My Holiday List

My Holiday List

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It’s funny how things work. I was visiting a local discount store the other day entering through the Lawn and Garden Department through the automatic doors into a winter wonderland. How did that happen so quickly? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Surveying the Christmas trees and contemplating going back to a fake tree, it hit me. The holidays were here and I was fighting the blues or on the verge of depression. My poor children will attest that I am not very festive during such times. I have had to fight my entire life to find peace during this time. It begins as a mad rush to meet the expectations of so many and time which already seems short so exhausted. As I walked through the Christmas décor as if to challenge my emotions to rise up but nothing. I celebrated my small victory. It would be short-lived. Talking with another ministry leader in our church and our pastor, she began detailing my responsibilities during the holidays. Decorate the church, provide food for a fellowship, host a women’s meeting, and my mind checked out somewhere after that. Suddenly all those emotions came flooding back, I no longer wanted to decorate even our tree, celebrate the season or engage in the holiday rush. I just wanted to disappear and see everyone in January.

Now I could dig into the vast depths of such an emotional shutdown and bore you with details, I love to celebrate the Lord’s Birth. I love to worship Him during this miraculous and wonderful season of hope. But truly we all have our ghosts of Christmas past, just as Ebenezer has heralded. I don’t really care to share these things but rather offer a light given to me from the Word of God today. The Word is the weapon of our Spirit to kill the lie of the enemy, to subdue and take captive rebellious thoughts, and to overcome the bondage of expectations other than those God has for us. His Spirit takes them and uses them to combat our troublesome flesh that longs for control but uses it against us.

I read I Thessalonians 5:18 yesterday and then again today. The overture of emotions and fight for my peace is keeping me locked in this selection of scriptures. I sense that maybe they might be useful for you as well. Setting out to sermonize my symptoms, I found that many people actually suffer from seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression largely from unrealistic expectations, financial pressure, and excessive commitments. Add in to the mix – that there is less sunlight which is known to change human behavior. With less sunlight, people are prone to eat more and sleep more. With such insight – I give you my new holiday list.

This year my holiday goals are simple. I will rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. I will know and do the Will of God for me which are these three things. End of list. I am challenging myself not to make a list this year and give up control of all the details. I release myself from unrealistic expectations because the Greater is He who lives in me does not make me a super human. He is the Greatest Thing about Christmas. I must keep my focus clearly set on Him. It is His Birthday that we celebrate. He brought hope to a dying people of new life, rebirth, renewal and full restoration. This is God’s Will for me. I am challenged to do His Will this holiday season as I strive to the rest of the year with greater success.

I Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NIV) Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

The Holy Spirit is our helper. The Lord gave Him to us because of our weakness. To plant seeds of faith deep into the crevices of even the most broken of hearts to grow and prosper our soul according to His Will. God’s Plan for our life does not change or stop because one chooses to disengage. The Lord is always working in us to fulfill His Work in us. I am quite sure it grieves His Spirit when the enemy is able to convince us otherwise.

In a season meant for fellowship and celebration, he pulls out an arsenal of lies, confusion and discord to wreak havoc on God’s People as we celebrate our Savior the annihilator of sin. When Jesus arrived, the enemy was put on notice. When He made it through this life as a sinless man to sacrifice His Life on the Cross, death and the grave were rendered ineffective. Those who believe in Jesus Christ have nothing to lose and everything to gain. During a time when many people go to church for the first, one and only time of the year, what better way to hinder God’s Work than to plague his people with fear, anxiety, stress, depression, and dim the Light of God’s Love that is love, joy, peace and absolute freedom.

We must strive to hold what is good and reject every kind of evil especially that which plays on our mind, will and emotions. It is a personal choice to rejoice always. It is personal commitment to pray continually. It is an absolute necessity to be thankful in all circumstances for that is the Will of God for us.

I Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV) May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

In Luke 2:14 the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His Favor rests.” God’s Favor belongs to us. He gave it to us. He also has given us peace. Peace that can silence the demands of the world and give us absolute rest during the busiest most overwhelming season of the year. The secret is found these verses today. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless in the coming of Christ. Sometimes “blame” comes hidden in the expectations of others that we try to carry rather than fully entrusting our spirit, soul and body to Christ. It is the lie that if we do not meet the expectations of those around us to “their” full satisfaction that we somehow have “failed the Lord. God’s Will for my life is listed clearly to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. I do not read anywhere that it is to make everyone else happy and content but to receive and live in the full satisfaction and contentment of Christ. The Lord is faithful. Our faithfulness in Jesus Christ gives us good fruit to satisfy others much more than a “perfect” holiday that is simply not possible.

John 14:27 (NIV) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I offer you the same gift that I am challenging myself to hold tight to this holiday season. The Peace of God has been given to us. It is His Gift upon his departure so that we can live completely resting on the faithfulness of God and His Promises through Jesus Christ – His Gift to us. Do not let the enemy have your joy. Do not give up your prayer time which is communication with the One who loves us the most and expects the least. Be thankful even when challenged with discontentment, dissatisfaction and unmet expectations that this world will readily offer throughout the next month. Gratitude will always change your attitude. The enemy wants to steal away this season of celebration of our Savior’s Birth. He wants to make you doubt the Hope found in His Arrival. Don’t let him. Use the Spirit of the Lord within you to rally against such thoughts and unfruitful considerations. Greater is He that is in you! You are an overcomer even when it is self that is the adversary. My prayer for us today is this:

Romans 15:13 (NLT) I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you (me) completely with joy and peace because you (I) trust in him. Then you (I) will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Refuge on the Mountain

Refuge on the Mountain

Psalm 57:1-3 (NLT) Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by. I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me. He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me. Interlude My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

David was fleeing Saul’s wrath hiding in a cave carved in the side of a mountain. He wrote these words to the Lord as his soul sought solace from fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety. David asked for God’s Mercy. Compassion and forgiveness in his moment of deep distress. He longed for God’s Protection to be hidden beneath the shadow of the Lord’s wings until danger was gone. David was asking for peace in this moment as his heart ran away with his head. Confidence in the Lord goes as deep as our trust. When we no longer are confidence, it becomes more difficult to respond to Him rather than reacting to our circumstances. But then something happens, David changes his tune. He says, I cry out to God Most High. David is nudging God back on the throne of his wavering heart. He declares that the Lord will fulfill His Purpose for me. Trust in the Lord that no longer leans on understanding is evidence of faith.

I Samuel 22:1-2 (NIV) David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

Psalm 57 was written during this time, David was hiding in a cave. I find it interesting that he was surrounded by many who “in distress, or in debt, or discontented.” Misery loves company. David was in “hiding” surrounded by four hundred men – how ironic. There are times in life, though not alone, one may be lost in the crowd. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Fear is powerful. Fear of God is a respect that generates confidence in His Power and Authority in our life. Trust is evidence of such respect. Our ability to put the substance of our life in His Hands knowing with all confidence that He is worthy of it. However, fear in the negative form is a dangerous weapon wielded by the enemy to take out our faith and confidence in the Lord.

Fear is defined by some as “false evidence appearing real”. It is the lie of the enemy made of twisted truth and empty taunts that the heart decides to hold on to. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Like any weapon, truth must be used properly to be effective. We must know God’s Word to fortify our heart. God has not given us the spirit of fear and we must be diligent in not taking hold of it. The enemy uses isolation to keep us caught up in his lies and empty threats.

I Samuel 22:5 (NLT) But the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

What was the turning point? The place in Psalm 55 when fear turns to trust…it was the obedience of David to leave the cave and go to Judah. Judah means “praise”. I wonder if sometimes we get so caught up in the lie of the enemy that our freedom found in truth becomes restricted. David was surrounded by men who were in distress, debt, and discouraged. God was moving David from their midst into a place of praise. Praise relays confidence in the Lord over our present and momentary troubles and trials in life. It is human nature to commiserate but it is willing obedience to let confidence in God’s Word change our conversation. Grumbling and complaining about the “mountain” before us does nothing to remove it. It only keeps it firmly in place. We are not cursing our situation but telling the world that God has somehow lost His Power, Authority and Sovereignty which is simply not true. Such words are allegiance to the Father of Lies rather than the Giver of Life.

I Kings 19:8-10 (NIV) “There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Elijah found himself also hiding in a cave. Jezebel had threatened to kill him since he killed all her false prophets and made sport of her gods before all the people. Now the people were praising God, but the man of God was hiding. The Lord asks him frankly, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Now before you cast judgment on the poor prophet, how many times do we do the exact same thing? Recount the trauma of our trail, the details of our trial, the height and weight of the giant, and the impossibility of our situation. We do it all the time as if God is not with us and Christ does not live in us. As though, He did not create us with a plan and purpose or go before us or hedge us in from behind with unfailing love and goodness. It is important to note that sometimes our heart betrays us even in our prayer life. Do you spend time talking about the size, shape and density of the mountain or the vastness of our God? Trust in the Lord considers the Greatness and Almightiness of God over the stature of the enemy.

Psalm 142:5-7 (NIV) I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

More words of David hiding in the cave in the side of the mountain, “I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Do not mistake the invisibility of God to be His Absence. The Lord is with you. His Goodness is for the land of the living. (Psalm 27:14) Do not dismiss Him simply because there is a mountain before you. The mountain has a place of refuge called His Presence. It will take a lifetime to overcome our doubts, eliminate fear, overcome anxiety, silence stress and cease to worry confidently trusting the Lord. It is possible to those who seek the Lord to be their refuge and strength. God will set you free with His Truth. You must praise Him on the mountain so seeds of faith will begin to break the foundation of doubt and give way to willing obedience that offers the fruit of the Spirit to others rather than bitter roots.

One final word as I close today, choose companions on the journey over the mountain carefully. The righteous will gather about me because of Your Goodness to me. When David fled to the cave, who came first? Those who were defeated, distressed, indebted and discontent. What did the lone prophet tell him? Go to Judah. Find your praise. Praise changes the situation by softening our heart to receive the Truth. Praise is the salve that heals a broken heart. It reminds our soul to trust the One who loved us first and who loves us most. Surround yourself in such times with righteous friends not miserable commiserates. We need those friends of Proverbs 27:17 – “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 12:26 says that the righteous choose their friends carefully.

Be encouraged today. God is with you. He is for you. His Love never left you. He is only a whisper away. For those who trust Him, the mountain will be moved. To those who are committed to loving God and seeking His Presence – they will find refuge and strength in peace even when all hell is breaking loose around them. Be a friend of God first. Choose your close companions carefully. Live in Judah it is the place called praise.

Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV) You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

 

Adjusting the Sails

Adjusting the Sails

Philippians 4:7-9 (NLT) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

My attitude will always influence my actions. My mindset motivates my methods. My perception forms the premise of reality in which I live. I must take responsibility for the reactions and responses in my life but thanks be to God I have a helper. It is human nature to react to the things that happen around us. The conditions, circumstances and situations that arise around us force us to choose what happens next although one may feel helpless this is not the case. The outcome of the trial and test is determined before the flame grows hotter. We must become intentional in giving our attention to things worthwhile and beneficial rather than dwelling on the variables over which there is no control or ability to change.

“Though you cannot control the wind, you can adjust your sails.” The author of this statement is unknown but that does not invalidate the wisdom in the words. Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” More wise words that can change our thinking and adaptability in life. We are not called to conform to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind which tells me that I have the power to change inside of me. Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. In other words, fix your eyes on Jesus. I wonder today how many things would have turned out differently if this principle was applied earlier in my life. I do not regret the events and occurrences that brought to the place I am right now – I am more reflecting on how I can respond differently and in a more positive way futuristically.

Proverbs 4:23-27 (NLT) Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

As a kid, I was in a gymnastics class. My favorite event was the balance beam. As I would walk the straight line of the slightly rounded yet unyielding beam, my feet would mold around it an attempt to stay upright and not fall. I remember the more that I focused on the four inch course about four feet off the ground – it was inevitable that I would begin to teeter back and forth. But if I focused on something across the gym, I could right myself. It was only when my attention became fixed on falling that I felt the slick surface of the mat. I wonder how many times the distractions of life lure our attention from the only one who is constant and unyielding in our life. Jesus does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The author and finisher of faith will complete the good work that He has begun in you and bring every seed to harvest.

We must guard our heart above all else. It determines, not only the course of our spiritual life, but also our natural life. To learn to respond to the Lord, His Word, His Way and His Will is to align our lives with something better than we could ever produce for ourselves. To remain focus on fixing us rather than fixing our situation or those around us will inevitably benefit and bless our life in the future. Look straight ahead. Some days it feels like a mind field with explosions of problems and problem people who are bent on distracting, detouring or even maybe destroying us. The Lord does not give any credence to the giants we are facing as He has overcome them all. It is our trust in His Ability to bring us in safe harbor that sets our heart and mind on Him and not the troubles we are facing.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NLT) For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Human nature reacts to the temporary troubles that arise in our life. It is the flesh that does not like to be uncomfortable, inconvenienced or even lose control. The condition of our heart in response to the flesh that determines the outcome. Christ lives in us. His Will, Way and Word contradict our mind and body so in order to overcome – He must be the ruler of our body, mind and spirit. His Way must become our way. The value of Christ in us determines our attitude and actions each day. Do I value the Spirit of God in me? Do I understand the investment that Christ has made in me? Do I know what I am actually worth? I will not have to prove myself to others once my faith becomes confident home in the God who lives in me. It is then that I learn to trust Him over the influence and indications of my life. It is in His Kingdom I will invest because it will be the place of the greatest return. This world has nothing for me. I am a Child of the King. I do not feed from the crumbs under His Table but feast with Him in the presence of my enemies.

“Walk by faith not by sight…” seems like such a tall order until one begins to see the Grace and Glory of God manifest in changed outcomes. The promise is greater than our problem in every situation but if our faith is focused on the problem it will hinder our promise. We will give power to the problems allowed to take precedence in our mind. Examining our heart and mind is essential. Weeding out the thoughts and ideas contrary to God’s Word will help. We must feed and fortify faith with the Bread of Life and Living Water in order to strengthen our spirit man to keep our flesh under tight control. We must allow the Lord to lift our perception of life to His Vantage Point. His Ways and Thoughts always higher than our own temporary and immediate thinking. Lord, fix my eyes on the unseen today. Allow my faith to be strengthened by Your Word and let your Spirit work through me to weed out any and all thoughts not consistent with your Will and Way for my life.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (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.

I wonder what our life might be like if each day our primary goal was to focus our eyes on Jesus Christ. To consciously and intentionally decide that it doesn’t matter what happens, I am setting my full attention on the Lord. We are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses. The crowd is full on many personalities. Some cheering us on, others trying to dissuade us, and some who just want to see you fail who will continually throw things at us trying to make us fall, but they are all just the crowd. They are all just people. The same ones Jesus died for, loves and constantly pursues. They do not have any impact or influence on my relationship with Jesus Christ. They cannot steal my blessings, take my promises or stop my potential – unless I give them the power to do so. Instead, I fix my eyes on Jesus. He is my Champion. He initiates and perfects faith within me and all I must do is stay aligned with Him. All those weights and heavy burdens of mine now belong to Him. He is perfecting all that concerns me. He is making good of every detail of my life. Nothing and no one can separate me from the Love of God. Sin no longer keeps us separated. When I focus on these things and not the temporary trials and troubles in life, it seems that the weight of such burdens melt away and it is smooth sailing up ahead. I love that I have this hope to anchor my soul. Lord, help me to remember today and always that I cannot control the wind, but I can adjust and align my sails with You!

Psalm 107:29-31 (NLT) He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

Fugitive Heart

Fugitive Heart

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I should have seen it coming. You have to practice what you preach. I have been touting forgiveness to my teenager for a week. So why be surprised when I am faced with a situation that requires forgiving someone who is not sorry. Of course, I would be presented with a large portion of crow. Shocked and dismayed…I know in that moment the enemy chuckled. I have to make a choice. One I do not want to make…will I choose to be angry with this person who has offended me so or will I quickly forgive and move on. As I stumble over my flesh realizing that I am not as far in the race of faith as I once thought, I begin to recite all the scripture I know about forgiveness. It is a command not a suggestion. It is beneficial and crucial yet critical to my pride and fatal to my flesh. How can I just let this go? It is wrong. It is hateful. It is mean spirited. It is judgmental. Tears of frustration fill my eyes as I am sitting on the outside while standing on the inside. I must forgive the person as though my life depends upon it or risk becoming who they are in this moment sitting in the same bitterness, caught up in the past, held captive in hatred, and imprisoned by the wrath so wrapped up in their heart. What do you do when you just can’t get over it?

I am “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing one another in love.” Oh my goodness, this is so hard sometimes. People are people. We are imperfect yet called by a perfect Savior and flawless God to walk in His Image and live by His Example which is love, mercy and grace in all things towards all people. I would love to fall back on the fact that I am not God or selfless like Jesus but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Jesus lives inside of me. He is my new nature. His Spirit works to nurture, develop, and cultivate good fruit in the barrenness that once possessed me. I want to bear His Fruit. To be a good steward. To be a vessel from which a good harvest overflows…but my heart is angry and emotions all stirred up. I find that the fertile and broken heart is not always void of rocks and hard spots that need my attention. I am called to longsuffering but would like nothing more than to make someone suffer by my harsh words, mad retort, or not so gentle rebuffing. The Spirit of God says, “Let it go!” My flesh says, “Not so fast…” The inner turmoil begins.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

How low can you go? It’s not a limbo term anymore but a question for my inner person. The one who wants to be like Christ but struggles with human weakness. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Love them. I do love them or maybe I should say in this moment of anger that I did. Friends can become enemies quickly in the shadow of hurt, harsh words, betrayal or even a simple misunderstanding. I tell my kids to ignore the offenses of others as I trip over my own tongue today. “Don’t make none and there won’t be none” has been my mantra that now hangs like a heavy mantle around my neck as it tightens into a noose.

2 Corinthians 2:9-11 (NKJV) For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Are you harboring unforgiveness in a fugitive heart today? Caught up in anger that is burning into hatred? Do you feel that an injustice has been done and you deserve retribution? Vengeance is mind says the Lord but is your flesh rallying to take the upper hand? Did you know that the enemy of our soul uses such a weapon to take advantage of us because we are ignorant of his devices? Satan wants to trick you into not forgiving so he can steal something from you today. He wants to get you caught up in words or tangled in lies so he can rob you of the love, joy and peace so heavily invested in you by Christ. Is it working?

“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive.” It doesn’t matter how wrong the other person was or how right you are, you become an enemy of their soul by choosing unforgiveness over longsuffering. The Light that shines within us grows slightly dimmer until it is snuffed out by our unwillingness to let a trespass go in the same sea of forgetfulness that our sin drifted away on. The Salt of our spirit becomes tasteless and useless when our season brings about hardness in the mine called our heart. I must forgive others simply because I am forgiven. What I bind on the earth is bound in heaven and that which I loose is free to go. (Matthew 18:18) When I shackle someone in their trespass, I am no different than Saul who persecuted Christians and murdered them for their belief. Lord, I must forgive. Teach me to be longsuffering. Help me to remain free and loose others from the expectation I have placed on them.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV) Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

There may be a more significant meaning to seventy times seven which many commentaries can elaborate on but for this particular instance let’s say it means 490 times. Can you think of anyone you have forgiven that many times consistently without throwing the towel in or walking away? Truly forgiveness but become an infinite quality in our Christian character be reflect the grace of God given to us. But how do we continually forgive other people and not become a human doormat? That’s the fear isn’t it? The idea of losing our identity in the giving of our life to others. Maybe that is exactly what becoming like Christ is all about? Giving up our identity to be a true reflection of who He is and what He has done for us. I know that Jesus has forgiven me more than 490 times and the count is steadily rising. Forgiveness is a commitment to love others more than ourselves. Jesus say that there is no greater love than to lay our life down for a friend. I don’t think that the Lord intended for us to have any enemies but one. The Kingdom is built of men and women bound together in unity and love. The enemy seeks to destroy the Kingdom beginning with the bitter root marked unforgiveness.

Luke 7:46-48 (NKJV) You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

As my heart softens in the Lord today, I am reminded of the woman who entered a room to face the judgmental glares of the Sanhedrin because she wanted to anoint Jesus with oil. Jesus forgave her of her sins and named her an example of one who has been forgiven much. To whom little is forgiven the same loves little. I have been forgiven much and sometimes I forget that when faced with an offense. I choose to be offended or hurt and throw up a wall around my heart. But that only limits me, I have been given unconditional and abounding love and grace by Jesus. I can live in it, walk in it and rejoice because of it even when others do not meet my expectation or hurt me because I have taken my expectation from others and placed it fully in Jesus Christ. Those times when unforgiveness rears its ugly head is only a reminder of how much more I need Him than the day before.

It has been established that it is easier to say, “Arise and walk” then “your sins are forgiven.” Forgiveness crucifies pride and moves us to our rightful position behind Jesus and others. Isn’t that what they say true joy is all about Jesus, others and you? I have to be reminded sometimes that it is not all about me and maybe just maybe if I choose to love rather than convict – it may make a difference in others. I am called to be Light in this dark world. Of course, the enemy will try to put that light out at every given opportunity. I choose today to forgive. I will have to remind myself of this very thing throughout the day when offered bitterness and anger toward the person who hurt me. I must choose love and grace because that is where I live and breathe. I will walk in freedom and work to keep the other person free not by binding them in my judgment or condemnation but continually praying for their blessing and freedom in Christ. Ugh! It’s a hard one. It’s a choice. It is not about me but my commitment to Christ so I will forgive.

Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

 

New Gate

New Gate

Psalm 84:10-11 (NLT) A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

Have you ever heard the expression “like a cow looking at a new gate”? You know the look of bewilderment, perplexity, uncertainty or even just a dazed and confused expression. The same look when you get by asking our kids to clean their room for the umpteenth time like it is a new rule in your house. I wonder if that is how the Lord feels when the gateway of opportunity swings wide yet our faith cannot seem to muster the first step because the next one is not clearly visible. Who will dare to enter the open gate? Who will seize the day? Who will walk in the new thing set before them with the same bold confidence of the past things that God has done? His Faithfulness is not in question. The Lord offers us new opportunities to love, trust, obey and be blessed by Him.

I wonder what “new thing” God is doing in your life today. Is it similar to mine? Is it the same gate I have passed through before, am coming to now or will navigate in the future? Each day is a new opportunity in the life of every believer. His Mercy meets us and His Unfailing Love and Goodness continues its pursuit of the believer. His Potential, Purpose and Promises are all lined up ready to go. Can you see them? Do you feel them? Can you reach out and grab hold of them? Yeah, me either. Dreams and visions fill my head. Thoughts form and circle that there must be more than this but how do we live behind the mediocre and mundane to explore miracles. How do I stop being ordinary to embrace extraordinary? Do I really want to settle for less than God’s Best or select substitutions to cut corners and make time speed by? The answer is “no”… I want all that God has for me. I desire that which Jesus died for me to have coming back to life on the third day to hand it to me. Finally, His Spirit lives in me. The driving force and motivator of more faith and the one who builds confident hope within. There is more to life than this and it is inside the new gate.

Genesis 28:16-18 (NLT) Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it.

What a fine mess? Family drama and dysfunction at its best. None of us would know what that is all about now would we… Jacob is fleeing the wrath of Esau. He stole his birthright out from under him and take the blessing of the first son as well. In fear his mother arranged for him to give live with his uncle, Laban. So Jacob left his home. As he laid down his head that night, I wondered if he felt a twinge of regret mixed with loneliness. Was the blessing that didn’t belong to him worth it? Did he feel sadness that he was now separated from his family? While he was sleeping, Jacob had a dream. He saw the heavens open and a stairway connecting heaven and earth. Angels were traveling up and down the stairs. At the top of the threshold was the Lord who told Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

What happens when the access point of opportunity to inherit the blessings of God do not look like what we thought they should or do not come the way we decided they would? What happens when things get worse before they get better? What happens when our expectation is not immediately met but predestined to take time, endurance and patience? What about those times? God opens new opportunities to us each day. His Promise to work every detail for our good means that in every situation a miracle can happen and His Word still will come to pass even when the gate marked “change” is not what we wanted or has left us broken in the field.

John 10:1-4 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.”

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father but by Him. (John 14:6) There are no shortcuts when it comes to our relationship with God the Father. No one is righteous – not a single person. It is only through Jesus Christ, we are made right with God the Father. Who the Son sets free is free to choose the gates entered and bypassed in life. Righteousness does not always mean that people will walk in the blessings and favor of God. It is a personal choice to pursue the Lord and walk in His Ways. By faith, new gates are crossed over and new life achieved.

Psalm 24:3-8 (NLT) Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob. Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle.

It is from this place of underserved and unearned grace that God’s Glory is on the verge of pouring over from Heaven into our life. We have the opportunity to walk in the Favor of God but our willingness is up to each of us. Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Submitting one’s life and surrendering to God’s Way begins in His Word. The Word of God is who Jesus is. It is how we know Him and identify with Him in our life. True repentance begins the climb to a higher standard of living yet a lowering of our heart to humble ourselves before the Lord. All relationships take effort. It is work to maintain a good one. Maybe it’s not the gate you find perplexing but the mountain on the other side.

Jacob was all about acquisition, but what was coming was acquiescence. God is all about establishing a strong, solid relationship with His Beloved. (That’s us!) He desires us more than anything yet too often we desire everything else but God. Pouring our life out for our families, jobs, causes, and hobbies – there is nothing left for the Lord and very little energy or interest in what lies beyond the new gate. Can I just get some rest? Take a nap? Steal away a few hours for some “me-time”? Jacob saw heaven open before him and ministering angels going back and forth from heaven to earth. Things didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but when presented with the new gate – Jacob entered in. “Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” (Genesis 28:20-22) When adversity came Esau rebelled, but Jacob chose obedience.

Isaiah 26:1-4 (NLT) In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

No matter what lies in the past, peace is always our future in the Lord. Our city (His Kingdom) is strong! We are surrounded by God’s Salvation and filled with His Spirit including resurrection life and power accessed by faith in God. The righteous ALWAYS have access to the Kingdom. It is never restricted or limited. We are made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ that leads to true repentance. Turning from our old life, and pursuing new life. Opportunities are presented to us each day. His Word is filled with instructions to claim promise after promise and experience blessing after blessing. There is no limitation in the Lord. In fact, He meets and exceeds all expectation. We must only trust Him to boldly and confidently pass through the passages of life with our eyes on the Gate and willingness to enter in. Trust the Lord always and He presents those who do with perfect peace. The same God who gave Jacob peace and promise in a dark pasture on a lonely night is ready to do the exact same thing for you and me.

Psalm 118:19-21 (NLT) Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the Lord. These gates lead to the presence of the Lord, and the godly enter there. I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!

New challenges. New trials. New opportunities. In all of life’s changes, God is with you. He gives us victory through His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter what lies in the next season just a step over the threshold of a brand new day – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is with you in your past, with you in the present and with you in the future. The Lord feels the same about you whether yesterday you lived in victory or experienced the agony of defeat. All sin is covered. All mistakes potential messages. Every test may be your testimony. You overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. His Name is Jesus. He is the Gate. You can enter in knowing He loves you. He will care for you. He will make you victorious no matter how impossible it seems so enter His Gates with thanksgiving and praise!

Psalm 100:3-5 (NLT) Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

 

 

Be Moved

 

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John 20:21-23 (NLT) Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Yesterday my daughter came to see me at the office. She had just come from a doctor visit to check the progress of our little grandson growing inside her. The doctor declared him perfect and she had ultrasound pictures to prove it. She had an ultrasound about two weeks ago and already there are so many changes in his little appearance as he grows into the little personal with a big personality that the Lord has planned him to be. Each image more fascinating than the next as the image of a baby become clear from within the hidden place of her womb. I am fascinated, enthralled and totally in love. Whenever she has an ultrasound, this little man already shows his complete displeasure. Sonographers laugh at his immediate attempts to escape their probing. He arches his back and kicks his legs. Twisting, turning and flipping over to avoid the unwanted attention. At first, it could have been a fluke but after three attempts with the same reaction I am convinced this guy has a strong will tucked in the fast beating heart. Still a bit riled from the intrusion, my daughter laid my hand on her stomach and he kicked me. I melted. Pressing a little harder, I could feel him moving around with the occasional kick. My heart was moved. It swelled and the capacity to love became even greater in that moment for a person who I cannot even hold yet.

I remember being pregnant with my own children. Feeling flutters give way to movement then resounding kicks. All the potential, possibility and promise of a new little one to love, nurture and care for. This morning as I was thinking about our little grandbaby, I was touched in the heart by the Holy Spirit. The One who lives within me given to me by Jesus as a precious and useful gift to assist in my pursuit of Him in a dark and dying world. When Jesus came to see the disciples after his death and resurrection, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” There is power in the Spirit that Jesus gave us. He is living, breathing and moving within us. What is our response when He moves? Do we respond? Do we pay attention? Does our heart leap inside our chest? I have felt the movement of other children and grandchildren inside of new mothers. But now it is different, because this grandbaby is mine and lives inside my own child. I wonder what would happen if we perceived the Holy Spirit as our own rather than watching Him move in others?

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Repentance and turning to the Lord including baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ according to grace makes one eligible to receive the Holy Spirit. It is a gift. It is given to us as believers whether we want it or not. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman who will not force himself on anyone but eagerly waits for acceptance to activate God’s Power including the resurrection power that brought Jesus from the grave in our ordinary life. He is the guarantor of every promise that God has made to us. Jesus gave us His Word that He would never leave us or forsake us and the Holy Spirit is evidence of the reality of His Promise to us. What is our response? Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His Father’s Love. Do we invite His Spirit to accompany us through our day, instruct us in our actions, soften our attitude, give us direction, listen to His Urgings, and move when He nudges us?

Ephesians 4:30-32 (NLT) And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Conviction is a power revelation of a positive change. Pride gives it a negative connotation. The things that bring sorrow to God’s Spirit are anything contradictory to His Love. The divine nature of God is love. He demonstrates that with His Mercy, Grace, Compassion, Kindness and Goodness that He lavishes on us. The woman at the well was given insight to the powerful combination of worship that would come – true worshippers would do so in Spirit and in Truth. The Holy Spirit is a facilitator of worship in us. He gives us the words, groanings and utterances when we do not have the words to say. In times of great pain, pressure, or persecution – the Holy Spirit expresses our heart, mind and need to the Father even in something as simple as an “oh” granted in a place of prayer and surrender before the Lord. He has the power to change our vocabulary by sifting through the contents of our heart and applying the Word to it. Filling our heart and mind with the love of God that produces all the valuable produce promised in Galatians 5:22-23. In every way, the Holy Spirit is out to benefit our life. I am not sure why Christians would shun or limit the Spirit of God when His Presence in our life offers such powerful potential and the fulfillment of Christ.

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT) “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.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

When Jesus died on the Cross, he shouted and released His Spirit – the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 27:50) It was the Holy Spirit who tore the veil in the Temple from top to bottom. The earth shook as an earthquake erupted at the Glory and Power of God poured out that day. Immediately – resurrection power began to bring the dead to life. His Spirit now poured out would soon find its way to His People filling them with the grace provided by His Love and empowering them with it. We are those people. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. I can now fully express the love of God because I have experienced it intimately. When I feel the Spirit of God move within me, I recognize Him. I know who He is. I know what comes next is important and to pay attention. If  you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and truly repented – you have been given the Holy Spirit. Do you feel Him inside of you? Do you know when He is moving, urging or nudging you to better things?

I encourage you today to acknowledge God’s Spirit. Thank the Lord for investing His Spirit full of life and power in you. The Holy Spirit was sent specifically to help you. Let Him do His Job. He is a wonderful friend, teacher, guide and companion. He wants God’s Best for you and does everything possible to make it come to pass. He is intimacy with Christ. He identifies you as a Child of the Living God with full benefits. Utilize them. God promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) His Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise. Take advantage of God’s Kindness by inviting the Spirit to have His Way in you today!

God’s Spirit is alive in you. His Presence in the life of a believer is non-negotiable. Those who belong to Christ have His Spirit. The two must become one. I wonder what might happen if our expectancy for His Spirit became as elevated as let’s say my enthusiasm and desire to feel my grandchild moving inside his mom. What would happen if we responded to His Move with the same level of attentiveness and excitement? We must be moved by the Spirit of God to reach fulfillment. He gives life and power to the believer. He is a Gift from God!

John 14:26-27 (Message) “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

Worth the Fight

fight for it

I Timothy 6:12 (NLT) Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

Life is hard. It’s a battle every day. There is no rest for the weary. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Responsibilities. Busyness. Problems. Bad reports. Unexpected. Is this really what being a Christian is all about? This is the plight of humanity. Where is the peace and comfort promised by Christ? How does one attain it in a world gone crazy and a chaotic life? It is available. It is attainable. It is for you. You must fight for it.

Let’s talk about Jesus for a minute…

Matthew 10:34-36 (NLT) “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’”

The prevailing force in the world is contrary to God and His Premise of Love. The enemy of our soul seeks to steal, kill and destroy the very essence of life, love, peace, and joy as prescribed by God brought through Christ for our life. God’s Goodness is for us. He lives in us. But the world is not going to get any better, in fact it is daily worsening. Jesus did not come to save the planet. He did not come to bring world peace. Jesus came to give people a choice. An opportunity to have everlasting life, healing, prosperity and more. He promises a rich and satisfying life marked by abundance. He never forces this life on us but rather gives it as a gift. There must be a choice. There is no compromise. Choosing between darkness and light is the privilege given to us by the Lord and is our daily endeavor.

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

Jesus came to set the world on fire. He came to stir the pot and turn up the heat. The choice is between this life and eternal life. We want a better life but God is ready to give us the best life. See we would settle for less to escape the process because walking by faith and not by sight is tough. It is easier to give in to our mind, will and emotions rather than crucifying our flesh day by day. Jesus called Himself the Light of the World. A beacon of hope to a dying earth. He came to illuminate the darkness and expose every lie so that people could make a credible choice and escape the bondage of sin, death and the grave to have resurrection power and life. We get to choose each day who we serve and the life we live. What is your passion today?

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

The gift of peace of mind and heart is from Jesus. He gave us peace. It is not like the peace and security of the world and all its treasures. It is a promise that no matter what – God loves us. He is for us. He wins our battles. He heals our body. He has made a place for us in forever. He will never leave us or forsake us. We need only one thing – 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.”

Jesus overcame the world. We have victory in Jesus Christ. In every battle, there is an opportunity to triumph by faith in the Living God. I cannot serve two masters. I must decide each day whether my life, my choices, my attitude and actions will serve the Lord or my flesh. I make that choice. I can do it well-informed by God’s Word which makes faith just a little more logical or I can ride blindly through life carried by the current of emotions or every storm that rises up. You will fight for what you believe.

Fight the good fight for the true faith.

Fighting the good fight for true faith is intentional living. It is not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude. God’s Word is very clear in His Instruction and His Spirit uses it to guide us in our decision making and action taking in this life. The mindset of the believer must be that of a soldier. One enlisted in the Kingdom must live in allegiance to Heaven rather than the earth. Soldiers do not shirk from battle but engage in warfare. To align with both sides would make them a traitor. To commit high treason is a crime. Choice is a benefit. We choose each day who to serve. It is in this choice that our outcome is determined. Faith is contrary to what the world thinks, knows and believes. We must walk by faith. It is a daily battle to overcome fear, doubt and anxiety. Confident hope is born of such battles – the ones given to believing rather than seeing. Total trust and reliance on the Lord does not come without a battle. Pride falls hard. Weakness is not a chosen state but necessary for a power shift in our life from mediocre and mundane to marvelous and miraculous.

“When a child learns to walk and falls down fifty times, he never thinks to himself – “Maybe this isn’t for me?” I read this on social media and completely identified. How many times in our Christian walk do we give up when all hell breaks loose in our life? Or maybe even before that when things get uncomfortable, inconvenient or uncontrollable? God created and called you. He loves you. He made the Way for you. He provided everything you need. He even gave you every spiritual blessing. You have an inheritance. He even goes so far to indicate that He will do more than you can even think to ask for. We do not fight from the place of victory that is given because we do not believe we win. The never-say-die bravado linked to our pride will give until it hurts and fight to the end. Why do we give up so easily when it comes to our faith? Faith is complete reliance and total trust on someone other than ourselves. Soldiers fight together for a cause. Soldiers become brothers and sisters banded together. They lay down their lives not only for each other and those thankful for their freedom but nameless and faceless people who take advantage of and abuse the liberty offered and hate them for what they do. I am reminded today that without faith it is impossible to please God. I must live by faith. I must fight for my faith. It is important. It is relevant. It is a game changer. It is a life giver. Though I may fall fifty times, I must get up fifty-one.

2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NLT) Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.

Jesus told us that the one who endures to the end will be saved. Faith must endure to the end in order for us to be victorious. We must learn to walk, live and breathe by faith in all things. There will be suffering. There will be bad days, hard times and enemies along the way. The Lord promises to prepare a table before them for us. We are in this world but not of it so we must not get tied up in “civilian life” but strive for eternal life. The Goodness of God for this life is ours for the taking. We walk in victory so no lying down on the job. God is for us and no weapon formed against us will be successful. We must believe to succeed at this thing called faith. It is worth fighting for. Jesus overcame the world and so can you – by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony. So do it! Faith is worth fighting for every day in every way.

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

Soul Wellness

Soul Wellness

Psalm 131 (NKJV) Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.

Psalm 131 describes the heart of one who fully and completely trusts the Lord. The words are not eloquent painting a picture of divine intervention and a perfect life. It is more a surrender and submission of the psalmist’s heart, mind and soul to the Sovereignty of God. It is simple truth about simple trust. My heart is not haughty or my eyes lofty. Pride crucified. Completely convicted of its own inadequacy and inability to be effective on its own. The first step to trusting the Lord is humility. Grace is accepted in our absolute weakness. It is the moment the Power of the Living God is manifested in us…not necessarily around us. The expectation that Jesus came to change our situation and save the earth is false. He came for one thing. He died for a single cause. It was for me. It was for you. His Desire for us so great that He set aside His Throne to come and live a humble life as our example and to be crucified as a sacrifice for us. My heart is humbled at such a thought. The idea that a perfect and sinless man would lay down his life for me is overwhelming in the first place, but to add that it is the deity of God who took my place is incomprehensible even to those who believe.

As I write these words today, there is a hurricane headed in our direction. The sky is growing darker and the wind beginning to pick up. It is midmorning and the neighborhood is eerily quiet as the community waits, watches and wonders what will happen next. Fully prepared with food and supplies, the unpredictability of nature and the weather is still unnerving. Standing outside it is clear even the birds, squirrels and animals that live in the trees around our house have gone into hiding. Vivid images being broadcast from the center of the hurricane make it clear things are destined to change. In the stillness, I am reminded – the will of God is stillness for our soul no matter what the situation. I do not understand the nature and condition of the world in which I live. I am not entirely sure why bad things happen to good people or why the innocent die young. The more I think I know the less I seem to understand many things. However, I have come to know a few simple things – God is good. He loves me. He is for me. Christ lives in me. His Spirit helps me. In the Lord, I will trust.

Psalm 46:1-3 (NKJV) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

Yesterday, the wind began to pick up just a little bit. A tree fell in our yard. There was only a gentle breeze. How could it cause such damage? On closer inspection, I found that the tree was completely rooted on the inside. Though it looked fine from the exterior, the interior was fragmented and crumbling easily picked apart with my bare hands. It wasn’t the wind that knocked over the tree and caused it to fall but rather the tree was dying on the inside already. When the breeze came along it could not stand anymore. An object lesson for me, I believe. Maybe it Is not the problems in life that cause us to stumble or fall crying out to the Lord, but rather out inward condition of distrust and disbelief that push us over when things start moving and shaking around us. Rather than trusting our Good Father, Loving God, Savior, Redeemer, Protector and Friend, our inward condition causing outward consequences. I want to trust the Lord. I want to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. I must be unshakable and immovable in my faith which is evidenced by trust.

What if the situations and circumstances that come with life are not the cause of our fall, fail or future? What if it is just the conduit that causes us to see our current condition? The tree was on the verge of falling already. It was deteriorating rapidly on the inside. The first brisk breeze that came along knocked it over. Could it be that it is not the things that happen to us that are the problem but rather reveal the contents of our heart? Psalm 131 says, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul…” The security of our heart, mind and soul are manifested by trust. To trust the Lord making Him our refuge and strength. This means letting go of the three “C’s” (comfort, control and convenience) to fully embrace Christ in all things.

Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) Be still, and know that I am God…

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” God is our refuge. He is our strength. He is a very present help in trouble. The humble heart knows this and puts trust in the character and divine nature of our loving, faithful Father and Friend. We must trust the Lord. Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability and surety of the Lord with full confidence. It is the confident expectation or hope given to us as an indication of faith in our life. Hope is futuristic. It is intact whether our natural circumstances or condition indicate its relevancy. God is God with or without our belief. Our belief does not fuel His Power but aligns us within it. Miracles are made up of impossibilities. It is such times that God becomes our hope and security. Without impossible situations there would be no signs, wonders or miracles. It is the shaking of our heart, mind and soul that reveal the contents of our heart and soundness of our trust. It is when we can be still in just knowing that He is God when simple trust becomes evident.

Psalm 62:1-2 (NKJV) Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the city and surrounding area. Our lives may change dramatically in the next 24 hours depending on the intensity of the hurricane when it reaches our area. More than 20 people have died in its wake. We have prepared to the best of our ability for the storm. Our home is well-constructed and completely insured. There is a generator with a fresh supply of gasoline and plenty of food and water if needed. Now we wait… If tomorrow tragedy strikes what will be my response? Will I be able to say, “It is well with my soul”? Where we wait is the tell-tale sign of the outcome in moments such as these.

Triumph over tragedy is found in the Lord and in God alone. It is the peace that passes understanding that allows us to draw our next breath when it is all we have left. His Love is the place where shattered pieces of broken hearts find healing. The Refuge called Presence is the hiding place for God’s People. His Grace is our strength yet only evident in our complete and utter weakness that causes us to humble our heart before Him.

Today as I wait for the storm to pass, I am challenged to examine my heart and listen for the inner voice of my soul. Will I wait silently before the Lord knowing that He alone is my salvation? Will I be moved? Will I stay put in my faith and simple trust believing that no matter what tomorrow holds that He holds me firmly in place? We put so much emphasis on what we can see, feel, hold and touch in this life that sometimes it is the moving and shaking of those things that cause us to inspect the contents of our heart and soul. My deep desire is that when morning comes – the voice that I hear will say, “It is well with my soul!”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul”.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Perfect Peace

Be Still and Know.

John 14:27 (NKJV) Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 

With a Category 4 Hurricane moving toward the state of Florida, things are a little crazy about now. Pandemonium has ensued as people attempt to prepare for the devastating effects of potential winds of more than 100 mph. We have a plenty of water. A fully stocked pantry. I will pick up a generator and gas cans from a friend. The highways are filled with cars barely moving. Living in north Florida, there is no doubt the storm will impact us but the folks in south Florida are being evacuated. Will they have a place called home to return to? Will they be able to continue to work? Will their family and friends who chose to stay make it through okay? Will they have enough money and time to reach safety? Should I stay or should I go? Fatigue and exhaustion are a dangerous mix that ignites overwrought emotions. Let’s stop for just a moment. Take a deep breath. Yes, I know there is so much to do. I know danger is only a day or two away.

Stepping out into the cool morning air, fall is coming. Today is beautiful. The sun is shining with a few sparse clouds and a lovely breeze blowing. Our yard is freshly cut. The trees are full and green. I take it all in because it may not look the same way in a few days. Life does not come with a guarantee that there will never be rainy days or even hurricanes. It doesn’t mean that your perfectly healthy children will not one day become terminally ill cancer patients. Tragedy is part of life. As long as the earth is still in existence, there will be good days and not-so-good ones. The world will not last forever. Seasons come and seasons go. God is our constant. He doesn’t change. Rain produces rainbows as a reminder that even when the rain comes pouring from the sky or flood waters rise that He will never destroy the earth or His People. His Word cannot return to Him void. His Sovereignty is never in question. The Lord must work within the parameters of freedom. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. Therefore, storms come and go, but the hope that anchors our soul is found only in the Lord who is constant. Unchanging.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. This is important. It is the foundation of our faith as believers upon which our belief system is built. The moment God doesn’t do what He says or falls short – we have a problem. Do you have peace today? Peace that passes your human understanding. Faith is only logical if we know God’s Word and believe it. I hate cancer. I loathe every vile of it in every innocent victim whose life it has infiltrated. I will war against it all the days of my life. But I cannot say that I am not thankful for the peace the trial produced in my life. The perspective of faith triumphing over tragedy is not as I expected. There is no glory or victory lane in the natural. I thought when our son was finally in remission that I would leap, shout and run around the hospital. It was not like that. Oh there was exceeding joy but what emerged was a quiet confidence in the awesomeness of God. Three years of praying, crying and trusting – repeating words and promises until I was blue in the face that made medical personnel think I was crazy. I just couldn’t believe that God was not good. I couldn’t fathom that He wouldn’t do what He said. He said it. I heard Him. I knew it was Him. When every other word and report was to the contrary, I would whisper…”But you promised, God!” The process of perfect peace is not found in the good times and great seasons of life but those times of disappointment, devastation or desperation when all you have is the Lord and all you need is for Him to do what He said…so you decide to be still and know that He is God.

Psalm 4:6-8 (NKJV) There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” Lord, lift up the light of Your Countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Jesus came to give us perfect peace. He promised in His Word. The word “peace” is “shalom” which means completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, and harmony. It is the absence of agitation and discord. Shalom is a derivative of “shalam” which means to be complete, perfect and full. Thankfulness and contentment that is not contingent on your current situation or circumstances. The kind of peace that the Lord is gifting us with is complete and constant confidence in His Love for us and Goodness toward us. Jesus didn’t come to bring world peace. (Matthew 10:34) He did give us His Peace. The confidence of His Love and Salvation. Peace of heart and mind unmoved by world events or natural disaster. The kind of peace that can only be found by the one who seeks to attain it.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I find it interesting that despite public service announcements of being prepared for a hurricane that so many people are without the proper supplies. I think it is ironic that with running water in every household that so many are using all their gas to find cases of bottled water. I have no room to talk. I bought four cases of bottled water and had nothing on supply but some snack food when it became clear the storm was coming. I have lived in Florida my whole life. I have experienced other storm similar storm systems. I was not ready when the first warning came. We have a God who loves us. His Son, Jesus, died to give us access to Him. We are given new mercy every morning. His Grace is enough for every weakness. There is a Book of Instruction crammed full of promises, warnings and guidance. More than half of the church today is on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. Again, I am only stating facts there is no condemnation. Rain falls on the just and unjust. Life happens. Sin is rampant. Evil and darkness is at every turn. There are wars and rumors of war. There is a hurricane about to cover the state of Florida. Do you have peace today? Do you have perfect peace?

The Peace of God is available to those who are righteous. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Too often we stop at salvation and save the rest of God’s Promises for a rainy day. Well, maybe for you that rainy day is today. See there is nothing any storm in life can rob you of that is eternally of worth. Your soul is secure in Jesus Christ. God forbid if you leave this world today – you will be fully embraced in His Loving Arms. It’s a win-win situation for those who believe. However, the Peace of God that surpasses human understanding is evidence of such confident hope. Faith expresses itself in peace that is fully reliant on God and His Faithfulness. I’ve seen that peace before radiating on a man’s face. Our son-in-law’s grandfather was diagnosed with a heart that was failing. He was not given a long time to live. The pallor of his complexion due to poor heart function made it evident that the Lord would come for him soon. Yet sitting in church singing old hymns with his hand held high with a smile plastered across his face, it was clear that he did not fear death but welcomed it as an open invitation into the arms of Jesus. That’s the kind of peace I strive for and long for every moment of every day. I have experience a small portion and desire it full force in my heart and mind. The Lord has promised it to me and you, too. We must only pursue it to have it.

The Lord is with us friend. The wind and waves know His Name. They recognize His Voice. Do you? He is speaking to us all today. “Be still and know.” Know me. Trust me. Love me. Pursue me. Let me be your peace. Your comfort. Your confidence today and always.

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control, and in the middle of the war, You guard my soul,
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm

Call to Rest

Call to Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Rest is important in the life of a believer. To take a step out of the busyness of life to physically and mentally rest and be rejuvenated. The enemy uses overloaded schedules, rigid routines, and mounting pressures to perform as a means of distraction until people become so overwhelmed by the persistent pull of responsibility that faith in God forgets He is in control of our life. A couple of months ago, I felt the gentle whisper of a loving Savior confirmed by the voice of my husband the call to rest. Life has been hectic. Chaotic. Crazy. It is time to get away. The beach is our favorite place to unwind and getaway. Today we leave for a respite.

Of course, this morning the dog woke me up in the wee hours of the morning. My brain then refused to go back to sleep so I packed and repacked the car in my head. I woke up grumpy. Worried a little about work and other things circling my thoughts. I need to rest. Not just rest my body and mind but my soul. So do you… It is important to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ more than serving Him physically. We must connect our heart and mind with Him. Just like a natural marriage requires such attention to continue to thrive, it is important to spend time with the Lord away from the cares, worries and burdens of life. I plan to do just that…

Love, joy and peace are the Fruit of God’s Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) They are not naturally occurring in a world that demands all our time. They call it a rat race for a reason with hurrying and scurrying all around. The Kingdom of God is not based the pursuit of such things. All that we need, want and desire are fulfilled when we come to Him. He gives us rest. Rest is from the word “anapauo” – ana meaning “up” and pauo meaning cessation from toil and refreshment.

Prosperity begins in the soul. To prosper in our soul impacts our natural life. Prosperity in our natural life that does not reach our soul can do nothing to bring satisfaction. Jesus is the Bread of Life. (John 6:35) Those who live in Christ find full satisfaction not in what they have but who He is. Only those who taste and see His Goodness will understand the value of such peace. Just like any food in life, you have to try it to see if you like it.

Matthew 6:25-32 (NLT) “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

What are you worried about today? What burdens your heart and mind? Robs you of sleep. Steals your attention. Keeps you weary. Tells you to give up. What causes fear to overtake your confidence? What is keeping your faith small? It is important to examine our heart and mind to answer these difficult questions. It will identify the areas of our life not entrusted to the Lord giving us the opportunity to surrender each burden and care to Him. Worry, anxiety, stress and fear evaporate when faith grows in us. Total trust in God’s Goodness and Greatness in our life. Confident hope that the grace of Jesus Christ is enough to release of His Power and Authority in every situation. These are the qualities that allow us to release every burden to the Lord and yoke our life to Christ.

God knows exactly what you need. I used to tell the young girls in our youth group that women are natural gathers. Born with little baskets on each arm designed to nurture and care for future families. The enemy wants to fill them with unnecessary things. It is important to empty our baskets on a regular basis and continue to carry only those things given to us by Christ. We can discern such things in His Word and communicating with the Lord in prayer. Living in His Presence gives us the peace and confidence to say, “No” to lesser and unnecessary things because our faith is in God alone because man cannot fill our expectation.

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Perfect peace. There is nothing like it. It comes when our life is yoked to Christ. Partnered with Him, the waves of the storm cannot remove us from the anchor called hope. Together – we are unstoppable because He overcame the world and handed us victory – Jesus is our champion. He has given us every spiritual blessing, provides all that we need, and promises to do more than we can think, ask or imagine. We have it all but settle for less when working for things already given. Trusting the Lord means resting in Him. It means releasing cares, worries, burdens, anxieties, fears and insecurities to take on the yoke called righteousness that by faith makes all things possible in Jesus Christ. To live in Christ is the place of perfect peace.

Psalm 23:1-3 (NLT) The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

The Lord calls us to rest and leads us as well. He is a good shepherd who cares for his sheep. He will leave the 99 just to find the one who is missing. Distractions lead us off course. The lie of the enemy is that God is not enough and His Grace insufficient. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s examine our own heart and mind today. Find all the burdens, cares, concerns and worries. Take captive fear and doubt that are adversaries of faith. Go to Jesus and give them “up” and to be refreshed, restored and renewed. His Love for you will never let you down. We must trust and believe that God is good. Good to us. He is for us. He fights our battles and wins our wars. To step into partnership and presence allows us to let go of the lead and follow the Lord to love, joy and perfect peace. This is the place called rest. Well, I am off to the beach. I am stepping out of life to find solace with my family and seek the Face of Jesus at the sea. My prayer for you today is rest. May God apprehend your heart all over again and fill it with His Love, Joy and Peace. Amen and amen.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.