New Heart

New Heaert

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The image a vivid reality in my mind. Praying to the Lord to take all of me is a common cry in the church today but do we really understand what we are saying. God begins a good work in us. Holy Inhabitation makes it possible as the Holy Spirit takes over those areas of our life invested in the Kingdom. The fashion of holy consecration is brokenness. It is an act of humility. Sacrifice that demands all of us to produce good fruit and abundant life in all areas. The Lord has promised to give us a new heart and new spirit. The Word of God says, “I will put within you.” When our religion becomes a true relationship with Jesus Christ – our heart cannot be withheld and flesh cannot survive the burning passion and desire to seek Him, know Him and be with Him.

The Heart of Stone

Back to the revelation in my prayer time, I saw a sharp pointed knife cutting through dull gray exterior resembling a rock. As it began to cut with excellent precision – I wondered if it could get through the concrete exterior. What would be inside? As it continued the downward trend, a beautiful beating heart emerged. It took my breath away as in that moment I drew in a cleansing breath. God is this what you want to do in me, my family, my church and my community. Are you trying to take our stony, hard hearts and give them new life? Absolutely.

It’s funny that humanity thinks it can evoke heavenly change in an earthly body. The embodiment of religion is to produce positive change on the exterior, but without the inward change of a circumcised heart – it won’t work. We can build churches but not become the Church. We can resemble broken and handicap bodies but not become the Body of Christ. The prosperity of our hands will not move the Heart of God. He must complete the good work that He has begun in us through His Son, Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) Have you given your heart to Jesus?

Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (ESV) “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Before moving ahead to obedience, our heart must truly repent before the Lord. Jesus must be the Way, the Truth and Life for us. In that moment, everything changes but unless one engages in the relationship with Christ – it is merely another social venue chosen in which to exist. The miracle of salvation is made complete in the covenant formed as a relationship with Jesus. Without a relationship, it is nothing more than religion. Religious people do not necessarily have eternal life. Without a heart change produced solely by the Lord and His Spirit, we may look different, sound good, and live better but eternal life comes from an intimate and ongoing relationship with the Father through His Son.

Grace is always enough. This is not a call to live a perfect life. Never make mistakes. Always make good choices. Stop sinning completely. Though these are our goals, the battle against our flesh is quite evident and the struggle is real. (Romans 7) What does God require of you? To fear the Lord your God. To walk in all His Ways. To love him. To serve Him with all your heart and soul. To keep His Commandments and Statutes.

Here’s a plot twist for you! Every bit of this is summed up in love. Romans 13 tells us that we are to own no one anything but love. The Message translation puts it like this – “Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” To love Jesus with all of our heart and soul makes sin unpalatable if it separates us from His Love. When our union with Christ is complete, He becomes our priority over selfishness because He is better than life. You cannot engage in a relationship with Christ without a circumcised heart. It is the sign of covenant. In the Old Testament – an outward sign of a promise. In the New Testament – it is an inward sign of a new heart, mind, soul and body devoted to Jesus Christ.

New Heart

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

This verse has been heavy on my heart. The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword to the division of soul and spirit…Is the Sword of the Spirit for me? Yes. To use on others. To wield against the enemy and every perceived threat. Yes. But first, before all of that, it is for me to allow God to circumcise me and give me a new heart and new soul to serve Him. What if we have been going about this all wrong? What if our first action as a believer is to allow God to use this two-edged sword on our own stony and stubborn hearts…first. Always first. When tempted to lash out can we let His Word cut away the lack of love in us. What if the sword is useless in our defense unless it produces change in us first? Jesus is the Word. He is the Way, Truth and Life. No one gets to the Father but through Him. If God’s Word does not work in me, I cannot become the new creation filled with new life that He promised. I must consecrate my life beginning with my heart and soul before I can make an impact in my home, church and community. Otherwise it is just good works not godly deeds.

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

A stubborn hard heart cannot give the kind of love that it has received from the Lord. God is love. His Love for us comes without condition and immeasurable grace. A heart of stone cannot receive such love and it is like pouring water on a rock. Only a heart broken before the Lord can receive all that He has for us. I wonder today if I might be so bold as to say the heart of the church must be circumcised again. To cut away the callous disregard for “sinners” just like us. To see people where they are instead of expecting them to “act” like us. To see ourselves transparently through the eyes of grace and humbly expect our misfortune apart from Jesus Christ. We have all failed the Lord. We are all sinners just the same. There is none righteous no not one.

Lord, I ask you to take the two-edged sword of your Word and penetrate our stony, stubborn and selfish hearts today. This word is for no one other than me for I am the least of these. Father, renew a right spirit in me. Let Your Presence be my dwelling place as I crawl back to You with my heart in my hands asking you to give me a brand new one! In Jesus Name!

Ezekiel 11:18-20 (ESV) And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

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Barriers

Barrier

Psalm 119:45 (NLT) I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

There is a young lady in my life who I love dearly. She is a beautiful girl with a sweet heart. Like many people her age, she is struggling to make the right choices and apply her faith to life. She didn’t come to church so I reached out on social media. One of the qualities that I love about her is brutal honesty. She doesn’t hide behind a churchy façade of perfection but admits that her struggle is real. I told her I loved her and missed her this morning. She replied, “I was too ashamed to come.” My heart broke in that moment. I told her that God had her and that His Grace was always enough for her, not to mention that I love her no matter what! I hate that the very thing she needed most was restricted by her distrust. She stayed home rather than facing the hypocrites, mockers and stone throwers. “Whosoever come” limited by the line drawn by Christians of boundaries and barriers that keep the seeking from actually making through the door.

I will walk in freedom.

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

The Gospel is only good news when covered by grace. Outside of God’s Grace given to us through Jesus Christ there is nothing good in us. The new creation is a result of God’s Word coming to live in us. His Name is Jesus. He is the Truth. The Truth always sets you free and never limits you. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. This is the inherent struggle of humanity with the Lord. How do we conceive and birth change in our life without rules, regulations and better choices? Jesus. How often do we try to change our attitude and actions only to fail miserable but then hide behind the things we can do and be by ourselves? Disciples of Christ remain faithful to His Teachings. His Primary Purpose and Motivation in all things is unconditional love and overwhelming grace. These are the qualities that establish our freedom and erase the line of religion drawn in the dust and dirt our flesh is made of.

John 8:36-37 (NLT) Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

Everyone who sins is a slave of sin. I absolutely believe that I am a slave to sin. I cannot help but find a way to fall into it at least once if not a hundred times a day. If you think there is no sin in your life, then you are sadly mistaken. All fall short of God’s Standard for living. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. My way of life is not for anyone else other than me. God recorded every day of my life in advance. (Psalm 139) He predestined me with a purpose only found living as one with Jesus Christ. Within that plan and purpose, the Lord has given me a future and hope (Jeremiah 29) with a provision of love and grace sufficient to empower me in every weakness. He works every detail of my life for my good and His Glory. (Romans 8) I have to believe this includes my mistakes, shortcomings and failures.

John 8 begins with the story of a woman who was caught in adultery. I cannot help but wonder where the other person engaged with her was hiding. If she was caught in the act, there had to be another party. Yet, he is absent. If we are all slaves to sin engaged in the same act, why do we not include ourselves when crucifying Christians or calling out their issues. Pride tells us that there is a hierarchy of transgresses not found in the Word. If we can pretend better than others, we win. This is absolutely not true. God’s Love and His Grace are offered to us one way. His Son – the Only Way – to access the Father. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – He is our freedom.

Twice in this account, Jesus stoops to write something in the dirt. Many scholars conclude the Lord may have been listing the sins of her accusers. I wonder if maybe Jesus was erasing the barrier of religion to form a relationship. Perhaps our Savior and Lord was actually wiping away the line between sin and salvation while her accusers left one by one. Guilt and shame form regret that removes us from the Presence of God. His Love and Amazing Grace will lead us to “spacious places” (Psalm 18) but unresolved sin and judgment lead us to deeper darkness than before we knew Christ. He is the Light of the World. What is done in secret will be made public? His Light drives out darkness. It leads us to freedom. True freedom. Free to love Him without shame, remorse, or regret and openly enjoy His Pleasures evermore.

Revelation 3:7-8 (NLT) “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”

What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open… Do you believe this passage today? Do you believe that Christ has set you free? What is limiting your life today? Jesus is the Gate. Those who come in through Him will be saved. “They will come and go freely and find good pastures.” The enemy will try to shut the gateway of freedom to our life by putting us back in our sin or at least reminding us of it so guilt and shame tries to shut the door and throw away the key. (John 10) Jesus reminds us today that His “purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” He does not mention our past, present or future shortcomings and promises that His Grace will always be enough for us. Jesus knows how we feel, what we do and yet still loves us unconditionally. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.

Galatians 5:7-8 (NLT) You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.

The religious folks had trouble accepting the matchless and magnificent grace of Jesus Christ. They could not comprehend or accept equality with common sinners. The established order of Jewish culture demanded personal retribution. Pride required a level of accountability. We must be very careful not to become trapped in their culture. The “Saul” in us must become “Paul” through our new life in Jesus Christ or it is a waste of time and energy. God has called us to freedom even providing the Way. It is up to us if we will take it, pursue it and live in Him. Legalism will never produce the kind of change that love will. Faith is in us but must be continually fed and watered the Word of God and cared for by His Spirit to grow and flourish into something reliable in our life. Bad choices do not hinder us. Unwillingness to admit our sin and meet Jesus at the Cross daily does.

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.

Have you drawn a line in the sand? Is there a list of unpardonable sins that keep you from love and forgiveness? The limit in your life is self-imposed. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Freedom to engage in a new life and find an inheritance as a Child of the Living God. Sin made us all slaves. Your only way to freedom is sonship. Turning to the Lord means that the veil of human expectation and accountability is irrevocably broken. Expectation placed in people is misplaced. If we set our heart, mind, body, souls and spirit on the Living God our life will be complete. Satisfaction will be found. Abundance of heart will fill our hands with outpouring of generosities beginning with love and grace for all mankind. It removes the barriers and obstacles of faith marked doubt and disbelief so faith can come alive in our life. Remove the restrictions today. Forgive freely. Turn from rules and regulations to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ. Our freedom allows us to grant others the same becoming a beacon in the darkness for those who desperately need the Light. I am a sinner. I am saved by the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ. This is my story. It is the Truth that allows me to come to the Cross to be set free. To live free. To experience abundance to overflowing for others in need. Lord Jesus – please do not ever let me be the barrier blocking another from coming to the Cross. Forgive me if I have. Remind me if I do. Remove me from their path! In Your Precious Name, AMEN!

Psalm 119:96 (NLT) Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.

Due Season

Due Season

Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT) Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

I was talking to a friend of my not too long ago. Experiencing a bit of discouragement, the Lord pressed upon me to share that “He never leads us to barren fields.” The Word I thought was for someone else began to resonate in me. I love how the Lord does that. A word in due season. “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23) What is due season anyway? It simply means at the appropriate time, in due course, in due time, in good time or when the time comes. Due means rightful, proper or fitting. A season is a period of time when something is best or available.

Ecclesiastes 3 sets forth the boundaries and conditions of each season. Not every season seems pleasant at the time but each one holds its own fruit. Purpose and potential are not always evident in what we seen. The process by which God grows and develops are character is often difficult. The struggle is not in the outward conditions but our inward character. It is the death of our flesh that produces new life in every season. Romans 7 reminds us that the struggle is real and ongoing no matter how hard we try to overcome it. What season are you in? Everyone loves the harvest season but our willingness to endure the planting, persevere the drought, and wait for God’s Timing is essential in the abundant prosperity that is promised. God will not allow outward prosperity without soul prosperity. Our reliance on the Lord in every season is important to have His Plan with the future and hope it promises. It really doesn’t matter if we are successful in life if it does not allow the faith in our heart to connect us with eternity.

Leviticus 26:4-6 (NLT) “I will send you the seasonal rains. The land will then yield its crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land. I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land.”

What season are you in today? Does it seem like it will never end? Are you discouraged? Do you feel abandoned? God’s Promise in Leviticus remains the same today. He promised seasonal rains. When you think the drought will never end? He sends a downpour. The land you are in has potential and is marked with purpose that will prosper and yield good fruit. Here is the important truth to quiet the need to leave or mindset to escape – “your threshing season will overlap and harvest will overlap WITH the season of planting. Learning to continually sow seed will inevitably result in overlapping harvests in our life. We just have to learn to continue to sow and plant when conditions are unfavorable or the wait seems too long. The problem is not in the land but in our heart.

God promises that we will be fulfilled and protected in “your own land”. Too often the greener grass on the other side causes us to wander rather than staying put to fulfill the plan of God that will lead to abundance and prosperity. He gives us peace in that place marked my own. He protect us giving us rest even when the enemies are pressing in and people seem like problems. God has already ordained blessing in our life – the problem is that we do not believe Him enough to stay put and keep beating the seemingly dry and dead place until breakthrough comes.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 (NLT) What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) What if God’s Seasons are not set by the same time and space as our perception of seasons? What if the markers He uses are different than the ones that humanity is accustomed to? Not only probably but highly likely. The seasons of the earth are to produce natural occurrences not supernatural outcomes. God defies human logic all the time by doing miraculous things – sometimes in a second or even in lifetimes. The problem is human nature demands natural results when God’s Plan and Promise is a supernatural outcome. He doesn’t bargain with just enough but promises overflowing abundance. He promises that we will produce fruit in season AND out of season. Are we limiting our life by observing natural seasons but not sowing in supernatural outcomes?

What do people really get for all their hard work? Each person who opened their eyes and took in another breath this morning has the same 24 hours to use as they see fit. Many years ago, a friend asked how I found time to write each day. I think she was looking for some epiphany and was quite disappointed with my response. I shared that I set my alarm to get up at 4:30 each morning in order to make time to spend with the Lord and write. She said, “Well, forget that and laughed walking away.” The next time busyness becomes an excuse I challenge you to examine your time. Your schedule and routine will tell you where you are sowing in life. It will tell you where to expect a harvest or increase. When we give a significant portion of our time to the world, we will reap earthly results. Hard work will pay off in our natural life. To sow seed in God’s Kingdom and connect with Him means reprioritizing our time making room for Him. It is only as our soul prospers that all of our life will reap the benefits. We must work smarter not harder. Grace is sufficient to allow us to enjoy the blessings and benefits of God for His Children. It is investing in His Kingdom to be one with the Body of Christ that produces such a harvest.

Galatians 6:8-10 (NLT) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. What is your investment in Kingdom Living today? If you made a pie chart, what portion of your life is devoted to loving, knowing and serving God? Do you spend time with Him each day? Does He go to work, school or run errands with you? Is He the primary resource in your life? Do you rely on Him or a paycheck or someone else? What are you expecting from Him that hard work and motivation cannot produce? Do you believe His Grace is enough? The place you are planted has a harvest just for you that cannot be produced by anyone else. It is part of your purpose. It is a product of your plan ordained by the Living God who is inside of you. Watch for it. Prepare for it. Sow it. Wait for it. Stand on that field until it produces exactly what God promised you.

At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Are you waiting for due season? Keep waiting. The harvest of blessing comes with no sorrow added to it. The time, talent and treasure invested in God’s Soil will always produce good fruit even when the land seems barren and dead. He is the Life Giver who has given us resurrection power to call dead things to life.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Your process must always produce the Fruit of the Spirit first. Your soul must prosper in order for the ordinary to become extraordinary and the natural to produce supernatural. The world says work for it. The Lord says, “Worship me and you will have it all!”

3 John 2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Going the Distance

The Long Road Ahead

Revelation 3:10-12 (NLT)  “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

From time to time, I have the privilege of teaching in our church. To share the Word of God like a warm bread basket of fresh rolls with others is an overwhelming responsibility that I find great pleasure in just like having guests over to eat a good meal together. However, there are times when the fresh word given to me from the Word of God and served up by His Spirit is not received as “I” think it should be. Like seeds falling on pavement or water splashing from a rock, last night was one of those times. While preparing, I sampled the thoughts and ideas for my own life and could see areas that the Lord was enriching me but when offered to others it was rejected like stale crumbs to be discarded. My heart was heavy. I was ready to leap off the platform when it was over.

It would be easy to quit. Give up. Never put myself out there again. It is not God’s Will. I know what I am supposed to do but struggle with not doing it. Immediately I begin to evaluate me. My “performance”. Maybe I should yell more. Jump around a little. Be more dynamic. Be more like this preacher or dramatic like this teacher. What if it is not about me at all? Well…now we are getting somewhere. What if everything was exactly as the Lord planned it last night? What if the lesson for me is perseverance not to make a better performance but to continue through the process until His Word prospers into His Purpose and His Plan?

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere…” To persevere is to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. It means to persist in anything undertaken even when faced with difficulty, obstacles or discouragement. To continue steadfastly. It doesn’t sound fun. It requires overcoming our flesh and pride to attain God’s Best. I want to live in the Presence of God. As close as humanly possible before crossing over into forever. In order to do this, perseverance will be a characteristic that the Lord works to develop in my life. I must persevere to reach my desired destination.

2 Kings 13:16-19 (NLT)  Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”

The King Jehoash of Israel came to Elisha on his deathbed. He was perplexed by the Arameans. Elisha put his hands over the king’s hands and shot an arrow. The arrow directed by God’s Hand illustrated victory over Aram in the immediate battle. However, there were more to come. The king was instructed to take the remaining arrows and strike them on the ground. I am quite certain that his royal majesty did not understand the significance and maybe felt a little silly hitting the shafts against the ground. He stopped after striking the ground three times and Elisha with his last bit of strength became angry. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” Why? It is perseverance that leads to overwhelming victory. When things go beyond human comprehension and walking by faith not by sight becomes a requirement, what is your response? What do we do with the promise of victory? Overcoming? Healing? Prosperity? Pursue it for a season and then give up? Press in for a lifetime?

2 Kings 5:9-11 (NLT) So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!

What do you do when life does not go as expected? When the healing doesn’t come overnight? You are not given a means of escape? When the hits keep on coming? Do you give up? Naaman had leprosy. He came to Elisha’s house for healing. The Man of God gave him simple instructions. But rather than immediately heading off to the Jordan River, Naaman became offended and walked off in anger. The Jordan River was not a clean spring of clear water. Oh how our pride tries to stay alive when it is time to persevere. What condition is lingering because obedience is wavering? What if you did what the Lord said and defied human logic to hold on by faith? What if your promise is not held up by the Lord but you refuse to press on?

Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Walking out of church last night feeling defeated, I ran into the pastor. He had spent the evening with the youth. He asked about the service. I said, “Tough crowd.” He said, “Tell me about it.” I didn’t have to ask about his small group as the kids came pouring out excitedly chattering about their experience. I have the same privilege next week to continue this teaching on the Word of God. (with a slight sigh) I know that the Lord has a word of encouragement and instruction for our people. I know that I am the one to deliver it. But honestly it is way easier to share these things in a blog sent out to hundreds of people without consciousness of their reaction or response. It works for me. But for obedience tells me that in six short days, I will climb the same steps. I may even get the same response from the people. But the acceptance, affirmation and approval of others is nice but not needed. I must focus on one thing. One thing only. “The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

I must forget the past. I have to look forward to what lies ahead. I must press on (persevere) to reach the end of the race. I want the heavenly prize. To hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To have something… anything to lay at His Feet will be worth it to me. The world can keep its applause and willy-nilly emotions. Just get me there, Jesus. Holy Spirit lead the way. I will be faithful to the end. I will go the distance.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

Finding God’s Favor

Finding God's Favor

Proverbs 3:3-5 (ESV) Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

There are two marketing strategies used in advertising to attract new customers. The first, lost leaders, refers to merchandise being offered at rock bottom pricing to entice people to shop the business. Usually offered in limited quantities, this technique is designed to gain consumer attention. They will continually shop the store looking for the next great deal. The second is considered a dishonest practice called “bait and switch” marketing. Customers are “baited” by advertising of items or services at a low price. Once arriving at the establishment, they discover the advertised goods are either not available or not as good as expected. Salespeople then pressure them to consider a similar but higher priced item. Advertising is a multi-billion dollar business which employees many tactics to sway the current market and gain clients the increase desired from their investment.

Consumerism is the basis of advertising employing the importance of increasing consumption of goods that is considered economically desirable. Supply and demand are the two main factors. To increase the demand requires the supply to meet those desires. This is how advertising thrives by making us think we need, want and desire certain things. It is also an enemy of contentment as the constant infiltration of materialism influences our choices each day. This was true in biblical times as well. Greed existed even in the Old Testament.

God grants His People His Favor. We sow and reap like everyone else does but with seeds of faith heavily invested the prosperity of life begins in our soul and spills over into our natural life. The psalmist confessed, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” What if we applied this same confession to every aspect of our life including our personal economy? We sow our time into family, jobs, hobbies and church. What is the return? We plant our talents into betterment and success. Are you successful? Investing that which is treasured seeking a return – has it come yet? See I believe that I have the favor of God. I believe that His Goodness is for me in the land of the living, but honestly I didn’t always think so. Some days I struggle to stay focused on the faithfulness and goodness of God granted to me by grace and accept His Favor in my everyday life.

God is able to do the impossible. If it is possible for me, who will get the glory once it is complete? I will. People will explain it away or make excuses. There are some who even expound on what God does, accelerate timing rather than waiting on His Perfection, and even some who will exaggerate the blessing to make it some kind of miracle. I have decided that I am not going to “help” God out anymore and wait for Him. How else will I know that God really can do the impossible? Where else will I find confidence that His Grace really is sufficient then by letting my weakness take over and saying, “I cannot do it”? It is easy to give the Lord credit for something we do. Every good thing is from the Lord, right? What if that good thing we did really isn’t a God thing? What if His Favor was ready to prosper us but we stepped in front of the Lord, ran ahead, or did a lesser thing for ourselves? It is sad to think of all the perfect and precious promise hidden behind pride and disbelief. The good news is that the Goodness of God IS for us in the land of the living.

Genesis 30 tells the story of Jacob and Laban. Jacob has worked his fourteen years and now has two wives and many children. He goes to his father-in-law seeking permission to return home. If you will remember, Jacob arrived at Laban’s home fleeing from his brother, Esau. He had schemed to take his brother’s birthright and the blessing of his father. Laban, being a shrewd businessman, is acutely aware that he has prospered significantly with his son-in-law’s help. He asks Jacob, “What shall I give you?” Jacob finally tells him to give him all the spotted, speckled, and black lambs along with all the speckled and spotted goats. This offer is too good to be true. Everyone knew that most lambs are born white and only goats came speckled and spotted. Laban agrees and both men leave thinking they have out schemed the other.

Jacob comes up with a preposterous plan using striped rods to visually incline the animals to produce striped or spotted offspring. He separates the animals so that only the strong animals reproduce. He thinks his elaborate plan has worked as the spotted, speckled and striped herd flourishes. When the time comes to leave, Jacob is a very wealthy man. He thinks he has pulled one over on his father-in-law but he had nothing to do with the prosperity experienced. God prospered his flock despite his interference. Everyone knows that what a sheep or goat “sees” doesn’t impact natural (or spiritual) reproduction.

How many times do we try to manipulate the Lord with futile efforts and fruitless deeds? We boast of blessings and favor not produced by the Lord but the result of our own investment and hard work. God has promised us that He will do exceedingly abundantly more than we can even imagine.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I was sharing with someone not too long ago that I am the Child of God who is given a glimpse of the bigger picture so I grab God’s paintbrush and try to finish the masterpiece. I am God’s Workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10) He has carefully designed my entire existence to be beautiful in His Time. He has prerecorded all the days of my life according to His Unconditional Love, Overwhelming Grace, Abundance of Mercy and Constant Goodness which is always in pursuit of me as I run off to make things happen. What if God is doing a wonderful work in you but you are too busy doing things for yourself that there is no room for His Goodness? Yep – I am talking to me. How often does Father God have a blessing with no sorrow added to it but due to my impatience or need for control I decide to make it happen adding an undue burden to what God was going to do without any burden at all? Religion is based on works. Relationship is based on trust. This brings me back to Proverbs 3 today.

Because of God’s Steadfast Love for me and His Faithfulness, I have His Favor. The Favor of God is for the land of the living. The work that He is doing in me as a result of grace makes way in my weakness for His Favor to flourish prospering me in the natural as my soul prospers. God promises us good success in the His Sight and the sight of man. Laban attributed Jacob’s success to God’s Favor. However, Jacob thought he was doing it. Jacob spent the majority of his life in deception. He wasted many years thinking he was pulling one over on people. Despite all that, God was working in Jacob. He is working on me. He is working on you, too.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

The Lord gives us opportunities to trust Him each day. Our relationship with a human being requires trust and so does our relationship with Jesus Christ. His Word is the covenant of our relationship. It carefully details every blessing and benefit of our connection with Christ. It says that those who abide in me will bear much fruit. This is not just in a spiritual connotation but a physical and natural directive. If we abide in Him and He abides in us it is the natural reproduction of things. God is good. His nature is to love because He is love. The rain falls on the just and unjust because the Lord desires to prosper us on every level. I am challenged today to trust God in every area of my life. This means I must evaluate every part of my heart, mind, and spirit for compliance. It means I must be patient and persevere. The enemy will challenge the weakest part of our heart. The area where trust seems to be the hardest. He is always seeking the ones who may be devoured. The truth about our life is this…

Psalm 84:11-12 (ESV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

God is our sun and shield. He presents to us and gifts us with His Favor and Honor. NO GOOD THING does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8) To walk perfectly and live flawlessly has nothing to do with it. To live in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ is our lifelong pursuit that unwraps the gift of God’s Favor in our life. To trust the Lord with all of our heart and stop trying to understand everything. I hear all the time, “Well, if I don’t do it – nobody will.” That’s not true. If you don’t do it, God will have His Way and do exactly what He planned from the start. Pride tells us God needs our help. He needs us to build His Reputation. He need us to do something…anything to participate. Not true! The only thing the Lord requires of us is trust.

As believers it is very important not to sell a “lost leader” God or “bait and switch” Lord who offers good things to us that aren’t really true. To even suggest that we can somehow earn or deserve all that He has done for us is to make a mockery of the Gospel and is defined of a life of works without real faith. When we package our life based on anything other than steadfast faith and hopeful confidence by giving a false persona of who God is and how He operates – we lose people. God does then impossible. He doesn’t need to take credit for our investment. He will do it all to perfection without adding sorrow, burden or even weariness. The Lord has given us His Favor and our life of trust honors that gift. We cannot up sell God when His Gift of Life is priceless.

Do you trust the Lord today? The evidence is in the contents and conquests of our life. Areas of dissatisfaction, lack of fulfillment and discontent are the very place that are ready for divine intervention if we will only give up our need for comfort, control and convenience. Let God bestow His Favor on you today. Let His Goodness be Your Source. Allow Him to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can imagine. His Favor is for you. He is working in you to bring it to fruitfulness today – in Jesus Name!

Psalm 90:17 (ESV) May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

Count It All…

Count It All

James 1:2-4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Count it all…when you meet various trials. The past month has been a blur. With the holiday rush, the virus that plagued our family, preparations for our grandson, interrupted schedules, crazy weather (snowing in Florida…seriously), unexpected dental procedure and all the other details of life mixed in – it was wonderful waking up feeling good with nothing pressing on the agenda. Hiding in the refuge of my study, I am overwhelmed with gratitude today. We are in the midst of our annual January fast. Though it has been a strenuous and exhausting turning of years, I am no less motivated for more. God is good! He has been good to us in so many ways. More than I could express in this little blog without blowing it up to a full blown book.

Reading James 1 today, these words are stuck in my mind. “Count it all.” So many times this passage is interpreted as a “suck it up, buttercup” kind of thing. Laughing in the face of adversity is not a natural response. In fact, it is not an honest response. I believe that God is inviting us to experience true joy not in a superficial sense. It is to take an account of our life. If Romans 8:28 is absolutely true, and it has to be or the all of God’s Word becomes invalid, then every detail of my life has the potential to produce something good. If not, God is a liar. This passage specifically says, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” This statement does not require much interpretation as it is straightforward and to the point. Every detail in our life, good and bad, has godly potential.

Goodness brings joy. When something good happens, we smile. It makes us happy. We are satisfied with the results. If every detail of our life will turn out for the good, then in each moment there is joy to be discovered. So in order to “count it all joy”, our life must align itself with God’s Word, His Purpose and His Plan so that the potential of good in each moment will produce the joy within it. To align our life with God’s Word means we must be accountable. To consider every detail even those that seem small and insignificant in comparison to God’s Word. His Word reveals the promise, potential and plan for a good life of abundance, success, prosperity and fulfillment. It’s all in there. It is all in me. The two must simply agree and be reconciled.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

In Amos 3:3, the Lord is speaking to His People through the prophet asking, “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” Any who is in Christ has the true potential to become a new creation. Staying the same is not possible in the midst of change. Transformation is a reformation that cannot continue in the midst of unchangeability. Salvation is complete in the person of Jesus Christ our Savior. Transformation is the direct result of Jesus Christ becoming the Lord of our life. We cannot yoke our life to Him without giving up our way to fully accept His Way of life. This is not a religious mandate but an opportunity to engage in a full-blown relationship with the Living God that gives us full access to His Kingdom and every benefit that He ordained for us.

We must reconcile ourselves to Jesus Christ. Reconciliation is an accounting term. It means to make one account consistent with another (especially allowing for transactions begun but not yet completed). It means to bring to agreement and harmony. Our life in Christ is a work in progress. There are “transactions” complete, in process and yet to come. All these things must be considered to reconcile our life with Christ. To live in harmony with Jesus Christ produces harmony that allows anointing to flow that the oil through Aaron’s beard. (Psalm 133)

God’s Grace is sufficient. It is enough to cover our sin. Grace gives us the opportunity to live in right standing with God the Father through Jesus the Son. Alignment that produces prosperity in life comes from a relationship with Jesus. It is our personal responsibility to enlist the aid of the Holy Spirit and align our heart and mind with the Word of God. Jesus is the Word who came in the flesh. You cannot know Him or follow Him without the Word because He is the Word. It is very easy to misconstrue spiritual alignment as a religious act rather than a relationship. To know the difference is to know the common denominator which is love. My motivation in Christ must always be love. I love God. I love Jesus. I love others. This is the first step of spiritual alignment and reconciliation to Christ.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

The Word of God tells us the benefits and blessings that the Lord has in store for us. It details the Kingdom and all the benefits available to those who choose to seek after it. The only weapon that the enemy can use against us is a lie. Ignorance allow lies to seem truthful and logical. Faith relies on the logic found in the Word of God and reinforced by the Spirit of God. Psalm 103 warns the believer – “oh my soul, and forget not all my benefits…” When we do not know God’s Word – we do not know His Will. When we do not know what He will do – doubt turns to disbelief limiting our life.

We must not every forget that we are accountable to God. Even with the dispensation of grace given to God’s Children, we are still accountable to Him. (Romans 14:11-12) Every knee will bow before Jesus one day. God sees us from the inside out. He knows us. He knows things about us that we do not even know. He sees the potential of His Creation not the mess that we have made of it. He says, “It’s all good. Keep going. I have a plan.”

James 1:5-8 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

My prayer is that the Lord will give me wisdom and discernment. The kind that comes from the Word and pierces the hardest parts of my heart to water the seeds of faith hidden within me. As I strive to seek God wholeheartedly, it will require accountability including reconciliation to Christ in every area of my life. I cannot forget the blessings and benefits that His Goodness has already promised me even when it is not evident in my natural life it must be the prosperity of my soul that makes me steadfast.

When steadfastness is full effect, we begin to experience God’s Perfection in the full consummation of His Plan and Purpose for our life. We begin to experience Heaven on earth. His Goodness reserved for the Land of the Living permeates our everyday life. It is then that our life becomes complete in Christ and we lack no good thing. To be steadfast, fixed in direction, steadily directed, firm in faith, firm in purpose, unwavering, adherently, firmly established, and firmly fixed in place until the Word of God comes to pass just like He said it would. That’s where I want to be. So today I will count it all…

I challenge you as this Word has challenge myself today. Consider every area of your life. Examine your heart. Get into God’s Word. Reconcile ever area of your existence to God’s Word and His Will for you. In the areas that do not line up, seek to align them. Pray. Make some changes. Spread your faith around generously over those areas. Allow God to mold and shape your life into the masterpiece that He promised. Seek the help of the Holy Spirit. You have a purpose. The plan contains a future and hope. Every detail has good hidden inside of it. Full accountability requires reconciliation. Spend some time with your First Love. Let Him show you how much He loves you all over again.

James 1:12 (ESV)Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 

The Power of Discernment

The Power of Discernment

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God. What is good? What is acceptable? What is perfect? Here’s a hint. People will never lead you to perfection. It is impossible for the imperfect to go where they have not been. Maturity in Christ is an independent mission of finding completion in Him. Discernment takes knowledge of God and as it becomes our understanding it will begin to produce wisdom in our life. Wisdom is nothing more than applied knowledge. To be wise is to make choices based on sound knowledge and good understanding allowing it to change the way we think, live and speak.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) A lack of knowledge in our natural life can cause unwanted consequences. For example, if you are not instructed that if you touch a hot stovetop that you will be burned, then when you come in contact with one that you will likely touch it and pay the consequences. Spiritual instruction is absolutely necessary to change our life from natural to supernatural outcomes. We can present ourselves as “living sacrifices” but it is discernment that keeps us aligned with God and following Jesus Christ. We need knowledge. We need understanding. We need wisdom. We need discernment. What if we have it but are not using it? Well, according to Hosea, people are destroyed because they lack…or reject godly knowledge.

I Kings 3:10-14 (ESV) It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Solomon was the beloved son of David. David was a man after God’s Heart. Solomon following the footsteps of his father offered a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord. God came to King Solomon in a dream and asked, “What shall I give you?” The king could have asked for anything. He could have asked for riches and honor or a variety of natural desires. Solomon asked for wisdom or more importantly “understanding to discern what is right”. His request pleased the Lord and it was granted to him.

Godly wisdom and good discernment does not make us perfect. It is simply good judgment that readily discerns between good and evil. Good people are not always godly. Religious folks aren’t always godly. We are quick to follow preachers and teachers but reluctant to strike out and follow Jesus especially when He leads us out on our own. People are people. God is looking for those who desire Him above all things.

Remember when Jesus met the rich young man. (Mark 10) He called Jesus “Good Teacher” and quickly the Lord replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Discernment. Jesus was questioning the man’s knowledge and wisdom. He knew the commandments and religious rules and regulations. But did this rich young man have a relationship with God? Did he know God? Did he love Him? Did he recognize the Son of God standing before him? Well…when asked to leave this world behind, sell all his possessions and give everything away to follow Christ…he walked away. There are many people with a whole lot of head knowledge about the Lord. We need heart knowledge called discernment to change us and transform us.

I Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We have the Mind of Christ. We must decide to adopt His Mindset and gain knowledge of who He is from God’s Word. In fact, John 1:14 tells us that Jesus is the Word of God who came to us wrapped in flesh. Without a personal working knowledge, there is no wisdom. Without wisdom, it is impossible to discern between good and evil. God is good! He is always good! His Way is always the best. To know His Way, we must know His Word and allow His Spirit to guide us.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)  Jesus is the Word. He is the only Way to God. We cannot access God through man anymore but must personally enter His Presence. To read the Word is to actively engage in the process of spiritual circumcision as the Lord removes the callous hardness applied by life to break our heart and fill it with the Light of His Love. If Jesus is your Savior and Lord, you have been given His Spirit. The Holy Spirit as you will see in the next scripture is called our “Helper”. He takes the Word of God like a surgeon to cut away the worthless and fruitless desires to give us a new life and make us a new creation just like the Lord promised to do.

John 14:25-27 (ESV) “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The Holy Spirit is our guide. He teaches us the meaning of God’s Word. He shows us how to apply it in our life through His Gentle Nudging or not-so-easy conviction. We are free to choose our way but in order to choose THE Way – reliance on the Spirit of God in us is important. The Spirit of God aligns our heart and mind with Him. In doing so, it creates inner peace as our heart is no longer in conflict with eternity. It is in this place that God changes us and transforms us. You were not created to be like anybody. God created you to be you. There is no one else that has your potential. There is no one else that can fulfill your purpose. To know Him is to love Him but aside from His Word (Truth) and His Spirit it is not possible to be a true worshipper. Our faith is planted solely in Christ to harvest the confident hoped needed to endure to the end.

Psalm 119:65-68 (ESV) You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.

I will be the first to admit that I have asked the Lord for specific “things” and detailed outcomes more than I care to mention. All those prayers “instructing” God on what I needed, wanted, desired or thought that He should do. God’s Word tells us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But then, I have had many pastors and teachers instruct me to tell God exactly what I want and to pray in specifics. This is where the power of discernment works in our life.

I find that when I pray for “God’s Will” to be done – I have greater success in accomplishing peace in my life. Thinking of all those times I thought I knew what was best, but the Lord had something better in mind. There is nothing wrong with praying for specific things but it is better to seek the Will and Way of God. His Hope never leads to disappointment. His Way never comes up short. His Promises always produce fulfillment and full satisfaction. His Economy is abundance. God is good. His Love unfailing. His Goodness always pursuing me. I must simply know Him and love Him to have it all.

Today, my prayer is simple. “Lord, teach me good judgment and knowledge. I desire discernment. To see people, situations, and opportunities through Your Eyes and consider each with the Mind of Christ. This is my heart’s desire to be a living sacrifice and live a life acceptable to You, Lord.”

Proverbs 16:20-22 (ESV) Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.

Dry Seasons

Dry Seasons

Psalm 63:1 (ESV) O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

It is human nature to question our faith and the logic of it. Faith is not logical in the natural and only becomes wise when coupled with godly knowledge and understanding. It is in our relationship with the Word, who is Jesus Christ, that faith isn’t such a crazy notion anymore. As the unfailing love of a good God whose grace is more than enough to overcome the trials and troubles of this life so as our soul prospers then our life will as well.

I have found myself in a dry season. Sowing and reaping. Beating the hard ground that only seems to yield dust. God sent me to this place. He told me to come here. The Lord gave me a glimpse of the potential secretly hidden beneath the surface. As one year turns to two, I am beginning to retrace my steps. It’s hard not to let the dryness of a season saturate your soul. To protect your heart and mind from discouragement in the midst of delay. God, you are my God! It doesn’t mean that your relationship with the Lord is failing. In fact, it is in the seasons of drought that He hears our desperate cries. “Earnestly, I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you…”

Are you dry today? Thirsty? Working a land that refuses to give up its harvest? Stuck in a season that resembles a cycle refusing to move to the next? Are you in a place where it is “as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”? I feel you…I really do. I am right there with you. Today I asked the Lord a one-word question, “Where?” Where am I supposed to be? Is it here? Did I make a wrong turn? Misinterpret your direction? Did my humanness cause me to stumble into the wrong field? Where Lord? Where would you have me to be today?

Matthew 5:6 (ESV) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. When our want for water becomes a desire that turns into a necessity it will be met with urgency. No longer a whim it will become the driving force in our life. Our body reacts to a lack of water with a condition called dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, exhaustion, headache, dry skin and dizziness. As it progresses, it will also produce a rapid heart rate, fever, and low blood pressure. Dehydration demands a response or bodily functions will eventually shutdown and the person succumb to lack of water.

Thirst, in a spiritual sense, causes desperation. Desperation is defined by urgency, despair, and a sense of hopelessness. It causes doubt to rise up from the deepest recesses of the heart and challenge God at His Word in its discomfort or discontentment. It demands immediate action. It warrants relief of some sort. Are you desperate today? Where do you turn to? Those who desire right standing or a continued relationship with Jesus Christ will turn to the Lord. What if this dry season is not so much about a lack of harvest but the Father longing for more of our heart? Just a thought…

John 7:38 (ESV) “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Fear and doubt are overcome by faith. Confident hope that becomes anchored in the Love and Grace of God given to us in Jesus Christ so that darkness and drought cannot change our commitment. Inside my heart is living water. Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life. He lives in me. Greater is that is in me than He that is in the world. What if I am the “living water” for this dry land? It is human nature to ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” But what if we are asking the wrong question… What if the real question to be answered today is “God wants in me for them”? What if you were not brought to this field for you but for them? God’s Word cannot and will not EVER return to Him void. It must do exactly what it set out to do.

Psalm 107:35-38 (ESV) He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish.

God turns fields into deserts. He also turns wastelands into waterfalls. God knows the potential of the field that He placed you in and He sees the seeds hidden beneath the ground. He prepared you in other seasons to come here. He tried you so that you will have patience. He tested you so you would endure. He gave you everything you need and every spiritual blessing to survive until you thrive. What if it is all in the waiting? What if all you have to do is work the land, be patient and endure? What if that really is all there is to it? Will you walk away? The harvest will come whether we choose to wait on it or not. God will not force you to stay where He sent you or remain where He called you. The Living Water in you is dependent on your willingness to work the land regardless of your feelings and despite how things look fully trusting Him.

Psalm 65:9-11 (NLT) You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.

From God’s Perspective, His Plan is working. We must align our heart, mind, and thoughts with His Word. It is only then that our faith becomes logical and waiting fruitful. A dry season must not be misinterpreted that the ground is barren, the drought ongoing or the dream of harvest dead. It is just a season in God’s Cycle of life that is working beyond the place where eyes can see, hands can touch and our mind can comprehend. If God called you to this place, the blessing associated with it will come because God is faithful. God is good. He is in complete and absolute control.

The dry season is waiting on one thing – rain. God’s Rain. Living Water. When it comes, it will cause the ground to yield its harvest. It will cause our heart to do the same. In Matthew 5:45, it says that the Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust. Rain is inevitable. Seasons will change. The satisfaction in each season is the promise of harvest and blessing. God didn’t put you where you are just for you. He placed you there as a Light in the darkness. You have a purpose in this season that will produce something in you, around you and for others. The potential crown for this year is a bountiful harvest. His Word promises that “even the hard pathways (will) overflow with abundance.”

Psalm 63:3-8 (ESV) Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Why? Why wait for the dry season to end? “Because (God’s) steadfast love is better than life.” It will be worth it. The desperation, frustration, and weariness caused by your willingness to keep beating the dry ground, soaking it with tears, saturating it with sweat, and washing it with His Word. There is potential in each place that the Lord places His People. It doesn’t always look like it or seem to be suitable but that’s the beauty of faith – we walk by faith not by sight. So the way things look today do not dictate the outcome of tomorrow in the life of the believer. We live subject to change. The change is called transformation. It begins inside of us and works its way out. As our soul prospers so will we.

Are you dry? Thirsty? Desperate? Tap into the Living Water inside of you. It is the Source that never runs dry. Speak life to those dry bones. The Lord’s Plan is fully operational and destined to be delivered. You just have to stick it out. Let His Word wash over you today. It will refresh, restore and renew you in your waiting. Let the Holy Spirit produce the good fruit that will nourish your soul. You are never alone. God is with you. Jesus lives in you. You have all you need for a rich and satisfying life. It’s coming. Don’t miss it!

Isaiah 44:2-4 (ESV) Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.

To Be Continued

To Be Continued

Colossians 2:6-7 (AMP) Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in [union with] Him [reflecting His character in the things you do and say—living lives that lead others away from sin], having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude.

No resolutions this year for me. I tried to come up with some significant changes. We could all use some new habits and better choices. Each year, I have these good intentions and wonderful lists of goals. I have racked my brain for something anything that would make life significantly better. Nothing. So I dove in spiritually, and asked the Lord, “What can I do for you?” Nothing. I continued to seek out something anything that I could do differently. My motives, though I hate to admit it, is change. I want to see the promises that I know in my heart are coming today. It is human nature to try to “do” something different in order to facilitate change. The idea that “there has to more to life than this” comes from eternity hidden in our hearts. Everyone goes about the pursuit of contentment and fulfillment different ways. When choosing Jesus Christ, it is to accept the way called grace. Grace means that there is nothing I can do other than remain in the One who gives it.

I thought I would write a book or two this year, but I didn’t. I thought I would have developed a flourishing women’s ministry at our church. Nope. So when the end of December came I pulled out the bat of self-destruction and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I am not used to this idea of failure. To set a goal and not reach it is just not like me. With a stubborn tenacity innately inscribed in my personality, when met with obstacles – I usually take the head down and charge through approach. Not this time…something is different. So studying God’s Word and seeking His Presence, I asked the Lord, “What am I doing wrong?” The revelation of God set forth in His Word and whispered in my ear doesn’t line up with my personality but it totally identifies the Person of Christ. The position that He ultimately must take in my life to bring the fulfillment and completion that He promised.

I have received Jesus Christ as my Savior. It is my heart’s desire that He is Lord of all my life. I long to walk in complete unity with Jesus. I want my life to be a reflection of His Character. To show others a love so strong that sin is unappealing to pursue His Perfection and Purpose. I must live a life rooted in Christ. His Word secures me to the foundation of faith that is the Truth that governs my existence. Every single promise belongs to me. Every spiritual blessing already given to me. There is a timeline ordered by predestination that has an appointed time for each of these things to arrive. Not because of anything I do, but because of what Christ is doing in me. My purpose for the next 365 days is simple – I must continue.

To continue can mean one of two things – I must persist in the calling of God and do as He instructed regardless of what I see. Those things I have slacked off on – I must resume in those things that God has spoken and I gave up on along the way. I shared with someone yesterday that God does not lead us to fruitless or barren fields. Never. Experience now tells me that the field will bear the fruit in due season if I continue in God’s Word and Way until it comes. Persistence and perseverance are characteristics of continuance. The current field in which I am working has proven to be a difficult one. The ground is hard. Weeds are thick. Rocks are plenty. Yet, every time I am ready to walk away, I remember that God has never led me to a place that His Blessing could not be found. So I stay and continue…not because I can do anything but based on the Truth that God’s Word never returns void. It will do exactly what it set out to do. God is good. He is always good even when I’m not. God is faithful and that seed will grow one day whether I am there to harvest its fruit or not. To be continued…

Ecclesiastes 3:1&11 (AMP)

There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven—

 He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.

God has appointed a time in our life for everything – good and bad. It all works together for our good and His Glory. God makes everything beautiful and appropriate in His Time. The time that was recorded before you were born. (Psalm 139) You are fearfully and wonderfully made. A complex being created by an infinite God who knows exactly what is required for you to discover His Love and accept His Grace. We must take hold of 2 Peter 3:8-9 to collectively understand that God’s Promises are not held up by our activities or actions. His Spiritual Blessing is not removed when we sin. His Grace is sufficient. It is enough to have every disappointment turned into destiny. To the Lord time is not a hindrance. Timing was preset before a moment passed. Therefore, God does not keep His Eye on the clock because He is in our future waiting on our arrival. Take a deep breath. This is pretty deep, I know. Your life is already prescribed by God. You just have to live it. God is good. To choose Jesus and live in alignment with the Lord means that every blessing and promise is predestined for your future. It is not about perfection but persistence. If you love the Lord – you will seek Him wholeheartedly and find fulfillment just as He promised.

John 15:5-8 (AMP) I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.

The vitality of my life is Jesus Christ. My flesh wants to think it has the ability and wherewithal to make things happen but the truth is every good thing in my life came straight from my Father in Heaven. Jesus makes it all possible because I couldn’t get to the Father without Him. I would love to give you an epiphany of great wisdom that would change your life instantly. Faith doesn’t work that way. Confident hope comes from continuing to follow the way of faith. Commitment must be a life of to be continued. When the field doesn’t bear its fruit in our timing, it is the commitment to continue until God’s Timing comes to pass. It is to continue in God’s Word until faith becomes logical.

Let me let you in on a little secret – my need to “do” things for the Lord is not always from a heart with good intentions. There is a part of my flesh that tries to earn the favor and goodwill of God by doing something for Him. Religion is built on good intentions. Resurrection life only comes by way of an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my fulfillment. He is my completion. My life is definitely to be continued this year. Maybe I will write a book… maybe I will figure out this women’s ministry thing… or maybe God will completely change things around with a supernatural plot twist. Who knows? There is never a dull moment to new life in Christ. What I do know today more than ever is that God doesn’t want me to “do” anything. The Lord did it all. He even packed me full of promise and potential working its way out of me. He just wants me to be me and let Him do the rest.

I John 5:3-5 (AMP) For the [true] love of God is this: that we habitually keep His commandments and remain focused on His precepts. And His commandments and His precepts are not difficult [to obey]. For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has conquered and overcome the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God]. Who is the one who is victorious and overcomes the world? It is the one who believes and recognizes the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

 

What’s Next?

What's Next

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

What’s next? The holiday season with all the hustling and bustling tends to produce an ongoing list. It is one I adhere to and attempt to follow closely. I must continue line by line or risk becoming completely overwhelmed and dysfunctional. Maintaining a peaceful mind and steady heart during such seasons can be difficult. Keeping ourselves righted in the ups and downs of activity and demands placed on our time and resources is challenging. It is with this in mind and the extra things life has added to the consumption of time that I find myself longing for the New Year. I am ready for what’s next. I am trying desperately to maintain presence and not give in to the whim to flee. Exhaustion is a tactic of the enemy to keep us from peace of mind, heart and body. If he can somehow persuade us to leave this season and time prematurely, it is at risk of leaving a harvest behind. He is bent on trying to steal, kill or destroy you. One or all three are just fine to him. To limit our life with anxiety, stress and fear (products of doubt) left to grow in our hearts and takeover our mind capturing us with our own disbelief.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time… God’s timing is important to His Promise. It is the maturation process that takes a tiny seed of faith, cultivates it in confident hope, and grows it into full satisfaction. To avoid waiting, our flesh gives into the need for relief and so we leave behind that which God is doing to do something that will produce immediate gratification. Sometimes the immediate gratification is not in a substitution but rather settlement. Settling for what we have rather than what the Lord has promised to do by abandoning faith and fruitfulness to just get by without all the pressure.

He has planted eternity in the human heart. Please understand thought you may vacate the possibilities of life the inevitability of God keeps pressing you to release what faith has for you because God is good and always pursues us with His Unfailing Love and Goodness. We can never leave Him behind for the Lord is right there with us. It is the eternity in the human heart that creates the longing for more. To be satisfied. To live in fulfillment. The drive and desire to find purpose in our life. It is all God working behind the scenes to give you the future and hope that He planned for you when He created you.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 (NLT)  And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

God’s Purpose is that people should fear and worship Him (with awe-filled reverence, knowing that He is God). God does not give us the spirit of fear but like the Great I Am that He is gives a life worth having that we would seek Him, find Him and know Him – His Grace, Goodness and Glory is always working its way into our life. The recognition of God’s awesome Presence, Power, and Purpose may not change a single situation or cure a condition but it will overwhelm us with persistent peace allowing us to stay in our current season until it yields good fruit. There is nothing more tragic than an abandoned harvest. When the seed in the ground becomes the fruit of our labor and devoured by the enemy in our absence. God will do exactly as He promised in our life. We must be determined to wait for it.

Genesis 18:13-15 (NLT) Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.” But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”

Why did Sarah laugh? I’ll tell you why! At almost 100 years of age, the Lord told her that she would get pregnant, carry and give birth to a son. She had tried to conceive a child her entire life. Now well past the years of natural ability – it was humanly impossible for such a thing to happen. Yet the messenger of the Lord said, “I will return about this time next year and Sarah will have a son.” She waited her whole life. She experienced overwhelming disappointment time and time again. She even tried to help God out with the whole Hagar and Ishmael fiasco. Now, in her old age and barrenness, such a revelation seemed like a cruel joke. Maybe her laughter was nothing more than stagnant bitterness mixed with sarcastic disappointment.

How long have you waited for the promise? The Lord has given us precious promises along with every spiritual blessing. We must strive to respond to God’s Promises and not life’s problems. Abraham and Sarah lived a life of transparency before the Lord. The Lord made them a promise. When it was totally impossible, the miracle happened. Whatever seems impossible in our life is the birthplace of miracles. Are you about to give up? Leave the place of waiting? Accept a compromise? Settle for a substitution? The Word of God including every promise that He has made you cannot and will not return to Him void. It must do exactly what it set out to do. Will you be waiting when it does?

Isaiah 38:19-20 (NLT) Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord.

Only the living can praise you. This made me think. Remember Martha when Lazarus had died. She told Jesus that if He had only been there then her brother would be alive. Jesus told her, “I am the Resurrection and Life.” Martha shrugged it off for eternity and kept going in her funeral preparation. What miracle are you intent on giving a funeral? What dead dream are you mourning as a lost cause? Have we put off for eternity what if for us in the next day or maybe even next hour? Jesus called forth Lazarus from the grave. He is calling to those things you have marked impossible and never. He is trying to breathe new life into your dead dreams today. Are you holding the tomb closed in doubt and disbelief?

The Lord is ready to heal me! He is ready to heal you today? Every broken thing is on the verge of restoration. Every dead thing about to experience new life. Every loss cause is about to unfold into purpose. Where will you be when it’s done? Will you be found waiting and watching for the Lord ready to respond to His Promises? The enemy is always looking for opportunities to tempt us. (Luke 4:13-14) It doesn’t matter how saved or Spirit-filled you may think you are. When he comes – he uses everything not secured by faith and confident hope against you. What will he find in your heart today?

Psalm 1:2-3 (NLT) But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

A prospering heart produces fruit in all seasons. The Lord has promised good things to me. Yet I am tempted just like everyone else to abandon intensively hard or exhaustibly long seasons for something more comfortable, convenient and controllable. I am ready for the next season in my impatience. However, I may not be ready in my heart, mind and soul. There are things I need to sow in this season to prepare the harvest of the next one. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what I need to prosper in every season and produces that fruit in me when I am willing to stay right where I am until He says otherwise.

My to-do list is long. I have learned that if I go line by line – it all gets done somehow. Maybe if we went line by line and built precept upon precept of God’s Word while constantly meditating on what He says about our life and purpose the worthwhileness of our waiting might give us the strength to continue or at least pass the time. Faith planted wisely with confident hope will make the field worthy of waiting until the fruit of our labor comes up. Maybe rather than running off to the next thing, God’s People would realize that He is doing a good thing in us and through us now that is worth waiting for. Impossible is the birthplace of miracles. It should incite praise and worship at its arrival because now God can do for us what no man could do. Lord, help me to embrace this season. To sow faithfully and wait patiently on what You will produce in me and through me. Keep your Light burning in my heart. Let me seek you wholeheartedly so I will recognize your arrival. I cannot have what is next until now comes to pass. Help me Lord to be faithful in the waiting and watching for You!

Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT) I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.