The Unexpected

The Unexpected

2 Peter 3:10-11 (NLT) But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live,

The unexpected can bring joy and distress. An unexpected gift or act of random kindness can fill us with excitement. An unexpected diagnosis can shatter a good life in mere seconds. People choose the known rather than unknown because fear cannot allow hope to shine through. The Light of God’s Love that chases away darkness even in our darkest hour. The day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Sin has made the world unstable at the return of the Lord. His Perfection will melt the earth and only those who choose holy and godly lives will live through it. Daunting I know. Yet on a daily basis, do we truly consider the unexpected arrival of Jesus Christ or live in fear of the timeline of life. Unmet expectation placed in a dying place rather than investing in a reproductive heaven. When Jesus returns for us, there will be great judgment. There are only two sides – light and darkness. The Light drives out all darkness even that hidden in human, fickle hearts. Our focus on this life overshadows our constant and ongoing awareness that the Lord will return unexpectedly.

Regret and remorse are terrible baggage not meant for us to carry once Christ inhabits our life. The permeation of His Spirit gives us constant access to the Father where it is possible to release those things that once kept us bound in our past and present. He gives us a sense of our future and hope that allows us to live bravely and fearlessly. If the perspective of our life could change to that of expectancy, it would impact how we live and the choices made in any given moment. Repentance would be the prayer language of God’s People. The Holy Spirit would be released and His Glory would surround us because we know He is coming for us and desire to be ready. There is more to the Kingdom than simple salvation. Salvation is the handle that opens a door to a storehouse of blessings, promises and the unexpected with the potential to always change our life for the better. We must access it by faith and belief that the Lord is coming like a thief to carry us away.

Matthew 25:10-13 (NLT) “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a warning. A careful indication of those who know the Lord but do not live in expectancy. Expectancy requires preparation. It is a life of endurance that maintains a state of readiness until the end. Five of these young ladies were ready. They were prepared. When the bridegroom, representative of Jesus Christ, came they were ready and waiting on him. Are we? The others got carried away with life. Rushing out to get more oil as they were not properly prepared or perhaps wasted it on lesser things. While they were wandering and searching for oil, their groom arrived but they were not there. Jesus used this parable to explain the Kingdom and proper preparation for His Unexpected Arrival. Oil is used to represent anointing in many narratives. The anointing in us is the Holy Spirit. He creates desire and discipline to become one with Jesus. His Presence in us should create expectancy that overflows into the life lived each day.

“Believe me, I don’t know you!” It is the certainty of expectancy that initiates preparation. If we believed that Christ is returning with a Kingdom prepared for us, it would impact how we live. What difference would it make? One might think that those who await Christ must be religiously prepared living a life of perfection and absolute adherence to His Commands. Our flesh will not allow it. At constant odds with our spirit, outside of His Grace there is no perfection. So it is in profound humility that absorbs God’s Grace every day that allows us to properly prepare for the return of Christ. To get our house in order is to focus on the Temple of His Spirit and wait in hopeful expectation each day. It means reserving ourselves for Christ, retrieving all the pieces of our life given to lesser things and returning them to Jesus as a careful offering of submission and surrender to His Word, Will and Way. Jesus isn’t come for religious people but those He calls “beloved” and lives in an ongoing relationship with.

I Thessalonians 5:4-11 (NLT) But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Be on your guard, not asleep as others.

When the Lord comes for you, will He know you? Marriages fall apart and couples break up in the shadow of unmet expectation. Relationships taken for granted and starved for attention suddenly crumble under the weight of ignorance. Busyness steals the attention once given to love. Selfishness devours that once surrendered heart. Pride determines it deserves better than this and goes on the hunt for yet another conquest to feed its need. We must guard our heart. It holds our greatest treasure. The very thing that draws us close to the Lord. The flames of our passion for Christ – to know Him and make Him known – cannot be left untended or it will end in divorce. Nothing can ever separate us from the Love of God. However, we can choose other loves and commit adultery with idols given a greater place in our heart than Jesus.

…Let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

Believers who choose to live in the Light of His Love must be clearheaded. Our minds must be washed in His Word. Our hearts covered in His Blood. Christ who is the Author and Finisher of faith must be our focus with the rest of our life falling carefully beneath Him into place. When our priorities are out of order, the trap for rebellion and failure are set. The enemy uses many distractions to draw us into an unsafe place. He offers compromises, substitutions and settlements designed to lure us from the place of waiting expectantly for Christ. The urgency of this world is not what we think. It is not in the rat race or chasing the American Dream. The urgent expectancy is the return of Christ. Where will you be when He comes for you? At work, but you left Him at home. Living your life the way you desire, leaving your desire for Him behind. Chasing after lesser things for immediate gratification rather basking in confident hope at His Arrival. Will He even know you? When was the last time you talked to Jesus? Walked with Him? Repented? Desired His Grace? Longed for a closer proximity to your First Love? Do you spend any time with Him at all? How much of your life is given to Christ today? It is an important question to ask if your desire is His Kingdom.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Finally, our purpose in life is to build the Kingdom. Be light in the dark. Be salt. Our life a beacon like a lighthouse on the shore or city on a hill drawing others to the Lord. Encourage each other. To build each other up. We miss this sometimes. Human nature is to focus on self. The Fruit of God’s Spirit that is cultivated within us is for more than meeting our needs, wants and desires. They become our offering to a world starved for attention and affirmation. They are looking for love in a world where it has grown cold. Are we building the Kingdom with love or destroying it with selfish ambition and prideful conquests? Jesus is coming again. He expects us to be prepared living expectant lives of complete confidence that produces humility, honor and absolutely fearless love. To give our lives away in His Name expecting nothing from this world but awaiting His Return. We didn’t bring anything with us and cannot take it with us so why not live completely generous lives in the Name of Jesus. Emulating His Character, sharing His Word, spreading His Love all around, and not worrying about the everyday cares that might keep us from Him in the end.

Revelation 3:2-3 (NLT) Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

The unexpected doesn’t have to be so scary. It doesn’t have to be fearful at all. In fact, expectancy in Jesus Christ is ALWAYS a good thing. His Love is for us. He has given us His Peace that should create confidence even in the most diverse situation or circumstances. There is always a reason for hope when the Name of Jesus is evident. We must wake up as believers that just because plans, schedules and routines do not add an ounce of certainty to our lives. The inspiration of God’s Spirit and His Leading cannot be ignored – where Jesus comes for us individually or corporately it will be unexpected. We must pay attention to the details of our life. We must surrender our hearts and minds to Him daily. Living moment by moment by the Word of God and for the Glory of God – not religiously but continuing to abide in a deep, loving and committed marriage and partnership with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3:20-21 (NLT) “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

 

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Desire & Destination

Desire and Destination

I Corinthians 12:31 (NIV) Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Our desire will lead to a destination. Desire defines our drive, dictates our dedication and decides our destination every single time. Desire is not an opinion but an inner force of combined thoughts that become our attitude and actions. Desire is a strong feeling. A feeling of wanting something or wishing for something to happen. God has a desire. His Desire has a face. It is your face and mine. God desires people. To create an everlasting Kingdom of those He loved first and still loves the most.

“Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” (Plato) Our attitude and actions first formed deep within us are motivated and mastered by sin. Our flesh knows no other way until introduced to the better more excellent way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is by way of Jesus that humanity is reconciled to God through His Grace that is always enough. To know the Way is not enough – even demons know the Name of Jesus and tremble at it. However, to the Way and decide to follow Him is a new thing altogether. Our destination is decided by our desire. Desire dictates our drive. Desire is the motivation for dedication. When we desire anything other than Christ, it leads to dissatisfaction.

Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 (NIV)  I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

The Lord loved Solomon. In I Kings 3, King Solomon was faithful to the Lord God and so God offered Him anything. Solomon chose wisdom and a discerning heart. I wonder how the same person who was so invested in serving God would come to such a place as Ecclesiastes 2. At this point in his life, “everything was meaningless.” His desire and drive made him successful. He denied himself nothing that his eyes could see. Maybe if he had heard Paul’s warning that all things are permissible not all things are beneficial. When he surveyed his success, all that his hard work had achieved – he found it all meaningless. He had gained the world and lost his soul. Anytime that our life prospers without soulful participation – life becomes meaningless. The purpose and plan of God that leads to fulfillment cannot be achieved apart from Him.

Mark 4:18-20 (NIV)  Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Overcoming doubt in our life is accomplished by faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Seeds of faith planted by the Word have various results. Seeds sown among the thorns hear the word and maybe even believe it but quickly the “worries of life”, “deceitfulness of wealth” and “desires for other things” literally choke the word and it does not bear the fruit it was intended to. This was King Solomon’s dilemma. God was true to His Word and gave the king exactly what he asked for. However, his human desires overtook his desire for the Lord and well we see what happened in Ecclesiastes 2. It happens to us all. God blesses us and then our desire overtakes our desire for the Living God and well you know the rest of the story. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:17-19)

Romans 8:5-6 (NIV)  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

We must master our desires and place them fully into Christ. The mountain you are facing marked doubt will not move until the very thing you desire is Jesus Christ. Why would God move a mountain if the everlasting was not waiting on the other side. The Lord has placed His Spirit in us to cultivate the fruit that leads to everlasting life and hope that never disappoints. Are we using these gifts for righteousness sake or do we simply desire the Hand of God? Are we after His Heart in the process? The things of this world will pass away. Our life in Christ is eternal. It is the admission point of eternity. Jesus died to give us access to His Kingdom. His Father will not give us the things that might block our entrance. His Grace is enough to endure our wrath of unmet expectation. “Desire increases when fulfillment is postponed.” Maybe the mountain is not moving because secretly you desire something different than Christ? Is it possible to know the Lord but not desire Him? Absolutely.

The Spirit of the Living God will lead you to life and peace. Feeding our flesh starves our soul. Feeding our soul, likewise, starves the flesh. The Fruit of God’s Spirit changes our appetite for the things of this life as eternal life becomes a reality. Suddenly, all the things we wanted, needed and desire change to one thing – Jesus Christ. As our soul prospers, so will we.

Psalm 145:13-16 (NIV) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same. (Unknown) Are you satisfied with your life today? Are you struggling with unmet expectation? King Solomon had it all according to earthly success yet found life to be meaningless. How many of the rich and famous who appear to have it all end their life due to depression, discouragement and distress that the world could not see for the notoriety of fame and influence of wealth? Life outside of Christ is preset and predetermined. Sin produces death. Our life in Christ must become more than just knowing His Name but we must desire the Lord. He desires a relationship with us. His Hand opens with His Heart. His Hand will not open outside of an established relationship or risk losing us forever. His Desire is for us so He will do nothing to keep us from Him even if that means withholding what we ask of Him.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” You were born to be part of an everlasting kingdom yet arrived in a temporary world. The Lord is trustworthy and true. He created you with purpose. You have a handwritten plan prerecorded for your good. The only investment you make in your future is faith. Faith in God’s Love. Faith in God’s Son. Faith in God’s Grace. Faith in God’s Promises. It is all about living a life of faith that overcomes doubt in every area of our life. This is when the mountain will move and be cast in the sea. The very moment our heart’s desire is for the Lord and Him alone. God will then open His Hand and satisfy our desire.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NIV) With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ

A Single Meal

Used Plate

Hebrews 12:14-16 (NLT) Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless Love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. Still You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless Love of God.” – Bethel Music

Have you experienced the Love of God? The overwhelming kind of reckless love that is driven by grace that removes every single sin and fills your heart to capacity with confidence that there is nothing that will ever separate you from Him again (Romans 8) Salvation is a gift that allows us to enter the Presence of the Living God and His Spirit to inhabit our once corrupt and dying flesh. It is not something easily understood but the Truth of those who have chosen Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord. Now what? In order to understand the true value and worth of the Gift of God given to us through the sacrifice of His Only Son, we must explore the depth and magnitude of His Love. The foundation of it is His Undeserved Grace too remarkable to understand or even comprehend. It must be received by faith. If forgiveness was easy to give, I wonder if we could identify with the sufficiency of God’s Grace given to us.

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.

The power source of God’s Love is His Grace. Sin separated us from the Love of God. It severed our relationship. The Blood of Jesus Christ made the way for us to reestablish our connection to God and allows us to enter eternity after our life on earth is done. However, the mandate of grace is not given as a resource to be reserved for a later date. It is the power of our life today. Grace is all I need. It works best in my weakness. My pride doesn’t want to accept the fact that I am helpless. It doesn’t glory in my weakness but fights to remain in control. God gives grace to the humble. Humility is only possible in the absence of pride. Grace can only be received by the humble and can only be magnified and/or reflected through the same. (James 4:6)

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

You cannot choose the family you are born into. It is in God’s Grand Scheme of things. He decides who our parents will be and later who our children are. My children may partake of all that belongs to me. They are my kids. I will do anything for them. They do not have to earn my love for I give it to them freely and undeserved. They live in my house. Not one of them has ever had to lay cash on the counter for groceries, electricity or the things provided to them. We expect them to be obedient and loving at all times. However, on the days they choose to misbehave or disagree – they still are given the same meals, electricity and more. We provide for them. When they choose to the right thing and be loving and kind – it brings laughter, joy and community to our family. My point is that no matter what – they are my children. I desire a relationship with them. When my children leave home, they are free to make their own choices. They set up households. They decide whether or not to maintain a close relationship with the family or not. But if they choose not to communicate or visit, it is does not diminish our love for them. They still can join us for family dinner, fellowship and laughter at any time. Our brood did not earn the right to be part of the family or complete some intricate initiation process. God chose them to be our kids just like He chose us to be His Children. God sees us all the same way. He provides for us regardless. He has a plan and purpose that will prosper our life from the inside out. As His Children, we choose whether or not to live in His Presence. His Children chose sin over fellowship with Him, so the Father provided a way for them to return. We cannot earn it. We cannot deserve it. He has given it to us. This gift is called grace every family must rely on it to build strong, sound relationships. We must be receivers and givers of grace to build His Kingdom.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

I am God’s Masterpiece. I have heard this message and even taught it myself. Today, I see it a little differently through His Amazing Grace. I am only a piece of the masterpiece. For “WE” are God’s Masterpiece. He makes us a new creation in Christ that is not solitary but united by the choice to receive Jesus and His Grace into our heart. Now we are building a new foundation – the message given to us is love provided by grace. It should build a Kingdom not tear it down. (Acts 20:32) God’s Grace brings every one of His Children together under the authority and power of Jesus Christ. His Power is given by grace. God’s Plan is to bring us all together by His Grace. He is drawing His Children back to Him. The masterpiece has many pieces that complete the beautiful portrait of reconciliation.

Acts 15:10-11 (NLT) So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Am I burdening other people with a yoke that God has not required of me? A penalty I could not pay for. A condition not given in unconditional love. We all sin and fall short of God’s Glorious Standard. God’s Grace freely makes us right in His Sight. Am I giving others the grace that I have received? Is my love for people unconditional? Because of God’s Grace given to me, I give my life to Him. I am called to be an expert builder and to advance His Kingdom. I must be very careful not to add conditions and mandates to others that have not been put on me. I cannot withhold the generosity of God lavished on me by His Grace. Otherwise, I am building a foundation other than Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3:10-11) When I require of others something that Christ does not require of me, I have polluted the Good News. I must be careful not to treat the grace of God as meaningless. (Galatians 2:20-21) Christ is my example. He lives in me. His Love should permeate my pride and crucify it with the rest of my flesh so that love always prevails and grace right along with it.

2 Corinthians 9:13-15 (NLT) As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

What is the result of your ministry today? Does it give glory to God? Before you say, I don’t have a ministry as an ambassador of Christ – you have the profound privilege and responsibility to share His Love with everyone you come in contact with. The loudest message is spoken by our attitude and actions not our words. I have been a gift labeled grace that is too wonderful to keep all to myself. It takes time to release others from our expectation as we yoke ourselves to Jesus Christ. His Grace is always enough for our process. His Grace is abounding so that we can generously give it to others without regard or reservation because God’s got us. He will never let us down. He is always working all the details for our good and perfecting all that concerns us. Faith in God begins by fully accepting His Undeserved Grace and Unconditional Love for ourselves. However, once it is accepted it must be sown in our life to produce the Good News others are dying to hear.

Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. Esau was the firstborn son. He didn’t have to do anything other than exist to inherit the blessing of His Father. Esau gave up his birthright. Oh, I know some would say that his brother tricked him. But the truth is – Esau gave it away for a single meal. Is it really worth your birthright to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness? God cannot extend grace to those who are unwilling to give it away. We are part of a Kingdom. The Body of Christ cannot become one with strife and bitterness. These qualities mean that God’s Grace is not enough for us and we thereby reject our birthright in Him. Without faith it is impossible to please God, our faith is founded on His Love and Grace. If I don’t believe that God’s Love is for me and His Grace flows through me – I am lost. Grace is essential to salvation. I cannot earn it or deserve it. Do I require something more of others than God requires of me today? Lord, show me the areas of stagnant grace that has become roots of bitterness and unforgiveness limiting the harvests in my life. I am building a Kingdom. I am not alone. You are with me. My brothers and sisters are all around me. You do not have favorites. We are all your favorite in Christ alone. May your grace flow through me more and more today until it reaches those around me.

2 Corinthians 4:14-15 (NLT) We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Come Together

Come Together

Ephesians 1:22-23 (NLT) 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.

The church. The Body of Christ. The formation of believers and Christians meeting together. For what? Sundays, Wednesdays, and small groups with scheduled meetings and organized plans. What is the benefit to the world in which we live? A bright and shining light that drives our darkness. A salt so flavorful it is desirable. Paul prayed in Ephesians 1 that the church would know the greatness of power that God has invested in them. To understand the Resurrection Power possible to those who believe. Christ is the ruler, authority, power and leader of the church and in Him it is made full and complete. As we come together in corporate congregational meetings is unity and fulfillment the experience taken from it or just another social circle in which to navigate?

Philippians 1:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

The power of the church is in love and unity. There should be encouragement from belonging to Christ. There should be comfort found in His Love. We are His Hands and Feet. We should experience God’s Glory as His Spirit joins us in our gatherings and fellowship together. Leaving the cares, worries and burdens of this world at the feet of Jesus as we come together to share one another’s concerns untied in Christ. We are to agree wholeheartedly. The giving of our heart cannot be done any other way than completely. Do we love one another? Really love each other as delineated in I Corinthians 13? Do we work together putting aside our own schedules and agendas? When the Body of Christ figures out how to come together with one mind and purpose – revival will be the result. But until then…

I Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

What would be the possibilities if rather than always seeking a blessing, believers decided to be a blessing? Sowing seeds of generosity in all things, in all ways and everywhere we go. What might the harvest be? Rather than spouting out religious rhetoric our lives were living demonstrations of the love of God invested in us through Christ Jesus, would witnessing be so hard? If we could trust the church with our families, friends and co-workers, I bet the invitation would flow much easier.

Colossians 3:14-17 (NLT) Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

How do I become the church? It’s all about me. That’s right. I must choose to clothe myself in love rather than worrying about my appearance on Sunday, I should maintain a heart covered in love all week long. The kind of love that is described in God’s Word. The kind of love that Jesus demonstrated. I must trust the Lord until His Peace rules in my heart. It means that my conditions and circumstances do not change my conversation and I will bless the Lord at all times. I must remember I am called to live in peace with all believers. If I cannot manage such a life with those I have the most in common (Christ), how will I ever reach a lost and dying world with anything of worth?

Always be thankful. How does it represent our Father when we grumble and complain all the time? If He is our Provider, Healer and more, what is the message of hope in disappointment, discouragement and discontentment? Faith cannot be faked or it is fruitless. Artificial, plastic fruit carefully displayed and occasionally dusted on the dining room table for all to see bears no seeds, fruit or life to those who see it.

Seek wisdom. If you do not choose to partake of the Bread of Life and Living Water, from what resource do you have to give? How can your Spirit man live in starvation? He cannot. The Word of God is Light. It is life. We need it to illuminate the need in us for a Savior and the areas that He is to be Lord in us so that we can manifest His Power and Praise on this planet.

Finally, probably the most important part, “and whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” All this is important striking out in this world as His Disciple, but if it does not begin in the church, we have failed. A dysfunctional church is governed by pride and selfishness. Love does not live there. Without love and grace and generosity, the church is just another religious organization. There are many religions. Only one relationship changes a religion into something more, a living breathing body, and that is Jesus Christ. Have we come together as the Body? Or are we hacking off members and a disfigured representation of what could be? Lord, forgive us for our failure to be fruitful in coming together as one body with one mind, one purpose and one heart.

I Corinthians 12:27 (NLT) All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

In I Corinthians 12, Paul addresses the church in regarding unity. The early church was experiencing growing pains and having some issues no different than the modern church. Paul describes the body of Christ and the need for unity. We are many members who all have a place in the Body of Christ. Too often rather than focusing on who I need to be and what I need to do to effectively and efficiently do my part in the Body, I can become distracted. An effective church is harmonious. An efficient part has fully functioning members. Members are supposed to take care of each other. How is your church doing in maintaining the health of its body? People come and people go…is that okay? I mean if you lost your right arm or left foot would you go on as though nothing happened? Let’s get real for a moment. The pain of others should be our pain. The process of all in the Body should be part of our process. My position does not take from another but should be productive in securing the Body as one. How am I doing? The most important question you can ask yourself today is not what can I do but who am I supposed to be? Our membership in the Body of Christ has purpose and meaning. It cannot function properly without us in place.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT) Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

As a believer, you have the potential to become part of something much larger than your current position. Your realm of influence is ready to expand breaking down every barrier holding you back from reaching your full potential. Fulfillment in Christ is never a solitary position but unity as a whole. You have a plan that includes a future and hope. Your future and hope is membership in a Body. A complete being called the church or the Body of Christ. You have a position to fill that only you can do. The enemy wants us to believe that we do not need anybody but Jesus. Like every other lie he tells the believer that is only half true. The Body of Christ is built of those who make Jesus Christ their everything. To surrender to the Lord is to give yourself to His Body. There is no way around it. You cannot do it alone. Isolation and separation are the tools of the enemy to destroy His Body. Don’t let him use you like that. Seek unity and harmony in your life above all things with all people including the church you attend. People are people. Grace would not be needed if perfection was possible. If you are not part of a local church, I encourage you to find your place. If you are a member of a church but not involved, I encourage you to find your place, too. If you are involved and fighting the good fight of faith, I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing even if you don’t think you can continue – it’s only because breakthrough is almost there. We must come together as believers to be the Light of the World.

Right before our kids moved back from New England, we visited a salt cellar. The store was actually called the Salt Cellar. Traveling down a steep flight of stairs into a dimly lit store, there were tiny jars of salt everywhere. I have never seen such a variety of different flavors of salt. Salt without flavor is useless – it takes all kinds. Today as I think back, I wonder what might happen if we all lined our lives up in one place as the spice of life others need to overcome a dull and useless existence. To offer a place where others could come to taste and see that the Lord is good! Imagine the potential of a unified church that exemplified the Love of God through Jesus Christ effectively. We would call it revival.

Psalm 133

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

 

Power of Agreement

Power of Agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philippians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

How many churches have you attended in your lifetime? Can you count the number of places you have attended? I posted something on social media. A friend liked the post. Another friend inquired how the person knew me. We had attended church together many years ago. I have had this happen more than a few times. I do it myself. I have a high school friend who teaches another friend’s children. The Body of Christ is to be just that a living, breathing, working, communicating complete unit. It seems like just when a ministry is growing and strengthening into a fully functioning body something happens and it falls apart. It is time to out the enemy and his assault against unity to become the Body of Christ – a strong source to be reckoned with in the world today.

After years of tearing apart Christians, how ironic that Paul would give the rest of his life after coming to Jesus Christ to rebuild the ruins of wreckage left behind. In an almost pleading fashion, He says, “If there is any consolation (comfort, solace) in Christ…if there is any comfort in His Love…if there is any fellowship in His Spirit…if there is any affection or mercy for one another…fulfill my joy…do it for me if no one else…be like-minded…have the same love…be of one accord…be of one mind.” (paraphrased) The tone reminds me of trying to deal with our teenagers. We teach, instruct, discipline, and finally exasperated in effort plead with them.

It’s funny how families work together. Dysfunction is a key trait in families. Our children fuss, fight, pick and disagree on just about everything UNTIL someone dares mess with a sibling. Suddenly there is complete agreement that that person is about to get hurt as they rally together. The church isn’t much different. Rather than walking in love and commitment together, it only happens in the midst of opposition or tragedy. God desires unity in the Body of Christ. He purposed it for us. Jesus even prayed for us to be one. The Holy Spirit identifies us as one family. How do we overcome the natural sense of family to become one as God’s Family? To stop fussing and fighting all the time and begin to function as Christ intended. It may be harder than you think.

Genesis 11:4-6 (NKJV) And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 

After the flood, Noah and his family replenished the people of the earth. The whole earth had one language and one speech. Unity. They decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. “Let us make a name for ourselves. Lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Self-preservation and pride decided to make a “name” for itself. The Lord came down to see the city and tower. Immediately, He interrupted the building of such idolatry by confusing their language and ability to communicate ending the unity and stopping their downfall. I wonder sometimes if church communities built on the wrong foundation fall apart for the same reason. False prophets who create a community built on foundations other than faith in God’s Word and an introduction to Jesus Christ.

The point of opportunity in this passage and promise rising from another’s misguidance is that when people become one “nothing they propose will be withheld from them”. The power of agreement works naturally and spiritually. Natural agreement produces favorable results in the world. Supernatural agreement builds a Kingdom. It creates a living, breathing body that will become the Bride who Christ is coming for. We have a long way to go!

Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The early church set the precedent of fellowship. Thinking of fellowship today, I smell fried chicken and a desert table piled high on a special day at church. In the South, there is homecoming or maybe it’s a “Friends and Family Day” to invite or entice new members. This is not the concept set forth in the New Testament. The church broke bread together and prayed together daily. Every day. Not Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Not small groups. Not via texting. No, every single day. The word “fellowship” or koinonia means sharing, unity, close association, partnership, participation, a society or contributory help. Every member was a valuable asset to the group. They sold all their possessions and goods dividing up the proceeds evenly among everyone and giving to those in need. They lived in one accord. The early followers who were baptized by the Holy Spirit literally devoted their whole life to unity with God and each other.

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

This was the prayer of Jesus Christ for all of us just before going to the Cross. He desired that those who will believe in Him through the message of the disciples and apostles “that they all may be one” like Jesus and God are one. To abide in love and fellowship together in one accord. One heart. One mind. One body. How are we doing?

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

I wonder if the Lord allows confusion and discord to set in to the church so it doesn’t become built of pride and self-preservation. Is it possible that it is the heart of His People causing the issue and not the enemy to blame? Pride is a human trait overcome by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces the spiritual fruit that feeds our soul. As our soul prospers, it overflows those same gifts and characteristics into our natural life. We must live lowly and gently lives. Patient. Bearing one another with love. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit who binds us together in peace. There is one body. There is one Spirit. In 2016, there were estimated to be over 300,000 Christian churches in America. Where is the impact and influence of such mass numbers?

We have been called together in one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in us all. We must work on the Body before we take on the world. What is lacking?

Philippians 2:3-5 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about us united with Christ in full fellowship together according to His Spirit. It is not about building new buildings and erecting new walls – physically, structurally, emotionally, congregationally, or corporately. It is about tearing down every barrier between us and God and everyone else. God doesn’t desire one person over another. Our God doesn’t have favorites. He loves us all. His Love is for us all. His Kingdom has a place for us all. His Body has a function specifically for us and no one else. We cannot fulfill our purpose without the other members of the Body no more than my hand can function apart from my arm if detached from my body. We must learn to live in fellowship. We must figure out how it all works. We must strive to live in harmony and unity with all mankind. It is the Will of God for us and the Way to the Father’s Heart. It is to achieve the Mind of Christ.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

 

 

Freedom of Forgiveness

Freedom of Forgiveness

Micah 7:18-19 (NKJV) Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His Anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

A woman scorned went to one of the places she and her thought-to-be true love had spent a great deal of time. A quiet park by a lake surrounded with trees. In the dark of night with only the moon for light, she was on a mission. The serenade of crickets and frogs soon disrupted by the objects hitting the water with a variety of loud splashes. The concert grew silent as her mumbled words were followed by the crashing and then sinking tokens of love now lost. She drove to their “secret place” and unloaded every gift that he had ever given her. Hundreds of dollars sunk into the mud and sludge at the bottom of the lake. She wiped her tears and moved on that night.

The latest craze is painted rocks. Rocks with pictures and/or messages placed in hidden and obvious places for unsuspecting people to find. A new kind of pay-it-forward inspiration, the rocks are meant to bring spontaneous joy and express human kindness to the one who is lucky enough to find one. A quick smile at a low cost. But I wonder what might happen, if rather than putting useless images on little rocks, we put the sins, hurts, betrayals and turmoil that create unforgiveness on a rock and threw it into the lake. Attaching all the thoughts and emotions that unforgiveness offers to each stone, and them tossing them away and letting each one sink to the bottom of a lake out of sight, out of mind, and void of emotion forever. Would there be freedom? Would it expand the capacity to love in our life? Would it heal our bodies, minds and emotions?

Insecurities build walls with stones of forgiveness every day. God offers a solution. It is called mercy. Kindness counts. However, water poured on a rock has no point of entry. Our hearts become hard and callous when continually hammered by hurt and disappointment. People will always let us down – most unintentionally yet it still happens. We must become acutely aware of those things living in us in the form of hurt that has produced unforgiveness. A lack of forgiveness is a detriment to the Kingdom of God and limits our life from His Blessings. To offer forgiveness in the absence of the expectation of full restoration is not the kind God exhibits or wants. He is looking for a united and harmonious family. God casts our sins into the depths of the sea. He is asking the very same of me.

Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV) Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The first benefit of God in our life is His Mercy. His Willingness to forgive all of our sin through His Son Jesus Christ. It gives us complete access to Heaven. It is from this standpoint that believers are able to bind and loose things between Heaven and earth. It is from this place of undeserved mercy and copious grace that fills my life with God’s Goodness and Glory in abundant proportions. It is also from this place that I must release the same forgiveness in my life. Forgiveness is a process that is coupled with trusting God. How so?

The more I am able to trust God with the expectations of my life the more willing I will be to release others from this obligation. Unmet expectation is the source of unforgiveness. When another person doesn’t do what we expect them to do, doesn’t act as we expect them to act, doesn’t meet the obligation of relationship that we have put upon them, or fail to meet any other ethical, moral, physical or emotional, and yes, even spiritual obligation – unforgiveness rears its ugly head.

Who forgives all your iniquities…

I believe that forgiveness gives us access to all the benefits of God that come through relationship. Hope meets and exceeds our expectation. It has its own set of standards and timeline for execution that requires absolute and total trust in the Lord…not people. However, to allow unforgiveness to remain is to leave a lock on the door to our blessings and promises in God. The Lord wants to open the doors and windows our life to let Him fill it with all the good things that He has already provided to us.

Daniel 9:9-10 (NKJV) To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness. If He is our portion, the same belongs to us. We have the ability to forgive and offer mercy to others. Am I willing to forgive like the Lord? Psalm 86 says that the Lord is good and ready to forgive. Psalm 99:8 calls God the God-Who-Forgives. It is in His Very Name. Mercy is His Character. To love first. To love confidently. To love completely. God desires mercy. He loves when we love like He does. He moves closer when our heart forgives because it gives Him more room to expand and fulfill our desires apart from limitation. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. I believe that there is not a living breathing human being that cannot find a person who needs their forgiveness. I need to forgive. Forgiveness leads to full restoration.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NKJV) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus offered a model of prayer in Matthew 6. Included in the prayer are these words, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” They come right after give us our daily bread. I wonder if we somehow miss the point that the Lord included these words in His Prayer Model. Forgiveness and mercy are not supplements but substance in our life. If my life is lacking this may be the primary source, the blockage, the backup and the wall that must come down. Forgiveness is an opening that allows God’s Mercy and Love to make a way for new relationship. Restoration always makes way for relationship. We are building a Kingdom of Souls that are knit together. The bond must be in place. I must be open, willing, and ready to forgive at all times in order to experience God’s Power in all things. Here are some truths about unforgiveness:

Unforgiveness represents smallness of soul. As our soul prospers, so will we.

Unforgiveness restricts our life. It limits the mobility of God’s Power to work in us and through us as we have deemed His Grace insufficient in our life.

Unforgiveness inflicts suffering in our bodies, minds and emotions. It is literally unhealthy.

Unforgiveness creates isolation with a wall of stones placed day by day with unmet expectation.

Unforgiveness does not promote Kingdom living. To sustain an unforgiving heart is a liability as a believer mishandles Kingdom privileges and power. It is a direct misuse of binding and loosing as ordained in Matthew 18:18-19.

Each of us own a heart and soul. God has offered us mercy, grace and forgiveness as healing balm to fill every void, bind together the broken pieces, and meet every expectation so that we can express the Light of His Love. How am I doing? I am asking myself today. I am asking the Lord to examine my heart and reveal any unforgiven debt that I have been holding on to. I desire fulfillment. Full satisfaction. Completeness in Christ. Every good thing that the Father has for me. It begins with forgiveness. Accepting God’s Mercy and Forgiveness. Paying it forward to everyone who I have left unforgiven. New life, new creation, restoration, renewal and yes, even revival begin in such a place. I want to be there to see it come.

Matthew 9:4-6 (NKJV) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

As the church continues to cry out for revival, I wonder if our heart’s desire must change just a bit. Perhaps if we searched the depths of our heart and continued to pursue full redemption, restoration and renewal from the Lord for ourselves that maybe our heart might change to more like Jesus toward people. People struggle every day accepting the fullness of God’s Mercy and Grace as demonstrated through those representing His Son, Jesus and call themselves Christians. Crusaders of the Cross who have become blood thirsty rather than covered in the Blood of Jesus surrendered to His Spirit. God is love. His Message is Love. His Desire is Love. His Kingdom is Love. Love is impossible outside of forgiveness and full restoration of relationships. We would accept a miracle in our midst faster than to fully live in God’s Love and Forgiveness by placing all our own expectation in Him. Forgiveness begins in me. I must accept that I am fully forgiven and restored in Jesus Christ. Secondly, I must extend the same to all mankind. All of His Wonderful Benefits are produced by this process by His Hand. Forgiveness comes from God those who have fully accepted it will freely give it. So today, maybe its time to grab a handful of smooth stones and begin to write some things on them that need to be forgiven. Take them to a river, lake or even the ocean and throw them as far as possible. It doesn’t stop there. Begin to pray for complete forgiveness and total restoration. Find a way to forgive that person. If possible, let them know. The freedom of forgiveness far outweighs the comfort of isolation.

Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

 

 

 

Hidden Treasure

for sale

Matthew 13:44 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

Hidden treasure, how exciting! The thought of a chest of gold at the bottom of the ocean. Or maybe beneath the sandy beaches of a shore left long ago. Secret maps encoded by those who never would return to claim their prize left to be discovered in another time. The fodder of fairytales no doubt or is it. Is there really such a thing as hidden treasure and secrets in this life?  In the ruthless reality of life is there really room for fantasy? Or would it just be another set up for failure to expect the unexpected? To truly believe that there is more to life than this and that there is a favor yet to be revealed in a mundane existence of struggle and striving just to get by. Does Cinderella really leave to marry a prince in a castle? Does Snow White find a way of escape? Does Aurora ever truly experience the kiss of her sweet prince? The plight of the princess ends in a rescue by her prince. Such things are not truth but written by fanciful authors to bring hope to the hopeless. What about us? We are believers. We have hope. Hope that promises to never lead us to disappointment. We do not wait for a prince but King Jesus. The One who sits on a throne with every enemy as His Footstool. The reality of hope is dependent on faith. Faith is the substance of what we hope for. It is the matter that keeps us engaged in the pursuit of the impossible day by day.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure. When you think about Heaven, what do you see? The envisioning of a place filled with light paved in gold? A gathering of those who are now gone but your heart still longs for? What does it look like to you? The Kingdom must become a reality in our life in order to fully seek it out and discover its true potential. A man discovered a treasure hidden in a field. He was excited. He would not steal it so he hid it again. The man returned to his ordinary existence and sold everything he owned to buy the field. Is Jesus real? Is His Kingdom a true destination? Our life hints at the truth of what one believes. We invest our time, talent and treasure to have what is truly valuable to us. There is treasure hidden in Heaven for me. I have an inheritance and secret blessings that are mine for the taking yet if I do not understand the value and worth enough to desire it above all things – it is as the hidden chest of gold or potential princess in the secret place – it waits for us to believe and therefore search for it.

If my grandmother were alive today, she would confirm that I loved to read about the princesses. The story of Cinderella was my favorite. The pages worn thing in the book from constant reiteration. She would offer to read another account of one of the others, but I pleaded to read Cinderella again. Dreams are something given to us at a young age which often are forfeited to cruel and harsh reality. Visions of a better way, life and journey forsaken to disappointment that causes us to bury our dreams while entering adulthood. The desire of our heart is designed by God. I believe it is the potential that the Lord wrapped with the measure of faith and marked “eternity” that is placed in our heart. Your life today has the priceless potential to be more than you can think, ask or imagine. Have you buried your dead dream today? Deciding that it was just a childhood foolishness called fantasy and moved on to real life. I did, too. However, for some reason, they seem to be coming back. My mind is entertaining them again. My heart quickens at the thought. Could it be that the Light of the World is lighting up inside of me and through a fragile heart marked with cracks and crevices full of flaws and imperfections that He is illuminating the hidden secrets called fulfillment as He works the details of life for goodness and His Glory just like He promised. Is it possible?

John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

People are quick to judge the rest of their life by its current condition. We make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. There are things that the Lord has hidden in us from the beginning of time when our creation was decided. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Every moment of our life is previously recorded by God. (Psalm 139:16) Our life is predestined to be glorious. (Romans 8:29-30) Jesus changes everything. (Ephesians 1:10-11) Nothing can separate us from God’s Love any longer. (Romans 8:38-39) This is not random fate or good fortune. God planned it from the very beginning that our life would become a masterpiece on display for all the world to see, like a city on a hill that is well lit and inviting. The Glory of God is revealed in His People. What glory is there in a life of poverty, weakness, and ignorance? Faith promotes growth and increase in our life. His Grace gives us the power to overcome every weakness. Knowledge and understanding mean nothing until they become wisdom or applied in our life. Hope never leads to disappointment but if we do not believe hope exists or do anything to pursue it – we will not benefit from it in our natural life. If hope exists only after the expiration date marking the end of our earthly existence – we will miss the glorious life that Jesus Christ offers while alive. Christ lives in me. He is worth having and I am ready to “sell” out to have His Kingdom a reality in my life.

Proverbs 2:1-4 (NLT) My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.

Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh to come express God’s Love in a real and tangible way. Even the people closest to Jesus struggled to believe even witnessing great miracles, signs and wonders. Those who believe without seeing are the ones that Jesus called more blessed when showing Thomas His Wounds for credibility. To ask Jesus to be our Savior and call Him Lord gives us keys to His Kingdom to unlock hidden doors and open secret places that are just for God’s Children. My faith in Christ is all that I need to make those dreams and desires a reality now. To know Jesus I must know the Word. To treasure His Commands empowers the process that leads to potential and the realization of my purpose. Ignorance is not bliss. It kills our dreams and the potency in our life. We must listen for God’s Voice and engage in conversation with Him to know the way. Wisdom is applied knowledge. Concentrate on understanding. Cry out for more insight. Ask for understanding. What if all that I am doing is in vain even humbling my life in service to God? What if all the things that I am doing are religious because I do not have a connection or real relationship with Christ? The enemy tells us that Christ requires us to give up everything and live an abased existence because we owe it all to Jesus. Jesus didn’t say that at all. We forfeit the bondage to sin, captivity to the lies of the enemy, and breakthrough every wall of resistance when our faith in the hope that He offers makes us confident enough to pursue Him wholeheartedly. We are adopted by God as His Children. To live in His Kingdom is to experience His Glory now AND forevermore. We must get our faith working for today as it does for the future.

Mark 4:21-23 (NLT) Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

It is human nature to think the worst. How many times have I heard this verse used in conversation concerning people living double lives? “Well…everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open…” said with strong Southern slang followed by the obligatory “bless their heart” or worse the knowing nod of the pious. What if Jesus didn’t mean that at all? What if He was saying as my love burns through your heart igniting a passionate love affair building confident hope that causes you to come boldly before me seeking, knocking and asking that I will show you all the wonderful things that I have hidden in your life? What if it means the windows of Heaven will open flooding your life to overflowing with all my promises so you can lend and not borrow being generous without regard, worry or regret? A lamp draws those in darkness to the light. The Lord is gracious. He doesn’t want to put our sin on display but His Glory. We are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard of Living and continue to do so daily no matter what we do to avoid it. His Grace is enough. His Mercy is new every morning and fuels His Love and Power in us. We have great potential and purpose in life to do more than imaginable simply because Christ is alive in us.

Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

Matthew 27:50-52 (NLT) Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 

When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit. The temple veil torn from the top to the bottom. God was ready to receive His Children and grant them an inheritance. Joel’s prophecy fulfilled. Dreamers could dream again. Visionaries have new visions of the Kingdom. God’s Glory permeated the earth and in Acts 2 came to live in His People. This would be the moment in time that changed everything. God in us. Why is that we bury our dreams? Why do we pass off vision as fantasy? Where is our confidence in hope? It is time to take the measure of faith given to us and unwrap it, inspect it and use it again. God has given us the potential to achieve great purpose and shine His Glory for all to see. We will prosper. We will have success. We will be blessed. We will have influence. We will experience favor. We will see signs, miracles and wonders as His Glory permeates every area of our life. However, none of this is possible until faith is the reality of our passion and persistent pursuit of our life. The reality of His Kingdom is our hope. Hope must have confidence to be of any use today. My forever and future are secure. It is up to me to decide if His Kingdom will impact my today. Dreamer – the Lord invites you to dream. Visionary – the Lord invites you to see new things. Child of God – there is a treasure you have yet to discover. Give up the reality called life to experience the true revelation of hope. A life fully invested in Jesus Christ will bring to light the secret and hidden things that are there just for you! Sell everything to acquire it and it will be yours.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

More Than a Follower

more-than-a-follower

Luke 14:25-27 (NLT) A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Or are you a disciple of the Lord? I am challenged by this question today that can only be examined and evaluated by one’s commitment to Christ. There were many followers in the days that Jesus walked the earth. Some curiosity seekers while others in need of a cure. If you read the account of the miracle of the fishes and loaves when Jesus made a meal for more than 5,000 out one little boy’s lunch, it is easy to see that people poured out in droves to hear His Message and receive His Word. But when it came down to those committed to serving the Lord, it was only twelve. According to the Bible account, but even all twelve did not fully believe or have true faith. How can I be certain of my commitment level to Christ?

Jesus told the people that day, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else…yes, even your own life.” Well, that seems a little bit harsh, huh. How can I hate those who I am called to love? John 13:35 seems to contradict this: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” If you look closely at Luke 14:26 – it says, “by comparison.” It is natural to love, care for and nurture our family and even some friends. Each day is set forth to make a better life for them, meet their needs and support them any way possible. Every follower of Jesus Christ may remain committed to both serving Jesus and their family as well. However, as His Follower, there are certain things left behind in pursuit of Jesus. We must choose to go His Way and leave our old ways behind. Is this enough? This is completely and totally up to you. Many received signs, wonders and miracles simply because they followed Jesus. There were those who prospered in the natural because they successfully served Jesus with their life. But need I remind you – there were only 12 disciples.

Matthew 9:9 (NLT) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

All disciples begin as a follower. The invitation is always the same. “Follow me.” Leave the darkness and come into this marvelous Light of Love. He will wash us in His Blood, and soothe us with His Word. Cover us in a Robe of Righteousness. Supply enough grace for every weakness and mercy for every shortcoming. We have all that we need according to His Riches in Glory. To be a follower of Christ and work the Word creates prosperity and goodness as His Favor reaches us. Is God’s Favor enough? Yes, for the follower…but not for a true disciple.

A follower is an imitator. To do what Jesus did. To apply God’s Word to life. To serve the Lord. To identify with His Spirit. It is not a bad gig and yields many spiritual blessings and success. But is it enough for you? To become a true disciple of Jesus Christ is to become a pupil. A pupil does not simply imitate or mimic the instructor. They listen, observe, take notes and prepare for the next examination. The goal is to past the test. Score high in the evaluation. To be found fit and the end of the course – enduring training and assessment. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is a commitment to discipline that radically changes one’s heart and mind putting Him above all things including our family when necessary. It is to carve out the best portions of our time to know Him more, study and become an approved worker.

Luke 14:28-30 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Before deciding to become a disciple, one must definitely count the cost. The transition from one role to the other will cost you more than something, it is a commitment of everything you are, own and hold dear to know Him, trust Him and seek the Lord wholeheartedly. It is to lay all of our life on the altar in surrender to the Lord and to say, “Have your way, Lord! Here is my life – all of it!” You cannot be a true disciple if you are not willing to give up this life. There is always a cost for anything of worth. Our willingness to pay for it is the only thing that keeps us from our heart’s desires a lot of times. I would like a new couch, for example, but I am not willing to pay the price because there are other things that I feel are more important right now. Where does Jesus fall on your priority list today? This will indicate your chosen role. He must move His Way to the very top to become his disciple.

Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Busyness is the excuse the enemy gives us to accommodate failure. It is the snare that traps followers who desire to be disciples. Your time, talent and treasure belong to you. You are free to use it as you please. We must learn to tithe these three things and give the Lord our first fruits. Until our time is invested in the Kingdom, our talent given to the thing He called and created us to do, and our treasure in Heaven not the things (or people) of this earth – we can only follow at a distance – held back by the shackles of a need and desire for lesser things. When the Kingdom becomes our treasure – we will be given to discipleship because it becomes worth it all. When God’s Glory is our desire over His Goodness – miracles begin to happen and His Glory will produce a vast revival with the potential to be global in effect. How precious is the Kingdom to you? Enough to reprioritize your schedule? Renew your commitment to Jesus Christ? To carve out the choicest portion of your time, talent and treasure as a tithe and offering to the Lord rather than slinging yesterday’s leftovers like scraps on the floor? We are free to become disciples if we choose to pay the cost. Cost is driven by worth. Is He worth it? Yes, Jesus you are definitely worth all of me AND my life.

Luke 14:31-33 (NLT) “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

“Si vis pacem, para bellum” or “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Jesus did not come to bring peace to this world. In fact, He came to set the world on fire. To start a wildlife of love and compassion that would sweep through the world and burn in the hearts of people. He came to empower us with His Power by His Grace to be overcomers. To walk in victory. To live by faith. To give us a place called hope where all things are possible for those who believe. To be a disciple is to believe that Heaven and the Kingdom requires force. (Matthew 11:12) To be willing to invest the time and energy of the “good soldier” who is willing to their families, homes, jobs and life goals to secure freedom for all people. Discipleship is fighting the good fight of faith even when it means forsaking our comfort. “Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to even lay his head.” They promised to follow Him “wherever you go.” Jesus said, “Follow me now.” They made excuses. (Matthew 8:19-22) Faith is ready to follow. Trust is the first step.

You must be ready to give up the “civilian” life. To fight the good fight called faith. Most of us will never endure suffering such as Jesus and the early Christians did. There are people in the world right now who must endure great oppression and even torture to be disciples of Christ. We are so tied up in civilian affairs and unwilling to give up our personal comfort, pursuits and passions to take up our cross, follow Jesus and become His Disciple. Yet, still have the audacity to demand revival and wonder where it is and why His Glory has not come.

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

Jesus will not make you follow Him. He will simply invite you. He offers you the opportunity to be His Disciple but does not force such a lifestyle on you. He has promised us a place in His Kingdom. He has even given us the keys to unlock it and unleash it here on earth. We have been given everything needed to prosper in faith, promoted by trust, and a hope that is confident. The rest is up to me. If I want to be a disciple, I must be willing to make a difference in the atmosphere of my life by committing it all to Jesus. All of it. The truth is – it all belongs to Him anyway. The test is – do I love my life more than Jesus? We all must evaluate our position – am I a follower or a disciple? If you do not like your current position – it is completely up to you to make the change necessary. He will meet you in that moment, but will never push or pull us into it. Faith. Love. Hope. Trust. Commitment. Discipline. These are the labels on the steps of discipleship. The stairway to the Kingdom is before us. His Glory is ready to descend from the Highest of Heaven to meet us right where we are if we are willing to take the first step. The moment that you and I believe it will be worth it, we will be willing to step up. Lord, make me more than a follower. I want to be your disciple. Here is my life today – take it all. I love you Jesus and want Your Glory to fill my life!

Matthew 28:19 (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Warrior

knight wearing armor and holding two-handed sword

Joel 3:9-11 (NLT) Say to the nations far and wide: “Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors. Let all your fighting men advance for the attack. Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors. Come quickly, all you nations everywhere. Gather together in the valley.” And now, O Lord, call out your warriors!

“God doesn’t give the hardest battles to His Toughest Soldiers, He creates the toughest soldiers through life’s hardest battles.” I believe this is absolutely true. Soldiers are developed in training, but warriors are produced in battle. This is contrary to the popular quote, “God gives His Hardest Battles to His Strongest Soldiers.” Forget this idea. Erase it from your brain. This is simply not true. Close but not quite. God has placed eternity in every human heart. It is our purpose in life to secure the Kingdom and arrive at our destination. It will be a fight to the finish to hang on to our faith and secure confident hope. The enemy is real. He is waging war on God’s Elect from the moment the first breath is taken. To believe that my strength is my own puts me at a great disadvantage. The potential within me is a tiny seed called faith. The one who hates me wants to take it from me and destroy it thereby killing me.

I do not mean to discourage anyone by these words but rather to encourage you. Those who feel like weaklings and failures of faith are usually the mightiest of all God’s Warriors. My strength comes from the Lord. The Power within me is Jesus Christ. His Spirit has been given me along with the potential to overcome. This great power is manifested in my utter weakness and humility before the Lord. He is the Warrior. (Exodus 15:3) His Name is Yahweh. Psalm 144:1-2 tells us that God trains our hands for war. He gives our fingers skill for the battle. He is also our loving ally and fortress who is the tower of safety, as well as our rescuer. He is my shield who makes the nations submit to me. There is really not much room for me in this picture except through submission and surrender to the Lord in the heat of the battle and midst of war.

2 Timothy 2:4-7 (NLT) Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

“Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you.” It is important to know what exactly the fight is all about. The enemy is the author of confusion. Many battles in the Old Testament ended abruptly when the enemy camp was thrown into a state of confusion. A military unit is only as strong as the commitment of each soldier to the mission or objection. Each man’s heart set on the same thing. They become so focused on the goal that the danger surrounding them blurs in the mindset of victory. Athletes are known for the same spirit. The battle faced each day is for faith. Will I hold tight to my faith in the Mighty Warrior enough to trust Him in the face of all opposition? Will I overcome in my weakness submitted to His Grace? The only thing worth fighting for on a daily basis is faith. This is the act of endurance that allows us to reach the end of this life and receive victorious redemption through Jesus Christ. “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”

“Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life.” This is probably our biggest distraction. We get caught up in pointless pursuits rather than purposeful practice. We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. We wage war on the unseen world, against the mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) Know your enemy today. It is not the people in life who oppose you but the enemy who uses whatever means necessary to secure your defeat.

John 16:33 (NLT) 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.”

Jesus Christ overcame the world. “It is finished” meant it was finished. The battle over the war won for us. Now, we fight to believe it. To believe that the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ secured a place for us in His Kingdom so now we are Sons and Daughters of God. The family of unity formed by the Body of Christ binds us as God’s Army ready to fight until death for our faith. Do you believe? Jesus gave us His Spirit to help our unbelief. He knows the battles we face, the struggles of life, the heartache involved and exactly what is needed to overcome. He offers it to us in the form of His Spirit who trains us for the war of life.

John 14:16-18 (NLT) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

Jesus promised to send down His Spirit to us. When He said, “It is finished” with His Last Breath on earth – He did just that releasing His Spirit to all mankind. Now we have an Advocate who teaches us and trains those who are willing to become mighty warriors of the Lord. Not every soldier is a warrior. In 2 Samuel 24, there was a census that noted over a million capable warriors, yet in 2 Samuel 23, only 37 make the list of the mighty men. The Presence of the Holy Spirit within us empowers us to be good soldiers and fight for our faith. It is the total development of that soldier through successful engagements that make mighty warriors. We all have such potential but only few will answer the call to grow from simple soldiers to mighty warriors.

In Joel 3, warriors are called forth. Let’s go back a chapter to Joel 2. Who do we find? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all people. Jesus has given us His Spirit with the intent of intensifying our faith, growing our confidence in God that becomes courage. The Spirit becomes our sword in the heat of battle. His Word our weapon. Faith is the shield that keeps us safe when the enemy attacks with all his fiery darts, lies and betrayal. It keeps us focused from distractions and busyness. We all have the potential to become mighty warriors but must be willing to fight for our faith to become one.

Judges 6:11-13 (NLT) Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

The Lord found Gideon hiding in a wine press threshing wheat so the enemy would not take it. He greeted Gideon, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you?” I imagine Gideon probably sarcastically chuckled a bit like Sarah’s laugh at the thought of pregnancy at 99. My current condition will never limit God’s Potential in my life unless I abandon faith. Faith makes every impossibility potential in my life. Gideon was ripe for productivity. He was about to advance from soldier to warrior even though he did not see it, feel like it, or even believe it. God called Gideon who He created Him to be not who He was.

Too often our circumstances and current condition are the thermometer of our faith rather than basing our life outcomes on the Word of God by faith. No soldier enters a battle or athlete a competition intent on losing. Faith is the mindset that in complete submission to Jesus Christ that we overcome every single time that leads us to victory. Doubt means I believe losing is an option. It implies that the Power of Christ within me is not enough. Confident hope produces courage that no matter what happens my victory is secure in the Lord both now and forever. It is not prideful, boastful or cocky just plain good old confidence that Christ is enough.

Gideon was a man. He was human. He asked the angel of the Lord to paraphrase, if I am so “mighty” why am I hiding in a winepress cowering in fear? Why is this happening to me if I have the Favor of God?” Why is life so hard? This life is temporary. The Kingdom is eternal. The Kingdom is taken by force. You must fight for your faith every day in order to enter the Kingdom. Your faith and confident hope becomes the light that leads other to victory. No solider becomes a warrior without acts of engagement and forays on the battlefield. To become a warrior means you must fight the war…and win. Why is this so important? “Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive.”

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 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.

When sharing the wonderful testimony of our son’s victory over cancer thanks be to God, many people say, “I don’t know how you did it” or “I couldn’t have made it through like you”. I immediately stop them. When the cancer diagnosis came it wasn’t the result of a questionnaire given us the choice to opt out of the battle. No it was satan’s best attempt to kill our son and the potential within him. With four relapses, each one threw away every bit of my self-confidence. The thought that I had the power to protect and save my own children destroyed my confidence as a mother. There was little of me left by the time – we entered the realm called hope. But it was there when God’s Grace finally became enough for me that I discovered I am not the strong one at all. My faith is the strength of my life. Faith in Jesus Christ that allows Him to take over when I cannot take another step, breathe another breath, do another thing or hold all the pieces of my broken heart. It is in that very moment that I discover Jesus is all that I need. It is through these times that soldiers become warriors not the other way around. I thought I was strong and self-sufficient along with being faithful. Total surrender to the Power of God is claimed in our absolute weakness apart from Him. This is the potential of the warrior hidden within. When against all odds, our response to the war cry of the enemy is that Christ is enough to overcome and claim victory. To fight for our faith above all other things. To advance the Kingdom at all costs. To care less about our life and more about eternal life.

Nothing can separate you from the Love of God today. He is our overwhelming victory. To engage this life in Christ will create a victorious lifestyle that makes you a warrior rather than just a well-trained soldier. These are the ones who thwart the enemy at every turn. The ones who race out to face the giant. The ones who against all odds persevere not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of the Living God within them. Are you a soldier or a warrior today? You can choose to advance anything you want to by faith. The Lord is calling His Warriors as He readies His Return. Will you answer the call?

Isaiah 13:2-3 (NLT) “Raise a signal flag on a bare hilltop. Call up an army against Babylon. Wave your hand to encourage them as they march into the palaces of the high and mighty. I, the Lord, have dedicated these soldiers for this task. Yes, I have called mighty warriors to express my anger, and they will rejoice when I am exalted.”

 

Worth the Fight

worth-the-fight

Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT) I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Focus. I feel the need to refocus today. It happens. Life gets a little chaotic. Storms come rolling in. Bills pile up. Too many plates (responsibilities) spinning in the air. Kids are sick. Too many distractions create a smokescreen of busyness. Time in the Word runs out. Prayer closet is vacant. Presence is lost. Spirit is willing but oh how weak is our flesh. It’s time to refocus. What are we fighting for anyway? The priority list too long and running to the second page. Is it worth it? The things consuming my time, overwhelming my thoughts and causing such crises to steal my joy, rob my time and destroy my dreams. No, it’s not.

Satan must use deception, deceit, distractions and false representations to isolate us from the Lord. He works diligently to build a strong façade of lies, half-truths and traps out of the details of life. It is easy to fall for them sometimes because what we see is always bigger than the faith and hope which is unseen. To believe means trusting in the Lord while remaining focused on the only three things that remain over time. The only things worth fighting for are faith, hope and love.

I Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Why invest our life in temporary things rather than eternal treasure? Simple. Life is hard. Faith is a struggle. The struggle is real. Hope seems elusive when it should bear the weight of an anchor holding our soul steady but our boat is really rocking. The details of making it through a single day successfully seems so important but God is looking for just three things to call this day a win – faith, hope and love. Did you believe in Jesus? Do you trust Him? Do you love Him? See in the end these are the qualities which God is looking for in us. These are the three things that define our purpose and potential in life. When it is all said and done – will we be found full of faith, held by hope and bound by love?

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NLT) As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Faith is described from the beginning as small. It is referred to as the size of a mustard seed but absolutely essential to having eternal life. It is definitely worth fighting for but the first thing given up when the wind and waves start rocking the boat of life. Peter came out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water, but soon became distracted by the storm and lost his focus on the Savior. Welcome to everyday life. This was a message for us that faith is a fight. It is not easily secured. It cannot be taken for granted. It makes us uncomfortable. It is marked by inconvenience. It challenges insecurity. It always produces change. The conditions and circumstances of our existence are defined by opportunities to learn to depend on the Lord. Otherwise, there would be no pressure to accept these undesirable situations to produce an inward resolve that the Lord is faithful. Who would take the chance? Who would seize the moment? No one would.

Faith is our purpose. It is the point of our life. To obtain a citizenship in the Kingdom of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ is overwhelming victory, not for the battles waged in the world, but the war over death and the grave. To use our faith for temporary things is not faith at all. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) We are tempted to relegate faith to earthy circumstances, conditions and challenges. Faith for healing, deliverance and provision. These are all part of the package. Faith is to believe in Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. It is the very seed that sprouts all these other wonderful benefits in our life. To put God in a box and let him out to make our natural life more comfortable, convenient and stable is not its potential. Faith’s potential is the salvation of our soul. It sets our sights on Heaven. This is the true potential of our life hidden deep in our heart since creation. God put eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) It is this inner belief that every other good thing or godly prosperity stems from. The enemy is out to take this from you. If he can convince us to forfeit faith for fear – He will steal, kill and destroy the purpose of God within us. Fight for your faith today.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NLT) A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Hope is the anchor for our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) It’s the very thing that holds our faith in place no matter what comes up in life. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we now have this place of undeserved privilege called hope to keep us standing on the firm foundation called faith. Without hope, what’s the point? Hope is our potential. It takes us beyond the natural to the supernatural. Moves us from possible to impossible. It takes us from the seventy or so years called life and gives us eternal life. It is every benefit and blessing that God has promised in His Word and according to His Way. Hope is the mark on the compass that faith sets its sight on. We must focus on securing our faith with confident hope.

Have you ever walked through a dark room making out the shadowy images? Familiarity allows us to navigate the sharp corners and obstacles in the room. However, when we turn on the overhead light – it causes immediate blindness. The radiating globe that was supposed to allow us to see more clearly suddenly makes it impossible to see anything. Our eyes need time to adjust. Darkness is turned to light in God’s Love. It takes time to discern the difference in things when His Love overtakes us and a new place called the Kingdom is obtained. Hope keeps us standing as we seek the Kingdom and clear away the darkness from our life. His Love is amazing. It illuminates our life and begins a process that is sometimes hard to discern because it is unlike the dark world that has been our home for so long. We expect things to turn out a certain way and when they do not most will abandon ship, run from the battle, or give up on the Lord.

We need God’s Armor to surround us. It protects the potential called hope. It reminds us. It fortifies our body, soul and mind in the midst of these trials that lead to perseverance, the tests that produce trust, and the waiting that becomes endurance. We don’t have to fight the enemy. He is already defeated. We must fight for faith and confident hope so that when he wages war against us – we can stand firm without wavering. It is important to fight for hope today it is the potential of our life.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT) Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Having three daughters who loved the Disney series, High School Musical, when I read this verse I hear the chorus of “We’re All in This Together” playing in my head. I have said it before and I must say it again. People are not the problem. The person who cussed you out, cut you off in traffic, hurt you, betrayed you, abused you, or just plain ticked you off is not the problem. They are not the thorn in our flesh unless we choose to allow them to be such. We are called to love another. We are commanded to love one another. Love defines disciples. Our ability to love even the most unlovable is the mandate of Christ for us. If you cannot love other people, you do not love God. You love people more. To love someone places expectation in them to love you back. The only true love potential is Jesus Christ. He is perfect. The unprecedented lover of people. If you or I decide to put our expectation in people, we should expect to be let down, disappointed, and discouraged time and time again. Grace would not be necessary if  perfection was possible for humanity. The human heart is fickle. We are not capable of perfect love outside the Lord.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-16) People are always part of our purpose and potential in the Lord. They do not impact one’s ability to achieve it. People are where we plant seeds of righteousness as the peacemakers who God has called us together to knit the Kingdom of God and Body of Christ. We must be willing to put all of our expectation in Jesus Christ who allows us to have a right relationship with God the Father. Our faith in Jesus allows us to live in right standing with God and become part of His Kingdom. Hope is what keeps us striving through this temporary life with all its momentary problems to live forever with Him. Love is worth fighting for. It builds the Kingdom. God sacrificed His Son for us. Jesus gave up everything to come for us. He gave up His Rights as King of Kings and Lord of Lords long enough to secure a place for us. People are the Kingdom. All people were created with Eternity in their heart. They are all worth fighting for. To love them as Jesus loves them.

To love God is to love others. To be godly is to love because God is love. The Word of God clearly states that no matter what I “do” for God including giving everything I have to the poor or sacrificing my body – if didn’t love others, I have gained nothing. No love. No faith. No love. No hope. Is love worth fighting for? Absolutely. What is love? Just a reminder – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7) Love is not only worth fighting for but the very thing that keeps the Kingdom intact.

I Timothy 6:11-14 (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.

But you, __________, are a man or woman of God. Run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for true faith. Hold tightly to eternal life which God has called you to. Declare it to many witnesses today. It’s time to reprioritize and refocus. Tear up the long to do list of human expectation and ask the Lord what do you have for me to do today. It will all come down to just three things – faith which is our purpose, hope that is our potential and the people who we are called to love. Life is simplified in Jesus Christ. Don’t let the enemy complicate it with unnecessary things. He is constantly trying to sow weeds in the garden of righteousness being sown in our life. He wants to crack our foundation of faith with fear and doubt. He fights to chain us and put us in bondage to other things so we cannot remain securely anchored to hope. The enemy of our soul seeks to destroy love on every level and some people make that a bit easier. Love them anyway. Put all your expectation in Jesus Christ and fight to keep it there. These are definitely the things (faith, hope and love) that are worth fighting to maintain in our everyday life. They define our purpose, release our potential and build the Kingdom. Well worth it!

Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT)  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.