Be Blessed

Be Blessed 2

I Peter 3:8-9 (ESV) Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Unity promotes blessing. God has indicated that harmony among people is like thick oil running down the beard of Aaron representing a special anointing. As well it should be, if one considers how difficult it is for people to agree. The instructions in the letter conclude ALL OF YOU have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and humble mind. The next statement drives home the secret of God’s Blessing overtaking us in everyday life. Bless others. The summary of the text is simple. No matter what happens keep your mind focused on love, your heart tender for others and maintain a humble mind. It is clear that the pathway to promise is in our relationships. Why would it come as a surprise that it is the main focus of the enemy’s attack?

Disagreement and disunity have constipated God’s Church. It is impossible to receive the blessing of God in bitterness and unforgiveness because it is blatant disregard for the unconditional love and abundant grace that the Lord has given us. Saints of God tarry at the altar, writhe in prayer closets, and plead to Him in prayer for something that is far simpler. If only in tending our heart and mind, forgiveness would be the healing balm for those who use us, harm us, hurt us, offend us, insult us, lie to us, attack us, or maybe people who just are not likeable. What if the lock on the door of heaven is being held tightly shut by the same hand that is holding on to rightness or any list of reasons that seem rational. Faith is not logical. God’s Love is irrational. His Goodness is ridiculous. We cannot fully comprehend even walking with Him exactly what He is doing in us and for us. So the choice becomes will I trust the Lord with all my expectations, or reserve my pride and rightness?

Isaiah 55:8-11 (ESV) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

I was driving to work when I noticed in my rearview mirror an SUV dodging in and out of traffic. He cut several people off with his reckless maneuvers. Other drivers had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting other vehicles and avoid collisions while this person clearly did not regard the havoc caused by his swerving between cars dangerously close. My worship music faded into the background as anger began to rise up within me. Who was he to put so many people in danger without no concern? It was wrong. He was being careless. As he pulled up beside me speeding just enough to cut in front of my vehicle narrowly missing the left headlight – so I did what any good Christian would do and laid into the horn with all the strength my arm could muster. Fuming as he sped off, the sweet presence in my car evaporated into heated emotions. Of course, then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the heart. You should pray for him. He may get hurt. What? My heart changed from anger melting into sweet peace when I prayed for him and those he encountered today.

Why? Why is it important to keep our heart soft and tender along with a humble mind? I want God’s Blessing in my life. It is clear in His Word that I must keep from speaking evil, retaliating, reacting, and allowing my heart to be hardened by cursing another soul. See the Lord goes with me everywhere I go ready to release His Blessing in response to nothing more than my faith in Him. The more faith I invest in the Lord the more His Blessing and Goodness overtake me. I must invite, welcome, entertain, and maintain His Presence when I am with family or friends, at church or work, and yes, even when I am alone and no one else is watching. God’s Word holds promises for me that I long to obtain yet His Way is unconventional. I must do it His Way. His Way is unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. Do you need to forgive someone? How about rescinding a curse? Repentance is a beautiful reconciliation with our Loving Father through His Beloved Son. It is a privilege blood bought and grace given that keeps us in line for His Blessing. Lord, I want to be blessed. Keep me focused on the blessing and not the mess. You are good and your promise is worth having even at the sacrifice of self. Amen! Amen!

Psalm 133:1-2 (ESV) Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

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His Faithful Love

His love endures forever. Psalm 136 Scripture art by StudioJRU.

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

Today marks 19 years of wedding bliss to my precious husband. Sitting down to spend time with the Lord today, I am drawn to the words, “His faithful love endures forever.” No one enters a marriage contemplating a divorce date. It is a covenant of hopefulness for a future of passion and devotion. A life of constant affirmation and affection. The honeymoon is a celebration of love that is found and now secure. However, as anyone can tell you, a marriage requires all of you. It is hard work. It is not an easy road to navigate and requires our full attention. It doesn’t always meet our expectation. On my desk, I found a gift bag from a favorite store with a simple pink bow. Inside it, a dainty ring of twirling hearts with intermittent sparkle creating a band. It is perfect. The ideal representation of almost twenty years of a life invested in loving and growing together. Even in the imperfection of each heart, the design works together to create a unique and beautiful piece of jewelry. There are so many wonderful memories mixed with days of great trial and difficulty. Striving to come together and walk one path.

Marriage is a representation of our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the Bridegroom and we are called His Bride. In a world where sin is certainly rampant and love has grown cold, the promise is that the one who endures to the end will be saved. Clinging to Christ with complete desperation and dedication to continue as one until the end is equally as challenging most days. Not because the Lord is not faithful – His faithful love endures to the end. I must rely on the faithfulness of His Love for me to find my way to the end. The Good News is preached by a life of love and kindness. To live in love with Jesus fills us with a special love for others that allows us to experience trials and temptations yet still love Him and others the same. Love is a commitment. Christ made that covenant with us when He gave His Life to have us. No relationship is one-sided both must agree. He has already approved and affirmed me with His Grace the day that He decided to love me. Now I must learn to do the same…

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

I am not perfect. I did not marry a perfect man. We have weaknesses, faults and insecurities just like everyone else. Over the years, there have been disagreements and full blown arguments as two people fight to come together. The temptations in life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. We expect too much from fragile and flawed humans. The level of faithfulness that exceeds our expectation is found in Christ alone. When we got married, my husband and I invited Christ to join us. He is the One who held it all together over the years.

Are you tempted to leave your first love today? Are you at odds with people? Are you struggling in relationships? Are you headed for divorce? There is powerful potential for those who choose to endure. To give our expectations fully to Christ and stop looking for love in all the wrong people. No one can fulfill you but Jesus. You have eternity in your heart which requires full satisfaction. Nothing and no one can fill that space but the Lord. His Faithful Love for us endures forever and is the very thing that carries us to the end. We must release people from any expectation to experience the full satisfaction that is promised by God.

The enemy will always tempt us to leave love behind. He will threaten us with disappointment, dissatisfaction and discouragement. He will direct our attention to people and problems to lure our focus off Christ. Doubt and insecurity will always create strongholds trapping us in the present rather than projecting us to the promise. People are part of the plan that God prepared for our life. Relationship is the Kingdom economy as the Lord values souls more than anything else. He has everything else. When we live and love together fighting for agreement and harmony, God calls it precious. Successful relationships are messy. They are hard. They are worth it in the end. To reach the end requires love. Love for the one whose love faithfully endures forever will fill every void left by human love in all its messy imperfection.

Revelation 2:3-4 (NLT) “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. 

The personification of Christ in our life is love. To be loving, to give love, to accept love. This is the interworking of relationships. The complaint against the church was “you don’t love me or each other as you did at first.” It is human nature to grow bored with monotony. The mediocrity of life loses our interest. We must find passion for our first love again in order to learn to love others like perhaps we once did. Experience is a hard teacher and must be filtered through the Word of God for clarification. There must be full repentance at all times to constantly turn us back to love. All relationships requires grace, forbearance and forgiveness. Christ has given us that time and time again as each morning there is mercy waiting for us. Who are we to withhold that which is so freely given? We come to Jesus full of hopeful expectation and then heap it on people when His Timing doesn’t suit us or His Way seems too hard or long. Love must endure to the end to bring salvation. I must learn to love like Jesus to make this a reality in my life.

I Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love becomes a masterpiece through endurance. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love is always hopeful. If the emotion of affection you are feeling does not have these characteristics, it may not be love but a secondary emotion. We cannot rely on our feelings. Life is hard. Sin is rampant. Love has grown cold. Most Christians live in a lukewarm state. We must decide in our own heart to love. Love must be patient and kind as Christ is with us. It must not be jealous, boastful or filled with pride and self-seeking. It cannot be irritable. Stop recording all wrongs. It cannot rejoice in others failures or shortcomings but rejoice in truth and the good of others. If I live my whole life calling myself a Christian, yet never strive to endure in love – I am nothing. I will not make it to the destination that I am seeking. To live in love with Christ is to live in love with others.

The tiny twisted hearts that make up the band on my right hand are a true representation of how love works in our life. It does not always start out as we expected or turn out as we would like, but the promise is that God makes all things beautiful in His Timing. It is worth sticking it out when it comes to love – all kinds of love. It is worth forgiving one more time. Trying even when you don’t feel like it or maybe they don’t deserve it. The best kind of love is the hardest fought for because the enemy sees it’s potential. Don’t’ give up on love. Never give up on people. Always remember His Faithful Love endures forever so there is always a fresh supply!

Psalm 136:23-26 (NLT) He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.  He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.  He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

Peacemakers

Peacemakers 2

Matthew 5:9 (NLT) God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Are you a peace maker? Do you strive to maintain peace and harmony with others? Are you a relationship builder or breaker? Is the Lord really that concerned with our connections to others as long as we remain in unity with Him? How important is it? Well, God blesses those who work for peace. In some translations, it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” Why? They will be called the children of God. How does one find and maintain peace in the end times when love has grown cold and sin rampant as Jesus foretold? We must become peacemakers to be identified as God’s Children, so we must find a way…the Way.

John 14:27 (NLT) “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

We have been provided the Way to peace with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Way tells us that He has already given us peace of mind and heart. It is settled within our soul to be sons and daughters of God. We must only abide in His Love to remain connected to righteousness as receivers of His Grace completely empowered to do all things through Jesus Christ. He gives us the kind of inner peace that completes us so that all expectations are met in Him. His Spirit inside of us is constantly cultivation love, joy and peace all with other beneficial and satisfying fruit to feed new relationships from a source that will never run out. We have perfect peace. It is complete. It is whole. God doesn’t give pieces of peace but in Christ we are completely reunited with Him.

I Peter 3:10-12 (NLT)  For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

In an effort to turn from evil and do good, the instructions say to search for peace and work to maintain it. The Lord is watching us. His Ears are open when we struggle in this endeavor. But if God has already accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and given us His Peace to reconnect with the Father, what kind of peace must we search for and strive to know? Peace with all mankind. The Kingdom has to be united. Without peace, it is not possible for a country to be at rest. We must be at peace with each other. Not complacent peace that only is with those who agree with us, but even with those who constantly oppose or offend us. The commitment to peace is part of our covenant with Christ.

I Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

Peter is referencing Psalm 34 is in his letter to those he refers to as “God’s chosen people”. In chapter 3, Peter is addressing relationships. In this particular passage, he is speaking to all Christians. All of you should be of one mind (at peace). We must be sympathetic. Love one another as brothers and sisters. Not with fake superficial wordy love, but blood, sweat and tears kind of love – hands on and heart in – like Jesus loves us. We must be tenderhearted. This requires a humble attitude. We must keep our pride on the Cross daily crucifying our feelings, emotions and rightness for a constant and complete relationship with Jesus Christ AND everyone else.

Those who make peace and keep peace are Children of the living God not just in word but character as well. To love fully and completely will always produce a relationship at the price of our individuality. God has called us to live such a life and it comes with His Blessing. Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. So many times the thorn in our flesh has a face and personality, it is one person or a group of people that create hostility. Maybe they have talked about, betrayed, offended, or hurt us in a far greater unimaginable way – how is possible to forgive them and make peace with such people knowing they will more than likely not change, not apologize and never realize just how deep our wound is? It is only possible through the peace of God that passes all understanding. The kind of relationship with the Lord that allows Him to heal our wounds, restore our joy, and revive our heart so that we are not held captives by our feelings that are contrary to His Way, His Truth and His Life that He has planned for me.

The Grace of God given to us through His Son – Jesus Christ is always enough. The unearned and undeserved favor of the Living God dispensed through the Blood of His Precious Son is sufficient for God to accept our apology and restore us for righteousness sake. Who am I to withhold such grace that is the wonder working power that restores peace among God’s People? To withhold it means there is doubt as to its potency and that is simply not true. We must become God’s Gracious Peace Makers once again to build His Church and restore His Body to become His Bride.

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Jesus is the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He knows exactly how you feel and the struggles in our life – yet loves us and stays right there with us anyway. We must become peace makers again. This means capturing our worries, stress, and concerns about others and sending them to Jesus. If only we could put each one in a helium-filled balloon, so it could be carried far beyond our reach. We must become intent on gracious and thankful hearts set on pursuing peace with God which means establishing it on earth within our realm of influence. It is not about how the other person reacts to us but in our obedience in responding to God’s Love appropriately and reciprocating it as He has asked us to – loving one another. We must fix our thoughts. We must focus our heart and mind on Jesus who is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable and oh so faithful. He will produce love, joy and peace within us along with the other fruits needed to satisfy those around us while we are completely satisfied with His Love and Grace.

I must be honest before you today. This message is for me. I will be transparent. I am challenged by this in my own life. I must learn to make peace with all people to become a Child of God who lives in His Blessing and Favor. It must be my daily and ongoing effort to search for peace and seek to maintain it. Lord, help my wounded heart to receive peace and reciprocate it as You have instructed – In Jesus Name! Amen!

Psalm 29:11 (NLT) The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.

Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Ripple Effect is based on the understanding that all of humanity is connected. The interwoven tapestry of persons is complicated. Each individual has a place in the entirety of existence. Thoughts and actions are like peddles tossed across a once still pond that create ripples which travel outward. The choices made in our daily life create such an event in the atmosphere. It is our decision what kind of influence and impact our attitude and actions will produce in this world. As believer, the Ripple Effect does not stop in this realm but resonates into the Heavenlies. God made us with eternity in our heart because our destiny is to be eternal with Him. Therefore, our residence in the earth is not limited by death but given a doorway into forever. Our influence on the earth carries over into eternity. What is the impact of your life? What are the implications of your actions? What is the impartation made in your words? All of these things create ripples and waves that will either draw people to Jesus Christ or drive them away.

God in Jesus Christ has called us upward. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is important. It makes the promise that God will make good of the details of our life – past, present and future because He was already there. We cannot hold on to the past, live for the moment or forget the future. Every moment of our existence holds great potential according to God. He knows the number of hairs on our head which changes with each movement. God is detailed in His Thoughts concerning us. He has given us all power and authority to live a life in full pursuit of His Kingdom unhindered by sin, shame, regret, doubt, or fear.

It is important to know and fully understand what is on the inside of us. Each movement, word, and breath hold the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Our rightful place is dominion. Therefore, whether it is our intent or not every action produces a reaction. It is vital to the Body of Christ that each member determine the influence and impact of everything done and said to become intentional about the ripples created by us. The pursuit of purpose begins internally and produces an external effect. If our purpose is to know Christ and live for Him, then the ripples in our life will draw all to Him. All other pursuits outside of Christ risk driving others from Him.

Consideration. We must consider our place in the Body of Christ…in the Kingdom and in this world. The Bible calls us temporary residents or a sojourners who are just passing through. It also calls us a peculiar people. Out of place. Not impacted by normal reactions and social cues – but those who are governed by a different set of rules as Ambassadors of Christ. My life has meaning instilled by God during my creation that requires a change of heart and mind to fully obtain. Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” What are you doing to change the world?

2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (ESV) For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Sigh. Yes, sigh. It is all for your sake that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the Glory of God. Opening a door for someone. A greeting with a mile does wonders. Saying, “Thank you.” I could go on and on with endless gestures which are like pebbles that create positive ripples. Random acts of kindness are always good. God loves them. But then there are those things that are not so pleasant like forgiveness and forbearance. To love those who use, abuse and accuse you. Really love them regardless of the offense nevertheless extending grace. It is but light and momentary affliction but our reaction to it will determine the overflow. The more and more I am aware of the commission of Jesus Christ – the more cognizant I must become of my life in relationship to others. All others. Everyone else. To listen to the still small voice that says to be quiet for righteousness sake when the mind screams, “Fight for what is right!” Ripping up bitterness before it takes root. Offering apologies when not at fault. Accepting “I’m sorry” when you know they are not. To love like Jesus creates a ripple that leads to revival but leaves self behind. It is the undoing of our way to fully embrace His Way.

Romans 12:3-5 (ESV) For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 

I am part of a body. Just as if I stub my toe or smash a finger it impacts other areas of my body, so it is with the Body of Christ. We cannot ignore our left hand just because our right hand is dominant. The left hand is useful and must work with the right hand to get the job done. If blindness strikes one eye, the other eye must do double. If one foot becomes lame, it is almost impossible to walk without assistance. You cannot ignore the ramifications of a broken body part on the function of the whole person nor can one decide to go their own way, live their own life and do their own thing and remain in unity with the Body of Christ. It is in Christ that we are bonded together and engrafted in love. We can do nothing good apart from our connection to Christ who connects us together as one.

Paul points out that this is a form of pride. To separate our life from the Body of Jesus Christ expresses a lack of dependence on the Cross, Grace and Power of our Savior and Lord. It is an act of rebellion. It defies our imperfection and need for Him. Paul reminds us to “think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” so we do not think more highly of ourselves than others. Furthermore, the higher the call the greater the measure of faith so the more grace is needed to finish the race and be found faithful in the end. Every single action and attitude creates a ripple. It has an impact. It makes a movement. It is up to me to carefully consider each one in relation to Jesus Christ. Once it is released, a ripple must continue to the end. Apologies and forgiveness are the waves that overtake little ripples of hurt and offense. We must learn to administer them graciously. Every day and in every way I must carefully examine my heart and mind for honorable intentions that will keep me connected to Christ. Considering each movement. Will it draw others to Him or drive them from Him? Lord, help me to be conscious of every move I make and its impact on forever! Let every move that I make create a ripple of love and grace in Jesus Name!

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

The Worst of Them All

The Worst of Them All

I Timothy 1:12-15 (NLT) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

“I am the worst of them all.” I am. The absolute worst sinner of all. You want to know a little secret. You are, too. We sit in good company together. One sin would have required every drop of His Precious Blood and demanded the last breath from His Body. If we could just stop right there and meditate on the consequences of a single sin, it would become evident that I am the worst sinner of all and so are you. Horrifying to think that if I was the only person ever created that God would still love and desire me enough to offer His Son as a sacrifice for my transgressions and give Him up for my redemption and restoration as His Child. Humbling yet often forgotten in hierarchy called religion.

The perfection of God includes His Perfect Law. The law convicts us. It reminds us of all the ways to that human has failed and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard. The only way to find our way back to Him is to accept the mercy and grace of our fallen Savior and risen Lord. I wonder if the atmosphere of “church” would change if someone, anyone, or all of us understood that the way to the Father’s Heart and access point is faith in Jesus Christ and full acceptance of His Grace. God has not favorites. He does not lie or change His Mind. The only way to have a right relationship with our Father in Heaven again is through His Son, Jesus Christ. To accept the grace offered to us and live in humble understanding of its infinite worth. I cannot earn it. I cannot deserve it. I cannot repay it. I can only live in it and be a conduit of it.

Matthew 9:2-7 (NLT) Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home!

In Philippians 2, the Word of God instructs us to have the “same attitude as Christ”. Jesus was God. However, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” This is the attitude that believers are to have at all times. In Matthew 9, the struggle of mankind is revealed. Jesus told the paralytic carried to the Lord by faith-filled friends that his “sins are forgiven.” This caused an uproar among the religious group following Jesus. How dare this man blaspheme God! So to prove his identity, Jesus tells the man, “stand up, pick up your mat and go home.” Why is it that the church cries out for miracles, signs and wonders but takes grace for granted in its corridors?

Religion will always require more of the sinner than Jesus Christ. Righteousness is found in Jesus Christ alone. When Jesus forgives our sin, no matter how many or how few, it is finished. He doesn’t require anything other than to partner with Him. He has given us His Spirit as a teacher, guide, leader, developer, cultivator and yes, the one who will convict us in order to produce change in us. Christianity is not designed to create spiritual bullies. Paul confides that he is in his own mind the worst sinner of all time. He is. So am I and so are you. What gives us the right as redeemed to place rules, regulations, rites, and reprimands on others? God’s Grace is enough. He doesn’t need us but desires us above all things. It is time to start focusing on understanding, accepting and emanating God’s Love, Grace and Mercy to those who have wandered, live in darkness or destined for death with the same gospel that we received but have somehow forgotten.

Luke 7:44-50 (NLT) Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

For most of my childhood, I was new kid. I attended 11 elementary schools, and 4 middle/high schools. I was constantly trying to fit in. When you change schools that many times it is hard to stay up on the trends of each community culture. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt the stares of strangers. I could hear the whispers when I walked by. I knew what it was like to feel like an outsider as they judged my whole life by my appearance. By the time I reached high school, I sought out the victims. The ones who were bullied because they didn’t quite fit in. I decided to be their staunch defender. When the cool clique accepted me, I sat with them instead. I invited them to church with me. To meet this Jesus that immediately let me in. My past experiences have crept into my future relationship with Christ. I would rather meet the sinner, loner, lost, broken, addict, homeless or whoever would fall before Him at the altar than engage with a spiritual bully.

What would you do if the “worst sinner of all” came to your church? What would be your response? The Pharisees judged the woman as she worshipped Jesus. She was a woman. She was a shameless sinner. How dare she come and disturb their meeting with such nonsense? But Jesus accepted her humble adoration and worship by forgiving her sins. She didn’t have to clean up or change just came and acknowledged her Savior. Her faith in Jesus Christ fully demonstrated in her submission and surrender. It was enough for Jesus. Is it enough for you?

There are two extremes in the church culture today. There is the “whosoever come” and let us change you into what we have decided is an acceptable person. Then there is the “whosoever come” and do whatever you want it’s all good. God is looking for a remnant of people who are willing to admit “I am the worst sinner of all” and live the life of grace that changed them. People will always struggle with the freeness of God’s Grace. It is not our nature to do so. Grace is sufficient to cover our sins and give us access to the Lord. It is our willingness to abide in Christ that keeps us connected to the flow of His Authority and Power that can change us from the inside out.

Matthew 23:25-26 (NLT) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

The judgment of God’s People is filled with good intentions. The religious duties that become the occupation of a Christian are self-imposed. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. In the verses preceding this passage, Jesus tells them that he sees them tithing and recognizes their obedience but because it is religious it means nothing. The religious culture is a shark tank that destroys new converts every day because when they jump from darkness into glorious light they are quickly set upon by those who think God requires an outward change when God is only beginning to work on their inside. I am so tired of watching religious people pick apart baby Christians. They stand on their rightness. It is not righteousness.

The word of God promises those who are merciful will receive mercy. Be wary of those who tell you what to do. God’s given us a glorious standard to live by. Religiosity is the off spring of religious people. Look for those who live a humble life of true repentance. Those who are encouragers of the Word, doers of the same, but not the ones who require rules and regulations in exchange for redemption. Jesus accepted you just the way you are. He started a good work in you and me that He is faithful to complete. We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. Examining our own heart for true repentance and real love that is the basis of our faith in God and our faithfulness in serving Him. It is not our job to be right but to live in right standing with the Lord. Right standing is not rule following but a loving and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 4:2-5 (NLT)  As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

I am the worst sinner of all. This is not a confession that renders me helpless. It is the admission of my weakness that allows grace to permeate my life. I am surrendered to Jesus as my Savior. I am submitted to Him as Lord. I still sin every day regardless of my best intention. It is up to me to examine my heart each day and ask for forgiveness for that sin. When I decide that I have the right to judge another or call them to accountability – if there is no love, mercy or grace incorporated in that it is my flesh and not born of His Spirit. Spiritual bullies are born of insecurity. When grace is not fully believed or accepted, it is easy to set a standard to be kept by flesh and maintained by pride that elevates us above another. The truth is I am a sinner just as wretched and deplorable as them. Lord, examine my heart today. God give me grace where I have forfeited it to my feelings. Father, fill me with love for your people – all of them. Help me Lord to never lose sight of the vastness of Your Unfailing Love and copious amounts of grace needed to set me free. I will never be worthy of it but am so thankful I have it.

James 2:12-13 (NLT) So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

 

When I Fail

When I Fail

Romans 3:22-24 (NLT) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

I entered the role of motherhood just shy of my 24th birthday. Sitting in the empty hospital room, it was the first time I was alone and awake with my tiny son. He was perfect. Though small, he was chubby with a head of thick dark hair. As he lay sleeping, sunlight peeked through the room, beams falling on him and in that moment he looked so angelic. Overcome with emotions, tears began to fall from my face unto his little feet. My imperfection abundantly clear to me in that moment in the fact that I would make mistakes and could not promise him a “perfect” life. I was overwhelmed at the thought of failure. I would fail him. I knew it. I couldn’t stop it or control it. My weaknesses would cause me to mess up time and time again. I felt insecure in that fact that God had entrusted me with him because I wasn’t good enough for the job that lay before me.

Well, my son is now 27 years old. He is engaged and about to become a bonus dad to a precocious six-year-old. How time flies by when you are having fun? An update…I did fail. I failed in parenting time and time again. In fact, I apologized to my son a few years ago. He was the guinea pig. I learned to parent using him to mold and shape my skills for the four that would come later. I believe in discipline and this boy got his fair share. When I told him that I was sorry, he hugged me close and replied, “That’s okay, mama. I know everything I did and you probably didn’t spank me enough.” Plot twist – the perfect baby given to me wasn’t perfect either yet I still felt ultimately responsible. But now I felt my heart at ease for my boy gave me the grace needed to live free from guilt as a mom.

I am a failure. I was born a failure. I will always be a complete and utter failure. From the moment, I arrived due to my innate nature to sin – I fell short of God’s Glorious Standard. This type of failure is fatal. It can only be overcome by God’s Grace in all of its sufficiency. Have you accepted God’s Grace? Have you invited Jesus to save you? To be your Savior and Lord? If the answer is “yes”, then despite the fact you are a failure – you cannot fail God ever again.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Our success in life as a believer becomes completely dependent on faith in Christ alone. Your prosperity is from Christ in you. The complete takeover of His Spirit filling our life with good fruit that produces good things in us and allows us to take full advantage of God’s Promises. We are made right with God in this one simple gesture. If our rightness ever becomes based on anything that we do, it has become convoluted with religion rather than fully reliant on a relationship with Jesus. A believer is defined as one who believes. What do you believe today? It is important as it is the validity of faith.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight.

You cannot fall farther than you already did with a single sin. Someone needs to hear this today because somewhere along the way you gave up on God’s Glorious Standard when the enemy told you that you failed God. You cannot fail God. Failing God would mean He needed us for something. It would compromise the Sovereignty of a God who is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. If this were the case, it would make God’s Grace given through Jesus Christ insufficient. Sin was our failure. It is our daily struggle. But it doesn’t make us a failure. Though we fall, it is not fatal unless choosing to stay there. His Grace is enough for me…and you…and every other person ever created.

Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Have you imposed a penalty that God has already removed? Yet (already done) God in His Grace (not my ability) freely (without a condition or cost) makes us right in His Sight. He did it through the offering of His Son, Jesus Christ. He freed (past tense) us from the penalty of sin. What you called “lost” has only been “left” behind and can be reclaimed when you stop trying to pay for something already covered completely! The enemy of our soul cannot lay claim to us anymore. Sin had a penalty of death. God’s Grace paid it in full and released us from punishment for our sin. To think that we must somehow pay God back is to cheapen the priceless gift that was given.

Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

There is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus. Oh how I wish someone would believe today with me. Condemnation produces a punishment or penalty. God paid our penalty in full. To impose a penalty or decide that God is punishing us is to live a lie. Self-imposed penalty is a product of pride. Sin’s penalty is paid in full and no longer condemning. When I fail, I fail myself by living beneath God’s Glorious Standard returned to me with redemption. It is to refuse resurrection power and live in the discarded death shroud of guilt, shame and remorse. It restricts and limits us in insecurity and fear that the Blood has lost its power and grace is not enough due to our inability.

According to Romans 5, God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. The grace given when accepting Christ is enough to cover all of our sin. Not just the ones already committed, but every sin past, present and future. It is only the weight of relinquished that applies weight and heaviness to our life. It is easily removed by repentance. To say, “I’m sorry, Lord” with true repentance and remorse. Our relationship with God is secure in Jesus Christ. Every promise is valid. Our purpose remains intact even when I fall or fail. It is what I believe that changes everything. Do you believe in the sufficiency of God’s Grace to remove the penalty and punishment of sin? Do you believe that you are given life abundantly? Or do you live in condemnation? There is no condemnation in Christ therefore even when I fail – my relationship with God through His Son means nothing is lost. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I failed God. He forgave me and wiped out the penalty of sin that I once carried. The power at work in me is a direct result of His Son, Jesus Christ who died for me and then put His Life Spirit in me. I cannot take credit for anything good that has come of it. To think that I can fail God now that I am saved and filled with His Son renders grace incapable of full satisfaction. In other words, it is me saying, “God – Your Grace is not enough!” Who would ever dare? We do. By accepting the bat of guilt, shame, remorse and insecurity that the enemy has us when we fall short and beating the life out of ourselves with compromise and substitutions for the Gloriousness of His Grace. Pride tells us that we have to do something. Humility accepts that it is in our constant and utter weakness that His Power is fully executed.

Grace is enough. I don’t care what anyone else tells you. His Grace is enough to cover every single sin ever committed and therefore you can never fail God again. When we fall, it is an opportunity to reach up and take our Savior’s Hand again. He continually pursues us with unconditional love and goodness. Each morning mercy is given to us regardless of acceptance or not. His grace is all I need. His power works best in my failure and weaknesses. For it is then that the Glory of God reaches me and is reflected in my life.

Romans 6:1-4 (NLT) Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

There is obviously a difference in willful sin and wandering. Who am I to judge? The wonderful grace that God has given us cannot work in a hard and inflexible heart. To love sin is to reject the Lord. Those who hate sin will still fall into it. It is inevitable. Paul talks about the struggle with sin in Romans 7. Despite our best intentions not to sin, we still do it daily. We are united with Christ and His Spirit lives in us showing us a better and more glorious lifestyle. The sufficiency of God’s Grace is that in my weakness – His Power changes me from the inside out. He prospers my soul in my willingness not ability. When I fail, I must not let pride give me the responsibility but hand it right back to the Lord. We have a right relationship even when I sin based on grace alone. God doesn’t turn his back on me but sees His Son and pulls me closer. We can live a new life. A free existence in choosing what is beneficial to our life in Christ for it is where success and full satisfaction are found. It is a choice. To accept God’s Grace or refuse it.

2 Corinthians 3:9 (NLT) If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God!

Grace made us right with God from the beginning. One sin was our failure. There is no further falling in the life of a believer. Sin put you at rock bottom. When I fail, it is a personal setback not a supernatural event. God already knew I would fall short of His Glorious Standard and Jesus paid the price already. Do you feel like you failed God? Do you think He is punishing you for something you have done? Are you punishing yourself by believing you cannot have what God promised because you failed? The enemy will give you ever burden that you are willing to accept. We can easily fill are heart and mind with all the reasons why we are not worthy of God’s Grace and they would all be valid except for the simple fact that His Grace is always sufficient. In every setback, fault, failure and wandering, when we thought we were lost – God will show you where you left off. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is lost. He promises to make good of every detail of our life. We just have to hand Him all the broken pieces. You will fall. You will fail. Your still have a future and hope because His Grace is always enough!

Lord, I ask you to touch the heart of your people today with a new revelation of your amazing grace. We do not deserve it and certainly couldn’t earn it even though many times we try to. Please God take captive every rebellious thought that I must do something more to receive it other than accept it. Lord help my unbelief until I have full confidence that your grace is sufficient for me. It is always enough…even when I fail! Amen and Amen!

Acts 20:32 (NLT) “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.”

Enduring Love

Enduring Love

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

It probably safe to say that sin is definitely rampant everywhere. Love is lukewarm if not tepid perhaps even cold. BUT…the one who endures to the end will be saved. “But” nullifies that which is stated before. When we see “but God” in a passage, it is the resolve of God’s Sovereignty that changes everything. If a “but” is placed within an apology, it voids the true meaning of forgiveness. Within the epidemic of sin and death of love, there is a “but”. The one who endures to the end will be saved. I am challenged today by this “but” – the one that changes sin and hate to enduring and everlasting love.

What does love have to do with it? Everything. It is our mandate in life to love the Lord God and love others. It sums up our mission as Light and Salt. To illuminate the darkness and flavor the earth so that others will taste and see that He is good. What is the light of our life? What is the flavor of our interactions? Does it make a right relationship and true repentance desirable or palatable? Truly love is the difference maker that binds a Kingdom of diverse people who reconcile their life to Jesus. His Spirit works to produce His First Fruit which is love. Are we cultivating love in our life? In our homes? Churches? Community? Workplace? Everywhere we go there should be a foretaste of the love that saved us, delivered us, healed us, grows us, develops us and prospers in our life.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What have I gained? I want to know God’s Secrets. I want to hear the voice of His Angels as they sing around His Throne in His Presence. I desire all gifts of His Spirit as promised but if I do not possess His Love – it is all pointless. Love is not just in the receiving but absolutely in the giving. It is reciprocated by the release of it. We give our lives to religion freely. It is something I can do. It is the method of giving over which I have control. But is it enough to be among those who endure to the end. Is it enough to finish the race and be found faithful to Christ? I am not sure doing anything for Christ is worthwhile if it is not packaged with unconditional love and grace as it is given.

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

“His Love Endures Forever” is given as a reminder 41 times in the Word of God. God defines love as patient and kind. It is not jealous, boastful, proud or rude meaning it doesn’t contain any pride or self. Love doesn’t demand its own way but gives up its way to pursue unity. It is not irritable or unforgiving never keeping count of wrongs. It does not rejoice in injustice or the faults and failures of another but rejoices when truth wins out. What truth? God’s Love endures forever and His Grace is enough. Love never gives up. Endures. It never loses faith and so it is always faithful even to the faithless. It is always hopeful never ever giving up on itself or the pursuit of it. It endures through every circumstance.

God’s Love for us is defined by these characteristics. To be imitators of God is to reflect this kind of love to all people. It is noted that there is no greater love than to lay down our life for our friends. We are instructed to lavish it on our enemies as well. Love is important to God because it is who He is. Love defines Him. It must define us to identify with God as His Children. However, love must endure. What does it mean to “endure”? According to Strong’s Concordance, it is to hold one’s ground in conflict, to bear up against adversity, hold out under stress, stand firm, persevering under pressure, waiting calmly and courageously. It is not a passive resignation to fate with mere patience, but the active energetic resistance to defeat that allows calm and brave endurance. Why would love require endurance? Because loving everybody all the time is not easy and nearly impossible outside of the Love of God given to us and His Grace that covers us. We must fight for love because the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy it. He is doing a pretty good job at it.

I Peter 4:7-10 (NLT) The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

Continue to show deep love for each other. The kind of love described is the same kind of love in Romans 5:5. Agape love is a word given new meaning by Christianity. Agape love is an undefeatable well-meaning kindness and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest good of other people. No matter what the response of the other person to our giving – agape love gives anyway without reservation. It is self-giving love that gives freely asking nothing in return. It does not consider its own object worth but is liberal in its giving. Agape is a love by choice, not love by chance. It is an act of willingness not emotionalism. Agape is the kind of unconditional love God has for all of His Children even those still far away. It is the love that His Spirit tries to produce within us. Agape love is grown from faith in God and as He becomes our confident hope carrying our full expectation it is the overflow of our life to others. Love without condition. Forgiveness without reciprocation. Giving without the expectation of receiving. We must continue to show deep and abiding love in the midst of a world where love has grown quite cold.

Love covers a multitude of sin. Love covers. Love does not expect retribution or recompense but gives up the right to be offended and hurt by the misgivings of another. It is the kind of covering that will lead others to the Light of His Amazing Love. We cannot love others properly until we accept the completely that He first loved us.

I John 4:16-21 (NLT) We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

There will always be people around us who seem undeserving of our love, time and attention. People will always let us down, hurt us and not meet our expectation. It is not their job to do so. It is our job to love. My personal responsibility as a Christian fully saved, sanctified and filled with His Spirit is to love. To love first. To love most. To love always. To love without regard. To love without expectation from anyone other than God. His Love is my fulfillment from which I am free to love without need or necessity for reciprocation. Here is where endurance comes in – I don’t always want to love people who hurt me, use me or offend me. I am not always quick to forgive, forget or forge a relationship with those who I do not deem worthy of such things. I don’t always want to give up my way to embrace the journey of another. See I am just as human as you are. I have had my fair share of letdowns. I have been attacked and maligned plenty. But I want to endure to the end. I want to be saved. I cannot spend my time trying to glean a little bit of love from unproductive vessels. The fulfillment of love is to accept fully the Love of God through His Son Jesus Christ and live in that love completely. From this place – there is freedom from fear and insecurity of hurt and betrayal. His Healing Balm of Love covers the misuse and abuse of others with a sufficiency of grace that fulfills us. It is from the Source of Love that never leads to disappointment that I can love others freely with enduring love that makes me known as a Child of God. I must love like the Lord. I must love unconditionally. Lord, help me to develop enduring love in all my relationships past, present and future. Teach me to love others solely on the basis that You, Father have first loved us.

Psalm 136:1 (NLT) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Fugitive Heart

Fugitive Heart

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I should have seen it coming. You have to practice what you preach. I have been touting forgiveness to my teenager for a week. So why be surprised when I am faced with a situation that requires forgiving someone who is not sorry. Of course, I would be presented with a large portion of crow. Shocked and dismayed…I know in that moment the enemy chuckled. I have to make a choice. One I do not want to make…will I choose to be angry with this person who has offended me so or will I quickly forgive and move on. As I stumble over my flesh realizing that I am not as far in the race of faith as I once thought, I begin to recite all the scripture I know about forgiveness. It is a command not a suggestion. It is beneficial and crucial yet critical to my pride and fatal to my flesh. How can I just let this go? It is wrong. It is hateful. It is mean spirited. It is judgmental. Tears of frustration fill my eyes as I am sitting on the outside while standing on the inside. I must forgive the person as though my life depends upon it or risk becoming who they are in this moment sitting in the same bitterness, caught up in the past, held captive in hatred, and imprisoned by the wrath so wrapped up in their heart. What do you do when you just can’t get over it?

I am “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing one another in love.” Oh my goodness, this is so hard sometimes. People are people. We are imperfect yet called by a perfect Savior and flawless God to walk in His Image and live by His Example which is love, mercy and grace in all things towards all people. I would love to fall back on the fact that I am not God or selfless like Jesus but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Jesus lives inside of me. He is my new nature. His Spirit works to nurture, develop, and cultivate good fruit in the barrenness that once possessed me. I want to bear His Fruit. To be a good steward. To be a vessel from which a good harvest overflows…but my heart is angry and emotions all stirred up. I find that the fertile and broken heart is not always void of rocks and hard spots that need my attention. I am called to longsuffering but would like nothing more than to make someone suffer by my harsh words, mad retort, or not so gentle rebuffing. The Spirit of God says, “Let it go!” My flesh says, “Not so fast…” The inner turmoil begins.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

How low can you go? It’s not a limbo term anymore but a question for my inner person. The one who wants to be like Christ but struggles with human weakness. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Love them. I do love them or maybe I should say in this moment of anger that I did. Friends can become enemies quickly in the shadow of hurt, harsh words, betrayal or even a simple misunderstanding. I tell my kids to ignore the offenses of others as I trip over my own tongue today. “Don’t make none and there won’t be none” has been my mantra that now hangs like a heavy mantle around my neck as it tightens into a noose.

2 Corinthians 2:9-11 (NKJV) For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Are you harboring unforgiveness in a fugitive heart today? Caught up in anger that is burning into hatred? Do you feel that an injustice has been done and you deserve retribution? Vengeance is mind says the Lord but is your flesh rallying to take the upper hand? Did you know that the enemy of our soul uses such a weapon to take advantage of us because we are ignorant of his devices? Satan wants to trick you into not forgiving so he can steal something from you today. He wants to get you caught up in words or tangled in lies so he can rob you of the love, joy and peace so heavily invested in you by Christ. Is it working?

“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.” It doesn’t matter how wrong the other person was or how right you are, you become an enemy of their soul by choosing unforgiveness over longsuffering. The Light that shines within us grows slightly dimmer until it is snuffed out by our unwillingness to let a trespass go in the same sea of forgetfulness that our sin drifted away on. The Salt of our spirit becomes tasteless and useless when our season brings about hardness in the mine called our heart. I must forgive others simply because I am forgiven. What I bind on the earth is bound in heaven and that which I loose is free to go. (Matthew 18:18) When I shackle someone in their trespass, I am no different than Saul who persecuted Christians and murdered them for their belief. Lord, I must forgive. Teach me to be longsuffering. Help me to remain free and loose others from the expectation I have placed on them.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

There may be a more significant meaning to seventy times seven which many commentaries can elaborate on but for this particular instance let’s say it means 490 times. Can you think of anyone you have forgiven that many times consistently without throwing the towel in or walking away? Truly forgiveness but become an infinite quality in our Christian character be reflect the grace of God given to us. But how do we continually forgive other people and not become a human doormat? That’s the fear isn’t it? The idea of losing our identity in the giving of our life to others. Maybe that is exactly what becoming like Christ is all about? Giving up our identity to be a true reflection of who He is and what He has done for us. I know that Jesus has forgiven me more than 490 times and the count is steadily rising. Forgiveness is a commitment to love others more than ourselves. Jesus say that there is no greater love than to lay our life down for a friend. I don’t think that the Lord intended for us to have any enemies but one. The Kingdom is built of men and women bound together in unity and love. The enemy seeks to destroy the Kingdom beginning with the bitter root marked unforgiveness.

Luke 7:46-48 (NKJV) You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

As my heart softens in the Lord today, I am reminded of the woman who entered a room to face the judgmental glares of the Sanhedrin because she wanted to anoint Jesus with oil. Jesus forgave her of her sins and named her an example of one who has been forgiven much. To whom little is forgiven the same loves little. I have been forgiven much and sometimes I forget that when faced with an offense. I choose to be offended or hurt and throw up a wall around my heart. But that only limits me, I have been given unconditional and abounding love and grace by Jesus. I can live in it, walk in it and rejoice because of it even when others do not meet my expectation or hurt me because I have taken my expectation from others and placed it fully in Jesus Christ. Those times when unforgiveness rears its ugly head is only a reminder of how much more I need Him than the day before.

It has been established that it is easier to say, “Arise and walk” then “your sins are forgiven.” Forgiveness crucifies pride and moves us to our rightful position behind Jesus and others. Isn’t that what they say true joy is all about Jesus, others and you? I have to be reminded sometimes that it is not all about me and maybe just maybe if I choose to love rather than convict – it may make a difference in others. I am called to be Light in this dark world. Of course, the enemy will try to put that light out at every given opportunity. I choose today to forgive. I will have to remind myself of this very thing throughout the day when offered bitterness and anger toward the person who hurt me. I must choose love and grace because that is where I live and breathe. I will walk in freedom and work to keep the other person free not by binding them in my judgment or condemnation but continually praying for their blessing and freedom in Christ. Ugh! It’s a hard one. It’s a choice. It is not about me but my commitment to Christ so I will forgive.

Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

 

No Longer Condemned

No Longer Condemned

Romans 8:1 (NKJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

The enemy of all mankind will use just about any bat handed to him. He is aggressive and ruthless in his attack against humanity. He hates people. So when given the opportunity to remind us of faults, failures and shortcomings – he capitalizes completely. Given our inability to earn salvation or restore our relationship with God outside of Christ creates a vulnerability to these tactics. Shame and regret are his biggest enforcers of our insecurity and inability to own our new relationship with God through His Son. We are no longer condemned but empowered by God’s Grace to become new creations. If only we could see the Gloriousness of God and His Goodness concerning us to silence the lie of the enemy in our life.

God doesn’t wait with a huge sledgehammer to smash us when we sin. In fact, our sin grieves God. His Hate for sin doesn’t extend to the offenders. He only hates sin not those who live in it. Unconditional love is probably the greatest love of all and easiest to maintain if our heart would only receive it and our head able to conceive it. Hurt and betrayal harden our heart to such a thing in light of our own broken emotions. This limits the Body of Christ in fully filling each position. It hinders the Kingdom coming to earth in disbelief. God wants to break the stronghold of condemnation over your life. Whether promoted by religion or simply a lack of knowledge. He wants to break through this barrier and free you from this hindrance in your life. God is good. He wants His Glory to fill us to overflowing…despite what we may think of ourselves?

John 3:18-20 (NKJV) “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Why does God love me? How do I know that He does? How can I be sure? Well, the Word of God tells us that God is love (I John 4:8) and He first loved us (I John 4:19)! God’s Word is the credibility of my faith and the logic that I must live by to successfully overcome every lie introduced by the enemy. I must believe God’s Word is for me and about me. I must allow His Spirit to sow the Word in my heart so it will become the wisdom of my life. Jesus is the Word of God who came wrapped in flesh to demonstrate God’s Love and Desire for me. (John 1:14) The Love of God for mankind is who He is. We cannot make God love us because He already does. His Mercy each day delivered to everyone regardless of what they believe and how they live is evidence that His Love will stop at nothing to apprehend us.

The only condemnation is disbelief. To refuse the Love of God given in His Son Jesus Christ is the only condemnation possible for people. When presented with the Light of His Love, yet they choose darkness rather than light. Aha! Said all the religious people with a Pharisee-spirit in them. No this does not mean that sinners are condemned but rather those who do not desire a relationship with God. The application of grace does not mean that a person is no longer a sinner just forgiven. Doing some things right (or religiously) does not promote you to a higher level in God. In fact, the more humble the person the closer to God. Those who reject His Love. This is very different that feeling unworthy or insignificant. There are a whole lot of people in the world who entered our churches and rather than experiencing the selfless and unconditional love of God – they were condemned by Christians and wandered empty and helplessly back into the darkness. Shame on us for putting a higher price on our love than God puts on His Love. He stops at nothing to make a way for us to enter right standing and promote a restored relationship with even the most violent offender.

2 Corinthians 3:7-10 (NKJV) But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) This is one of the most known verses in the Word of God. God loved us. He sent His Son to save us. But there is more to the story that is relevant and true. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” The purpose of Christ was not two-fold. He did not come to save some and condemn others. God is never double-minded. Jesus came that the world might be saved and have everlasting life. There is no condemnation in Christ today. If you feel condemned, it is not from God. God is love! His Mercy is new every morning. He loved you first. He loves you the most. His Grace is enough to gain access to every blessing and experience His Glory in your life. You don’t have to do everything right just love His Son and believe in Him for salvation. A brand new life as a new creation is only accessible through Christ. He gives it to us with a helper that will help us in our weakness. Take knowledge and turn into wisdom. There is no sin insurmountable to an ounce of Christ’s Precious Blood – you are not condemned but made alive again. Resurrection life and power are working its way through you to make its way out of you. Put down the big bat of condemnation, shame, guilt or any other lie that the enemy handed you today. You have a purpose and plan designed for you by the Hand of God. The whole point is that you will know His Love. Gird yourself in the Truth that God loves you. Jesus died for you! His Grace is enough for you! You are alive again! Now walk in that freedom! Live in His Glory! He is for you! Never ever not once against you! Jesus is Our Champion – claim your victory today!

John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In the Weeds

IN the Weeds

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Hate is a learned behavior born of insecurity and fear. As believers, the only real and true enemy is satan. Children are born with hearts of acceptance. They do not understand the inherent dangers in life and so God gives them parents to love and protect them. Being of an imperfect nature, it is easy for us to teach our children the morals and ethics of our life molded by our experience rather an encounter with God’s Love. Jesus says, “Love your enemies” and “bless those who curse you”. As if that is not enough, we are to pray for those who spitefully or intentionally use us and even those who persecute us becoming a thorn in soft flesh. Why? So we may be Kingdom Kids who live in alignment with their Father and His Kingdom. Tough one. High calling for sure.

How do we love the people who abuse, betray, hurt, and use us? Where do we find the capacity to ward off offenses, ignore bad intentions, and keep the penetrating darts of gossip and slander penetrate a heart softening in the Hand of God? God doesn’t allow us to ignore them. We are to love them. Pray for them. Accept them with forgiveness no matter how many times they continually mistreat us. I know what you are thinking today. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Or maybe, it’s God doesn’t want me to be anyone’s doormat. The all-time best is I can forgive them but it doesn’t mean I have to let them hurt me again. Well…

He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Evil is not a character trait of human beings. People are born with eternity in every heart. Each given a measure of faith like seeds to sow in life. Everyone. Even the person who is causing you pain and strife. God loves and desires them just as He does you. Evil is cultivated from sin and sinful desires that take over but are like a sickness or disease that can be removed by the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ. Which means every person has potential and God is constantly showering all of us with “fresh rain” in the hope that faith would grow and eternity would break through the hardest of hearts growing into a fruitful relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NKJV) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Peter asked the pointed question, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” I wonder if we ask the Lord the same question. The answer is more than anyone can conceive in the natural. True forgiveness as God forgives us is born of grace. Grace is enough. God’s Grace given to us is the river from which our ability to accept apologies and restore relationships come from. When our expectation is in the Lord, it becomes our profound privilege to extend to others the same grace that has been given to us. I didn’t say it was easy only that it is possible. The Kingdom of God is all about relationship. Not only a right relationship with God but all of His People even those still living in sin and darkness.

True love is unconditional. True love waits while others catch on or catch up. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Is this truly the kind of love that is required of Children of God in every situation? Yes…it is. The model of prayer presented by Jesus to His Disciples does not suggest it but requires it in order to be forgiven and fully accepting God’s Grace. God will not give us anything that does not promote generosity in us. Seed reproduces. Good seed produces a harvest of good deeds that give honor and glory to God. Love is the greatest of the Fruit of His Spirit and the first step in achieving our purpose in the Lord and prospering in this life.

Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

We must sow good seed in our life. Seed produces of the Holy Spirit and not unmet expectation. The Kingdom is comprised of men and women who as daily disciples strive to sow and grow godliness in their life. Any seed not of God is produced from fear, insecurity and doubt that God’s Power is enough and His Authority somehow compromised. It is human nature to experience such emotions. It is the Power of God working in each one of us to remove them.

The enemy will constantly sow weeds in our field. He is a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy every good thing that the Lord is producing in our life. He is methodical in his approach. Ruthless in every attack. There is no compassion for his victim. We are God’s People who live in His Love and Compassion for others. His Directive is clear. We are not to uproot the weeds. It is not our job to kill them. We grow right along with them. Why? It is God’s Eternal Hope that one day the rain will touch their heart and the seed of faith and promise of eternity will grow from within in them as it does in you.

John 13:34-35 (NKJV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I have recently been studying the differences between followers of Jesus and disciples of Jesus. There is a marked difference. Followers are led by their feelings and disciples are led by their future. Public opinion can influence the objective of a follower and offense cause them to be distracted and detoured in life. If you desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, love must be the premise of your life. Not just any kind of love, but the love received from the Father through the Son. Love that sacrifices its feelings for a future hope far greater them temporary circumstances. A fruitful life that continues to cultivate grace when surrounded by weeds. The kind of life that does not walk by sight but faith continually overcoming daily assaults and attacks by the enemy in an effort to kill our faith by producing fear, anxiety, worry and the worst of them insecurity. Love is relational. To love requires interaction. It is the overwhelming compassion of Jesus Christ who tells us to there is no great love than to lay our life down for a friend. To be a friend to all who are around us unaffected by their inability to show love and kindness in return. The only root to be removed is bitterness. By this ALL WILL KNOW that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another.

I will be honest this is a challenge for me with a handful of people. I am not speaking from a place of innocence but a daily struggle to love others including those who don’t love me. Those who have hurt me. Those who talk about me. I do so with this promise from the Lord – perfect love casts out all fear. God’s Love for me is enough. His Grace is sufficient for me. I must accept His Love and Grace in full measure to extend it to those around me and be His Disciple.

I John 4:17-19 (NKJV) Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.