Make A Choice

Make A Choice

Isaiah 1:18-20 (NIV) “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Come now, let us settle the matter. In the course of a single day, people make more choices than they realize. Before arriving at work, there are more than a handful of decisions that must be made. Habits and routine take over so it becomes a ritualistic lifestyle. Like cattle through a turnstile going out to pasture in the morning, and coming back to the barn at night. Sounds monotonous doesn’t it? Well, how about getting up, head to work, stop for coffee, clock in, make eight, punch out, sit in traffic, cook dinner, do laundry, help with homework, and collapse in bed times five days a week. Where is the extraordinary in the midst of ordinary? How does one find the supernatural surrounded in the natural? It begins with a choice.

Psalm 27:13 (NIV) I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

When our son was diagnosed with cancer the first time, God asked me to trust Him and I did. The Lord promised me that our boy would live and not die to declare His Works. (God’s Promises do not change – He repeats them often.) Then our son was diagnosed again, and again multiple times. The third discovery was the most invasive covering most of body from neck to torso. The reality that God’s Healing might not be as I expected was weighing heavy on my mind. The Lord brought me to this verse. I must remain confident that God’s Goodness is for the land of the living. How quickly we dismiss God’s Promise for the future when things don’t turn out the way we expected? How often do we give up on faith when it doesn’t yield the return in the right time as our plans indicated? It was only when I had absolutely no control over our son’s life that I had to truly learn to trust the Lord from beginning to end. I had to make a choice. I had to settle it in my heart and soul to keep breathing. It was at that point in my life, I trusted God for Who He was rather than the outcome I expected. In total weakness, His Grace and Power flooded my life.

Free will can be difficult when one comes to the understanding that the Lord gives us the right to choose. Jesus chose to die for our sins and hand us the Keys to His Kingdom. He loves us. Therefore, love cannot force us to do anything and be love. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It doesn’t boast. It is not proud. It honors others and is not ever self-seeking. It doesn’t get angry. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Love never ever fails. For Jesus to force us to do anything would be contrary to His Own Definition of love found in the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. So with this in mind, the Lord will not make us do anything that we do not want to do. It is important to note that the Christ in you sets you free from sinful captivity which means the devil can’t make you do anything either. You have a choice to make. Who will you serve today?

Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV) “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

All the time in the wilderness, God did everything in His Power to show the Children of Israel a better way. His Way. The way of blessing and prosperity. (Deuteronomy 28) It is now time to enter the Promised Land. “Fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness”. This was the intention of Joshua for his household. It was settled with in his heart and soul. However, listen to the Word of the Lord to the people, “if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” God wants us to choose. Why? Half-hearted service to the Lord will only produce disappointment and discouragement in our life. It is only when we seek Him wholeheartedly that His Plan for our future unfolds. It is our willingness to serve Jesus with our life body, mind and spirit that our life will prosper as our soul does. The Lord detests “dishonest scales”. Sin is abhorrent to the Lord. Grace is provided because despite our best effort to remain sinless – our sinful nature will get the best of us sometimes but the Lord looks deeper than that to the intent of our heart. Who are you serving? The outcome of our life is directly connected to the master we serve.

John 15:15-16 (NIV) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Bear with me as I try to work this out in my own heart and mind, but God has called me and chosen me to prosper in all things. He appointed me that I might go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last. Whatever I ask in the Name of my Father it should be given. After our son went into remission, I was completely awestruck by God. At that moment, God did not have to do anything else for me for the rest of my life. Jesus saved me. He created a beautiful family out of all the pieces I brought to Him. Our children all love the Lord. The one on the verge of death with only a 2% chance of survival was back in school living his life. One would think it to be the greatest spiritual high of my life. It was not. The new normal was a difficult adjustment. The enemy came and somehow convinced me that I had reached the limit of expectancy. After all, God had granted life to our child. What greater gift could there ever be? I was so underserving of the new life that I have in Christ – it would be selfish to ask for anything else…right? Wrong! God’s Plan for my life is not finished or complete until I breathe my last breath, endure to the end and reach eternity with Him.

I am a friend of God. My relationship with Jesus Christ is a friendship with benefits. Do you have any friends in “high places”? Influential or powerful people who the Lord has placed in your life. A friend who favors you? God operates in relationships. Friendships are important to our reproductive growth in the Spirit. Fruit of the Spirit is cultivated in our fellowship with other people. The first commandment is to love God but the second cannot be fulfilled outside of relationships. God has called us to cultivate fruit. In Genesis 1:27-28 – He calls us blessed. Not you might be, could be or possibly will happen – God specifically blessed mankind. He also ordained them for certain things – be fruitful (purpose), increase (prosper), fill the earth (generosity), and subdue it (rule and reign over ever earthly thing). Sin separated us from God but did not end stop the blessing or calling of our life. Jesus came and His Blood eliminated the debt of sin so that now all mankind is free to walk out the ordination of God for their life. Purpose is both earthly and heavenly. Prosperity is earthly and heavenly. Generosity is earthly and heavenly. God’s Power is for the earth just like heaven. It is time for believers to stop segregating their life into earthly and heavenly things. Our existence in Christ makes the unification of earth and heaven complete. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

Psalm 65:4 (NLT) Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.

We must choose who to serve each day. James 4 is a firm and true commentary on submission to God. God waits for us to surrender our life to Him. This is not an act of authoritative force meant to make us miserable but instead to entrust with everything He promised because we know what do with it. Most lottery winners lose their fortune in the first three years. Why? Having money doesn’t change our life and habits. If the winner could not manage the resources at hand previously more money is not going to change their behavior. God has power to release in you when you are ready to receive it. He will not let a thief in the Kingdom. If you are only after God’s Hand with no intention of knowing His Heart, the door will remain closed to God’s Promises and Prosperity. Those are obtained only in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In Isaiah, the Lord says, “Come let us settle the matter…” Do you want God’s Promises and Prosperity in life? To settle means to appoint, fix, and resolve definitely and conclusively in agreement. It means that our life must agree with God’s Will, His Way and His Word. It is to place our life in a desired state of order pursuing the pathway of life. We must decide to agree with God concerning our life. Those who do will apply God’s Word to their life more and more each day which produces the good things He has promised. (Proverbs 8:8-11) We will speak God’s Word over our life and not man’s predictions. We will listen to the Lord and His Still Small Voice over the roar of the crowd and opinions of people and we will prosper! (Psalm 25:12-13) I must believe that God’s Goodness is for the land of the living enough to live for the Lord right now.

Revelation 3:15-17 (NIV) “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Life is limited in lukewarm living. The entire planet is subject to sowing and reaping or planting and harvest. It is natural productivity. When we choose to invest our life into something wholeheartedly, there is generally a substantial return. Why? God honors a choice. However, for those who choose to remain lukewarm – their life is equated to vomit. Is the yield of your life satisfying? Sometimes we may have more than we ever thought possible yet have no peace or rest. I cannot live in close friendship and fellowship with Jesus Christ and be yoked to anything else. (Matthew 11:28-30) I must surrender my life to His Will, His Word and His Way to have the Way, the Truth and the Life that is rich and satisfying. Prosperity in heaven does not mean I must live an impoverished life – nothing could be further from the truth. Who wants that kind of parent? The one who gives stones to hungry children rather than bread. Nobody! He is a Good Father. God’s Plan contains a future and hope secured when I pursue Him wholeheartedly. I must choose today who I will serve. I cannot serve two masters for I will love one and hate the other. To choose Jesus as not only my Savior but my Lord leads me to discover the goodness here in the land of the living. It will bring heaven to earth.

Psalm 25:12-13 (NIV) Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.

Winning Friends

winning-friends

 

Romans 5:10-11 (NLT) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

I am a friend of God. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. He has restored my right relationship with the Father by His Sacrifice. Now what? No, seriously. This is the crossroads of faith where many will fall in the crosshairs of religion rather than becoming fully committed to a new and right relationship with the Lord. My friendship with God ignites a tiny spark in me that should become a burning light of His Love for all the world to see, but I am I getting it right? Am I introducing others to my friend, Jesus and His Father, God? My daughter came back home for a wedding recently. In the last year, our family relocated to the rural county just outside of the city limits which had been our home for more than a decade. We have made new friends in our new church here. During our conversations, my daughter has heard me mention these people so on her last visit, she made a point that she wanted to meet them based on my many accounts and shared experiences. She wants to know them because I love them which has created an interest in her. Today I am wondering do I portray and relay the same when it comes to Jesus. Does my conversation, attitude and actions make them desire to connect with the Lord as well?

Dale Carnegie wrote the best-selling book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936. It has sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and is #19 on the Time Magazine list of most influential books of all time. As I skimmed through the outline of topics to compare my ability to win friends and influence people, I was a bit surprised at the simplicity. However, I was also immediately convicted that I am not always the best friend. He offers a list of fundamental ways to handle people that goes as follows: 1) Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. 2) Give honest and sincere appreciation. And 3) Arouse in the other person an eager want. Imagine what our congregations might be like if we just focused on item #1 for a while. I could have stopped here with enough to chew on for a while, but I say, “Go big or go home” right?

He also details six ways to make people like you. Who doesn’t want people to like them? I want people to like me. I don’t want to be the one others avoid. I am in this world and definitely not of it. But I also called to be a Light in the darkness that is attractive illuminating the way to Jesus Christ. My life is to be a beacon for others to experience an introduction to Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So here is what Mr. Carnegie believed would make people like us: 1) Become genuinely interested in other people. 2) Smile. 3) Remember a person’s name for it is the sweetest world they hear. 4) Be a good listener and encourage others to share about themselves. 5) Talk in terms of other people’s interest. And 6) Make the other person feel important and do so sincerely. Jesus died for “that” person. They are important to God. No matter how they are living, what they look like, the choices they are making, or the bad things they are doing. His Grace is just as sufficient for them and equally intended to be the Power in their life. We must learn to build friendships if our desire is to build the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is built on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our ability to effectively relay His Love to others.

James 2:22-24 (NLT) You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

During our son’s long battle with cancer, I spent a great deal of time studying about Abraham. He was counted as a friend of God. Abraham believed God. We point back to the mountain when he was ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac to the Lord. He trusted God completely even if it meant driving a knife right through the heart of his promise. I was looking for that kind of faith at that time. The kind of faith that loves God no matter what or how significant the heartbreak may be. Abraham was considered a friend of God. Why? God called him friend because he was considered righteous or in right standing with God but if we read just a verse further it says – he was not only made right by his words or confession of faith but that his actions reflected his faith in God. So what about Rahab the prostitute? Do you ever think about her faith? She made into the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Did her actions make her right with God? It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” It doesn’t say, Rahab the “former” prostitute. She was living in sin yet God found her faithful in her friendliness to the spies who came into her city.

Religion has killed our social skills when it comes to building relationships with people in the church. We look for works and judge them by their appearance when God is always searching their heart. How will I know a person’s heart outside of a sincere relationship? How can I introduce them to the Love of God found in friendship with Him if my life and love bear no resemblance of the Love that changed my life? My friendship with the Living God is based on faith expressed in love. (Period) It is by grace that I am saved and nothing I can do will ever change that. Until I allow the Love and Grace of God to penetrate my heart beyond works, and get back to the business of building relationships and friendships with others so that I can share my Jesus with them, revival will not come. The spark of revival comes from a real and right relationship with God that can effectively express it to others. God’s Love is not critical it is not condemning – it is come as you are.

John 15:13-14 (NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

There is no greater love than to lay our life down for another. Jesus died for us. We don’t have to die for others. We must simply allow the Love of God to work out faith within us that will overcome insecurity so that we can freely give our life to others. Social media has silenced conversation. Nobody communicates anymore other than via text message. Friends keep in touch via the internet hardly ever meeting, embracing and conversing with one another. We work with people day in and day out yet never really get to know them or care for them. I can preach the Word of God at people and it will bounce off them like seeds being thrown on a rock. Or I can invest time and energy getting to know them to reach them where they are and plant seeds in a soft pliable heart. A wise person wins friends. (Proverbs 11:30) We need friends so iron can sharpen iron. (Proverbs 27:17) The heartfelt counsel of a friend is like perfume and incense to the Lord. (Proverbs 27:9) We must closely examine our heart. Am I a friend to others? Am I a good friend? Am I a godly friend? Am I willing to lay down my life for others? Jesus said that if I am His Friend, this is exactly what I will do.

I John 2:7-8 (NLT) Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

I think I will order Mr. Carnegie’s book. I think it will be a benefit. God has promised that being a godly friend can produce His Favor in my life. In fact, when Job prayed for his three friends, the Lord released a double portion. What if God is not holding up revival but I am because I choose religion over relationship when I should be all about relationships always? It is not my job to change people. Truth is I couldn’t change myself. God did it. His Love is amazing. His Faithfulness unmatched. His Goodness is too much to ever be reciprocated. His Grace more than enough for me. His Favor is better than life. I cannot begin to tell you about the Love and Affection God has shone me or the inexpressible joy it has produced in me. Or maybe I can… over coffee, or what the heck, let’s get some ice cream or a fancy dessert, or maybe on a good day we can go for a walk in the park and talk awhile? We must create opportunities to be light. This light burning in us comes with arms, legs and mouths that can be an extension of God’s Love to others. He came into this world to empower me with plenty of love and grace to be the Light that reaches the world. My friendship with God facilitates an opportunity to connect and share His Love with others. If your message is not inviting, and people are not responding, maybe it is time to make a few adjustments. Ask the Lord to filter your words, motives and intent. Purify your heart. Ask Him to give you grace and love above your capability and outside your comfort zone to reach others with sincerity. The Holy Spirit is our helper. Love is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Learn the definition of love in I Corinthians and live it with all people all the time. You will be a Light. You are God’s Friend. By faith, He will teach you to win friends and influence people with His Love.

I John 4:11-12 (NLT) Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

The Purest Gift

the-purest-gift

Romans 3:21-24 (Message) But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

I usually do not study or write using the Message translation of the Bible. It must have been the last one I used because when I looked up the word “restore” today, this scripture in Romans 3 was included. I love the part where it tells us that we have “Jesus-setting-things-right” for us. I know that I am incapable of living the glorious life that God wills for me. I get distracted, disappointed, discouraged and even disgusted which causes me to wander or even sometimes stomp off mad in my own direction. Pride is the ominous beast within me always vying for control, pointing a finger at others ignoring the four aimed straight at me. Out of sheer generosity, God has given me a pure gift that as hard as I try to mess it up – somehow it just keeps rising up around me. The Lord restores us. Day after day, He lovingly and gently nudges those who love Him and serve Him back into His Will in spite of our hard hearts and willful attitudes. It is a pure gift.

Romans 8:29-30 (Message) God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

In the midst of the holiday season and the Christmas crush, people come together. Though driving up to the party, everyone may be rush tempers flare and frustration builds. But once the door opens and everyone comes together, it seems differences melt at least for the moment. Tis the season that brings families, friends, and even enemies together to celebrate. Forced into the proximity of acquaintances and strangers, a sense of community begins to rise up. People who have not been together since last year around this time find themselves catching up over apple cider or standing by the bonfire wondering what happened over the past year. The promise to communicate more and see each other fell through as the New Year came and life marches on.

God knew what He was doing from the beginning. He has always been intent on building a Kingdom. A family. A community. No wonder the enemy tries on every level and at every turn to destroy relationship rather godly, familial or even just friendly. He walks around like a roaring lion with a giant ax ready to cut and severe every bond of love and soul tie formed between God and His Created Ones. It is working. People are drifting farther and farther apart. Relationships are conducted on social media or via text. Face-to-face encounters are fewer and fewer so lies circulate in the midst of misinterpretation and insecurity. But God…

The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. Jesus died to give us new life. A place in the Kingdom of God as part of His Body and community called Heaven. It is no wonder that the Greater is He in us continually is striving to connect with those who are around us even when our flesh is not privy to His Plan. I have watched the Lord melt division this holiday season. Strife that no one could seem to overcome has dissolved this Christmas. No lengthy discussions. No overthought words. Just Jesus. He is the only explanation as relationships are restored and friendships renewed. What about you? Gods will is for His Kingdom to be restored and His People to be renewed. If you are sitting on the sidelines in the midst of anger, hurt, or frustration today – Jesus has a gift for you. You don’t have to try. You don’t have to do a thing. Just bring all your disappointment to Him and let the Lord give you hope again. The first step of restoration is not one a forward movement. It is only to turn around and see that His Unfailing Love and Goodness has been pursuing you every day you thought you were alone, misunderstood and yes, even rejected. He was whispering, “Wait! Where are you going? I am doing a new thing. Hang on! Don’t run off! Just wait on me! It will be worth it.”

Many live by the words “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!” This is not the position of Jesus who is our example. It is not a notion that leads to anything good. Yes, we must be wise and discerning in our relationships but one must also allow Christ to oversee all of them. When we put Jesus, His Love, Grace and Mercy in the midst of ourselves – something beautiful and pure rises up in our midst. When the Lord becomes the Protector, Provider and Portion of our heart – there is a place for people in it too. He is more than enough for me. I cannot experience thriving relationships that can be renewed, restored and replenished day by day until I am rooted and grounded in His Amazing Love and Overflowing Grace.

Colossians 2:6-7 (Message) My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

For months, there has been a rift among some young ladies that I know. Friendships – close friendships – torn to shreds by the enemy. Lies and gossip spread about one another rising from insecurity planting bitterness and strife that spread beyond them causing mass destruction in a body of believers. No one knows the root, but many experienced the devastating effects of it. Yet this Christmas in the midst of holiday gatherings celebrating the birth of Jesus together something no less than miraculous has taken place. New life has risen up among them. Restoration is bringing them together without any intervention. The pure gift of the Father was His Son. The gift of the Son is amazing grace. The grace that is given is more than enough to restore and renew every broken relationship in our life.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (Message) Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

The power of God’s Kingdom is relationship. Our relationship with God is fully and completely dependent on Jesus Christ. What if someone else’s relationship with Jesus is completely dependent on us? How is that possible? What if my inability to facilitate a relationship or build community with someone else creates a stumbling block that keeps them from Jesus? What if my stubbornness and lack of grace for them makes them think Jesus is as fickle as I am? What if my unwillingness to be in the same room with them keeps them in the dark rather than exposing them to Light? God’s Kingdom is a body of believers. Believers who form a community not a commune. All should be welcome. Heartbreak is most often inflicted person on person. Someone hurts us. Offends us. Betrays us. They don’t even have to actually do any of these things, but if I think they did the seed is planted.

What kinds of seeds are growing in the garden of our heart today? Will they produce fruit that nourish, replenish, renew and restore the Body as Christ intended? Or will I allow bitterness, division and pride to destroy the pure gift given to me by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ? I have struggled this Christmas because my family will not all be together. I want all my children together in one place at the same time to open gifts and stay in our pajamas all day. Most of my kids are adults. Some will be here. Others will not. I must have the same longing for the other relationships in my life. They must take a place of importance. Be a subject in my prayers. The only new commandment is to love one another. To love them more than ourselves. To love them as He loves the Body and everyone in it. It is His Will that all would be saved and not a single one lost…not even the one who is a thorn in our flesh today.

Are there relationships in your life in need of restoration? Are there some that need to be renewed – labeled “too difficult” so pushed far away? Is Jesus laying problematic people on your heart? Do you find the same ones showing up in random places? Jesus wants to give His People the pure gift of restoration and renewal so we can fulfill His Commandment together. Jesus wants to renew our grace for each other and restore our love for one another. I must be willing to let Him do it in me and around me. Relationships are the most important thing to the Lord and the most difficult to maintain. His Grace is enough today. I speak life to every dead relationship in your life today in Jesus Name. Lord, teach me to use the love and grace that you have given me to maintain healthy and thriving relationships with people all year round. Show us how to form strong, impenetrable bonds that the enemy cannot break. The purest gift given is love and grace. The best gift to give someone is the one they desire most. Jesus wants us to love each other. After all, it is His Birthday right…

I John 4:7-10 (Message) My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

Friendly

friendly

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Companionship is important. Relationship is key in life. With the popularity of social media, there is the perception of these two vital accomplishments when in reality there is really no connection between people anymore. Facebook is one of the many social sites that allow us to “friend” one another, “unfriend” those who are no longer wanted in our life and to conveniently “unfollow” those who post things that are not interesting or inappropriate. Relationship in a box if you will how wonderful. So clean and safe, people can manage “friendships” without the messiness of companionship. It satisfies our need to connect with the imposition or discomfort of true involvement. However, is it enough? Is it the kind of relationship that Jesus Christ called us to when He said to “love one another”? Probably not.

Love is a commitment. It is the call of every Christian, believer, and true follower of Jesus Christ. In a world that has made “relationships” computerized, how does the church reconnect according to the Word of God and develop the friendships that the Lord ordained for us to have with one another. The Body of Christ cannot become the Bride of Christ without companionship and relationships that extend from lip service to life commitment. Ecclesiastes touches on this in Chapter 4 when companionship is addressed in detail with its benefits. Two people are much better than one. You may think you do not need or want other people but we all do. We were created to be relational but hurt and betrayal builds tall walls that must be overcome by love and grace to produce trust once again. We need one another to succeed in life. People will always need someone to offer hands to help up and shoulders to cry on. We need to remain close. A person standing alone is more likely to be overcome in an attack physically and spiritually. There is a reason why God created more than one person. God is all about relationships. To be like the Lord, we must build relationships, become companions and learn to be friends all over again.

John 16:31-33 (NLT) Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is awesome! He tried diligently to send of clues and messages into the future of what to expect as His Return grew eminent. One of those things is the assault on friendship and relationships that is happening today. First, the family began to fall apart as one generation gave way to another with a staggering divorce rate. Suddenly, relationships became soluble and what God has joined together can be legally torn apart. The time is coming. Well, I believe it is here now. You will be scattered. Each one going his own way. Jesus told us all of this so that we could have peace in us. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. There is no question that there will be hurts and heartaches on this earth trials and sorrows just as the Jesus said. Take heart. I have overcome the world. Jesus overcame the world. I believe that while the latter of these verses are heeded with caution that there is missed significance in the beginning…you will be scattered. A kingdom is a gathering not a scattering. We must come together as the Body of Christ and Kingdom of God again. The Kingdom is built on relationship. Our relationship with the Father through the Son as adopted Children of God. This should not and cannot stop here or the Kingdom is only a partnership. The Spirit of God is the connection that ordinary people have as Christ lives in us. This connection must be distributed among other people to form the allegiance that we are to have with the family of God as His Children.

Hebrews 13:14-16 (NLT) For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

This world is not our permanent home. Everything should be building for the future. The future given to us through Jesus Christ. Why? It lasts forever. We are to look forever to this home yet to come. Preparations for family reunions and even high school reunions often include self-preparation as it is important to us to show others the significance and success of our past years spent apart. Many opt not to attend based on situations and circumstances they were unable to overcome. Reunions are about relationships and reconnecting but in our minds it can be made it to something else completely. We must prepare for our reunion with Jesus Christ. Repentance is the first step. Relationship is the next. It is fun to attend a reunion when the relationships have remained active. It becomes uncomfortable if it is the first contact in a long time. Each day celebrating Jesus Christ and actively engaged in a relationship with Jesus creates confidence in His Acceptance when we are finally reunited. However, the Kingdom is not just one person and a triune God. It is a Body of Believers. It is time to reconnect.

Allegiance to Christ is a commitment to His Kingdom that is demonstrated in our willingness to do “good” and share our lives with those in need. Recently, our ladies ministry had a meeting at church. Newly reorganized, it was the first time in a long time. Forming a large circle, everyone began to express their needs as women. Every response and comment went back to relationship. Women feel isolated and alone in rooms full of people and homes full of family. Why? There is no connection or companionship so therefore there is no confidence in others. We must sacrifice to please God. Sacrifice our pride. Sacrifice our self. Sacrifice our insecurity and yes, even our pride sometimes. Allegiance to God’s Kingdom is demonstrated by loving and living relationships among all of God’s People.

Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT) “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We are to love our enemies. How is the possible if I am unable to love my friends? Loving my friends is not commenting on their posts, putting little heart “likes” on their pictures, or following them on social media. Love is a relationship. Love is a connection. It is to reach out and pull together. It is conversation. Communication is important. Listening is loving. Being present is not enough, it is presence that creates strong unity and bonds. Our allegiance to Jesus Christ is exemplified by our commitment and willingness to bond with others in relationship. This empowers the Kingdom and our relationships draw those who were scattered back together again. I challenge each of you today as I am myself to look at my “friends” list on social media and choose some people to call and talk to. Have lunch with or make an effort to connect with. Rather than texting learn to call and talk more. When the Holy Spirit moves on my heart to contact someone, to be sensitive enough to do it right then. Relationships are not maintained passively and must to be promoted passionately. They are one of the things that the enemy wants to “steal, kill and destroy” every single relationship and bond in the Body of Christ as it is an attack against His Kingdom. When we connect with others, it creates unity and harmony in the Body and that is the desire of our Father’s Heart!

Romans 12:16 (NLT) Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

The Mystery of Fellowship

The Mystery of Fellowship

Ephesians 3:8-12 (NKJV)

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Friendship. Relationship. Companionship. Fellowship. It is the interworking of people networking through life that incorporates our heart, mind and eventually our soul with others. Intimacy creates soul ties not easily broken yet ripped apart by division and discord. The Body of Christ is not exempt. I have been a member of churches that would eventually split and venture off in separate directions. How is that even possible when our only goal is Jesus? Does He veer off in different directions? Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God does not lie or change His Mind. (Numbers 23:19) No one came come to the Father but by Jesus. (John 14:6) The Lord is quite clear concerning His Thoughts on division among believers. It is written in His Word, “Now I plead with you, Brethren (or believers, Body of Christ, Christians, disciples, followers of Jesus, whatever you have named your pursuit of God and His Kingdom) by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…” To be a Child of the Living God is to live in pursuit of fellowship with the Lord, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The impact for those who engage in this endeavor will develop, grow and blossom into a prospering fellowship among all believers.

Yet in this age of small groups, culture groups, traditional Sunday School and church gatherings, there continues to be discord and division in the family of the Living God. Rather than pursuing greater understanding of who the Lord is and what He desires of us, the church has taken on a whole new cause. In attempt to prove that their way is right, it has become locked in a mudslinging war amongst itself. God hates it. Jesus is broken hearted. The Holy Spirit is intent on changing it. Fellowship is important. Not the kind of friendships and acquaintances that the world engages in, but rather the type of relationships that we have been called to and equipped by His Love to participate in.

 

Psalm 63:1-3 (NKJV)

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your Power and Your Glory. Because Your Lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.

 

The primary source of growth and development of true fellowship, the kind that the Lord desires for us to have, begins with Jesus Christ. A daily pursuit of His Love, Grace, Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom that gives us a desire for greater things in our life connections and relationships. The change in our heart produced by Jesus Christ begins to give us a new perspective on people and the role they play in our life. A firm foundation of faith wrapped up in confident hope allows us to love other without expectation from them. This makes grace flow through the inner workings to bind us to one another. We must have a thriving and earnest relationship with Jesus Christ to move into a place of constant companionship that will carry over into all our interaction with others in life. One cannot engage in godly fellowship without being likeminded. To accept Jesus as Savior and not make Him Lord places our life in a gray abyss. We no longer interact with the same people or do the same things because there is an immediate heart change, but unless He becomes Lord producing a life change, those same individuals are forces to move forward or drift back forsaking their new found freedom once again. When Jesus is our Savior and Lord, it changes our heart and life which gives us a desire to fellowship with those who believe as well.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NKJV)

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

What is fellowship? It is friendly relationships. It is companionship. To be joined together by a common interest or cause. People come together many times on this basis. There is power in this kind of unity. 2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us as believers to not be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. This does not mean to avoid such people, ignore them or in any way, shape or form abandon them. We are called to share the Gospel of God’s Love with every person who we come in contact with in word and deed. To be yoked means to join, couple, link or unite. It is like the harness used to join two animals together to share the same burden like oxen or horses. Their strength is increased in the pairing of the two. The Lord is telling us that such a connection with those who do not believe should be avoided. Why? There is not a common interest or cause therefore the two will oppose each other and the weaker will give in to the stronger animal. It is counterproductive as we fight a battle that is unnecessary and clearly to be avoided as it is stated in the Word of God. We love and seek to serve unbelievers to lead them to the Love of God. But we are never to “yoke” our life according to their purpose.

Our cause must always be Christ. When it becomes any other objective, opposition arises and churches quake splitting down the middle showing the world around us that we are not untied in cause or purpose without true revelation of God’s Love. We must come to an agreement. Christ above all agendas, schedules, personal tastes and preferences. This is what unites the Body of Christ. It is the very thing that will spark a fire of revival again.

Ephesians 5:8-12 (NKJV)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

I John 1:5-7 (NKJV)

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

True fellowship with Jesus is to avoid darkness completely and live in the Light of His Love with character and integrity each day taking one step closer to Jesus and moving farther away from the darkness of the past. To do so will cause a change in the relationships once had with other people. This is true of most positive change in life as well. If you were once an alcoholic, but now choose a clean and sober life. Your drinking buddies will one day stop calling because you have nothing in common anymore. Single friends will slowly drift away from married couples as their goals in life now differ. It is human nature for relationships to come and go. Jesus is constant. He never changes. As He becomes the premise of our life, our relationships will change. It is okay. Yes, He will heal the hurting heart when love leaves. But the real love that is found in Christ will fill every void left by wandering people and wavering hearts around us.

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (NKJV)

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.

 

The fellowship of ministering to the saints. The Churches of Macedonia were suffering great trial of affliction and poverty that they gave with great joy and abounded in freedom. They did not allow the challenges of their life impact their fellowship full engaged and completely generous in their absolute surrender to the ministry of the saints. What is that? I believe it is to never forsake the coming together of like-minded people in Jesus Christ. To fully participate in becoming like-minded and growing in the Grace of God together. It goes on to say as you abound in EVERYTHING – faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, love and grace. Understand that this life will not get any better, it will always hate Jesus. You and I cannot change how the world feels about the Kingdom of God but by continuing to put aside our opinions and personal agendas to pursue true fellowship and absolute unity. The commonality between us is not how we choose to worship but Who we worship with our whole heart and every fiber of our being. When yoked to other believers in a thriving relationship, a constant source of comfort, encouragement and unity become a cord that we use to bind ourselves to the Altar of God as we pursue Him together.

Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV)

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

As a teenager, our youth group had a weekly Bible study and fellowship. Each gathering included a devotion and prayer. In the modern church, small groups and culture groups gather in homes, restaurants, basketball courts, shopping malls, and just about any other place you can think of. They call it fellowship. Maybe. Is Jesus in it? See fellowship is formed by a common cause or interest. If that interest is anything other than Jesus and He is not glorified during our time together, we are pursuing a hobby or interest. The work begun in us by Jesus Christ relies on the constant molding and shaping of the Word of God, Holy Spirit and friends who are in our life to become the iron that sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) We must not become distracted by trying to find a common interest other Jesus Christ. But dwelling so deeply in Him, that any other interest or gathering that we embark on will bring Glory to His Name.

There has always been power in unity. The Tower of Babel is the perfect example. The people united in cause were able to do extraordinary things but apart from the Will of God their efforts would end in confusion as the Lord disrupted their communication. (Genesis 11:1-9) There are many towers that have risen in these dark times and some include the word “church” attached to them. Like-minded people forming a fellowship on a cause other than Christ with a convoluted message and disgrace of grace. They have not made Christ the foundation and one day, it will be evident in their fall. To preserve our fellowship as pure, holy and godly requires a constant connection to Christ with full examination of our heart going in. As we fellowship with others, it should be yoking those believers who pursue Christ wholeheartedly and blending our lives together in God’s Love. By doing so, God will bless every relationship born of our love for Jesus – body, mind and spirit. Jesus is our cause. Nothing else will do as it becomes a fiery passion for souls. This will grow into a strong desire and willingness to share the faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, love and grace discovered as we prosper in Jesus Christ together. Our souls will prosper. Life will get better in the Presence of God in fellowship with His People. It is in harmony with all believers that we solve the mystery of fellowship growing in God’s Love, Grace and Mercy together.

Psalm 133:1-2 (NKJV)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.

End of Coexistence

End of Coexistence

John 15:5-8 (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.”

 

Growing up I had a very good friend who we will call “Lucy”. Lucy and I were friends in high school even though we did not attend the same school but the same church. Lucy’s mom was a bubbly woman with a very outgoing personality who invited me over to share meals and spend the night with her daughter. Lucy’s dad was a stoic man who never spoke unless responding to a question. He was not mean or hostile towards his family. A good provider, he worked hard to meet his family’s needs and Lucy wanted for nothing. He loved his daughter very much. He would offer a faint smile whenever she walked into a room. When Lucy graduated from high school, she moved out of her childhood home to attend college. The very next day, her mother and father announced they were divorcing. It was final in the limited amount of time allowed by law. Lucy was absolutely devastated. Within weeks of their divorce, her father met a woman completely different from her mother and they began dating. Lucy wanted to hate this woman. She loathed everything about her and criticized everything that she did. As the product of divorced parents and a successful blended family, she asked me to join her to meet with dad and his new girlfriend for dinner. I reluctantly agreed fearing long, awkward moments of silence as Lucy leered and her father remained in his usual stoic state. We met at a local restaurant. Her father and his friend approached us and he threw his arms around me welcoming me then turned to introduce his girlfriend. I was absolutely blown away. Not by the woman standing before me, but by the man her father had become. The transformation was incredible. He was alive. He was engaging. He was…well…the man was happy. Needless to say, I did not help Lucy’s cause. Within a couple months, Lucy’s dad married his friend. Shortly after that, her mom reconnected with her high school sweetheart and they married as well. Both parents were happy and thriving in their new relationships last I heard.

All the years that Lucy’s parents were married they simply coexisted. Coexistence means to exist together at the same time. It means to exist separately, but peaceably even those that are adversarial. The couple remained together for their daughter. It became clear after the marriage ended that Lucy’s mom pretended to be happy for Lucy and built a life the watching world would accept as normal but it was totally dysfunctional in the four walls of the home. Her father was dying on the inside clearly evident by the transformation when the two parted ways. We are called to abide in Christ. But I wonder, if at times we are merely coexisting but calling it a relationship. We are the bride of Christ but are we participating in a relationship or simply living life in the same space. There is danger in the realm of coexistence. Its walls are often painted gray. There is no black or white, good or bad but rather we live accepting compromise. It is a place that we choose for its comfort rather than being compelled by a passionate desire for perfection, we decide to accept the known rather than risking it all on the unknown possibilities that are the Promises of God for our life. We are not called by God to coexist. Compromise and comfort are not necessary. They are something we choose rather the pressure to change and the stress of release. I do not want to get to the end of my life and meet Jesus only to find out we coexisted. I wanted to abide so deeply in the Lord that when I get there it is with great anticipation and longing that we will hold each other so tightly from years of longing for and yearning to be closer.

Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT)

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

 

Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” God has provided everything you and I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3) By accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we can still produce some fruit by His Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) We are well on our way to prosperity. But if we never challenge ourselves to step out of our human comfort zone and decide to abide (live and dwell in) Jesus Christ. This is the place where providing changes to prospering. It is where surviving turns into thriving. The enemy wants us to think that we are incapable of such things because of who we are, but when we move every branch that makes up our tree of life connecting it to Jesus Christ every impossible suddenly becomes possible for those who believe enough to take that chance. Comfort is conformation. Conforming to this world limits those things provided by the Glory of God because the vessel is too small, too shallow, and too sinful. But when you and I choose to no longer be residents of this world, when we choose the abundance of Heaven over the pittance we can hold in our hands deciding to follow Jesus every single day of our life, things are about to change as we move from a limited life to a limitless forever.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

 

“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.” Are you passionate in your pursuit of Christ? Can you take Him or leave Him? Can you live without Him? This is a question that I beg you today to ask and really think about. Christianity is not a status symbol. It is not something we do but must be who we are. I am James Thomason’s wife. I love him. I live with him. I want to be with him every day. I hate when we are apart. I talk to him every day. I miss him when he is gone. I desire him. We live in a relationship. We abide together in marriage. I now know the importance of this kind of marriage as our kids have begun to grow up and leave the nest. Please understand that we came home from the church with three kids in the backseat. Within a year, there was another and almost three years later our last child was born. We haven’t been alone for long periods of time since we got married. We have no regrets. But unlike our oldest daughter who married her best friend, they grew up together. They are both 21 but have been friends since they were 8. They are enjoying this time together alone before adding children to the mix. So when we look ahead to the days fast approaching when it will just be the two of us, it is wonderful to KNOW that I am married to my best friend. We have not coexisted but rather built a relationship that is abiding at its best. We are not perfect but such a love covers a multitude of sins. My friend’s parents did not have that kind of relationship. When she left home, there was nothing left in their relationship so they decided to live apart. There will be a day when many people will stand before the Lord ready to join the party in Heaven. They will come to Jesus with all their accomplishments, sacrifices, tithes, and fulfilled responsibilities all I the name of faith. They will come to Jesus thinking that because they walked to an altar, changed a few bad habits, attended church on a somewhat regular basis, threw some change in the offering, and even maybe led a person to Jesus Christ that the Lord will rush to meet them and usher them in. There will be mega preachers who built magnificent auditoriums, flew from state to state or even country to country meeting thousands at the altar who do not make the cut. Why not let them in? There is only one way to enter the Kingdom of God. His Name is Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Do you know Him? Really know Him. Have you spent any time working on your relationship, leaving your comfort zone, giving up compromise, praying, believing, and trusting? Do you desire Jesus? Do you long to be closer enough to do what is necessary to go deeper in the Lord? The demons know who Jesus is. They have accepted that He is Lord. They submit to His Authority. But they do not live, abide or remain in Him. Do you? I am asking myself the very same question today.

John 14:12-14 (NLT)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

 

“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!How is the Power of God working in your life today? When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I thought life was good. Everything seemed to be going along just fine. God was blessing us. He was providing for us. But when everything fell apart that day, I realized that things were not exactly as they should be. My job had taken a much higher priority in my life than it should have. It affected my home life and people life in ways that I did not imagine. When I saw the frailty of my son as he prepared to fight for his life, something rose up in me. I knew the Lord. I trusted God. I didn’t have a doubt that He was going to heal our son. But when I looked at all the pieces of my broken heart, I made a startling discovery. There were some things that had manifested there that I did not notice. To the average person who serves an average god, it would be unnoticeable. But in the moments of revelation given by hours of waiting and watching our son go through treatment, I found my life again. I cannot explain it – you have to experience it to understand. I don’t want an average acquaintance with the Lord but a passionate relationship. One that if the whole world leaves me – Jesus will always be more than enough to keep me satisfied. He is able but I must be willing. Compromise comes easy. Complacency often hides behind the word “rest”. Conviction can be silenced in our confusion. Commitment is not labeled by our routine. If we are not careful and attentive in any relationship, it will falter and fall apart. These things demand our time, we must be willing to give it to end coexistence and experience new life.

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.

Family Dinner – A Devotion

Family Dinner

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 

Ever since we were married, “family dinner” was instituted in our home. No matter what everyone is doing the television is turned off (most of the time), the cellphones are left behind, and we join each other to eat our evening meal even to this day. This may sound a bit old-fashioned and too routine for the fast-paced families of today. But I regret to inform you that if this is not an ongoing event in your home, you are missing out on one of the biggest benefits and blessings your family will ever know. The American Family has become more like roommates and carpoolers who simply use one another to co-exist rather than developing the deep bond of unity that empowers growth in relationships and respect. When the kids were small, they did not necessarily appreciate the nightly intrusion into their lives but we did more than eat at the crowded little table. We talked. To each other. About everything.

More than half of our brood are grown and gone now, but they know that each night there is a family gathering around the table. They will call and ask what time or what’s for dinner knowing that there is always room for them there. Now that the older children are gone, I find that the younger two are more vocal. The no longer must compete with their older siblings. My husband and I laugh a lot about our fourth child who has come out of her shell as the oldest in our home now. She talks about everything all the time. When you consider that she is almost fifteen years old, it is evident what a rare treasure this is. Most teenagers hide away from their parents until they decide they are smarter than they once thought. We love this time together each night. Sometimes it is a struggle when I am late leaving work, overwhelmed by my day, and must hurry home and rush to get dinner on the table but it is always worth the sacrifice when I finally fall into the chair. The Lord has invited us to pray about everything. I think we can sum up this invitation subtly as He is saying, “Talk to me…” That is one of the things family dinner does at our home, it is an invitation to take to each other.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

“Always” and “never” are definitive words. They leave no room for compromise. How can you always be joyful? How can we never stop praying? We are instructed to “be” thankful in “all” circumstances. Again, definitive words. Why? This is God’s Will for our life in Jesus Christ. Joy and thankfulness are a product of a life spent in prayer. But who has time for that? I barely have enough time in the day to do the things that I “have” to do. Maybe if we looked at prayer more as conversation with God like the one experienced each night when families have dinner together, we will get a better idea of what our prayer life could be like.

People have to eat to survive. Now all my people are big enough to fend for themselves in the kitchen with a refrigerator and pantry filled with food not to mention a freezer in the garage. Everything they need to sustain life is in one of those three places and the kitchen has all the tools and utensils to make it all happen. This is how one might survive without family dinner. However, when a meal is prepared and shared something happens as we talk together. Laughing, talking, and voicing concerns over our day. We build one another up together while we eat together. As believers, we have everything we need to survive. God supplies it all. (Philippians 4:19) It is the fellowship with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that empowers our life. When we decide to “talk” to God about everything and never stop praying. We become joyful. We are thankful. Our prayer life is simply conversing with God. As we become friends of God trusting Him and believing in Him, we will confide in Him. Causal conversations with the Lord tend to reveal His Will and Power in our life just as when we talk and share with our family! This is what it means to pray without ceasing or never stopping. The Lord whispers just talk to me…

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

Our family is not perfect. There are times when there is a disagreement or falling out. It is still required to come to the table when called for dinner. This is a place of healing and restoration as suddenly the offense is forgotten over food and family. The Lord invites us to keep asking, seeking and knocking with the promise that you keep on pursing Him, it will eventually come to pass in our life according to His Will. Jesus said, “If we believe, we ask and will receive.” (John 14:12-14) The results that we are asking for, searching for and knocking on Heaven’s door are all found in our relationship with Jesus. These promises are where He is. When we call to the Lord from where we are expecting Him to meet us where we want to be, we miss the connection found when we gather in the Lord’s Presence. Everything we want must be in line with the Will of God. How can we do that?

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 1:14 (NLT)

 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.

 

Jesus Christ the Word of God. He is God’s Will for our life. To live in relationship with Jesus allows all of God’s Promises, Blessing and Inheritance to become ours. If we do what the Word says, follow His Instructions and pray the Word over our life, we will have the outcomes we desire. Although we often think of things that we desire, what we are really after is contentment and satisfaction which means our wants may already exist in our life – we just haven’t discovered them yet. The Word and Will of God for our life was established before we were created. People were created through the Word who is Jesus. Hard to wrap our head around I know, but if we can just get Him into our heart. He will change our mind and impact our thoughts and empower our lives. To know Jesus we must know the Word. To have what Jesus left for us means that we must pray the Word over our lives.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

 

After it says pray about everything, it goes on to tell us to fix our thoughts. I believe prayer fixes our thoughts. Just like talking about our day with one other over dinner offers insight to each other and to us as parents. We see into our children’s lives and can offer wisdom. It tells us what they want and what they are thinking giving us perspective. I believe that prayer can actually “fix” our thoughts. It does mine anyway. When I am overwhelmed, overcome, exhausted and frustrated rather than telling the Lord what I want Him to do about it, I simply spill my guts to Him like I would my husband or best friend. He didn’t ask me to fix it. Prepackage it with a fancy discourse. Get on my knees. Fall on my face. Head off to church. He said, “Ask me. Seek me. Pursue me. Just believe in me enough to bring it to me…” That’s when the Holy Spirit puts a spin on things that might just change my perspective without changing any natural circumstance in my life. Faith that moves mountains begins by moving men (and women) from outside of His Presence shouting through the door to stepping boldly into His Presence for a chat.

Psalm 27:7-8 (NLT)

“Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

 

I love these verses. They describe the kind of relationship that Jesus wants with each one of us. We pray from afar, but He says, “Come and talk with me.” This is the kind of prayer that the Lord desires. He just wants to talk with you. The Lord desires intimacy with you. He wants a relationship with you. Jesus wants to live in an ongoing conversation with you. You can only hear Him with your heart. A superficial acquaintance or one-night stand with a quick trip to the altar will never change your life. We walk through life together. When our daughter got married, family dinner was a bit awkward at first. One less person to fill our table. I was afraid that now she was gone and we might be forgotten. Well, that was not the case our conversation continued from the moment she left her wedding reception and through her married life. We live in a lifelong relationship. It’s funny because she still expects us to have family dinner each night and will call to see if the two of them can join us. I love that. Our table is not getting smaller but growing in our midst. This is how conversational prayer changes our life in Christ. Rather than surviving, we begin to thrive in the Love of God. (Jude 1:20-21) The Lord is calling you back home to the table. He wants you to join Him. Fellowship with Him. Talk to Him. Know Him. Believe Him. God loves you! He wants to bless you. He says, “Come and talk with me.” May your heart respond…”Lord, I am coming!”

Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

You Have a Friend in Me – A Devotion

You Have a Friend in Me - A Devotion

John 15:12-14 (NLT)
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

The dynamics of friendship have changed over the years especially with the progression of social media. Whether we would like to admit it or not, most of us have hundreds of Facebook friends and several acquaintances but do not have any who are truly our friends. Friendship is a covenant relationship prescribed by the Lord as a benefit to His People. But His People has chosen to become fragmented and disconnected redefining what friendship is and setting up new parameters that do not honor God or others with our life. I was approached in a crowded shopping mall with my daughters by a lovely woman about my age. She had a huge smile on her face and quipped, “Hi Lori, remember me?” I felt terrible because at that moment I did not. My heart sank as I did not want to disappoint her. She could tell by my face I was perplexed and cheerfully filled in the gaps for me. I absolutely hate when that happens. What kind of friend forgets a face? I do. We had not spoken or seen each other in a number of years. After parting ways, other faces began to pop in my head from that time and I began to wonder where they were and what had become of their families. Jesus Christ has instructed us to love each other in the same way that He loves me. Boy, have I fallen short of this in my own life in the name of busyness, routine and even laziness. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for friends. Ouch! I guess I am struggling with this one, too. It just seems that the details of my life are so overwhelming that I do not seem to have time to reach out of the four walls of my home or my family to assist my friends. I prove that I am a friend of Jesus Christ when I obey His Commandments beginning with His Mandate to love other people and make them my friends. It is now apparent that I have some work to do!

John 15:15-16 (NLT)
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.

I did not choose to be a friend to Jesus Christ. It was my sin that nailed Him to the Cross and His Love for me that kept Him there. So He chose me! My bondage to slavery ended that day and I now am free. I must live as a free person. My Master now confides in me. His Spirit lives inside of me. I have full access to God through Christ Jesus to live in His Presence. My children do not knock to come in the house, they just walk in. Over the years as they have made close friends, their friends no longer knock but simply walk in as well. They have access due to their relationship with my sons and daughters and so it is for those who become friends with Jesus Christ. But even though some of the kids are told they do not have to knock, there are a few that still do uncomfortable with free access to our home. And so it is with some who have not taken the time or invested an energy into getting to know Jesus and the friendship that He offers His People.

Romans 5:10-11 (NLT)
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Our friendship with God has been full restored by the death of Jesus Christ. We were enemies of God but now have been saved not of ourselves but strictly by the Blood of Jesus Christ. It is now up to us to develop a relationship with God through the access granted by Jesus Christ. This is the point of salvation – to restore a right relationship with God. You cannot benefit from salvation remaining in sin-full rebellion against God but must use this opportunity to become His Friend. The Word of God says that the Lord is a friend to those who fear and respect Him. (Psalm 25:10-14) How we live demonstrates whether or not God is our friend? We would never do anything intentionally to harm or offend a friend so why would it be different in our relationship with the Lord? We must love others with a pure heart that demonstrates our love for the King. (Proverbs 22:11)

James 2:22-24 (NLT)
You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

Name dropping does not work in the Kingdom of God. I remember in children’s church growing up they would ask if we died and arrived at the gates of heaven what would be our response when asked why they should let us in – the answer was “Jesus Christ.” This is true sort of. Calling on the Name of Jesus Christ is not enough. Now hang on before you get your knickers in a twist…faith and actions must work together. There are many people who call on the Name of Jesus Christ with absolutely no intention of changing their actions. His Name is not enough if you do not believe in His Power. Abraham believed God. He didn’t just say that He believed in God but put his money (and his son) where his mouth was. If only there were more people like Abraham today, just crazy enough to take God completely at His Word and love and trust Him through it all. I do not think I would be able to haul my son up the hill not knowing if he would live or die at my hand. I am pretty sure that I would chicken out and hide in the house ignoring God’s Command. Abraham earned the title “friend of God” by faith put into action. What about you? Would anyone you know call you God’s Friend? Do people even know that you know Jesus Christ and have called on His Name? If not, there is no friendship because it is right-standing with God that allows us to live in such a relationship that can be deemed friendship. Friendship requires interaction. It means communication. There must be more than just knowing or calling out someone’s name to be considered friends. If this is the case, then my friend’s list is shrinking by the minute. Help me Jesus…

James 4:4-7 (NLT)
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We choose our friends wisely. Friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God. Our relationship in righteousness with Jesus Christ is our number one priority. But as all things pertaining to the Lord has the power to vastly benefit our friendship with other people. Friendship with God through Jesus Christ releases our expectation by faith from the things in this world. This world has nothing for me any longer that is not made perfect in my relationship and friendship with God. Now I can be truly friends with other people not worrying that they will require what I am not willing to give. Jesus Christ said that there is no greater gift than to lay down your life for a friend. We can do that now because our life is endless. With have nothing to lose and everything to gain if by faith we believe that this is true enough to act this way. We must decide in every relationship who is a “friend or foe” and have the right to know. (Joshua 5:13-14) The Lord will reveal the relationships that He has for you and show you how to proceed from there. Friendship is a humbling experience that God desires with His People and for His People to have with others.

Matthew 7:3-6 (NLT)
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.”

Those who are my closest friends will tell you that I come with a warning. I am a “terrible” friend. I am prone to being too busy to get together, chat and hang out. Welcome to the world of most people. We operate in crisis mode. Rather than building and cultivating relationships through life and binding ourselves together in love, we develop “call-me-if-you-need-me” friendships that are weak and unsustainable. We worry about fixing people rather than just loving each other. We look inside from the outside to offer advice rather than ever getting to the heart of the matter. Why? Because this requires coming out of our comfort zone and moving into a realm of vulnerability outside of our own control. What if they let us down? What if things don’t work out? God forbid what if they are needy? We become so concerned with how things will turn out that we miss our blessing altogether. Friendship is holy. It is mandated by God. It is a commandment not a suggestion. We need to begin by cultivating a friendship with God that is not “call-me-if-you-need-me” and extend it to other people in love as well. This is faith in action and this is the character of true friends of God! I don’t want to be a “terrible” friend anymore who is too busy, too tired, too stressed to be a good friend by faith.

Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) As iron sharpens iron so a friend sharpens a friend.

Church fellowship has fallen to an all-time low. Church services used to meet on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday with a variety of get-togethers every other day. But that is changing as the church follows the example of a world that has become too busy to spend time together cultivating our friendship with God and others. Iron sharpens iron as a friend sharpens a friend is a call to godly accountability among friends. We are accountability partners to one another as we grow friendships in our faith. ”Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) We need each other whether we know we do or not. We are called to love one another and you cannot do that all alone. We must draw together as the Body of Christ and hold each other accountable to be faithful and extend God’s Love to the world. When the man found his lost sheep, he called together his family and friends to celebrate? (Luke 15:3-7) Who would you call? Would anyone rejoice with you? The world would not rejoice with the man who risked life and limb for one sheep forsaking the rest of the flock because that is not good business. What about the woman who lost a coin? She called her friends to rejoice when she found it. (Luke 15:8-10) Who would you call? Would anyone know the significance? Only those who had been allowed to share your life and love would ever know the relevance of such events. How many true friends do you have? If you are like me, there is plenty of room for more.

I John 4:7-11(NLT)
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

We can be a friend of God thanks to Jesus Christ. God wants to talk to you face-to-face as a friend confides in a friend just as He did with Moses. (Exodus 33:11) The Bible says that a friend’s smile is like seeing the Face of God. (Genesis 33:9-11) Who are you smiling at today? God uses friendship to bless us in giving and receiving. (2 Kings 4:2-4) As we cultivate our relationship with God and draw closer to His Love, we have the ability to love other people more and more as our need for approval and affection are satisfied. So the Lord has commanded us to love others. Not just love them, but lay down our life for them just as Jesus Christ laid down His Life for us. We have lost sight of this in the Body of Christ today. I have forgotten this sometimes in my own life and maybe some of you have, too. It is not too late to become a true friend of God by faith demonstrated in befriending others. Not as this world has defined this relationship but as God has called us to do and instructed us how to. Now all that is left is to be a good friend. Say to another today, “You have a friend in me!” The King of Kings will shine the Light of His Love as He smiles over those who do this and mean it!

Proverbs 27:9-10 (NLT)
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Never abandon a friend—
either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.

Open Doors – A Devotion

Open Doors - A Devotion

Revelation 3:20-21 (NLT)
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.”

When I looked up to greet the perspective student standing in front of me, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was accompanied by a good friend of mine from church. Her mother and I hugged and greeted one another with the usual enthusiasm of such a reunion. As we began to discuss her daughter’s enrollment and complete the necessary steps, her visit was drawing to an end. I had no idea that my friend had an older daughter. As they prepared to leave, her daughter began to tell of previous encounters that she had with me over the past year preparing to come to school. Thankfully, each one worthy of my position not as Student Services Coordinator but Child of God. There had many obstacles along the way challenging her entrance. There are days when frustration gets the best of me and work overload may cause a reaction as stressed our employee rather than a response as faithful Servant of God – can I get a witness? Each day is a new opportunity to serve the Lord with gladness and pass through open doors into His Presence. Each person is an opportunity to honor God with our life and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ with our life. However, as human beings with real emotions and daily problems it is touch to focus on encounters with God in light of survival. Jesus said, “Look I stand at the door and knock!” The Lord is requesting access to our life in every moment because He wants to maintain a relationship, a friendship with each individual called by His Name. I was relieved that I treated my friend’s daughter with kindness. But as a believer every encounter in our life should be on a Kingdom level. There is victory in the open doors of fellowship in the Presence of God found in a right relationship with Jesus Christ. We have the power and potential to live at the Throne of God in His Presence. It comes in our daily encounters and opportunities that we have as believers to honor the Lord with our life.

Hebrews 13:1-3 (NLT)
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

The Body of Christ has forgotten that it has been set free. Freedom is an opportunity to share the Love of God freely obtained through Jesus Christ. It is so important to show hospitality to all who we encounter in our daily life as they may be angels unaware. Wednesday night service at church is a blessing as it is a time to shake off the stress of the week and worship the Lord. A welcome reprieve from the world, I was surprised when a young man and his girlfriend slid into the pew behind us. Instantly recognizing him as someone who had come to the school earlier in the day, again I was reminded that you never know where or when the opportunity to open a conversation about Jesus. He was not only seeking an education but an encounter with God. If I had not treated him kindly, would my hospitality immediately shut the work of the Lord in this young man’s life? He has a young child who will be forever impacted by a father who gives his heart to Jesus. The doorway to God’s Kingdom is open to those who live in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is demonstrated through a life of love.

Romans 5:10-11 (NLT)
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Our friendship with God is a Gift from Jesus Christ. There is nothing that people can do to overcome the pervading sin problem that we have so Jesus sacrificed His Life so that we could be covered in His Blood. This allows a right relationship with the Lord. Nothing that we can do can obtain righteousness but once the Blood is applied it is up to us to maintain righteousness by faith doing the Will of God and following His Way. Jesus Christ laid down His Life so we could be God’s Friend. We are asked to do no less in carrying our cross and pursing the Presence of God. “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14)

Luke 12:35-38 (NLT)
“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.”

Believers are expected to live in constant preparation for the arrival of the Master. You will never know when God is sending the person with the problem that it is your purpose to answer. In fact, the more I follow Jesus the Christ the more I suspect that the opportunity to serve the Lord’s People is in every encounter not just specific individuals. I think every time we come in contact with a person there is an opportunity to shine the Light of God’s Love in their life. Whenever it comes, the person who is ready will have doors opened in their life. But for those who choose to live for today and only themselves, it will be a very different encounter when Jesus comes. They will be naked and ashamed at their sinfulness and willful disobedience as they see Him face-to-face. Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning is a call to live out our commitment to Jesus Christ as faithful followers who are acutely aware of His Impending Arrival and to treat everyone as a brother and sister in Jesus Christ. Maybe doors are not opening in your life today, because you are not ready for His Arrival.

John 10:1-3 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The Grace of God available through Jesus Christ will open every door. It is the power of salvation that allows us to come boldly into the Presence of God and gives us the strength to do the Will of God despite our sinful nature. There is propaganda circulating modern church culture that there is more than one way to access His Presence. This is a lie from the enemy to steal your future. There is One Way and His Name is Jesus Christ. He will grant you access to the Presence of God as a Child of God who maintains right-standing with God through a right relationship with Jesus Christ. You cannot willfully sin and disobey God and stay covered in His Grace. Such a person is a thief who is trying to steal the Blessings and Promises of God. Access is denied. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) Sin does all these things and is prohibited from the Kingdom of God. God is protecting your assets today. God wants to give you His Kingdom. It gives Him pleasure to do so. (Luke 12:32-34) But Heaven must be your treasure or there is not point. As we give this life away as we live to serve Christ and His People, we obtain a stake in the Kingdom of God. You will not give your life away if your faith doesn’t have confident hope that what the Lord offers is worth having. You cannot have His Kingdom your way! There is one gate with one voice. His Name is Jesus Christ – it is life or death and all or nothing venture with extremely high stakes.

Matthew 16:13-19 (NLT)
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am? “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

It doesn’t matter who your pastor believes Jesus Christ to be or other church members, co-workers, friends or even your family. It matters who you believe Jesus Christ to be. If you believe that He is the Son of God who is the Only Way to access the Presence of God and be a part of His Kingdom – it will impact your attitude and actions here and now. The Lord asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” He is asking each one of us the same thing today. Those who believe that Jesus is exactly who He claims to be will be entrusted with Keys to the Kingdom as a Child of God. Such a person will be given access to every door and the wisdom to use them. Faith is the birthplace of a friendship with Jesus Christ. Your faith is solely based on what you believe. If you believe, you will have the power to access God’s Kingdom through a series of open doors. You will be blessed. You will be a blessing. There is no limitation to those who live in the Presence of God and maintain access to His Kingdom. You will be a church without walls able to minister freely with a life surrendered to God. You don’t need what this world has any longer including affection, affirmation and approval but are free to worship God in Spirit and Truth. You will remain in a right-standing relationship as a Friend of God. (James 2:22-24)

Psalm 24:4-8 (NLT)
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the LORD’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob. Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle.

You can be a Friend of God who comes boldly into His Presence. When you knock, He will open the door because He knows you. He will only open the door when you are ready and fully prepared to enter His Presence so that you will not be consumed because of willful or unconfessed sin. The way a person lives is directly connected to opportunity in the Kingdom of God. The Lord wants to hand over the Keys to His Kingdom to you today! Are you willing to prepare to enter in? Those with pure hands and pure hearts who worship God will receive the Lord’s Blessing of access through a right relationships. It is the Grace of God through Jesus Christ that allows such a privilege but it must not be misused or one becomes a thief and the door will be slammed shut. God protects the assets of His Children. The people who we encounter every day are a way to live what we believe. They are all precious and important to God making them the same to you. The Kingdom of God is love because God is love. Our daily encounters and experiences with people reveal our love for Jesus Christ. We are free to worship God by loving His People but are we doing it? Knock on the door to His Kingdom. Request access to the Ancient Gate of His Love. Prepare yourself to experience the Overwhelming Power reserved for God’s Friend. Doors will begin to open granting you all the Promises of God! Make the most of every opportunity to live what you believe by faith beginning with the people that you meet. Your righteousness and commitment will prove that you are indeed a Friend of God!

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

On Friendship – A Devotion

On FriendshipJohn 15:9-14 (NLT)

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.”

 

God loves relationships. Jesus Christ died to restore our friendship with God. Sin disabled our ability to remain righteous and stand in the Presence of the Living God for His Love and Justice would consume us in our weakness. The Blood of Jesus now covers mankind and all who decide to accept the Wonderful Gift of Salvation has the ability to live in close fellowship with the Lord. Notice that it is a gift of choice, salvation is required by all but not forced on God’s People. The Blood of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will allow a human being to pass through God’s Judgment untouched and unharmed, but the choice is still yours whether or not you choose to lean on God’s Love and Amazing Grace. What does God require of you in exchange for His Gift of Love nothing more than to be His Friend?

 

Relationships, companionship and friendship are the lifelong desire of every single person who is born. It is a God-given drive and emotion stemming from Eternity that is in your heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God’s Passionate Love has placed a measure of faith in our heart that allows us to still believe that there may be hope in this world and prods us to love even with broken devastated hearts passed amongst many unfaithful and unworthy recipients. God invites you to gather the many pieces of your broken heart today and bring them all into close fellowship with the healer. The Lord will heal your broken heart and bind up those wounds. (Psalm 147:3) His Word allows us to put proper perspective and expectation on earthly relationships compared to our close fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. (Psalm 119:63) Those who choose to seek the Lord’s Wisdom concerning friendships and walk in righteousness will have many friends. (Proverbs 11:30) God will bless you in your friendships and relationships when they are modeled after the Lord’s Example of Love. Yes, we are to lay down our life for our friends but not our salvation.

 

Genesis 5:23-24 (NLT)

Enoch lived 365 years walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

 

Enoch lived 365 years walking in close fellowship with God. Can we make 365 days living in close fellowship with the Lord? I have read this account many times and only today realized the revelation in this scripture. God does not desire a relationship with His People that equates to 52 days or a maximum of 104. One out of seven days or two at the most is not a friendship, but merely an acquaintance. Consider Noah who also was noted to live in “close fellowship” with God as a righteous man. Outside of righteousness, no one can walk in close proximity to God. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His Throne. For Him to accept us living in the corruption of sin would be contrary to His Will, His Way and His Word compromising the Truth altogether. Why would God want those who trample the Blood of Jesus Christ and blaspheme His Spirit by taking the Word and twisting it to make their life acceptable be welcome in the Presence of the Loving Father of our Lord and Savior? Consider this: if one of your children was in a horrific accident and committed to be an organ donor – how would feel about the one who got their heart living in obesity with diabetes because of a careless lifestyle doing nothing with the new lease on life given them? Or what if the person with new lungs was a chain smoker? What if the person with the new liver continued to be an alcoholic destroying the new organ given at the expense of your child’s life? If it were my own child, I would be enraged and angered at such a thing and I believe you would be, too. Each second chance taken for granted, yet I had no power to change the poor choices of others. What would you do? Why would God think any less of trampled grace at the expense of His Son? To choose righteousness and live in close fellowship with God requires honoring the sacrificial offering of His Son, Jesus and living as a friend of God first. Then we must choose our relationships according to our friendship with God always keeping our commitment to the Lord as the basis of all relationships in the future. How many days of your week are committed to your friendship with God? Is your relationship to Jesus Christ the foundation of all other unions in your life?

 

I Samuel 20:14-17 (NLT)

And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David,saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

 

Jonathan and David would be the picture of best friends in the Bible. When their friendship was threatened by King Saul, they came up with an elaborate plan to determine the king’s intentions concerning David. The words of this friendship pact make it clear that they considered the Lord as a primary member of their relationship. “May you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord…” All of our friendships should be formed and channeled through our Love for God and commitment to righteousness. Salvation is the moment that all that we are and all that we know is rerouted through the Blood of Jesus. Some things will make the cut and others will not. Some people will support our salvation and others will not. Our entire life is now evaluated from an Eternal perspective formed on a foundation of faith and leading to confident hope. It is the direction that we are heading and not turning back some people will choose not to follow. Keep walking. Do not turn back. Is it time to reevaluate our fellowship with the Lord? Maybe it is time to reaffirm our friendship with God? Close fellowship is a friendly relationship of constant communion. We share a community of interest and desire to know who God is and what He is all about. Our life will become a testament of our friendship and love no longer will we be ashamed of the Gospel because it is an opportunity to brag on our best friend who we know intimately and personally and more importantly who knows us!

 

Job 2:11-13 (NLT)

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.

 

When tragedy struck the life of Job, his three closest friends came to support their friend in great loss and devastation. It all begins as one would expect. They had compassion on their buddy and wanted to be there for him. When they arrived, Job’s grief had consumed him and they barely recognized him. And so they tore their robes, threw dust on their heads and joined him in his grief. No one said anything to Job, just stayed with him. Everything is going good so far until they decided it was time to move on and began to put their two cents in. Think about your closest friends right now. If put in a situation of great grief and despair who would come and be there? If you are going through circumstances in your life with many troubles, who is there?

 

Job 42:7-8 (NLT)

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”

 

By the end of the Book of Job, God AND Job are angry with these three friends. In the beginning, they were Job’s comforters but their lack luster relationship with God and their unfair evaluation of Job gave way to allowing the enemy’s influence to overtake them. Having gone through many trials in life as a believer and nonbeliever, I must agree that in the heat of the fire is when friendship is tested. It is important to choose your friends wisely. You must decide who is worthy of your heart. Those who do not have a close relationship with God should not be allowed to touch you like that because they will not protect you the way that the Lord has intended or demonstrated. They want you to get over it and move on. Own up to your sin. Get on with your life. There was a young woman whose husband was led astray by the enemy. She was a relatively new Christian, but heard God’s Voice telling her to wait for her husband’s return. Her friends supported this decision in the beginning but over time even many mature Christians told her to move on. She held her ground. When her husband did return (Praise God), new wisdom made her very careful about who she told the wonderful news as they began to mend the pieces of their broken life in the Presence of God. A close friend of hers was very upset that she had not been told about the reunion and wondered why she did not tell the world what God had done. The same person began to relent about the impending failure that would come as trust was irrevocably broken and it was her experience that it could NEVER be regained. Whoa! You have your answer right there. We must be wise in our friendships and not shrewd. The only relationship in our life with the power of unconditional love, unending grace, new mercy and overflowing joy is with Jesus Christ. The only people that can demonstrate such a friendship are those who choose to be a Friend of God and then a friend with people.

 

Job 42:10-11 (NLT)

When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of moneyand a gold ring.

 

God desires His People to have friendship. God will bless you in those friendships. When Job prayed for His Friends without any expectation from them only expectation from the Lord, his fortunes were restored and he received double for his trouble. If you will make your relationship with Jesus Christ a 365-day fellowship and make the Lord your best friend, you will benefit from every other relationship in your life. Do not expect your friends to do for you what Jesus did for you! Lay down your life for your friends because that is what the Lord expects from you! But expect the Goodness of the Lord and His Very Best and now you are operating in the Favor of God. You are His Friend by faith and everything else is counted as joy!

 

Psalm 25:11-4 (NLT)

For the honor of your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins. Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.

 

Do you have “church” friends? If you do, it is a good chance that you are living a double life because you have friends for all occasions. I have some friends who only contact me when they are in trouble or searching for Jesus but when they are living in the world remain distant. The Lord is a friend to those who fear Him not by means of fright but respect. If you are a friend of God, it is reflected in how you live because you desire to remain in close fellowship with Him. Knowing that sin puts a barrier between you, you will live in such a way that if you come face-to-face with Him in a moment you can face him. I would not betray my husband. He is my friend. I act married whether I am with him or not because I love him and have given my life to him. So why would living in “close fellowship” with the Lord be any different? Do you live as though you are the Bride of Jesus Christ wherever you go and whatever you do 365 days a year? God will teach you to please him. After fifteen years together, I know what my husband likes and dislikes and choose to do the things that make him happy. He does the same things for me because we are committed to a lifelong relationship. Why would it be any different in an Eternal one?

 

Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

 

When a cut does not heal properly, it must be reopened so it can sutured once again. It requires that the old scar and surrounding skin must be cut away and then re-approximated so the new tissue can mend together. The open wounds of the human heart cannot be healed by callous friendship that does not go deeper. It must be a relationship founded on the Word of God, walking in the Will of God, seeking the Way of God to be a friendship of sharpening. I have friends that will say what I want to hear in order to maintain the façade of friendship. But when I am going through something, I go to my closest friends who know the Word and more importantly are Friends of God. Real friends will lay down their life for you including telling you things you may not want to hear as long as it based on God’s Truth. Sometimes we avoid the Lord and His Spirit because His Word cuts to the heart of the matter. Our friendships must align with the Word of God to be effective and productive. “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.” (Hebrews 4:12) 

 

 

Psalm 55:12-14 (NLT)

It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them.Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend.  What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.

 

We expect our enemies to attack us, but seldom do we expect the attack of close friends who are used by the enemy of our souls in ignorance. Such encounters cut the human heart in pieces for easy consumption by your adversary. I rebuke the spirit of division in the church today and call forth “Jonathan and David” partnerships. We need each other in the Body of Christ to fulfill the mission of love we have been sent on. Friendships founded on the Word of God by people committed to the Lord 365-days will not end in failure but will thrive in God’s Favor. It begins by walking in close fellowship with God. Are your God’s Friend? Abraham was called such a man. When the Lord gave Abraham his heart’s desire then demanding the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham did not hesitate because he knew God was his friend and trusted him with his precious boy. God is asking you today, “Do you trust me?” To be his friend will requires sacrificing the need for human affirmation, affection, acceptance and approval to purse righteousness and live in His Favor? I ask you, “Do you trust Him like that?” God invites you to embark in the most passionate love affair of all time. His Love will consume you! He wants to be your friend. Your faith and actions must work together. You cannot love someone you do not trust. You will not follow anyone you do not trust. You will not trust someone you do not love. Gather the pieces of your heart that have been diversified looking for love and give them all to Jesus. He will mend your broken heart and allow you to give your life away expecting nothing in return because you are a Friend of God and have all you need already!

 

James 2:22-23 (NLT)

You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.