Hobby, Habit or Holiness

hobby habit or holiness

Luke 14:26-30 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.

In January, my husband and a group of men arranged to go duck hunting. They planned the excursion for months. Purchased mounds of hunting gear and ammunition. Planning included requesting leave from jobs, making hotel reservations and mapping out travel. Everyone paid their portion of the hunting lease and provided for meals and expenses. When the calendar finally fell on the travel date, the weather conditions took a dramatic turn for the absolute worst. It was below freezing. The lakes and ponds frozen over. Each morning they would trudge out to the field, break through the ice, set the decoys and lay in the blinds in the frigid conditions. They didn’t get a single one. They paid a high price yet got a miserable return other than the lease owner offering them a free return visit at the beginning of hunting season. This hunting hobby is new to our family.

We all have hobbies in life. It may be a variety of different things. Activities or interests pursued for pleasure and relaxation but no as a main occupation. I recently began repurposing old furniture. Reconditioning them is therapeutic to me. I was purchasing some pieces from a new acquaintance who encouraged me to sell the pieces rather than giving them away. I don’t really want to do that because I do this to escape the world and get lost in something creative. It is a hobby. Since most pieces are this side of tossing in the garbage, my investment is limited other than time spent cleaning, repairing, sanding and painting. It brings me peace. The great thing about a hobby is that I can choose how much of my time, talent and treasure that I invest in it. If I walk away for a few weeks, a month or so – it has not impact on me, my family or future other than a few choice words from my husband about the clutter in the garage. It is good to have hobbies in life.

What about habits? Those things that are not necessarily for pleasure or relaxation but driven by routine and schedule. Most adults have certain habits instilled by the values imbedded by the example of their parents or mentors. Some habits are formed by a desire to change certain behaviors, trends, circumstances or conditions. Habits can be good or bad. It is just what we do, who we are, and the choices we make. A habit is an acquired behavioral pattern regularly followed until it becomes involuntary. The word “involuntary” means independent of our will and not by our own choice. There are habits worth giving up for better health, emotional wellness, and spiritual awakening.

Church can become a habit. Religion is the routine of the church for organizational purposes. Habits and routines are comfortable. They give way to complacency in life and love. We must evaluate our habits as often as our heart to see our motivation. Do I do the things I do because I have always done them this way? Is there a better way? Is this a Christ-like endeavor or just something I do to fit in to my social group? Church is known for cliques and many times it is the birthplace of complacency as our pursuit of God is tempered by the other sheep in our fold. Is church a weekly habit? Is it an occasional hobby? If our relationship to Jesus Christ can be defined as either it is up to us to count the cost of becoming a disciple. Hobbies and habits do not produce holiness. It is not the way of those who desire God’s Kingdom and His Riches in Glory. It is just another way the enemy is keeping our churches and communities from experiencing revival.

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NLT) For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

When Jesus died, He released the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord made it clear that the new dwelling place of His Spirit was in His People. Those who opened their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ and desired Him as Savior and Lord would house His Spirit. The church moved from the outside world to inside God’s People. Empowering them with new purpose and new power. When Jesus told the people that He would destroy the temple that it took 46years to build and rebuild it in three days, (John 2:15-21) He was referring to His Death which destroyed religion and His Resurrection that move His Church from buildings to bodies. As believers – we are the church. Not just any church of any denomination, we are the Temple of the Living God. Holy inhabitation is the cornerstone of holiness. Holiness is not a hobby or habit. It is who we are in God through Jesus Christ. We must become holy because God is holy. (Leviticus 19:2) His Presence in us forces an evaluation of our contribution to the Kingdom. Are we mere contributors or fully committed to the Cause called Christ in us?

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT) Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.

Have I made a rash (acting too hastily without due consideration)? We all are prone to say, “Yes” to many things without proper consideration or careful contemplation. Why? Who doesn’t want the affirmation and acceptance of others? Our “yes” is often based on meeting the expectation of others rather than fully consideration what it requires or what the desired outcome may be. We must count the cost of discipleship and decide if it is the life desired. Why is this important? At the end of my life, I will meet Jesus face-to-face. If I invested in the Kingdom as a hobby, I do not believe that He will say, “Well done, though good and faithful servant!” A hobby is something I do for me. Me alone. It is for my relaxation and my personal pleasure. Is that what I signed up for when I came to Jesus Christ? Is that what He was really offering? I don’t think so.

Is my commitment to Jesus Christ a habit? Has it become just another routine and scheduled event added to the long list of responsibilities in my life? Is it my religion or a true relationship? The truest test of religion verses relationship is passion. Am I passionate about loving, knowing, serving and following Jesus for the rest of my life? Or do I just go with the flow of the local church? Is my spiritual temperature set by the thermostat of my church or is it a flame being fanned and fueled by an All-Consuming Fire and burning desire to become His Disciple? To go where He goes, do what He does, and experience His Kingdom (as promised) on the earth as it is in Heaven. Hmm… makes me think. How about you?

Luke 14:26-27 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

Holiness is not a religious preference. It is not an organized denomination. Holiness is God’s Mandate on the life of the believer. To be wholly consumed and filled with His Spirit. To passionately pursue the Calling and Purpose found only in Christ as He calls us a new creation. To bring Heaven to earth in our own life while connecting the Body and its intricate membership and parts coming together with one heart – one mind – and one purpose. To make Him greater and greater while I disappear in His Presence. Sounds good until one begins to count the cost. We decide if we will carry “our own cross”. Jesus died to set us free to choose the life we live. To “take up our cross” is become responsible for our membership as one part of the Body of Christ. I cannot live, breathe, move or exist as an effective part of the Body unless fully connected to and directed by Jesus Christ. He must be my motivation. He must be the One Thing that I am after. I hear you. Family comes first. It does right after Jesus Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to discipline my body, mind and spirit that in all things Jesus is first which means if anyone else makes a contrary decision that it does not influence or impact my partnership with Jesus.

Love and grace are the foundation of this wonderful relationship. I cannot have my way and live successfully in any relationship. My relationships (all of them) must have Christ as a foundation. Even my relationships to my perceived enemies, even those who are considered a threat or constant thorn in our flesh have purpose in our life. God put them there for a reason. We do not systematically cut off difficult relations or those who don’t understand our faith and marriage to Jesus. We must learn to put all our expectation in Jesus Christ and trust Him with every other relationship that we have engaged in. We must always take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What do I give my life to? Is it possible to graph the timeline of my life? Of course, it is but do I really want to. How much of my day is focused on this cross I have chosen to carry versus all the other endeavors in my life? Ignorance is not bliss but the death of the good seeds ready to be planted and harvested in our life. The secret to a successful partnership with Jesus is found in His Word. Simply because Jesus is the Word. To decide not to know releases us from responsibility is not ignorance it is foolishness when all of creation displays the Glory of God. If I refuse to follow Christ – the Word of God tells me that I “am not worthy to of being called mine.” Holiness requires shirking off the filthy rags and donning a robe of righteousness. It means picking up the full armor of God to step into a victorious life. It means to put away pride and live in humility. It means giving up my way. If I cling to this life, I will lose it. If I give my life to Jesus fully, I will find my true purpose and live in fulfillment forever. (Matthew 10:37-39) It is a daily choice. (Luke 9:23)

Luke 14:28-33 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Our life is comprised of three things of worth: time, talent and treasure. These are the things that we have to invest in something or someone. It is totally up to me how I invest my life. Time is the most precious commodity because it is irreplaceable. Talent is only as valuable as the realization of that potential in our life. Treasure is every tangible thing we own whether we think it’s worth anything or not. To become a disciple of Jesus Christ and live a holy life is not what so many have made it out to be. It is to live our life fully consumed by Jesus Christ. To step out of self and into Christ completely. It means investing my time, talent and treasure into His Kingdom. It is to combine our resources with the Lord completely. Giving Him all our time. All of our talent. All of our treasure. Then stepping back and letting Him use it for His Glory. The problem is that we give our hobbies and habits too much time and there is not enough to pay the price of discipleship. Divided interest and diversified investments may create natural security by not putting all our eggs in one lifetime basket but if my heart and soul are set on Eternity – I must take all my life and invest it in Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT) For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

When Jesus handed us the Keys to the Kingdom, the first key is marked “freedom”. I am now free to choose how I live my life. I choose my master. Asking Jesus to be our Savior is not enough, we must make Him our Lord to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God. I choose death or life each day. I choose blessing or otherwise. I decide if today will be to the Glory of God or pursue selfish interest. I get to choose. When I do, it determines my destiny. I cannot choose one course and expect to become part of the Kingdom. There is no middle of the road or gray compromise. Is my relationship to Jesus Christ a hobby? Do I do it for my own benefit and blessing but nothing more investing what is left of my time and energy? Is my relationship a habit? Do I take Him for granted? Rather than pursuing Him do I just pencil Him in? Is He part of the schedule or a routine measure? Do I every even think about Him or just do what I do and have done traditionally? Is my life ordinary? Is it just mediocre? Where is His Glory? It is not for the hobbyist or habitual Christian. It is for the intentional believer whose one desire is to be one with Christ. To put everything second. To give God the surplus of our life trusting Him with all of it. To follow Him relentlessly and passionately from beginning to end, no matter how deep the valley or high the mountain – no matter who comes with us. Does your love affair with Jesus have passion? Do you think about Him most of the time? See we have made this thing called discipleship a production but its not. It is the process by which our life, entire existence, is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It is how we achieve a state of holiness. It is not a hobby. It is not a habit. It is a relationship with the One who thought we were to die for. He gave up everything for me. I must reconcile my life to Jesus Christ to live a holy life. I must use my freedom to bring every part of my life into agreement with His Word, His Way and His Will. It is personal. Am I willing to give everything to Jesus? Lord, examine my heart and evaluate my life. Reconcile everything to you, Lord.

Acts 17:28 (NLT) “For in Him we live and move and exist.”

Advertisements

Be Holy

be-holy

I Peter 1:14-16 (NIV) As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Be holy, because I am holy. What does that mean anyway? God is holy. Of course, He is God. But how can an ordinary person like me who sins every single day and relies solely on the Grace and Mercy of the Living God to get by each day and my only hope is that faith that I have in Him. How can I, just plain old me, ever be holy? There are a lot of people who live by comparison adopting a holier-than-thou attitude but who is truly holy? Is it even possible? The dictionary defines the word “holy” as having a spiritually pure quality and to be dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church or religion. I find spiritual purity to be completely dependent on daily repentance and submission to the Lord. How do I know if my dedication is devoted to service to God or the church or my religion? Not sure that’s how most people read the definition but my heart says that there are many ways humans determine holiness but according to God’s Word there is only one way to be like God and holy.

Our quest for holiness is ongoing as it tells us in I Peter 1:13 that we must remain fully alert and sober setting our hope on the grace “to be brought to you when Jesus Christ” returns. We receive mercy each day but there is a promise of grace to come when Jesus comes back to fully redeem us from sin and death. Until that time all a person can do is strive to be like the Lord and remain holy. This means that no matter how long a person loves and serves God on earth that they will never be holy but simply pursue holiness. Spiritual purity is impossible in a body full of flesh and desires contrary to God which rebel daily against His Word, Will and Way in us.

I Peter 1:22-23 (NIV) Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Every person who comes to Christ lives on a level playing field. In other words, there is no one righteous not a single one outside of Jesus. By coming to Jesus Christ, asking Him to be our Savior and accepting Him as Lord of our life does not eliminate sin, our struggle against sin or change us in any way from anyone else…yet. It is the promise of salvation and redemption that gives us living hope. Those who believe will fall in love with Jesus. They will pursue the Lord, follow Him, serve Him and try to live a way that is holy and acceptable to Him. However the problem with holiness is our perception of what that is. Only God is completely holy. He is perfect. He is flawless. He is blameless. The righteousness obtained by men and women who come to the Lord is from the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It is not who I am. It is Christ in me showing through. There is no room for arrogance or pride in a believer. Nothing good that I become, nothing that I have and nothing I do is motivated, enacted or enabled by me. It is all the Holy Spirit working in and through me.

With this in mind, as a born-again believer, how can I be holy? I must have sincere love that is fully operational in my life. Love that prohibits sin from taking up space between me and my Savior. Love that is committed to forming a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ rather than engaging in religious behavior in the hope of earning a position in heaven. Love that reaches out pulling others close to us so that they can see the Light of His Love at work in us. Love never pushes away people. It does not disregard those who are different. Love does not give up on those who keep giving in. Holiness is a call to love one another deeply. No more skin deep affection but truly putting others before ourselves in selfless sacrifice. The biggest sacrifice of the human life is pride. Giving up all we have and know to follow Christ is one thing, but when the walls built by fear, anxiety and pride come down vulnerability and brokenness are exposed to the hurt of others but the true blessing in sincere love is that our Healer can touch our heart and complete us. When His Completeness touches our brokenness, it is then we experience His Holiness. He makes us holy.

Colossians 3:12-18 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 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. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I am God’s Chosen People. We are consecrated to be holy and dearly loved. In order to allow others to see who I am in Jesus Christ and minister His Message to others, I must be properly clothed. Not in my natural apparel, but rather as I must choose to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience at all times. Even when I am right, completely right, I cannot allow my meekness to be turned to pride because I still sin just like you do every single day. Each person is someone Jesus died for whether they choose to accept His Gift or not so they are worthy of my compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. People are overbearing. They will hurt you, disappoint you, let you down, and talk about you or worse. Human nature creates a competitive nature that opens the door to comparison the greatest love stealer and joy killer of all. My place in my Father’s Kingdom is secured just for me. No one can take my place. I cannot take the place of another. He loves me for me. He loves you for you. He is desperate for both of us to come home.

Forgiveness maintains a holy lifestyle. Bitterness will choke out every work of God in us and move of God around us. Our entire relationship with God through Jesus Christ is based on our ability to accept His Grace that forgives us of every sin ever committed. Though one may believe that there are different levels of sin, there is not. Sin is sin. One sin would have required every single ounce of blood in Jesus Christ. It would have demanded His Entire Life just the same. Forgiveness cannot be withheld from others and continually accepted by us. God hates double standards.

Does the Peace of Christ rule in your heart today? Peace is evidence of unity with Christ. When fear and anxiety rule our hearts and minds, it means that faith has been replaced by doubt and must be dealt with immediately. The Peace of God will permeate our life and overflow into every other relationship in our life. It creates unity rather than tearing it apart and destroying relationships. Harmony is of the same level of anointing as the oil that ran down Aaron’s beard. God desires unity in His People. He has given us complete peace in the righteousness that we have in Him now through His Son. Peace is established and maintained in our relationship with Jesus Christ. If our peace is compromised, it is a relationship issue not relative to the world around us that knows no peace.

Be thankful. Are you thankful today? Thankfulness is where a believer finds contentment. Contentment is a form of peace in us. Godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6) Contentment is a form of completeness. It is a type of holiness. It is completely satisfied and at peace with the Lord and nothing in this life can touch it. Anything untouchable and not influenced by this world becomes holiness as it is consecrated and set apart for God alone. When a believer becomes thankfulness and steps into godliness contentment will follow and consecrate their life to the Lord no matter what their natural circumstances, situations or conditions may be. Holiness takes our hope and puts it all in the Hands of Jesus.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” What is the message of Christ? For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son so we could have everlasting life. This is the message. However, in this day and age that may call the end times, what is the message of our lives as Christians? What is the point of our preaching from the many pulpits around the world?

2 Timothy 3 warns that in the “terrible times” called the last days that people will be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Did you see the end of this passage? Who are these people? They are Christians who have a form of godliness. What is missing? Holiness. The completeness of God is not His Perfection alone. It is His Love. His Love is perfect beyond human comprehension. Are we loving like we should? If not, there is the danger of falling into the group detailed above who have a form of godliness but not holiness. Lord, make me holy like you are holy. Holy Spirit cultivate true love in my heart, sincere love, the kind of love that sets me apart from the world and establishes me in Your Kingdom…forever.

2 Timothy 2:19-21 (NLT) But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.” In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

“The Lord knows those who are His…” I want the Lord to know me. God will identify with me if He sees His Son, Jesus in me. It is my only chance of escaping judgment. To be found in right standing with God and live in the Kingdom is not based on anything that I can do for myself but relies completely of the Unfailing Love and Unending Grace of Jesus Christ. With this in mind, holiness can never be an esteemed position in my life but to live in complete brokenness before the Lord as He fills all the voids, hurts, faults and failures in my life.

Many stories are told of people who find old shoeboxes filled with money hidden away for years. My own grandfather used to hide silver coins in trash bags to prevent theft and keep them safe. In the basement of my grandparent’s home, you might find a bag of silver coins hidden in the middle of ten bags of old clothes and worthless things. The paper box a treasure is found in remains worthless. Its value is not in its composition but what it is filled with. The plastic garbage bags were about a dollar for an entire box of them. They had little value as sold. The treasure in each one was the silver coins hidden within them. Sometimes we confuse the graciousness of God for our own personal piousness, it is not. I am nothing apart from Jesus Christ. His Love is the very potential of my life that releases purpose and shares a worthwhile message to the world. I am to be holy as He is holy. My holiness is dependent on my ability to love like Jesus. To be useful to the Kingdom of God is not my ability to do all the right things and avoid sin at all costs though my respect for my Lord will cause this change, but it is my commitment to love that makes me a useful utensil. Lord, I ask you to humble my heart today. Remove every condition that I have placed on others and release more love in me to bond and unite the Kingdom of God as you desire. Teach me to release the worthless things to hold tightly to this treasure in me who is Jesus Christ. Make me holy, Lord as You are holy today and every day in the Name Above All Names – Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:10-12 (NLT) When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him. So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of

Wash Me White

Wash Me White

Isaiah 1:18-19 (NLT) “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.”

I own one pair of white pants. Just one. Why? Wearing white pants is a huge responsibility. To put on a white shirt causes a consciousness of every activity for the coming day. White shows every mark and blemish without any grace whatsoever. When something spills on white, it is undeniable like a glaring siren that calls it to everyone’s immediate attention. White clothing stains easily. It shows even the slightest imperfection. See my dilemma. I love the look of solid white, but seldom take on the responsibility of wearing it. White goes with every other color but immediately becomes worthless when marred by stains.

What if we took our salvation as seriously as we do wearing white clothing? What if we were conscious of the purity Jesus has given us through His Blood and by His Grace enough to make our righteousness a priority to maintain it at all costs? To live our life according to His Word and by His Spirit is to live a holy life. Yet, we are quite unsettled. Considering most of the time worthless things and meaningless things such as our physical appearance, presentation to people, influence in the workplace and even position in the church more than we consider the foundation of our faith which is repentance that keeps us righteous. The Lord invites us to “come now…let’s settle this.” Our sins were as scarlet and Jesus wants to make them white as snow. Perhaps you are thinking today, but I am saved. I love the Lord. I am serving God. This all may be quite true. However, if we do not live a life of righteousness through daily repentance…we have missed it altogether.

Isaiah 61:10 (NLT) I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels.

On the day our daughter chose her bridal gown, she was behind the curtain in the dressing room with the attendant trying it on. When she zipped her into the dress, I heard my daughter say, “I don’t care what anyone thinks…this is my dress.” That was the moment, I pulled out my checkbook because I knew that she was saying, “Yes, to the dress!” She felt complete in it. It made her feel like a beautiful princess bride which indeed she was. It was pristine and white. When we picked up her gown, they warned us not to touch it too much as the oil of our fingers could leave marks that would not show up right away but to keep it safely tucked away until her big day. I wonder if this is how we should feel about the clothing of salvation and robe of righteousness given to us by the Lord. So overwhelmed and captivated by its beauty that we cannot take our eyes off of it and are determined to preserve that beauty at all costs.

After the wedding, our daughter left it hanging in her bedroom for months. It was too beautiful to put away so she basked in the glory of it every day. I have her dress with me. When she moved it was tucked in our guest room as it was too precious to risk a ride in the rental truck or vehicles piled high with ordinary things. Yet, when she came home not too long ago, she took a prom gown which was expensive and beautiful in its own right and stuffed in her carry on as I tried to breathe looking on. It was not the same thing. What if we valued our purity and holiness in Jesus as a bride does her gown?

The Lord is looking for a bride dressed in white. He paid the price for her clothing of salvation and robe of righteousness. Does the bride value His Sacrifice? Once given these precious garments do we strive to maintain their integrity, beauty and perfection? Do you own a nice white shirt? Do you have a pair of white pants? Do you try to keep your daily clothing clean without stains? Why wouldn’t we do so with our heart more so? Lord, today I ask you to wash me white again.

Revelation 22:17 (NLT) The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

The Spirit says, “Come.” He is ready. The bride says, “Come.” Are we ready? Really ready to see Jesus. The cry of the church today is for the return of Christ. Could he be waiting for us to clean our garments and ready ourselves to be wed to Him? Can you imagine if my daughter had not cared for her wedding dress but chose to wear it to work cutting hair, followed by her favorite Mexican restaurant afterwards, and maybe even a round of Frisbee golf before heading home? On her big day, her dress would have been covered with the soils of everyday life rather than the pristine white that it was. Too many times, the Grace of God given to us by Jesus is taken for granted. Churches do not teach repentance but religion to keep the doors open. We know what to say and what to do but few are aware of the heart condition that will the most faithful preacher, teacher, elder, deacon, leader and servant in our churches far from the wedding supper that will be the second coming of Christ. Are we crying out prematurely? Is Jesus waiting patiently for His Bride to plan, prepare and get serious about the wedding? I remember during the preparation for our daughter’s wedding having nightmares about details missed on her big day. Waking up in a cold sweat because I was panicked that something was not done. I should be so conscious of my life in Christ even more so…if I want Him to come.

Psalm 51:5-7 (NLT) For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

God desires honesty from the start. He would rather you have integrity than to live a lie. That’s just who He is – the Living God who does not lie or change His Mind. He wants us to come and settle this right now – today. To decide if He is the One we desire and prepare for the return of His Son, Jesus. It doesn’t matter what you “do” for the Lord, if you do not live a life of daily repentance. Sin will always keep us from Jesus until His Grace covers it. Life is black and white. Gray areas of compromise fall into one of these two categories as the Lord does not accept compromise or substitutions but calls them “lukewarm” and “vomit”. We must to live in the purity of holiness offered by Jesus. It must become our passion. Like donning a pristine and perfect white shirt daily determined to maintain it at all costs. What if we approached each day with the one purpose not to sin or rebel against the Lord in any way, shape or form, what might happen? His Glory would fill our life. We would not lack any good thing. We would walk on the Highway of Holiness far above insufficiency complete in Christ.

Matthew 23:26-28 (NLT) You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The Lord is not looking for good people. He is searching for godly people. Those who are fully surrendered to holiness and purity in Christ from the inside out. How many times do we hear about famous preachers with horrible hidden lives? Last night, our youngest poured a glass of apple juice to have with her dinner. As she walked to the table, drinking from the glass, she stopped abruptly and said, “Eww!” She was using one of her favorite Mason jar glasses. It was filled with one of her favorite beverages. But when she went to drink from the cup, it was dirty. Have you ever found a hair in your food and completely grossed out couldn’t eat it anymore? That is how God feels about the hidden and harbored sin in our life. He loves us. He hates the sin in us. It doesn’t matter what we look like, how we live, or what we say if we love sin. We will not entertain things we do not like and love. We must strive to live godly lives apart from sin if our greatest desire is to live with Christ forever. We must love the Light more than darkness. Whitewashed hearts have no room for Jesus. Clean cups cannot be filled with His Spirit if inside they are crusted by sin. We must sacrifice our sin to live in love with our Savior.

Titus 3:4-8 (NLT) But—when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

To know the Love of God through Jesus Christ should motivate us to live in His Presence. But too many times, we make excuses for sin rather than eradicating if from our life. If I approach my life in Christ with the same consideration I do in maintaining white clothing, it would make a difference. However, it is human nature to be like a “dog returns to its vomit” or a “pig returns to the mud.” It says in 2 Peter 2:21-22, it would have been better to never know the way of righteousness than to know it and reject the command we are given to live a holy life.

In Revelation 3, the Church of Sardis is called out for hypocrisy. They had a reputation of life but they are called dead. They are instructed to go back to what they first believed and repent. He tells them to remove their soiled clothes and “walk with me in white.” The “me” is Jesus. “All who are victorious will be clothed in white.” Further along in Revelation 3, the Church of Laodicea is addressed for its “lukewarm” condition. They are warned to “buy white garments from me so you will be ashamed at your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.” We must stop turning a blind eye to sin and ignoring the “stains” in our life. We would change out of a soiled white shirt or stained paints but live in filthy rags rather than robes of righteousness given by the Grace of God through the Blood of Jesus Christ when we truly repent.

Hebrews 10:21-23 (NLT) And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Christ is the Husband of the church. He loves us. He gave up his life for us to make us holy and clean. We have been given the precious privilege of going right into the Presence of God. He takes our guilty consciences sprinkling them with Christ’s Blood so we can be clean washing even our bodies in the Word. To hold tightly to the hope we have of His Return and retrieval of His Bride means that we trust the Lord enough to maintain our robe of righteousness. To keep it clean through repentance. To strive to live a holy life just a bride before her wedding day keeps safe, clean and protected her gown of choice. We must be sincere in our devotion to Christ and honest with ourselves. If Jesus is who we want, desire and need, I must live a life of repentance and righteousness with a heart of integrity that says, “Wash me white, Lord! Keep me clean!”

Ephesians 5:25-27 (NLT) For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

 

 

21 Days

21 Days

Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Who doesn’t like new? The new car smell is exciting until the payment book arrives in the mail. The new way is good until it becomes mundane. The televisions entertains with new offers and billions of dollars poured into advertising to grab public attention to come shop for more. New is only for a moment if you think about it. Once attained, that “thing” that was new quickly becomes old. A new thing often comes with a cost. A new way comes only with change. If you think about it for a moment, we want new things and new ways but seldom consider the cost or change that must come with it.

Jesus opened a new and life-giving way. It requires a cost and change to attain it. He paid the price for our sin with His Blood. He changed our worship to become about surrender rather than sacrifice. Sin no longer cost us our life but grace welcomes surrender. Are you walking in the new and life-giving way? Do you feel confident that you can have all that God promised in His Word to those He calls His Children? Can you go into the Presence of God with a sincere heart fully trusting Him? We can boldly enter Heaven’s Most Holy Place which is the Throne Room of our Most High God with Jesus seated at His Right Hand. As a born-again believer covered in the Blood of Jesus and walking in His Grace, I can come to the Father with every request fully trusting that He will hear my cries and answer my call…but do I do it? Will I walk in the new and life-giving way today? Or every day? Are you tired of a mundane life? Does it seem like it is the same stuff and situations all the time? Are you stuck in a rut?

Luke 14:26-30 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

When I was much younger, I judged my parents severely. Married and divorced at a young age with two small children and just barely adults themselves, I didn’t realize how harshly that I had judged them. I wanted to be the perfect wife and perfect mother, but found it be impossible myself. In a similar situation and making many of the same mistakes, it wasn’t until I came to Jesus and finally gave Him my life completely that I could finally see. Nobody’s perfect. The grace afforded me, I must give to others. Though it is human nature to try to trust other people fully, they are going to let you down. We must put our trust in Jesus and discard all the other expectations of others.

I remember when our son was diagnosed with cancer and my dad was coming to see his grandson in the hospital. I had been in the throes of caregiver long enough to dry up my tears, trust the Lord and continue to march on. But when my dad let me know that he was coming, my heart quaked a little. He is my dad. I needed to hug my father and hear him say that it would be okay. When he called to say that he was in the lobby, I rushed down to see him. I looked all around for my dad ready to run to him. What I found was a broken man with his head buried in his arms sobbing. He was overwhelmed with sadness for his grandson. I sat down, put my arm around him and began to encourage him. Though he is my father, in that moment, for that season, I had to trust the Lord to quiet my heart, soothe my soul and be my portion.

Love and hate are opposites. I don’t think Jesus was implying that we should hate our parents, family or friends to take up our cross and follow Him. If we are not willing to give up everything we love including our own life to follow Jesus then, for us, the price is too high. The new, life-giving way promised to us comes through discipleship and following Jesus which means that our trust and expectation can no longer be in those around us but to the One who lives inside of us. It will cost you everything to follow Jesus. Have you counted the cost? It means that we must love, forgive, and say farewell to many other “things” including people choosing to love the Lord more than anyone else in our life. It relieves people of our expectation as we yoke our whole life to Jesus and carry the cross laid upon us by His Love.

2 Corinthians 3:9-12 (NLT) If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.

The new way of life given to us by Jesus is called freedom. No longer condemned by our sin because of His Grace, we can live a glorious life again despite human imperfection. The problem is that most people expect the Lord to meet us where we are rather than running to where He is. Our life must change to accept the new way of living that we have been offered. If the Lord forces us to live in the new way, it is no longer freedom but becomes bondage all over again. The devil cannot make you do anything you do not want to do. The Holy Spirit will not make you do anything that you do not want to do. You are free to live however you choose. So when we don’t like the way things are going – it is up to us to choose a new way.

We are offered overwhelming glory as we take up our cross and follow Christ. To expect a new way of life doing all the same things is ridiculous. To do the same thing and expect different results is called insanity. People do it every day. We must become confident that the new way is worth having so we will walk in it. If we do, we will become bold in our confidence. Confidence in the Lord will change our life for the better because confident people will choose to follow God. Counting the cost ahead of time and deciding – it’s going to be worth it. It is going to be worth it all.

2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NLT) For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.

We are ordained by God and granted access by Jesus to live a holy life. Not a religious existence but a life of holiness. Why? Holiness connects us with the Lord by reliance on His Grace alone. Righteousness allows us to become holy again. Our life should reflect the grace given to us in every way. By submitting to the authority of Jesus as Lord and surrendering our heart to Him as Savior, it is possible to enter the Highway of Holiness and live there successfully. Outside of Jesus – it is all just religious and pious acts of false worship.

“Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) A holy life is one defined by discipleship. It is no longer about what I want or how I feel but trusting the Lord to meet those needs and desires while I demonstrate the new way with my life. A holy life is not a perfect life. It is not a sinless one either. A holy life is to dedicate and devote our life to serving the Lord. It is to strive to be godly like our Father in Heaven and accepting His Grace when we fall short. To have a spiritually pure quality. This is achieved by the washing of God’s Word that releases the impurities of our heart, mind and soul by changing the way we think so our attitude and actions follow suit. (Romans 12:2) It is life in the Spirit of God using His Guidance and Instruction to walk in God’s Ways. (Romans 7:5-6)

2 Corinthians 4:1 (NLT) Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 

2 Corinthians 4:6-9 (NLT) For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 

God has given us a new way. Are we walking in it? When He decided to light the way for us, God gave His Son, Jesus. Jesus put the same light in us so now we are the light of the world likened to a city on a hill. Is your light so shining before men that the love of God is revealed and men praise Him for it? Until you and I become confident in the investment that God has made in us including our mind, soul and body choosing to live true to it, we will not experience the glorious life promised those who do. Are you willing to count the cost and take up your cross to follow Jesus? Are you willing to change from your way to His Way?

Scientifically, it is believed that it takes 21 days to change a habit. To retrain our mind to do something new on a regular basis. A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become involuntary. Could it be that if we decided to do things His Way for 21 days, it would become independent of our will and we could live in God’s Will? I wonder what 21 consistent days of getting up early to read God’s Word and pray might do? How about not watching that television show that feeds our flesh but not our spirit? Whatever that “thing” is hindering you from a closer walk with God. What if it was left undone for just 21 days…would it make a difference? I believe it would. If not, you can surely go right back to life as usual. If the supernatural is what you are after though, it is the beginning of faith and freedom forever. We must count the cost. We must become confident in our belief. We must change our ways to see the Glory of God in our life.

Psalm 119:57-60 (NLT) Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words! With all my heart I want your blessings. Be merciful as you promised. I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws. I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands.

Clean House

Clean House

Psalm 19:12-14 (NLT) How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Our family will be moving in a day or so after months of anticipation. For weeks, I have been purging this house going through every nook and cranny deciding what will stay and what will go. We have so much stuff. We are blessed. Now in the final countdown before closing, we are preparing for the walkthrough. As our belongings are packed in a trailer and furniture prepared for the moving truck, I am appalled at the dust and dirt that I have found hidden beneath things that have not moved in years. I clean my house faithfully once a week on Thursdays and require each person to pick up after themselves so how in the world did it get so gross. Dust in the closets. Debris under counters and in cabinets. And could someone please tell me what dripped down the wall of the pantry before I touch it. Crawling along the floor wiping down baseboards, I notice that though they looked pristine and white from a distance on closer inspection not so much. When the new owner walks through, I want this house to shine. I want her to fall in love with it like she did when she first laid eyes on it and decided quickly to have it. I do not want her to regret her purchase or be ashamed it is her home.

We are God’s House. His Holy Spirit lives in us. He is our Helper and Constant Companion. The Spirit of God in mean has the ability and desire to do more in me than I can ask or think but many times I do not allow the Spirit freedom to do these things restricted by sin in my life. I read the Word of God every day. I pray every day, too. I faithfully attend church and serve there as well. I try to live according to the Word of God and His Spirit, but sin still finds its way in my life despite my best attempt at godliness and holy living. I just cannot help it. It is my nature. When the Holy Spirit inspects our heart and mind, what does He find? See I don’t think we consider our holy inhabitation enough to realize that God sees everything. He knows every thought before we think it, every action before we do it and every word before we seek it. He sees our intentions. He knows our follow through. So as I continue to clean my house and prepare for our move, I am looking inside my heart today, too.

God hates sin. He cannot come anywhere near a sin-filled person or His Goodness would consume them so it is with great compassion and persistent patience that He waits for us. What is waiting for? The Lord God is waiting for His People to be overcome with love for Him that causes them to daily examine their body, mind and spirit for sin and remove it simply because they want to be close to Him for the sake of love. Love empowers us to overcome sin because it creates a greater desire in us to please our beloved. To live for God in obedience without love leads to devastation because to walk with God requires grace. Lots of it. Obedience is self-motivated. Obedience in love is different. It causes us to desire the One we love more than those things we do, want or see. Obedience to God in life will produce His Blessings. But falling in love with the Lord will satisfy the soul.

Psalm 51:9-11 (NLT) Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Create in me a clean heart, Lord. Renew a right spirit. The removal of sin allows us to move closer to God. It is the only that stands between us and His Glory. Our churches are not in revival because of sin. Our community is not redeemed because of sin. We cannot come to the Lord and seek Him wholeheartedly entertaining sin in our life. I am not the Holy Spirit. I cannot decide for you the parameters of right and wrong for you. God’s Word tells us what we ought to do. Freedom allows us to do it without the guilt and shame of sin keeping us from God’s Best. His Spirit leads us from everlasting to everlasting by faith. But if we refuse to get rid of, to the bottom of and deal with all the sin in our life – revival will not come. It is with a steadfast and loyal heart that is determined not to let anything come between it and God that we begin to see Heaven come to earth and revival sweep our churches to save, deliver and heal the land.

How can I know the sin lurking in my heart? As not to compound or complicate the issue – I will be straightforward. Read the Bible and pray. Meditate on the Word of God – chew it up and digest it fully. Pray. Pray. Pray some more. Prayer is communication with God. Partner with the Holy Spirit so that you are familiar with the nudge or red flag that signals danger ahead. This will become a mirror for your soul that allows you to see beyond acceptable to godliness.

Cleanse me from hidden faults. In Hosea, it tells us that God’s People die from a lack of knowledge. There are things in your life right now that seem fine to you but soon will be considered unworthy of God’s Beloved. Ask the Lord to cleanse you from hidden faults today. Those things you do but do not know they are sin.

Keep your servant from deliberate sins! You and I both know that there are things in our life that would be considered deliberate sin. Attitudes and actions contrary to the Word of God allowed to remain in our life. We like to think of it as human weakness which would work but greater is He who lives in me than he that is in the world. Yes, His Grace is enough. It will cover every deliberate sin carried to the cross. Deliberate sin will keep you from God’s Best every time. It will ruin relationships. It will detour divine destiny. It will never be okay in God’s Eyes. Consider this – what if each time we sin it meant one more blow of the hammer into the nail’s that pierced His Hands and Feet? What if it was one more bloody stripe across His Back? Or maybe it meant another handful of hair ripped from His Beard? What if that one deliberate seemingly harmless sin produced another agonizing torment to our Savior? Truth is…it did. Those little white lies don’t seem so small. The hot tempered explosion more than just a blowup. The things done in secret now have been brought into the Light.

Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. With that in mind, please know and understand that every hidden and deliberate sin allowed to remain unchecked will lead to our downfall. It will soon plummet us into great sin. Sin will control your life if not dealt with severely. We must decide each day to crucify our flesh to make way for His Spirit to show us the Way into the Presence of God and live there. Sin will always be a part of our life. However, I can reduce the impact of sin on my life but refusing to allow it to remain once discovered.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Peace with God is created by agreement with God, His Word and His Spirit through His Son, Jesus. My mouth and my heart must agree. This forms my attitude and actions. My heart wants to please the one it loves. Proverbs 20:10 says that God hates double standards. You cannot live for self and Jesus. You cannot love evil and do that which is good. You cannot live in the Light of His Love while dabbling in darkness for long. We must be at peace with God, sealed in His Spirit and covered by the Blood of Jesus to move from death to life. If Jesus were to do a walkthrough of your heart today, what would He find? I am asking myself that today as I want only what He wants for me. I want His Kingdom to come to earth and do not want to be the one who stops it for those who are around me. Sin stops the Move of God. I don’t want to stop the next great Move of God, do you?

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT) Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

God has filled our life with promises. “If you will, I will” over and over again. Why do we get so mad when we don’t so He doesn’t then? To have the Will of God including every benefit and blessing promised to me in the Word of God – I can only achieve such a life by living God’s Way. Sin forces us to compromise for less than God’s Best every single time. Sin restricts our prosperity. It limits our ability to love. As I prepare for the final walkthrough, I hope the new buyer sees a home rather than a house. I wonder what might happen if we prepared our heart for the Holy Spirit to walk through each day? What if I purposed to make the Lord feel welcome in my heart and make it His Home? What are the possibilities? Limitless! Let us cleanse ourselves of everything that might keep God’s Spirit living, breathing and moving through us today. It’s time to clean house.

2 Timothy 2:21 (NLT) If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

The Finishers

The Finishers

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I have a good friend who is a runner. This is not a shared common interest. If you see me running, you should probably run too as something must be chasing me. When our son was sick, many people reached out to us in a variety of ways. My friend found a bracelet honoring our son’s cancer battle and committed every marathon to him. It was a race of faith and each footstep she made symbolic. She won many of the competitions finishing well above her class in most. I believe it was the Team Unconquered spirit that gave her such strength not in her body but her spirit and soul. Each time she finished well was a heartfelt reminder that God has promised our son would finish this race, too.

My friend would run for another woman battled the same wretched foe. Her outcome would be different as she leapt into the Arms of Jesus to finish her course. Another course with a different ending but the same Great God. Just recently I was devastated to learn that now my friend who has faithfully run the race of faith with us is now running it on her own. She has been diagnosed with cancer. How can this be? Someone who unselfishly and unrelenting in her faith offering encouragement to others now must fight the same war.

2 Timothy 2:4-6 (NIV)  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

Life is full of attachments and entanglements. Things that attach themselves to us and those things which cause us to stumble and fall. We are all running a race of faith. It doesn’t matter if you are a runner, walker and crawler. In every marathon, all the runners are similar in appearance. Shoulder to shoulder, most begin strong running together in a pact with no clear cut winner or loser just participants on a crowded road. After the first few minutes, the group thins and become a string of runners. Each one a little more defined by experience and endurance. As the journey continues some will stop, give up or fall away. The runner who has conditioned their body against the elements, nourished their bones and muscles with proper food and water, rested prior to the race, and trained for it – those are the ones who cross the finish line. Some will run across with their arms in the air, others will walk to the line collapsing on the other side, and then some will literally crawl or be carried to the end. It doesn’t really matter how you start, but your life is contingent on how you finish this race called faith.

We must not get tied up in civilian affairs. This world is ruled by darkness and influenced by the enemy of our soul. It is his dominion. It is his domain. Our mission is the great commission. We cannot and will not change the world. We are not called to do so. We have been commissioned with a direct order by Jesus who has all power and authority over heaven and earth granted by God to do just one thing – go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) If it was our mission to take over the world, why would we be instructed to respect all authority even governmental who have effectively cut God out of every public platform possible? (Romans 13) Our focus must be on the one, the sheep that is lost. The Lord desires the souls to build His Kingdom. We are not of this world and must conform to the rules of engagement set forth by Jesus.

I believe as my athletic friend ran each race honoring our son, her feet pressed in seeds of faith for this season of life. This time the good fight of faith will be fought by her. She will have what she needs because she will reap what she has sown. What kind of provisions are you planting today for tomorrow’s battle? Will you have what you need to finish the race? Faith is compared to a mustard seed. A seed of faith cannot grow until planted. We must learn to sow seeds as we go rather than checking a barren field for a crop not yet planted.

Isaiah 35:8-10 (NIV) And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

The way of holiness is the narrow road talked about in Matthew 7:13-14 because few will ever find their way there. It is just too hard to let go of reality to take hold of faith. I think that is why is compared to roles like soldier, athlete and farmers. All of these people sacrifice. They give their all. Giving up time, talent and treasure (resources) to pursue something more, bigger and greater than themselves. I believe such a sacrifice is need to fight and win the good fight of faith. Life without limits comes when we breakdown the strongholds of fear, pain and doubt to be overcome with faith that moves mountains, heals bodies and prospers our life. There are various stages to every race. Strong beginnings, waning and whining midway but then we can vaguely see the end in sight. It is at that moment giving up is no longer an option and hope rises within us. Love, joy and peace are the fulfillment of hope. It is a place of right standing with Jesus that removes every barrier from our life. It is time to unload those things that are keeping us from finishing the race.

Matthew 19:21-26 (NIV) Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

An impossible life begins and ends in Jesus Christ. He is the author and finisher of faith in our life. He is the beginning and end of all things. Those who choose to live by faith pursuing a relationship with Jesus will come to the end of themselves at some point. A moment in time when you must lay down your life for what you believe. It will change your commitment, confession and conviction until it is all or nothing. You must believe to be saved. Jesus Christ must be the foundational thought in all your thinking to know that you will finish the race and win the war for your life. The rich young man came to Jesus for validation of faith. He was a religious person who knew all the dos and don’ts set forth by God. He worked hard to follow all the commandments…that is until it all came down to the one that mattered the most. “Go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.” We are good with stay, hoard our stuff, and pray for the poor but what is this give it all away stuff? My life is worth nothing until I give it all away. Nothing is possible but I remain subject to all the impossibilities until Christ becomes my beginning and end with everything wrapped up in the middle. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. He must increase and I must decrease. We read the words. We carefully repeat them. Until we live them, they are lip service that will not open doors, break chains or add to the Kingdom beginning with me.

I Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV) But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

My friend will win her race. She is a finisher. The one who has put the time into training body, mind, soul and spirit. She has laid down her life for others. It is in that moment that we lay down our life for a friend (John 15:13) or maybe even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45) that God’s Love can reach the innermost parts of our life and perfect those things which concern us. (Psalm 138:8) Faith expands the capacity of our existence to receive that which we hope for. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. By faith, we have a wonderful opportunity to live a limitless life. It is time to step down from soapboxes and move away from politics to enter the race of faith also called the Highway to Holiness. Abandoning anger and offering forgiveness making our light (the Light of God’s Love) to shine brightly in the darkness. It is time to run the race of faith to the finish rather than throwing the towel in when the Lord doesn’t do it our way, the journey seems to long or things get uncomfortable. If we would just collect all the broken and fragmented pieces of our heart and life thrusting them into the Hands of Jesus, He will make a beautiful life from that which was broken. He will fill our voids with His Presence. He will bind our wounds and heal our hearts. No longer slaves to sin or bound to the past – we will finish the race of faith with the victor’s crown as promised. Thank you Jesus that you have not placed limitations on my life but given me the power to live without limits.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV) Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Go in Peace

Go in Peace

Proverbs 4:25-27 (NIV) Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

 

Though born a girl, I have lacked the natural grace usually inclined to the female gender. One might even have called me a tomboy growing up. I remember my mother telling me once that I had the gait of a football player. Each footfall like that of giant shaking the ground and reverberating through the house. I never noticed. Now as an adult, I no longer enter a room like a raging bull bent on disaster but a bit more cautiously than before. I have relented from the desire to divide and conquer which once was my stance. I am a survivor of many things which has led to careful and constant introspection. Walking halfway through this journey called life has brought sober reflection on my ways, attitudes and actions over the years. Many situations come to mind when I rushed in rather than carefully considering the next step in terms of forever.

 

When I was in elementary school, I attended gymnastics for a short time. Probably my mother’s attempt to soften my steps and find some gracefulness in the mix. At any rate, my favorite event was the balance beam. At first, it was all about balance with the sixteen foot beam just inches above the ground so that if (or when) I fell, it would not be devastating. With my arms stretched wide, I would keep my eyes fixed on something on the other side of the gym. Each step my foot would feel for the beam, its smooth texture and straight surface guiding me along to the other side. As the lessons continued, I would learn how to do various moves and positions while balanced above the ground about four feet. My feet perched on a beam just four inches across. My whole body followed the direction of my feet. I wish I could say that it made my moves fluent and coherent, but I don’t think it did. I still charge into rooms. I am still a big awkward and clumsy even after all these years.

 

Let your eyes look straight ahead and fix your gaze directly ahead of you. This mirrors the instructions that I was first given to attempt a quick trip across the balance beam. You are not supposed to keep your eyes down or you will soon head in that direction. I had to learn to trust my feet to do their job. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. We must think about the paths we take each day and remain steadfast in our pursuit of the Lord. Our feet play an important role in this endeavor. We must become aware of how we walk through life and not just where we are going. The way of our walk is more important than our destination. Our destiny is not a place but a person. We must walk like Jesus to make it into eternity. Otherwise, we will only make it to the gate before discovering we missed the mark altogether.

 

Ephesians 6:14-17 (NIV) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

Stand firm. How are you holding up? The enemy works daily to cause God’s People to wander from His Perfect Plan and miss out on His Promises. He lies to us. He shoots fiery darts at us. He roars loudly trying to flush us from safety in the midst of uncertainty. In a panic, we forget everything we know about the Lord and run. Adrenaline can make us do some crazy things. Fear produces a call to fight or flight. We are warriors who have an armor that is sound and sword that is strong but if we lack confidence in it – we will not use it but succumb to the enemy’s plight.

 

Our armor is simple. The belt of Truth secures us at the waist. The Truth is God’s Word. It gives us support in every endeavor. It is the absolute truth and evidence that our faith is solid and hope secure. Each morning, we must make the effort to buckle God’s Word around us to hold us up and keep us in place. We have breastplate of righteousness that protects our heart. Right standing with God is complete and whole in Jesus Christ alone. The only thing that I must do is put it over my heart and refuse to remove it. The enemy wants you to believe that there is more to it than that. He tells God’s People that they must earn their stripes so they forfeit righteousness in search of religion. Our relationship to Jesus is the very thing that keeps right standing with God in place. We are given a shield of faith that we must hold on to. Our hope is in the Lord and we receive it when we maintain a strong grip on faith refusing to let go no matter what the battle. Salvation is the helmet that protects our mind. We must believe that we are saved and live like it. We are given the sword of the spirit to swing death blows to the one who threatens our stand for Christ. Each day He is our helper and will never allow the righteous to fall.

 

I purposely left out the part that I believe we have overlooked on many occasions. It says, “with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” I will be the first to admit as I slowly raise my hand that I have been known to have a warring and zealous spirit just like Paul. Before Saul became Paul, he persecuted Christians because their beliefs compromised his ideas and education concerning God. He didn’t do it out of malice but ignorance. When he met Jesus Christ that day on the road to Damascus, everything changed. His method changed. His motive changed. His movement changed. No longer a murderer. No longer a persecutor. Paul accepted God’s Grace and committed his life to delivering it to every other human being who he came in contact with from that day forward. Are we walking at peace with God today? Are we sharing this peace with other people?

 

Ephesians 1:18-23 (NIV) I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

 

Before taking another step in any direction, we must consider how we travel. What is our impact on others? What footprint do we leave behind? Is it one that others will wish to follow? We are not called to change the world but enlighten others about the Love of Jesus Christ. I have my concerns about Target’s bathroom policy, but it is my personal opinion. I do not care for my choices for the future presidency so I must trust that King Jesus is still in charge. I will not buy or support Sports Illustrated but then again I didn’t buy it in the first place. All these issues and diversions cause people to disagree and argue. Waving flags, marching for causes, disputing our opinions and dividing rather connecting, it is important very important maybe even critical that we discover what we stand for and exactly how Jesus told us to stand before we step up on soapboxes and spew out irrelevant tirades and hurtful words that cut hearts open and leave them bleeding to die.

 

I have hope. My hope does not lead to disappointment. I must have faith because it is futuristic and cannot completely exist here on earth. For now it is partial and a bit cloudy, I need Jesus to clear it all up. Until then, it serves me well to remember these important truths. My hope is not impoverished but an inheritance far greater than the wealth of the world or influence found on the earth. He calls us to hope which means there is a journey in store. Embarking on the quest for hope, I must put my trust in Jesus. Not this world, my ability or other people – just Jesus. Why? The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead and established His Throne placing all things under His Feet is invested in me when I choose Him as my Savior and decide to live like He is my Lord. Jesus has all rule, authority, dominion and power that He readily hands over to me when I confidently learn to walk in His Peace.

 

Romans 10:14-15 (NIV) How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7) What is our method? The message of God’s love is shared best when offered in peace and good tidings. After all, it really is good news. Each day as we set out, we choose shoes fit for our activity. I have shoes that I wear to work, workout sneakers for the gym, and slippers for the house. There are fancy shoes for special date nights or when I go to church on Sunday. I choose the appropriate shoe to fit the occasion. When my life is surrendered to Jesus Christ, no matter what the day holds, where I go, what I do, I must always put on peace before I take the first step.

 

My message is one of hope. It is filled with salvation, healing, deliverance and joy. God is good all the time. His Heart and Mind are set on making good of every detail of my life. He has a good plan with a future and hope designated just for me. He promises overcoming power and inexpressible joy. I win in all things. I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, slays every giant and answers every question at my disposal, but if I do not become a messenger of peace nothing I say or do matters. The beautiful feet of the messenger will always be shod in peace. People are our mission and the subject of the great commission. Their heart, mind, body, soul and spirit will be drawn to the same love, grace, joy and peace that we found in the Lord but only if we promote it in our stride through life.

 

Hebrews 12:12-17 (NIV) Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

 

One might think that walking across a balance beam would be easy. After all, though narrow, it is straight and smooth. But we are complex creatures with a lot to balance in our life, so when put on the straight and narrow it is not always easy to get it all together so practice makes perfect. When on the beam, gymnasts will put their arms out to their side which helps achieve balance. As believers, we must continually evaluate our walk with the Lord to ensure we are not driven by religiosity but are walking in relationship with Jesus. His Message is always loving and grace full. It does not condemn us but gives us the freedom from sin that we long for. We must pray before stepping out always. We must have a right heart and right mind to have a right perspective. Before daring to move in any direction, ask the Lord for His Direction. We must make level the paths for our feet. Our purpose is to see people saved and healed that they may be delivered from bondage and free to develop a lasting relationship with Jesus. We are not the judge and jury though we act that way sometimes.

 

We are to make every effort to live in peace. How important is peace? It comes before holiness which means until we learn how to live in harmony with all mankind, we will not be holy like the Lord. It doesn’t matter how much we do or how good we speak. Without love for one another that comes before our need to be right, better or more holy than others, we will never establish holiness with the Lord by faith and confident hope will remain elusive until we discover His True Love. We are responsible for every person we come in contact with. We are to keep them from falling from grace. We are their helpers. We are to be hands-on. No bitter roots. No birthrights sold or inheritance forsaken. We are Children of God with many siblings. It is up to us to tell them that the Father is preparing a party for them. He is waiting for them to come home. We cannot be like the prodigal’s brother who refused to celebrate his return. All of heaven celebrated your return. Jesus washed away your sin and applied the same grace that is given to others. We must learn to walk in peace with God and all mankind. This is God’s Mandate for us.

 

Psalm 18:32-36 (NIV) It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.

 

Before slipping on, buckling, or tying your shoes today, I challenge you to put peace on your feet. Decide right not that everywhere you go, you will share the Love of God first. Choose to love others without judgment or condemnation. Your place in the Kingdom is secure. Your birthright established. Your inheritance belongs to you. The Love you have been given is limitless. It’s potential powerful but unless we choose to walk peacefully through life trusting the Lord and confident in hope enough to stop arguing, controlling and voicing our opinion but rather meeting people where they are to show them a better way, we will miss the mark every time. We will stumble and we will fall because we lack wisdom and proper training. Those who choose to trust the Lord will be trained to stand solely and securely on the peace that we have with God through Jesus Christ. Stop standing for things that don’t matter but walk in peace! Jesus will show you the way. Even though the beam did not get any broader, through my constant training and practicing I learned how to balance myself and walk all the way across. Isn’t that kind of what life in Jesus is all about? Working out our salvation and enduring to the end. Walk in peace today, friend. Go in Peace!

 

Psalm 37:31 (NIV) The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.

Oh So Holy

Oh So Holy

John 20:21-22 (NIV)

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

When our son underwent the bone marrow transplant, part of the procedure is called “chemo blasting”. It is a process of bombarding the body with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is an anti-neoplastic drug that halts cell reproduction in the body. All rapidly dividing cells such as cancer can continue to produce when chemo is present. Unfortunately this also affects the person’s blood count, cells in the mouth, stomach and bowel and hair follicle among other things. The natural occurring or “normal” cells will come back with the assistance of the bone marrow transfused back into the body. However, during the process, there is a hopefully brief amount of time when the patient is severely immunocompromised and cannot tolerate infection of any kind. The body has nothing to fight back with. During that time, our family chose to halt all visitation and no one other than myself, doctors and nurses, etc. were allowed in the room with him. While no one would intentionally come to see him with a cold or obvious virus, the human body is amazing and is fighting off every bacteria, virus or small infection many times without our knowledge. The slightest contaminant to a person without immunity could ultimately kill them.

 

What’s up with the cancer story? Well, the other night in church, the entire congregation was singing, “Holy, holy, holy.” The more the chorus continued the more in unison it became until the very Presence of God filled the little church. It was a mighty force with angels in our midst hailing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In that moment, my mind went back to our son in the hospital. How meticulous I was in his care. The diligence of handwashing and germ control I observed in his presence to insure his recovery. I was completely conscious every moment of who came in, did they wash their hands, were they gloved up, etc. It was it that time of reflection that the Lord gave me just a glimpse of His Holiness. See God is pure and whole. There is no sin in God that is why the Blood of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, is required to draw near to Him. He is perfection. Sin would not kill God. It would kill us to come any closer in our present state. We have nothing to compare to His Excellence. Yet standing in His Presence in that place, I was completely humbled that I in my sinful state would be allowed in the Midst of such Holiness and Perfection. I was then dismayed that I am not as careful in my pursuit of the Lord as I have been with our child. What if I took the same level of care and paid the same amount of attention to my entrance into God’s Presence each day? To catch such a glimpse of His Countenance changes me every time. Holiness is not required because the Lord set us free. It is a privilege for those who seek life everlasting who now are given the gift and ability to encounter it.

I looked up the word “holy” seeking its origin. It made me laugh. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not possible to determine, but probably was “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated.” The Holiness of God and His Son, Jesus Christ are undeniable and unquestionable. Predating Judaism or Christianity – it is the very Presence of God in His Complete and Utter Sovereignty. We have been raised in a compromised state. We are tainted by sin from birth having no knowledge or experience with true and complete wholeness or purity. Of course, we do not recognize it or respect it. Our reluctance to walk with Christ in holiness is based on disbelief that it exists. God is given human qualities in order for man to connect on a comfortable level rather than raising our standard of living to God’s Glorious Standard. The defeat, discouragement and devastation that is experienced in life is a direct correlation to our unwillingness or inability to believe, trust and have faith in God. We must understand that He is holy and dedicate our life to pursuing the Lord in that state which means we must strive to be holy, too.

Isaiah 6:3-8 (NIV)

And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

You know I never really considered the life of a cancer patient or caregiver until it impacted our life personally. I never thought it would be me. But once our son was diagnosed, it didn’t matter what I did before. From that moment on, I became that thing I never wanted to be and embraced it fully. Our son’s battle would not only wage a war on his body. We would be placed in a position to fight institutions and companies to provide his care. The Lord won our battle and to Him all glory is given. I share this to say that we decide the level of commitment in each pursuit. Some things that we desire to do or achieve begin with a high priority but fall down the list if inconvenient or uncomfortable. Perhaps, we decide it to be too costly. When faced with life or death, what choice is there really? Many people over the years have said to me in some way, shape or form, I don’t know how you did it. I don’t think I could have. Oh yes you could if it was your child. You would have fought the same way, endured the process. Our pursuit of the Lord is a matter of life and death…our own. However, if we do not believe in the necessity of God in our life – the passion is lost to compromise and substitutions to preserve our comfort and avoid change.

When Isaiah found himself in the Presence of God, His Holiness and Perfection surrounding him, the prophet understood just how unclean that he was. Venturing into the Throne Room of the Most High God will do that for you. The reality of the God we serve will drive us to our knees in repentance. We forget sometimes because of the radical change first experienced in coming to Christ. We compare ourselves with other people rather than the Character of God who is flawless in composition. Everything He does is just and good. There is absolutely no sin in Him. His Being is preserved whole and intact and cannot be transgressed upon. It is only through the Blood of Jesus that we dare come any closer. If one’s desire is to live in close proximity to the Lord, it will require holiness. The Word of God does not say, “Be holy because Mr. Jones is holy.” It does not tell us to be holy because our pastor is holy because surely he is not. It tells us to be holy because God is holy!

 

I Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NIV)

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

 

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

 

The modern day church for the most part has become seeker sensitive. The seats are comfortable. The climate controlled. The program perfected. The timing reasonable. It is designed to attract people. However, plagued with sin. Not to say that we cannot have buildings, furniture and sound systems in our church, but if we do not create an atmosphere that is welcoming of God’s Presence, His Holy Spirit, what is really being accomplished? Religion changes the outward appearance but a relationship with Jesus Christ changes us inside. The Love of God must be evident rather than love of self preeminent. God did not call us to be impure. Compromise is not welcome in the church and neither is condemnation. Grace is given to enable those who are weak to become strong in Christ. It does not make us a card carrying member of the secret club called Christianity. It completes us so that we can pursue holiness in the Presence of God. It does not and will not ever make sin okay. You cannot carry your sin into the Presence of God.

Do you desire the Presence of God to fill your life today? Do you want to experience God’s Power? Do you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? Do you feel broken, empty and discarded? The Lord is waiting on you. He desires nothing more than to live at peace in complete unity with His Children. He loves you. He promises good things, but too many times we want the dead and broken things instead. We pursue those things that we can see, feel and touch rather than the life faith and confident hope provide. It doesn’t have to be that way. Holiness takes us into the Presence of God. He gave us His Spirit for that purpose. When Jesus breathed on them, He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Why? To give them peace and purpose. Peace with God. Purpose to pursue. If we can just find a way into His Presence, He will do this for each of us. What did Isaiah do right after encountering the Lord and His Holiness? He said to the Lord, “Send me.” Life outside of God is pointless. It is going to end and not end well.

Galatians 5:22-24 (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

When our son was in the process of his transplant, I was not willing to risk the possibility of exposure in order to entertain others. So when people would call and text asking to come see us, or even me in the lobby, I would decline the offer. It was not worth the risk of contamination. What if we lived our natural life with the same regard for sin? All sin? Even the smallest seemingly insignificant sin will block us from moving into His Presence until completely covered by the Blood of Jesus. The distance that we feel in our relationship with the Lord is directly represented by our life and pursuit of holiness. During that time with him, I became very lonely. My only connection sometimes to family and friends was online and texting. Yet, I could not risk our son’s life to comfort and pacify my own wants, needs and desires.

The Holy Spirit is the very essence of God in us. It is His Job to create clean and viable believers ready to meet the Lord face-to-face. He is the One who creates those qualities in us that defy human nature. All fruit must begin with a seed. May this be the seed of your revival today. Once planted the seed must die to produce life. What are you willing to give to the planting and revitalization of your soul? Is there something keeping you from the Lord that needs to be buried the sea of forgetfulness and covered by the Blood of Jesus. If you are human, the answer is always yes. Given the opportunity to grow that seed planted in repentance will establish roots. The Word of God is the seed we plant that kills whatever is keeping us from the Lord. Once accepted it will begin to grow, develop and mature restoring life to our soul. We must allow the Holy Spirit to take our flesh and sow it in the Word so that we will reap the reward of good fruit. The kind of fruit that God desires in our life that leads us to holiness. The cultivation of this fruit while completely done by the Holy Spirit requires us to survey the desires, passions and pursuits of our life to decide if they will lead us into His Presence in the Midst of His Holiness. I am humbled that a God so perfect wants a relationship with me. What about you? When was the last time you encountered the Lord in such a way? Have you ever? You are His Child. God loves you. He will do anything to spend time with you. The rest is up to the child.

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.

Another Conviction

Another Conviction

Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

The Daniel Fast began yesterday. How are you doing with it? Did you eat the “right” food and abstain from the no-no’s on the list? Is your flesh unhappy with you today? I encourage you as you continue in pursuing God this New Year to move beyond the menu to the Message of this time of fasting and praying. Our pastor shared his “target list” of spiritual goals for 2016 with us yesterday. It began with this verse and the goal to add “one more conviction to the conviction bag”. I have never heard of anything like that before and it became a revolving thought for the rest of the day, through the night and well here we are today.

Create in me a pure heart. For years, I have jumped around from translation to translation of God’s Word in my quiet time. No real reason other than variety is the spice of life or I really needed God to dumb it down for me a little … or maybe a lot. When I looked up Psalm 51:10, in many translations it uses the word “clean” rather than “pure” but I was drawn to the passages requesting a “pure” heart. What’s the difference? A couple of weeks ago a co-workers child was visiting our office for the day. Usually mid-morning I will have a snack of fruit and peanut butter, so I offered him some as well. When I opened the jar of “organic” peanut butter, it was full of oil that splashed all over my shirt. My favorite tunic from an online boutique not easily replaced so I began to scrub it with dish soap with grease cutter. When I got home I pretreated it with everything I had in the laundry room and under the counter in an effort to save my beloved garment. When I washed it, mission accomplished. All was well and the shirt intact. When I went to grab a camisole a few days later, I noticed that it had a huge grease stain. I only treated the outer garment that everyone could see but failed to pay any attention to the cami that no one sees which bears an unsightly oily spot all across the neckline. Hmm… Could it be that we work hard to be religious forgoing the part of us that God requires for a relationship? Could it be that we work hard to be clean but do not strive to remain pure in heart? There is definitely a difference. Every time I pull out the tunic that I love so much, I am constantly surveying it in the light to be sure no one can see the mark of my error but when I put on the undershirt I don’t really care because no one can see the stain.

The Blood of Jesus has washed me clean. I no longer bear the mark of my transgressions or do I? Have I washed the outside of the cup but not the inside? (Matthew 23:25) We do it all the time when we compare our life and choices to other people rather than the Living God or His Son, Jesus Christ. Sin has no power in our life except what is allowed or freely given. When we allow sin to reside in the recesses of our heart and refuse to accept God’s Commands as a way of life humbly walking with Him, the mark still remains. We must accept godly conviction as it leads to a pure heart and steadfast life living in the Presence of God now and forevermore.

Matthew 5:8 (NIV) Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.

To step over God’s Word and assume more grace is NOT the way of the righteous. It is preached from many pulpits and contained in many doctrines but it will never recant the truth that God requires a pure heart. To assume grace means that one intends to remain in sin. Sin separates us from God every single time. Grace did not change that but is reserved for those who choose to repent from sin, turnaround and walk away not just tread lightly through it. The “pure” in heart will see God. I want to see God. I want to live with Jesus forever including today and tomorrow on my way to eternity. It requires repentance and removal of all sin from my life. His Grace is when I try and fail.

 

The Lord has empowered me to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace from a pure heart to find it. Purity means free from anything different, inferior or contaminating kind. God’s Will for my life is a pure heart not just a clean one. Conviction is a fixed or firm belief that leads us to purity of heart and mind that allows us to live a godly life. I need more conviction that comes from His Word lead by His Spirit to achieve the peace and prosperity I am promised by God. Jesus made the Way, I am free to walk in it. Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Psalm 112:6-9 (NIV)

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor.

Let us hold “unswervingly” to the hope we profess. Renew a steadfast spirit in me. The Word of God is clear that while all things are permissible – not all things are beneficial or constructive in our life. (I Corinthians 10:23) We will always need grace. One sin made its allotment necessary. However, just like the stain on the undershirt left untreated – sin allowed to remain in our heart will always separate us from God’s Perfect Will. It is a compromise that I am not willing to make. I do not want to settle for a so-so substitution when the Lord is offering me God’s Standard of Living if I remain steadfast and true.

To be steadfast is to remain fixed in direction, but oh our fickle hearts. It is to remain firm in purpose or faith even when the whole world things you are crazy or spooky spiritual. Been there, done that and have the scars to prove it. To remain steadfast in unwavering faith means holding on to hope from beginning to end. Never letting go of God’s Promise for you or the dream He placed in you no matter who says you can’t, you won’t or you are not. It’s tough. The world is convincing. The enemy conniving and ruthless in his attack. God’s Love is relentless and reaches those who are steadfast lifting them up in due time, His Time to fulfill His Perfect Will. Those who remain steadfast will have perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:2-4) We must resist the enemy in every way. Holding tight to faith and uncompromising righteousness while God makes good out of every detail of our life for His Glory. (I Peter 5:8-9)

James 4:6-10 (NIV)

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

The Grace of God is a humble acquisition. I did not earn it and I certainly don’t deserve it even when I try my best to serve the Lord. It only took one sin to produce a death sentence in my life and a debt that I could not pay. Humility is essential in this process of prayer and fasting before the Lord. I must come to Him boldly but I have nothing in me worth boasting about other than Jesus. God’s Favor is reserved for those willing to humble themselves before Him. He gives us more grace if we do. I want that in 2016. I do not want to be double-minded. Serving the Lord outwardly but harboring sin inwardly. I must live my life with a pure heart. I want to have a steadfast spirit. I want to live in His Presence and filled with His Spirit every day. To do so, I need more grace.

John 15:10-11 (NIV)

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

My joy is made complete in salvation. Just knowing Jesus Christ is enough to satisfy my soul and prosper it. Prosperity begins in our soul as it begins to permeate our life. It is not representative in the material things of life but a pure heart and steadfast spirit. One of my favorite verses that has become my mission is Micah 6:8. It says, He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” What about you? What is your spiritual target or goal for 2016? Have you made one? I was reminded of a statement by Zig Ziglar yesterday. He said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” My dad was a huge Zig Ziglar fan and shared many of his quotes on success with us. We set goals every day. We all have dreams even if we have buried them calling them dead. But God remembers it all – He is the One who created you for that very purpose that you have given up on. If we will simply strive to remain in His Love every single day, forsaking all others choosing the Lord as our refuge and source – we will live as prosperous and satisfied life in the Favor of God. It is not as the world would have it or sees it. They do not understand. Even in submitting our life to fasting and prayer, just like when Jesus fasted and prayed, the enemy shows up ready to open the door of compromise, substitution or advising us to quit. It’s too hard. Too long. Too “religious”. Our only defense is the Word of God accepted by faith and held tightly in hope. Jesus wants to complete our joy today. We must humble not only our way to Him but hand the Lord our heart first.

Hebrews 3:12-14 (NIV)

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Today as our family fasts and prays for 2016, it is with a humble heart that I am asking the Lord to add another conviction to my life as well. Good advice from our Pastor certainly led by the Holy Spirit as we continue our quest in knowing the Lord deeper and more intimately than ever before. I must humble myself before Him allowing Him to point out an offensive thing following His Lead into the everlasting. I must hold to my original conviction and allow the Lord to grow, develop and mature my faith and hope by removing anything and everything contradictory to His Word, Will and Way until my heart is pure. My sacrifice to the Lord today is a broken spirit humbled before Him with a broken and contrite heart in my hands. I cannot go any further or deeper holding on to my sin, my way or my flesh. Such a sacrifice is all that He desires and needs to complete my life. A fast is no good to our spirit unless the Holy Spirit is involved. Prayer can only connect us as close as the sin we forfeit. I want a new conviction this year, Lord. Anything that will bring me closer to You! You name it and I will surrender it to you!

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me a

To Acknowledge

To Acknowledge

Proverbs 3:3-6 (NIV)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Do people know that you are a Christian? Do they know that you believe in Jesus? Can they see a change in you from other people? Are you making a difference in your surrounding environment? Are you impacting those who know you by loving them unconditionally and representing the Gracious, Loving and Merciful Lord who we serve? I want to make a difference. In fact, I have a vendetta if you will that I believe my God fully backs. The enemy came into my camp, my house, my womb and attempted to kill my child. I made a promise in the midst of his journey that once the work of the Lord was complete that I was going after his. I would take as many lost and dying souls away from him as humanly possible. Well, that time has come. I want to acknowledge the Lord in every possible way. I must submit my life to Christ to do so.

How does one accomplish such a feat to live in a place that hates God and detests the Name of Jesus so much it shuts Him out of schools, banishes Him from government and only sees Him fit for prisons? It is not a popular message. People want to call Christians the problem rather than getting to know the Solution who they offer. I have had more than one person in my life tell me that I was one of the few believers they can tolerate. I am not offended. I used to be obnoxious and offensive. I came at people with the Gospel of Christ. It was not a message of love but condemnation. I told them everything that was wrong, what needed to change, with a huge dose of advice on how to do it. It was biblically based but not wrapped in His Love that I find so sweet and true. Not to mention the mixed message often sent by born again believers, a message of grace that is not offered to anyone but them or at least one might think by religious and haughty dispositions. There is no room for offense or defense in the church that Jesus is coming after just a broken group of people being mended individually and knit together corporately in the Love of God together. We must learn to acknowledge the Lord accurately for our message to get through. But as one can clearly read in Proverbs 3:5, it requires trust and acknowledging the Lord means to submit.

Deuteronomy 4:39-40 (NIV)

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.

To acknowledge means to recognize or admit the existence, truth and reality of something (or in this case someone). Why God? There is no other one true living God. He was here before anything existed. He created everything in existence. He is the Great I Am. Why Jesus? No man comes to the Father (God) except by me. (John 14:6-7) A relationship with God is impossible because of our sin. Jesus paid the price for our sin. To have access to God again, we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and make Him our Lord. Hence, to acknowledge God and His Son Jesus requires submission of our life to following Him. This means we want what He wants and are willing to go where He goes. Not because we have to, but because our love for Him requires it of us. In Isaiah 45:23, the Lord tell us that every knees shall bow and tongue confess before Him one day. When Jesus finished His Work on the Cross, His Father gave this honor to Him and it tells us in Philippians 2:9-11 that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. In the end, EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. It doesn’t matter what you do or do not do with your life here on earth. The same grace that gives me the freedom to surrender my life to Jesus allows you to hang on to it and live for the day.

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

 I Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NIV)

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

 To acknowledge means to show and express recognition. To accept Jesus Christ as Savior but live for the world entertaining darkness and continuing in sin does not work. It is not why Jesus came into this world. Yes, through Him we are saved but true repentance demands a change or there is no repentance. Like sorry not sorry, what kind of apology is that? To stand at the foot of the Cross and see an innocent man who is the Son of the Living God bleeding, suffering and dying for our sin and say, “Thanks! I accept and then to turn back to what nailed Him there in the first place is ridiculous. Many times, we live that life of entitlement. Tolerance sets in when we continually make compromises and allow substitution to the place of holiness, righteousness and faith until we have nothing of substance any longer. Just another causal relationship without true love or commitment.

Jesus did not come to condemn people but to set them free from sin, death and the grave. He came to restore a right relationship between His Father and His People. Mission accomplished. Now the rest is up to me and you, what will we do with the gift we have been so painstakingly given. It all comes down to this. Who do you love? Do you love the Light of the world or do you prefer the darkness filled with sin. If you willingly do evil or sin, God sees it as hate for His Son. Those who choose to repent and live in the Light will be saved and prove that they are acknowledging God. God did not call us to continued impurity. He promises to make us whole, complete and blameless simply because we love His Son, called to Him as Savior and make Him our Lord. All the time and in every way.

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 To acknowledge means to recognize His Authority and Power. We are more than conquerors for one reason only. Jesus. The One who loves us. You may win a few battles but you will not win the war waged against your faith any other way but the Power of Christ living in you. We must be convinced of God’s Love to overcome obstacles and opposition in life. The more convinced one becomes the bolder they will be and then should expect warfare as the enemy tries to rile up our humanity to stop this nonsense. Oh but greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world. (I John 4:2-6) Most people will agree that it is often hard to distinguish the voices in our heard when indecision or uncertainty strikes they all sound so familiar and kind of like me. We must learn as believers to discern the spirits at work in our life. Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus as Lord giving Him full authority and power is from God. The ones that tell people anything contradictory to God’s Word should be immediately dealt with. The Name of Jesus will do the trick. Nobody loves you. You are worthless. You are alone. You are ugly. You don’t deserve to live. No one would miss you. Lies all lies and completely contradictory to the Word of God. You are going under. You are going to lose it all. We must take authority and power over every thought we have and submit it to the Lord. We are more than conquerors for no other reason than He loves us enough to bestow His Power and Authority to us.

John 14:12-14 (NIV)

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 When a believer, anyone who truly believes, has the potential to do greater things than even Jesus did here on the earth. Have you every witness a miracle? Have you prayed and seen the sick recover? Have you prayed and someone got saved? Have you asked and received? It is not a God problem or Jesus hold up if not…you must simply acknowledge Him and He will answer. His Word says it and I believe it. I have seen it.

I Thessalonians 5:16-19 (NIV)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.

To acknowledge means to show and express gratitude. Oh Jesus! How many times do we complain and grumble about our circumstances, situations, problems, bills or lack of contentment not realizing that we have discredited God the Father and Jesus the Son. We quench the Holy Spirit in us with negativity and doubt. The fiery passion that He is created and fruit intent on bearing dies in the midst of harsh and brutal condemnation that Jesus has fallen down on the job or God does not keep His Word. You may not have intended it that way, but that is what happens when we do not live rejoicing and worshipping the One True God trusting that He is working it all out for our good, supplying all that we need, and doing more than we could think or ask. Take it to prayer before you post it. Talk to the Lord before you text it. Put your hand over your mouth chewing before spewing to see if they are salty or sweet. We are to give thanks to God in all circumstances. It is His Will. If you want to acknowledge the Lord in all your ways, it is a mandate. Contentment with godliness is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6) Contentment silences ingratitude. “Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20)

Mark 16:15-20 (NIV)

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

To acknowledge Jesus means that we must make His Name known. How will we ever do that if we don’t believe in the power and presence of God and His Son Jesus in our life? We have to believe to receive new life. We cannot do it for ourselves. We need Jesus. He wants to make us a city on a hill, the light of the world. Are we hiding under a basket? Are we stuck in the valley of indecision? Are we going to go all the way or part of the way? Only those who endure to the end will be saved.

Mark 13:32-37 (NIV)

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

 Finally, acknowledge means to take notice. Jesus spoke to His Disciples about the days we are living in Matthew 24:3-35. Compare this to the news today, and it is clear the time of His Coming is closing in around us. We must be alert and take notice. In the House of God, our homes and the world around us. There are many distractions and confusing reports. Stay focused and alert. On task and on mission, I want to be ready when He comes. I want to acknowledge the Lord so He will know and acknowledge me. I want Him to mark a straight path for more life. But just telling people I am a Christian or that I believe will never be enough. I cannot show the Love of Jesus to the world until I have fully accepted it to myself. It takes trust, dependency, intimacy and submission to live successfully in any relationship of a personal nature. We must trust the Lord and submit our life to Him if we are to be with Him forever. Lord, show me the ways that my life is contrary to you. Lord pull me closer as I give my life to you again today. Let Your Will be done!

I Peter 4:7-11 (NIV)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.