan for my life comes with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) God doesn’t say, “Now go make it happen.” No, the Word of God goes on to say that those who seek Him wholeheartedly will find it. (Jeremiah 29:13) Maybe I am discouraged because I somehow took parts of my heart, mind or life back? It’s possible. Romans 8 is not for babies. It is not spiritual milk. No friend, Romans 8, is the reality of hope. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:1) Therefore, I have absolutely nothing to fear or be sad about. It doesn’t matter what other people think or how harshly I may be judged. There is no condemnation in Jesus because His Grace is enough. If I continue in His Word to build a new knowledge base for faith to become wisdom and I invite the Holy Spirit to live, breathe, move and have His Way in my life – I will not be led to disappointment. If I find myself discouraged, I have everything I need inside of me to be encouraged by hope yet again. I am not in this alone. The entire body of Christ longs for and groans for completion in the Lord. “We were given this hope when we were saved.” (Romans 8:24) Since we do not have it yet, we must wait patiently and confidently in it. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. He will even pray for us. (Romans 8:26) God promises that He is working together every detail of my life for my good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) Things are looking up. Finally, the greatest detail of hope is that no matter what I have overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ and absolutely nothing can separate me from His Love…not even me or my bad attitude or inability to hold “tightly” to hope. He still is holding on to me no matter what! (Romans 8:35-39) I didn’t learn these truths in the last couple of hours but have invested and reinvested my life in believing, trusting and living in God’s Word and His Presence. He is my hope when everything is hopeless. Jesus makes all things possible when life is impossible. This is what I believe and today what God is reminding me of.

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT) I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Could it be that God uses discouragement to reproduce faith and confident hope in us? Those times when our burdens overwhelm us push us into His Presence. When the details of life just don’t make sense, it forces us to find the reality of our faith in the Truth concerning us (the Word). Sin is rampant. Love is cold. Bad things happen to good people every day yet still God’s Mercy is new every morning. Day after day an opportunity to experience new faith and confident hope that fills our life with His Glory and Goodness. It is time to reinvest faith in hope. It doesn’t matter how far you have fallen – the Lord can still reach you with His Love. He is strong enough to rip bitterness from its root and restore the soul drowning in doubt. The anchor of hope may be unseen but rest assured it is secure, unmovable and unshakeable in the foundation of faith who is Jesus Christ.

Psalm 94:18-19 (NLT) I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

I have to laugh a little today even feeling a bit overwhelmed and slightly discouraged at the irony of Christ. I cry out to the Lord, “I am slipping!” But the reality of it is I am secure! His Unfailing Love is holding me tight. He is supporting me in this time of weakness of spirit and feebleness of heart offering me time, grace and mercy to get over it and keep walking with Him. Isn’t this what being yoked to Jesus Christ is all about? (Matthew 11:28-30) He says, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens…” Is that you today? “Take my yoke upon you…” Jesus is inviting us yet again to partner our faith and hope with Him, it’s called trust. The Lord offers to teach us His Way. He will give us a new heart that is gentle and submissive to His Way that never leads to disappointment but victory to victory and glory to glory. The promise is that we will find rest for our souls. Hope gives us peace so that we can rest on God’s Promise even in the midst of a storm. His Yoke is easy and burden is light because Jesus will do just as He promised. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He completed His Work on the Cross and released His Spirit to live in us. Our hope is secure. Faith attaches us to hope. It doesn’t have to be “big” faith just enough to truly believe. Lord, as I read your Word and enter Your Presence, I ask you Jesus to bring me comfort, renew a right spirit in me, and give me the inexpressible joy and cheer that is only found in You! Teach me to hold on to hope as tightly as You are holding me!

Romans 15:13 (NLT) I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Where Is Your Faith?

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Luke 8:22-25 (NLT) One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

The rain and wind must have awakened our newest fur baby or maybe it was just time to go, whatever the case, it was clear she meant business. It was still dark swinging my legs over the side of the bed thinking I am too old for this, but she is oh so worth it. Our family adopted a black lab puppy a few weeks ago. Usually our dogs have been acquired at an older age from someone who took on the responsibility of pet ownership and decided several months in that it wasn’t for them. Our family considers our dogs members of our family. At any rate, she was barely nine weeks old when she became our fur-ever baby. She is very large as her dad is a giant, so sometimes it is hard to remember she is not even three months old. She is extremely laid back and conservative. She approaches new things curiously – stepping in not running to it – and holding her ground yet pensively. Very different from our little Chihuahua with the heart and personality of a Rottweiler, who despite her small size is always in charge or so she thinks. I was interested to see how Scout responded to the storm. She just walked right in it like any other time. The rain didn’t bother her. The flashes of lightning did not get her attention. Even the thunder was not big deal to her, she just went about her business like it was any other morning on any other day. In the distance, I could hear other dogs not so fortunate as our little ones who I was drying off on the back porch. No barks or howls just whimpers. I wonder why their owners didn’t take them out of the rain. Give them proper shelter to keep them dry. Maybe their food is all soggy now or washed away in the storm. Poor puppies! Even Scout takes notice standing with her nose in the air, looking out in the darkness, her tail stops wagging as she listens…I wonder if she knows what they are saying.

I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t thankful for today’s rain. It means that I cannot finish painting the latest restoration I am working on in my “free time”. It’s going to be a mess getting to church. Why even bother doing my hair? Yuck. But then I thought about the fertilizer my husband put down yesterday that will work best with the added water, and the fact that rain is essential. We haven’t had any in a while. I crawl back in bed with the puppy satisfied and our tiny one in the bed – safe, secure and content as the storm really kicks up. I drift off to sleep to the sound of the rain.

Jesus told his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” The men obeyed Jesus and everyone got in a boat to head over as He instructed. Obedience is not always a quiet ride. Just by doing what the Lord instructs us to do or being led by His Spirit does not guarantee a clear forecast in life. It isn’t always smooth sailing ahead. Having enough faith to get on the boat is not always enough to carry us to the other side. Once on the boat, Jesus took a nap. While he was sleeping, “a fierce storm came” and the boat filled with water. They were in “real” danger. Let’s stop there for a moment. What constitutes real danger? Loss of control. When there is nothing humanly possible to do who do we look for? Jesus, of course. In their panic, they go and awaken the Lord. He immediately rebukes the wind and rain. Turning to the men who had walked with him, talked with him, heard all his best messages so far and even experienced miracles with their eyes and asks, “Where is your faith?”

“Where is your faith” today? How far have you trusted Jesus? On the shore, to the dock, on the boat, across the water, or to the middle of the storm? At what point did you go to Jesus and ask Him for help or abandon this crazy thing called Christianity because it didn’t work out like you thought? Where is your faith? Is it in the vessel, the storm or the Savior? We can obey Jesus Christ taking Him at His Word and never trust Him enough to rest in His Authority and Power over our life. Fear and insecurity are based on a lack of confidence. It is seldom as much about the reality of the outcome but merely a perception based on the current situation or experience. The realm of hope which is available to God’s People comes with peace and rest unaffected by a change in natural conditions resting on a Supernatural God.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for. Real faith is necessary to please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. (Hebrews 11:6) To say one believes must be evidenced in our life not just our words. Anyone who comes to the Lord must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. Obedience is not always faith-based. In fact, to do what the Word of God tells us to is much easier sometimes then doing what the Holy Spirit impresses on our heart. The doing that can be incorporated into our routine, schedule or agenda works well for us. The knowing conceived through God’s Word and verbally repeated is good for us, too. We like it. Memorization that never becomes meditation does nothing for us. It cannot get past our head to make it into our heart. Reciting is one thing but remember is truly another. It is when faith is required that it is revealed. The moment that religion becomes reliant on a relationship. It is the times when everything falls apart and I am completely undone when I must run to Jesus because my faith has run out. These are the opportunities to make something real out of the seeds planted in our life but not given to the ground to produce a harvest. Or sometimes, it is all the seeds that have not grown into anything yet.

Matthew 17:19-20 (NLT) Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Animal experts believe that dogs that fear thunder and lightning do so based on past experience. A time when it occurred and they’re expectation of care not met. Experience at an early age. Another theory, dogs respond to storms based on their owner’s attitude and actions. How might believers respond to life if they truly knew the potential called faith and purpose called hope? What if we really believed the words recited from the Bible? What if the promises claimed were not worth giving up on? What if we were willing to wait it out until the end? Trusting. Believing. Clinging to God and His Word until it came to pass in the land of the living as He promised. “Nothing would be impossible.”

Too many time, God is given the benefit of human experience rather than the honor of being constant, sovereign and all-mighty. We expect God to be like our natural father and/or caregiver. We put our faith in Him in a limited supply because of fear and insecurity from past experiences with imperfect people. God is faithful. He doesn’t lie or change His Mind. If He has told you He will do it – God will absolutely do it according to His Plan. In the meantime, His Children are offered this refuge called peace that allows us to wait on Him no matter how long it takes. The Power of God is no match for the storms of life. At His Word, the wind dies down, the rain dries up, the thunder ceases and lightning goes dark. One word. His Word. So if the storm is still raging all around you – does that mean that the Hand of God is losing its hold – has He come to the end of His Reign? Is His Authority null and void now? No. Absolutely not. The storms in our life offer us the opportunity to see where faith ends and fear begins. This is essential in developing faith that just gets by in the natural to wonder-working power in God’s Supernatural.

I want to live in the place where “nothing is impossible.” The place and time where my life is ruled by peace and favor not worry and anxiety. To be the kind of believer that takes God at His Word first and can walk strong and courageously through life no matter the conditions I face. That is who I want to be so I guess that is an invitation to God to let it rain in my life. When you open the Windows of Heaven, I accept that some rain will fall, storms come, wind blow and thunder roar. I know you have me safe and secure in the Palm of Your Mighty Hand.

Mark 9:23-24 (NLT) “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Having been through many storms in life, I am happy to report that God has not failed me. He has been with me, carried me through and set my feet solidly on the other side. This is not to imply that I came through with flying colors but rather a broken heart held in hands raised to God for healing and restoration many times. The undoing of me is messy and not pretty but absolutely necessary to have the life I believe God has planned and prepared for me. I do believe. I need the Lord to help me overcome my unbelief today. In doing so, I am inviting a storm or two to come. I am asking for a forecast of rain. I know the rain is coming. It is well with my soul. I know that the Lord will never leave me or fail me no matter how many times I fail or fall down – He is still right there working all things together for my good like He promised. (Romans 8:28) He continues to perfect that which concerns me day by glorious day. (Psalm 138:8) If we can just overcome our disbelief, fears and insecurities about God’s Ability and Willingness to do exactly what He has promised enough to ride out the storms of life to the end – we would see the Glory of God overwhelm us and He would do more than we can even think to ask for. (Ephesians 3:20) All things would be possible just because we believed. Thank you Lord! Help me, Jesus to make it to that place of stillness as You bring me safely into the harbor! Lord, give me peace and confidence to trust you a little more, a little longer and a little farther than ever before! In Jesus Name!

Psalm 107:28-30 (NLT) “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!

It Matters

It Matters

Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

I used to work with someone who professed vehemently to be a Christian. In theory, the confession was absolutely true. This person would tell others that God was in control… which He is. Serving in church attending all the services and sharing the experience. Feeding the soul with the Word and good teachers – conversationally this person was living the life. However, at work this person was not a faithful employee. Arriving late, leaving early, not coming at all, and when in the office doing others things. Poor performance and inconsistent contribution forced the company to eliminate the position due to the tremendous weight on the company. The employer was extra patient and completely understanding until it took a terrible toll on his business. Seeds sown for life now have left nasty weeds for others to uproot and plant good seed in its place. It matters. Life matters. What I say as a believer is not nearly as important as how I live? To live for Jesus Christ is to put my feelings, emotions and bad habits in check to represent the One I serve appropriately and faithfully. It begins in real life doing ordinary things as though I was serving my extraordinary God.

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ.” This is the very reason why it is important that our life line up with our conversation. The Lord has given us the opportunity to live a new life as a new creation. I must set my sights on the “realities” of heaven. Let’s pause right there for a moment. Reality is important. It is resemblance of what is real. It is take the tiny seed called faith and plant it in every area of our existence until the life I live is based on heavenly concepts rather than worldly conformity. It would be easier if given a full heart transplant when coming to Christ but the truth of the matter is that the Lord did not come to you, call you and confirm you so that He could change you into someone else. You were born with the potential of God in you and eternity in your heart along with a measure of faith so that when the time came to pull it all together – you had everything needed. Coming to Christ, just activated God’s Plan and set the wheels in motion. He loves you. He made you. He have given you vast potential and called you to greater purpose. So how you live each day matters when it comes to God’s Process at work within you!

The reality of heaven is realized when Jesus Christ lives in us. To acknowledge Jesus is to recognize that our life is no longer bound by sin and grave. There is now more to live than this for those who desire and choose to live it. It is a conscious choice made every day to give up my way and follow Jesus.

Colossians 3:11 (NLT) In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Christ is all that matters…and He lives in all of us. Rather than dissecting and scrutinizing each other, what we believe and how we serve…what if…just for today…just for this moment, one considered the fact that the Lord has called us to one mind, one body, one heart and one purpose. This would mean that how I live my life directly impacts other people whether I know it or not. The things that I do each day reach someone. As the Light of the world by calling, others look to us for answers for practical life. My sights are set on heaven. I want to be with the Lord one day. How am I treating His Body? We are the Body of Christ. Jesus died for everyone not just one but all. This means that even those who do not believe – I am accountable to treat with respect. Why? Because my interaction with the Body should always represent the Christ in me and not the me He lives in. Let me take this home for a moment. When someone comes into our church, not my church but the one that each of us call home, how are they received? Is there condemnation as their appearance relays their choices? Are we judgmental? Are we fake? Do we ignore them? How do we receive them? Is it like the Father welcoming the prodigal son? See that is how Jesus would do it – He would run to them, wrap His Arms around them, genuinely receive them, welcome them, and love them in that moment not when they cleaned up nicely and fit our religious routine and could speak fluent Christianese. We are the Body of Christ. Even that homeless man speaking to unseen facing and caring on quiet a debate. Jesus loves him. He died for him. He desires Him. God has no favorites. It matters how we live our life when it comes to other people.

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 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.

Can I be transparent today? It is hard to live out the Gospel when it comes to people sometimes. Seventy times seven is a lot when you are the one who has to forgive and forget. We cannot forgive without forgetting and be like the Lord. He puts our sin in a sea of forgetfulness and justifies us just as if we never sinned. Can you say the same? I can’t and still be truthful. People can be downright difficult. BUT…since God chose (me) to be the holy (person) who He loves… I must clothe (myself) with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Ugh! As if that is not enough, I must make allowances for faults and forgive ANYONE who offends me. In the South, it might be called even those who hurt my feelings. I must forgive like Christ forgave me. He did away with a lot of junk and mess that’s for sure. Above all. Clothe yourselves with love. Walk around in it every day. It must be the filter through which every emotion, attitude and action goes through before it reaches another. I must be a lover. I must love all people. This will most definitely influence the choices I make and how I live because it matters. I am not representing myself any longer but the Christ who lives in me. “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. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

Colossians 3:22-24 (NLT) Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

It matters how we live and represent the Lord not only in the midst of our congregation but especially in our everyday life. The daily interactions with others as our character is revealed. Each day is the opportunity to be the Light for someone else but it requires strict attention not to others, how they live, what they do or even what they say. People have no influence over my purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are my purpose in the Lord. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. This must be the reality of my life.

Work willingly at whatever you do as though you are working for the Lord rather than people. Think about the tasks on your to do list. The places you will go today. The things that you are planning to do. There is no better representation of Jesus Christ then to do it all wholeheartedly as if working for Him and to love everyone in the process. Your pay grade doesn’t matter. The people you work with do not control your destiny. You will be rewarded abundantly for every seed sown in love and faithfulness. The Word of God tells us that as long as the earth remains – there will be seedtime and harvest. Those who live in drought and famine must carefully evaluate the seeds being planted in their field called life. Grumbling and complaining just grows into bitterness. Unforgiveness creates a wall that love cannot find its way around. Discontentment lead to discouragement but hope never will take you there. God has something far better for us hidden in Heaven and He promises His Goodness is for us in the land of the living. I do not pursue the Hand of God but rather His Heart so I must live according to what is found there – love, grace and mercy that gives way to faithfulness and obedience in all things. A diversified life is at risk. To fully invest my life in the Kingdom and have its reward requires a wholehearted effort to live, move, breathe and exist in Christ while I live this life. It matters. It all matters. Do not let the enemy convince you otherwise.

I Corinthians 15:58 (NLT) So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

The greatest ministry in life is not found in a position at the local church. It is not given the title of pastor, preacher, teacher or apostle. The greatest ministry is the life of worship lived by men and women who commit each day to work enthusiastically for the Lord in all things. To erase the line drawn between life and ministry. To decide that Heaven came exist on the earth and work diligently to make it so. It all begins by believing in the reality of Jesus Christ. He has flooded the earth with gracious, overwhelming, overflowing and unconditional love that is in us. We must decide to make it the reality of our life and decide each day matters to the Kingdom. Jesus set us free to live the life of our choosing but He clearly shows us the life that He desires for us and the promises that come with it. I want that life. To live a life that matters.

Ephesians 6:7-8 (NLT)  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.