The Pursuit

Pursuit

Proverbs 21:21 (NLT) Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.

The pursuit of righteousness is highly theologized and exhaustively debated to the extent that its simplicity is overlooked. The pursuit of the human heart is full satisfaction. We long to live completely content in our existence. Though God has provided a well-documented road map to success, our inability to submit to His Way makes it virtually impossible to navigate. How does one pursue righteousness? What is righteousness anyway? Righteousness is our position, as sons and daughters, in right standing with our Father, God. He is the creator of every individual. He prescribed a plan filled with His Goodness and Grace to give us an amazing and abundant life despite our radical rebellion and countless faults and tremendous failures. The Lord pursues us every single day.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT) Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Is it really true that God’s Goodness and Unfailing Love pursues us? Isn’t it the other way around? Isn’t it our job to pursue God? It is important to know the close proximity of God and His Deepest Desire to understand that our pursuit of Him is a fruitless endeavor. Why? We cannot catch the one who is pursuing us. He has the unfair advantage of knowing us from start to finish. He knows our birthday and the count of our final breath. No friend, the reason that we cannot catch the God is because He is set on capturing us. The pursuit of God in righteousness is called surrender.

“Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance upon a time to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man’s soul. Thus to think of it is to misunderstand it all. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.” (A. W. Tozer – The Pursuit of God)

To take a step back from our relentless running the course of religion to find that the very thing we are chasing was pursuing us the entire time is completely humbling. It is an overwhelming and life changing experience to encounter God in absolute and utter brokenness when there is no possibility to the problem you are facing only to see that He was with you all the time. We are not comfortable with debt or obligation. Grace is difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept from such a position. The Grace of God is of immeasurable worth. The value of it makes our heart and mind uncomfortable so religiosity seems to satisfy our need to earn it or deserve it. The only way to obtain righteousness is through Jesus Christ. To humbly surrender and submit our life to Him for careful renovation. How does one pursue that very thing that is pursuing us?

To pursue means to follow in order to overtake. To follow close or go with. To strive to gain. To seek to attain or accomplish. To put into practice. If the plan has been set forth and payment made our pursuit for God must be to put into practice that which produces purpose in our life. The purpose of God leads to fullness, satisfaction, abundance and that which exceeds common thinking. Our thoughts and course of action must turn from gaining God’s Love to falling into God’s Love. His Presence wants to overtake us and turn the impossibility of possessing a love that we cannot afford or ever achieve into the abundance of our life from which all things overflow.

“To have found God and still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.” (A. W. Tozer – The Pursuit of God)

Maybe the passion of a burning heart for God is not kindled by our pursuit of God but rather the knowledge that He is constantly pursuing us. Each moment of every day contains purpose for us if we decide to let God work in us rather than always try to “work” for Him. His Love, Kindness, Goodness, Patience and endless copious amounts of Grace make my life fruitful and complete. I cannot lead another to a place I have never been. I cannot describe the content of something I have never possessed. I cannot share an experience that I have never had. God’s Love for me is the constant consistency in my life which becomes the kind of confidence that produces courage. The idea that I cannot ever lose God’s Love is profound yet often forgotten our attempts to acquire that which has already been given of infinite worth. I can do nothing to please God outside of absolute faith in His Love for me.

“To have found God and still pursue him…” I have been a Christian since 1977. At just eleven years old, I came to the very real revelation that I was a sinner who needed a Savior and asked Jesus to be just that. At over fifty years of age, I am finally able to look back and see God’s Pursuit of my heart and soul. All the times I thought God was visibly absent but see His Presence with complete clarity. God has been with me even when I thought I had wandered too far to ever come back. Every time I did finally turnaround, the Lord met me face-to-face. God’s Perfect Plan comes complete with enough grace for all those times I tried to love and serve Him failing miserably. For all my wanderings the work on the Cross was enough for me to find my way back home. My Father with arms open wide. He was waiting for me to turnaround. To repent and ask Him, invite Him and usher Him in. The idea of pursuing God is noble but doesn’t mean a thing. He has been pursuing us the whole time. To pursue His Purpose with passion comes in understanding that this is what pleases God and produces a deep abiding relationship with Him. To know that nothing can separate us from His Love so we learn to live in it. To gain an appetite for His Love, Grace and Goodness insatiable by ordinary living so we pursue the extraordinary. God loves you. He has always loved you. He will always love you whether you choose to engage in a lifelong relationship or find Him just in the nick of time. He is that Good! He is our God! Pursue His Love and living in His Presence – it is then that God will be your passion!

Psalm 143:8 (NLT) Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

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What Is Your Passion?

Passion

Matthew 22:37-40 (MSG) Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

What is your passion? Passion is any powerful feeling or compelling emotion in us. It produces a drive for that desire that is the kindling that creates tinder. When such a feeling or emotion is nurtured, it becomes inflamed. What is your drive in life? Is it to love the Lord your God with all your heart? The most important passion in our life is the one that consumes our time and energy. What are you after? What takes over your thoughts? What is that demands your time and is given its worth? Human beings are filled with many emotions, feelings and overtures both of God and not of God. The flesh has a passion all its own. Our heart also has passion that it longs to pursue. We decide what passion is fueled and allowed to exist in our life. So what about you? What is your passion today?

Love. To love God with all our heart. The other translations use the word “heart” instead of passion. The thought provoking Message Bible describes our love for God as passionate. Are you passionate about your relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you pursue Him? Do you long to be filled by Him? Is He truly your beloved? To be passionate means having or compelled by or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling. It produces an urgency and fervency within us to overtake that which is desired. It also means to express it. To let it out in some sort of demonstration or portrayal. Purpose without passion is just a plan – it will not produce anything at all because there is no investment. Purpose fueled by passion will create prosperity in our life. The very thing given our time and energy will yield its gain if not abandoned but pursued. It is the law of sowing and reaping. Those with passion do not give up because there as inner drive that overtakes us. Hence, it is important to examine our heart and evaluate our feelings and emotions on a regular basis.

Revelation 2:2-5 (MSG) “I see what you’ve done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can’t stomach evil that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause that you never wear out. But you walked away from your first love—why? What’s going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you’ve fallen? A Lucifer fall! Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I’m well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle.”

Have you walked away from your first love? Maybe, wandered away unknowingly? It can happen. The church of Ephesus was doing all the “right” things but forgot about fueling their relationship with Christ. Everything we do, say and give our life to must be through our love and passion for Jesus Christ. The pursuit of His Heart must be our drive and desire each day in all things. If we are not careful, our partnership with the Lord becomes a business contract rather than marriage covenant. God will do exactly as He promised apart from love. His Love for us is constant. He passionately pursues us. Making the Way for us to live in right standing as sons and daughters of God. He will not lie. He cannot change His Mind and be God. His Word cannot and will not return to Him void. He is good even when we are not. God’s Passion and Commitment to us is never in question it is always consistent. It is our love and devotion to the Lord that hangs in the balance.

Recover your dear early love. The start of a love affair is generally a passionate overture of raw emotion. The buildup tremendous but letdown coming. The emotions, feelings and desires of love must become a commitment to be long lasting. The imperfection of people make it impossible to fully live up to the expectation of love without a tremendous amount of grace and submission. Where’s the fun in that? A life of love may not always be fanciful and fun, but godly love will always be fruitful and produce in us a satisfied and fulfilled life. When our first love is Jesus – our expectation of full satisfaction and absolute abundance are secure. If we hold steadfast to the hope given to us in every situation – contentment will be complete. Humanity is all about the “feels”. I wonder what might happen if our passion was turned to the Lord and pursued Him first. What would the possibilities be? I cannot lead others to a place I have never been. I cannot describe an experience that I have never encountered. I cannot share a love that I have not found.

I John 4:1719 (MSG) God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

What is your passion? I asked before and I ask you again. What is the greatest drive and desire in your life today? What if we were completely honest even if only with ourselves? Examining the contents of our heart with transparency, considering our desires and drive, evaluating our time and how it is spent. What if we truly laid out our life and took an account of where it is being spent? Would our greatest pursuit be the Heart of God with a passionate love for Jesus Christ? I can only look into my own life. We are to love others as we love ourselves. Do you love you today? I have found that only through my relationship with Jesus Christ have I established any self-worth. In Romans 7, Paul describes the struggle of life with the selfish and prideful nature of his flesh constantly combatting the goodness and grace of God at work in him. Such is the struggle of every believer to fully invest their heart in pursuing God with passion.

Our heart must fall in love with Jesus Christ. Our passion must become pursuing Him at all cost if His Promise and Prosperity is our deepest longing. Our soul must prosper before anything in our natural life will. Our soul prospers when our heart, mind and body are fully committed to loving Jesus Christ. It will require our careful attention and honest evaluation of the contents and contracts in our life. Jesus came to become our beloved…He calls us beloved. It is from this loving covenant relationship with Christ filled with passion that we can pursue others with perfect love. Desiring nothing from them because our needs and desires are fulfilled by Christ. It is in the sowing of love that we receive it.

Is it time to rekindle passion? Is it time to pursue something new? If your life is fully satisfied or overflowing in abundance, it may be time to return to your first love. To bless the work of our hands without having our heart could result in the death of many who call themselves Christians but do not know Christ or love Him. It is easy to take those we love for granted and Jesus is not exempt. His Grace and Goodness are not doormats but doorways to a rich and satisfying life. We must be passionate in our pursuit of His Love.

Psalm 23:6 (MSG) Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

Song of Solomon 5:6-7 (MSG) Hang my locket around your neck, wear my ring on your finger. Love is invincible facing danger and death. Passion laughs at the terrors of hell. The fire of love stops at nothing—it sweeps everything before it. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. Love can’t be bought, love can’t be sold—it’s not to be found in the marketplace.

Go the Distance

Go the Distance

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

What is your purpose? What are you passionate about? Do you have a plan? We live each day in anticipation of tomorrow and miss the moments given in each breath. How do I know? How many times do you go to bed on Monday only to wake up and its Friday again? Or write the date only to find that a quarter of the year has passed in what seems like just a few days? Time continually passes by and seasons change so what do I have to show for it? Well, I have a seasoned marriage of almost two decades. We have four adult children and one teenager. I have a beautiful and precious grandson. I am blessed to have a nice home with a mortgage attached. A good job. All these tangible blessings given by the goodness of God but the one thing still elusive is the fulfillment of purpose. All these “people” and “things” are wonderful. I do not take them for granted. Even those things not quantified but rather quality of life such as good physical and mental health. I am truly grateful for all that the Lord has given me. Yet still I have not achieved my calling or claimed the prize that I know is set before me.

How do I know? Do you ever have the feeling that there has to be more? Maybe there are things you have been chasing without success for years? In your home, marriage, job or ministry. God placed a purpose inside your heart. He sprinkled it with just enough faith to get you started. He wrapped the whole thing in eternity and said, “Go for it!” But then life happened… now you wonder if it really was for you or did it have an expiration date. Why do you travel so many miles and live countless moments yet they do not add up to the fulfillment and satisfaction you had hoped for? Why? You have not gone the distance yet. You are still en route. Premature promises are abortion of purpose. There is a time prescribed by God when that thing inside you will be birthed just like He has promised. Will you go the distance?

There are three disciplines needed to achieve Kingdom purpose that will also prove effective in earthly endeavors. We must be disciplined to make it to the end. Endurance is required for heavenly pursuits. Jesus told us that directly. Yet, we put limits on God by rewriting His Plan to meet our preference. To maintain the three “c”s of our demise – comfort, convenience, and control. These are the things that keep us in the present rather than pursuing our purpose. There are some things that have to change if we are to reach the prize of our high calling and inherit the prosperity already predestined for us.

Pursuit

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Every single person ever born was created by God with purpose. (Psalm 139) His Thoughts of you and for you more numerous than stars in the nighttime sky or grains of sand on an endless beach. He has a plan for your life that contains a future and hope. It is a good one! He predestined us to become a masterpiece. We have all the parts and when placed in His Hands – it becomes exactly what He purposed it to be. The key is pursuit. What are you after in life?

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed! You can pursue whatever it is you would like in this lifetime. But you cannot have the things of God without pursuing the heart of God – Jesus Christ. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith. The one who takes a seed of faith and makes it the masterful purpose individually prescribed by God for our life. We get to the Father through the Son. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He came to give us a rich and satisfying life full of abundance. Not by chance, but on purpose. His Example was not void of the struggles faced with all the temptation that goes with it. He dealt with natural challenges such as hunger and later on torture all with His Eyes on the prize. It was for the joy on the other side of the Cross that He endured it. We must take up our Cross and pursue Jesus Christ for our purpose. It is not a diversified effort. There is no double standard. You cannot live for this world and engage in the Kingdom.

Persistence

Luke 18:1-5 (ESV) And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 

The value of purpose pays for persistence. How worthwhile is your purpose? What is the end result? Is it eternity? Eternity can be birthed in the home, workplace, and every social arena of life. It is our light shining in the darkness that makes us like a city on a hill. We are in this world but not of it. However, if our heart does not value the purpose God has placed in our heart pushing to get out then we will not be persistent. Persistence is essential. It means to continue steadfastly and firmly in purpose, maintaining the course of action in spite of any and all opposition. The widow had a purpose. The purpose was of value and worthwhile to her. She kept going to the judge, “Give me justice against my adversary.” He finally gave her justice.

During our son’s battle with cancer, it was decided that the medical team would try a bone marrow transplant. Clinical studies had shown some results in this area. It looked like we were fighting a losing battle but this offered some hope after four rounds of chemotherapy. We began the workup for the transplant but the insurance company denied coverage so the hospital refused treatment. To make it very clear, our son was going to die. We had no more time. The cancer was aggressive. Chemo was no longer working. Even with the transplant, there was only a 2% chance of survival. Without it, there was 100% that he would not according to medical science. You better believe that I began to persist for his treatment. For six months, I prayed and persisted exhausting every possible avenue from the local level to governmental level. But God… persistence pays off. I believe that when we believe the Word of God for our life nothing is impossible. My persistence did not move the heart of man but it did move the Heart of God. After the final denial, I bowed my head in an empty office with all but my desk lamp on. There were no tears. There was no wailing, pleading or begging. Honestly, I think I was too broken for that. I had been rejected over and over again. I simply repeated to the Lord exactly what He told me from the beginning of the journey – “Lord, You said, ‘Your son will live and not die…’ I am taking you at Your Word. Lord, I have done everything possible to make this happen – the rest is up to You!” I turned off the light, locked the door and went home. It was not dramatic or climactic. I had persisted now God had to provide. He did! Purpose requires persistence.

Perseverance

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Purpose becomes our passion. Passion must lead to pursuit, persistence and perseverance to yield its gain otherwise it just fizzles out like every other human emotion and feeling. If lust begins with passion, but becomes purpose when it turns into passionate love. I think sometimes just as lust and love can be confused – so is purpose and passion. The relationship of the two is bound by commitment. If you are not committed to your purpose – passion is just a feeling. If you are not passionate about your purpose – you will lose interest quickly. We talk about suffering for Jesus Christ. We do not suffer for Him. Our suffering is our flesh dying inside of us giving way to new life and new possibilities found only in a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Our life must become one with Him. That means that every earthly endeavor has eternal possibilities according to the purpose of our design.

Faith is given to us in a measure and grace makes it fruitful. Peace with God is a fertile field that will yield the abundance God promised for us. Misplaced passion in earthly endeavors produce only natural results. It is our passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ that makes the supernatural our reality. This requires perseverance. Suffering produces endurance when we must push past the pressure of pain to continue. Endurance produces character. Failure is not falling down but rather refusing to get up. Character is the hand that grabs hold of the fallen. Pride tells us to give up – perseverance tells us to get up. Character produces hope because it is when our identity as a Child of God becomes our life. Hope will never put us to shame. It doesn’t lead to disappointment. Those who decide to become passionate about their purpose will pursue, persist and persevere with confidence knowing and believing that God does not lie or change His Mind. What He says He will do. What He purposed will come to pass. His Word is our compass straight to success. We must go the distance. Why? “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (I Corinthians 9:23)

Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Fan Your Flame

Fan Your Flame

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT)  This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

“You cannot put out a fire that burns on the inside.” (Bethel Worship) I am reminded today of the spiritual gift that God has given me. I have been challenged in the last few days to test the temperature of the water boiling into passion for Christ. Have I become tepid? Is the river of life flowing inside of me lukewarm? God has not given me a spirit of fear or timidity – but have I taken it anyway? He is given me power overflowing from amazing and abundant grace – am I doused in it? Is love my passionate motivation in all things? I have self-discipline. It is produced by the Holy Spirit who tends the fire that burns within me. The passionate pursuit of Christ that began with just a spark of faith turned into confident hope.

Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

I am back at the furnace of the three Hebrew boys. I can feel the flame of refinement. The purification process designed to produce gold in our life. The heat that burns away all impurity to reveal the faith that is hidden within. I wonder if that is not the purpose of our life. To go through the same trials, troubles, and tragedies or to face the same temptations (rise or fall) that will demonstrate the Glory of God to all who are a witness. The church has painted a pretty picture. Religion erases the need for grace to give way to a façade of perfection not yet manifested until the return of Christ. We hide our broken hearts. Shield are scraped knees. Hide our dirty hands. When what the world really needs to see is a relationship so authentic that nothing can separate us. The Light of the Word was not lit up hiding in an upper room – but rather on a Cross for all the world to see in His Suffering. A city on a hilltop must be a reference to us. Given credibility in the Kingdom by our witness, but not to be tucked away in time. We are the reflection of His Love in its bloody, messy form. It may not be pretty but it’s the thing that we hold on to.

It’s time to fan the flame of His Spirit invested in us. To blow fresh wind on the passion growing dim within us. See when the fire is within us – the stormy winds cannot put it out. The waves of conflict or controversy will not overtake it. Trials will only make it hotter. Fearless faith rises from the ashes of burned pride as God makes beauty from them just as He promised. Our confidence becomes our conviction. Impossibilities will be the fields where faith is planted confidently and boldly knowing miracles will come up through the fertile soil.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NLT) Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave.  Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.

The holy inhabitation of the Spirit of the Living God within us is the opportunity to experience true intimacy with Him. Jesus lives in us. Successful relationships thrive on intimacy. Intimacy is often considered in a physical sense but truly it is in the most spiritual sense that it is accomplished. Physical and material things change in life for they are in a constant and perpetual state of decay. Our body is born dying. Of course, we may try to maintain our appearance but truthfully the only advantage given to us is believers is new life that begins in our soul. As our soul prospers, so does our life externally. Intimacy is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship. It is the product of love and should encapsulate all of its characteristics. (I Corinthians 13) Those engaged in an intimate relationship know the other by close association with deep understanding and detailed knowledge of the other person. Intimacy requires openness by both individuals. It is an act of engagement that speaks, listens, knows and understands far deeper than words. Our intimacy with Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to experience a passionate love so perfect it burns away every other perception of the word.

Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Is my love and commitment to Christ born of an intimate relationship filled with passion possessing the brightest kind of flame? It was the desire of Jesus to love us and live in complete intimacy with us that provoked Him to exhibit “love as strong as death” and “jealousy as enduring as the grave”. Nothing can separate us from God’s Love now. We are more than conquerors and confident overcomers in Christ. If believers truly believed that then there would be nothing that would keep us from the fire. We would jump in feet first in hopes to grow deeper in love with Christ.

I Peter 4:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

For everyone will be tested with fire. (Mark 9:49) What if your present trial is actually an invitation to greater intimacy with the Lord? Could it be that He is trying to demonstrate His Love for you yet again with an outcome that is miraculous? Fiery trials will happen according to the Lord. We should be glad because it is through these incidents that we become partners with Christ. It is in His Suffering that our joy is made complete and dispensed in our life through passionate and fearless faith that will not back down from the fight or the fire but valiantly and victoriously fights for love. Are you passionate about your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you investing in your partnership with the Lord? Fan your flame. Stir the fire deep within. Let your light shine. You will not be consumed but fully connected. A flame introduces to a fire becomes one with it making it burn stronger and brighter than ever before. You are part of something bigger than yourself – become one with Jesus. Jesus came to start a fire in us producing a light so bright it burns away darkness all around us. The Light is produced by His Great Love. How bright is your light day?

Luke 12:49 (NLT) “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!

As Soon As

As Soon As.jpg

Jeremiah 29:10-11 (Message) This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

“As soon as”…the prequalification or prerequisite factor – the waiting game called life. As a child, such a statement seems terminal when it calls for patience that last more than five minutes. Sometimes even that is a stretch for those with infernal impatience such as myself. At least in the natural when someone says, “as soon as” there is an element of gratification as one can watch and see as they fulfill the ordered list on the way to fulfillment. And then there is faith, hope and God. God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as”… then I will.

These words are the most difficult because it is hard enough to see the Lord’s inner workings or His Mighty Hand come in to play. Hindsight is generally 20/20 with God but what is right in front of us elusive. Faith and hope are the qualities that God is developing in us by teaching us to love, lean and trust Him more. Oh what a difficult task especially when the stakes may seem quite high. As soon as…and not a day more. Faith keeps us waiting until as soon as comes. Hope makes waiting worth every minute. In the meantime…

I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.” There are days that I feel as though I am living in exile. Those seasons when the conditions and circumstances of my life do not line up with the Word of God. The times when I stepped out in faith and feel like I am still floating rather than walking on water or swimming in the depths of the deep to which He has called me. These are the times when trust is our portion and confidence is our hope. The “what we know” of God and foundation called Christ keep us from falling. God promises that He will show up. He will do just as He promised. There will be the rejoicing of “being brought back home” from this place of invisible exile…if I am just patient and wait on Him.

“I know what I am doing.” Depends on who is driving…I guess. I remember getting in the car with our first new driver. The moment that he started the car, I knew I was in trouble. He was ready to throw it in reverse and speed out of the driveway. I patiently (or at least I thought I was calm) asked him to wait while I reiterated instructions and safety measures that I felt necessary. He rolled his eyes and told me, “I know what I am doing.” I did not believe him. He pulled out, slammed on the brakes, changed gears, and floored it the three houses to the corner and stopped for the stop sign halfway in the road of the intersection. He then graciously turned on the blinker and before I could catch my breath was off again. The only word that I could utter was “stop”! He seemed confused. No, I demanded he stop right there and pull into the neighbor’s driveway. I got out of the car and walked all the way home officially resigning from my position as driver’s education mom. Walking in the house, my husband said calmly, “That was quick, how did it go?” “Terrible.” I responded. He inquired as to the well-being of our son with “Where is he?” I replied, “Probably in the driveway up the street where I left him!” As I walked into our room and shut the door. Like any good dad, my husband retrieved our son and taught him how to drive.

When I got into the car with our son that day, I knew full well that he was a newbie. I was well aware of his inexperience. It was his lack of trust and unwillingness to pay attention that drove me out of the vehicle that day. God keeps telling me day after day, “I know what I am doing.” Some days I sit back and enjoy the ride trusting that He is God. He is a good father. He loves me with all of His Heart and knows what is best for me. And then…there are all those other days when I don’t and try to take the wheel and drive to my own destination.

I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Psalm 139:16 tells me that “like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” If this is true (which I believe that it is), it means that God knows every moment of every single day of my life before I take a single step or breathe within it. He knows all the good times and all the not so good times that will come. He understands that some days I will get this thing called faith right walking in faithful, humble obedience and then days that I come in like a wrecking ball. Like a carefully constructed school lunch, God gives me mercy each morning and on every bad day, a snack of grace at night. I have everything that I need to successfully live out God’s Plan and Purpose despite my fickle heart and rebellious flesh. God prepared it for me when He designed my life. Challenges are opportunities to experience the championship of faith. Pressure gives way to Presence in my life. Every difficult thing interwoven with His Plan for my Destiny and Divine Destination.

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (Romans 8:28 MSG) The come-from-behind promise of God that ensures as His People, as His Precious Children, that we cannot and will not miss an ounce of His Goodness or single provision of His Plan and Purpose is that He works “every detail of our lives” into something good. All that is required is loving Him.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 (Message) “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.

What if while waiting on the Lord, I am not waiting on Him at all but rather He is waiting on me? Is it possible that God has His Act together but I am the one struggling? Sure it is. We take an ounce of knowledge and try to work it into absolute wisdom. God’s Thoughts are higher than my thoughts and so are His Ways, yet somehow in my human finite thinking I take a word or wisp of truth and try to build my whole life on it. I know I am the only one so just bear with me while I work this out. What if we replace the word “when” with the words “as soon as”? It would go something like this:

When As soon as you call on me, when as soon as you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When As soon as you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when as soon as you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.

What if the ball is in my court and rather than “as soon as” being God’s next move rather He is waiting on my next move. Will it be closer to Him? Will I decide to come to Him? Will I decide to pray? Will I begin searching for the Lord wholeheartedly? Will I get serious about this life after God’s Own Heart? Will there be a day when I want Him MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE? The promise to those who make their way to this place is that the Lord will “make sure you won’t be disappointment.” Hope never leads to disappointment. Hope is not reserved for what we can see, do or logically make happen in our life. It is evidenced by faith in the substance that we cannot perceived naturally with our senses or logically with our mind but know to be true because He lives in us. Perhaps, I need to spend my time waiting on the Lord doing something different. It is not God’s Move but mine that He is waiting on today.

Psalm 27:7-9 (Message) Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” Don’t hide from me now!

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8 NLT) I love this verse so much. It has been on my heart a lot lately. You know with five kids, I hear the word “mom” all the time. It catches my attention even when it is not my own brood. My husband and I were riding in the minivan one day filled to overflowing with all the children. I was driving and not really paying attention to the banter in the back. When suddenly, he blurted out in a stern voice, “Don’t you hear them calling you?” Apparently, the peanut gallery had been saying, “Mom…mom…mom” and I didn’t respond to them because basically I had tuned them out. It happens. However, let one of them cry out in fear, hurt or distress and I can hear them across the house, outside, down the street or in the next county. There is a difference in the sound of their cry. I believe that God always listens when we speak to Him. He hears our every word. However, I also believe that our conversations with the Lord become mindless chatter over time. A check off on the to-do list of godliness rather than a personal and intimate conversation with the Lover of our soul and the One our soul loves.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (Message) How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

“As soon as” can mean waiting on the Lord but most of the time I believe that He is waiting on us. Our response to God’s Promises is faith and confidence that this hope we have is valid, authentic and real enough to pursue with passion each day. We put our passion into so many worthless things when the reality of Christ is that God has already blessed us with every good thing that He has. We are made with purpose on the verge of prosperity if only one might make their way into His Presence choosing to live there. His Presence is our promised land. It is not a religious place filled with routine, ritual or tradition. It is not a place of performance or service. It is the place where we come to know and respond by wanting Jesus more than anything else – as soon as will be accomplished. Everything I need, want and desire is fulfilled in the rich and satisfying life that Jesus Christ is offering me. I have more than enough. I am more than enough because Christ lives in me. Nothing is impossible for those who live by faith not fear. As soon as, I learn to live, move, exist and breathe in the midst of His Presence – I believe that the time will pass and so will the season. It will be time to harvest from all those tears, find joy in the midst of mourning and I will be restored, revived and renewed just as He promised. As soon as…

Isaiah 30:18 (Message) But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.

Passion Fruit

First Fruit

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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.

When taking on large projects or tasks, I usually comprise a “to do” list to keep me focused. I write down everything that needs to be done and then decide on a game plan. I will be the first to admit as a young adult – I was a procrastinator. Chronically late, I lacked conscious respect for other’s time. I would stay up late and wake up later. I live a completely disheveled and disorganized life. I will even admit that there would be days or even a week that I did not make my bed. This chaotic existence was not the fault of my parents who built a structured home and attempted to teach us discipline. When set free into adulthood, I was able to choose how to live my life. What changed? Children. When my first child was born, I discovered this little thing called responsibility in a whole new way. This little perfect person was depending on me for everything. I was to mold him, shape him, and care for him as he was now my responsibility. Suddenly – I wanted to be a better person and the perfect mom. Love produced a change in me.

Purpose is a wonderful thing because it sparks passion in us that burns away things that used to hinder us. It ignites a change inside of us that requires careful attention to build momentum and see the results. As my family grew so did I, old habits gave way to new and improved drive to be organized and skillful in the things “good moms” do. But despite my best intentions, looking back, I realize that even though I tried really hard to be the best mom ever and never make mistakes with my children. I blew it on several occasions. There were days that I took the responsibility of parenting too seriously and needed a little more grace and love. My desire to be perfect overshadowed my purpose which was to love my children with all that I had and give them the life I thought they deserved.

For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is – there is freedom. Freedom to live a life of full satisfaction apart from perfection but marked by passionate purpose. The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image. I am struck by these words today. I am in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my beloved as I am His. As in any partnership, I must learn to find ways to remain faithful to Him even when my flesh doesn’t necessarily agree. The first fruit of God’s Spirit – who is now recognized as Jesus is love. Love produces passion. Passion fuels purpose. How do I take the natural love I have and use my freedom in Christ to expand it and fan it into burning desire? I must live by the Spirit.

I am tiptoeing here. So please bear with me…I am challenged today! I want to live in the Glory of God. I don’t think the church or people who call ourselves Christians really know what that is or how to achieve it on a regular basis. We are to live in the Presence of God. Well, if Christ lives in me doesn’t that mean God is present all of the time? Yes! Am I present all of the time? No! Let me explain – there are times when my husband and I are sitting in the same room and one of us will begin to speak to the other. While lost in thought or completely engrossed in what we are watching or reading, the other may not hear what he or she is saying. Suddenly shaken from our stupor – we will respond to the other with apologies because our attention was elsewhere. God’s Spirit lives in us. His Name is Jesus. He has granted us freedom. Freedom is the opportunity to choose our life and how we live it. To become aware of the Glory of God in us and His Goodness all around us would be the most advantageous use of the gift of freedom – but sometimes we have our heart and mind set on other things.

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

Jesus lives in me. His Spirit has set me free. This freedom is made strong as it is nourished by the Fruit it provides us. The first fruit of the Spirit is love. I cannot love anyone else until I fully conceive the Love of God for me and living in me. See God’s Love IS His Glory. When I love like Jesus loves and inspired by the selfless and unconditional Love of God – I reflect His Glory. God gave us freedom to choose a relationship with Him as His Child. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life for us that allows us to have a rich and satisfying life beginning with love and ending with self-control. Religion gets this all out of order. We attempt self-control outside of love which leads us nowhere. The passion of our love for Jesus Christ will inevitably produce self-control as the final fruit not the first fruit.

Galatians 5:24-26 (NLT) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Those who belong to Jesus must nail their passions and desires associated with their sinful nature to the Cross. Do not think about the seven deadliest sins and most horrible offenses you can think of, but consider this – if our passion promotes anything other than sincere and persistent love for people – we missed the first step of full satisfaction in the Glory of God. Love produces joy. Joy gives us peace. Peace affords us patience and so on. “Since” we are living by the Spirit as God’s Spirit is manifested as Christin us…we must follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Love is the first step of freedom yet the hardest to overcome. Love puts others before our own wants, needs and desires. It is not a me-first position and therefore considered the greatest vulnerability. But if Christ truly lives in me – I am free to do so because greater is He who lives in me. The greatness of God’s Grace is His Love. His Glory is His Presence that is possible by His Love. Everything begins with and ends with love.

Luke 12:49 (NLT) I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! (Jesus)

Have we misplaced our passion? Have we focused heavily on producing fruit from our self and not of the Spirit? I can pretend to have all of God’s Fruit in my life but my life is not surrounded by His Glory and defined by His Love it is just another pointless pursuit. Jesus came to set the world on fire. His Love could not be denied for His Sacrifice complete. He empowered us with His Grace which is totally sufficient to overcome every obstacle and live in His Glory now and forever more. However, this would require giving up our way first.

When I think about the Glory of God, I hear the churches outcry for revival. Revival is new life that will take the place of our old ways. Like the relationship now possible with God through Jesus Christ removed the “veil” that once separated us from God’s Presence. It did not open the curtain so we could step behind it. It tore it right down the middle. When Christians live according to the rules and regulations of the Law, it is not freedom but a foray back into judgment. In Christ there is no condemnation. Christ is alive in me so I am no longer condemned so think about this…

If you come upon a burning building, it would probably be your immediate instinct to call 911. You may decide to be a good Samaritan and get out of the car to offer assistance. If you hear cries from within the inferno, you may try to find a way to get inside and save those who are trapped. Only a few people might risk their life to go inside despite the danger to pull people from inside. However, if the house is your home everything changes. Your love will overcome all fear and insecurity to get your loved ones to safety pulling them out of harm’s way. What if Jesus meant to set the world on fire so we would develop a passion from His Love? What if it is a test of our first fruit to see how willing I am to use my freedom to love people enough to reach them right where they are rather than standing outside calling them out?

Jude 20-25 (NLT) But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

The potential of my life is the Glory of God because Christ lives in me. I have a new love that has given me a whole new purpose. I am a new creation. The law is no longer relevant to me as it has been made complete in Jesus Christ. His Grace is truly sufficient for me. As long as I choose to live free from the Law, I am able to pursue with passion the First Fruit of the Spirit which is love and believe that as every other fruit is born of its seed that I will someday learn self-control. If sin separates me from Jesus, my love for Him will keep me from sin. Apart from God’s Love there is no glory. His Glory is His Love. His Love must be perfected in my life. It does not require me to be a perfect person just perfected by His Love. Passion must be examined and evaluated in our life to determine its origin. It is easy to become religious in our pursuit because habits come and go every day. Love does not. Love is the most difficult to obtain and arduous to keep because it is the constant consummation of self. We must invest all that we are into the Christ living in us so He takes over. Jesus would not think twice about going into whatever hell we wander into and pulling us to freedom if we cry out to Him. My response to others must be the same. Lord, I ask you to examine my heart, my mind, every motive, attitude and action for love. Love is the first fruit produced by Your Spirit, and I want to know I am living a life guided by Your Spirit. Help me to love like You do. Teach me to love like You. Complete me in love as You do. I ask you to grow the first fruit of love in me so I can share it with everyone else and be a true reflection of Your Glory! Fan the flame of love in me until it burns like an all-consuming fire with passion for You, Lord! For without passion – love quickly grows cold!

John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

I Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT) This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Hobby, Habit or Holiness

hobby habit or holiness

Luke 14:26-30 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.

In January, my husband and a group of men arranged to go duck hunting. They planned the excursion for months. Purchased mounds of hunting gear and ammunition. Planning included requesting leave from jobs, making hotel reservations and mapping out travel. Everyone paid their portion of the hunting lease and provided for meals and expenses. When the calendar finally fell on the travel date, the weather conditions took a dramatic turn for the absolute worst. It was below freezing. The lakes and ponds frozen over. Each morning they would trudge out to the field, break through the ice, set the decoys and lay in the blinds in the frigid conditions. They didn’t get a single one. They paid a high price yet got a miserable return other than the lease owner offering them a free return visit at the beginning of hunting season. This hunting hobby is new to our family.

We all have hobbies in life. It may be a variety of different things. Activities or interests pursued for pleasure and relaxation but no as a main occupation. I recently began repurposing old furniture. Reconditioning them is therapeutic to me. I was purchasing some pieces from a new acquaintance who encouraged me to sell the pieces rather than giving them away. I don’t really want to do that because I do this to escape the world and get lost in something creative. It is a hobby. Since most pieces are this side of tossing in the garbage, my investment is limited other than time spent cleaning, repairing, sanding and painting. It brings me peace. The great thing about a hobby is that I can choose how much of my time, talent and treasure that I invest in it. If I walk away for a few weeks, a month or so – it has not impact on me, my family or future other than a few choice words from my husband about the clutter in the garage. It is good to have hobbies in life.

What about habits? Those things that are not necessarily for pleasure or relaxation but driven by routine and schedule. Most adults have certain habits instilled by the values imbedded by the example of their parents or mentors. Some habits are formed by a desire to change certain behaviors, trends, circumstances or conditions. Habits can be good or bad. It is just what we do, who we are, and the choices we make. A habit is an acquired behavioral pattern regularly followed until it becomes involuntary. The word “involuntary” means independent of our will and not by our own choice. There are habits worth giving up for better health, emotional wellness, and spiritual awakening.

Church can become a habit. Religion is the routine of the church for organizational purposes. Habits and routines are comfortable. They give way to complacency in life and love. We must evaluate our habits as often as our heart to see our motivation. Do I do the things I do because I have always done them this way? Is there a better way? Is this a Christ-like endeavor or just something I do to fit in to my social group? Church is known for cliques and many times it is the birthplace of complacency as our pursuit of God is tempered by the other sheep in our fold. Is church a weekly habit? Is it an occasional hobby? If our relationship to Jesus Christ can be defined as either it is up to us to count the cost of becoming a disciple. Hobbies and habits do not produce holiness. It is not the way of those who desire God’s Kingdom and His Riches in Glory. It is just another way the enemy is keeping our churches and communities from experiencing revival.

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NLT) For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

When Jesus died, He released the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord made it clear that the new dwelling place of His Spirit was in His People. Those who opened their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ and desired Him as Savior and Lord would house His Spirit. The church moved from the outside world to inside God’s People. Empowering them with new purpose and new power. When Jesus told the people that He would destroy the temple that it took 46years to build and rebuild it in three days, (John 2:15-21) He was referring to His Death which destroyed religion and His Resurrection that move His Church from buildings to bodies. As believers – we are the church. Not just any church of any denomination, we are the Temple of the Living God. Holy inhabitation is the cornerstone of holiness. Holiness is not a hobby or habit. It is who we are in God through Jesus Christ. We must become holy because God is holy. (Leviticus 19:2) His Presence in us forces an evaluation of our contribution to the Kingdom. Are we mere contributors or fully committed to the Cause called Christ in us?

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT) Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.

Have I made a rash (acting too hastily without due consideration)? We all are prone to say, “Yes” to many things without proper consideration or careful contemplation. Why? Who doesn’t want the affirmation and acceptance of others? Our “yes” is often based on meeting the expectation of others rather than fully consideration what it requires or what the desired outcome may be. We must count the cost of discipleship and decide if it is the life desired. Why is this important? At the end of my life, I will meet Jesus face-to-face. If I invested in the Kingdom as a hobby, I do not believe that He will say, “Well done, though good and faithful servant!” A hobby is something I do for me. Me alone. It is for my relaxation and my personal pleasure. Is that what I signed up for when I came to Jesus Christ? Is that what He was really offering? I don’t think so.

Is my commitment to Jesus Christ a habit? Has it become just another routine and scheduled event added to the long list of responsibilities in my life? Is it my religion or a true relationship? The truest test of religion verses relationship is passion. Am I passionate about loving, knowing, serving and following Jesus for the rest of my life? Or do I just go with the flow of the local church? Is my spiritual temperature set by the thermostat of my church or is it a flame being fanned and fueled by an All-Consuming Fire and burning desire to become His Disciple? To go where He goes, do what He does, and experience His Kingdom (as promised) on the earth as it is in Heaven. Hmm… makes me think. How about you?

Luke 14:26-27 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

Holiness is not a religious preference. It is not an organized denomination. Holiness is God’s Mandate on the life of the believer. To be wholly consumed and filled with His Spirit. To passionately pursue the Calling and Purpose found only in Christ as He calls us a new creation. To bring Heaven to earth in our own life while connecting the Body and its intricate membership and parts coming together with one heart – one mind – and one purpose. To make Him greater and greater while I disappear in His Presence. Sounds good until one begins to count the cost. We decide if we will carry “our own cross”. Jesus died to set us free to choose the life we live. To “take up our cross” is become responsible for our membership as one part of the Body of Christ. I cannot live, breathe, move or exist as an effective part of the Body unless fully connected to and directed by Jesus Christ. He must be my motivation. He must be the One Thing that I am after. I hear you. Family comes first. It does right after Jesus Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to discipline my body, mind and spirit that in all things Jesus is first which means if anyone else makes a contrary decision that it does not influence or impact my partnership with Jesus.

Love and grace are the foundation of this wonderful relationship. I cannot have my way and live successfully in any relationship. My relationships (all of them) must have Christ as a foundation. Even my relationships to my perceived enemies, even those who are considered a threat or constant thorn in our flesh have purpose in our life. God put them there for a reason. We do not systematically cut off difficult relations or those who don’t understand our faith and marriage to Jesus. We must learn to put all our expectation in Jesus Christ and trust Him with every other relationship that we have engaged in. We must always take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What do I give my life to? Is it possible to graph the timeline of my life? Of course, it is but do I really want to. How much of my day is focused on this cross I have chosen to carry versus all the other endeavors in my life? Ignorance is not bliss but the death of the good seeds ready to be planted and harvested in our life. The secret to a successful partnership with Jesus is found in His Word. Simply because Jesus is the Word. To decide not to know releases us from responsibility is not ignorance it is foolishness when all of creation displays the Glory of God. If I refuse to follow Christ – the Word of God tells me that I “am not worthy to of being called mine.” Holiness requires shirking off the filthy rags and donning a robe of righteousness. It means picking up the full armor of God to step into a victorious life. It means to put away pride and live in humility. It means giving up my way. If I cling to this life, I will lose it. If I give my life to Jesus fully, I will find my true purpose and live in fulfillment forever. (Matthew 10:37-39) It is a daily choice. (Luke 9:23)

Luke 14:28-33 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Our life is comprised of three things of worth: time, talent and treasure. These are the things that we have to invest in something or someone. It is totally up to me how I invest my life. Time is the most precious commodity because it is irreplaceable. Talent is only as valuable as the realization of that potential in our life. Treasure is every tangible thing we own whether we think it’s worth anything or not. To become a disciple of Jesus Christ and live a holy life is not what so many have made it out to be. It is to live our life fully consumed by Jesus Christ. To step out of self and into Christ completely. It means investing my time, talent and treasure into His Kingdom. It is to combine our resources with the Lord completely. Giving Him all our time. All of our talent. All of our treasure. Then stepping back and letting Him use it for His Glory. The problem is that we give our hobbies and habits too much time and there is not enough to pay the price of discipleship. Divided interest and diversified investments may create natural security by not putting all our eggs in one lifetime basket but if my heart and soul are set on Eternity – I must take all my life and invest it in Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT) For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

When Jesus handed us the Keys to the Kingdom, the first key is marked “freedom”. I am now free to choose how I live my life. I choose my master. Asking Jesus to be our Savior is not enough, we must make Him our Lord to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God. I choose death or life each day. I choose blessing or otherwise. I decide if today will be to the Glory of God or pursue selfish interest. I get to choose. When I do, it determines my destiny. I cannot choose one course and expect to become part of the Kingdom. There is no middle of the road or gray compromise. Is my relationship to Jesus Christ a hobby? Do I do it for my own benefit and blessing but nothing more investing what is left of my time and energy? Is my relationship a habit? Do I take Him for granted? Rather than pursuing Him do I just pencil Him in? Is He part of the schedule or a routine measure? Do I every even think about Him or just do what I do and have done traditionally? Is my life ordinary? Is it just mediocre? Where is His Glory? It is not for the hobbyist or habitual Christian. It is for the intentional believer whose one desire is to be one with Christ. To put everything second. To give God the surplus of our life trusting Him with all of it. To follow Him relentlessly and passionately from beginning to end, no matter how deep the valley or high the mountain – no matter who comes with us. Does your love affair with Jesus have passion? Do you think about Him most of the time? See we have made this thing called discipleship a production but its not. It is the process by which our life, entire existence, is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It is how we achieve a state of holiness. It is not a hobby. It is not a habit. It is a relationship with the One who thought we were to die for. He gave up everything for me. I must reconcile my life to Jesus Christ to live a holy life. I must use my freedom to bring every part of my life into agreement with His Word, His Way and His Will. It is personal. Am I willing to give everything to Jesus? Lord, examine my heart and evaluate my life. Reconcile everything to you, Lord.

Acts 17:28 (NLT) “For in Him we live and move and exist.”

Love You More

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Romans 6:15-18 (NLT) Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

As I began reading God’s Word this morning, two words weighed heavily on my heart. “Free will.” God has given us a free will and truthfully not many people are quite sure what it means and how to use it. Can I get an “AMEN” from those who have fallen and failed along the way? Why is freedom a good thing when I have no idea how to use it properly or what to do with it on a regular basis? It feels like a loaded gun in the hand of a toddler sometimes. Paul sums it up in Romans 7, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” Every Christian wants to please God. Every believer sins. It is our human nature’s desperate attempt to remain alive as it is crucified daily with Christ. How do I move from sinning more to godly living more? You must love Him more.

God’s Grace set us free from the Law. The Law set forth as rules and regulations of righteousness that our sinful nature balked at and quickly rebelled against. It came with measures of sacrifice and offerings to repent and make concession for our inability to remain righteous. We still keep falling short so Jesus came and sacrificed His Life. The reward was our absolute and total freedom from sin. All we have to do is accept it according to His Grace. Jesus did not come to condemn people but to set them free. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. Our suspect mind wants to know what the catch is. The offer is simply too good to be true. Well friend, that’s the God I serve. He is always better than I deserve. Doing more than I think possible. Loving me more than I could ever fathom. I have been set free to discover the capacity of God’s Love.

The choice is made evident in God’s Word. We can choose to be slaves or Children of God. It seems so clear cut, if only it were that easy. We become slaves to that which we choose to obey. What do you respond to more frequently, flesh or spirit? What we respond to most is the driving force of our life – knowingly or unknowingly. We must understand this covenant entered with God when Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord. To see that the Law has been satisfied and love is all that matters. Truly love is the only thing that matters once a soul is set free. No strings attached. No new set of laws, rules or regulations no matter how convincing religion may seem. Our sin was great but His Love much greater. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus so now what? We must learn to love Him wholeheartedly…to love Him more.

John 10:9-10 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Jesus used the representation of a gate to illustrate our new life in Him. Those who enter through Him will be saved. Not can be, but will be! “They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” Whoa! Wait a minute. They will come and go freely. Jesus was clear if He set us free than we are free indeed. What about all the guidelines and restrictions? They are still their but the “penalty” that takes us captive has been paid in full. By His Grace, I am saved through faith not anything else. I just have to believe. Do you believe today? Do you believe that you are free from the penalty of sin in Jesus Christ? We must understand what freedom is. Because Jesus came into the world to set us free, so that we could make a choice – there is no condemnation in our Savior. People condemn, convict and judge. Jesus came with one thing in mind – freedom.

When Jesus left the wilderness at being tempted by the enemy, He went to the synagogue as He was accustomed to doing on the Sabbath. The scroll was handed to Him and He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. If we use our freedom to exchange one captivity for another – we remain slaves. If we use our freedom to love, we become God’s Children. The choice belongs to us because in Christ there is freedom. The power of that freedom is love. To accept the unconditional love of the Father as true and valid though we cannot see Him it is completely attained by faith. Just as my husband cannot show me the love in his heart by taking the beating, throbbing mass out of his chest to hand it to me – my beloved does so by daily attempting to show me that he loves me more… More than any other woman, more than any other person, more than any other thing, more than any other pursuit or passion in his life – his whole heart belongs to me. What if that is what our freedom is all about? That is our freedom. When I decide to love Jesus more than anything else, and live like it.

John 8:31-32 (NLT) Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When Isaac was speaking his blessing over his son, Jacob, he said, “You will live by your sword, and you will serve your brother. But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.” Jacob had tricked his brother stealing his birthright and blessing. Taking advantage of the bond of brotherhood to the point of bondage, he was forced to flee from Esau’s wrath. Isaac gave his son sound wisdom. “When you decide to break free…” Are you ready to experience freedom? The kind of freedom promised in God’s Word. We do not have to force the door open or wrestle against the chains that have us bound. We must simple desire to be truly free. Jesus did the rest. We are free to come and go through the gate. We must only believe in Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd. (John 10:14-16) We choose to follow Him or stray away. Those who choose to walk with Him benefit from His Care and Protection. If we choose our own way, much like Jacob, we also decide when we will break free from the oppressive yoke of sin and shame.”

I Corinthians 1:7-9 (NLT) Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s Plan for our life is good containing a future and hope that is not defined by my goodness or ability to live a sinless life. It is secure in my decision to live by faith and to trust Him more and more as I pursue Jesus wholeheartedly. It is giving Him my love without coercion but a strong desire and commitment to know the Lover of my soul and love Him more. More than sin. More than this world. More than my rights. More than my pride. More than promotions. More than anything else. When I use my freedom to love Jesus and others – I will enjoy every spiritual blessing and the rich satisfying life that He promised. Love makes avoiding sin reasonable because we are not in bondage to our flesh. Our love for Jesus makes it possible. I am satisfied with my marriage. I am content with my husband’s love. It makes me want to honor him, respect him and love him more. How much more does this apply to Jesus?

What is your struggle today? Is it a person? Is it a recurring temptation that always leads to a bad choice? Is it disappointment? Is it lost hope? Is it pride? We all have daily struggles, temptations and tests to endure. God wants us to know how much He loves us. He has set us free by showing us far greater love so that we would learn to love Him more than all those other things in life. The Holy Spirit woos us with the choice fruit of righteousness so that it feeds our spirit along the way with things like love, joy, and peace that cannot be found in this life but well up in us from the inside. He prospers our soul which was once headed for death with new life day by day, season by season, until we reach the end and step into forever with Jesus. I have to believe that God’s Love is greater for me than that which I currently show love, affection and attention to more. The thing that compromises my love and trust in Jesus is that which is robbing me of my blessing. The Lord withholds no good thing from us. Our inability to accept, live in and thrive in freedom keeps blessings and promises just out of reach. Jesus loves us more. When the first priority of our life is to love Him more – those dreams and desires will become attainable by faith and confident hope in His Great Love.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NLT) Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.

For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son. True love gives it’s all. Withholding nothing. All of me for all of you. We cannot be one with the Lord if we do not commit all of our love, faith and hope to Him in exchange for all that He is. His Love seals our heart to His Own Heart. Love is freedom to choose who we love and how it is expressed. I want my husband to know that I love him more. I want my children to know I love them more. I want my friends and church to know I love them, too. But does Jesus know that I love Him more… that is the secret of success as a believer. When I love Jesus more than sin, I will stop doing those things I do not want to do. When I have experienced God’s Love testing all of its parameters it is clear that it never runs out for me. I cannot overstep it, outlast it, or move far away from it. It is pursuing me. Unfailing love that I am incapable of but am offered every day with the new mercy when it arrives. Nothing can separate me from God’s Love other than my decision to reject it. Even in bad choices, God’s Love remains, His Grace sufficient and His Power available to me. I cannot shake off, sin way or kill God’s Love for me. How about my love for Him? Do I love Jesus more today? It is the very thing that empowers our choice called freedom. When we use our freedom to love Him more, we will have the rich and satisfying that the Lord has purposed for us!

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Joy of Obedience

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Psalm 119:1-3 (NLT) Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

Our oldest son was a challenging kid. High energy and very impulsive, he was a handful to say the least. He loved to find the line and cross it. He struggled with obedience and the household rules always intent on overstepping boundaries. When he entered high school, he joined the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) which was offered as a course. I really didn’t think too much of it as he had always been interested in history and military. His reading collection demonstrated his interest and his choice of programs made it clear that such things were fascinating to him. My father is a Vietnam veteran so he also engaged him as well in things of that nature. I did not link his interest to his purpose until he came to us his junior year to express interest in enlistment. Thank God for the grace given to us as parents. It seems that wisdom comes with age so the first kids produce it while the younger children benefit from it. I honestly laughed.

When our boy took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, he scored off the charts. On his first time, cold, his score was impressive enough to earn the attention of recruiters. Even though I knew he had done exceptional on the test, enlistment was a total commitment. He felt like this was his purpose in life to defend his country and the people in it while upholding the constitution. Please understand it was never my intention to dash his dream, but at this point, he was barely making it through his school. Not only that, our buddy had a problem with authority. He struggled with basic obedience such as making his bed. He ignored house rules and curfew, but how expressed a deep heartfelt desire to become a soldier who must respect authority and become radically obedient. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. He did go on to join the military and still serves in the National Guard today. He has also joined the brotherhood of law enforcement. I am proud of him. Truthfully, I was proud of him before but now I understand more fully the quality that promotes obedience in life – it is called purpose.

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey His Laws AND search for Him with all their hearts. Jeremiah 29:11-13 eludes to the very same. God has a plan for our life that includes a future (here) and hope (eternity). The catch is that those who desire such an existence and promise must seek Him wholeheartedly. Just as our son had purpose in his heart at a very young age, we all are born with purpose in our heart. God placed it there along with eternity. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) It is in the pursuit of one’s purpose that satisfaction is produced. Here is the catch: “they do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.”

So our son decided that he would enlist and did so his junior year in high school. The Army at that time offered a split option enlistment. He would go to basic training during the summer before his senior year, come home to graduate, and then finish training before immediately being deployed. I was skeptical. I have to admit, but something changed in our kid that summer as his potential started to become his passion. Upon his return, he carried out each task with his heart set on the future. His grades somewhat improved. His character was changing. During a counseling appointment, it was discovered that to graduate he would have to have almost a perfect GPA that semester. School had been a challenge for years. He graduated with just one B on his report card. Purpose releases potential in our life. When we discover our purpose and begin to walk in it our life begins to yield the potential locked away. It is our motivation. It becomes our passion and we pursue it. What is your purpose? What is the promise of God not yet evident in your life? Partial obedience will never allow us to walk with purpose.

Psalm 112:1 (NLT) Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.

God’s Purpose and Plan for my life is different than yours. It is the calling on my life. You have one too. The Body of Christ has many members each one diverse and individual. The human body is evidence of that design. Each part has its own function that keeps our organs working, limbs moving and maintains overall health. If one part of my body becomes diseased or dysfunctional the entire design is handicapped. The purpose God has placed inside of you benefits the Body of Christ and you.

The blessings of obedience are listed in Deuteronomy 28 and Psalm 112 as well as many other places in God’s Word. The most obvious is joy. How is it possible to “delight” in obeying his commands when they challenge us each day? There are benefits to obedience such as provision, protection, prosperity, promotion and many other things detailed in God’s Word. In order to enlist in the Kingdom of God, one must believe that God is good. His Love is unfailing. His Grace enough. His Plan perfect. Hope secured. Faith is required to achieve one’s purpose. Many claim to have it but few will make the conscious choice to walk in it. Those who do will find joy in the face of danger, obstacles, trials and even pain. Purpose gives way to passion that yields our person to Jesus Christ. When I am convinced that God is good and His Way perfect, I will find my purpose in Him along with every promise.

Romans 4:16 (NLT) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.

The promise of God is received by faith. The idea of obedience is overshadowed by ignorance. Obedience is not required. However, those who believe will obey. Why? They believe in the God of Abraham who “brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.” If you have faith in God the evidence is obedience. Grace is sufficient in our weakness to release the power of God in us. This occurs not because we choose to willfully sin due to human weakness but because we have strived to obey God’s Word and fallen short due to human weakness. His Grace is sufficient to bridge the gap between my inability and God’s Perfect Plan for my life.

Our faith allows us to hope when there is no reason to hope. To believe based on God’s Word backed by all His Power and Authority so that no matter how things look now I can press on passionately and persistently until purpose and promise come to pass. It makes life worth living. It changes who I am into God created me to be. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s Promise. It took his whole life pursing God to find His Purpose, Isaac. God then required Abraham to make a choice. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises…are you?

Psalm 37:18-19 (NLT) Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough.

No matter what one’s potential in life – if we obey the Lord it will produce His Promise and Prosperity in our life. He gave you that purpose and it is directly linked to our willingness to obey. Hence the psalmist prayer, “Restore to me the joy of salvation and make me willing to obey.” In I Samuel 15:22-23, God had appointed Saul as King of Israel and things were going good. That is until Saul chose partial obedience over willing obedience. What happened? God removed His Ordination and David would become the new king. Why? God views partial disobedience as rebellion. The gray area or middle of the road called compromise is a manmade creation made to make us feel better despite our shortcomings and inability to always do the right thing. Grace is made for those who desire God and yet still fall short. Saul did not obey the Word of the Lord and the Lord told the prophet to tell him, “Listen, obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshipping idols.”

The act of willing obedience to God is connected with one’s ability to have enough faith to trust the Lord. Not when I can make a way, but when there is no way and I still choose to trust and obey God. I Kings 17 tells of a woman and her family in the midst of famine. The prophet comes requesting a meal. Luck would have it she was about to prepare their last meal. There was no more food. She had decided to give up. Elijah did not thwart her plan but told her to go ahead but first…”make a little bread for me…” Obedience. She obeyed. God promised her that if she fed His Servant honoring the Lord with her obedience that there would “always be flour and olive oil left in your containers” to last until rain produced new crops again. She didn’t give much. She gave what she had to the Lord first. Obedience. The Bible says that God was true to His Word and she was well supplied. This was not the end of her story but only the beginning, when her son became sick. He finally died. Elijah came to her. She was obviously hurt and grieving. The prophet took the boy and God returned Him to life. She had faith in God. She trusted the Lord. She obeyed Him fully in the smallest measure so when it came time to trust Him for her son. She had the faith to bring resurrection life to her family. Our obedience to God leads us to everlasting.

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT) 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.

God created you with purpose. You have far greater potential within you than you will ever express according to your own ability and strength. It is our connection with God through the Blood of Jesus Christ that makes sacrifices unnecessary. Our position as Children of God secure in order to have all God promised – we must simply obey. Willing obedience that understands any other way is rebellion and stubbornness stagnates our purpose within us. There is purpose in every single step taken no matter if it results in good things or bad times because God promises to turn every detail into something for His Glory and our good. Obedience is evidence of burgeoning faith that dares to trust God in each step. To try His Way. Decide to have His Will. To live according to His Word. Not because we have to, but because we want to. Love will always add passion to obedience. When God’s Love consumes every fear, doubt and worry so boldly each day is an exercise of discipline to walk closer to the Lord than ever before. To know that sin separates us from Him so we will work to avoid it. To know that my full potential becomes purpose when connected with the Kingdom is all I need to press, push and pursue Him in each step in each day. Lord, give me a willing heart. I want to be obedient in all things. I don’t want to be disqualified but my promise, potential and purpose fully realized according to Your Will, Your Way and Your Word. In Jesus Name – this is my humble prayer today!

Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT) Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

To Be A Champion

Confetti and trophy

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Can I encourage you a little bit today? To all those who are tired, weary, and on the verge of giving up, can I offer a little insight today? Does this race of faith seem just a little too long? Is endurance a longer word than you thought? Is persistence requiring patience you just do not have? Do not give up. Stay right where you are. You can be a champion. If Jesus Christ lives within you and eternity is etched on your heart, there is no fall to far, failure to fatal or loss to bad for you to be the victorious overcomer that the Lord has called you to be. In fact, champions are not winners all the time. Yes, you heard me correctly. It takes losses to be the lessons. It takes weakness to find new strength. It takes humility to overcome the pride that wages war against our flesh. You must breakdown fat to find muscle. You must have a broken heart to be saved.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us. What is slowing you down today? What is tripping you up? What is the obstacle that you named Goliath too big to overcome? Goliath came crashing down with a little stone marked faith planted square between the eyes. What are you hurling at that mountain refusing to move? Are you being tossed to and fro by the wind, waves and storm swirling around you? Endurance is needed for athletes to become champions. Persistence is the pays it forward for them to overcome losses to obtain the big win. Champions overcome failure to grab hold of victory. Failure does not make you a loser. Never trying again is what labels quitters. Jesus is our example. He was not a failure. The Lord never quit, but that didn’t mean in human form it was not a temptation. Jesus is our champion. He gives us the ability to be a champion, too!

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” What makes Jesus our champion? Dying on the Cross did not give Him that honor. If Jesus had died for our sin, and remained in the grave – He would not be a champion. What made Jesus our Champion is the fact that after He died – He did not stay in the grave but came walking out with the keys to death and the grave firmly in His Hand! This is our encouragement today. To fail a test, lose our way, or give in to sin now and again does not take away our potential to be overwhelmingly victorious in life. Grace would not be necessary if this were the case. God would not give us new mercy each day. Renewal, restoration and revival would not be promised if one pitfall was all it took to take away our victory. Those who endure to the end will be saved. They will obtain the crown of righteousness offered by our Champion – Jesus Christ. Somebody needs to hear that today. You are not defined by your past, your today, your failures, your shortcomings, your weakness or even devastating heartbreak – what makes you a champion is when you decide despite all things I am going get back up and do it again.

I Corinthians 9:25-27(NLT) 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.

Champions realize their purpose and capitalize on potential. Perseverance is an act of discipline. It is to push our mind, soul and body past the natural limitations of our flesh and decide that faith is our primary goal. Faith is never a natural thing but always dependent on the supernatural. It is all about what we cannot see, the highly unlikely outcome and even the impossible that is promised to us in God’s Word. It is the thing that makes us send away our Hagar and Ishmaels because God promised us Isaac. It is the determination to put away the things of this world to make room for His Kingdom. All athletes are disciplined in training. They set a goal in their heart long ago that is not dependent on their team but solely defined by a heart that refuses to quit and sees the glory of their goal. We must decide as believers what our true purpose is in Jesus Christ. What has He called you to do? What is your calling? Calling is not what you feel necessarily qualified to do. Purpose defines the potential of our life. It is in the commitment of our natural life to godly purpose in each step of every day that will bring it to life as we discipline our mind, soul and body to keep persevering and never give up on what God is doing in us and Christ died for us to accomplish.

Matthew 26:36-41 (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? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

I love that the Lord inspired this passage in the Word of God. We need to see the humanness of Christ in order to understand that Jesus is truly a valid example. He saw the future. He knew the agony not only of the physical nature of crucifixion, but the torture of each sin to be laid upon Him in that moment. His Father, God, was going to turn His Face from His Son. Every wretched disease would soon leave a strip down His Back. Jesus was God incarnate but His Flesh was real just like ours. His Body would feel every terrible torture that would be endured to set us free. He asked God, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken from me.” Jesus knows what it feels like to come to the end of self. He knows the feeling of weakness due to the oppression of flesh. It doesn’t matter how willing our spirit is to follow in His Footsteps, the weakness of our body will always try to stop us.

There are many athletes who must overcome weakness, pain and injury to become a champion. It is not the absence of such things that afford them the title but their mindset that no matter what they will give their all. They are persistent in training and strengthening of their body investing countless hours in training. They give up time with their family, friends, hobbies, and just loafing around to preparation. They endure insult and injury to play the game they love so much. Pain doesn’t stop them – they push through it willing to pay the price when it’s over. Champions see the potential and prize ahead of them and refuse to give up. They may be taken out of the game but a true champion will never leave the game willingly.

2 Corinthians 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.

God has filled each human heart with purpose. It is marked eternity and labeled with the promise “made beautiful for its own time”. Champions pursue purpose. The potential to be the best is the drive and motivation of their heart. Where do you spend your time? What is the prevailing thought you strive for? What is life all about to you? When our passion, pursuit and purpose becomes the Kingdom it will change the pathway of our life. The Light in our heart is His Glory. It shines brightly in our brokenness and weakness as death gives way to life in us. With each step of faith – our purpose becomes more evident which means our opponent sets his sight on overtaking it. Nobody wants to play the loser. They want to play the champion to take away the crown of victory.

The enemy comes like a thief to steal, kill and destroy. His onslaught more pervasive when purpose begins to breakthrough sin, shame, doubt and disbelief. The moment you believe that you will overcome – is the second you gain the enemy’s full attention. He is going to pressure you to give up and attempt to perplex you by filling your mind with lies tempting you to stop the nonsense. A stealth predator it is not uncommon for him to wait until you are alone, feeling somewhat isolated, and vulnerable to try to separate you from others. Champions are hunted. When they get knocked down, they get back up. Endurance, perseverance, persistence and discipline cause flesh to suffer but with each conquest new life is produced in us. These are the qualities that define champions. Though they are pursued they do not stop because they see the prize and desire it more than anything.

John 16:1 (NLT) “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.

John 16:33 (NLT) “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

These are the words of Jesus before He ventured to the Cross. Before He felt the coldness of death and solitude of the grave. These were his parting words before marching straight into hell and taking back the Keys to the Kingdom which was about to hand to you. Jesus knew His Purpose. He was a champion. He won the victory over death and the grave. Super Bowl Sunday is just a little over a week away. We watched the division championships last weekend. I noticed that during the presentation of the trophy – it was not the most valuable player of the game, the quarterback or the coach who received it but in each case an elderly gentleman. The announcer would then acknowledge them as the owner of the team. He was not the one who engaged in the battle on the field, took a single hit, caught a pass or even kicked a field goal. He is the one who paid the price so each one of those players could pursue their passion and achieve their purpose.

Jesus paid it all. He overcame the world so our faith would be worth something. Our purpose is faith that produces such confident hope that we can give up pursuing lesser things and overcome in all things. My life “in Christ” can achieve its purpose. My heart will satisfied when eternity is mine. Until that time, I must remain in Christ who is my champion. I must follow His Example. He never quit. Jesus never gave up. He endured suffering, temptation, isolation and even death for me to have victory over all these things. It is up to me if I will join in. Will I choose life over death? Will I pick blessing over the curse? Will I let the Light of His Love show through my broken heart, dead dreams and failures until His Glory overtakes my life? I cannot give up and be a champion. I may lose a few, but I win it all if I persevere never losing faith but always reaching for hope.

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Just to be clear, Jesus came to be a champion. He would secure victory over sin, death and the grave once and for all. What was the joy awaiting Him when Jesus stepped down from His Throne carefully placing His Crown on the seat to come to this world? He had all of Heaven. The only thing missing was you and me. He came to this earth for just one thing. His Treasure and Special Possession. He came for us. He left everything to have us with Him forever. You and me. Ordinary people who fall, fail and stray just about every day – but Jesus wanted us. He desired us above all things and gave up His Life to have us. Will I do the same? Will you?

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ became a champion for us because He loves us. He was committed to love us even to the death, but that wasn’t long enough so He overcame death to give us a crown of righteousness so we could live as champions with Him forever. Are you fulfilling your purpose? Do you know the true potential of your life? Jesus did and He came up out of the grave to give you the power to complete it. The rest is up to you. When you feel like you have fallen too far, you haven’t the Lord is there to pick you up. When you think you have gone too far, His Spirit will lead you right back. When you wonder if it is worth it, ask Jesus because He sure thought you were. Choose to persist, persevere, pursue and prevail in every situation because in our weakness His Power is perfect. If you don’t give up but endure by faith until the end, you will win every time. Discipline is painful but defeat is agonizing. Celebrate each victory no matter how small. It is one step closer to winning it all. You are a Champion. Jesus lives in you. Don’t give up on victory today. Hold tight to your faith for it is the key. Be confident in Your Hope because God hasn’t given up on you. The best is yet to come if you believe.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.