A Single Meal

Used Plate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where You Go

Where you go

Ruth 1:16-17 (ESV) But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

What caused Ruth to make such a declaration to Naomi? Reading this passage today, I am struck by her commitment to her mother-in-law. Naomi was obviously grief stricken and hopeless. She had lost her husband and both of her sons. Her other daughter-in-law had taken her advice. Why was this one being so stubborn? Something in Ruth would not let her go back to where she came from and she could not return to the way it used to be so she made this commitment to her future – “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Ruth became attached to Naomi’s hip. She would venture into a new place and find a new husband. The future of both women would be secure for the rest of time and they would find their images clearly set forth for others in the Word of God. Ruth made a commitment to Naomi that day that would change her whole life. What would happen by doing the same thing to Jesus Christ? What are the possibilities if rather than running from place to place looking for immediate gratification or rainbows rather than rain? What might happen if someone…anyone…decided to see where faith might take us and just what hope really looks like? Nothing is impossible for the one who believes.

Genesis 28:10-17 (ESV)  Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

I think everyone will agree that life does not always turn out as one expected. Jacob was running from his brother. His own flesh and blood who Jacob bought Esau’s birthright with a single meal and tricked his father into releasing Esau’s blessing. Esau hated Jacob. Joseph dreamed of his brothers bowing down to him but wound up in a pit, sold to slavery, falsely accused, sitting in a prison, still being faithful yet forgotten. No one for sees the hardship that leads to fulfillment. Those situations and circumstances that turn our hearts back to the Lord. We must live not only hand in hand with the Lord carefully walking His Way but chose to live heart to heart with Him. Since it is our calling to walk by faith and not by sight, the vantage point of our voyage is not always a clear cut perspective of the pathway to promise. We stumble along groping to see God in the chaos of our life. Jacob was no different. Life had not turned out as he expected. He was in the middle of nowhere and weary so he found a stone to lay his tired head on.

Perhaps, you can relate. You love God. You love Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Life has been a struggle. Times just a little too tough. The enemy is chasing you into the wilderness of the unknown or at least you think. There is no one left to rely on or call out to. All your family and friends are too busy or long gone. Now what? The Lord came to Jacob that night to give him a new perspective. Could it be that is all that is needed by you? To see that God is with you. He is for you. He will never leave you or forsake you even in the most unlikely of places. I know I need that, too.

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it…

What is your dream? Where is your destiny? Are you desperate to find your way through the wilderness to the promise of God? What if you have to stay right where you are to find Him? What if the course of life you are traveling is exactly what God has for you? It is important to see God in the moment rather than looking all around. Christ lives in us so the atmosphere around us has no impact on faith and hope. No matter if life is beautiful or barren – God is with us. He is for us. He will stop at nothing to have us or to be sure we have His Promise. In that place, God opened Jacob’s eyes to see Heaven on the earth. Is it possible for us to do the same? To see things from the heavenly realm rather than being immersed in reality? I believe that it is. What if it is not in a dream or vision but so subtle that the human eye cannot perceive it? The disciples lived, ate, and existed in the Presence of God while Jesus was with them yet they all struggle with doubt and unbelief. They could reach out and touch the Messiah with their hands. Talk to Him. Know the Lord intimately and conversationally. Yet, still it was hard to believe.

Genesis 28:16-19 (ESV) Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel… 

Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head. He set it up for a pillar. He poured oil on top of it. He called the place, Bethel, House of God, or the holy place. What if you are standing on holy ground right now and don’t even know it? Where you go I will go Lord? The same Lord that orders our footsteps will fill them. He fills them with His Love, Grace, Mercy and Faithfulness so that our foundation is solid if only we will walk by faith. From the highest of hills to the lowest valley, He is with us pursuing us with unfailing love and goodness but it doesn’t always look like sunshine and roses. It might just be weariness that gives way to worship. Brokenness that opens up blessing in our life. The very thing that was the most uncomfortable the most fruitful. Jacob woke up from the dream and vision God had given him in the very same place but with a new perspective. He took the hard stone that was once his pillow and made it a pillar before the Lord.

Isaiah 43:18-21 (ESV) “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

Human expectation is the driving force of our flesh. It sets up our school of thought. It becomes our way of thinking. The flesh needs some sort of control. We take the Word of God and rather than allowing it to mold us, we try to shape it into some logical and applicable form according to our natural life and normalcy. When God does not do it that way, it becomes a fight in our mind and soul for ultimate control. God is doing a new thing in our life. It is for our good. It is to His Glory. If it can be explained away logically, who needs faith? God works in the impossible. Does your life look impossible to you? Is it hard to see the forest for the trees? Take off your shoes. Get on your knees. Raise your weary arms. You are not in the wilderness but on the way to your promise. The less logical life is the more miraculous it becomes.

Forget the former things. Do not conform your thinking to tradition. God is doing something new in you and through you that is not comprehensible in the flesh but must be observed solely by your spirit. Once you take hold of God’s Perspective, a life of worship is inevitable especially when you find yourself in the wilderness, wandering and wondering until worship finally finds you because you know God is with you! I have come to the conclusion that no matter what it takes I want the Lord to keep me right here until His Word is fulfilled. Some days it is easy. But there have been many more when the giants seem to get bigger and the promise even farther that I have to remember and remind myself that this is holy ground. My life is God’s Masterpiece and it is not ready yet. I must make the commitment like Ruth to Naomi that day, “For where you go I will go…”

Matthew 8:18-22 (ESV) Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

It is easy to get caught up in emotionalism and zeal for the Lord. To get all pumped up in church and crash into life just outside the door. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only way that you and I have access to the Father. Do we follow His Ways impeccably? To we know the Truth from cover to cover? Is it the wisdom of our life? Jesus understands our weakness. He was human once too. He knows that we struggle with our faith and ability to believe. His Words to the scribe seem harsh, but they are truth to feed our hungry, thirsty and weary souls today. “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Bummer right? Jesus was not saying looking for pity. No, the Lord was setting up expectation. Don’t make your home here. Set your sights on the heavenly not the earthly things. Jesus did not come to save the world but to save us. To move us from this life to eternity. “Follow me” is not a call to a better life but a new life. It is not an invitation for new comfort and convenience but to become a new creation. To be molded, shaped, pressed, crushed and broken so that the Lord can make you into a Masterpiece.

Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When God met Jacob in the desert that night, He did not divinely change his situation but confirmed his position. He reiterated the promise and potential of Jacob’s life to change his perspective. It worked. Will it work for you today? The hard place is giving way to a new life filled with promises and prosperity for the one who says, “Where you go, I go!” We must set our minds on Christ where He is and not focus on where we are. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and that’s a good thing for us. He is interceding for us. He knows our weakness and His Spirit helps us when times get tough. My new life is hidden with Christ in God. I find new life and full satisfaction when I live in His Presence even in the pits, prisons and problems of life. My situation cannot change the Way, the Truth and the Life living in me. It is all just temporary. Lord, help me to see You today. To take this hard thing and build into a new place of worship. Jesus, where you go – I will go! You will be my God and I am Your Beloved Child!

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Puzzles

puzzles

Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I have always enjoyed puzzles. Not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, they completely stress my husband out even at the preschool level. I think it is the concept that every piece has a place and if you just work it all everything fits together. There is a solution. I imagine this appeals to my need for order and control. Dumping the contents of the box on the table, sorting through each piece, separating the edges to begin with, it is no surprise that I found one waiting to be done at the Hope Lodge where my son and I stayed during his treatment. Caregivers and patients alike would join each other around the table to sort out and complete something when everything else in their life was turned upside down. Friendships were formed around the puzzle. Tears were shed as well. Time passed slowly yet somehow even on the hard days and darkest hours of the night there seemed to be something being completed and finished in our life.

On the box of every puzzle there is a picture of the completed product. The goal for which we strive in our endeavor to put all the pieces in their proper place. Don’t worry I am not going to continue to bore you with the semantics of puzzles but feel in my heart that it is the premise of unity in its example that we need in our churches today. Within each congregation new pictures and images have been formed of a body clearly defined and a Spirit fully formed. Division and dysfunction take over if we cannot find ways to fit together and find everything is falling apart. The longer a puzzle is spread out and fitted together – the more likely it will lose pieces along the way. Each piece has a place in the big picture that will never be fulfilled in its absence. Oh the Lord is speaking to us today as believers – we must come together. We must find our place.

“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” These words are scripted by Paul from a prison most likely with chains on his wrists, he still felt freedom in his heart. He called his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to come together. To unite and be one. It is our calling. How are we have come yet how spread apart also? We are part of one body. We are born of one Spirit. We are called to one hope. We have one Lord. We have one faith. We experience one baptism. We serve only one God. He is our Father. We are His Children. It is time for the family to come together.

When working on a puzzle, we look at the hole and search for the piece that will fit in it. Why are we going back to this? It is time to apply the same philosophy to the Body of Christ. The world in which we live thrives on grouping. I cannot help my kid with her math homework anymore because rather than simple arithmetic, it requires crazy regrouping. We divide people based on sex, race, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, diagnoses, and the list goes on and on. There is no push for unity because if we truly came together personal agendas would be destroyed. Everyone would have to give up something they want to become one with the other. To fulfill our calling in Jesus Christ is to surrender all of our life to become one with Him. We think we want it but does our life relay the same?

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

To create a puzzle an image is chosen and printed. The picture is glued on a board thick enough to fit together. A sharp blade then cuts into pieces which are amassed into the one that is bought and dumped out on the kitchen or card table where it will be put back together. The picture is chosen first. We are chosen. Our lives completely recorded and handcrafted by the Lord before we are born into this world. Before our hearts are broken, the Lord provided the healing needed to keep going. He knew the hardship to be endured so He provided all the grace needed in advance. He understood how much faith would be required to establish hope in our life so He gave it to us up front in the measure required. See all of this is part of a plan, picture, or masterpiece that God predestined before our birth. It is up to us to decide will we become part of the hope that is our future or will we just be a piece with a part of the picture never to be fulfilled.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

God designed the Body. He knows how it fits together and works properly. It would only seem logical to seek His Instruction (His Word) and His Guidance (His Spirit) for everyone to find their proper place. Pride is not a part of God’s Character. He is not arrogant. He is Sovereign. In order to find our place in the Lord, it will require submission and surrender on a level that humanity is not accustomed to. It is our vain glory that allows us to try to define worship, spout out praise, and live a life of service all the while glorifying ourselves rather than humbling, hopefully following the Lord to find our way and proper place in the Body of Christ.

No one can see your heart except the Lord. No one can fulfill your purpose other than a partnership with God the Father. He puts people around us to connect with and as a body we are to connect with those around us in other churches and throughout our community. Church is a living breathing body filled with Jesus Christ.

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! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”

I know that when I would sit and work on the “community puzzle” in the Hope Lodge that I would find rest for my mind. It would take my mind off the struggle and fight we were in if only to become lost in a pile of pieces in need of proper placement. While he lay sleeping, fighting, healing and recovering, I would sit with my new friends and talk about life before this tragic set of circumstances befell us. Since that time, I know of others who are now fighting the same fight. They post pictures of their puzzle creations. I look intently at each one. An effort to restore order in the midst of chaos. Busyness that calms the mind and quiets the heart if only for a few moments. I understand completely.

I wonder if rather than working on programs, projects, calendars, and promotions, the church and body of Jesus Christ worked on coming together in complete unity what might happen. What if we took the same diligence and thoughtfulness used in putting together a puzzle? Never quitting until the final one slips in its place and searching high and low for those who missing or lost, what would happen?

The Book of Ephesians is focused on Christianity as a whole. What it means to be a Christian in faith and in practice regardless of circumstance or condition focused fully on Jesus Christ. With this in mind, in the Book of Revelation, their error is made clear. The Lord knew of everything they were “doing” in His Name. Their hard work was no secret. They patiently endured trial and tribulation for being Christians. They did not entertain sin. Showing wisdom, they did not fall for the convoluted word and lies of false prophets but rightly discerned God’s Word. These people were not quitters but kept pushing and pressing no matter what. All of these qualities and characteristics were of God and done for His Glory, yet they were in clear danger of missing it altogether.

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Many of the people who sat around the puzzle with me at the Lodge are with Jesus now or at least I hope so. As we worked together in that place, there was never an argument or dispute just love, kindness and compassion for each other. Why can’t we come together like that as believers?

Years ago Rubik’s Cubes were popular. Do you remember them? A 3-D puzzle in the form of a plastic cube covered in multicolor squares. Twisting and turning each section, the object was to have all of the same color on one side. I would work that thing for hours until one day I discovered that if I popped one out that they all fell out. I could take each piece and put it in its proper place suddenly the endless process all came together quickly. I never knew the satisfaction of completing it without cheating. I gave up. It was easier to do it that way but over time the cube was not as tightly together and became loose until one day the pieces just fell apart. There is a process in unity that brings satisfaction when the Body of Christ presses through the pain, pushes past their problems, stops defining one another by differences, and puts in the time, twisting and turning until believers come together as a well-formed properly place body. Everyone is necessary.

The only way to work this out is to stop looking for the differences in one another and find our likeness. Likeness will turn into acceptance. As we accept one another as we are applying grace just as God gives it to us a bond is formed called relationships. My shoulder has a relationship with my arm including my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. My muscles and tendons allow it all to relate and work together so that I can use it. They are doing so as I type the message today. If a tendon is damaged or muscle is torn suddenly my entire arm including all of its parts could be impacted. Why? They were created to work together. God has given us one another for a purpose. We must love one another not just in word or deed but from the heart. Love is our likeness. It is this kind of relationship that will form the Body of Christ creating the masterpiece that God created us to be. Every person in proper placement. Churches without walls that come together to promote the Good News and find another missing person who has fallen out of place. When our purpose forgets people we have missed it altogether. What if we looked at ways to make people fit in rather than exclude them? Imagine the possibilities.

Lord, teach me to see people like you do. Impress upon my heart unity, love, compassion and grace for all people in all things never to drive them away but draw them closer to You. Forgive me for all the times I compared them to my standards rather than embracing them with Your Love as instructed. I want to be part of a fully functionally perfectly constructed masterpiece. Humble me in Your Presence Lord. Teach me Your Gentleness, Love and Kindness again and again until I get it and give it to all people unconditionally. Remind me today and always that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as (I am) called to one hope (with) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Lord teach me unity, bind it with love, so we can come together and be all you have designed us to be!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

 

Collard Greens Song

Collard Greens Song

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

Riding home one evening from dinner, the radio was playing softly in the background. I heard a song that I really liked begin to play. Turning it up, I told my husband to listen when my girls shouted from the backseat. “Turn it up, mom. It’s the Collard Greens song.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Why do you call it the Collard Greens Song?” I couldn’t help but ask. They responded in unison, “Because that’s what he says.” We turned up the music to listen more intently for the words they insisted were in the song. Well, the song is called “Call It Grace” by Unspoken. The chorus is “Some call it foolish and impossible but for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle. It’s nothing less than scandalous this love that took our place. Just call it what it is…call it grace. In their defense, I absolutely can hear “collard greens” when they sing “call it grace.”

 

In the South, collard greens are a delicacy especially when someone knows how to prepare them properly. My mom used to buy huge bundles of them for holiday meals or special occasions. Preparing these massive plants for consumption is a chore. She would rinse the bundles in the sink and dump them in the washing machine. After a good rinse cycle, she would begin to cut away the rough stems holding the leaves together while a huge pot of water and salt was placed on the stove began to boil. Working diligently until every leaf was separated, she would put them in the pot with a ham hock, bacon grease or pork fat. As they began to boil, the house smelled awful. How something so tasty could smell so terrible is beyond me. My husband doesn’t like them and will not allow me to cook them in the house so my mother-in-law often prepares them for us. You might say to us southern folks a steaming pot of collard greens might be considered a masterpiece considering all the work that goes into their preparation for presentation.

 

God’s Grace allows us to become God’s Masterpiece. The process of grace is messy as God takes there terrible mess that sin has made of our life carefully working to remove it and replace it with His Grace and Power. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are saved by His Grace. It sounds so easy who would think it so difficult. However, it is difficult for many to receive God’s Grace as it is given and give it as is indicated in God’s Word. Why? We just don’t understand what it is and how it works. We might as well think like my girls who used to sing…”call it what it is…collard greens.”

 

Let’s start with the facts. Just the most primary basics of our new life in Christ. Salvation is not a reward therefore no matter what we did before receiving it or what we do once it is discovered impact its potential and outcome in our life. You cannot make salvation or work it out – it is a miracle of God presented to us for our acceptance or rejection. Nothing more or less. We cannot (or should not) boast about who or what we are in Jesus Christ because we are not the one’s responsible for the complete and total transformation that we are presently undergoing. Everything that is good in us is a direct result of Christ coming to live in us. Even self-control is produced by His Spirit. Grace is the promise, potential and power of God that creates the masterpiece that He predestined us to be. He is the Potter and we are the clay.

Jeremiah 18:11-6 (NLT)

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.

 

Romans 9:21-23 (NLT)

When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.

 

Grace is that thing which is eagerly accepted yet reluctantly given. It costs the giver something that the recipient is unable or unwilling to pay. Why? I don’t think everyone understands the magnitude and complexity of the grace that is given to us by God through Jesus Christ. Essentially, grace takes us from the trash and puts us into God’s Hand again. At first, our hearts are hard. Necks have become stiff and set in our own ways. By we are washed by the Word of God, and get a little softer. We are moistened by the Holy Spirit, who works in us and through us, to create a movable and shapeable form. Obedience begins to mold us into the more acceptable way which is beginning to manifest in waves of grace making its way throughout our life and things are getting better so that little thing called pride rises up within us telling us “look at what an awesome job you are doing.” Uh-oh. Boasting turns from what God is doing in us to what we are doing for God. Can you hear the inherent danger? The signals are coming off.

 

Now when people come to church immersed in their sin – they don’t look like us – the don’t smell like us – they don’t do the right things – they don’t know the words to the songs – they don’t act like we do – they don’t talk like we do – they are not one of us. His mercy is new every morning – and thankfully so. These presumptions made about others were once made about us. Relationships turned religious always make us look down. Our relationship to Jesus will not allow it because in His Grace all I can do is look up to Him because there is nothing worthy enough that I can do, say or be for Him. Jesus is everything to me. Those people who I am judging, talking about or looking down upon are me in the beginning I just don’t remember what Jesus did or truly understand this thing called grace.

 

I Corinthians 15:10 (NLT)

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.

 

Many people are crying out to God and pleading for revival. Hmmm… do we really know what we are asking for? The things of God are delivered by faith through the Grace of God. Grace is a continual flow or it becomes a stagnant pond. The very second that we determine something else is unworthy of God’s Grace. It stops. It doesn’t matter how hard I work, how much I serve, how anointed by God that “I” think I am, if I am not ever aware of His Grace and my responsibility to be gracious, it stops working in me completely.

 

What is the truth about God’s Grace? Sin has accomplished two things in my life – sin has produced inevitable eternal death and it has stripped me of God’s Glorious Standard of Living. (Romans 3:23-24) Grace fixed me. Faith in God through Jesus Christ by accepting and applying His Grace to my life allows me to have hope of eternal life AND to live according to God’s Goodness right here and right now. Grace is not an exclusive right but inclusive relationship. We are part of the Body of Christ now. There are no rogues. Rogues are labeled rebellious. Grace gives us the freedom to part ways with sin completely along with all its consequences and become part of something far greater and more powerful – His Kingdom. The Law condemned us and created religion to keep itself alive. I am bound to Jesus Christ in a covenant relationship by His Grace alone. Grace is the life changing message to be sent around the world. (Colossians 1:6) It will never make it until we know what it is and learn how to circulate it.

 

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

I was talking to one of my kids yesterday about grace. The more I shared the concept of grace with him concerning others the more I came to recognize how it works in our life. We cannot fathom grace in our strength but identify it in our weakness. When we are feel complete or whole, it is not something sought after or required but in our utter brokenness and total weakness that we desire it more and more. The Power of Christ is not sought after in what I can do but when I am absolutely convinced that I can do nothing that I find it. The process of transformation is much like the plight of the collard greens. Cut down in their splendor and beauty in the field. Rising up from a seed, enduring all seasons, and feeling as though it made it only to be cut down. In the kitchen of a chef, washed, cut, broken and prepared to be unceremoniously dumped into a pot boiling water cooking over fires of refinement. The heat unbearable the leaves become soft and soak in the flavors present all around them until finally ready. They are placed in a lovely bowl and presented to those who are hungry. Doesn’t grace work the same way?

 

God prepares us to be offered to the world. Not hard and unpalatable, but as living sacrifices who give off a flavor of grace to all that come searching. If I am not softened in the Hands of God until I am fit for His Service, there will be no revival. If I do not learn what grace really is, there will be no message to offer the world. I must understand grace. I must apply it practically and impartially in my life.

 

Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

 

Coming to the Throne of God asking for revival, I am humbled that what I need to get ready is more grace. He is a Gracious God. We must be His Gracious People. To be gracious means to be pleasantly kind and benevolent. It is to be merciful and compassionate. Jesus understands our weakness and when offered to Him can apply His Grace. We must learn to properly apply grace in our life as well. We must not treat the Grace of God as meaningless. (Galatians 2:20-21) Without God’s Amazing Grace our life is over. We have nothing. It will not end well for us no matter how good we think we are or how hard we try. The boldness that I have is my faith in the Grace of God given in the life of Jesus Christ. To put my confidence in anything or anyone else especially me implies that I have put another god in the place of the One, True Living God.

 

I Peter 1:13-17 (NLT)

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s Obedient Children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents”.

 

There is no sin in the Kingdom of God only grace. There is no hurt, pain, trial or trouble. Just immeasurable love and grace flowing down from the Father through His Son. As we work to build the Kingdom, we must be every mindful of the commodity on which His Kingdom operates. It is fully activated by grace. Unlimited grace. Forgiving grace. Applicable grace. Everything we do or so in this world should reflect God’s Grace, Love and Mercy which leaves no room for pride, separation or fear outside of complete reverence for the Grace given to us at such a huge price. Today as I get ready to head to church, I am reminded that over the years I have learned a lot about grace but today I am challenged to know more grace and be more gracious than ever before. God’s Grace working in me is the only hope I have that does not lead to disappointment but everlasting life. Grace is God’s Standard of Living that makes me prosperous and successful in this world and effective in sharing the Good News. Some call it foolish and impossible. But for my heart it is a miracle. This is the Love that took our place. So call it what it is – call it grace. I will never listen to the song “Call it Grace” without thinking about collard greens. I also won’t hear it again without thinking just a little bit more about this scandalous and precious gift given for me to give to others. Thank you Jesus for amazing grace!

 

Titus 3:7-8 (NLT)

Because of His Grace He made us right in His Sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial to everyone.

About Me

About Me

Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

 

Sound the trumpets! Start the music! Send in the clowns! No, wait a minute on second thought, no clowns! It is my birthday! Another year has passed by quickly, when I think of my age it is bittersweet. Today I am 49 years old. I have crammed a lot of life in the last almost five decades. Comparing the good with the bad, I would do it all over again because it seems that even in my bad choices or less-than-perfect decisions – God has proven faithful in turning it all into something good in my life. It takes some distance and time to see this unfold so the years have proven beneficial. I have never been one to dwell on my age or my birthday for that matter. I love to celebrate others but tend to be very uncomfortable when the tables are turned. I want to throw the party, buy the gifts, blow up the balloons and celebrate others. What I do not find extravagant for others may seem overkill for me. Why is that?

When I woke up this morning at the ungodly hour of 4:30AM, my precious husband immediately wrapped his arms around me to wish me a happy birthday and tell me how much he loves me. I am blessed. I truly am. My children could not wait until today and had to give me my gift last night – their excitement overwhelming as they waited in great anticipation of my response. I hoped I would be able to be excited enough to meet their expectation and I was. Yet again they did not disappoint but bought me the one thing I wanted but would not do for myself. As I sat down to seek the Lord, I was looking for something new about Him. Where would we go today? What would we do? What is the plan and my very next step? But that is not what God was thinking about today in this moment. He was thinking about me.

I joke with people a lot that I am God’s Favorite. Actually, I am beginning to believe it. When I look back over my life and see the careful workings of His Hands – it is obvious. As I look around me today at the life He has given me – I am even more aware. Looking into the future as His Plans are unfolding – I have confident hope. I can see the things that He is doing and already believe that there are other things too wonderful for me to even know to ask for. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I used to try to run back to the past to fix it, keep careful control every aspect of today not to blow it, and even plan for the future to the point of worrying more about tomorrow than considering today. I would love to testify that this was before Jesus. However, this behavior has marked most of my 49 years. As I sit in quiet contentment today, on my birthday, I am acutely aware of the Love of God that my life is wrapped in. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!

Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT)

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

 

Could it be in self-loathing that we become slave drivers of ourselves? We cannot fathom God or anyone else loving us unconditionally because we do not see our value and worth. You cannot truly share something with another person that you have not experienced yourself. I tried to share Jesus for years. I grew up Southern Baptist. We would “survey” neighborhoods cold calling like a vacuum cleaner salesmen on Saturday morning. I have had many doors shut in my face over Jesus than I care to count. I was terrified that someone would ask me a question or why they should ask Jesus into their heart and I would be clueless what to say. I knew of Jesus at that time. But I had not experienced a relationship with Him, so it was difficult to share Him with others. I wonder what would happen if people understood their value and worth to God. “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it!” Or should it read, “How well I know it?” Do you know? Are you confident in the workmanship of your life or do you feel like a mistake?

A precious teacher named Louella Marks shared Psalm 139 with me as a teenager. It changed me forever. I had a difficult childhood. The product of a divorce and difficult childhood, I struggled with self-confidence. I didn’t fit in. But when I read this chapter, something inside me clicked and I realized that not only did God love me but He made it personal. He paid close and careful attention to me. I am wonderful! I am complex! I am made of quality workmanship not a mistake. It was a complete revelation. I share this with you today for the very same reason. The details of our life do not define who we are. This was predetermined when we were created by God. It doesn’t matter how you got here what matters is what you do with the life you have been given. If you will learn to value yourself and see your life as God created it to be, maybe you can celebrate you just like He does. God paid meticulous attention to your creation. He did not leave a single detail out so every single moment of your life has great potential! You are a masterpiece!

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

I am God’s Masterpiece. The incomparable worth of my life cost God everything. He gave His Only Son so that I could have the plan that He prepared for me. It was not a done deal. Oh, settle down. Of course, the Cross was a done deal but my return was not sealed. God gave me the right to choose. When you consider the fact that God loves me so much that He gave His Son to die for me with the stipulation that I could choose whether or not to accept – it is mind blowing! As the mother of two sweet and precious sons with a third mine now by marriage, I wouldn’t give a single drop of their blood for another. As important as humility is in our relationship with the Lord, it is equally important that we know our true value and worth as well. Otherwise, we will never understand what a “big deal” we are to God and why He is so attentive to our life. The greatest hurdle for most people to overcome is themselves. Getting over our own faults and failures which we have allowed to define us to fully accept the divine destiny given to us before we were born and messed up! Everyone makes mistakes. His Grace is enough. I am God’s Masterpiece and so are you. He knew exactly what you do, choose and think before a moment in your life passed. So get over yourself and just accept you are God’s Favorite!

Daniel 9:22-23 (NLT)

He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision.

 

He explained to me, “(Your name)…you are precious to God!” This has fast become one of my most favorite passages in the Word of God. It is such an intimate exchange between Daniel and God. Intimacy is critical to understanding our value and worth to the Lord. Prayer is simply conversations with God. He doesn’t want a script just a sincere exchange. My husband is my life partner. We talk all the time. We long to be together. There are things we talk about together that no one else knows about us. We are in a relationship. Because of this connection, he goes above and beyond to celebrate my life on days like today – my birthday. See it is just another day for me – I will go to work, run by the grocery store, pick up the youngest from school and come home to do some housework. I am comfortable in the routine I call life. But for my family today is important. They love me. They appreciate me. They celebrate my creation. Judging from the things spoken to my heart today, apparently God does, too! Do you know how much He loves you today? He really does. It is not because of anything you have done, may do or intend to do – it is simply because it is you! God celebrates you! He calls you a masterpiece today. Every single blessing and promise that He has given you rides on this one truth. God loves you! So much so Jesus died for you! He lives in you! Today is about you! What will you do with His Love? Just speaking His Name releases commands in Heaven because of His Love and Commitment to you, my friend. Accept the unconditional love of God today! It will change your life forever. Become comfortable in who you are in Christ by understanding that the love that is all about you has nothing to do with you! You are very precious to God so why not live like it today and every day! Not just on our birthday…the Lord celebrates us every day!

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.