Principle of Life

Principle of Life

Luke 24:5-7 (NLT)The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Waking up to the smell of field peas cooking in the crock pot, I remember what today is. I need to get up as there are a few extra things to do before heading out to church. As I hesitate, my husband whispers in the dark as if not to chase it away, “Happy Easter!” I love this day. It has become my favorite of all days. A day to celebrate life and all the opportunities released the day it was clear that Jesus was no longer in the grave. He was alive. He is alive. The Living Christ lives in me. Works through me. Changes me. Challenges me. Pushes me. Presses me. Everyday strengthens me delivering mercy in the morning and more grace throughout the day. I am promised His Power because He is omnipotent. Death could not hold Him. The one thing that is feared the most by all humanity had absolutely no control over our Lord and Savior who is life.

People struggle with the concept of the Risen Christ. The Christ who exists on paper and in theory must be encountered to exist in us, impact our life and change us. It is one thing to say, “I believe in Jesus Christ” yet quite another to make this our principle of life. Ray Dalio, a hugely successful investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates who is one of the world’s largest hedge funds, said, “Principles are what allow you to live a life consistent with those values. Principles connect your values to your actions.” A principle is the fundamental truth from which all others are derived. An applied principle is to take that truth or belief and base all other attitudes and actions upon it. It is our accepted rule of conduct. Do you live like Jesus is alive? Do you truly believe that His Life influences your existence? Will today be the day that you do?

John 1:1-4, 14 (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.

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 is the creative power behind every living thing. He is the Word of God which once released must do exactly what He promised it would do. It cannot return void. It is impossible. When God breathed life into Adam – Jesus was that one breath that perpetuated all life. Think about that for a moment. Jesus is life. He is the essence of life from God that enables us and empowers us to live up to the Glorious Standard set for us that people abandoned for sin. His Blood is the life giving power that washes us clean and allows us to apprehend such a life again. The Word of God wrapped himself in flesh to come demonstrate love for all people so that it would be vividly clear that God loves us and desires us above all things. Even with a Living Color Lord, they did not believe Him. Don’t beat yourself up. The men and women who walked with Jesus did not get it either.

The women were coming to the tomb that day to give Jesus a proper burial. They did not expect to find life but finalize His Death. They called Him the Messiah but did not believe it to be so. They expected to find Jesus trapped in a tomb, but that’s not at all what happened that day. Jesus was alive. They ran to tell the others and still no one really believed. The enemy had already begun to perpetuate lies and accusations. The body was stolen. He did not come back from the dead but was hidden by his followers. The enemy always tries to hide the truth with a lie.

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

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18) Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. In the New King James Version, it is called an abundant life. For God so loved the world that He gave His Son so that whoever believes will have everlasting, eternal and forever life. Often this is projected forward and put into a futuristic setting. Jesus did not come to judge people. He did not come to condemn them, but that through Him that they would live. Live now. Live tomorrow. Life this life. Life forever. It is all about believing. It has nothing to do with one’s ability to change their life, make better choices or even do good things. It is all about what you believe and our ability to live that belief. The principle of life for the believer begins with the empty tomb and continues from that point throughout all eternity. If just for today, as we celebrate Easter and honor the Resurrection of Christ, we could for a moment inspect our life.

John 11:21-27 (NLT) “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Lazarus was dead. Jesus appeared to be delayed and upon His Arrival everyone was in mourning. Martha met the Lord and said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Then she went on to say, “I know that even now Go will give you whatever you ask.” Martha was conflicted. Her heart and mind at odds. She said that she believed and oh how she wanted to believe but she struggled with disbelief just the same. Jesus told her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He is saying the exact same thing to us today. The same Jesus that came barreling out of the tomb, visited many people, and ascended into Heaven is alive and well today. He is still the Resurrection and Life. The same person who called Lazarus to come up out of his grave and he did. This is the Jesus who lives in you and me today. We have the power to see dead dreams come to life and the Glory of God to fill our life. But just like Martha, we struggle to truly believe.

Romans 8:10-11 (NLT)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

What if it is true? What is Jesus Christ really is alive in us? What if His Spirit is trying to give us new life every single day? What if grace really is enough to release God’s Power, His Resurrection and Life-Giving Power, to every single dead thing? What if it is my unwillingness or inability to believe that is holding the doors and windows of blessing shut? What if it is my stubborn foot standing over the seeds of faith attempting to produce good things and harvests in my life? What if my words are poisoning the good fruit that His Spirit is attempting to grow in me? What if I am aborting the birthing of my promises? What if it is me? Today changes everything!

I challenge you as the Lord challenges me today – if you are headed to church, just got home, running late or not doing anything at all but hunting some eggs with the kids and spending time with your family – look for Him today. Not the dead Savior hanging on a Cross, but the Powerful Lord who came alive with the keys to every locked door in your life, heart and mind. Jesus is alive and well. The Living Savior ready to break every chain, release your burden, heal your body and release every other forgotten benefit that marks the new life that He promised. His Promise still stands. God’s love for you cannot be taken or shaken from you. He loves you! He always loved you! He paid the highest price for you – not to make you a performer but a producer of His Love. Your dead dreams are only sleeping. Your potential is not lost just hidden in the soil of your heart. Once fertile, it will explode with life again. Every blessing and promise for your life is safe and sound. Your inheritance is secure. It is your heart that Jesus is after. Do you believe? It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith makes all things possible…we must only believe. Jesus is the principle of life. He is life. He gives life and power to those who love and trust Him. Apply this principle to your life and you will live in peaceful prosperity both now and forevermore. Living for Jesus Christ should be a satisfying life not filled with disappointment. Hope never leads to such a thing. If my life is less than I expected, then I need to let Christ increase in me. He promised to do more than I can think, imagine or even ask. This is the principle of life to be satisfied. To apply Jesus Christ who is alive and well in all areas of my life. Christ is the One who completes this process in us. He gives new life. We become new creations.

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

To Be Still

To Be Still

Psalm 46:10 (AMP) “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”

As I sit in His Presence today, I am waiting. Wondering about some details that just don’t add up. Asking for clarity and divine discernment. Introspection leads to listening. I want to hear His Voice. I want to do what He says to me. So different from my younger days, when dissatisfaction created distance between us, now it only leads to a greater desire to know, recognize and understand Him more. Completion is my purpose. Fulfillment is the potential of my life. To be fully invested in Christ body, mind and spirit until my soul prospers and runs over to every person I encounter in this dark and dying world. To light in every darkness and speak words that lead to life. To love so extravagantly that all they see is God’s Love poured out before them in spite of me.

Yet soon, I will have to close the Bible, turn off the computer and leave the prayer closet/study. The door will be open and life come pouring in like a wave unhindered. I will face challenges. I will have trials. All opportunities to grow a little closer and wade a little deeper into the fathomless grace that I have been given. As I go, my greatest longing is to just be still. To be still and know. To be still and recognize. To be still and understand that He is My God. It would be so much easier if I could stay right here in His Presence. To distance myself from the pressures of life persistently bearing down on my chest, stealing my breath, taking my attention, and just to be still. Oh for a moment of selah today, a moment to pause and reflect on the walls of the strong tower, my refuge, and my strength.

Psalm 46:1-6 (AMP) God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved; God will help her when the morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered and were moved; He raised His voice, the earth melted.

Reading these words today, I am encouraged. Feeling like Peter whose desire for the Lord took him out of the boat to walk on water, but the winds and the waves got in his way. Sometimes faith feels like swimming in an endless ocean, too far out to turn back but so far gone the shore is not in sight. It is then that our life hangs in the balance. It is in that moment that we become aware of grace that is like an ocean – you know the one where we are sinking. God is good. God is always good. He is love. Endless love. Fathomless love. His Purpose and Plan for my life is complete lacking no good thing unless maybe my full attention sometimes. In the past, the adrenaline might kick in right about now. I would have to make the decision to fight for my faith or flee with what is left of my left. Oh, I am too far gone now. Like Jacob in Genesis 32, his wives, children and livelihood crossed over on the other side. Jacob was alone. Nothing to go back to, just Jacob and God wrestling through the dark of night. Holding tightly to the Lord, who said, “Let me go for the day is breaking.” Jacob refused. He declared to the Lord, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” Jacob was given his heart’s desire. No longer would he be known for his struggles, but as the one who came face-to-face with God. Do you remember what happened when Moses came face-to-face with the Lord? God’s Glory shone so brightly on his face that he covered it as not to frighten them. Oh for Your Glory, Lord. I desire that new name. I want to be the one who despite her many struggles and insufficiencies experienced the Glory of Your Grace full immersed and overflowing.

God is our refuge and our strength. His Presence is a mighty and impenetrable fortress that allows us to be still and know – no matter what conditions or circumstances are circling our life. I am so thankful today for His Presence. The Lord does not only promise to keep us safe and secure in His Presence but offers freedom from fear so faith can grow, develop and mature into deep roots that keep us well-grounded so that we learn to thrive in life and not just merely survive. (Psalm 92:14) Jacob fled for his life which didn’t amount to much except the Lord was with him. He served Laban faithfully and flourished even in exile. He encountered the Lord in the stillness of the night upon his return. He was 97 years old. Oh for us to know, understand and recognize that our journey with the Lord is a lifelong endeavor seldom offering immediate gratification or instantaneous harvests. It is a life of sowing and reaping governed by the promise of God that what we plant is what we will reap. God has blessed Jacob in the natural but in his old age he wanted God’s Blessing to reach into the depths of his heart and change him.

Lord, help me to be still. To know, recognize and understand that my life is a process. Grace to faith to trust to confident hope. To complete the cycle again and again until my heart is secure in the stronghold of your love. I don’t want to end the process or escape the pressure. I want you Lord. I will not let go until You bless me with the desire of my heart. Lord teach me to fully rely on Your Sovereignty today. You go before me and fall in behind me. You pursue me passionately with Goodness and Unfailing Love. Teach me to pursue you with my whole heart.

Psalm 37:3-7 (AMP) Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him also and He will do it. He will make your righteousness [your pursuit of right standing with God] like the light, and your judgment like [the shining of] the noonday [sun]. Be still before the Lord; wait patiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him…

Trust is to rely on and have confidence in the Lord. Our ability to trust is in direct correlation with what we believe to be true. Faithfulness is God’s Quality that I believe in along with His Goodness. He is faithful while I can only try to be. My only real chance at faith is created by the amazing grace that I have been given. Do good. Dwell in the land. Feed on His Faithfulness. Such a simple thing, yet a daily challenge with the pressures of life bearing down on us. Dare I believe that in the midst of adversity that God is giving me the desires of my heart? Yes, and a thousand times, yes! Such understanding doesn’t come without a price. It will require my complete undoing. It will take all of my heart, mind, soul and body fully invested in Jesus Christ. It will be in my weakness. It will be found when I fail. Those who commit their life to Christ must put all expectation in the Lord, His Word, His Will and His Way. It is a day by day – moment to moment process to build trust and confidence in the Lord. It is a daily pursuit and endless process that requires endurance. Endurance is marked by stillness. Those who endure must learn to be still.

James 4:6-8 (AMP) But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].” So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you. Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people].

Oh Jesus just a few more minutes together before I must leave this place of refuge. This quiet place in our home filled with Your Spirit and like-minded people. I am persuaded today that nothing can separate me from the Love of God. I know that all things work together for my good because I am called according to His Purpose and desire it above all things. Yet still, to be still is such a challenge sometimes especially when the ocean of grace is so vast that I cannot see from shore to shore. What lies beneath the surface frightens me. The length of this journey overwhelms me. The enemy taunts me. His lies raise the hairs on the back of my neck. God gives more and more grace to those who forgo pride and float in humility. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Resist. Withstand. Strive against. Oppose. If I simply resist, the temptation to give up or give in then he must go. The enemy cannot do anything to me other than lie to me. If I silence the lie with God’s Truth – He must go. Our closeness to the Lord allows us to endure such harsh conditions and one day realize that the thing that carried us through was His Grace. It is enough. It is more than enough. It is always sufficient. It leads me to faith. It is the one thing that I trust most because without it – I don’t stand a chance.

Psalm 84:1-4 (AMP) How lovely are Your dwelling places, Lord of hosts! My soul (my life, my inner self) longs for and greatly desires the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. Blessed and greatly favored are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah.

Have you ever encountered a spider web? You didn’t see it. Like a carefully laid net to capture you, it overtakes you or so it seems. You flail around as if consumed in invisible fire to get away from it. It is not the web that you are afraid of but the little spider that may be lurking in it who more than likely ran away when you destroyed its home. The world’s largest spider is ironically called the Goliath spider…no kidding. It is about 11 inches in diameter making shudder just to think about it. Though a deadly ambusher of small rodents and even a bird – to date it has not consumed a human. Thank God! However, even a small spider will cause a grown man to jump and scream. So many times – this is how those filled with the Power of Christ respond to the words of the enemy. When walking through the woods, I must look out for spiders. It is their dwelling place. Their home and not mind. But in my house, the spiders are quickly killed and disposed of. It is my home and they are not welcome. Where are you living today?

To live in the Presence of God is a place that goes with us. He lives in us. The world is not our home. However, God gave us dominion over it in Genesis. My authority is evident by the Christ in me but if I have no confidence in Christ – I will remain subject to my fear and insecurities because I have no idea of the strong tower and refuge available for those who take grace to access faith and live in it by trust. Just outside the door awaits all the pressure and pain along with cares and concerns that comprise this life we live. I will be tested and tried by the many challenges. The enemy has new lies and careful traps ready to trip me up and cause me to stumble. The Lord offers a strong tower and refuge for those who desire to enter in and to be still. These are His People who will experience blessing and favor in their life. As their soul prospers in the Peaceful Place of God so will their everyday life no matter how tough it gets. Lord, my soul, my life and my inner self long for you. I greatly desire to live in Your Presence today. Help me to do so. Show me the way deeper into the courts called beautiful, peaceful and strong. Teach me to be still today. Show me how to put all my life in you, Jesus!

Psalm 84:12 (AMP) O Lord of hosts, how blessed and greatly favored is the man who trusts in You [believing in You, relying on You, and committing himself to You with confident hope and expectation].

Chasing the Wind

Chasing the Wind

Ecclesiastes 11:4-8 (NLT) Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. 

Saturdays are precious in our family. Five work days and one day of church worship leave only one for my husband and I to do spend time with our children and do some chores around the house. To wake up when we want to and dawdle through the day is quite nice rushing through the week. The alarm this morning did not greet a happy and expectant employee ready to jump up and seize the day. With a sigh, I immediately began to pray and thank the Lord for the opportunity I have in the workplace and the great weekend that we had. Gratitude seems to change my attitude. It is a great help when the dark cloud of drudgery tries to overshadow God’s Goodness, His Grace and His Glory in our life.

This Saturday an industrious spirit took over as Spring Fever was in the air. Our neglected front porch is right outside the windows of the study where I write. As the morning sun beamed brightly through the windows, I decided to wash away the residue of a long winter and pollen that collected as spring arrived. Armed with all my supplies, I tackled the windows inside and out. The front porch of our house was barren. There really was no point upon our arrival and many other areas of our “new” home that needed our attention, but an image filled my head of two porch rockers. Well, you know the old saying, if mama ain’t happy then… well you know the rest. My husband and I headed to our favorite date place or the home improvement store. Loading a hand cart with two black rocking chairs, a couple small palms and a can of black paint along with a couple other “necessary” items – we headed home. After some assembly required, the two rockers were just as I imagined. We sat down to overlook our work for the day. The yard was manicured, the windows washed and porch cleaned – all the details in place. Sitting in the cool breeze, just rocking along, I realized that the newest chapter in our life had finally arrive. Our littlest girls are almost grown. The three older ones all in their twenties and living their lives. Me and my best friend rocking on the porch in the chairs that will be the place to rock our grandchildren, visit with friends, or maybe even share the greatest love story ever told with someone who is hurting. I have named the two chairs – one is satisfaction and the other will be contentment.

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.” If a perfect life were possible, grace would not be necessary. Since people are not perfect, the ability to live such an existence escapes them. To live this live pursuing our dreams and working for our goals outside of satisfaction and contentment is chasing the wind. I believe this is the meaning behind 3 John 1:2. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Funny that it comes in 3 John and not 1 John. The prosperity of our soul is satisfaction. The confidence in Christ born of faith is called contentment. Both are qualities birthed by trust, yet hard to grasp much less hold on to in a world that lives according to immediate gratification and a constantly changing perception of what will bring these two qualities. If it were power and wealth by the world’s standards, there would not be so many people who end their life in the height of success because of dissatisfaction and disappointment feeding a disease called depression or fueling the fire of anxiety buffered by mood altering drugs and pain killers. So many talented people who no matter how successful could not catch the conditions they desired most – the peaceful stillness found in two rocking chairs on a front porch in the county.

“Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.” Balance is the art of both hard work and peace of mind that is very hard to achieve outside of Jesus Christ. Striving becomes thriving when this balance is achieved. God gave us goals, dreams and desires when He placed eternity in our heart. Without a perspective of heaven or His Kingdom including the blessings and benefits that His Children have there, the joy and peace marked satisfaction and contentment are impossible. The Lord planted a seed in you and I called faith. It is the substance of all that we hope for. Unless this seed is cultivated in every area of our life – it will only bloom where it is planted. A diversified life will only contribute to stress and worry increasing our burdens but Jesus invites us to “yoke our life with Him” and He will partner with us in all our endeavors sharing the heavy load of responsibility that weighs us down in life giving us a precious promise called rest. (Matthew 11) You have the potential of prosperity in you. It will yield the two things you desire most but we must work into the fields and furrows of our heart to be incorporated in every endeavor of life or we are just chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:11-12;17 (NLT) Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

The Lord has a plan for our life. Recorded before our birth (Psalm 139), it is a good one with a future and hope. God didn’t design our life for disaster. God promises to hear our prayers. He will be found by those who look for Him wholeheartedly. This is an important detail often missed in a world that cries “what is in it for me.” Life. Jesus died to give us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) All of us. He didn’t go to the Cross just so you and I could just make it but that in Him find live a prosperous life according to God’s Riches in Glory. To restore the glorious standard of living that sin had taken from us but Jesus came back from the grave to give us. He didn’t force us to take the Keys to the Kingdom but rather offers them to us each day. Our willful disposition fostered by the old Elvis anthem, “I Did It My Way” will find many in the same position that the world renowned “king of rock and roll” did. A man who could have had anything he wanted, denied himself nothing, reaped a huge reward for all his labors and fully accomplished in his industry died in addiction. We must seek soul satisfaction or risk putting all our efforts into a success that will never reach the innermost part of us. Without faith it is impossible to please God – without faith there is no satisfaction and contentment continues to wave in the wind at those who pass it by.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NLT)  So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1) The realization that every good thing in our life is from the Hand of God can change one’s perspective. The greatest revelation is that of Romans 8:28 in the promise that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose for them.” To find truth in the words and apply trust to them will change our lives forever. To believe that every good thing in our life is a product of God and not self or random fate is one thing, but to also see the potential of God in every situation and know that He will work it in our favor – now that my friend is life changing and soul altering. Soul satisfaction comes from faith that trusts God and believes in His Goodness even on our worst day.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 (NLT) Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” And yet, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”

Comparison is a joy killer. It comprises faith because it plants a seed of envy that will bloom into bitterness. God has no favorites. Before declaring the grass is greener in someone else’s yard, perhaps one might ask what fertilizer they use. See God uses every detail of our life for our good. Before comparing our life journey to another, one might decide if it is worth the cost. We are a masterpiece – each one of us an individual work of God with his or her own process of completion. The end result is the same. The process is different. To be jealous of another displays disbelief in God’s Purpose and Plan for us. It destroys satisfaction. It corrupts contentment. A seed demonstrates the growth process in God – one must first die to self. Our present form must be completely undone to incorporate His Goodness in every facet of our life until His Love completely overtakes us and trust allows all good things to grow hidden in our new heart – new life – new creation. To prosper without satisfaction and contentment is not to a blessing. Any form of prosperity does not change our heart but simply magnifies what is already in it. The Lord offers us the Mind of Christ. We must know Him, trust Him and believe Him to have perfect peace that is not challenged by condition or circumstance but leads us to safe harbor every time. The truest blessing of prosperity is a satisfied soul resting in the Peace of God even in a stormy situation.

Ecclesiastes 5:15-20 (NLT) We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry. Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

I love our new rocking chairs. I love the front porch. The wind feels good blowing on my face. I love the promise represented called satisfaction and contentment. I know they are a product of age and maturity. There is no need to chase the wind for it will blow where it will. Looking back, I do not see the broken life that I have lived and all the bad things that have happened. I do not look ahead with fear, worry or stress but I sit there rocking and thinking of all the good things that the Lord has done for us. Our youngest daughter sits at our feet with playing with our little dog laughing at her antics. She is the last of our children who is growing up so quickly before us. But I am not afraid my role as mom will soon be over. Sitting next to me is my best friend and soul mate given to me by a gracious God. Our journey has not been easy but it has been worth it. From the beginning, we decided to be yoked with the Lord. He has carried us to this point. As I continue to rock envisioning children running around the yard as the days turn into years, I ask the Lord not for more of anything but to continue this work in my heart. Give me a wealth of satisfaction and rich contentment to fill every nook and cranny of my heart. There is nothing in this world worth more than a prospering soul. It shines a new light on an ordinary life magnifying far greater potential then hard work and motivation could ever afford. To find satisfaction is really what we are after no matter how hard we try to seem confident and uncaring. We want to be loved just as we are in a world that cries to take – maybe God wants us to give. You cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself. It is common sense. You cannot share the fathomless love and endless grace of God with others until it is found within ourselves. You cannot faith it until you make it. Faith is a solid footstep in God’s Direction. Real love and true faith produce satisfaction in life because they are the seeds that God planted in us and faith in Jesus will begin to grow. Once our soul is satisfied, the sky is the limit literally as the windows of Heaven open and His Light reveals all the blessings in our life and sends down all every promise day by day.

I Timothy 6:6 (NLT) Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great worth.

Tiny Treasures

Tiny Treasures

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

I have many masterpiece designs made by my little artists over the years. Carefully wrapped in newsprint and bubble wrap, hidden in the guest room, they are precious treasures to me. Preparing for our move last year, I held them in my hand carefully wrapping each one. I labeled each box “fragile” and made sure they were transported in my car. We are fragile clay jars. (Job 33:6) Produced from clay, by the Potter, yet far from finished from completion. (Isaiah 64:8) The work of the potter’s hands begins with a lump of clay thrown unceremoniously on a wheel. Water is added to soften the mound. The potter takes his hands and begins to firmly knead the clay working the water through it and making it pliable in his hands. He presses hard with all his strength to eliminate all the air bubbles inside. It is a rigorous process. But if any of those pockets remain when the final work is placed in the kiln exposed to great heat – it will crack or worse explode. Oh Lord, remind me today that I am only clay. A masterpiece in the potter’s hand who just happens to be my Father.

Ephesians 2:9-10 (NLT) Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

There are other little art creations tucked away. The kids and I used to go to the local ceramic store in the summer or when visiting my family. A “pick-and-paint” operation filled with shelves of different items to choose from then with a wide assortment of colorful paint create a bowl, cup or little boxes. Once complete, the shop would put them in the kiln bringing the color to life. I love those little pieces and the memories they hold, yet do not prize them as I do all the little clay pieces. Could it be the time invested? Or maybe because the clay pieces were the individual work of each child rather than one simply painted?

Growth in God may seem like complete destruction. Well, if God’s Plan and Purpose is the true desire of my heart – it will be the complete undoing of my heart. God has a plan and purpose for my life – He promises that it contains a future and hope. It is blessed. It must be broken. I cannot maintain my present form and be the masterpiece that Lord has called me to be. I must become a new creation.  A new person. A seed must die to its present form to become the potential hidden inside. We must die to our present form to become that new creation and let God’s Light shine from us.

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

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV) Substance…what is the substance of our life? Our bodies are molded and shaped of clay or so the Bible says. God scooped up some earth and made a human being. Our physical being is terminal. From the day of our arrival – our death is one day closer. This is not a morbid reality just a bit of mortal truth. Our potential is locked inside of us. God put eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He labeled it a “measure of faith”. (Romans 12:3) It comes wrapped in the promise that the Lord will make all things beautiful in its time. Romans 8:28 ensures us that He will use every detail for our good and His Glory. God is working the substance of our life. He is kneading us. Pressing out the impurities, filling us with His Grace, and shaping us into the new creation He promised. He needs only one thing from us. It is not what you may think.

Psalm 37:3-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

The invisible link between faith and hope is trust. We must trust the Lord enough to endure the process of our undoing and remaking in the Potter’s Hands. If our desire is to know Him, serve Him, find Him and live in His Presence – we must do so with the understanding that God does not lie or change His Mind. Though favorable for us, it will not allow us to remain the same while inching closer to Him each day. We must be changed by the grace that saved us into the masterpiece that He calls us. To change in our appearance but not in our substance puts us in danger of becoming like the Pharisees. Doing and saying all the right things, but never becoming the new person changed by faith, trust and confident hope. Instead, we are simply “white-washed tombs”, (Matthew 23) The Blood of the Lamb washes us white from the inside out. Not the other way around, The Lord doesn’t want perfect Christians with hard hearts. No, He wants new creations who are soft and responsive to know and become one with His Heart.

To live for Christ and become one with Him will never allow for me to remain the same. I must submit to the process of applied pressure that works the measure of faith hidden in my heart to become the Light-Conducive vessel that breaks through the darkness of this world. I have a purpose. It is hidden inside my very human heart. The more my heart breaks – the more evident it becomes day by day. I am not called to strong, but completely broken so that the Lord can do what He planned from the beginning before I was born when He recorded it from my mother’s womb as He knit me together there. (Psalm 139) Trust allows me to commit every detail of my life to the Lord and become yoked to Him. (Matthew 11) I don’t have to worry about tomorrow or the troubles I find in this day or the next. The future is no longer a concern.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

I know that I will be pressed, but trust the Lord not to allow me to be crushed. I may be persecuted, but I trust the Lord to never abandon me but stay right beside me. I know that I will not understand it all, but that’s okay because I can trust God at His Word. The enemy can hunt me down and draw a huge target on my back, but the Lord is my strength and shield and I can trust Him. Though struck down by insecurity, fear and even doubt, I trust the Lord to never let me fall and keep me from stumbling. I trust Him at His Word. It is all that I have to go on. It must be enough. Jesus is the Word of God who came wrapped up in flesh. Trusting His Father through this life, to be tortured and killed on a Cross, but it did not stop there. He marched through the fiery depths of the hottest hell to take my life from the enemy’s hand and deliver it back to me when Jesus came back just three days later. My faith must grow into absolute confidence in the hope that I have been given so that when I am tested and tried by the fire called refinement, I will not be destroyed but exhibit the Power of God given to me by His Grace. Faith, trust and confident hope are essential in becoming the person who God calls His Masterpiece. It is not a pleasant process all the time, but I can find joy in it each day.

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Thinking about the tiny treasures tucked away in the box marked “fragile”, I cannot help but wonder if God thinks of us the same way. How precious it must be when we trust Him and submit to the process and pressure as evidence of trust? How happy the Lord must be when we decide to let Him work that measure of faith into a something of substance so that we become the Light of the World no longer hidden in darkness? Oh how the Lord treasures us even in our present broken and imperfect state as He whispers from the potter’s house, “Come and let me finish this great work that is within you.” Let me mold and shape your life into the Masterpieces that I created you to be. Jesus wants to complete me today… and you, too. He longs to work His Love, Grace and Mercy through us so His Love can radiate from us. I hear His Calling and I answer with my heart, “Lord, I am coming.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

 

Take Out the Trash

take-out-theh-trash

Philippians 3:7-8 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.

In the wee hours of the morning, I received the news that a good friend had suddenly lost her father. He had been sick for a while and then his health dramatically improved. He was able to spend quality time with his family even traveling. Everyone was relieved and rejoiced in his recovery. He was a good man. A godly influence to everyone who knew him. I had only known him a short time but the legacy of his love and leadership ripples out through generations. Suddenly, everything changed. In that instant his wife became a widow and his children fatherless. Grandchildren and even great grandchildren will only have memories to sustain the impact of this gentleman. The family went to bed planning Christmas celebrations and woke up planning a home going celebration instead. It’s funny how life works sometimes.

Driving to work, I passed one of his grandchildren headed to his grandmother’s house as the family gathered. My heart sank for this young man and his family. I began to think about our family and friends. The community of believers that I belong to. My coworkers. Everyone in my sphere of influence who continues on the daily grind each day. I wonder if we understand how close our time is or that this day is the only thing that is certain. Do we (do I) live like that? Or have I become so consumed with worthless and temporary things that I sometimes forget, take for granted or think I have only today to love and live for Christ?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 

Could it be that as divine creations carefully created with eternity in us that sometimes our focus is on forever rather than today? Not eternal forever, but that thought that we live forever takes over and somehow living for this day even this moment escapes us because our mind grabs hold of tomorrows that may never come. The breath that just left your body can never be reclaimed or recounted. There are a certain number of breaths in our body and the Lord knows exactly how many so He plans our life accordingly providing the opportunity to accept Him, know Him and live for Him if that is our choice. Falling in love with Jesus is a choice. It is a privilege. It is our purpose. However, alongside the Lover of our soul is one who hates us equally. The “God” in us makes him livid and relentless in stripping us of faith. The greatest distraction is time and our thoughtless idea that it is unlimited.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

I woke up this morning with painting on my mind. Yes, painting. Painting my daughter’s room to be exact. Then I remembered that I needed to decorate for Christmas and buy a tree. Oh, that’s right I have only purchased a few gifts. Wait a minute! I haven’t been grocery shopping more than quick stops since before Thanksgiving so I probably should do some meal planning and make the dreaded trip. Hold up…there is something I am forgetting. Oh that’s right! My December baby is about to have a birthday. So I did what any ordinary person would do and pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed another thirty minutes or so. Ugh! Worthless things. Things that don’t really matter. Things that steal the moments from my life rather than adding quality as Christ would have it. Do I need to do some of these things? Sure I do. Do I want to do some of them? Of course. Do any of them matter as much as knowing and loving Christ. Of course, not. We grab hold of worthless things and garbage thoughts all the time forgetting that God created times and seasons with our breath, steps and heartbeats in careful consideration. There is no need to run ourselves ragged with planning, preparation and execution of certain seasons, schedules and such. Nothing matters more than asking the Lord to guide us in our time management. To help govern our to-do list. How to spend the next few moments? Where to take the next couple of breaths? What matters today Lord – because tomorrow is not certain? You know the plans that You have made for me and the life You designed so that I could have them. They are my future. They are filled with hope. I must find you to fulfill them. You are never buried in worthless things. Help me to rid my life of all such garbage and take hold of you today.

Psalm 119:1-5 (NLT) Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us    to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!

Are you full of joy this holiday season? Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. My heart can get filled up with a whole lot of junk sometimes. My mind becomes filled with worthless ideas and thoughts that don’t do anything but distract me. As I sit and study and even pray this morning, random thoughts keep popping in my head about things I need to do and remember. I learned a long time ago that when I hide away with Jesus to keep my journal and a notepad close by. I journal my thoughts, considerations, and personal time with Jesus. When those others things come to mind, I write them on the list so that my mind is free of them until this time is over. I am most joyful when I am in the Presence of God. When He washes away my sin and takes my burdens, instead filling me with His Peace and Joy. Such an investment of time, changes the course of my day. It creates the right kind of expectation. Time is a precious commodity wasted too many times on lesser things.

Psalm 119:9-11 (NLT) How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

I have never met a white-haired believer that does not have a story of their mess turned into their message. In disbelief, it is hard to think that they ever did not serve the Lord. What we see is the transformation of time standing before us but if we did not witness the change for ourselves – we seldom believe it. When my grandmother passed away, so many people came to offer condolences and kind words sharing what a sweet, kind and loving Christian woman that she was and how she impacted their life. Ever since that day, I knew in my heart that I wanted to be that kind of believer who loved like Jesus and was a Light in life. Just like Brother John, who passed away yesterday, the legacy of his life is waves of love and admiration for time well-spent getting to know Jesus, falling in Love with Him, and pursuing Him wholeheartedly. This will always emanate to those around us when we give up precious time once spent on worthless things to hide His Word in our heart and know Him more and more.

Psalm 119:29-30 (NLT) Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions. I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.

Life is too short to waste it on worthless things. We must stop lying to ourselves that tomorrow will be here before we know it. We must stop procrastinating and putting off today the things that make us uncomfortable or inconvenienced. When the Lord says speak…we must speak. When He tells us to forgive…we must forgive. When He speaks reconciliation, we must move. When He calls to us…we must come. When he tells us to go…we must go where it is He tells us. We must stop wasting precious moments of our life on the lie that tomorrow is coming just hold on. What if the joy promised for the morning is to meet Him face to face? Will I be ready or wasted away on worthlessness?

Psalm 119:37-40 (NLT) Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

What are you wasting your life on today? Any regrets? What about “what ifs”? Where are you? Is it where you want to be? Are you thriving or merely surviving? Life becomes very short when faced with the end of it. Suddenly, all those “important” things are not so important any more. I know that when the enemy put a death sentence called “cancer” on our son’s life that my priorities changed in an instant. Nothing was as important to me as staying by his side watching and waiting for the Lord to fulfill His Promise that he would live and not die to declare the works of the Lord. When I tried to get back to the life I remembered, the one that afforded me comfort and control- I found it was gone. Such a season in my life was over, everything changed and would continue to be different. Not in a bad way, many times with disaster comes discernment as the Light of His Love reveals the depths of our heart. Sometimes we like what we see, but often it is quite appalling all the garbage allowed to remain there.

Lord, I ask you today to turn our eyes from worthless things. It’s time to take out the trash that fills us with lesser things when you created us with so much more in mind.  All those things that stop the Fruit of Your Spirit from growing and overflowing in my life. All the junk that keeps me from Your Goodness called fulfillment that is Your Promise to us. Lord, help me to declutter my mind and sensitize my heart to what really matters to You. Lord, fix my thoughts and keep me focused on today rather than getting caught up in tomorrow, next month or next year. Today has a purpose. You have a plan. Each step is ordered remind me to take steps rather than running ahead. Thank you Lord that our life has meaning. Thank you Lord, You are already there.

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.

Basic

Slice of fresh white bread

Hebrews 6:1-3 (NLT) So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

American pop culture uses the term “basic” to describe anyone or anything lacking originality. It could mean the predictable nature of certain people. Those who are plain or normal lacking individuality who rely on trends to tell them who they are, what they like and dictating what they do. In many connotations, it is a derogatory term used as a slight against another person. It is a popular term used among high schoolers and I see it among posts of young people. Though it is usually not meant with malicious intent, I cannot help but wonder if we label ourselves with words that limit us in the end. I am not basic. I am a masterpiece created by God with a purpose that no one can accomplish but me. I am His Treasure and no one can replace me in His Coffer. I am His Child. As a mom, I can attest. I have five children. I could not bear the thought of losing one of them and just because I have more doesn’t make one of the replaceable. I believe that when the Lord looks at us – He does not see who we are in this life but what we can become immersed in His Presence and according to His Kingdom.

Let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Basic. There is that word again. Could today’s church be labeled “basic”? The “church” is the Body of Christ which we are a part so does that mean we are basic, too? Basic is fundamental. Are we stuck on fundamentals and missing out on future promises? I don’t want to remain basic, but I desire fulfillment in the Lord. We must evaluate our life and the simplicity in which we live it. People engage in that which is most important. Investing time and energy into our marriage, children, families and friends it is obvious the importance of those around us by the contribution made to them. The same may be said of further our influence and advancement in one’s career, earnings, and socioeconomic status. Great attention is given to the appearances in our life. It matters to us what other people see and how they perceive it. With all this in mind, do we give any portion of our life to become mature in our understanding when it comes to Jesus Christ or are we basic Christians?

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT) For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

Fundamentals. God gives us grace. He understands second chances. I believe when He evaluates our life it is according to the intent of the human heart and not necessarily the outcomes along the way. He is looking at the fruit of our life not the bush that surrounds it. Seeds must die to their original form once planted in the cold, dark ground. The tiny seedling must push back against the pressure of the earth holding it down to emerge in the sun and begin to change form. As it grows tiny buds form both leaves and blossoms. The leaves will cover the newly forming buds that will one day produce fruit. Many plants take many seasons to perfect the fruitful reproductive plan and purpose that God created them for. We are no different.

It is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened. Some make this verse the premise of the doctrine once saved…always saved. However, it is not that easy. I was saved at eleven years old. I wanted Jesus Christ to come live in my heart and be my Savior and Lord. I did not fully understand what it meant or how to become who God created me to be, but my heart was in the right place. I would foray back and forth from wilderness to wonder until I “experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come.” Once it all came together, I can never go back. It doesn’t mean that I am perfect. I sin all the time reluctantly. I don’t want to hurt the Lord – honestly it just happens sometimes. We must move past basic Christianity and fundamentally functioning to walk in the Glory of God. It is His Desire for us to experience the “good things” of His Kingdom. He wants us to share intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The Lord wants us to taste His Word savoring its sweetness. In His Presence there is power of the age that is coming. How do we get there from here? Are you stuck in a rut? Is your life predictable? Is your praise, worship, prayer time and service the same? Is it basic?

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

Are you living a rich and satisfying life? Right now. Today. Is there an abundance overflowing in your home, job and church? Is there a surplus for others? I didn’t think so. Most of the time this is not the case so we pour over the Word of God and return to the fundamentals over and over again looking to make this life better. Faith is for the unseen reality of God – it is not for today. The Lord has released us into “good pastures”. He has supplied all our needs. He has even given to us divinely what we need to serve Him wholeheartedly. God gives us a measure of faith to get started but what we do with that faith determines the harvest in our life. We must not give in to the temptation to continually turn the soil or till the ground but wait until it grows into God’s Plan for us.

Religiosity, tradition and overbearing doctrine are comfort zones that breed complacency as we become basic Christians rather than world changers and history makers. We do not plant seeds of faith that grow into righteous oaks but are artificial plants with pretty but inedible fruit. Who wants to bite into a fake apple or consume a plastic banana made in China? The Lord is looking at our hearts today. He is looking for those who are tired of the fundamentals and are ready for His Kingdom to come. God’s Kingdom is anything but basic. It is complex and complete. If we could just step over the boundaries of basic Christianity to enter the “good pastures” through Jesus Christ and keep walking – things would change. The enemy would stop messing up your life because He cannot enter what is dominated by Christ. You will begin to prosper in such a place. Your life will become rich and satisfying right where you are because Jesus Christ is in you.

Ephesians 3:19-21 (NLT) May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I don’t want to be basic in life especially in my walk with Jesus Christ. I want every promise that He ever made me even if it means being tried and tested repeatedly. I want to be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from knowing God and becoming a part of His Kingdom forever. It is going to require some pushing and pressing until I feel the Son shining on my face. I must stop looking at life, love and happiness through the eyes of people and see with the Eyes of Christ. The Love of Jesus Christ is too great to fully understand, but I must at least try. The Lord is working in me and through me to accomplish through His Mighty Power INFINITELY MORE than (I) might ask or think. Meditate on that for a moment. Is the Power of God moving in your life today? I am not asking if all your problems are solved, ailments healed, or attitudes changed, but do you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that His Promises are “yes” and “amen” for you here and now? What we do will never motivate God to open His Hand and release His Blessings. It is and has always been all about Jesus Christ. He must be the Center of my Life. He must be the place I dwell each day to receive His Fulfillment. Life with Jesus is not basic. It is beautiful. Our life is a process. It should show progress. Today may not be the day of completion but it still holds the very thing we need to be successful. Let God be God. Be you. Love Him wholeheartedly. Seek Him with all your might. Wait until He comes. God has made everything beautiful in its own time. Timing is everything. Use that eternity (faith) in your heart today to connect with the Source of Life again. No season is wasted. It takes them all to produce fruit.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Learn To Run

learn-to-run

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Not really sure how it happened, I guess I was just one bowl of ice cream away from a binge. After working for a long time to establish a good diet and consistent exercise routine, I just stopped. The workout was the first to go. Three or four days at the gym turned to one here and there, which constituted good stewardship and ending our relationship. I quit the gym. But that’s okay, I still had a “good” diet right. I ate healthy for the most part. Well, I did anyway. It did not take long for old habits to come creeping in and late night snacking to take over. Now as I like to joke with others, I have noticed a waist line that resembles a “busted can of biscuits” so it is time to bet disciplined again. It is important to be a good steward in life and that includes our health. I will never be a 5’10” super model with abs of steel. In fact, as I shared with someone yesterday, I am not so sure this model came with abs. I believe that balance in life is mind, body and soul. We cannot be healthy in our soul and it not impact our mind and body. As my soul prospers, so will I in health and other things. (3 John 1:2)

It is with this thought that I am embarking on the journey once again to get my body back under control. I am not a runner. I aspire to be one day just because I believe it to be the ultimate endurance. If you see me running right now, should probably do the same because something is obviously chasing me. However, as I gain endurance, I have learned that running becomes a little bit easier. As my heart gets stronger and lungs learn to breathe under pressure, I am able to go longer and farther without stopping to catch my breath or ease a cramp. Hebrews 12:1 offers excellent advice to those who want to run a marathon or continue in the race of faith. I am interested in both.

“We are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to (our) life of faith…” If I profess with my mouth to be a Christian, the folks around me will immediately place new expectation on me as a person. They will indeed judge me. I know God is our judge, but if we use His Name I believe that to honor Him – we must be conscious of those around us just like Jesus. Jesus was always aware of those around Him. He took notice of the weak. He looked past infirmity to find their purpose. He did not discard those clothed in darkness and filled with hatred. He reached out to them – dismissing that which was hindering them to remind them who they really were. It is easy to build walls of righteousness around us. It is even easier to “work” ourselves in a frenzy in the Name of the Lord. But until we love others like crazy…we have missed the point. Yes, they are watching. Yes, they are evaluating. And yes, they are more than likely judging you. But does it really matter what they “think” as long as in the end they find that the love that never fails. We must be aware of the huge crowd of witnesses – it is every face that we encounter in life.

“Strip off every weight that slows us down…” Our life was very chaotic during the time it took to sell our old house and move into our new home. Our church life is very busy now too as we have become more involved than we were able to be in the past several years. Our kids are on the go. The transition period completely wrecked our schedule and routine. The ordered fell into disorder. When we finally began to establish a new routine, a hurricane came blowing through our community. Now as it all settles, it is time to examine our life and place new priorities on certain things.

I believe it is easy to become undisciplined in areas that once were under strict control. Discipline is not welcomed by our flesh so if we let our guard down it is easy to become distracted. We start eating bad again because fast food does not equal healthy diets. We stop exercising because there are too many other “things” we need to do. We stop reading the Bible because work is overloading us. The prayer closet door remains closed because there is not a moment for ourselves. Church is the last thing on our mind when home is the last place we go. If we do not check the weights in our life and seek the Lord to remain in good order, we will become overloaded, weary, and weak so we give up. People experience burnout not because the burden in their life is too heavy. They burnout because they do not balance their life according to God’s Word and His Way. You can have it all but are not called to do it all.

“Especially sin…” Sin is in everyone’s life no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. No one will ever be without sin. It is human nature. We escape sin only when fully redeemed. The perception of innocence is false. It is by grace we are saved by faith because we will never overcome our battle with sin without Jesus Christ. I find that if I focus on other people’s problems with sin that I somehow fall into it myself. If another person does wrong, and I choose to discuss it with other people – I am a gossip and I have sinned. If a new person comes to church who doesn’t look like a believer, act like a Christian, or dress like the rest of the religious folks, and I look down on them or think of ways to change them OTHER than introducing them to Jesus Christ, well then I sinned again…in church no less. Comparison with anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ will always open the door to sin and darkness. He is our example.

Finally, “run with endurance the race God has set before us…” I aspire to run the marathon at Disney one day called Disney Princess Half Marathon. It supports the Children’s Miracle Network. Participants don tutus and mouse ears running for an excellent charity. Why? I have no idea other than I feel like it is impossible for me to run that far. In order for me to successfully complete the event held in February each year, I must train and run for the other months in order to be prepared. When I (notice my optimism) arrive at the event, they will give me a map of the course and mark it out so that I can follow it. God has set a course for my life. It is in each step from the moment I am born until I leave this world behind and step into eternity. Nothing is wasted or forgotten. He makes good of every detail of my life. (Romans 8:28) There are days when I fall or fail but that is not the end. It is in the rising again that I discover a little more character where my flesh used to be. It is when I push and press against adversity that I discover the overcomer who lives in me. This life is a marathon. It has a clearly marked course. We find it in the Word of God. We work to claim the Will of God. Jesus is the Way of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

“Keeping (my) eyes on Jesus…” I am good at getting distracted…the Good Lord only knows. I am surprised that He never put blinders on me. If He did, I would never develop faith. We are called to walk by faith not by sight. A word of warning needs to be interjected here. This is not just about fellow believers or those living in sin and darkness around us. We must be very, very careful not to look at preachers and teachers as our example either. I have heard people quote famous preachers from Billy Graham, Jentzen Franklin, Steven Furtick, and Joel Osteen. I have heard young people quote their leaders, teachers and the like. I challenge you to quote Jesus. To make His Word the authority in your life. To make His Spirit the guide for your life. To stop listening to what everyone else says about Jesus and experience Him one-on-one for yourself. Our encounter with Jesus Christ must be personal to be credible.

“The champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” We are in a process. This process is not a sprint but a marathon. It will always require patience and endurance whether you have them or not. Jesus is the Source of all faith. He is the only way to God the Father. (John 14:6) We cannot bypass faith and collect grace. It is by grace I am saved THROUGH faith. I must believe. I must believe that Jesus Christ has given my victory or how will I ever sell my soul on commitment. What’s the point if the end is uncertain? I can certainly find ways to entertain myself until I die if there is no relevance to Heaven.

“For the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross…” We are the joy that awaited Jesus Christ on the other side of the Cross. Do we joy enough in Jesus Christ to endure this life to reach Him on the other side? He gave up everything just to be with me. Yet, on some days, I struggle to give up small things just to be with Him. We will never be committed if find no joy in Jesus Christ. He is ready to satisfy our soul. We must believe that to engage and endure in the marathon of life called the race of faith.

I Corinthians 9:23-26 (NLT) I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.

I must run with purpose in every step. My life has the potential for constant victory. I can live each day in full satisfaction without disappointment. It requires a discipline in faith that I have not yet achieved but have the potential to do if I give my life to Jesus in each step. My life is recorded by God moment by moment. (Psalm 139) Nothing escaped His Immediate and Divine Attention. It is my inability to remain disciplined and committed that keeps me from fullness and completion in Jesus Christ. He demands my full attention yet I constantly find myself looking to lesser than things and giving them what belongs to God including my energy and time. Thank you Jesus that your Grace is enough for me to get back on track again and again and again. You have a prize for me worth having if I will just discipline myself and devote this life to You.

Philippians 2:13-18 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.  But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

Are you stuck in a rut? Is there a certain part of your life naturally or spiritually that has become a place of discontentment? Are you tired all the time? Do you feel weak and weary? Do you feel like God has moved away from you? Or that Jesus is no longer with you? That’s God. He is working in us giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. He will never force us to change but encourages us from deep within. How do I know? You came with a measure of faith that is purposed to grow. When we pray and seek the Lord, it nourishes that seed and it begins to press back against every oppressive thing in its way from full realization. We become discontent. We feel isolated. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. What happens? We begin to dig deeper in His Word, seek out His Face, call on His Name and He comes rushing in to lead us, guide us and direct us to better things. It is God’s Love moving inside of you telling you to get up, dust yourself off and start running again.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” Do not speak against the promise that is putting pressure on your life for change by griping all the time. Such conversation is a curse on that promise and alignment with the enemy’s declaration on your life. You are an overcomer. You are a winner. You are a runner. You are a mover. You’ve got things to do that require messing up your routine. You have a purpose that is not on the corporate ladder. You have people to reach so your arms must be emptied of all that extra weight and unnecessary burdens you picked up along the way. God is rearranging our lives to make room for the discipline and commitment that leads to revival and full redemption. “Hold firmly to the Word of Life.” You cannot give up! It is those who endure to the end who are saved. Most mamas want to give up in the process of labor just before the baby is born. It hurts. You are tired. You don’t think you can give any more to the process. It is with that last push something wonderful and perfect emerges in your life. The promise you have waited for all this time is here. God is doing the same in you, my friend. He is birthing a promise more wonderful than any child ever born. It is called faith. It is the one thing that can take you into Eternity to live in His Love forever. We must learn to run and not grow weary. Walk and not fall. We run this race of faith with purpose. Never giving up until we win!

Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Grace Rules

grace-rules

Acts 20:24 (NLT) But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

It has become apparent on careful inspection that over the last couple of years, my face has wrinkles. Lines and creases have emerged that were not there before as my age becomes apparent on my face. The very origin of the word means “defect or problem” so no wonder society offers so many things to fix “wrinkles”. If wrinkles or creases are in clothing, the iron uses heat to smooth things out. Steam can also offer a quick fix when needed. Neither an iron nor steamer seem to be a safe alternative for the ones clearly taking over my appearance. Walking through the store, I have read a few bottles of the miracle creams and overnight lotions meant to help stop the signs of aging. Professionals say to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Believe me, I do each day. Yet still they occur despite my best intentions, nightly routine and antiaging rituals.

Collagen is the key to avoiding wrinkles. Collagen is the support structure that keeps our skin young in appearance according to medical studies. When levels are plentiful, our skin looks young and fresh. As we age, these levels decline and wrinkles begin to form on once supple faces. Researchers believe that the solution to wrinkles is more collagen to supplement our body’s inability to produce it. Some people resort to injections to fill in creases more quickly and eliminate crevices all together but these are only temporary and wear off over time.

Collagen is the answer to wrinkles in our face. Grace is God’s Solution for wrinkles in relationships. Ah…you didn’t see that coming did you. Me either. When I felt like I should study grace this morning, it was not about me…or was it. It was, of course. Grace is the most valuable asset that God has given us to share His Love with all people. Everyone needs grace. An abundance of grace to maintain our relationships. Are relationships necessary? Absolutely. God has called us to love one another. Grace gives us the capability to do so. Filling in the gaps left by hurt, harm, offense, and discouragement.

From the moment a person is born, human expectation is placed in another. An infant looks to their parent (or guardian) to meet their basic needs. Helpless to care for oneself – to survive means depending on other people. How those people respond to our needs and fulfill our longings develop our individual mindset of care and that which we offer to others. Since imperfect people beget imperfect people – there is a certainty that no matter how hard a parent tries they will let down their child and make mistakes in the nurturing process. When introduced to Father God and His Son, Jesus Christ, it is easy to apply our perception of people not realizing that we serve a perfect God. We love God. Serve Christ. BUT do not know how to transfer our life, wants, needs and total expectations to the Lord like we need to.

I Peter 1:2-4 (NLT) God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

Our relationship with God through His Son, Jesus gives us great expectation. As our life is transferred from this world into His Kingdom, it is no longer bound to the conditions and consequences of sin. We are given a second chance to live with a priceless inheritance. But if we do not take the time to discover what this new life is all about, we will not experience a difference. God is not a fairy god father in a white suit with a magic wand. He is God. He is Sovereign. Our Father created us with a perfect plan that was exchanged for sin. Now we have the opportunity by His Grace to have everything lost to death and depravity. Salvation is the act of repentance or turning our life over to Jesus Christ. His Death, Burial and Resurrection gave us this thing called Grace. It is truly amazing but seldom understood. Grace is not an excuse to sin. It doesn’t give us permission to ignore God’s Word and still experience a supernatural existence. May God give us more and more grace and peace.

Grace and peace are partners. Grace is found by those who choose to live as partners at peace with God, His Word through His Son. Grace is not given in small amounts but massive doses. It is not for us alone but for others around us. It fills in the gap that creates division in relationships which keep us from fulfilling the Great Commission and loving others as ourselves. We must apply grace to live in peace.

Romans 5:20-21 (NLT) God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Word of God identifies the “sin problem” that people inherently have from conception. It is unavoidable. God’s Word would bring condemnation if not for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now when we read about our shortcomings, God provides an immediate solution. This is why the Word of God “as people sinned more and more, God’s Wonderful Grace rules instead”. Does the Grace of God rule our life? Good question…

I have right standing with God through Jesus Christ. There is no higher goal or attainable honor than oneness with Jesus Christ that gives me a renewed relationship with my Father in Heaven. However, if grace stops with me than it is not being applied correctly. Grace must abound in my life to be effective as a believer and to administer the Gospel of Jesus Christ efficiently. See without grace there is no good news. The Light of the Word put His Light inside of me and it should always be defined by faith, hope and love. All of these qualities come from the grace that I have been given and must therefore administer to others. Grace fills the gap of human imperfection allowing us to partner as the Body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:14-16 (NLT)  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

“As people sinned more and more, God’s Wonderful Grace rules instead…” does God’s Grace rule our life? Before you answer, think about your daily interaction with others. Are they peaceful? Do you get worked up when someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you become offended when taken for granted? Do you get mad when others do not do their fair share? Do you judge people by their appearance or choices? Do you compare your life to others? Where sin abounds, grace must abound more. When faced with the challenges of life that cause division and strife between us and other people, grace is always the solution. It is always the answer. The yielding of our way to allow others to see Christ in us is more important than being right, having our fair share or even taking our place. We must learn to allow the Grace of God to be our everyday expectation and stop depending on people for fulfillment, happiness and joy.

Our spirits are to be renewed day by day. When I go to the local fast food restaurant and place my order, the clerk will hand me a cup. I can take that cup over to the drink station to fill it up. There are many choices. Carbonated sodas, fruit drinks, ice tea and water. I make the choice what I fill it up with. If I choose not to read God’s Word each day, I may forget that His Grace is enough for me in every trial, trouble, problem and hardship that comes my way. If I do not pray, I may miss the Voice of God telling me what is coming and how to overcome it. If I do not make it a point to seek His Presence day by day, I will not experience the supernatural because I have chosen to live in the natural. It is up to me if my cup overflows with the love and grace of God today or I choose to drink from this world’s offerings of unforgiveness, jealousy, strife, malice, division and brokenness. I have been given the glorious grace of God and permission to use it. It is up to me what I do with it.

2 Peter 1:2-4 (NLT) May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

Living in full expectation of the Grace of God is not easy. It is a call to walk by faith and not by sight. We must take our natural needs, wants and desires pinning them to God, His Son, His Spirit and His Word completely letting go of expecting perfect things from imperfect people. Isn’t that why we restrict grace from others, because we are not completely sure it is enough to satisfy me? God will give us more and more grace and peace as we grow in our knowledge of Jesus. Without such knowledge, we cannot expect to trust the Lord or follow His Ways. Ignorance will lead to death. When we call on the Lord, do we know what we are asking for outside of His Word? Not really. To surrender my life to Christ means all my expectations, too.

Releasing other people from our expectation will allow us to show them the love and grace that God has commanded us to do. We can now love them and forgive them because we have an abundance of grace poured into us by the divine power of God living in us. He called us to live by means of his marvelous grace and excellence. When we choose to hold other people accountable for our happiness, joy and fulfillment – it is to reject that which is our inheritance to settle for lesser more immediate gratification. This is a forfeiture of fulfillment.

“These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” Faith in Jesus Christ means faith in His Ability to satisfy our life completely. It is according to this promise that we take back expectation from other people and liberally apply grace. Is there someone in your life today that you are withholding God’s Grace from? Release that person in Jesus Name and forgive them. It is not because they deserve it. They are just as guilty as you and me when it comes to sin. Grace is God’s Solution to sin always. When we give grace to another, it fills in those imperfect places in our life to allow God’s Spirit to continue the life-giving renewal process that meets and exceeds our expectation as grace abounds so does His Peace. Let grace rule your life today!

 

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Puzzles

puzzles

Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I have always enjoyed puzzles. Not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, they completely stress my husband out even at the preschool level. I think it is the concept that every piece has a place and if you just work it all everything fits together. There is a solution. I imagine this appeals to my need for order and control. Dumping the contents of the box on the table, sorting through each piece, separating the edges to begin with, it is no surprise that I found one waiting to be done at the Hope Lodge where my son and I stayed during his treatment. Caregivers and patients alike would join each other around the table to sort out and complete something when everything else in their life was turned upside down. Friendships were formed around the puzzle. Tears were shed as well. Time passed slowly yet somehow even on the hard days and darkest hours of the night there seemed to be something being completed and finished in our life.

On the box of every puzzle there is a picture of the completed product. The goal for which we strive in our endeavor to put all the pieces in their proper place. Don’t worry I am not going to continue to bore you with the semantics of puzzles but feel in my heart that it is the premise of unity in its example that we need in our churches today. Within each congregation new pictures and images have been formed of a body clearly defined and a Spirit fully formed. Division and dysfunction take over if we cannot find ways to fit together and find everything is falling apart. The longer a puzzle is spread out and fitted together – the more likely it will lose pieces along the way. Each piece has a place in the big picture that will never be fulfilled in its absence. Oh the Lord is speaking to us today as believers – we must come together. We must find our place.

“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” These words are scripted by Paul from a prison most likely with chains on his wrists, he still felt freedom in his heart. He called his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to come together. To unite and be one. It is our calling. How are we have come yet how spread apart also? We are part of one body. We are born of one Spirit. We are called to one hope. We have one Lord. We have one faith. We experience one baptism. We serve only one God. He is our Father. We are His Children. It is time for the family to come together.

When working on a puzzle, we look at the hole and search for the piece that will fit in it. Why are we going back to this? It is time to apply the same philosophy to the Body of Christ. The world in which we live thrives on grouping. I cannot help my kid with her math homework anymore because rather than simple arithmetic, it requires crazy regrouping. We divide people based on sex, race, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, diagnoses, and the list goes on and on. There is no push for unity because if we truly came together personal agendas would be destroyed. Everyone would have to give up something they want to become one with the other. To fulfill our calling in Jesus Christ is to surrender all of our life to become one with Him. We think we want it but does our life relay the same?

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

To create a puzzle an image is chosen and printed. The picture is glued on a board thick enough to fit together. A sharp blade then cuts into pieces which are amassed into the one that is bought and dumped out on the kitchen or card table where it will be put back together. The picture is chosen first. We are chosen. Our lives completely recorded and handcrafted by the Lord before we are born into this world. Before our hearts are broken, the Lord provided the healing needed to keep going. He knew the hardship to be endured so He provided all the grace needed in advance. He understood how much faith would be required to establish hope in our life so He gave it to us up front in the measure required. See all of this is part of a plan, picture, or masterpiece that God predestined before our birth. It is up to us to decide will we become part of the hope that is our future or will we just be a piece with a part of the picture never to be fulfilled.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

God designed the Body. He knows how it fits together and works properly. It would only seem logical to seek His Instruction (His Word) and His Guidance (His Spirit) for everyone to find their proper place. Pride is not a part of God’s Character. He is not arrogant. He is Sovereign. In order to find our place in the Lord, it will require submission and surrender on a level that humanity is not accustomed to. It is our vain glory that allows us to try to define worship, spout out praise, and live a life of service all the while glorifying ourselves rather than humbling, hopefully following the Lord to find our way and proper place in the Body of Christ.

No one can see your heart except the Lord. No one can fulfill your purpose other than a partnership with God the Father. He puts people around us to connect with and as a body we are to connect with those around us in other churches and throughout our community. Church is a living breathing body filled with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”

I know that when I would sit and work on the “community puzzle” in the Hope Lodge that I would find rest for my mind. It would take my mind off the struggle and fight we were in if only to become lost in a pile of pieces in need of proper placement. While he lay sleeping, fighting, healing and recovering, I would sit with my new friends and talk about life before this tragic set of circumstances befell us. Since that time, I know of others who are now fighting the same fight. They post pictures of their puzzle creations. I look intently at each one. An effort to restore order in the midst of chaos. Busyness that calms the mind and quiets the heart if only for a few moments. I understand completely.

I wonder if rather than working on programs, projects, calendars, and promotions, the church and body of Jesus Christ worked on coming together in complete unity what might happen. What if we took the same diligence and thoughtfulness used in putting together a puzzle? Never quitting until the final one slips in its place and searching high and low for those who missing or lost, what would happen?

The Book of Ephesians is focused on Christianity as a whole. What it means to be a Christian in faith and in practice regardless of circumstance or condition focused fully on Jesus Christ. With this in mind, in the Book of Revelation, their error is made clear. The Lord knew of everything they were “doing” in His Name. Their hard work was no secret. They patiently endured trial and tribulation for being Christians. They did not entertain sin. Showing wisdom, they did not fall for the convoluted word and lies of false prophets but rightly discerned God’s Word. These people were not quitters but kept pushing and pressing no matter what. All of these qualities and characteristics were of God and done for His Glory, yet they were in clear danger of missing it altogether.

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Many of the people who sat around the puzzle with me at the Lodge are with Jesus now or at least I hope so. As we worked together in that place, there was never an argument or dispute just love, kindness and compassion for each other. Why can’t we come together like that as believers?

Years ago Rubik’s Cubes were popular. Do you remember them? A 3-D puzzle in the form of a plastic cube covered in multicolor squares. Twisting and turning each section, the object was to have all of the same color on one side. I would work that thing for hours until one day I discovered that if I popped one out that they all fell out. I could take each piece and put it in its proper place suddenly the endless process all came together quickly. I never knew the satisfaction of completing it without cheating. I gave up. It was easier to do it that way but over time the cube was not as tightly together and became loose until one day the pieces just fell apart. There is a process in unity that brings satisfaction when the Body of Christ presses through the pain, pushes past their problems, stops defining one another by differences, and puts in the time, twisting and turning until believers come together as a well-formed properly place body. Everyone is necessary.

The only way to work this out is to stop looking for the differences in one another and find our likeness. Likeness will turn into acceptance. As we accept one another as we are applying grace just as God gives it to us a bond is formed called relationships. My shoulder has a relationship with my arm including my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. My muscles and tendons allow it all to relate and work together so that I can use it. They are doing so as I type the message today. If a tendon is damaged or muscle is torn suddenly my entire arm including all of its parts could be impacted. Why? They were created to work together. God has given us one another for a purpose. We must love one another not just in word or deed but from the heart. Love is our likeness. It is this kind of relationship that will form the Body of Christ creating the masterpiece that God created us to be. Every person in proper placement. Churches without walls that come together to promote the Good News and find another missing person who has fallen out of place. When our purpose forgets people we have missed it altogether. What if we looked at ways to make people fit in rather than exclude them? Imagine the possibilities.

Lord, teach me to see people like you do. Impress upon my heart unity, love, compassion and grace for all people in all things never to drive them away but draw them closer to You. Forgive me for all the times I compared them to my standards rather than embracing them with Your Love as instructed. I want to be part of a fully functionally perfectly constructed masterpiece. Humble me in Your Presence Lord. Teach me Your Gentleness, Love and Kindness again and again until I get it and give it to all people unconditionally. Remind me today and always that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as (I am) called to one hope (with) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Lord teach me unity, bind it with love, so we can come together and be all you have designed us to be!

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.

 

Fully Redeemed

Full Redeemed

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

I used to coupon quite a bit. Printing off discounts for the household items and food as I made a carefully detailed list to go grocery shopping each week. There are many websites now devoted to helping frugal moms like me make the most out of their weekly budget that I would also study each week to get more bang for my buck. At first, I practiced couponing out of necessity. As our household size decreased and resources increased, I stopped my faithful weekly ritual claiming this time for other endeavors. Instead, I have a shopping app that allows me to scan receipts into the system, it compares prices at the surrounding competitor’s locations, and then credits me the amount of discounts to use on my next shopping trip. I use it because it is convenient and easy. However, I do not save near the money that I did when pouring over ads, scanning the internet and printing coupons.

Couponing is great as long as you read the fine print on each one. What may seem to be a great deal at first quickly turns into an embarrassing situation when the cashier points out the details you missed due to a ridiculously tiny font. When redeeming a coupon, you must know what the restrictions are, is there an expiration date, and is there a limit on its use. All these factors save time and inconvenience when you are checking out. It is very disappointing to have your heart set on something only to discover it is out of reach on your way out.

God has made us a promise. He has made a covenant with us through His Son, Jesus Christ that we can one day exchange this life for eternal life. We call it hope. It is fully redeemable to those who hold on to it to the very end. God also made us an oath. At first, it is easy to assume that these two words, promise and oath, mean the same thing but they are slightly different. A promise is God’s expressed assurance on which our expectation is based. We expect Him to save us, heal us, deliver us and redeem us or maybe I should say, we can expect these things of Him. Whether we do or not is completely up to us. An oath is God’s fully affirmed promise that He has accepted these terms and is bound by Who He Is to make it happen. Why? There is no higher power to swear by than the Name of God. He is the Supreme Power in all the universe. God made us a promised and sealed it with His Name so that no other power can overturn it. We have been given confident hope that if we present ourselves to God with confident hope represented by a life of faith regarding this hope, He will keep his end of the bargain or contract.

A coupon is a contract with the vendor who sells the product to a store. We redeem our coupons at the store which equals a discount. In turn, the store sends the coupons to the distributor who reimburses them. What if we considered hope a binding contract? Would we be more willing to live by faith in the hope we have been assured of?

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

Hope is referred to in Hebrews 6 as the “anchor” of our soul. When an anchor is thrown overboard into the sea, it falls to the bottom. You cannot see the anchor yet it is still doing its job. It is connected to the vessel by a chain of many links. Faith is like that chain. It connects us to our hope. When a storm comes, the boat depends on the anchor to keep it safe. Though no one can see it, they know it is there because though it may rise and fall with each wave – the vessel is secure. Now if the chain is weak, it can break off releasing the boat to the mercy of the wind and waves. Or if the anchor is too short, it will not allow the boat room to move with the current and it may sink as the waves continue to crash into its bow or stern. We must have confidence in the anchor for our souls. It is called hope. Faith shows the reality of what we hope for and is evident in the way we live our life.

Psalm 119:57-64 (NLT) Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words! With all my heart I want your blessings. Be merciful as you promised. I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws. I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands. Evil people try to drag me into sin, but I am firmly anchored to your instructions. I rise at midnight to thank you for your just regulations. I am a friend to anyone who fears you—anyone who obeys your commandments. O Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees.

The definition of hope is to look forward with desire and reasonable confidence. It is to believe, desires and trust. Is our hope in Jesus Christ reasonable? Is faith logical? Is trusting the Lord in all things considered sound judgment? Not according to the worldly standards, faith in God is a sign of weakness and a lack of rationale. However, God did not leave us to be ignorant. He warns us in Hosea 4:6 that a lack of knowledge can lead to our destruction. I believe the only way to have confident hope is to make faith logical.

God’s Word makes faith logical. It is a full explanation of God’s Plan, His Promise, and the Oath that He has made to His People. If we take the time to read, study and connect with God’s Word, the links in our chain called faith grow stronger and longer so that we are able to maintain our hope even in the great tempests of life.

I love how the psalmist begins, “Lord, you are mine!” Do you love the Lord today? Do you have faith in His Promises? Do you know what He has promised? Do you want His Blessings…with all your heart? Those who “believe, desire and trust” the Lord to keep His Promises will be “firmly anchored to your instructions”. I wouldn’t take a coupon to the store without first reading the fine print yet we give our entire life – body, mind and spirit – to Jesus without knowing what He has promised or will do. This makes faith illogical. Jesus Christ is the Word of God wrapped in flesh sent to share God’s Love with all mankind, (John 1:14) Think about it. How can we know Jesus and not know the Word? Not logical. Not reasonable. Not faith. No hope.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

I have a good friend who I used to work with that during our lunch break we would look at coupons and weekly ads on line during our lunch break. As we would share our discoveries back and forth, she would tell me about a coupon for something that I had never bought before or even tried. When I told her so, she would begin to convince me of all the reasons why I should try this certain item. If it was food, she would go on and on about how delicious it was. If it was a cleaning product, how useful and effectively it cleaned her stubborn messes. Whatever the case may be, she would convince me by her experience. How can I share faith and hope to anyone else if I am not convinced?

Hope will not lead to disappointment. This promise is pretty huge when one considers how many times disappointment appears in a single day. You order a pizza and it never shows up. Leaving for work, your tire is flat. Walk in the door, the kids are fighting and there is an unexpected bill in the mail. You lay down exhausted ready for sleep and suddenly you are wide awake. Life is full of problems, trials and troubles. If you read the news, watch television or surf the internet, the state of affairs is quite grim not just for America but all around the world. Christians are targeted for their faith in God and confident hope expressed in life. In some countries, even tortured and killed because they profess to love the Lord. Forget all the four-letter words thought to be profane, just try mentioning the five-letter word, J-E-S-U-S and see what outrage it sparks. We are living in the end times. The boat of life is definitely rocking. How is your anchor today? Is your faith keeping you secure? Can we really rejoice in the midst of such uncertainty? Yes, we can!

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

I made a commitment in 2009 to get up thirty minutes earlier for 21 days to spend time with the Lord. To hold myself accountable, I would write down details of this time in a journal. The journal became a blog. Twenty-one days became seven years seemingly overnight. I thought this was just a commitment of my time to the Lord. But what I discovered is that five years ago when my faith was challenged and my anchor yanked by our son’s cancer diagnosis, it held secure. This was only possible, in my opinion, because the Lord began preparing me and pouring His Word in me two years earlier. There was definitely a connection. When trouble came, I knew what God had promised me. It was with confident hope in my hand that I charged into His Presence to demand His Immediate Intervention because this was not what He said in His Word. This was not the Promise that He made me. This was not the Oath sealed by His Good Name. Friend, we must make our faith logical to secure confident hope that is reasonable. Blind faith is useless. We must know who we have faith in. We must know the terms of the covenant or it is just another worthless piece of paper…junk mail if you will.

Ephesians 1:18-23 (NLT) I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

We must understand the Promise and Oath of God for our life. We must find our purpose and live for fulfillment or our life is not fully redeemed. I can take a certain coupon to one store and save some money. With a little research and knowledge, I may find that another store has the same product on sale so my coupon is worth more. God has already provided everything that I need for this life. He has given me divine power to experience His Kingdom right here in my everyday life. I must connect my faith to the confident hope that is the anchor for my soul. I must dig a little deeper. Go a little bit farther. Spending time in God’s Word to extricate the Promises hidden there for me. There will be storms in life. God has already provided for my safety. There will be problems. The Lord has given me the solution. I have all I need as a result of faith and confident hope. I may need to spend a little more time discovering it. God’s Word makes my faith logical. Confident hope comes from continually evaluating and examining my life next to His Word for validity and proof that my anchor is secure. All things have been put under Christ’s Authority. Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. This world has nothing for me. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. His Strength is made perfect in my weakness. I must decrease – He must increase. All these things fortify our faith and secure hope that anchors our soul so we can be fully redeemed and have every promise God has given us.

Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT) Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.