In Step

In Step

Proverbs 20:24 (ESV) A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?

The struggle in life to understand the sovereignty of God. To know that each one of our steps is from the Lord even in the darkest night or lowest valley. How does it all work together? When will it all come together? Or will it? I have recently embarked on a healthier lifestyle at the direction of my physician. Through diet and exercise disciplining my body to operate and function as it was created to do. The dietary changes are always hard unless one hermits in the house surrounded by only good choices. Also secured a new gym membership, the first time back at it in almost three years, my body is not amused. The first few minutes on the elliptical machine, I was feeling pretty good about it. Fifteen minutes later, every fat cell in my body was screaming and begging to give up – go back – quit this nonsense. The next morning all my muscles ached from the new routine. Hobbling around like a ninety-year-old woman, I stepped on the scale hoping to find some encouragement only to see an extra pound that I thought was left behind. Ugh! The struggle is real.

The struggle for better health is of my own making. I started eating junk food and stopped exercising. I have no one to blame but myself. It’s funny how quickly blame is placed on the Lord for our poor choices and consequences. A man or woman’s steps are ordered by the Lord. In Psalm 139, it is clearly noted that our life is prerecorded. All through the New Testament, He calls predestined. However, free will is inescapable. Who the Son sets free is free to choose the life they live. To follow Christ or chart our own course of destiny. This is where the struggle lies. God is sovereign. He does not change. He cannot lie or change His Mind, Why would He? God is perfect in all of His Ways. The imperfection in us is the point of dissention. Jesus said, “Come to me those who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” He invites us to partner with Him to carry the burdens and endure hardships of life. However, it is human nature to seek our own destination and thereby create detours, derailments and delays that have nothing to do with the Lord. Thankfully, He has already promised those He loves and who love Him back to make good of every detail and guide every step.

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (ESV)So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

It really is quite simple yet so very difficult to overcome. We must learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Faith is not a word. Faith is a lifestyle of constantly turning over the details to the Lord for His Direction and Intervention – first. Before getting everyone else’s opinion or even assuming the worst, it is important to know that God is always in control even in the midst of our chaos. He controls the storm and has reins on the waves. Even when it seems life is two steps forward and three steps back, God is leading us to the everlasting by faith. It is in this place that good courage emerges in the midst of setbacks.

2 Kings 20:9-11 (ESV) And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.  

Did Hezekiah hear the wisdom of his words? “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen (go forward) ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” The movement of the sun would most certainly make the shadow go forward naturally. We expect certain things to happen base on our experiences. However, God doesn’t operate on our timeframe. It is an “easy thing” to have faith when life goes as expected. It is an “easy thing” to praise God when everything is going as planned. It is an “easy thing” to seek Him when He does what we want Him to. But God is Sovereign so when He pleases us it is because that thing was already a part of His Plan. It is the moment the unexpected comes that God’s Goodness falls into question. His Presence questioned. His Faithfulness on the line to us. Hezekiah requested the shadow to go backwards as a sign because it was impossible. Faith makes the impossible possible. When we believe in falling backwards, it catapults us forward in our faith and belief to a place of closer proximity to God than ever before.

Proverbs16:9 (ESV) The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.

According to Ecclesiastes and Romans, God put eternity in our heart along with a measure of faith. He gave us everything needed to find our way home. The rest is up to us. The Lord establishes our steps and gave us entrance through His Son, Jesus Christ. There comes a time of decision. A time to decide will I accept the discipline of the Lord and follow His Way. Will I stop trying to do it my way – and follow the Way, the Truth and the Life for myself? Your steps are firmly established in the direction of heaven. His Blessings laden the path. His Promises line the road. His Purpose will meet you along the way until one day your passion leads you to the everlasting.

Jeremiah 10:23-24 (NIV) Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing.

My life is found in Jesus Christ. The life I desire is in Christ alone. I have been set free to choose the life I live and the steps that I take. I must discipline my flesh – mind, will, emotions and even body to align itself with the Lord and His Plans for me. I must accept His Steps forward and backward without prejudice knowing that they are leading me to a place far greater than I could have ever found on my own. This is an act of faith. To walk by faith. The Lord has given us His Spirit to be our teacher, leader, and guide through this world. We can call on Him to help us at any time for He is our Helper by decree of Jesus.

Are you struggling with a setback today? Does it feel like you move two steps forward and three steps back? Do you lack discipline? The Lord will help you find your way today. He ordered and established your steps – every single one. He WILL make good of every detail of our life if we give our life to Him. His Unfailing Love and Goodness have been pursuing us just waiting for us to turn around and accept it. Miracles are possible only in the impossibilities of life. The impossible is where God shows off the best. He loves you. He is for you. He is with you every step of the way!

Galatians 5:25 (ESV) Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

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In The Light

In The Light

Matthew 5:14-15 (ESV) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”

There are certain people who draw the innermost thoughts of others without even trying. Hairdressers are notorious unwary counselors as patrons who come for a makeover pour out their soul. Therapists in their own right perhaps it should be part of their schooling along with cuts and mixing color. How to deal with the complexity of people who find someone who will dedicate an hour to them. Yes, it comes at a price. But they are willing to pay it for a new look and some level of peace that someone heard them. Anonymity of an acquaintance affords them some confidence that their secrets are safely tucked in the other and hopeful that the experience might change them for the better.

Have you ever found yourself in the same situation? A perfect stranger waiting in line at the grocery store, an acquaintance who passes you walking through the mall, or maybe an old friend who sees you for the first time in a long time and in that moment decides to make you the keeper and caretaker of the broken pieces of their life as they share the burdens and concerns. I am often incredulous at the transparency of people to random others. Rather than confiding in those closest to them, they choose someone distant or apart.

It is human nature to relate. In other words, the heart and mind are always seeking to connect. Relationship is the innate need to mesh our lives with others. Experience helps or hinders the process. Innocence offers openness that is broken in betrayal. Perfection is not possible yet often projected. People want to be loved not judged yet feel judgment from even those closest to them. I believe there are a number of reasons why people reach out to strangers and acquaintances, but only one reason why they come to you and I as believers.

John 8:12-14 (ESV) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

You are the light of the world. Christ in us illuminates a soul shining that others can see. Attracted to light, love and hope that emanates from those who have found the greatness of His Love. They come in search of grace that bears no judgement but offers truth to guide them. In each encounter, the opportunity to be the light and the city on the hill that allows us to share the wonderful gift given to us. Jesus told the Pharisees that “I am the Light of the world.” The very ones who He came for. The ones who waited for Him but did not recognize Him. The ancient “church” was oblivious. Yet the Truth was no amount of darkness or ignorance could stop God’s Purpose and Plan for Christ…or for you. You are filled with a Light that will lead others from darkness. You have mercy that will overcome judgement. That’s really what people are looking for. Love without judgment. Liberty in truth. Grace overwhelming. You do have something to offer them – His Name is Jesus. He is the Light of the World. He is the Light within us.

I no longer believe in chance encounters but change opportunities. Coincidence is an excuse for randomness but I live an intentional life. It came with a plan carefully detailed for me including every single person who comes into my path. I have a purpose which requires relationship and influence to see come to pass. I must become conscious of the connections in life. His Light is on for others to see. It is in me to draw people to Him. I must become responsible for this little light of mine and let it shine!

Ephesians 1:17-21 (ESV) …That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Jesus, enlighten my heart today. Make it attractive to others. Make me attentive to their needs. Give me pause for divine appointments even when they seem like earthly interruptions. Lord, take my eyes off my own problems, worries and concerns so that I may offer light to those of the same burdens. Make me ever aware of the hope that I am called to! In Your Great Name!

We have been given a “glorious inheritance”. Christ lives inside of us. He gives us His Immeasurable Greatness and Power inside human vessels created to carry it and pour it out everywhere we go. He just says, “Go!” Ordinary life will offer extraordinary opportunities. Natural occurrences become supernatural experiences when the Light of His Love draws people to us and drives away darkness. The author of lies tells us that we have nothing to offer but when Jesus came to reside in us – we have it all. Everything that is needed to meet and exceed the needs of others is inside of you and me just waiting for a wiling vessel to be poured out.

Lord, let me be your conduit of light, the city on a hill and a willing vessel aware of others who come in my path and pour out their heart looking for You!

Ephesians 5:8-10 (ESV) …For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 

Pleasant Places

Pleasant Places

Psalm 16:5-6 (ESV) The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

As my nest begins to empty, there are two teenage girls in our home. They are sweet girls who love the Lord. Diligently trying to serve Him, the hard lesson of the hour is how to set proper boundaries without creating barriers. Relationships are a part of life and the binding force of Kingdom. Jesus has instructed us to love one another as He loved us even to lay down our life for each other. I guess if everyone was perfect – the task would be much easier. Maybe if experience had created trusting heart and bared souls it might be a way of life. There is a fine line between boundaries and barriers that must be clearly identified to maintain unity and security at the same time. Paul tells us that all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. After five decades of breathing, I am still trying to distinguish clearly between the two. The enemy wants to create barriers among believers when the Lord only calls for careful and thoughtful boundaries.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. You hold my lot. Before I can give myself away and engage in healthy relationships – I must know and understand who I am and more importantly WHOSE I am. I belong to Jesus. He is the Lover of my soul and keeper of my inheritance available only through Him. He maintains the relationship that I have with God the Father as an open gateway in and out of His Presence. It is not enough for God to choose me or Christ to die for me, but I must also choose the Lord and to crucify my flesh to become one with Him. It is the covenant of love between us that makes me His Bride. Not only must I choose Jesus, but I must put my full expectation in Him. I must allow Him to fill the voids and heal the wounds of my past and even present relationships in order to create healthy and whole hearted connections in the future. To love unconditionally and completely is the goal. It requires boundaries. Boundaries that determine the parts and portions of my life that belong to Christ and can only be fulfilled with intimacy through Him. Just as a marriage sets boundaries in all other relationships, so does our love affair with Christ. He gives His Love freely and unconditionally filling us to overflowing so that we can love others just the same without expectation or requirements.

Barriers are created where insecurity lingers. A lack of constancy in Christ will cause boundaries to become barriers in our relationships. Bitterness fortifies barriers when we allow insecurity to feed our hurts and betrayals when Jesus offers healing and wholeness instead. Barriers limit love that could be transcending. Sometimes boundaries are necessary – not to keep people out but to keep me secure.

Psalm 16:7-10 (ESV) I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Imperfect people cannot build perfect relationships. Perfect love casts out all fear. There is no greater love than to lay our life down for someone. We need God’s Counsel to love properly and set appropriate boundaries because of human inadequacy and weakness. God knows our heart. He instructs us through His Spirit and guides us along the way. He is the Gate. We come and go freely. However, if we do not set the Lord before us and let Him be the center of our world and focus of our affections – all other relationships will fall short.

We have not promoted “dating” in our home. I feel that it is important to know the Lord and ourselves before engaging in relationships. Early dating creates soul ties. It can produce a cycle that causes breaches in the innocent hearts of young people. I am not saying that my preference or approach is God’s or should be anyone else’s for that matter. What I am saying is that before my children give their heart to another, I want it to be firmly established in Christ so that they know their worth and value and do not give it away without careful consideration. The Lord holds us. He keeps us close to Him because we are His Treasure. My heart is glad. My whole being rejoices. He is at my right hand. He pursues me with unfailing love and overwhelming goodness. It is in this constant envelopment of security that I can love without limits from this place of completeness. When my heart is secure in Christ, loving others is not a risk.

Psalm 16:11 (ESV) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

A boundary allows us to create an access point. A place of entrance and exit that is decided by God and His Plan for us. A barrier is a wall. Boundaries do not limit our accessibility but rather allow Christ to be the gateway. He will be the One who defines our relationships and gives us love, grace and mercy for others. He is our Security. He is the Keeper of our Heart. He is the Lover of the soul who will always protect us and keep us secure in Him. It is important as a parent to set boundaries for our children so they can learn while they are young how to manage their life and live in Christ. It is important as adults to constant inspect the borders and boundaries of our heart to ensure that hardness and unforgiveness has not made a barrier instead. I could spend my whole life continually inspecting my own heart and mind then never have time to judge others. Perhaps that is the path of life that the Lord is calling us to. He has placed us in pleasant places. It is our inheritance to live and love in Him because relationships are the Kingdom of God. To live in His Presence means we must learn to love the Lord and others the same way. He allows us proper boundaries to do so and even promises to be the Gate. Those who do will live in His Presence and experience pleasures forevermore.

John 10:7-10 (ESV) So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

None Should Perish

None Should Perish

John 3:16-17 (ESV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

It is probably the most well-known verse in the entire Bible – John 3:16. For God so love the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Sometimes familiarity breeds contentment satisfying our soul with salvation, but missing the life that comes with it. The life God has designed for us is complex and complete. It does not eliminate any details due to indiscretion but takes the imperfect form of humanity and filling its voids with Christ. The new creation promised for those who choose it is not a redesign but recreation and restoration of the original. God is perfect. He does not make mistakes. He created us recording every single moment before our arrival. God has a plan and no matter our involvement or acceptance, it is still continuing in our life. God loves us. Each one of us. His Goal in sending Jesus was not for a designated few but that whoever believes wouldn’t die but live forever with Him. A true and abiding relationship as a father to a child is what God desires of you. A loving and living together that steps over the grave into the Kingdom.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” To stop at John 3:16 would be enough to save us but not necessarily grasp the scope of God’s Massive Project. It was never His Intent to divide the people of this planet but to bring them back together in one Body centered on His Son. Condemnation is not a quality of God for mankind and should not be characteristic of His People. Mercy triumphed over judgment at the sacrifice of Jesus giving up His Life to secure ours forever with Him. How is it our place to crawl into the vacated seat when it comes to each other? It is God’s Plan and Purpose that none should perish. It is pointless. Salvation is a free gift. It did not cost me anything of worth. It is easy to give the grace and mercy given to me away because I didn’t earn it. I should be of the mindset of Christ. He is always thinking about compassion. His mindset is life and never death. He is a builder of the Body not a condemner of people.

The Bible says that His Grace is enough. It is sufficient which means that if the love, grace, mercy or compassion of Christ can be exhausted than it was never an ample supply. This is the basis of forgiving seventy times seven, turning the other cheek, loving our enemy and laying our life down for others. He is giving us an opportunity to participate in the Kingdom economy and reap its heavenly reward which is always relationship. God owns it all. Everything belongs to Christ. The Lord has complete authority and power in every situation. The freedom of others does not always produce the benefits of Heaven. It is our opportunity to be the traders of grace who bring the message of the Gospel to others not just in word and deed but in our dedication and commitment to the mission that none should perish.

Jonah 4:1-4 (ESV) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

To bring everyone up to date in the story, God sent Jonah to Nineveh. He was to share God’s Message of repentance to the people. Jonah did not like God’s Plan so he tried to run away to Tarshish. On his way a great storm arose, Jonah was cast into the sea to satisfy the wrath of God and that the others on the ship might be saved. Once overboard, Jonah was swallowed by a whale and lived in its belly for three days until vomited on the local beach. He repents and goes to Nineveh. The people of Nineveh repent and cry out to God. The Lord acknowledges their repentance and relents. He did not bring disaster to the city or its people. In other words, God spared them and did not give them what they deserved. Jonah got mad. He was “exceedingly displeased”.

In Jonah 4, we find Jonah in the midst of a fit mixed with a good old-fashioned pity party. Sitting and stewing the sun arose and he was baking in it when the Lord appointed a plant to come up over Jonah to give him shade while he sorted things out. Jonah was glad when the plant covered him and protected him. The next morning, God appointed a worm to kill the plant and when the sun rose once again Jonah was subject to its heat and discomfort. Through the course of the day – he grew faint and decided it would be better to die. Why? He was disappointed that God had spared the people. He allowed his anger to separate him again from the Presence of God.

Jonah 4:9-11 (ESV) But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

God owns it all. Every living breathing creature is a product of Him. You and I are His Most Beloved Creation. How many times do we forget His Mandate that none should perish? How often do we get mad when God saves, heals, delivers and blesses those sorry sinners? Comparison will always be a joy killer. No sinner is too far gone for the Lord’s Arm to reach them. We are the ones who decide the limit of sin or depravity when there is no such thing in the eyes of Jesus. His Grace is always enough. I wonder if the separation, isolation or frustration that we feel is often generated by our own jealously and insecurity in the Lord’s Unfailing Love and Acceptance for me. Working hard for him yet He showers sinners and evil doers with the blessings I thought were reserved for me. Who are they to step in front of me in order to get what He is offering? They must do their time like the rest of us. Serving, giving and striving for the promise. Right? Wrong. When we can do anything for Him or feel pressure to perform for the promise, we have missed the point altogether. I can do nothing for God. He is my fulfillment. He is my purpose. Everything I am and ever hope to be is in Him and offered through Him. I can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:8-10 (ESV) But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” God delights in mercy. He gives it to us each morning. When our eyes open, it is waiting for us and the basis of salvation. God’s Desire to show us mercy so that we can receive His Grace. We must be ever so careful that our heart for people remains soft and merciful. There is no competition for the Love of God. It is for everyone. Jesus came so that none should perish but have eternal life which means there is more than enough grace for everyone. Have you written someone off? Maybe you walked away because they were just too hard to love. I will let you in on a little secret. Limited love is a product of unaccepted grace. To restrict our love, compassion, kindness and forgiveness to others based on their attitudes and actions is the opposite of the kind given to us by Jesus. If we truly receive His Love, it satisfies our soul. It fills us with hopeful expectation that cannot and will not be met by other people therefore we can love freely and unconditionally because they have no impact on God’s Love for me, His Plan, or His Promise. All of this is individually designed for me but His Grace is for all the world. Lord examine my heart, mind, spirit and soul for compassion. Show me where I have allowed condemnation to take the place of mercy. Soften my heart Lord even if that means breaking it so that I will not miss my purpose in passive judgment. Lord, you are not slow to fulfill your promise to us. You are waiting that none should perish. Be that me or those around me subject to my influence. Lord, let me always choose mercy over judgment and live a triumphant life.

Micah 6:8 (ESV) He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

His Faithful Love

His love endures forever. Psalm 136 Scripture art by StudioJRU.

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.

Today marks 19 years of wedding bliss to my precious husband. Sitting down to spend time with the Lord today, I am drawn to the words, “His faithful love endures forever.” No one enters a marriage contemplating a divorce date. It is a covenant of hopefulness for a future of passion and devotion. A life of constant affirmation and affection. The honeymoon is a celebration of love that is found and now secure. However, as anyone can tell you, a marriage requires all of you. It is hard work. It is not an easy road to navigate and requires our full attention. It doesn’t always meet our expectation. On my desk, I found a gift bag from a favorite store with a simple pink bow. Inside it, a dainty ring of twirling hearts with intermittent sparkle creating a band. It is perfect. The ideal representation of almost twenty years of a life invested in loving and growing together. Even in the imperfection of each heart, the design works together to create a unique and beautiful piece of jewelry. There are so many wonderful memories mixed with days of great trial and difficulty. Striving to come together and walk one path.

Marriage is a representation of our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the Bridegroom and we are called His Bride. In a world where sin is certainly rampant and love has grown cold, the promise is that the one who endures to the end will be saved. Clinging to Christ with complete desperation and dedication to continue as one until the end is equally as challenging most days. Not because the Lord is not faithful – His faithful love endures to the end. I must rely on the faithfulness of His Love for me to find my way to the end. The Good News is preached by a life of love and kindness. To live in love with Jesus fills us with a special love for others that allows us to experience trials and temptations yet still love Him and others the same. Love is a commitment. Christ made that covenant with us when He gave His Life to have us. No relationship is one-sided both must agree. He has already approved and affirmed me with His Grace the day that He decided to love me. Now I must learn to do the same…

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

I am not perfect. I did not marry a perfect man. We have weaknesses, faults and insecurities just like everyone else. Over the years, there have been disagreements and full blown arguments as two people fight to come together. The temptations in life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. We expect too much from fragile and flawed humans. The level of faithfulness that exceeds our expectation is found in Christ alone. When we got married, my husband and I invited Christ to join us. He is the One who held it all together over the years.

Are you tempted to leave your first love today? Are you at odds with people? Are you struggling in relationships? Are you headed for divorce? There is powerful potential for those who choose to endure. To give our expectations fully to Christ and stop looking for love in all the wrong people. No one can fulfill you but Jesus. You have eternity in your heart which requires full satisfaction. Nothing and no one can fill that space but the Lord. His Faithful Love for us endures forever and is the very thing that carries us to the end. We must release people from any expectation to experience the full satisfaction that is promised by God.

The enemy will always tempt us to leave love behind. He will threaten us with disappointment, dissatisfaction and discouragement. He will direct our attention to people and problems to lure our focus off Christ. Doubt and insecurity will always create strongholds trapping us in the present rather than projecting us to the promise. People are part of the plan that God prepared for our life. Relationship is the Kingdom economy as the Lord values souls more than anything else. He has everything else. When we live and love together fighting for agreement and harmony, God calls it precious. Successful relationships are messy. They are hard. They are worth it in the end. To reach the end requires love. Love for the one whose love faithfully endures forever will fill every void left by human love in all its messy imperfection.

Revelation 2:3-4 (NLT) “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. 

The personification of Christ in our life is love. To be loving, to give love, to accept love. This is the interworking of relationships. The complaint against the church was “you don’t love me or each other as you did at first.” It is human nature to grow bored with monotony. The mediocrity of life loses our interest. We must find passion for our first love again in order to learn to love others like perhaps we once did. Experience is a hard teacher and must be filtered through the Word of God for clarification. There must be full repentance at all times to constantly turn us back to love. All relationships requires grace, forbearance and forgiveness. Christ has given us that time and time again as each morning there is mercy waiting for us. Who are we to withhold that which is so freely given? We come to Jesus full of hopeful expectation and then heap it on people when His Timing doesn’t suit us or His Way seems too hard or long. Love must endure to the end to bring salvation. I must learn to love like Jesus to make this a reality in my life.

I Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love becomes a masterpiece through endurance. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love is always hopeful. If the emotion of affection you are feeling does not have these characteristics, it may not be love but a secondary emotion. We cannot rely on our feelings. Life is hard. Sin is rampant. Love has grown cold. Most Christians live in a lukewarm state. We must decide in our own heart to love. Love must be patient and kind as Christ is with us. It must not be jealous, boastful or filled with pride and self-seeking. It cannot be irritable. Stop recording all wrongs. It cannot rejoice in others failures or shortcomings but rejoice in truth and the good of others. If I live my whole life calling myself a Christian, yet never strive to endure in love – I am nothing. I will not make it to the destination that I am seeking. To live in love with Christ is to live in love with others.

The tiny twisted hearts that make up the band on my right hand are a true representation of how love works in our life. It does not always start out as we expected or turn out as we would like, but the promise is that God makes all things beautiful in His Timing. It is worth sticking it out when it comes to love – all kinds of love. It is worth forgiving one more time. Trying even when you don’t feel like it or maybe they don’t deserve it. The best kind of love is the hardest fought for because the enemy sees it’s potential. Don’t’ give up on love. Never give up on people. Always remember His Faithful Love endures forever so there is always a fresh supply!

Psalm 136:23-26 (NLT) He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.  He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.  He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

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.

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.