Death to Life

Death to Life

Romans 6:1-3 (Message) So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

Today is Baptism Sunday at our church. There are people who have decided to participate in the symbolic act of baptism, but I wonder if they know the true potential of such a public confession. It is the gateway by which one may enter a “new land” and “new life”. An existence of true repentance marked by a turning over of every dead thing in our life to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Oh how I wish they knew how powerful the water can be for those who step in it with such an expectation. Salvation is the beginning of a transformation process that takes a lifetime to complete. It is the moment of realization that sin is killing us and without a Savior there is no chance of life. The next doctrinal step might be a public profession of our faith in Jesus Christ and then baptism. I love the opportunity presented by Paul in this passage and the way the Message explains it to us. It is a form of house cleaning where we lay down our old life, ways, faults, failures and disappointments in order to move into a new one without all the shackles and chains of our past holding us back. A handful of people have signed up to participate in the baptism service today, but I wonder how many more might if they realized the potential of leaving it all behind and moving into the new life Christ promised us.

Romans 6:3-5 (Message) That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

I grew up in the Baptist church. My little sister has a very soft and sweet heart. I cannot count the number of times she responded to an altar call to repent and start again with Jesus. I know you may be thinking it silly, but I think it is essential. Since when did the altar become a place of shame, where people are chided for coming again and again? I think she was baptized at just about every summer camp. My sister is a mighty woman of God who leads home Bible studies and small groups. She impacts many lives with grace and generosity. She understands the life and power of Jesus Christ because she kept coming until she found what she was looking for. Oh what might happen if the church and its people were open to true repentance and transparency before the Lord again? Not afraid to come forward for prayer and divine healing? Unashamed that they want a new life when this one is not working out for them?

John 7:38-39 (Message) On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus…

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes…” Are you overflowing with Living Water today? Or are you feeling the thirst that comes from seasons of drought – an inner dryness that nothing in this life can seem to satisfy? The Spirit inside of us produces good fruit to nourish and satisfy our soul. There are times when the Spirit of God within us is limited because of the lack of fertile soil – He cannot sow in a hard heart. The Holy Spirit lives in us to change our life from death to life sowing good seeds in fertile soil. Faith produces seeds of potential that must be cultivated to become the promise within each one. It is up to us to provide a place for them to grow, develop and mature into the abundance that the Lord has promised us. Without water, seeds die in the ground. Without the Spirit, the believer cannot move from death to life.

To be lowered in the water is like being buried with Christ, to make an exchange of all the dead things in our life so that they either be washed away or revived again. Sin is washed away along with regret and remorse. Faith is revived in the water and new life begins in that moment for those who believe. We must be buried in Christ with fruitful expectation that His Spirit will take over and produce new life in us all over again. This is not just for the new believer but every other saint of God who has become weary in well doing or overcome by fear, doubt, anxiety or disappointment. The water is for everyone.

Romans 7:3-6 (Message) So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

When we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.

It is often easier to get caught up in the rules and regulations of our religion rather than live a life true repentance and ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. I have nothing of worth to give God other than my whole heart. My heart and life are not worthy of His Glory but what God desires therefore enough. We are married to Jesus in the careful exchange of sin and the acceptance of His Grace. When our life is fully reconciled to Christ – all the benefits and blessings associated with our relationship are evident. When we come up out of the water – it is like the resurrection of Jesus and new life begins all over again. There is no Christian who has it all together. There is no preacher, teacher, elder, deacon, or leader that does not fall short of the Glory of God and His Standard of living. No one can live apart from sin and the only hope we have is the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ to keep us constantly turning in repentance to receive what He died for us to have.

We no longer live under “oppressive regulations and fine print”. We are free to live a new life of freedom in God. Do you live in the perpetual freedom that God offers those who believe? Do you have living water flowing through you today? Have you been baptized? There is no limitation on the water. You can come to the river as often as you like. Repentance is turning. Cycles are circular motions without real results. It may look like revival but it is not. It is repetition. Seasons are the terms and conditions of God’s Productivity. It is the prospering soul that receives all the blessings. A season produces something. It has purpose. It gives provision. In the end, there is an abundant harvest. It is how real revival begins and perpetuates itself. It begins when we surrender every dead thing to new life.

John 5:5-11 (Message) One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”

There was a man who had been handicapped for more than three decades. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man began to make excuses. Jesus told him, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking. The man did exactly what Jesus said. He didn’t even make it into the water, but received his healing from Jesus right then and there. Immediately the Pharisees began to condemn the man for breaking the rules. It was the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll on Sunday. How many people carry burdens into church and lug them right out afraid to break the rules? Or how many preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, and the like live with heavy chains because they are afraid to come to the altar and be judged by their peers? How many times do we accept death where Jesus promised life just because of our pride? Too often. Jesus gives us the opportunity to exchange every dead thing for new life. He promises to make good of every detail of our life if we would only trust Him. Nothing can every separate us from the Love of God offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you allowing something to separate you?

Seek out new life today. If that comes in the form of baptism when you can lay all these burdens into the likeness of His Death and be raised to new life then jump in with both feet all over again. Jesus didn’t give up His Life so that you would like a dead existence filled with doubt, discouragement, depression, disease or defeat. He came up out of the grave and so can you. You can leave death behind and embrace new life. You can do it as often as you need it. Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. Don’t stop until you receive it no matter what the cost. If that means running to the altar, do it! If that means jumping in the waters of baptism, go! Whatever it takes – let Jesus breathe new life in you again!

John 11:25-26 (Message) You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

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Threshold

Threshold

Matthew 14:28-33 (ESV) And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The word “threshold” means the starting point of an experience, event or venture. Any place of entering or beginning. For Peter, the first step of faith was a big one. In the midst of a storm, when the other men were huddled in fear on the boat. Peter saw the Lord. Jesus called to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” The threshold may be exciting and new but walking through it may be a whole other story. Peter got out of the boat but his confidence remained in the boat. When he saw the elements surrounding his journey, suddenly that sinking feeling of doubt began to drag him down. He was beginning to sink. The Lord saved Peter in the midst of his drowning. Lord, will you save us today?

Our new front door is beautiful. Rather than a solid panel, there is now beautiful leaded glass which allows glorious light to flood the foyer. It is an inviting entrance into our home. It is a magnificent exit to the world around us. The possibilities of life are met on the other side when one ventured from the safety and security of our home into the surrounding world. When the sun sets at the end of a long, arduous day – it is the place where peace and rest are found in comfort. If only we could see across the thresholds placed before us by the Lord, to see past the obstacle into the outrageous plan of God that awaits us. To exit confidently and mindfully aware that there is always more in the Lord and each day a new beginning with new opportunities to know Jesus and love Him more.

The threshold of our home is transparent but the doorway to new beginnings not so much. Faith requires a step into the darkness most days. It is a quiet calling to “come” in the midst of raging storms, trembling mountains, and rough terrain. To go beyond human comprehension into the realm of hope that doesn’t not yield a clear view of the journey just the promise of a wonderful destination. When I leave home today, there is not telling what the day will look like. My plans may fall apart. My expectation in people, place or things sadly unmet. It may be a horrible day for all I know but one thing is for sure each brand new day comes with new mercy to make it through. It holds a sufficient amount of grace even if I fail miserably. God’s Love is pursuing us today. His Goodness right there with Him. If we could only concentrate on crossing the threshold of His Presence – there is new life in each moment of every single day.

Psalm 84:10-11 (ESV) For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

The Amplified Bible translates part of these verses to read – “I would rather stand (as a doorkeeper) at the threshold of the House of my God than live (at ease) in the tents of wickedness.” To live on the threshold of His Presence each day is the possibility of faith and confident hope in our life. It is not for everyone because it takes courage to react and respond to who we know rather than what we see. Experience can be a rough teacher. Life is full of hard knocks that make harden hearts. I have attended such a school. Even though Peter jumped over the side of the boat and failed miserably that day, the Lord was there to keep him from forever falling and drowning in the depths of his doubt. Jesus knows us. He can see right through our façade that is presented to the world each day. He wipes our tears cried in the darkness of night and every so lovingly places them in a bottle. One day the Lord will redeem those tears to water our faith and cause new life to spring forth in the deep crevices of our broken heart.

When Peter left the boat, it was a new beginning. A threshold or new beginning as the Lord unfolded the plan to begin the building of His Church in the belief of just one man. We want to go in groups. Who wants to be alone? Our hand on the knob ready to turn it – yet our heart wavering within us. What if? What about? Can I possibly? Must I go it alone? Where are you, Lord? The enemy will stand at the threshold of opportunity waving his hands furious and shooting fiery darts at our heart. If he can distract us or dissuade us, then we will not be victorious overcomers. He is on a mission. To destroy our confidence in the Lord and keep us hiding in the darkness rather than allowing us to make our way into a life of glorious light.

Isaiah 6:1-8 (ESV) In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

On the threshold of new beginnings when things seem to be impossible, we must put our heart and mind in the Presence of God who knows the beginning from the end. Jesus has been with the Father from the beginning and knows the plan including the future and hope that promised to us. We must become attached and aligned with the person who knows our purpose rather than standing on the threshold recalling all the reasons we cannot do it or what could go wrong. Delayed obedience is disobedience. The daily mantra of my life. The longer we live the more experience there is to draw from. Life experience produces consequences but the encounters with the Lord become the birthplace of possibilities. No matter how it comes about the end is full of miraculous possibility if we only choose to believe.

God will shake the foundations of your threshold to move you from ordinary to extraordinary. He will make mountains move and ways where there seemed to be no way. What must I do? What is my part in His Perfect Plan? Trust. To be vulnerable and intimate with the Spirit of God will always require us to trust the Lord. He does not change so we will be the ones who do. He doesn’t lie so now our life will be governed by truth. Truth exposes every lie once hidden inside of us producing conviction to live in the Light of His Word and to put away useless things to fully embrace godliness simply because He is worthy. The more I know Him the more I love Him. The more I depend on the Lord the more I need Him. The more I trust Him the less like I am to turn back. Is the Lord shaking the threshold of your life today? The once comfortable, convenient and controlled environment you survived in is now being turned upside down so you will thrive. Will you go? Will you step over the threshold into a new life?

Revelation 3:20-21 (ESV) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

In John 21, Peter has another opportunity to cross the threshold of the boat to come to Jesus. When he knew it was Jesus on the shore, he left the boat, fish, fear, doubt and every insecurity to get into the Presence of the Lord. He had denied Christ three times and then watched Him die. Yet still when the next opportunity came to get out of the boat there was nothing in this world that would stop him from reaching His Beloved. It was a new beginning. As history reports, the life of Peter would end tragically according to this world but he would triumphantly enter the Kingdom of God. You have to lose your life to find it. You have to lose your life in Him. There is no new beginning on the starting side of thresholds. We must cross the thresholds set before us to enter in to the new thing the Lord has prepared for us.

Peter would fulfill his destiny. He would be the foundation of the early church. Nothing would ever separate him from the Love of God that He discovered in Christ Jesus. It all begins with Jesus. When He says, “Come.” Will you? When He wants to enjoy your company? Will you remain in His Presence just a little longer? Will you lay down your pride that demands comfort, convenience and control? Confidence in Christ begins in a humble moment of surrender. We awake each day to possibility on the threshold of something new and exciting to be discovered in our partnership with Christ. Will you cross the threshold today?

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

My Broken Heart

My Broken Heart

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

My office is located across the street from a hospital. They have an amazing cafeteria with an abundance of choices for an extremely reasonable price. Finding favor with the staff provides heaping portions and an employee discount due to our frequent visits. Standing in line for the fry cook, a group of doctors stream in behind me. While waiting they begin to discuss the afternoon surgery schedule and procedures. I have a background in medical transcription so it is clear within minutes that they are cardiologists. Heart doctors grabbing a quick bite to eat before saving lives and restoring hearts for the rest of the day. Placing  their orders, I had to chuckle under my breath. You would think that someone who fixes broken hearts each day would avoid high carbs and fried, fatty food but quite to the contrary. In fact, none of them want the “veggies” on their double cheeseburgers just meat, cheese and grease. Such a contradiction, but no condemnation as I grab my own burger and fries on the way out.

I have been praying to the Great Physician for my own heart. When things don’t add up in my life, it is the first order of business to do a self-check. Comparing the contents of my heart, mind, will and emotions for anything contrary to God’s Word, His Will or His Way. He doesn’t change. He cannot tell a lie. What He says, He will do every single time. Therefore, when something seems amiss, it is usually in me. It could be my impatience or lack of understanding. Sometimes there are things in my heart taking God’s Place. Other times I have allowed doubt to begin to dull me from the inside out.

As I prayed, I began to see an image unravel in my head. A church full of people holding their hearts in their hands. The music was playing. An altar call given to all the broken to be restored again. No one came but instead held the pieces of their own broken hearts praying for others around them hoping no one else could see their offering withheld. Suddenly, I became aware that those people and I had something in common. How often do we look at others as the problem? Or fail to consider our own condition? To live in depression, discouragement and disappointment because rather than giving the Lord all the broken pieces – we try to hold it all together. What are we holding together? Our brokenness. What does the Lord want to do? Give us a new heart. A responsive heart. A heart that beats in alignment with His Own. A heart burgeoning with life and new possibilities. One that is not stubborn or callous but one that arouses our spirit man with faith and confident hope.

As if that was not enough, the Lord began to drive His Point home. I began to see people I know and love who have sick hearts. Our son, my mom and even my adopted Memaw at church. All with heart conditions that need physical healing. I see the faces of those who have endured broken relationships. Giving all of their heart only to have the holder break it into a million falling pieces. The minister whose season was over grieving the loss of their sheep. The friends with lost children watching and waiting for their return. Those who desire more and are locked in less. So many hurting hearts physical, emotional and spiritual standing all around me. I am not alone. Are you heart sick today? Are you trying to hold all the pieces together in fear something might think you have no faith? Do dark shrouds of depression, despair, disappointment or discouragement hound you day and night? It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

Psalm 13:1-2 (NLT) O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:11) How true is this scripture? While many feel like the psalmist in Psalm 13, most will never admit to the own struggles in faith. To believe is not natural. To have faith is illogical. Everything about God contradicts nature as we know it due to sin. Sin has flawed that created to be perfect. You are divinely created by the Living God. You are fearfully and marvelously made because God only prepares wonderful masterpieces. Yet in the course of life, even the most righteous believer will struggle to stay focused. The Lord is always thinking about us. Pursuing us with His Love. Offering His Goodness including every provision, blessing and promise that prosperity encompasses. It all belongs to us by the Grace of God given to us through His Son, Jesus. We only need to accept His Love into our heart and mind until we are convinced that this is the Truth concerning us. God has placed eternity in our heart and promises to make everything beautiful in His Time. But until then…

Psalm 13:5-6 (NLT) But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14) Faith is not imagined but intentional. To take my confidence out of this world and put it in the Kingdom is not fanciful but focused. I must make every effort to respond to all of God’s Promises by faith. Faith is in our heart. Brokenness gives faith a place to grow, develop and mature into confident hope. Hope that anchors our soul is heavily weighted in the Word of God planted as tiny seeds growing into mighty oaks of righteousness. A broken heart is painful. It doesn’t work properly and there are many things that will contribute to its demise including hidden sin, retained offenses, and bits of bitterness all allowed to take the place of faith. Doubt is the tiny pebble that becomes a mighty mountain in the life of a believer. If the enemy can sell us on just one lie, our feet become tangled and down we go. Those who choose the Lord as rock (immovable) and redeemer (the one who saves, heals and delivers) will see His Goodness in the land of the living just as He promises in Psalm 27.

Psalm 6:1-3 (NLT) O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?

Can you relate to David’s plea to the Lord today? Are you beginning to think that God is punishing you for something? Or is this discipline that is unpleasant? Do you think that God doesn’t love you? Or maybe He has forgotten you? Knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two very different things. When our body, mind or spirit are plagued with negative thoughts it drags our heart down, too. Are you sick at heart today? Is your heart broken? Are you clinging to the pieces hoping to put your life together again? How long will the Lord wait until He restores you, me, or us?

Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

The cardiologists ordering lunch were filled with vast knowledge. Years of education and experience and yet they still chose foods that might compromise their health and hearts. They made an informed decision to choose unhealthy options. We have been given the Word of God. As we deliberately, read it, study it and meditate on it – we have knowledge of God. Wisdom is gained by applying such knowledge to our life. I can know everything the Word says and do everything according to church doctrine and still live with a broken, lifeless heart. His Commandments bring joy to our heart. (Psalm 19:8) As we resolve the conflict between our flesh and faith something beautiful will emerge from the rock that once residing in our chest. New life comes when we allow the Lord to take our stony heart and give us a new heart. The only confidence I have in this life that is eternal is found in Jesus Christ. God will strengthen the heart given to Him in its complete brokenness. He creates masterpieces out of messes (Ephesians 2:10) and makes every detail of our life part of the magnificent existence found it its place. (Romans 8:28)

If you are heart sick today, I know a healer. A Great Physician who does heart transplants without a single incision just a cut called circumcision. As our stony heart is removed, a new heart emerges full of life. the hope that I have in Jesus Christ is not based on what I see but Who I know. When struggling with doubt, depression, despair, discouragement or desperation – our broken heart will hear His Voice. Why? His Word tells us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18) It is up to me if I will respond to His Call. Come closer He says. Let me give you a new heart. Renew a right spirit. Our response – “Lord, I am coming!”

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.

Time To Change

Time To Change

Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Daylight Savings Time. I will not complain. I will not gripe. I hate it. There I said it. I don’t care which clock you choose just pick one. A CNN poll shows that I am in the minority. Truth be told, I do not mind the results of the time change. I do not like the disruption of my schedule. It creates a few days of discomfort as my body whines for the extra hour of sleep. It’s change. You can say that you don’t mind change but we all are impacted by it. I painted the study in our house yesterday. I had already decided to move the furniture around so my desk faced the window. I like to change things up in the house. After 18 different renderings, I asked him to come look. He said, “I like it the old way better.” My daughter said, “It’s because you don’t like change.”

Transformation always requires change. If you are a creature of habit, it is uncomfortable to have your routine interrupted. However, I believe for the transformation from death to life requires it. We believe in God. We profess Jesus Christ. Yet, the patterns constructed by our habits and experiences are held tightly too. The Lord is offering us the opportunity to live a satisfied life. To live from glory to glory. To prosper as our soul does. To be resurrection and life in the land of the living long before we meet Him face to face. Yet the moment when change begins, most will begin to whine and complain as I do about the time change because change often makes us uncomfortable. It is new. It is inconvenient to those of who maintain order such as habits, schedules and routines that are completely compromised when the Lord steps in. It is a place of trust rather than confidence that our flesh does not want to fall into. We cannot control Christ. Christ must control us in order for our life to change from ordinary to extraordinary.

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV) “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Resurrection power and life are available to us right here and right now. I have been studying John 11 and the death of Lazarus. I am like Martha. There is comfort in control that I am slowly giving up on. She liked staying busy. She ran a tight ship. She believed in Jesus Christ to a point. But the Lord had so much more for this radical doer. When Lazarus died, she believed that he would be raised…in eternity. Jesus stood right there in front of her offering new life to her dead loved one. She went back to her busyness. She told the Lord that she believed, but did she? Really? When it came time to roll the stone away and call forth her sleeping brother – she protested. His body in the grave for four days – she was concerned about the stink of it. New life could only come if she gave up the body to receive it.

How many times do we believe to the point of return? Our mind limits us. We can only journey to the extent our belief. The moment doubt, fear, anxiety, and worries take over – it is human nature to take control of the situation. How many times has the resurrection and life stood before me and because I was losing control or ran out of faith that my courage waned and I walked away from a miracle? God wants to open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing on His People. However, human nature loses courage when the impossible happens or unthinkable occurs. The Lord invites us today to set our mind on higher things. To begin Kingdom thinking giving up our earthly cares and concerns. Trust is a fall from fear to faith that lifts us above our circumstances and situations to full satisfaction for those who will go. Do you believe that His Resurrection Power and Life is for you today? In the land of the living…

Psalm 27:13-14 (ESV) I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Daylight Savings Time is really a good thing. By setting our clocks forward one hour, it gives us more daylight in the summer. I will complain for a few days about the loss of sleep but fully embrace the light in the afternoon when I get off work. How many good things do we miss because our flesh doesn’t like the inconvenience? I am afraid quite a bit when it comes to the Lord. Faith is not in the seeing. Hope comes from confidence in the one who is faithful. If we are waiting for the Lord to show us His Hand, it will not happen until we give Him our heart. Fully trusting and believing in His Faithfulness now AND forever. With each new day comes the opportunity to say, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Then comes the not so fun part, I will wait for the Lord. Be strong. Let my heart take courage. And wait some more if necessary.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (ESV) From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Word of God is Jesus Christ. In John 1:4, it says, “In Him was life.” As a believer, Christ lives in you. His Breath is in your body along with the Resurrection Power and life. What is holding you back? What is keeping His Power from overflowing into the natural realm of today? Fear and insecurity keeps the stone over the dead things in our life. We doubt the Jesus of today yet claim to fully embrace our future hope. Jesus wants to breathe new life into those dead dreams today. Something will have to change. It will begin in you. Transformation is not comfortable or convenient. You will not be in control when the Lord reigns and rules in your heart. But you will be blessed beyond measure when Jesus begins to pour out the full satisfaction that He promises in His Word!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2) I cannot give my life away without change. Today, I ask the Lord to change my heart and mind from natural excuses to supernatural expectation. To produce new faith and establish firm confidence that allows me to embrace change rather than trying to control it. To surrender my life like a seed put in the ground, He will transform it into exactly who and what He has called and created me to be. Lord, change me. Transform all the brokenness into the beauty you have promised. Bring every dry and dead bone back to life. I trust you Lord! Change is good when it is according to your Word, Will and Way. Teach me to embrace and embody all the changes you have in store for me!

Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

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.

New Heart

New Heaert

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The image a vivid reality in my mind. Praying to the Lord to take all of me is a common cry in the church today but do we really understand what we are saying. God begins a good work in us. Holy Inhabitation makes it possible as the Holy Spirit takes over those areas of our life invested in the Kingdom. The fashion of holy consecration is brokenness. It is an act of humility. Sacrifice that demands all of us to produce good fruit and abundant life in all areas. The Lord has promised to give us a new heart and new spirit. The Word of God says, “I will put within you.” When our religion becomes a true relationship with Jesus Christ – our heart cannot be withheld and flesh cannot survive the burning passion and desire to seek Him, know Him and be with Him.

The Heart of Stone

Back to the revelation in my prayer time, I saw a sharp pointed knife cutting through dull gray exterior resembling a rock. As it began to cut with excellent precision – I wondered if it could get through the concrete exterior. What would be inside? As it continued the downward trend, a beautiful beating heart emerged. It took my breath away as in that moment I drew in a cleansing breath. God is this what you want to do in me, my family, my church and my community. Are you trying to take our stony, hard hearts and give them new life? Absolutely.

It’s funny that humanity thinks it can evoke heavenly change in an earthly body. The embodiment of religion is to produce positive change on the exterior, but without the inward change of a circumcised heart – it won’t work. We can build churches but not become the Church. We can resemble broken and handicap bodies but not become the Body of Christ. The prosperity of our hands will not move the Heart of God. He must complete the good work that He has begun in us through His Son, Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) Have you given your heart to Jesus?

Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (ESV) “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Before moving ahead to obedience, our heart must truly repent before the Lord. Jesus must be the Way, the Truth and Life for us. In that moment, everything changes but unless one engages in the relationship with Christ – it is merely another social venue chosen in which to exist. The miracle of salvation is made complete in the covenant formed as a relationship with Jesus. Without a relationship, it is nothing more than religion. Religious people do not necessarily have eternal life. Without a heart change produced solely by the Lord and His Spirit, we may look different, sound good, and live better but eternal life comes from an intimate and ongoing relationship with the Father through His Son.

Grace is always enough. This is not a call to live a perfect life. Never make mistakes. Always make good choices. Stop sinning completely. Though these are our goals, the battle against our flesh is quite evident and the struggle is real. (Romans 7) What does God require of you? To fear the Lord your God. To walk in all His Ways. To love him. To serve Him with all your heart and soul. To keep His Commandments and Statutes.

Here’s a plot twist for you! Every bit of this is summed up in love. Romans 13 tells us that we are to own no one anything but love. The Message translation puts it like this – “Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” To love Jesus with all of our heart and soul makes sin unpalatable if it separates us from His Love. When our union with Christ is complete, He becomes our priority over selfishness because He is better than life. You cannot engage in a relationship with Christ without a circumcised heart. It is the sign of covenant. In the Old Testament – an outward sign of a promise. In the New Testament – it is an inward sign of a new heart, mind, soul and body devoted to Jesus Christ.

New Heart

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

This verse has been heavy on my heart. The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword to the division of soul and spirit…Is the Sword of the Spirit for me? Yes. To use on others. To wield against the enemy and every perceived threat. Yes. But first, before all of that, it is for me to allow God to circumcise me and give me a new heart and new soul to serve Him. What if we have been going about this all wrong? What if our first action as a believer is to allow God to use this two-edged sword on our own stony and stubborn hearts…first. Always first. When tempted to lash out can we let His Word cut away the lack of love in us. What if the sword is useless in our defense unless it produces change in us first? Jesus is the Word. He is the Way, Truth and Life. No one gets to the Father but through Him. If God’s Word does not work in me, I cannot become the new creation filled with new life that He promised. I must consecrate my life beginning with my heart and soul before I can make an impact in my home, church and community. Otherwise it is just good works not godly deeds.

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

A stubborn hard heart cannot give the kind of love that it has received from the Lord. God is love. His Love for us comes without condition and immeasurable grace. A heart of stone cannot receive such love and it is like pouring water on a rock. Only a heart broken before the Lord can receive all that He has for us. I wonder today if I might be so bold as to say the heart of the church must be circumcised again. To cut away the callous disregard for “sinners” just like us. To see people where they are instead of expecting them to “act” like us. To see ourselves transparently through the eyes of grace and humbly expect our misfortune apart from Jesus Christ. We have all failed the Lord. We are all sinners just the same. There is none righteous no not one.

Lord, I ask you to take the two-edged sword of your Word and penetrate our stony, stubborn and selfish hearts today. This word is for no one other than me for I am the least of these. Father, renew a right spirit in me. Let Your Presence be my dwelling place as I crawl back to You with my heart in my hands asking you to give me a brand new one! In Jesus Name!

Ezekiel 11:18-20 (ESV) And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Just For You

Just For You

I Timothy 6:6-8 (NLT) Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” C.S. Lewis

True godliness mixed with contentment is the catalyst of love, joy and peace that eliminates the need to compare and compromise. True godliness is not something to be attained or achieved but simply accepting our identity in God through Jesus Christ and not subjecting ourselves to a lower standard of living. It is a choice. A daily decision to be thankful and focused on the treasure inside of us that is taking over. In fact, I believe that contentment is great wealth because it cannot be taken away from us. We came into the world naked and afraid and will one day leave it the very same way. Will there be an inheritance left behind for our children? What will it be? To teach our children even ourselves to live a life of godly contentment will do far more than any amount of money, assets or investment left in their name. To be certain that they know and understand their worth outside of the earthly economy will lead them to forever with a future and hope.

Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT) Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Paul let us in on a little secret. We must “learn” how to be content. Contentment is full satisfaction. It is happiness outside the boundaries of acquisition that allows us happiness, joy and peace even when lacking our wants, needs and desires knowing that God is our Provider. He is a Good Father. He will never let us down. Faith in God includes trusting and believing that His Goodness is for us. Right here. Right now in the land of the living. Yet, continuing to preserve unfavorable conditions, live through trying circumstances, and knowing when to wait on the Lord rather than giving into our impulsive nature. Tis the season of giving and getting and giving and getting until it everyone is all given out. Yet the Gift already given in Jesus Christ is enough to fulfill the promise that I can do all everything through Him who give me His Strength. Lord, teach us contentment today. Holy Spirit help us to learn when enough is enough.

“Contentment does not mean that I desire nothing. But rather, it’s the simple decision to be happy with what I have.” Paula Rollo, Author of Beauty through Imperfection

Matthew 6:33 (NLT) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

How does one find sufficiency in God without ever seeking Him? To seek the Kingdom of God above all else means making thankfulness and contentment a priority in our life. It is to live righteously always pursuing a close proximity to the Lord and not letting stuff (including pride) to get in the way. Pride is the drive and desire for more to somehow exalt us rather than living in subjection and surrender to Jesus Christ who says, “I am enough!” Is He enough for you today? Busyness and business makes us think we need more to be happy and extra to live extravagantly. I find that as my life is simplified that I sleep better. My drive for success has been redirected from this world to the Kingdom. God has been faithful in our partnership. Seeking His Kingdom including our willingness to be faithful to His Word, obedient in tithing, and sowing seeds of faith even some monetary will change our perspective of worldly success. Generosity is born of humility. Trusting God that whatever source chosen to give from will be replenished to overflowing again. Psalm 34:7 is the promise that those who take delight in the Lord will be given their heart’s desire.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis

Psalm 21:1-2 (NLT) How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory. For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. 

What if the Lord is not withholding anything from us but simply waiting on what we desire to be more on His Scale? What if He desires to give us love, joy, and peace not subject to the things of this world and give us full satisfaction? The Lord has promised good to me. He has been faithful across the board in all things. To trust Him that He will never let me down, provide all I need and do exceedingly abundantly more than I could even think to ask for takes a faith in the unseen reality of what we hope for rather than in the light and momentary trinkets of today. We have been given every spiritual blessing in heaven. The ability to produce and prosper in every season. Foreigners journeying home to a Kingdom. We are sons and daughters of the King. It doesn’t matter what our life looks like here. Our lineage in Jesus Christ is to rule and reign with Him. Confidence in our identity will overcome the need to compare and compromise to someone else’s standard. It allows us to walk boldly before the Throne of God in our time of need and patience to wait as He fulfills our request according to His Perfect Will.

David was not a perfect man. He committed adultery and murder yet the testimony of his life is summed up in the statement that God had given him the desires of his heart and withheld nothing he requested. Our past does not dictate our future. The Lord is ready to make us a new creation and give us new life. We must be willing to accept it. Godliness is to step into the fullness of our identity with bold confidence that God, our Father, will never let us down and thereby produce complete contentment in our body, mind and soul.

I John 2:15-17 (NLT) Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

What is the desire of your heart today? Are there many desires? The world offers many “things” that it believes are necessary to be successful and prosperous. Heaven offers only one. Jesus Christ is the completion of our life. To become one with Christ in this life leads us to the everlasting. There are so many distractions and deceptions as the enemy of our soul feeds our flesh with cravings for lesser than things when God has an abundance for us. We must make room for His Fullness by taking captive rebellious thoughts and guarding our eyes, mind and body from all the substitutions being offered. Are you happy today? Are you content? Love, joy and peace are products of God’s Spirit and can never be taken from us. Happiness is an emotion. It comes and goes like the tide. It can be changed with just one tidbit of bad news or the knock of unexpected trouble. The Lord has something just for you. A gift to be opened. If used it will be the greatest blessing your heart and soul has ever known – it is called contentment. You must learn to be content. Contentment is found only in Jesus Christ as He completes His Work in us. Will you accept this precious and priceless gift just for you today?

John 14:27 (NLT) “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in the ecstasy of love…” C.S. Lewis

Live Broken

Live Broken

Psalm 57:17 (NLT) The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

As my friend shared her story, I could identify. Her need for something more from someone who didn’t have it to give. Caught in a vicious familial cycle of unmet expectation. Lost in comparison with another. Relationships are challenging. All connections experiencing their own difficulties. Angry at the clear disregard of another with an obvious open and exposed wound where their heart used to beat, it was an opportunity to share from my own experience. What is this thing called broken? Why would God desire broken people? Why is brokenness part of His Process? Could it be that we have it backwards? The order all wrong. Is it because people get broken all the time that God loves and draws close to them. Perhaps, He doesn’t do the breaking but capitalizes on the opportunity to rush in with a flood of grace and healing balm to fill that void left behind by the blatant disregard, neglect or harm of another.

Relationships would be more successful if people were perfect. If our ability to be consistent in mood, behavior and emotions always acting with sound wisdom, making good choices, and able to selflessly think of others first. We are not perfect clearly evident by our need for new mercy each day and constant covering by grace. Everyone has expectation not met by other people. Hearts are broken every day. It is in the next beat that the choice is made what to do with the new piece left behind. Some will collect the pieces and walk away. Others will choose to thrust right back again. And then there are those who will decide to put them in the Father’s Hands.

My childhood was not perfect. There is no such thing. I have attended the school of hard knocks. As a twenty-something woman, I was broken and bitter. That’s right! Bitterness filled all the voids left by hurt, disappointment and regret. I decided to take my life into my own hands. Clearly the Lord was unhappy with all my wrong turns and bad decisions so I was on my own or so I thought. It’s funny how quickly pride takes hold of raw emotion validating its existence and feeding it day by day. Such a dark time in my life, how could anything good come of it?  How could I ever be a whole person again? Little did I know? Brokenness is not the end for those who love God, it is only the beginning.

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT) I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Bitterness is a poisonous root that will corrupt every good thing working in us. It is the hiss of the enemy in our ear telling us to hold on to that offense, keep being mad about it, and never forgive or forget what just happened. The enemy uses bitterness to build a wall of insecurity, fear and doubt around us. These grow into tall towers that will hinder the most religious person but separating us from others and eventually God. “I will never forget this awful time…” Do you have a moment like that in your life? When enough is enough…or the time when “they” went too far? Are you grieving a loss? What has broken you today?

The faithful love of the Lord never ends. His Mercies never cease. Great is His Faithfulness. His Mercies begin fresh every morning. What if God didn’t ordain brokenness in our life but rather uses it as an opportunity to fill us with Himself. To become our portion in the absence of satisfaction. The Lord is my inheritance. I will hope in Him. This kind of hope never leads to disappointment but what if God uses our disappointments to introduce us to hope?

Psalm 34:18-20 (NLT) The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

Brokenness is a part of life in an imperfect world. We serve a perfect God who is able to come close to the brokenhearted. He does not stop there but will actually heal them. (Psalm 147:3) I have found that when I have it all together I have nothing to give but the greatest giving comes from the broken pieces of my life. To hold the hand of a single mom who is pregnant with another child resting beneath her broken heart and say, “God has a plan. He loves you and will provide for you” with confidence because I have been there before. To encourage the caregiver of a loved one battling a broken body filled with sickness and disease and say without reservation, “God is the healer.” To hold the broken sobbing soul at an altar unsure of the Goodness and Graciousness of the Father to tell them – “He is a Good Father. He welcomes you home!” See it is when our life is broken and the Lord is revealed that the fruit grown can be shared. The fish and loaves of one boy could feed masses when blessed and broken – imagine what the Lord will do with the shattered pieces of your heart in His Skillful Hands.

Lord, teach me to live broken today. It is of no use to hide my imperfections because surely they will show through the careful façade I put together each day. Show me how to use each piece for Your Glory, God. To light the way of others who are broken, too. To love them like You loved me in my bitterness and wanderings. Help me Jesus to see through the walls and strongholds of carefully built insecurity to Your Beloved hiding inside. You are Good! You are Gracious! You wait to take every broken piece and construct the wonderful masterpiece you planned. Thank you God for hope that is eternal and love that is everlasting!

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

Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Catch 22

Change

 

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Christians live in a daily process of change. Those who truly believe and turn to Jesus Christ cannot remain the same and in a relationship with Christ. The evidence of Jesus in us is that we become a new person. The old life is passing away giving way to the new lift that has begun. To be yoked to the Lord means accepting His Way. Therefore, in order to become one with Christ, we must be the ones who accept the new way of life and thinking because He cannot and will not change to conform to our way. There is not a believer out there who would openly admit that they do not want all of Christ but few engage and endure the process necessary to be successful in such an endeavor. When change begins to take place, it usually produces inner turmoil, discomfort, inconvenience and things appear to be out of control. Our flesh and inner being is not okay with it and rebels against it. The human tendency is to escape rather than fully engage in the process of revival, restoration and renewal that the Lord is producing in us to secure the conditions of our present environment. There are many reasons that the church is not thriving mostly intrinsic. The Presence and Power of God is available to us but the catch 22 is called change.

Romans 7:22-24 (MSG) It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The paradox of humanity is the war within our bodies. The inner being called our flesh likes to have its own way and preserve its place of control. God’s Spirit moves in and begins mixing things up. The flesh dies a little each day. It must give way to the change God is producing unless we allow it to maintain full control. Mind, will, emotions and even our body chime in against what the Lord is doing in us. The rebels rise up and if our heart does not stand strong against them – our process remains incomplete. Frustration and discouragement set in.

The Lord uses a process called transformation. He does not use conformation but we must be transformed by Christ. This means change. Change so comprehensively complete that it changes who we are, how we think and what we do. There is no compromise in God’s Vocabulary. He is God. God is not human. He is eternal. He is sovereign. He is constant. He does not lie or change His Mind. (Numbers 23:19) God is everlasting. He is the Creator of all things. He does not grow tired or weary. His Understanding is endless. (Isaiah 40:28) His Thoughts and Ways are nothing like a human being. He is perfect in all of His Ways. When He speaks, His Words are on a mission and will not return to Him until that command is complete. (Isaiah 55:8-11) The ordination of our life including His Plans (Jeremiah 29:11) handwritten before our birth (Psalm 139:16) even the calling the Lord has placed on our life cannot be withdrawn or recanted. (Romans 11:29) He said it and He meant it.

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning God’s Unconditional Love and Affection for us is eternal. The constancy of God includes His Great Love for us. God is Love. (I John 4:8) He loved us first. (I John 4:19) He loves us most. He will love us always. His Mercy given to us each new day is evidence of this very thing. (Lamentations 3:22-24) He pursues us through life with goodness and unfailing love all the days of our natural life. (Psalm 23:6) His Son, Jesus, bears the same qualities and traits. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) His Example is set and clearly delineated in the Word of God with an invitation to yoke our life with Him. (Matthew 11:28-29) Every detail of our life has the potential to turn out for our good and God’s Glory based on all these foundational truths and promises concerning God’s Unchangeable Character. (Romans 8:28) He does not change like a shifting shadow. The sun casts a shifting shadow moving according to the natural conditions. However, the Son never changes. God has sent good and perfect gifts for His People including the ability to have a new life and become a new creation. Our flesh dies in the process therefore tries to abort it quickly to save itself.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Romans 7:25 (MSG) The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Change is inevitable to achieve a new life, become a new creation and experience godly fulfillment that leads to full satisfaction and contentment in Jesus Christ. Our flesh creates a paradox. Our body, mind, will and emotions are sinful and contradictory to God’s Way. The problem is that God will not change. He will not compromise for you, me or anyone else. He will settle for nothing less than His Best for us. He refuses to leave us in our current state or condition but must see our purpose and potential fulfilled. This is all because of His Love and Goodness. We are His Passion, Prize and Treasure. He will stop at nothing to bless and prosper our life. Even when we whine, complain and give in to the flesh when our body doesn’t like the change the Holy Spirit is producing in us – God will not relent. He will continue to work in us as long as Christ is in us.

Romans 5:1-2 (MSG)  By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

Faith will always be a catalyst of change. To trust God moves us from glory to glory which is a conduit of change. Change is also a crucible which burns away at the things keeping us from experiencing all of God’s Goodness. It is hard to see the forest for the trees as the saying goes. We forget that our life is a comprehensive plan set into motion that will lead us from victory to victory. We are overcomers in all things because Christ lives in us yet fall subject to light and momentary troubles allowing them to stop the momentum of change. Salvation made us right with God. Repentance is the turning each part of our life over to Him. As we do so, change is inevitable. We must embrace change each day or risk hindering the process of full consummation in a thriving relationship with a jealous God who is reckless and extravagant in His Love for us. He stops at nothing to give you His Absolute Best in full abundance.

Romans 5:3-5 (MSG) There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Every single man and woman of God has days when they question God’s Motives and Intentions. Pressure, pain, and problems make us wonder is God’s Promise really for us. In pregnancy – we wait for the baby to grow, develop and mature into a viable little human. During the birth process, anticipation of fulfillment is close but the real work begins. Right before the baby is born, the woman’s body enters a phase of labor called transition. This is generally marked by the mom’s sudden change in her demeanor. She will say things like “I can’t do this” or “I don’t want to this”. She becomes frenzied and irrational. Usually within minutes, she is holding her precious baby in her arms. If she quit or gave up in that moment, refusing to push her newborn into the world, what would have happened? Maybe you are in transition right now in your spiritual life? Perhaps the Lord is finally birthing that promise that He has grown and developed in you all this time, but it is too hard so you are just want to quit. Impossible is the birthplace of miracles. Does it seem impossible? Does it feel like it’s never going to happen? Are you expecting today?

The Lord is calling out your name today. Like Elijah on the mountaintop, He is asking, “What are you doing here?” The enemy wants you to disengage in this process called change and take the easy way out. It is the moment that he will take fulfillment, contentment and soul satisfaction from you. The moment you give it up to compromise for comfort, convenience or control. Don’t let him do that to you. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. Not just forever, but in the land of the living too. You must push, press and endure stopping at nothing to have it. There is no catch 22 for the one who is sold out completely by absolute faith, total trust and confident hope. God will do it. He is able. He is true. The rest, dear one, is up to only you. No more catch 22 or contradictions allowed. Be confident that the Lord who has begun this great and glorious good work in you will complete it!

Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG) I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

A New Thing

New-Thing

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT) “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

If only forgetting was easy, but it’s not. The past has a way of grabbing our attention and holding it tightly. It doesn’t even have to be a negative experience to captivate our gaze distracting us from the future. When life turns out better than expected, it keeps us locked in the present wary of change. To live in the limbo of faithful expectation and ongoing willingness to leave the comfort of the known to explore the unknown is contrary to human nature. The idea of foregoing inconvenience silences the call “send me” but rather “keep me right here” is the hidden hope of the wary heart. Pride holds tightly to the concept of control hushing the thought of humility allows God’s Power to work in our weakness by His Grace. Who wants to be weak? I do.

This morning – I heard a whisper in the darkness just before dawn. I want to do a new thing. At first, I thought it was my husband mumbling in his sleep but turning to face him peacefully sleeping I knew it wasn’t him. I heard it again. “I am doing a new thing.” Walking through the sleeping condo to find a quiet place, the sun is peaking through the clouds over a calm ocean. The same ocean that once upon it in a little pink ring toppled my girls and I with one rogue wave. Dare I go again? Dare I say, “Yes Lord, I am ready”? The last time I felt the urge to follow my faith – diving into the Word of God seeking out His Promises – it led me to a hospital, a bad report, a sick child, the very edge of my faith. It was my complete undoing. Dare I say, “Do it again, Lord.” Unravel me. Undo me. Break my heart before you. You see life is good. My life has exceeded my expectation in so many ways. Dare I tempt fate? Do I trust the Lord for more? Fulfillment is a longing deep in every heart. Faith is the issue at hand.

I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

This is the part that is challenging. The “pathway through the wilderness” marked with many temptations. “Rivers in the wasteland” which may mean a season of drought or barrenness. Faith is the requirement to achieve new things in the Lord. To fully embrace His Way and walk out His Word to the place marked full satisfaction, complete contentment and fulfillment of purpose. To have these things means letting go of the past, forgetting how God did all those great and mighty things so we won’t miss the “new” thing that He is doing. To embrace expectation in the Character and Nature of God not His Previous Doing or Outpouring. Expectation formed by experiences might make us miss what the Lord is doing now because of limited perspective. Our expectation must remain fully and confidently in the Love and Goodness of God full of Grace for His People.

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

My life is not perfect. My faith far from it. My confidence strong but still weak at times. I have achieved things in Christ that were once impossible. Yet, He has called me to more, I must decide if I am willing to step out of this place and into the future of my faith. To let go of what He has done to receive the new things yet to come. The Lord leads us from glory to glory. Always qualified with an invitation as the He cannot and will not force the Gift of Grace, Goodness or Glory based on unconditional love and forgiveness on us or it wouldn’t be a gift or love at all. We choose to go to new places and have the new things whispered to our heart each day. We must forget the former things and embrace faith as the reality of our life.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

When I think of all that the Lord has done in my life, I fall on my knees in thankfulness. Today in thankfulness, I am also reminded that He offers “glorious, unlimited resources” to “empower” us and give us inner strength through His Spirit for more. Christ in me is always striving to make me “more than a conqueror” to walk in the victory. To claim every promise and blessing offered through right-standing with the Father for which He died to give me. His Offer still stands and cannot be achieved in a moment but takes a lifetime crossing over into forever to receive fully and completely. How can I say, “No”? God’s Purpose is that I will know the parameters of His Boundless Love and Blessing in my life. His Goal is that I will experience the fullness and completion offered by a life lived IN Christ. It is all too great for me to understand. Yet, nevertheless, my ignorance is given knowledge, understanding, discernment and wisdom through His Spirit to say, “Yes” when He says, “I want to do a new thing.” Lord, thank you for always offering me more when I would be willing to settle for less.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT) Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.