Make the Sacrifice

Make the Sacrifice

Psalm 118:26-28 (NLT) Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you!

After a spectacular Saturday, I awaken to an overcast and humid Sunday. What a disappointment! I had plans for today including washing the smelly dog, planting a hydrangea and maybe going for a leisurely drive with my sweetie. The forecast for today now seems to include a trip to church and a long rainy day nap. Ugh!

I could feel my emotions dampen a little bit. It is in the moment I realize that my heart is sinking for no reason at all that I am reminded I am not a child of darkness but live in the light. The Light of God’s Love wraps around me. It floods every shadowed part of my existence when I choose to keep my face, heart, mind, body and soul set upon Him. It is an intentional life to live in His Love. We must daily combat emotions lending themselves to temporary things and fully embrace the new life set before us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords to the altar. What are these sacrifices that keep us near the heart of God and detached from worthless feelings and overwhelming emotions?

Psalm 50:14 (NLT) Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.

Thankfulness is a sacrifice when you really don’t like what you see. To be thankful that God is good. He is for you. His Love for you unfailing and unchanging even when you are really not thankful at all. Thankfulness allows gratitude for flow where ungratefulness once hindered you. To begin to count the blessings in our life allows faith to rise up and bring hope along with it. The quicker our words begin to give thanks to the Lord it is the same time when His Light and Love illuminate the darkness trying to overshadow us. There is line in one of my favorite worship songs that goes “you can’t turn out light that shines from the inside.” Thankfulness is a light in the darkness even when it is a sacrifice. The attitude of gratitude will do nothing more than lift you up!

Hebrews 13:14-16 (NLT) For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 

Praise honors the Lord for who He is. He is God. He is Jesus. He is the life giving source of every good thing in our life. Sometimes our heart becomes cluttered with the temporary worries, cares and concerns of life. Distracted by busyness and overloaded by feelings it is easy to forget WHO HE is and all that He has done. Salvation in and of itself would have been more than enough, but God didn’t stop there. He didn’t just save us but adopted us as His Beloved Children. I am a Child of God. Praise offers allegiance to His Name.

Grumbling and complaining are not the vocabulary of victory. They imply a lack of faith and flourishing doubt in our life. To bless the Lord, oh my soul, with all that is within me means that even when I am not happy or content in my present situation that I honor the Lord with praise. Our words are like a shovel. They either dig a pit or fill in the spaces. One pulls us deeper while the other makes a way out. Praise is the proverbial shovel that provides a pathway to the Presence of God and a change in our perspective.

Psalms 54:6 (NLT) I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.

Every week I shop at a local department store. It is known for its low prices. It is also a pain in the neck. I usually end up with an overflowing cart at a long line of closed registers wondering if the savings are really worth all the hassle just to pay for my purchases. There are more than twenty checkout lines but only four are open with long lines at each one. I pick the one that will inevitably take the longest. I begin to pray for the patience not to glare at people or complain with those who feel the same way. If someone comes up with only a handful of items, I have made a practice of offering them to go in front of me. I can only think it must be the Holy Spirit working in me because that is one more person I must wait for. However, over time it has made me consciously aware of those around me. I cannot count how many times I have offered and the person in shock and awe goes before me. I also have found that every single time I am in a hurry and need a break that the person in line has done the same for me. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The command to love one another begins in simple gestures and random acts of kindness. To pay it forward with the Lord is to give a voluntary offering which requires something of our heart. God doesn’t need our time, talent and treasure. He is Sovereign. All-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere all at the same time. I believe that when we become His Hands and Feet relaying His Heart to others by offering acts of loving kindness, goodness, forgiveness and every other good fruit His Spirit gives us that He is glorified. I can invite people to church to experience the Lord but if I only have that instance will my attitude and actions off an encounter with Christ? To be a living sacrifice requires a renewed mind that comes from a changed heart that is willing to lay down its selfish ways to make a sacrificial voluntary offering to the Lord. I must lay down my life. I must lose my life to find it in Him.

Psalm 97:10-12 (NLT) You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord and praise his holy name!

Well the day is still overcast. The humidity is rising. Rain is in the forecast. I am thankful for the rain today. I wasn’t when I got up but surely it will wash away the pollen and water the grass. I praise the Lord for He is good! Always good! I am thankful for His Word today and His Spirit who come to me when I am sinking and life my heart. I have a hope that does not lead to disappointment. When my feelings or emotions try to pull me into the pit of unthankfulness riddled with grumbling and complaining, I will begin to praise my way out. I am a Child of God. Every detail of my life is destined to turn out for my good. Nothing can separate me from the Love of God even my bad attitude. (Praise God!) Thank you Lord for inexpressible joy that I find when I choose to enter Your Presence rather than succumbing to the pitfall of pitifulness. I have much to be thankful for. My life is praiseworthy just because you are in it and I belong to you. Lord, help me to find a way to give you a voluntary offering today! Do something for someone else that will bring glory to Your Name! Thank you Jesus for being the Light of my life!

Psalm 118:23-25 (NLT) This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, Lord, please save us. Please, Lord, please give us success.

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Humble Calling

Humble Calling

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Submission is a commandment of God given out of reverence for Christ. An act of humility far from human nature and often misunderstood. It is important to not ignore the call of God on our life to submit, but to fully embrace it and learn to live by it. Submit to one another. The world might tell us that it is a weakness. However, according to scripture, it is a powerful alignment with God and His Word. To submit means to give over or yield to the power or authority of another. The Greek word “hypotasso” gives in more in depth meaning to the believer. It means “under God’s arrangement” or to place in alignment with His Plan and Purpose. Our life lived in alignment with the Lord allows Heaven to come to earth. It is the gateway by which Kingdom outcomes are possible over human impossibilities.

“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” The same connotation of the Greek word is used in I Peter 2:18 that is used in Ephesians 5:21. Submission is not necessarily to those who are worthy but in all situations of authority. If you are subject to a person who is given authority over your life, submission is the choice made to remain subject to and under the power of the person. Notice that the position in I Peter is to the “slave” not the “servant”. A slave is under the authority of the master and must be subject to them. However, we are servants of the Living God by choice. Submission is a choice. It is the humble giving our life to Jesus Christ. To reverence Him in every interaction.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV) Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

It is important to read God’s Word in context. Follow God’s Example as dearly loved children. God’s example to us is Jesus Christ. The Word made flesh to demonstrate a plan incomprehensible and illogical outside of faith. A King who put down His Crown to come to die for His People. To make a way for those who rebelled against it in the first place. To restore right standing and release the Spirit of adoption to us. Jesus submitted to God’s Authority out of love for us. We submit to authority out of love and reverence for Christ. To walk in love, one must submit their life to others. It is the only way. To give up our life as “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Submission is to take our divinely ordered place in a relationship. You cannot force submission it is an offering and sacrifice of our life that can only be made by the individual. Joseph understood the importance of submission. When taking captive by the Midianites, sold to Potiphar, falsely accused, sent to jail, forgotten for years and even in the house of Pharaoh – at any time Joseph could have rebelled against the unjustness of his treatment and difficult circumstances but instead he humbled himself before the Lord. In each position, Joseph served God by serving others. When his brothers came before him, he forgave them. He did not withhold anything from them but wept in joy at seeing them again. The same ones who threw him in a pit to die. Forgiveness is a form of submission. It is also a requirement of God.

Romans 13:1-5 (NIV) Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

The authorities that exist have been established by God. The last election for the President of the United States was downright nasty. I have many friends who are no longer friends on social media because of the ugliness and riotous rants being posted. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. The day after the election the person in power is God’s Elected Authority. Now before you decide to shut me off, leave the page, or sent me an outrageous opinion, I believe that all presidents are divinely appointed. I believe that once in office as a citizen of the United States and a believing Child of the Living God it is my duty to submit and pray for them. My faith, trust and hope is fully invested in the Lord so it really doesn’t matter who God places in authority over me as long as I remain in alignment and full submission to God and the authority who He has chosen for His Purpose. I must remain in submission to remain in alignment with God. I know this is hard to grasp but let me set forth some ideas.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 – God has a predesigned plan for my life that includes a future and hope. If I seek Him wholeheartedly, I will have every single promise and spiritual blessing ordained for my life. My hope and future are not dependent on the authority and power in this life but my willingness to live a submitted life in accordance with God’s Word, Will and Way.

Romans 8:38-39 – Nothing can separate me from the Love of God. I live in service to the Living God. My full expectation is that the Love of God will overpower any injustice or insecurity that I experience. In other words, God is in control of my life including the authorities over me. God changed the heart of Pharaoh to let His People go – I serve the same God.

Romans 8:28 – If I believe that God works all things together for my good because I love Him, it includes every power and authority that governs my life in the natural. Submission to God is to live under His Arrangement. At no point in time do I believe that God every set down His Authority or Sovereignty but rather has ordered every single moment of life for my good and His Glory.

When submitting our life to the Lord, it becomes our service to submit to all authority and power placed over our life rather chosen or prescribed. To end this debate scripturally, “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

”Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) I encourage you to read the story of Joseph. His journey is a wonderful example of humility. It is to choose forgiveness over bitterness. We are not to do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Pride tells us otherwise. We have a right to our opinion. However, as Children of God it is His Truth that is the seed of all prosperity in our life. To grow, develop and mature into the masterpiece He calls us to be requires submission like clay in the potter’s hands.

I Peter 5:5-7 (NIV) In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Humble yourselves under God’s Mighty Hand…that He may lift you up in due time. God has promised to make all things beautiful in His Time. We cannot fathom God’s Work from beginning to end so we must trust Him. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Eternity is in our heart. It is our purpose and destination. It is accepted through humility beginning with His Grace. It is lived in humility by loving Jesus and others more than ourselves. Rather than fighting authoritative power it is our humble calling to submit to all authority AND be like Jesus Christ. Submission is reverencing Christ and His Selfless Sacrifice. Am I better than Jesus? Do I have the right to rebel? No, it is my privilege in Christ to submit to mankind in this life in order to live in alignment with eternity. I am given the opportunity every day to live reverently for the Lord by humbly serving and submitting my life to others. This is the life each of us is called to live in Christ. It is to put all my expectation in the Lord and cast all my cares with it. Trusting the Lord will always require submission. There cannot be two masters in our life. We serve the Lord by serving others.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Honoring God

Honoring God

Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV) Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Honor the Lord with the firstfruits of all you produce. Love is not an emotion it is an action. It is a noun demonstrated by a verb not an adjective. Love has an extensive definition according to I Corinthians 13. Just a few verses that challenge the entire concept according to the context of worldly like and lust put in its place. One of the attributes of love is found in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The example of Jesus Christ to all mankind. It’s funny how the word “tithing” sends a jolt through people. Bristling at the thought of giving up a tenth of the income makes way for many excuses. So before you decide this message is not for you today, I am not after your money and neither is the Lord. In fact, according to Psalm 50:8-15, God is well-supplied with an abundance and needs nothing from us. Acts 17:24-25 describes it this way – “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Before you get your knickers in a twist, please understand tithing is not a requirement of salvation. Obedience is the opportunity to experience the richness and prosperity of Heaven. The work of Jesus Christ that provides us with grace is more than enough. We are made right with God by the sacrificial offering of Jesus when He laid down His Life for us and by fully accepting Him as our Savior. Yet, there is more. There is an abundance for those who decide to make Jesus Lord of their life. To honor Him and live in allegiance to His Kingdom.

Honor the Lord with… Honor simply put is to worship. To hold in high honor and treat with respect. It also means to accept as valid and conform to the request. The Lord puts it simple and straightforward through the writer of Proverbs. Honor the Lord with your wealth and the firstfruits of all your produce…THEN your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine. There are three resources from which I can give to the Lord. My time. My talent. My treasure. Time is the most valuable. Talent will result in obedience. To give my treasure or the tangible blessings in my life will produce abundance. Increasing the equity in my life. How? The seed produces like kind fruit. Sow your time. You will harvest time. Sow your talent. You will harvest talent. Sow your treasure. You will harvest treasure. What you are willing to sacrifice will be your reward.

Sowing and reaping are not Biblical principles altogether. When God instituted the principle, it was for all mankind not just His People. Therefore if a farmer sows a seed, it will grow because that is what it is commanded to do by God naturally. However, when we make the choice to obey the Lord and return a tenth of the firstfruits to Him, suddenly the same seed is blessed. Faith makes all things possible but faith is not demonstrated by what we see but by trusting the Lord with what is unseen. We give God our time. The most precious commodity of our life. We give Him certain talents. However, when it is time to sow the tangible things in life – most people choose not to. I believe God wants to bless your life today. I know He wants to bless me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) To honor the Lord in whatever you do…work heartily as for the Lord and not men. People tend to live two separate lives. A natural life and spiritual life cannot coexist. There can be only one master. You can only serve one at a time. Therefore, if you want a supernatural life it comes at the price of pride and human productivity. A spiritual life is one that is surrendered and submitted to Jesus Christ allowing His Spirit to produce a godly life working inside and making His Way out of you. To be called a Christian is to take up our cross daily not just on Sunday and Wednesdays. The Light of His Love is to shine through us always. It illuminates our homes, workplaces and every other place that is frequented. The work of our hands will produce something but until our soul prospers it is limited. When faith is the foundation of our life and the Word of God sown in a fertile heart, it produces obedience. Obedience is a form of worship that says, “Lord, I believe in You and trust You with my life.” Only the part or portion of our life sold out and surrendered to the Lord as an act of worship will be blessed. Faith only works where it is applied. God is expanding the boundaries personally set in our heart and mind to live in His Abundance and have a rich and satisfying life. What are you withholding today that is limiting your increase?

Malachi 3:8-10 (ESV) Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts. God invites us to test Him. The God of the Universe who does not need us but desires us offers us the opportunity to test Him. What is the tithe of your life? What is your contribution to God? He promises that if we tithe our life to Him that He will open the windows of heaven over our life and pour out a blessing until there is no more need. You will be satisfied. You will be fulfilled. You will live in abundance of time, talent and treasure. Not because you did anything other than put good seed of faith in God’s Soil called trust and He did exactly what He said that He would do. It’s not the lottery. It is the Word working and doing exactly what God said. This is not just about your money. It is about every area of your natural life. However, if you do not participate in tithing then there really is no reason to think God will increase your life. Why? There is no seed for the Sower.

Matthew 23:23-24 (ESV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

Tithing the firstfruits of our life is evidence of faith in God. It was instituted by Abraham in Genesis 14:20 when he gave a tenth of all he had to Melchizedek the High Priest. In Leviticus 27:30-32, the tithe is called holy. Deuteronomy 14:22 – it is a command. Deuteronomy 26:1-2 tells us the tithe is an invitation for God to dwell with us, live in our land, and be our source. In Nehemiah 10:35, it is described as perpetual. We are to give the best of our firstfruits (Exodus 23:19) not what is leftover but first pick of the best things in our life. Are you giving the Lord the best parts of your life today? Or just the broken pieces and leftovers? It is seed in the ground of your life sown in trust. The portion of our life given to God is the productivity of our faith. It only takes a mustard seed of faith to produce abundance and do the impossible. If your life is not marked by miracles and supernatural increase, it would be best to consider the seed of faith being sown.

What are you given to God to use for His Glory? What are you honoring Him with today? Is He getting the best part of you or just what’s left after the world takes what it wants? We would rather give an offering that sow a sacrifice of self. Fear of lack or loss will hinder the possibilities of faithful sowing in our life. It will stop up the windows of Heaven. It will bar increase from entering in. It will stifle abundance because there is nothing for it to come from. To have the rich and satisfying life promised to us by Jesus means giving up this less than enough life that we live. All of it. Withholding nothing from the sowing and reaping of God’s Kingdom but giving Him our absolute best and most valuable parts.

Luke 18:10-14 (ESV) “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

John 15:4 (ESV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 

John 15:7-8 (ESV) If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

The Lord invites us to partner with Him now and forever. In this life, there is the challenge of integrating our spiritual and natural life into a godly one. We must abide in Christ to prosper. When I got married, my husband and I combined bank accounts. His income was greater than mine but when I looked at the bank statement it didn’t say this belonged to him and this was mine. It was our financial statement. The years that I stayed home with our children. He didn’t come to me and require a contribution to the account. He trusted me to take care of our household and nurture our children. Tithing our life is a contribution to the partnership and union offered to us by Jesus Christ. We have time to give. We have talent to give. We have treasures to give. Tithes and firstfruits that are seeds to the fruitful abundance offered in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Vine. I am a branch. From the beginning of our marriage, we have tithed in regard to our finances. It is evident not necessarily in the bottom line but the fact that God has incrementally increased us over time. He has kept us in during tough financial times. We have experienced God’s Favor in so many ways that I cannot begin to list them all for you now. But if the only area of our life partnered with God is our finances, then our finances would be the only thing thriving. It is important to continually examine our heart and hands to see what there is to honor the Lord with. Our worship is not in our words but demonstrated in faith and trust. To continually invest more and more of our life into God’s Kingdom. Sowing seeds of faith, love and trust beyond any tangible giving until our entire existence is partnered with Jesus and His Kingdom.

Mathematically the tithe is one-tenth. Do you give one-tenth of your waking hours to the Lord? If we sleep six hours leaving eighteen hours in a day, it would mean dedicating and offering God just under two hours of our day. Seems like a lot, until you consider what He can do in us with those two hours. The fundamental test of tithing is trust. Do you trust the Lord at His Word? Do you believe that He is faithful? Find something. Anything. A portion of your life that you are willing to give to the Lord and sow into His Kingdom. No excuses. Just do it.

I leave you with this story. I worked part-time as a church secretary many years ago. A woman and her young child came to the office one day. She shared that her husband would not allow her to give to the church. He would not allow her to tithe or even give an offering. So she loaded her car with supplies and came to offer to clean the church. Now there was a cleaning service who maintained the building so there really wasn’t anything to clean at that time. She seemed discouraged and went out the door. The next thing I know she is cleaning the windows on a hot summer day. The smile on her face shining brighter than the sun as she gave her offering to the Lord with gladness. She has been a living testimony to me ever since. Such a humble example for us all. What can you give today? What are you willing to offer? God is open and ready to receive us as we honor Him and wants to bless us for it.

Proverbs 22:4 (ESV) The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

Called To Ministry

Called To Ministry

2 Corinthians 5:10-14 (NLT) Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

I am called to ministry. You are called to ministry as well. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – God has ordained you. He has called you to be His Ambassador. I do not take this call lightly nor do I associate it with a certain position. It is human nature to be a hierarchy to certain positions. A company has a president, chief operating officer, managers, supervisors and employees. Different levels of authority to establish order and a form of functioning. However, when it comes to God’s Way of doing things, every single living breathing person who possesses His Spirit is called to be a minister of God through Jesus Christ. Have you accepted God’s Call to Ministry yet?

Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.

The most powerful form of ministry does not always come from the pulpit of a dynamic church with great worship and a flawless performance. Most often it is from the unsuspecting saint of God who comes to pray one-on-one with the broken, to continue to pray in their prayer closet for the one forgotten in the crowd, to continually sow seeds of faith and encouragement to others and to give wisdom from their time in the Word. I believe it is like the hand of one farmer placing seeds in the ground. The one who takes God’s Word to heart and decides to reproduce it in others. One by one. Day by day. Season to season. The humble at heart who chooses to remain in the background rather than racing for the platform. The one so moved by the Presence of God after He has come time and time again that they are still dissolved to tears just at the thought of His Nearness. Those who are covered in grace and gratitude just because Jesus still saves, heals and delivers people so convinced of His Great Love that they may even seem a little crazy sometimes.

The one God desires to use the most is the one with the sincere heart. The one who is in love with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The one broken to self and flourishing in the humble knowledge that weakness allows His Power to work. Those who seek the Lord with all their heart and do not lean on their own understanding. “Spectacular ministry” is not a spectator sport. It is lack luster if the total premise is not loving the Lord and loving others. My life is complete when I bring glory to God. How do I do that? By telling, showing and giving to others what the Lord has done for me.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

As ambassadors of Christ, it is our goal in life as an authorized messenger of God to establish peace between the Lord and other people. The invitation “Come back to God!” must be covered in love and grace in order to be accurate and appealing to others. To minister is a position that gives service, care or aid. It is one who attends to need. It is to contribute as to comfort or happiness. We do not have the power to snatch another person from hell. However, it is our opportunity to offer them a better way. The Way, the Truth and the Life while earnestly reaching for them in an effort to lead and assist them in gaining freedom through Jesus Christ. Still not convinced you are called?

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:6-7 (NLT) You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ to be your personal Savior and Lord, then you have the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord living inside of you. Jesus released His Spirit to be our Holy Inhabitant and help us on the earth. He lives in our heart producing the fruit of the Spirit in abundance, not just for us, but to facilitate our ministry. He has placed a Light in our hearts to shine brightly like a city on a hill. As salt of the earth with an antiseptic quality of healing, it comes packaged as the flavorful and flamboyant Favor of the Living God. It bubbles up within our bellies until living water comes flowing out. You are prewired, prepackaged and fully prepared to be God’s Ministers.

The Lord also gives a promise to those who decide to be His Minister in this life. It is called double. You will receive a double share of honor and possess a double portion of prosperity accompanied by everlasting joy if you fill the position the Lord has called and equipped you to. Comparison is the confidence wrecking weapon of the enemy that makes people think God cannot and will not use them. God caught Moses attention in a burning bush. Moses was in hiding as he tended sheep belonging to his father-in-law. He was saved from immediate death at his birth. He was rescued and grew up in the house of Pharaoh. He killed a man. He fled into hiding. God had other plans for Moses. He spoke to him in the dark of night. Yet Moses, like so many of us, did not have confidence in His Calling but was convinced by his condition that he was not the right one for this mission. He said to the Lord, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Who is going to listen to me? I know my faults and failures. How will I ever accurately or effectively minister to another person? God answered Moses just like He is working to squelch all of our doubt and fear – God answered, “I will be with you.”

Before discrediting yourself let God confirm your credibility – Jesus lives in you. His Spirit is inside of you. He has predestined you to be the light of the world and salt of the earth because of the God inside of you. In order to fulfill God’s Call on our life – we must love one another. There is no greater gift than for one to lay down his life for another following the example of Jesus Christ. The Word of God says that who He calls is the one who God also equips. You are called to be God’s Minister and Christ’s Ambassador to the world. You have been given this assignment and empowered to do it. So what’s next?

Romans 12:6-10 (NLT) In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:1-2 is the passage about giving our life as a living sacrifice to the Lord. To decide to worship the Lord by choosing not to be like the world or conforming to its standard but being transformed into a “new person” by changing the way you think. A pastor, minister, or preacher is still tasked with being an ambassador to the Lord outside of their paid position. If man repays you for something, it is up to us to find a place of offering. If you receive a paycheck to serve God, then to be a living sacrifice and present an offering to the Lord means serving Him off the timeclock. To be a living sacrifice is to love sacrificially. There are many different gifts that people are given. Romans 12 talks about those gifts and motivations but if you read it – love is the purpose to find an outlet for God’s Love in our life. Love is an emotion to this world. But to God love is a sacrificial commitment which He has empowered us to portray. Just because you are not called to be a pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, or serve in the local church building doesn’t mean God hasn’t called you to ministry. The ministry of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if the miracle in you is not a mass service with thousands saved but the one who sits in the back all alone. Hiding in their insecurity bound by barriers built by hurt and betrayal – those who come across arrogant but really are just broken people trying to survive and never enter a church? You are the one who shows them kindness, grace and even encouragement. You are the one who listens when no one else can get past the persona to the person. Perhaps what the Lord has brought you through they are now going…what if…is not really what if but will you?

2 Corinthians 6:3-4 (NLT) We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. 

Will you get past what you are going through to let God use you today? Will you stop evaluating who you are not and accept who you are? If you are waiting for the right time, I assure you it is now. The right place is not in a fancy building but the place you are right now. These verses are followed by a telling reality. Paul goes on to talk about all he has endured for ministry including troubles, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, angry mobs of people, exhaustion, sleepless nights, extreme hunger, harsh conditions and some even killed. For what? To share the love of God given through Jesus Christ with the rest of the world. Living in a way that causes no one to stumble because of us. God has called us to be his ministers. Christ calls us his ambassadors. The rest is up to you and me. The Spirit gives life and freedom. To be like Christ means to give our life as a living sacrifice and personal offering to others. Grace is fulfilled when in spite of our weaknesses – we allow the Power of Christ to flow through us. Brokenness is inevitable as the Seeds of His Spirit sprout into the new creation you are called to be as God makes His Masterpiece out of your life…and your ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NLT) It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

Living Sacrifice

Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1-2 (AMP) Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

Living – having life, being alive and not dead.

Sacrifice – to surrender something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable.

To consider being a living sacrifice seems to me to be a contradictory term. How can a total sacrifice be alive? If sacrifice is to surrender something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable, how can I give up my life and still be breathing? Just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe that is why it’s easy to breeze over the first two verse of Romans 12:1 and 2. Reading these two powerful verses today, I realize that sacrifice is no longer a death sentence thanks to Jesus Christ. It is no longer a requirement. It have become an optional choice. Though the components of sacrifice have changed the function remains the same. An offering is not enough to have fulfillment of duties. As a true believer, it is our privilege to be a living sacrifice. To dedicate ALL of myself to the Lord and be set apart from sin (notice I did not say the world). Sacrifice should be a rational, logical and intellectual response to salvation and the acceptance of His Amazing Grace. Offering is more comfortable. It is the portion of what one might be willing to give rather than what is required.

Offering is to present something as an act of worship or devotion to God. It is limited in its power and potential according to its worth. It is a thoughtful gift rather than ultimate surrender of our all. An offering makes sense in comparison to rational, logical, and intellectual thinking when our life is compared to the world. Limitation and/or lack will cause one to consider the amount of each gift in comparison to the longevity of life rather than its significance beyond breathing. Today is Memorial Day. It is often confused with Veteran’s Day. This is the day set aside to honor those who offered their life as a sacrifice for freedom and it was accepted. The ones who did not make it home but died for their cause. There is a sacrifice for freedom. Just because you do not agree with it or support Armed Forces, doesn’t mean that innocent men and women didn’t die to maintain your freedom and right to disagree with their mission. Sound familiar?

Galatians 5:1 (AMP) It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].

The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His Sacrifice for your life is non-negotiable. His Cause called freedom from sin, death and the grave remains intact regardless of whether a single person chooses to accept Him as Savior and Lord or not. His Identity remains the same. Jesus Christ died to set us free from sin and give us the opportunity to reside in the Presence of God forever. He opened a door that no one can shut. There is not a power in hell or on this planet that can hinder or stop the move of God from person to person or heart to heart. Killing every Christian will not stop the fact that God is God, Jesus is His Son, and His Spirit sets people free. It is only the fulfillment of the Gift given to us by Christ. Jesus broke the yoke of slavery. It was removed from you and He offers you to become yoked to Him. To experience a peace and rest in this lifetime that few will ever discover. The word “yoke” means to join, couple, link or unite. Jesus wants to live in relationship and partnership with you to maintain your freedom even if you do not desire Him. I have a friend who doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He maintains that there are other ways to the Father. He will many times attempt to lure me into a friendly debate. I have many other friends who might entertain his invitation which would result in a heated conversation or possibly lead to an argument. I choose to state the truth that I believe, but refuse to debate, argue or try to prove the validity of Jesus to anyone. I know what you are thinking…isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Convince other people to follow Christ. To believe and be saved. To save them… No friend, it is not my job to save anyone. Jesus did that on the Cross sufficiently and completely. It is my opportunity and privilege to be a living sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (AMP)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

The word “emancipation” in Latin means “setting free”. When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit which immediately created access for people to step directly in the Presence of God and the same to live in them. The Spirit couldn’t contain its character for a second and immediately began releasing resurrection power across the city. Literally, dead people came back to life and walked out of graves. Again, this happened whether anyone believes it or not. Our thoughts or willingness to believe something doesn’t give it validity or authenticity. The reality of something is in its substance. Hang on to that thought, we care coming back to it. The Lord is progressively changing and transforming those who love and accept Him. The ones who do not are constantly being pursued by His Unfailing Love and Goodness just the same. Liars, adulterers, haters, thieves, murderers, psychopaths, pedophiles, even the most heinous person considered in society today is the subject of God’s Great Love and Desire. He offers them freedom no matter how horrible the sin or depraved the nature because once the Spirit of God was released from Jesus Christ – He had His Assignment. He knew what to do. The Spirit of the Lord offers freedom to everyone just the same and continues to do so day after day and time and time again. He will do so until Jesus comes back.

Romans 6:6-9 (AMP) We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him.

There are many churches and even more doctrines that tell us what to do, how to live, and what God requires of us. Many times it forms the thoughts and ideas regarding offering and sacrifice among believers. I do not believe that someone who chooses to live their life as an offering to God has less of a chance entering Heaven. My dad and son both served overseas in the United States Armed Forces. I am a proud daughter and mom. I am a thankful one, too. Their lives were not required of them to maintain our freedom. Thank you, Lord. My dad lived in the days of the draft. He was not drafted but allowed to choose whether or not he would serve. Our son knew in high school that he was called to serve his country. It is the same for many believers. We choose our level of service to the Lord. Some will only offer the Lord a portion of their life and He will most gladly take it and do amazing things in that small space. There are others who will chose to be a living sacrifice. Now had my father or boy given their life for this country, today we would honor their sacrifice. As usual God has offered a better way, thanks to Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price, I have the opportunity to live my life AND give my all to Him as a “living sacrifice”.

“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”

I have openly shared that lately I have struggled with a bit of discouragement. I still love Jesus with all of my heart, mind, body and soul. Never a doubt that God is good or that He is faithful. His Love for me is truly overwhelming. Yet, still my humanness gives way to emotions and feelings sometimes just because life is hard. It rains. People get sick. Bad things happen to good people. Senseless and random acts of depravity are in the news every single day. Sin is definitely rampant. Love has gone from lukewarm to frigid cold. This does not change the fact that God, by His Spirit, still is transforming me and progressively changing me. There is no such thing as perfect people. Even by allowing the Lord to take over every area of our life, there will still be hard times and tough battles. God is renewing our mind today with truth.

Freedom belongs to us. We don’t have to offer a portion of our life for it or even sacrifice all of our life for it. Jesus gave it to us. We have the ability to choose the part or portion of freedom that we desire according to how much of our life that we will give up to have it. It is not an even exchange. It is a bonus. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will be presented to us daily with new mercy. Our mind thinks of sacrifice as death. Jesus already satisfied death and the grave. Payment for every sin paid by His Bright Red Blood flowing down the Cross. By accepting this gift labeled freedom in Christ, I am saying, “Yes” to becoming a living sacrifice which defies the logic of mankind. I am surrendering this life and all its problems for completion in Christ. To prove that God’s Will is best. That His Plan and Purpose is good, acceptable and perfect. I do this by experiencing it. Living in His Presence and capitalizing on every single promise that He has made me. Living this life fully in Christ and bearing every single fruit that comes from it. His Spirit will prosper my life as my soul prospers. It begins by sacrificing this life as an offering to God. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. I believe it…do you?

John 8:36 (AMP) So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.

Today if you are a resident of the United States of America, you have the Armed Forces to thank for preserving your freedom. Now, if you do not believe in the military or war, that is your right and privilege thanks to these brave men and women. You are free to live in this country thanks to the bloodshed of these people and great loss to their families whether you believe it or not – you have accepted it. The only way to truly show that you do not honor their sacrifice is move out of this country and live somewhere else. Jesus Christ died for your sins. All of them. Every single one. You cannot change it or lessen the impact in terms of the earthly and heavenly realm. You simply choose whether or not you will give up this mediocre live to take full advantage of the prosperity born of the freedom Christ has offered us. In other words, when you give up this life, you are merely accepting a Kingdom life. It belongs to you. God created you with a plan. It is a good one with a future and a hope. He gave you grace which is enough to have it all. The Lord even promised to do more than you can even think to ask for. He offers us inexpressible joy. He even accepts the sacrifice of our old life offering us a brand new rich and satisfying life. God is good! Jesus loves you. He sacrificed His Life for you and doesn’t even require a single bit of it back. He offers you freedom to “sacrifice” this life in order to have all that He promised. To be a “living sacrifice” further proves the undeniable love and grace of our Amazing God! It is the only way to honor the Lord – giving up lack for prosperity, giving up defeat for victory, giving up sickness for healing, giving up discouragement for joy, giving up fear for perfect peace. What an exchange! What a Savior!

Hebrews 10:19-23 (AMP)  Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]… 

 

To Give

To Give

Luke 6:38 (NLT) Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Our small group has been studying Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way. When I first chose to use in our group, it was really a no-brainer. The Holy Spirit put on my Facebook feed, and then dropped in my email. The Holy Spirit really operates like “A Spiritual Guide for Dummies” most of the time, at least where I am concerned. At our first meeting, each participant shared a moment of brokenness. Their transparency evident as they tried to make sense of the broken pieces each held ended with giving God glory for their survival. Some shared the lesson learned in the shattering of their fragile heart. The more tears that fell the heavier my heart became threatening to spill out at any moment. I carried the burden home with me and began to pray for these ladies. At the next meeting, as I watched the video listening to the author share, I realized that there was a rattling in my chest, too. Broken pieces of my destroyed heart put under the Blood and committed to the Lord but still crashing around in there. Suddenly, my comfort with brokenness and the thorough examination of this journey became clear and discomfort rose up inside me. I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. To look into the mirror with eyes wide open and see the shell of the woman looking back at me. I gave it all to you, Jesus. Now what? Do I really have to try to put those pieces back together again? It was much easier to leave them be. To consider healing as a scar that holds them tightly within my bandaged heart rather than allow Christ to complete the process. So, on Sunday afternoon after a glorious nap, I knew that I must embark on this journey for it was part of my process. I didn’t want to. Who does? To consider all those things that we don’t understand or that did not turn out as one expected. I have a list. The list of the things that I still cannot reconcile with the Goodness of God and how it ended for His Glory. I save it for Jesus. When I meet Him face-to-face, so He can help me comprehend them.

The author talks about a cross that she has drawn on her wrist. It makes me look at the tattoo forever marking my right arm. It reminds me that this journey is all about “faith” which is what I see when I look down at it. It offers “hope” to others when they see it from a different perspective. I got it when our son was battling cancer not the first time or even the second, but the third time. I wanted to remember that no matter what the outcome was that God is good. My life is all about acquiring faith and confident hope. I was doing pretty well, or so I thought, until our son was diagnosed. I managed to somehow find my legs and walk through the first two rounds. But by the third time, I just wasn’t sure how much farther I could go. I wonder if Abraham felt the same on his journey to the mountain. To receive his promise, and now consider offering it back to God. This study brings back to a time of great victory. However, the brokenness experienced during that time changed me into someone I wasn’t comfortable with. It made me relinquish control of my life. Nothing would ever be “normal” again. The Lord wants to make something beautiful out of our brokenness. It has been not only a theme in my own personal time with the Lord but is coming from many other authors and writers. However, the evaluation of the pieces of our life requires us to go back to times of great hurt, hardship, betrayal and disappointment. The Lord promises to make good of every detail of our life. Perhaps some of those pieces buried deep within have potential and purpose that have yet to be released. Rather than being in captivity behind our scars, Jesus wants us to sow them with His Promises in our fertile heart. It has been plowed and watered with our tears. Now covered in the Blood, it has the ability to be renewed, restored and refreshed so that our giving is complete.

Brokenness is the prerequisite of giving. To give means to present voluntarily and without expectation of compensation. It is to place in someone’s care. To hand it over to someone and grant it to them. Giving is a form of communication. It is to transfer ownership and place in the permanent possession of another. There are two forms of giving. Offering and sacrifice. To give an offering allows us to maintain our life as it is. To sacrifice is to give something away for good. To give our best. To give our all. We all know the story of sacrifice offered by the hen and the pig. The farmer cooks breakfast as they peer through the window. The chicken gives an offering. The pig gives their all. What is the giving in your life? I am not talking about what you do for Christ, give to the church or offer others? What is the level of your giving? Offering or sacrifice?

Psalm 25:1 (NLT) Lord, I give myself to you.

Giving comes in many forms. We give tangible gifts. We also give intangible gifts such as thanksgiving, forgiving, care-giving, and so forth. It is a form of brokenness to be thankful because it honors another. Forgiving is humbling ourselves before others. Care giving is to offer assistance to others rather than choosing our way. Give and it will be given back to you. It is so basic yet labeled different ways in the church today. I offer this to you. If I allow myself to be broken, I will receive the blessing of the Fullness of Christ in me. It takes what I am willing to give and makes it blessed, beautiful and worth having. Suddenly, my life is complete in Christ so giving is without fear or trepidation. The Lord supplies everything I need. Jesus is the desire of my heart. His Spirit completes me.

Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)  As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Covenant in the Old Testament was a mess. Each bringing a sacrifice, to tread down the middle of, yet sacred in those days. Jesus was the Blood sacrifice for our union. He gave His Body to be broken and His Blood for the remission of sin. Once His Blood covered our sin, it is our privilege to live in the Presence of God. However, what about His Body. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Could it be that we missed it in this old hymn? Could it be that our brokenness is blessed by the Body of Jesus instead? When the disciples gathered and Jesus performed the first communion, the Lord said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” He had taken a loaf of bread, broken it into pieces and blessed it. They were instructed to “eat it”. The Lord’s Body now one with their own. Isn’t this what happens when the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is consummated. However, unless our heart remains broken it cannot be made beautiful. We must be broken to be blessed. That is what true repentance is after all – giving up my way for His Way. Giving up my life so that Christ will be complete in me. Religion and relationship are marked by two different things. Religion is defined by what I can do for God. My relationship with God is when I can do nothing – His Grace becomes enough for me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Ironically, or not so, this is the verse that the Lord gave me right after the call marking the third diagnosis of cancer in our son. When the doctor told me it was back and it was really bad, I fell to my knees. I was at work. My office consisted of three walls and one full of windows. Everyone in the lobby could see me go down. It didn’t matter. I was broken. To truly take in the fullness of Jesus Christ, one must consume Him in every part of life. It is in our brokenness that blessing comes. The blessing makes something of our once worthless offering and giving which is now a sacrifice of our whole life.

Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT) You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Why would God desire a broken spirit? It leads to repentance. A soft heart is a fertile heart. A broken heart allows God’s Word to penetrate and give way to growth. Faith needs a place to grow. The Lord is close to the broken hearted. It is in our weakness that He is made manifest in our life. Brokenness allows us to partner with Jesus and become yoked to Him. (Matthew 11:28-30) While I control my life, dictate my way and choose my path – I am not broken or repentant. To give my life to Jesus Christ means yielding all that I am to all He is. We cry out for it, want it, desire it, and even pursue the fullness of Christ never considering the brokenness that provides for the blessing.

In Psalm 129:3-4, the psalmist refers to his “back covered in cuts as if a farmer had plowed furrows.” He goes on to say, “The Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.” Jesus freed us from the captivity of sin. The consequence of sin is brokenness. The Lord blesses brokenness and makes it beautiful. He has redeemed us from sin and now His Grace exhibits its power. Every broken thing (or detail) of our life is designated for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) We must not ignore the broken pieces or hide them away but haul them to the altar called sacrifice and give them to Jesus. We must examine our heart. To those rattling pieces of the past, the jumbled mess of circumstances, and even scars that bind our wounds to staunch the bleeding. Brokenness must not be ignored. It is meant for our good and His Glory.

Psalm 37:3-5 (NLT) Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

Jesus Christ is the strength of my life. It is in my utter and complete destruction that His Power is made manifest in my life. Blessed are the brokenhearted because the Lord is close to them. Not because He feels sorry for them but because it is in such a state our heart is open to the Lord and His Careful Intervention. Pride keeps us from humbling our heart and life to Jesus. Personal strength must give out by coming to the end of self. Trusting the Lord is a noble effort until our broken heart can beat no more. In our brokenness, it is the Savior who we see. The One who rushes to hold us closely, care for us deeply, and it doesn’t matter what we are doing or where we are the moment before tragedy strikes. His Loving Compassion for us cannot help but come to our side. How can I commit everything to the Lord if I am withholding pieces of my life? I cannot. It is when my heart is irretrievably broken that I can lay all of the pieces at His Feet. Trust is born in that moment. Not ordinary trust, but complete dependency on the Lord that allows us to give our life away unrestricted. Brokenness is the perquisite of blessing that makes our life worth giving to others. Grace empowers us to be blessing. Thank you Lord for brokenness. It enables our giving and empowers our works to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus. It gives us a life worth giving. All giving starts with brokenness. Brokenness is made complete in Christ.

Philippians 3:8-11 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Burn in Me

burn-in-me

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

“For our God is a devouring fire.” (Hebrews 12:29) He is an all-consuming fire. How does one approach such a being? I have been overtaken by the notion of the living sacrifice this week. It has been one of those weeks. Work has been crazy. Our schedule all out of whack. There have been details of life mounting. Chaos. It has definitely been chaotic. As I have prayed for the Lord to restore order and bring me peace, I have come to realize that the stirring and fanning of the flame inside of me is normal. It is the constancy of His Love that does not allow for complacency when we call on His Name. Yes, I am saying that I asked for it.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

It is human nature to offer the Lord what is in our hands. To extend our service to Him to honor His Name. To do rather than be. All these “things” that are within our power and strength. We give and we give yet in our heart there is that notion that it is never enough. It’s not. The sacrifice of our life is worship. Worship is sacrifice. An offering can be renewed. Sacrifice requires all. I can give an offering to the Lord and come back again with the same thing. I cannot be a living sacrifice and remain the same for what is given is gone and something new must be made.

Oh Lord, help me to relay this burning in my heart today. Open the hearts and minds of your people to understand the art of consumption and beauty of brokenness today. Moving into His Presence will not allow you to remain the same. Why? God is likened to fire. It is bonfire season. As the hot, humid days give way to cooler temperatures, fire pits are being cleaned out and readied for gatherings. Moving into closer proximity of the burning pile of brush, limbs and whatever combustible substance offered to the fire, the temperature rises. Scarves and gloves come off as it gets warmer. Drawing near to the flame, coats and sweaters are discarded to allow for the heat to permeate to our flesh. Now we can keep up with our progress, but will be warned that if not careful – we will get burned. This is where one must decide is it worth the sacrifice. In the natural, absolutely not. There is nothing in this world worth giving up our life for other than Jesus Christ who is not of this world. We must decide if our life will be an offering to God or if we will become a living sacrifice – one that is holy and acceptable, good and pleasing and perfect to Him.

Isaiah 1:11-18 (NLT) “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

Religion is not bad as long as our relationship is authentic. The danger of doctrine is when it is confused with God’s Commandments. Our flesh wants to “do” not “die”. It is common place for our mind to confuse what we “do” for God with what He is “doing” in us. Everything I offer to God outside of sacrificing myself is meaningless. My flesh has nothing to offer God but the putrid and rancid rottenness of sin. Repentance is to relinquish our sin to accept His Salvation. There is nothing good in me to give the Lord except that which is given by Christ. We fill our life with attitudes and actions that appease our flesh and establish our pride when a life given over completely to God is consumed by His Love alone. We must understand the order of sacrifice to effectively engage in this life as a living one.

Psalm 51:16-19 (NLT) You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. What kind of God would desire such a thing? Aren’t we broken and abused enough in life? Isn’t there enough hurt in this world? Why be so brutal? If my heart is not broken, it will not repent. If I do not see the futility of life without a Savior, I will die forever. God loves me too much to pass me by leaving me in the same condition that He found me. His Son sacrificed His Life to make me a new creation. To become such a thing I must give up the old me, my old ways, even the things that I may have once thought were offerings and sacrifices worthy of the King.

Lord, I’ve given you everything. Have you? We cannot evaluate our giving to God in any tangible measure. It is when we come to the end of ourselves desperate to encounter the Living God unwilling to relent until He blesses us like Jacob. It is the moment when the mountain of sacrifice is before us and we answer the call to worship like Abraham willing to give up everything just to be one with the Lord. If you can find something to give, you have not given enough. God is an all-consuming fire who will destroy everything in His Way until He gets to you. His Passion for you burns hot in His Presence drawing us closer like a moth to a flame. To be close to Him will cause a complete consumption of our natural life in pursuit of the supernatural God and all that is Him.

Hebrews 6:4-7 (NLT)  For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing.

It is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened. There is a process to one’s salvation. Hence the Word of God states plainly – “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6) We are all working it out. Just to set the record straight – no one has it all together. It doesn’t matter how they act or how successful they seem.

When I was eleven, something welled up in me and I knew that I needed a Savior. I would love to say that was the end of my journey of faith looking for hope. Not the case. In high school, our family returned to church and I was “on fire” for God even spent a summer in Africa as a missionary right after graduation. Yep, still headed into the wilderness when I realized Christians were not perfect. When I finally emerged, my life was not what I expected. Still I came back to the Lord with a “let’s try this again” attitude. Well, it stuck kind of. I still became wrapped up in church affairs but I had discovered this thing called faith and was not a bit more intrigued so dared to venture a little bit closer and move deeper into God’s Presence. Our family seemed to be on the right track. I thought I was doing exactly what the Lord wanted me to do serving Him faithfully obeying His Word doing His Will. I was “doing” a lot alright.

It was not until my life was completely interrupted and everything that I thought to be important completely consumed. When my heart was completely broken and I arrived at the end of myself that I realized what the Lord had been after all along – He wanted all of me. Not what I had or what I could do. Jesus wants me. Once you are enlightened, you will repent. Once you experience such an encounter with God – it changes you forever. After that moment, you will try to return to normal but it is gone forever. You may think you can pretend it never happened but you can’t.

Matthew 13:24-29 (NLT)  Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” “An enemy did this,” he replied. The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”  “No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.

My greatest fear is no longer what the enemy can do to me, because I know that he has no power in my life. My only concern is to reach the end of my life without enough faith to be accepted into the Kingdom. To arrive before Jesus with an uncircumcised heart. To hear the words, “I never knew you. A sacrificed heart is a circumcised heart. The mark of those who belong to Jesus. In this life, there are “weeds and wheat” growing in the same field. There are goats and sheep abiding in the same pasture. From a distance, it all looks the same but upon closer inspection there is a difference. It doesn’t matter how good I look or the good things I do without a heart sacrificed fully and completely to the Lord, there is no mark of salvation to distinguish me from the rest. He cannot know me if I do not come to Him. A relationship must come before my religion. To do so requires entering His Presence. It is an act of intimacy that will cause our life to be consumed by His Love. The closer to the fire the hotter the flame. Everything that cannot withstand the heat will be burned away. God provides the fire. We provide offerings regularly, but now He didn’t ask for that. He desires our heart.

I Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT)  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

I must evaluate my life in Light of His Love today. Am I willing to be a living sacrifice or just make my life an offering? The fire will test the quality of each person’s work. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were tested by fire. They were literally thrown into a fiery furnace. The evidence of their life and worship was clear as the Lord joined them in the fire. When they were lifted out of the smoldering ash, their clothes were not soiled and they did not even smell of smoke. I wonder what might happen if the substance of our life and authenticity of our faith was to be tested the same way. What might be the result? Would we make it out alive with our faith still intact? Would we discover that our connection to Christ is simply religious without a meaningful sacrifice? I want to know Lord if my faith is genuine. I want to know that my love for you is real. If it means discomfort, so be it. If it means my life must be consumed to see its content, go right ahead. Draw me closer Lord and yes, I realize that in doing so all the worthless, meaningless, and trivial things must go. Burn in me today Jesus. I want to be a living sacrifice. Nothing less will do.

John 15:5-7 (NLT) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

In Each Step

In Each Step

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

I find that in life a leap of faith is much easier than walking by faith. It requires one big jump rather than all the steps it takes to get through a single day. Yet the longer I spend following Jesus, the more that I discover His Desire for me to walk by faith and not continually keep throwing myself off mountains. Faith is confidence. It is the underlying belief in all things that hope is the primary focus of our life. It is assurance in nothing that we see but everything we cannot see. It is the thing that carries us from the natural connecting us to the supernatural. Obedience is marked out by our faith in God rather than following the customs of man. Faith is a commitment to live for the Kingdom of God though we cannot see it tangibly honoring its reality as much as we do everyday life.

When the Lord speaks to us, we want the full picture. Don’t leave any blanks. My own personal revelation is that the closer we move to the Lord and the more connected by faith we become the vaguer the details, but instead God says, “Trust me.” We want to trust the Lord. I believe that those who come to Him do so with the full intention of turning their messed up and broken life over to Him for restoration, revival and renewal. As dead dreams are resurrected and the newness wears off, when the vehicle of faith loses that “new car” smell then what? Everyone likes the goosebumps felt in an awesome church service. They like the way they feel when a friend comes to church and finds a waiting Savior. The exhilaration of taking a leap of faith that makes our heart beat wildly as Jesus catches us midair is matchless but this is not the life we are to live. If our relationship with Jesus is based more on how we feel rather than what we know, we are headed down a dangerous path.

I John 3:19-22 (NLT) Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

God is greater than our feelings. Again…God is greater than our feelings. He knows everything and yet still chose to love us and give His Only Son for us. If we are confident in this Truth, we can live with bold confidence and faith in each step. Every detail of our life is important to God. Each moment is filled with purpose and potential if offered to the Lord for fullness and completion. However, most of the time people only exercise faith when tragedy strikes or they are overwhelmed. Our inability to accept the grace of God freely and unconditionally allows our feelings to get in the way. Accept lies rather than holding on to the Truth. Compromising rather than persevering. Allowing substitutions to take the place of fulfillment. We need to live a life of faith manifested in each step and the slightest detail to please the Lord. No matter how we feel, it is time to trust the Lord.

Hebrews 11:3 (NIV) By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Do you believe that God created the heavens and earth? Do you believe that He made mankind in His Image? Do you believe that God made you with a purpose and plan that includes a future and hope? Do you believe that Christ can and will complete you? Faith must be practical and applicable to our life. We cannot be all that God created us and predestined us to be without it. It is contrary to this world. You will not see eternity until you arrive there. You know Jesus the Word and confirmed by His Spirit that lives in you, but to reach out and physically touch Him is impossible. We must believe and live by what believe. It is faith in the supremacy of God that confirms our need for Him. It is our desire to reach Him that calls us for righteousness sake. It is the assurance there is something more to hope for than life has to offer that will give us confidence enough to continually walk by faith rather than constantly looking for the next cliff to jump from.

2 Corinthians 5:7-10 (NIV) For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Freedom is evidence of God’s Love for us. How we use His Gift of Freedom is an indication of our love for the Lord. There is a quote by Kahlil Gibran used to describe this quite well. He said, “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, there were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” This has been morphed into many variations but the truth is the same. Love cannot be held captive or enslaved. Love is freedom. What we do with this freedom demonstrates who or what we love. Love for God will produce a life of faith because faith is the very thing that pleases Him. Faith in Who He is and what He has promised that forces us to be transformed because our desire is to be with Him more than anything else this world has to offer. The steps of our life are ordered by God. He leads us with love. He gives us freedom from our sin releasing us to decide how we will live in our new liberty. Those who love the Lord will use it for His Glory.

Hebrews 11:4 (NIV) By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Abel died because of his faith in God demonstrated by obedience. If put to the test or on trial would the evidence of our life convict us of faith. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord. But Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil” and Abel brought “fat portions from the firstborn of his flock.” Cain gave some. Abel gave his best. He laid down his life for the Lord and Cain took it in response. Faith in God will cost us our life. We must be crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20) I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life that I live in my body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave His Life for me. To live by faith requires us to lay down our life and take up our cross to follow Jesus. Why? We love Him. We want to be where He is.

What is the offering of your life today? As I examine the offering of my own, it is evident that I could always give a better offering. There is more of my life to lay down in order to have more of Christ in me, working through me, completing me so that I can give more. We cannot live by faith without offering every facet of our life to Jesus Christ. That which is withheld is the very thing that condemns us. Will I give the best of my first fruits today? Anything less than our absolute best just will not do.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

To offer one’s life as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God is consider according to this passage as “true and proper worship”. What is my anthem? Can others hear a life song that sings of the Goodness and Greatness of my God? The true worship of my life is demonstrated not in what I say, but how I live. It begins with a renewing of my mind so that I will be able to test and approve God’s Good, Pleasing and Perfect Will. My mind must find confidence in Christ so that I can lay my life before Him. I must become fully assured not that God can but that He will do everything that He has promised.

Hebrews 11:5 (NIV) By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24) So you want to know something kind of ironic? Do you know who Enoch’s father was? It was no other than Cain. (Genesis 4:17) Our life is not defined by our past or present, it is based on a future Kingdom that knows no end. The new life in Christ given to us called freedom is a clean slate. We do not have to live in the past or just look to the future. Enoch desired God. He walked with God. He walked faithfully. One day, God just took him body, mind and soul. The Lord just swept him Enoch off the earth to be with Him. I want to walk with the Lord like Enoch. Seamlessly. Completely. Fully. I want His Love to overshadow me so that all they see is Jesus.

We are told to walk by faith. Peter didn’t run on the water, he walked on it. Each morning when I put the first foot over the side of my bed, I want it to be like Peter stepping out of the boat. As I stand, may the foundation of my life be faith in Jesus Christ. The only foundation worthy of building on. Lord, teach me today to walk by faith not by sight. Allow me the grace that is sufficient for every weakness in my faith so that I can be strong in you. Lord, may I fully embrace and embody the “greater that is me” more than fear of the roaring lion who wants to devour me with doubt and overtake me with his lie. It is impossible to please God without faith. I must learn each day and in every detail of my life that faith applies. It is the very thing that will produce an acceptable offering of my life and it will bring us to complete unity. Lord, I want that same kind of testimony as Abel and Enoch today and every day in each step.

John 17:20-24 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Slow Leaks

Slow Leaks

Romans 15:13-15 (NLT) I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace…

Today, I am celebrating my one year anniversary with my car. According to Timehop, we purchased the Honda about a year ago. It has been such a blessing and I recommend it to anyone looking for a new automobile…less I digress. Though I could go on and on about the attributes of this car, it has one feature that I really like. When I engage the engine and it runs the systems check that most new autos do, it checks the tires as well. Now I don’t know how it does it but if one tire is running low on pressure an indicator light warns me to check it. I know that the tire is slowly deflating somehow and can have it serviced before I get a flat tire. Glory Hallelujah! I hate being stuck with a flat tire, dead battery or faulty anything. Such a simple thing brings me great confidence. A nail or foreign object that punctures a tire will often cause it to flatten immediately but what about the slow leaks that occur slowly over time. Well, by now you probably realize that this is probably going somewhere other than the garage and it is…

Jesus Christ connects us to God once again which causes a source of hope to rise up and overflow in our life or at least it should. The abundance of God through Jesus should be gushing from our life in all areas – physically, naturally, spiritually and supernaturally. This does not mean that everything is going to be perfect but that you are in a constant state of being perfected. When we develop “slow leaks” in our life – areas that are not exactly flourishing according to God’s Word, Will and Way – it is human nature to become caught up in the lie that perhaps we have discovered the limit of God’s Love for us and so we run dry. This is not the case at all. We just need a little more of God’s Grace.

We forget that His Grace is sufficient or enough. It is the sum total of that which allows us to obtain freedom and initiate God’s Overflow to reach us. I cannot do anything to obtain salvation, righteousness, healing, deliverance, inheritance, abundance or any other thing from God except through His Son, Jesus Christ. Over and over again, faith falls short of recognizing one’s human inability to secure these things so our flesh tries its own way. Are you tired, thirsty, drained, sick, exhausted, overcome, overwhelmed, anxious, busy, too busy, too this or that, if you have reached an extreme other than completely satisfied – it is time to visit the Cross and discover His Grace again.

John 10:10 (NLT) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

There is no satisfaction or contentment outside of Jesus Christ. Any area of our life operating outside of faith, trust and complete dependency on the Lord will always fall short of His Glorious Standard because sin will find its way there. The thief is the enemy of your life who wants to drain you of all resources until he can easily overtake your overburdened heart. It happens like a slow leak. You are excitedly serving the Lord one minute and unsure how you have wandered so far the next. All with good intentions but no understanding that only Jesus Christ can offer a rich and satisfying life. He is the One who rebukes the devourer for those who are faithful and obedient to His Word. (Malachi 3)

We went to Puerto Rico on a company trip many years ago. The vendors had arranged a dinner in the heart of the rain forest. Buses were rented to take us through the city to the outskirts of town. Riding along one of the passengers attempted to open a window as the small bus was overcrowded. The bus driver yelled from the front, “CLOSE THE WINDOW!” He went on to share this is a very bad part of town. It is not uncommon for robberies and hijackings to occur if we are not careful. This would probably explain his erratic driving through the area. It looked like a neighborhood like any other modest one, but it housed dangers that foreigners could not see and did not realize. The bus driver was keeping us safe.

We obeyed his instructions making it to and from the event unharmed and intact. We have been given the Word of God and the Holy Spirit as a guide for our life. Obedience saves our life because it rebukes the devourer and binds the hands of the thief against us. Obedience requires trusting the one who instructs us and believing that what they say is valid and true for our own good. There are areas of our life that are kept from God’s Word and His Spirit because we want our own way. When the devourer comes or the thief steals, kills or destroys something in our life – we blame God for not being there when sometimes it is our own willful betrayal and intentional disobedience that left the window open that he crawled through. Shut the windows of your life and lock them tight. Seal the doors bolting them shut and keeping them that way.

When a sinner is set free and comes to Jesus, sin is removed and goodness exposed. Our life is renewed. His Spirit fills us with God’s Goodness and Grace. The enemy now sees something that he wants. He desires to steal us away from the Lord. It is his revenge for the end that is coming. If we do not examine our life day by day applying mercy and grace to patch the holes in our soul, we are susceptible to stumbling, falling and leaking out that which God is filling our life with. All the good things that He is sending down from Heaven wasted…because we did not stop the leaks in our life.

Psalm 112:4-9 (NLT) Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.

Psalm 112 is just a glimpse into the life of godly people made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. Their life becomes valuable and worth something. They will begin to walk confidently in the Love of God. The constant connection to God for righteousness sake will produce an overflow of abundance in each area given over to the Lord. We will have something others want. Our trust in Jesus will cause reckless love, generous giving and a constant state of victory. It doesn’t say that we will not have battles. It does tell us that we win each one that begins by trusting God. But here is what happens…

Luke 5:36-38 (NLT) Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins.

I have three daughters who all have closets full of nothing to wear. Our middle daughter went through a phase where her shorts seem to get smaller and smaller as she grew bigger and bigger. However, when she gave her heart to Jesus and decided to serve Him wholeheartedly – a whole summer wardrobe became obsolete. No longer were the shorts too short. The tops too small or tight. As she discovers more and more her worth to Jesus Christ, she decided to change her wardrobe. As women, we struggle with the clothes that we wear. Not many girls I know do not have times of personal body shaming and self-loathing in a world that sets a ridiculous standard for girls and women. I am kicking the soapbox back under the bed though I really want to drag it our really bad.

Our growth process in the Lord will develop through seasons of change. To come to Christ and think that is all there is to it is a lie that can steal God’s Glory and Blessing from our life. God promises that we will see His Goodness in the land of the living. Our confidence in God’s Word keeps us pressing to see that day come. (Psalm 27:13) Not everything is heaven-bound, we just haven’t figured out how to loose them on earth to overflow from our life. God is not going to pour out more of His Spirit on a person who is not ready to receive. First, the Lord does everything on purpose. If I am not ready to receive, it is pointless to pour things into my life. He is also not going to take that which is holding us back from us, but waits for us to let it go. That is called freedom, my friend, and God hates double standards. If you want “new wine” you need new wineskins. If you want more of His Spirit, you must make room for Him to come in.

2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NLT) Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.

There are many people who will give from their surplus but few who will sacrifice. Sometimes the problem is not our ability to receive from the Lord but be obedient in our offering. The Lord presses us to give back our time, talent and treasure as a tithe to Him. With only 2% of God’s Church in America tithing, I think there may be a pressure problem here. God is filling our life with good things. Are we hoarding it for ourselves? Before you can offer anything to God – you must meet His Requirement. For example, tithing is 10% of what you get. An offering is anything over 10% or the level of obedience. We give the time we have rather instead of making time to serve the Lord, read His Word, spend it in prayer, reach out to others, and love when it hurts. We pay our bills, buy our toys, and fill our life with everything imaginable because we think we somehow earned it. Friend, those who are blessed with abundance must know that every good and perfect gift is from the Father who gave you that great job, your income and all those things you hold on to so dearly and lovingly. We must learn to give our life until it hurts. Sacrificing our way to do it His Way. What God puts in our life must be generously shared to be blessed and broken.

2 Corinthians 9:10-14 (NLT) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.

“Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.” Psalm 16:5 We have a sweet little dog who we adopted when she was over a year old. She came with some bad habits that needed retraining. One of those bad habits came when it was time to eat. I was completely taken back the first time I fed her. I have never seen anything like it. She would slam her head in the bowl inhaling the food to the point of choking. Her anxiety was so bad that sometimes she would knock the bowl over in her haste to devour it. If anyone came close to her while she was eating, she would try even harder to get it all in her mouth. This was unacceptable. Not sure of what caused this in her, her behavior had to be modified as it was not good for her. To begin her training, I let her go for about a week just to observe that she would be fed twice a day. No change in behavior. So for about two weeks, I fed her the tiny pellets of dog food one at a time. At first impatient, she soon discovered that I was not taking it away and would sit and eat with me. When I tried her food bowl again, however; she was right back where she started. Finally I discovered a bowl that separated her food into four sections making it impossible for her to smash her face it. Poor thing almost knocked herself out the first few times she ate from it, but after a while she slowed down. She still eats somewhat frenzied but as her trust increases her anxiety seems to be decreasing.

I am in no way equating any of you or even me to my four-legged friend, or even if I am, could it be that the Lord must restrict our overflow until we trust Him more? Could it be that His Goodness is SO good that we cannot handle it so He must withhold it for our own good? What profits a man (or woman) who gains the whole world but loses their soul? God knows. He doesn’t want you to find out. So He waits on us to trust Him more, follow Him more closely and open every door in our life to His Spirit to cultivate the planted seeds of His Word and His Promises that we are holding on to with the little bit of hope that we have left.

Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT) I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

What does your meter read today? Has the indicator light been coming on but you have chosen to ignore it? Do feel dry? Are you empty? The Lord has more for you today. His Love is unconditionally overflowing from the river that never runs dry hoping to find a void in our life to fill us new. His Grace is always enough even when we fall down again and again, it is discovered in our weakness but commitment to try. We must be givers. Last night, shopping with our girls, we found an amazing sale. The cashier commented on our savings. As I began to tell her about God’s Goodness and Favor, the woman was almost shouting. She thanked us for reminding her of God’s Goodness and Love. Her whole demeanor changed and she began praising God under her breath as we left the store and she helped the next customer. You have an amazing power and love hidden in the fragile frame that forms your life. It is always looking for a way to overflow into your life for His Glory and your goodness. The Lord seeks to bless you with the inheritance that He designated for you. What are you doing to secure God’s Blessing and Prosperity in your life today? People need the person of Jesus Christ that fills us to overflowing giving us something of worth to share. The Lord will always give seed to the sower. What are you planting in your life today? Is it worthy of a harvest? He must be the Center of our life so that all things flow through Him to be blessed and broken for His Use…beginning with me!

Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

Practical Gifts

Practical Gifts

2 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT) Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

Giving gifts to loved ones and friends is my favorite. It brings me great joy. I am more comfortable as the giver than the receiver. When selecting a perfect something for someone else, there is tremendous pressure to please that individual. It requires knowing them. The more important the person is to us the more crucial it is to find just the right thing. Longing to see their expression when they open it, there is much anticipation until finally the moment comes. It is in the first thirty seconds that we discover if our gift is acceptable or not. It doesn’t matter what words come after the initial reaction. A person cannot hide their feelings most of the time. There is no worse feeling than a gift left unused or unwanted. I would rather the receiver tell me that they have one, don’t like it or need it so that the item can be exchanged for something of use. These are tangible gifts and not the one that is referenced in 2 Corinthians.

As believers who the Lord has invested His Spirit into there are gifts that come from the Father deposited directly inside of us. When allowed to grow and develop, it turns into generosity. A giving spirit in the natural is limited to our financial situation. The Holy Spirit cultivates a whole new kind of giving inside of us that allows us to literally give our life away. There are many famous people who have died over the years very wealthy people who had wasted souls. Feeling no love, value or worth these talented individual have numbed their pain and self-medicated to death, sadly for some an eternal death. The Gift of Love and Grace imparted to us by Jesus Christ is too wonderful for words. It is a call to action.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 

God is very thoughtful and practical when it comes to processes. He is very straightforward though many times man complicates it. God provides seed for the farmer and bread to eat. The Word of God is the seed sown in our life. It hits our heart and is either received or rejected. When good seed comes to rest on a fertile heart, obedience is produced. The Lord grows that seed with the help of His Spirit into something that satisfies us. Not only enough for the person, but more than enough to give away. God operates in abundance that is only limited by our willingness to continue the process of sowing and reaping in our life. You will always harvest what you plant. God enriches those who give by giving more to share. Generosity is a calling on our life that must not be ignored. It is representative of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NLT) So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.

Two things are accomplished by giving – it supplies our life and it benefits the life of others which brings Glory to God. Obedience in giving is essential to express our deep affection for Jesus because of the overflowing grace God has given us. We must give our life away. Our faithfulness in giving allows God to give us what He promises in this process. If our resources natural, physical or spiritual are limited, it is time to evaluate our offering. The things we give above what we are required. For example, the tithe is 10% of what you get. Our giving begins in our offering which is anything more than 10%. You cannot give God an offering until you are willing to be obedient. Our life is our ministry. Every single day. Every single moment. Every single breath yields an opportunity to give something away for the Lord.

Luke 11:36-42 (NLT) Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Obedience to the rules and regulations of the Word of God are easy. If one takes the time and self-discipline to change certain habits, our life is better simply through our own pursuit of change. Religion versus relationship. Outward change does nothing for our heart though. We can look different, act different and be different but until our heart is changed through a thriving relationship with Jesus – all we have is a religion.

When our son was fighting cancer, the insurance denied his bone marrow transplant. Not once but six consecutive times until all appeals were exhausted. We needed about $350,000 for the hospital to consider the procedure without insurance. I begged and pleaded with every entity that would listen. In the midst of this battle to secure financing for his treatment, the headlines reported that a mega ministry had been robbed. The thieves took more than $650,000 from their petty cash fund. I was speechless.

I believe that church culture is changing from building big fancy cathedrals dripping in gold to evangelist ministries that are taking it to the streets. The remnant church is rising of men, women and young people who are desperate for a move of God and know it will not happen until they take the Gospel outside the church evidenced in generosity to the waiting, watching and dying world. Small groups are on the rise. Church growth is planting rather than hoarding. In other words, rather than building bigger buildings or adding more services, they are developing leaders to move to where the people are rather than waiting for them to come to us. One of my favorite values of our church is the commitment to do anything short of sin to share the Gospel. We must have giving hearts to be an acceptable church.

Ephesians 4:7-10 (NLT) However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

Salvation gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, the Spirit is ignited and released in our life. The Holy Spirit is not our personal assistant to do our missives but rather our partner of power to facilitate the growth that is needed to give our life away. He is the One who cultivates the gifts and callings from God in our life. These gifts and callings cannot be withdrawn. (Romans 11:29) If this were the case it would challenge the sufficiency of God’s Grace which is more than enough. Paul exhorts us to desire the best gifts in I Corinthians 12 and then goes on to say, “…but now let me show you a way that is best of all.”

I Corinthians 13 is considered the love chapter of the Bible. This is the heart of giving. Love. Love is a commitment not a feeling. I don’t always feel loving towards my husband when we are at odds but I am in love with him always. Love is not emotional but devoted no matter how we feel in that moment. Love is the basis of generosity for the believer. Our giving can never be because we have to but because we love Jesus. If my giving were able to facilitate the Hand of God, I would not need the Lord but that is not the case. You cannot buy God’s Gifts. They are produced from our heart even when facilitated by our hands. (Acts 8:18-21) Every good gift in our life is from the Lord. Everything I have can be used for His Glory.

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

I am challenged in my heart today to reconsider giving in my life. I can write a check, lend a hand or even pray with another person. But how can my life impact the Kingdom in every exchange? Could it be so simple? We pursue the gifts of the Spirit that result in signs, wonders and miracles. But the Word of God indicates that those who believe without seeing are blessed. The Holy Spirit promises to produce an abundance of “fruit” in my life contradictory to human nature. In Romans 12:6-18 many of these things are listed as “gifts”. I can choose to share the fruit of my life in every single interaction by choosing to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle while maintaining self-control that gives good fruit even when it is underserved or unmerited. The abundance of grace that I have received allows me to give getting nothing in return. Could it be that these the gifts that the Lord desires of us to? Lifestyles of generosity that extend from the heart not our hand?

I Corinthians 1:4-9 (NLT) I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Each day the Lord provides opportunities for us to plant and harvest Kingdom blessings in our life. One day I was walking into the grocery store just as a woman was leaving. Though her cart had just a few bags, it could’ve have been overflowing with the amount of energy she was exerting just to push it. Clearly struggling, it began to rain. As she passed, I turned and fell into step with her extending my umbrella over her. She told me she was sick and having a horrible day. I shielded her from the rain and helped her unload her cart and she was on her way. I thought about praying for her but as the rain got heavier it was clear she just wanted to go home so as I turned back on my errand I began praying for her.

I believe that this is the generosity that Christ is talking about in sharing our gifts. People don’t need us to tell them how to live. They don’t need the Bible force fed. What they need is to encounter people who are genuinely in love and committed to Jesus Christ. More than how we feel or what we have, totally trusting and believing that He supplies all our needs (physical, emotionally and spiritually) so we can give to others even strangers and enemies without a second thought. These are gifts of love that touch hearts beyond any other “thing” we could give away. Love must always be the foundation of giving. I Corinthians 12:6-7 puts it like this, God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

James 1:16-18 (NLT) So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” To fully understand Luke 6:38 is to know and understand the currency of God. The commodity of the Kingdom always has been and always will be love. There came a point in my life when money could not solve my problem. The price tag on our life demanded a sacrifice of self. Jesus paid the price that I could not pay in my sinful condition so I am now free to live in His Kingdom. I have the ability to bring His Kingdom to earth. I have the keys. Jesus gave them to me. Until I know and understand how the Kingdom operates, I will remain subject to the world’s system of giving and receiving which is limited and lacking. As I learn to give more of my life to the Lord, He will show me how to give His Love away appropriately. His Spirit will recreate my heart so that giving is an immediate response rather than forced action. I must commit myself to giving of the love that I have received.

Yes, I have a gift too wonderful for words. There are many “good” things in my life. Even more that the Lord is perfecting by faith and trust, He will see them come to pass. My role is to participate in the sowing and reaping process. To give practical gifts to everyday people. To plant love and sow souls for His Kingdom by sharing this gift too wonderful for words that can only be expressed in the generosity of offering our life to others freely. It is in the slightest gesture of sharing from the Fruit of His Spirit. It is offering a helping hand desiring nothing in return. It is to give a kind word in response to a violent verbal assault. It is to hold the door for another. It is take the Good News to the world rather than waiting for them to come to us. Our generosity is representative of Jesus who gave His All. Lord, show me where to start, what to give and how to perfect generosity in my life!

I Peter 4:10 (NLT) God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.