Through the Fire

Through the Fire

Isaiah 54:16-17 (NLT) “I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals beneath the forge and makes the weapons of destruction. And I have created the armies that destroy. But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord; their vindication will come from me. I, the Lord, have spoken!

How can it be only Wednesday? I feel like a whole week has been shoved into two days. I am tired. I am weary. I am drained. It has been days of warfare. I cling to the promise that no weapon turned against you will succeed. Sometimes in life it is not the major problems or troubles that overtake us but the minor issues that pile up. My Bible flipped open is like a weight on my desk while these words apply pressure to my chest. Why has it been so hard for so long? I am not in the midst of a pity party rather a sojourn to survey the success of my plight. To be honest and transparent, my current assignment has been a challenge from the start. I am usually up to the test. Ready to take on the impossible. Driven to live in obedience to Christ. In this moment of introspection, I must take into account the cost of the Cross. Is the price too high to follow this destiny? What more will it take to reach my destination? This heaviness is like iron. I had to fight for my quiet time. Silence the voices in my head to hear His Spirit in the dark. God I know you called me to this place for such a time as this. I know you have supplied all that I need. This is a fertile field ready for seeds to be planted, nurtured and grown.

When reading the Word of God, we like to pick and choose among the verses finding the Bread of Life most palatable to feed our starving flesh. The living water needed to wash our wounds and sustain us for another day. This hunger and thirst finds no satisfaction. It continually cries out for more. The flame in the fire keeps getting hotter. I am reminded that to fully understand I must read the entire book – not just the scripture that is appealing. Every entrée has a recipe. Every product has instructions. The words proceeding the overcoming passage I am clinging to today are not the encouragement I am after but rather “I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals beneath the forge and makes the weapons for destruction.”

2 Kings 6:1-7 (NLT) One day the group of prophets came to Elisha and told him, “As you can see, this place where we meet with you is too small. Let’s go down to the Jordan River, where there are plenty of logs. There we can build a new place for us to meet.” “All right,” he told them, “go ahead.” “Please come with us,” someone suggested. “I will,” he said. So he went with them. When they arrived at the Jordan, they began cutting down trees. But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. “Oh, sir!” he cried. “It was a borrowed ax!” “Where did it fall?” the man of God asked. When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water at that spot. Then the ax head floated to the surface. “Grab it,” Elisha said. And the man reached out and grabbed it.

The prophets were on a mission. Their plight to build a bigger place of worship was stamped “approved” by the Lord through His Prophet, Elisha. The place they were sent had provision to complete the project. They even invited the Presence of the Lord to join them asking the man of God to come along. They began their work and immediately encountered opposition. Ugh! There is always opposition while pressing and pushing through to God’s Plan. He gives us provision, provides us the place, and even gives us His Presence. So why the pressure, pain and problems? It seems like cruel irony (no pun intended). To position us to prosper and then allow such things to happen. Has the Lord set us up to fail? Is He trying to punish us for something in our past? Why does it have be so hard and hurtful? The process of God does not only have purpose around us but it always has a purpose in us. To see God move around us it must first begin within us. The pain, pressure and problems give way to persistence and perseverance. You will need it down the road. The greater the potential the greater the opposition. At some point, the haters must become our motivators. The impossible the birthplace of miracles.

The man who lost his borrowed ax cried out to the Lord. Elisha answered with a miracle. A sign to him that God had kept His Promise and indeed was with them. The impossible gave way to a miracle. I wonder today if the problems I am facing is the Lord’s Attempt to prepare me in this seemingly impossible place for His Power and Glory that is coming. My ax head is definitely sinking today. So I will call upon the Lord, my energy is zapped and efforts are failing.

2 Kings 6:15-17 (NLT)  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

Awesome sauce! Reading farther down the chapter, now there is a battle. We must fight for our ground. The ax was already heavy now must I beat my plowshare into a sword? The king of Aram waged war against Israel. The struggle is real. The Kingdom of God is always under attack. We must take it by force. Not the force of our own strength, but rather total reliance, dependence and trust in the Lord. Faith must give way to confidence that doesn’t look through natural eyes.

When the servant came to Elisha overtaken by fear, it was rightfully so. The Aramean army had surrounded them and wanted Elisha. Elisha instructed the king of Israel sharing secrets that no one could have known but a spy. The servant saw the vast army and knew they were done but God didn’t see things that way and neither did Elisha. When the servant’s eyes were open by the Lord – it was then that he could see the army of the Lord which was larger, stronger, and surrounding then the opposition. Sometimes in the heat of our battle, we must find some time to hide in the Presence of God allowing Him to open our eyes to see our Avenger. Christ is the ultimate overcomer. He lives inside of us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

We do not wage war as humans do even when there is an army at our door. We use God’s Mighty Weapons. They are not like worldly ones designed to kill. The weapon is the Word of God. It is the sword of the Spirit used to expose every lie the enemy has touted. We have a shield of faith to deflect the fiery darts of the enemy and a breastplate of righteousness for the ones that make it through. We have been given a gospel of peace. Yet if peace is what you after it might be best to prepare for war. What keeps us from seeing God, knowing His Plan and following by faith is not the opposition but rather the proud obstacles, rebellious thoughts and interworking of our own treacherous mind and traitorous heart that get the best of us. It is in full obedience that victory is claimed. God is forging our heart and mind. He is engrafting us fully by burning away everything in us contradictory to His Word, Will and Way. He is perfecting His Plan in us so the potential fulfillment of purpose will be achieve. The heat is getting hotter so that these trials will prove that our faith is genuine.

2 Peter 1:7 (NLT) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

“I have created the blacksmith who fans the coals beneath the forge and makes the weapons of destruction.” The fire of refinement is not meant to destroy us but to reveal that which is within us. As our soul prospers, so do we. The once ironclad heart is refined and turned into a faithful heart that is considered far more precious than mere gold. He is strengthening our faith to make us powerful. He is preparing us for His Promises. The Lord has given us purpose and potential with a plan for successful abundance. He is getting me out of the way. When this work is finished, it will not be for my glory. It is for His Glory.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18) When King Nebuchadnezzar turned up the heat of the furnace seven times hotter, the three Hebrew men were not cheering. They did not goad the king. They simple stated their faith. God will deliver us or redeem us either way we are not bowing down, giving in or giving up on the Lord. (Paraphrase) The heat of the fire may seem hotter than ever before – it just means that there is purpose and potential inside of us yet to be discovered. God is burning away every impurity because of His Love, Grace and Mercy we will not be consumed. He is faithful. His Word is true. If we must go through the fire, He goes with us. The Lord will not leave us or forsake ever. He is with us always even to the ends of the earth. Lord, give me strength, endurance, persistence and perseverance to make it through the test to triumph. I want to live for your Glory and if that means walking through fiery trials so be it. Greater is He who lives in me than he that is in the world!

Romans 8:34-37 (NIV) Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

 

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It’s Only Temporary

It's Only Temporary

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT) That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

In life, change is inevitable. Everything is in a state of evolution. Evolution is the process of formation, growth and development. Consider technology, for example, and its many advancements in the last decade. Everything is “smart” now…or so it claims. Without growth, there is only death. Nothing stays the same over the course of time. Life is temporary. Things that are temporary last, exist, serve and are effective for a certain amount of time only. They are not permanent but again subject to change. Oh, how I wish I could remember this on a daily basis. Especially on those days when outcomes appear terminal. Terminal is forming the end. My life is eternal but most of the time – I live for the day.

Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. God has ordained every activity under the sun with a time and season. (Ecclesiastes 3) His Promise is that everything is beautiful in His Timing even those things that seem brutal now will be transformed. Planting seems like sacrifice until the harvest. If only as believers, we could see that the space of time between our prayers and outcomes is temporary and not terminal. If only we could discern the lie of the enemy from God’s Truth about our life. It is important to never make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances but it happens every day.

Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. God is moving on the inside which produces pressure to change. We are being transformed which means what we are today will give way to who He called us to be if we do not give up on the process. Called to walk by faith and not by sight, there must be a new perspective so that in the temporal passages of time – our thoughts are transformed by heavenly possibilities.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT) So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Romans 12:2 (NLT) 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.

The beginning of our transformation process in Jesus Christ is faith. The renewing of our mind gives way to the new person as faith becomes the logical choice. Faith is only logical when supported by the Word of God and motivated by His Spirit. The Lord is making us into His Image as His Children. He is molding and shaping our life into a vessel that can hold the abundance that God has planned as our future and hope that becomes a rich and satisfying life. Our present condition cannot hold the Glory of God in store for us. Like an old wine skin, it is completely undone under the pressure of new wine. Our form must give way to His Process so that our faith becomes our foundation when everything changes and nothing remains the same. Hope is the anchor for our soul when God begins to move us from this place to new horizons without boundaries or limits. You are being transformed by God, therefore today is only a temporary condition.

Colossians 2:6-9 (NLT) And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

Psalm 52:8 (NLT) But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.

Transplant means to move from one place and plant in another. Before meeting Jesus Christ and inviting Him to be Savior and Lord, our life was subject to natural outcomes and consequences governed by our choices. However, the decision to follow Christ is a process of transplantation. No longer subject to the consequences of sin, grace changes outcomes in our life. God promises to work every detail for our good and to His Glory as His Children. It doesn’t mean that God’s People are exempt from the sowing and reaping of the effects of poor choices or sinful misgivings. It means that by choosing to live in the Presence of God – His Grace overwhelms the power sin once had so that our life becomes fruitful again. Even barren land will give up good fruit when surrendered to the Lord of the Harvest.

God has promised those who seek Him wholeheartedly will have all that He planned before our birth during creation. His Word cannot return to Him void. The soil of a fertile heart is softened by brokenness. It is such a state that transplantation is possible as God begins to sow His Word into us and it grows into every blessing just as He promised. It is not a matter of can the Lord do it but our faithfulness in trusting, leaning and depending on Him makes it inevitable that He will do it. The trouble is most people live in pots rather than planting themselves in the Love of Jesus Christ. Living one way on Sunday and another the rest of the week, souls starve Monday through Saturday. To grow deep roots in God’s Love is to be planted in Christ allowing His Love to grow and overtake us from the inside out. It is to study God’s Word. Practice its principles. Pray it. Purpose to live by it and believe it. This is how faith becomes practical in our life. Tired of striving? Ready to thrive again? This place is only temporary. God’s Kingdom is forever. Choose carefully where to reside today.

I Peter 1:16-18 (NLT) For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.

Acts 17:28 (NLT) For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

In the old episodes of Star Trek, Captain Kirk would say into his teleporter watch, “Beam me up, Scotty.” Suddenly, his entire body would begin to become blurry until it changed form to be transported to the good ship, Enterprise. On those tough days when life is overwhelming wouldn’t it be nice if we could request the same of the Lord? To see things from His Perspective. To see the end from the beginning. To understand the Will of God enough to fully commit to His Way. The enemy wants us to believe that life is terminal, void of possibility, and subject to natural laws. It’s not. We are being transformed, transplanted and even transported to a new life in Jesus Christ that is always subject to change. The Lord does not change. He does not lie or change His Mind. He does not take back blessing. He doesn’t withdraw callings. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever which means I am the one who must be changed.

When the pressure is constant and pain overwhelming – it is tough to hold on to our faith and confident hope because after all we are only human. If only our heart and mind would agree that today’s situation, circumstance, condition, hardship, trial or even diagnosis is not terminal but temporary. Tomorrow new mercy will meet us and His Word says that joy comes in the morning. If only I can hold that thought for today. God is transforming my life. I am in the midst of constant change, growth, and development. Things are always subject to change in the life of a believer. Life is temporary so we live for the eternal. Lord, help me to remember that today and your promise that you perfect all that concerns me. (Psalm 138:8)

Be encouraged today. God’s not finished with you yet. When I woke up this morning, I knew today is a brand new day. I had a choice to make before my feet hit the floor. The enemy offered me my disappointments and “not yets” of yesterday, but today I decided to try out new mercy and its working quite nicely. To view of life in the natural is to lose all hope. The hope that I have is in the supernatural living God inside of me who is changing me day by day. He teaches me to live from victory to victory. He is preparing me to live from glory to glory. I am changing but He is not. My life is temporary here on the earth but not terminal. I am in the midst of transformation, transplantation and transportation from this place to live in the flourishing Presence of God both now and forevermore. I cannot see it with human eyes so I must live by faith and hold fast to hope. Change is inevitable. Life is temporary. Everything is subject to change. In this I can plant my feet, invest my faith, and hold tight to hope. God is good.

I Peter 2:11 (NLT) Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

3 John 1:2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

The D-Word

Dare To Be Disciplined

 

Philippians 3:12-16 (AMP) Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude that too God will make clear to you. Only let us stay true to what we have already attained.

It’s funny as I type this today, that spellcheck on my computer doesn’t care for the word “Christlike”. It has the red squiggly line under it that means it doesn’t recognize it or suggesting that I select an acceptable alternative for it. Isn’t that life most days? Autocorrect and spellcheck are used for grammatical and typographical errors but omit certain legitimate words according to the usual vocabulary. It is even modified as not to offend others. Sigh. Yes, I have inserted a sigh. I am not a runner. I am not built for endurance. Patience are a challenge for me most days. I am cool under pressure… most of the time. But as time goes by, things don’t change, my plans don’t line up, and fatigue sets in – the thought “there has to be more to life than this” brings me to a choice. The valley of decision. It is a low place with many dark corners. It is filled with echoing voices and shadows of doubt and fear that tell me just quit. Stop. Give up. Quit. What’s the point? Life cannot ever be normal again. There will always be problems. Constant pressure. What are you going to do? My head is filled with circling thoughts of why I should give to all these suggestions made valid by my feelings and emotions. But then I hear it…that still small voice inside of me…probably a lot like the one Elijah heard on the mountain after the earthquake, fire, and storm…”What are you doing here?” The Lord spoke these words to the prophet. So many victories in his corner, so many miracles already in his midst, yet still the voice of doubt and fear drove him into hiding. The voice I hear today is just a bit different. The Lord says, “Press on.”

2 Timothy 4:7-10 (NLT) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. Timothy, please come as soon as you can.  Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia.

Before you pick up the bat of comparison and begin beating yourself soundly in the head for feeling this way today, let’s look at the Super Christian Paul. Paul fought the good fight. He finished the race. He remained faithful. He knew in his heart that his days were numbered and soon he would claim the prize. The crown of righteousness which the Lord would hand to him. He was ready. Paul was also human. Immediately following this confident statement comes the cry of man struggling and feeling isolated. “Timothy, please come as soon as you can.” Everyone had gone on their way. The only one left with Paul was Luke. He was calling for backup. Paul needed some support. It is only natural in this life of following Christ to have days when the pressure is overwhelming, doubt may kick in, discouragement gets the best of us, our emotions out of whack, and even when throwing in the towel seems like a viable option. It doesn’t mean that you do not love God or desire Him with all of your heart. It means, dear friend and follower of Christ, that you are human.

Matthew 26:36-40 (NLT) Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 

Jesus understands how pressure feels. He knows what it means to want to give up. He also decided to press on. The Last Supper over and the betrayal of his follower, Judas revealed. Our Savior and Lord is well on His Way to the Cross. The hour had come. The end was near. He needed to talk to His Father one more time before this final journey to the Cross. He already knows the one who claims to love him most and the person who professed dying for him would soon deny ever knowing Him. Yet, Jesus asks him to come and keep watch while He prays. Well, Peter, James and John were exhausted from their journey. Still mulling over His Words, they fall asleep. Even after Jesus said to them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” – still they could not keep their eyes open. In those final moments, Jesus petitions His Father in Heaven, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” I cannot imagine how the words of the Son must have ravaged the Father’s Heart.

I believe that when in the midst of a trial or plagued by problems that when we pray – the Father’s Heart breaks for us. The Word of God admits that He is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18) What a promise? Especially for those who feel abused, violated, betrayed or isolated. The Lord is with you. He is close to you. He is ready to rescue you. You must press on. You cannot give up. It is now when the breakthrough comes because God can easily access the brokenhearted.

2 Corinthians 4:6-10 (NLT)  For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Our body works against us. Our thoughts rally to stop this foolishness. Our emotions and feelings press us to give up. Why all the pressure? Why am I so perplexed? Why isn’t following Jesus easy? All the workings of our flesh are enticed by temptation working against us from the inside out. The enemy is aiding it in every way possible. Why? “There is a light shining in the darkness for you today. It invites you to live in the Presence of God. To experience His Glory in your life. To radiate the Favor of God. To become a beacon of hope to those who are lost and dying. To have this great treasure means pressing in rather than giving in to the pressures of life. Sin is not the problem for those who have fully experienced God’s Love, Grace and Mercy responding by faith that says, “Jesus, I want you.” It doesn’t mean my life will look radically different the morning after I ask Him into my heart. It is the starting point of the race to the finish line marked faith. It is going to be a long, tedious journey. My flesh and feelings are going to try to trip me up. The enemy will be shooting fiery darts at me all along the way. Those who cheer me on in the beginning may not make it to the end. But there is a prize worth having and I intend to take it.

2 Corinthians 9:22-27 (NLT) When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

It is a privilege to participate in this race of faith. It is a divine opportunity provided to me by Jesus Christ. I would also like to run the Disney Princess Marathon races. If you must know, I would be thankful just to survive a 5K or 3.1 mile race. I must admit that I am not a runner. I am not sure that I could make it one mile running and not dying. In fact, I will tell you the same thing I tell other people – if you see me running you should too, because something is probably chasing me. Now how in the world can a 51-year-old mom who is out of shape make it to a Disney Princess marathon? I guess first I would have to make up my mind that I wanted to do it and set a goal with certain steps to achieve before the next race. Given the popularity of these events, I should probably go ahead and sign up now. It might be a good idea to invest in some good running shoes. The next is probably the hardest part of all – I would then have to discipline myself to train for the marathon. Ugh! The D-word wreaks havoc in us. It is the boundary and barrier for most people when it comes to achieving even the smallest goal or aspiration. What overcomes the thought of discipline – devotion. What is devotion? It is profound dedication and consecration. An earnest attachment to a person or cause. Devotion is the attachment or assignment to any purpose. In the Biblical sense, devotion is an act of worship including worship for a special use.

Are you dedicated to Jesus Christ? Fully devoted heart and soul to knowing Him fully and having His Way in your life? Me, too. Discipline is the choice to take what we know about the Lord and His Word and apply it to our life. Not just in word, but in every attitude and action much like an athlete eyeing a prize. It is not an endeavor casually undertaken but a full-on effort to make every part of our life conform to that of overwhelming victory. After all, Christ is our Champion according to Hebrews. To those who disciplined, dedicated and fully devoted probably the worst word they will ever hear is disqualified. “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”

Hebrews 12:11-13 (NLT) No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

I do not believe that discipline is the same as punishment. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that through Him that I would be saved. Thank you, Jesus! However, it is human nature to view discipline as punishment. When I go to the gym after missing days, weeks, months or the past year – my muscles scream for relief as I press through the pain and work through the notion that quitting would be so much easier. No one is punishing me. I want more. I desire to be healthy. I pay for the membership to undergo such “torture”. Devoted to Christ, the pressure inside of us is His Way of making us into the masterpiece that He purposed and designed us to be. It is the molding and shaping of character so that endurance will keep us until His Glory is released in our life. I must press past every pain, insecurity, fear and emotion if I am dedicated to this cause called Christ. Anything worth having requires a higher price, I must decide today if I will pay that price. If I will endure tough times, difficult seasons and painstaking processes to let Christ have His Way in my life which will lead to a rich and satisfying life just as He promised. I must press on to have that which the Lord is calling me to. I must not give up or give in but allow the Lord to strengthen my tired hands to life them in worship and my weak knees to seek Him in prayer. The only thing that must not happen is I cannot and will not quit, give up or give in. I am His Prized Possession. No discipline is enjoyable. Can I get an “amen”? It is worth the peaceful harvest that is coming for those who decide to be devoted to right living and following His Way.

Isaiah 38:16-20 (NLT) Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord.

Tiny Treasures

Tiny Treasures

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

I have many masterpiece designs made by my little artists over the years. Carefully wrapped in newsprint and bubble wrap, hidden in the guest room, they are precious treasures to me. Preparing for our move last year, I held them in my hand carefully wrapping each one. I labeled each box “fragile” and made sure they were transported in my car. We are fragile clay jars. (Job 33:6) Produced from clay, by the Potter, yet far from finished from completion. (Isaiah 64:8) The work of the potter’s hands begins with a lump of clay thrown unceremoniously on a wheel. Water is added to soften the mound. The potter takes his hands and begins to firmly knead the clay working the water through it and making it pliable in his hands. He presses hard with all his strength to eliminate all the air bubbles inside. It is a rigorous process. But if any of those pockets remain when the final work is placed in the kiln exposed to great heat – it will crack or worse explode. Oh Lord, remind me today that I am only clay. A masterpiece in the potter’s hand who just happens to be my Father.

Ephesians 2:9-10 (NLT) Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

There are other little art creations tucked away. The kids and I used to go to the local ceramic store in the summer or when visiting my family. A “pick-and-paint” operation filled with shelves of different items to choose from then with a wide assortment of colorful paint create a bowl, cup or little boxes. Once complete, the shop would put them in the kiln bringing the color to life. I love those little pieces and the memories they hold, yet do not prize them as I do all the little clay pieces. Could it be the time invested? Or maybe because the clay pieces were the individual work of each child rather than one simply painted?

Growth in God may seem like complete destruction. Well, if God’s Plan and Purpose is the true desire of my heart – it will be the complete undoing of my heart. God has a plan and purpose for my life – He promises that it contains a future and hope. It is blessed. It must be broken. I cannot maintain my present form and be the masterpiece that Lord has called me to be. I must become a new creation.  A new person. A seed must die to its present form to become the potential hidden inside. We must die to our present form to become that new creation and let God’s Light shine from us.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV) Substance…what is the substance of our life? Our bodies are molded and shaped of clay or so the Bible says. God scooped up some earth and made a human being. Our physical being is terminal. From the day of our arrival – our death is one day closer. This is not a morbid reality just a bit of mortal truth. Our potential is locked inside of us. God put eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He labeled it a “measure of faith”. (Romans 12:3) It comes wrapped in the promise that the Lord will make all things beautiful in its time. Romans 8:28 ensures us that He will use every detail for our good and His Glory. God is working the substance of our life. He is kneading us. Pressing out the impurities, filling us with His Grace, and shaping us into the new creation He promised. He needs only one thing from us. It is not what you may think.

Psalm 37:3-6 (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. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

The invisible link between faith and hope is trust. We must trust the Lord enough to endure the process of our undoing and remaking in the Potter’s Hands. If our desire is to know Him, serve Him, find Him and live in His Presence – we must do so with the understanding that God does not lie or change His Mind. Though favorable for us, it will not allow us to remain the same while inching closer to Him each day. We must be changed by the grace that saved us into the masterpiece that He calls us. To change in our appearance but not in our substance puts us in danger of becoming like the Pharisees. Doing and saying all the right things, but never becoming the new person changed by faith, trust and confident hope. Instead, we are simply “white-washed tombs”, (Matthew 23) The Blood of the Lamb washes us white from the inside out. Not the other way around, The Lord doesn’t want perfect Christians with hard hearts. No, He wants new creations who are soft and responsive to know and become one with His Heart.

To live for Christ and become one with Him will never allow for me to remain the same. I must submit to the process of applied pressure that works the measure of faith hidden in my heart to become the Light-Conducive vessel that breaks through the darkness of this world. I have a purpose. It is hidden inside my very human heart. The more my heart breaks – the more evident it becomes day by day. I am not called to strong, but completely broken so that the Lord can do what He planned from the beginning before I was born when He recorded it from my mother’s womb as He knit me together there. (Psalm 139) Trust allows me to commit every detail of my life to the Lord and become yoked to Him. (Matthew 11) I don’t have to worry about tomorrow or the troubles I find in this day or the next. The future is no longer a concern.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

I know that I will be pressed, but trust the Lord not to allow me to be crushed. I may be persecuted, but I trust the Lord to never abandon me but stay right beside me. I know that I will not understand it all, but that’s okay because I can trust God at His Word. The enemy can hunt me down and draw a huge target on my back, but the Lord is my strength and shield and I can trust Him. Though struck down by insecurity, fear and even doubt, I trust the Lord to never let me fall and keep me from stumbling. I trust Him at His Word. It is all that I have to go on. It must be enough. Jesus is the Word of God who came wrapped up in flesh. Trusting His Father through this life, to be tortured and killed on a Cross, but it did not stop there. He marched through the fiery depths of the hottest hell to take my life from the enemy’s hand and deliver it back to me when Jesus came back just three days later. My faith must grow into absolute confidence in the hope that I have been given so that when I am tested and tried by the fire called refinement, I will not be destroyed but exhibit the Power of God given to me by His Grace. Faith, trust and confident hope are essential in becoming the person who God calls His Masterpiece. It is not a pleasant process all the time, but I can find joy in it each day.

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Thinking about the tiny treasures tucked away in the box marked “fragile”, I cannot help but wonder if God thinks of us the same way. How precious it must be when we trust Him and submit to the process and pressure as evidence of trust? How happy the Lord must be when we decide to let Him work that measure of faith into a something of substance so that we become the Light of the World no longer hidden in darkness? Oh how the Lord treasures us even in our present broken and imperfect state as He whispers from the potter’s house, “Come and let me finish this great work that is within you.” Let me mold and shape your life into the Masterpieces that I created you to be. Jesus wants to complete me today… and you, too. He longs to work His Love, Grace and Mercy through us so His Love can radiate from us. I hear His Calling and I answer with my heart, “Lord, I am coming.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

 

Salty Seeds

salty-seeds

Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 (NLT) Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.

All things. Every single detail and moment of life prescribed and predestined as prerecorded purpose for us. It is unfathomable to comprehend a God who knows it all. Everything. From beginning to end, He is God. He is the Great I AM. In Him, we live, move, breathe and exist even when our choice is to wander, rebel and reject the Lord. Love so deep that its boundaries cannot be met or exceeded. Grace that reaches higher and wider than my wanderings. It is just too good to believe. So we don’t…

If I believe that God is the God of the harvest, why don’t I sow seeds in every season? If the Lord promises to perfect all that concerns me, why do I insist on worry and stress? To have faith in Jesus is not a sedentary or momentary passage but a lifelong journey and full-on pursuit of the One who is in control of everything. The Highest Power with great depth perception who takes every detail of my life and when given the opportunity works it out for my good and His Glory. What about that kind of God? Who has that kind of faith?

Praise is given in response to a performance of some sort. We acknowledge the “good” thing that is done or the blessing given or great deed accomplished. It is what we offer God when things are good or at least getting better. Worship has nothing to do with what the Lord has done or is doing. It is a lifestyle based solely and completely on Who He is. Many will praise His Great Name today for the favor that they experience but who will worship the Lord in the midst of brokenness by giving all the pieces to Him with a hearty have Your Way, God. The very second that I decide to say with all that I am to all that He is … Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. This is when the authority, power and control of my life is relinquished along with everything I hold dear to my heart and tightly in my hands to His Heart and His Hands. It is the very instant that faith moves a little and trust rises from it.

Psalm 126:4-6 (NLT) Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

After our Wednesday night service, I had retreated to the ladies’ room with a friend. This woman is locked in a battle. Things don’t look like the victory she is promised, but she will not give up or give in. The fact that she is standing is a testimony to the faith within her. Sharing together, a young woman walked in with a tear-stained face. Looking at each other, we all kind of laughed at our red noses. Instinctually, I asked, “Are you okay?” She nodded, “Yes…” It’s funny how we do that as women. So caught up in our role as nurturer and giver that when someone reaches out to us – it is hard to become a receiver. Just think about that for a moment… back to my story. When I continued to look at her with the “no you’re not” look on my face, she broke down and began to share the brokenness of her heart. After offering some encouragement, I was blown away when my friend who is broken herself reached out and offered comfort, kind words and the Love of Jesus to this girl. It stayed with me the rest of the night. Where did that come from? How could she give when so much has been taken? She is a Mighty Woman of God. She has faith in her heart that cannot be touched, tugged or tried away. She planted seeds in her tears that will produce a harvest of joy in her life.

 

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.” No truer words have ever been spoken. So often as believers our life is limited to the productivity of this season or our current situation rather than fixed on the God of all things, who does all things, is in control of all things, and promises good things to those who continue to plant in their brokenness, emptiness, hurt, and lack. Those who are intent on making it to the end even if it is a fight every step of the way to get their seed in the ground and wait on that harvest. Is that you today? Are you broken? Is it hard to breathe? To live a life of worship moves us to the momentary life of mundane supply to the overflowing supernatural abundance hidden in the next harvest that is just around the corner. Too often it is human nature to abandon the field or consume our seed rather than use our resources for the next day or coming season. Our fruit begins to die away because there are no seeds for the future.

I Chronicles 29:10-15 (NLT) Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly: “O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Do you believe that God does all things? Do you believe that He is in full control of the workings of our life? Do you think that His Plan contains a future and hope that cannot be trumped or thwarted by the enemy no matter how lengthy his pursuit or unrelenting the assault on your natural life? Do you trust the Lord? The only way to know our faith is genuine and trust is true is through the trials and testings of life. It removes the layer or rhetoric and façade of religion to reveal the rough reality of the smallest of faith. Faith is only perceived at the end of self. The moment when I have nothing left of me and must decide where to turn to. When the rubber hits the road, will I continue my journey to the Cross or lay down the burden of believing and move on to something else?

If God is omnipotent and I believe it, I must trust Him to release His Power and Authority in my life. I must decide to worship Him in my brokenness. To continue to sow seeds of faith and righteousness even when they are soaked in salty tears. He must be the God of my life not the lie that I tell. I can profess to believe all day long but at the end of the day if I cannot live in love with Jesus and share it with the world – what do I really have? A thriving relationship with the Lord must be evidenced in trust. Faith requires trust because it is not based on what we see or evidence that can be touched but knowledge that God is God. It must believe in the Hand that holds us even when our world seems to be falling apart.

“Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” David was a man after God’s Own Heart. He was discredited by his family only fit to tend sheep. God saw a warrior and soon to be king. David was passionate. His passion led him to sin. He murdered for lust. David was a father who paid dearly for his sin. David lost a child. I cannot even imagine. I don’t want to know. David lived a life of many ups and downs but believed that God was greater. Perfection is our worst enemy. God wouldn’t have given us grace if it were possible to be perfect. His Grace is the power of change in our life. To believe that His Grace is enough will empower us beyond our natural ability because we believe.

Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace. Life is temporary. This world will pass away. Nothing here will remain when His Kingdom comes. Why do we waste our life on a bad investment? The seeds sown in life produce a harvest in the future. This is not just in our daily life and natural seasons but in forever. If I become caught up on having the perfect life, I will never have the Kingdom. The one where there are no more tears. Where there is no sun because the Glory of the Son shines brightly from the throne. There will be no burdens, sorrows, sickness, worries or cares. Today seems so difficult. Tomorrow will have its own trouble. What I choose to do in this moment will ripple into tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. What do I want? These are the seeds I must sow.

Hosea 10:11-13 (NLT) “I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies—“

The enemy sows weeds of lies in our life every single day in an effort to create doubt. It is human nature to consider his words and threats against us, but is spiritual maturity to discern the Truth from a lie. The Word of God is “good seed” for our life. It lines our heart with hope that enables us to grow a little bit of faith here and there. God’s Love and His Grace is all that I need to secure a future and hope for my life. When I choose to seek Him wholeheartedly, it is submitting my heart to the plow of persecution and pain that breaks up the hard ground packed down by hurt, offense and disappointment to prepare it to be fertile soil that produces blessings in my life. Pain is part of the process. Brokenness is absolutely essential. Pride must be crucified with Christ to clothe us in righteousness that is signified by humility. How can I say less of me and more of you God when I am my own god? To think that I can do anything significant in this life apart from God through His Son, Jesus is the greatest lie of all.

James 3:13, 17-18 (NLT) If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

God is the God of everything. All things are under His Authority and Power. He gives us the same in the submission of our life to Him. Why do we live discouraged and defeated lives? Lack of faith or trust gives way to the fruit of lies. We must plant seeds in every season even the difficult ones. We must believe when our situation becomes impossible. In Job 2, Job’s wife tells her husband to give up…just “curse God and die.” Wow, she was a real gem. To give up on God when storm’s come, battles rage and earthquakes rumble is a warning that there is a lack of seed in our life. If our life is defined only by praise without worship, the fruit of the Spirit will be sparse and seeds for the future limited in our life. When we can give up salty seeds sown in our tears, it is then that trust is revealed and faith exposed so our hope is secure. Our seasons will yield a new harvest when change comes. Not because of anything we do or do not do, but because God always gives increase to the sowers in life. Seeds must die in the cold, dark ground to be transformed into fruitful plants. So it is with us, we plant seeds of righteousness by faith and the Lord gives a sustenance through the current season only to reveal an abundance in the next. Sow seeds in the Spirit today. He gives you a fresh supply. It’s called mercy and it arrives each new day so that we can continue planting and sowing God’s Word in our life and watching for the harvest. Don’t abandon your field – you have no idea what is happening underground. God is breaking off the hard exterior to reveal the potential of each well-planted seed. He is changing it and transforming it become the purpose hidden inside. If you abandon the process now, you will miss the productivity of your pain. Hang on. Keep sowing. He is making all things new. All things are working together for your good. The Lord is making all things beautiful…in His Time.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Life is Hard

life-is-hard

Colossians 1:26-27 (NLT) This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

Life is hard. It is not fair. There are days when it seems to be unbearable. Are you struggling today? When coming to Christ, there is an expectation of relief, but is it reality. Are you not exchanging one burden for another? Well friend, that depends on you. I decide whether or not to continue to endure pressure in this life or simply give up. It is called a free will. God gave each us the freedom to choose how to live our life and make choices day by day. I do not have to pick goodness. I can leave behind mercy coming back for it later. I can wander as far and long as the winding wilderness I choose and when I call – the Lord immediately answers. This is hard to comprehend and in most cases arguable by many.

Religion often defines the rules of relationship within the Body of Christ called His Church. Well, every medical textbook and journal can outline how the human body is supposed to work and delineate the diseases and disorders that arise, but in the end it is never completely documented. New things crop up every day. Medicine evolves as quickly as church does. We find “new ways” to worship God when really there is only one way to approach Him.

God’s ways are not our ways and His Thoughts are than our own or so it says in the Book of Isaiah. If life is hard, what difference does Jesus make? If there is no real explanation of how to love Him, ways to serve Him or clear-cut directions to the Kingdom of God then how will anyone ever get there? Oh there is definitely instruction and guidance to step in the Glory of God but it is hard. It requires struggle. There is endless pressure. It all produces endurance. The fiery trials of life reveal genuine faith, but as one may recall only three Hebrew boys were brave enough to defy man’s law and step into the hot furnace that day.

The church is crying out for revival. I am praying it will come. The Glory of God manifesting His Presence in corporate worship that spills outside the four walls of a building and washes through the streets of every city until the overflow covers our nation and overflows its borders around the world. Revival is not about you. It is about the Body of Christ coming together to prepare for His Return. We just have the privilege of participation. It is within us the moment Christ is accepted in our heart to be our Lord and Savior. However, life is still hard just the same. Christ lives in me. I have full assurance of His Glory. The secret of centuries died on the cross and came up out of the grave so that you and I could become new creations. Now is that so hard…yes, it is very difficult.

Acts 14:21-22 (NLT) After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

Paul and Barnabas gave this reminder to early believers while encouraging them to continue in faith. “We must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Do you agree? Did you come to the Lord under false pretenses with the wrong expectation? Many do. A watered down Gospel preached by false prophets tell of a grace that is wonderful and free allowing us to do what we want to when we want to and how we want to and all gathering together in the end to meet Him face to face. Who doesn’t love free? There is another end to that spectrum called legalism that prescribes long list of dos and don’ts that mean nothing when it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus did it all. He paid it all. I can do nothing to earn the Grace gifted to me by the Living God. So that doesn’t make life any easier either. Life is still hard no matter which end of the spectrum our life falls. But wait, then there is the Truth…

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” How many times I have read this verse in the course of my life? Sometimes to understand what a scripture really means one must go back and read the course of events prior to it. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul discusses the trials and hardships that he has endured since meeting Jesus Christ. He is talking about false prophets and teachers. By mid-chapter, he is pretty worked up as one might say in the South. People boasting about all they do for the Lord have sparked a tirade in God’s man. He talks about serving God candidly. He is not boasting but making a point. “I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) Paul was a high ranking Pharisee who lived in comfort and opulence until he fell in love with Jesus. Once he had given his life to the Lord, he goes on to say now he has a burden for all the churches. He finally concludes that given all that he has done for Christ, he would rather boast about the things that show I am weak. Why? Why would he say such a thing?

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Let me give you a hint that I discovered a couple of years ago, if you can still do it – it’s not weakness. It is when you cannot do it any longer that God takes over. Peter was walking on the water by his faith, when that ran out is when he reached out grasping Jesus’ Hand for help. In Mark 6:47-52, the disciples are on a boat in a terrible storm. They are not praying but in a full panic. When Jesus comes walking on the water, they do not even recognize him. This is right after he fed five thousand with a little boy’s lunch but now it is about them. They are facing a struggle. It’s their very lives that are in danger. It just got personal and they do not even see that it is the Lord. Hmmm… Could it be that it was in this moment that these men came to the end of themselves?

“He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them…” (Mark 6:48) Did you catch that? Jesus intended to go past them. Why? The disciples had the Word of God in them and knew Jesus. They were in serious trouble. They were rowing hard. They were struggling. Why would their friend just walk right by? Because they had the power in them to calm the storm and regain control of their vessel, but they did not believe. They got in the way. Fear. Pride Doubt. There are so many things that deprive us of faith every single day. When we come to the end of our own strength, we do what these men did. They cried out to Jesus. Is life too hard to bear right now? Are you working hard and getting nowhere? Struggling just to keep your head above water? Holding all the broken pieces together hoping your heart will beat again? Are you close to giving up? Are you tired and weary? Have you called on His Name?

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT) We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

In Mark 14, there is an account of a woman who came in with expensive perfume in an alabaster jar. She broke it open and poured it out over the head of Jesus. She broke the beautiful vessel containing her life’s worth. She gave her all to Jesus. What do you hold precious in life? It could people…possessions or even pride. It is required. All is required for His Glory to come out of us. We have been given a light that shines in our heart. The pain and pressure of life makes personal strength wane as the structure of our life begins to shake precariously. Life is hard. It is rough sometimes. It is purposefully that way as God answers our call for revival and begins to move closer as He is called. We cannot remain the same. My strength has to go so that I am weak and submitted before Him. This pressure brings forth purpose. The pain causes brokenness. The hunt causes desperation. When we are knocked down, we extend our hand while calling His Name. It is through suffering that the meaningless things blocking the out powering of God that we desire are removed. Suddenly, His Great Power will pour from our heart into our life. We must give our all. Most people aren’t ready for that because it makes life too hard.

God’s Grace is enough for me. It is when His Power works best in my life. He is doing a new thing that sometimes caught in old ways and old things we miss. (2 Corinthians 3:13-15) Tradition robs us of future glory basking in afterglow instead of the light glorious light that brings new life. We will never see the Glory of God by keeping the Law. (Romans 9:30-32) The Glory of God called revival will only come in the sufficiency of God’s Grace when each person accepts humility and weakness to be strong in the Lord. We all have hidden thorns designed to burst our pride and keep us humbly walking with God. Some of us are just too afraid to expose them and accept His Grace alone to cover them. I don’t want to be the one show stops revival from coming to my church, community and the world. I am weak. I need God’s Strength every single day. Life is hard but His Grace is enough for me.

Luke 5:1-7 (NLT) One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

Peter and the others had a bad day of fishing. As they were cleaning their nets, Jesus asked Peter to take him on the water to speak to the people so he did. Fish weren’t biting anyway. Afterwards, Jesus told him to go deeper and let down his net. He told the Lord listen we worked hard all night and came back empty handed. “But if you say so…” Let’s retrace what just happened. Peter was working his everyday job in everyday life. Jesus came walking by and asked to use his vessel. Peter obliged. Jesus then instructed Peter to go fishing again. Peter had a choice. He chose to obey the Lord at His Word. What happened? Their nets were so full of fish that they began to tear! I wonder how many times we hear the Word, but do not believe it enough to do it. How often does Jesus whisper a thought or idea to implement and we decide it is not worthy of our attention? Been there done that. Life is hard and too often so are our hearts.

2 Corinthians 6:3-6 (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. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

What is your heart’s desire today? Do you want to be a true minister of God sharing the Gospel, building His Kingdom, and releasing revival? Life is hard. The pressure will not let up especially if this is your purpose. We must live so that no one will find fault in our ministry – there goes pride. I have seen pride kill so many congregations. God begins to move. Pressure builds. People refuse to submit. Passion dies. God’s Presence moves to where He is welcomed and given His Proper Place. We must learn patience. Persistence. Pursuit. Pride must go in the Mighty Name of Jesus. We prove ourselves as God’s People by living in love, preserving purity, gaining understanding, learning to be patient (Lord help me please), being kind to all mankind, allowing the Holy Spirit to shape, mold, change and even break our heart when needed, and by our sincere love. Love has grown cold even in our churches. Lord, teach us to love all people. Desire them above ourselves and minister to them selflessly. Life is hard. I am weak. Jesus be my Strength today. Your Grace is enough for me.

2 Peter 1:10-11 (NLT) So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Days Like This

days-like-this

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There have been many crossroads in my spiritual life when the edge of Heaven and reality of life come so close it causes goosebumps to rise on my arm and neck hair to stand at attention but today is one of those days. In a month given to the slightly spooky, sometimes the spiritual realm can be a bit scary though it shouldn’t be. In all fairness, sometimes it can be made into something that it is not. Overly emotional and exaggerated stories make people avoid it altogether. The truth is that God wants to communicate with us. The Lord lives in us to commune and communicate with us. He will speak to others to confirm what He is doing in our life. This has happened many times in the course of my spiritual life. Sometimes it is for the immediate situation, but most often it is for a future time and makes little sense.

A well-respected and dedicated Christian man had a dream about my husband and I not too long ago. It was of a spiritual nature and his heart would not relent until he shared it with us. I wrote it down and prayed that the Lord would have His Way. Well, the dream has come to pass. Not exactly as detailed but specifically as recorded. The dream was about the narrow road. Although we were on it, my husband and I would be “bitten” along the way by the enemy. It has happened. The good news is that in the end – we win and make a full recovery. I wish that I could say this is comforting but who welcomes trials or pain for that matter? No one really. The better news that fills me with hope is that it indicated us to be on the “narrow road” going in the right direction.

Sometimes in our Christian life, though we are trying to “do” all the right things, it is sometimes unclear if we are going through the right gate and on the narrow road. Wrapped up in church, religion, doctrine and spiritual social acceptability, it is difficult to see the forest for the trees, the gate for the fences, and the road in the midst of pavement. The Word of God is clearly defined. The Holy Spirit will lead us in all truth. We must become dedicated to the narrow road and finding the gate – Jesus Christ. Religion must give way to relationship because this path to the Kingdom of God is not the popular way but a very particular lifestyle.

Psalm 100:3-5 (NIV) Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Today I know that the Lord is God. Do I believe it? If so, I must trust Him enough that when I am not sure where He is leading that I will still go. When the road gets so small and not so clearly defined that I am willing to stand on faith. I must enter His Gates with thanksgiving and His Courts with praise even when the next step seems overwhelming. The farther I go in my Christian walk the less I understand and the more trust is required. I know that God is good. I know that His Love endures. I believe that His Faithfulness continues even when mine is a bit weak.

Psalm 107:15-16 (NIV) Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.

Reading this today, I am reminded that when I enter His Gates with thanksgiving and praise not dependent on my condition or circumstances that the Lord will break down the natural barriers, gates and bars of life. He will fight for me if I fight to maintain my faith in Him. It is all about faith. It will always be about faith in Jesus Christ. He is the Gate. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Him.

John 10:7-10 (NIV) Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The road is narrow. The gate is small. There are not a variety of ways to the Kingdom or even into the Presence of God. Jesus Christ is the Only Way. He is our Righteousness. It is His Faithfulness that allows us to have faith. Everything in our life must be channeled through Him. Especially our wait times, chaotic episodes and those days when nothing makes sense.

It’s funny that I believe this may be for a lot of people today because I have been stopped from continuing about thirty times. So I hope if you are where I am today, on the narrow road at a definite standstill and trying to pass through the gate that just seems too small to pass that you will be encouraged to keep trying. Keep pressing. Keep pushing. You cannot give up because what is on the other side of the gate and the end of this road is worth it. Jesus is totally worth every pain, hardship, trial and trouble endured to be with Him.

Isaiah 35:3-4 (NIV) Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Mama said that there would be days like this…okay maybe it is our Father who said it too! On those days when you have done all to stand and are standing, it is our belief that God is good and He is faithful that will keep us on the right track until the gate swings open allowing us to pass to the next pasture or the next step in the road rises up to meet our feet. The Lord is fighting for us. He is with us. He will never let the righteous fall. Those who choose the narrow path will not be forsaken even when they fall. The ones who decide the Highway of Holiness is for them will never lose their way. Be strong, friend. Do not fear. We win. Our victory has a name – Jesus. It is for an appointed time which means that it will come. Sometimes dreams seem like nightmares until the hero comes. We have a hero. His Name is Jesus.

Isaiah 35: 8-10 (NIV) And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Priceless Pearls

Priceless Pearls

Matthew 13:45-46 (NKJV)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

 

There are those days when irritation seems inevitable. Our patience are tried by people and every other process and production of life. Even in our Christian walk, there are those moments when the pressure seems too great a price and the pain too much to bear to take another step. Just before breakthrough is the time when the enemy offers the most opportunities to quit, give in or walk away just to have some relief. The idea of throwing up our hands turning and walking away seems so inviting yet deep within us there is that still small voice telling us to watch, wait and pray. There was a merchant seeking beautiful pearls. He was not just looking to turn a quick profit. His intent was to find the most expensive and exquisite pearl. The pearl of great price. He was looking for the most priceless pearl to be his treasure. When he found it, he didn’t balk at the price but committed everything to have it. He went and sold ALL THAT HE HAD and bought it.

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant, not the pearl. It is the passionate pursuit of Christ as our treasure not just to gain entrance into Heaven that we are after…sometimes we forget. We desire the things of Heaven rather than the Kingdom itself. God’s Glory fills the Kingdom. It is illuminated by Jesus. He is the treasure of Heaven. Eternity is hidden deep in our heart so that we may pursue Him with passion and purpose. The Lord desires us. We are God’s Treasure. He seeks us with every bit of passion if not more implied in this parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Jesus paid it all to have us. Will we do the same for Him?

 

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

 

The process of pearl production is not elaborate in nature. In fact, I can absolutely relate to the process. It is much like the process of patience born within us during times of perseverance and persistence beyond the pressure, pain and problems of life. An oyster is not a complex creature by any means yet produces a valuable treasure. As an oyster grows, its shell must grow also. The “mantle” within the shell secrets the substance that enlarges the shell to accommodate the growing and changing mollusk inside. If a foreign substance becomes lodged between the mantle and shell, the oyster will begin to produce nacre to cover the offensive intrusion. It is like a thorn or splinter that becomes lodged in it causing irritation and as the oyster works to stop the irritation a pearl begins to form. The average pearl takes about two years. A pearl of great price takes about five to seven years to mature. It is through a process of irritation that a masterpiece and treasure is formed inside an otherwise basic organism.

 

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials. What is irritating you today? No, seriously what is the thorn in your flesh or splinter in your finger that is not killing you but nagging at you day and night. The Lord allows us to be irritated on purpose. I knew it – you say. Not because He is mad at us or punishing us in any way. God created us with purpose. He has a plan with a future and hope that we cannot produce naturally but must be instigated in us. God allows discomfort to produce the purpose hidden under comfort, complacency and compromise. Ever say, “Why me?” Because God loves you too much to allow you to be anything less than the masterpiece that He designed you to be. He will produce pressure in our life to motivate us to move from our current situation into His Glory. The testing of our faith produces patience. The Lord does not gauge our process by our cries and complaints, it is all based on the purpose hidden in our heart trying to get out. The perfect work of patience is completion. Jesus will not leave you lacking or incomplete. He designed us to be perfect and complete lacking nothing. Is that you today? Are you completely satisfied with your life? Are you lacking nothing? If not, press in, be patient, and by all means do not give up due to the minor irritation.

 

Matthew 7:6-8 (NKJV)

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

 

Are you casting your pearls before swine today? There is only one source of complete validation and purpose in our life. It is Jesus Christ. The Word of God planted in our heart must have time to couple with purpose and grow into God’s Plan. The world demands immediate gratification but Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Do I want it right now or do I want forever? It is our choice if we live for today or if pursue forever. God does not force His Plan and Purpose on us but simply gives it to us along with enough grace to see it come to pass despite our human weakness and natural inability to finish what “we” start.

 

Ask and it will be given. When our son needed a bone marrow transplant to beat cancer, the insurance company denied us more than Peter did Jesus. Door after door slammed in our face. Rejection letter after rejection letter crumpled in the trash. I heard “I’m sorry” more than grieving widow or Catholic priest. But that didn’t cut it for me. My son was dying. Jesus told me that he would live and not die. The world was not lining up with God’s Word. I had to choose who I believed. Was there ever really a choice? I knocked until knocking turned to pounding over and over again. When I had exhausted every effort, I went to the Throne Room of God boldly yet broken. I remember it like it was yesterday. My strength was gone. I had done everything I could possibly do. I had exhausted all effort. All I had was this teeny, tiny promise given to me on my knees in a filthy bathroom. It started like a banner announcing the Grand Marshall of a parade. Now it was as small as a tiny fortune from a Chinese cookie held in desperation. I said, “You said that he would live and not die. Jesus, I am still holding on the promise. The rest is up to you.” End of prayer. End of me. Everything on the line for Jesus.

 

Have you stopped reaching? Are you no longer knocking? Have you forgotten His Promise? Have you walked away from purpose? Are you irritated? A bit agitated? Downright done? Do you have a thorn in your flesh today? If so, I have awesome news.

 

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NKJV)

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for My Strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

The world abhors weakness as it represents dying flesh. The Spirit flourishes in our weakness. Paul says in verse 7 right before this famous passage, “A thorn was given to me, a messenger of satan to buffet me…” Can the “thorn” in our flesh really be God’s Way of producing “priceless pearls” in us? Absolutely. If a pearl is purpose, it will require some irritation in order to produce patience in us. The mantle over us is our spiritual covering in Christ available by His Grace which is freely given to us. As it begins to cover those irritants and by choosing to wait for God’s Process to be complete, we allow something priceless to emerge. The masterpiece eluded to in Ephesians 2:8-10 that is created by His Grace when He saved us and grows by faith and confidence in His Plan and Purpose for us. It is not something we can do or build but is the working of God in us by His Spirit and the Truth. It is this mantle of grace that takes every grainy irritant in life and allows the Lord to makes something marvelous and beautiful out of it. This solidifies the truth that all things work together for our good. (Romans 8:28) Our mantle came from the Father and was handed down to the Son just like Elijah gave Elisha his mantle with the warning that Elisha had asked a hard thing in requesting a double portion of God’s Power. The more of the Kingdom that you desire the greater the irritation and pressure it will cause in our life. Those who press in, press through and are patient under pressure will produce something of great worth with a life that was ordinary making it extraordinary.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

You are God’s Workmanship, His Handiwork and His Masterpiece. He created you with purpose, a future and a hope that sin tried to strip from you. He gave us grace in His Son, Jesus Christ who saved us when we put all our faith, hope and love into pursuing Him. I can do nothing to make my life any better than what it is outside of Jesus. I am capable of making better choices but have no idea how to be complete lacking no good thing. Anything good or even great that I can do or be is because of Christ in me. It means there will be pain, pressure and problems in order to create the irritation that I need to motivate change. Otherwise, I would gladly remain in the comfortable place of compromise and complacency because I am human. God loves me too much to leave me like that…

 

The largest naturally formed pearl ever found is the Pearl of Lao Tzu. It measures 9.45 inches and weighs a whopping 14 pounds. Put that on your necklace and wear it. It is worth $3.5 million. If you look at it, it is not round or perfectly shaped and suited for jewelry. Yet it is the pearl of greatest price in the world today. I wonder if sometimes we look at ourselves according to the world’s superficial standards rather than understanding it is the work within us that makes our life successful. I am a bit irritated today as I watch and wait for the next phase of God’s Promise to unfold. He gave me His Word yet again, and I am gripping it in my hand refusing to let go. I cannot judge my process by the world’s projections. It is not up to anyone else or even me to complete me – it is the work of grace becoming the mantle of my life. If I refuse to give up, press in and persevere, every promise will be mine. I will have the pearl of great price. I will find my treasure. He will fulfill my purpose and make me His Masterpiece. His Name is Jesus.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NKJV)

Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Old Photographs

Old Photographs

Ephesians 2:4-7 (AMP)

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption].

 

Everyone has an idea of what life is supposed to be like. We grow up with an image in our head of what we will be or what we will do with future plans that are never to go through hard times, be brokenhearted or suffer in any way. That is never part of the plan but somehow seems to find us. My troubles may not be like yours. Though our lives may be similar everyone chooses a path so the outcomes of this adventure called life may be very, very different.

Cleaning out my closet a while back, I found boxes and boxes of old picture albums, as well as loose photographs that had not found a home. A box of old black and white ones yellowed with age sat amongst them as well. Looking through all of them now took me back through the past which sometimes for me is very difficult. I do not particularly care to go there while my children are fascinated and full of questions. Being far from perfect, I would rather keep them in a box then have to explain the events of each day. In the midst of the pile of amassed photos was one of the three older children in Christmas clothes, our oldest son has a ridiculously huge smile on his face which only I know was hysterical laughter after a barrage of tears. He didn’t want to get his picture taken with his siblings. He didn’t care for his role as big brother. My younger son who was the quiet, calm and complacent of the three had decided that he didn’t want his picture taken at all and kept trying to climb off the table in the studio. Finally our daughter as precious as she looks didn’t want to be put down that day and wouldn’t cooperate either. It is the perfect picture but the events of the day so traumatic, I relive them every time I look at it. My life was not the image that I portrayed in the picture. Perhaps the kids were just acting out real life. My marriage was crumbling and the carefully constructed façade meant to fool the world was about to completely fall apart. When I arrived at the car after attempting to preview the “perfect” pictures, I fell apart. My youngest wanted out of her exquisite but very uncomfortable dress so badly I ripped it helping her out. My boys were strapped in their car seats crying as I yelled over them. Mommy meltdown at its best.  I sat in my minivan and sobbed for what seemed like forever. The picture is beautiful but my life was a mess.

Everyone has a past who has lived more than a day. Each moment is made special and what we do with it is part of the freedom given to us by God. Whether saved or not, you have been given the liberty to live each day as you see fit whether in the Light of His Love or remaining in the darkness of this world. God loves us. He wants our love. Love does not force its affection on another but waits for them to come. This is where God’s Rich Mercy comes in to play in our everyday life. It says that in Jesus Christ we are made alive in Him and seated with Him in the Heavenly Places. Sometimes I forget that grace allows my mess to become a message so to speak. I am not the person in those pictures anymore. It takes a Christ-Angled view to look to the future even when sometimes I fall back into memories of days gone by. The enemy would like nothing more for me to live there and forfeit the future that my True Love has given me. He wants me to remember who I was rather than who I am becoming day by day. I am not defined by my failures. It is by faith I discover who I really am. You cannot see that in a picture. God sees it in our heart.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (AMP)

So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view [according to worldly standards and values]. Though we have known Christ from a human point of view, now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].

 

One might think that once you are saved, there will be no more regret or past life to hold on to. But our human nature keeps a tight grip on the past because it has no future. There is no place for my sinful woman in the new creation that Christ is making. New things are coming with each brand new day that will require a sacrifice of self to hold on to. Do you want a new life? I do.

This week I will once again make the journey to Gainesville, Florida. Walking the familiar halls of Shands Hospital, it’s a love/hate relationship. I have not been there in more than a year. Our son attends college there which allowed him to continue his education while battling cancer. Definitely a blessing all the way, as his young life was not totally interrupted. The people in that place have cared for our son with love and compassion beyond their professional responsibility. We have made so many friends both on staff and also along in the fight. I cannot help but be reminded of the last four years in this journey back. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to remember. Our son came home last weekend for a visit. His body has recovered miraculously from five rounds of intense chemotherapy, maximum dose radiation, a bone marrow transplant, not to mention countless biopsies and other procedures. There are still some battle scars that haunt me. I have many pictures that I have posted along the way from the first night to the other night right before he went back home. I want to put it all together to mark the journey of faith and hope to a miracle. I do. I hate to look at them. I hate to remember. I don’t ever want to go back. I want to pretend like it never happened. Where is the testimony in that? What potential lies in forgetting all the details of the past?  The potential of our pain in the past is to glorify God in the future. He will heal us. He will deliver us. He will restore us. He will renew us. We must only trust Him and keep our eyes on Jesus so in the not-so-distant future we can point to Jesus and say, “Look what the Lord has done!” Remember, God doesn’t save our tears for nothing!

How do we in our mere human design move from death to life without any trauma? How do we sacrifice our old nature to secure the new one without pain along the way? You don’t. What we have to hold on to in each memory is the revelation that God did what He promised. As I look back over time, and it has taken a long time, I am beginning to see the Hand of God moving in my rebellion. The Lord promises to make good out of every detail of our life when we step into His Great Love and choose to live there. (Romans 8:28) In such a place, we surrender the circumstances and consequences of sin to the miraculous overtures of grace that take even the tiniest thing and make it right. This takes time. It is built from our past. We are not supposed to live there as we have been elevated to a new position with our Lord – Jesus Christ. But how will we ever see what the Lord is doing if we are unwilling to overcome the potential embarrassment or potential pain to see Him working in every detail of our life. Our past has a purpose. Every single moment that we breathe has the potential to bring Glory to the Living God even those in old photographs we don’t want to relive or even see.

Hebrews 12:11-13 (AMP)

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose]. So then, strengthen hands that are weak and knees that tremble.

 Cut through and make smooth, straight paths for your feet [that are safe and go in the right direction], so that the leg which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather may be healed.

 

The trick is not reliving the past but looking back to see the future. We can use our past in the future as long as we do not return to it. I do not fear cancer. I do not worry about our son’s scans anymore. I mean really…what is the worst thing that anyone can say? I’m sorry but it’s cancer? Seriously, been there, done that and have seen the Hand of God miraculously and completed save, heal and deliver our son. No, the sacrifice of the life I had designed in my head was laid on the altar to be burned. I thought the past was over. All the bad things were gone. Human expectation can cause us to build and construct expectation based on what we think our life will be like and what we think we should do. It’s human nature. When our world comes tumbling down around us, it is a traumatic event. God knows that. He gave His Son to give us a brand new life because the old one was leading nowhere. We were dying day by day. We still die every day… in our flesh. As it is burned away, our human being is challenged to survive in the midst of vast destruction as we are completely undone in Jesus Christ to be remade into the person who God created us to be in the first place. It is worth it. But that doesn’t mean it is without pain and brokenness along the way. God’s love for us as a Father will not allow us to continue to live a substandard life if we are crying out for something more. He must help us. He is our Father. His Love is always reaching for us.

If a broken bone does not heal properly, doctors will break the bone surgically and reset it for better results. It is probably safe to say that the first time the bone was fractured that it was through a traumatic event. The pain was excruciating. Someone had to go find help to fix the problem. But when the doctor decided to make it better, it was a different experience altogether. The patient was asleep for the entire procedure or at least numbed up really well to feel no pain. They were in a clean and sterile environment with nurses catering to their needs in the process. The only thing that may not have been different was the fear associated with the procedure. I think one of the biggest tragedies in the church today is the lack of discipleship. Many Christians are led to believe that following Christ detours us from the pains of life and everything will be hunky dory all day long. Who wants to hear that there will still be problems, pain and struggles in life? I do. If those are the things required to produce a stronger connection to Jesus Christ so be it. I have an unfair advantage that I long to share with others. It is okay to be broken – you will be made new. It is okay to reach the end of your faith because God wants to give you more and stronger faith than ever before. No one has it all together despite their best effort to make you think so. We cannot be concerned about others like that. We are called to a life of loving others not comparing our life to theirs. I wish I could learn this lesson. I am still trying. God is renewing me day by day. He has done so much, but how much more that there is to accomplish in me. Layer by layer, God peels back each piece of my life like a chef opens an onion. There will be tears but in the end God is creating a masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (AMP)

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].

 

In the kitchen on the edge of a sink, I have a sponge that I use to do dishes or wipe down the counter. When I bought it, it was completely dried and shriveled up in a package. When I put it in water, it absorbed the water and the appearance changed. Over time, I have used it countless times. Over time, I will come into the room and smell a foul odor. Inevitably, it is the little yellow sponge on the counter so I throw it in the dishwasher. See if I do not properly wring out all of the water, it will spoil inside the sponge. I am God’s Sponge. He fills me each day with the express purpose that I empty it out on others. He refills me. When something gets inside that is hindering me, it stinks to the Lord so He in essence wrings me out again. He doesn’t do it because He doesn’t love me. In fact, it is just the opposite. I am no good to myself or anyone else with hidden sin in my life. Those things that represent unbelief or rebellion against God’s Way must go so I can have and be everything His Word has promised. My past is directly linked to my future or it would not have existed. I am being transformed day by day. God uses our yesterday to bless our tomorrow no matter how difficult it was or how little we want to think about it. His Way is perfect. His Desire is to give us a future and hope that involves every single detail of our life resulting in something good and praiseworthy. Are we holding back those old photographs from God’s Attention? I want the life that Jesus died for me to have all of it including every blessing. I want to honor the Lord by giving Him my life to make what He desires including my past, present and future. There are very few perfect pictures in my life. I live in the moment rather than trying to document each one. Lord, show me how to use my past for potential in the future. I want others to see that You are good!

Isaiah 43:18-19 (AMP)

“Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. “Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert…”

Life Without Regret

Life Without Regret

2 Corinthians 7:10 (MSG)

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

 

No regrets. God wants His People to have only one regret in life. The kind that leads to repentance. Other than that, God’s Purpose for our life is joy. Overflowing, never-ending and inexpressible joy. How’s your joy jar today? If you are like every other man and woman in the world, it is being syphoned from you moment by moment at an alarming rate. The environment of the earth does not make us happy or content. The simply law of supply and demand creates a constant craving for more that never leads to satisfaction. The Source of Hope and Joy is being shoved out of every crevice. Christians are challenged on every front. The church is in distress. It’s friendship with the world has caused compromise that has rendered its silence. It is okay for every other activist, rights group or religious organization to fight to for certain freedoms for their family and their life but if a Christian decides they want something different the world deems it criminal. The persecution of those who want to live according to God’s Word is real. I am not calling for those who love God with a desire to serve Him to call their local congressman and march for their rights. I don’t think that the Lord wants us to fight for our rights in a world that has become exactly what He promised it would be. Just keep reading…things are oddly in our favor if we take a stand of faith and remain in His Love even when everything seems to be falling apart. Everything is going just as He planned, designed and ordered it to be.

I do not regret asking Jesus Christ to be my Savior and Lord. It is the best decision that I ever made. However, the closer I try to walk in His Will, His Way and according to His Word it seems as though I am getting some flack. People don’t like definitive Christians who do not necessarily believe as they do. Some people who believe in God still are offended when confident hope is expressed. I am nothing special. I am full of mistakes. I do not regret a single moment of my life even those times when I shamefully sinned against God. His Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough. My goal in life is genuine faith. There is only one way to attain that. I must die to me and let Christ live in me. To do so brings disdain from the world who like a God who loves everyone even those overtaken by sin. God loves everyone. God hates sin.

The only regret that is ever okay is sin. When we surrender sin to the Blood of Jesus, it is carried away as far as the east is from the west. Therefore regret should go with it as we live for the Lord which is to turn from sin and pursue Him. Regret means to feel sorry, repentant or upset about something. It is to bemoan or grieve the loss of it. If I continue to live in regret and forsake the joy offered by Jesus, I am no better off in the end. Joy fills the regrets in our life. God’s Purpose for us is joy no matter what is going on around us even in the closest realm. The closer and consistent our connection and commitment to Christ becomes the greater our joy will be no matter what even if the whole world turns against us and all hell breaks loose in our life. To live life without regret is true freedom. It is God’s Will for our life. How can I be so sure?

Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

God’s Spirit lives inside of me. He has a purpose in my life far greater than being a little angel on my shoulder or punch in the gut when I am about to sidestep or make a mistake. He is the Cultivator of my heart and soul producing the fruit that will lead to complete contentment and total satisfaction. He produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) There are those times I can hear a voice in my head when I forget who I am in Jesus Christ whisper, “Foolish Galatians!” Quite honestly – we forget that these are the qualities given to us. We do not make it or attain them. They are gifts given by the Lord through His Spirit which means my life and all its details are not up to me, but influenced by God’s Spirit inside me feeding my mind, will and emotions. This is how we can be sure that “every detail of our lives” is working together for the good. Even those details that we are not proud of, painful ones, embarrassing moments, and every single sin surrendered to Christ makes way for something new and better according to the new life given. God knows every moment of our life before we take the first breath. (Psalm 139:16) He still promises that He has a plan and purpose for good with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) We just have to seek Him wholeheartedly. (Jeremiah 29:13) A heart wholly and completely set on Jesus cannot harbor regret for that is reserved for places that sin prevails. Once under the Blood, sin was washed away. The heart becomes a fertile place again once sin is gone. We are pregnant with promise from that moment on.

 

John 16:21-24 (MSG)

When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions. This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

Having five children, this analogy makes complete sense to me. I remember being told during my first pregnancy that I would forget the pain when I saw my son. I also remember in the midst of labor calling every single one of them liars if only in my head. I absolutely will admit that having a baby is the worst pain that I have every experienced in my life. With that said, I gave birth five times so it must have been worth it. It was! I experienced excruciated, gut-wrenching pain with each and every one of my precious ones but the moment I saw them, touched them and held them close to my heart the memory melted away just as promised. Through tears and laughter I soaked in every single detail of their tiny being. I loved them instantly with a fierce and protective passion. I would have died for them on the spot. The pain was dissolved in love. God does the same thing in us each time we give just a little more of our heart to Him. He dissolves our pain and past in His Love, Grace and Mercy giving way to overflowing and abundant joy!

The key to living without regret is taking every single detail of our life to Jesus Christ for complete and total satisfaction. It means that by faith even the pain and persecution holds purpose in our life. When we are going through hard times and heartbreak believing through it all, God is bring us all those things He promised by His Spirit. The world calls it denial. I call it confident hope. Every single time I have entered the realm of hope – I have found nothing but the deepest satisfaction just as He promised. Only those with faith in God demonstrated in true repentance without regret will find this kind of hope that opens the river to overwhelming joy!

I Peter 1:7-9 (MSG)

I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

If you think that to live for Christ means there will be no pain, pressure or problems in your life than your expectations are unrealistic. The promise is that through those same pain, pressures and problems that there peace. It means that there is purpose in each one. The promise also tells us that after those very same pains, pressures and problems there will be unspeakable and undeniable joy. Faith makes all things possible. Faith cannot live in regret. Hope is a place for those who have faith. It is in the absence of self that we discover such vital characteristics. Death is not pleasant until it gives way to life. Jesus had one purpose in life. It caused Him great pain, pressure and problems leading to His Death. He knows how we feel and knows what we are going through but promises that it will be worth it. Though we have trials and sorrows here in the world, He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) The Lord told us all these things in advance to promote faith and confident hope that would erase every regret and fill our life with joy. (John 15:11) Our faith allows us to share in the Glory of God and have confidence and joy no matter what happens in the natural. (Romans 5:2) The Kingdom of God is all about a life of goodness, peace and joy now. It is produced by His Spirit alive in us. (Romans 14:17) “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.” (Romans 15:13)

Every day, hour, moment and breath surrendered to the Love of God with the complete surrender of sin and the regret attached produces fertility in our life for His Spirit to create all the good things God has promised us. Sinful regret has but one swift solution – repentance. Only those unwilling to surrender their sin to accept full salvation need to regret a single moment of their life as is forfeited in that moment to death. Every wrong has a solution – it’s called repentance. Each sin nailed to the Cross makes way for new life to the dead dream and broken promises in our life. Nothing is wasted. Faith is our placeholder while we wait on the Lord and hope is our focus. To experience one regret overtaken by joy will change your life forever. To see the Goodness and Glory of God manifest in a seemingly hopeless situation will change your life forever. A mother can tell you she experienced pain for a moment, never regrets the birth of her promise. It is the same when God births one of His Promises in our life. The pain, pressure and problems were worth it when the promise finally makes it appearance. A life without regret will change the way you live giving new life to every area of life. It comes when we surrender every sin to the Cross for swift resolve. When we let the Lord fill those voids and vacancies with His Fruits that nourish our soul and feed our spirit. It really doesn’t matter how the world treats us for this is not our home. Living life without regret means having nothing, we have it all!

2 Corinthians 6:3-13 (MSG)

People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all. Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!