In Our Midst

In Our Midst.jpg

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

This has been a favorite passage for a long time. When our oldest son was overseas, I imagined him lying in his bed in the middle of a war-torn country surrounded by enemies who wanted to harm him. What was he thinking? Did he feel alone? Was he every fearful? What had he seen? Just out of high school, barely entering adulthood and seeing things no one should ever encounter. I would pray this verse over him. I asked the Lord to let His Presence be so thick that he could feel Him tangibly in the sandy cot where he rested. Isolation and loneliness are terrible feelings. To feel abandoned or unloved maybe even forgotten causes a person to feel small, insignificant and insecure. You are far from that today my friend. The Lord YOUR GOD is in your midst. Whether choosing to identify Him as God or even YOUR God doesn’t change His Love and desire for you. He is still offering new mercy each morning. The Lord pursues us with unfailing love and goodness that belongs to us exclusively. He is mighty to save and willing to do so on a moment’s notice. He rejoices over you with gladness as a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one who is lost. He celebrates each return as the father embraces the prodigal son. He longs to quiet you with perfect peace and complete confidence in the hope that is offered. God wants you to know that you are His Child and He loves you. It doesn’t even matter if you reject Him – His Love for you and me is strong and steadfast to the very end. He is singing over you today. Can you hear Him? It is a song of love, adoration, grace, forgiveness, healing and deliverance! He is for you never against you. What might happen if for but a moment one glorious second one might witness the Presence of the Living God in our midst and know His Intentions? It would be life changing.

In Genesis 3, God knew Adam and Eve had made a terrible mistake. He knew that sin had been introduced yet still in the “cool of the day”, the Lord God came to them. He wasn’t setting them up for failure but saving them from eternal damnation. How so? If Adam or Eve had taken from the Tree of Life in their sinful condition, they would never have experienced deliverance and lived a tortured existence forever without any possible salvation. In Exodus 25, God again invites people to dwell in His Midst. God loves you. He loves me. Nothing we can ever do will ever separate us from the Love of God. It is through Jesus Christ that we can dwell in His Presence each day and live in His Midst.

Joel 2:26-28 (ESV) “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

I remember rocking my children as babies and singing over them. Praying for them. Dreaming about them. I also remember as those helpless infants turned into willful teenagers. Challenging times for most parents trying to mold and shape the world changers and history makers of tomorrow. Yet I didn’t stop loving them, providing for them, caring for them in the midst of rebellion. There were times of discipline and heartache that were endured together but my love for them never changed because they did not meet my expectation. I love my kids. I would do anything for my children. How much more God loves us! Not only does God love us but pours out His Spirit on us. The Holy Spirit identifies us as His Children. He guides us and teaches us about the Lord and His Love for us. He also allows us to experience the Presence of God as He dwells within our midst.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego loved God and served Him. God loved them. It did not exempt them from being thrown into a fiery furnace. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked in, there were for people in the fire. God is with us. He never leaves us. He lives in the midst of us. We must only look for Him and He is there.

Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God loves you. He wants to live in the midst of your life. He pursues you each day and provides opportunities to respond to His Promises. It is up to us to desire the Presence of God enough to enter in. Jesus ripped the veil that separated us from God in the Temple with the purpose that through salvation all mankind would have the privilege of living in the Presence of God every day. To dwell with Him. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. It was God’s Plan all along. We enter in through salvation and repentance. As we turn back to Him – He floods our life with His Glory. We are the children of God who He longs for and desires more than anything. We comprise the Kingdom. He doesn’t want gold, riches, or anything else because the Lord owns it all and lends it to us! Won’t you respond to His Calling today? The gentle nudging and urging to come just a little bit closer. He loves you! The Lord is fighting for you. He is your Provider and Protector. You may never know all the benefits and blessings around you if you do not identify His Presence in your midst today. Once you do, you will absolutely be blown away by His Love, Goodness, Grace and Kindness. He is a Good Father who wants to live with you!

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It’s a Setup

It's a Setup 2

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

The blessing of God in our life is a divine setup. God decided to impart every spiritual blessing to us before He created us. Not only that, God the Father also had already purposed to adopt us into His Family before the realization that sin had orphaned us ever came into play. God knew you and me and yet still had already made the decision to love us no matter what the cost. I don’t think that many Christians know and understand just how profound predestination is and what a great factor it plays in life. When God decided that He would make us holy and blameless, He already knew the cost and was willing to pay it. Jesus Christ was always part of God’s Magnificent and Perfect Plan for us because God knew about our sinful nature from the very beginning. You can have the perfect Will of God because our life is a divine setup.

The Perfection of God is not compromised by His Love for imperfect people but rather He has chosen to secure the debt so there is no penalty. He gives us His Grace instead. Therefore, no matter what a depraved wretch I was before I met Jesus Christ and invited Him into my life, I am still made holy and blameless by the Perfect Will of God that He already planned and paid for. Persistence, patience and perseverance are required by us because of our rebellious nature and raging flesh that must be dealt with and put to death on a regular basis. We must learn to let the Lord’s Grace and Mercy cover our imperfection and live in His Perfect Will. It was never possible for you and me to be perfect but rather step into His Righteousness and be perfected by Christ.

Shame and regret attempt to turn our head from the possibilities of God in our life to the past that once kept us from them. Doubt keeps our neck locked in a backward position when God’s Promises whisper “just turn around”. If we believed in the sufficiency of God’s Grace, it would lead us to conclude that He is always good. We are blessed not because of our personal abilities but completely in the fact that God is good and full of grace. He has a plan that will lead to fulfillment of purpose. He is worthy of my praise simply because His Grace is always enough. It is all because of Jesus so there is no performance pressure or assumption that I can or ever will be perfect – but can fully rest on His Plan, Purpose and Promises just the same.

Ephesians 1:7-10 (ESV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ alone fulfillment is possible, outside of Him our attempts to have a fully satisfying life are impossible. Jesus fills the void that sin left behind. Habits can be changed. Discipline achieved. Schedules shifted. New life can be demonstrated in human behavior but it must begin in the heart to become the new person who can have fulfillment and prosperity in God’s Perfect Plan. We must accept His Grace by being covered in His Blood, its messy process. Yet God “lavishes” grace upon us in copious amounts knowing full well that our nature is otherwise corrupt and self-seeking.

Keeping our eye on the prize is beneficial. My daughter, who six months ago had her first child, sent me a picture of an extremely healthy woman who was in excellent shape. She claimed this to be her in a few months. She is dieting and exercising. It takes self-control not to indulge in all the good food that is permissible but not beneficial. She looks at the physique she would like to achieve and it inspires her to make better choices and do the workouts on the plan. It is our nature to desire immediate and even constant gratification but what if we could see past the process to the outcome. Looking at the prize certainly justifies the price. Why do we as believers expect God to just wipe away all the consequences of our past and pave a path to our future without the suffering born of transformation? There must be a death to achieve new life.

Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV)  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, I was taught that God had a perfect will but that sin kept us from it. In other words, each sin committed cost us something from God’s Plan. I am convinced now that is impossible. God prerecorded every single moment of our life before our creation. (Psalm 139) He must have considered every single detail including our sin and shortcomings – otherwise God would be considered delusional. He knew beforehand that every person created would sin. Therefore, His Grace is sufficient in the price fully considered and paid completely. It is by His Grace that I am saved through faith. Faith is the confidence and blessed assurance that I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in advance as an inheritance. It means that though I fell short – Jesus (precious Jesus) filled the gap and voids in my life that once kept me from God’s Perfect Will. Jesus is enough to secure righteousness for me.

Does this mean that sinning will not keep us from God’s Perfect Will? No. The only way to receive the fulfillment of God is to be united with Christ. What relationship will ever survive if taken for granted? If I am unfaithful to my husband, surely he would want to end our marriage…I know that I would. True love doesn’t seek after itself but perfect unity with its Beloved. Christ died because of my sin. He endured awful torture and horrendous pain to see me completely forgiven and fulfilled. To engage in willful sin and rebellious behavior would clearly show that I was only attempting to use Jesus for my own personal interests without any regard for the relationship of righteousness to be formed so there is no salvation without a personal commitment to Christ deeper than the surface.

Psalm 139:15-18 (ESV) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

I have lived more than 50 years now. Long enough to see the Goodness of the Lord in the land of the living as prescribed in Psalm 27. I share this with you because it still blows me away when God works all the details of my life for my good and His Glory. The Lord was with me as I was intricately woven. Intricately woven does not imply a careless conception but rather careful creation with divine attention. He saw my substance. Not who I was but who I might become in Him. The Lord recorded every single day of my life before I ever lived it. God’s Thoughts concerning me are precious. He is always looking to perfect my way so I am living the best possible life because His Plan for me leads to full satisfaction and complete fulfillment. He is a Perfect God who loves the most imperfect people. He predestined you for a prospering life that begins in the innermost part of our soul and works its way out. Not because we are perfect, but simply because He is.

Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV) Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Overflowing Gratitude

Overflowing Gratitude

Colossians 3:15-16 (NIV) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 

I am blessed with a wonderful work environment. It allows me to bring my grandson and even my dog some days to the office. Both can be therapeutic in their own special way. My daughter had some work duties and asked if my grandson could come spend some time with Grammy. My response – absolutely without a moment’s hesitation. Having worked at home when my kids were young, it is easy to adapt to a little helper for the day though he is quite the distraction. After a morning filled with bouncing, playing, lunch and snuggles, naptime offered a respite for me to catch up on some work. When his nap was abruptly interrupted by some unexpected noises in the lobby, he settled in on my chest to sleep. Since my job is essentially a keyboard and monitors, we all settled in quite nicely as quiet calmed the office again.

Deep in thought and contemplating the project, I became aware that my little chunk was completely relaxed draped across me in a deep sleep. Looking down at the top of his head at the hair quickly covering it, I paused at the sight of him. Overwhelmed with thankfulness, I prayed. Thanking God for this precious gift that He has given me overflowed into overtures that quickly spread in my heart as words began to form on my lips. I am truly blessed. Some days I am more focused on the yet to comes rather than those things that have already arrived. Plagued by the problem, my praise somehow silent in the midst of unfailing love and relentless goodness.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The peace of Christ is not manmade. We cannot create an image of perfect peace if it is not that which fills our heart and mind. Like rose-colored glasses, gratitude changes our perception in life when we stop and give thanks simply for what grace has already provided. Life is hard. It is unsettling. But I believe that might just be God’s Mercy not allowing us to settle for less or die not knowing Him. Forever is a long time. Much greater than the here and not including the sum total of our life. It is in that quiet moment holding an imperfect little man who sees so perfect for me that I am acutely aware of God’s Love and perception of me…a sinner and depraved wretch who He loves more than anything and chose to set free. Love sets free in the hope of finding it to be true. Yet the longing of God’s Heart is for us to cling to him as my baby grandchild was holding me. At complete peace and total rest in the arms of His Love in the closest possible proximity covered by His Love.

You were called to peace. Our office has been in a bit of turmoil. Our staff experienced the loss of a member to a new opportunity. The company that shares the space with us the same. People problems can disrupt us and cause us to become focused on the wrong thing sometimes. Life unexpected in many ways can be the unsettling reality that draws us out of the peaceful presence of the Love of God until we feel isolated and alone separated from the Lord and the peace that He offers us. This passage in Colossians can also be found in Ephesians. It is a call to unity in the Body of Christ. To be lovers and encouragers of one another and bind together the church that is the Kingdom of God and Bride of Christ. We must experience the perfect peace of God to ready our heart and mind to share in such an experience. Gratitude is overflowing grace too thankful for what is in our heart that we could ever want or desire anything less than Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NIV) You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

I discovered this passage when our son was in the midst of cancer treatment. His body showing obvious signs of the fight, the doctor had just told us that we were in the realm of hope and needed godly intervention as the disease was quite aggressive. Soon after the conversation, I was talking to him with no response. Looking at his face, he was sleeping. Peacefully sleeping moments after his physician had told him that he was running out of options and had to trust the Lord for healing help. Sleeping just like that baby laying on my chest yesterday. His countenance at peace. His breathing steady. His body relaxed. The Lord WILL keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast. Those who decide to seek Him wholeheartedly will always find Him even if that means bringing Him all the broken and messed up pieces. We must learn to trust the Lord in the details of life enough to be thankful.

Gratitude is not a concession. It doesn’t mean that there are not some things that are still to come. It is not a settlement for those things not yet completed or fully satisfactory. Gratitude is a declaration of trust. Praise is our proclamation that no matter what God is in control and we are okay with that. Sometimes I must remind myself in my own heart and mind by simply stopping and beginning to thank God for even the most basic of blessings until it overtakes the negativity and bitterness building in my mind. The lie of the enemy is subtle in its penetration but lethal once inside. Faith in God requires our total trust. We cannot see Him. Faith comes by hearing and deciding to believe it. It is being consciously aware of God’s Intervention and Interaction in our life including the most simple blessing that is often taken for granted like a roof over our head, food in our belly, a job, or even the dysfunctional people surrounding us with love.

Colossians 4:2-3 (NIV) Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Paul writes the letter to the church in Colossae while in chains. A prisoner of the Gospel, he still takes the time to say, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Lord help us when we lose sight of the true freedom offered by grace. The opportunity to be thankful in all circumstances knowing that You are working all the details together for our good. Help us to recognize that Your Love is always for us, surrounding us with us, and pursuing us. Nothing can separate us from it. When I feel alone, isolated, abused, betrayed, discouraged or even just discontent, remind me Holy Spirit to be thankful. To engage in the close proximity of Your Presence by letting my praise open the door. We must learn to devote ourselves to prayer. But not only prayer, we must learn to be watchful and thankful for what we see, hear and know about the Lord. His Purpose, Plan and Promises belong to us and are secured by faith. Not our ability to be faithful but His Faithfulness to us. That alone is enough to make the believer shout… or should be. Find a way to wander off this morning, to enter a quiet place and begin to thank God for everything around you. Let gratitude overflow and cover your heart and mind with more grace until it abounds. Let His Perfect Peace fill you at the sound of praise as you enter into His Presence. Crawling on His Lap, like a child, let His Love cover you today. This is God’s Will for you in Christ Jesus!

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Humbled By Grace

Humbled by Grace

I Peter 5:6-10 (NIV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

I am a consummate over thinker. It doesn’t matter what the subject – it must be dissected and thoroughly digested before it is allowed to settle in my mind. Details. Life is in the details for me. So upon leaving our church service yesterday when I grew quiet, it was a que to my husband that my mind was at work. God’s Word is the mirror of our soul. When it is heard, it should always be considered and compared to our heart, soul and mind for validity in our life. It always applies to me and to you. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that will sever the worthless things attached to us and continue to prepare us for proper grafting to Jesus Christ and His Body. Our pastor is teaching about Kingdom culture including what does it look like and how does it apply to the church. What does grace look like? How is it applied? Do we welcome others by faith into grace? Is that something that I must do? Or is it possible for me to give grace that was sufficient for me? See how it works. Thoughts spiraling deeper into a vortex of complex contemplation. Lord, help me understand.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The subject of my introspection is grace and its application. Romans 12 tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God calling it true and proper worship. How does it work? In the very next verse, it tells us not to conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Our mind is a powerful thing. It is the place where faith becomes confident hope. We must be able to test and approve what God’s Good, Pleasing and Perfect Will is for our life which means our thought process must be fully set on knowing and understanding God’s Love and the Gift that He has given us. Oh the Gift of God’s Grace that through faith changes everything.

The comment was made that when people who are not like us enter the church corridor that we are to give them grace. This is true but first one must consider our own thoughts concerning them. People who come in that look different than we do are not subject to our judgment yet they are judged just the same. The moment that I consider myself (a mere recipient of a grace so overwhelming that I still do not fully understand it decades after accepting it) on some higher level with the right to determine their condition based on appearance – I have fallen farther than the one who I chose to judge.

The consideration of my heart today is not the actions of the corporate body called church but my own heart and mind. Mercy comes to meet me every morning just like everyone else. Rain falls on the just and unjust reminding me that God’s Love and Care are for all whether accepted or rejected. Grace is received by faith and there is not a thing that I can do to earn or deserve it. I cannot repay God for His Loving Kindness exemplified in my life by the distribution of grace at the expense of the Blood of His Son. I cannot reciprocate the favor because all I have to give is the empty shell left after sin has been sent into remission. It is never fully gone. At any time, it can return like a cancerous cell gone rogue in an otherwise fully functioning body. What is the cancer of the church? Pride.

Romans 12:3-5 (NIV) For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Grace is given to us in accordance with the faith that God has distributed to us. We cannot save ourselves and did not even have the faith to receive it. God did it all. I am nothing outside of the Christ who lives in me. There is nothing good about me other than the Living God chose to make my heart His Dwelling Place. The moment that I consider my life worth something outside of the grace given to me by the Lord than pride has regained a foothold and is moving in on Christ’s Throne. We must be very careful to not think of ourselves more highly than others – all others even the most broken and lost is the same depraved wretch as me. Jesus is forming a Body that one day will be His Bride. Every single person who I come in contact with is essential to its formation. I must see past whatever insecurity that I may have allowed to manifest in the form of pride to see that grace is for the humble. Grace is for me.

Matthew 23:11-12 (NIV) The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

There is a cancerous pride in the midst of many churches. Pride will always find someone to exalt itself over. God is looking for the humble. Those who have a servant’s heart not just in doing but being truly in love with other people. It cannot be determined by appearance or even one’s attitude and actions. Fake humility cannot hide on its knees very long. True humility is found in the revelation that I am as sinful and broken as any other living breathing person wrecked by sin. I am a survivor saved by the mercy and grace of the Living God through faith and there is nothing I can do to earn or deserve it. I must accept this truth with all humility on a daily and ongoing basis in order to live in love with God and others. He must increase and I must decrease means pride must die in the overflowing grace of God.

Romans 12:9-18 (NIV) Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Love must be sincere. It is such a simple statement but we miss it all the time. Love must be sincere. The description of love is extensively covered in I Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.” It is this kind of love that must be sincere. To love others like this must be our full-time pursuit once in love with God the Father through His Son and filled by His Spirit. If we cannot love sincerely, there may be an inconsistency in character that is keeping us from receiving the fullest reward of grace and favor given to us by the Lord. To have His Perfect Will only requires complete submission to His Plan that begins by accepting His Grace through faith and understanding that without sincere love our life is lived in fake humility. It is cancer for our soul. Cancer in our churches and a constant danger to the Body of Christ.

I Peter 3:8-9 (NIV) Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

I may be right sometimes but it is my life’s mission to live in righteousness always. The Grace of God given to me must be the passion of my heart and persuader of my mind. I must understand that God’s Grace is for all of us. It took the same amount to save my soul and set me free that it did for everyone else. Anyone who enters the doors of my church deserves it as much as I did which is not at all. They have the same potential of earning it as well. The Lord may be transforming my life but it all starts the same. A humble heart remembers its beginnings. It is able to love the least of these because it knows I am one, too. The Kingdom that I am called to is not small or limited. It is massive and ever expanding. The people who I come in contact with have a very special place in the Kingdom that is theirs for the taking. I must not allow my pride to stop them from securing salvation or experiencing divine security because of my own insecurity. God is always looking much deeper than that. He looks at our heart, motives and intentions. He is looking for love. Sincere love. Will He find it?

The culture of God’s Kingdom is love. It is defined by His Grace that is freely given yet hard to obtain. His Love is not human and therefore not the same. We cannot love with condition or pardon any sin. It is not our responsibility to define a new or different culture but engage in the one set forth. It says, “Whosoever will come.” When they do come, who will be exalted in their midst. Religious people or the Righteous One? Jesus said, If I be lifted up – I will draw all men to me!”

Ephesians 28:8-10 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In The Light

In The Light

Matthew 5:14-15 (ESV) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”

There are certain people who draw the innermost thoughts of others without even trying. Hairdressers are notorious unwary counselors as patrons who come for a makeover pour out their soul. Therapists in their own right perhaps it should be part of their schooling along with cuts and mixing color. How to deal with the complexity of people who find someone who will dedicate an hour to them. Yes, it comes at a price. But they are willing to pay it for a new look and some level of peace that someone heard them. Anonymity of an acquaintance affords them some confidence that their secrets are safely tucked in the other and hopeful that the experience might change them for the better.

Have you ever found yourself in the same situation? A perfect stranger waiting in line at the grocery store, an acquaintance who passes you walking through the mall, or maybe an old friend who sees you for the first time in a long time and in that moment decides to make you the keeper and caretaker of the broken pieces of their life as they share the burdens and concerns. I am often incredulous at the transparency of people to random others. Rather than confiding in those closest to them, they choose someone distant or apart.

It is human nature to relate. In other words, the heart and mind are always seeking to connect. Relationship is the innate need to mesh our lives with others. Experience helps or hinders the process. Innocence offers openness that is broken in betrayal. Perfection is not possible yet often projected. People want to be loved not judged yet feel judgment from even those closest to them. I believe there are a number of reasons why people reach out to strangers and acquaintances, but only one reason why they come to you and I as believers.

John 8:12-14 (ESV) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

You are the light of the world. Christ in us illuminates a soul shining that others can see. Attracted to light, love and hope that emanates from those who have found the greatness of His Love. They come in search of grace that bears no judgement but offers truth to guide them. In each encounter, the opportunity to be the light and the city on the hill that allows us to share the wonderful gift given to us. Jesus told the Pharisees that “I am the Light of the world.” The very ones who He came for. The ones who waited for Him but did not recognize Him. The ancient “church” was oblivious. Yet the Truth was no amount of darkness or ignorance could stop God’s Purpose and Plan for Christ…or for you. You are filled with a Light that will lead others from darkness. You have mercy that will overcome judgement. That’s really what people are looking for. Love without judgment. Liberty in truth. Grace overwhelming. You do have something to offer them – His Name is Jesus. He is the Light of the World. He is the Light within us.

I no longer believe in chance encounters but change opportunities. Coincidence is an excuse for randomness but I live an intentional life. It came with a plan carefully detailed for me including every single person who comes into my path. I have a purpose which requires relationship and influence to see come to pass. I must become conscious of the connections in life. His Light is on for others to see. It is in me to draw people to Him. I must become responsible for this little light of mine and let it shine!

Ephesians 1:17-21 (ESV) …That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Jesus, enlighten my heart today. Make it attractive to others. Make me attentive to their needs. Give me pause for divine appointments even when they seem like earthly interruptions. Lord, take my eyes off my own problems, worries and concerns so that I may offer light to those of the same burdens. Make me ever aware of the hope that I am called to! In Your Great Name!

We have been given a “glorious inheritance”. Christ lives inside of us. He gives us His Immeasurable Greatness and Power inside human vessels created to carry it and pour it out everywhere we go. He just says, “Go!” Ordinary life will offer extraordinary opportunities. Natural occurrences become supernatural experiences when the Light of His Love draws people to us and drives away darkness. The author of lies tells us that we have nothing to offer but when Jesus came to reside in us – we have it all. Everything that is needed to meet and exceed the needs of others is inside of you and me just waiting for a wiling vessel to be poured out.

Lord, let me be your conduit of light, the city on a hill and a willing vessel aware of others who come in my path and pour out their heart looking for You!

Ephesians 5:8-10 (ESV) …For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 

Have Hope

Have Hope.png

Hebrews 6:17-20 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

My husband and I were blessed to enjoy a cruise many years ago. If you have never had the opportunity to set sail, I highly recommend it. As a wife and mother, there is something truly wonderful about stepping on a ship to be whisked away from schedules, routines, menu planning, meal preparing and such duties to be taken to an exotic destination while someone else feeds and cares for you for a change. On the last night of the cruise was the captain’s dinner, and as we made our way back to the cabin the waters had become quick rough. The large vessel was now rocking back and forth. It was difficult to keep one’s balance. Upon entering the cabin, I quickly changed and crawled into the most magnificent comfy bed. The kind that just sucks you in and drifted off to sleep. My husband was not fairing quite as well obviously ill from the waves. I was awakened to him calling my name holding tightly to side of the bed an unnatural shade of green. “How can you sleep?” he said in his distress.

From a very early age, I have always been able to sleep through storms of all kinds. As a child living in a mobile home, a tornado came through ripping off the screened patio on the side of the home and carrying off the metal shed next to it yet I continued to sleep right through it. Just recently a hurricane made landfall not far from home, and again my kids and husband couldn’t believe that I could sleep through the wind and rain. It is a blessing I suppose. That or an uncanny gift of escaping reality for the time being, who knows? What I do know for sure is that storms do come, waves rise up and darkness seems to overtake light but in all things – I have hope.

What is a natural ability can also become a supernatural gift for those who choose the proper anchor! The Truth overpowers the lie every time. To know the Truth is freedom. To hold on the Truth is our security. Is the enemy trying to drain your confidence today? Is he wrestling to make you release the anchor of our soul? He has a way of doing that consistently and often with great success but it doesn’t have to be that way. Confident hope is the security of our heart, mind and soul in the attack of the enemy. He cannot take your potential. He cannot redefine purpose. He cannot change God’s Plan for us. Christ in us is enough. Always enough. His Grace is sufficient. The lie of the enemy has no hold but that doesn’t mean that it is man’s mistake to hold tightly to the lie rather than embracing the Truth. God’s Word is the Truth that carefully details our life. Christ is the Word of God that lives in us making all things possible for those who believe.

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie… I wonder the possibilities if God’s People would grab hold of the unimaginable promise that God has unchangeable character. To accept with absolute confidence that He guarantees His Promises with an oath to us that He does not lie and will never ever change His Mind. We become fixated on the process and forget the promise. Just as the disciples who knew Jesus had not yet arrived in the absolute belief that He indeed was the Son of God evidenced when the ship hit a storm. Jesus was sleeping comfortably within the vessel and his closest friends and followers asked, “Do you not care?” Jesus calmed the storm raging around them but it was up to them to settle the sea within their own heart and mind.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain… Even though the ship was tossing and turning that night, I crawled into the big comfortable bed without hesitation. The captain and his crew were in the wheelhouse taking care of things. An announcement had already been given that the seas were rough but to rest assured the vessel was under control and on course. I chose to believe the experts. Resting in the safety of my bed, the waves were still peaking and the boat still bouncing but I was not afraid so rest came easily. Oh the Peace of God that will carefully contain us in every storm in life. The Presence of God around us thanks to the veil torn from top to bottom by Jesus. Hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. Hope is the weight of faith that keeps us in the secret place of rest that the Lord promises those who believe. Those who allow their faith to gain substance.

Hebrews 10:23 (ESV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

God is faithful. He is always faithful even when we are not. His Faithfulness ensures the promise, potential and purpose of our life to be successful and prosperous. We must not only have faith but faith full invested in hope. Hope will never ever lead you to disappointment even though people and problems may try to. Whether gripping it with both hands or holding on as to a thread, the power of the anchor of hope given to us by God through Jesus Christ is always enough to keep us. There will be some days that His Love for us and His Plan makes perfect sense so faith and trust come easy. There will be days with faith is a completely illogical choice except for the promise that He has given us. Everyday hope can be the anchor for our soul. Perfect peace is possible for those who believe. Jesus is our Peace. He allows us to have His Mind by His Spirit who works on the inside to produce the good fruit that feeds and nourishes our soul. God is good. He loves you. He is always on your side. He is for you! He will never ever let you down. You must only believe and hold tightly to the anchor that He has given for our soul. Hope is the anchor of our soul!

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Pleasant Places

Pleasant Places

Psalm 16:5-6 (ESV) The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

As my nest begins to empty, there are two teenage girls in our home. They are sweet girls who love the Lord. Diligently trying to serve Him, the hard lesson of the hour is how to set proper boundaries without creating barriers. Relationships are a part of life and the binding force of Kingdom. Jesus has instructed us to love one another as He loved us even to lay down our life for each other. I guess if everyone was perfect – the task would be much easier. Maybe if experience had created trusting heart and bared souls it might be a way of life. There is a fine line between boundaries and barriers that must be clearly identified to maintain unity and security at the same time. Paul tells us that all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. After five decades of breathing, I am still trying to distinguish clearly between the two. The enemy wants to create barriers among believers when the Lord only calls for careful and thoughtful boundaries.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. You hold my lot. Before I can give myself away and engage in healthy relationships – I must know and understand who I am and more importantly WHOSE I am. I belong to Jesus. He is the Lover of my soul and keeper of my inheritance available only through Him. He maintains the relationship that I have with God the Father as an open gateway in and out of His Presence. It is not enough for God to choose me or Christ to die for me, but I must also choose the Lord and to crucify my flesh to become one with Him. It is the covenant of love between us that makes me His Bride. Not only must I choose Jesus, but I must put my full expectation in Him. I must allow Him to fill the voids and heal the wounds of my past and even present relationships in order to create healthy and whole hearted connections in the future. To love unconditionally and completely is the goal. It requires boundaries. Boundaries that determine the parts and portions of my life that belong to Christ and can only be fulfilled with intimacy through Him. Just as a marriage sets boundaries in all other relationships, so does our love affair with Christ. He gives His Love freely and unconditionally filling us to overflowing so that we can love others just the same without expectation or requirements.

Barriers are created where insecurity lingers. A lack of constancy in Christ will cause boundaries to become barriers in our relationships. Bitterness fortifies barriers when we allow insecurity to feed our hurts and betrayals when Jesus offers healing and wholeness instead. Barriers limit love that could be transcending. Sometimes boundaries are necessary – not to keep people out but to keep me secure.

Psalm 16:7-10 (ESV) I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Imperfect people cannot build perfect relationships. Perfect love casts out all fear. There is no greater love than to lay our life down for someone. We need God’s Counsel to love properly and set appropriate boundaries because of human inadequacy and weakness. God knows our heart. He instructs us through His Spirit and guides us along the way. He is the Gate. We come and go freely. However, if we do not set the Lord before us and let Him be the center of our world and focus of our affections – all other relationships will fall short.

We have not promoted “dating” in our home. I feel that it is important to know the Lord and ourselves before engaging in relationships. Early dating creates soul ties. It can produce a cycle that causes breaches in the innocent hearts of young people. I am not saying that my preference or approach is God’s or should be anyone else’s for that matter. What I am saying is that before my children give their heart to another, I want it to be firmly established in Christ so that they know their worth and value and do not give it away without careful consideration. The Lord holds us. He keeps us close to Him because we are His Treasure. My heart is glad. My whole being rejoices. He is at my right hand. He pursues me with unfailing love and overwhelming goodness. It is in this constant envelopment of security that I can love without limits from this place of completeness. When my heart is secure in Christ, loving others is not a risk.

Psalm 16:11 (ESV) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

A boundary allows us to create an access point. A place of entrance and exit that is decided by God and His Plan for us. A barrier is a wall. Boundaries do not limit our accessibility but rather allow Christ to be the gateway. He will be the One who defines our relationships and gives us love, grace and mercy for others. He is our Security. He is the Keeper of our Heart. He is the Lover of the soul who will always protect us and keep us secure in Him. It is important as a parent to set boundaries for our children so they can learn while they are young how to manage their life and live in Christ. It is important as adults to constant inspect the borders and boundaries of our heart to ensure that hardness and unforgiveness has not made a barrier instead. I could spend my whole life continually inspecting my own heart and mind then never have time to judge others. Perhaps that is the path of life that the Lord is calling us to. He has placed us in pleasant places. It is our inheritance to live and love in Him because relationships are the Kingdom of God. To live in His Presence means we must learn to love the Lord and others the same way. He allows us proper boundaries to do so and even promises to be the Gate. Those who do will live in His Presence and experience pleasures forevermore.

John 10:7-10 (ESV) So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

None Should Perish

None Should Perish

John 3:16-17 (ESV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

It is probably the most well-known verse in the entire Bible – John 3:16. For God so love the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Sometimes familiarity breeds contentment satisfying our soul with salvation, but missing the life that comes with it. The life God has designed for us is complex and complete. It does not eliminate any details due to indiscretion but takes the imperfect form of humanity and filling its voids with Christ. The new creation promised for those who choose it is not a redesign but recreation and restoration of the original. God is perfect. He does not make mistakes. He created us recording every single moment before our arrival. God has a plan and no matter our involvement or acceptance, it is still continuing in our life. God loves us. Each one of us. His Goal in sending Jesus was not for a designated few but that whoever believes wouldn’t die but live forever with Him. A true and abiding relationship as a father to a child is what God desires of you. A loving and living together that steps over the grave into the Kingdom.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” To stop at John 3:16 would be enough to save us but not necessarily grasp the scope of God’s Massive Project. It was never His Intent to divide the people of this planet but to bring them back together in one Body centered on His Son. Condemnation is not a quality of God for mankind and should not be characteristic of His People. Mercy triumphed over judgment at the sacrifice of Jesus giving up His Life to secure ours forever with Him. How is it our place to crawl into the vacated seat when it comes to each other? It is God’s Plan and Purpose that none should perish. It is pointless. Salvation is a free gift. It did not cost me anything of worth. It is easy to give the grace and mercy given to me away because I didn’t earn it. I should be of the mindset of Christ. He is always thinking about compassion. His mindset is life and never death. He is a builder of the Body not a condemner of people.

The Bible says that His Grace is enough. It is sufficient which means that if the love, grace, mercy or compassion of Christ can be exhausted than it was never an ample supply. This is the basis of forgiving seventy times seven, turning the other cheek, loving our enemy and laying our life down for others. He is giving us an opportunity to participate in the Kingdom economy and reap its heavenly reward which is always relationship. God owns it all. Everything belongs to Christ. The Lord has complete authority and power in every situation. The freedom of others does not always produce the benefits of Heaven. It is our opportunity to be the traders of grace who bring the message of the Gospel to others not just in word and deed but in our dedication and commitment to the mission that none should perish.

Jonah 4:1-4 (ESV) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

To bring everyone up to date in the story, God sent Jonah to Nineveh. He was to share God’s Message of repentance to the people. Jonah did not like God’s Plan so he tried to run away to Tarshish. On his way a great storm arose, Jonah was cast into the sea to satisfy the wrath of God and that the others on the ship might be saved. Once overboard, Jonah was swallowed by a whale and lived in its belly for three days until vomited on the local beach. He repents and goes to Nineveh. The people of Nineveh repent and cry out to God. The Lord acknowledges their repentance and relents. He did not bring disaster to the city or its people. In other words, God spared them and did not give them what they deserved. Jonah got mad. He was “exceedingly displeased”.

In Jonah 4, we find Jonah in the midst of a fit mixed with a good old-fashioned pity party. Sitting and stewing the sun arose and he was baking in it when the Lord appointed a plant to come up over Jonah to give him shade while he sorted things out. Jonah was glad when the plant covered him and protected him. The next morning, God appointed a worm to kill the plant and when the sun rose once again Jonah was subject to its heat and discomfort. Through the course of the day – he grew faint and decided it would be better to die. Why? He was disappointed that God had spared the people. He allowed his anger to separate him again from the Presence of God.

Jonah 4:9-11 (ESV) But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

God owns it all. Every living breathing creature is a product of Him. You and I are His Most Beloved Creation. How many times do we forget His Mandate that none should perish? How often do we get mad when God saves, heals, delivers and blesses those sorry sinners? Comparison will always be a joy killer. No sinner is too far gone for the Lord’s Arm to reach them. We are the ones who decide the limit of sin or depravity when there is no such thing in the eyes of Jesus. His Grace is always enough. I wonder if the separation, isolation or frustration that we feel is often generated by our own jealously and insecurity in the Lord’s Unfailing Love and Acceptance for me. Working hard for him yet He showers sinners and evil doers with the blessings I thought were reserved for me. Who are they to step in front of me in order to get what He is offering? They must do their time like the rest of us. Serving, giving and striving for the promise. Right? Wrong. When we can do anything for Him or feel pressure to perform for the promise, we have missed the point altogether. I can do nothing for God. He is my fulfillment. He is my purpose. Everything I am and ever hope to be is in Him and offered through Him. I can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:8-10 (ESV) But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” God delights in mercy. He gives it to us each morning. When our eyes open, it is waiting for us and the basis of salvation. God’s Desire to show us mercy so that we can receive His Grace. We must be ever so careful that our heart for people remains soft and merciful. There is no competition for the Love of God. It is for everyone. Jesus came so that none should perish but have eternal life which means there is more than enough grace for everyone. Have you written someone off? Maybe you walked away because they were just too hard to love. I will let you in on a little secret. Limited love is a product of unaccepted grace. To restrict our love, compassion, kindness and forgiveness to others based on their attitudes and actions is the opposite of the kind given to us by Jesus. If we truly receive His Love, it satisfies our soul. It fills us with hopeful expectation that cannot and will not be met by other people therefore we can love freely and unconditionally because they have no impact on God’s Love for me, His Plan, or His Promise. All of this is individually designed for me but His Grace is for all the world. Lord examine my heart, mind, spirit and soul for compassion. Show me where I have allowed condemnation to take the place of mercy. Soften my heart Lord even if that means breaking it so that I will not miss my purpose in passive judgment. Lord, you are not slow to fulfill your promise to us. You are waiting that none should perish. Be that me or those around me subject to my influence. Lord, let me always choose mercy over judgment and live a triumphant life.

Micah 6:8 (ESV) He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

His Faithful Love

His love endures forever. Psalm 136 Scripture art by StudioJRU.

Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

Today marks 19 years of wedding bliss to my precious husband. Sitting down to spend time with the Lord today, I am drawn to the words, “His faithful love endures forever.” No one enters a marriage contemplating a divorce date. It is a covenant of hopefulness for a future of passion and devotion. A life of constant affirmation and affection. The honeymoon is a celebration of love that is found and now secure. However, as anyone can tell you, a marriage requires all of you. It is hard work. It is not an easy road to navigate and requires our full attention. It doesn’t always meet our expectation. On my desk, I found a gift bag from a favorite store with a simple pink bow. Inside it, a dainty ring of twirling hearts with intermittent sparkle creating a band. It is perfect. The ideal representation of almost twenty years of a life invested in loving and growing together. Even in the imperfection of each heart, the design works together to create a unique and beautiful piece of jewelry. There are so many wonderful memories mixed with days of great trial and difficulty. Striving to come together and walk one path.

Marriage is a representation of our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the Bridegroom and we are called His Bride. In a world where sin is certainly rampant and love has grown cold, the promise is that the one who endures to the end will be saved. Clinging to Christ with complete desperation and dedication to continue as one until the end is equally as challenging most days. Not because the Lord is not faithful – His faithful love endures to the end. I must rely on the faithfulness of His Love for me to find my way to the end. The Good News is preached by a life of love and kindness. To live in love with Jesus fills us with a special love for others that allows us to experience trials and temptations yet still love Him and others the same. Love is a commitment. Christ made that covenant with us when He gave His Life to have us. No relationship is one-sided both must agree. He has already approved and affirmed me with His Grace the day that He decided to love me. Now I must learn to do the same…

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

I am not perfect. I did not marry a perfect man. We have weaknesses, faults and insecurities just like everyone else. Over the years, there have been disagreements and full blown arguments as two people fight to come together. The temptations in life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. We expect too much from fragile and flawed humans. The level of faithfulness that exceeds our expectation is found in Christ alone. When we got married, my husband and I invited Christ to join us. He is the One who held it all together over the years.

Are you tempted to leave your first love today? Are you at odds with people? Are you struggling in relationships? Are you headed for divorce? There is powerful potential for those who choose to endure. To give our expectations fully to Christ and stop looking for love in all the wrong people. No one can fulfill you but Jesus. You have eternity in your heart which requires full satisfaction. Nothing and no one can fill that space but the Lord. His Faithful Love for us endures forever and is the very thing that carries us to the end. We must release people from any expectation to experience the full satisfaction that is promised by God.

The enemy will always tempt us to leave love behind. He will threaten us with disappointment, dissatisfaction and discouragement. He will direct our attention to people and problems to lure our focus off Christ. Doubt and insecurity will always create strongholds trapping us in the present rather than projecting us to the promise. People are part of the plan that God prepared for our life. Relationship is the Kingdom economy as the Lord values souls more than anything else. He has everything else. When we live and love together fighting for agreement and harmony, God calls it precious. Successful relationships are messy. They are hard. They are worth it in the end. To reach the end requires love. Love for the one whose love faithfully endures forever will fill every void left by human love in all its messy imperfection.

Revelation 2:3-4 (NLT) “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. 

The personification of Christ in our life is love. To be loving, to give love, to accept love. This is the interworking of relationships. The complaint against the church was “you don’t love me or each other as you did at first.” It is human nature to grow bored with monotony. The mediocrity of life loses our interest. We must find passion for our first love again in order to learn to love others like perhaps we once did. Experience is a hard teacher and must be filtered through the Word of God for clarification. There must be full repentance at all times to constantly turn us back to love. All relationships requires grace, forbearance and forgiveness. Christ has given us that time and time again as each morning there is mercy waiting for us. Who are we to withhold that which is so freely given? We come to Jesus full of hopeful expectation and then heap it on people when His Timing doesn’t suit us or His Way seems too hard or long. Love must endure to the end to bring salvation. I must learn to love like Jesus to make this a reality in my life.

I Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love becomes a masterpiece through endurance. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love is always hopeful. If the emotion of affection you are feeling does not have these characteristics, it may not be love but a secondary emotion. We cannot rely on our feelings. Life is hard. Sin is rampant. Love has grown cold. Most Christians live in a lukewarm state. We must decide in our own heart to love. Love must be patient and kind as Christ is with us. It must not be jealous, boastful or filled with pride and self-seeking. It cannot be irritable. Stop recording all wrongs. It cannot rejoice in others failures or shortcomings but rejoice in truth and the good of others. If I live my whole life calling myself a Christian, yet never strive to endure in love – I am nothing. I will not make it to the destination that I am seeking. To live in love with Christ is to live in love with others.

The tiny twisted hearts that make up the band on my right hand are a true representation of how love works in our life. It does not always start out as we expected or turn out as we would like, but the promise is that God makes all things beautiful in His Timing. It is worth sticking it out when it comes to love – all kinds of love. It is worth forgiving one more time. Trying even when you don’t feel like it or maybe they don’t deserve it. The best kind of love is the hardest fought for because the enemy sees it’s potential. Don’t’ give up on love. Never give up on people. Always remember His Faithful Love endures forever so there is always a fresh supply!

Psalm 136:23-26 (NLT) He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.  He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.  He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

Oh For Grace

Oh For Grace 2

John 1:16 (ESV) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

I have been parenting for over 28 years now. With five children, I have experienced a variety of personalities. Each kid and relationship just a little bit different from the other. When our daughters came home from Bible study last night, our young adult chatted for a few minutes heading back to her room which is normal for her. Our youngest daughter has a friend visiting. One of them is a handful – two of them are more than anyone can handle. I should have noticed that they were not loud and boisterous upon arrival. It did not catch my attention that she was cleaning her room unprovoked when I went to check on them. In fact, I really should have been more observant because I know the potential of quiet teenagers. Well…

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to a lengthy apology from my little suspect. She and her friend had made a poor choice and ended up with a consequence. Discussing the matter with my husband, it was decided to apply grace to the situation. When she wakes up – we will discuss the details of the decision the girls made. There will be some things they will be required to do but overall I cannot help but smile just a little inside. I am blessed that my girls love me. They cannot stand when anything comes between us. Hence the text at almost 2:00 a.m. Our relationship is important to them. It is evident that rather than hiding the truth – they come to me. Oh Lord, teach us to value and appreciate our relationship with You! To come to you as little children seeking the Father’s Love no matter how bad we mess up or constantly make bad choices. You are full of grace. You give us grace upon grace!

Matthew 18:2-4 (ESV) And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Unless you turn and become like children”… Reading this passage today – many may have the excuse of poor parents or even none to speak of. I have imperfect parents. I live in a dysfunctional family. If we are “perfectly” honest, there is no such thing as perfect and fully functional relationships when people are involved. Putting our expectation in a being that cannot ever be without fault or failure only sets one up to be let down. Whether our parents were great or not so great, there is still a call from Christ for us to come as children all over again. To relinquish responsibility for our life and humbly relish His Magnificent Grace. God does not punish us. I need you to hear what I am saying today – it is vitally important in understanding what to expect when you turn back to the Father. He doesn’t take anything from us or allow bad things to happen to us on account of sin. To do so would diminish the value of grace and deem it insufficient which it is not. God offers divine discipline. He teaches us better ways that lead to positive outcomes and fulfillment of potential already in us.

Romans 3:22-25 (ESV) For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

The application of grace in our life is complete in Christ. He has given us the gift of grace. It is received by faith. We do not deserve it and certainly could never earn it. We can only accept it and live in it. God’s righteousness and steadfast love is demonstrated in divine forbearance. Forgiveness. How many times do we transgress yet God still blots it away like a father or mother when their little child presents a skinned knee? Taking a clean white cloth and soaking it in water, carefully and gingerly removing the particles of dirt and grass to reveal the bleeding wound. Then gently oh so gently applying the ointment to aid in healing then covering it with a bandage to protect it from further injury. Oh Children of God if only we could learn to live in His Grace and administer grace as the Father.

We are all in this together. Sin is a factor in everyone’s life. We can only overcome death and the grave, which is the future of sin, by humbly accepting God’s Grace. Jesus is our Savior. There was no way to save ourselves as each is born destined to die until Jesus came to pay the penalty price. Now we live in the overtures of abounding grace given to those who will simply come to Him and receive it. He gives us an abundance of grace and His Spirit produces good fruit for us to share with others…gracefully. Notice that as I shared the misfortune of our teen’s poor choice, I did not go into detail and share all the sordid details. We must learn to covers our brothers and sisters in Christ as the Lord has covered us. One sin would have required every ounce of the Blood of Christ right down to His Last Breath. We all took His Life to find our own. No one is exempt.

Psalm 103:10-13 (ESV) He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

His Grace is sufficient. It is always enough. The Lord is ready to cover us in grace upon grace. It is not based on my faithfulness but rather His Faithfulness. It doesn’t come from any good in me but rather His Goodness towards me. Grace changes us into Children of the Living God. It’s funny how kids can fight one minute and be best buds the next. Maybe it’s because they have an inner longing for grace and therefore can administer it more freely. Experience teaches us differently. Unmet expectations create voids that can only be filled by God yet we seek out imperfect humans to meet that need. The Lord reminds us today that He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin but chooses to administer His Grace. He doesn’t lie or change His Mind. He decided to forgive you so it is His Constant and Ongoing Response when we come before Him. His Steadfast Love vast and unfathomable. He removes our transgressions as far as the east is from the west tossing them into the sea of forgetfulness. This does not allow room for regret or shame because He is rewriting our story and marking it innocent. He does so as a father shows compassion to his children. I am reminded today of the Father’s Love. His Grace that is abounding to me.

Lord, teach me to respond to Your Grace each day with true repentance. May I start each day turning back to You as my child has demonstrated today. You are a Good Father! Let me not forget that new mercy is mine each morning. You always have good things in store for me. Not because I am good but because You are Good and Your Grace is always enough!

Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (ESV) 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. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.