Yes Lord Yes

Yes Lord Yes

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

There are seasons in life when it is time for a little introspection. It is important to evaluate our heart carefully to determine the proximity of Presence in our life. Relationship can easily turn into religion if our worship becomes habitual not a result of intimacy. I am here today. In this place of quiet with the Lord, the only One can truly hold me accountable by His Spirit in faith and confident hope. The words of the psalmist inspired by the Holy Spirit hold true today for all of us if our internal desire is the eternal hope of Christ. Though righteousness is found in Christ alone, it is up to us to give the Lord permission to examine us, evaluate our progress, eliminate that which is unproductive and exact growth and development in all the proper places. All we can do is say, “Yes!”

Create in me a clean heart, O God

Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

A change of heart is in its absolute breaking. God must have all the pieces of our heart in order to create a masterpiece. An artist cannot do anything with a canvas if there is no brush or paint. It is easy to withhold bits and pieces of our heart in order to preserve pride. It is difficult to surrender those parts that are painful. Depths of emptiness too vast to risk devastation. Darkness that is so recessed light has not reached it yet. All this space within us ready for holy inhabitation must be fully exposed and exchanged for the new heart, new spirit, and new mind waiting in the Presence of God offered by His Son, Jesus. Lord give me a new heart today. Remove the stony one of flesh and make it soft as promised.

Renew a right spirit within me.

2 Timothy 1: 6-7 (ESV)  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The Helper, Holy Spirit, who the Father gave us through the Son lives in us. He teaches us all things and brings into our remembrance that which God has ordained, decreed and spoken to us. (John 14:26) The Spirit offers us internal insight and eternal understanding not given to the world but received through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12) Finally, the Spirit is God’s Guarantee of every spiritual blessing in our life. The Spirit identifies us as God’s Children. This is the Gift of God when we come to Him through Jesus Christ. It is a non-negotiable part of our covenant with God as the Spirit is full consummation of our relationship to Him. Have you opened this gift in your life?

God has not given us the spirit of fear. Too often it is readily taken when offered by the father of lies as the truth that governs our life. Oh to have back all the time wasted worrying about things that never happened and carrying burdens that never came to fruition but still robbed me of peace and rest in the Lord. God has given us the spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Have you taken hold of that today? Sometimes we must exchange something we have to fully obtain what God is trying to give us. The same is true in renewal of a right spirit within me. I must examine my motives and emotions for power and love which always requires self-discipline to overcome the traps of doubt marked worry, anxiety and fear. God didn’t give us these so we must reject them.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

There is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:28) Do you believe that today? I mean really believe it. Sometimes even saints of God forget that the Love of God for us is constant and concrete in the Cross. There is absolutely nothing you can do to ever make the Lord stop loving you or pursuing you with unfailing love and goodness. His Mercy is new every morning according to His Faithfulness not our ability to be faithful. There are no fatal errors for those who love God. Hard times create soft hearts. It is those moments of extreme weakness (physical, emotion and/or spiritual) that the truest nature of God is discovered. His Grace. When I am weak, I am strong. The enemy tries to make us think that when our walk turns to wandering or our thoughts to wandering that we somehow become lost. The Lord never leaves us or forsakes us but waits like the father for the prodigal son. I wonder what would happen if Children of God fully understood and embraced the importance and power of God’s Grace. It would be a life changer and history maker for the Body of Christ as the fullness of His Power permeated people and steeples everywhere.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

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

I’ll say yes, Lord, yes to your will and to your way. I’ll say yes, Lord, yes… I will trust you and obey. When your Spirit speaks to me with my whole heart I’ll agree and my answer will be yes, Lord, yes! (Shirley Caesar)

As I sit here today in the quiet of early morning, I am offering my heart to the Lord once again. I say yes, Lord, yes to Your Will and to Your Way. Sometimes that is not an easy proclamation in our journey with Jesus. We walk by faith not by sight. Trust is the issue of greatest importance. He will make known the path of life to me and offers me a choice which is a product of the freedom afforded me by His Son. In His Presence, there is fullness of joy but I must leave myself at the doorway and enter through Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The only way to the Father is through the Son. I must give Him my heart today. I must present Him my willful and overbearing spirit with all its pride to make room for His Spirit. I must move in closer with each “yes” until I am close enough to experience His Pleasures marked as promises forevermore. I find joy in doing His Will which always starts with love. His Spirit is producing the kind of fruit in me that is worth sharing. The cost is my pruning so that more fruit will grow. The sacrifice is my hard heart and unwilling spirit. Today – I say I will say, “Yes, Lord, yes!”

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (ESV) From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

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Time to Confess

Reverse the Curse

James 5:16-18 (ESV) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and Heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Elijah prayed and by the power of God it did not rain for three and one-half years. When he prayed again, the Heavens opened releasing rain and prosperity again. Why doesn’t God answer the prayers of man? Why do we not see the power of God in such an obvious and vivid display? His Word says that He will open the windows of Heaven over our life. We do what it says. Try to live right. Be right. Do right. However, the results so lackluster that doubt creeps in and disbelief begins to raise some questions. What’s wrong? What is out of order that is limiting God’s Glory from creating abundance in all areas of my life. If my soul is prospering, why not my life? Well…it is the prayer of a righteous man that has great power. Elijah prayed. He walked in God’s Ways. He had obvious faith – after all look at the miracle of Mount Carmel.

Prayer is our communication with God. God is omnipresent. Wherever you are – God is right there with you. Christ lives in you. The Holy Spirit inhabits you. The words spoken in every conversation is equally as important as those in our prayer closet. I wonder if the problem is not what we say to the Lord but words scattered everywhere else.

James 3:9-11 (ESV) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?

A spring does not have fresh and salt water just as our words cannot bless and curse at the same time. Blessing is rebuked by the curse. Curse are rebuked by the blessing. The Bible is clear to bless those who curse you and spitefully use you. There are no enemies in the Kingdom just family. The person that causes you the greatest distress is your brother or sister in Christ. To pray for them and then talk about them stops the flow from Heaven in every relationship. The only enemy in our life is satan. He is at the root of every problem. He is the one who offers temptation. He is the one who sows division and discord. But do not discredit the power of God within you and me called self-discipline. Change the words that come from our mouth and our life will change according to what we speak. Life and death are in the tongue. Are you bringing life to the Promises of God by faith or are you causing them to die in the field because of grumbling and gossip? You have the power to speak life into every situation in life. You have divine authority over every demon and even the devil as it tries to take what the Lord has given you by faith. It is up to you and me if we will reverse the curse and establish a life of blessing. God ordained it. Christ died for us to have it. The Holy Spirit fills us with the good fruit needed to produce it. The rest is up to us.

Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus asked Peter directly, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” No ifs, ands, or buts. Peter knew Jesus. He believed in Him. He confessed Him as the Messiah right then and there. Then Jesus tells Peter who he really is and reveals the power of his confession. The same mouth that confessed the Lord would soon deny Him, not once but three times. Everyone struggles when the conditions of our life do not line up with the confession of our mouth. We must learn to speak from our heart. A heart full of faith and promise rather than give praise to those things that do not line up or are not yet evident. We must respond to the Presence of God in us and stop reacting to every discomfort, discontentment, inconvenience and chaotic situation in our life. We have the power to change the atmosphere but it is not in our rightness but righteousness found in Christ alone. When our tongue is bridled and led by the Spirit, it will not say what we are thinking but rely on Who we know.

Proverbs 18:20-21 (ESV) From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

We have no excuse. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Lord has already seeded our life with the seeds of faith that produce good fruit to satisfy our heart and soul. These same things produce a confident hope that allows us to remain fearless and full even in famine and drought. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Every lifeless situation is subject to the vocabulary of our confession. We give life to those things not of God but giving them precedence in our proverbial overtures making our problem bigger than the promise. We say that right words but then smother them with complaining. Our communication is a confession that gives life to the thing in which our faith resides – what are you talking about? What are you confessing? What is the basis of communication?

Are you satisfied? Are you content? The fruit of our mouth produces the abundance of our life. It is from the abundance of the heart – the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45) We may think that there is growing, developing and maturing faith in our life until we carefully begin to listen to what we say. You may be surprised. Though it may be justified by the current condition of your life, the fruit of our mouth can also choke out the new life and new creation being cultivated by Christ.

When our son was undergoing extensive radiation treatment, his skin was burning from the inside out. His tumor was located inside his nasopharynx so the concentration of therapy was his head and neck. To my utter horror despite being warned near the end of his treatment, the burns began to surface. The blisters were awful. I would apply ointment that would cause him great pain and began melting off my hand before I even touched him. On one such morning, as tears ran down my face, I told him God would understand if he complained about this situation. The Lord would understand. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Now what good would that do?” Lesson learned. In the midst of the unthinkable, undergoing a treatment no one should endure along with chemotherapy which is poison coursing through his body – this young man still did not see fruitfulness in complaining when just that morning I griped about the uncomfortable bed as I rolled out of bed with a healthy body and free accommodations graciously provided to us. Perspective can often change our communication when we stop complaining.

James 3:1-5 (ESV) Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

Many years ago, I thought being right was all that mattered. It gave you a free license to stand on your soapbox and yell. Things are different now. The journey of faith with our so changed my life forever – in a good way – in a God way. Nothing is normal anymore. Such an ordeal takes highly regarded priorities and completely changes them forever. I am not necessarily a better person but I am definitely humbled at my lifelong disregard for righteousness. That’s right righteousness. I was right in many of my observations. But the power of my life is righteousness given to me by Christ and the access to the Presence of God that I now have – my responsibility is to sow seeds of faith and life into the world. I am to be a Light. Not one that shines on the faults and failures of others, but rather Light that attracts others from darkness to engage in the Light of His Love. My life is not attracted by harsh, bitter words. It is not influential when plagued by complaints. It is not going to cultivate fruit in barren fields of doubt and disbelief. The only hope that I have in this life and eternity is Jesus Christ. My heart and mouth must agree that He is who I boast in.

Before the change in my heart, I used to feel it appropriate to give people a piece of my mind. I did it so frequently that a co-worker made a literal “STOP” sign. When a conversation became heated, she would hold it up as a warning. On the other side, it said, “GO RIGHT AHEAD!” She was more influential than the Holy Spirit at that time. But the sign has been discarded and now I must truly rely on the Holy Spirit. The change of heart was appropriate because now rather than focusing on my pride or being right – the Lord keeps my eye on the prize. The prize and potential of the Kingdom is in people. My response to them and the situations of life is by faith. Faith in the Love of God that I can never be separated from therefore I am free to share without reciprocation because my life is full. The kind of love that is always pursuing me. It is looking for ways to bring His Goodness and Glory in my life. Yet, even now with years, I still find that there are so many areas of my life that need attention. Careless words that need to be redacted. Prayers that need to be released from bondage. Fields of foolishness that need to replanted with faith which produces good fruit. So many idle words that require repentance to be filled with life again. Lord, help me to always be sure that the meditation of my heart is You. May the meditation of my heart and the words of my mouth agree! May the greatest confession of my life always be You – Jesus!

Psalm 19:14 (ESV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

In the Trenches

In the Trenches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Horses

Wild Horses

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

If I had a dime for every time I have recited this verse to my rambling mind, rebellious thoughts and overwrought emotions. God did not give me the spirit of fear but there are days I completely own it myself. Stress and anxiety fuel doubt and disbelief. The enemy whispers, “But…” Lies that get me all hot and bothered as I try to wrestle in my flesh and take captive those thoughts that so easily distract me. God did not give me the spirit of fear or timidity. He didn’t give it to you either. Anything contrary to God in our life must go in order for us to fully embody Christ and experience freedom that is given through Him.

Yesterday was one of those days, after a week of fighting the good fight, it seemed like it was going to be a good day. I got out of the house on time – major victory for the time challenged. I had an awesome worship, praise and prayer time on the way to work. Two major victories before the morning meeting at work had me feeling pretty confident that it was going to be a great close to the long week. Well then the enemy lobbed a bomb over the fence and immediately I was on the run. I was angry, mad, stressed, worried and anxious all at the same time all of a sudden. Caught off guard, I was unsuccessful at pulling in the wild horses dragging me off fast and furiously. It’s hard to remember to never let your guard down especially on the “good” days. To think that the enemy is not lurking in the darkness just looking for a foothold. For me it came as a “misunderstanding” mixed with some “confusion” all the enemy’s tactics waging war against a confident heart and made up mind. “Are you sure? What if? Or else?” Subtle attacks that lead to devastating results if not handled immediately.

So this morning, I am going to share three tips for reining in “wild horses”? Those thoughts and notions that there is a limit to God’s Love, Power and Faithfulness in our life. I hope they help you. They are not quick fixes. It will take a lot of time and practice to instill them as habits in an emotional world that has decided God is not who He claims to be and tries to rob the finished work of Christ on the Cross. So here goes…

Power

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Matthew 19:26 (NLT) Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.

Luke 1:37 (NLT) For the Word of God will never fail.

Grace is available in our weakness. Power comes when we relinquish control of our life to the Power of God promised by Jesus and the Word of God. The problem is that our world is D-I-Y obsessed even the church. “Well, if I don’t do it – who will?” The one called and commissioned to. Giving up control is what crucifying the flesh is all about. To decide that you will fully invest your life in God’s Way through the Way – Jesus Christ means giving up your power to fully embrace His Power. How do you do that? Repentance. Obedience. Trust. Key components to full embracing God’s Power is at the end of self. We cry out for God’s Intervention asking Him to open the windows of Heaven over us and fill our life with the abundance that is promised but never really understanding the change that comes with it. We cannot live in the Presence of God unchanged. We cannot reach the depths offered without giving up our current position. There is no way to discover the vastness and limitless boundaries of His Love and Grace for us without accepting His Grace fully.

Love

Romans 8:37-39 (NLT) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I John 4:18 (NLT) Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

There is no limit on God’s Love. He pursues us with unfailing love. (Psalm 23) It is endless reaching from creation, through life and into eternity. God demonstrated His Love by giving us amazing grace. The kind of grace that works best in our weakness. Christ was the example who was crucified in weakness to give way to resurrection power and new life. We have overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ who loved us. His Spirit lives in us as evidence of adoption. No longer are we exiled from God but through Christ reconciled as sons and daughters of God. Do you love your children? How much? Too much sometimes, right? How much more does God love us? Do you believe that God loves you today? Are you convinced? Love is the conviction of God’s Faithfulness to us outside of our ability to remain pure and blameless. His Love came down and rescued us in our weakness and gave us victory. We do not deserve it. We cannot earn it. We can do nothing to repay God for His Gift. The only thing we can do is believe it and live in that love fearlessly.

Fear is evidence that there is doubt or disbelief in the fulfillment of God given through Jesus Christ. It does not fully embrace the finished work on the Cross or grab hold of the “overwhelming victory” promised in God’s Word. The only hope that you and I have of living a courageous life is in our ability to completely and confidently receive God’s Love. To allow His Love to change our heart, soul and mind until it is completely convinced that there is nothing that can separate us from His Love. His Faithfulness is not contingent on anything we do other than to believe it enough to embrace it and stop running from Him.

In fact, the Word of God says those that believe in the perfect love of God live fearlessly. Perfect love expels fear. The solution to the problem does not end fear. Fear continually sows seeds when not eradicated. It is in the constant sowing of God’s Love in our life that fear has no place to grow, mature or develop into worries, cares, stress or burdens. The conviction of God’s Love is the birthplace of freedom. It is the place where ordinary life takes on an extraordinary existence. Right where you are even if nothing changes. Perfect peace takes over until God delivers.

Self-Discipline or Self-Control

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Proverbs 25:28 (NLT) A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

I Peter 1:13 (NLT) So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Each week I make a grocery list and menu for the upcoming week. I have the best intentions of making delicious meals for my family that are often upended by busyness. Just because I have all the ingredients doesn’t mean I will follow through with my original plan. The Holy Spirit produces all the good fruit for an amazing life – but self-control is what we must use to make it all work together. My thoughts are pivotal in execution of God’s Plan. I must rein in every thought contrary to Christ and adverse to God’s Word. I cannot allow myself the opportunity to worry, stress or fear what is to come. God promised to work every detail of my life for His Good and Glory. Do I believe Him? My response to lies and taunts of the enemy will reveal the content and true conviction of my heart. Consumed by worry, I must decide to worship. I cannot give lies permission to remain but must pray and praise my way through it. I must give up every other conviction than the one that says, “God loves me and He is for me – I cannot fail!”

When I was much younger, I had a good friend who owned horses. We could go riding on Saturdays. There was one particular horse that I was riding which was a bit skittish. My friend who was a confident equestrian asked as we were headed home, “Would you like to change horses because the one that I was on was “barn sour”? I had no idea what that meant and later wish I did. Coming out of the woods when she saw the pens and barn just past it – she took off running out-of-control. I pulled the reins with all my might but she was not having it. All I could do was hang on and pray I didn’t fall off in her haste.

A “barn sour” or “herd bound” behavior is produced by anxiety. Fear of separation from the herd or physical location which it deems secure such as a pasture or barn. It is a dangerous behavior as the rider loses all control of the animal. There is no threat except the stress of the animal. The basis for this equine problem is one that many humans suffer from, too. Insecurity. According to experts, the insecurity caused by this instinct in horses is exacerbated by a lack of training which is easily overcome.  You must teach the horse to be responsive to your clues. It is the same with people who want to live a fearless life embracing fully the freedom given to us by Jesus.

Father, I ask you to flood our hearts with light today. Expose every lie that the enemy has sown in us that it may be uprooted and replanted with faith. I rebuke fear, stress, anxiety, worries and care commanding them to go in Jesus Name. Lord, I trust you. Help any disbelief in me to give way to resurrection power and life. I believe that You love me. I am convinced that nothing can separate me from Your Love even my fears, doubts and insecurities that you are removing right now. Lord, let your Spirit complete His Work in me. I give you permission to permeate every part of my life for my good and Your Glory! In the Name above all names – Jesus!

Ephesians 1:18-23 (NLT)  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

 

Unlikely Opportunities

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Psalm 76:23-26 (NIV) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

“Deny your weakness and you will never realize God’s Strength in you.” (Joni Eareckson Tada)

The unlikely opportunity of empowerment comes at the high price of the realization of weakness. The moment that mind over matter doesn’t work anymore and human inadequacy will fail the test of time and trial – this is the pivotal placement of dependency on God. Human nature demands a breaking point to lay aside pride and lean on the Lord. The mountain has to be too big. The valley too low. The season too hard. Or the darkness impenetrable for our pride to finally die. We are created in the Image of God. The bigger they are the harder they fall.

My flesh and heart may fail… is a huge understatement. My flesh will fail. My heart does fail. Those seasons of life that are just too much for our humanness so our heart turns to God. Though it is not a time called affectionately to our remembrance, those who wait upon the Lord or find Him there will never give up the strength and power of His Presence. It changes you. You are still made of flesh. Everyone has a wavering heart, but it is in the Presence and Power of our Creator that we find a new kind of strength called trust that will fill us with peace even in the midst of tremendous pressure.

God is the strength of my heart and portion forever. Is He enough? Is your faith and confidence in God enough? The Lord cannot heal unless something is broken. He cannot fill a place that is already full. Miracles happen in the midst of the impossible. You cannot find your place in Jesus until you stand down from self. Such unlikely opportunities, all the things that the world tells us to avoid. These are the primary places of true empowerment. When weariness gives way to an upset, when our strength completely fails and all that is left is to surrender to the Power and Presence of God.

When life falls apart and the world crashing down around us – chaos ensues. Our mind cannot wrap itself around the incomprehensible tragedy or loss surrounding the time and place when our normal is no longer. It happens all the time. The unexplainable time when human understanding is lost and all that is left is to look to our Lord and Savior. What will that moment look life for you? For Joni Eareckson Tada, it was the moment a freak accident forced her into a wheelchair and a life of quadriplegia. For me, the moment our son was diagnosed with cancer. The same cancer that would come back aggressively time and time again. The days of fighting for treatment in a world that puts a price on human life. The aftermath of a warrior with a body covered with battle scars. Maybe for you it was in the loss of a loved one to death or even in life. Perhaps it was a career that abruptly ended or financial disaster. Could it have been when you just couldn’t do it anymore?

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Such a glorious hope that we have in Jesus, a bright and shining light that sometimes requires shrouds of darkness to truly discover. The Lord is always with us. He is right there with you. It doesn’t matter if you wandering off or ran from Him. He pursues you every day with unfailing love and goodness. His Glory is ready to overtake you. He deposits new mercy on your doorstep each morning and His Grace is enough. It is sufficient for you in every situation. I will always be the place where His Strength and Power overtake us. It is the unlikeliest of places but has the most potential of all.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Every weakness is the opportunity for God to show us His Glory and Strength. Empowerment is a benefit of grace and reward of surrender. God has given us His Spirit. The Spirit is hard at work producing good fruit in our life according to His Word. He is our helper in all things. The Holy Spirit is also our guarantee. The One deposited in us when every promise became “yes” and “amen”. He will not force us into submission. He will not demand our surrender. He waits in us for the moment it is our choice. It is in that time and space that the Presence of God overtakes us and a new strength of heart called faith emerges. The crevices of a broken heart give way to fertile soil that allows His Spirit to sustain us even in seasons of famine and drought. When nothing seems to be going right but rather coming apart. It is right then and there that something changes. We give up our way to fully embrace His Way. Thank you Lord for the days when everything falls apart that You are forever faithful in making every detail and taking every piece of my broken heart to fill with power and use for Your Glory! God is good! He is always good! His Goodness is ready to overtake you today! Max Lucado said, “I simply think God is greater than our weakness. In fact, I think it is our weakness that reveals how great God is.” I agree.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

“The human experience of weakness is God’s Blueprint for calling attention to the supremacy of His Son. When miserably failing people continue to belong to, believe in, and worship Jesus, God is happy.” (Michael Spencer) Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He provides unlikely opportunities for ordinary life to become an extraordinary existence. He turns natural consequences into supernatural experiences for those who choose to surrender every weakness to Him. The Lord did not come to condemn us. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. He is the Resurrection and Life. He is where dead things breathe again. He is where the terminal is no longer fatal. He is the Alpha and Omega or the Beginning and the End. It’s not over until the Lord says so. The Lord is an everlasting God. He will not give up when you do. He will not give in because you decide its time. No, the Lord will finish the good work that He began in your life. All you have to do is hope in Him. Trust Him. Believe Him.

“A sacrifice to be real must cos, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His LOVE than your weakness.” (Mother Teresa)

I Corinthians 1:26-30 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Working in Me

Work in Me

Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” Buddha

There is more to the story of salvation than to escape the ramparts of hell. To engage in an experience of repentance and leave the same person with the same problems with a lack of purpose is a great tragedy considering the deposit and investment that is conceived in that moment. We live in a visible world serving an invisible God. His Presence surrounds us and His Spirit lives in us but the tangible being is not so evident. We must work hard to show the results of our salvation through love-driven, passion-infused, reverent and radical obedience to the Living God. The words of Buddha hold true even if not the intent. We must work out our own salvation independent of people and fully reliant on the Lord. God is working in us even before our first encounter with Christ leading us to that moment. Once we have found our Savior and Lord the continuation of our life has the potential to be powerful and purposeful in every single endeavor because Jesus is now inside of us.

We must make a personal investment in the potential of our future. But the Work of God in us is not an external effort but rather an internal transformation. It is not an act of doing but rather a work of becoming. The work completed on the Cross by Jesus was enough to provide all the grace needed for the Power of God to fully finish that which He predestined and preordained for us. All the blessings and promises are predesigned with our only act of obedience to fulfillment. We must work God’s Plan so it will work in us. The distinguishing factor in all of this is to keep our relationship with Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life of every purpose and promise rather than becoming a willing participant of religion that is consumed by what we do more than who we are.

Mind, will and emotions are pivotal to the change of God beginning to take over within us. We must sacrifice them along with our feelings to let the Holy Spirit produce good fruit that nourishes our heart and soul instead. As our soul prospers, our spiritual life becomes primary and natural life is impacted by a crucified flesh giving way to the Holy Spirit. It is a takeover of sorts by those who long to be pursued and overtaken by God’s Unfailing Love, Amazing Grace and Constant Goodness. It is a submission of our mind, will and emotions to the Cross so that confidence in Christ and what He promised to do is our primary position. It is the moment that we take up that Cross to follow the example of Jesus that things begin to change in a good way.

James 2:19-22 (NLT) You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 

Working the Plan of God is not what we do but the confidence to lay down our life in careful and continual obedience. To trust the Lord means doing things His Way when all logic points another. Abraham is a prime example of working God’s Plan. There was no reason for him to believe that he would father one child let alone a nation. Yet, he dared to believe. The unbelievable was his absolute confidence and so he lived loving and serving God. Did he mess up? Yes. Did he make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. God did not look for his perfection but rather his perseverance that no matter what he still believed especially when there was absolutely nothing tangible to be confident – the person of God – the Great I AM – was simple enough.

“Salvation is not a self-improvement program. That can only change us on the outside. The work of God changes us on the inside.” (Zac Poonen) It is easy to change habits and make better choices. Hard work, determination and motivation will change our way of living and produce a better life. Even religious obedience can produce the benefits of sowing and reaping, but in the end if our relationship with Jesus Christ is not established – we gain absolutely nothing. There are those who will come to Christ and have a better life just because they decided to work the plan. The Bible is the precedent of obedience that leads to productivity. However, if we do not allow the Lord to work His Plan in us – our life is worthless and meaningless void of God’s Glory found in His Grace.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT) And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Greetings from Paul to the people in Philippi who belonged to Christ is one of thanksgiving for the testimony these people lived. As he continues, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work in you, will continue His Work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Friend, we are a work in progress. The only time that Christ stops working in us and through us is when we decide go our own way (He is the ONLY Way), to live a lie (contrary to Truth), and choose something other than Resurrection Life and Power given to us for today. God will do exactly as He promised. Our only job is to continually surrender our life to Him. How? “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:5) He finished the Work on the Cross for the joy set before Him. Jesus did not live for immediate gratification but eternal pleasure. His Good Pleasure is you and me. He thought we were to die for and He did. He marched into hell and took possession (title and deed) to our life. When Christ came out of the grave, His Motive always was love so rather than take ownership of us and enslave us. He gave us freedom to live in love with Him or choose something else. What is your choice today? Will you work God’s Plan by submitting everything to Jesus? Will you surrender your heart to the work that was begun in you? Do you trust that God will complete it? That is what this life is all about – falling in love with Jesus Christ! Living in a loving relationship that transcends the boundaries of time and brings heaven to earth. He gave it all to us. We must only work out our salvation with fear and trembling as His Love consumes our ordinary life and produces an extraordinary existence.

“Salvation is a work of God to show His Glory. That’s why He’s not going to let it fail.” (Paul Washer)

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Resurrection Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Fallen Tree

The Fallen Tree

Psalm 1:3 (ESV) He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Engaged in the morning routine, I head outside with our dogs in the pitch black darkness before the sun rises. Our black lab begins barking into the darkness followed by the high pitched retort of our little Chihuahua. Shining the flashlight, there is a fallen tree in the backyard. Oddly there was no storm or wind in the night. Closer inspection reveals the same soft bark as the other trees that have just toppled over. I am certain that when upon further inspection in the daylight will reveal the same orange fungus in the treetop that was on the others. Curiosity leads me to Google to try to discern what is killing the small hardwoods in the backyard.

The most likely suspect is called Heart Rot. A fungus makes its way into the tree either by pruning or another injury to the bark and without notice begins to deteriorate it from the inside out. Though the tree seems to be growing and changing with the seasons, it is dying day by day. If I had leaned on it yesterday, it would have toppled over. If a storm with any kind of wind, it would have fallen just the same. Could it be the same for us when injured or neglected? Is it possible for the human heart to take on such an insult or offense and unknowingly die on the inside?

Blessed is the man or woman who walks in the counsel of the godly. Those who engage with other believers and fellowship with Christians who are likeminded. Yet human are we. To be part of the Body of Christ means oneness with Jesus Christ. He is the One who makes our heart steady and secure in every season. He is the One who fortifies us and plants us. Rooted and grounded in His Love our expectation of others is replaced by love, grace, compassion and mercy.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV)  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Our strength and power is by His Spirit in our inner being. Christ dwells in our heart by faith and His Spirit works His Love all the way through us. We must be rooted and grounded in the Love of God demonstrated through the Gift of His Son – Jesus to withstand the storms of life with a heart wrapped up in and secured by the hopeful anchor of salvation. God is good. His plan for our life contains a future and hope well worth the transformation process. We must examine our heart daily. Moment by moment working to become more rooted and grounded by faith in trusting the Lord until our trust is fully invested in Christ alone. Full comprehension of God’s Love and His Grace that sustains us will cause us to let go of every other expectation that we may fully engage with the One “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Psalm 52:8-9 (ESV) But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.

How deep are your roots in the Love of God today? The green olive tree is a source of oil. Oil represents anointing. Christ who is the Anointed One lives in you and me. We are the Children of God. His Spirit dwells in us producing the good fruit that feeds our soul and establishes our trust in Him. Do you trust the steadfastness of God’s Love for you? Such love casts out all fear, doubt, insecurity, offense, and any other affliction placed in our heart by the father of lies. This creates a healthy root system as faith grows in us and hope anchors our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) Such a belief system creates a spirit of thanksgiving and fullness of joy that the storms of life cannot remove or uproot. It affords us patience that in the times of great turmoil, testing, trials and tribulation that God is with us, He is for us, and we are immovable and unshakeable in the Lord.

We must learn to live in the Presence of God and not the present. Such a lofty pursuit found in the quietness of space apportioned time to spend with the Lover of our soul, studying and mediating on His Word, listening for that still small voice whispering to us, praying face down on our knees, relying on His Spirit to work in us and through us as we learn to live in His Love moment by moment. To live any other way does not feed our faith or establish our heart which are stark contradictions to “normal” life.

I do not want to live a lie. To build a life on other people’s convictions and human doctrine with a rotting heart. It can happen. It is easy to live on the coattails of someone else’s faith until the rubber hits the road and you need your own faith to pass the test. I cannot cheat the Lord. He knows everything about me. He sees the innermost workings of my fickle heart and longs to change me from the inside out. I must allow the Lord access to the parts of me that are not okay. The doubtful darkness that looms deep inside the crevices of a broken heart. The wounded places that I cover so well. The pruning of hard seasons that I do not acknowledge left raw, opened and exposed. Lord, I do not want my heart to rot. I want to be someone known by good fruit.

Matthew 7:16-18 (ESV) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Our backyard is partially cleared and on the backside of the property there are many trees. The trees that have succumbed to the fungal invasion are small. Funny, it was one of the things I liked the most about our lot. Those trees are now a detriment. We live in the South in an area prone to hurricanes. Soon, we will walk through the backyard and push on each tree to see if it is impacted by Heart Rot. The ones that are will give way under the pressure. These trees will need to be cut down and burned. Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” What kind of fruit is your life producing? We are called to live a rich, satisfying life. The only hindrance in our life is fear and doubt. Faith will always flourish. The places of insecurity or insufficiency need to be seeded with God’s Word and given careful attention. Why? Without faith, it is impossible to live a life pleasing to God. To remain in mediocrity is to stop the miraculous. To accept the ordinary is to reject the ordinary. These are the inheritances of every believer according to God’s Word. His Promises are all “yes” and “amen” according to the Spirit living in you. The only way not be blessed, prosperous and fully supplied is to somehow stop faith from producing its full potential in that area of your life. With God all things are possible if we believe. Do you believe today? Do you really believe? A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit. A diseased tree cannot bear good fruit. Lord, make me like a tree planted by living water who produces fruit in every season and leaves that do not wither or die.

Matthew 13:31-32 (ESV) He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

God has placed potential in our life that must be sown, cultivated and harvested to prosper us from the inside out. We are created to bear good fruit. He has given us the seed (His Word), the cultivator (His Spirit) and even the faith to wait on it. It is important that in our doing, serving and living for God that we do not forget to examine our heart daily. To come to the Lord and ask for forgiveness for our sin. It seems so simple yet many cannot remember the last prayer of repentance but readily remember the long list of requests. Everything I want, need, and desire are fulfilled in Christ. The only requirement is reconciling my life to His Way, Truth and allowing Him to produce life within me.

I must pay attention to my relationship to the Lord rather than getting wrapped up in religion or being right. God is God no matter who believes in Him. Jesus died for our sins and offers us the Precious Gift of Salvation whether anyone accepts it or not. The Spirit of God lives in us to be our helper whether acknowledged or not. The existence of God and His Great Love for you and me are firmly established in who He is and not what I choose. Humbling to think that even when I reject Him – God’s Love for me is secure. How have I rejected God? Anytime I choose something other than steadfast faith and confident hope in His Love. Every area of my life ruled by fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and insecurity is a place of void with a need to be filled.

When my life is fully invested in the Kingdom of God with flourishing faith and hope – it will appeal to others. The fruit of my life will feed the hungry. It will give sustenance to those who are thirsty. Bad fruit will spread like a fungus just the same. Just as many people if not more will be turned off to God by fruitless or faithless Christians each day. The efforts of Christianity become productive when faith is produced in us that others can see. The good fruit of God’s Spirit and confidence in His Love will be something worth having. It is not that I can do everything right, clean up my act or even preach a flawless gospel. It shines from the Light of His Love that has fully taken over my heart and soul. It makes me like a tree that can give good fruit in every season. To live a healthy and prosperous life full of thanksgiving and praises to God in every season knowing His Love for me is secure and so are His Promises.

Lord, I ask you to shine the Light of Your Love on the inside of me today. I am sorry for the sin that I harbor within thinking no one sees. Lord, you see it and desire to put good things in its place. Expose any unforgiveness, offense, or insecurity. Lord, I ask your Spirit to remove it and sow seeds of new faith in its place. I give my all to You again. Lord, give me a new heart and steadfast spirit in Jesus Name. Amen.

Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV) The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

One.

one

Matthew 18:18-20 (ESV)  “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Just two or three people who agree on earth can release Heaven. It only takes two people to open the window of the Kingdom. I don’t know whether to celebrate this promise or shake my head in shame. Is the limitation in our life simply because we cannot agree, get along and live in harmony? If harmony is a precious anointing, it should be a daily pursuit by God’s Children who desire His Blessing. To not just tolerate the presence of others but fully embrace one another with love, grace, generosity, and compassion.

Jesus plainly states, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” There is no mixed message or need for extensive commentary. It’s simple. If two or three agree and come together in Jesus Name – whatever they bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Jesus is Resurrection Power and Life. When His Spirit is present – freedom is released. Healing dispensed. Change unleashed. Revival begins. Too often we look for it in the masses but I believe if just two or three would gather in His Name…not the name of a church, or doctrine, or religion, or mission even that the Lord would show up and true revival would begin. The unexplainable would happen. The impossible would result in miracles. The Body of Christ would come to life again.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility  and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In order to walk in unity and experience the fullness of blessing found in such a choice means giving up our way, the lie of the enemy and normal existence. We must fully embrace the characteristics of Jesus Christ including unfailing love, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and work diligently to maintain it. Crucifying our flesh is a painstaking and painful process. No death is ever pleasant but it is rewarding to give up the permissible to fully embody the benefits given to us by Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103)

Our imminent failure comes from ignorance. That’s right – it is a lack of knowledge that causes people to perish. It is a lack of direction that causes delays, detours and distractions that lead to doubt, discouragement and even disappointment. The hope found in Jesus Christ never leads to disappointment. God’s Word cannot return to Him void. What God has ordained for our life will come to pass. We just have to seek an abiding relationship in Jesus Christ and allow His Spirit to produce the kind of fruit that feeds our soul and starves our flesh. Pride must die in order for faith to flourish. There is no other way.

What if every believer became “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? What a lofty pursuit? To step up from the natural and begin to believe that you can live supernaturally. It doesn’t matter what man thinks about you if you are walking in the Shadow of God. To fully embody and embrace Jesus Christ allows us to live a new life and become a new creation. Christians who compare themselves to anyone but Christ are out of order. My calling and your calling are individual. God doesn’t have favorites because we are all His Favored Children. Our feelings of inferiority and insignificance are just the enemies lies. We can live in a lie but the Truth will always set us free.

Psalm 133 (ESV) Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Why do you go to church? Is it a social event? Is it expected of you? Do you get encouraged by the pastor’s message? Does it make you feel good? I believe that everyone goes to church looking for hope. This world is a dark place full of heartbreak and tragedy. Love is cold. Sin is rampant. Evil seems to be triumphing over good. Do you need a miracle in your life today? Are you facing the impossible? Are you tired of just enough and desire more than enough? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Is the Word living, breathing and changing your life? It can. It will. It requires unity in the Body of Christ. How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity. It is like precious oil. The anointing of Heaven will meet us in our gatherings from small groups, to church services to civic center conferences if we strive to do just one thing. Agree.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

To become one means giving up my way to fully accept the Way. Jesus has given us His Spirit to lead, guide and direct us. While doing so the Spirit takes the Word working it into our heart to uproot every lie that the enemy has told us. The Spirit produces the character needed to agree by feeding our soul good fruit so it will prosper. It is human nature to focus on our differences but the Lord is challenging His Church to focus on our common bond. To become One Body filled with One Spirit. We are all called to one hope. His Name is Jesus Christ. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. One. When two or three agree the One who meets every need and will do exceedingly abundantly more than we think or ask is in our midst. He is the Resurrection that calls forth dead dreams to life. He is Life to our body, mind, spirit and soul. We must become one. The church united becomes the unstoppable Light that drives out darkness in their homes, workplaces, community and even the world. I want to be part of “that” church.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

This Is Only a Test

This is only a test

I Peter 1:6-8 (NLT) So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Have you ever heard this announcement? “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and federal, state, and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. This is only a test.” Followed by a deafening tone and then, “if this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and information.” Thankfully, I have not experienced an actual emergency – it hasn’t happened in all the years that I have heard this message. In fact, it is easy to tune it out or turn the radio down until the message is over. If there were a state of emergency, the system was developed to allow the President of the United States an expeditious method of communicating with the public in the event of a national emergency such as war or crisis. Wouldn’t it be nice in the chaos and craziness of life if the Lord would break open the clouds, shine down the sun on us, and say, “This is only a test, participation is voluntary and everything will come out for your good and My Glory…this is only a test”?

Do you have faith? Do you believe? Do you have absolute and total confidence in Jesus Christ? Maybe the more important question is do you have fears, doubts, worries, and insecurities in life? Are you satisfied? Are you prospering in abundance? Do you have perfect peace? There are many benefits and blessings to this new life in Christ yet to be experienced. A prospering soul overflows into our mind, will and emotions taking captive the lie of the enemy and releasing God’s People to live in liberty. Do you feel free today?

So be truly glad…there is wonderful joy ahead even though you must endure many trials for a little while.

Our youngest is preparing to take her driving test to obtain her learner’s permit. She turned fifteen months ago, she has been studying and worrying about the test ever since. I have encouraged her many times constantly reminding her that she cannot drive for a year after she passes the first test. Yet still she not taken the test. The word “test” is four-letter word that strikes fear in the heart of many students. A test is not terminal but temporary. The weight put upon it by worry, care and anxiety far greater than the outcome. The Emergency Broadcast System was established for preparation and information during a trial or turmoil in our country. The Lord has provided us with similar information so that when our faith is tested it will be proven genuine. Have we tuned Him out? Turned the volume of His Voice down? The best way to pass the test is preparation.

Job 23:10-14 (NLT) “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.

Tests and trials are a part of every believer’s life. It has nothing to do with our ability to be faithful or not. It is a product of God’s Love for us and His Goodness that is always pursuing us. He made a plan for your life that is better than anything you can think, ask or imagine. Your just enough is supposed to be more than enough. Your near misses were really hidden victories. Job lost everything in a day. Job lived a godly life. The Book of Job is hard to fathom that one man could do seemingly everything right and still have such tragedy befall him. But in the end, Job received a double portion from God. His pride fully crucified left dying in the past – the rest of life would be fulfilled just as the Lord promised.

What is your trial today? Are you in the midst of a test? The test of true faith is not in our success and failure but in our steadfastness and endurance. God is giving you an opportunity to trust Him a little more. Follow Him a bit farther. To experience the abundant and satisfying life that He designed and predestined you to have. We must learn to respond to God’s Promises rather than reacting to the test or trial that is preparing us for it.

I Thessalonians 5:15-22 (NLT) Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

How is it possible to keep our joy in the midst of tragedy? How do we continue to pray when it seems to be falling on deaf ears? How does one maintain thankfulness in poverty or lack? This is God’s Will for you in Jesus Christ. To have joy and peace in every trial and test requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave you His Spirit when you decided to ask Him to be your Savior and make Him Lord of your life. This is a process. Don’t let anyone lie to you. Faith grows daily not overnight. Trust produces confidence in the hope given to us. His Grace is enough for the challenging tests that take more than one try. The promise that He make good of every detail of our life includes the failures of faith.

I Peter 1:8 (NLT) You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

“This is a test. It is only a test. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Forgive me for the paraphrasing liberty taken with the Word of God. If we could only learn to trust that Jesus truly did overcome the world – we would live in constant victory as the Glory of God overtakes us. To believe that nothing is impossible with God changes everything. Our reaction to ordinary problems becomes extraordinary outcomes when the test is not as impressive as our God. When our response to the impossible is expectation of a miracle – it changes everything from the inside out of us. To know that no matter what comes our way – anything is possible makes life worth living because it gives us hope. Hope that never leads to disappointment no longer how long it takes. Faith is not based on what we see but WHO we know. When we fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and finisher of faith it changes if every tragedy into a “lived happily ever after” story. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength today. Take what little bit of energy you have left and give Him praise. He is worthy of our worship even on the darkest day. Those who do will pass the test of genuine faith that opens the door to the everlasting.

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word, just to rest upon His Promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!” Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!