In the Shadow

in the shadow

Psalm 91:1-2 (ESV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

To live in the shadow of can mean to live close to or in a position of being unnoticed because all the attention is given to someone else. It is human nature to live by comparison. The shadow of choice is the standard set for our life. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. It is important that the standard of our life is from the Word of God and not living in the shadow of other people. God made you with an individual plan and purpose that no one can fulfill but you. It is filled with blessings and benefits that are your inheritance set aside for your good pleasure. There is no competition with God. The Father has no favorites. Each one of His Children unique and complex in His Creation. Or have you someone found yourself living in the shadow of others? Maybe you live in the shadow of the impossible mountain that won’t seem to move? The Lord offers us a place in His Presence. A close proximity to Him. To dwell in the shelter of His Refuge and the Fortress marked “Peace”. He invites us to abide in the shadow of the Almighty! Yes, please.

“My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Oh and there is the secret. Trust. To eliminate all fear, doubt, and insecurity by moving from the obscurity of the crowd into the courts of the Almighty. The transition will defy all human logic as it is solely reliant on faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. Faith must have a new foundation. The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ. We must compare our standard of living to Him to align our life with the Father. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. What is right for me may not be right for you. Our convictions may be different. The habits that are healthy and choices that are right are not the same for everyone – it is important to understand that while we all have fallen short of God’s Glory not every produces the same light. Each light is needed to drive out darkness of every kind. The brightness of our life is produced by living in the Shadow of the Light of the world.

Psalm 91:9-10 (ESV) Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

The story of Elijah is one of my favorites to study. In 1 Kings 18, he is killing all the false prophets but then in I Kings 19 – he is hiding from simple threat. I was listening to a snippet of a sermon from one of my favorite preachers yesterday. He was retelling the story from a different perspective. Elijah was in the midst of transition. He was being repositioned by the Lord in his ministry. He was a teacher, prophet and minister. He was becoming a mentor. Sure enough at the end of I Kings 19, Elisha arrives on the scene. I wonder if in the midst of transition or perhaps transformation the undoing is too much for our humanity. If in those times – we forget that we live in the shadow of the Almighty and reposition ourselves in the shadow of others. Shadow of fear. Shadow of doubt. Shadow of insecurity. Shadow of isolation. We forget that we live in the shadow of the Almighty God who never grows weak and weary. When we are tired of the process, He continues to work on us just the same. His Word does not return to Him void even when we give up on it. Two different mountaintop experiences – one man. Great faith and confidence on one. Fear and doubt on the other. Same God. Sometimes the Lord has to get us away by ourselves to reassure us. He wants to speak to us but must silence all the other voices so that we listen to the still small voice. No weapon formed against us will prosper in this place.

No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. Faith will always release God’s Favor in our life. It is no different than turning on the faucet and water running out. As long as you are connected to a source, the source is available to you. The source of water to my home is the county water line. The source of Living Water is Jesus Christ. When I align my life to Him and live in His Shadow, things begin to change. My closeness to the Lord allows me to experience such a life.

Psalm 91:14-16 (ESV) “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Because he holds fast to me in love… We are God’s Beloved. He bestows His Unfailing Love on us each and every day. He gives us new mercies every morning. His Grace is always enough to restore any breach. He gave His Only Son to die for our sins. This gift of God to us cannot be earned or deserved only returned. God doesn’t need us. He desires us. He wants us. He is desperate for us. The only thing that you and I can “do” for God is to love Him. To live in close proximity and intimacy with the Lord. To dwell in His Presence. Those who find the way into the shadow of the Almighty and choose to love Him forever will experience long and satisfied living as the Lord shows Him salvation at its finest. There are many who call on the Name of the Lord without the express desire to actually find Him or make their way to Him in this lifetime. It is like having money in the bank but living a bankrupt existence. The fulfillment of God given to us is found in His Love. There is nothing more to do than connect with His Love and never let go. Those who fall in love with God through His Son Jesus Christ will experience a holy inhabitation that consummates the relationship – it is the Holy Spirit. He becomes our teacher, mentor and guide through life so when things don’t make sense or storms rage or situations arise or the impossible comes – we have nothing to fear living in the shadow of the Almighty.

James 1:16-18 (ESV) Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Oh how He loves us! He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affection for me. And, oh, how He loves us… (How He Loves – John Mark McMillan) The capacity of God’s Love for us is not limited by inability to receive it. He just keeps pursuing us and inviting us to enter into His Presence. Every good thing in our life is a product of God’s wooing us. He sends good gifts to His Children even those who do not live in an intimate relationship with Him. The prodigal’s father had two sons. A good son who was faithful to the family and another wild rebellious child who took his inheritance and squandered it prematurely. The father didn’t forget his “lost” son. He didn’t give up on him. In fact, when the broken shell of a man returned, the father welcomed him and celebrated his return fully restoring his place in the family.

God feels the same about you and me. He keeps our place in His Presence. There is no competition. There is no comparison. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. His radical and ridiculous love for us cannot be deterred or displaced it just keep pouring out in our life. Do not be deceived, my beloved. He invites you to come boldly before His Throne today and claim your place in His Presence. There is only one you. He made you to be a masterpiece. You are fearfully and wonderfully made because God did a marvelous work in your creation. (Psalm 139) Jesus Christ has given us boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him to approach God and live in His Presence. (Ephesians 3:11-12) The Lord invites you to live in His Shadow today.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (ESV) 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Advertisements

Unlikely Opportunities

unlikely-opportunities-e1523614889725.jpg

Psalm 76:23-26 (NIV) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

“Deny your weakness and you will never realize God’s Strength in you.” (Joni Eareckson Tada)

The unlikely opportunity of empowerment comes at the high price of the realization of weakness. The moment that mind over matter doesn’t work anymore and human inadequacy will fail the test of time and trial – this is the pivotal placement of dependency on God. Human nature demands a breaking point to lay aside pride and lean on the Lord. The mountain has to be too big. The valley too low. The season too hard. Or the darkness impenetrable for our pride to finally die. We are created in the Image of God. The bigger they are the harder they fall.

My flesh and heart may fail… is a huge understatement. My flesh will fail. My heart does fail. Those seasons of life that are just too much for our humanness so our heart turns to God. Though it is not a time called affectionately to our remembrance, those who wait upon the Lord or find Him there will never give up the strength and power of His Presence. It changes you. You are still made of flesh. Everyone has a wavering heart, but it is in the Presence and Power of our Creator that we find a new kind of strength called trust that will fill us with peace even in the midst of tremendous pressure.

God is the strength of my heart and portion forever. Is He enough? Is your faith and confidence in God enough? The Lord cannot heal unless something is broken. He cannot fill a place that is already full. Miracles happen in the midst of the impossible. You cannot find your place in Jesus until you stand down from self. Such unlikely opportunities, all the things that the world tells us to avoid. These are the primary places of true empowerment. When weariness gives way to an upset, when our strength completely fails and all that is left is to surrender to the Power and Presence of God.

When life falls apart and the world crashing down around us – chaos ensues. Our mind cannot wrap itself around the incomprehensible tragedy or loss surrounding the time and place when our normal is no longer. It happens all the time. The unexplainable time when human understanding is lost and all that is left is to look to our Lord and Savior. What will that moment look life for you? For Joni Eareckson Tada, it was the moment a freak accident forced her into a wheelchair and a life of quadriplegia. For me, the moment our son was diagnosed with cancer. The same cancer that would come back aggressively time and time again. The days of fighting for treatment in a world that puts a price on human life. The aftermath of a warrior with a body covered with battle scars. Maybe for you it was in the loss of a loved one to death or even in life. Perhaps it was a career that abruptly ended or financial disaster. Could it have been when you just couldn’t do it anymore?

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Such a glorious hope that we have in Jesus, a bright and shining light that sometimes requires shrouds of darkness to truly discover. The Lord is always with us. He is right there with you. It doesn’t matter if you wandering off or ran from Him. He pursues you every day with unfailing love and goodness. His Glory is ready to overtake you. He deposits new mercy on your doorstep each morning and His Grace is enough. It is sufficient for you in every situation. I will always be the place where His Strength and Power overtake us. It is the unlikeliest of places but has the most potential of all.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Every weakness is the opportunity for God to show us His Glory and Strength. Empowerment is a benefit of grace and reward of surrender. God has given us His Spirit. The Spirit is hard at work producing good fruit in our life according to His Word. He is our helper in all things. The Holy Spirit is also our guarantee. The One deposited in us when every promise became “yes” and “amen”. He will not force us into submission. He will not demand our surrender. He waits in us for the moment it is our choice. It is in that time and space that the Presence of God overtakes us and a new strength of heart called faith emerges. The crevices of a broken heart give way to fertile soil that allows His Spirit to sustain us even in seasons of famine and drought. When nothing seems to be going right but rather coming apart. It is right then and there that something changes. We give up our way to fully embrace His Way. Thank you Lord for the days when everything falls apart that You are forever faithful in making every detail and taking every piece of my broken heart to fill with power and use for Your Glory! God is good! He is always good! His Goodness is ready to overtake you today! Max Lucado said, “I simply think God is greater than our weakness. In fact, I think it is our weakness that reveals how great God is.” I agree.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

“The human experience of weakness is God’s Blueprint for calling attention to the supremacy of His Son. When miserably failing people continue to belong to, believe in, and worship Jesus, God is happy.” (Michael Spencer) Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He provides unlikely opportunities for ordinary life to become an extraordinary existence. He turns natural consequences into supernatural experiences for those who choose to surrender every weakness to Him. The Lord did not come to condemn us. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. He is the Resurrection and Life. He is where dead things breathe again. He is where the terminal is no longer fatal. He is the Alpha and Omega or the Beginning and the End. It’s not over until the Lord says so. The Lord is an everlasting God. He will not give up when you do. He will not give in because you decide its time. No, the Lord will finish the good work that He began in your life. All you have to do is hope in Him. Trust Him. Believe Him.

“A sacrifice to be real must cos, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His LOVE than your weakness.” (Mother Teresa)

I Corinthians 1:26-30 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Finding Purpose

finding-purpose-e1523271299708.jpg

Proverbs 20:7 (ESV) The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

A throne is God’s purpose for you; a cross is God’s path for you; faith is God’s plan for you. (Alan Redpath)

Did you know that you were created on purpose? It doesn’t matter the details of conception or conditions of birth – no baby arrives void of purpose. Your situation may not have been ideal. Your childhood a terrible tragedy. Teenage years a journey of guilt and shame. Adulthood filled with broken relationships and dead dreams yet still deep inside your heart is purpose. God placed eternity in our heart. He gave us a measure of faith to insure our success. He sent His Son – Jesus to take our life back paying the penalty of all sins so a full dispensation of grace might be available. Our life handed back to us labeled “free” and now it is up to us to decide how to use it. The purpose of God within us is far greater than just making it to Heaven. It is the opportunity to bring Heaven to earth.

The woman at the well had no idea that a divine appointment awaited her. She arrived around noon at the peak of the sun. She was shunned by other women and used by many men. Her current master not her husband just one willing to take the broken pieces of a shattered life and capitalize on it. She had no idea that the broken path she followed was leading her straight to redemption. She didn’t think this was a new day of new opportunity – I believe like many women just like her – she was just trying to get by. When she met Jesus, he asked for some water to satisfy a thirst. It would become an invitation for this dry and devastated life to be renewed.

John 4:13-16 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The purpose in our heart is deep water. We must search for understanding to draw it out. This woman began her conversation in the natural and then encountered the supernatural. She forgot who everyone said she was and ran back to tell them about the Messiah. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” I wonder today if the well of our hearts get so filled with worthless conversation and other garbage keeping the living water within us from making its way out of us. The opinions, insults and offenses stuck in our heart. The woman found her purpose. His Name – Jesus Christ. The guilt, shame and regret of our past is no match for the unfailing love and unfathomable grace given to us in just one encounter with the Lord. Purpose is a deep water that will only be found by those who are willing to dig a little deeper than the superficial overtures of life to reach the abundance found in new life.

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV) The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

For you will certainly carry out God’s Purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (C.S. Lewis)

Purpose is God-given. It resides in us. God placed eternity in each heart. He also provided us all with a measure of faith to successfully secure us in the Kingdom. He even sacrificed His Son to give us the freedom to choose between good and evil again with new mercy each day and more than enough grace for those days we miss the mark. God has us covered completely. Jesus gives us overwhelming victory as a byproduct of His Love for us. We can overcome in every situation. Why are so many Christians and so-called believers struggling then? Are you serving Jesus like Judas or John? Everyone would be quick to say, “John” but on closer evaluation of a wayward heart may be an indication that Judas is hiding in the darkest part.

Job 42:1-6 (ESV) “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

The story of Job is all about pride. Job’s life was prosperous. He was known as a religious man. He lived a righteous life. Yet, in all his goodness, the messengers came one by one as his kingdom fell. His family and finances were devastated. Disease soon infected his body. His own wife told him to give up on God. Yet in all his misery, Job did not give up on the Lord. His friends didn’t understand. They tried to offer comfort but only inflamed his heart and mind. In his complete and utter misery as his flesh was dying, Job came to the Lord and this was his cry. Job still believed. In the midst of all the tragedy, God still lived on the throne of his heart. Job knew that God is sovereign. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Such a profound statement. We hear a lot about the Lord and even adopt a certain language laced with hints of faith and believing. Yet it never reaches their heart or penetrates their thoughts forming a new belief which becomes a new life. As the Truth of God’s Identity and Character began to seep into the brokenness of his heart, something changed. Job was ready for a turnaround. Job repented.

Our purpose in the Lord will never be more than a promise if repentance is not a lifestyle. The Kingdom is not a place to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Hearing the Word of God it is easy to make a list of excuses why it’s not for us. But one encounter with the fullness of God in His Son – Jesus changes everything. The Lord dealt with Job’s accusers disguised as friends. He did not just restore Job but gave him double for his trouble. The renewal of faith in God will fill the gaps left by every tragedy in life. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. God already gave us everything we need including the promises so greatly desired. It must be our purpose to discover God’s Purpose and invest our life in Him.

“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. What if God’s Purpose is for you to give your life away for others? It is. What if you must lose your life to truly find it? You do. What if the eternity in our heart will not escape without brokenness? It won’t. God has placed a purpose in you far greater than your human life can produce or sustain. It will require every bit of faith to achieve. Your heart will be devastated to be redesigned – molded and shaped into the Masterpiece promised by the Lord in Ephesians 2. My heart was forever changed during our son’s battle with cancer. Normal will never be normal again. Once you know the truth, you cannot believe the lie anymore. For years, I prayed for the Lord to increase my faith and He did. It was not in some glorious service when Heaven opened and poured out His Glory. It was in a hospital room when I finally gave up all of me. Pride must die in His Presence for purpose to be properly birthed. It is painful. It can be messy. It is always worth it.

Psalm 138:8 (ESV) The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill His Purpose for you and me regardless of our participation. God will do exactly as He planned and promised to do because of His Steadfast Love for us. His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us even when we think we are pursuing Him. The Truth about us is that God created us with a plan containing a future and hope far greater than the life created by randomness. Every step has the potential to be purposeful when committed to the Lord. He is leading us to something far greater and exceedingly abundantly more than we can think, ask or imagine. Do you trust Him today? Do you believe in God’s Steadfast Love? If you do, you will go with Him. Following Him to the ends of the earth just to continue in His Unconditional Love. He will never leave us or forsake us. The Lord invites us to invest our freedom in His Purpose and to prosper in this life. It is up to us whether or not repentance turns us from a worthless life to a radical resurrection of a power-infused supernatural existence filled with God’s Favor.

Is there more to life than this? Yes, there is. His Name is Jesus. He is our Purpose.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Here and Now

Here and Now

Psalm 27:13-14 (NLT) Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

I am confident. I will see the Lord’s Goodness while I am here in the land of the living. It is certainly easier to serve the Lord of our future salvation than to live as if that promise is for today. Faith is the completely illogical yet credible truth that God will do exactly as He promised here and now. So why aren’t we living in the realm of hope where anything is possible? We lack confidence that God truly is here with us in the land of the living ready to act now. Without confidence, the heart is like a ship without an anchor tossed to and fro. The rudder broken so there is nothing to propel or steer it. Destined for shipwreck, it is quickly abandoned for a much less dangerous route. One that is controllable, convenient and way more comfortable. A wide path that keep our feet from falling. The certainty of arrival much less painstaking as the narrow road of the unknown – we live in a repetitious cycle of defeat while all along victory was at hand.

What will it take to find the kind of hope that is the anchor for our soul? The steadfast confidence that God is who He says that He is and will do exactly as He promised in this life. If only it could be discovered, our heart would become confident in God’s Unconditional Love and His Goodness that daily pursues us. It would give us cause to wait on the Lord rather than forcing the issue and making things happen just to appease our flesh. We would walk by faith and not by sight in complete understanding that this life is temporary. God can do the impossible. He can change everything in a single breath. We must become confident in the God of the here and now. Completely aware of the Christ who lives in us so that His Glory will become our confidence and constant pursuit of the great and precious promises that He has given us along with a valuable inheritance.

Hebrews 6:17-19 (NLT) God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

How strong is your anchor today? Give a tug. Is it holding you securely in hope? Hope is to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence. It is to believe and trust. How often do we become hopeless drifters when the wait seems too long, the process to hard, or the lie of the enemy to real? God has given you many promises. He has given you every spiritual blessing. He does not lie. It is not possible for Him to change His Mind…no matter what you do or don’t do. He prerecorded our life from beginning to end before a single breath breathed including the sufficiency of grace necessary to turn change our weakness into the absorption of His Power. Our salvation is secure in Jesus Christ alone. He did it all. When He said, “It is finished!” our Savior and Lord meant exactly what He said and released His Spirit to become our life helper and partner every step of the way. The limits on our life are self-imposed. Greater is He who lives in me than he who is in this world.

Romans 4:16-20 (NLT) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.

Back when I lived a normal life, my husband and I went on a cruise. We have a few days of wonderfully calm waters but on the last night a storm stirring in the Gulf of Mexico made the waters very rough. The ship was literally tossed to and fro. Walking down the corridors, everyone staggering like drunks, we made it to our room. I crawled in the big comfy bed with mounds of covers and pillows sinking deep into its folds. I fell asleep almost instantly to be awakened by my husband obviously a sea sick. “Can’t you feel that?” We were on the same ship and in the same room but the effects of the rocking and lurching did not have the same impact on me as it was on him. How do you respond to the storms of life? When faced with the impossible do you hang your head and turn back? The promise of God is received by faith. Faith that is here. Faith in the now. Faith that keeps us in the waiting. Faith that becomes our peace. Faith that doesn’t give in to pressure or give up when processed. Faith beyond human perception that grabs hold of heavenly possibilities as the reality for today.

Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping…this is the secret of faith that becomes our reality. How do we get there from here? How do we see miracles, signs and wonders now? Faith and confident hope will bring courage to our heart. A courageous heart that is not tossed to and fro but remains steadfast and secure in the Father’s Love until He comes all the while completely confident that He will do just as He said that He would do. Abraham believed in the God who creates new things out of nothing. He hoped when his body was as good as dead as was his wife’s womb. The same Abraham who tried the shortcut and failed. He waited 100 years for his promise to reach his hands. How long are you willing to wait for the promise?

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s Promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger and in this he brought glory to God. I prefaced my story with “back when I lived a normal life” for a reason. My “normal” was shipwrecked several years ago when our son was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. We lived a good life. We had good kids, good jobs and a good life. When cancer came it seemed to invade every part of our good life. It seemed like a tragedy in the making. The night our son was diagnosed I challenged the Lord. This cannot be possible. This does not line up with your Word. I know the Promises that you have made me and the death of my son is not one of them. The Lord came back with a simple question, “Do you trust me?” Of course, I confirmed that I did. But did I? Over the next three years, my faith and trust in the Lord would be challenged numerous times. But God didn’t just ask me a question, He gave me a promise that night – “Your son will live and not die to declare My Works.” God did exactly as He promised.

Normal life is nonexistent in supernatural living. To live in God’s Promises here and now create a disruption in the atmosphere called life. It is not normal. You cannot have a normal life and live in the abundance of God. These are contradictory concepts. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” If you can see it, do it, achieve it or make it happen – faith is unnecessary. Faith is for the impossible to become possible. With God all things are possible when someone believes. God is ready to do the impossible in us, through us and for us. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. To do exceedingly abundantly more than we can think or ask. We must make room for heaven’s overflow in us and around us so that God can release it to us. The starting point is faith. Our faith must become fully invested and completely confident in God’s Promises for today and live for them in the here and now.

A word of caution – faith is illogical to those around us who do not believe. They will think you are crazy. Trust me – I heard it over and over again. When I get a bad report or bad news, I immediately refute it with God’s Word. To those who do not know the Light of His Love, I sound like a lunatic. To those who have forgotten what faith is or wandered off to live life, it becomes the beacon of hope that leads them back again. I cannot be concerned with the world and what they think but must put my full confidence in God’s Faithfulness in the land of the living. To live in His Presence right here and now. This came at the high price of helplessness and utter weakness on the verge of losing it all.

God has given us precious promises. They are for the here and now. Excuses take the place of expectation when our flesh is ready to end the process. I challenge you today to expect the Lord’s Goodness in the here and now. Your life is meant to be glorious. Are you just getting by? Give up the substitutions and settlements for the more than enough promises that are meant to prosper your soul and overflow into everyday life. Make every effort to respond to God’s Promises and not react to the lie of the enemy in an attempt to steal your blessing meant for today. Need I remind you that the power of life and death are in your tongue – call those things that are not as though they are and watch His Resurrection power take over. God is with you. He will build confidence in the heart that trusts Him. Moment by moment, step by step from glory to glory with abounding grace when we fail or fall short so we can quickly engage in faith once again. Jesus said, “He would never leave us or forsake us.” Christ lives in us. I must decrease so He can increase. I will look for Him in the here and now. I must be confident in the here and now. I must believe in the here and now.

2 Peter 1:4-8 (NLT)  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This Is Only a Test

This is only a test

I Peter 1:6-8 (NLT) So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Have you ever heard this announcement? “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and federal, state, and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. This is only a test.” Followed by a deafening tone and then, “if this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and information.” Thankfully, I have not experienced an actual emergency – it hasn’t happened in all the years that I have heard this message. In fact, it is easy to tune it out or turn the radio down until the message is over. If there were a state of emergency, the system was developed to allow the President of the United States an expeditious method of communicating with the public in the event of a national emergency such as war or crisis. Wouldn’t it be nice in the chaos and craziness of life if the Lord would break open the clouds, shine down the sun on us, and say, “This is only a test, participation is voluntary and everything will come out for your good and My Glory…this is only a test”?

Do you have faith? Do you believe? Do you have absolute and total confidence in Jesus Christ? Maybe the more important question is do you have fears, doubts, worries, and insecurities in life? Are you satisfied? Are you prospering in abundance? Do you have perfect peace? There are many benefits and blessings to this new life in Christ yet to be experienced. A prospering soul overflows into our mind, will and emotions taking captive the lie of the enemy and releasing God’s People to live in liberty. Do you feel free today?

So be truly glad…there is wonderful joy ahead even though you must endure many trials for a little while.

Our youngest is preparing to take her driving test to obtain her learner’s permit. She turned fifteen months ago, she has been studying and worrying about the test ever since. I have encouraged her many times constantly reminding her that she cannot drive for a year after she passes the first test. Yet still she not taken the test. The word “test” is four-letter word that strikes fear in the heart of many students. A test is not terminal but temporary. The weight put upon it by worry, care and anxiety far greater than the outcome. The Emergency Broadcast System was established for preparation and information during a trial or turmoil in our country. The Lord has provided us with similar information so that when our faith is tested it will be proven genuine. Have we tuned Him out? Turned the volume of His Voice down? The best way to pass the test is preparation.

Job 23:10-14 (NLT) “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.

Tests and trials are a part of every believer’s life. It has nothing to do with our ability to be faithful or not. It is a product of God’s Love for us and His Goodness that is always pursuing us. He made a plan for your life that is better than anything you can think, ask or imagine. Your just enough is supposed to be more than enough. Your near misses were really hidden victories. Job lost everything in a day. Job lived a godly life. The Book of Job is hard to fathom that one man could do seemingly everything right and still have such tragedy befall him. But in the end, Job received a double portion from God. His pride fully crucified left dying in the past – the rest of life would be fulfilled just as the Lord promised.

What is your trial today? Are you in the midst of a test? The test of true faith is not in our success and failure but in our steadfastness and endurance. God is giving you an opportunity to trust Him a little more. Follow Him a bit farther. To experience the abundant and satisfying life that He designed and predestined you to have. We must learn to respond to God’s Promises rather than reacting to the test or trial that is preparing us for it.

I Thessalonians 5:15-22 (NLT) Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

How is it possible to keep our joy in the midst of tragedy? How do we continue to pray when it seems to be falling on deaf ears? How does one maintain thankfulness in poverty or lack? This is God’s Will for you in Jesus Christ. To have joy and peace in every trial and test requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave you His Spirit when you decided to ask Him to be your Savior and make Him Lord of your life. This is a process. Don’t let anyone lie to you. Faith grows daily not overnight. Trust produces confidence in the hope given to us. His Grace is enough for the challenging tests that take more than one try. The promise that He make good of every detail of our life includes the failures of faith.

I Peter 1:8 (NLT) You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

“This is a test. It is only a test. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Forgive me for the paraphrasing liberty taken with the Word of God. If we could only learn to trust that Jesus truly did overcome the world – we would live in constant victory as the Glory of God overtakes us. To believe that nothing is impossible with God changes everything. Our reaction to ordinary problems becomes extraordinary outcomes when the test is not as impressive as our God. When our response to the impossible is expectation of a miracle – it changes everything from the inside out of us. To know that no matter what comes our way – anything is possible makes life worth living because it gives us hope. Hope that never leads to disappointment no longer how long it takes. Faith is not based on what we see but WHO we know. When we fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and finisher of faith it changes if every tragedy into a “lived happily ever after” story. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength today. Take what little bit of energy you have left and give Him praise. He is worthy of our worship even on the darkest day. Those who do will pass the test of genuine faith that opens the door to the everlasting.

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word, just to rest upon His Promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!” Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

No Longer Orphans

No Longer Orphans

James 1:16-18 (NIV) Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

Who doesn’t love to receive a gift? Especially that unexpected random bit of thoughtfulness on an ordinary day out of the blue for no reason at all. Such simple gestures grow relationships including marriages and friendships. But in that moment of receiving – it can become a burden if you have nothing to offer in return. Even from a friend rather than accepting with humble gratitude, our pride wants to immediately give something back. To reciprocate that goodness offered in order to remove any expectation or indebtedness. I love to give. I am a giver by nature. I have a tough time receiving. I am not sure why or even the point of this scripture passage that I have been led to. What gift is the Father offering me today? Am I willing to receive it? Though I have nothing to give Him, He is always doing good things for me.

The Lord lavishes His Unfailing Love and Grace on us each day. He pursues us with His Faithfulness. He gifts us with new mercy each day. He promises to provide all of our needs. He offers to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask, think or even imagine. The gift of life in exchange for the death sentence that once convicted us. God is good. He is a Good Father. His Son, Jesus, is good. He is ALWAYS good even when we are not. His Love transcends our faults, failures and weaknesses. We cannot reciprocate it. There is nothing worthy to return to Him even as an offering. He just keeps making good of the details in my life just as His Word says. Grace maintains that no matter what the Lord never changes His Mind about me and His Love will always be enough to change my life radically. To turn darkness in to Light. To transform the natural into supernatural. To take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. All I must do is believe.

To believe. Such a simple word with magnificent and marvelous ramifications if applied in our life. Yet why the struggle…could it be that the offer sounds too good? The depth of God’s Love too overwhelming to go further than wading. The vastness of it producing so much freedom that fear tells us we will be lost. Do you believe that God is good? Have you experienced His Goodness? Would you like to?

Matthew 7:7-12 (NIV) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

There are heartbreaking stories of silent orphanages all over the world. Filled with babies and small children yet void of any sound. Why don’t the babies cry? They know that no one will come. How sad is that to even consider a crying child that has never experienced the warmth of a tight embrace or soothing whispers of a loved one. Last year our office adopted a family for the holidays, a grandfather caring for a handful of grandchildren abandoned by parents caught up in bad choices. When all the gifts were gathered and presented to them, I was humbled by comparison. My own children take for granted the gifts that these children cherished. Ordinary things that one might think every childhood entails including a warm jacket for an unseasonably cold winter. We are no longer orphans.

We have a Heavenly Father. Whether we are prodigal or presiding with Him, it doesn’t matter His Love and Lavishing Goodness are for us. Grace makes a way for us to enter His Presence and come to Him bolding with confidence that He will answer. So why are we not asking, seeking and knocking on Heaven’s Door? It all goes back to one word. The same word that keeps those little babies from crying. Fear. The fear of unmet expectation is stifling in the life of a believer. Past experiences tell us to trust no one.

Our Father invites us and longs for us to come to Him. “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts those who ask Him.” The rain falls on the just and unjust. The Lord is always providing what we need to experience fruitfulness and abundance in our life. It is our receivership that struggles. Pride verses humility. I remember when our oldest ventured out on his own. He was full of confidence and even a little arrogance. He went overseas to serve our country for almost a year. When he came back, he moved into an apartment and began “adulting”. He balked at returning home to get his feet on the ground. Six months later, home looked really good. The “King of Rock and Roll” – the one and only Elvis Presley – had the misfortune of an untimely death as he decided to do things “My Way.” I wonder what would happen if we humbled ourselves as little children at the feet of Jesus and crawled in Father God’s lap to ask forgiveness for our failures, unload our fears and finally confide in Him our wants, needs and desires. Good things, that’s what we would experience as the Goodness of the Father overtakes His Children who come to Him.

John 14:15-18 (NIV) “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the Glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) Every promise that can be found in God’s Word (written and spoken) are a resounding “yes” thanks to the precious gift of salvation through the Blood of Jesus. The Spirit of Adoption, the Holy Spirit, identifies us as God’s Children. He is a Good Father who blesses His Children with good things day in and day out. Where is God’s Goodness in your life? All around you. Why can’t you see it? Do you believe?

Do not let past unmet expectation or lifetime disappointment keep you from believing in the Goodness of God. His Grace is enough to overcome every sin, fault and failure and He promises that His Power is for the weak. We must believe enough to ask. To approach the Father in faith that He will do just as He said that He would do with the willingness to wait until He responds. Doubt will keep you from destiny if allowed to flourish in the place of faith. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” We are not orphans but dearly loved children of the Most High God. It’s time to live like it.

When the prodigal son returned home, he was met by the love and grace of his father with fully restored sonship. Even Elijah experienced the loving kindness of the Father when hiding on the mountain. The still small voice did not condemn him for fearing Jezebel and hiding from her threats. No, He simply asked him – “What are you doing here?” What is the still small voice saying to you today? The Lord wants to shower His Love and Affection on us every day. He is always sending us good gifts. He is a Good Father. He calls us His Children.

Romans 8:14-16 (NIV) For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

No More Resolutions

No More Resolutions

2 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT) And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. 

Renew. Restore. Revive. Radical. Reckless. To respond. The “R”’s of my rambling for 2018. Tonight at sundown or a little after, our family will begin our annual fast for the New Year. For eleven days, through fasting and prayer, as a body of believers (yes, just the four of us), we will seek the Face of God for many areas of our life. To focus our family and life in one direction. The Way. To turn away from the worthless things that so easily captivate our attention and rob us of time. As I began to write in my journal today, I found these words forming from the ink of the pen. I am asking the Lord to renew me from the inside out. To restore me after a month of minor illness and inconvenience. To revive my passion and desire to pursue Him wholeheartedly leaving behind the distractions from 2017. To make my love for others radical in recognition of His Love for me. To be reckless in my pursuit of Christ making faith seem the only option. To respond to all of God’s Promises. To believe that God is doing exactly what He said and to let His Spirit fortify my fickle heart. I can make a list of habits to change, budgets to follow, and schedules to keep but if Christ is not the priority in all of them – what’s the point?

No more resolutions. The power to change is the Christ in me. It is not something I do but what He does in me. I am giving up on resolutions and instead this year I choose to respond to God’s Promises instead. Why? Because of His Glory and Excellence, He has given (me) great and precious promises. These promises enable (me) to share in His Divine Nature. A resolution is a firm decision on my part to do or not to do something any longer. It is the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter. It is me. A resolution is self-resolve to fix something that appears to be broken or dysfunctional. Well…I have come to the conclusion after fifty-one years of life – I can’t fix it. I cannot make “me” a better person. I am going to fail. I will mess up. I will fall short. I will give up, give in and give out depending on the situation. The only good thing in me is Jesus Christ. The Power of Christ is manifested in my weakness. So this year, I no longer resolve to make me a better person but let Christ transform me into a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Titus 3:4-7 (NLT) But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

Jesus Christ revealed God’s Kindness and Love for us. When He saved us, it was finished. The process of redemption complete. The renewal process made available to all mankind. He washed our sin away. Gave us a new birth and new life through His Spirit. Generously His Spirit is on us identifying us as God’s Precious Children. It is said that you do not pick your parents which is absolutely true. In this case specifically, God chose you. He chose me. God, the Father, decided that He loved us and wanted us. His Reckless Love would stop at nothing to have us. I wonder what would happen if for just a moment, a single solitary second, we could completely wrap our head around the Truth that the entire process of salvation and redemption is a direct result of the Love of God. He had no other intention but to pour out unfailing love and unfathomable goodness on His Beloved. Would we respond differently? Absolutely. Religion would be crushed beneath the heaviness of unconditional love in the church and “whosoever come” would be plastered over the doors and altars while those who want to be loved would come pouring in.

Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. Grace is the reason that God loves me and is for me. It is the essence of relationship that if we could just wrap our heads tightly around it – faith would not be so hard and confident hope the common sense of our life. We can go into the world and try to share the love of Jesus Christ but until we understand that His Love, Grace and Kindness are for us and there is nothing further that we can do but receive it – our message is in vain. Perfect love casts out all fear. Fearless faith comes from a heart that comes to know God’s Unfailing Love and accepts it as a way of life. This will enable us to “respond” to God’s Promises rather than trying to earn them or deserve them which cannot be done.

Proverbs 3:3-4 (ESV) Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

This year it is my deepest desire to live in God’s Steadfast Love and Faithfulness to the fullest. I must bind His Promises around my neck and continually inscribe them on my heart. My love is imperfect. It tends to be conditional. It has flaws and faults that the Lord continually works on. I will never love like Jesus unless I love through Jesus. The Christ in me must be given wide open space. The Spirit in me must be the ruler of my heart, mind, soul and body at all times. The Favor of God and Good Success that I believe God has promised us is not in my ability to do everything right this year, but to continually seek the Lord wholeheartedly. I must decrease so that He can increase.

I wonder what would happen in our natural life if we lived as though supernatural promises were inevitable. What if we decided that God is good, His Love unfailing, His Grace enough, and His Faithfulness forever? Would it change the potential of our life? Would it change us? We must invest our mind, soul, body and spirit into obtaining the promises of God which begins by believing that they actually exist and are obtainable rather than living a diversified life with one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom. It is impossible to establish dual residency with God. He is not a wishy washy – halfhearted God. You love Him or you hate Him. There is no coexistence in the Kingdom. You embrace Christ or idols. See we live in a world of moving lines and shifting sand – it makes a completely constant God who is always good and always loving and always kind very hard to believe so we must not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

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

Responding to the Promises of God. This is my resolve for this New Year. This is the year that I will allow God to be God and simply cling to Him. I must supplement faith with qualities and characteristics produced by God’s Spirit inside of me. I must embrace and acknowledge the Holy Spirit as He is my teacher, guide, counselor and even comforter in the process of becoming a new creation. Transformation is not comfortable. It is inconvenient. It is uncontrollable. It takes time that I don’t think I have. Yet, in the end, it will all be worth it. Forever is the past, present and future wrapped neatly into a package called life. God knows the beginning from the end. It is His Unfailing Love and Faithfulness that has brought you this far and will carry you through. You have done nothing to facilitate the process other than present your worthless life to Jesus Christ. Rather than making any more resolutions. This year I am changing my resolve. I want all that God has for me. I must submit my life to Christ all over again. All of it. Holding nothing back, making the decision that this life is not about me – nevertheless Christ is for me. His Promises are real. His Love is true. His Word lasts forever. He is faithful. To this I will respond…

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Rags to Riches

Rags to Riches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Perfect Peace

Be Still and Know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armed To Overcome

Armed to Overcome

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

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

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

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

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

A final word…

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

Be strong IN the Lord and IN His Mighty Power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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