Soft Heart

Soft Heart

Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV)  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

In I Corinthians 13, or Love Chapter of the Bible, love is described in lengthy detail. Not the kind of love experienced in this world or through ordinary people but the love consistent with the character of Christ. How many weddings use this text going in yet shortly after embarking in life decide it is not all its cracked up to be? I have been married almost twenty years. While most days are unicorns and rainbows, there are some days when the trolls and storm clouds rule the day. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love doesn’t envy and is never boastful. It is not arrogant. It is not rude. I doesn’t insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. Love doesn’t rejoice when others fall on their face or glory in “I-told-you-so’s.” It rejoices in truth. (Let me just drop the definition of truth in there – it begins with God’s Word.) Love bears ALL things. Love believes ALL things. Love hopes ALL things. Love endures ALL things. Love NEVER ends. So why talk about love when I didn’t even reference it in today’s passage? Well, glad you asked…

Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the love described in I Corinthians 13. Love is not a characteristic but a character or real person. It is in His Demonstration of true love that our life is changed both inwardly and outwardly. The same chapter also concludes that if we do not have this kind of love then we have nothing at all. We must all have the same love to achieve Kingdom living. So if there is any encouragement in Christ…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord or one mind.

Unity and harmony are the very channel that God’s Anointing and Blessing flow. Though the most basic Kingdom principle, probably the hardest to achieve. Hard hearts to not bear deep roots. In fact, the harder the heart the less likely that faith will be watered by His Love and emerge into the flourishing life that God has promised and Christ secured for us. In fact, just like the Word of God says, without love there is nothing. Without love, we hold doctrine rather than hope. Without love, it is a religion never a relationship. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the source of love, joy and peace in our life meeting and exceeding every expectation. If this is true, unity and harmony will emerge.

Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

How many times is this promise longed for but never fully achieved? The promise of rest for the weary, labored and heavy laden. Is that you today? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Is hope waning in your weary soul? Are you wondering where God is? The Lord is closer than you think. He lives on the inside of you. He invites us to “come to me” so rather than yoking to Him in the morning and partnering with Him through the day – it is human nature to come crawling when we need just a crumb of hope or spoonful of peace to get us through one more day. Where is the victory in surrendering to our feelings? Where is the triumph in doing the same thing every day? He invites us to yoke our life with Him and learn from Him. He is gentle and lowly of heart. A humble heart will receive rest for your soul. A hard heart that refuses to break will ultimately be shattered by life – devastation, disappointment, and the like will crush the one not fully yielded to God. Why would a loving God do such a thing?

My son is a police officer. He works the night shift. While the community is sleeping, my kid is patrolling the streets and keeping them safe. Many mornings I will wake up to text messages of injuries and reports of near misses just to tell me that he is safe nevertheless. Is protecting and serving my first choice for our kid’s career? Do you read the news? Even high profile figures have blatant disregard for law enforcement and incite hatefulness in others yet are celebrated even compensated for it – so the answer is not really. It is his occupational choice. When he was a little boy, he lived in my house. I was able to provide for him and protect him. When he needed assistance or guidance, I was with him. But now, how can I protect him from harm in another city? Or give him guidance in the middle of a pursuit or arrest? I can’t because I am not with him. It is in our proximity and position that God is able to work in us and through us. It is by invitation only that Christ will teach us a better way of life. He would never force it upon us. Love links us to Christ but it is only with a humble heart that the maximum effect of His Love will change our life.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (ESV) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

A humble and soft heart allows the Light of His Love to escape. It is in the cracks and crevices created by giving up those things contrary to His Love that allow His Love to truly penetrate our heart, fill our mind, and make us amenable to unity. The flexibility in our heart is not subject to abuse, offense, or harm from others because are full of Christ. The building of God’s Kingdom is a commitment to love Him first over ALL things. It is a call to step out of our former self and become a new creation in Jesus Christ by allowing Him to change our heart and mind bringing them into agreement and allegiance to His Word. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Everything needed, wanted and desired is fully satisfied in Him by humbling our heart and giving the Lord full jurisdiction. Suddenly the things that truly lead to contentment, fulfillment and a flourishing life are within reach or should I say within us making its way out of us. This is the first fruit of God’s Spirit – love. Unconditional and unfailing love found in us and distributing through us for the building of the Kingdom and life in the everlasting. Amen and Amen.

How’s your heart today? It is up to us to examine our heart. Like a loaf of bread in the local market, I am not going to purchase one that is stale and stiff. I want soft bread for my family that is delicious. Such is the task for us as believers, to give our heart and gentle squeeze for softness, the humble heart always remains soft. It is the only way it can be freely given to others like Jesus has asked us to do. Lord, created in us clean (and soft hearts) today. Holy Spirit, renew my spirit and refresh our souls in Jesus Name.

Psalm 51:10 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

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Be Blessed

Be Blessed 2

I Peter 3:8-9 (ESV) Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Unity promotes blessing. God has indicated that harmony among people is like thick oil running down the beard of Aaron representing a special anointing. As well it should be, if one considers how difficult it is for people to agree. The instructions in the letter conclude ALL OF YOU have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and humble mind. The next statement drives home the secret of God’s Blessing overtaking us in everyday life. Bless others. The summary of the text is simple. No matter what happens keep your mind focused on love, your heart tender for others and maintain a humble mind. It is clear that the pathway to promise is in our relationships. Why would it come as a surprise that it is the main focus of the enemy’s attack?

Disagreement and disunity have constipated God’s Church. It is impossible to receive the blessing of God in bitterness and unforgiveness because it is blatant disregard for the unconditional love and abundant grace that the Lord has given us. Saints of God tarry at the altar, writhe in prayer closets, and plead to Him in prayer for something that is far simpler. If only in tending our heart and mind, forgiveness would be the healing balm for those who use us, harm us, hurt us, offend us, insult us, lie to us, attack us, or maybe people who just are not likeable. What if the lock on the door of heaven is being held tightly shut by the same hand that is holding on to rightness or any list of reasons that seem rational. Faith is not logical. God’s Love is irrational. His Goodness is ridiculous. We cannot fully comprehend even walking with Him exactly what He is doing in us and for us. So the choice becomes will I trust the Lord with all my expectations, or reserve my pride and rightness?

Isaiah 55:8-11 (ESV) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

I was driving to work when I noticed in my rearview mirror an SUV dodging in and out of traffic. He cut several people off with his reckless maneuvers. Other drivers had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting other vehicles and avoid collisions while this person clearly did not regard the havoc caused by his swerving between cars dangerously close. My worship music faded into the background as anger began to rise up within me. Who was he to put so many people in danger without no concern? It was wrong. He was being careless. As he pulled up beside me speeding just enough to cut in front of my vehicle narrowly missing the left headlight – so I did what any good Christian would do and laid into the horn with all the strength my arm could muster. Fuming as he sped off, the sweet presence in my car evaporated into heated emotions. Of course, then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the heart. You should pray for him. He may get hurt. What? My heart changed from anger melting into sweet peace when I prayed for him and those he encountered today.

Why? Why is it important to keep our heart soft and tender along with a humble mind? I want God’s Blessing in my life. It is clear in His Word that I must keep from speaking evil, retaliating, reacting, and allowing my heart to be hardened by cursing another soul. See the Lord goes with me everywhere I go ready to release His Blessing in response to nothing more than my faith in Him. The more faith I invest in the Lord the more His Blessing and Goodness overtake me. I must invite, welcome, entertain, and maintain His Presence when I am with family or friends, at church or work, and yes, even when I am alone and no one else is watching. God’s Word holds promises for me that I long to obtain yet His Way is unconventional. I must do it His Way. His Way is unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. Do you need to forgive someone? How about rescinding a curse? Repentance is a beautiful reconciliation with our Loving Father through His Beloved Son. It is a privilege blood bought and grace given that keeps us in line for His Blessing. Lord, I want to be blessed. Keep me focused on the blessing and not the mess. You are good and your promise is worth having even at the sacrifice of self. Amen! Amen!

Psalm 133:1-2 (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!

The Kid’s Table

The Kid's Table

Mark 9:33-35 (ESV) And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 

Living in the southernmost part of the country, our seasons are generally welcomed by the calendar and not a change in the atmosphere. While most of the country begins to welcome autumn with falling leaves and pumpkin spice latte, it is recognized here by the turn of the calendar page while coffee is sipped in the humidity of another stormy day. Flipping ahead in my planner, I cannot believe another year is quickly passing. This time last year, our family was preparing for the newest member’s arrival with baby showers while our middle daughter anticipated her high school graduation. Now there is a sweet chunky cherub filling our home with giggles and only one child who has not reached adulthood. Indeed, friends, seasons change without our bidding. They are preset by God to carry out His Plan and His Purpose. Each one bearing seeds from the past sown by faith into the potential of a fertile heart. Are you ready for the change of season?

The seasons of God set forth for us come with the promise of a wonderful plan. The only thing required to achieve His Purpose is faith. Faith empowers us to believe. It is the key that opens the heart to trust the Lord enough to follow the Way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life. He is the Word who carefully lived out the course set before us to become Children of God and receive His Spirit who seals our adoption. However, human expectation sometimes allows pride to get in the way of the process by which faith is acquired.

With the turn of the calendar page it is evident that the busiest time of the year is coming – a new season is here. Planning for the holidays begins with the grandmas, moms and daughters long before the turkey is placed in the oven or pies set out to cool. Menus and accommodations for overflowing tables begin. There will be more food than our family will ever finish and a fridge filled with leftovers just because there always is. Newspapers and laptops strategically setting forth the holiday shopping that will help us work off those extra pounds with retail therapy. There is one inevitable argument that will arise. Who will sit at the kids table? Not an easy call since all the kids are grown and our family expanding. There is the main dining table used for everyday use and then there is a formal dining room only used for special occasions. Of course, everyone wants to sit at the fancy table. It will require someone to humbly accept positions at the “kid’s table” in order for dinner to go smoothly.

Isn’t that how it works with the Lord? All His Children want to sit at His Table with the Father. However, just as our children all began sitting at the kids’ table. We as Children of God must be of a humble heart to do the same. Seasons with God change us but rather not as in the natural. In the spiritual realm, maturity in God comes when Jesus increases and I decrease. (John 3:30)

Matthew 15:22-28 (ESV) And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Lord has prepared a table for us. Communion with Christ means taking in His Body and being washed in His Blood. The significance of His Sacrifice for us is met with expectation that will become the motivation of our relationship with Him. The Jews were looking for elevation. They knew who they were – Children of God. They knew what God’s Promise was and that the Messiah coming. They expected to be served like kings and queens, so when presented with a Humble Savior didn’t recognize His Majesty. Surely this is not the Christ – Son of the Living God.

How often our approach to Christ is of a religious nature? Like a Pharisee looking to live the life of promise but not willing to follow His Example. The beginning of all things in Christ is a relationship that is only achieved in humility. A relationship that starts with two desiring oneness. What is it on the table the Lord has set before us that we desire? Do you need healing? Do you need deliverance? Do you need restoration? Do you need reconciliation? Do you need provision? Do you desire prosperity? All this is laid out like a banquet for Children of God but until we are willing to gather the crumbs beneath the table of God and consume the Body of Christ in all His Humility – we are not worthy to sit at the banquet with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who decided to be broken for us in the first place.

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! 

I do not think Jesus was trying to humiliate this woman. I believe that He already knew what she desired but more importantly the Healer saw the faith in her heart. He wanted his disciples to see it to. They walked with Jesus. Talked with Him. Maintained friendships with the Messiah. Believed He was the Son of the Living God. However, they were following Him expecting the table not the Cross. The woman was desperate for her child. However, unlike Naaman who almost missed what God had for him because of pride, she was of a humble heart. She was desperate for Jesus. Human desperation has differing outcomes according to the condition of our heart. The woman was broken. She would stop at nothing to have a touch from the Lord so she would gladly gather the crumbs beneath his table. Jesus saw her faith and so did his men. He blessed the woman and her daughter was healed.

Psalm 34:8-10 (ESV) Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!  The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

In Luke 14, there is a parable of Jesus of the Great Banquet. A man had prepared a banquet for Jesus. Jesus had instructed the host that the blessing in a feast was to invite those who could not reciprocate such as the poor, crippled, lame and blind for the eternal reward would be greater. The man quickly disregarded his statement and tells Jesus, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” Hold up! Reclining at the table in casual conversation the man is schooling Jesus? What? No. Jesus shares the story of the Great Banquet. The invitation was given by the host – yet the ones invited refused to come to the table so the host invited essentially everyone and there was still more room. Jesus was only telling of his arrival for God’s People and their refusal to accept His Invitation so now there was an open invitation into the Kingdom of God to sit at His Table. The table that Jesus was preparing was not like the one of his host that day. It was not fanfare and show but provision. God was providing a way for all to enter in. Jesus invites us to come in and sit with him. He is withholding no good thing from you. He has already reserved a place for you with a standing invitation. It is only accepted through intimacy with Christ that whets our appetite for the things of God rather than looking for the goodies that He has in store for us.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! His Heart is filled with full satisfaction that He wants to share with you. The kind of fulfillment that is not dependent on the things of this world but fully discovered only by faith that leads to confident hope. Friend, it is not what is on the table but what lies underneath that allows us to experience the miracles of Jesus in our life. The foundation on which the marriage supper is grounded is Christ. He is what lies beneath and supports the table. Faith is founded on radical humility that fully gives way to total trust in Him. He knows what you like and don’t like. He knows exactly what you need. He has everything covered. He is standing at the door knocking today! Jesus is waiting and says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The Lord desires a meal with you. He seeks to meet with you face-to-face. Will you humble your heart and receive Him?

James 4:10 (ESV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Humbled By Grace

Humbled by Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Humility

True humility

Proverbs 22:4 (NLT) True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.

Biting into a piece of leftover steak, the pain was searing and sharp taking my breath away. Trying not to cry out in pain, I sat for a minute to get my wits about me. Though not so intense, it was still radiating through my jaw. When I could produce a lucid thought, it came to me that my princess tooth in need of a crown had probably cracked. I have a molar that is in need of attention. It is all the way in the back with several fillings. The dentist advised me that I should get a crown as it was beginning to breakdown from years of use. I have a phobia about going to the dentist. I have been working to overcome it for most of my life. However, last night I would have run to the chair for some relief.

Like most people, I opted to seek the advice of the Internet for some immediate pain relief. After a few moments, I confirmed that it more than likely was a crack that exposed the nerve. With throbbing pain, I stopped my investigation took several anti-inflammatories before I got the brilliant idea to put some pain-relieving gel on it. Digging through my mom bag, I found a tube. I put it all over the tooth. Big mistake! Huge error! Once the medicine penetrated the tooth to the nerve, it set my entire jaw on fire. It was probably the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I laid my hands on my face and prayed. Pleaded with the Lord to take the pain away with tears streaming down my face. As it began to subside, I continued to read the different medical and dental sites. I need to go to the dentist. I need to pay the large co-pay. I need a crown. Ugh!

Our lesson for Wednesday night Bible study was about pride. Our need for humility in our pursuit of the Lord. Nothing will bring us to our knees like pain – physical, mental, emotion and even spiritual. The brokenness that gets to the heart of the matter will never build our pride but tear all self-confidence to make room for confident hope. Humility is evidence of a realization of who God is and His Sovereignty that allows His Spirit to produce change in us. Humility is painful because one must crucify flesh in order to give it room in our life. For years, I have prided myself on how I deal with illness and pain. I have given birth without medication. Powered through illness. However, last night, I could not even breathe with the intensity of the pain when the crack in my tooth hit the nerve and then when I tried to self-medicate. Lord, thank you for the object lesson but OUCH!

Romans 3:22-24 (NLT) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

True humility requires true repentance. The riches of God are accessed by salvation. Sin drug us down from a glorious standard of living that Christ came to fully restore. True repentance is not a one-time instance but daily occurrence. Reconciling our natural life to the supernatural existence God has for His Children. It can only be obtained by allowing the Lord to work in us and complete the work that He began. We must change because God does not change. We must be humble because God is Sovereign and no one will ever bring Him down from His Throne. He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful, and everywhere at the same time. God is the Great I Am. To be one with the Lord means that I must decrease and allow Christ to increase filling every void in my brokenness. The Truth that tears down any religious posture is that one sin nailed Jesus to the Cross and His Blood covers all sin. Grace is enough. It is always sufficiency to bring us into right-standing with God. It requires one thing – true repentance.

James 4:5-10 (NLT) Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

True humility requires true surrender. I must lay down my life in order to assume a robe of righteousness. In order to have the Grace of God, I must give my life away to Him. His Power is manifested in my weakness. When I cannot do it anymore so I give it over to Him. I have put off getting the dental work needed for my ailing tooth for a variety of reasons. I am afraid. I do not want to pay the price. I have tried to ignore it. After the episode last night, I need to make a choice. Will I overcome my fear? Will I pay the price? Will I give it the attention needed? I believe that as we cry out to the Lord for more of Him. To see His Glory. To have more of His Grace. We ask Him to increase our faith. But when the trial, trouble, or trauma comes that exposes areas of pride and weakness – it is met with confusion and a lack of understanding. God must expose everything in us that is contrary to His Word, Will and Way so that we can humble our life and surrender that area to Him for His Careful and Complete Intervention. To posture our life prostrate before the Lord as a living sacrifice allows Him to work through us and align our life with His Goodness for His Glory which will life us to a place of honor in His Presence.

Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT) The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

True humility requires true love. Do you love God? Do you love Jesus Christ? Do you love others? Do you love yourself? There is no greater love than to lay down our life for another. Perfect love casts out all fear. Love is the most powerful force. God is love. Everything He does comes from the orifice of love because it is His Identity. He promises to rescue those who love Him. He will protect those who trust Him. Trust is characteristic of love. True love is given all away. When they call – those who love and trust Him – He will always answer them in the midst of their trouble. He promises to honor them and give them long life.

Daniel cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent an angel to him. “Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.” (Daniel 10:12) Daniel loved God even in his captivity. He petitioned the Lord for understanding and he humbled himself before God. God confided that his request had been heard in heaven and an answer given. Our life must be reconciled to God because God will not change His Mind or His Way. Daniel aligned his life with God’s Word despite his situation. He humbled himself before the Lord and He answered Daniel directly. Could pride be hindering the answer to our prayers? Could our unwillingness to give our life up to secure a place in His Kingdom be our problem? Has conviction struck a nerve in you requiring immediate action? Will fear stop you? Pride hinder you? Is the cost of self too high? Will you accept God’s Grace as the power of change for your life? Will you love Him wholeheartedly?

Micah 6:8 (NLT) No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Human pride complicates the simplicity of salvation with radical religion. It puts rules and regulations on the Grace of God that are not His Requirements at all. In the movie, The Lorax, a man bottled air and sold it to unsuspecting people. How often free grace is offered with a price rather than generously spread around the church with love. What if salvation really is for the asking? What if grace is sufficient for all sin? What if God’s Mercy gives us second chances every single day? What if He really will complete the good work in us without our assistance? What if His Spirit can change our character and make us fruitful from the inside out? What if our body and life will prosper with our soul? Have I overcomplicated the process to foster my pride? The Lord has told us what is good. It is simple. What does He require of you? To do what is right. To love mercy. To walk humbly with Him. Pride will fight to preserve its right to do what it wants. To serve self first. To go its own way. It is up to us to give up our right to be right and claim righteousness over rightness. It is our goal to live in love with God and all mankind. It is our privilege to walk humbly WITH the Lord until we meet Him face-to-face.

Psalm 25:8-10 (NLT) The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

Cover Me

Cover Me

 

Galatians 6:1-2 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

There is an American hero by the name of Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis who at just 19 years old gave his life to save his brethren. He was trained to escape the deadly blast of a grenade if there is the opportunity. However, when an Iraqi insurgent threw a grenade into their Humvee, he had to make a choice. This young man had an opportunity to jump from the machine gun turret he was manning and save himself. But that is not what this man of honor and valor did, instead he dropped from the turret into the vehicle falling on the grenade to save his four comrades inside. Months prior to the incident, the same scenario occurred but the gunner followed his military training and jumped out of the Humvee. Fortunately, in the grenade was a dud. Pfc. McGinnis received a Medal of Valor and Purple Heart while his parents received a folded American flag. He gave up his life for his brothers and is an example to us all.

I am challenged by this verse today. I am also inspired by this young man’s story. As believers, there are trials and temptations each day. We face situations and circumstances that cause the superficial Christianity to give way to the truth within our heart. Sin happens. It happens to everyone. We all fall short of the Glory of God not once but daily. Religion often creates an atmosphere of arrogance as some look down on those who are transparent. Rather than reaching out to their brothers and sisters, they reach around them as to somehow prove they have no sin. You who live by the Spirit should restore family, friends, coworkers and even strangers who fall into temptation or succumb to sin. It must never be to pull them up to some invisible level but through the Blood of Jesus surround them with love and hope. When given the opportunity to cover your brother and sister in Christ, what is your response? Hero? Helper? Heretic? Hmm…

Genesis 9:20-25 (NIV) Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”

Noah was a farmer who produced a vineyard. Partaking of his choice crop, he became drunk. Succumbing to the situation, he fell asleep naked in his tent. He was not out carousing but inside his home. When his son, Ham, saw him – rather than covering his father and keeping it to himself – he decided to tell his brothers. The response of his brothers, much like Pfc. McGinnis, is a lesson of love and grace needed in the church today. They took a covering and walking backward as not to subject their father to any further humiliation – they covered him up. I cannot stress the importance of this lesson to the Body of Christ. “Bless their heart” shouldn’t be an excuse to share with every other brother and sister the sin of another. Prayer requests on behalf of another can be carefully disguised gossip sessions. The Word of God says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your brothers and sisters.” We are one great big family.

Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how many rules and regulations religion sets forth, Jesus Christ condemns no one. His Grace is enough. It is sufficient for the covering of sin. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Human insecurity threatens the sufficiency of God’s Grace. One’s inability to accept that His Grace is the sufficiency of our life. Our ability to fully accept the grace that God has given us through His Son, Jesus is based on our ability to crucify pride and humbly receive it. When will begin to boast in our own weaknesses rather than putting our brothers and sisters on blast? The life-giving power of Jesus Christ is not enhanced or any way enabled by a chance in our habits but evident in a heart change that humbly accepts outside of Christ – I am nothing. Those who condemn others by spreading rumors, gossip and even when trying to disguise it as concern will one day reap what they sow. Not my words, but those of the Bible – “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

John 8:9-11 (NIV) At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The woman was caught in the act of adultery. Yet, she was brought before the Pharisees alone. How many times do we cover the religious and expose the sinner? Just because someone comes to church, serves in ministry and cleans up well, does not necessarily mean that their heart is right with the Lord. In fact, the religious men all sat in judgment ready to stone the woman. Jesus said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” God’s Word tell us plainly that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard. His Instruction to this woman on the verge of death now given a new life – “Go now and leave your life of sin.” There was another woman found in her sin at a well. Jesus didn’t expose her before the masses and make a public example but rather through quiet conversation revealed His Person to her. She became a great witness for the Messiah. I wonder how many people would finally fall in love with Jesus leaving sin behind them if the church represented the love of God rather than the condemnation of the Pharisees. Judgment belongs to God. Condemnation could have belonged to Christ but He chose grace instead. What will we choose today?

James 4:10-13 (NIV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Humility will not allow us to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ died for every single person every created to give them access to new life. The enemy uses pride to destroy sound doctrine as men and women who know God succumb to the lie of the enemy that there is a way to make us better when there is only a better way. Slander and gossip come in many forms. It will always circle back to the one for which it was intended. The grace given to us in Jesus Christ can only be accepted in humility. Religion will never be the way to Christ’s Heart but relationship. The kind of relationships that are made up of people willing to lay down their life, pride, fear, insecurity and doubt long enough to love unconditionally and give grace abundantly. Everyone sins. Everyone falls short of God’s Glorious Standard. There is absolutely positively no condemnation in Jesus Christ only constant covering of our sin with His Precious Blood giving us new life and making us a new creation. When someone falls, it is our calling to cover them. Cover them with prayer. Reach out to them in love. Don’t reach around them to share it with everyone else. Let their humiliation and violation stop with you not be cultivated by you. Give them the same grace required to keep you and me in good standing with God. It is free. We do not have to earn it and neither do they. What will you do the next time you find a fallen brother or sister who is slipping?

I John 4:16-19 (NIV) And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 

As believers reconcile their life to Jesus Christ – the product must be love. Always love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” There is no fear in love which means that if we are representing God’s love those who are lost or wandering should not be afraid to come to church. They should not be concerned that there is a kangaroo court of judges waiting to tear them down, make them feel bad, or condemn them in any way. What is your response to the downfall of another? What is your reaction? When the grenade dropped into the Humvee that day, Pfc. McGinnis did not have time to weigh his options. The true character of his heart revealed as he covered the grenade giving up his life for his friends. What will you do? We love simply because He first loved us. We give grace because He has given us grace and more grace. We are Children of God building a family out of love. Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit full of unconditional love and overwhelming grace for everyone I meet.

I John 3:16 (NIV) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

 

Stop, Drop and Roll

Stop Drop and Roll

James 3:2 (NLT) Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

I remember as a young child in school learning the technique of “stop, drop and roll” to extinguish a fire. Taught as part of health and safety, a nice fireman dressed in his gear instructed our second grade class on fire awareness. Part of his lesson was what to do if our clothing caught on fire – we were to stop, drop and roll. Consisting of three components as the name suggests, the first step is to stop. Stopping means to cease all movement which may fan the flames or even hamper those coming to one’s aid. Dropping to the ground, lying down and covering the face to avoid further injury. Finally, rolling on the ground in an effort to extinguish the fire by depriving it of oxygen. Even wrapping up in a rug if nearby to further put out any flames. I wonder if we might use the same techniques when putting out the fires started with harsh words and misunderstandings. Is it possible that stop, drop and roll might work in such conditions?

James 3:3-6 (NLT) We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  

Recently, I have watched a beautiful friendship completely destroyed by careless words and misunderstanding. Burned to the ground as it spread through two families. I am praying for restoration, repair and rebuilding yet I cannot believe the absolute devastation. How many times to careless conversations, pointless debates or one-sided tirades destroy the beautiful harmony and unity that God has ordained for His People? Churches have literally split, divided and died from gossip, slander and malice among close friends now misaligned by the lie of the enemy who is the Father of Lies. Is it too late for grace? Oh man, I hope not. The Grace of God is always enough but like any other building the institution of relationship takes time to reconstruct. Trust is probably the hardest structure to build and maintain so once it is compromised it takes a committed effort by all to restore. How can something so small do so much damage? Why can’t we control our tongues? Why is our need to be right or defended so strong that pride keeps us from humbling our tongue and limiting our words to what is kind, necessary and true? Lord, help us today to examine our hearts, thoroughly inspect our thoughts, and completely control our tongue to bring glory to Your Great Name.

James 3:7-12 (NLT) People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

The complexity of human nature and the war against our flesh makes the products of our lips sometimes uncertain. Romans 7 talks about the war between flesh and spirit that wages war within us. We want to do what is right and try to but still do what is wrong on a regular basis. The need for constant grace is clearly definitive in the simple truth that humans are imperfect and our weakness is sin. We can change our habits. We can modify our routine. We can educate our opinion. Yet in the final stages of release our words are on a mission – to give life or pronounce death. (Proverbs 18:21) To be imitators of God and follow the example of Jesus – there will be times to be silent. To stop talking, drop to our knees in humility and roll out the flames set by the harsh words, judgment or gossip of another. Jesus was completely innocent yet in the midst of His Accusers – our Savior and Lord set forth an example that we are to learn from – He said nothing. (Matthew 27:11-14; Acts 8:32) This fulfilled the prophecy about our Lord and did not further fuel arguments. It would not hinder His Walk to the Cross. In order to fulfill God’s Destiny for our life and walk in His Ways, sometimes that means walking away from a fight right to preserve the relationship or to say, “I’m sorry” even when the offense was against you. The point is to continue to follow Jesus and not be detoured by dysfunction by the lie of the enemy. We need each other despite what the liar has said.

Psalm 34:12-14 (NLT) Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?  Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Perhaps these verses might be labeled the “stop, drop and roll” instructions when it comes to our words. Do you want to live a long and prosperous life? I dare say no one reading this will say, “No” or “I’ll pass” but rather every day it is our goal to live in the promises and prosperity set forth in God’s Word according to the blessings prescribed for us. The scripture is clear. STOP your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Pretty straight forward but not always easy. It is important to think about what we say and how we say it. Being right doesn’t always result in righteousness. It is up to us to condition our heart and soften it with God’s Word. This will change how we think and respond to other people. We must be quick to forgive and stop the progression of bitterness within us that turns into malicious conversation. DROP – Turn away from evil and do good. Repentance is essential in transforming our communication with others. Sometimes we can do nothing more than make things right with the Lord and pray for a severed relationship until the other party softens and accepts you again. Humility brings agreement to a growing, prospering and thriving relationship. As harmony is established and unity maintained the Lord blesses both parties and creates a living flow between them. Is it really worth limiting our godly potential to allow separation to build walls that block His Prosperity in our heart and life? I don’t think so. Finally, ROLL – grace teaches us how to let things roll off of us like water off a duck’s back. We must learn to overlook the careless conversation and decide to love them anyway. We must be the one to extinguish the passionate flames of fear and insecurity that feed our pride. We give power to the words of others in our life and the same words meant to harm us can free us when grace is applied and forgiveness given or received. I want the power of God to be a daily experience all around me. I want love as strong as death to overtake me and filter into every relationship established in my life. To search for peace and maintain it means giving up my way to Christ and others daily. It doesn’t really matter if they hurt my feelings or break my heart. I am called to love them. I am ordained to live in harmony with all my brothers and sisters not just the ones of my choosing.

James 3:17-18 (NLT) But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

I am grieved literally sad in my spirit over the friendship recently destroyed by the enemy. I believe in the Resurrection Power of God that gives new life. As I pray for this friendship, maybe there is a family member or friend that you know of where there is distance in what was a close bond. The enemy hates relationships. He hates when people love each other. Daily satan sows seeds of offense and hurt hoping someone will take hold of them. It is up to you and me plant seeds of peace and reap the harvest of righteousness. It will take effort. You cannot sit idly by when it comes to the words used or conversation allowed. We must take the burden of repentance and give grace even when it is not deserved. There is seldom a disagreement where both parties did not hold their ground. Reconciliation takes both sides coming together as one. Our common ground is Jesus Christ. His Grace is enough for me today and you, too. We can live in love with others because His Love completes us. People are not perfect, but they are not the problem either. In fact, they are the key to a prospering, productive and long life. Praying for the full restoration of my broken friendship today. Can I join with you in doing the same? Let’s pray for protection over our relationships today and that the Spirit of God will tame our tongue.

Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT) A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

Too Important

Too Important

Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

If another is overcome, gently and humbly help the person back on the right patch. Be careful not to fall into the same trap. Share each other’s burdens. Obey the Law of Christ in this way. If you think you are too important to help…am I too important to help another? What is it that keeps me from reaching out to or aiding another believer or any other living breathing thing? Who is considered collateral damage in the battle for the Kingdom? No one. According to Jesus, all of Heaven rejoices when the one who is lost returns. So I wonder today, if the trap in which I have fallen is that of becoming too important?

We all fall in the category of “too” something at any giving time. Too busy, too tired, too stressed, too overwhelmed, too broken and, yes, even too important to do the work of Christ on a daily basis. The enemy has a plethora of excuses that he introduces as valid to use to explain our lack of obedience to Christ. They all may be true but not necessary. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed and given the same number of hours in any given day. From that point forward, we make the choice of how to spend that time and invest ourselves in this thing called life. I love to hear someone tell me about how busy they are or hard they work. I have been guilty of boasting the same. The truth is the investment of our time is only as good as the seed sown in the space of it.

Maybe time is not the issue you are facing, but trouble. Sick of all the trials and troubles in our life – people build a wall around their heart and make the conscious choice to disengage. Enough is enough. People are not perfect and when expectation is given to them – they will fail. Everyone does. It is not a lack of wanting to be faithful and true, but simply the sad condition of a fickle heart and wayward thinking that keeps us from always doing the right thing. Paul summed it up in Romans 7 – we want to do what is right but inevitable do what is wrong. Thank you God for your unconditional love, overpowering grace, and endless mercy that allows me to try again each day despite yesterday’s shortcomings or total failures.

Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT) Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

I am responsible for my own conduct. Talk about straightforward. Pay careful attention to my own work in life, the Kingdom and relationships and then I will find satisfaction. Comparison is a joy killer. Not only that it paints over the picture God has painted in our heart and mind for fulfillment with some kind of replica of life that is not for us and we are not prepared or predestined to live. Comparison creates an image of a standard that is not God’s Standard for my life. If I allow the world to influence my standard of living, I miss the blessing that comes when I align my life and choices with God and His Word. Comparison kills contentment allowing jealousy to take over and kill any satisfaction that faith is growing in me. It chokes it out with a root called bitterness that excuses my lack of attention or commitment to faithfulness as I begin to build something that I was never intended to live in a place I was not supposed to be. The grass is always greener on the other side, if I keep my eyes on other people’s grass it will kill my own.

Galatians 6:7-8 (NLT) Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Because Christ has given us absolute and total freedom, I choose how to live and the seeds sown in my life each day. Am I sowing willingness? Obedience? Faithfulness? The Fruit of the Spirit is known to be:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When these are the seeds sown in our life according to God’s Word, they are the fruitful reproduction within us. What are you “too” important to do today? It just may the stronghold limiting you from achieving your maximum potential.  If something is needed, are you willing to do it to the glory of God? Or is it subjected to your pride first? As pastors, ministers, leaders, teachers, and true believers, there is not task beneath us. If our church sidewalk needs to be swept, we do it. If a toilet needs to be cleaned, we do it. If it means forgiving for the umpteenth time, we do it. If it means offering love and kindness rather than taking offense so be it. No matter what the task or responsibility if we are not willing to do it – then it is not good enough for our brother or sister to do. I wonder what might happen if we humbled ourselves to Christ rather than striving for some higher position. What if we were willing to sweat for the Kingdom? What if we decided to get dirty to build it? What if we would humble ourselves in all things? I believe this is the kind of brokenness that gives way to true stewardship in Christ. It is not what we are willing to give that is an acceptable offering, but rather when we will give our all for the Kingdom of God no matter how messy, uncomfortable or chaotic it may be just to because we love Jesus Christ.

Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT) So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Are you tired of doing the right thing? Are you sick of always trying to be good? Are your ready to give up? When dealing with life and people, sometimes these feelings rise up within us. God is greater than our feelings. Pride must go down for His Glory to rise up through our humility. “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone.” This transcends to every part of our life from our family to friends to fellow church members to acquaintances to complete strangers all the way to our enemies. Ugh! That’s a lot of good on days when I don’t feel like it.

Matthew 19:29-30 (NLT) And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

I don’t always make good choices. I do not always keep my flesh and feelings under the tight rein of the Holy Spirit. There are many times I do the absolute opposite. The world sets a standard for comparison that never has a finish line. Just when you think you arrive, the destination changes and so do the expectations. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Standard of Living does not change. It is a life of humility. It is to forsake being the greatest so that others can see the Light of His Loving shining from within. When we are too important to share the love of Jesus no matter who they are, what they do or how they treat us – we miss the mark completely. Our standard is to love God and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. The long list of excuses marked “too” begin with a feeling of self-importance that allows pride to live in us. Pride will always take God’s Place in our heart and mind. It will keep us from the blessing that comes with knowing Christ and eternal life. God show me the areas of my life today where I feel “too” important and help me to eliminate them by sowing new seeds from Your Spirit today.

Galatians 2:20 (NLT) 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.

Keep Striking the Arrows

Keep Striking the Arrows

2 Kings 13:17-19 (NLT) Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”

Have you ever tried to tackle closet that is too full? The spare room or office that has become a catch-all? When I was visiting my daughter a week before her move, there was not a box packed or closet emptied. She was overwhelmed. Pregnant. Relocating for the second time in just a few months. A 21-hour plus drive from the north to the south. The journey from promise to reality is no joke. Anything worth having requires an investment. It is not uncommon or unusual to get dismayed when our process seems delayed, detoured or distant. The Lord often has to undo us to redo everything for our best and according to His Glory. We become uncomfortable as our life is inconvenient. Things seem chaotic and out of control as God remakes our life, shapes us and molds our character. His Ways are not our ways and His Thoughts so much higher.

I guess I am at the place some call middle age. It doesn’t bother me too much other than there are some things that God has promised that haven’t come to pass. In fact, there are some things that seem downright impossible. I am the person who loves spring and fall cleaning. I love to take things apart, put them back together, organize and reorganize. Chaos is not my favorite. I prefer control and insight rather than those times when the Lord keeps us in the stillness of waiting without the ability to see what lies ahead. Yesterday, I did a gut check. I sought the Lord on my current position. Am I where you want me, Lord? Am I doing what you want me to do? I need to know what to do, Lord. “Keep striking the arrows…” Hmm…

Romans 4:20-24 (NLT) Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

I have heard this message taught about the king who sought instruction from Elisha. The potency and power in his words may just be that it was the final ones of the prophet’s natural life. The first arrow shot from the window was the “Lord’s arrow” and I believe it marked the promise. The promise that was in the distance. The promise of victory not yet attained. Do you have a promise? Does it seem like it is taking forever? David was anointed to be king 22 years before it happened. Joseph had a dream but did not know that it included a pit, slavery, false accusations, and famine. Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations but it took 90 years to have his first child. God is not a man. He does not lie or change His Mind. The promise and plan for our life is secure. His Call is irrevocable. His Word cannot return to Him lacking fulfillment. This does not mean that the Lord will hurry it up, change it up or in any way lessen its perfection or completion to accommodate our confidence, control, comfort and/or convenience.

With this in mind, my attention is drawn to the other arrows. I know the Promises of God spoken to me and outlined in His Word. Some have manifested and others just out of reach. In order to reach fulfillment, I must “keep striking the arrows.” What does that even mean? If you are like me, too invested to go back now and looking in the distance as if it is too far – I believe this is for us today. Tired of running the race, but too stubborn to give up now.  Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. Elisha grew angry with the king. Why did you stop at just three times? Why stop short? What if these arrows had inscriptions on each shaft? Instructions written by the Hand of God to encourage us today.

Faith

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT) And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

As believers, we must strike out in faith every single day. Faith is the very thing that pleases God. Without faith, there is no righteousness. We cannot come to the Father except by having faith in His Son, Jesus. The first arrow is clearly marked faith. Faith in Jesus. Faith in God. Faith in the promise. Faith that cannot give up on the reality of confident hope in our life.

Endurance

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Endurance produces character in Christians. (Romans 5:3-4) Jesus said that the one who endures to the end will be saved. We must work consciously every day to strip off the weight of sin and even laziness to purse God. It is important. The second arrow is marked endurance. This arrow is haggard and a bit ragged but will be the one that goes the farthest in achieving godly purpose and wins the pursuit of righteousness but it ref uses to fall short.

Patience

Hebrews 10:36 (NLT) Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

The ugliest arrow is marked patience. No one likes to wait. Everyone is always in a hurry. Patience is not optional but integral when it comes to the things of God. Everything has a season and time in our life. It doesn’t mean that it makes sense to us but is sequential to the fulfillment ordered by the Lord for your life. Patience is our response to God’s Promises. It is the supplement of faith that keeps us yoked to the Lord. It quiets our busyness. It softens our timeline. It allows us to step back and see things from another perspective. We must learn patient endurance to make it to completion. (2 Peter 1:5-7) Patience is better than pride that insists on its way in its own time. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

Humility

James 4:18 (NLT) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Humility is the broken arrow. The arrow that finally gives way to God’s Will. This arrow has been through some battles. It has won some and lost many in its own vain attempts at glory. Now full accepting the grace of God it gives up its own way to follow Him. The Bible says that we must clothe ourselves in humility. God creates humbling opportunities but ultimately it is a personal decision to surrender our will and way to Jesus Christ.

Obedience

I Samuel 15:22-23 (NLT) But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

God’s Word is our instruction book for life. Like any list of instructions, if you skip one, your expectation should change as well. To expect the same results with only partial obedience is silly. If you skip a step in a recipe, you risk ruining the meal. We must read the Handbook of Life which is our directions. The arrow marked obedience is essential. It is a quiet arrow that listens more than it talks. The Word sharpens its tip so that it will not fly off course. Jesus is our example of complete obedience. (Philippians 2:7-10)

Perseverance

I Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT) But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

Perseverance is steady persistence. It is continuance in a state of grace to the end. It is to continue to fight the good fight of faith even when you don’t feel it, see it or know if you really want it. It is the arrow that is the heaviest because there are times you cannot even lift it… but somehow by His Grace you do. These are the arrows to strike the ground with. They are not aimed at the enemy or other people. Jesus Christ has made you victorious. He has overcome the world. He has handed His Victory to you. Live like it.

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT) 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.

Hebrews 12:11-13 (NLT) No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

May the Lord give you a new grip today. To grab hold of these arrows and continue striking the ground until your victory comes. Do not give up. Discipline is essential. It is not always pleasant but will always be worth it. The satisfaction of finishing far outweighs the trouble it took to get there. You can do this. You have all everything you need at your disposal. Run with purpose in each step. Don’t shadowbox. Your time is worth more than that. Take a rest. Don’t give up or give in but press in to the Father today. He is for you. Jesus has handed you the victory – pursue it. Keep striking those arrows and surely it will come to pass!

 

 

Humble Prayers

Humble Prayers

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.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16) It is not the earnestness of our prayers that move the heart of God. There I said it. I believe in the power of prayer. I have seen mighty miracles as a result of God’s People uniting to pray purposefully. I have seen God answer prayers over and over again. I understand that the Word of God instructs us to “keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.” (Matthew 7:7) It goes on to tell us to keep seeking and knocking. I have read it and I am encouraged by it. But it is still not God’s Motivation.

God is motivated by righteous people. No one is righteous – not even one. (Romans 3:10) The only pathway to righteousness is because of faith in God who forgives sinners. (Romans 4:5) Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is our gateway to God. (John 14:6) Righteousness is right standing with God. The only way that this is fully accomplished is by His Grace. His Grace that is enough for me to enter the heavenly realm and speak to the Father with bold confidence. However, sometimes religion gives us the false thought that there is more to righteousness than a relationship through repentance. It tells us that there is some act or action that makes us worthy of God’s Full and Constant Attention. The only way a person becomes righteous is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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.

Righteousness always requires repentance. Always. I was reading the story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. The account of a boy who became king at the tender age of 12. Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do more evil than the surrounding pagan nations. He even set up idols in the temple constructed by Solomon dedicated to God. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and the people warning them but the ignored Him. Manasseh was taken prisoner. He was led away by a ring placed in his nose by the Assyrians bound in heavy chains. While in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before God. When he prayed the Lord listened and was moved by his request. This man had thumbed his nose at the Lord completely. He had gone so far as to practice sorcery, divination, and witchcraft consulting with psychics and mediums. Yet when Manasseh truly repented and accepted God’s Mercy in all humility it moved the Lord. He was brought back to Jerusalem and given his kingdom. He realized that God was God alone and tore down all the shrines built to honor other gods. His deeds recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel even though every sinful deed and record of unfaithfulness is equally chronicled in The Book of the Seers right down to the location of every shrine and Asherah pole constructed with every idol placed there. God honors humble prayers.

And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.”  Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.  (Daniel 10:11-12)  Daniel prayed humble prayers. The Lord sent an angel to him to tell Daniel that he was precious to God and a command had been released in the Heavenlies to honor his humble request. I wonder today if the prayers of the righteous go unanswered because the key component of humility has been left out.

The word humble or “kana” means to bring low and into subjection. It is not exalting one’s power but fully accepting God’s Grace as enough. It is the meekness that accepts God’s Will and remains faithful to His Way even when things are not going as planned or expected. If my people will humble themselves and pray…to give up our way and fully accept His Way is to have a humble heart. Humility before the Lord also known as meekness is to be overly submissive to Him. It means to comply with all the Lord requires which is to repent and seek His Face. The answer to every prayer is found in the person of Jesus Christ who gives us access to the Father.

If you are frustrated today by unanswered prayers, consider spending some time with the Father. Examine your heart. Consider your thoughts. Filter your mind. Sometimes we lose sight of what truly is the most important aspect of our Christian life to fight battles that we are not called to fight and to wage war against people rather than standing against the enemy. We must become one people with one purpose – one heart and one mind – full of God’s Love, living in His Favor and fruitful in every way to advance His Kingdom. These are the people who know who they are in Christ and stand confidently in times of trouble. Together. I must submit and surrender my life including every prayer to God not because I am right but through the righteousness offered by the Cross. It really doesn’t matter if I am right – when I am called to be the Light!

I want to partner with you today. I ask the Lord to grant you the desires of your heart in accordance with His Perfect Will. I find it encouraging that despite all of his faults and failures, the Lord still saw fit to rescue Manasseh and restore his kingdom out of His Love, Grace and Mercy. Because of Jesus Christ, even though I have a list of faults and failures just like him that the grace and goodness God has given me is more than enough to establish His Power for His Glory in my life. He is a good God. He is an even greater Father. His Love for us is based solely on His Perception of us not our perception of ourselves – surely someone should clap. As I pray today, I lay down everything that somehow managed to take precedence above the Father. I will not be led away by the enemy’s lies today or held in bondage by unconfessed sin. I don’t want to live in exile from the Lord but am taking the time to pray humble prayers. Thank you Lord for reminding me today that you alone are my righteousness!

Romans 3:22 (NLT) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.