New Beginning

New Beginning

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Here we go again! Ever feel like life is vicious repetitious cycles rather than prosperous seasons. Hours turn to days becoming weeks until a month is gone and then a year has passed and yet nothing seems to be as wonderful as the hope once held on to so tightly. Life is tough. It is a struggle. To live for Christ is not always a happy place filled with sunshine and roses. There are dark days with thick cloud cover when it is hard to see the Lord’s fulfillment nearby. Of course, every rose has its thorns. It is easy to get caught up in the tangled mess of circumstances and unfavorable conditions pulling our focus from forever and the possibilities of our new life in Christ. Are you there today? Wondering when fulfillment will come or if it will ever be the way once envisioned? I have excellent news for you today straight from God. Each day you are alive is a new beginning waiting to happen. A word of encouragement and yes it may be a bit hard to swallow but in the end it will produce the life that He promised when He finished the work before us. Sometimes life must be viewed through the realm of hope for the joy set before us rather than the rearview mirror of life and experience that makes what we hope for so elusive.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. There are some key points in this passage that cannot be ignored. We must focus on one thing. Jesus Christ. We must invest our whole life – heart, mind, soul and body in our pursuit of Him. Christ alone is the cornerstone of life and foundation of faith that a blessed, favored and prosperous existence is established. Diversified living produces divided interests that are not all profitable. Our existence must be continually filtered through our relationship with the Lord in order to become a valuable asset. Forgetting what lies behind us and straining for the future means letting go of everything that keeps us tied to the past in order to fully embrace the new life offered in Jesus Christ. The call is upward. Symbolic of a mountain climb to view life from a new vantage point and see the beauty unperceivable by human eye but only fully disclosed in the Presence of God. You will fight yourself. You will fight the enemy. Those who battle these foes will find life filled with satisfaction just like the Lord promised those who seek His Face.

Lamentations 3:21-25 (ESV) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

I know what you’re thinking… another feel good message from an optimist. Not really…I just happen to have fully invested myself in the realm of hope. I wasn’t given a choice. To continue to live – I had to accept that there is life beyond today and a place for me in His Presence. When life no longer can be normal, it is the only option. There has to be a forever. There must be a Savior. I must seek Him until I find Him. He helps me in the process by providing new mercy each morning. If yesterday was a complete bust and I went to bed a failure all that changed when I woke up with new mercy waiting for me. His Grace is enough. It will always be enough. Jesus is from beginning to end. He is the Word. The Word cannot return void so nothing is impossible with the Lord. In every misstep and mistake, there is still a mission to be accomplished by divine direction that cannot and will not stop until it is complete. This is not because of my ability to be faithful and true. It is entirely based on the faithfulness of God and fulfillment of Jesus.

What does your soul say today? An empty soul cannot prosper and has nothing to offer your life. Our life prospers when our soul does. The Holy Spirit is the sole cultivator of our soul. He takes the measure of faith entrusted us and makes good fruit grow from it. He tills the hardest of hearts until it is fertile soil. He plants those seeds. He waters them with the Word of God. He carefully picks out the weeds with conviction. The problem is that the process takes time like any other season. We do not want to wait. We do not like discomfort and/or inconvenience. We abort the process and thereby the promise with it. So what does the Lord do? He gives us new mercy and abundant grace so a new life as a new creation is always possible to those who believe.

Zechariah 4:10 says, “ For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” We must not only recognize and rejoice in the smallest and minute areas of growth and development in our spiritual life. My husband gave me two hydrangeas last Mother’s Day. I love hydrangeas but am a well-known plant killer. I planted the little bushes in our flowerbed and walked away – literally. I went to inspect them after a long cold winter to find sticks where my plants used to be. I was a tad bit discouraged but what did I expect from my notorious black thumb. However, on closer inspection, I noticed new bright green leaves coming up from the ground and tiny buds covering the limbs. The plants are not dead but transitioning seasons. The dead leaves had to fall off to make room for new growth. I wonder if our inability to see past this season keeps us from recognizing the masterpiece that God is making in our midst. We despise those small beginnings as He takes the “plumb line” of Jesus Christ and measures our life. He is directing us upward to the high calling but we would rather wallow in the mud most days than engage in the process needed for new life.

Luke 1:37 (ESV) “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

If we must start somewhere, why not here? To wake up each morning expectant of His Love, Grace and Mercy ready to receive it on the principle that nothing, absolutely positively nothing, is impossible with God. We get to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We have the Word activated inside of us because Jesus entrusted His Spirit to us as a guide and cultivator of purpose in us. We must stand on the foundation of Christ by faith with the expectant hope that nothing is impossible if we believe. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. This is confidence. This is our conviction. Faith is the assurance of what we hope for based on the strongest of convictions that even though we don’t see it – we believe that all things are possible with Jesus.

Proverbs 20:21 (ESV) An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.

Matthew 24:13 (ESV) But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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Cross Examination

Cross Examination

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139 is my favorite of them all. The story of creation in the intimacy of the womb with a loving Creator who considered me thoroughly before He gave me a single breath. To know that God’s thoughts concerning me are precious and precise. This was the mirror of hope that gave me new life. To know that God lovingly and intentionally created me with purpose. To realize that my life is a plan proposed with enough love, mercy and grace to get me from here to everlasting life. I have been a believer for more than forty years now. In my teens, a youth worker introduced me to this simple truth. After years of contemplation, I am still completely in awe of God and His Goodness.

Psalm 139:1-6 (NLT) O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

The complexity of God’s Love revealed in the concept that though He examines my heart and knows everything about me…He insists on being with me every step of the way. On my good days, the Lord celebrates with me. On my not-so-good days, He lends an ear to my tearful ramblings catching each salty one in the palm of His Hand. On my bad days, He sees my rebellion yet still insisting to go with me and ready to respond the instant I turn back. His Love for me is unyielding. It is constant. Persistent. Pervasive. It is perfect yet I am imperfect. If God’s Love never fails me and His Grace is enough, why then would I need to examine my heart? Why the cross examination if He knows my faults, failures and weaknesses from the very start?

Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

The first and greatest commandment. The one that comes with a promise. The only thing that we must do to keep faith alive and hope confident. To love the Lord God with all my heart, my soul and my mind. The second is equally as simple as the first – to love others the same way. I wonder sometimes if we convolute the commandments with religious doctrine full of dos and don’ts because true love with deep conviction cuts our heart. It penetrates our soul intimately. It changes our mind completely. Flesh dies as the heart, soul and mind prosper. The collateral damage is crucified pride. In this selfless, helpless and weakness, our need to survive overshadows God’s Promise to thrive.

God loved the world by giving His Son to die and pay the price for our sin. My sin demanded every drop of Christ’s Blood so that His Grace would be sufficient for me. I was judged by the Glorious Standard set forth before my birth. God sent the Light of His Love to lead me out of the darkness and live in the Light. There is no judgment against anyone who believes. So why must I challenge myself with cross examination if I have been exonerated by the Blood of Jesus Christ? My faith must be genuine. It must be a valid component of who I am and what I believe. Apart from Christ, I am nothing. How is this possible when Psalm 139 describes a creature made fearfully and wonderfully…it is the potential of my faith revealed in God’s Word that precipitates the process of prosperity. As my soul prospers…so will I.

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. 

Sin will always offend God. Sin separates me from God’s Plan until surrendered to the Cross. The watered down gospel of grace that many hold tightly to will not produce the kind of life according to God’s Glorious Standard. All things are permissible to the believer. Whom the Son set free is free indeed. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. But not all things are beneficial. If I want the blessings and promises God imparted to me when I was created, I must examine my heart daily. Sin will always cause division. The unmentionables require cross examination. We cannot live a complacent existence but live in a crucified state. It sounds brutal. It seems harsh. People love options. They like to have an opinion. At the end of the day, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. To know Him is to love Him. I cannot do anything to be saved but daily yield my heart, mind and soul to Christ.

For some this will be a message of love, joy and peace as they enter a rest that they have not known. God is less interested in what we do than who we are becoming. If my love is not the product of faith, then it is impossible for anything I do to please God. We must examine our heart each day. Sift through the thoughts that clutter our mind. Surrender our soul the Sword of the Spirit so He can remove the hard exterior and expose the new life within.

I Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

What in me offends God? It is easy to be offended by the things of this world and people in it. But I wonder if I focused my efforts on the pieces of my broken heart that do not resemble the faith, love and confidence I have in Christ – I could love more, forgive more, and be more of who God created me to be. What if I evaluated my energy and efforts more than others placing my full expectation in Jesus Christ? Could it be that in my need to compare I have missed the inexpressible joy and perfect peace promised those who trust the Lord? I can only imagine as I examine my heart today what I will find there. Looking into the Word of God – I can see my reflection. Not of the person I am but the new creation that Christ wants to make of me. The fearfully and wonderfully made creation of Christ who will be a masterpiece if I just give Him my all today and every day. I want my faith to be genuine. I long to have a secure future filled with hope. Faith makes all things possible. I just have to believe. I am who He says that I can be. Lord, cross examine me today. Show me what offends you. I give you permission to remove it. Let your Spirit sow seeds of good fruit in its place. In all things Lord, be glorified in my life. Make my faith genuine and hope confident today and every day as I learn to live every aspect of my life in YOU! Less of me and more of You – Jesus!

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

Water on a Rock

Water on a rock

John 7:37-38 (NLT) On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

“I am like a drop of water on a rock. After drip, drip, dripping in the same place, I begin to leave a mark and I leave my mark in many people’s hearts.” These are the words of Guatemalan Human Rights Activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. It is a declaration of persistence. A canyon is not formed by the hands of man but by persistence water flowing through it. What mark am I leaving on the hearts around me? Do I speak life to them consistently? Do I use word to confirm God’s Love and Affirmation of them in order to show them the Light? What is my impact on others?

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide and about a mile deep. It is the result of the Colorado River running through it. Man did not design it or carve it from the rock masses but a constant flow of water slowly and persistently eroding the hard surface. It is majestic. It is flocked to by many visitors each year attracting tourists to Arizona just to behold its breathtaking beauty. A national attraction of unintentional creation by the Hand of God carved from rocks with a simple flow of water.

Do you feel like the Word you share with others is like water on a rock? You try to share the Love of God through His Word and according to His Spirit, but you are just not seeing any results. Jesus told those celebrating that day, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! And, “Rivers of Living Water will flow from their heart!” The power of God’s Word is not by force but by persistence. God does not force us to accept His Love and Grace but offers it daily. In the morning, there is new mercies not according to our faithfulness but the Lord’s Faithfulness. Every promise is “yes” and “amen” for us and His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us no matter where our feet may wander. His Grace is enough. Always sufficient. Christ gives me overwhelming victory just because He loves me so. Calling me “more than a conqueror” as He completes the good work started in me. He manages to use every detail of my life for good and His Glory. It just doesn’t make sense and it is very simple. Maybe that is why people have a hard time accepting it.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 (NLT) I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

“Dripping water hollows out a stone, not by force but persistence. (Ovid) Some translations of this passage say, “Be ready in season and out of season” to speak the Word of God. It seems that in times of drought and famine in our life that the highest platform is given. What will flow from me when my feelings take over? When pressed? When angry, sad, hurt, betrayed or offended? What will be the words that flow from the depths of my heart? It is from the abundance of the heart our mouth forms thoughts, ideas and words.

We must carefully consider the contents of our conversation. The Word of God is the water and the Spirit gives it life. In John 7, the rivers of living water are a mixture of Word and Spirit that will flow from the heart through the mouth making our witness productive in promoting the Kingdom. We must find truth in the Word and allow the Spirit to teach us God’s Wisdom to share His Love effectively and communicate it to the world. Jesus told the woman at the well about living water. He encouraged her to worship in Spirit and in Truth. In that moment, she forget those she was avoiding and the people who shunned her with boldness she went to them and shared her encounter with the Messiah.

Our message to the world will never be effective if put on reserve. Waiting for the right moment to sow seeds is not advantageous. We sow seeds in every season so there will be a harvest for the next. Withholding God’s Word and His Love from others promotes seasons of drought and famine. God will prosper those who continuously sow in season and out of season including the seeds of His Word into others. Husbands are encouraged to love their wives as Christ loved the church even “having cleansed her (His Bride) with the washing of water with the word.” I wonder what would happen if rather than forcing our convictions on others and withholding the grace given to us by Christ – we chose to carefully bathe and dress the wounds of the broken and lost what might happen? If our vocabulary was a constant drip of God’s Love, Grace and Mercy for us to others who need it as much as we do. Sin becomes less palatable when love is properly seasoned.

Proverbs 18:4 (NLT) The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

There is life and death in our words. The depth of our soul is revealed in our daily conversation. The Fruit of God’s Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness AND self-control. Our words should bear heavy fruit of the Spirit’s cultivation in our heart and mind. Such words end famine in human hearts and begin spiritual reproduction in others. The first fruit is love. The Word defines love as patient and kind. It says that love is not jealous or boastful never rude or demanding its own way. Love is not irritable and always forgiving while not keeping record of any wrongs. Love rejoices in the Truth. The Truth concerning us is the Word. The Word is Jesus. Love does not desire vengeance but thrives on mercy. Love never ever gives up. It never loses faith. Always hopeful, it endures through every circumstance. Without love, I have nothing to offer and nothing to gain.

Luke 6:45 (NLT) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Jesus didn’t change the world standing on a platform. He did not do it through a megaphone. He did it by walking, talking, living and breathing God’s Love. Jesus did not come to do His Will. He came to express the Father’s Love to us and make a way for us to come back into the family. It worked. Our heart is the treasury that contains His Word and His Spirit. A hard heart cannot flow living water. A stony exterior will stop its overflow. Our words hold the secret of what the contents of our heart may be. To express Christ’s Love effectively our heart must not only contain the Word and His Spirit but be soft enough to let it flow from our lips. We cannot give what has not been received. What are the words of my mouth today? Do they express God’s Love? Are they full of His Fruit? Do they satisfy those who hunger, thirst and desire a better way? Are they light that draw others from darkness? Are they salty enough to add flavor but not ruin the whole meal?

There is an urgency in our collection of water from the Word. Amos 8 warns that the Word of God will not be found in the future. Men will look for it and it will not be found. We must hide God’s Word in our heart so He is with us always. Moses experienced heartbreak when God told him to speak to the rock so water might flow from it, but he decided to strike the rock twice instead. The Word of God is to make a way from death to life and darkness to light. I must always use the Word of God and His Spirit according to His Purpose – not my own agenda. God’s Word is the water that washes away sin and heals broken hearts. His Spirit is the Living Flow that finishes the Good Work God has begun in us. Persistence is my pleasure. Not that I would see immediate results but that the constant drip of obedience to the Lord will make it through my stony exterior to the depths of my heart.

John 4:10 (NLT)  Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

The Worst of Them All

The Worst of Them All

I Timothy 1:12-15 (NLT) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

“I am the worst of them all.” I am. The absolute worst sinner of all. You want to know a little secret. You are, too. We sit in good company together. One sin would have required every drop of His Precious Blood and demanded the last breath from His Body. If we could just stop right there and meditate on the consequences of a single sin, it would become evident that I am the worst sinner of all and so are you. Horrifying to think that if I was the only person ever created that God would still love and desire me enough to offer His Son as a sacrifice for my transgressions and give Him up for my redemption and restoration as His Child. Humbling yet often forgotten in hierarchy called religion.

The perfection of God includes His Perfect Law. The law convicts us. It reminds us of all the ways to that human has failed and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard. The only way to find our way back to Him is to accept the mercy and grace of our fallen Savior and risen Lord. I wonder if the atmosphere of “church” would change if someone, anyone, or all of us understood that the way to the Father’s Heart and access point is faith in Jesus Christ and full acceptance of His Grace. God has not favorites. He does not lie or change His Mind. The only way to have a right relationship with our Father in Heaven again is through His Son, Jesus Christ. To accept the grace offered to us and live in humble understanding of its infinite worth. I cannot earn it. I cannot deserve it. I cannot repay it. I can only live in it and be a conduit of it.

Matthew 9:2-7 (NLT) Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home!

In Philippians 2, the Word of God instructs us to have the “same attitude as Christ”. Jesus was God. However, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” This is the attitude that believers are to have at all times. In Matthew 9, the struggle of mankind is revealed. Jesus told the paralytic carried to the Lord by faith-filled friends that his “sins are forgiven.” This caused an uproar among the religious group following Jesus. How dare this man blaspheme God! So to prove his identity, Jesus tells the man, “stand up, pick up your mat and go home.” Why is it that the church cries out for miracles, signs and wonders but takes grace for granted in its corridors?

Religion will always require more of the sinner than Jesus Christ. Righteousness is found in Jesus Christ alone. When Jesus forgives our sin, no matter how many or how few, it is finished. He doesn’t require anything other than to partner with Him. He has given us His Spirit as a teacher, guide, leader, developer, cultivator and yes, the one who will convict us in order to produce change in us. Christianity is not designed to create spiritual bullies. Paul confides that he is in his own mind the worst sinner of all time. He is. So am I and so are you. What gives us the right as redeemed to place rules, regulations, rites, and reprimands on others? God’s Grace is enough. He doesn’t need us but desires us above all things. It is time to start focusing on understanding, accepting and emanating God’s Love, Grace and Mercy to those who have wandered, live in darkness or destined for death with the same gospel that we received but have somehow forgotten.

Luke 7:44-50 (NLT) Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

For most of my childhood, I was new kid. I attended 11 elementary schools, and 4 middle/high schools. I was constantly trying to fit in. When you change schools that many times it is hard to stay up on the trends of each community culture. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt the stares of strangers. I could hear the whispers when I walked by. I knew what it was like to feel like an outsider as they judged my whole life by my appearance. By the time I reached high school, I sought out the victims. The ones who were bullied because they didn’t quite fit in. I decided to be their staunch defender. When the cool clique accepted me, I sat with them instead. I invited them to church with me. To meet this Jesus that immediately let me in. My past experiences have crept into my future relationship with Christ. I would rather meet the sinner, loner, lost, broken, addict, homeless or whoever would fall before Him at the altar than engage with a spiritual bully.

What would you do if the “worst sinner of all” came to your church? What would be your response? The Pharisees judged the woman as she worshipped Jesus. She was a woman. She was a shameless sinner. How dare she come and disturb their meeting with such nonsense? But Jesus accepted her humble adoration and worship by forgiving her sins. She didn’t have to clean up or change just came and acknowledged her Savior. Her faith in Jesus Christ fully demonstrated in her submission and surrender. It was enough for Jesus. Is it enough for you?

There are two extremes in the church culture today. There is the “whosoever come” and let us change you into what we have decided is an acceptable person. Then there is the “whosoever come” and do whatever you want it’s all good. God is looking for a remnant of people who are willing to admit “I am the worst sinner of all” and live the life of grace that changed them. People will always struggle with the freeness of God’s Grace. It is not our nature to do so. Grace is sufficient to cover our sins and give us access to the Lord. It is our willingness to abide in Christ that keeps us connected to the flow of His Authority and Power that can change us from the inside out.

Matthew 23:25-26 (NLT) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

The judgment of God’s People is filled with good intentions. The religious duties that become the occupation of a Christian are self-imposed. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. In the verses preceding this passage, Jesus tells them that he sees them tithing and recognizes their obedience but because it is religious it means nothing. The religious culture is a shark tank that destroys new converts every day because when they jump from darkness into glorious light they are quickly set upon by those who think God requires an outward change when God is only beginning to work on their inside. I am so tired of watching religious people pick apart baby Christians. They stand on their rightness. It is not righteousness.

The word of God promises those who are merciful will receive mercy. Be wary of those who tell you what to do. God’s given us a glorious standard to live by. Religiosity is the off spring of religious people. Look for those who live a humble life of true repentance. Those who are encouragers of the Word, doers of the same, but not the ones who require rules and regulations in exchange for redemption. Jesus accepted you just the way you are. He started a good work in you and me that He is faithful to complete. We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. Examining our own heart for true repentance and real love that is the basis of our faith in God and our faithfulness in serving Him. It is not our job to be right but to live in right standing with the Lord. Right standing is not rule following but a loving and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 4:2-5 (NLT)  As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

I am the worst sinner of all. This is not a confession that renders me helpless. It is the admission of my weakness that allows grace to permeate my life. I am surrendered to Jesus as my Savior. I am submitted to Him as Lord. I still sin every day regardless of my best intention. It is up to me to examine my heart each day and ask for forgiveness for that sin. When I decide that I have the right to judge another or call them to accountability – if there is no love, mercy or grace incorporated in that it is my flesh and not born of His Spirit. Spiritual bullies are born of insecurity. When grace is not fully believed or accepted, it is easy to set a standard to be kept by flesh and maintained by pride that elevates us above another. The truth is I am a sinner just as wretched and deplorable as them. Lord, examine my heart today. God give me grace where I have forfeited it to my feelings. Father, fill me with love for your people – all of them. Help me Lord to never lose sight of the vastness of Your Unfailing Love and copious amounts of grace needed to set me free. I will never be worthy of it but am so thankful I have it.

James 2:12-13 (NLT) So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

 

By Grace

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I have been heavily contemplating the grace of God. The fathomless ocean of bottomless forgiveness that believers dive into and dwell in. The sea of forgetfulness that allows us to be cleansed of all sin and iniquity so that God only sees a reflection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Grace so freely given at such a high price without limit. By grace, I am saved through faith. Faith is the access point of grace. Faith that a God so perfect could love and desire a creature so wretched. Given toward rebellion, the sinner who is possesses a wandering and wondering heart that must constantly be reminded to repent and surrender to God’s Love. Grace is the starting point of everything pertaining to life and godliness. I am purposeless, fruitless and lifeless without the gateway of grace that changes me from death to life and rancid to renewed. It is all a gift from God, the Father, to His Undeserving and Undesirable Children.

And this is not your own doing…maybe this should be plastered over our bathroom mirror, labeling every good thing in our life, on the doorpost of our home, over the entrance to our job, and more importantly the church of our choice. I wonder what would happen if for a moment or two, or daily, or weekly, maybe monthly or annually or even every day for the rest of our natural life the people who are called His Body became fixated on living “by grace”. Would our way give in to His Way? Would our control be exchanged for commitment and willing obedience in all things? Would pride finally be crucified and leave the church for good?

The cancer within human DNA is sin. It is an immediate death sentence to the body if not sent into remission. It will slowly or swiftly take over. Cancer is never cured. It is put into remission. In medicine, the word “remission” refers to a diminution of the serious or intensity of disease or pain. It is considered a temporary recovery. Remission also means the cancellation of a debt, charge or penalty. It is the forgiveness of sin and works with both of the previous definitions. Sin is always going to be a battle for believers. Perfection is impossible so we do our best not to but inevitably do so anyway. (Romans 7) The Blood of Jesus Christ is for the remission of sin. (Matthew 26:28) It pays the debt in full, cancels all charges and removes the penalty. We do nothing to facilitate the process of remission. It is all on Jesus. He paid it all. He did all the work. All that you and I can do is accept His Grace by faith, and live in the freedom given to us.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

There is a marked difference between cancer and sin. Cancer comes in stages. Stage 1 cancer is considered treatable up to Stage 5 which is terminal. Sin is terminal. It is immediate death when called to accountability. We were literally dead from the beginning due to sin and trespasses. I think as believers it is possible to forget this very valid and important point. Our perception of grace is the spark that lights the lantern of love hidden in our heart. It is the inconceivable and unthinkable generosity of God toward us. The enemy wants us to compare our sin and find validation and confidence in our ability to change when the Truth is the only way to be made right with God is through Jesus Christ and the remission of sin – not just in the beginning but always. Religion gives us a standard to live by and successfully doing so is not anything to boast about because it does nothing. Grace does it all. I would rather associated with sinners who are constantly falling and repenting as they grope to find their way out of darkness than sit among church folk hiding behind fancy clothes and false communication. We are all sinners saved by grace. Have we forgotten?

Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One of them yelled at Jesus, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” We can be like this man on many occasions. Forgetting that we were once guilty carrying a death sentence. Yet, in our pride and haughtiness, forget that by grace we are saved through faith and there is not a single thing that makes us worthy of His Sacrifice. Looking down on other sinners, who are just like us, yet thinking ourselves more deserving because we know Christ. I am nothing apart from Christ. He is the sum total of my worth. Without the Lord, I have no future and no purpose. The sin inside of me though in remission is a constant reminder that I will never be able to afford the price paid for my life. The man on the other side of Jesus that day had the right idea. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He looked at His Savior and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus accepted the man’s plea and told him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Which side of the cross are you on today? Lord, keep me on the by grace side every day. Help me to remember my sin is no less or more than another. Remind me on those days when pride tries to rear its ugly head that I am NOTHING without You.

So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. My mission in this lifetime is to show others the immeasurable riches of God’s Grace and Kindness toward us – each one of us. I am not a fancy trophy to be set on a shelf to be admired by a lost and dying world. I am to be a city on a hill. A broken heart restored with cracks in its fragility to let His Light shine from the inside. Grace is evidence of love. Love that is unconditional. It is a commitment to share God’s Love with sinners just like you and me. People do not need to see a perfect church. They need an authentic representation of God’s Selfless Love. His Pursuit of us requires only acceptance so we have nothing to boast about or become prideful of.

According to God’s Word every good thing in my life is a direct result of the Father’s Mercy and Grace wrapped in unfailing love. Where is condemnation in such a place? Where is judgment? For me to lay a penalty on another that has been removed from me is hypocrisy. I have no right. The only weight in my life to carry is His Love, His Mercy and His Grace. I must give it freely to others – everyone – as it has been freely bestowed on me. How can I withhold forgiveness when I am completely forgiven? How can I have pride that is crucified with Christ? I cannot share immeasurable riches that do not belong to me. By grace, I am saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

John 8:7-11 (ESV) And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

She was caught in the act of adultery and brought before the Pharisees and Jesus. Religion versus relationship played out before us that day and written to return to in stunning detail. According to the Law, she was to be stoned. To die for her sin. (I am still wondering where “he” was.) They continued to challenge the Word with God’s Word. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” I wonder if our Savior and Lord is saying the same to some of us today. Have we taken the side of the Pharisee? Casting judgment and condemnation on “sinners” just like us because we have forgotten that it is by grace we are saved. In the end, there was no one left to execute her. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”

Oh the Love of Jesus! Do you remember when He stretched His Hand out to you and in your mess and desperation grabbed hold of Him? Do you know what it is like to experience His Overwhelming and Unconditional Love? Do you believe His Grace is enough? It is sufficient for salvation and becomes strength and power in our weakness. The beginning of a relationship with God is through Jesus Christ. It is by His Grace, we are saved and not of ourselves. I have nothing to boast about but my weakness and inabilities. It is the commonplace of humanity where kingdom building begins. When another says, “I was so lost” and you can say, “Me, too.” Let’s figure out faith together. Let’s build our new lives together. The commonality of Christ is only possible when the entrance to our new life, new way of thinking and new destinations begin through doorways marked “by grace”. You will never be successful in your redemption process until you have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is not possible any other way but by grace. Grace makes us righteous not right. Being right doesn’t lead anyone to Jesus but right standing will make our life beacons. Lord, examine my heart today. Find the places that have forfeited grace and renew them again. I repent for times that I have forgotten I am just a sinner saved by grace. Amen!

John 1:16 (ESV) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Enduring Love

Enduring Love

Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

It probably safe to say that sin is definitely rampant everywhere. Love is lukewarm if not tepid perhaps even cold. BUT…the one who endures to the end will be saved. “But” nullifies that which is stated before. When we see “but God” in a passage, it is the resolve of God’s Sovereignty that changes everything. If a “but” is placed within an apology, it voids the true meaning of forgiveness. Within the epidemic of sin and death of love, there is a “but”. The one who endures to the end will be saved. I am challenged today by this “but” – the one that changes sin and hate to enduring and everlasting love.

What does love have to do with it? Everything. It is our mandate in life to love the Lord God and love others. It sums up our mission as Light and Salt. To illuminate the darkness and flavor the earth so that others will taste and see that He is good. What is the light of our life? What is the flavor of our interactions? Does it make a right relationship and true repentance desirable or palatable? Truly love is the difference maker that binds a Kingdom of diverse people who reconcile their life to Jesus. His Spirit works to produce His First Fruit which is love. Are we cultivating love in our life? In our homes? Churches? Community? Workplace? Everywhere we go there should be a foretaste of the love that saved us, delivered us, healed us, grows us, develops us and prospers in our life.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What have I gained? I want to know God’s Secrets. I want to hear the voice of His Angels as they sing around His Throne in His Presence. I desire all gifts of His Spirit as promised but if I do not possess His Love – it is all pointless. Love is not just in the receiving but absolutely in the giving. It is reciprocated by the release of it. We give our lives to religion freely. It is something I can do. It is the method of giving over which I have control. But is it enough to be among those who endure to the end. Is it enough to finish the race and be found faithful to Christ? I am not sure doing anything for Christ is worthwhile if it is not packaged with unconditional love and grace as it is given.

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) 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.

“His Love Endures Forever” is given as a reminder 41 times in the Word of God. God defines love as patient and kind. It is not jealous, boastful, proud or rude meaning it doesn’t contain any pride or self. Love doesn’t demand its own way but gives up its way to pursue unity. It is not irritable or unforgiving never keeping count of wrongs. It does not rejoice in injustice or the faults and failures of another but rejoices when truth wins out. What truth? God’s Love endures forever and His Grace is enough. Love never gives up. Endures. It never loses faith and so it is always faithful even to the faithless. It is always hopeful never ever giving up on itself or the pursuit of it. It endures through every circumstance.

God’s Love for us is defined by these characteristics. To be imitators of God is to reflect this kind of love to all people. It is noted that there is no greater love than to lay down our life for our friends. We are instructed to lavish it on our enemies as well. Love is important to God because it is who He is. Love defines Him. It must define us to identify with God as His Children. However, love must endure. What does it mean to “endure”? According to Strong’s Concordance, it is to hold one’s ground in conflict, to bear up against adversity, hold out under stress, stand firm, persevering under pressure, waiting calmly and courageously. It is not a passive resignation to fate with mere patience, but the active energetic resistance to defeat that allows calm and brave endurance. Why would love require endurance? Because loving everybody all the time is not easy and nearly impossible outside of the Love of God given to us and His Grace that covers us. We must fight for love because the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy it. He is doing a pretty good job at it.

I Peter 4:7-10 (NLT) The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

Continue to show deep love for each other. The kind of love described is the same kind of love in Romans 5:5. Agape love is a word given new meaning by Christianity. Agape love is an undefeatable well-meaning kindness and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest good of other people. No matter what the response of the other person to our giving – agape love gives anyway without reservation. It is self-giving love that gives freely asking nothing in return. It does not consider its own object worth but is liberal in its giving. Agape is a love by choice, not love by chance. It is an act of willingness not emotionalism. Agape is the kind of unconditional love God has for all of His Children even those still far away. It is the love that His Spirit tries to produce within us. Agape love is grown from faith in God and as He becomes our confident hope carrying our full expectation it is the overflow of our life to others. Love without condition. Forgiveness without reciprocation. Giving without the expectation of receiving. We must continue to show deep and abiding love in the midst of a world where love has grown quite cold.

Love covers a multitude of sin. Love covers. Love does not expect retribution or recompense but gives up the right to be offended and hurt by the misgivings of another. It is the kind of covering that will lead others to the Light of His Amazing Love. We cannot love others properly until we accept the completely that He first loved us.

I John 4:16-21 (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. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

There will always be people around us who seem undeserving of our love, time and attention. People will always let us down, hurt us and not meet our expectation. It is not their job to do so. It is our job to love. My personal responsibility as a Christian fully saved, sanctified and filled with His Spirit is to love. To love first. To love most. To love always. To love without regard. To love without expectation from anyone other than God. His Love is my fulfillment from which I am free to love without need or necessity for reciprocation. Here is where endurance comes in – I don’t always want to love people who hurt me, use me or offend me. I am not always quick to forgive, forget or forge a relationship with those who I do not deem worthy of such things. I don’t always want to give up my way to embrace the journey of another. See I am just as human as you are. I have had my fair share of letdowns. I have been attacked and maligned plenty. But I want to endure to the end. I want to be saved. I cannot spend my time trying to glean a little bit of love from unproductive vessels. The fulfillment of love is to accept fully the Love of God through His Son Jesus Christ and live in that love completely. From this place – there is freedom from fear and insecurity of hurt and betrayal. His Healing Balm of Love covers the misuse and abuse of others with a sufficiency of grace that fulfills us. It is from the Source of Love that never leads to disappointment that I can love others freely with enduring love that makes me known as a Child of God. I must love like the Lord. I must love unconditionally. Lord, help me to develop enduring love in all my relationships past, present and future. Teach me to love others solely on the basis that You, Father have first loved us.

Psalm 136:1 (NLT) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Highly Favored

highly favored

Luke 1:28-30 (NIV) The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.

You are blessed and highly favored. From the beginning of your life to the last day, your life has been handwritten by the Lord with a wonderful plan. The culmination of which is a future and hope far exceeding the temporary circumstances or conditions surrounding you today. When the angel came to Mary, she was a young girl engaged to her betrothed preparing for marriage. She was a good girl. When the angel came to her it was with the words, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you!” He went on to proclaim her “blessed among women.” She feared the awesome appearance of the angel before her but that would not be the end. It was only the beginning.

For just a moment, let’s talk about some of God’s Favored Ones. Those who He proclaimed favor over in their lifetime. Abel who was murdered by his brother, Cain. Noah, who singlehandedly built an ark and rebuilt from scratch after enduring the flood. Jacob who was tricked and taken advantage of by Laban. Joseph thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and completely forgotten. Moses risked life and limb to lead God’s People out of captivity and died never reaching the Promised Land. Hannah prayed for God’s Favor in the form of a son who upon weaning would be given back to serve in the House of God. David had to kill a giant. Daniel was cast into a lion’s den not to mention his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who had to walk through fire when they would not bow down. Esther was enslaved as a virgin given to the king. Just to name a few…and what about Jesus favored by God, His Only Son, nailed to a Cross for our sin. All considered favored by God and there are more. I am favored by the Lord. Living in favor is not the end to my trials or temptations but the power by which to overcome them all in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 84:11 (NIV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

What is favor? How does it work? Favor is something granted out of goodwill rather than justice. It is to be given something better than that which is deserved. It is the excessive and unfair partiality of God and His Preferential Treatment given to humanity despite their sinful condition. Grace makes favor possible in our life. Grace alone is the conduit to God’s Favor. Faith in God is to believe grace is possible outside of human ability. To accept the Gift of God given by His Son, Jesus and live according to His Word (Jesus is the Word who came in the flesh).

The Lord withholds no good thing from those whose walk is blameless. Now, you and I both know that we need God’s Mercy every morning and grace all day long just to make it through. Our salvation is assured through faith alone because if were based on our obedience and willingness – we would all be doomed. The Lord God is our sun and shield. He bestows favor and honor to us. Back to young Mary, she could not possibly know the life laid before her as the mother of Jesus. God knew that no matter what Mary would love and trust Him. All the way to the Cross watching her son be brutalized and murdered – God already knew the substance of her human heart. She was blessed and highly favored but that did not exempt her from the test called endurance.

Proverbs 16:15 (NIV) When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

In the New King James Version, this verse says, “His Favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.” Let’s talk about that for just a moment. We live in a world marked by immediate gratification. We want it all right now. Unwilling to wait for anything and everything this thing called endurance is a challenge. The Promise of God is not yet evident in our life but His Favor is assured. What if the problem is the latter day rain is coming in the form of a storm cloud over our life, but unwilling to wait for the harvest – we keep leaving the field? What if God’s Favor is shining upon you but you are not willing to wait and watch for it? What if the problem is not God or His Word but our inability to be inconvenienced, uncomfortable or out of control? God has made us blessed and highly favored. His Word cannot and will not return to Him void. He has already given us every spiritual blessing with the promise that He will make good in every detail of our life. We must only believe. The Favor of God belongs to me. It belongs to you. It comes with a process. The process of endurance which means that when the going gets tough – the favored stick to God’s Word, watching and waiting for Him to come. The Lord will not pass you by.

Psalm 30:6-7 (NIV) When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

“Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21-23) What if the truth of the matter is you and I could not handle the Glory of God dispensed in our life right now? What if God is preparing you for a blessing you cannot contain but you keep leaving the process for man’s favor, personal promotion and lesser things? What if God is preparing you to be the next great man or woman of faith but you don’t trust and believe enough to receive it?

Do not make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. This is probably some of the best advice that I have ever been given. It was by a pastor. The choices of our everyday life should be as God’s Children not the sons and daughters of man. To believe that He is working in us and through us just as He promised. To believe in His Blessing. To respond to the call of “highly favored.” What if God is moving and shaking up your surroundings so that you will look to Him? Our life is changed by the Presence of God in it. To step “in Christ” in every area and facet of living. To be unmoved and unaffected by the daily changes that are the molding and shaping of our heart and remodeling of our life to be filled with His Glory. You are blessed. You are highly favored. What if God is just making room for it today? How can I be more than a conqueror when I run from every battle? How can I live from victory to victory when I don’t believe I win? How can I experience God’s Favor when I cannot believe that His Grace is enough? Whatever the thing challenging your acceptance of God’s Favor today – let it go. You are a Child of God. You are blessed. You are highly favored. I see a cloud. It is filled with latter day rain. It will burst over those who are ready and waiting for His Glory to come.

Psalm 5:11-12 (NIV) But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 30:4-5 (NIV) Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 90:17 (NIV) May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

Live Chosen

Live Chosen

Matthew 22:14 (NLT) “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

I am chosen. God chose to give the life of His Son for me. Jesus chose to die for me. I am called to the Light of His Love. Do I live the life of the chosen? I am soul searching today. To move from mediocrity that seems to find its way into my heart. To remove all settlements and substitutions for lesser things and assume my position as chosen child of the living God. It is contrary to our nature. Fear, doubt, and insecurity threaten such a position. Delays turn into disappointment eroding our hope as a lack of confidence eats away at our faith. Who I am is not determined by how I feel at any given moment on any given day? My call is secure. I am chosen. It is up to me whether or not I choose to live as the chosen…

I am chosen by God to receive His Grace and Favor. (Period) This is difficult to understand and even harder to believe in a society with no grace or favor. Grace is received according to weakness. Ain’t nobody got time for that…for surely any sign of weakness will result in becoming fully consumed by that which is pursuing you. Exactly. No this is completely true. If only Children of the Living God could see what is pursuing us and chasing us down…maybe then we would give in more quickly and learn to submit to the overwhelming love of a perfect God rather than giving our life away for lesser things.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) God’s Favor, His Goodness and Unfailing Love, pursue us all the days of our life. His Plan is for us to live in the House of the Lord forever. It begins now. Answering the call of whosoever will come. Rather than running and rebelling from the new way of life offered, giving up our way to fully embrace God’s Way of Living. I believe if people could somehow comprehend the Love of God for them and the limitlessness of His Grace than it would be much easier to surrender and submit our life as chosen people forsaking the life of the casual Christian.

I Peter 2:9-10 (NLT) But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

When I was a kid, I was not athletic at all. I was not raised in extracurricular activities. My brother and I were just trying to survive in those early years. I remember coaches lining all the kids up in P.E class for the daunting task of picking teams. I loved being the captain of a team. It meant not having to wait for your fate to be decided. You were automatically on a team. I would always pick the kids no one wanted first because I felt the sting of being the last one picked most of the time. I wanted them to feel “chosen” rather than settled for. There was nothing worse than being one of the final two or three. Watching the face of the team captain trying to pick between clearly unwanted players. A simple game of kickball would leave some feeling worthless and undesirable.

“But you are not like that…for you are chosen people.” I am in my fifties now and can still remember feeling rejected, unwanted, and undesirable. The need for affirmation is part of the human design. By the time we reach adulthood, it becomes clearly evident who has received unconditional love and acceptance and who has not. It is hard enough to walk by faith and not by sight. I believe it is even harder to accept unconditional love and grace that cannot be earned. It implies that it may not be real or can somehow be taken away. You are chosen by God. He handpicked you and desires you. Nothing you have done, can do or will do has any impact on the Father’s Love for you. It is truly unconditional and limitless. He challenges us daily to step out of the life of ordinary to embrace the extraordinary. He calls us from the natural to live supernaturally. He is offering more than enough even though we exist on just enough. His Favor is for us even when the whole world is against us. Faith and hope are the security of the elect in God. We must live as chosen people rather than ordinary people.

“As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

To live as God’s Chosen People will never be an act of religion or rightness – it is only possible because of God’s Righteousness and the Gift of Grace offered by His Son Jesus. Jesus was the Chosen One. He demonstrates the life of the chosen. Laying His Life down for others. (Matthew 12:18-21) Jesus didn’t go around boasting about who He was, demanding people do what He say and live like He did. Jesus shared the Father’s Love and Compassion. He not only taught the people but healed them. Jesus could have demanded full submission to His Authority but instead He offered His Love. Over and over again, even when people let Him down, betrayed Him, denied Him, and mocked Him on the Cross. His Grace continued to flow from Him. When He died, Jesus released His Spirit to live in us. To be our confidence that His Grace is enough. To be the cultivator of faith so it can grow, develop and mature into hope. To establish a relationship between God the Father and all of His Chosen Ones.

Ephesians 1:3-4 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

God made you with a purpose. He calls you chosen. Do you live as a chosen one? To be His Special Treasure. He created you with a purpose and plan that comes with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) You must only seek Him wholeheartedly to find it. To believe that He hand wrote a comprehensive plan for your life before you were born seems impossible given some of your life experiences. (Psalm 139:16) But God didn’t stop there, He promised to work every detail of our life for our good and His Glory so when we mess up or fall short – nothing is lost or wasted. (Romans 8:28) He calls us from the womb and equips us from birth with destiny and purpose. Why? Why me? Why you? Simply because He loves us. (Deuteronomy 7:5-7) The Lord calls us His Special Treasure.

Psalm 106:5 (NLT) Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people; let me praise you with those who are your heritage.

“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16 NKJV) I am called by God to become a new creation in Jesus Christ. He has a plan for my life that will lead to prosperity. To have this new life and become this new person means living as God’s Chosen People. To humble my life to His Love and Grace accepting the Lord’s Favor in my life. My value and worth as a person is made complete in Jesus Christ. I must believe it to receive it. I must believe that I am chosen. I must choose His Word and Way over my own in order to reach my destination and fulfill my destiny. I wonder today how many of you feel bound by rejection and live in walls of insecurity built to protect your fragmented heart that is battered and bruised by human love? Life is hard. People are not perfect. Love is cold. Sin is rampant. Yet God is still whispering the names of His Chosen Ones inviting them to a closer, deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. Will you answer His Call? Will you accept His Love and Grace fully so His Goodness and Favor will overtake you? The life of the chosen is not for everyone. Many church folks will forgo surrendering their life to live life securely in manmade religion rather than abandoning themselves to full submission and complete surrender to Christ. I choose to live the life of God’s Chosen. To fully accept His Love, Grace and Mercy for me. He is calling your name today. How will you respond chosen one of God? What if God hasn’t picked me? What if I am wrong? Oh friend, but what if you are right and He has called you chosen?

 

 

Proper Portion

portion control 2

Psalm 16:5 (NIV) Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.

Over the years, I have tried many dieting methods to control the fluctuation of unwanted pounds and inches. Radical dieting may offer dramatic effects but in the end the weight sneaks back on when giving in to temptation. I have found portion control to be the most effective way to lose the weight and keep it off although it requires a little thing called self-control. Eating is a social past time. It is an emotional fix. It can be a whole lot of things in our life. Some use it to fill voids or satisfy impulsive drives even addictions. Currently on vacation, I will be the first to admit that I am not making the best food choices. The fried fish sandwich and crispy fries last night were awesome. The ice cream on the couch watching football was pretty good, too. Once back to the reality of life, I must muster the self-control and mindset to resume healthy eating and making better choices.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup…

Today, as I read Psalm 16, I am reminded that I have the power to control the portions of my life. The Lord is good! His new mercy is provided each morning to fill the voids left by self and even poor choices from the day before. His Love is unconditional. His Love is never ending. It is perfectly reflective of the kind of love described in I Corinthians 13. I have a cup called my life. It is filled with many things both productive and unproductive. I have been given His Spirit to grow and nurture the Fruit of God’s Spirit that will satisfy my soul and fulfill my purpose. I make the choice each day of what fills my cup to overflowing. Will the Lord be my portion today? Will I allow His Love to be the very thing I desire above all things? Will I seek His Face before people? Will I pursue His Way avoiding all other distractions and detours? What do I desire today?

Psalm 73:25-26 (NIV) Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

My flesh and my heart WILL fail. It is historic. Each new day though I try to do the right thing, make good choices, and do exactly what the Lord tells me to do. I manage to make mistakes and fall short of His Glorious Standard of life every single day. I don’t always do what I am called to do. I don’t always love as I am called to love. I do not forgive as quickly as instructed. I do not always reflect the love and grace that I am given. Yet each new morning, as surely as the sun rises in the east, the Father offers me new mercy and the Son gives me more grace.

God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. This promise is not dependent on me but solely characteristic of the Lord. When my pride tells me “what’s the point”, my soul reminds me that this is the promise. For every boundary removed and broken ground in this hard heart, there is a portion to be poured out for me. My inheritance is secure even when I live in insecurity or fear. God is the One who secures the inheritance of my life or I would have given it away long ago for lesser things. If you are struggling today in any area of your life, let me be the first to remind you that God holds your future securely in His Hand. No one can take it from you. Nothing you can do can remove you from Him. His Love is for you not against you. He must be the portion you choose to have it.

Psalm 119:57-58 (NIV) You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.

Life is all about balance. I believe that completely. When it comes to the Lord, I believe He is the one thing that must be sought after with all our heart, mind, body and soul. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. If you are a believer, and you suffer from dissatisfaction or a lack of contentment, it is up to you to find the area of your life not surrendered. If I eat ten chocolate chip cookies before dinner, I will not eat the things that are good for me like meat, vegetables or fruit because I am full of junk food. What is filling the place where the Lord can be your portion today? It is human nature to fill its own void with natural things. God has a supernatural satisfaction for us. He will be our portion. We must provide a place to be filled. His Word is the answer to our problems, but no one reads it anymore. His Presence is a place of refuge, but no one has time to seek Him. His Grace is our power in weakness, but not one is willing to give in. Without a desire for God – there is no hunger and thirst. If we do not hunger and thirst for the Lord, we will not make Him our portion. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” speaks volumes. Are you hungry for the Bread of Life or living just fine on the crumbs beneath His Table? Are you thirsty for living water or getting by on the runoff of religion? God sent His Son to satisfy our soul with righteousness and a relationship that will complete us and lead us to forever.

Lamentations 3:22-25 (NIV) Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Are you satisfied today? Are you filling certain voids with lesser things? The Lord is not offering a life of just enough but more than enough to those who choose Him as their portion. It is not a matter of “if” He will but faith that He will that causes us to stop settling for lesser things. He is our proper portion. It is our inheritance that no one can take from His Children for it is based on our heritage not our history. As I consider my heart and the contents thereof I am challenged to offer more of it to the Lord for His Ample Fulfillment. It begins by saying, “The Lord is my potion; therefore I will wait for Him.” The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy trying to take what belongs to us with subtle lies, substitutions and settlements that no Child of God must take. They often buffer our pride with feelings of comfort, convenience and control that faith does not allow. They rob us of our complete and full satisfaction offered by the Lord because our flesh fails and the human heart is fickle. Let the Lord fill you up today. Let Him by your portion for just a single day. He is ready to respond to the outpoured heart with confidence found only in perfect love. Wait for the Lord with that thing you desire most…He will come. My doing does not fulfill my purpose, it is found in my complete undoing before the Lord. Lord, empty every lesser thing from my life today to make more room for You!

Psalm 142:5 (NIV) I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

Every Morning

Every Morning

Psalm 143:8 (NIV) Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go for to you I entrust my life.

The sun rising on the beach is more glorious than any other place. The unobstructed view of light on the water resonating through the window beckons a closer look. Hovering just over the water, I am overwhelmed at the size and beauty of the sun. The light is too much to look into so I cover my eyes yet strain to see it. Before our trip is over, I think I will venture out just before dawn to see it even closer than the ocean view from the patio. Morning is full of expectation for those who believe in the Lord. Those who decide to seek Him find new mercies full of expectation and promise because of His Great Compassion for us. The new day is a new beginning. Grace covered yesterday’s faults and failures and now this new gift is received and opened with new hope. To trust Him brings me the Word that He loves me. God is for me. He is with me…right here and right now.

Isaiah 60:1-2 (NIV) “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

God’s Glory, the Light of His Amazing Love, shines all around us. It is in the magnificence of Creation often overshadowed by the darkness, sin and lack of love in this world. People wandering and groping enshrouded in the hopelessness of a decaying and depraved society. Hopelessly devastated by hurt, betrayal, disappointment and sadness. Each morning the sun rises over the just and unjust. God pours out rain on both as well. Possibility and potential locked in each beating heart waiting for release. God didn’t stop with glory all around us.

John 8:12 (NIV) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus didn’t come to offer an escape but an experience. An encounter with Jesus Christ and the Light of His Love fills us to overflowing. It illuminates the lie of the enemy with the Truth of salvation and redemption. An offer almost too good to be true must be fully digested to nourish our soul. It is hard to comprehend the shape and size of the sun from our perspective on the earth. To look fully into its light is blinding. To fully understand the heat of it is impossible as it would consume our flesh. To estimate the size from the earth is impossible. None of this changes anything about the sun.

Jesus is the Light of God’s Love sent to illuminate the darkness of the world. To show men and women even children the glorious light available to those who believe He is the Son of God. His Love and Grace so pure it is inconceivable. Jesus is the Light. He is the Son. Those who seek Him will find Him as surely as the morning sun rises in the east. The Love of God, His Son, and His Glory is for this life. To be experienced and encountered in each new morning, day and moment for those who choose the Light. The Love of God complete with His Glory is for this life.

Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV) I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

This morning I woke up in a condo on the Atlantic Ocean, others witnessed the same sun rising in shelters in Houston, Texas surrounded by floodwaters. Life is hard. Bad things happen. People question the Presence of God in the midst of tragedy. When I was in the darkest days of my life at the bedside of our son fighting cancer, I had to search my soul for Light. Serious conversations with the Lord regarding all the things in my life that did not add up to His Word or resemble His Promises. Jesus asked Martha some of the same questions that I struggled with in those moments.

John 11:21-26 (NIV) “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died. Jesus did not make it in time or according to her plan. She told the Lord, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Hopeless situations cease to exist in the Presence of Jesus Christ. The eternal quality of His Divine Character is incomprehensible to human understanding. All Martha knew is that Jesus was too late…her brother was dead. Her faith and belief in Jesus Christ was for the afterlife not this life. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Jesus is the Light of the world. He didn’t come to lead us to eternity but live in us forever. The power and authority that He has given us is for here and now. It is for the land of the living. Do you believe? Believing doesn’t mean the darkness goes away and nothing bad ever happens. It means that no matter what happens, as a Child of God, I can wait confidently for the Son and all His Glory to shine in my life. Morning comes each day with new mercy and new opportunities to believe. I have been given enough grace to overcome my weakness and move closer to the Light. The Lord has come to the land of the living to remain in us through the passage of life.  The Lord is our portion in the land of the living. (Psalm 142:5) We must learn to look for Him here. Wait for Him in this place. Expect Him to rise up in our life like the morning sun on the beach each new day.

Psalm 116:5-9 (NIV) The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

The Son greeted you this morning whether the sun was evident where you woke up or not. His Mercies fresh and new just for you due to His Unfailing Love and Compassion for you. His Greatest Desire is to get your attention so you will accept His Love and walk in His Glory. Resurrection life and power are for the land of the living. This life. These days. Each moment. The sun rises on the just and unjust and the rains falls on us all. We decide if we will seek the Lord. To discover His Graciousness and Righteousness that leads to full satisfaction. To know His Endless Compassion. To live in His Protection and let Him be our portion. The Lord has delivered us from death but we do not wait for a new life. It begins today. With each new morning, as the sun rises so does the Son in all His Glory ready to shine on us!

Psalm 63:1-5 (NKJV) O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your Power and Your Glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.