Keep the Wheel Turning

Keep Spinning

Jeremiah 18:2-4 (ESV) “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

The image was vivid and clear. A bicycle wheel spinning when a stake appears in the spokes. The movement is halted and what once was an image of symmetry in motion halts abruptly. What is stopping us from turning? Repentance is turning our heart, mind and life over to Jesus Christ. The vision I see makes me wonder what in me is not turning properly. Is there something I have allowed to enter what once was fluid and now is stagnant? Christian living is a perpetual and constant turning of our life over to the Lord. Salvation is only the starting point of redemption. We must redeem our life piece by piece reconciling our way and will to the Father for recreation through His Son – Jesus Christ. There will never be a point in our natural existence when repentance will be complete. Our purpose and destiny in life is achieved by faith in the process of God that is repentance.

Arise, and go down to the potter’s house…

The instruction is clear. It is not open to interpretation. It is an invitation to leave one’s current position to enter new destiny and possibilities only available in the Presence of God. Who will go? It is a choice. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. You have to decide that new life is the desired pathway for your life. Arise. Get up. Move. Go down to the potter’s house. It doesn’t say go “up” to the potter’s house, but rather go down. Humility is essential in engagement with God. You cannot come boldly before Him in pride which is self-confidence and reliance but must enter confident in the work of His Son and its availability to us. Will you arise? Will you go down to the potter’s house today?

There I will let you hear my words…

The act of true repentance positions us to hear God’s Word and understand what exactly He is saying. We must arise and go down to His House – entering His Presence. God is speaking. He is always whispering to us in a still small voice. The distractions of life do not silence His Word. They keep us from hearing Him. It is the act of sacrificing our time and surrendering our priorities to wait for Him to speak and give us understanding that allows the transformation process to begin. We must have a desire to hear the voice of God and do what He says. Keeping His Commands are essential. It begins with the simple summons, “Come.”

So I went down to the potter’s house…

Repentance will always lead to obedience. Obedience is the key to opening the potential and purpose hidden within us. Faith holds the key that opens the door to all that heaven has hidden for God’s People. We cannot experience God’s Blessings or Promises apart from His Instruction. You cannot have God’s Will – your way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Him. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Word that is written is breathed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Word. We cannot and will not ever reach maximum potential in Jesus Christ apart from the Spirit and Truth connecting in us. Will you meet Him where He is today?

There he was working at his wheel…

This may very well be my favorite part of this passage, God is faithful. He is always faithful to His Word. He does exactly as He promised to do apart from our departures and wanderings. When returning to Him, the Lord is still there working everything out for our good. (Romans 8:28) I am so thankful that God is not a man. He doesn’t lie or change His Mind. Nothing can separate me from His Love – not even me. When I repent, turn back, humbly enter His Presence, God is exactly the same as when I left Him last time. My faithfulness is not primary in my relationship with the Lord. His Faithfulness is everything. It means that I can be exactly who He promised and fulfill my potential in Him no matter how many times I wander off or succumb to weakness. His Grace is always enough. His Grace is sufficient.

The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand…

God is not shocked or dismayed when I fall short. He knows exactly what I am going to do before I do it. He keeps me safely tucked away in His Hand. He knows me inside and out yet still chooses to love me unconditionally, recklessly and completely. He waits for me to respond to His Promises. Lovingly and securely I am in His Hand. No one and nothing can take me from Him. Isn’t it a relief to know that God knows us, yet loves us just the same. He doesn’t throw away “spoiled” clay but holds us in His Hand until…

He reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

No vessel is ever too broken for the Lord. Jesus knows exactly who He invested His Great Love in still choosing to give us His All. Our undoing gives God the opportunity to “rework” us into another vessel. One fit for His Use, His Service, and His Glory. God has already promised that He has a plan for our life containing a future and hope. It is by faith that our confidence gives way to trusting the process of brokenness. To allow God to begin to reshape us through renewal, restoration and revival from the inside out. It begins with repentance. Repentance allows the potter’s wheel to keep spinning. It is the very thing that ends stalling in our process and gives way to our potential. Is there a stake in your spoke today? The Lord will carefully take it if you will surrender it to Him. God is ready to reveal your divine purpose and release your full potential today. Will you arise and come to the potter’s house with me? He is ready to make us a masterpiece.

Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

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Undeserved

Undeserved

Romans 5:1-2 (NLT) Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

I do not deserve the grace and kindness given to me through Jesus Christ. It is completely undeserved and therefore quite difficult to take hold of. It has not been justly or rightly earned. It is unmerited favor which in my sinful state cannot ever be acquired by human acts or abilities. Like a prickly cactus in a hot desert filled with life giving and sustaining water, how does one fully embrace a love so pure and untainted? Barbs of self-recognition lead to doubt and distress. Such revelation pierces the skin and penetrates the heart with the simple truth that I can do absolutely nothing to earn or repay God for the extravagant gift of His Love.

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6) Too often those “fiery arrows” are self-inflicted when the lie of the enemy is allowed to penetrate the soft and broken heart. It is truth by the world’s standard but nullified by the Kingdom principle that God is love. His Love for us is giving freely and undeserved. We are saved by grace through faith. The route is simple but pathway diverse. The struggle to accept the simplicity of the Gospel that is the covenant of relationship often leads right back to captivity by doctrinal law and religious overtures meant to buffer our pride so there will be no suffering. The suffering that leads to repentance is the revelation of who Christ is and the fact that we will never be able to offer anything in return to reciprocate His Generosity in giving up His Life to give us a new and everlasting place with Him forever.

Salvation is a heart change. However, if there is not a mindset associated with it there is no chance of survival for the new believer. The enemy comes in with lies. He attacks us with truthful accusations. None of this changes the fact that Christ died for you and me giving us the opportunity for full restoration and active relationships with God the Father again. The helmet of salvation is confidence in the hope give to us through faith in Christ alone. Uncertainty is slain with the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Unarmed with faith and confident hope fortified and forged by God’s Word, there is nothing to defend our belief that God is who He says that He is and Christ has given us the Gift that is promised. Faith and trust in God is irrational and illogical outside of God’s Word and Truth that by His Grace I am saved through this process.

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.

To fully accept the gift of new life given to us by Jesus Christ, means that I must allow Him to change my character. The hope that I have comes through my utter helplessness. It is in all the things that I cannot do that the Power of Christ prevails because I succumb to weakness. Grace works best in human weakness. (2 Corinthians 12) Happiness is a temporary feeling. A conditional emotion based on the evident outcomes in life. The cause and effect of the natural occurrences in life. An immediate reaction to our current condition. The Lord has a different plan for us. It is not emotionally driven.

We can rejoice, too…when we run into problems and trials. God is building our character each day. The character of Christ was always in His Identity as the Son of God. Peter made the revelation in Matthew 16 when asked by Jesus, “But who do YOU say I am?” Peter’s response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This is the declaration of those who have a change of heart and mind. The ones who dare to step over pride and past self to fully embrace the Undeserved Love of God the Father for us – the prodigals. The strength of character is to fully know and believe that in Christ our relationship with God the Father is fully restored regardless of where we are now, how we feel, or our strength and ability. Character is built on the foundation of Christ alone. The kind of character that allows us to be confident in our salvation and to follow a hope that will not lead to disappointment. We must know that God loves us as undeserving as we all are.

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

What to do when the masterpiece looks like a mess? I often joke with people that I have a black thumb. A notorious plant killer by reputation with a heart that longs to nurture and grow little plants. When I was preparing for Mother’s Day in our church, I ordered fifty tiny succulent plants. Knowing of my own inability, I waited until the last minute to order them. When the ten day shipping really was only a couple of days, I was in trouble. For about a week, I worried over my tiny wards. These little cacti are made to live in diverse conditions. Yet, I fully believed in my heart that they had met their match. When the day finally arrived for them to go their new home, they were all alive. I celebrated. I still have a handful of them in my dining room facing the morning sun. I do not worry about them just tend to them every so often. They are alive. Just outside the dining room window are two hydrangeas that are flourishing after a year of my care. Miracles do happen.

I wonder how many times God is working in us and developing our character and new nature but we still wear the titles of our past life. Apparently, I am a reformed plant killer. If the enemy can keep our eyes on the mess, we may very well miss the message. If we give up in the test, there will be no testimony. Quitters never win. If the only thing good in me is Christ – then why do I expect greater things from me than the Lord? Christ gives us new life and calls us a new creation. The Character Changer is making a masterpiece because that was His Plan all along. The nature of God does not change to accommodate my feelings or emotions. He does not lie or change His Mind. What He says will be done for no word that comes from Him will ever return void of accomplishment.

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

No one deserves a right relationship with God. Jesus gave us the relationship out of His Goodness, His Grace and His Unfathomable Unconditional Love. It doesn’t make any sense. Outside of faith, it is completely unattainable. Abraham was called a friend of God because he dared to believe in God who “brings the dead back to life and creates new things out of nothing.” (Romans 4) Do you know that God? Do you believe that He will do what He says? You can say that you do but does your life show that you are absolutely certain of His Love. Certainly in Christ is evident when our character is built on humble acceptance of a love incomprehensible and undeserved. You are a friend of God by faith, friend. Your ability to be perfect melts in His Perfection and gives way to promises too great to pass by. Will you accept Him today? Get over the prickly human qualities that buffer pride constantly telling us that there must be repayment and recompense. There is nothing you can do to earn or deserve God’s Love – you must simply live in it.

James 4:5-7 (NLT) Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

More Grace

More Grace

I Timothy 1:14-15 (NIV) The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

I wasn’t going to do this. I had already decided that my quiet time would be my own today. Not to be shared in the transparency of my need for God’s Grace today. I have over committed…again. My perfectionism is overriding peace within me. I have to-do list with to-do list. Heart racing to meet the expectation of many especially myself – I am begging the Lord Jesus for more grace today. I need grace. Grace wrecks perfectionism. It destroys arrogance in the moment that I realize I can’t do it all. Only one person that gets caught up in tasks who doesn’t always realize my mistake until at the edge of breakdown.

God gives grace to us in abundance. In this passage, it says that He gives grace in abundance along with faith and love as though secondary. Many that’s the problem, we try to have faith and love outside of God’s Grace. We have faith that can move mountains but cannot even step over a tiny offense. There is love for others but no love for our self. I am the world’s worst sinner who needs every bit of God’s Grace to make through one day let alone to eternity one day. Yet as many others just like me – sometimes I get the order wrong. I live by faith. Try to love. Work to produce godly fruit only attainable in my utter weakness as a part of grace. A seed placed in the ground does not do anything other than become what it is purposed and called to be. The potential of a seed is on the inside and must work its way out. The death of one form to give way to new glory. The acceptance of God’s Grace completely gives way to the life of faith and living in the Love of Jesus. Lord, I need more grace today.

Romans11:5-6 (NIV) So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

I am chosen by God’s Grace. There is nothing I can do to earn it. I will never deserve it. I cannot work to make myself worth. I am not able to transform my life. Grace is given as a gift. It can only be accepted by a fully engaged love relationship or covenant with Jesus Christ. We are vulnerable. Faith gives us the capacity to believe that a perfect God could love imperfect people. Grace is no longer grace if religion takes over with all its dos and don’ts. Yet the enemy willingly offers excuses to the logic of such by inferring that God’s Grace is limited when the Truth is that God’s Grace is enough.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

His Grace is enough for me. It is sufficient for you. His Power is made perfect in weakness. Our pride hates the idea of surrender and submission to the Lord but grace demands it. We must use our faith in its primary state to stand on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Not because we can do anything but because He did it all. When we are weak, we seek grace. The good news for us today is that it is always available and brings power to our life.

In Ephesians 4, it tells us the God’s Grace is apportioned for us. The word “apportioned” means that the Lord has already designated all the grace that I need for this life. He has distributed proportionally to me. It belongs to me. I must do nothing more than relinquish my weakness and claim His Strength which is administered by grace. His Grace is enough because it is already assigned to me. When Christ said, “It is finished” on the Cross that included the proper portion of grace needed to save me and initiate the faith needed to achieve my purpose, overcome life’s problems, receive full provision and live in prosperity. I have all the grace I need – I must only ask for it.

Romans 5:20-21 (NIV) The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Law had a purpose. It showed humanity that it was flawed. The sin obvious in each trespass and the penalty far more than anyone could bar. Jesus Christ came with a sin solution. Grace. Where sin abounded, grace abounded more. The power of Grace is not defined by one’s capacity to ever overcome sin. It is defined as the only thing that can break sin’s debt off our life. It doesn’t matter how well we clean up or if we change every bad habit to make better choices. Religious behavior will never take the place of righteousness which can only be achieved by God’s Grace through faith in Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It doesn’t matter how hard I work – my efforts cannot produce perfection. It doesn’t matter how well I do – sin will always be an issue. It doesn’t matter how strong of a Christian I become – His Grace will only work by concession. I must give up my need to be perfect and desire to be good in order to fully accept the kind of grace that grows strong faith producing complete confidence in the Love of God. It is my acceptance of every weakness, fault, failure, mistake and shortcoming and giving it over to the Lord that His Strength and Power become my own.

Galatians 2:21 (NIV) I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

When my need to do something overshadows my need to allow Christ to complete His Work in me – I have set aside the Grace of God to maintain my pride and position. Righteousness is the place I want to be living in the Presence of God forever. It means I must set aside self on a daily if not momentary basis to fully embrace what Christ is doing inside of me. The revelation of weakness must come for the sufficiency of Christ to be received. I cannot be the person who has it all together and still be becoming the masterpiece of God’s Design. It is in the messy surrender and submission of my life piece by piece that the fullness of grace is obtained. Christ didn’t die for nothing. He died for me. His Grace is enough.

Jesus, I recognize that You are the only good and perfect gift in me. You have given your life to free me from the bondage of performance and perfection. I receive it in my weakness today.  Forgive me for trying to take the throne and ask you for more grace! I want it all! I need it today! We have nothing if first we do not accept Your Grace!

James 4:6 (NIV) But He gives us more grace…

John 1:16-17 (NIV) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

Too Broken

Too Broken

I Corinthians 15:35-38 (MSG) Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

Can anything be too broken? Beyond repair? Without hope? Are there things in God that are destroyed for a purpose? How does one know the difference? If the scripture is true that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His Purpose.” How do you explain brokenness in the midst of goodness? The painful process of dying to the present to release the full potential of the future requires every bit of faith inside of us and all the hope that has been mustered up. It takes courage beyond that which we are born with because it is a total investment in something we cannot see or comprehend with our senses yet nevertheless seek it with our heart. What seems to be “dead” in your life today? What dream, vision, goal or revelation? This is not about meaningless or worthless endeavors but those pursuits once sought after wholeheartedly that have fallen into pieces at our feet. You thought it was right. You thought it was His Calling. You believed that He sent you to this place or put you in this position. Now what?

The biggest hurdle of faith to overcome is human disappointment. Those times when things do not turn out as one expected and the experience is not what was hoped for or imagined. Faith must overcome the perceived failures in our life to reach the full potential of brokenness. Fully bending and surrendering our mind, will and emotions to the hope that is given to us in Jesus Christ will require someone relenting and it will not be the Lord. If you are truly seeking to live the life that God has promised, brokenness is inevitable because the potential that is inside of us must find its way out.

John 11:21-26 (MSG) Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”  “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died. He was a friend of Jesus. Martha confided in Christ that she believed that if the Lord had been there that her brother would be alive. Jesus shared a secret with Martha in her grief. “Your brother will be raised up.” The limitation on her faith exposed in her response. “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” How often we put boundaries on the Living God by pushing our expectation beyond this life into forever. Jesus goes on to tell her and then show her that He is the “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.” You say that you believe but are you willing to let that thing you love most die to experience the Glory of God that waits those with real and genuine faith in the Living God?

And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” Our firmest conviction must become that there is nothing impossible with God in order to let doubt and fear die to grow faith and believing in our life. Some things will have to be too broken for human hands. Some things will have be become impossible for the Living God to manifest His Plan and Potential for your life evidenced in His Promises. We must die fully to self to be clothed fully in His Righteousness. Religion is only a half-hearted attempt to love and serve a fully-invested God.

2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (MSG) Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

The Grace of God is sufficient for me. His Power works its best in my weakness. His Presence is closest in my brokenness. Hear me today! Grace cannot become power in hard heart. It cannot facilitate God’s Strength in the stronghold of pride. If you are still standing, you have a long way to go before His Power can make it to your heart and mind. We must die to self to experience Resurrection Power and New Life. The battle begins inside of us. We must give up our way along with it our control. It is the continual lowering of self and exaltation of Christ. It is the giving to and forgiving of those who once were considered our enemy. We have but one enemy. The seed goes in the ground alone. One seed has enough potential to grow into something far greater than itself and reproduce enough to create more than it ever was. This potential is in you but cannot be released unless you are willing to put it all in the ground and let Jesus cover you in darkness and bring forth new life. You will be broken but the potential of what is to come will be worth it.

Psalm 51:16-17 (MSG) Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Christian performance is overrated. God desires our heart not our hand. There is nothing God needs me to do for Him yet so often I get caught up in service as though it might somehow make me worthy of His Love. My pride has been shattered countless times by my inability. Failure has brought me to the end of self. My heart broken many times until the pieces too many for me to put back together again. God comes to us when we can’t do it ourselves. No longer given to the thought that I am anything outside of Christ, I become putty in His Hands. It is only then that creation of His Masterpiece begins. (Ephesians 2:10)

Romans 9:20-26 (MSG) Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well: I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” They’re calling you “God’s living children.”

Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? We do it all the time. Second-guessing God is the moment one chooses delayed obedience or to partially obey Him even in the most simplistic of commands. It is revealed in our words of doubt, fear and defeat. When we complain or gripe about our life is the tell-tale signs of disbelief and discontentment with God’s Provision and Promise in our life. We are His Created Ones. He is the only one who can take all these broken pieces and makes something beautiful out of it. The Lord promises to work good from every detail and perfect all that concerns us but He is not going to wrestle control from us – we must submit and surrender every area of our life to the wonder-working power of God given to us through His Son, Jesus.

Can anything be too broken? Beyond repair? Without hope? The definitive answer is no. Absolutely not. But does it feel like that sometimes…absolutely. God cannot use us until we become completely compliant. A fertile heart is a broken heart. The seed of God’s Word cannot penetrate a willful, hard, and stubborn heart. So the Lord leads us to brokenness so that the seed of His Word and faith within us meet and become the purpose that He promised would become a rich and satisfying life. He leads us from victory to victory. You cannot win if you do not play the game. Play to win. Leave your all on the field or more aptly the altar today. It is human nature to squirrel something away for a rainy day but it will not be enough in the storm. All of me for all of Him requires complete and utter brokenness the kind that I cannot put back together but only Jesus can fill with Resurrection Power and Life.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (MSG) Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

New Beginning

New Beginning

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Here we go again! Ever feel like life is vicious repetitious cycles rather than prosperous seasons. Hours turn to days becoming weeks until a month is gone and then a year has passed and yet nothing seems to be as wonderful as the hope once held on to so tightly. Life is tough. It is a struggle. To live for Christ is not always a happy place filled with sunshine and roses. There are dark days with thick cloud cover when it is hard to see the Lord’s fulfillment nearby. Of course, every rose has its thorns. It is easy to get caught up in the tangled mess of circumstances and unfavorable conditions pulling our focus from forever and the possibilities of our new life in Christ. Are you there today? Wondering when fulfillment will come or if it will ever be the way once envisioned? I have excellent news for you today straight from God. Each day you are alive is a new beginning waiting to happen. A word of encouragement and yes it may be a bit hard to swallow but in the end it will produce the life that He promised when He finished the work before us. Sometimes life must be viewed through the realm of hope for the joy set before us rather than the rearview mirror of life and experience that makes what we hope for so elusive.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. There are some key points in this passage that cannot be ignored. We must focus on one thing. Jesus Christ. We must invest our whole life – heart, mind, soul and body in our pursuit of Him. Christ alone is the cornerstone of life and foundation of faith that a blessed, favored and prosperous existence is established. Diversified living produces divided interests that are not all profitable. Our existence must be continually filtered through our relationship with the Lord in order to become a valuable asset. Forgetting what lies behind us and straining for the future means letting go of everything that keeps us tied to the past in order to fully embrace the new life offered in Jesus Christ. The call is upward. Symbolic of a mountain climb to view life from a new vantage point and see the beauty unperceivable by human eye but only fully disclosed in the Presence of God. You will fight yourself. You will fight the enemy. Those who battle these foes will find life filled with satisfaction just like the Lord promised those who seek His Face.

Lamentations 3:21-25 (ESV) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

I know what you’re thinking… another feel good message from an optimist. Not really…I just happen to have fully invested myself in the realm of hope. I wasn’t given a choice. To continue to live – I had to accept that there is life beyond today and a place for me in His Presence. When life no longer can be normal, it is the only option. There has to be a forever. There must be a Savior. I must seek Him until I find Him. He helps me in the process by providing new mercy each morning. If yesterday was a complete bust and I went to bed a failure all that changed when I woke up with new mercy waiting for me. His Grace is enough. It will always be enough. Jesus is from beginning to end. He is the Word. The Word cannot return void so nothing is impossible with the Lord. In every misstep and mistake, there is still a mission to be accomplished by divine direction that cannot and will not stop until it is complete. This is not because of my ability to be faithful and true. It is entirely based on the faithfulness of God and fulfillment of Jesus.

What does your soul say today? An empty soul cannot prosper and has nothing to offer your life. Our life prospers when our soul does. The Holy Spirit is the sole cultivator of our soul. He takes the measure of faith entrusted us and makes good fruit grow from it. He tills the hardest of hearts until it is fertile soil. He plants those seeds. He waters them with the Word of God. He carefully picks out the weeds with conviction. The problem is that the process takes time like any other season. We do not want to wait. We do not like discomfort and/or inconvenience. We abort the process and thereby the promise with it. So what does the Lord do? He gives us new mercy and abundant grace so a new life as a new creation is always possible to those who believe.

Zechariah 4:10 says, “ For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” We must not only recognize and rejoice in the smallest and minute areas of growth and development in our spiritual life. My husband gave me two hydrangeas last Mother’s Day. I love hydrangeas but am a well-known plant killer. I planted the little bushes in our flowerbed and walked away – literally. I went to inspect them after a long cold winter to find sticks where my plants used to be. I was a tad bit discouraged but what did I expect from my notorious black thumb. However, on closer inspection, I noticed new bright green leaves coming up from the ground and tiny buds covering the limbs. The plants are not dead but transitioning seasons. The dead leaves had to fall off to make room for new growth. I wonder if our inability to see past this season keeps us from recognizing the masterpiece that God is making in our midst. We despise those small beginnings as He takes the “plumb line” of Jesus Christ and measures our life. He is directing us upward to the high calling but we would rather wallow in the mud most days than engage in the process needed for new life.

Luke 1:37 (ESV) “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

If we must start somewhere, why not here? To wake up each morning expectant of His Love, Grace and Mercy ready to receive it on the principle that nothing, absolutely positively nothing, is impossible with God. We get to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We have the Word activated inside of us because Jesus entrusted His Spirit to us as a guide and cultivator of purpose in us. We must stand on the foundation of Christ by faith with the expectant hope that nothing is impossible if we believe. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. This is confidence. This is our conviction. Faith is the assurance of what we hope for based on the strongest of convictions that even though we don’t see it – we believe that all things are possible with Jesus.

Proverbs 20:21 (ESV) An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.

Matthew 24:13 (ESV) But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

In the Trenches

In the Trenches

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

Woke up to the sound of rain today. Not gentle droplets on the window sill but a pounding torrential downpour with rolling thunder. Turning over pulling the covers a little bit higher, I don’t want to get out of bed but rather soak in some extra sleep and surrender to laziness. Struggling to pull myself out of bed, all the inconvenience of going outside and loss of comfort keeps me cozy and in place. Blame it on the rain! I can do this. I will do this. I must do this. It’s Sunday! It’s the Lord’s Day!

Rain is a life giver. As it soaks the fresh cut grass, it is a brilliant green. All the spring pollen is washed away, and it smells new outside. Our lab thinks it is just for her. A gift from Heaven as she frolics, runs and rolls in it. She is a waterdog. Made for such a time as this, I stand wrapped in a jacket hoping it will end before our departure. Yet her enthusiasm makes me smile – she loves the rain. Maybe the rain is just for her…

There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. The power of the life giving Spirit has freed us. I will rejoice. Sometimes caught in the trenches of service for the Lord, it is easy to forget what this thing called ministry is all about. We are ambassadors of Christ called to ministry in our once ordinary life given to extraordinary potential with Jesus. Those who are called are equipped with the Spirit of God and ability to make it rain especially in the life of those currently living in seasons of drought, despair and darkness.

I Kings 18:41-45 (NLT) Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”

This chapter of I Kings chronicles the “contest on Mount Carmel”, the place where God poured out His Glory, Elijah overcame and killed the prophets of Baal and there was a revival amount the people. “And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, ‘The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!’” THEN, Elijah went to pray for rain. The chapter begins by setting the scene. It was the third year of drought. The promise spoken to Elijah from the Lord – I will soon send rain! The problem in the midst of it all – disbelief. The people had given their heart and mind to serve a dead god – Baal. Yet the Living God pursued them nevertheless. The only thing standing between them and relief from the drought was repentance and revival. Life in the trenches is where we find Elijah. He did not pray for rain with expectancy until the people were revived in heart and soul.

Luke 15:4-7 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Death was introduced to mankind by one man, Adam. Grace was delivered to all mankind through one man – Jesus Christ. Elijah was one man. He was sent to end drought. The contest on Mount Carmel had to be accomplished so the heart of the people would be ready for rain. More importantly, they had to align themselves with God to receive it. Elijah released God’s Glorious Grace when he overcame the prophets of Baal that day. It was not in their death but the new life and hope created when the people recognized God coming back to Him in humility.

I wonder if we forget that sometimes. When a church service doesn’t produce an altar full or maybe the response to the message seems to be nil. Do we lose sight off the greater good that is the power of grace in one person? “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and turns to God.” We can all pretend to be righteous or maybe a tad bit religious but when our heart repents and our soul is revived – God sends an outpouring of His Glory like never before. We can pick apart our church and all the people in it. We will miss the point altogether and live limited lives. Elijah dug trenches around the sacrifice filling them with water. It would be impossible for God to light a fire, right? No miracles happen in the impossible. If you have been praying for an abundance of rain, but seem to be living in drought – God is ready to pour out rain on your life today. Examine your heart and align your mind with His Word again. If you have been working a dry and barren land that seems impossible to bear fruit, keep digging those trenches for the rain is coming when the soil becomes broken and fertile. The rain is coming – will you be there to experience His Outpouring? God’s Word will not fail. He will do exactly as He promised. We must humble ourselves and pray with repentant hearts ready for revival. This is life in the trenches and you are in good company!

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (NLT) At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.

Finding Purpose

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Proverbs 20:7 (ESV) The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

A throne is God’s purpose for you; a cross is God’s path for you; faith is God’s plan for you. (Alan Redpath)

Did you know that you were created on purpose? It doesn’t matter the details of conception or conditions of birth – no baby arrives void of purpose. Your situation may not have been ideal. Your childhood a terrible tragedy. Teenage years a journey of guilt and shame. Adulthood filled with broken relationships and dead dreams yet still deep inside your heart is purpose. God placed eternity in our heart. He gave us a measure of faith to insure our success. He sent His Son – Jesus to take our life back paying the penalty of all sins so a full dispensation of grace might be available. Our life handed back to us labeled “free” and now it is up to us to decide how to use it. The purpose of God within us is far greater than just making it to Heaven. It is the opportunity to bring Heaven to earth.

The woman at the well had no idea that a divine appointment awaited her. She arrived around noon at the peak of the sun. She was shunned by other women and used by many men. Her current master not her husband just one willing to take the broken pieces of a shattered life and capitalize on it. She had no idea that the broken path she followed was leading her straight to redemption. She didn’t think this was a new day of new opportunity – I believe like many women just like her – she was just trying to get by. When she met Jesus, he asked for some water to satisfy a thirst. It would become an invitation for this dry and devastated life to be renewed.

John 4:13-16 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The purpose in our heart is deep water. We must search for understanding to draw it out. This woman began her conversation in the natural and then encountered the supernatural. She forgot who everyone said she was and ran back to tell them about the Messiah. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” I wonder today if the well of our hearts get so filled with worthless conversation and other garbage keeping the living water within us from making its way out of us. The opinions, insults and offenses stuck in our heart. The woman found her purpose. His Name – Jesus Christ. The guilt, shame and regret of our past is no match for the unfailing love and unfathomable grace given to us in just one encounter with the Lord. Purpose is a deep water that will only be found by those who are willing to dig a little deeper than the superficial overtures of life to reach the abundance found in new life.

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV) The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

For you will certainly carry out God’s Purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (C.S. Lewis)

Purpose is God-given. It resides in us. God placed eternity in each heart. He also provided us all with a measure of faith to successfully secure us in the Kingdom. He even sacrificed His Son to give us the freedom to choose between good and evil again with new mercy each day and more than enough grace for those days we miss the mark. God has us covered completely. Jesus gives us overwhelming victory as a byproduct of His Love for us. We can overcome in every situation. Why are so many Christians and so-called believers struggling then? Are you serving Jesus like Judas or John? Everyone would be quick to say, “John” but on closer evaluation of a wayward heart may be an indication that Judas is hiding in the darkest part.

Job 42:1-6 (ESV) “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

The story of Job is all about pride. Job’s life was prosperous. He was known as a religious man. He lived a righteous life. Yet, in all his goodness, the messengers came one by one as his kingdom fell. His family and finances were devastated. Disease soon infected his body. His own wife told him to give up on God. Yet in all his misery, Job did not give up on the Lord. His friends didn’t understand. They tried to offer comfort but only inflamed his heart and mind. In his complete and utter misery as his flesh was dying, Job came to the Lord and this was his cry. Job still believed. In the midst of all the tragedy, God still lived on the throne of his heart. Job knew that God is sovereign. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Such a profound statement. We hear a lot about the Lord and even adopt a certain language laced with hints of faith and believing. Yet it never reaches their heart or penetrates their thoughts forming a new belief which becomes a new life. As the Truth of God’s Identity and Character began to seep into the brokenness of his heart, something changed. Job was ready for a turnaround. Job repented.

Our purpose in the Lord will never be more than a promise if repentance is not a lifestyle. The Kingdom is not a place to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Hearing the Word of God it is easy to make a list of excuses why it’s not for us. But one encounter with the fullness of God in His Son – Jesus changes everything. The Lord dealt with Job’s accusers disguised as friends. He did not just restore Job but gave him double for his trouble. The renewal of faith in God will fill the gaps left by every tragedy in life. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. God already gave us everything we need including the promises so greatly desired. It must be our purpose to discover God’s Purpose and invest our life in Him.

“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. What if God’s Purpose is for you to give your life away for others? It is. What if you must lose your life to truly find it? You do. What if the eternity in our heart will not escape without brokenness? It won’t. God has placed a purpose in you far greater than your human life can produce or sustain. It will require every bit of faith to achieve. Your heart will be devastated to be redesigned – molded and shaped into the Masterpiece promised by the Lord in Ephesians 2. My heart was forever changed during our son’s battle with cancer. Normal will never be normal again. Once you know the truth, you cannot believe the lie anymore. For years, I prayed for the Lord to increase my faith and He did. It was not in some glorious service when Heaven opened and poured out His Glory. It was in a hospital room when I finally gave up all of me. Pride must die in His Presence for purpose to be properly birthed. It is painful. It can be messy. It is always worth it.

Psalm 138:8 (ESV) The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill His Purpose for you and me regardless of our participation. God will do exactly as He planned and promised to do because of His Steadfast Love for us. His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us even when we think we are pursuing Him. The Truth about us is that God created us with a plan containing a future and hope far greater than the life created by randomness. Every step has the potential to be purposeful when committed to the Lord. He is leading us to something far greater and exceedingly abundantly more than we can think, ask or imagine. Do you trust Him today? Do you believe in God’s Steadfast Love? If you do, you will go with Him. Following Him to the ends of the earth just to continue in His Unconditional Love. He will never leave us or forsake us. The Lord invites us to invest our freedom in His Purpose and to prosper in this life. It is up to us whether or not repentance turns us from a worthless life to a radical resurrection of a power-infused supernatural existence filled with God’s Favor.

Is there more to life than this? Yes, there is. His Name is Jesus. He is our Purpose.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Resurrection Life

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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.

“The Kingdom of God is within you…” Leo Tolstoy

Jesus Christ is alive. He is living and breathing inside the heart and soul of every believer, but not every Christian. To follow Jesus Christ is not enough. The only way to live a life of successful faith is to let the Holy Spirit change our mind and open our heart to the truth that Christ lives in us. With Resurrection Sunday just a few days away, I am filled with excitement and expectation. I like Christmas, but I love Easter. We celebrate the arrival of the Messiah in December, but the thing that makes Jesus so powerful is the fact that He died for our sin and rose again on the third day. Except Christ be crucified AND resurrected, there is not power, authority or dominion over death. It is important that believers serve the risen Savior and Lord or they are worshipping a dead god.

To believe that the fullness of God be fully invested in Jesus Christ means nothing if He is not alive in us today. How full is a broken cup? No matter how much is poured in it would only gush out. The substance of our faith is contained in the hope of the Living God. If our faith has nothing to build upon – it has no validity. Faith in God is paramount on the fact that Jesus Christ lives in us or to make a connection with Him would be sudden death. Outside of Christ – I have no chance of living in the Presence of God day by day into eternity. The fact that Jesus Christ is alive and lives in us is what changes every impossibility into future possibility. It takes a natural life making it supernatural. Our ordinary existence becomes extraordinary when Christ comes to live in us. It is time to change our mind about the God we serve and recognize that Christ is alive and well inside of us. Christ in us identifies us as part of the Kingdom of God.

“God cannot be understood by logical reasoning but only by submission.” Leo Tolstoy

Faith is not logical. It will never be understood by human reasoning. It is not validated by what we see but Who we know. The more I know Jesus Christ – the more logical my faith becomes. As I submit my life to Him, He fills me with the fullness of God that is in Him. The Spirit produces fruit from seeds of faith like love, joy, peace, and the like. He bestows forgiveness, kindness and goodness to us in epic proportions so they begin to flow from us as we cannot contain the Favor of the Living God any longer. Too many Christians are trying to pour from empty cups. I must submit my life fully to the Lord in order to have a reservoir to draw from.

Romans 8:10-12 (NLT) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

Scrolling through social media, I came across a meme posted about the recounting of sins at the pearly gates and not realizing you were that wild or something like that. All in good fun. A particularly long comment thread caught my attention beginning with a young woman who berated the poster as sacrilegious. I will not recount the back and forth banter because quite honestly the debate a complete embarrassment to Christians. Anyway, she recanted that unless we completely separate ourselves from the world and live “sinless” lives that we will not enter Heaven. I just shook my head and scrolled on. Nobody can do that. We all have a sinful nature to be crucified daily. Religion tells us to follow all the rules and regulations and you will make it into Heaven. If there is no relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never get there from here.

I share this revelation because sinless perfection is impossible in a human being ever. Even saved, sanctified super spiritual people sin – all the time. The mindset of the believer is to do everything humanly and spiritually possible to avoid it but surrender and submit our life to the Cross when we fall short. I cannot judge or condemn another person because I have fallen short. It only took one sin and Lord knows I am capable of way more than that. Our mission in life is complete unity with Jesus Christ. Laying our life down, crucifying our flesh and living in the love of God given to us through His Son. I have no obligation to sin anymore. What does that mean? It means that the Spirit of the Living God gives me power and authority over sin. I can make better choices just because He lives. But even on my best day, the good in me and greatest potential of my life is Jesus Christ. My elevation comes from exaltation and the revelation that surrender and submission are the only way to live. “Christian joy is letting Christ live His Life out through you so that what He is…you become.” (David Jeremiah)

2 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NLT) Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power. Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

“God doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up to the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” (R.C. Sproul) If we could get the imagine of death in our mind, the reality of it, the brutal and abrupt end of life – maybe there would be a better sense of exactly what Christ offers us in His Resurrection. We avoid death at all costs. Born dying, we try to outrun, outlive, and outsmart the inevitable end of human life. There is another option but in order to embrace the joy of eternity one must engage in the death process prematurely. The unfathomable and incomprehensible has happened. In our revelation of the true meaning of Christ’s Resurrection is that now that same power, authority and vitality lives in us. He was crucified in weakness and raised in complete fulfillment and victory. We must engage in the same process to move from death to life. To obtain grace comes at the price of strength and ability – it is obtained in utter weakness. When we could do nothing to save ourselves – Jesus died for us. “He did not come to shame the sinners. Jesus came to save sinners.” (Reinhard Bonnke) “He came into this world to make dead people live.” (Leo Tolstoy) Apart from the Grace of God our connection with Him is religious. The consummation of our relationship with the Living God is that Christ lives in us. We have live because He is life.

Galatians 2:19-21 (NLT)  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

I encourage you to join me if examining the heart and mind in these days leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Do you believe that Christ is alive? Do you understand that He lives in you? Do you live through Him? It is important to evaluate our personal walk with Christ each day? To compare our direction to His Directive (His Word, Will and Way). To completely empty the contents of our heart and make sure it is only faith in God that is retained and worthless things thrown away. The only thing of worth in us is Jesus Christ. If we do not fully believe and base our life on the fact that Jesus lives and resides in us – what is there to celebrate on Easter? If Christ did not emerge from the grave victorious over sin and death – folks, we have a problem. It doesn’t matter how good you are doing or successful you are at avoiding sin, without the Living God – there is nothing to live for. All those efforts following the example of Christ are meaningless if the person of Jesus does not reside inside you. The Spirit gives us life. Apart from Him, death is the only option. Revive us again, Jesus. Teach us to celebrate the power and authority that You have given us and live a resurrection life.

John 11:25-26 (NLT)  Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Do you believe this (put your name here)?

 

Black Sheep

Black Sheep

Luke 15:4-7 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

On my daily commute, I pass a small makeshift farm. It started as one pen with a couple sheep. Now it is three pens, several sheep, two herding dogs, and some chicken coops. Recently, there were several lambs born with one that is solid black. The sheep and Great Pyrenes are solid white so the little guy sticks out like a sore thumb with its raven-colored coat. Every day I slow down to look for the black sheep. But as of late, the little one is not among the flock.

Today, I am acutely aware of the black sheep. I am part of a blended family. My parents each brought two children to their union. I have a very tangled family tree so we will stay on this side of it for now. My sister was very young and my biological father adopted her when she was just two years old. My bonus mom as one might call her also had a son. He did not embrace the new family quite so much and gravitated toward his own father and his side of the family. He might even be called a black sheep of sorts. Life for him was very difficult and his struggle very real. He loved the Lord, but had his own wilderness moments along the way. He passed away yesterday. I am sad. Although he was not as closely knit into our family as my brother and sister – I am sad for him. He died feeling that he was a black sheep. He felt like a disgrace who was ostracized. Not because he was not loved and cherished by his family, the enemy wrapped him in up in a lie that would cause him to stumble in life many times.

The tragic news of his death has haunted me. I see black sheep all the time. From the actual animal to the people who wander through life never experiencing the Love of God and all His Fullness. The inability to fully grasp and understand the completeness of God’s Grace and Goodness that He has just for them. Caught up in comparison, tangled in lies and stumbling over stupid things – they wander through life never really knowing, understanding or fully comprehending that which is pursuing them. Have we as Christians and believers contributed in some way? Setting conditions on love and acceptance that God never truly intended? To distance ourselves from the lost, wandering and broken afraid it is contagious? To gravitate toward success avoiding those who represent failure? To forget that we too were once the one lost sheep who was carried home by our Savior?

Matthew 18:12-14 (MSG) “Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.”

Where is the celebration when a simple believer is born? When the one who was lost wanders to the altar of our churches? Do we embrace them as they are? Or do we mandate a grace of change from imperfect to perfect in an instant? The Blood of Jesus covers our sin. Over time the Word begins to wash us clean including old wounds. A black sheep cannot change the color of its fur. It is still a sheep. The DNA the same it just looks different. You can shear it a hundred times and its coat will remain black. However, as Christians caught up in religion, we get so bent on changing people to meet our expectations and mandates of doctrine that we forget to love them just as they are. Love is not mean. It is not unkind. It is forgiving. Accepting. Affirming. This is the kind of love that allows the Lord to work out salvation and complete the transforming power offered through Jesus Christ. Where are the beloveds? The Love of God is unconditional. It loves with powerful passion even when it is not wanted or reciprocated. The Perfection of God meets us in our imperfection and loves us just the same. I don’t think we get that. If we did – people would flock to our services to encounter such love – no pun intended.

I Peter 2:25 (NLT) Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

The example of Jesus Christ is to be a guardian of souls. Our Shepherd is the Guardian of our souls. Guardian means defender, protector and keeper. The one who looks after and is responsible for someone. My mission in life must be to seek the sheep and CARRY them home. It doesn’t say that when he found the sheep that he beat it severely, reprimanded it harshly, or any other form of punishment. It says, “and when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.” He did not wait for the sheep to come to him, but the true shepherd searches for the sheep. He pursues the one that is lost. Religion will only separate and divide unless it becomes about relationship. I tried to change a thousand times going to church and following everyone’s instructions. Yet I still wandered into the wilderness of life, I made countless mistakes. I let God down and failed Him faithfully. When I came back to the Lord, He didn’t berate me. In fact, He wooed me. He loved me. He filled me with more love and grace than I ever thought possible. When I fell in love with Jesus – all the hypocrites and haters didn’t matter anymore. I found love. Unconditional and unfathomable love. It is from that I have learned to love others without expectation. I find that I gravitate toward black sheep and embrace them because I was once lost and now I am found.

My heart is heavy today. I am sad that my brother has passed. I believe that Jesus mercifully came and set him free. I grieve the relationship that could have been and never will be. I am pressed to consider my love for others today. Do I look for the lost sheep as I do the little black sheep each day? Do I show unconditional love to those who are wandering? When they do come to church – are they met with celebration or more condemnation? God don’t let that be me. Fill my heart with the love and compassion that you have for each us. The kind of love and commitment that leaves the ninety-nine to pursue the one. Lord, let my response be rejoicing as I carry them home. Forgive me Jesus for the forgotten ones. Those who I turned a blind eye to or just walked around. All the times that I judged someone for not living up to my convictions or pursuing them with anything but unconditional love. Teach me Holy Spirit to be a guardian of souls. To rejoice over the sinner more than the saints. Be my example Lord for you are the Good Shepherd.

John 10:9-11 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

Integrity is Transparent

Integrity is Transparent

Proverbs 10:9 (NLT) People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.

I started blogging about my time with Jesus almost a decade ago. Every single day without fail in every possible situation you can imagine, I would lug my laptop along and make it the very first thing I did every single day. You might even say that I did it religiously. The Lord laid this task on my heart, but it took many years to understand the value and worth of such encounters. I guess sharing it with others became my accountability. Anyway, a few years back I realized it had become a duty rather than a desire. This weekend, my sister-in-law came to meet our new grandbaby. I didn’t hide away to write this weekend. Today sitting in the quiet of the morning, the Lord and I talking about the day, I started to think about how it has changed over the years.

Integrity is adherence to moral or ethical principles. It means soundness of character. It is honesty. Integrity also represents being whole, entire and undiminished. It is a sound, unimpaired, and perfect condition. Clearly I cannot walk in integrity without the grace of God slathered over my life. Yet, in our pursuit of God sometimes we lose passion and it becomes a procedure. Religion is set forth with doctrines filled with rules and regulations. Religion is ineffective without a relationship with Christ who completes us. Sometimes, we must evaluate our life for authenticity. The only way to fully receive all that Jesus provided on the Cross and represents in His Emergence from the grave is to understand that our integrity is found in Him. Our sense of rightness has absolutely nothing to do with our ability to change our life but rather to live in the fullness of His Grace that makes us righteous and in a right standing relationship with God the Father.

2 Samuel 22:26-29 (NLT) To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them. O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness.

Reading in I Kings 19 today, Elijah was fleeing the threat of Jezebel. He is in the wilderness ready to die. Seems crazy since he just experienced great victory killing the prophets of Baal. How is this possible? Why would he run after such a miraculous experience? Elijah was human. He was a man. The confidence of his life was God but the man still lived inside of him. He prayed that night to die. Elijah lived a life of integrity. He didn’t come to the Lord boasting in pride of his accomplishments but dissolved before God in his weakness. When he woke up the next morning, an angel of the Lord provided a meal for him in the wilderness. The Lord desires communion with us. He wants to live with us in an abiding relationship. This comes at the price of self. Integrity found in Christ is not a change of habit or even strength of self. It is to abandon our heart and mind to the Lord. To live a life of authentic transparency that does not put on a front or façade of inner fortitude or supremacy. The showing of faithfulness, purity, and integrity is exhibited in our humility before the Lord.

After having breakfast with the Lord, Elijah was strengthened enough to travel 40 days and nights to Mount Sinai. God would come to the mountain and speak with his servant. Some days this life of faith just doesn’t make sense. If we were honest, we would admit that there are seasons that walking by faith feels like going through the motions. I wonder if we examined our life with the Lord for integrity what we would find. Everything I do in Jesus Name must be from a heart of love and devotion not randomness but intentional living and breathing in our relationship with Him.

Proverbs 2:6-8 (NLT) For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.

Imagine the potential of our life if we could be completely honest with others. To live and walk in integrity including the fullness of Jesus Christ. The only way that God can work in us is when we become transparent before Him which in turn creates transparency with others. I am of no use to others if I create a façade of perfection or elevate my persona to some unattainable level. The people who need Jesus most (all of us) respond to integrity and truth because it is trustworthy. The Lord is faithful. I fall short. The Lord is perfect. I am imperfect. The Lord never changes. I am in a state of constant change and transformation. He is good. I try to be. God doesn’t need you to be anything other than the broken mess you are. He desires you! He wants you! He loves you with all of His Heart! If you don’t relay that to others, how will they ever know?

Yesterday, I got up and visited with family. Spent the day shopping with the girls and loving on my grandbaby. I didn’t write. I am not sorry. I never want my relationship with Jesus Christ to become habitual. To live a religious life leads others to darkness never life. Can we come to the Lord today with an open heart and mind? Whatever you need – He has for you. Whatever needs to change – He will do it. Can we just decide to love Him and be transparent vessels of Light? When we do – He will carry us through wilderness to the mountaintop time and time again! The city on the hill is the one with the brightest light!

Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.