Passion Fruit

First Fruit

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

When taking on large projects or tasks, I usually comprise a “to do” list to keep me focused. I write down everything that needs to be done and then decide on a game plan. I will be the first to admit as a young adult – I was a procrastinator. Chronically late, I lacked conscious respect for other’s time. I would stay up late and wake up later. I live a completely disheveled and disorganized life. I will even admit that there would be days or even a week that I did not make my bed. This chaotic existence was not the fault of my parents who built a structured home and attempted to teach us discipline. When set free into adulthood, I was able to choose how to live my life. What changed? Children. When my first child was born, I discovered this little thing called responsibility in a whole new way. This little perfect person was depending on me for everything. I was to mold him, shape him, and care for him as he was now my responsibility. Suddenly – I wanted to be a better person and the perfect mom. Love produced a change in me.

Purpose is a wonderful thing because it sparks passion in us that burns away things that used to hinder us. It ignites a change inside of us that requires careful attention to build momentum and see the results. As my family grew so did I, old habits gave way to new and improved drive to be organized and skillful in the things “good moms” do. But despite my best intentions, looking back, I realize that even though I tried really hard to be the best mom ever and never make mistakes with my children. I blew it on several occasions. There were days that I took the responsibility of parenting too seriously and needed a little more grace and love. My desire to be perfect overshadowed my purpose which was to love my children with all that I had and give them the life I thought they deserved.

For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is – there is freedom. Freedom to live a life of full satisfaction apart from perfection but marked by passionate purpose. The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image. I am struck by these words today. I am in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my beloved as I am His. As in any partnership, I must learn to find ways to remain faithful to Him even when my flesh doesn’t necessarily agree. The first fruit of God’s Spirit – who is now recognized as Jesus is love. Love produces passion. Passion fuels purpose. How do I take the natural love I have and use my freedom in Christ to expand it and fan it into burning desire? I must live by the Spirit.

I am tiptoeing here. So please bear with me…I am challenged today! I want to live in the Glory of God. I don’t think the church or people who call ourselves Christians really know what that is or how to achieve it on a regular basis. We are to live in the Presence of God. Well, if Christ lives in me doesn’t that mean God is present all of the time? Yes! Am I present all of the time? No! Let me explain – there are times when my husband and I are sitting in the same room and one of us will begin to speak to the other. While lost in thought or completely engrossed in what we are watching or reading, the other may not hear what he or she is saying. Suddenly shaken from our stupor – we will respond to the other with apologies because our attention was elsewhere. God’s Spirit lives in us. His Name is Jesus. He has granted us freedom. Freedom is the opportunity to choose our life and how we live it. To become aware of the Glory of God in us and His Goodness all around us would be the most advantageous use of the gift of freedom – but sometimes we have our heart and mind set on other things.

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

Jesus lives in me. His Spirit has set me free. This freedom is made strong as it is nourished by the Fruit it provides us. The first fruit of the Spirit is love. I cannot love anyone else until I fully conceive the Love of God for me and living in me. See God’s Love IS His Glory. When I love like Jesus loves and inspired by the selfless and unconditional Love of God – I reflect His Glory. God gave us freedom to choose a relationship with Him as His Child. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life for us that allows us to have a rich and satisfying life beginning with love and ending with self-control. Religion gets this all out of order. We attempt self-control outside of love which leads us nowhere. The passion of our love for Jesus Christ will inevitably produce self-control as the final fruit not the first fruit.

Galatians 5:24-26 (NLT) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Those who belong to Jesus must nail their passions and desires associated with their sinful nature to the Cross. Do not think about the seven deadliest sins and most horrible offenses you can think of, but consider this – if our passion promotes anything other than sincere and persistent love for people – we missed the first step of full satisfaction in the Glory of God. Love produces joy. Joy gives us peace. Peace affords us patience and so on. “Since” we are living by the Spirit as God’s Spirit is manifested as Christin us…we must follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Love is the first step of freedom yet the hardest to overcome. Love puts others before our own wants, needs and desires. It is not a me-first position and therefore considered the greatest vulnerability. But if Christ truly lives in me – I am free to do so because greater is He who lives in me. The greatness of God’s Grace is His Love. His Glory is His Presence that is possible by His Love. Everything begins with and ends with love.

Luke 12:49 (NLT) I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! (Jesus)

Have we misplaced our passion? Have we focused heavily on producing fruit from our self and not of the Spirit? I can pretend to have all of God’s Fruit in my life but my life is not surrounded by His Glory and defined by His Love it is just another pointless pursuit. Jesus came to set the world on fire. His Love could not be denied for His Sacrifice complete. He empowered us with His Grace which is totally sufficient to overcome every obstacle and live in His Glory now and forever more. However, this would require giving up our way first.

When I think about the Glory of God, I hear the churches outcry for revival. Revival is new life that will take the place of our old ways. Like the relationship now possible with God through Jesus Christ removed the “veil” that once separated us from God’s Presence. It did not open the curtain so we could step behind it. It tore it right down the middle. When Christians live according to the rules and regulations of the Law, it is not freedom but a foray back into judgment. In Christ there is no condemnation. Christ is alive in me so I am no longer condemned so think about this…

If you come upon a burning building, it would probably be your immediate instinct to call 911. You may decide to be a good Samaritan and get out of the car to offer assistance. If you hear cries from within the inferno, you may try to find a way to get inside and save those who are trapped. Only a few people might risk their life to go inside despite the danger to pull people from inside. However, if the house is your home everything changes. Your love will overcome all fear and insecurity to get your loved ones to safety pulling them out of harm’s way. What if Jesus meant to set the world on fire so we would develop a passion from His Love? What if it is a test of our first fruit to see how willing I am to use my freedom to love people enough to reach them right where they are rather than standing outside calling them out?

Jude 20-25 (NLT) But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

The potential of my life is the Glory of God because Christ lives in me. I have a new love that has given me a whole new purpose. I am a new creation. The law is no longer relevant to me as it has been made complete in Jesus Christ. His Grace is truly sufficient for me. As long as I choose to live free from the Law, I am able to pursue with passion the First Fruit of the Spirit which is love and believe that as every other fruit is born of its seed that I will someday learn self-control. If sin separates me from Jesus, my love for Him will keep me from sin. Apart from God’s Love there is no glory. His Glory is His Love. His Love must be perfected in my life. It does not require me to be a perfect person just perfected by His Love. Passion must be examined and evaluated in our life to determine its origin. It is easy to become religious in our pursuit because habits come and go every day. Love does not. Love is the most difficult to obtain and arduous to keep because it is the constant consummation of self. We must invest all that we are into the Christ living in us so He takes over. Jesus would not think twice about going into whatever hell we wander into and pulling us to freedom if we cry out to Him. My response to others must be the same. Lord, I ask you to examine my heart, my mind, every motive, attitude and action for love. Love is the first fruit produced by Your Spirit, and I want to know I am living a life guided by Your Spirit. Help me to love like You do. Teach me to love like You. Complete me in love as You do. I ask you to grow the first fruit of love in me so I can share it with everyone else and be a true reflection of Your Glory! Fan the flame of love in me until it burns like an all-consuming fire with passion for You, Lord! For without passion – love quickly grows cold!

John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

I Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT) This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Exceedingly Abundantly

Exceedingly Abundantly

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to His Power that works in us. This is a bold statement which may be interpreted many ways. The definition of exceedingly is to the extreme and to an unusual degree. Abundantly is to be present in great quantity, more than adequate, and overly sufficient. Do you believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think? Obviously, the immediate response of most Christians would be “yes” or “of course”. But before you answer today, let’s examine our heart and mind for the real answer. Do I believe? I believe that I have faith but the Word of God is clear I that faith without works is dead. If the estimation of my life is based on the factors including circumstances and conditions present than it is limited to the natural and prohibitive of the supernatural. If ordinary suits me just fine, my bills are paid, marriage is rocking along, kids are doing well, and no major illnesses – praise the Lord – but your life will not be extraordinary locked in the promised provision. Christians spend a whole lot of time trying to make better choices, spend more time in the Word of God, and come up with the right prayer language. God has already prepared a plan for us with a future and hope. It is available to all who seek Him wholeheartedly. To seek God wholeheartedly will open up a new realm of heaven that contains the exceedingly abundantly above commodity most believers never tap into and don’t even realize is available.

2 Kings 4:2-6 (NKJV) So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 

How big is your God? God is not limited in size or power. We are the limited resource that keeps exceedingly abundance from flowing through our life. I love the story of the widow woman who had a dilemma. Her husband a prophet had passed away. I am assuming that they had both served in the ministry many years. Now with no way to pay the bills, creditors were coming to enslave her children to pay the family debts. When Elisha came, she expressed her concerns. He asked her, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” What’s in your house? What’s in your wallet…as the popular credit card commercial asks? What’s in your heart? Oil represents anointing. The woman’s life did not line up to the Will, Way, Word or Work of God presently but she had the secret all bottled up on a shelf. Elisha told her to “go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors – empty vessels.” He only wanted her to gather the empty ones. He was not telling her to go beg from her neighbors. This is important. He was not telling her to put her faith anywhere else but in the Lord. Where is your faith today? People, job or personal ability? The widow did as instructed.

How big is God’s Supply? God has an exceeding abundance for our life that is much greater than our human perception. The woman and her sons gathered together the jars and brought them to Elisha. Once inside the house, she was to “shut the door”. There are things that we need to “shut the door” on in our life to hear the Voice of God, to actively participate in our relationship with Him, and live in His Presence. When the Lord instructs us to do something, how often do we add our own spin or share it with anyone and everyone who will listen? She went inside with her sons and she “shut the door.” Obedience. Distorted or delayed obedience is disobedience. What if God has a miracle that is exceedingly abundantly more that is limited only by our unwillingness to obey His Directions? What if it is us deferring our blessing and not God at all?

The final instruction – pour it (the jar of oil) into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones. The widow did exactly as she was instructed. She did not take her small jar and compare it to the much larger vessels. She did not question the prophet. She did not delay. She did exactly what he told her to do when he told her to do it. The oil did not cease flowing until she ran out of jars. What if within us is the resource needed to produce exceedingly abundantly more and our limitation is our faith? Is it possible? Oh my friend, it is more than possible it is probable. The woman was desperate to save her sons. I understand that kind of desperation. The point of no return is the best place of all when it comes to faith because it is when the end of self is found and the prosperity of God in full measure can fill our life. You have the anointing. Christ lives in you today. You just have to become an overflowing vessel so He can pour it out in your life.

Ephesians 3:13-19 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is much easier to make excuses and find all the reasons that we are not blessed or prospering than to commit the time, energy and discipline necessary to making exceedingly abundantly the reality of our life. Doubt tells us that the Goodness of God is too “good” to be true. Shame and guilt persuade us to somehow believe that His Grace is insufficient when nothing could be further from the Truth. There is no boundary to the Love of God concerning us. The death of Jesus Christ was absolutely enough to secure a right relationship with the Father, but we refuse to come home. God’s Goodness is for us in the land of the living, but pushing it off to the future allows us to attempt to maintain some form of control. It is when faced with desperation at the end of all possibility that God becomes our only option and mode of survival, yet God didn’t put us here on earth to survive but has ordained and anointed us to thrive.

God’s Love for me is so wide, long, deep and high that I will never reach the edge of it. When I allow faith to root and ground me in that unconditional and overflowing love – I become fearless. I can reach for the Lord and all that He has without fear of disappointment. God loves me. He is for me. He wants to do everything in His Word in my life. I must simply become the vessel that is needed to be conducive to such an overflow. Yes, it means provision. Yes, it means prosperity. Yes, it means healing. It means every good thing God has in Heaven is possible on the earth for those who believe. Do you believe? Lord, help our unbelief today!

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly Places in Christ. He didn’t do this because I asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. He ordained my birthright and inheritance before I was ever created. I am predestined to be blessed. Sin sold my birthright for a meal like Esau. Jesus gave it back. The Spirit of Adoption is complete. Why? Why does the Lord bless us? Why would He still do good things for me when I fail Him every day? It is not about me. It is His Good Pleasure. Blessing me blesses the Lord. He decided it gave Him pleasure from the start. To not actively pursue the Blessings and Promises of God for my life is to say, “No, thank you to Jesus!” To truly believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than one can think or ask would certainly facilitate faith on our part to have it in our life. Christ lives in us. He is more than enough. We must use our time, talent and treasure to be the vessel conducive to reproducing that anointing in our everyday life. It is not just for church. It is for our life. Every moment, every season, and every activity. We just need to be a bigger vessel so God can pour out His Blessing in our life.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

God has a purpose for our life. He wants the Light of His Love to shine for all the world to see. He has hidden that Light in these earthen vessels. It is a treasure to be discovered. It can only be discovered when allowed to shine for all the world to see. Who wants a God who does nothing? Who needs a Lord of the ordinary? Grace makes God’s Power complete in our weakness. What if the season you are in is just breaking the seal off the prosperity of your future? What if the oil in the jar sitting on the shelf unused is the very thing that will overflow abundance in your life? Maybe the secret to your success planned by the Lord is that idea or thought you have been mulling around in your head afraid to step out in faith to try? What are you waiting for? You only fail if you do not try. Faith releases God’s Anointing in our life that leads to success. It is the key to unlock the exceedingly abundantly that is beyond anything you can envision or dream. What are you waiting for? Shut the door on negativity. You don’t have to tell everyone what God has promised but let the Light shine as He completes His Work in you and through you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you step out on faith to dream the impossible and do what the Lord is telling you to do. Who cares what the world thinks! Let the Christ in you have His Way today! You are a Child of the King. You should live like one. God’s Full Potential and Purpose for our life is that we will live up to the full standard of Jesus Christ to be complete lacking nothing. God is ready to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can think or ask. Are you ready to receive it?

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

To Be Genuine

To Be Genuine

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT) Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

What is genuine faith? To be genuine is to possess the claimed or attributed character or quality. It is not a counterfeit but real and authentic. Something genuine is free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy defined by sincerity. The word “faith” is tossed around loosely in the “Christianese” language, but I cannot help but wonder if it bears the mark of authenticity. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to “examine yourselves” and to “test yourselves” which tells me that you cannot test or evaluate my level of faith. It is not up to anyone else to decide if I have it or not. The contents of my heart and how it impacts my existence in my sole (or soul) responsibility. To allow others to dictate what faith is or how I achieve total trust in the Lord is pointless. It is up to me to examine and test my faith for relevance and substance. I wonder what might happen in believers took responsibility for their own heart rather than trying to judge everyone else and compare others to our own successes and failures as Christians. Those who endure to the end are saved according to Jesus. What is this thing called endurance?

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Endurance is important in this life. We must not stop loving, believing, trusting and following Christ. To keep the course is difficult because there are peaks and valleys along the way. These require us to dig a little deeper, grab hold a little tighter, and remain on our knees a little longer. When things are out of our control and beyond our comfort zone, we must remain consistent. Endurance produces discipline. It works heart muscles that have never been challenged before as the Light of His Love within us pushes its way out of us. Endurance is the ability or strength to last despite pain, stress or adverse conditions in life. When your life does not resemble God’s Word, but you continue to walk humbly with God knowing He is faithful even though you are challenged to be the same.

Hebrews 12 mentions a “huge crowd of witnesses” who are not our main concern. Too many times, they become our primary focus rather than the race of faith which is a marathon. Though friends and teammates may be on the same course, we run for the prize, our prize, and the high calling of Christ. It doesn’t matter what the voice of the witnesses say or do not say. It doesn’t matter what their personal evaluation, estimation or examination of our life reveals. The one who seeks to endure is in verse 2. They are after one thing – Jesus. With eyes fixed and focused, each step is examined for purpose, each breath exhaled in praise, and the next step embraced with potential. Jesus is our Champion. He is the reason faith is essential in the first place. Sometimes it is important to refocus and reprioritize our life to make sure that faith is our goal and Jesus the prime example.

James 1:27 (NLT) Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

“So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (James 1:21) Pure and genuine religion is not what it has been made out to be by mankind. Pure and genuine religion as God intended is a love story. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ so deeply committed and passionate that one cannot help but give their life to Him. We give our life to many things in the name of love, but have we given our heart to Jesus Christ? Jesus is more than an opportunity. He is not just an option other than death. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come before God outside of Christ. We must have communion with the Lord. We must consummate our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The filth and evil in our lives is everything contrary to love. Anything that might separate us from our partner, Jesus Christ. However, outside the boundaries of love, obedience is meaningless acts of self service. Designed to make us feel better and avoid true repentance that leaves no room for anything good or worthwhile coming from me outside of Christ. It is a hard pill to swallow marked humility. His Grace must become enough for me in order for faith to take over my life. This is only possible when all I am is not enough to be where He is. When weakness prevails, even if I don’t fall, but simply stumble into His Arms. Jesus is always ready, willing and able to carry me on.

God’s Love is unconditional. Do you believe that today? Jesus did not come to judge the world or even condemn it. Sin already did. God sent His Son Jesus because before we were created, He loved us and desired us despite our rebellious and impetuous nature. It didn’t matter that our heart was fickle and gravitated toward depravity. Jesus already decided to die for us to make a way for our return. Why do we set conditions and limitations on others? Why do we expect them to be religious? Why do they have to dress a certain way or act a certain way to be accepted by us? Could it be our faith has some hidden fallacies that need to be exposed? Perhaps, our own inability to believe makes it necessary to set other criteria for acceptance?

Mark 10:20-22 (NLT) “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus gives us genuine love. Love without boundaries. Love without conditions. This man had no problem following the rules but when it came to following Jesus – he couldn’t give up this life. He had many possessions. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” The man’s face fall and he went away sad. This is the true test of faith. When Jesus asks us to step out of this life to pursue eternity to seek Him wholeheartedly. Holding nothing back. This man was not surrounded by people, it doesn’t say that his family or friends were close by, just Jesus. We will all come to a place in our life that the line is drawn in the sand. The point of no return. The moment when we must choose commitment or comfort. To pursue purpose or settle for mediocrity. Faith follows Jesus, Anything else will hang its head and go home.

Romans 12:9-18 (NLT) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

What if this was the true measure of faith and following Jesus? To love one another as Christ loves us. Laying our life down for each other so that we all make it to the end. Would it be your religion? Would you give it the hierarchy of church doctrine with all its rules and regulations to live this life every single day? To really love people. To hate what is wrong and hold tight to what is good. To take delight in blessing others. To work hard. Really hard and not be lazy – giving your absolute best in all areas of life as doing it for the Lord. What about patience? Who needs them? We do. What about helping everyone in need without judging the person, their situation or what got them there in the first place. Blessing our enemies. Forgiving seventy times seven and turning the other cheek. What if we decided rather than building a church and filling it, each person decided to be the church and take their rightful place in the Body of Christ? Is it even possible for people to live in harmony when families can’t even seem to get it together? What if all God really wanted and required of us is in Micah 6:8 – “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.Genuine faith is born of genuine love. Genuine love does not consider self but others first beginning with Jesus Christ and filtering His Love to everyone else. Until I am ready to give my life up to follow Jesus and love others this way – I fail the test of genuine faith every time. Religiosity melts in the midst of a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Fully committed to pursuing Him wholeheartedly and no one else resolves all doubt and disbelief because faith has completed us and we lack no good thing.

I Timothy 1:5 (NLT) The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 

The purpose of my life begins and ends in Jesus Christ. My faith must be genuine. There will be situations in life when I am challenged to examine my heart and mind to determine if the faith I claim to have is real and authentic. I welcome such an opportunity. There has not been a single time that I have not had to call on the Grace of God for His Help because I lack sufficient faith and need His Power to cover my weakness. The Law of God is not intended for those who have decided to follow Jesus yet we use it as a weapon all the time. While it should be directed at the enemy – it is often leveled at family. We are all Children of God loved and desired by our Father just the same. Jesus died for us…all. There are no boundaries to His Love. The only obstacle I face is my ability to believe and live by faith. Lord, help my unbelief today! Teach me to love like you do! Make my faith genuine so it will bring you praise, glory and honor for the whole world to see!

I Peter 1:6-8 (NLT) So be truly glad.There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

Wholeheartedly

wholeheartedly

Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT) If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

How do I give all the pieces of my heart to Jesus? Wholehearted is to be done, enacted, given with total sincerity, enthusiasm and commitment. It means that I am fully and completely committed to that which my heart is given. What is that exactly? I instructed in God’s Word in Deuteronomy and confirmed by Jesus that “I must love the Lord (my) God with all (my) heart, all (my) soul, and all (my) mind.” This is called the first and greatest commandment. In Jeremiah, it is the established way of attaining God’s Plan for our life with the future and hope that comes with it. I wonder sometimes if in our plight to perfect a way easily followed that this is overlooked in the modern day church. Righteousness becomes rightness. My righteousness is found in Christ alone but there is some sense of natural security that is assumed by doing what is right. This misconception is nothing more than a lie of the enemy meant to deceive God’s People. Our sole pursuit in life must be to love God wholeheartedly for that is how to find Him.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NLT) “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”

Our pursuit of God and His Righteousness begins with the Word of God. Jesus is the Word made into flesh to dwell among us. To know, understand and begin to comprehend God’s Love demonstrated in Jesus Christ is to study, meditate and pray the Word of God in our life. God speaks to His People through His Word. It is a foreign language that must be learned and committed to memory. It must be incorporated in everyday life. We must study to show ourselves approved. Ready to share the Gospel in season and out of season. The Word brings wisdom that is more valuable than precious gems or the purest gold. Jesus is the Bread of Life that feeds and nourishes our spirit so the Holy Spirit can cultivate His Fruit in us. We must commit wholeheartedly to the words of God and Jesus Christ. The Word of God is life. It takes all the pieces of our heart no matter how broken, binding them altogether with the promise that everything is going according to His Plan.

Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT) “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

God has not and will not ever force anyone to serve Him. He does not need servants to attend Him or workers to do His Business. God desires our love. The Spirit of the Lord set us free allowing us to choose who we will serve rather than keeping us captive to sin. He offers us a plan with a future and hope to live and not die. It is a personal choice. We must choose carefully. Amaziah I is noted in 2 Chronicles 25 as one who did what is right in the Lord’s eyes, but did not do it wholeheartedly. Hezekiah is later noted in 2 Chronicles 31 as one who also pleased the Lord but he did it wholeheartedly. The Lord is looking for those who do not just seek to please Him for His Goodness but desire His Glory wholeheartedly. God fills our life with good things because He loves us. The rains falls on the wicked and the righteous because God is good. When I do what is right in His Sight, I will experience more and more of His Blessings because they are already provided for me. It is simply a matter of positioning myself in the right place at the right time doing the right thing as His Word and His Way indicates. But that is not enough for me…not anymore.

To do what God desires will benefit our life. It will expose hidden blessings just because we are honoring Him with our attitude and actions. I want more than that. I want the full and complete standard of Jesus Christ that creates unity of faith and knowledge. (Ephesians 4:13) I don’t want anything left out of the Glorious Standard of Living that sin was kept from me. I can have it now because Christ lives in me. But if I do not have a relationship with Jesus, I cannot be a Child of God. Doing what He wants just makes me a slave to God rather than sin. (Romans 6:16-18) When I decide that I love God wholeheartedly is when I begin to experience the truest freedom that is to become a Child of God.

Jeremiah 32:39-41 (NLT) They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.

God desires a relationship with you today. One that you have not every experienced before and that your flesh rallies against daily. To give up this life in pursuit of forever seems like a risky investment. What if I am wrong? What if there is not a God? What if God is not as good? What if Jesus is not real? I cannot convince you of the existence of God or the vastness of goodness or fathomless depths of His Love. You will have to experience them for yourselves. What I do know is this? No one can convince me otherwise. If I die, I will not be disappointed. My hope in Jesus Christ is secure. But for argument’s sake, what if I am wrong and there is nothing after this life? Well, I can honestly say that loving God and serving Him has only benefited and blessed my life in inexplicable and inconceivable ways. If God were only a myth, it would still have been worth giving my life to Him. I want more. I want to love God with ALL of my heart, ALL of my soul and ALL of my mind. Daily I must make it my passionate pursuit to love Him with more of me. God desires an everlasting covenant. He wants to be one with us. We avail ourselves when we seek the Lord wholeheartedly.

Philippians 2:1-2 (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.

Lord, if I have withheld pieces of my heart, my soul or my mind from you – I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these areas so I can give more of me to You, God! We have been given an opportunity to enter into the greatest love story ever written. To experience a love so great that the boundaries will never be seen. To experience the Glory of God so overwhelming that it melts us in His Presence. What if for a moment – we stopping working so hard and try worshipping the Lord more? Taking time to enter His Presence, sit at His Feet, listen to His Words and hear His Heart. God desires a relationship with us. He wants you. He longs for me to be with Him forever. What if I am trying to impress God with my actions and all He really wants is my heart? My time. My talent. My treasure mean nothing outside of His Power at work in me. Nothing I can ever accomplish on the earth in my power will ever outshine the work of Jesus on the Cross. God simply wants to raise my standard of living so that I can live in His Glorious Standard as any good parent would do. His Love is completely overwhelming but so very simplistic. For God so loved me that He gave His Only Son that I might be saved. There is nothing I can do, say or be to cap that kind of love. All I can give is all that I am for all that He is.

What if God only desired our true love? What if He really is not impressed by what we do for Him but how we love Him? I believe that if we came back to our first love as it tells us in Revelation that becoming the church that the Lord called and created us to be would not be quite so complicated. As believers if we would choose to love God wholeheartedly, there would be a shift in the dynamics of the organization and institution so that it would become the living, breathing and healthy Body of Christ again. No longer would there be politics or personal agendas leaking into the walls of the church but the Power of God called His Glory would emanate from it pouring out into our communities, our country and around the world. The same message would be spoken. It would be all about love. Agreement wholeheartedly would produce a sound message that the world would hear clearly. God is love. God is in love with you! My life is worth nothing until the Love of God overtakes every part it so that I can effectively communicate God’s Love to a lost and dying people in a cold, dark world. Lord, I give you my heart, my soul and my mind. Make it whole according to Your Word, Your Will and Your Way today so that I can give it back to You!

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NLT)  For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

Ezekiel 36:26(NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

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

Love You More

love-you-more

Romans 6:15-18 (NLT) Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

As I began reading God’s Word this morning, two words weighed heavily on my heart. “Free will.” God has given us a free will and truthfully not many people are quite sure what it means and how to use it. Can I get an “AMEN” from those who have fallen and failed along the way? Why is freedom a good thing when I have no idea how to use it properly or what to do with it on a regular basis? It feels like a loaded gun in the hand of a toddler sometimes. Paul sums it up in Romans 7, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” Every Christian wants to please God. Every believer sins. It is our human nature’s desperate attempt to remain alive as it is crucified daily with Christ. How do I move from sinning more to godly living more? You must love Him more.

God’s Grace set us free from the Law. The Law set forth as rules and regulations of righteousness that our sinful nature balked at and quickly rebelled against. It came with measures of sacrifice and offerings to repent and make concession for our inability to remain righteous. We still keep falling short so Jesus came and sacrificed His Life. The reward was our absolute and total freedom from sin. All we have to do is accept it according to His Grace. Jesus did not come to condemn people but to set them free. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. Our suspect mind wants to know what the catch is. The offer is simply too good to be true. Well friend, that’s the God I serve. He is always better than I deserve. Doing more than I think possible. Loving me more than I could ever fathom. I have been set free to discover the capacity of God’s Love.

The choice is made evident in God’s Word. We can choose to be slaves or Children of God. It seems so clear cut, if only it were that easy. We become slaves to that which we choose to obey. What do you respond to more frequently, flesh or spirit? What we respond to most is the driving force of our life – knowingly or unknowingly. We must understand this covenant entered with God when Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord. To see that the Law has been satisfied and love is all that matters. Truly love is the only thing that matters once a soul is set free. No strings attached. No new set of laws, rules or regulations no matter how convincing religion may seem. Our sin was great but His Love much greater. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus so now what? We must learn to love Him wholeheartedly…to love Him more.

John 10:9-10 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Jesus used the representation of a gate to illustrate our new life in Him. Those who enter through Him will be saved. Not can be, but will be! “They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” Whoa! Wait a minute. They will come and go freely. Jesus was clear if He set us free than we are free indeed. What about all the guidelines and restrictions? They are still their but the “penalty” that takes us captive has been paid in full. By His Grace, I am saved through faith not anything else. I just have to believe. Do you believe today? Do you believe that you are free from the penalty of sin in Jesus Christ? We must understand what freedom is. Because Jesus came into the world to set us free, so that we could make a choice – there is no condemnation in our Savior. People condemn, convict and judge. Jesus came with one thing in mind – freedom.

When Jesus left the wilderness at being tempted by the enemy, He went to the synagogue as He was accustomed to doing on the Sabbath. The scroll was handed to Him and He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. If we use our freedom to exchange one captivity for another – we remain slaves. If we use our freedom to love, we become God’s Children. The choice belongs to us because in Christ there is freedom. The power of that freedom is love. To accept the unconditional love of the Father as true and valid though we cannot see Him it is completely attained by faith. Just as my husband cannot show me the love in his heart by taking the beating, throbbing mass out of his chest to hand it to me – my beloved does so by daily attempting to show me that he loves me more… More than any other woman, more than any other person, more than any other thing, more than any other pursuit or passion in his life – his whole heart belongs to me. What if that is what our freedom is all about? That is our freedom. When I decide to love Jesus more than anything else, and live like it.

John 8:31-32 (NLT) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When Isaac was speaking his blessing over his son, Jacob, he said, “You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.” Jacob had tricked his brother stealing his birthright and blessing. Taking advantage of the bond of brotherhood to the point of bondage, he was forced to flee from Esau’s wrath. Isaac gave his son sound wisdom. “When you decide to break free…” Are you ready to experience freedom? The kind of freedom promised in God’s Word. We do not have to force the door open or wrestle against the chains that have us bound. We must simple desire to be truly free. Jesus did the rest. We are free to come and go through the gate. We must only believe in Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd. (John 10:14-16) We choose to follow Him or stray away. Those who choose to walk with Him benefit from His Care and Protection. If we choose our own way, much like Jacob, we also decide when we will break free from the oppressive yoke of sin and shame.”

I Corinthians 1:7-9 (NLT) Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s Plan for our life is good containing a future and hope that is not defined by my goodness or ability to live a sinless life. It is secure in my decision to live by faith and to trust Him more and more as I pursue Jesus wholeheartedly. It is giving Him my love without coercion but a strong desire and commitment to know the Lover of my soul and love Him more. More than sin. More than this world. More than my rights. More than my pride. More than promotions. More than anything else. When I use my freedom to love Jesus and others – I will enjoy every spiritual blessing and the rich satisfying life that He promised. Love makes avoiding sin reasonable because we are not in bondage to our flesh. Our love for Jesus makes it possible. I am satisfied with my marriage. I am content with my husband’s love. It makes me want to honor him, respect him and love him more. How much more does this apply to Jesus?

What is your struggle today? Is it a person? Is it a recurring temptation that always leads to a bad choice? Is it disappointment? Is it lost hope? Is it pride? We all have daily struggles, temptations and tests to endure. God wants us to know how much He loves us. He has set us free by showing us far greater love so that we would learn to love Him more than all those other things in life. The Holy Spirit woos us with the choice fruit of righteousness so that it feeds our spirit along the way with things like love, joy, and peace that cannot be found in this life but well up in us from the inside. He prospers our soul which was once headed for death with new life day by day, season by season, until we reach the end and step into forever with Jesus. I have to believe that God’s Love is greater for me than that which I currently show love, affection and attention to more. The thing that compromises my love and trust in Jesus is that which is robbing me of my blessing. The Lord withholds no good thing from us. Our inability to accept, live in and thrive in freedom keeps blessings and promises just out of reach. Jesus loves us more. When the first priority of our life is to love Him more – those dreams and desires will become attainable by faith and confident hope in His Great Love.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NLT) Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.

For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son. True love gives it’s all. Withholding nothing. All of me for all of you. We cannot be one with the Lord if we do not commit all of our love, faith and hope to Him in exchange for all that He is. His Love seals our heart to His Own Heart. Love is freedom to choose who we love and how it is expressed. I want my husband to know that I love him more. I want my children to know I love them more. I want my friends and church to know I love them, too. But does Jesus know that I love Him more… that is the secret of success as a believer. When I love Jesus more than sin, I will stop doing those things I do not want to do. When I have experienced God’s Love testing all of its parameters it is clear that it never runs out for me. I cannot overstep it, outlast it, or move far away from it. It is pursuing me. Unfailing love that I am incapable of but am offered every day with the new mercy when it arrives. Nothing can separate me from God’s Love other than my decision to reject it. Even in bad choices, God’s Love remains, His Grace sufficient and His Power available to me. I cannot shake off, sin way or kill God’s Love for me. How about my love for Him? Do I love Jesus more today? It is the very thing that empowers our choice called freedom. When we use our freedom to love Him more, we will have the rich and satisfying that the Lord has purposed for us!

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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.

 

So Inclined

so-inclined

Romans 7:21-25 (NLT) I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

To be so inclined means wanting to do something or likely to do something. It is the impulsive nature of our species to give in to emotions or feelings. Usually based on habit, it is considered the “way we always have done it”. Inclination is not a fan of change as it is uncomfortable like a steady slope of the next mountain. Our faith would move mountains if trust was a factor. Our inability to trust the Lord before the mountains causes us to climb up the grade which makes maintaining a vertical position with the Father more challenging as gravity tries to pull us back to a horizontal position with the world. This place is called compromise. It is a location somewhere between who we were and what the new person that God has called us to be.

Paul summed it up in these words – “I have discovered the principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” Our love affair with Jesus is established through a relationship with Him that is vertical. However, we are not born in love with the Lord but in strict opposition as sin makes it so. Through repentance changing our position by turning from sin to embrace the Light of His Love immersed in amazing grace that a robe of righteousness becomes our bride clothes and He places the ring of covenant on our finger as we become one with Christ. As in any marriage, it is giving up our way to follow one way. Marriage is compromise. Two imperfect people who try to create the perfect union. No one gets married thinking divorce is an option yet it is statistically proven that more marriages fail then succeed. The institution of marriage requires us to leave our past to secure our future. We must cut all ties of our former life and become united to our partner. Love in the early stages is footloose and fancy free. Everything our love does is cute. Once the party is over and real life begins – it quickly becomes clear that maintaining a lifelong union is work – hard work because it is our nature to give up our personal freedom for anyone else. The struggle is real.

To be so inclined in our spiritual walk is disaster. This is the realm called compromise and it is a killer. When we rely on human emotions and naturally feelings to make our way clear, it leads us straight into the wilderness. It compromises our safety and security in the Lord because we are no longer seeking the refuge of righteousness but trying out other avenues. There is but one way. Jesus Christ is the gateway to our future. (John 10) Just as He provides for us and protects us in the place of righteousness. He also keeps the thief from making his way in to plunder our goods. But the gate is open and we are free to come and go as we please. Jesus Christ sets us free to choose each day. Those who choose to wander will experience great loss. Those so inclined to inspect the fields of others rather than enjoying the lush, green grass of obedience may stray too far. It is important to determine our position in life. If we are so inclined by our behavior, it is important to examine our heart and mind to commit all areas to Christ before it’s too late.

Genesis 19:15-16 (NLT) At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!” When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful.

Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) is a Biblical story most are familiar with. A city given to sin, depravity and perversity. Abraham interceded for the cities as he had family there. God would not forsake his wrath on the community but indeed honored Abraham’s request. The Lord spared Lot and his family or at least those so inclined to leave. The angels of destruction told Lot, “Hurry!” But Lot “still” hesitated. The Lord was merciful in moving Lot, his wife and daughters from the city. However, the city was still inside of them. Lot hesitated. When the messengers of God told him to leave – he waited. When they showed where to go – Lot compromised asking to be moved to a different location. His wife directly defied the order of the Lord and looked back longing for her home. She did not make it to safety. His daughters decided to take their future in their own hands deceiving their own father to become pregnant. Their sons would become the Moabites and Ammonites who constantly were battling the Israelites. All because they were so inclined. This family was spared because of the prayers of a righteous man – Abraham. However, though they left the city of sin – they could not overcome the inclination to sin. A lack of trust inclines us to compromise. Compromise does not receive the promise but breeds compromise throughout just as a little leaven makes a loaf – it ferments and rises within us taking over the faith God planted in our hearts for salvation sake.

Matthew 13:33 (NLT) Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

It is important to constantly evaluate the contents of our life. Just as the smallest seed of faith produces an abundance of God in our life, sin also can produce an abundance of doubt and fear in us that causes us to hesitate, look back, and even go back. It breeds complacency that makes us lukewarm and therefore vomit in the mouth of our Lord. It is the even the slightest inclination to do our will or accept the world’s standard that threatens us and our position of righteousness. Later in Matthew, it is clear that even religion can become an inclination if not careful to keep our heart and mind focused on the Lord.

Hebrews 10:37-39 (NLT) “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.

Are you looking back or looking around? It is time to look up. God has established a way of living through His Son, Jesus Christ that far exceeds anything I can think or imagine even to ask for. It is in fixing my eyes on the Lord and casting down every thought that is not in alignment that secures my vertical position. I am human. I make mistakes…every day. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard. The standard of living in this world is nothing compared to our new life in Christ. Regret and fear cause us to doubt that which faith secures. Hope begins to break down as we lose our grip on the reality of faith to delve back into the things of this world. Don’t beat yourself up. Today is a new day and God faithfully provided new mercy for such a time as this. In fact, He gives us new mercy because we are so inclined.

The truth is no one can claim righteousness outside of Jesus Christ. (Romans 3) Sinfulness is the natural state of every human being. The only way to be righteous is to put our absolute faith in Jesus Christ and learn to trust Him completely in all things. The Word of God promises that there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. He knows our weaknesses and died for every sin from the smallest to the largest. His Grace is enough for me. In fact, it becomes my strength when I can’t do it anymore. When I am weak, I am strong. The change of heart that is needed is simple. “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” Do I love Jesus more than sin? This is the deciding factor that produces a life of faith, hope and love.

Romans 12:2-3 (NLT)  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

God is willing to transform you into a new person by changing your inclinations. Inclination is a disposition of the mind and will. Our mind is bent toward sin naturally deviates towards it. It is difficult to change our attitudes, actions and habits. It is important that we filter every thought and notion for inclination toward the Lord. We must be inclined to please God which defies human nature completely. Our filter must be constantly refined as we grow in the Lord. Pride will take many forms for self-preservation. We must behave as foreigners who live in allegiance to the Kingdom and not our temporary home. To move means a change of heart, change of mind and change of position as we live vertically not inclined to compromise any longer.

Colossians 3:5-10 (NLT) So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

My latest hobby is redoing old furniture. My latest find was a dining room table left out for the trash. It has a solid pedestal with a round oak top that the previous owner no longer wanted and felt it worthy of garbage. I retrieved it as my next masterpiece. It’s funny to hear the comments of my family over my garage sale, thrift store and roadside finds. There is something completely satisfying about taking what was tossed out and turning it into a treasure. After cleaning it thoroughly removing all the grit, grime and children’s stickers that covered the bottom. I set to stripping the layers of wear and tear from the surface. After about three hours of sanding and smoothing, it was without a single blemish. This process always makes me think of God working on me. His Care to fix and refine every broken area of my life even those areas I don’t think need improvement. He continually refines and resurfaces me making me into the new creation that He promised. I am so thankful for Jesus and His Absolute Insistence on not leaving me as I was.

We contribute to this process by making it a conscious effort and total commitment to be faithful in all things. The Bible points out the obvious strongholds of sin. It is our willingness to pay attention and direct energy and effort to overcoming our feelings and dealing with such things that give us confident hope to secure our faith. We must examine and evaluate all attitudes and actions that sum up our behavior to determine if they are in alignment with Christ. This includes every word that we speak. (Ephesians 4) It is how we act in church and what we allow to exist in the Body as acceptable. (2 Corinthians) It is important that we do not become so full of self that our religious actions become a righteous platform to spew venom on the tiny seedlings in the hearts of new or young believers. If Christ did not feel it necessary to bring condemnation, why do we? The only emotion worthy of keeping and submitting to the transformation power of God is love. In fact, our love for the Lord should be the plumb line of our life. It demonstrates a vertical connection. When I can choose to love even my enemy, I am showing more than ever my complete faith in God and total trust in His Power.

I John 3:18-22 (NLT) Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

What is your greatest inclination today? What is the prevailing feeling that is dictating your course of action? Those who choose Christ will press forward rather than giving in to that which so inclines us. By faith, we become rooted and grounded in the Love of Jesus Christ. Our faith becomes sustainable and hope the anchor for our souls. By beginning to invest our expectation into this love affair, we begin to change and be transformed by God’s Love. A spark turns into a fiery passion to know Him more. Our feelings no longer will matter when faith takes over. God is greater than our feelings. He is not moved by our opinions or faults. The Lord just waits for us to change our inclination so He can change our heart. To say, “Well, that’s the way I am” is to give in to the lie of the enemy that God’s Love is not real, His Power ineffective, and the Life of Jesus Christ is not enough. You don’t mean that. It is your flesh speaking. What does God say about you? To sum it up, God loved you more than anything and proved that He thought you were to die for. Isn’t that enough to incline you to decide He is enough to live for?

I Peter 2:11-13 (NLT) Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

Not By Might

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Zechariah 4:6-7 (NLT) Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”

When our children were very small, I taught a class at the local technical school to supplement our income. It allowed me to stay home with the children during the day. The children would stay with my husband and grandma would offer a helping hand. Our youngest was born with a very strong will. She contains quite an impressive purpose if it will require the level on stubbornness or maybe I should call it personal drive. At any rate, she was playing on the neighbor’s playset with the other neighborhood kids. One of other siblings was with her, watching over her, helping her and attempting to keep her in check. She was toddling up one side of the jungle gym and attempting to turnaround to sit on the slide. Now if you have ever watched a small child attempt such a feat – it can be quite humorous. At this stage of development, it can be quite awkward. Her brother reached out to assist her. She drew back quickly, “I do it myself” were the final words as she fell out the other side to the hard ground below. Surveying the damage, her wrist broken in two places. If only she had accepted the help that was offered, she would have successfully completed her mission down the slide that day and many more rounds I am sure. But now she had to wait and watch while all the other kids enjoyed playing together with a cast and strict restrictions.

Independence is human nature. The desire for freedom strong in our DNA. Yet, so often it is in our inability or ignorance that produce delays, detours and disappointment. Our heart is filled with eternity. God put it there during creation knowing that sin would cause us to long for and desire other things. Yet there is a desire for completion and fulfillment that cannot be denied or met with the things of this world. Only righteousness will ever satisfy the eternity placed there. The Plan of God gives us a future and hope that is fully achieved by faith and confident hope. The Word of God is His Way and His Will clearly defined for His People. One’s perception of God’s Word is defined by which side of freedom our life is based on. Freedom to choose or Freedom in Christ.

Zerubbabel was chosen to be the leader of the tribe of Judah. God ordained him to rebuild the temple including many of the gates leading in and out of Jerusalem. God brought Zerubbabel and Judah back from captivity and restored them. Zerubbabel laid the foundation with plumb line in hand. However, after that it would take 16 long years to begin the work to complete it. The purpose of God for our life always begins with a firm foundation of faith, a process to produce confidence in our hope, and ultimately leads to fulfillment. However, it is vital to our potential that these words are fully understood today – “It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit.”

Hebrews 6:10-12 (NLT) For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

Sowing and reaping or planting and harvesting is a principle set forth by God that works naturally and supernaturally. What a man sows he reaps. However, naturally productivity and supernatural productivity are cultivated differently. What is possible for man is possible with God but what is impossible for man is also possible for the Lord as well. We are the weak ones in the connection not the Lord. He has set forth in His Word the way to achieve salvation, righteousness, blessing and prosperity. It is all according to His Will. We just need to walk in His Way. Is this a violation of freedom? No, in fact, this is exactly what freedom is. The opportunity to choose our way. Love cannot be forced or it is not love. My strength is weakness. For when I am weak, then I am strong and God’s Power works in me. When the foundation of faith is established in us when we first believed, it is not a knowledgeable decision but a heartfelt one. The trouble is over time – we change our mind. There are two components that lead to fulfillment obedience that is an attempt to follow the Law or willingness which is also defined by obedience but on the basis of love.

The difference between religious and willing obedience is radical love. We can attempt to live by the Law and do all it says and the law of sowing and reaping will produce good things in our life but it will not secure our place as Child of the Living God. It will not complete us. It will not satisfy our soul. The radical love of Jesus Christ allows us to accept His Spirit to help mold and shape our heart into a willing vessel that obeys the Word of God, follows the Way of the Lord and lives according to His Will because of His Great Love for us that keeps us in love with Him.

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

I believe the body of Christ and its many members are frustrated. Doing the “right” things, they are not getting the expected results. What do you expect? Our expectation will never be met until established firmly on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other foundation for us. (I Corinthians 3:10-11) A divided life will yield diversified results. The foundation of faith is established in the Truth that God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for my sins so that I would be free to build my life where I choose to. If I choose Jesus Christ, it reconnects me with the Father now I am a Child of God. This relationship is founded and rooted in love. Love that promotes a desire and willingness to please the other person. No relationship can grow when one partner decides to withhold bits and pieces of self from the other. It is our constant desire to become one and passion for the other that writes a love story. Without love, I am not God’s Child but simply His Servant.

Love at first sight does happen. Most fall in love with Jesus Christ without really even knowing him. I believe in such a love and experienced it with my husband. I believe that God prepares people for such partnerships and when you meet that person – His Spirit inside of us says, “Hey, that’s the one.” My daughter and her husband were attracted to one another in elementary school. Love is the driving force with in us. It is the knowledge of God that takes our imperfect love and makes it strong and secure. His Love for us allows us to love others fearlessly.

I John 4:16-18 (NLT) We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

The dash between our birthday and the day of death is significant. It represents one’s success or failure in knowing the One True Living God and the acceptance or denial of His Love. I believe that this is also the purpose of endurance. The Lord ordained Zerubbabel with a purpose. The purpose would take commitment far greater than the man was born with. He would need time to prepare for the task set before him. Sixteen years to be exact, during that time he rebuilt his home and helped others do the same. Plowed up abandoned fields, planted new crops and harvested greatly. Our life is has potential that requires godly preparation.

God promised Zerubbabel that nothing would stand in his way of completion. Not time, testing, trials, or temptation would keep him from triumphantly rebuilding the temple. It was when the Spirit of God finally got to the tender heart that the tinder there became a fiery passion to fulfill his purpose. He built the foundation. He was faithfully obedient to the Lord. Until his acceptance of His Purpose was wrapped in faith and confidence of God’s Great Love and consummated in the Spirit – he had to wait. When God’s Spirit filled his heart – Zerubbabel was filled with God’s Power which is always His Love.

Perfect love expels fear. This is confirmed in Nehemiah. The rebuilding of the wall became a battleground. Men had mortar in one hand and a sword in the other. (Nehemiah 4) Stay with me – God’s Power is His Love. God’s Strength is in His Sword which is also His Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17) The Spirit produces love in us (Galatians 5:22) The Spirit is nourished and sustained by God’s Word using it to build confidence in God’s Love for us. (Romans 8:38-39) It is the absolute and complete confidence in God’s Love that is our hope. God’s Word is a two-edged sword splitting open our heart separating human indifference and spiritual desire so passion for the Lord rises up in us. The Sword is also referenced as the tongue of our Savior in Revelation. (Revelation 1:16) His Spirit is the Power. His Word is the Sword that the Spirit uses in our defense and protection. It fortifies the foundation called faith and enables to withstand the storms of life. (Luke 6:46-49) We worship in Spirit and Truth. These two essential qualities empower us to overcome every obstacle and live in the fulfillment of purpose promised by God. It is the certainty that when we live in God’s Love that we overcome every single time. We win.

I Peter 5:9-11 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.

Are you discouraged today? Disappointed? Heart sick because your promise seems to be delayed? Don’t be. God will not send you in a battle you cannot or will not win. He goes before us preparing the way of provision, protection, prosperity and, of course, victory. You are not stepping into your promise or purpose because you are not ready for the battle. Our strength fails when the battle is the Lord’s. If it is connected to your potential, purpose or promise – it is achieved by His Spirit in us. If our spirit man is flailing in faith or lagging in hope or sluggish in love – God is protecting us by keeping us in His Hand for now while we grow, develop and mature our faith and confident hope in him more specifically His Love. When our full expectation is placed in God, His Spirit and His Word accepted fully by the Grace of Jesus Christ imparted to us – we will succeed in overcoming every obstacle and be victorious in all things. We do not fight like other people. Our weapons are not carnal. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) We battle self. (Romans 7:22-23) We battle the enemy. (John 10:10) Until we overcome fear, doubt, insecurity, and become fully convinced that God’s Love always wins – we will wait.

“Not by force” – obedience will not force God to do what we want Him to do – it is radical love that opens God’s Heart and releases His Hand to us. “Not by strength” – My weakness allows His Strength and Power to work through me. I must be a willing vessel fully operating in confidence of God’s Love. The Word continues to strengthen my foundation of faith and arms my hand for battle. I must keep my Sword ready at all times. My purpose is at stake. Willingness comes as the Spirit changes our mind about the Lord. The more we love Him and believe how Great Unfailing and Faithful His Love is for us – we are one step closure to having our promise and achieving our purpose. Until then, God protects our purpose until our Spirit is able to apprehend us with love. We need God’s Spirit to take His Truth and make it a reality in our life. He does it because He first loved us. We must return to our first love. Allow His Spirit to be fully consummated in our heart and produce the love that becomes a burning passion for the Lord. To know the Love of God firsthand turns obedience into a privilege.

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.

 

 

Worth the Fight

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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.

 

 

Watchtower or Worm Plant

watchtower-or-worm-plant

Psalm 85:6-9 (NLT) Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory.

Revive us again, Lord. The cry of the modern day church is loud and clear. We wait for the Glory of God to fill our churches spreading out across the land. We desire the next great move of God to sweep through our country but do we really know what that will look like? God revives us individually through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ day by day. His New Mercy meets us each morning to prepare us for a new day with another set of choices and footsteps of opportunity to respond to His Gentle Summoning and Still Small Voice. I believe that the outcry of the Body of Christ is within earshot of God but He knows in His Omniscient Wisdom that His People have no idea what exactly they are asking for. It is important to understand what it is exactly when the Lord His Spirit and an outpouring as Joel hints at is made manifest on the earth. This is not a personal plea for our individual life. Revival is a wide spread epidemic of repentance that draws all people to the Lord.

Psalm 85:10-13 (NLT) Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.

What a beautiful thought! Unfailing love and truth meeting together consummating to provide righteousness and peace to all mankind. As men and women grasp this new place in God – it begins to live and breathe inside of them producing a Gospel of Love to reach the farthest place in this big world. Right? The Lord pours down His Blessings. To us right…to those who are righteous. To those who “have” repented, right? The abundance of heaven is for God’s Children. The ones who live right. Do right? Speak truth. Those who are generous in all things. The do-gooders right? It belongs to us. We are waiting for You, Lord to come and fill “the temple” of our church with your great love and prosperity. It’s all about me…I mean us. The rain falls on the just and unjust. God is ready to bring revive and bring to life every seed of potential called eternity in every human heart. This is revival. It is the justice of God for all mankind. Not judgment against those who don’t get it…yet.

Jonah 4:5-7 (NLT) Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away.

Poor Jonah! We have heard of his plight. God tells the prophet to go to Nineveh and tell the people that the Lord is about to destroy them. Apparently Nineveh was not a good place but filled with prevailing evil that had drawn the attention of God. Jonah did not want to go to this wretched place to warn the unsavory and violent people of God’s Wrath. So he thought he chose a ship headed in the opposite direction that turned into whale food. The whale deposited Jonah on the beach and Jonah obeyed God. Upon his arrival, he shouted to all the people that in 40 days God would destroy them according to their sin and betrayal of him.

Well, Jonah did not expect them to respond as they did. They didn’t throw him out of the city. They listened and believed. All the people including the king repented and returned to the Lord. When God witnessed their change of heart, He relented and did not carry out the destruction. Revival broke out in Nineveh that day. One might think that Jonah would rejoice and in turn seek justice from God for these people, but instead he climbed a nearby hill overlooking the city and waited for God to destroy them anyway. When God did not destroy the city for its overwhelming city but honored their return to Him and rending of their hearts – Jonah was mad. In his anger and distress, God arranged for a temporary shelter in the form of a “leafy plant” to spread its leaves over his pouting prophet and shade him from the sun. He also arranged for a worm. The worm ate the stem of the plant. The plant represents God’s Grace for Jonah as the Lord reasoned with Him. The worm is the bitterness that comes when a person chooses judgment over mercy for others. Poor Jonah! He was waiting for judgment but God provided justice. When a person repents, He offers righteousness. Jonah thought he was right, but God honors righteousness.

Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT) I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

Habakkuk was crying out for revival. This man was waiting and watching for the Lord to come and shower righteousness on the people. He said to the Lord, “I will wait to see what the Lord says and how He will answer my complaint.” Expectation makes all the difference in the world. While Jonah expected judgment, Habakkuk desired justice for the people. There is a difference. Judgment is the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion or conclusion based on current circumstance or evidence presented. Justice is to be just, righteousness, equitableness, and moral rightness. There is a profound difference in these two words.

John 3:17-21 (NLT) God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

There is no judgment or condemnation in Jesus Christ. His Spirit who is the very essence of revival is not being poured out in judgment but to offer justice. To pay the debt of sin owed by every single person and offer the grace that is enough to overcome every test, trial and temptation ever faced. To cry out for revival is to swing wide the doors once housing religion to allow the Light of His Love to illuminate the way from every reprobate, perverse, violent and felonious person to enter our sanctuaries and discover our Great God. It is a cry for every sinner to meet our Savior. Is it what we really want? As Children of God, it is important to look around our waiting room and prayer room to discover what it is made of. To inspect our heart and examine the contents thoroughly. Revival is not here yet for a reason.

Luke 15:25-32 (NLT) “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

What if that thing desired, but delayed is not because of the Lord but by me? Could it be that the Great Outpouring of His Spirit called revival is to protect me from myself? The prodigal son had returned home safely. The brother who remained at home working side by side with his father was angry. Like Jonah, he expected his father to punish his brother for his abandonment and rebellion, but instead the father celebrated his return. He would not attend the banquet held in his honor. Justice declared the son a son and safely home. Judgment cried for punishment for wrong doing. Mercy always triumphs over judgement because Jesus came to give us all grace. A son is a son to God and a daughter a daughter through true repentance. Can we accept that in our church setting?

Rightness has no place in the church. Righteousness is the relationship offered only through repentance and acceptance of God’s Grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. Religion is to add order to the body to incorporate a higher standard than already set forth by God. Why do we attempt to crucify sinners? We hug them and welcome them into our churches. It makes us feel good to help someone who is struggling. We want them to come to the empty altar – God knows we don’t need it anymore – yes I am being sarcastic. Why are the altars empty? Because we don’t believe they are needed in our rightness. We talk about the sin of other people ignoring the most vile sin of all – self-righteousness. I am a sinner. I need the Savior. Every single day of my life from here to Eternity I need His Grace and Mercy to cover me. The moment I think another person deserves less than God’s Full Justice or my full attention in sharing His Love – my own life is in jeopardy.

“For your brother was dead and has come back to life!” This is what revival looks like to God. It is for restoration of life. It took only one sin to require every ounce of Jesus’ blood. There is no hierarchy of sin and nothing anyone can do to earn salvation. When we are ready to receive every single person with mercy – the Lord will spark revival in our midst. When saints of God cut down the worm plants and choose watchtowers waiting for God to revive all mankind again – change will come. The only righteousness possible is through the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ who doesn’t offer judgment but justice to all mankind.

Isaiah 30:16 (NLT) So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

Where are you waiting today? If you are waiting on God to judge the world, the shelter you sit in may just be God’s Grace protecting you while He changes your heart and mind. God desires mercy. So much so in fact that He gives it to us brand new in each day. Our hearts must become soft and pliable filled with compassion overflowing in grace. If the first thing you notice about someone is their sin or appearance, you may be in danger of judgment. Judgment causes us to fall under judgment again. It is one of the biggest things holding back revival. God is after hearts today beginning with each one of us. We must wrap our head and heart around true repentance and righteousness to offer it to another. If the altar is a foreign place, maybe its time for a return trip. Consider your conversation. What do you say about the lost? Wandering? Those who live beneath your expectation. Your opinion is judgment. The truth is that God has no grandchildren and Jesus no stepbrothers or stepsisters. God’s Grace poured out to you the “good” kid is equal for all God’s Children. The Lord is waiting for us to change our opinion of others so He can send them straight to us. His Grace is all we need. His Love is the binding force that allows His Spirit to flow through us. It doesn’t matter how much you or little you do when it comes to His Love. It is there for the asking. Lord, change our hearts and minds to always walk in righteousness not rightness. Lord help us to love justice and never again walk in judgment. Increase the fruit of your spirit especially mercy until our love for others is equal to ourselves. Mercy always triumphs over judgment. God delights in those who show mercy.

Proverbs 8:19-21 (NLT) My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver! I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice. Those who love me inherit wealth. I will fill their treasuries.