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.

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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.

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.

 

 

The Walk

The Walk

Psalm 84:11 (NIV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time. Lyndon B. Johnson

The blameless walk is not a series of perfect steps but walking with Christ every step along the way. In fact, perfection is often the enemy of faith as it drains us in our pursuit of the impossible. Like chasing the wind but never catching it while deciding the current scenery and state of affairs is the end result. The journey is made up of many steps not just the place where you are standing. It takes a series of steps to find a new destination, but how often we allow one or two to determine the outcome.

Genesis 5:24 (NIV) Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

To walk faithfully with God. This is the secret to a successful journey. He withholds no good thing from those who walk with Him. In fact, the rain falls on the just and unjust. Perhaps to walk with the Lord blamelessly is to strive to do things His Way and inherit His Promises. Our steps are ordered by the Lord. He provides a plan for our life containing a future and hope. His Word a guide for us. His Spirit is our compass. Willingness, discipline and obedience keep us on course to have every good thing already predestined for our life. God promises to use every detail for our good and His Glory.

Enoch walked with the Lord for 300 years. In all those years, I am certain being a human being that he made mistakes along the way. Like many others, he fell short of God’s Standard and even sinned. The secret of Enoch’s success was presence. He sought the Presence of God in his life every day. Faithfulness is not about our ability to do all the right things. It is not always evident in our speech. It is not a life of perfection but perspective. To see our life through the eyes of our Creator, and attempt to follow Him to the end result. Enoch was not defined by his religion but an ongoing and abiding relationship with the Lord. So close, in fact, that when it was time for him to leave the earth and enter eternity – it was a seamless transition void of suffering and death. He simply was no more.

Enoch was not the only person in the Bible swept up by God and he was no more. Elijah was walking with Elisha when suddenly a chariot of fire appeared and he was never seen again. There is a transition in life when our life is no longer our own. A place in time when trust takes over and faith flourishes in the absence of doubt. The point of destiny is defined by such moments when in our imperfection and inadequacy the Lord is able to sweep us up and away from this world…but until then we must learn to walk in the Presence of God each day.

Deuteronomy 6:6-8 (NIV) These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

The practicality of faith is its simplicity. To apply what is believed to our natural existence requires pursuing the Lord and His Presence in each step rather than waiting for a church service or special time. God desires to walk with us daily – step-by-step. The commandments given to us do not restrict our freedom but grace has given us the liberty to pursue God and step into His Presence. It gives our life purpose, potential and a plan.  To live in unison with Christ and His Spirit inside of us in a relationship that is practical. Faith is illogical outside of God’s Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh. To know Christ one must have intimacy with the Word. The instructions for living take us somewhere that we couldn’t find outside of God. What if the perception of God’s Word became a roadmap to life rather than a handbook of condemnation? There is no condemnation in Christ. He is part of God and one with Him. God is love. His Love produces mercy and grace. The enemy wants you to think that Jesus limits you in life. The truth is that when you pursue His Presence – every step has meaning and detail purposed for goodness.

Acts 17:23-25 (NIV) For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Paul addressed the men of Athens concerning the “unknown God”. I wonder what might happen within the Body of Christ if the reality of our faith was to walk with the Lord daily. To decide with each step to seek His Presence. To determine that even on the worst day, to take one more step closer. To never give up. Never give in. The concept of a God who sits on a throne too high for us to reach and too perfect to approach was wrecked when Jesus Christ came to live with us. He then died for us. He soon came to abide within us. Now we are blameless in the Sight of God covered by the Blood of His Son, Jesus. When God sees us coming, He only sees Jesus. Perfection. Blamelessness. Righteousness.

The Lord desires to be with us. His Spirit is evidence that He is with us. Always. He never leaves us or forsakes us. We must learn to walk in the freedom of His Love. The place where you are today has purpose. A new life in Christ does not always change the scenery but it will take you to the mountaintops and keep you in the valleys of life. Christ didn’t come to change the world but to live in the hearts of those who belong to the Kingdom. When we accept Christ to save us and live in us, it is to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us and direct us. He is our Savior and He also is to be our Lord. Prosperity in our life is a direct produce of abundance overflowing from our soul. As our soul prospers so will we. Success comes with the harvest. The seeds of diligence in each step will change the crop of the next season. Each step you take has potential outside of our perception in that day. So on those days when of weakness and weariness, His Grace is enough to carry us through. Nothing is wasted. We only miss the mark by deciding to quit.

Psalm 23:1-4 (NIV) The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The Lord is a shepherd. We are his sheep. He will leave the ninety-nine to find the one who has lost its way, stepped off course, become distracted, or just plain gave up. You are important to Him. He has decided to put His Spirit inside of you to empower you, give wisdom and direction, and to be our comforter when our natural life does not reflect the vision in our spiritual life. Sometimes, we lose sight of the close proximity of God or become tired of waiting for Him to perfect those things that concern us. This does not change the fact that His Presence longs to go with us, be with us, grow in us and lead us to better things.

Lord, create a consciousness in us regarding the steps of our life. Each one has its own importance and significance because you are detail-oriented and work it all for our good. Let us never lose sight of your unfailing love and abundance of goodness that follows us all the days of our life. May we become caught up in Your Presence today.

Psalm 23:6 (NIV) Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Rags to Riches

Rags to Riches

Colossians 3:14-16 (NLT) Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

I am one of the greatest rags to riches stories ever written. A wretched, deplorable person filled with faults and failures swept up in a wave of grace so powerful that every detail of my life is changed. Filled with disappointment, bitterness, and completely devastated by bad choices I was lost in my own regret and shame. All that changed when I met a man. A man who knew all about my life and yet still chose to give me a brand new one. He took all those details and continues to make good on His Promise to change this mess into a message. Like an epic love story with all of the cinematic splendor yet private and intimate, I cannot begin to tell you how love made the difference in my life. His Love that clothes me allows me to love freely and forgivingly. His Grace that has kept me this far has produced a need to give it away just to have more. His Goodness has benefited my life in more ways than I could ever count or confer to another without forgetting some of the miraculous and wonderful gifts I have been given. His Name – Jesus.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” One of the greatest gifts given to us by the Lord is His Peace. The kind of peace that passes understanding. Derived from unconditional love and uncompromised acceptance of all imperfections by a perfectly sovereign God provided by his perfectly sinless Son, how is it possible to accept such an extravagant gift without somehow reciprocating it? It would be wonderful if there was something of any worth that I could give Him, but there really is nothing other than to accept His Gift of Love, Grace and Mercy and apply it to my broken life. Oh how our pride hates the thought of something that is unearned and undeserved. Our need for supremacy and control puts rules, regulations and mandates on the freeness of God’s Grace in order to fulfill its obligation. Such in intrusion sows seeds of insecurity and doubt that will begin to uproot faith and choke out the hope rising from within.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love…” In Isaiah 61:10, it says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” The Lord gave us salvation and wrapped a white robe around us to cover us. It is this robe that gives us confidence that our relationship is secure again. Nothing can now come between us and the Love of God. Sin is covered sufficiently by the Blood of Jesus. Game over. However, if we do not clothe ourselves in His Love daily – it is easy to put back on the filthy rags of a beggar. Imagine. Why do such a thing? Would you do that now? Would you choose clothes out of the hamper rather than grabbing a fresh clean garment from the drawer?

Today, before you leave for church, you will choose an outfit, check your appearance in the mirror, and make sure everything is just right before heading off to worship the Lord. The people in the congregation will appreciate your diligence but when you arrive will the Lord see the robe of righteousness that He has given you. The love that identifies you as His Own. Will God recognize you as His Own? It is easy to get caught up in life and social standards but today if only for today – can we get so wrapped up in Jesus that no one recognizes us?

Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Studying the Word this morning, my intent was to focus on thankfulness. I am determined to carry over the thanksgiving season all the way through the Christmas holiday. Thankfulness produces contentment in our life. Taking our eyes off what we do not have to appreciate and acknowledge the things given to us by the Hand of God. Every good thing in our life is a product of God with us – Immanuel. It doesn’t matter if we acknowledge the Lord or not – He blesses us according to His Will. The rain falls on the just and unjust because God ordained it not man ordering it. There is nothing I can do to earn or deserve the Grace of God in my life. What I can do is to let the Prince of Peace rule my heart.

You must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow done into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. The instructions are simple. Why do we make it so hard? Faith is not impractical. It may seem a bit illogical until the Word of God becomes a daily consumption and His Spirit uses it cultivate your faith into a practical lifestyle. God’s Word is the fertilizer of faith in our life. The roots of faith connect us with God’s Heart and His Desires. As we build our lives on Christ who is the foundation of our faith, there is a wonderful transformation from dissatisfaction and discontentment to full satisfaction and completion. It is not based on feelings, emotions or worldly standards but thankfulness. How can I be thankful when my needs are not met, my emotions are all over the map, and my expectations seem wasted on an unseen God with invisible hands?

We walk by faith and not by sight. Faith is followed by simply doing what the Word of God says even when the outcome is not clear. A farmer plants a field with great expectation but no guarantee. Doing his best to prepare the field, sowing good seed, watering and caring for what looks to be barren, while beneath the soil – the seed is growing, changing, developing and maturing. What if the very thing you prayed for is just below the surface of your life, but unwillingness to wait causes you to leave the field? The seed will still produce in your absence.

Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT) Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Disqualification is ineligibility when breaking the terms of an agreement. The enemy will continually offer compromises in order to attempt to disqualify you. Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that appeal to human reasoning but are not divine wisdom. It is written that God’s People will perish from ignorance or a lack of knowledge. God’s Word is absolutely essential to tearing down the strongholds of the mind those things that appeal to our flesh but wreak havoc on our heart. The fullness of God lives in Christ. Christ lives in us. His Authority and Power belong to us as a product of grace and grace alone. We are overcomers in all things. We have been handed the victory. Disqualification is only possible apart from Christ. His Grace fills the void of broken rules and agreements so now we are right with God the Father again. We must make the decision to capture every thought that is in rebellion to God, His Plan and Purpose for our life in order to remain qualified for the calling. Otherwise, we will choose less than God’s Best and wander off to wildernesses in search of substitutions, shortcuts and subtle settlings.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT) Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

You are one of the greatest rags to riches stories ever written. A wretched, deplorable person filled with faults and failures swept up in a wave of grace so powerful that every detail of your life is subject to change. Though you may be experiencing disappointment, bitterness, and complete devastation by bad choices or unfortunate situations, the Fullness of Christ in you is looking to make its way out into the open. Has shame shattered your confidence in Christ or maybe regret is reasoning that you are not worthy of God’s Investment of His Son and Spirit so you simply live in your suffering?  God has written an epic love story with all of the cinematic splendor just for you, it begins only by accepting the fullness of His Grace and then following Him. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, fail or flail, God is doing the good work inside you and His Grace is always enough.

Devote yourself today. The word “devote” means to give all or a large part of one’s time and/or resources to an activity or person. I wonder what would happen if we devoted more of our time and resources to discovering the Fullness of God given to us in Christ. If we strived to clothe ourselves in the righteousness that is grace given rather than continually donning the old filthy rags of our past indiscretions or present insecurities. Devote our life to God, Jesus and His Spirit by pursuing intimacy that is not dependent on anyone else. To live with an alert mind that is fixed on the Kingdom, heavenly outpourings and miraculous outcomes. God has placed potential in us that will lead to daily fulfillment and abundance. We must be consciously aware that this moment does not dictate our future, but should be lived with forever in mind. Least but not last, a thankful heart. This is for me today.

My identity in Christ is enough to live in complete fulfillment with hopeful expectation. I must build my confidence by increasing faith. I must devote my life to Jesus Christ in all things. (Ephesians 5:10) I must be confident of the Kingdom to which I belong and its sustainability for my life today. (Hebrews 12:28) On those days when I got lost in emotional overtures or overwhelming feelings, I must still manage to sacrifice thankfulness because He never changes and is bigger than my feelings. (Psalm 50:14; I John 3:20) God knows exactly what He is doing in me, through me and for me. I must maintain my belief that He is good and will never let me down. I must remind my soul by worshiping God for who He is and not what He does.

With this in mind today, let us devote ourselves to the Lord once again. I find that I do this on a daily basis these days. About five years ago, I came to the place of understanding that I have no control over my life and what happens in it. God has complete control now. He always did but when I gave up my need to control it and came to the realization I can do nothing apart from Christ – everything changed. I am changing. The more I change the more I find that is needed to be given to His Transformation process. Giving up control is hard, but the realization I have no control is life changing. It is the moment when His Grace becomes enough…all sufficient.  I am nothing apart from Christ. I can do nothing of worth outside of the God living in me. Everything I am ever will be or have is from the Hand of God who is loving, gracious and good even when I’m not. Thank you for taking my filthy rags and giving me the riches of Heaven. Lord, let me live like it today and every day.

Ephesians 5:20 (NLT) And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Refuge on the Mountain

Refuge on the Mountain

Psalm 57:1-3 (NLT) Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by. I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me. He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me. Interlude My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

David was fleeing Saul’s wrath hiding in a cave carved in the side of a mountain. He wrote these words to the Lord as his soul sought solace from fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety. David asked for God’s Mercy. Compassion and forgiveness in his moment of deep distress. He longed for God’s Protection to be hidden beneath the shadow of the Lord’s wings until danger was gone. David was asking for peace in this moment as his heart ran away with his head. Confidence in the Lord goes as deep as our trust. When we no longer are confidence, it becomes more difficult to respond to Him rather than reacting to our circumstances. But then something happens, David changes his tune. He says, I cry out to God Most High. David is nudging God back on the throne of his wavering heart. He declares that the Lord will fulfill His Purpose for me. Trust in the Lord that no longer leans on understanding is evidence of faith.

I Samuel 22:1-2 (NIV) David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

Psalm 57 was written during this time, David was hiding in a cave. I find it interesting that he was surrounded by many who “in distress, or in debt, or discontented.” Misery loves company. David was in “hiding” surrounded by four hundred men – how ironic. There are times in life, though not alone, one may be lost in the crowd. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Fear is powerful. Fear of God is a respect that generates confidence in His Power and Authority in our life. Trust is evidence of such respect. Our ability to put the substance of our life in His Hands knowing with all confidence that He is worthy of it. However, fear in the negative form is a dangerous weapon wielded by the enemy to take out our faith and confidence in the Lord.

Fear is defined by some as “false evidence appearing real”. It is the lie of the enemy made of twisted truth and empty taunts that the heart decides to hold on to. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Like any weapon, truth must be used properly to be effective. We must know God’s Word to fortify our heart. God has not given us the spirit of fear and we must be diligent in not taking hold of it. The enemy uses isolation to keep us caught up in his lies and empty threats.

I Samuel 22:5 (NLT) But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

What was the turning point? The place in Psalm 55 when fear turns to trust…it was the obedience of David to leave the cave and go to Judah. Judah means “praise”. I wonder if sometimes we get so caught up in the lie of the enemy that our freedom found in truth becomes restricted. David was surrounded by men who were in distress, debt, and discouraged. God was moving David from their midst into a place of praise. Praise relays confidence in the Lord over our present and momentary troubles and trials in life. It is human nature to commiserate but it is willing obedience to let confidence in God’s Word change our conversation. Grumbling and complaining about the “mountain” before us does nothing to remove it. It only keeps it firmly in place. We are not cursing our situation but telling the world that God has somehow lost His Power, Authority and Sovereignty which is simply not true. Such words are allegiance to the Father of Lies rather than the Giver of Life.

I Kings 19:8-10 (NIV) “There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Elijah found himself also hiding in a cave. Jezebel had threatened to kill him since he killed all her false prophets and made sport of her gods before all the people. Now the people were praising God, but the man of God was hiding. The Lord asks him frankly, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Now before you cast judgment on the poor prophet, how many times do we do the exact same thing? Recount the trauma of our trail, the details of our trial, the height and weight of the giant, and the impossibility of our situation. We do it all the time as if God is not with us and Christ does not live in us. As though, He did not create us with a plan and purpose or go before us or hedge us in from behind with unfailing love and goodness. It is important to note that sometimes our heart betrays us even in our prayer life. Do you spend time talking about the size, shape and density of the mountain or the vastness of our God? Trust in the Lord considers the Greatness and Almightiness of God over the stature of the enemy.

Psalm 142:5-7 (NIV) I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

More words of David hiding in the cave in the side of the mountain, “I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Do not mistake the invisibility of God to be His Absence. The Lord is with you. His Goodness is for the land of the living. (Psalm 27:14) Do not dismiss Him simply because there is a mountain before you. The mountain has a place of refuge called His Presence. It will take a lifetime to overcome our doubts, eliminate fear, overcome anxiety, silence stress and cease to worry confidently trusting the Lord. It is possible to those who seek the Lord to be their refuge and strength. God will set you free with His Truth. You must praise Him on the mountain so seeds of faith will begin to break the foundation of doubt and give way to willing obedience that offers the fruit of the Spirit to others rather than bitter roots.

One final word as I close today, choose companions on the journey over the mountain carefully. The righteous will gather about me because of Your Goodness to me. When David fled to the cave, who came first? Those who were defeated, distressed, indebted and discontent. What did the lone prophet tell him? Go to Judah. Find your praise. Praise changes the situation by softening our heart to receive the Truth. Praise is the salve that heals a broken heart. It reminds our soul to trust the One who loved us first and who loves us most. Surround yourself in such times with righteous friends not miserable commiserates. We need those friends of Proverbs 27:17 – “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 12:26 says that the righteous choose their friends carefully.

Be encouraged today. God is with you. He is for you. His Love never left you. He is only a whisper away. For those who trust Him, the mountain will be moved. To those who are committed to loving God and seeking His Presence – they will find refuge and strength in peace even when all hell is breaking loose around them. Be a friend of God first. Choose your close companions carefully. Live in Judah it is the place called praise.

Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV) You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

 

Salvaged Life

Salvaged Life

I Peter 4:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

I had this idea yesterday. It dropped in my spirit and produced a weight in me until I wrote it down. “As believers, we do not salvage the rest of our life. Salvation produces new life.” The latter days of our life fully invested in Jesus Christ have great potential to be greater than our past even if our past isn’t so bad. The enemy is set on getting God’s People to settle for something less. A conciliation prize is not described in the Word of God but rather reconciliation to fulfillment of God’s Perfect Plan for us. Time is not running out for me as a Child of God – it is only beginning. It is up to me to see the beauty of new life in dead seasons. Faith believes in what it cannot see and relies on the impossible.

“Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through…” but do not suppose this is the Will of God for every day of the rest of your life either. It is human nature to hope for the best but expect the worst. This is how letdowns and disappointments are accepted as a part of life. It is a call to self-preservation that kills our faith and trust in God. Fueled by fear, insecurity and anxious thoughts it takes the focus off our victory and keeps giants mocking us. I must change the way that I think when it comes to struggles and trials in life. Looking past probable loss or fearful of the trial, it is in hopeful expectation that I grab hold of my partnership with Christ. Faith plants seeds of righteousness that produce blessings in our life. However, we must find the peace to plant those seeds with expectation.

You will have wonderful joy seeing His Glory when it is revealed. Faith begets faith. Trust more trust. Hope grows more confident in fulfilled expectation. It is only possible through suffering. Why? When did you turn to Jesus? Was He your first thought or last resort? People turn to the Lord in devastation. We look for God when in complete despair. When failures produce moments when the human heart cries out to Him. When there is nowhere left to turn or no one to run to – we call on the One who knows it all, can do it, and will rush to our rescue every time. So maybe suffering wasn’t God’s idea but the choice of His Children.

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

Today I am pressed that the problems I face in life may not be the enemy waging war against me but my flesh slowly dying within me. What if the trails really are for endurance so I will make it past me to see the Glory of God in my life? What if these long dry seasons are to stretch my character and give it new strength with a larger capacity to love people more and obey the voice of God when He is silent? Could it be the confidence in the hope I have will remove all residue of disappointment and let the Light in me shine through? Hope never leads us to disappointment. Faith chases after hope. Without faith it is impossible to please the Lord, but without problems would we ever discover the fruitfulness of faith that produces fulfillment? Probably not. God has given us the Holy Spirit to live in our heart and produce good fruit. I must make room there for Him to dwell which is the removal of pride so He can plant humility, doubt so He can sow trust, and sorrow so that the Lord will produce joy in the new creation I am becoming grabbing hold of the new life He has promised.

2 Corinthians 2:7-11 (NLT) Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, that indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 

When our son was ill, it came to a place his doctor labeled the “realm of hope” which to other people might mean there is no solution. His case is terminal. He is going to die. But it was in this place that I realize that the Lord had told me that our son would live. This was the point of impossibility that would produce God’s Glory. There is no statistical or medical data to support the young man who was on the verge of death who went on to graduate from engineering school, secure a future and live well beyond his life expectancy. Yet, he does. It took a trial almost to the point of tragedy to change my perspective on faith and hope. Though I would never wish this on any parent or person for that matter, if something could change their perspective of faith and hope to the point of confidence then I do pray that for them. Sorry not sorry. That’s pretty much what Paul writes here. The church was in an uproar and totally offended by his first letter (I Corinthians). So he sent a second letter to them in an attempt to reconcile the relationship. Basically, this text says, “Sorry not sorry”. He did not want to hurt them but rejoices in the “diligence” in faith it produces along with “clearing of self.” This simply does not happen in our comfort, convenience or control but when we see the Lord to restore these things in our life. Are you uncomfortable? Have things become inconvenient? Have you lost control? Have you called out to the Lord?

God’s Desire is to lead us to fulfillment. Our fulfillment is made complete in Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, we cannot make it to the Father, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we want Him, we must seek Him. We must sow seeds of faith that will produce pleasing fruit – not because we have to but because we want to. It is all about willingness and obedience. The sorrow in our life is present when we choose something less than God’s Best – not because He does it to us, but our soul is only satisfied by the One who created it. If you are trying to salvage a good life after salvation, it will never be good enough. God doesn’t recondition people – He restores them. He doesn’t recycle our life but gives us new life as a new creation. Anything less is not God’s Best and will not bring about satisfaction and fulfillment. Are you holding on to sorrow? You must release it for joy. Unforgiveness creates bitterness that expects disappointment rather embracing expectant hope. Let that go, too. One of my favorite “go-to” verses that inspires me daily is “I would have lost heart, unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13) God’s Goodness is for you today. He is fully invested in you the seeds of faith that will grow into the hope you live for. You have everything needed to prosper in this life and in this moment. The rest is up to you and me. I am not called to be salvaged but saved by the Grace of God to fulfillment of new life – I must take hold of that today.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Fugitive Heart

Fugitive Heart

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I should have seen it coming. You have to practice what you preach. I have been touting forgiveness to my teenager for a week. So why be surprised when I am faced with a situation that requires forgiving someone who is not sorry. Of course, I would be presented with a large portion of crow. Shocked and dismayed…I know in that moment the enemy chuckled. I have to make a choice. One I do not want to make…will I choose to be angry with this person who has offended me so or will I quickly forgive and move on. As I stumble over my flesh realizing that I am not as far in the race of faith as I once thought, I begin to recite all the scripture I know about forgiveness. It is a command not a suggestion. It is beneficial and crucial yet critical to my pride and fatal to my flesh. How can I just let this go? It is wrong. It is hateful. It is mean spirited. It is judgmental. Tears of frustration fill my eyes as I am sitting on the outside while standing on the inside. I must forgive the person as though my life depends upon it or risk becoming who they are in this moment sitting in the same bitterness, caught up in the past, held captive in hatred, and imprisoned by the wrath so wrapped up in their heart. What do you do when you just can’t get over it?

I am “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing one another in love.” Oh my goodness, this is so hard sometimes. People are people. We are imperfect yet called by a perfect Savior and flawless God to walk in His Image and live by His Example which is love, mercy and grace in all things towards all people. I would love to fall back on the fact that I am not God or selfless like Jesus but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Jesus lives inside of me. He is my new nature. His Spirit works to nurture, develop, and cultivate good fruit in the barrenness that once possessed me. I want to bear His Fruit. To be a good steward. To be a vessel from which a good harvest overflows…but my heart is angry and emotions all stirred up. I find that the fertile and broken heart is not always void of rocks and hard spots that need my attention. I am called to longsuffering but would like nothing more than to make someone suffer by my harsh words, mad retort, or not so gentle rebuffing. The Spirit of God says, “Let it go!” My flesh says, “Not so fast…” The inner turmoil begins.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

How low can you go? It’s not a limbo term anymore but a question for my inner person. The one who wants to be like Christ but struggles with human weakness. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Love them. I do love them or maybe I should say in this moment of anger that I did. Friends can become enemies quickly in the shadow of hurt, harsh words, betrayal or even a simple misunderstanding. I tell my kids to ignore the offenses of others as I trip over my own tongue today. “Don’t make none and there won’t be none” has been my mantra that now hangs like a heavy mantle around my neck as it tightens into a noose.

2 Corinthians 2:9-11 (NKJV) For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Are you harboring unforgiveness in a fugitive heart today? Caught up in anger that is burning into hatred? Do you feel that an injustice has been done and you deserve retribution? Vengeance is mind says the Lord but is your flesh rallying to take the upper hand? Did you know that the enemy of our soul uses such a weapon to take advantage of us because we are ignorant of his devices? Satan wants to trick you into not forgiving so he can steal something from you today. He wants to get you caught up in words or tangled in lies so he can rob you of the love, joy and peace so heavily invested in you by Christ. Is it working?

“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.” It doesn’t matter how wrong the other person was or how right you are, you become an enemy of their soul by choosing unforgiveness over longsuffering. The Light that shines within us grows slightly dimmer until it is snuffed out by our unwillingness to let a trespass go in the same sea of forgetfulness that our sin drifted away on. The Salt of our spirit becomes tasteless and useless when our season brings about hardness in the mine called our heart. I must forgive others simply because I am forgiven. What I bind on the earth is bound in heaven and that which I loose is free to go. (Matthew 18:18) When I shackle someone in their trespass, I am no different than Saul who persecuted Christians and murdered them for their belief. Lord, I must forgive. Teach me to be longsuffering. Help me to remain free and loose others from the expectation I have placed on them.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

There may be a more significant meaning to seventy times seven which many commentaries can elaborate on but for this particular instance let’s say it means 490 times. Can you think of anyone you have forgiven that many times consistently without throwing the towel in or walking away? Truly forgiveness but become an infinite quality in our Christian character be reflect the grace of God given to us. But how do we continually forgive other people and not become a human doormat? That’s the fear isn’t it? The idea of losing our identity in the giving of our life to others. Maybe that is exactly what becoming like Christ is all about? Giving up our identity to be a true reflection of who He is and what He has done for us. I know that Jesus has forgiven me more than 490 times and the count is steadily rising. Forgiveness is a commitment to love others more than ourselves. Jesus say that there is no greater love than to lay our life down for a friend. I don’t think that the Lord intended for us to have any enemies but one. The Kingdom is built of men and women bound together in unity and love. The enemy seeks to destroy the Kingdom beginning with the bitter root marked unforgiveness.

Luke 7:46-48 (NKJV) You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

As my heart softens in the Lord today, I am reminded of the woman who entered a room to face the judgmental glares of the Sanhedrin because she wanted to anoint Jesus with oil. Jesus forgave her of her sins and named her an example of one who has been forgiven much. To whom little is forgiven the same loves little. I have been forgiven much and sometimes I forget that when faced with an offense. I choose to be offended or hurt and throw up a wall around my heart. But that only limits me, I have been given unconditional and abounding love and grace by Jesus. I can live in it, walk in it and rejoice because of it even when others do not meet my expectation or hurt me because I have taken my expectation from others and placed it fully in Jesus Christ. Those times when unforgiveness rears its ugly head is only a reminder of how much more I need Him than the day before.

It has been established that it is easier to say, “Arise and walk” then “your sins are forgiven.” Forgiveness crucifies pride and moves us to our rightful position behind Jesus and others. Isn’t that what they say true joy is all about Jesus, others and you? I have to be reminded sometimes that it is not all about me and maybe just maybe if I choose to love rather than convict – it may make a difference in others. I am called to be Light in this dark world. Of course, the enemy will try to put that light out at every given opportunity. I choose today to forgive. I will have to remind myself of this very thing throughout the day when offered bitterness and anger toward the person who hurt me. I must choose love and grace because that is where I live and breathe. I will walk in freedom and work to keep the other person free not by binding them in my judgment or condemnation but continually praying for their blessing and freedom in Christ. Ugh! It’s a hard one. It’s a choice. It is not about me but my commitment to Christ so I will forgive.

Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

 

Live Broken

Live Broken

Psalm 57:17 (NLT) The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

As my friend shared her story, I could identify. Her need for something more from someone who didn’t have it to give. Caught in a vicious familial cycle of unmet expectation. Lost in comparison with another. Relationships are challenging. All connections experiencing their own difficulties. Angry at the clear disregard of another with an obvious open and exposed wound where their heart used to beat, it was an opportunity to share from my own experience. What is this thing called broken? Why would God desire broken people? Why is brokenness part of His Process? Could it be that we have it backwards? The order all wrong. Is it because people get broken all the time that God loves and draws close to them. Perhaps, He doesn’t do the breaking but capitalizes on the opportunity to rush in with a flood of grace and healing balm to fill that void left behind by the blatant disregard, neglect or harm of another.

Relationships would be more successful if people were perfect. If our ability to be consistent in mood, behavior and emotions always acting with sound wisdom, making good choices, and able to selflessly think of others first. We are not perfect clearly evident by our need for new mercy each day and constant covering by grace. Everyone has expectation not met by other people. Hearts are broken every day. It is in the next beat that the choice is made what to do with the new piece left behind. Some will collect the pieces and walk away. Others will choose to thrust right back again. And then there are those who will decide to put them in the Father’s Hands.

My childhood was not perfect. There is no such thing. I have attended the school of hard knocks. As a twenty-something woman, I was broken and bitter. That’s right! Bitterness filled all the voids left by hurt, disappointment and regret. I decided to take my life into my own hands. Clearly the Lord was unhappy with all my wrong turns and bad decisions so I was on my own or so I thought. It’s funny how quickly pride takes hold of raw emotion validating its existence and feeding it day by day. Such a dark time in my life, how could anything good come of it?  How could I ever be a whole person again? Little did I know? Brokenness is not the end for those who love God, it is only the beginning.

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT) I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Bitterness is a poisonous root that will corrupt every good thing working in us. It is the hiss of the enemy in our ear telling us to hold on to that offense, keep being mad about it, and never forgive or forget what just happened. The enemy uses bitterness to build a wall of insecurity, fear and doubt around us. These grow into tall towers that will hinder the most religious person but separating us from others and eventually God. “I will never forget this awful time…” Do you have a moment like that in your life? When enough is enough…or the time when “they” went too far? Are you grieving a loss? What has broken you today?

The faithful love of the Lord never ends. His Mercies never cease. Great is His Faithfulness. His Mercies begin fresh every morning. What if God didn’t ordain brokenness in our life but rather uses it as an opportunity to fill us with Himself. To become our portion in the absence of satisfaction. The Lord is my inheritance. I will hope in Him. This kind of hope never leads to disappointment but what if God uses our disappointments to introduce us to hope?

Psalm 34:18-20 (NLT) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

Brokenness is a part of life in an imperfect world. We serve a perfect God who is able to come close to the brokenhearted. He does not stop there but will actually heal them. (Psalm 147:3) I have found that when I have it all together I have nothing to give but the greatest giving comes from the broken pieces of my life. To hold the hand of a single mom who is pregnant with another child resting beneath her broken heart and say, “God has a plan. He loves you and will provide for you” with confidence because I have been there before. To encourage the caregiver of a loved one battling a broken body filled with sickness and disease and say without reservation, “God is the healer.” To hold the broken sobbing soul at an altar unsure of the Goodness and Graciousness of the Father to tell them – “He is a Good Father. He welcomes you home!” See it is when our life is broken and the Lord is revealed that the fruit grown can be shared. The fish and loaves of one boy could feed masses when blessed and broken – imagine what the Lord will do with the shattered pieces of your heart in His Skillful Hands.

Lord, teach me to live broken today. It is of no use to hide my imperfections because surely they will show through the careful façade I put together each day. Show me how to use each piece for Your Glory, God. To light the way of others who are broken, too. To love them like You loved me in my bitterness and wanderings. Help me Jesus to see through the walls and strongholds of carefully built insecurity to Your Beloved hiding inside. You are Good! You are Gracious! You wait to take every broken piece and construct the wonderful masterpiece you planned. Thank you God for hope that is eternal and love that is everlasting!

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

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.

Walk Uprightly

Walk Uprightly

Psalm 84:11-12 (AMP) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and honor; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, how blessed and greatly favored is the man who trusts in You [believing in You, relying on You, and committing himself to You with confident hope and expectation].

No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

What do you expect? Hope for? Long for? Believe to be true? I wonder today. Expectation is the premise of progress in our life. We will pursue possibilities but feign away from the impossible. We give in to the inevitable. I believe the hardest thing to change in church culture and the mind of Christians is expectation. We base God’s Ability and Willingness on our own ability and willingness which is not the case. God is Good. He is withholding no good thing from those who walk uprightly. Oh I get it…you know you. You make mistakes every day. So do I. You fail on a regular basis. Me, too. Gods grace, favor and honor have nothing to do with you or me. The Lord decided to bless and prosper us. Every good thing given to us is a gift from Him. We cannot earn it and certainly don’t deserve it, yet it is within His Intent and Mindset to do it just the same.

Walk uprightly…

Grace

Ephesians 2:8 (AMP) For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God…

The Amplified Version of the Bible is wordy. I love how it spells out all the finite details of the scripture. Grace is God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing us to Christ. His Grace is enough in every situation to position us in righteousness. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) His lovingkindness and mercy are more than enough and always available regardless of the situation. Like His Love, His Grace is unconditional. If you want it, you got it. His Power is perfected in our weakness. When we cannot do it anymore and choose to seek Him – the Lord can always be found by those who seek Him, call to Him, and come after Him. To walk uprightly means to accept God’s Amazing Grace.

Favor

2 Corinthians 9:8 (AMP) And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity. 

With the manifestation of God’s Grace comes favor. Favor is a product of grace which is spiritual and earthly blessing. We are liberally supplied everything needed according to His Riches in Glory in Jesus Christ. (Philippians 4:19) Relying on grace, favor comes in to fill ever void in our life. The Lord did not stop by simply meeting our needs but does so in super abundance. Jesus has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly realm. (Ephesians 1:3) We literally have the Keys to the Kingdom. The ability to unlock the heavens so it rains down on the earth. You have all sufficiency in you to have full satisfaction which will produce contentment. As if that were not enough – the Lord promises to carry out His Purpose and do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask, or think and infinitely beyond our prayers, hopes or dreams according to His Power (grace) working in us. (Ephesians 3:20) To walk uprightly is to live in unlimited favor.

Honor

John17:22-23 (AMP) I have given to them the glory and honor which You have given Me, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected and completed into one, so that the world may know [without any doubt] that You sent Me, and [that You] have loved them, just as You have loved Me.

Jesus Christ lives in us. He is one with us. His Spirit is consummation of the Son of God’s holy inhabitation of ordinary human beings. This is the honor given to us by God through the sacrifice of His Son. He wanted us. He desired us. He wanted to honor us and exalt us to be with Him forever. In the humble acceptance of His Grace and movement into His Favor, we have His Honor. It is the very thing that moves us from the natural to supernatural place of His Presence that allows us to walk with the Lord, speak to Him directly and hear His Voice as He responds to us. God honors us by inviting us to be one with Him through His Son, Jesus. It is an honor, a privilege and undeserved position granted by His Love and Grace for us. To walk uprightly is an honor given to those who have no right to do so.

Lord of hosts, how blessed and greatly favored is the man who trusts in You [believing in You, relying on You, and committing himself to You with confident hope and expectation].

The groundwork is laid for a supernatural life with more than enough grace, favor and honor to establish an upright life that leads to promises, blessings and prosperity in superabundance for our life. Why don’t we live like it? What’s the disconnect that keeps all of Heaven’s Resources and the Kingdom’s Supply from reaching our mediocre life and transforming it into a miraculous existence? Blessed and greatly favored is the man (or woman) who trusts in You! To walk uprightly requires only one thing of us. To trust the Lord is good and absolutely able to do all these things without our help or intervention. To continue to believe even when nothing in our life aligns with the truth God has laid on our heart but continuing just the same to live as one with Christ.

We must believe the Word of God is true. It must be the validity of our life. It must be as relevant to our existence as breathing is to our body. Being contrary to our nature and in direct contradiction to our flesh, it will require daily attention not weekly visitation. To fully accept God’s Grace requires repentance – not conversationally but by complete conversion. We must turn from our way to fully embrace God’s Way. This is not a religion but a relationship. It is an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. We go where He goes. Do what He does. Converse regularly. Honor Him in our walk. Trust Him with our life. In other words, I align my life with the Word because Jesus is the Word who came in the flesh.

Proverbs 3:5-7 (AMP) Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

To trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart is a change of character that takes time. A leap of faith is really only a single step in the right direction. It feels like a leap because it may not be logical in the earthly realm or seem like a radical maneuver to the rest of the world. However, God will take your life just one step at a time. He made you. He knows you. The Lord knows exactly what it will take to satisfy your soul and lead you to redemption and fulfillment of purpose. He is loving, gracious and oh so patient with us. His Grace is enough. His Power works best in our weakness. His Mercy meets us each day waiting on our doorstep for careful collection. He will never ever let us down. It is our ability to accept all of God’s Love, Grace, Goodness, Favor and Honor that completes us in Jesus Christ. It is a life time accomplishment that begins with your very next step. Will you trust Him today? Will you pursue Him? Will you allow Him to fill just one more void in your broken heart? Will you take just one more step in His Direction? I hope so because if you do the best is yet to come for you! To walk uprightly is not a human condition but a spiritual revelation accepted by a humbled heart and surrendered life to be one with Christ in all things.

Psalm 27:14 (AMP) Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.