Passion Fruit

First Fruit

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

When taking on large projects or tasks, I usually comprise a “to do” list to keep me focused. I write down everything that needs to be done and then decide on a game plan. I will be the first to admit as a young adult – I was a procrastinator. Chronically late, I lacked conscious respect for other’s time. I would stay up late and wake up later. I live a completely disheveled and disorganized life. I will even admit that there would be days or even a week that I did not make my bed. This chaotic existence was not the fault of my parents who built a structured home and attempted to teach us discipline. When set free into adulthood, I was able to choose how to live my life. What changed? Children. When my first child was born, I discovered this little thing called responsibility in a whole new way. This little perfect person was depending on me for everything. I was to mold him, shape him, and care for him as he was now my responsibility. Suddenly – I wanted to be a better person and the perfect mom. Love produced a change in me.

Purpose is a wonderful thing because it sparks passion in us that burns away things that used to hinder us. It ignites a change inside of us that requires careful attention to build momentum and see the results. As my family grew so did I, old habits gave way to new and improved drive to be organized and skillful in the things “good moms” do. But despite my best intentions, looking back, I realize that even though I tried really hard to be the best mom ever and never make mistakes with my children. I blew it on several occasions. There were days that I took the responsibility of parenting too seriously and needed a little more grace and love. My desire to be perfect overshadowed my purpose which was to love my children with all that I had and give them the life I thought they deserved.

For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is – there is freedom. Freedom to live a life of full satisfaction apart from perfection but marked by passionate purpose. The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image. I am struck by these words today. I am in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my beloved as I am His. As in any partnership, I must learn to find ways to remain faithful to Him even when my flesh doesn’t necessarily agree. The first fruit of God’s Spirit – who is now recognized as Jesus is love. Love produces passion. Passion fuels purpose. How do I take the natural love I have and use my freedom in Christ to expand it and fan it into burning desire? I must live by the Spirit.

I am tiptoeing here. So please bear with me…I am challenged today! I want to live in the Glory of God. I don’t think the church or people who call ourselves Christians really know what that is or how to achieve it on a regular basis. We are to live in the Presence of God. Well, if Christ lives in me doesn’t that mean God is present all of the time? Yes! Am I present all of the time? No! Let me explain – there are times when my husband and I are sitting in the same room and one of us will begin to speak to the other. While lost in thought or completely engrossed in what we are watching or reading, the other may not hear what he or she is saying. Suddenly shaken from our stupor – we will respond to the other with apologies because our attention was elsewhere. God’s Spirit lives in us. His Name is Jesus. He has granted us freedom. Freedom is the opportunity to choose our life and how we live it. To become aware of the Glory of God in us and His Goodness all around us would be the most advantageous use of the gift of freedom – but sometimes we have our heart and mind set on other things.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Jesus lives in me. His Spirit has set me free. This freedom is made strong as it is nourished by the Fruit it provides us. The first fruit of the Spirit is love. I cannot love anyone else until I fully conceive the Love of God for me and living in me. See God’s Love IS His Glory. When I love like Jesus loves and inspired by the selfless and unconditional Love of God – I reflect His Glory. God gave us freedom to choose a relationship with Him as His Child. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life for us that allows us to have a rich and satisfying life beginning with love and ending with self-control. Religion gets this all out of order. We attempt self-control outside of love which leads us nowhere. The passion of our love for Jesus Christ will inevitably produce self-control as the final fruit not the first fruit.

Galatians 5:24-26 (NLT) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Those who belong to Jesus must nail their passions and desires associated with their sinful nature to the Cross. Do not think about the seven deadliest sins and most horrible offenses you can think of, but consider this – if our passion promotes anything other than sincere and persistent love for people – we missed the first step of full satisfaction in the Glory of God. Love produces joy. Joy gives us peace. Peace affords us patience and so on. “Since” we are living by the Spirit as God’s Spirit is manifested as Christin us…we must follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Love is the first step of freedom yet the hardest to overcome. Love puts others before our own wants, needs and desires. It is not a me-first position and therefore considered the greatest vulnerability. But if Christ truly lives in me – I am free to do so because greater is He who lives in me. The greatness of God’s Grace is His Love. His Glory is His Presence that is possible by His Love. Everything begins with and ends with love.

Luke 12:49 (NLT) I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! (Jesus)

Have we misplaced our passion? Have we focused heavily on producing fruit from our self and not of the Spirit? I can pretend to have all of God’s Fruit in my life but my life is not surrounded by His Glory and defined by His Love it is just another pointless pursuit. Jesus came to set the world on fire. His Love could not be denied for His Sacrifice complete. He empowered us with His Grace which is totally sufficient to overcome every obstacle and live in His Glory now and forever more. However, this would require giving up our way first.

When I think about the Glory of God, I hear the churches outcry for revival. Revival is new life that will take the place of our old ways. Like the relationship now possible with God through Jesus Christ removed the “veil” that once separated us from God’s Presence. It did not open the curtain so we could step behind it. It tore it right down the middle. When Christians live according to the rules and regulations of the Law, it is not freedom but a foray back into judgment. In Christ there is no condemnation. Christ is alive in me so I am no longer condemned so think about this…

If you come upon a burning building, it would probably be your immediate instinct to call 911. You may decide to be a good Samaritan and get out of the car to offer assistance. If you hear cries from within the inferno, you may try to find a way to get inside and save those who are trapped. Only a few people might risk their life to go inside despite the danger to pull people from inside. However, if the house is your home everything changes. Your love will overcome all fear and insecurity to get your loved ones to safety pulling them out of harm’s way. What if Jesus meant to set the world on fire so we would develop a passion from His Love? What if it is a test of our first fruit to see how willing I am to use my freedom to love people enough to reach them right where they are rather than standing outside calling them out?

Jude 20-25 (NLT) But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

The potential of my life is the Glory of God because Christ lives in me. I have a new love that has given me a whole new purpose. I am a new creation. The law is no longer relevant to me as it has been made complete in Jesus Christ. His Grace is truly sufficient for me. As long as I choose to live free from the Law, I am able to pursue with passion the First Fruit of the Spirit which is love and believe that as every other fruit is born of its seed that I will someday learn self-control. If sin separates me from Jesus, my love for Him will keep me from sin. Apart from God’s Love there is no glory. His Glory is His Love. His Love must be perfected in my life. It does not require me to be a perfect person just perfected by His Love. Passion must be examined and evaluated in our life to determine its origin. It is easy to become religious in our pursuit because habits come and go every day. Love does not. Love is the most difficult to obtain and arduous to keep because it is the constant consummation of self. We must invest all that we are into the Christ living in us so He takes over. Jesus would not think twice about going into whatever hell we wander into and pulling us to freedom if we cry out to Him. My response to others must be the same. Lord, I ask you to examine my heart, my mind, every motive, attitude and action for love. Love is the first fruit produced by Your Spirit, and I want to know I am living a life guided by Your Spirit. Help me to love like You do. Teach me to love like You. Complete me in love as You do. I ask you to grow the first fruit of love in me so I can share it with everyone else and be a true reflection of Your Glory! Fan the flame of love in me until it burns like an all-consuming fire with passion for You, Lord! For without passion – love quickly grows cold!

John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

I Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT) This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Life Without Limitation

Life without Limitation

Ephesians 3:20-21 (AMP) Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

When the New Year rolled around this year, it was not met with the same enthusiasm that it usually is for me. I love the calendar roll of fresh pages with new days filled with opportunity and potential. There would be no resolutions. I didn’t join the gym. This is not the norm for me. It immediately caused a gut check. We did not do the Daniel Fast. Oh my goodness, I can hear the huge intake of breath of those who engage it religiously since it became a “thing” in the church. The one thing I did do was put Ephesians 3:20 on the “wallpaper” of my phone so every time I pick it up – it illuminates before me. It must be the Holy Spirit who picked the verse because I have no idea why or how it became the verse for 2017 – but it is.

I will try to say this as gently as possible and it is a truth that many church folks have a really difficult time understanding or even agreeing with but when our relationship becomes traditional, routine driven, and a habit it is in danger of becoming religious versus relational. My relationship with Jesus Christ is not regulated or ruled by the things that I do or do not do but completely and 100% reliant on His Grace and my ability to accept His Love and Mercy each day. Nothing I do is worthy of all that He has done for me. However, what I have finally decided in this third month of the year is that my life has been limited. There are some areas of my existence that I have not fully committed and entrusted to Jesus Christ. Oh please, don’t judge me or decide that I have some big secret. We all have hidden areas and secret places of limitation in our heart and mind when it comes to the love and power of Jesus Christ for our life. Otherwise, every church including every member would be experiencing resurrection power, miracles, signs and wonders in every facet of their life. There is always more of Him for the part of me that is willing to bow down and give Jesus His Rightful Place.

Bear with me today, as I believe this Word is for me. I hope that as I share it transparently it will illuminate an area of limitation in your life so that the Love of God will bust through it and an outpouring of His Power will manifest in your new life in Christ. I think sometimes we expect our life in Christ to be like a bottle of carbonated soda. Sometimes it is, we get shaken up real good and explode for the moment but then the next day life is flat and tasteless. God has given us living water to flow through us. Have you ever shaken up a water bottle? Yep, nothing. It doesn’t get all worked up and shoot out of the bottle everywhere. It also doesn’t make a mess either. Water is consistently pure. It is always the same. You can only adjust the temperature but other than that it is committed to consistency. Maybe that is what this year is doing in me, removing some of the emotion and enthusiastic zeal to be replaced by a supernatural and miraculous life of confident hope that leads to consistent superabundance in my life. Lord, be it unto me.

To elaborate:

Ephesians 3:14-19 (AMP) For this reason [grasping the greatness of this plan by which Jews and Gentiles are joined together in Christ] I bow my knees [in reverence] before the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ], from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name [God—the first and ultimate Father]. May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality], so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].

My daughters and I were discussing an upcoming youth challenge posed by their youth pastor. They will be instructed regarding sharing their testimony and then given the opportunity to do so at the local Wal-Mart. My girls do not know a life outside of church or belief in Jesus Christ. They were born in church, taken to church, drug to church and now go to church their whole life. One of them confided that she doesn’t remember a time of not knowing Jesus – praise God. My heart as a mother is full. However, when it comes to sharing her life with others. What will she tell them? She has little to no experience to compare her new life to her old life to. She has been saved and baptized. It is all that she knows. Jesus Christ is a reality not a revelation to her. Our youngest daughter concurred that she knows she asked Jesus to be her Savior and Lord on my birthday when she was very young. She knows what it means to be saved. She understands the Holy Spirit but giving such a message to someone who has experienced something completely different seems to be impossible to them. All three of our girls have been challenged when engaging with others who have lived a different life with very different experiences.

Let’s flip the script for a moment, I have experienced life from a different perspective. I know what lost looks like. I have traveled the wilderness. I have made countless mistakes that were once regrets until redeemed by the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ was fully accepted. I have had the opportunity to share my experience with many people and it is easy. I have experienced Jesus Christ and His Power in my life so I know it is real and valid. The more that we experience the Love of God fully consummated in our life by faith and confident hope that produces supernatural and extraordinary details the easier it is to share this Gospel and be a light to the world. This is and always will be part of our purpose and calling in this world to share a real God and relevant Jesus to the lost and dying in darkness.

I must experience God at every level and Christ completely through me to be a relevant and accurate witness. To be the kind of Christian who is ready in season and out of season to share the Message of God’s Great Love. My relationship with Jesus Christ must be real. It cannot be a routine that I follow or rules that I adhere to. It must be a transparent open book that all can read and understand. It is a love story. It is a miraculous account of a limited life that became filled with unlimited power. My life must live it out to make it a best-seller sought after by others on display for all to see.

For this reason [grasping the greatness of this plan by which Jews and Gentiles are joined together in Christ] I bow my knees [in reverence] before the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ],” The purpose for my existence and the reason I am alive is to be a Child of God. To come back to the Father by Way of Jesus Christ and take my place in God’s Family once again. His Grace is more than sufficient for me. How many times though have I ignored the Grace of God thinking that the Lord was calling me to be the strong one? Do be the good person? To be a God-Like Christian rather than a godly woman transmitting God’s Love, Grace and Mercy as it filters through me. See I can pretend like I have it all together, like there are no cares in my world. I can attempt to make it look like I make no mistakes and live a holier-than-thou life. The reality is I am a broken person who Jesus sparked a love affair with and the more I love and trust Him – the more I find that the Light of His Love is revealed through the cracked parts of my life rather than in any religious act I have participated in. God doesn’t need me but I must have Him. For this reason…grasping the greatness of His Plan. (Ephesians 3:14)

It is simple. Really simple. Jeremiah 29:1-13 is the description of this plan, however; the one that makes the difference is this – “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) The beginning of an unlimited life starts with three basic steps – “Repentance. Restoration. Revival.” How did I get that from this verse? I must repent and live in love with Jesus. My love for Him alone will produce the right results. Restoration is the family reunion that causes the Love that Jesus gives me, to be reciprocated in life with others who I do not judge but choose to embrace for mercy’s sake. Finally, revival for those who choose to walk with God is to become His Children and establish our birthright again. We have a new life. It is in us and flows from us. Everywhere we walk in step with the Father has the potential of resurrection life. I am only limited by unwillingness to humble my life and follow the Lord.

Where do you walk? Following Jesus is to allow the Greater that is in you to have priority over the less that tends to drive us. Our daughters don’t know a life outside of Jesus Christ because Christ has been in their life always. What if we made it a point to include Jesus in every facet of our life? If every step had purpose and every work of the hand committed to the Lord, I am not talking about selfless martyrdom but to say, “Jesus come with me to work. Lord, have your way in my commute.” Holy Spirit fill the walls of our home. God put your hand on our bank account.” It is in Him we live, move, breathe and exist according to the Word of God. (Acts 17:28) Or do we? Have you ever said, “It is what it is”? What about calling those things into existence that are in Heaven for now? How about “it’s just who I am”? Where is the new creation? The limitations on my life are self-imposed. I have resurrection life and power inside of me applicable to every single step that I take in this life all the way to eternity. I must learn to walk like Enoch who disappeared in the Presence of the Lord.

From whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name [God—the first and ultimate Father]. Having earthly fathers who may or may not have participated in our life creates a false perception of fatherhood when it comes to our Heavenly Father. We place human expectations on a flawless Father based on the unmet expectations of flawed fathers. I have a great dad. He is a good father yet he still makes mistakes and is imperfect. I trust him yet I trust God more. I love and honor my earthly father but I relentlessly pursue right-standing with God my Father. It is absolutely imperative that we come to know, understand, believe and ultimately choose to trust the perfection of God our Father. He is awesomely wonderful. His Love is absolutely without condition. He is wonderful! He is awesome! God is everything our natural father’s wanted to be and even strive to become – God is all that and more. To access Him by Way of Jesus Christ and live in His Presence is absolute proof of belief. Faith must be evidenced by trust. Do you trust God today? Do you really trust Him? If you do, then your life will become supernatural. You will not experience fear, worry, care, anxiety or doubt when it comes to any and all lifetime situations. His Power will be manifested in you. If you do fear, worry, feel anxious or doubt, hang on…there is more.

“May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality], so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]…” Grace is defined as God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. God is ready to grant you the riches of His Glory. It is not to His Glory that His Children eat from the scraps beneath the table but sit and share meals with Him. To commune with Him. Stop it. Don’t think about communion with a tiny juice cup and sliver of a horrible tasting wafer. No, God wants to prepare a table in the presence of your enemies and demonstrate the extravagance of His Great Love. We are too busy fighting defeated foes than celebrating His Victory. God wants to live your life with you. He wants His Power to manifest His Presence in EVERY SINGLE AREA, EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT A SINGLE EXCEPTION. All caps. Yes, I am shouting at you. Every area of our life should be according to His Riches in Glory. From the inside out, as our soul prospers our health, finances, influence and favor will, too. Where we sow the Word in our life, we will reap every blessing, promise and benefit it contains. The problem is not in God’s Capacity to love and care for us but in our ability to comprehend His Love. It is unlimited. Unlimited means not limited, unrestricted, and unconfined. It is boundless, infinite and vast. God’s love is unlimited and without qualification, exception and unconditional. God loves you period. The only way to perceive the boundaries (or lack there of) of God’s Love is to attempt to find them. The more I engage in grounding and rooting my faith in the Love of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ the less I will worry about the problems, situations, conditions and inconveniences of this life highly anticipating what God will do as He works good out of every detail. (Romans 8:28) God is perfecting all that concerns His Children. (Psalm 138:8) When I yoke my life to Christ and He goes where I go and I go where He goes, it will always challenge me to go deeper in God’s Presence and push the boundaries of His Love.

And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].” God’s Love increases the capacity of my life. If I choose to engage in this love affair with Jesus “practically” through personal experience suddenly the God of my ancestors becomes My Lord, My God. We have not because we ask not. We do not believe that God’s Love is for us. The miracles of old are relevant. God’s Word is not logical outside of faith. But with faith all things impossible are now probable. The God of after life must be the God of our natural life, too. The Goodness of God is for the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13) His Unfailing Love, His Mercy when I mess up and Goodness pursues me when? All the days of my life… (Psalm 23:6) All these words found in the Word are empowered by faith in the Word wrapped in flesh – Jesus Christ. They leap to life off the pages when faith is applied. Confident hope releases resurrection power now rather than reserving it for later. Rather than the mentality of “Jesus if you had been here” – we live because Jesus is here with us and in us. I am challenged to release all limitation in my life today by applying God’s Word by faith and believing God at His Word for EVERY area of my life not just those defined by desperation or hinting of death. To make God’s Word the reality that I experience every single day in every single way. This will be the fuel that sets the Light of my life from a small candle flickering in the wind to an all-consuming fire that drives darkness away. I am called to be the Light of the World. It’s time to light this baby up.

The Fullness of God. What does it look like? Is your life extraordinary? Have you experienced moves and waves of God unexplainable naturally but supernaturally defined? If not, you will. If you decide that God’s Love is definitely for you. If you desire it enough to pursue it, yoking your life to Jesus Christ. You will find His Plan, His Purpose and yes, even His Prosperity in every single element of your life. He is a Good Father. Do not sell your birthright for a single meal like Esau. Esau had a vast inheritance. He gave it all up to satisfy a hunger that was temporary. Hear me today as God is speaking to me, I believe He is saying it to you, “Stop settling.” Just because you don’t deserve the current blessings and benefits of God already proven in your life. Just because it is hard to believe God would do more and more when you realize you cannot stop doing what you do – choose to believe anyway. God is ready to do more than you can think or ask, dream or desire – all you must do is choose to accept His Love. (Period.) When I married my husband, there were things that immediately changed. I desired no one else. I pursued no one else. I wanted only to be His Wife forever. Over the years, there are things that we both have changed and grown in to maintain our relationship, He has never forced me to but I choose to because I love him. I want to be his wife. I want a strong marriage that lasts until death do us part. It is by choice. Love is a choice. To choose Jesus as our Savior and make Him Lord is a love choice. It is not by force. With this in mind, Jesus is not going to force you to live in His Presence or take everything He offers you as a part of your partnership. You have to want it, accept it, apply it and desire it, too. We have hidden potential, purpose and promise that only God can bring to pass. My life is unlimited unless I impose limits marked by disbelief, doubt and other desires.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

So back to my verse for 2017, I believe for me that the Lord is pressing me to start believing practically for the superabundance in all areas of my life not just the impossible ones. I know that God is a healer. I know that He gives us the desires of our heart. I have experienced God in so many ways that my life is far more blessed than I ever thought possible. I cannot stop here and have the fullness of God intended for my life. I must continue to press the boundaries of my belief and label each step with purpose as I walk through life until I disappear and all people see is the Christ in me. The life of Enoch is the life for me. When God’s Glory surrounds us completely and all people see when they see us is Light. Light of Love too amazing to not engage in. To complete to not step into. To real to ever forget. Life without limitation. This is the life for me.

Acts 17:26-28 (AMP) And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands and territories. This was so that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grasp for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being], as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

Winning Friends

winning-friends

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not By Might

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Zechariah 4:6-7 (NLT) Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”

When our children were very small, I taught a class at the local technical school to supplement our income. It allowed me to stay home with the children during the day. The children would stay with my husband and grandma would offer a helping hand. Our youngest was born with a very strong will. She contains quite an impressive purpose if it will require the level on stubbornness or maybe I should call it personal drive. At any rate, she was playing on the neighbor’s playset with the other neighborhood kids. One of other siblings was with her, watching over her, helping her and attempting to keep her in check. She was toddling up one side of the jungle gym and attempting to turnaround to sit on the slide. Now if you have ever watched a small child attempt such a feat – it can be quite humorous. At this stage of development, it can be quite awkward. Her brother reached out to assist her. She drew back quickly, “I do it myself” were the final words as she fell out the other side to the hard ground below. Surveying the damage, her wrist broken in two places. If only she had accepted the help that was offered, she would have successfully completed her mission down the slide that day and many more rounds I am sure. But now she had to wait and watch while all the other kids enjoyed playing together with a cast and strict restrictions.

Independence is human nature. The desire for freedom strong in our DNA. Yet, so often it is in our inability or ignorance that produce delays, detours and disappointment. Our heart is filled with eternity. God put it there during creation knowing that sin would cause us to long for and desire other things. Yet there is a desire for completion and fulfillment that cannot be denied or met with the things of this world. Only righteousness will ever satisfy the eternity placed there. The Plan of God gives us a future and hope that is fully achieved by faith and confident hope. The Word of God is His Way and His Will clearly defined for His People. One’s perception of God’s Word is defined by which side of freedom our life is based on. Freedom to choose or Freedom in Christ.

Zerubbabel was chosen to be the leader of the tribe of Judah. God ordained him to rebuild the temple including many of the gates leading in and out of Jerusalem. God brought Zerubbabel and Judah back from captivity and restored them. Zerubbabel laid the foundation with plumb line in hand. However, after that it would take 16 long years to begin the work to complete it. The purpose of God for our life always begins with a firm foundation of faith, a process to produce confidence in our hope, and ultimately leads to fulfillment. However, it is vital to our potential that these words are fully understood today – “It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit.”

Hebrews 6:10-12 (NLT) For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

Sowing and reaping or planting and harvesting is a principle set forth by God that works naturally and supernaturally. What a man sows he reaps. However, naturally productivity and supernatural productivity are cultivated differently. What is possible for man is possible with God but what is impossible for man is also possible for the Lord as well. We are the weak ones in the connection not the Lord. He has set forth in His Word the way to achieve salvation, righteousness, blessing and prosperity. It is all according to His Will. We just need to walk in His Way. Is this a violation of freedom? No, in fact, this is exactly what freedom is. The opportunity to choose our way. Love cannot be forced or it is not love. My strength is weakness. For when I am weak, then I am strong and God’s Power works in me. When the foundation of faith is established in us when we first believed, it is not a knowledgeable decision but a heartfelt one. The trouble is over time – we change our mind. There are two components that lead to fulfillment obedience that is an attempt to follow the Law or willingness which is also defined by obedience but on the basis of love.

The difference between religious and willing obedience is radical love. We can attempt to live by the Law and do all it says and the law of sowing and reaping will produce good things in our life but it will not secure our place as Child of the Living God. It will not complete us. It will not satisfy our soul. The radical love of Jesus Christ allows us to accept His Spirit to help mold and shape our heart into a willing vessel that obeys the Word of God, follows the Way of the Lord and lives according to His Will because of His Great Love for us that keeps us in love with Him.

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!”

I believe the body of Christ and its many members are frustrated. Doing the “right” things, they are not getting the expected results. What do you expect? Our expectation will never be met until established firmly on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other foundation for us. (I Corinthians 3:10-11) A divided life will yield diversified results. The foundation of faith is established in the Truth that God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for my sins so that I would be free to build my life where I choose to. If I choose Jesus Christ, it reconnects me with the Father now I am a Child of God. This relationship is founded and rooted in love. Love that promotes a desire and willingness to please the other person. No relationship can grow when one partner decides to withhold bits and pieces of self from the other. It is our constant desire to become one and passion for the other that writes a love story. Without love, I am not God’s Child but simply His Servant.

Love at first sight does happen. Most fall in love with Jesus Christ without really even knowing him. I believe in such a love and experienced it with my husband. I believe that God prepares people for such partnerships and when you meet that person – His Spirit inside of us says, “Hey, that’s the one.” My daughter and her husband were attracted to one another in elementary school. Love is the driving force with in us. It is the knowledge of God that takes our imperfect love and makes it strong and secure. His Love for us allows us to love others fearlessly.

I John 4:16-18 (NLT) We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

The dash between our birthday and the day of death is significant. It represents one’s success or failure in knowing the One True Living God and the acceptance or denial of His Love. I believe that this is also the purpose of endurance. The Lord ordained Zerubbabel with a purpose. The purpose would take commitment far greater than the man was born with. He would need time to prepare for the task set before him. Sixteen years to be exact, during that time he rebuilt his home and helped others do the same. Plowed up abandoned fields, planted new crops and harvested greatly. Our life is has potential that requires godly preparation.

God promised Zerubbabel that nothing would stand in his way of completion. Not time, testing, trials, or temptation would keep him from triumphantly rebuilding the temple. It was when the Spirit of God finally got to the tender heart that the tinder there became a fiery passion to fulfill his purpose. He built the foundation. He was faithfully obedient to the Lord. Until his acceptance of His Purpose was wrapped in faith and confidence of God’s Great Love and consummated in the Spirit – he had to wait. When God’s Spirit filled his heart – Zerubbabel was filled with God’s Power which is always His Love.

Perfect love expels fear. This is confirmed in Nehemiah. The rebuilding of the wall became a battleground. Men had mortar in one hand and a sword in the other. (Nehemiah 4) Stay with me – God’s Power is His Love. God’s Strength is in His Sword which is also His Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17) The Spirit produces love in us (Galatians 5:22) The Spirit is nourished and sustained by God’s Word using it to build confidence in God’s Love for us. (Romans 8:38-39) It is the absolute and complete confidence in God’s Love that is our hope. God’s Word is a two-edged sword splitting open our heart separating human indifference and spiritual desire so passion for the Lord rises up in us. The Sword is also referenced as the tongue of our Savior in Revelation. (Revelation 1:16) His Spirit is the Power. His Word is the Sword that the Spirit uses in our defense and protection. It fortifies the foundation called faith and enables to withstand the storms of life. (Luke 6:46-49) We worship in Spirit and Truth. These two essential qualities empower us to overcome every obstacle and live in the fulfillment of purpose promised by God. It is the certainty that when we live in God’s Love that we overcome every single time. We win.

I Peter 5:9-11 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.

Are you discouraged today? Disappointed? Heart sick because your promise seems to be delayed? Don’t be. God will not send you in a battle you cannot or will not win. He goes before us preparing the way of provision, protection, prosperity and, of course, victory. You are not stepping into your promise or purpose because you are not ready for the battle. Our strength fails when the battle is the Lord’s. If it is connected to your potential, purpose or promise – it is achieved by His Spirit in us. If our spirit man is flailing in faith or lagging in hope or sluggish in love – God is protecting us by keeping us in His Hand for now while we grow, develop and mature our faith and confident hope in him more specifically His Love. When our full expectation is placed in God, His Spirit and His Word accepted fully by the Grace of Jesus Christ imparted to us – we will succeed in overcoming every obstacle and be victorious in all things. We do not fight like other people. Our weapons are not carnal. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) We battle self. (Romans 7:22-23) We battle the enemy. (John 10:10) Until we overcome fear, doubt, insecurity, and become fully convinced that God’s Love always wins – we will wait.

“Not by force” – obedience will not force God to do what we want Him to do – it is radical love that opens God’s Heart and releases His Hand to us. “Not by strength” – My weakness allows His Strength and Power to work through me. I must be a willing vessel fully operating in confidence of God’s Love. The Word continues to strengthen my foundation of faith and arms my hand for battle. I must keep my Sword ready at all times. My purpose is at stake. Willingness comes as the Spirit changes our mind about the Lord. The more we love Him and believe how Great Unfailing and Faithful His Love is for us – we are one step closure to having our promise and achieving our purpose. Until then, God protects our purpose until our Spirit is able to apprehend us with love. We need God’s Spirit to take His Truth and make it a reality in our life. He does it because He first loved us. We must return to our first love. Allow His Spirit to be fully consummated in our heart and produce the love that becomes a burning passion for the Lord. To know the Love of God firsthand turns obedience into a privilege.

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Hope for the Future

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Jeremiah 29:10-13 (NLT) This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Most of us have heard the age old expression to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Could this be the same thing as being stuck in a rut? I don’t know. I often feel as though I have stepped out of the boat by faith and Jesus is just out of reach – so now what? Welcome to the realm of hope. The uncomfortable place where faith is expended but hope not yet realized. It is the place offered as deep cries out to deep. It can also be the very place the enemy meets us when he knows fear may be stirring and doubt beginning to rise like waves just before the storm. The place where mockers cry out foolishness from the shoreline. Christians call out from the boat, “Are you sure it was God?” and Jesus waits with His Nail-Scarred Hand extended. He said, “Come.” And you responded. Now what?

Welcome to hope. The so-called “anchor of our soul”. The place where faith takes it first step and leaves us in an abyss of swirling thoughts and the vortex of our mind attempts to suck us in and pull us from every single promise engrained in our thoughts. Why? Why do we struggle? Why is life so hard? There really must be an adversary who wants my soul. Who desires every good thing God has given me in this lifetime. He wants my faith. It is the only thing that can save me. He wants to rob me of hope and a future more glorious than can be imagined. Joy so wonderfully secure that it is inexpressible. Do you have plans for the future? Maybe a birthday coming up or an anniversary. Perhaps, you are awaiting a birth be it a person or a promise. Are you taking a special trip? A promotion coming down the pipes. Whatever it is that lies beyond today and this moment are not promised. Only today. This moment. This breath. What will you do with it?

Jeremiah 29:10 hints at a lifetime. Mankind did not have a prescribed lifetime until sin entered him. God offered death as a release from the effects of sin in our life. He limited our years to 120 in Genesis 6:3. The psalmist eludes to a further shortened existence of just 70 years in Psalm 90:10. God’s Grace would not allow His People to suffer as a demonstration of His Unfailing Love and Compassion for us. Jeremiah 29:10 says “You will be in Babylon for seventy years.” Could it just be a coincidence? Or is our future truly vested in forever? We want the future and hope that is mentioned in these verses but so often design it by our choice and preference when it is all by predestination and God’s Master Plan and Design. If our future and hope is hidden in Jesus Christ, one might be wise to decide what am I doing to invest in this future and hope rather than in the one scheduled to end a few decades or less.

“But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. I am captivated by the future today. What is to come? This week between Christmas and the New Year evokes this response more and more each year I am alive. Since becoming a Christian, this has stirred excitement in me to move into the new thing God offers with each year of life. Our life comes with a plan. It contains a future and hope. Every step of this life has the potential to lead us there. However, our thinking must grow and expand from thoughts about daily life, current conditions and all the circumstances surrounding our existence beyond this life to forever…now. God planned good for us forever. He plans a future in Jesus Christ. We have hope that can only be realized after our departure.

In Matthew 24:36, the Lord tells us that we do not know the day or hour of His Return and that only the Father knows. In Romans 8:28, God promises to take every detail of our life and use it for our good…for those who love Him. What you desire, you pursue? We pursue many things in life based on our wants, needs and desires. Investing our time, talent and treasure in passions and pursuits to improve our standard of living naturally. Will we allot the same amount of energy and dedication to a future and hope that is never experienced by the five senses and only confirmed by His Spirit in us. Will we take a single step of faith when the rest of the process is unclear? Will I waste my time with no guarantee other than one that is promised in ancient text and whispered by an unseen Spirit? I must if what I am after is eternal life and forever with the Lord. I have no idea when He is returning or the day I will meet Him face-to-face, but what I do know today is that I must invest more of me into the process of finding Him in order to have faith that is secure and hope that is confident.

Romans 8:22-24 (NLT) For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.

I believe that the church does people an injustice when they do not teach the meaning of hope. I have hope because I have Jesus Christ. But the hope that I have does not exempt me from trials, heartaches, disappointments, and seeming disaster sometimes. Heavenly hope in Jesus Christ does not lead to disappointment, but how many times do we invest our belief in something other than the Word of God, His Truth and His Way? We diversify our faith. Giving some to God, some to man, some to money, and some to self just to name a few. All the while, wondering why we are stretched in so many directions.

We are given hope when we are saved. Hope that will never be fully realized in this lifetime. I remember the first time I heard “realm of hope”. It was sitting in an infusion room when the doctor was trying to tell me that the third relapse of cancer in our son may be his last. As I asked her a flurry of questions, the physician who was always so optimistic and encouraging could not make any promises. When she said those three words, “realm of hope”, something in me leapt with exhilaration. Would this be the place where God took over?

Later in our conversation, she used my other favorite word. She said, “Impossible.” In every trial of life I have endured so far, when someone uses the word “impossible” or “forever”, I have seen the Hand of God intervene. He is the God of our future and no one can dictate the outcome of His Children’s future no matter what. When man says our situation is impossible, it means our faith must be fully shifted to the God who makes all things possible. In our utter devastation and weakness, it is human nature to call out to the One who is higher. He answers our call in that moment of pure desperation. This is the moment when His Power becomes enough for us because it is all we have to hold on to. Life drives us to this point by design. God desires us to live forever with Him. He wants to give us a future. The Lord is making all things possible for those who believe enough to pursue hope wholeheartedly.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT) For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

“You have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” In my fifty years of life, I have seen the Hand of God come close to the earth and do great and mighty things. I have also wandered in darkness so deep that I thought I might not return. I have joined many churches and left most of them, too. I have seen ministers step up and sit down. I tried religion for many years struggling with all the “do’s and don’ts” of doctrine and regulations of religiosity. I have been built up by pride and shattered in brokenness. I have come to this revelation today. All of these things are trivial and do not matter if I do not have hope. One glorious hope for the future. It is the commonality of Christianity that is lost in hidden rivalries and mass marketing but remains the same day after day. My future is in Jesus Christ not my ability to work or invest appropriately. Nothing I do, say or become outside of a Child of God really matters. We must focus our attention on one hope in order to experience the revival the Body of Christ is calling out for. It is time to liquefy our lives as an offering to God.

There is one body and one spirit. We are the Body of Christ. We are not functioning as one body currently. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. We do not act like it. Our hope demands unity in order to fulfill our future. My future, my forever is in Jesus Christ. I have made it about so many other things. “You have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” Me, too. How do we get there from where we are now? If we all are headed there, why can’t we get it together?

Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

The Ephesians were “members” of the Church of Ephesus. Do you remember them? In Revelation 2 they are applauded for all their “hard work” and “dedication”. They were known for their patient endurance. The picture of “Christianity”. They were victorious in many ways and touted for not being quitters.  The model church, right? Wrong. What does the Lord say to them? “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” The incredible wealth of Jesus Christ is His Grace and Kindness toward us. His Great Love for us is our hope. He is our future and forever. Have we taken back our heart? Are we pursuing God with some of us and the world with the rest of us? If our heart is not invested in our pursuit of Christ, are we not just lusting after His Hand?

Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NLT) In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

What am I currently pursuing in this life? What are my passions? What do I desire? Where is my treasure? My future and hope are in Jesus Christ. I must align my life with Him in order to have that which I hope for. It is time to repent. It is time to return to the Lord wholeheartedly. It is time to pray more than ever before. It is time to examine what is precious to me right now in this moment and determine if it is my Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ. Do I love Him like I used to? Do I love Him more than ever before? Have I lost my first love? My one true love. Are there things in my life that have taken God’s Place? Have I chosen to hold more tightly to this life than my future? Am I gaining the world but losing my soul? Is there anything worth more than your soul today? Jesus certainly doesn’t think so. He died to give us one future, one hope and life everlasting. Do I want it? I do. How about you?

Matthew 26:25-26 – “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

True Reconciliation

true-reconciliation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chaotic Love

chaotic-love

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Chaotic love” is a concept spinning the cursor in my head. I heard it a worship song that I have fallen in love with by Dustin Smith. It is called “The One That Really Matters (Chaotic Love)”. This simple song has brought it home for me lately in the midst of change and new seasons. Stepping out of the “boat” to “come” to Jesus, all one sees is the Lord. But once on the water, the details become vivid including wind, waves, storms and the like. Though there is no danger to those who walk by faith because Jesus is their security, what we see is most off clearer than anything the heart conceives. The bridge of this powerful worship endeavor says, “Chaotic love has messed me up so I could live again.” This keeps coming to mind over and over again. God moves me in so many ways. The boat rocks, the foundation shakes, and things change but every time “chaos” ensues I find that when it relents I am always closer to Jesus. The chorus of this song says, “You’re the one that really matters.” Could it be in His Chaotic Love that the Lord is trying to move us from all the unimportant details, overwhelming tasks, cumbersome doctrine and scary giants to get this point across to His Beloved? I am the ONE who really matters.

When I am confused, uncomfortable or discontent – I have learned to seek the Lord. This is important to know who our help comes from, but in this idea of pursuit it is still based on our condition, circumstance or situation. Like the first thief on the Cross who only had moments to live, yet still he asked the Lord – what can you do for me? I believe that all this stirring in our life is to release us from trying to control those same conditions, circumstances, and situations until all we know is our need for Jesus in all things. The second thief knew that he was going to die and recognized his need for the Lord in that moment. We are on the verge of death every day. Each moment that passes brings us closer. The Lord is desperate for us to know Him and to make Himself known to us so we will be with Him forever. This is the kind of pursuit that He is after. Chaotic love will not allow for us to be content with compromise, satisfied with substitutions or even immersed in religion. It shakes our life until all the worthless garbage and unimportant details fall away and all that is left is our driving desire and desperate need for Jesus Christ.

There is purpose hidden the chaos and confusion of your life today. Can anything ever separate us from the Love of Christ? The question posed in Romans 8 today can only be answered in testing because it is not human nature to trust. This world is constructed on shifting sand with moving judgment, mitigating circumstances, winds of change constantly blowing on whims, and society with a conforming identity that never remains the same. No wonder it is challenging to put our faith in God who does not change and cannot lie. His Word is true. All of it. Not a single detail left out or anything to add. It says in the Word of God that NOTHING can separate us from His Love yet we all know that what ifs and if sos are contemplated and challenge such a revelation. Faith is not logical. We make it logical as we come to know Jesus through His Word and the testing of the very foundation called faith. It is in the violent shaking and persistent stirring that yields a constant and consistent love fortified by committed and constant grace that we truly decide that nothing can ever separate us from God’s Unfailing Love.

Romans 8:18-25 (NLT) Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Be honest. Have you ever asked God, “Why?” Why are bad things always happening to me? Why is life so hard? Why don’t people get it? Why all the hardship? Lord, why the tragedy? Why the sickness? Why? We all do. It is human nature. God made us this way so He does not find it shocking or get His Feelings hurt when we ask such questions. Why can only be answered when we know. Think about it for a moment. Without the “why” moments, would we seek the Face of God? Nope. I know, I know there are super saints out there who think they would but truly there would be no need to know the Lord, if He just fixed everything. Instead, He gives us a promise that He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Such a promise is pacifying until put into a position where we need the outcome to demonstrate God worked it out for our good. When it becomes a matter of life or death – it ups the ante just a little bit. Chaotic love is relentless love that can only be satisfied when we meet Jesus Christ.

It is our desire to establish order in our life. With all the moving variables and unexpected things that happen – it is our longing to make it all manageable. If your heartfelt notion is to seek the Lord until you find Him, please just throw this whole idea out the window and it will save you much agony. People develop routines and schedules to order their life and operate under these principles. The church organization is called religion. Religion orders our relationship with God making it manageable and doable with doctrine. But God does not want us to settle with a comfortable outer court ritual but an inner court relationship that wrecks us. He has a plan and purpose that far exceeds the confinement of tradition and can only be explored by radical faith and complete trust in His Word, His Will and His Way apart from any manmade order or establishment. When we understand this and pursue the Lord outside the four walls called church, we find that He is the only one that really matters. We come to a place as the song says, “I can’t help but scream about the way that You move me. Chaotic love has messed me up so I can live again.” Imagine our worship services with such a mindset. People would flock the altars in pure recognition of how much God really loves us no matter how we look or what we do. His Love is complete.

Is He the Only one who matters to you today? Do you care what other people think when it comes to pleasing God?  I wonder if our altars would be filled if just these two statements became true in the life of believers today. If our relationship with Jesus Christ became personal and intimate on a level that the thoughts of others and ways of this world did not impact our love, devotion and commitment to Him at all, what would church be like? If a part of His Presence came in the heart of each worshipper so that when it all connected in that moment, the Winds of Pentecost would bring dead hearts to life in our midst and revival would break forth answering the outcry of the modern church. We have made church, religion and Christianity what we wanted it to be and ordered it to our taste. But what if – Jesus became the One that really matters? I have no doubt that chaotic love would mess us up and we would all live again even forever.

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

Stranded

stranded

Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

My brain works in mysterious ways sometimes or maybe it is just how the Holy Spirit challenges me to dig a little deeper or think harder about what I read in the Word of God and its application to my life so I apologize if this makes no sense. This morning as I read Romans 8, I have decided that if I was stranded on an island somewhere without any communication, electricity and could only have one chapter of the entire Bible start to finish – Romans 8 would be the one that I wanted the most. There is no need to debate as my mind is made up. When our son was on his second diagnosis, I was really struggling with the relapse. It did not line up with my mentality that this cancer-thing was a “one-and-done” scenario no matter how much I professed “trusting” God. It irritated me almost as much when I prayed and was given this verse to hold on to. Trusting God relies solely on knowing God well enough to completely trust Him.

With this in mind, curiosity surely will lead you to open your Bible and at least scan this chapter if for no other reason than to form a debate. But if you are stranded in a situation, lost in darkness over a diagnosis, deeply depressed by your current position or succumbing to the pressure to throw in the towel and give up again – maybe just maybe this is exactly what you need. When we feel the foundation of our faith is quite small, it may just become a comfort to know that it is exactly where the Lord placed you and you are not failing at all. When God is in complete control, nothing is wasted. God is always in complete control even when we choose not to listen, follow or obey. I am just going to sit back and let it all soak in for a moment. As the Word of God says, “Selah!”

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

While with my sister caring for my mother, there were long periods of waiting that allowed for endless conversation and some Dubsmash videos that I would rather NOT discuss. It was an ordained time when the Lord knew we would be together and completely alone and it was perfect. We talked about our relationship and family. We discussed ministry as we are both called to Women’s Ministry. There was even times when we entered in depth spiritual conversations when it was like swimming in a fathomless ocean. One of those led us to the point of discussing that fact that every single person is giving the opportunity to know Christ. Creation points to His Existence if no one else does. Think about that for a moment. It explains the first two verses in Romans 8.

We do not have to have the Bible in its entirety laid before us to know God through Jesus Christ. John 3:18-21 sum up exactly what is required to know God through Jesus. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” Judgment is based on this fact – people rejected the Light of God’s Love – Jesus choosing to remain in sin, evil and darkness forever. Religion has developed a doctrine to lead others to Christ. Church is not a bad thing. Jesus is everything. What if they never pray the sinner’s prayer? However, one day realize that there is a God who loves them and His Son becomes the Light of their life. Walking away from evil to pursue the Light of His Love. What then?

I am messing up some people’s theology right now. Good! It messed up mine forever, too. My pursuit of Jesus Christ is personal. Yours should be, too. Not mandated by man or church, but a love so strong and fierce for God and His Son that nothing will stop us from chasing Him and running from sin. Our life and love for the Lord can be evaluated by one simple verse. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5) I truly believe if churches, congregations and ministries operated on this one simple standard – there would be revival.

Romans 8:15-17 (NLT)  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Romans 8 “cuts to the chase” as some say. We are no longer slaves. We are the Sons and Daughters of God by adoption filled with His Spirit. Together with Christ we are heirs of His Glory. To share in His Glory, we must also share in His Suffering. Take that “prosperity gospel” being pawned by some pulpits and throw it right out the door with all the other theological nonsense they sell. To share in His Glory will also mean sharing in His Sufferings.

Yet nothing we suffer now can be compared to the Glory of the Lord that is coming. This statement translated for us plain folks is “it will be worth it – it will be worth it all.” Whether everything is fine or all hell is breaking loose in our life – it will be worth every moment of discomfort, pain and sorrow that we face when we see Jesus face-to-face. When we stand for Christ it the face of opposition. Those days that we feel isolated and all alone. The times when we don’t want to push through prayer or press into His Presence and His Spirit won’t let us give up. See it isn’t easy being a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ but it is always worth it.

Romans 8:26-27 (NLT) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

So what I don’t have the whole Bible and don’t know every verse, I have Him. Jesus lives inside of me. His Spirit is always with me. His Spirit helps us in our weakness. He prays for us. He reminds us. He helps us to believe when fear and doubt try to creep in. The Father knows our heart so His Spirit intercedes for us as believers in harmony with God’s Will. SO THAT, we know that all things work together for our good…event the worst days, in the midst of epic failure, when we cannot take another step or ran to the wrong refuge. Whatever the case, wherever you are, even in the midst of a bad choice – God is always on our side working for us! He chose me before I even knew that He existed. God created me as a masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) It doesn’t really matter how He found me or what kind of mess I made from things – He sees me as He created me not as I have allowed myself to become. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s Works are wondrous. (Psalm 139)

Romans 8:37-39 (NLT) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Stuck in a rut today? Surrounded by people yet feeling isolated? Wondering what this whole faith in God thing is all about because your life is no better yet? Thinking about giving up? We can become stranded in hopelessness that sucks us in like quick sand. We walk by faith not by sight. It is completely unnatural on every level. We are called to trust and believe that we cannot see. We are given a set of rules and doctrines that sometimes seem impossible. Romans 8:37 says, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Nothing and nobody can separate us from the Love of God. Somebody needed to hear that today. God loves you. He planned to send His Son to die for me because He knew me before I was born. The Lord knew I would not be perfect so He gave me grace and adopted me. My future is safe and secure in the Lord and nothing else. Nothing can ever separate me from His Love. This makes every challenge worth it. Every time I fall and grab His Grace to get up – worth it. It is all worth it because God loves me and “causes everything to work together for (my) good” because I love God and am called according to His Purpose. The end. No additives or preservatives. Just Jesus. All day every day – Jesus. If I am stranded, I want it to be with Jesus.

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

 

Intentional Kindness

intentional-kindness

Two arms reaching together with sun.

Ephesians 4:30-32 (NLT) And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Random acts of kindness is not a Biblical principle. It is a humanitarian effort. The golden rule only goes so far in this life but it is the Truth in I Corinthians 13 that governs our life. God is love. (I John 4:8) If God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, we will produce love, joy, peace, patience and kindness…among His Other Fruits listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is patient and kind. It “is” not it may be, could be or should be. To be a Child of the Living God, filled with the Holy Spirit, means that we are to live a life of love that begins with these two attributes.

Spontaneous or random acts of kindness are given on a whim. Gestures that do not really cost us anything at all because what we offer to another did not require a sacrifice. However, God desires us to show intentional kindness to everyone we meet, at any given moment, each and every day. The Lord provides opportunities every day for His People to extend His Loving Kindness to others. Are we taking full advantage of these moments to share the Love of God unconditionally based on kindness and compassion rather than human judgment. I am challenged today by to examine my heart for kindness. To see if I am measuring up to God’s Standard of Love by living to be intentionally kind not relishing in those moments I mess up and do the right thing offering kindness to others.

Kindness is not a natural response. It is a learned behavior. Why? People do not trust. It is not human nature to open ourselves up to vulnerability. Fearing others will take advantage of our giving or yielding to others, we judge those who are worthy of our grace rather than understanding it is not ours to evaluate only to communicate in every interaction.

Ephesians 1:4-8 (NLT) Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God loved us before He created the world. He chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault providing the grace that we needed to do so. God decided in advance. His Love is intentional. He decided to do it and did. It is what He wanted to do. It was His Pleasure. It is in these statements that we can identify God’s Intentional Nature. When God decides to do something – He does it. He doesn’t change His Mind. To be like God our Father and follow the example of Jesus, our love must be intentional and marked by kindness.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

We have a little dog named Izzy. She is a tiny 4-pound monster. She makes a lot of mistakes. Barks all the time. Yet, she is very loving and loyal. The thing about dogs that we love so much is their loyalty. I can fall over her. Yell at her. Even put her in the crate when she does not behave, she still loves me and wants to be with me the moment that I let her out. Her love for us is relentless. What is it in dogs that make them so loyal? They must have very big hearts. People can learn a thing or two from dogs. We are to be clothed in “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Clothed meaning covered in it. It should be what people see and experience when we are with them at all times not just when we feel like it or think they are worthy of it. But with the same loyalty as our furry friends, give it freely and willingly to those around us.

Psalm 145:16-17 (NLT) When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.

What is kindness? Desiring to help others, indulgence, consideration, helpfulness, mildness, gentleness, generosity, tenderness and compassion all underlined by love. We love others because He first loved us. When the Lord opens His Hand, He satisfies. When I open my hand, mouth and heart to others are they satisfied or do I leave them lacking because I once again have failed to be intentionally kind as Jesus has been to me.

The Word of God promises that kindness will be a reward. (Proverbs 11:17) Kind words are like honey that is sweet to the soul and healing to the body. (Proverbs 16:24) It doesn’t say who it will sweeten and soothe. To be a wise woman, I must give instructions with kindness as I work within my family, life and world to be the Proverbs 31 kind of girl I long to become. (Proverbs 31:26) God defines a lack of kindness in our life as judgment. (Romans 2:3-4) Who am I to decide another unworthy of the kindness that I have found in the Lord? Not sure, yet I somehow manage to do it every day.

Matthew 5:46-48 (NLT) If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We offer kindness to those who we trust. Plain and simple. It is fear that our kindness may be rejected or taken advantage of that keeps us from giving it freely and without condition. We offer random acts of kindness like pennies in a fountain. No real loss if we do not see our wish come true because we don’t really put a true value on a single cent. However, remove all “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander” means that we must “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” now this puts a whole new spin on things. We must live with intentional kindness to walk with Jesus. It is His Way. It is the Truth. It is how we find new life in the giving of ourselves to other people.

Through trial, tribulation, problems, hardships and brokenness, there is a small opening in my heart and soul that has developed some patience. This is by far the hardest fruit of God’s Spirit to cultivate in me. To be intentionally kind requires patience makes us slow down and become acutely aware of those around us. Busyness is no longer an excuse. No one is undeserving of our kindness. We are called to love one another and there is no specification that I can find of any person who excused or eliminated from this group. I must live in kindness. I must walk in kindness. I must be clothed in kindness. I must speak words filled with kindness. I must give in kindness. I must love with kindness.

There is an old saying, “I am going to do it but I don’t have to like it.” It is a lie when it comes to loving others and being kind. Obedience to God is love. Anything else will not be accepted. I think that is why so many churches fail and ministries fold. They come together with the best intentions but forget what they are brought together to do. A commitment to Jesus Christ will always be marked by love and kindness. It is who He is. Our character is no different if we say all the right words, do all the right things yet fail to love every person who we come in contact with. If we will become intentional about our kindness, I believe we will begin to walk in love. Lord, examine each word before I speak it, every gesture before I do it, every action before I commit it, and every act I do in Your Name. Jesus make sure it is based on the unconditional love and amazing grace that I have found in You.

Proverbs 3:3 (NLT) Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.

 

 

Rain is Coming

the-rain-is-coming

Hebrews 11:6-7 (NLT) And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

Living in Florida, one becomes accustomed to the humidity. When my sister moved to Nebraska many years ago, her body acclimated to the weather up there that is much drier than the tropical conditions of the south. On her visits, the intensity of the humidity was much worse because she isn’t used to it anymore. It doesn’t take very long. Our daughter moved to New Hampshire just over a year ago and feels the same way. The environment has changed and their bodies have adapted to the conditions around them. It is human nature to conform to the world in which we live as a means of survival. God didn’t create humanity to survive but made us to thrive.

Life is full of the unexpected. It has many twists and turns along the way, not to mention all of the distractions. Storms come and go. The road of life is filled with peaks and valleys – highs and lows. Yet in all the change there is one constant. God is constant. He is Sovereign. He does not lie or change His Mind. His Word for my life is relevant, true and enduring – no matter how many times I mess up. His Grace is always enough for me. It is sufficient in my failures. He is all that I need to successfully navigate this life and reach Eternity. Yet there are days when the rain drowns out the sound of His Voice because I am afraid to get wet. There are times when the conditions call my attention to my physical state rather than relying on the New Creation that I am becoming.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2) My life is not a call of conformity but a promise of transformation into a new person. I must change the way that I think and learn God’s Will for my life. His Will is pleasing and perfect. It is my belief and full expectation of God’s Faithfulness that allows me to endure the rain to see His Harvest in my life. It is my destiny. It is the covenant that I live in. Lord, I know the rain is coming. I can feel it in the air of my spirit. I can smell it all around me. Make me faithful like Noah. Lord, transform me.

“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation. It is impossible to please God without faith. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Our faith in God allows us to be transformed by Him giving way for the substance of our life to be changed and reformed by His Love, Grace and Mercy. Faith makes my life pliant and compliant. It transfers my belief from what I can see to what I know is true. This is important. Why? Into each life some rain must fall. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Genesis 6:9 (NLT) This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

The account of Noah begins in Genesis 6. Noah was righteous. He was the only blameless person living on the earth. Note: it refers directly to Noah and not his whole family. Your righteousness and faithfulness can be the salvation of your entire family. He walked in close fellowship with God. God was sorry that He ever created mankind and decided to flood the earth and rid it of people altogether. All except for Noah and his family. (vs 11-13) The Lord had already made the way for Noah and his family to be saved and recreate the world for their future. God told Noah what to do and Noah did it. The task was overwhelming. The Lord did not bring anyone alongside of Noah to assist and partner with him. It was all up to one man, God’s man to get the job done. Funny in the tests of faith – that we find ourselves all alone even when surrounded by many people. Noah had a relationship with the Lord long before the flood. His faith already evident so that when the Lord told him to build the ark in the sunshine of day – Noah did it.

Genesis 6:22 (NLT) So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Genesis 7:5 (NLT) So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.

Genesis 8:15-20 (NLT) Then God said to Noah, “Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.” So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose.

Noah was a faithful man. He did everything as the Lord God commanded him exactly as God indicated. His faith would be the vessel (or boat if you will) that saved his family. Noah’s faithfulness was not based on his current condition or the surrounding circumstances but consistent through every season and change in his life. He was 600 years old when he entered the ark and 601 when he exited. He did not complain of a year wasted but came prepared to worship God when he arrived.

Those who walk in close fellowship with the Lord cannot help but worship Him. Noah was that man. I want to be that woman. God’s Response is noted in verses 21 and 22. “And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Did you know that in every season, change, trial, hardship and pain that we endure faithfully that God will always release His Blessing? He cannot help Himself. Our faith opens the windows of Heaven. His Outpouring is the rain that washes us clean and prepares the way for us to not just survive but thrive on the earth. What is the blessing of the flood? Prosperity. God blessed the earth and commanded seedtime and harvest so that whatsoever we plant we will reap.

Isaiah 54:9-10 (NLT) “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Could you really blame God if He went back on His Word and destroyed the earth today? The sick depravity of our culture and abased state of society even the tainted form called church could be easily destroyed in its utter demise. Sin is rampant and love is cold. We are living in the end days. The rain is coming. Are we building a life that will be a worthy vessel to crossover to the future found in Him? Thank you Jesus for the fact that you are constant, do not lie and never change your mind about us. I would. Your Faithful Love is forever. My faith in you must live as such.

Paul described the struggle best in Romans 7 when he wrote – “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” The struggle is real. My faith must be intact and worthy of sailing through the violent storms and torrential rain to carry me from everlasting to everlasting. But it is not about me, I cannot build anything worthwhile in my life because sin is always attacking it. I must rely on Jesus to become the vessel of my life that carries me through every trial and hardship. I must strive to do what He says when He says it in spite of me. The Word of God tells us that those who put their hand to the plow and look back are not fit for the Kingdom. I wonder if it is the same for those of us that hear the command to build a firm foundation of faith but choose to put our hand out to feel for rain first.

Luke 17:26-27 (NLT) “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

The isolation of obedience driven by a life of faith means ignoring what we see to act on what we know about God. It can sometimes make you feel a little crazy. Everyone else is doing their own thing, enjoying life but you are in a field alone hammering away at a boat to sail in a storm that is not yet seen. You feel conviction that compels you to press on obeying God’s Word and doing exactly as He commands yet the enemy taunts you from the sidelines. Faith seems so illogical sometimes and probably will right up until we meet Jesus face-to-face. It is still the only way to please God. What is the Lord telling you to do today? Is He telling you to do something crazy like build an ark for an imaginary flood? Faith is telling you to do but human nature is calling you a fool. Build the ark, my friend. The rain is coming. Keep pounding away at the foundation of your life until it is completely reliant on the Word, Will and Way of Jesus Christ. It not for you, do it for your family. God is faithful. Jesus is coming. The rest is up to you and me.

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT) “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”