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.”

 

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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.

Less than Perfect

Less than Perfect

Matthew 5:48 (NIV) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Mom guilt. I struggle with it from time to time. I feel like my kids deserve more of time. Wife guilt. I want to be a good wife. To meet all my spouse’s expectation and earn a good reputation at the gate as the Proverbs 31 woman. Ministry guilt. Why am I struggling to begin this new call on my life? I usually charge in headfirst without a care or fear of failure. What about all those times when I feel insignificant? Unqualified? Undeserving? Am I alone? Do you struggle with imperfection? Do you wonder why your life or ability to perform doesn’t seem to make the cut?

I am not perfect. In fact, so far from it I cannot even perceive it. Yet God’s Word says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How is that even possible? Religious doctrine will give you an out. A carefully constructed list of do’s and don’ts based on the expectation of others who are probably not doing any of the listed items either. My imperfection and flawed character is not a hopeless situation but an opportunity for God to do something miraculous. We must decide what perfection looks like in the eyes of the Father in order to properly examine our own heart and mind for evidence it exists.

Matthew 5:48 (AMP) You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Amplified Bible gives a brief description of what it might mean to “be perfect”. To grow into spiritual maturity both in mind and character while actively integrating godly values into your daily life. God doesn’t have a long list of character traits. The Word of God is careful instruction with a waiver called grace that allows us to be imperfect. We get so caught up sometimes in all the “things” Christians aren’t supposed to do, saying everything Christians are supposed to say, and acting like saved folk should that we miss the real life-changing endeavor that molds and shapes our character to be just like our Father in Heaven.

Ephesians 5:1 (AMP) Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]…

To be perfect is to imitate God. To be like Him. Oh no big deal! I thought it would be much more difficult than being like God…(sarcasm intended). It seems impossible to do so primarily because man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks inside the heart. (I Samuel 16:7) He sees the contents of a man’s heart and decides that’s the one for me. Think of all the failures in the Bible who went on to be mighty men and women of God. Imperfect in their choices, rebellious in their decisions, reckless in their ways, yet in the end God molded and shaped their character into exactly who He created each one to be so they would take their place in history for our benefit.

God is love. “The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.]” I John 4:8 God has given us perfect love. His Intent is to love us so His Mercy meets us with each coming day. (Lamentations 3:22-24) His Love would not stop at my sin, but overflows with grace that is enough to cover it and allow me to live in close fellowship with Him again. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Even in my weakness, I am given His Power. Perfect love casts out all fear. (I John 4:18) The fear that produces doubt and insecurity about the Love that God has for us is dissolved in the Truth that nothing can separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:38-39)

The word “perfect” comes from Teleios which means the end or finished product. The presence of Jesus Christ within us completes us. His Spirit works inside of us to produce a finished product. The perfection that God is after is simple – perfection in God is love.

The emphasis in the command to “be perfect” is not on flawless moral nature but to have an all-inclusive love that seeks the good of all. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God with a purpose that no one else can accomplish. (Psalm 139) He has scripted a plan with a future and hope of good and not evil for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) The secret to that life is to seek Him wholeheartedly. It is more about identifying with the Love of God that will not allow us to love others less that matures us from the inside out.

Colossians 4:12 (AMP) Epaphras, who is one of you and a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. [He is] always striving for you in his prayers, praying with genuine concern, [pleading] that you may [as people of character and courage] stand firm, [spiritually mature] and fully assured in all the will of God.

Epaphras is noted as someone who was “always striving” for others in his prayer life. He prayed with “genuine concern.” He was pleading for those on the brink of giving up or giving in. He was pulling for them rather than pushing them over the edge. He was noted as spiritually mature and absolutely confident in God’s Love, His Word and His Will. I believe that perfection in Jesus Christ is full acceptance of His Love to the degree that it is enough to lavish on others. His Love becomes who we are.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (I Corinthians 13:11) Is there a reason this scripture is in the “love” chapter of the Bible by chance? God is love. His Divine Character manifested and magnified in us is His All-Consuming Passion for us. His Love is endless and unconditional. Perhaps, our inability to be perfect is to keep us in a place of humility. Looking for love and giving love off as a beacon. Brokenness makes room for togetherness. It binds people together. When all the personal agendas are removed, personal interests are set aside, and people start loving people – it makes beauty from ashes.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

What if the only way to achieve perfection is to become one? What if completion is only possible by incorporating the members of the Body of Christ into one functioning, living, breathing unit rather than the splintered sections it has become? What if to be perfect means loving each and striving for one another?

Love is the constant factor. It is the standard of living that believers are called to. Not just any kind of love, but a love so deep and abiding that it is needed to breathe. God’s Love infiltrates every dark place in us producing light glorious light. The more we accept God’s Love for us – the more we have to draw from. God loves you. He loves me. I am insignificant or small in His Eyes – but complete lacking no good thing. The more confident I become in God’s Love for me the more consistent I will be in loving others. His Love changes us from the inside out. Faith grows fruit that gives us an offering for others contradictory to the “what’s-in-it-for-me” world that we live in. My war against the flesh begins to take a turn when love dictates my life and not my emotions or feelings. God lives in me. The enemy wants me to believe that I am nothing, insignificant, unimportant and most of all unloved. It is simply not true. God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son. There is no greater love than to lay one’s life down. Jesus did that for me. His Love is for me and it will never let me down. I may be less than perfect but the Love of God is working to perfect me day by day so I will rest in His Promise that He will perfect all that concerns me (Psalm 138:8) starting with love. If perfection in God is defined by love, I have the opportunity in each moment with each encounter to be made perfect when I choose love.

I love my family. My husband, my children and even my grandchild yet to be born. Maybe I am a more perfect wife and mother than I thought. Not because I do not make mistakes but because the presiding factor in these relationships is true love. I would most certainly lay down my life for any of them – in a heartbeat. I have friends who I love, too. What if I am evaluating my worth by the wrong standard? Jesus thought I was to die for. God thought I was worth being so He created me. I am imperfectly perfect in the parameters of God’s Love.

I Corinthians 13:3 (NIV) If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

New Gate

New Gate

Psalm 84:10-11 (NLT) A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

Have you ever heard the expression “like a cow looking at a new gate”? You know the look of bewilderment, perplexity, uncertainty or even just a dazed and confused expression. The same look when you get by asking our kids to clean their room for the umpteenth time like it is a new rule in your house. I wonder if that is how the Lord feels when the gateway of opportunity swings wide yet our faith cannot seem to muster the first step because the next one is not clearly visible. Who will dare to enter the open gate? Who will seize the day? Who will walk in the new thing set before them with the same bold confidence of the past things that God has done? His Faithfulness is not in question. The Lord offers us new opportunities to love, trust, obey and be blessed by Him.

I wonder what “new thing” God is doing in your life today. Is it similar to mine? Is it the same gate I have passed through before, am coming to now or will navigate in the future? Each day is a new opportunity in the life of every believer. His Mercy meets us and His Unfailing Love and Goodness continues its pursuit of the believer. His Potential, Purpose and Promises are all lined up ready to go. Can you see them? Do you feel them? Can you reach out and grab hold of them? Yeah, me either. Dreams and visions fill my head. Thoughts form and circle that there must be more than this but how do we live behind the mediocre and mundane to explore miracles. How do I stop being ordinary to embrace extraordinary? Do I really want to settle for less than God’s Best or select substitutions to cut corners and make time speed by? The answer is “no”… I want all that God has for me. I desire that which Jesus died for me to have coming back to life on the third day to hand it to me. Finally, His Spirit lives in me. The driving force and motivator of more faith and the one who builds confident hope within. There is more to life than this and it is inside the new gate.

Genesis 28:16-18 (NLT) Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it.

What a fine mess? Family drama and dysfunction at its best. None of us would know what that is all about now would we… Jacob is fleeing the wrath of Esau. He stole his birthright out from under him and take the blessing of the first son as well. In fear his mother arranged for him to give live with his uncle, Laban. So Jacob left his home. As he laid down his head that night, I wondered if he felt a twinge of regret mixed with loneliness. Was the blessing that didn’t belong to him worth it? Did he feel sadness that he was now separated from his family? While he was sleeping, Jacob had a dream. He saw the heavens open and a stairway connecting heaven and earth. Angels were traveling up and down the stairs. At the top of the threshold was the Lord who told Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

What happens when the access point of opportunity to inherit the blessings of God do not look like what we thought they should or do not come the way we decided they would? What happens when things get worse before they get better? What happens when our expectation is not immediately met but predestined to take time, endurance and patience? What about those times? God opens new opportunities to us each day. His Promise to work every detail for our good means that in every situation a miracle can happen and His Word still will come to pass even when the gate marked “change” is not what we wanted or has left us broken in the field.

John 10:1-4 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.”

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6) There are no shortcuts when it comes to our relationship with God the Father. No one is righteous – not a single person. It is only through Jesus Christ, we are made right with God the Father. Who the Son sets free is free to choose the gates entered and bypassed in life. Righteousness does not always mean that people will walk in the blessings and favor of God. It is a personal choice to pursue the Lord and walk in His Ways. By faith, new gates are crossed over and new life achieved.

Psalm 24:3-8 (NLT) Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob. Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle.

It is from this place of underserved and unearned grace that God’s Glory is on the verge of pouring over from Heaven into our life. We have the opportunity to walk in the Favor of God but our willingness is up to each of us. Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Submitting one’s life and surrendering to God’s Way begins in His Word. The Word of God is who Jesus is. It is how we know Him and identify with Him in our life. True repentance begins the climb to a higher standard of living yet a lowering of our heart to humble ourselves before the Lord. All relationships take effort. It is work to maintain a good one. Maybe it’s not the gate you find perplexing but the mountain on the other side.

Jacob was all about acquisition, but what was coming was acquiescence. God is all about establishing a strong, solid relationship with His Beloved. (That’s us!) He desires us more than anything yet too often we desire everything else but God. Pouring our life out for our families, jobs, causes, and hobbies – there is nothing left for the Lord and very little energy or interest in what lies beyond the new gate. Can I just get some rest? Take a nap? Steal away a few hours for some “me-time”? Jacob saw heaven open before him and ministering angels going back and forth from heaven to earth. Things didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but when presented with the new gate – Jacob entered in. “Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” (Genesis 28:20-22) When adversity came Esau rebelled, but Jacob chose obedience.

Isaiah 26:1-4 (NLT) In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

No matter what lies in the past, peace is always our future in the Lord. Our city (His Kingdom) is strong! We are surrounded by God’s Salvation and filled with His Spirit including resurrection life and power accessed by faith in God. The righteous ALWAYS have access to the Kingdom. It is never restricted or limited. We are made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ that leads to true repentance. Turning from our old life, and pursuing new life. Opportunities are presented to us each day. His Word is filled with instructions to claim promise after promise and experience blessing after blessing. There is no limitation in the Lord. In fact, He meets and exceeds all expectation. We must only trust Him to boldly and confidently pass through the passages of life with our eyes on the Gate and willingness to enter in. Trust the Lord always and He presents those who do with perfect peace. The same God who gave Jacob peace and promise in a dark pasture on a lonely night is ready to do the exact same thing for you and me.

Psalm 118:19-21 (NLT) Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the Lord. These gates lead to the presence of the Lord, and the godly enter there. I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!

New challenges. New trials. New opportunities. In all of life’s changes, God is with you. He gives us victory through His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter what lies in the next season just a step over the threshold of a brand new day – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is with you in your past, with you in the present and with you in the future. The Lord feels the same about you whether yesterday you lived in victory or experienced the agony of defeat. All sin is covered. All mistakes potential messages. Every test may be your testimony. You overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. His Name is Jesus. He is the Gate. You can enter in knowing He loves you. He will care for you. He will make you victorious no matter how impossible it seems so enter His Gates with thanksgiving and praise!

Psalm 100:3-5 (NLT) Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

 

 

Fan Your Flame

Fan Your Flame

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

“You cannot put out a fire that burns on the inside.” (Bethel Worship) I am reminded today of the spiritual gift that God has given me. I have been challenged in the last few days to test the temperature of the water boiling into passion for Christ. Have I become tepid? Is the river of life flowing inside of me lukewarm? God has not given me a spirit of fear or timidity – but have I taken it anyway? He is given me power overflowing from amazing and abundant grace – am I doused in it? Is love my passionate motivation in all things? I have self-discipline. It is produced by the Holy Spirit who tends the fire that burns within me. The passionate pursuit of Christ that began with just a spark of faith turned into confident hope.

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.

I am back at the furnace of the three Hebrew boys. I can feel the flame of refinement. The purification process designed to produce gold in our life. The heat that burns away all impurity to reveal the faith that is hidden within. I wonder if that is not the purpose of our life. To go through the same trials, troubles, and tragedies or to face the same temptations (rise or fall) that will demonstrate the Glory of God to all who are a witness. The church has painted a pretty picture. Religion erases the need for grace to give way to a façade of perfection not yet manifested until the return of Christ. We hide our broken hearts. Shield are scraped knees. Hide our dirty hands. When what the world really needs to see is a relationship so authentic that nothing can separate us. The Light of the Word was not lit up hiding in an upper room – but rather on a Cross for all the world to see in His Suffering. A city on a hilltop must be a reference to us. Given credibility in the Kingdom by our witness, but not to be tucked away in time. We are the reflection of His Love in its bloody, messy form. It may not be pretty but it’s the thing that we hold on to.

It’s time to fan the flame of His Spirit invested in us. To blow fresh wind on the passion growing dim within us. See when the fire is within us – the stormy winds cannot put it out. The waves of conflict or controversy will not overtake it. Trials will only make it hotter. Fearless faith rises from the ashes of burned pride as God makes beauty from them just as He promised. Our confidence becomes our conviction. Impossibilities will be the fields where faith is planted confidently and boldly knowing miracles will come up through the fertile soil.

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

The holy inhabitation of the Spirit of the Living God within us is the opportunity to experience true intimacy with Him. Jesus lives in us. Successful relationships thrive on intimacy. Intimacy is often considered in a physical sense but truly it is in the most spiritual sense that it is accomplished. Physical and material things change in life for they are in a constant and perpetual state of decay. Our body is born dying. Of course, we may try to maintain our appearance but truthfully the only advantage given to us is believers is new life that begins in our soul. As our soul prospers, so does our life externally. Intimacy is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship. It is the product of love and should encapsulate all of its characteristics. (I Corinthians 13) Those engaged in an intimate relationship know the other by close association with deep understanding and detailed knowledge of the other person. Intimacy requires openness by both individuals. It is an act of engagement that speaks, listens, knows and understands far deeper than words. Our intimacy with Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to experience a passionate love so perfect it burns away every other perception of the word.

Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Is my love and commitment to Christ born of an intimate relationship filled with passion possessing the brightest kind of flame? It was the desire of Jesus to love us and live in complete intimacy with us that provoked Him to exhibit “love as strong as death” and “jealousy as enduring as the grave”. Nothing can separate us from God’s Love now. We are more than conquerors and confident overcomers in Christ. If believers truly believed that then there would be nothing that would keep us from the fire. We would jump in feet first in hopes to grow deeper in love with Christ.

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.

For everyone will be tested with fire. (Mark 9:49) What if your present trial is actually an invitation to greater intimacy with the Lord? Could it be that He is trying to demonstrate His Love for you yet again with an outcome that is miraculous? Fiery trials will happen according to the Lord. We should be glad because it is through these incidents that we become partners with Christ. It is in His Suffering that our joy is made complete and dispensed in our life through passionate and fearless faith that will not back down from the fight or the fire but valiantly and victoriously fights for love. Are you passionate about your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you investing in your partnership with the Lord? Fan your flame. Stir the fire deep within. Let your light shine. You will not be consumed but fully connected. A flame introduces to a fire becomes one with it making it burn stronger and brighter than ever before. You are part of something bigger than yourself – become one with Jesus. Jesus came to start a fire in us producing a light so bright it burns away darkness all around us. The Light is produced by His Great Love. How bright is your light day?

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

Be Moved

 

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John 20:21-23 (NLT) Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Yesterday my daughter came to see me at the office. She had just come from a doctor visit to check the progress of our little grandson growing inside her. The doctor declared him perfect and she had ultrasound pictures to prove it. She had an ultrasound about two weeks ago and already there are so many changes in his little appearance as he grows into the little personal with a big personality that the Lord has planned him to be. Each image more fascinating than the next as the image of a baby become clear from within the hidden place of her womb. I am fascinated, enthralled and totally in love. Whenever she has an ultrasound, this little man already shows his complete displeasure. Sonographers laugh at his immediate attempts to escape their probing. He arches his back and kicks his legs. Twisting, turning and flipping over to avoid the unwanted attention. At first, it could have been a fluke but after three attempts with the same reaction I am convinced this guy has a strong will tucked in the fast beating heart. Still a bit riled from the intrusion, my daughter laid my hand on her stomach and he kicked me. I melted. Pressing a little harder, I could feel him moving around with the occasional kick. My heart was moved. It swelled and the capacity to love became even greater in that moment for a person who I cannot even hold yet.

I remember being pregnant with my own children. Feeling flutters give way to movement then resounding kicks. All the potential, possibility and promise of a new little one to love, nurture and care for. This morning as I was thinking about our little grandbaby, I was touched in the heart by the Holy Spirit. The One who lives within me given to me by Jesus as a precious and useful gift to assist in my pursuit of Him in a dark and dying world. When Jesus came to see the disciples after his death and resurrection, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” There is power in the Spirit that Jesus gave us. He is living, breathing and moving within us. What is our response when He moves? Do we respond? Do we pay attention? Does our heart leap inside our chest? I have felt the movement of other children and grandchildren inside of new mothers. But now it is different, because this grandbaby is mine and lives inside my own child. I wonder what would happen if we perceived the Holy Spirit as our own rather than watching Him move in others?

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.

Repentance and turning to the Lord including baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ according to grace makes one eligible to receive the Holy Spirit. It is a gift. It is given to us as believers whether we want it or not. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman who will not force himself on anyone but eagerly waits for acceptance to activate God’s Power including the resurrection power that brought Jesus from the grave in our ordinary life. He is the guarantor of every promise that God has made to us. Jesus gave us His Word that He would never leave us or forsake us and the Holy Spirit is evidence of the reality of His Promise to us. What is our response? Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His Father’s Love. Do we invite His Spirit to accompany us through our day, instruct us in our actions, soften our attitude, give us direction, listen to His Urgings, and move when He nudges us?

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

Conviction is a power revelation of a positive change. Pride gives it a negative connotation. The things that bring sorrow to God’s Spirit are anything contradictory to His Love. The divine nature of God is love. He demonstrates that with His Mercy, Grace, Compassion, Kindness and Goodness that He lavishes on us. The woman at the well was given insight to the powerful combination of worship that would come – true worshippers would do so in Spirit and in Truth. The Holy Spirit is a facilitator of worship in us. He gives us the words, groanings and utterances when we do not have the words to say. In times of great pain, pressure, or persecution – the Holy Spirit expresses our heart, mind and need to the Father even in something as simple as an “oh” granted in a place of prayer and surrender before the Lord. He has the power to change our vocabulary by sifting through the contents of our heart and applying the Word to it. Filling our heart and mind with the love of God that produces all the valuable produce promised in Galatians 5:22-23. In every way, the Holy Spirit is out to benefit our life. I am not sure why Christians would shun or limit the Spirit of God when His Presence in our life offers such powerful potential and the fulfillment of Christ.

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

When Jesus died on the Cross, he shouted and released His Spirit – the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 27:50) It was the Holy Spirit who tore the veil in the Temple from top to bottom. The earth shook as an earthquake erupted at the Glory and Power of God poured out that day. Immediately – resurrection power began to bring the dead to life. His Spirit now poured out would soon find its way to His People filling them with the grace provided by His Love and empowering them with it. We are those people. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. I can now fully express the love of God because I have experienced it intimately. When I feel the Spirit of God move within me, I recognize Him. I know who He is. I know what comes next is important and to pay attention. If  you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and truly repented – you have been given the Holy Spirit. Do you feel Him inside of you? Do you know when He is moving, urging or nudging you to better things?

I encourage you today to acknowledge God’s Spirit. Thank the Lord for investing His Spirit full of life and power in you. The Holy Spirit was sent specifically to help you. Let Him do His Job. He is a wonderful friend, teacher, guide and companion. He wants God’s Best for you and does everything possible to make it come to pass. He is intimacy with Christ. He identifies you as a Child of the Living God with full benefits. Utilize them. God promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) His Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise. Take advantage of God’s Kindness by inviting the Spirit to have His Way in you today!

God’s Spirit is alive in you. His Presence in the life of a believer is non-negotiable. Those who belong to Christ have His Spirit. The two must become one. I wonder what might happen if our expectancy for His Spirit became as elevated as let’s say my enthusiasm and desire to feel my grandchild moving inside his mom. What would happen if we responded to His Move with the same level of attentiveness and excitement? We must be moved by the Spirit of God to reach fulfillment. He gives life and power to the believer. He is a Gift from God!

John 14:26-27 (Message) “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

Never Too Far

Never Too Far

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Today I will drive a little over four hours to get on an airplane. The plane will take off and fly about another three hours to Boston, Massachusetts. At the airport, our beautiful daughter and son-in-law will pick me up to drive another hour or so to New Hampshire arriving at their home. Thankfully this will probably be my last trip to visit her as she and her husband will soon turnaround and drive 21 hours or more back to our hometown. It seems like a long journey will all the driving and flying today but it really doesn’t seem like much to me. The thought of spending the next few days with her makes it all worth it. As I contemplated the time and distance which may seem like a crazy investment for a long weekend, I began to think about the Father’s Love. That’s really what is making me embark on this journey. Other than these two kids and the little one on the way, there is nothing that New England has that would make me want to sacrifice time and money to seek out.

This beautiful prayer of the apostle, Paul, reminds me today that God’s Love for me goes the distance. He has used every bit of His Glorious and Unlimited Resources not even withholding His Own Son to show His Love for me. He has pursued me with unconditional love, amazing grace and overwhelming goodness for more than fifty years whether I was aware of it or not. As a parent, it is easy to feel taken for granted sometimes. Imagine how our Father must feel when His Beloved Children wander off, rebel, settle for lesser things or fall for the enemy’s lies. His Grace empowers us to know the power of His Love and live in it each day. Though it feels as though we are drifting in busyness, trials or even weariness, Christ in us working through us to convince us according to His Spirit that He loves us. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in us that nourish our soul and strengthen our bond with Jesus. The ultimate goal is that the Lord can convince us of the vastness of His Love. To know and understand the width, length, height and depth of His Love and Affection for us. To experience such love exceeds all understanding. To know such love transcends time, trouble, and even tragedy. The Father is going the distance to show His Love for us.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT) Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

As I prepare for my trek to visit our daughter, I am wonderfully aware of God’s Unfailing Love today. It pursues us. His Goodness is always within arm’s reach just a whisper away. The Lord lives in us because He desires intimacy with us. Romans 5:7-9 tells me that while I was still a sinner that Christ died for me so we could become one again. There is no condemnation in Christ. (Romans 8:1) When I don’t get it right or fail due to human weakness, His Grace is ALWAYS enough to cover the distance I have created. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Maybe, just maybe, the distance between us and our Heavenly Father can be foreclosed if we would simple turnaround to find Him right there behind us. God’s Love and Goodness is not based on my ability to perform but complete in the performance of Christ which provided the grace I needed to receive it. Nothing more and nothing less. The Father loves you. He loves me. Just like the dad of the prodigal son, he waits and watches for our return. He wants to embrace us. Fully restore us. Spend time with us. Do life with us. He is a Good Father. There is no distance too far that the Cross cannot reach. You will never be too far from Him for God is always closing the distance with His Mercy. It is new every morning as an invitation to those who will respond.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT) “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

 

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.

Set A Guard

broken-gate

Psalm 141:2-3 (NKJV) Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.

If only the Holy Spirit had a hand to carefully yet firmly put over my mouth day in and day out. To keep me from releasing commands into the atmosphere. Oh the idle words that never need to be spoken. Words hold power. Life and death is in the tongue. It is the most difficult to restrain. Caught in the crosshairs of our mind, will and emotions as our heart tries to edit each one spoken before it is released. Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the door to my lips.

James 3:4-6 (NKJV) Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

Everyone has words that they wish they could take back. Tiny sparks released into a dry atmosphere if withheld would have stopped mass destruction. The tongue is such a small part of our body yet the hardest to control. It is important that our tongue remains under our strict control. Each world carefully weighed and contemplated compared to Christ. We must speak His Word. Say what He said. Otherwise, there is a real danger of destroying people or causing them to turn away rather than embrace the Love of God evident in His Word. His Word is sweeter than honey. It is desirable. It is good for you. Communication is for edification. Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the door to my lips.

Proverbs 18:20-21 (NKJV) A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; from the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

The fruit of our mouth feeds our mind, will and emotions. The words that flow from our lips are evident of the abundance of our heart. Our heart must agree with our words and our words should be in alignment with the meditation of our heart. The things spoken in private should be our declaration in public. We must feed our heart and mind good things in order to produce good fruit. The Word of God nourishes our mind. It feeds our thoughts. It produces the kind of speech and communication that God desires of His People. The power of death and life are given to me as Christ lives in me. I bind heaven and earth with the words that I speak and if not carefully chosen they can have a dire effect. Therefore…Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the door to my lips.

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

It is my personal responsibility to filter the contents of my speech. It is my soulful duty to control my tongue. I will be held accountable for every single word released from my person. (Matthew 12:36) The words that come flowing out are for my good or can be to my detriment. The Word of God is clear. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth. Lord, forgive me for all the times that rotten fruit came flowing out. People are people. They are just as imperfect as I am. Father forgive them and please Lord forgive me for all my faults and failures. Make me conscious of the words that I speak right down to those I say to myself when no one else is listening. You are always listening. My words are for edification of others and to impart grace. My tongue is not a weapon of mass destruction. It should be used to build others up not tear them down. It should always give freely grace, love, mercy and kindness as a reflection of the same that I have received from you. Lord and on those days when I have nothing nice to say, let me take the advice of my elders who told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all.” Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the door to my lips.

Isaiah 6:5-8 (NKJV) So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

God has a plan and purpose for our life. One written from the beginning that began with our birth. It is a good one with a future and hope. I wonder how many times it is hindered by unfiltered words and unworthy mandates released in our life fortified by pride or driven by bitterness. His Grace is enough even to cover all the idle, careless or harmful words released each day. It is up to me to apply grace to the words that I speak. Lord, I am undone. I am a woman with unclean lips. I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts, and the King of Glory. Lord, I ask you to cleanse my lips today. Lord, forgive me for idle or angry words released carelessly around me. I long to fulfill your purpose for my life. It is not dependent on other people. It is solely according to living my life in alignment with you, Jesus. My mouth is for your praise and glory. Remind me of that today. Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the door to my lips. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Psalm 71:8 (NKJV) Let my mouth be filled with Your praise and with Your Glory all the day.

 

Highly Favored

highly favored

Luke 1:28-30 (NIV) The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.

You are blessed and highly favored. From the beginning of your life to the last day, your life has been handwritten by the Lord with a wonderful plan. The culmination of which is a future and hope far exceeding the temporary circumstances or conditions surrounding you today. When the angel came to Mary, she was a young girl engaged to her betrothed preparing for marriage. She was a good girl. When the angel came to her it was with the words, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you!” He went on to proclaim her “blessed among women.” She feared the awesome appearance of the angel before her but that would not be the end. It was only the beginning.

For just a moment, let’s talk about some of God’s Favored Ones. Those who He proclaimed favor over in their lifetime. Abel who was murdered by his brother, Cain. Noah, who singlehandedly built an ark and rebuilt from scratch after enduring the flood. Jacob who was tricked and taken advantage of by Laban. Joseph thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and completely forgotten. Moses risked life and limb to lead God’s People out of captivity and died never reaching the Promised Land. Hannah prayed for God’s Favor in the form of a son who upon weaning would be given back to serve in the House of God. David had to kill a giant. Daniel was cast into a lion’s den not to mention his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who had to walk through fire when they would not bow down. Esther was enslaved as a virgin given to the king. Just to name a few…and what about Jesus favored by God, His Only Son, nailed to a Cross for our sin. All considered favored by God and there are more. I am favored by the Lord. Living in favor is not the end to my trials or temptations but the power by which to overcome them all in Jesus Christ.

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.

What is favor? How does it work? Favor is something granted out of goodwill rather than justice. It is to be given something better than that which is deserved. It is the excessive and unfair partiality of God and His Preferential Treatment given to humanity despite their sinful condition. Grace makes favor possible in our life. Grace alone is the conduit to God’s Favor. Faith in God is to believe grace is possible outside of human ability. To accept the Gift of God given by His Son, Jesus and live according to His Word (Jesus is the Word who came in the flesh).

The Lord withholds no good thing from those whose walk is blameless. Now, you and I both know that we need God’s Mercy every morning and grace all day long just to make it through. Our salvation is assured through faith alone because if were based on our obedience and willingness – we would all be doomed. The Lord God is our sun and shield. He bestows favor and honor to us. Back to young Mary, she could not possibly know the life laid before her as the mother of Jesus. God knew that no matter what Mary would love and trust Him. All the way to the Cross watching her son be brutalized and murdered – God already knew the substance of her human heart. She was blessed and highly favored but that did not exempt her from the test called endurance.

Proverbs 16:15 (NIV) When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

In the New King James Version, this verse says, “His Favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.” Let’s talk about that for just a moment. We live in a world marked by immediate gratification. We want it all right now. Unwilling to wait for anything and everything this thing called endurance is a challenge. The Promise of God is not yet evident in our life but His Favor is assured. What if the problem is the latter day rain is coming in the form of a storm cloud over our life, but unwilling to wait for the harvest – we keep leaving the field? What if God’s Favor is shining upon you but you are not willing to wait and watch for it? What if the problem is not God or His Word but our inability to be inconvenienced, uncomfortable or out of control? God has made us blessed and highly favored. His Word cannot and will not return to Him void. He has already given us every spiritual blessing with the promise that He will make good in every detail of our life. We must only believe. The Favor of God belongs to me. It belongs to you. It comes with a process. The process of endurance which means that when the going gets tough – the favored stick to God’s Word, watching and waiting for Him to come. The Lord will not pass you by.

Psalm 30:6-7 (NIV) When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

“Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21-23) What if the truth of the matter is you and I could not handle the Glory of God dispensed in our life right now? What if God is preparing you for a blessing you cannot contain but you keep leaving the process for man’s favor, personal promotion and lesser things? What if God is preparing you to be the next great man or woman of faith but you don’t trust and believe enough to receive it?

Do not make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. This is probably some of the best advice that I have ever been given. It was by a pastor. The choices of our everyday life should be as God’s Children not the sons and daughters of man. To believe that He is working in us and through us just as He promised. To believe in His Blessing. To respond to the call of “highly favored.” What if God is moving and shaking up your surroundings so that you will look to Him? Our life is changed by the Presence of God in it. To step “in Christ” in every area and facet of living. To be unmoved and unaffected by the daily changes that are the molding and shaping of our heart and remodeling of our life to be filled with His Glory. You are blessed. You are highly favored. What if God is just making room for it today? How can I be more than a conqueror when I run from every battle? How can I live from victory to victory when I don’t believe I win? How can I experience God’s Favor when I cannot believe that His Grace is enough? Whatever the thing challenging your acceptance of God’s Favor today – let it go. You are a Child of God. You are blessed. You are highly favored. I see a cloud. It is filled with latter day rain. It will burst over those who are ready and waiting for His Glory to come.

Psalm 5:11-12 (NIV) But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 30:4-5 (NIV) Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 90:17 (NIV) 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.