Freedom of Forgiveness

Freedom of Forgiveness

Micah 7:18-19 (NKJV) Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His Anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

A woman scorned went to one of the places she and her thought-to-be true love had spent a great deal of time. A quiet park by a lake surrounded with trees. In the dark of night with only the moon for light, she was on a mission. The serenade of crickets and frogs soon disrupted by the objects hitting the water with a variety of loud splashes. The concert grew silent as her mumbled words were followed by the crashing and then sinking tokens of love now lost. She drove to their “secret place” and unloaded every gift that he had ever given her. Hundreds of dollars sunk into the mud and sludge at the bottom of the lake. She wiped her tears and moved on that night.

The latest craze is painted rocks. Rocks with pictures and/or messages placed in hidden and obvious places for unsuspecting people to find. A new kind of pay-it-forward inspiration, the rocks are meant to bring spontaneous joy and express human kindness to the one who is lucky enough to find one. A quick smile at a low cost. But I wonder what might happen, if rather than putting useless images on little rocks, we put the sins, hurts, betrayals and turmoil that create unforgiveness on a rock and threw it into the lake. Attaching all the thoughts and emotions that unforgiveness offers to each stone, and them tossing them away and letting each one sink to the bottom of a lake out of sight, out of mind, and void of emotion forever. Would there be freedom? Would it expand the capacity to love in our life? Would it heal our bodies, minds and emotions?

Insecurities build walls with stones of forgiveness every day. God offers a solution. It is called mercy. Kindness counts. However, water poured on a rock has no point of entry. Our hearts become hard and callous when continually hammered by hurt and disappointment. People will always let us down – most unintentionally yet it still happens. We must become acutely aware of those things living in us in the form of hurt that has produced unforgiveness. A lack of forgiveness is a detriment to the Kingdom of God and limits our life from His Blessings. To offer forgiveness in the absence of the expectation of full restoration is not the kind God exhibits or wants. He is looking for a united and harmonious family. God casts our sins into the depths of the sea. He is asking the very same of me.

Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV) Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The first benefit of God in our life is His Mercy. His Willingness to forgive all of our sin through His Son Jesus Christ. It gives us complete access to Heaven. It is from this standpoint that believers are able to bind and loose things between Heaven and earth. It is from this place of undeserved mercy and copious grace that fills my life with God’s Goodness and Glory in abundant proportions. It is also from this place that I must release the same forgiveness in my life. Forgiveness is a process that is coupled with trusting God. How so?

The more I am able to trust God with the expectations of my life the more willing I will be to release others from this obligation. Unmet expectation is the source of unforgiveness. When another person doesn’t do what we expect them to do, doesn’t act as we expect them to act, doesn’t meet the obligation of relationship that we have put upon them, or fail to meet any other ethical, moral, physical or emotional, and yes, even spiritual obligation – unforgiveness rears its ugly head.

Who forgives all your iniquities…

I believe that forgiveness gives us access to all the benefits of God that come through relationship. Hope meets and exceeds our expectation. It has its own set of standards and timeline for execution that requires absolute and total trust in the Lord…not people. However, to allow unforgiveness to remain is to leave a lock on the door to our blessings and promises in God. The Lord wants to open the doors and windows our life to let Him fill it with all the good things that He has already provided to us.

Daniel 9:9-10 (NKJV) To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness. If He is our portion, the same belongs to us. We have the ability to forgive and offer mercy to others. Am I willing to forgive like the Lord? Psalm 86 says that the Lord is good and ready to forgive. Psalm 99:8 calls God the God-Who-Forgives. It is in His Very Name. Mercy is His Character. To love first. To love confidently. To love completely. God desires mercy. He loves when we love like He does. He moves closer when our heart forgives because it gives Him more room to expand and fulfill our desires apart from limitation. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. I believe that there is not a living breathing human being that cannot find a person who needs their forgiveness. I need to forgive. Forgiveness leads to full restoration.

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.”

Jesus offered a model of prayer in Matthew 6. Included in the prayer are these words, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” They come right after give us our daily bread. I wonder if we somehow miss the point that the Lord included these words in His Prayer Model. Forgiveness and mercy are not supplements but substance in our life. If my life is lacking this may be the primary source, the blockage, the backup and the wall that must come down. Forgiveness is an opening that allows God’s Mercy and Love to make a way for new relationship. Restoration always makes way for relationship. We are building a Kingdom of Souls that are knit together. The bond must be in place. I must be open, willing, and ready to forgive at all times in order to experience God’s Power in all things. Here are some truths about unforgiveness:

Unforgiveness represents smallness of soul. As our soul prospers, so will we.

Unforgiveness restricts our life. It limits the mobility of God’s Power to work in us and through us as we have deemed His Grace insufficient in our life.

Unforgiveness inflicts suffering in our bodies, minds and emotions. It is literally unhealthy.

Unforgiveness creates isolation with a wall of stones placed day by day with unmet expectation.

Unforgiveness does not promote Kingdom living. To sustain an unforgiving heart is a liability as a believer mishandles Kingdom privileges and power. It is a direct misuse of binding and loosing as ordained in Matthew 18:18-19.

Each of us own a heart and soul. God has offered us mercy, grace and forgiveness as healing balm to fill every void, bind together the broken pieces, and meet every expectation so that we can express the Light of His Love. How am I doing? I am asking myself today. I am asking the Lord to examine my heart and reveal any unforgiven debt that I have been holding on to. I desire fulfillment. Full satisfaction. Completeness in Christ. Every good thing that the Father has for me. It begins with forgiveness. Accepting God’s Mercy and Forgiveness. Paying it forward to everyone who I have left unforgiven. New life, new creation, restoration, renewal and yes, even revival begin in such a place. I want to be there to see it come.

Matthew 9:4-6 (NKJV) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

As the church continues to cry out for revival, I wonder if our heart’s desire must change just a bit. Perhaps if we searched the depths of our heart and continued to pursue full redemption, restoration and renewal from the Lord for ourselves that maybe our heart might change to more like Jesus toward people. People struggle every day accepting the fullness of God’s Mercy and Grace as demonstrated through those representing His Son, Jesus and call themselves Christians. Crusaders of the Cross who have become blood thirsty rather than covered in the Blood of Jesus surrendered to His Spirit. God is love. His Message is Love. His Desire is Love. His Kingdom is Love. Love is impossible outside of forgiveness and full restoration of relationships. We would accept a miracle in our midst faster than to fully live in God’s Love and Forgiveness by placing all our own expectation in Him. Forgiveness begins in me. I must accept that I am fully forgiven and restored in Jesus Christ. Secondly, I must extend the same to all mankind. All of His Wonderful Benefits are produced by this process by His Hand. Forgiveness comes from God those who have fully accepted it will freely give it. So today, maybe its time to grab a handful of smooth stones and begin to write some things on them that need to be forgiven. Take them to a river, lake or even the ocean and throw them as far as possible. It doesn’t stop there. Begin to pray for complete forgiveness and total restoration. Find a way to forgive that person. If possible, let them know. The freedom of forgiveness far outweighs the comfort of isolation.

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.

 

 

 

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Free Indeed

Free Indeed

John 8:36 (NKJV) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Happy Independence Day! The Fourth of July is a day of celebration. People gather to cook out, go to the beach, watch fireworks and enjoy the freedom men and women literally died to attain and maintain for us in America.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble of the Constitution)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Preamble of the Declaration of Independence)

A preamble is an introductory statement of a contract stating the purpose, aims and justifications of the document or contract it prefaces. It is a summary of purpose. Clearly it was the purpose and aim of our forefathers to establish “a more perfect union”. In doing so, they determined the presiding factors of such a place to be “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” To insure domestic tranquility, provide a secure place for families to prosper, to promote the welfare of all people, and secure the “blessings of liberty for ourselves” and “posterity” meaning future generations. They believed that these truths were self-evident. All men are created equal and they are “endowed” meaning provided these rights by Creator. This country was founded by people who believed in God. They served God. They established these historical documents including the Bill of Rights with the prosperity of God in mind whether anyone likes it or not. The freedom described in these articles also give people the right to choose not to acknowledge God without forsaking their freedom.

Enough of the history lesson for today – my son is a history buff but did not get if from his mother. Last night and into this morning, John 8:36 played over and over in my thoughts and dreams until I finally had to seek it out in a quiet place. The Lord promises us freedom. The Sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ is all about freedom. Liberty to choose who to serve in our natural life. I know that when I see someone desecrate the American Flag anger rises inside of me. My first thought is not Christ-like at all, but rather if they don’t like it here then why don’t they choose a country more to their liking and belief system. But the soldier on the battlefield fighting for my rights as an American is fighting for freedom not legality. The person who decides to burn the flag is given that right by the very same servant giving up their time and risking their life for me. It is hard to wrap one’s mind around it. The same applies to the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ for me. Jesus Christ died for every person ever created by God. The freedom of choice gives each person the right to decide if Jesus will be their personal Savior and Lord. Just the same, they have the right to reject Him. Love demands a choice. If there is no choice, there is no love.

Romans 8:2 (NKJV) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

“Made free” comes from the word “eleuthero” which means to liberate, acquit, set free, and deliver. In the New Testament, it is used exclusively to describe freedom attained through Jesus Christ. Jesus has set us free from sin and death. But are we pursuing and exercising our rights of freedom according to His Word, Will, Nature and Holiness? Freedom in Christ is not a “get out of hell free” card to be used when meeting the Lord face-to-face. There are rights and responsibilities of freedom in the way we live each day. I was born in the United States. I have only known a lifestyle of freedom given by the laws and bylaws of this nation. It is not foreign to me. I was taught all about this country’s history and heritage from grade school to college. Freedom is comfortable to me because it is all that I have known. But to reborn in Jesus Christ introduces a new way of life. I am a new creation. I must learn what freedom in Jesus is all about because it is contradictory to my nature and the place I live now.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NKJV) Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The word “liberty” used in this passage comes from a variation of the same word as “made free”. “Elutheria” means freedom from slavery, independence, absence of external restraint, a negation of control or domination, and freedom of access. The Lord is a Spirit. The Spirit who lives in you and me is none other than the Spirit of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We have access to all of His Power and Strength to attain every promise He has made. We have the freedom to pursue and attain all things given to us as an inheritance. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. I ask you today – are you exercising your liberty today? Do you feel free in Jesus Christ? There is a distinct difference between knowing something and believing it. It is called trust. Given access to God by the Blood of Jesus Christ, we can come boldly before His Throne and achieve all of His Plan and Purpose walking daily in freedom. The Glory of the Lord is evidence of transformation in our life. Is your life glorious today? If you are like me, just knowing Jesus has made my life radically different for the better. But in those times that I was able to apply my mustard seed of faith to trust Him, I have seen supernatural and miraculous results.

Today we celebrate liberty as American citizens, but what about our citizenship in Heaven? The founding fathers of this great country believed in a Creator who endowed His People with blessings and prosperity. Do you believe that today? Take some time, just a few minutes from all the festivities, and thank God for your freedom as His Child. I encourage you to ask the Lord to show you the way to greater freedom and liberty in His Son Jesus Christ. To step out of bondage. To claim your blessings. To walk in victory. To live the life that Jesus died for you to have. I have a taste of freedom in Christ, but today I want more. I want to know the glorious existence found in full transformation into the Image of God through Christ. I want to know what it means to be free indeed. Free from fear, worry, stress and anxiety. Delivered from every shackle and chain that tries to bind me to the past and keep me from my future. To live in the abundance and prosperity promised in the rich and satisfying life promised by the Lord to us.

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty…I wonder if that is the missing link to our spiritual success. The bridge that takes us to transformation marked by trust. It is easy to claim our natural rights according to the law of the land. Today, make a commitment to claim every spiritual blessing offered in Christ. It is our rights as Christians but we must be believers. Joseph Prince said, “You fight from victory ground by standing. You don’t fight for victory.” Jesus secured the win for us. We have been given freedom and liberty to walk in His Love. He promises to work all the details for our good and His Glory. We must stand. Standing is tough. We must make faith logical by studying God’s Word, communicating with Him and partnering with His Spirit for freedom’s sake. There is a whole new life full of new possibilities as a new creation only when we choose freedom!

Psalm 119:45 (NKJV) And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.

True Freedom

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John 8:31-32 (NLT) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

There have been some who criticize my writing because it can be lengthy. The suggestion has been made to only reference the Word of God rather than including full passages of scripture. I have been doing this for about eight years now. I have thought about these words and carefully considered others opinions and I have come to the conclusion that I just cannot do it. The Word of God is absolutely essential to our daily life as a believer. Early in my Christian walk, I struggled reading the Bible. It seemed repetitive and boring. It wasn’t a story but excerpts of history. It didn’t seem logical. I couldn’t make it applicable to my life or so I thought. I am an avid reader though I will admit I have a pile of books that are left unread. I have produced one out of five children who also loves books and a second on the proverbial fence. My other three children abhor it. We must read, digest and implement the Word of God in our life to live in true freedom as a believer. Without it, there is potential and purpose in our life that will go undiscovered and unrealized simply due to ignorance.

Matthew 4:3-4 (NLT) During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus was led to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He would be tempted. The enemy cannot touch a single hair on the head of God’s Children unless God allows it. But before you get all up in arms, not everything that occurs in our life is at the direct hand of the enemy as much as people love to blame him. The enemy simply offers suggestions and opportunities in the form of temptation to stray from our faith, belief and dependency on God to have our own way. There are consequential conditions as a direct result of sowing and reaping. There are things that happen due to our unwillingness to change or be changed as a reaction to our action. The Lord has given us freedom to choose our way. Those who decide to follow the Way, Truth and Life will have the condition added that God will work all things together for our good. Sin introduced evil, perversity and sickness into this world and Jesus has overcome them all giving us a better and more excellent way. Sickness may end in death but to a true believer it means stepping into forever with the Lord. The world shapes our perspective to consider more than this life and see past the temporary trials of today. Less I digress…

In the story of Jesus experiencing temptation from the enemy firsthand, He overcame every one with the Word of God. He simply repeated back to Satan the Truth which nullifies the lie. Ignorance is never bliss. It can be death even to those who think they are serving the Lord faithfully but miss out on the One who overcomes death and the grave. I can understand the concept of sowing and reaping. It can increase and add abundance to my life. Without Jesus, it is just evidence of God’s Constant Character and Solid Sovereignty but without the Word – I can never go farther than provisional principle. I want a covenant relationship with God the Father so I must go through the Son.

John 1:1-5 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

 

John 1:10-14 (NLT) He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Our daughter lives in the New England area. She and a friend were driving through the city. The story goes that our daughter screamed stopped the car and jumped out unto the crowded street. She runs up to a complete stranger and asks him for a picture. They snap a selfie thanking him she hops in the car and drives off with her friend. She posts the pic on social media all excited about the encounter and calls me to share her story. The actor is from a famous sitcom. I don’t watch television much other than thee occasional real estate or home improvement show. I have just lost interest in it and would rather do other things. At any rate, her shock was clear that I did not know this person and that I didn’t recognize his name. Her story was not very exciting to me other than I could tell she was excited. Now her husband was a different story, the actor was actually one of his favorites and she took the picture for him. He is probably still fan-guying over the whole episode. Do you know Jesus Christ? Who He is? What He came to do? His Place in the Trinity? How He feels about you? Do you really know the Lord?

Jesus is the Word of God. He was the spoken word that created the world and universe all around us. He is the very breath breathed in us that gives us life. He is the One who once believed and accepted will make us Children of God. He is full of unfailing love and faithfulness – the two qualities all of humanity search for and never find among the people who populate the planet. He is hidden in a book on the dusty shelf or Bible tucked neatly away reserved for Sundays, Wednesdays or the occasional small group…if that. The Lord said in the Old Testament that people will actually die from a lack of knowledge. The New Living Translation puts it like this – “My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.” (Hosea 4:6) God wasn’t just talking about “lost folk” in this passage. No, it was about priests who had “forgotten the laws of your God”.  Some people think they know Jesus but when they die will be devastated to find they didn’t know Him at all.

John 4:23-24 (NLT) But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

True worshippers. I want to be a true worshipper. I want to know Jesus more intimately and completely than even my husband who I know very well. We have been married a long time. Shared almost two decades together. He is my beloved. We have developed a marriage that is a partnership. Strived for two to become one even though sometimes it was a struggle and fight to the death of self that yielded two people willing to stick it out together come what may. I married this man knowing that God had given Him to me even though I met Him when I was living in the wilderness of the world. Sitting at a table in a loud crowded restaurant, I heard the Lord. I knew this was the one God sent for me. However, that didn’t mean that there would not be challenges along the way. In fact, I think the fact that we dedicated our lives and marriage to the Lord from the start even before fully coming back to God painted a bright red target on our backs. Our love for each and desire for God kept us in the fight. I cannot expect a solid marriage to Jesus Christ if I do not take the time to get to know Him. To decide that He is the One for me. To see that sweetness of His Love and full potential of His Character in my life. Salvation is an invitation to intimacy. His Presence is offered to everyone but when you arrive it is a One-on-One experience just you and Jesus. It is private. It is personal. It is intimate. You must decide your level of commitment to this covenant offered to you by Jesus Christ. Are you willing to lay it all down to pick up your Cross and follow Him? A disciple does that. To be His Disciple is to know the Truth and let the Truth set you free.

We must worship is Spirit and in Truth. The Spirit is in us waiting to take the Word of God and work it through our life. The Word does not make sense without the Spirit and the Spirit has nothing to work with outside of the Word. To live by the Spirit and ignore the Word creates a double standard and you will soon be frustrated by a lack of results. To read the Word and ignore the Person of the Holy Spirit is to apply a principle without any power. It is like plugging a power cord into a dead outlet. It just won’t work. It must all a work together. God is three persons. Father, Son and Spirit. We need them all to successfully discover the Truth and allow it to become our freedom.

Hebrews 4:12-14 (NLT) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.

When satan tempted Eve in the Garden, he did not come at her with a bold-faced obvious lie but a deviation of the truth. It was subtle. Cunning. Seemed logical. The enemy is sneaky. He doesn’t knock us off course but entices us to settle or compromise just a little. He tries to refute God’s Word on the tiniest detail. The Word of God is alive. His Name is Jesus! He lives in us. His Grace is enough so even when we fall for the enemy’s lie – the Truth will come to save us and set us free. We need the Word of God to serve the Lord with passion. We know Jesus through the Word because He is the Word. Faith is not logical outside of the Word of God. So without it, we will never understand this life we live, what to believe, or how to share Good News yet to be discovered. We cannot hold firmly to what or more importantly who we believe until we know Him. We cannot know Him without the Spirit AND Truth. You will never know what He has done for you until you know what He has promised. You will not recognize hope that never leads to disappointment until deciding that faith is worth the investment of time and energy ready, studying and digesting the Word of God. This is how Biblical Knowledge becomes Spiritual Truth that is our belief system. You will never know what you have until You get to know WHO He is!

Know the Truth. The Truth will set you free. This world is limited by darkness, sin and evil. The Word allows us to overstep the natural into the supernatural – not when we die but now. In this life, you can live totally free according to God’s Word and His Kingdom. The enemy builds barriers and obstacles in our life out of deceptive lies and half-truths that rob us of God’s Greatest Blessings. It is like being held captive in an unlocked cell. If he can convince you not to try the door or even shake it a little, the enemy can rob you of the love, joy and peace found in the Word of God our resting place. He can keep us from the blessings, prosperity, abundance and increase that comes from sowing God’s Word, watering it, waiting for it and harvesting all of His Promises and Blessings for us. You have been given a gift far greater than you will ever know trying to recognize and receive in the limitations of human thinking. With God all things are possible to those who believe. Do you believe? What do you believe? The Word of God will show you what you believe now and what is possible when you put all your faith and trust in Jesus! Be free today! Grab your Bible. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you something new there! Pray a promise found in His Word. Tomorrow – do the same thing. The next day – yep repeat. In no time at all, you will see dead things coming to life – word by word, line by line and precept by glorious precept. Get in the Word. It will set you free!

I John 2:4-6 (NLT) If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

Love You More

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Romans 6:15-18 (NLT) Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

As I began reading God’s Word this morning, two words weighed heavily on my heart. “Free will.” God has given us a free will and truthfully not many people are quite sure what it means and how to use it. Can I get an “AMEN” from those who have fallen and failed along the way? Why is freedom a good thing when I have no idea how to use it properly or what to do with it on a regular basis? It feels like a loaded gun in the hand of a toddler sometimes. Paul sums it up in Romans 7, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” Every Christian wants to please God. Every believer sins. It is our human nature’s desperate attempt to remain alive as it is crucified daily with Christ. How do I move from sinning more to godly living more? You must love Him more.

God’s Grace set us free from the Law. The Law set forth as rules and regulations of righteousness that our sinful nature balked at and quickly rebelled against. It came with measures of sacrifice and offerings to repent and make concession for our inability to remain righteous. We still keep falling short so Jesus came and sacrificed His Life. The reward was our absolute and total freedom from sin. All we have to do is accept it according to His Grace. Jesus did not come to condemn people but to set them free. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. Our suspect mind wants to know what the catch is. The offer is simply too good to be true. Well friend, that’s the God I serve. He is always better than I deserve. Doing more than I think possible. Loving me more than I could ever fathom. I have been set free to discover the capacity of God’s Love.

The choice is made evident in God’s Word. We can choose to be slaves or Children of God. It seems so clear cut, if only it were that easy. We become slaves to that which we choose to obey. What do you respond to more frequently, flesh or spirit? What we respond to most is the driving force of our life – knowingly or unknowingly. We must understand this covenant entered with God when Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord. To see that the Law has been satisfied and love is all that matters. Truly love is the only thing that matters once a soul is set free. No strings attached. No new set of laws, rules or regulations no matter how convincing religion may seem. Our sin was great but His Love much greater. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus so now what? We must learn to love Him wholeheartedly…to love Him more.

John 10:9-10 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Jesus used the representation of a gate to illustrate our new life in Him. Those who enter through Him will be saved. Not can be, but will be! “They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” Whoa! Wait a minute. They will come and go freely. Jesus was clear if He set us free than we are free indeed. What about all the guidelines and restrictions? They are still their but the “penalty” that takes us captive has been paid in full. By His Grace, I am saved through faith not anything else. I just have to believe. Do you believe today? Do you believe that you are free from the penalty of sin in Jesus Christ? We must understand what freedom is. Because Jesus came into the world to set us free, so that we could make a choice – there is no condemnation in our Savior. People condemn, convict and judge. Jesus came with one thing in mind – freedom.

When Jesus left the wilderness at being tempted by the enemy, He went to the synagogue as He was accustomed to doing on the Sabbath. The scroll was handed to Him and He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. If we use our freedom to exchange one captivity for another – we remain slaves. If we use our freedom to love, we become God’s Children. The choice belongs to us because in Christ there is freedom. The power of that freedom is love. To accept the unconditional love of the Father as true and valid though we cannot see Him it is completely attained by faith. Just as my husband cannot show me the love in his heart by taking the beating, throbbing mass out of his chest to hand it to me – my beloved does so by daily attempting to show me that he loves me more… More than any other woman, more than any other person, more than any other thing, more than any other pursuit or passion in his life – his whole heart belongs to me. What if that is what our freedom is all about? That is our freedom. When I decide to love Jesus more than anything else, and live like it.

John 8:31-32 (NLT) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When Isaac was speaking his blessing over his son, Jacob, he said, “You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.” Jacob had tricked his brother stealing his birthright and blessing. Taking advantage of the bond of brotherhood to the point of bondage, he was forced to flee from Esau’s wrath. Isaac gave his son sound wisdom. “When you decide to break free…” Are you ready to experience freedom? The kind of freedom promised in God’s Word. We do not have to force the door open or wrestle against the chains that have us bound. We must simple desire to be truly free. Jesus did the rest. We are free to come and go through the gate. We must only believe in Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd. (John 10:14-16) We choose to follow Him or stray away. Those who choose to walk with Him benefit from His Care and Protection. If we choose our own way, much like Jacob, we also decide when we will break free from the oppressive yoke of sin and shame.”

I Corinthians 1:7-9 (NLT) Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s Plan for our life is good containing a future and hope that is not defined by my goodness or ability to live a sinless life. It is secure in my decision to live by faith and to trust Him more and more as I pursue Jesus wholeheartedly. It is giving Him my love without coercion but a strong desire and commitment to know the Lover of my soul and love Him more. More than sin. More than this world. More than my rights. More than my pride. More than promotions. More than anything else. When I use my freedom to love Jesus and others – I will enjoy every spiritual blessing and the rich satisfying life that He promised. Love makes avoiding sin reasonable because we are not in bondage to our flesh. Our love for Jesus makes it possible. I am satisfied with my marriage. I am content with my husband’s love. It makes me want to honor him, respect him and love him more. How much more does this apply to Jesus?

What is your struggle today? Is it a person? Is it a recurring temptation that always leads to a bad choice? Is it disappointment? Is it lost hope? Is it pride? We all have daily struggles, temptations and tests to endure. God wants us to know how much He loves us. He has set us free by showing us far greater love so that we would learn to love Him more than all those other things in life. The Holy Spirit woos us with the choice fruit of righteousness so that it feeds our spirit along the way with things like love, joy, and peace that cannot be found in this life but well up in us from the inside. He prospers our soul which was once headed for death with new life day by day, season by season, until we reach the end and step into forever with Jesus. I have to believe that God’s Love is greater for me than that which I currently show love, affection and attention to more. The thing that compromises my love and trust in Jesus is that which is robbing me of my blessing. The Lord withholds no good thing from us. Our inability to accept, live in and thrive in freedom keeps blessings and promises just out of reach. Jesus loves us more. When the first priority of our life is to love Him more – those dreams and desires will become attainable by faith and confident hope in His Great Love.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NLT) Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.

For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son. True love gives it’s all. Withholding nothing. All of me for all of you. We cannot be one with the Lord if we do not commit all of our love, faith and hope to Him in exchange for all that He is. His Love seals our heart to His Own Heart. Love is freedom to choose who we love and how it is expressed. I want my husband to know that I love him more. I want my children to know I love them more. I want my friends and church to know I love them, too. But does Jesus know that I love Him more… that is the secret of success as a believer. When I love Jesus more than sin, I will stop doing those things I do not want to do. When I have experienced God’s Love testing all of its parameters it is clear that it never runs out for me. I cannot overstep it, outlast it, or move far away from it. It is pursuing me. Unfailing love that I am incapable of but am offered every day with the new mercy when it arrives. Nothing can separate me from God’s Love other than my decision to reject it. Even in bad choices, God’s Love remains, His Grace sufficient and His Power available to me. I cannot shake off, sin way or kill God’s Love for me. How about my love for Him? Do I love Jesus more today? It is the very thing that empowers our choice called freedom. When we use our freedom to love Him more, we will have the rich and satisfying that the Lord has purposed for us!

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Mercy Triumphs

mercy-triumphs-over-judgment

Lamentations 3:22-26 (NLT) The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

“You delight in showing mercy…Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Mercy by Bethel Music has been set on replay the last few days. God delights in showing us mercy so much so that He gives us new mercy and a fresh start every day without fail. The next verse yields the secret to God’s Mercy. “My past embraced…My sin forgiven.” The certainty of God’s Grace is full acceptance of His Mercy. To wake each morning believing that His Grace is enough for you releases everyone and everything from your expectation. It means that all the wrongs, hurts, offenses and failures of the day before fall off in waves of grace as His New Mercy covers us. “I’m blameless in Your Sight…My history rewritten.” Do you believe that God’s Grace is enough for you today? I am challenged daily with pride that tells me I deserve better than how I am treated and that I have earned more than I have. Faith must overcome such rebellious thoughts to be reminded with each new day and His Gift of Mercy that Jesus is all that I need to share His Mercy with others.

Do you delight in showing mercy? What is your response to hurt, rejection, or offense? Is it immediate forgiveness? Yeah, me either. If you feel left out, slighted or ignored? Do you press in or move away? If you become angry, do you lash out? Do you fight for what is yours? Does love mean more than being right? See God is love and He is filled with unfailing love and compassion for people. Are you? Am I? God’s Faithfulness is enough to complete our life and bring us into full completion and absolute satisfaction. This requires putting all of our expectation in Christ alone. Releasing others from fulfilling our wants, needs and desires. Placing our complete and absolute total trust in Jesus Christ believing that His Grace is sufficient for me.

What is mercy? Mercy is compassionate and kind forbearance shown toward an offender or enemy. It is to maintain a disposition of loving forgiveness. It is also the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone. God’s Mercy is kindness, compassion and favor. The very qualities that people desire but are often reluctant to give. Feelings and emotions are powerful driving forces in people that will take years of learning to lean on, trust in and depend on the Lord to overcome. The human heart is held together by soul ties. Connections that must be cut and grafted into Jesus Christ (the Vine) in order to overcome to be free to love and be loved. God’s Love is unconditional. To live in His Love our love must reflect His Love. This is full acceptance of Grace when it is enough so we can give it to others..

Lamentations 3:17-21 (NLT) Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this…

Many who read this will immediately have an image in their head of the event or trauma in life that left a mark so deep that a scar has formed on your heart. For some, there is only a festering wound. Constantly poked and prodded by the enemy who uses people as his pawns, whispering lies like “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” to cause division, strife, and bitterness. Has your peace been stripped away? Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Have you been in living in a “barren, dry” land? Nothing is going right, nobody can help, and misery accompanies you day and night? He is our Provider. He is the Bread of Life. Jesus is Living Water for thirsty souls. Do you feel like everything you hoped for is lost and every dream dead in a valley of dry bones? Hope is the anchor for our soul. It keeps us trusting and believing when everything falls apart in our life. Without hope, there is nothing to have faith in anymore. Have you decided that you will “never” forget this awful time? Does it feel that your life will be forever marked by sadness, grief and sorrow? “Yet I dare to hope when I remember this…” Mercy triumphs over judgement. Those things that you have ordained as dead, gone and impossible – hope says that His Mercy is new each morning. His Grace is sufficient for us. We must learn to live in grace that allows us to live, breathe and hope in His Mercy for us.

John 3:16-18 (NLT) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

Mercy triumphed over judgment when Jesus Christ came to this world. He died to pay the price for our sins giving us our freedom to enter right-standing with God the Father again. We can do nothing to regain righteousness except accept His Gift of Amazing Grace. Jesus came to give us mercy not judgment. This is so important to know and understand to grow in our relationship with the Lord. You cannot have mercy and judgment at the same time. They are opposites. If I accept God’s Grace, I am giving up my right to judge other people. This includes the “right” to be offended, mad, bitter, jealous, retaliate or reject others due to their actions or attitude. Forgiveness is not option to those who desire to be redeemed by God.

Sowing and reaping includes our actions and attitudes toward others. If we sow love in our life, it will be our harvest. If we sow judgment which means demanding what is deserved, it will be the dismal future of our next season. What you give – you will receive because what you plant you also harvest? With this in mind…

John 8:15 (NLT) You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone.

Jesus judges no one. He said it right here. God judges people. Those who are covered in the Blood of Jesus accepting His Grace will have mercy. Jesus is our example. I cannot judge others and be one with Christ. So now when given the opportunity to be hurt, mad, resentful and bitter…these words rise up in me…”mercy triumphs over judgment.” “And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” (Romans 2:16)

James 2:12-14 (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. What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

The “Law” that sets us free is God’s Grace. To fully accept God’s Grace is to let go of our right to judge other people. I could not and still cannot keep all of the rules and regulations of God’s Law, therefore; His Grace must be sufficient for me. The minute that I choose to judge another person as unworthy of mercy is the very moment that I exempt myself from it as well. I need God’s Grace to make it into forever with the Lord. I cannot imagine this being all there is to life. My faith is investing in faith. Faith though small it is mighty. It allows me to plant things in others that they are not willing to give me because they are not the source of my life or satisfaction. When I put my full expectation in Jesus – it really doesn’t matter what others think of me or how they treat me because if I will just give them the mercy that I have God’s Promises are mine. I will be complete lacking no good thing. I will have the Mind of Christ and peace that goes with it. I will remain free indeed because I will be one with Jesus. No man or woman can do for you what Jesus did for you and continue to does for you each day. His Love is perfect. His Grace is flawless. His Favor is abundant. Why settle for less by being unforgiving, unrelenting and unmerciful when you already have more than enough and full sufficiency in His Grace! Jesus will satisfy the soul that cuts the ties to human emotions and rights to be right or revered.

Faith is not only the acceptance of God’s Grace but administration of mercy, love, compassion and favor to others as you have received from the Lord. Judgment is to withhold any of these because you feel the other unworthy. Submission to Jesus means surrendering our mind, will and emotions to a God who is greater than our feelings. He is giving us new mercy today! Mercy triumphs, wins, overcomes and removes judgement from our life. What will you do to preserve God’s Grace and give mercy in your life today? What are you willing to give up? Forget? Forgive? His Mercy will meet you the moment you let go!

Mercy (Bethel Music)

I will wake and spent my days…Loving the One who has raised me up…From death to life, from wrong to right…You’re making all things beautiful. You delight in showing mercy…mercy triumphs over judgment.

2 John 3 (NLT) Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.

The Undoing

Onion.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

I seldom use onions in recipes but when I do I handle them with care. Peeling off the paper-like covering, to reveal the pearly white surface releases the distinct odor of the onion. However, once you cut into it – the onion fights back as oils are released into the air that irritate our eyes producing seemingly endless tears. A trick to eliminate the tears is to cut the onion under running water. This causes the oils to be rinsed away and keep them from reaching the tear duct. Fancy trick I learned from my grandmother. You can learn a lot from grown folks. You can learn a lot about life in Christ from an onion, too.

Salvation is only the beginning of discovering our newfound freedom in Christ. Redemption is to take full advantage of the gift given to us by the Grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christianity and the pursuit of Christ also will produce many tears in our life. As the Lord peels back the layers of sin, shame, regret, guilt and stinking thinking, the aroma and stench of death leaving us to make room for new life, new hope, and new freedom causes tears to be released. Our life is going to produce an aroma of some kind. Will it be a fragrant sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving while claiming God’s Gift or will it be the continued stench of rotting flesh taking over again? It really is up to you and me what kind of life that is produced after coming to Jesus inviting Him to be our Savior. It is in His Lordship that a whole new existence is possible free from the chains, bondage and slavery of this life to claim freedom.

John 8:36 (NLT) So if the Son set you free – you are truly free.

Do you feel free today? Are you singing a freedom song? There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ so who the Son sets free is free indeed. The word condemnation means to pronounce guilt. It is an unfavorable or adverse judgment. It means to pronounce unfit for use or service. To force. It is to declare incurable. None of these qualities exist in the character of Christ concerning you. He is intent on freeing you from every thought, suspicion or notion that you are bound, hindered or restricted in any way, shape or form. He says that you are free…completely free…totally free. You are free to win. Free to live. Free to prosper. Free to grow. Free to love. You have absolute and complete freedom in Jesus Christ. You own Him nothing. He gave you everything. So why the long face and heavy heart today?

Christians do not experience freedom because they cannot accept the free gift of God’s Grace completely. There must be a catch. So like a prisoner who has been imprisoned far too long, the door is unlocked but they will not reach out their weary, tired, oppressed and fearful arm to open it and walk out. Jesus has set you free today. Free from sin, worry, despair, self-loathing, religion, and more You are free indeed to do as you please with this new life you have been given. What will you use your freedom for today?

Life is like an onion covered in many layers. I am like an onion who as I have grown older in life taken on many layers that do not necessarily belong to me in Jesus Christ. I wear them proudly and hold them tightly. When the Lord comes to make something beautiful out of my life, I refuse to let go of the known to take a faithful chance on the future. What lies just beneath the surface of me that He is trying to get to? We do not like brokenness and fear the cut of pruning. It produces many tears in our life. But I know a trick that I want to share with you (again) that my grandmother shared with me…you gotta run it under the water!

Romans 8:26-30 (NLT) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

The Holy Spirit is our partner when it comes to attaining the freedom offered in Jesus Christ. We need His Help. This is way too complex and comprehensive for my finite thinking and limitations of the human mind. I need His Wisdom and Guidance to wash over me and renew me as I endure the process of change from death to new life. As the Word cuts to the core of my heart, pruning out sin, eradicating the flesh that keeps me from growing, it is His Spirit that washes my wounds, heals my heart, nourishes my soul and nurtures my growth. The Holy Spirit is water the water that keeps me in those times when I don’t feel free or try to shut myself up captive in fear, doubt and worry again.

The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and waters me with it. My family is not too big on raw onions. So often when I cook, I use the dried minced onions from the spice aisle instead. This is very convenient but not as flavorful. It lends some of the taste to a recipe but not the full flavor of a freshly cut onion. Now if you take a raw onion and cook it, something changes. The flavor changes and becomes sweeter as the texture softens. This takes longer than just grabbing an onion and cutting it up. We give food time to cook but refuse to give any credence to God’s Timing and Preparation when it comes to us. The onion is only one ingredient in the recipe. Brokenness is only a part of the process. With patience and time, the onion is going to work with all the other flavors to produce a delicious dinner.

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose. His Purpose. His Recipe. His Design. This means that you are only seeing a small part of a huge picture. You are in a single step of a perfect process. Do not judge your future or forever by the tough situation, hard time or heart break you are going through right now. It is part of a beautiful masterpiece that the Lord has designed your life to be. “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image.” (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

Colossians 3:10-14 (NLT) Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. Any part of our life lived in bondage is not of God or His Son or His Spirit. Sin doesn’t condemn us anymore. Sin happens so repentance is given so grace may be applied. Those who love the Lord will try not to sin. Love is the best motivator for repentance. Change comes more easily surrounded in purpose. It is my passion and pursuit to live in the Kingdom of God. I live in Florida. If I get in my car intent on traveling to Canada, I must go north. If I go south, I will fall into the ocean. If I go east or west the same thing will happen. My vehicle is faith. Faith is the title deed to hope that is the Kingdom of God. I must head in that direction if it is my chosen destination. With that being said, religion often adds extra layers of “things” I must do and rules to follow. My relationship with Jesus Christ is not dependent on religion or anything or anyone else. My relationship is intimate and personal. I am committed to Jesus Christ so I strive to be close to Him. To come closer means certain layers of my life have to go. Those things can hurt and produce many tears but it is full assumption of my freedom to undergo the transformation. Beauty is pain. I believe it. Letting go of how life defines me to grab hold of my destiny.

True freedom is to fully assume your new nature. To be renewed body, mind and spirit to become like Christ. It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to because it is all about our relationship with Jesus that matters. God chose to love me. It is my privilege to remove the layers of life and take on the splendor of His Kingdom. To be clothed in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. To form strong bonds and build relationships with my brothers and sisters. To forgive and off the grace that I have so generously been given. To love and love some more. The freedom that I have is found in His Love. As I discover just how “wide, long, high and deep” His Love really is, it is then that I am able to see just how free I really am.

It is hard to remember in the midst of hurt, hardship and trials that our life is part of something bigger than what we see, know and experience every day. It is also difficult to fully understand and therefore accept that God’s Love is completely unconditional and His Grace never ending. It is with this in mind that I am reminded today I am free. I have been freed from sin, shame, guilt, and every other kind of bondage that exists in the world today. I am a soul set free in the One I love. I am destined to be part of something much bigger. To fulfill my position will be my complete undoing as God peels back the layers that keep me from fulfillment and becoming exactly who He created me to be. Brokenness will come. Tears will fall. It will be my undoing. But it will be worth it – it will be worth it all!

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT) Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

True Reconciliation

true-reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Probably one of the most difficult things to achieve among people is reconciliation. In this day and age, most people don’t reconcile their own bank account let alone anything else in their natural life so to consider spiritual reconciliation is out of the question. As believers, if we do not learn to reconcile our life first to Jesus Christ and then with other people, we miss the point of Kingdom building altogether. Christians and followers of Jesus are called to be the Body of Christ. To reconcile is to bring into agreement or harmony. It means to make compatible and consistent. Reconciliation is to reconsecrate our life to Jesus Christ and build relationships according to that connection. Our expectation is then removed from other people and placed fully in the Lord. Whatever we give to others is from the endless and limitless supply that Christ gives us. But how do we get there from here…

True reconciliation is only possible as the next step after true repentance. Put on your waders people because this is about to get deep. We are called to become a new creation in Jesus Christ. New creation. Not a fancy remodel. Not a Band-Aid fix. No weekend makeover. One or two trips to the altar does not instantly produce new attitudes, actions, thoughts or intentions. Salvation is a process. We must work it out inside of us to share it with the world. The trouble is the human component of pride that will not allow our heart and mind to be fully transformed by God. His Ways are not our ways and His Thoughts are not like ours. The idea of surrender is not acceptable to our flesh. We don’t really want to be crucified with Christ. We want to walk with Him. Talk with Him. Even dine with Him in precious communion but when it comes to laying our whole life down for His Cause – it is a quick no thank you followed by a frigid plunge into denial. Religion makes us feel good about ourselves and what Christ is doing in us. Relationships make us feel good about other people and what Christ do within us together. How do I stop evaluating myself and others from a human point of view? After all I am only human. Oh how I loathe it when people confess this over their life. Just as much as, I am what I am. Stop limiting the potential of your life by remaining human, reconcile your life to Jesus Christ, put all your faith in Him, put all your trust in Him, surrender your whole life to the Lord and let Him make you into a new creation.

Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT) My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

“The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  You cannot step into a new place without leaving the old place. It requires an exchange of where you are for where you are going. You cannot live in the past and step into the future. Time will pass but nothing will ever change. To be crucified with Christ means that I lay down my old life for a brand new one. No longer living by the same set of standards, I accept God’s Glorious Standard which now belongs to me in Christ. Now I must daily examine my life for those things that do not “reconcile” with what God has promised me according to the New Covenant handed to me when I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” How is that even possible? To be alive in our body yet dead to ourselves. Welcome to the plight of all mankind? We must die to our flesh and live by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God in us. He is our Helper. He is our Advocate. Our Teacher who guides us and instructs us along the way. So how am I reconciled to Christ exactly? The Christ in me is greater than any other force in the world around us. He is the Sovereign Living God in us who has all power and authority in Heaven and earth. I have a free will. I can call Jesus my Savior in Name only but until I call Him Lord and surrender my life – I cannot be reconciled or called a new creation.

Matthew 9:19-21 (NLT) So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

Everyone has issues. Everyone has problems. Everyone has hang ups. Everyone sins. You can dress it up. Clean it up. Pretend. But the truth is that every moment of every day every single one of us need Jesus Christ completely. The woman who bled for 12 years. She sought help from doctors. She expected comfort from her friends. She was shunned by religion. Twelve years of disappointment, hurt and isolation that finally led to desperation. She was desperate for change. She was focused on deliverance. She had heard of Jesus. She saw a glimmer of hope. As her desperation grew she would make one final attempt. The crowd was packed. The road was narrow. The way was blocked. She lunged for the hem of his garment just as Peter did when the waves and wind wrecked his faith. In that instant, the glorious and marvelous moment, she was healed. Set free. Delivered of pain and shame just because she reached out to touch Him. In that second, her body became reconciled to Christ and started working properly again. Her heart took a long time to decide. Twelve years of reconciling her trust to others. She took it back and handed it to Jesus. She was complete.

Jesus can only heal those who admit that they are hurting. The man with the withered hand had to reach out to receive restoration just like the woman who touched the hem of his robe. Are you reaching out today? Or are you still trying to fix it, resolve it or heal it yourself? Afraid of disappointment or worse devastation? Our faith is not worth anything outside of Jesus Christ. If we reaching within for solutions rather than crying out and reaching out – restoration is not possible.

Jesus can only comfort those who are broken. He is close to the brokenhearted. Hearts filled with pride and surrounded by unforgiveness are uninhabitable by the Holy Spirit. Sadly, fear and anxiety make people who live in such strongholds feel safe and secure. Pride bolsters their confidence with the lie that this is a godly position rather than a horrible compromise. We must let our walls be broken down and live openly. Forgiveness is essential to spiritual freedom. It is trusting Jesus to guard our heart, keep us safe, and restore our brokenness with hope that never leads to disappointment.

Jesus can only satisfy those who are empty. We cannot be full of our self and full of His Spirit. The two are like oil and water. They conflict. If what we are doing does not stem from our heart but our hands it is hard to be fulfilled in Christ. Every good thing comes from the Father. It is looking for a place to fill or void to replace. I must lay down my life on earth to inherit the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not something that I can see but must experience. If God’s Glory is not filling my life, it means that I have not given Him room to move or a space to fill.

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 cannot be an effective minister or ambassador for Christ if I do not submit my weaknesses to Him every single day. I cannot be an effective messenger unless I am willing to share my inabilities with other and point to Christ for the change that people see. We do not glory in our transgressions but to paint a perfect picture is a lie. No one can live up to that. Church is for the hurting, broken and those desperate to reconcile their life to Jesus Christ. For when I am weak, I am strong. God never called me to be the strong one. I am just to have faith. Not a bucket of faith, but a teeny tiny mustard seed because let’s face it that is really all we can muster. It is my total inadequacy to save myself and redeem my life that I am made into a new creation. It is not my ability to serve God with my hands but in full surrender of my heart.

John 15:5-9 (NLT) “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.”

True reconciliation with Jesus Christ is an act of surrender. To maintain the constant conviction that apart from Jesus Christ I can do nothing. It’s true. Apart from Him, you can do nothing of worth just random acts of kindness and some generosity. I cannot save a single life, fill an empty void or offer anything of worth outside of Christ in me. If I construct a wall of pride to protect me or a fence of offense to secure my feelings, there is nothing of worth that God can do through me because Christ cannot move in my life. He is with you. He will sit behind that wall with you as long as you want. He will never leave you or forsake you. But if the Glory of God is not manifested all around you – lives changed, people healed, strongholds broken and chains falling as revival breaks out – it might not be a God thing…it might be a you thing or a me thing.

True reconciliation with Jesus Christ means reconciliation with the Body of Christ. God desires that all of humanity to be saved even though He knows full well it is not going to happen. Jesus tells us to “remain in His Love.” His Love is farther, deeper, wider and longer than our human comprehension can ever conceive let alone experience. His Love is big enough for everyone. How big is your love today? If it is your own heart, emotions and feelings, it will only be big enough for the first hurt, insult or let down. It is in Jesus Christ that we can tap into unconditional love and never-ending grace that we as human beings are incapable of.

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

Pride keeps us from renewal and restoration in Jesus Christ. Self-preservation tells us to hold on so we don’t fall apart. The truth is if we do not fall apart and had all those pieces to Jesus Christ there is nothing for Him to work with. He will not take our life from us. We must be willing to lay our life down for Him. Jesus Christ invites us to think about all the possibilities of heaven not the things of this earth. If you are willing to die to this life including all the drama, emotions, feelings, hurts, injustices, unfairness and let Him flood those empty spaces – the Lord will fill  your life with every good and gracious blessing that Heaven has to offer. It belongs to you. True reconciliation is giving up less to acquire Heaven’s All. You are worth it. You may not feel like it. You may even doubt it. The work of Jesus Christ on the Cross says differently. You are worth it all. All of Jesus. Why not give Him your all today? Every disappointment, hurt, shortcoming, downfall, broken piece, letdown, all of it. His Hope never leads to disappointment instead He will fill you up! True repentance must be followed by true reconciliation to seal the deal. Hold tightly to your promise of new life today.

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

 

Stand Firm

Stand Firm

I Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV) Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

One’s natural inclination is to fight for a belief. To stand guard against our principles. Standing firm in one’s faith becomes a battle stance towards opposition. To be courageous is not an exterior hardness but an internal softness difficult to comprehend. Strength is not intestinal fortitude or something physically acquired. The Power of God begins and ends for us as human beings in one place. God loves us. He loves us unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what we do or how far we wander, the moment of repentance and turning back – the Lord is always right there waiting. It is our inability to fully accept the extravagance of free grace that keeps us fighting for a faith already given to us from the start.

Romans 12:3 reminds us that humility is in order “in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” God gave me my faith. I didn’t think it, create it, or earn it in any way, shape or form but rather simply accept it from the Hand and Heart of God. He fills my heart with Eternity giving me the desire to seek Him and find Him to be in that place. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) The Lord promises to make everything beautiful in His Time. Faith is the birthplace of miracles, meeting place for promises, and the platform on which we wait for the Lord because of confident hope that He will come. Could it be that we grow tired of waiting on God and standing firm in our faith because we fight for what is already our own?

Last month, our family purchased a new home. We have now bought three homes which serving the Lord and each time it is the same. We know when we find it that it is what the Lord has for us. I can’t tell you how I know, just that we do and so go through all the steps to attain that which is ours in Jesus Christ. Side note: every decision in life may be subject to God through prayer. It is up to us what we take boldly to the Throne Room of God called His Presence in our prayer room each day. God has a detailed and well-ordered plan for our life including every single detail therefore nothing is considered insignificant to the Lord. We were given a day and time to meet to close the deal. Sitting across the table from the homeowner, we took possess of the property. We signed the bank contracts assuming financial responsibility as the previous owners released the title and deed to us. They handed us the keys and garage door opener giving us last minute pointers about the neighborhood, people and various household items. We shook hands and left the office. We owned our new property. It belonged to us. We did not have to gather weapons and make a battle plan but simply pulled the huge truck with the contents of our life, open the door with the keys provided to us, and step in to our brand new home and life. The house was vacant and ready for our occupation. We only had to claim what belonged to us. What are you fighting for today that already belongs to you? I am asking myself the very same thing. Are there things in my life that require only standing in faith on His Promise, but instead I am expending a whole lot of energy trying to make it mine today? Am I fighting those things already apprehended? The enemy is defeated. I have the Keys to the Kingdom. The devil cannot “make me” do anything that I do not want to do because I am filled with God’s Spirit. Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. I am more than a conqueror if I can only stand firm.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV) 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. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19) Do you believe this statement? Though we know that God is not human, it is natural for us to give him human traits, qualities and characteristics that are not true. When the Lord gives us a promise, the answer is “yes” already but the part that gets us is the waiting. It is the standing issue between God and His People that we must overcome. We you continue to stand past the point of impossibility. The moment that what you were promised and that which you hope for becomes completely incomprehensible and totally impossible naturally.

I have taken many “stands” and fallen from my “watchtower” more times than I can count. It took a life or death matter to finally make me persevere to the end. It took losing it all to find what really matters in life. Why such drastic measures? Probably because we lack the determination and dedication as human beings driven by comfort and immediate gratification the ability to stand firm until the end. The Lord uses our life and His Promises to teach us to wait and watch for Him. He uses these opportunities to fortify our faith in His Foundation for our life. His Grace allows us the strength needed to get back up after stumbling or tumbling in life. He is teaching us patience. We are learning persistence, passion and perseverance in our pursuit of Christ even though it feels like temporary trails or temptations, it can have a lasting impact.

Luke 21:19 (NIV) Stand firm and you will win life.

I have seen competitions where people must stand with their hand on a car. The last one standing wins the automobile. They will endure harsh weather conditions, taunts of other contestants, overcome the temptation to quit, and even endure physical pain to win a brand new car. I have seen this same competition for other prizes. People will undergo public humiliation for “things”. What will we do to win “life”? How far will we go to enter Eternity? Matthew 13:13 warns that “everyone will hate you (me) because of me (Jesus)but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” My life is worth nothing if at the end of it, I do not find Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 6:13-18 (NIV) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

For three long years, our son battled cancer. He would have clear scans and a few weeks later cancer would creep back on the screen. All his life, as his mom, I was his nurse on call. I took care of all the bumps, bruises and occasional hurt feelings. But when the diagnosis was cancer, everything changed. I was powerless. As the stages crept up the scale, doctors, nurses and even friends and family began to lose hope. When the medical team finally did have a plan, even though a long shot, it would require months of fighting just for him to have the chance. It literally came down to the promise that God had given me the very first night as the reality and gravity set in. I ran right into His Presence demanding a response. God gave me a promise. “Trust me. Your son will live and not die to declare my works.” When the only thing you have to hold on to is God’s Promise is it enough for you to stand on? This is what it means to stand firm never lifting a finger but only to praise.

“Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” It says absolutely nothing about fighting for your faith but to simply “stand your ground”. Let’s look at our armor again as a method of defense rather than offense. With the belt of truth buckled around your waist. The Truth or God’s Word is that which keeps us standing every time. It is the foundation of our life in Christ. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. He holds us up as His Word keeps us upright. The Breastplate of Righteousness covers our heart. It keeps sin away from our heart so we can love the Lord wholeheartedly. Right standing with God keeps us where we need to be in the safety of close proximity to Christ. Following Jesus keeps our feet shod in peace. We are at peace with the Lord so we can live at peace with others. Our expectations are met. With a satisfied soul, we can walk this life out in love rather than competition and expectation for lesser things. We must hold tight to the shield of faith which blocks every single lie and snare that the enemy lies before us to trick us, distract us and dissuade us from following Jesus wholeheartedly. If the enemy has part of our heart, he has all of it. The helmet of salvation protects our mind. It is confidence in the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ and His Work on the Cross. We are given the Mind of Christ and I believe this is the same thing. If we think like Jesus, we will act like Him. Finally the Sword of the Spirit, which is our only weapon and defense in this whole armor. Verse 18 tells us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” You can never pray enough as you stand firmly for the Lord. It is probably safe to say that if you do not pray you will not stand. All of these vital components are provided so that you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand!

Galatian 5:1 (NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Standing firm will always require waiting. While we wait, it is easy to get wrapped up in doing to take our mind off things. It is the assumption that we must “do” something to make God move for us or in us that is the most dangerous lie the enemy has every told. We cannot add to or take from the Work of God or that which Jesus performed on the Cross. Salvation is complete without me and absolutely free to me. I cannot earn it. I cannot repay Christ. I can only acknowledge Him by standing firm until the end. Those who endure will be saved. What can I do? Is there anything that I am obligated to do for Christ? Yes…just one thing.

I Corinthians 16:14 (NIV) Do everything in love.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) Standing firm will always have but one requirement. We must demonstrate His Love in everything we do. Everything. All-inclusive never exclusive – we must love one another. Hold each other up. Build one another up. Encourage each other. Reach out to one another. To form relationships with those attempting to stand firm, too. It can be a lonely venture. The only debt that we have in life is to love. Love like Jesus. Fulfill the Great Commission. Love one another. To love extravagantly, forgivingly, and unconditionally just like Jesus. That’s it.

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV) So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Have you been thinking on stepping down? Is the Lord just taking a little too long? Do you doubt His Word to you? Are you experiencing opposition? Can I encourage you today? Stand firm. Do not back down, but you don’t have to keep swinging either. The battle is the Lord’s and He is fighting for you today. Surrender to Jesus. Submit to His Will. Stand firm and immovable on His Promise and remain in His Word. He is indeed working on your behalf. You are free to wait until He is down. Jesus promises that you will be complete lacking nothing. It will be worth it. Not a moment is every wasted waiting on the Lord. Stand firm, my friend, stand firm.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV) I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Faithful Finish

Faithful Finish

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

I am certain that God who began a good work in me will continue to work until it is finally finished. When will it be finished, Lord? Will it ever get easier? I do not believe that finishing the race of faith or any race is ever easy…if your intention is to win that is. To run the race intentionally with your eye on the prize for the one who finishes well impacts our commitment to running first and then winning second. Today will be the final Pure Devotion installment from the place it all began. The home in which the Lord laid it on my heart seven years ago to seek Him wholeheartedly in His Word and generate this daily communication in an effort to encourage others to hear the Voice of God. I had no agenda other than to believe that it was what God wanted me to do.

When I moved into this house, I told myself this was it and I was never moving again. Never say never. I have made the same declaration many times while preparing for this transition. I am exhausted. My body aches all over from a week of pushing past my physical limits. Just like this blog, I know that the Lord has divinely destined us to make this change and I am excited. However, it will take a lot of endurance to push myself over the finish line today. By the end of today, all of our belongings including kids and animals will be in a moving truck waiting until we buy our new house tomorrow morning. Looking ahead from the desk chair this morning, I have no idea how we will achieve the monumental task. It’s push time.

What are you believing God for today? Do you have an unmet expectation? Is there something that He has promised you that has not come to pass? Have you considered giving up? Well good, that means you are about to make it to the end. Every twist of fate and turn of faith will lead us to the end of self. The place where our only hope is the Lord so we turn pressing into His Presence once more. Reassure me of Your Word, Lord. Restore my depleted faith, Jesus. Renew my confident hope and blessed assurance that Your Word is true. Your Will prevails. Your Way is achievable.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NLT) Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.

Finishing has been on my mind a lot lately. With one more drawer to empty and cabinet to clear, it seems like the process of transition is forever. To move from one place to another is exciting until it is time to actually do something about it. The moment that excitement becomes work and anticipation produces personal responsibility, it forces you to evaluate that thing desired to make sure it is work the cost. A thousand times over, I have wanted to throw in the towel and quit. Life doesn’t stop because you are pressing on, it pushes back. It is better to finish than to start. Finishing is the fruit of endurance. It is the ticket into the race that leads to forever. Freedom does not mandate participation but rather offers us all the choice to live for this day or to live for forever. One’s ability to finish produces patience which are always better than pride.

Luke 5:3-9 (NLT) Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.

Jesus stepped into Simon Peter’s boat. I wonder if this the same boat that Peter stepped out of by faith to walk on the water with the Lord. Is this the place from where he ventured out on the wind and waves to follow Jesus? Could be… At any rate, Jesus got on board and began to tell the men what to do. Jesus was born into a carpenter’s family. He was not a fisherman by profession. Nevertheless when Jesus came aboard, He immediately began instructing the fisherman how to fish. Where to find abundance. How to prosper. The men had but one choice – trust and obey God for the promise or remain in the same condition as when they began their journey. Peter obeyed and cast his nets exactly where Jesus indicated and what happened? Abundance. Such an abundance of fish that the nets were began to tear.

Peter is like most of us when presented with a heavenly option. We tend to tell the Lord why it is illogical or impossible never considering that is exactly why He is doing it. To increase our faith and bring His Glory into the world. Endurance is when we take one more step. Do it one more time. Wait one more hour. Finishing will always take us one step further from our comfort zone. It will cause us to do it one more time even though it seems futile. Finishing requires waiting always and without exception.

Psalm 119:86-88 (NLT) All your commands are trustworthy. Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause. They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon your commandments. In your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey your laws.

I believe finishing is summed up in the statement, “I refused to abandon Your Commandments.” Jesus is the Word of God in flesh. He is the first finisher thereby which all other victories are secured. (John 19:30) He came to the world and died for my sin so that I could be made righteous again. (Romans 1:16-17) It tells me in Revelation that the Lord will declare once again that it is finished.

Revelation 21:5-7 (NLT) And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

I think if we could see the race of faith as a marathon rather than sprint, it might be a little easier to understand when things do not turn out exactly as planned, bad things happen to good people, or even in our wanderings. The Lord leads us into the wildernesses of life to teach us to love, trust and depend on Him more than ever before. The finish line of faith is forever with the Lord so it is important that we see victory for what it can be here on earth versus what it will be in Heaven. I have found that most often when it comes to earthly victory that no one runs across the finish line with their hands in the air shouting, “We are the champions.” It is usually a crawl, outstretched arm, and one hand that defines my finishing. We are after live everlasting. He promises it will come. We just cannot give up and learn to endure until we meet Him on that day.

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. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

The only good and perfect thing in our life is Jesus Christ. It is in Him and through the Lord that righteousness opens the windows of Heaven to produce abundance in our life. We must be careful not to stop or slack off in the good and easy times but continue to diligently train for the championship that is coming. Each race shows us how far reaching our faith may or may not be giving me the opportunity to muster up some more and try again. Grace is enough to continually pick us up and get us on our way again. His Plan is perfect for us but doesn’t always feel right at the time. We have His Word to go on and depend on. Those who do will never be driven to disappointment but find the Light of His Love producing His Glory in the good times and bad times of life. He makes good on His Promise to produce good in every detail of our life. He will perfect that which concerns us.

I challenge you today to think about what you may have started or even thought about doing last year for Jesus. Why didn’t you do it? What if the abundance and prosperity you have been praying diligently for is in that next move? What if the famine in your life is simple disobedience righted in repentance? What is that thing that the Lord is pressing us to do to but the change is frightening? Yes, that thing. It’s time to finish the Good Work that God has begun in you and me.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Today my body is tired. My mind racing. My heart pounding. I am exhausted beyond anything I can remember. Yet, my soul prospers in the Lord. His Faithfulness is overwhelming even when I am overwhelmed. His Goodness that Greatness that I enjoy day by day. I have crawled across many finish lines in life and I am quite certain that there will be many more. I know that through the years more faith has accompanied every finish even when I crawled. With that in mind, I will forge through today again by faith. Telling my mind to hush. My body to rest. My heart to slow down. I will endure for I know that each time I persevere a promise is produced. God is good all the time. He speaks to us every single day. Maybe you just need to move in a little closer to hear.

Jude 1:24-25 (NLT)  Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

Falling Chains

Falling Chains

Psalm 107:13-16 (NLT) “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; He snapped their chains. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things He has done for them. For He broke down their prison gates of bronze; He cut apart their bars of iron.

There is power in the Name of Jesus to break every chain. Do you believe it today? I do. Yet why do so many people remain in bondage after receiving salvation through Jesus Christ? Do not be so quick to judge them. There are layers to bondage in our soul as it accumulates over time. Grace begins to move in us as God works out His Salvation in us according to His Will and Divine Purpose for our life. I have eaten a lot of my own words of harsh ridicule of others once I discovered just how close I am to falling or failing the Lord. Religion builds our confidence in self through behavior modification and the formation of good habits that lead to better choices. Somehow in the midst of all consuming love, overwhelming goodness and overflowing grace – our flesh decides it has things under control venturing off to conquer the world on its own. Once more than conquerors, we become weaklings apart from our constant connection to Jesus Christ. It is our relationship with Jesus Christ alone that makes all things possible for those who believe. We build relationships over time investing copious amounts of trust and heaping on lots and lots of faith even when there seems nothing left to give – there is something more to muster up even in our meagerness to have the true love that is desired. In human relationships, one must constantly give grace to keep love alive. In our relationship with Jesus, He is the One who brings all-sufficient grace that keeps our love alive for now and forever.

Back to my question, if there is power in the Name of Jesus, do you believe that in His Name every single chain can be broken? Faith is required to escape the chain and iron doors of bondage in our life. Human strength is not required but faithful fortitude is. The courage to shake off the chain or to walk through the open door sometimes is more than we have to give. Hope is the anchor for our soul. It is also that thing that drives us from comfort and complacency in life to see what freedom holds. I have felt chains of bondage fall from my wrist in the Spirit multiple times. It’s funny how we do not feel the weight of them until entering the Presence of the Lord and He begins to gently lift our weight and burden. Returning to the world, we can choose to drag those chains with us or shake them off at His Feet. We decide if the Name of Jesus is enough to obtain our freedom by the amount of faith invested in remaining free.

If I have a sledgehammer, I have the power to break a metal chain that binds me. The problem is that I do not have enough power to thrust it over my head, or bring it down heavily on that thing which keeps me bound. I need someone with the power to do that. If my husband picks up the sledgehammer, he can definitely use it with force. However, if that chain is on my wrist or ankle, I have to trust that in breaking the link that he does not break me. I trust him. He is my husband. My one true love. I know that he will not do anything to knowingly or willingly hurt me and if he is going to swing that hammer, my man will be certain that I am out of harm’s way. He loves me completely and will do anything in his power to free me. Like I said, I completely trust him with my life.

Jesus has the power in His Name alone to set us free from every chain and open every door that keeps us from freedom. In fact, when He saves us that is exactly what He does. He breaks every chain and opens every door. Why do we live in bondage? We do not trust him enough to make Jesus our Lord and follow Him. Freedom is a gift not an obligation. Jesus is our Savior and Lord not dictator. He will not force you or me to be free. He offers it to us. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. (John 8:36) It takes wisdom and understanding of His Gift to know how to obtain it and use it in our life. He gave us that in His Word and by His Spirit. (Ephesians 1:6-8)

Acts 12:6-10 (NLT) The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

Peter was chained between two soldiers. He would be placed on trial the next day. Clearly consumed with anxiety and fear (insert sarcasm), he was asleep. How sweet the Peace of God given to those who trust Him! How asleep was he? When the angel of the Lord entered the cell, it “struck him on the side to awaken him”, so he was out. The angel of the Lord made the chains on his wrists fall off. Now fear could have kept Peter right where he was as the slightest movement might disturb the soldiers or alert the guard causing his imminent death. The angel told him to get up and get dressed. He did it. The angel order Peter to follow and he did. He would go past two more guard posts up to the large iron gate leading to the city. When he approached it, the gate opened by itself and he passed through it. The angel left Peter a free man.

Freedom is a choice to follow the Lord out of bondage. Jesus removes the chains and opens the doors but if we do press on to walk in freedom then we will remain forever enslaved. He sacrificed His Life to obtain our complete freedom from sin, bondage and burdens in life. Will we follow Him? Will we walk in it? Will we overcome the fear of the things we can see to walk into the place that He is calling us to live and breathe in Him? Jesus has already done His Part handing us the Keys to His Kingdom. The rest is up to us. Will freedom be the pathway of choice?

Acts 16:25-26 (NLT) Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 

How would you respond if imprisoned for sharing the Gospel? I wonder the same thing. Could the evidence of my belief in Christ demonstrated in message that I speak and more importantly the life that I live be enough to convict me? Back to the story, Paul and Silas were praying and praising Jesus having church in their cell while the other prisoners were listen. They were essentially preaching a life gospel. Our response to hardship, oppression and disappointment in life portrays our true belief and value system to others more than anything we do or say when things are going well. Suddenly happened. I love when God comes rushing in suddenly. All the doors immediately opened and the chains of “every prisoner fell off”.

Can we freeze this moment in time to assess the situation? One minute its midnight in the midst of a prison and all the prisoners are listening to the two crazy Christians sing and praise God probably thinking these guys are nuts. Now what? Galatians 5:13 says, For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Now Paul and Silas could have rushed out to tell others “look what the Lord has done”. But they didn’t. What did they do? Used their freedom to free others in the Spirit. First of all, every prisoner was set free. (vs. 26) Paul saved the life of the jailer who was about to commit suicide rather than face his commander. The jailer was saved on the spot. (vs. 30) They went on to share the Gospel with his entire household including family, friends and servants. (vs. 32) Do you see that sometimes the deliverance we seek is our ministry and message to others? Sometimes those things that we go through have a purpose in the end far greater than our own endurance. Less I digress, we must respond to our circumstances and situations in life with faith, trust, praise and obedience to continue to walk in freedom daily. Each step should lead others to freedom as well.

Luke 8:27-29 (NLT) As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town. As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.

We know the story of the man of Gerasenes who was demon possessed. The Lord cast the mass of demons called Legion from him into pigs that ran off the cliff to paraphrase the story. (Luke 8:26-39) I was reading about him today and noticed something that I had not seen before. In verse 29, it says “for Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him” and that the “spirit had ‘often’ taken control of the man.” Does this freak you out a little? Or maybe a lot? Don’t let it. This was before the Holy Spirit could inhabit human beings. Once the Holy Spirit comes in and takes over your heart nothing can overpower Him. Greater is He who is in us then he that is in the world. However, do you see that even those who encounter Jesus can still struggle with the enemy and being overcome with evil? Jesus did not tell the man look we have done this before and you keep getting messed up again. Why do Christians so harshly judge others in their struggles with bondage to sin? Overcome by evil, where can they go?

This time would be different because after the legion of demons were gone this man made a choice to follow Jesus and maintain his freedom. He asked Jesus allow him to join in their journey but Jesus set him forth in his own ministry. The man was obedient. We walk in freedom when we follow Jesus and obey Him. (vs. 38-39) But what about the people from the city they were in, what was their response? Fear. They asked Jesus to leave immediately. (vs. 37) Fear leads back into bondage again. Doubt delays our destiny every time.

Isaiah 58:6-9 (NLT) “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

In Isaiah 52:1-2 it reads, “Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem, for unclean and godless people will enter your gates no longer. Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” Have you ever had to be in the same clothes for more than a day? Whether laid over in an airport without luggage or in an emergency situation unable to shower or change due to your circumstances? Do you remember how wonderful it felt when you could finally shower, change and brush your teeth? It is so refreshing. Along those same lines, I wonder how a prisoner newly set free feels when he removes the dingy uniform of captive to put on regular clothes again. The new clothes mark a new day but too often they are faced with the same problems now compounded with mitigating circumstances and label of “convict” that lead back to imprisonment all over again. I am challenged by this today. How do we learn to put on the clothes of righteousness and walk in freedom when our sin constantly convicts us, guilt and shame tell us we will never fully claim our freedom, and regret binds us to the past. I don’t care if you have been saved for ten minutes, ten years, or most of your natural born life – we all struggle with our freedom and maintaining it because our flesh keeps us in captivity to sin.

Sin causes us to assume self-responsibility for a life freed by grace. We fear moving from darkness to light because who knows us better than us. What if His Grace is not enough for me? What if His Promises fall short of my satisfaction? What if His Love is not unfailing like they said? What if I remove these chains only to find I am still bound to something else? Lord help my unbelief today! We all need to cry out like the young man’s father who told the Lord, “if you can”. Every chain is broken and door opened in the Name of Jesus Christ. It is about time the church started shaking off those broken chains, pushing on some open doors and claiming our freedom so that we can show the way to others. His Grace is enough. We don’t have to look right or do right just follow Jesus as He leads us from darkness and sin into the everlasting. It is time for the church to remove the chains of slavery around our neck including religion and tradition to embrace a world living in darkness, bound by chains, and captive to sin.

2 Timothy 2:8-10 (NLT) Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

What would happen if we stopped judging people who fall down at the altar and joined them there? What if our persistence for freedom went beyond our own comfort and control so that we could radically love other people and meet them where they are? I am a soul set free in the One I love. Yet from time to time, I find myself in situations and circumstances that reveal chains in my life. As I shake them off, I am able to share these experiences with other people. To act like I have no struggles is to devalue God’s Grace. I will not do it. I struggle with sin just like the next person. I just love Jesus. In loving Him, I must be willing to help others obtain their freedom or my life isn’t worth much. Revival comes at the sound of falling chains beginning with the saints of God stepping down from their high horses, soap boxes, holier-than-thou attitudes and religious agendas to sing songs of praise in the company of prisoners. To reach out to others and help them open the unlocked doors to freedom in Christ. I cannot lead another in a way that I have not gone! I choose to use my freedom to become a slave to God! (I Peter 2:15-17)

Psalm 116:16-19 (NLT) O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people—in the house of the Lord in the heart of Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!